The evening Ms. Lilian Evergreen was introduced in society remained the most significant event of the decade until her sudden disappearance. That of course took precedence for nobody ever knew for certain what happened to her. Her body was never found; there was no trace of her to be discovered anywhere in the country. She literally vanished into thin air. Every groove of every farm, wood and unknown properties was searched. Every train bound for the North, every ship sailing for the Old or the New World was scoured. The police, her husband, reporters they all tried to solve the mystery. Not one succeeded.
I said nobody ever knew but that isn’t exactly true: I should say ‘almost nobody’. I know. And she does of course although she won’t ever have the chance tell the story. So I might as well.
I recall that evening, as if it were yesterday. I was standing in a room cluttered with people. It was late already and everyone was getting bored: well, I was. I was never much a fan of balls and society events. I attended them because they were an interesting place to study people’s behaviour. Although that arguably also bored me because most individuals are predictable. They might think they have nuances and deep feelings; but really what’s interesting about people is their inexhaustible capacity to want things they shouldn’t. I’m like everyone else mind you and I wanted Lilian Evergreen very much. I wasn’t the only one. Particularly after that evening.
When Ms. Lilian Evergreen entered the room, silence fell upon the crowd. No one knew who she was; she wasn’t officially invited apparently, but no sane person in the room would have denied her entry. Beauty was its own introductory card. And to be completely honest, Ms. Evergreen was the most beautiful woman in the room, eclipsing the hostess even. She was a vision in a gown of a dark lime green, the same colour as her eyes; her dark brown locks fell down her back in the most unfashionable manner. Women during events had their hair up and young women coming for the first time in society wore pale shades: in that, as in many other things, she became a bellwether. Whatever Ms. Evergreen was seen wearing at one event or other, every woman, be she 18 or well into her sixties, would imitate and copy her.
They say mimicking is the lowest and cheapest kind of flattery, but Ms. Evergreen never appeared to mind: she basked in the glow of people’s admiration. But her own attentions were reserved for Mr. Morgan Devonshire. It was discrete of course and few even noticed that the future Duke of Lansbury was completely enthralled with the newcomer. Probably because they all were so they didn’t notice that his was the company she sought the most. I watched them, as they became closer. I wasn’t surprised when they announced their engagement, nor when less than a year after their wedding a child was born. Love was at the heart of their marriage.
But not everyone remained supporters of the new Duchess. A few seemed never to find grace in her eyes; the Baroness of Charing and her daughters were shunned from the Devonshire House and soon from every other house. Nobody would dare gossip about the new Lilian Devonshire’s attitude towards anyone. She was reigning over society and she did so for almost five years. A few days prior to the fifth anniversary of her introduction to society, her husband found she’d packed some travelling clothes in a handbag. She mentioned she was considering a trip back to where she’d come from. She wasn’t certain. She was said to be distraught. After much soothing and cajoling, the Duke convinced her it was best for her to stay with him and the children. She agreed. But she shouldn’t have, and she knew it.
You see I met Lilian before she entered the big world of important and rich people. You could say I walked her through the transformation of ugly duckling to swan princess. Her name wasn’t Lilian then, nor Evergreen. We invented that. Well I did. Her previous name doesn’t matter to anyone but me. Because that’s the name written in my book.
When I met her, she was chilled to the marrow and she was oh so tempting. She was an innocent who’d been hurt. And she had nothing to lose. Well she thought she had nothing to lose.
You see; the Baroness of Charing’s husband wasn’t the most faithful of men. Nothing new under the sun. He fathered a child upon one of his wife’s servants. Of course the woman was let go when the situation was established. You might think it would have been enough; but no, the Baroness was a petty person, cruel too. And she had a relentless desire for revenge. Truly, gasoline would not have burned a fire so hot and so inexhaustible. Water wouldn’t quench it nor earth smother it. Lilian’s mother ended up in a brothel and that was where Lilian grew up.
When Lilian’s mother died, she tried to find a job as a maidservant. Somehow she wound up at the Baroness’ house. She hoped that by claiming kinship with the Baron, she would get a position. How naive. The Baroness laughed, sneered and threatened to destroy her as she had her mother.
Lilian had stumbled out, tears blinding her. She’d fallen from the stairs into the arms of the Duke. He’d smiled but he hadn’t really noticed her. She was just a poor girl. But she’d noticed how handsome he was. And so when I found her, it wasn’t hard to see what her heart desired. It must have been the best Faustian deal of the century. Five years; that’s all she wanted. To have a chance to earn the love of a man who might not have noticed her since she was poor. And an opportunity to take revenge on her mother’s behalf.
I don’t know if she found the price too high. And I don’t really care. She’s been rather subdued since she joined the others who sold their soul for something they shouldn’t have wanted. Unlike many she had five years of happiness and I didn’t claim her kids. I could have. I don’t know why, she’s one of the few people who made me care. She was a bit different. Most people who take up my deals want instant gratification; they’re satisfied with a few months, one year. Lilian had at least the cleverness to see the long road. Just not the longest road.
In response to Mindlovemisery’s Menagerie Wordle #132
1. Gasoline 2. Lime 3. Bellwether (Male sheep that leads the flock, usually bearing a bell. A person or thing that assumes the leadership or forefront, as of a profession or industry. A person or thing that shows the existence or direction of a trend. A person who leads a mob, mutiny, conspiracy, or the like; ringleader.) 4. Late 5. Nuance 6. Marrow 7. Flattery 8. Clutter 9. Groove 10. Inexhaustible 11. Handbag 12. Faustian (sacrificing spiritual values for power, knowledge, or material gain)
And in response to the Daily Post writing prompt Vanish