The golden flower petals decorating the light pink walls enclosing my bedroom beautifully captured the rising sun. Reflections from the multiple large mirrors brightened the room considerably. I saw the time on the large, jewel encrusted grandfather clock and realized that I needed to get out of bed. It was quarter to seven and I had a schedule to keep.
I slid my legs over the side of the bed and admired the elegant ceiling as I stretched. The hand painted cherubim above me had made their way all the way from France to adorn my room. As I caught a glimpse of the turquoise desk studded with sizable opals, and piled with papers, in the corner of the room, I was once again reminded that my day had begun.
I lifted my silk dressing gown from the chaise lounge and wrapped it around myself. There was a discrete walnut colored button, which matched the paneling of the room, mounted on the wall next to my bed. I pressed it and stepped into the bathroom adjourning my bedroom. I twisted the gold plated faucet and let warm water flow into the sink.
The sink and the bathtub were cut from identical pieces of very rare marble; they are both one of a kind and very easy on the eyes. When the water filled about half of the sink, I turned the faucet off and let a plush cloth fall into the water. Right on time, the phone hanging to the right of my sink began to ring. I lifted the beautifully engraved earpiece out of its holder, and heard the familiar voice of Leopold.
Leopold was the head butler of the estate. My husband, Charles, left him with orders to help me manage this property. Charles was staying in our home in New York City; he met with stockbrokers daily to keep an eye on our fortune. We only got together a few times a year because I had just as much interest in his business deals as he had in my get-togethers. Every day I took good care of this house, and it would have been a great deal more difficult without Leopold's assistance.
"Good morning, Lady Weisman."
"Yes, it is a lovely one today. If you would be so kind, please send the head chef up." After I hung up the phone, I washed my face and started the taps for the bathtub. Leopold's knock on my bedroom door brought me back into my room.
"Joseph is ready to see you, madam."
"Send him in." I took a seat by my desk and watched as the head chef entered through the massive doorway.
"I prepared a meal plan; it only needs your approval." He walked toward me after he bowed. I took the sheet he offered me in his outstretched hand.
"Did you remember that Clara and Jane are coming over for tea?" My eyes quickly scanned over the menu.
"Of course, Madame."
"This looks suitable, thank you." I handed back the list and rose.
"I will get the staff started on breakfast immediately and it will be waiting in the east room for you when you have finished your bath." He bowed deeply and exited. I made my way back into the bathroom and shut off the taps. I climbed in and began to ruminate over which china teacups to use for my guests.
When I was presentable, I made my way to the east room. The hallway outside my door wrapped around the main ballroom. I decided to take the long way and walked to the set of stairs across the room from where I was standing. The rich, red carpet cushioned my feet as my eyes gazed toward the sparkling ballroom ceiling. Golden adornments twinkled in the sunlight with even more magnificence then the crystal chandeliers bestowed on them. I closed my eyes and remembered glamorous balls where exquisitely dressed ladies swept over the swirled marble floor with their dancing partners. Summer's end was the season for balls and everyone who was anyone needed to begin their planning. My days were filled with not only entertaining guests but also deciding on jeweled decorations and floral arrangements.
Leopold was waiting for me in the east room with a tray of tea, toast, and jam. He set the tray on the center of an elaborately carved table next to two papers, a local one and one from New York. Each leg of the table was carved with images from one of the four seasons. Small, tasteful flower blossoms covered the walls, and there was a window out looking the side of the main garden. Ivy trailed up terraces, and shrubs were maintained flawlessly. One long, winding path covered by small pebbles gave an inclusive tour of the garden, and it was a favorite place of mine when I needed peace to think.
"Do you need anything else, Madame?" Leopold stood respectfully by the door.
"It would be lovely if you would stay and keep me company; I would love someone to talk with about the flowers and other decorations for the big ball."
"Of course, Madame." He took out a small notebook from the breast pocket of his uniform and sat in the chair nearest mine.
"And please don't call me "Madame" so much Leopold, it makes me feel so much older." Though I was nearly twenty years his senior, I would never admit that. As far as he knew, I was a child bride only a few years older than he.
"As you wish. Have you seen the list of flowers readily available from local florists?"
"I have, but they don't seem to have the amounts I was thinking of. We may have to have some imported from New York."
"That can be arranged. What types of bouquets?"
"Oh I was thinking of some light pink and yellow roses with some of that delightful baby's breath. And what shall we do for the vases? They are the most important part, you know." He jotted notes the entire time I mused.
