The request for money had left her seething. She had been so mad that she had actually called the school herself for more information. To her horror she had discovered that not only was the school asking for more money for expenses for a “special outside the curriculum opportunity” but that her only son, Gentry, was majoring in a field with no career prospects. Pneumatology, who had ever heard of such a study? She had sent him to school to increase his (and her) prospects in life, not waste away as an academic. To find out that he was foolishly throwing away his money on an education with no practical application was the absolute edge.
The Duchess Pricilla of Aggrandizeland had long since come to the end of her fortune. Upon her husband’s death, their only son and heir had inherited his father’s title and a small income that came with it. It had been enough to pay for his education and provide her with a small allowance which provided a modest flat, a maid, a chauffeur, and a cook. The Duke had died defending their remaining plantation in a bloody revolution overseas. It had been the last financial prospect of the estate. The duchy had been sold and absorbed by the city hundreds of years ago. Today it had been reduced to the block they lived on which provided rents they received distributed from a corporation they heard from once a year – a corporation that also managed intangible investments. While the income was stable, it grew by incremental percentages.
It had taken her years to learn to budget. It was not in her nature. The first year she had almost ruined them. She had been living her “life extravagant” as usual when she chanced upon her dear friend, Candace, while at a lecture they were both attending.
Candace was a self-made woman who managed and owned several clever investments and enterprises. They had very quickly become fast friends after an incident involving a flower girl at a wedding they had both attended. Candace had heard Pricilla tell the girl after whispering in her ear (when the child had asked if she had ever been a flower girl) “That’s everything I know”. For some reason this solemn and sage delivery had amused Candace causing her to shoot red wine out of her nose all over her dress. Pricilla had come to her rescue with the loan of a long wrap.
They had run in similar circles for years, but the incident had bonded them. It had been soon after on a night out at the opera that Candace had revealed the source of her capital. She disclosed it over a nightcap as they caught up and discussed the highs and lows of the opera. This opera (like so many) centered around the tragedy of a young woman who had been routinely beaten, raped, and then eventually murdered by her lover after he had impregnated and abandoned her to a career in prostitution. After one to many, Candace had boldly revealed that she too had engaged in a career as a prostitute to wealthy gentlemen while overseas – luckily more profitable and less tragic. Properly invested it had become the source of her independence. Pricilla had been delighted. What a scandal! “of course I was known as Candy then”, she had remarked which had sent Pricilla into peals of laughter. The memories of friendship were bountiful and pleasant.
Pricilla had been lost in reminiscences embrace when Candace had leaned in and whispered before the speaker could start “I’m so pleased to see your husband left you so well cared for.” She pressed her hand quickly before turning their attention to exposing themselves to the great thoughts their clever lecturer would impart.
But it was Candace’s remark that had set Pricilla to thinking and not the speaker she had paid to hear at all. How cared for was she exactly? After a few days of careful looking, she had found her late husband’s office. He had kept it at the flat she would eventually reside in. She supposed it was because it was technically the heart of the original duchy – the last 13 acres to be exact and the land with which the titled depended. Without this parcel of land (too close to downtown to be fashionable) they had no peerage and were just wealthy landowners. She spied a stack of bank paper on his desk, called for a cup of tea and settled in to explore her limits. What she found was her time was nearly up. The bank account showed a mere thousand. That can’t be right she thought. Why she knew she had spent three times that just finding the office in the past few days. Apparently none of the transactions had cleared yet. Then it hit her. When they did arrive the account would be overdrawn – the first time in six-hundred years.
Pricilla had no idea what to do. In desperation she called on her friend whose comment had started her down this path. After exchanging a few pleasantries Pricilla came to the point.
“I don’t suppose you would be in the market to provide a loan would you?” she had asked with harried exasperation turning (she was sure) quite red.
“My dear Pricilla, how much?” Candace asked with shock and concern.
“Ten thousand perhaps?…”
“My darling, is this a joke?” she asked unable to keep the incredulousness from her voice. She began to suspect a prank. What a ridiculously small amount.
“The account is in danger of overdrawing for the first time in six hundred years. I don’t even know what will happen if it does. I dread finding out. We aren’t due for an installment until the end of the month. I’m so humiliated…” she announced with panicked laughter wiping tears from her eyes.
Candace looked at her with genuine relief and suppressed a smile. “Oh, you silly girl. I will write you a check for ten thousand. In exchange, you must let me help you sort yourself out”, she said reaching for Pricilla’s hand to hold it.
Pricilla was relieved to find that they were still rich but with no new income – a situation that left unchecked would drain the estate dry within her lifetime. With Candace’s help, she sold all the properties with the exception of the duchy (a mere thirteen acre city block), released all but three of the servants, and helped her bundle the cash they had generated into a rainy day fund. They also dismissed her accountant who it turns out would have profited a great deal had Pricilla gone under, and Candace showed her the joys of a stable budget and a well-run house as well as how to save a small portion every month for future extravagances.
While Pricilla would no longer be the great lady she once was, she would not be destitute. “Perhaps I could get a job”, she remarked upon learning of her meager allowance. “Don’t be silly”, shushed Candace “you don’t know how to work”.
And so when Gentry came of age, he went to the prestigious schools their title and his allowance still accommodated. With him she sent her hope that he had inherited his father’s gift for making money and that an education would expose him to opportunity. She, who had once toasted the continent, settled into obscurity and modest comfort.
Knowledge of his academic achievements had dashed her hopes and she knew it was up to her to increase their prospects and impart what knowledge of business his father had left her to Gentry directly. The school had informed her of his location and so she had sent a letter to Japan.
In its contents were a simple directive – Gentry was to come home immediately and assume his role as Duke of Aggrandizeland. Candace was going to help them convert the remaining 13 acres to a skyscraper and this would require a great many signatures from the Duke.