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7. Pepin The Tall

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While he was being born, Pepin’s feckless drunken father, a vain and penniless aristocrat, named him after Charlemagne’s papa, Pepin the Short, and after that, had nothing much more to do with him. After a childhood and adolescence of heavily shifting fortunes, he finds his way forward in a strange new branch of an old profession. However, Fate, if not humanity in all its inglorious forms, tend to stretch out tripwires.

564169 words

 First Page...


Anne Hauden©


            The skies had the quality of night, even thô it was already the early morning, but the time of year was responsible, aided by the weather, whereby the darkness was compounded by a thick layer of cloud, of the heaviest, greyest, dullest variety, that was compact, deep, high, and flat bottomed with a sort of anvil shape, a most hostile, portentous and uncompromising formation altogether.  It had begun to rain, and whatever snow, some of it dirty, surviving since the last fall, was already much pitted and reduced, while in the park under the cypresses and yews, the last snowdrops bowed their gentle heads.  The slightly bowed surface to the gravel driveway caused that a tiny rill flow in its gutters; on the terrace, long since in need of levelling, puddles formed, punctuated by bubbles.  Amid all of this, the old discoloured brick of a respectable edifice began first to darken under moisture, and then shine, its many tall windows, all of the same oblong shape, with leaded panes awash with water.  When it grew a little light, a handsome mansion would just be visible, with great plinths of rusticated stone at its corners and dividing the two lower storeys, with its majestic articulated stairway to the main doors under a porch and a portico, with its façade pierced by the manifold evidence of the glazier’s craft, but after the day had set in, also on shew would be the breakages in the balustrade about the roofline, the faults in the tile-work over one masked gable, and the fact that the frontage was much in need of renewal and refurbishment; even the pathways and drives displayed the need of a visit from a roller and a cartload of freshly quarried gravel. 

            Notwithstanding the desolation of climate and condition, there was light in the house, visible through curtains swiftly and thus badly drawn, above and below, on two storeys and on the same side of the house, facing a garden of lawns and walks and hedges and arbours, laid out in order to try and mirror Nature.  At the lower level, that which gave out over the terrace, there was illumination in a large hallway, with a square stairwell partially boxed in by some stonework, thô below, the walls and balusters were of fine oak, quarter-sawn and darkened with age, the upper panels still gleaming where time and human contact had not quite rubbed the varnish away.  A feature of the hall was a broad table with heavy, ornate, gilded legs and a crossed stretcher beneath them bearing an urn, while the table top was of scagliola marble-work, the whole piece having been fetched from Italy some two centuries ago.  The other important item of note here was a long settee with four adjoining ladder-backs, after a manner that was recommended in catalogues like Mr. Chippendale’s ‘Director’, with a basketweave seat.  Thô there were wall sconces, lighting here was provided by a brass lamp on the table.  Beside this sat a tray, and along came a servant who put a decanter upon the latter, and then carried all off to a pair of doors, passing through the same into a huge chamber, wherein burned twelve candles upon two candelabra of silver, placed upon a broad table whereof a flap was raised, and whereon was laid a setting and dishes, not to mention newspapers.  Roundabout, were bookcases, a cabinet, a secretaire, armchairs, a spinet, a lectern, and the sort of sopha sometimes known as a couchette, a day-bed or a chaise-longue.   All the pieces were in divers styles, from the lath-turned supports of some of the chairs backs and their needlepoint upholstery, to the pale satinwood panels and gothick arched panes of one of the bookcases, althô many objects, especially the carpet, had begun to look shabby. ...

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Anne Hauden’s Website for Historical Novels


Grateful thanks to The Yale Centre for British Art, New Haven, Connecticut,
The National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.,
Michael Judkins, at Pexels.