"Maybe something that will match the decorations?"
"Yes, I've been contemplating strands of pink pearls. Small, shimmering, shell shaped vases would go nicely with the pearls."
"I'll see if I can get a few different samples for you to try."
"Thank you, Leopold. I'm going to have a stroll. Please prepare that lovely blue china that I adore for tea this afternoon."
"Excellent choice, it will be attended to." He held the door for me and headed toward the kitchen as I made my way outside. I had just paused to admire the beautiful rose bushes when I saw Leopold walking solemnly toward me.
"Leopold? What's the matter? You look so glum."
"We just received word from New York."
"How is dear Charles?" All news of my husband came from Leopold; Charles never contacted me directly.
"He - he's dead." Leopold stared at the ground while focused my gaze on him.
"What? How?" Tears began to form in the corners of my eyes.
"He had a heart attack." My world began to spin before my eyes, and my legs gave way under me. I felt Leopold wrap his arms around me to hold me up, and I lost consciousness.
When I came too, I was lying in my own bed with a cool cloth resting on my forehead. The glint of the sun off the many mirrors in my room hurt my eyes. Leopold was sitting in a chair he had pulled up next to my bed and looked deep in thought.
"Leopold?" The sound of my voice caused him to jerk his head towards me.
"How are you? Is there anything I can get for you?" He stood, obviously flustered.
"I am as well as can be expected. I need you to cancel my tea plans, and I would like a cup of strong tea brought to me as quickly as possible."
"That will be done." Leopold quickly regained his serious posture and set off to take care of the small tasks. Losing Charles was a blow, but he had set up his will so that our money would be in good hands. He was quite intimate with many of the top investors in New York so I knew I wouldn't have to worry about money. Surprisingly, I wasn't as heartbroken as I should have been. Our marriage had lost its romance long ago and I had begun to think of Charles merely as a business partner. We worked together toward a common goal - our wealth, and nothing more.
Luckily, I had the upcoming ball to keep my mind off of things. Leopold spent a great deal of time assisting me with the plans and keeping me company in general. He and I became very close and I would see no one but my dear butler. One day I made a very important decision.
"Leopold, would you mind escorting me into town later today? I have business to do at the bank."
"Of course, what do you need to do? If you don't mind me asking."
"As you know, I have no children. I also have no living relatives nor extraordinarily close friends. Now that Charles is gone, I need to change my will. I shall leave everything to you, my dear Leopold."
"Are you sure that is wise? I am, after all, only your butler."
"I care for you and I believe that you care for me as well. I would like nothing more then to make sure that you continue to look after this estate even after I am gone."
"I am very appreciative and will continue to do my best to serve you." We became closer still after that day. He handled all the details for the ball and only requested my approval. The ballroom was even decorated as a surprise while I dashed to town for last minute dancing shoes.
The day before the ball, I requested that Leopold be my escort and find someone else to gather coats from the guests. He gladly agreed, much to my happiness. The night of the ball I was ready in my room before Leopold came for me. My great grandmother's priceless ruby necklace added the right amount of color to my black dress. I stepped outside my door to have one last look at the decorations before Leopold and I joined the festivities.
Strings of pink tinted pearls were everywhere, just as I had wanted. Leopold had found me a wonderful florist only a few towns over that made the pastel rose bouquets just they way I wanted them. Everything was perfect and Leopold was the one who had made it all happen. I saw him walking toward my room and couldn't help but smile.
"Lady Weisman," he bowed deeply.
"Leopold," I curtsied back.
"Can I speak to you for a moment inside your chambers before we make our entrance?" He put an arm around my waist and directed me back into private.
"Yes, what did you want to talk about?" I heard him shut the door. I was about to turn around when I felt something cold against my neck.
"Walk toward the balcony and do not scream." My darling's voice was icy. I could do nothing but watch, wide-eyed, as I was forcefully led to the balcony overlooking the garden. I felt a flash of pain; my world went black.
Finally, it was over. I slit her neck and placed the knife in her hand before calling in some of the staff to see the suicide I had found. The foolish old lady had actually trusted me. When she made me the soul benefactor to this property, it insured that I would benefit from my scheme. No one suspected Leopold, her favorite butler, was capable of such a thing; not even her husband would suspect me. Charles had never died. I merely took advantage of their crumbled relationship to make her depend more upon me. My plan succeeded and I would be rich because of it.