Love’s Labors Lost

“I’m leaving Brayton Hill,” Mayhew Love announced one night after dinner.

The Braytons, who were seated around the table in various states of contented fullness, all turned to Mayhew in surprise. Carol the maid, who didn’t seem surprised at all, continued clearing the table in her usual crisp manner, the clanging of the dinner plates echoing throughout the room.

It was a moment before anyone spoke. “So you took that commission?” Harry Brayton finally said, leaning back in his chair.

The look of surprise on his wife Arianna’s face deepened into confusion. “What commission?”

“Max De Groff wants me to build a new hotel for him,” said Mayhew, trying hard not to smile. He knew what most people in May Green thought of De Groff. His cousin Arianna happened to be one of those people.

“Max De Groff?” she repeated, her expression reaching new heights of astonishment. “Why would he want to build a new hotel? Isn’t the Granville good enough for him?”

Her cousin laughed. “Arianna, really — you’re starting to sound like that uppity old Mrs. Lloyd.”

Harry made a face. Though he wasn’t blood-related to the Lloyds, his first wife had been, and he had run up against Regina Lloyd’s special brand of snobbery far too often in the last 20 years. “Nonsense,” he said, “Arianna is nothing like Regina.”

“Thank you, Harry,” said Arianna with a grateful nod in his direction. “But that’s not the point,” she continued, turning back to Mayhew. “The point is that we’ll miss you, cousin. Must you really go?”

Mayhew breaks the news

“I won’t be far away. I’ll be staying at the Granville, you know, until the new hotel is finished. And I’m always welcome for dinner, aren’t I?” Mayhew winked.

“Of course you are,” Arianna said with a quick glance at Carol, who had entered the room with a tray of fruit tarts. “And now I think I shall retire to my room while you have dessert. I feel exhausted.”

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The Golden Age

Hey all, I finally snapped the last of the pictures I need for my next Brayton update, so now I just have to write it up. That’ll only take a few hundred hours, right? Well, hopefully that won’t be the case this time. ;-) I’m pretty excited about this update, so expect it within the next day or so.

In the meantime, I’ve plugged all of the Braytons and Haddaways into my Tribal Pages family tree site, so you can refer to it if you ever get confused about who’s who. I don’t have pictures for everyone yet, mainly because most of them are going to age up in the next installment, and I figured I’d wait. Also, the Hutchins/Lloyd side of the family isn’t up yet, but will be soon.

And if you enjoy history, fashion, and architecture from the Victorian and Edwardian eras, check out these cool sites, all of which have helped inspire and educate me while writing about the Braytons:

Fashion-Era – Just a great all-around resource for fashion trends and social history of the past century. For the Braytons, I’ve been focusing on La Belle Epoque (1895-1914).

The Gamble House – Built in 1908 and my inspiration for the new Brayton abode. (I’ve got a looong way to go!)

Antique and Vintage Dress Gallery – Some of the most gorgeous clothes I have ever seen. And they’re available for purchase! You know, if you’re rich and stuff.

Victorian Station – Vintage Victorian house plans. I never got to use any of these, but they are extremely cool.

Internet Archive: Oldtime Audio – Here you can listen to recordings from 70-100 years ago and marvel at how much popular music has changed over the last century.

The Mount – Edith Wharton’s estate and gardens, now a National Historic Landmark. I’ve been on an Edith Wharton kick lately, mostly inspired by my scant research of the Victorian era. I just finished reading The House of Mirth, which I liked very much, and am now reading The Age of Innocence, which I love so far. If you’re not a big reader but enjoy the Victorian period, check out the movie versions of both — they’re excellent.

1900 House and Manor House – These PBS/BBC programs are amazing. For the 1900 House, they took a modern British family and installed them in a house refurbished to be exactly as it would have been in the year 1900. They had to live their lives as closely as possible to how they would have lived them in 1900. Completely fascinating show. Even better is the Manor House series, which takes a modern British family and puts them in an enormous and elegant Edwardian manor house, then employs 14 everyday people to be their servants. The contrast between upstairs and downstairs is almost disturbing at times, and it’s intriguing to watch the two worlds develop. These shows aren’t currently being aired on PBS, but you can rent them from Netflix or perhaps your local video store. If you’re interested in social history, the Victorian/Edwardian eras, and reality-type shows, you might enjoy these.

An Unexpected Encounter

The whole town of May Green was abuzz with gossip about Harry Brayton’s new house — and most of the comments were negative.

“It just doesn’t look right,” some folks said. “It looks like an overblown hunting lodge.”

“I hear he doesn’t mean to finish it.”

“It’s so terribly plain.”

