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Hogmanay | 10pm, 1st January- Xmas 1677

Douglas FitzJames

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Alyth house


The new home of the Dowager Countess of Alyth and her daughter was set in a lovely area of Chelsea. The drive up to the house was paved in a pale granite composite gravel, obviously fairly new in construction as it is almost completely free of holes or dips. On either side of the drive is a row of stately trees with branches just starting to spread wide over head as one nears the house. The drive becomes a circle in front of the steps leading to the front door, then loops back on itself. Off to the side of the house one can see the carriage house and the nearby stable. The front is also surrounded by a garden. Roses line the front of the house while ornamental trees provide shade and whimsy to the yard.


The house itself is a full three stories plus attic made of granite. It is up by the attic where the servants have their rooms but most rooms have a window to allow for cooling during hot summer months. On the first floor is the common area. Here you would find the Dining room, Library, North and South parlor, Music room and attached Orangery. The kitchen is also found down here along with the larder and steps down into the cellar. As close to the river as the house is, it sometimes gets a bit damp down in the cellar, so shelves were installed to help keep things up off the floor.


The second floor consists of the family rooms. The master bedroom and attached lady’s room share a walk in closet. Lady Alyth sleeps in the Master’s room. Down the hall is the nursery, where Nessia sleeps. More rooms have been set aside for the rest of the MacBain girls in case Cat sees to have them come down. Down at the end of the hall is the room set aside for Douglas, should he wish to stay with them.


The third floor is for guests. There are six chambers, but only two are currently ready for guests. The other four need more furniture. That which had been in the Pall Mall house didn’t adequately fill this new house.


Out back of the house was another garden, more ornamental than the one out front, though one patch near the kitchen is taken up with more useful items, including herbs. But the back has a maze that surrounds a three tier fountain topped with a leaping dolphin. More flowers bloom back here and make their way down towards the water, where a small boat house rests near a sturdy dock. A flight of stairs leads down from the lawn to the dock. A small rowboat bobs gently in the water near the dock. The water is deep enough for a river barge to dock and is just clean enough to swim in. A weeping willow reaches out from the garden over to the water, making a lovely spot for a lazy afternoon.


Flaming torches lined the drive to guide each invited visitor in, and give a sense of the primordial to the night, late as it was. Only two hours before midnight to allow as many as could to come from the Royal Gifting to attend. Two more torches outlined the door, which opened to each knock revealing Shona MacBain, wearing a length of MacBain tartan as an arisaidh, brooched and belted about her over her dress in the Highland style. In her hands she carried a wooden quaich, a traditional, shallow bowl with two handles. This one was beautifully carved with the edge done in silver, and full of good whiskey, a warming drink of which was offered to each guest as they crossed the threshold.


The rooms of the first floor were open, each warmed by a fire and lit with candles, giving a warm and homely feel to the place. The Dining room was clearly set for dinner, smells of which were already wafting through the house, but for now people were guided to the South Parlour, where Fiona was waiting by the fire to act as hostess, and Aileen had been allowed to stay up and was sitting nearby. Like Shona, each was wearing a traditional arisaidh in their family tartan.


Douglas meanwhile was waiting in the hallway to greet his guests, wrapped in a full great kilt, a huge length of government tartan that swathed his torso and hung in copious folds from his waist, leaving his lily-white knees to peak cheekily between the bottom of the fabric and the top of his socks. Bows adorned his socks and lace his collar, and a large circular brooch set with a huge but flawed amethyst in a thistle pinned the shoulder of his kilt. A small knife was visible in the top of his sock, and his sporran was made from the tanned head of a badger. His dark hair was tied back with a black velvet ribbon, and a warm smile greeted each new arrival.

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