Landed Estate Novel
By Ben Kesp
Susanna Westby is seated in the magnificent dining room of Castlefort House opposite her brother Sam Villiers and his wife Katherine the sister of her late husband. It is September 1787, a year since her husband’s death, and she is at Castlefort for a purpose. Her anger overshadows the need to cry and she is glad of it. She must remain strong in front of her brother and show no sign of weakness. Looking around her former home, past memories of happiness return briefly, casting out the darkness of her visit. She has not visited since her father, Captain Robert Villiers, passed away three years earlier. He had been granted Castlefort House and estate by the crown of England, and she moved to Ireland to live there when she was a young girl. Her mother, Anne Villiers, still lives, but dementia grips her mind like a vice. On the death of Susanna’s father, her elder brother Sam took control of the Villiers estate, something she strongly disagreed with. Unlike her father, her brother loves the lavish lifestyle over work and estate business. She often fears for the estate’s future and her preference would have been her younger brother Victor to take charge. On deciding to lease her husband’s estate, she approached Victor, but Sam intervened threatening to remove Victor from his current position and end all funds due to him from their father’s trusts. Her brother Sam is a strong and stubborn man and now she faces him in a battle over her husband’s estate. Her heart aches.
Locking eyes with her brother Sam, Susanna refuses to back down and be vulnerable to him. That is what he is hoping for. Any sign of weakness. She has travelled to Castlefort House to collect back rents that her brother has refused to pay since taking on the lease of lands at Point Pleasant. Sam Villiers enjoys the lavish lifestyle and has not offered her any assistance after her husband Eyre died. It disappointed her that her husband’s sister Katherine did not play more of a role in supporting her family. She has become swept up in the grandeur of Castlefort House and its formalities. Susanna clinches the arm of the chair and waits for Sam to respond. He will soon tire of forcing her to back down by intimidation.
“Are you my sister or my landlord?” he shouts with anger in his voice.
“I am your sister.”
“Then why do you care more about this man’s estate?”
“I am a Westby and not a Villiers anymore. My husband is dead, and I have a family and an estate to look after. These are my responsibilities and I must manage the Westby estate as you manage Castlefort House,” she replies forcing her voice to remain calm.
“If our father was alive, he would never have it!” Sam blurts out.
“Our father is not alive. You demanded half of Point Pleasant from our brother Victor when I wanted to lease to him. That, along with your share of Castlefort Estate, should make more than adequate profits from leases and rents. Are you not managing as well as you thought?”
He scowls at her.
“Do not forget your place. You are a woman. Do you think you can run a large estate and house like Point Pleasant? You rejected the suggestion of marrying again to have a man run your affairs for you.”
“I do not need to marry a man to run my affairs. I am capable on my own and have good connections from Lady Angela.”
“It is not what ladies do and this family has a reputation. You should hear what they say about you at the gentleman’s club.”
“And do you defend me?”
“Defend you! I agree with them, but you are too stubborn to know your place. Let us hope William Burton does not give you hassle and cause you stress because, dear sister, you may not be able to handle it all along with your three young children.”
“That is a very nasty thing to say to your sister. Katherine, do you have anything to say on this matter? I am fighting for your family’s name and estate,” Susanna raises her voice slightly at Katherine Westby who sits silently by.
“As you pointed out earlier Susanna, I am also no longer a Westby, but I am a Villiers now, and therefore my loyalties are to Castlefort House and to my husband,” Katherine calmly states to Susanna, taking rise and walking from the large dining room. Anger rises inside Susanna’s body and her stomach tightens. The woman infuriates her. She returns her stare towards her brother.
“I have been very lenient with you over this past year. I now expect all monies owed to me to be handed over to Edward Ryall by the end of the week, and brother, if you miss any future payments, I will have the lease cancelled. This is my estate, and I am not going to be bullied by anyone in how to run it.”
“This is going to be a business arrangement and not a family relationship from here on. I will have the money passed on to you,” Sam scowls. “Now, do I need to escort you to your carriage?”
“Where have we gone so wrong? This is not what our father and Francis Westby wanted,” she replies. “They wanted unity and strength between the two families.”
Her question is returned by a silent response. Rising from her seat, keeping her emotions controlled, she walks past her brother, stepping onto the large hallway and down the steps of Castlefort House to her awaiting carriage.