And it was rather plain in contrast to every other new house going up in town. The latest trend in May Green, made popular by the wealthiest and most respected family in town, the Haddaways, was a revival of the old Tudor mansions and cottages of the medieval era. Even the poorer families in town were building little half-timber shacks that evoked the style, and the city council had plans to model the new town square after a European city (such as Chester, England).

Haddaway Hall
Haddaway Hall

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The Doctor and the Visionary

Things were never quite the same for Cecily Brayton after she shared a kiss with Samuel Haddaway and told him she was in love with his brother James. The weekly invitations to tea at Haddaway Hall stopped coming, and when Cecily called on the family, she was told they weren’t accepting any visitors. Cecily had a feeling that Samuel, incensed by rejection, had somehow turned the Haddaways against her. His mother Sophia already disregarded the Braytons as being too low-class, so with her on his side, it probably wasn’t very hard to convince the rest of them.

Cecily dealt with the Haddaways’ collective cold shoulder surpisingly well. Instead of fretting gloomily all over the house as she had for the past several months, she threw herself wholeheartedly into her late mother’s favorite pastime — painting. She had been terrified by her last encounter with her mother’s ghost, but her dreams about her mother afterwards had inspired her. “I still love James,” she wrote in her diary, “and I still miss Samuel, but as I can’t do anything about either circumstance at the moment, I will simply bide my time. They can’t — and won’t — avoid me forever.”

Cecily paints

As for the rest of the Braytons, Arianna spent several months confined to her room before finally giving birth to another healthy boy, whom she and Harry named Frederick John, after Harry’s employer, Dr. John Hutchins. Arianna relinquished many of her duties for the Votes for Women campaign in order to stay home and care for Frederick during his infancy.

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The Year’s Last Rose

From the time Cecily Brayton was 12 years old, she had pursued one goal: to become Mrs. James Haddaway.

To this end, each week did not seem complete until she had been invited to Haddaway Hall, where she might catch a glimpse of James passing through the foyer, or with luck be able to take tea with him in the drawing room. Of course, his mother and grandmother were always present, leaving little opportunity for Cecily to talk to him, but she was happy merely to be in his presence. “The more he sees me,” she wrote in her diary, “the greater the chance that he will fall in love with me.”

Naturally this chance was diminished when James went to college, which left Cecily feeling utterly lost. She no longer had anything to look forward to each week, and sitting through Mrs. Haddaway’s etiquette lessons during tea became tiresome when there was no hope of spying James anywhere. For weeks she wandered Brayton Hill in a cloud of melancholy so thick that even her father had to take notice.

Cecily pines

“Cecily, are you ill?” he asked her one day as she languished on the sofa. He walked over and rested a hand upon her forehead, which felt warm, but not unusually so.

“I feel fine, Father,” Cecily said, her voice barely above a whisper. “I’m just tired.”

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Dinner at Haddaway Hall

The birth of Arthur George brought such undiluted joy to the Brayton family that for many months afterwards the whole household radiated a kind of hazy contentment. Arianna had plenty of time to spend with her son now that the new maid was established in the house, and she would fill up her hours doting over him or reading to him from books of nursery rhymes. Often she would rise in the middle of the night just to observe his rest and regard his lovely features, which reminded her of both Harry and her own father.

Arianna and Arthur

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Arianna’s Piano

Seeing her mother’s ghost changed Cecily forever. She had always been rather quiet and reserved, but after that dreadful night, she was even more so. Often while going about her daily routine, she would feel a presence in the room and wonder if her mother was there, watching her. It didn’t help that sometimes the back door would open by itself, or bubbles would rise from the bathtub long after it had been drained of water.

Cecily is uneasy

When Cecily spoke to her father about her unease, he hugged her and told her not to worry. “Nothing terrible is going to happen,” he said. “Your mother’s spirit is simply restless because she died so young. Perhaps she is watching over you so she can protect you.”

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Timely Finds (A Work in Progress)

Wow, thanks for all of the great name suggestions! You guys are awesome. I finally got to play a bit tonight (for the first time in four days!), so expect an update sometime tomorrow (Tuesday). I’m also horribly behind on everyone else’s blogs again, but hope to get caught up with those tomorrow as well.

In the meantime, Bitsy posted a great idea in the comments for my last Brayton update — she suggested I start a list of stuff I’ve found for my historical family, and then if any of you come across new items, you can leave a comment with a link to the site where they can be found, and I’ll add them to the list. That way anyone who is interested in doing a historical or retro family can refer to it to track down objects and clothing.

(Update: I am in the process of adding tons of new links. Also, I put the list on its own page because this post kept timing out when I tried to save. Click on the link below to go to the finds.)

Go to the list –>