Stone Circles (Part 2)

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Early morning light woke me. I rolled over, rubbing my eyes then sat up. Someone had undressed me, leaving me in just shirt and underwear. I paused, a strange tuneful humming coming from the next room. I got up, saw fresh clothes laid out on the bedding box, my trunk open and half unpacked.

I dressed then went to the corner and moved the faded tapestry there to reveal a small door. Opening this, I entered a room that was trying to be too many things at once. There was a circle tea table under the window with two chairs, a small writing desk in the corner next to it. Along the next wall was a fireplace, another hidden door to the left and a bookcase to the right.

The other side of the room was a nursery; a large wooden trunk sat closed against the wall, there was another bookcase holding a few toys; a wooden boat, balls, tennis rackets, dolls. There was a dolls house, a tiny table laid with a tea set and in the corner, my favourite thing of all; a dappled grey rocking horse. His mane and tail were real grey horse hair, his black eyes were wide and his mouth open showing teeth and red lips around the metal bit.

I was not alone in the room. A young woman, dressed in black with a white pinafore and cap was by the first bookcase, putting away books that she had taken out of my trunk.  I could see bright red hair poking out of the caps edges and a hint of flat black shoes under her skirts. She was humming loudly and had not heard me enter.

‘Hello,’ I said.

She jumped, a book flying from her hand and spun around to me. More loose strands of red hair framed her flushed pink face which had a covering of freckles. Her nose was upturned, her eyebrows raised in shock and her bright blue eyes fixed on me.

‘Sir! You startled me!’ she cried.

‘Sorry…’

She bent, picked the book up and shoved it on to the shelf, ‘I was worried you would not awake,’ she said, her voice sounding very Cornish, ‘I came up after Mrs Bennett told me too but you were all ready sleeping. The trip from London was tiring?’

I nodded.

‘I have never left the village. My cousin works here as the gardener’s hand, he recommended me when Mrs Whitley enquired. This is my first job, would sir please be understanding of that?’

I was use to that being the case at Trenworth Manor. Seemed my aunt found it hard to hire more experienced servants. Or perhaps, she was more understanding of the younger ones now having me in her life.

‘How old are you?’ I asked.

‘Seventeen,’ the maid replied.

‘And you name?’

‘Molly Pickworth, sir,’ she answered and give a little curtsy.

‘I am Master William Dunnington.’

‘I know,’ she uttered, her cheeks flushing deeper red.

I looked away from her as was gentleman like to save her more blushing. My glance ended over at the table and I saw it was set out for a meal. There was a silver tray with a covered dish, milk jug, sugar bowl, jam pot, a teapot and tea cup on a saucer. My stomach growled loudly, breaking the silence that was growing.

‘Excuse me,’ I said.

‘I believe it is porridge, sir,’ Molly voiced, ‘Mrs Marsh sent it up an hour or so ago. It should still be warm.’

Nodding, I went over to the table and helped myself. Molly carried on unpacking, trying to be as quiet as possible. The porridge was good, still warm and nice with sugar and jam. The tea was also nice and comforting. I felt better after eating and drinking it all and turned to look out of the window whilst I rested.

Surprising, it was nice day outside. Sunlight was pouring across Bodmin Moor from a really blue sky, the grass and bushes were a wash of green and I could just see little colours of flowers. Bird song was drifting through the air and I could just hear the calling of cows from a nearby farmer’s field.

‘Have you finished, sir?’ Molly asked.

I nodded and stretched out as she gathered everything up.

‘I think I’ll go outside,’ I spoke.

‘As you wish, sir. If there is anything else….’

‘No, that’ll be all,’ I said as if I was the lord of the manor.

I got up off the chair and went back into my bedroom. I went out the door and back the way I had come last night. I should have sought Mrs Bennett and asked her if my aunt wished to see me, but I knew my aunt would not want too, she rarely give me an audience.

The smell of freshly baked bread and something sweet, hint my nose at the bottom of the main staircase and I walked towards the kitchen. Opening the door, I saw the back of the elderly cook, Mrs Marsh removing bread from the oven. Her granddaughter assistant, Margret who was almost twice my age was at the sink washing something. There was a fire burning in the stove and a kettle boiling on top. The scrubbed, wooden table was piled with a mixture of different foods and the back door was half open, suggesting a delivery of things from the village had just arrived.

I coughed and walked in, making sure I was heard, Mrs Marsh was partly deaf.

‘Oh, it’s the young master,’ Margret said, turning around.

