A Christmas journey
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Being a noble lady in the middle of the 20th century is not as simple as it seems. Mistakes are not tolerated, and if you- as a lady- are involved in a scandal or you’ve behaved yourself unworthy, you will be excluded from high society. This is the nightmare of every noble lady: you will not be invited on any party and you will be ignored until you stay home for the rest of your life. And because she is not educated to do a normal job, she will live in poverty.
On a high society home party on a cold December evening, there is love in the air. Lady Gwendolen Kilmuir is in love with Bertie Rosythe. Although Gwendolen’s husband died in a tragic accident last year, she isn’t mourning very long for his dead. But Lady Isobel is also in love with Bertie. After dinner, there is a row in the withdraw room. Isobel makes a cruel remark: she says that Gwendolen wouldn’t love Bertie if he was a footman or a servant. Then Gwendolen leaves angry the room. Isobel is aware that she has been rude and proposes to apologise the next day. But that morning, Gwendolen’s body is found in the lake. She threw herself off the bridge in an act of despair. All the guests in the county house blame Isobel for being the cause of her act. Lady Vespasia realises that Isobel- her best friend- risks to be excluded, but not deserved it as she just said something rude that might have hurt her. Than Omegus Jones proposes to give her an alternative punishment. Isobel will have to do a special pilgrimage.
Gwendolen has left a letter in her room for her mother. Isobel will have to bring this letter to her mother- Who lives in Inverness- and explain her part in the suicide of her daughter. First Isobel refuses to do this expiation, but Lady Vespasia persuades her because this is her only option. She also accepts to accompany her to Scotland because she seeks also forgiveness for her sins.
Years ago, she had a romance with an Italian freedom fighter. And she also goes with Isobel because she feels pity for her and she’s a friend. They go to Inverness by train. On the way, Vespasia is thinking that Isobel’s cruel remark can impossible be the cause of Lady Gwendolen’s suicide.
When they arrive at the county house of Gwendolen’s mother: Mrs Naylor, a servant tells them that she left a year ago. She went to Ballachulish, a small Scottish town on the westcoast. The journey to the west coast will be physically and emotionally arduous. They will have to travel through the cold and wet highlands. When Lady Vespasia talks to an other servant, she finds out that Mrs Naylor was with Gwendolen’s husband the day that he died.
On the way to Ballachulish, Lady Isobel tells Vespasia that her remark wasn’t that innocent as it sounded. She was referring to a rumour: Some people said that Gwendolen was sleeping with a servant. Off course this would be a shame. If it was proven, her former husband would have divorced her, and she would be excluded from the nobles. When Isobel insinuates that it was lord Kilmuir- Gwendolen’s Husband- himself who started the rumours, Lady Vespasia thinks that Mrs Naylor killed Lord Kilmuir. She also finds out the reason for this malicious trick. Lord Kilmuir was angry that he couldn’t have children with Gwendolen, so he was in love with an other woman. If he could make the others believe that Gwendolen committed adultery with a servant, it would be easy to divorce.
After a long journey through the hail and snow of the highlands, the two ladies reach Mrs Naylor who lives in an isolated mansion a few miles from Ballachulish.
Isobel behaves strong and she explains her part in the dramatic event. Mrs Naylor accepts her apologies and agrees to come with them to London for the funeral.
The next morning Mrs Naylor comes to Lady Vespasia’s room. When Vespasia asks why she lives here, she says that she is also doing an expiation. But Vespasia noticed that Mrs Naylor is in love with one of her servants too. So she concludes that not Mrs Naylor but Gwendolen Herself has pushed Lord Kilmuir off his horse. She couldn’t live with the pain any longer when Isobel reminded her to the trick that Kilmuir wanted to use against her. After that the three ladies are returned to Londen, the noble men and ladies are willing to forgive Isobel and they go to Gwendolen’s funeral.
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