Is there a scarier place than Rosings to have a ghost? I mean, we already have the scary and snappish Lady Catherine at Rosings. But what if this mischievous ghost appears only during the twelve days of Christmas? That’s the story within a story in my Christmas novella, Twelfth-Night Cake & the Rosings Ghost.
The novella opens with Colonel Fitzwilliam and his eight-year-old daughter, Sofia-Elisabete, travelling to Rosings, where they will spend a winter’s month. If you haven’t met my plucky girl hero Sofia-Elisabete before, see I, Sofia-Elisabete, Love Child of Colonel Fitzwilliam: A Perfect World in the Moon, a humorous and poignant novel about an abandoned girl who is born in Portugal during the Napoleonic Wars and who turns out to be the illegitimate child of the colonel.
I wondered how Sofia-Elisabete feels to be half-Portuguese, Catholic and a love child living in England during the Regency Era. She’s not getting along with Lady Catherine, and then the ghost arrives to play its tricks. I imagined a crazy, troubled world for Sofia-Elisabete because Lady Catherine, who doesn’t believe in the Rosings Ghost, blames the girl for everything that goes wrong. What’s a young eight-year-old to do?
Ever since my “perfect moon world” novel, I’ve been immersed in writing YA historical fiction that appeals to all ages, finishing three novellas about the lovable, strong-willed Sofia-Elisabete and her close relationship with her father, Colonel Fitzwilliam. Twelfth-Night Cake & the Rosings Ghost is the first novella to be released in this series. My sincere thanks to Maria Grazia for helping me launch the Rosings Ghost novella on her site!
About Twelfth-Night Cake & the Rosings Ghost
In this Christmas novella set in the year 1818, a plucky little girl must contend with a mischievous ghost at Rosings. Colonel Fitzwilliam and his eight-year-old daughter, Sofia-Elisabete, pass a winter’s month at Rosings, the estate of his aunt, Lady Catherine. There, the Colonel must help his illegitimate child, who is half-British, half-Portuguese, navigate the prejudices of their world as his outspoken daughter clashes with the imperious Lady Catherine. One evening, on the first day of Christmas, they hear the tale of the mysterious Rosings Ghost who, centuries ago, vexed the inhabitants of Rosings during the twelve days of Christmas. The next morning strange things begin to happen. Why has the Rosings Ghost returned now? Why does a furious Lady Catherine blame Sofia-Elisabete for all of the ghost’s pranks? Will our girl hero Sofia-Elisabete, with the help of her father, uncover the real secret of the Rosings Ghost and put an end to its tricks?
Excerpt from Twelfth-Night Cake & the Rosings Ghost
Five years ago, when I was a mere child of eight years, I was plagued by a naughty ghost. It happened when papai and I sojourned in the land of Kent, where we passed a winter’s month to celebrate the Christmas season. There, my cousin Anne de Bourgh lived with her mother, Lady Catherine, on an estate called Rosings, its manor-house boasting over a hundred glazed windows, its grounds bedecked with parterres and curiously clipt hedges.
‘I suppose you’re looking forward to hoydening with our crazy country cousin again,’ papai spoke between jolts of the chaise.
‘Oh, papai, she’s not crazy,’ I shook my finger at him.
Cousin Annie was my first true friend. Once upon a time, she had escaped to – or rather, run away to – Scarborough, the place I call home and where I live with my parents and my pug-dog. It was then that my older cousin taught me, a tiny and fearless girl, how to turn a somersault, how to stand on my head and how to cross my toes. Together we did many a hoydenish thing, much to papai’s despair.
‘Don’t you remember how she goaded me to madness with her puppets?’
‘Oh yes, papai, and you strangled her puppet.’
‘And with good reason…’
I shrugged. ‘I think Annie is warm-hearted and eccentric.’
This gave him a start. ‘Who taught you the word “eccentric”?’
Papai’s countenance turned sad, for he always pined for my step-mother whenever they were separated. ‘Well, now, your mamãe is all politeness and goodness.’
‘Mamãe says I must needs practise my etiquette at Rosings, as do you.’
‘O, ho! You see before you a true gentleman, honourable and manly, and wholly devoted to his ancient aunt, Lady Catherine.’
I wrinkled my brow. ‘You said your aunt was an old tabby. I heard you say so once.’
Papai’s short horse-laugh turned into a fit of coughing. He drew from his pocket a silver flask and proceeded to take a manly gulp of French courage.
‘Papai, what of your cagg?’ He had promised not to touch a drop of brandy for six months.
‘Don’t you know – I, being a colonel on half-pay, am excused from my cagg during visits to Rosings?’ He indulged in another manly gulp of brandy.
