Every summer, I travelled from boarding school in London back to my aunt’s house, Trenworth Manor in Cornwall. My parents had died when I was a baby, leaving me a fortune and placing me in the care of my mother’s childless and widowed twin sister. My aunt, not knowing what to do with a boy had always put me in the care of others.
I was thirteen that year and growing into a gentleman all ready. I had short brown hair, that curled at the ends, light brown eyes and my face, though still rounded with child-likeness was becoming more strong and defined. I was tall for my age but thin as I had yet to fill out. I also had some faded scars on my palms, the results of being caned too hard a few months back.
Looking out of the small, two horse drawn carriage’s window, I saw the scene around me began to change. After travelling many hours by a few different horse drawn coaches, I was pleased to see Bodmin Moor growing wild all around the road as it meant I was almost at my aunt’s house. She lived in a small manor house, left to her by her husband, on the edge of the moors and overlooking a tiny village.
The two brown horses clopped through the half open gates, the carriages wheels crunching over stones then we were there at the front door of Trenworth Manor. The driver let me out and I looked around at the house. It hadn’t changed in a year, it never really seemed too. The huge grey stones and plan front loomed over me, the handful of windows seemed to be judging me like eyes and the door was a closed mouth, keeping it’s secrets inside.
I went up the steps whilst the driver lowered my trunk. The door open as I got there and the housekeeper, Mrs Bennett, peered out of the gap. She was a short, stocky woman, with a huge bosom that her practical black and white frilled dress seemed unable to keep in. Her face was worn and wrinkled more then her years but she must have been in her mid-fifties that year. She had small, unhappy brown eyes. Her dark brown and grey hair was to her shoulders and plaited back.
‘Good day, Mrs Bennett. Please inform my aunt Mrs Whitley that I have arrived,’ I announced.
Mrs Bennett grunted at me like an old dog, opened the door wider and walked off. None of my aunt’s servants had ever had the time for me either. I walked in, hung my hat on the stand and went into the parlour to await my aunt or Mrs Bennett’s return.
I heard the driver drag my trunk into the hallway and stop to catch his breath. I had all ready paid him and we had known each other for a few years now. He should also remember that he wouldn’t get any hospitably here.
After a few moments, he left, closing the door behind him. I heard him urging the horses on and the coach wheels starting up. I went to the window and watched them leave down the short driveway and out onto the moors.
Turning, I took the parlour in; a few chairs were dotted around, two low tables placed between them, a small fireplace in the far wall and on the mantle a ticking brass carriage clock. My aunt never had visitors. Expect her solicitor and sometimes people looking for work.
I didn’t sit but walked around the room, stopping sometimes at the window or the fire place. I was tried and hungry, wanting to eat and go to bed. The minutes passed and Mrs Bennett came bustling back, tutting over my abandoned trunk in the hallway before coming into the room.
‘Your aunt is not feeling well today. She’s employed a new maid to wait on you,’ Mrs Bennett replied in a clipped voice.
‘Oh. Has my governess not arrived yet?’ I said.
It was normal for my aunt to employ someone to teach and keep an eye on me over the summer. For the last few years, my governess had also been the teacher of Bodmin town’s girl school. Before that, there had been a string of young women in their first appointments as governesses. I could not really remember them all.
‘No,’ Mrs Bennett sniffed, ‘your aunt has decided you are too old for one now. You should be able to take care of yourself.’
I was taken back by this and didn’t know what to say.
‘I disagree,’ Mrs Bennett said in a low voice almost as if she didn’t want me to hear but could not help speak her thoughts, ‘boy should not be left to wander around and idle away!’
‘Idle?’ I uttered, horrified.
Mrs Bennett rose to her short, full height, holding her head high and staring down her nose at me as if I was something disgusting that shouldn’t be inside the parlour.
‘I have too much do. You know where your room is,’ she added then turning on heel, stormed off.
Unsure what to do, I walked slowly to the connecting rooms I always stayed in. Trenworth Manor seemed un-decorated and half empty of furniture. The wallpaper and paint were badly faded, where there were small paintings on the walls they were dusty, the rugs and floorboard, though clean were threadbare and scuffed. The staircases’ banisters had been polished so much, they had turned dull.
The furniture that did dot the hallways and gathered in rooms was old, some tables and chairs going back generations – family heirlooms. The fabric on the curtains, chairs and cushions were so faded you could no longer see the colours or patterns. There were perhaps only a few ornaments – vases that stood empty in on window sills, animal and people figurines on mantles and bookcases.
The manor give the impression it had not been lived in for years but someone was trying to keep up appearances. There was a pressure of silence, broken only by the ticking of clocks that echoed around and the creak of wood. There was a faint musty, damp smell masked by the scent of lilies and fire smoke. I also recalled the smell of dried fruit and green leaves from Christmas.
I climbed two staircases, down a short corridor and arrived at the first of the three doors. Opening the door, I entered the bedroom and found someone had recently aired it out. The window was open, the breezy moving the curtain across the plush window box seat. Taking up a whole wall and most of the room, was a large double four poster bed with dark red velvet curtains swept around the wooden poles. At the head, two small tables guarded either side and at the bottom there was a worn bedding box.
In the opposite wall, was a white marble fireplace. Coal, firewood and kindling stacked neatly and waiting to be lit. On the mantel, was a small sliver joint picture frame containing paintings of my parents looking at each other. There was also a small blue vase and two china dogs. On the wall above was one of my favourite paintings; Bodmin moor in all it’s summer glory was the ruins of castle in the distant. To the right of the fireplace was a small dark wardrobe.
Smiling at the familiarity and glad not be be travelling anymore, I relaxed. Taking off my shoes, I climbed up onto the bed. Laying down, the pillow felt soft on my head and the blankets warm underneath me. I yawed then shut my eyes, feeling sleep hushing me away.
To be Continued…