She was tall and curvy, wearing a simple dark green dress with a peek of white underskirt showing at the bottom. Her arms were going thick with muscles from carrying and working hard in the kitchen. Her face was pleasing with rounded cheeks, plump lips, blue eyes and dusty blonde hair poking out of a too small white cap. I noticed too the gold band on her ring finger and the growing bump of her stomach.

‘I sent his porridge up,’ Mrs Marsh half shouted as she tipped a loaf of bread out on the counter.

Steam curled upwards, trying to mix with Mrs Marsh’s white hair that was held back in a tight bun under her cap. The old woman had dark blue eyes which were slowly failing her and her face was all wrinkled and worn. Her skin was darkened by the sun and I recalled she liked to doze outside. She was wearing a dark blue dress, covered in flour and other stains.

‘Thank you for that, it was most needed,’ I said.

I walked in and inspected the items on the table; there were fresh fruits and vegetables, cooked ham, cheese, butter, two dead chickens, three dead rabbits, a pot of jam and another of sugar. There was also a jug of milk, a bottle of sherry and larger bottle of Cornish cider.  My aunt had ordered Mrs Bennett and Mrs Marsh to buy more food in as usual during my stay.

‘I’m going out to the moors. Can I take some of this with me?’ I asked.

‘Boys, always hungry,’ Mrs Marsh said with a hint of a smile.

A few minutes later, I was handed a cloth wrapped package of food and sent out the kitchen door. Unable to keep the excitement within me down, I broke into a small run and dashed through the little patches of gardens. There was a tall wall with an arched doorway at the back which led out onto a small road. I took this way to the moors.

There is nothing like the sense of freedom you get from the moors. There’s this vast spread of rough land as far as the eye can see and it’s empty of people. The smell of the heather and wild flowers flooded me and a realisation that I had truly missed this hit me hard.

I was about to run and spend the day explore the moor when the clop clop of hoofs and the stomping of boots from behind stopped me. I turned and saw the old gardener, Mr Marsh – Mrs Marsh’s husband- coming towards me leading a stoat chestnut moor pony, her mane and tail a mixture of dark brown turning black.

‘Hello, young master!’ he called to me with a wave.

I walked back through the arch and towards him. Mr Marsh looked like a gardener should; large boots covering his lower legs, baggy trousers and a loose dirty white shirt with rolled up sleeves. He had white hair, kind green eyes and a less wrinkled face then his wife. Soil was ingrained to his hands and other places. His skin was dark – the sign he spent all his time outside and his back was bent forward, another sign of all his hard work.

My eyes fixed on the pony beside him.

‘Rosy!’ I shouted and dashed over. I threw my arms around the pony’s neck and hugged her tightly. She smelt of fresh hay and warm fur.

Mr Marsh chuckled, ‘heard you were back, Master William. Thought I’d get her ready for you to ride.’

‘Thank you,’ I said, my voice muffled.

‘There you go, then,’ Mr Marsh said and handed me the reins.

A little spark of fear quivered in my stomach. I had not ridden a horse in a year, what if I had forgotten? Rosy nudged me with her pink nose and I patted her. She had always been a quiet and patient pony, unlike her wild cousins that roamed the moor.

I climbed into the saddle with only a little help from Mr Marsh, who then walked us to the arched door.

‘Looks a good day for it,’ Mr Marsh spoke and he give me the reins again.

I nodded, seeing the blue of the sky against the greens of the moor. Then Rosy was walking on, sure footed across uneven ground that was half hidden by the heather, mosses and grasses.

To Be Continued…

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Stone Circles (Part 1)

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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…

Hunter #FridayFictioneers

The sun rose on another day, the light touching the roofs of the nearby houses and I prayed thanks to God. In the distance, I could hear the hissing and shuffling as the monsters retreated into any solid darkness they could find. Sunlight burnt them as well as fire, sending them back to Hell where they had originally came from.

I checked my weapons, strapped them to myself and prepared to go out. The best time to hunt monsters was between now and three PM. I was determined to send them all back and restore the world right again.

 

(Inspired by; https://rochellewisoff.com/2018/07/18/20-july-2018/ with thanks).

Lonely Grave #WeeklyWritingChallenge

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The meadows stretched for miles and miles. Not many people came by, sometimes a farmer or a lost hiker, but they never saw the headstone standing alone on the little hill before the leafy woods.

Birds soared above, sometimes landing on the headstone that marked the life of someone now long forgotten. Other animals also came, they sniffed the stone and moved on. Nature grew moss and grass across the stone, protecting it from the rain and snow.

