The Secrets and Lies of Belle-Fort Manor

Part I

Lady Isabella Aldridge walked down the long, velvety-red staircase with a decorum of elegance. This November evening, she was wearing a royal blue dress, that outlined her slim and gracious frame – just ideal for the ballet, she thought. She had to inwardly confess, she was mistaken about the Albert Saloon Theatre. It was designed and erected perfectly for such striking occasions. Next to her, and gripping her arm quite tightly, was her husband – Lord Carter Aldridge. His face was stern and the small veins at the side of his head were protruding, as if he was annoyed or irritated. On the contrary, if one happened to glance at Lady Isabella, no one would assume her emotions were collapsing on the inside. Her face remained as still as an oil painting; her body effortlessly calm. She tried to comprehend the embarrassing incident that just occurred; she just wanted to immediately escape the socialites. How did her husband become acquainted with that lady – and why had he given her my fur overcoat? Did he know who she was? Isabella kept trying to process her thoughts but all she could think of was how that public outburst was humiliating and she was sad that the past kept constantly threatening her place in society. As if by suddenly awaking from a stupor she suddenly realised she was cold, and that she no longer had an overcoat. Coincidently, Carter wrapped his dinner jacket over her shoulders and locked her arm tightly against his, as if to protect her from the spectators. He quickly hurried her out of theatre and through the giant, gold, gates into the crowd of theatre-goers. “Do you think the Parker-Knowles saw anything”questioned Isabella. She would be mortified if her new high society friends had seen anything indecent, especially at the theatre. “Never mind that now, let’s just forget it my love, she was quite clearly intoxicated” replied Carter.

Part II

“Grayson will be waiting for us, come on dear let’s get you where it’s warm”said Carter trying to hurry his wife, Isabella, along the dark, cobbled road. Grayson was waiting patiently, at the end of the street with the other black hansoms. Grayson immediately observed the fact that Isabella was shivering and missing her exquisite fur overcoat. Carter helped her into the carriage and by this time Grayson had found a blanket in the foot-well to keep her warm; as they started their journey back to Belle-Fort Manor. Carter’s face finally relaxed once they had boarded the hansom and they were leaving the judgemental onlookers behind. “How did you become acquainted with that lady?” Isabella asked suspiciously. “We can talk about it when we get back to Belle-Fort, just concentrate on keeping warm, my dear. You don’t want to catch your death.” The journey back seemed to take considerably longer than the journey there. It’s as if Grayson had taken a longer route, for some reason. Unbeknownst to the Aldridge’s; Grayson had come across some difficulty in travelling down some certain roads. So much had changed since the beginning of the evening – Carter pondered quietly to himself. What was he going to say to Isabella about that lady? Considering his marriage to Isabella was one of convenience, he had grown fond of her over these past few months. Although he was not sure how deep her emotions ran – if at all. The Aldridge name had conveniently given Isabella status which saved her family from a public disgrace. Carter looked across the carriage to find Lady Isabella peacefully asleep; at least she was calm for now. Maybe Grayson was right to take the longer route home. How could he possibly tell her the truth now? He should never have given Fanny – Isabella’s fur overcoat, but she needed something of value.

Part III

On arrival at Belle-Fort Manor the servants were busy turning down the beds for the night. Lord and Lady Aldridge entered the drawing room to find a gentleman waiting for them by the raging, log fire. He was wearing a charcoal grey suit and a beaked black hat. He also held a walking stick in his left hand with a gold-plated duck head for its topper. “Good evening Lord and Lady Aldridge, my name is Constable Wheeler. Unfortunately, an unpleasant situation has arisen this evening concerning a young lady; whom I believe you had an altercation with this evening.” Constable Wheeler preceded to tell the Aldridge’s of Belle-fort Manor that the last lady to be wearing Lady Aldridge’s fur overcoat had been found dead in an innkeeper’s doorway. Isabella Aldridge started to look uncomfortable and as if by an unstoppable force, she let out an ear-piercing scream. Carter ran over to his wife and embraced her while she let out a furious sob. “I don’t understand Isabella – what is going on?” said Carter. It was time for the truth thought Isabella. “She was my sister!” cried Lady Aldridge. Constable Wheeler went on further to say that, that was his original suspicion due to some paperwork the peelers had found in her apartment. With no empathy in his voice what’s so ever, he told the Aldridge’s that Isabella’s sister – Fanny Franklin – had more than likely died from consumption. The peelers reported that opium paraphernalia had been found at her apartment. “I am sorry for your loss Lady Aldridge; I believe you were not that close as sisters?” said Wheeler with yet again no empathy in his voice. Carter was perplexed. How could Fanny Franklin be Isabella’s sister? She was a lady of the night. It just didn’t make any sense. Although he never knew the true extent to her family’s disgrace. As if to waken him from his thoughts, Wheeler questioned him. “Lord Carter, how did YOU know Fanny Franklin if you did not know she was the sister of your wife?


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