The Baroness woke, and so realized she had been asleep.
"Must have...dreamed," she muttered, feeling her tresses hang loose, looking down at the old nightshirt she had not remembered climbing into. The conjugal bed at Tattson Hall (rustic counterpart to the city's House) was huge, with the hunting trophies of the previous occupant still presenting a formidable obstacle of horns and snouts to any possible intruder. She had never been able to prevail upon her husband to let her "do" the Hall, as he had given her free reign to attempt alleviating the gloom of their London home, and now, she grudgingly admitted, she had come to appreciate the musty, frankly hideous, damp aura of this creaking place. All smoky wood, stained leather, and thick crystal in which what fugitive light there was glinted dimly. And the rooms! Room after room, with no sense or structure, leading nowhere, to a brick wall, oftener than not, the Hall having been added onto over time, like a honeybee hive. One could be in search of the plumbing, turn a handle, and enter instead a perfectly furnished supplementary dining hall done in the style of 1650, with the debris of a long-forgotten feast moldering spectacularly on the sideboard. The place was haunted, so haunted, by so many ghosts, there were even tales of ghosts mating with other ghosts and producing ghost babies who cried mysteriously in the middle of the night.
"Doris?" the Baroness called. When had she fallen asleep? Of last night she remembered nothing. The endless carriage ride to get here, the cold meal, a glass of wine, and then...? It felt late, afternoon perhaps, and she was by nature an early riser. "Doris!"
Was that, in fact, her country chambermaid's name? For the Tattsons kept two sets of servants, one for each of their establishments. Getting to her feet--these strange slippers, made of some coarse yellow material, like a Dutch peasant's in a painting, they were not hers either--she made her way slowly along the side of the bed, careful to avoid the serried row of gargoyle-like hunt victims.
"I am old," she repeated to herself. "Old. Doris!"
At last the girl appeared, flustered in her curtsey, face still red from climbing the steep servants stair.
"What time is it, child?" the Baroness asked, extending a trembling hand, finding she needed support now that she had finished creeping round the edge of the bed.
"It is one o'clock, M'um. You slept ever so long. I tried waking you at ten, when you told me to, but you rolled right back over."
She had sat down in front of her dressing table but, not liking what she saw, pulled her graying hair across like a theater curtain. No show today.
"Shall I run your bath, M'um?"
"Do. And what...what are these horrible shoes I am wearing?"
"Those are his Lordship's, M'um." The girl suppressed a giggle. "You must've put them on by mistake."
"You mean the Baron slept here last night?" "Why yes, M'um, don't you remember?"
"Never mind, Doris. Go run my bath."