And the ghost whom the gravestone belongs to drifts evermore, silently haunting, waiting to be released.

 

(Inspired by; https://secretkeeper.net/2018/07/16/weekly-writing-challenge-150/ with thanks).

Wishes #WritePhoto

There was so much hanging off the small tree it was hard to see the branches and leaves. I looked up in wonder at all the ribbons, plastic straps, paper and other stuff waving in the summer breeze. It reminded me of a Christmas tree.

I wished I’d brought something to hang in the tree. I looked around to see if there was anything close by but there wasn’t anything in the copse. Expect….I was wearing a red ribbon in my hair today.

I took the bow out in one, my hair falling around me then tried to find a spot on the tree anywhere I could reach. There was only the thin trunk which looked so bare compared to the branches. I didn’t think my ribbon was long enough to wrap around, so went for the begin of a branch instead.

Tying the ribbon there, I made a wish. Then shut my eyes and spun around three times. Stopping, I walked off in the direction before me, not looking back at the tree. And that was how the Wishing Tree worked.

 

(Inspired by https://scvincent.com/2018/07/12/thursday-photo-prompt-wishes-writephoto/ with thanks).

Books #WhatPegmanSaw

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She could get lost in here. Bookcases rose all around her, filled deep with knowledge and life. She didn’t know where to begin it was so over welling. She had been told it was huge and grand but this was beyond what she had imagined.

Reaching out, she ran her fingers along the spines of the books as she walked. She thought she could feel little throbs and whispers as she did so. It was a librarian’s best dream and it was going to take awhile for her to realise this was now her reality.

(Inspired by; https://whatpegmansaw.com/2018/07/14/baltimore-maryland/ with thanks).

 

The Set #FridayFictioneers

Will had learnt not to question things on the odd jobs he picked up during summer but this time was a little different. Helping the set producer prepare the background, Will wondered what this movie was about. It’s a horror for sure he decided, placing paper pumpkin lights in a too fake creepy tree.

Another assistant wheeled on a rectangular cage trolley then helped an actor who was heavy bandaged and wearing a blood stained white doctor coat inside.

‘What is this about?’ Will asked.

‘It’s a love story between two burn victims,’ the set producer answered with a shrug.

 

(Inspired by; https://rochellewisoff.com/2018/07/11/13-july-2018/ with thanks).

Gone

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I held the last photo of the ship, The Blue Royal, taken before it had sunk under stormy waves in my hands. You could barely make out the black shape of the ship against the grey sky and sea. The photo had been taken some distance away, on another ship, The Blue Princess, by a passenger wanting to capture the storm.

I knew the full history of both ships, not though interested but family history. My great aunt’s twin cousins, Lily and Rose, had been on board The Blue Royal on a cruise for their sixteenth birthday. The storm had hit the ship hard, capsized it and caused sixty-two people to drown. Twenty-eight bodies, including Lily and Rose’s were never found.

My great aunt had kept a keepsake box of them and now she’d gone, the box belonged to me. Inside were; letters, postcards, little china animals, a small china face doll, a bible and some small books. I felt a strange chill touching this stuff. I had never known these cousins.

Holding their items made me want to know more though. What had their lives and deaths been like?

I could only imagine.

The Stranger

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There was a stranger waiting for me when I got off at the underground station. I didn’t notice him as the crowd was heavy and I was in a hurry.

The train left, rushing into the tunnel and people moved upwards to the haze of London air.

The stranger followed me, though I wasn’t aware of it then.

I walked out, into more busy crowds and made my way back home. I knew someone was following me soon after but I tried to convince myself it wasn’t true.

At my apartment door, I glanced over and noticed him. I stopped, wondering what to do.

‘Carol?’ he called out.

He knew my name! but I didn’t know him. I didn’t answer. Would he leave me alone if I said no?  If I said yes, then what?

I had paused for too long, staring at him. There was something oddly familiar about his face and hair color.

‘I’m sorry,’ he said, turning away.

‘Who are you?’ I asked sharply.

‘Your older brother,’ he said softly, ‘our parents had to give me up for adoption because they were teenagers when I was born.’

 

 

The Chestnut Mare

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To Penny there was nothing like being on the back of a running horse. The power of the mare under her, the wind whipping her hair, the warmth of the summer evening. It was the escape that really made Penny happy. Here there was no technology, no stresses, she could be alone and herself.

The horse ran on, the short grass and soft soil making it easier for her. Penny thought she was enjoying the run too. The weather had been far too hot later for such activities and the mare wasn’t one to be fenced up for days. They could be free together in the wilderness.