Victoria’s Web

SH-Victoria's webYou can visit Carding any time in my novels, The Road Unsalted, Thieves of Fire, and The Dazzling Uncertainty of Life. The fourth in the series, Coming Up for Air, will be out later this year.

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In this week’s Carding Chronicle, I have an update one the news from last week about the Victoria Quartermain papers discovered in the Carding Academy of Traditional Arts. It seems that determining who owns the rights to the letters, journals and book drafts is more complicated than first thought.


There’s a house on Carding Green that’s renowned for its complicated ownership. Locally, it’s called “the Tennyson house” but no one in town is ever sure who owns it at any given time.

Or, to be more correct, which family members are in control of the house at the moment.

It’s a rambly old structure with an original core built in 1761. Or at least that’s what the Tennyson family claims.

Over the decades, successive generations have added to the family manse with greater or lesser degrees of skill. One ell, which now houses the wood burned in winter, is so swaybacked, you have to duck when walking from one end to the other. Two of the bedrooms at the back have doors that open into what’s left of the barn (now a garage), and the back stairs are so narrow, no one in their right mind would use them to get to the second floor.

But the kitchen and front parlor, as the two reigning Tennyson sisters like to call it, were built in the 1920s by someone who knew what they were doing. Both rooms are large, airy, and bright.

The kitchen has a bay window where the resident cat sleeps in the sun twined among pots of herbs. And the parlor has pale yellow walls outlined by sculpted wainscoting made when people knew how to make those things.

As I explained earlier, ownership (read control) of the house changes without explanation. Locals suspect that every once in a while, the Tennyson clan meets on a misty hillside to draw lots to see who gets stuck—or who wants—to be in charge of the “great home on the Green” this time.

Or maybe they cut cards for it. No one’s sure.

What is certain is that the Tennyson home is now under the control of two sisters born in in the 1940s. Christened Blanche and Bess, the siblings have traveled the world indulging their interests in all things occult, the collecting of salt and pepper shakers, breeding rare cats, and yarn.

They never knit, you understand. They just like the feel and colors of wool yarn.

Over the years, depending on what interest was paramount at the moment, the sisters have changed their first names to suit their mood. Nowadays, they insist on being called Ginger (née Blanche) and Goldie (née Bess) because they feel those names are “more 21st century” and more magical. They recently co-founded something called the White Iris Society for the preservation of unicorns.

“We believe one always has to make a proper space for magic,”  Goldie explained.

The sisters Tennyson happened to be in Carding when volunteers discovered the Victoria Quartermain archives in the attic of the Carding Academy of Traditional Arts.

Quartermain was a renowned spiritualist—she preferred the term “seeker of answers”— in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Not content to simply read tarot cards or conduct séances, Quartermain became a champion of women caught in the tangles of Victorian life. She rescued heiresses from fortune hunters, recovered objects used for blackmail, and in several cases, solved murders in ways that confounded the police and the public.

During her lifetime, writer Hansen Willis (who summered in Carding for decades) interviewed and wrote about Quartermain extensively. When the archives were found last week, it was assumed they belonged to Willis. But further investigation has revealed that the letters, journals, and even book drafts are in Quartermain’s own hand.

The Tennyson sisters claim they are Quartermain’s sole heirs, and earlier this week, they hired an attorney to press their case in court.

“We have family papers that prove Victoria’s intentions to leave her estate in the care of the Tennyson family of Carding, Vermont,” Ginger Tennyson said.

Throughout her long and eventful life, spiritualist Victoria Quartermain was renowned for spinning webs to catch those who thought themselves too clever to be caught. It seems that that ability has now transcended her death.

Stay tuned. This should get interesting.

 

 

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