Today we have the pleasure of meeting Tressa Harlowe from Joanna Davidson Politano’s A Rumored Fortune.
Supposedly there’s a fortune hidden somewhere on your estate. Is it true?
Of course it is. Just because we haven’t found it yet, doesn’t mean it isn’t there. I know my father, and if he claims he has hidden his fortune, then he’s done exactly that. Besides, if there’s no hidden fortune, it means we have nothing.
You say you know your father, but if that’s the case, wouldn’t you know where he’d hide his fortune?
That’s none of your concern. I know the man better than anyone does. Do the women of Her Majesty’s court not know the queen, even from a distance? I know the sort of man my father was, and I know he’d never lie about his great fortune.
How would you describe the man, then?
(After a pause)—He was strong and true and good, the best father a girl could have. I admired him so, and felt a sort of hero worship for him. Such wisdom he had about a great many things. Most of our conversations centered around vines, for his vineyards were the great love of his life. We talked of grapes and branches, but in doing so we talked of deeper things too, without saying the words. He understood vineyards the way physicians understand the human body and accountants understand sums. I never would have cared a whit for vines or grapes except that it was who he was. To love his vineyards was to love him, so these rows of winding branches and vines have become dear to me.
You know, vines are such a mystery. They burst forth with wonderful sweet fruit, but only if the conditions are perfect—pruning, weather, season, protection and drainage. Father was something like that, only the conditions were never right.
There have been a great many visitors to your estate lately. What should happen if one of them were to find the fortune before you?
Let them all search in the nooks and crannies forever, learning the intricacies of Trevelyan. They could spend years looking for the fortune on an estate of this size. In the meantime, I’ll be studying the man who hid the fortune. Understanding my closed-off Father is the key to finding the fortune he hid. I just know the answer is somewhere in his vineyard notebooks, written in some kind of symbolic riddle.
Now that I’ve found someone who speaks Welsh, I’ll be able to translate his notebooks and unlock the pages he poured himself into all these years. I only have to work up the courage to hand the notebooks to that vineyard manager.
The vineyard manager, Donegan Vance. He’s new to the estate, isn’t he? You are brave to trust a newcomer with the secret to your father’s fortune.
I haven’t any choice now, have I? No one else about the place speaks Welsh. Trust is coming slowly where this man is concerned. He may be a bit too forthright and lacking in certain gentlemanly restraint, but his brashness does have one advantage—total honesty. Everything that comes from the man’s mouth is honest to a fault. I don’t have to enjoy the man’s company to believe him trustworthy.
It’s been said you’ve spent a lot of time together, both in the vineyard and out about Welporth. Have you been searching for the treasure together?
He’s become a partner of sorts in the treasure hunt, out of necessity. I will say, though, that from the moment he pounded up the path to Trevelyan on his massive black stallion, he’s been nothing but a rescuer for me. Mother may say what she likes, but the man is a solid rock. He’s bold and opinionated, which truly unsettles me at times, but he’s been a pleasant cool breeze of truth as well. Sometimes I regret partnering with him, but so far he’s proven to be nothing but a help. He seems to have a natural wisdom about vineyards too, and the deeper meaning behind the way the plants work.
He said something to me once about the Scripture passage, “speaking the truth in love.” I think perhaps he can teach me a bit about that, and maybe I can help him with the rest—speaking the truth in love. That’s the way I think of our partnership right now—opposites that work well together. If it weren’t for the secret I see shadowed in his eyes, perhaps I could trust him completely and tell him everything I know, but with the way things are going now, there’s not a single person among my acquaintances I’d trust to that extent.
What of Andrew, your fiancé? One would assume you could trust him.
First of all he’s no longer my fiancé. That courtship died a painful death over a year ago when his parents pressured him to end our association. Yes, he’s come to stay at Trevelyan, but it doesn’t mean anything. Mother convinced him to come help us grieve Father’s passing, and I wish he’d simply take himself home again. I cannot bear to see the face of my deepest rejection every day in my own house. I want to trust him, to seek his help with this fortune hunt, but after all that’s happened between us, I simply cannot trust the man. I suppose the only one a person can trust is God.
Are you a very religious person?
I suppose I am. I’ve attended church since birth and I’ve always felt a peace there. I believe there’s something more to it, though. Don’t think me mad, but sometimes I feel as if God tries to connect directly to me, even outside of a sermon. It happens when I paint. Ever since I was small, I’d sink into this creative outlet and at the same time sink into conversation with God. I let my thoughts flow free and unhindered with each sweep of my brush. Life splashed through my soul as color splashed over white canvas. I always thought it was because I had no one else I connected deeply with, and it was my imaginative, artistic heart’s invention.
Lately it seems He’s been trying to reach me again, though, and it’s always through color, through artwork. From the orangey glow of dawn on morning fog to the sunlight shining through stained glass, color seems to be His specific way of reaching me. It’s as if He’s speaking my language to ensure His words sink directly and deeply into my heart. Perhaps it’s only the wishful thinking of a little girl who has grown up around the hole my earthly father left in my heart. I cannot deny, however, the taste I’ve had of life and the hope I’ve felt.
Thank you for visiting with us today, Tressa. We hope you find your treasure!
Joanna Davidson Politano is the award-winning author of Lady Jayne Disappears. She freelances for a small nonfiction publisher but spends much of her time spinning tales that capture the colorful, exquisite details in ordinary lives. She is always on the hunt for random acts of kindness, people willing to share their deepest secrets with a stranger, and hidden stashes of sweets. She lives with her husband and their two babies in a house in the woods near Lake Michigan and shares stories that move her at www.jdpstories.com.