I kept a watchful eye on him as I always do, the truth being that I worried he would get ill and that I might lose him again, just like I did several years ago when I took a freak in my head to run away from home, far away from home, to search for the perfect world in the moon. I wished for this moon world to cure what ailed him, but it turned out to be a fanciful world, a dazzling lie. Papai must have sensed my anxiety. He patted my hand as if to say, ‘I’m still here, my girl.’ Soon, he closed his eyes to doze, but after a minute or two, he squinted at me to determine if I still watched him, which I did and earnestly so.
Papai sighed, and he lifted me to his knee to console me. There, perched on his lap, I observed him closely, because I’m a keen observer of people – a real gazer I am – most particularly of my handsome papai. I often imagine what he looked like as a mischievous boy, what he looked like as a brave officer commanding a battalion and what he might look like as a grumpy old man. Sometimes I imagine his waking dreams when he’s thinking those great thoughts of his while he sits beneath our Scots pine in the garden, listening to his wind music. He is the most fascinating person on earth; for, no one is so well-informed, so devoted to instructing me when he is at home, so best beloved and so amusingly disagreeable ever and anon.
Our chaise rumbled through the market-town of Westerham ere it entered ‘no man’s land’, or what papai called the miserable country lane that stretched for two long miles. ‘The dickens take that rut!’ thundered papai, whenever we hit the cruellest of ruts. The drought this past summer had left deep ruts everywhere, and the rains for the last two months had turned those ruts into muddy ones, making the lane treacherous indeed. Once, when I nearly fell from the seat, papai seized me by the back of my lucky scarlet cloak to save me from injury. Thereafter, I clung to him with all my might, taking comfort in his familiar scent of cloves and cinnamon and heavy dew and bark and musty earth.
Ere long, the ruts ended, as did papai’s droll curses, for he would often substitute bad words with silly ones to protect my tender ears – ‘Oh, figs and fritters!’ being my favourite. By and by, we reached the village of Hunsford. As we drove past the parsonage, the rector waved his hat at us, while his wife stood obediently by his side, cradling a chubby-faced baby with a single curl sprouting at its crown, which brought to mind a turnip, a really bland turnip. We stared with curiosity at the baby. ‘Zounds,’ muttered papai. Very soon after, we came upon a tract of park with dark fir-trees, which place papai called Rosings Park, and he inclined his head towards mine, speaking to me in a confidential tone.
‘My dear child, you shall be introduced to Lady Catherine, and a grand lady she is. You must be polite and respectful, no matter what she says to you.’
I considered this for a moment, having recalled a visit or two with my grumpy grand-mamma. ‘Is she cross and peppery like Lady Matlock?’
‘To be sure she is.’
‘Will she cut me up and call me a love brat?’
‘Let us hope not.’ Papai bit his lip. ‘You must be a brave little soldier-girl.’
Having sensed a skirmish ahead, I became seized with a real fit of the fidgets, tug-tug-tugging at my irksome white frock with its silly pantalettes underneath.
‘Papai, methinks I could be much braver if I wore my breeches and jacket.’
Papai humphed because he never could understand my desire to dress as a boy whenever I wished to romp about, playing and pranking. I dare say he has never tried to climb over a stile or swing from a tree branch or slide down a haystack wearing a white frock with pinafore.
‘I shan’t forget your promise, you know.’
‘What promise?’ the imp in me asked.
Papai looked upon me with a suspicious eye. ‘Why, you promised to be a proper young lady, one that’s dressed in girl’s clothes. That’s how you and your mamãe cozened me into taking you to Rosings.’
I waved him off. ‘Oh, stuff and nonsense.’
‘Oh, stuff?’ Papai arched a brow at me. ‘It’s ridiculous stuff is it, to wear girl’s clothes and act proper-like?’
‘Papai, I was funning you about your being cozened.’ To cheer him, I placed my arms round his neck and planted a big, wet gooseberry kiss on his cheek – hoooooooonk.
‘Silly gooseberry,’ cried papai, and he teased me by rubbing his cold nose with mine.
About the author, Robin Elizabeth Kobayashi
I’m a native Californian who has lived in both Los Angeles and San Francisco. When I was twelve, I used to haunt the public library where they had a section of books called “Classic Fiction”. I made it my goal to read all of these books, starting with the A’s (Alcott, Austen), then the B’s (Brontë), but I got stuck on the D’s, because Dickens’ books were just so l-o-o-o-n-g in length. I never did finish my reading challenge. I never did understand Pride and Prejudice at the time; that would come much later. Fast forward several decades. After reading countless JAFF ebooks, many of them superb, I never thought I had a story to tell. Until one day I began to write about a half-Portuguese half-British girl living in the Regency era. That novel, I, Sofia-Elisabete, Love Child of Colonel Fitzwilliam: A Perfect World in the Moon, received a starred review from Kirkus Reviews which also selected the novel as an Indie Best Books of the Month (August 2018). During the day, I work as a senior legal writer and editor for a leading global publisher.
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