Beyond the Gates #CCC

Charlie stood before the ornate gates. Her fingers on the cold metal bars as she looked at the pathway poking out of the overgrown nature.

She rattled the gates, not expecting them to open but they did. Fitting through, she walked to the burnt remains of a manor house.

Wondering what happened, Charlie picked up a piece of half burnt wood and felt a chill on her back. There was no wind and no one else here but she heard a woman’s whispering voice say, ‘you should not have come here.’

 

(Inspired by; https://crispinakemp.com/2019/10/23/crimsons-creative-challenge-50/ with thanks).

Invitation #WritePhoto

It was a last stab at things. Pulling up outside the gates, I looked at my Sat Nav telling me I had reached my destination. The scene around me looked like something out of The Secret Garden. There were trees and bushes growing wild, moss covering everything, a sense of abandonment and wild beauty.

I got out the car and smelt the air, it was fresh this afternoon and flowers were just being to open. I went to the wooden gate, there were no signs or locks, it opened easily enough. The stone pillars ether side were badly weathered and moss covered, but some of the carved designs could still be seen.

I turned the stone, felt coldness and grit under my fingers. I questioned if I was in the right place. Maybe this was just a decorative gate that led nowhere? Just like the single track lane I was now standing on. I wouldn’t know if I didn’t walk on.

I stepped through the gates and with difficult walk down a half hidden path which was really over grown. Once through, I came out at the bottom of a field? I looked and realised it was actually a huge lawn which rolled down a hill on top of which sat a large looking manor house.

There was no path now, so I trekked up the lawn and arrived breathless and sweating at the side of the house. Catching my breath, I really hoped there was a better way up to this place. Scaling all of that in my wedding dress wasn’t going to be good!

I walked around and came to the front of the house. There were large, flat white steps leading up to a double wooden door in a archway and other side were massive vases of flowers. It was a perfect place for wedding party photos.

The driveway was huge, a half circle with lots of parking and there were a few cars all ready here. There were open iron gates at the end, leading to a wide road which seemed to fade under the trees.

I heard the door opening behind me and I turned feeling guilty and nervous as if I had been caught doing something. I tried to stay calm as a woman in her mid-to late forties, wearing a very fitted business suit and greying hair tight in a bun, came out of the house.

‘Miss Sadie Laker?’ she asked.

I nodded.

‘Mrs Rose Crompton,’ she announced and came down the steps to meet me.

We shook hands and I felt more at ease. We had spoken on the phone yesterday, Rose was the manager of the house and a descendent of the current owners who’s family had lived here for three hundred odd years.

‘Did you find the place okay?’ Rose asked.

‘Yes. It looks so perfect,’ I spoke, ‘thank you for this. You’ve saved my wedding day.’

‘It’s all fine,’ Rose said, waving my words away like dust, ‘it was lucky we had a cancellation! Unlike you though and your venue being double booked, the couple decided not to go through with things.’

‘Shame.’

There was a pause and I knew she was staying at me but I didn’t know what else to say.

‘Where is your car?’ Rose asked me, ‘you didn’t walk all the way up here from the road did you?’

‘Erm, no. I think I missed the turning and came through a side entrance,’ I explained.

‘Ah. I think there’s something in your hair….’

I touched my hair, embarrassment flaring and pulled out a few leaves.

Rose smiled and turned back to the house.

I crumpled the leaves, let them fall and joined her going up the steps.

The rooms for the wedding where lovely, actually lots better then the venue I had chosen originally. By the time I left, I know my dream wedding was going to happen two weeks today. Trekking back to my car, there was only one thing left to do now; resend the wedding invitations with the new venue address on them.

 

(Inspired by; https://scvincent.com/2019/02/28/thursday-photo-prompt-invitation-writephoto/ with thanks).

Stone Circles (Part 3)

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I rode Rosy the pony across Bodmin Moor. The breeze in my hair and in her mane and tail. I let her go where she wanted. Rosy had been born on the moor and found as a foal by Mr Marsh. He had taken her in, like he did with any young or hurt creature he found. She was fully tamed but also spent nearly all of her time out here, so she knew her way around better then I did. She was also more sure-footed then I ever could be.

We passed sheep, cows and other ponies – wild and tame- that roamed the land. Only once or twice did I see another person; a farmer rounding up sheep and a gentleman riding a big black horse. We heard the sounds of the quarries and saw the tall stone towers rising upwards, wheels turning. Rosy kept her distant and I agreed with her, those places were not for a gentleman to visit, unless he had urgent business there.

Some time a lot later, Rosy found a small stream and lowered her head to drink. I slipped off her back, feeling aches in my legs, back and arms. I stretched and knelt down beside the stream. The water was so clear! I cupped some in my hand and took a few sips. It was pleasant and refreshing. I drink some more then settled down to eat what Mrs Marsh and Margret had given me for lunch.

There was a hunk of fresh bread, slightly warm to the touch still, a lump of cheese, cut offs of the cooked ham, two apples, a sweet cake and a carrot. As if they had know that Rosy would be with me! I give her the carrot and one of the apples. The pony seemed grateful then wandered off to nibble at the moor grasses.

I ate everything, the moor air making me extremely hungry. I drink from the stream with I needed too. Rosy came over once more and I give her the rest of my apple. After, I folded the cloth carefully away and splashed water on my hands and face. It was a warm in the sun and waves of tiredness floated over me.

I laid down, watching the clouds going by. Rosy nudged me then carried on grazing. She would not wander far whilst I slept, she was a loyal friend, the only one I had in Cornwall. I shut my eyes, breathed in the moor deeply and let it carry me away.

It was hard to till how much time had passed when I woke up. There were more clouds in the sky and some of them had turned dark grey. The air had got chiller and the sun was struggling to get around the clouds. The weather had turned as it often does on the moors.

I rubbed sleep away, drank some more cool stream water and splashed some on my face. I climbed to my feet and looked around for Rosy.  The chestnut moor pony was no where to be seen.

‘Rosy! Rosy!’ I shouted.

Scanning the rolling landscape, I expected at any moment for her to reappear, trotting over to me. The only thing that moved through was the heather and rough grasses. I gathered my things, thinking that she had started home with it me. Perhaps, if I kept calling, she would come back?

Shouting as loud as I could, I set off in the direction I thought we had come from. After a few minutes though, I was not sure. Stopping, I looked around, trying to recall anything that would be familiar but the moor all looked the same. I felt fear growing in the bottom of my belly.

I looked back towards the stream, trying to think if Rosy had walked in a straight line towards it. There was a good possibility. Walking off again, I tried to look for anything that might be pony shaped or house shaped or even person shaped. Convincing myself, I was going the right way, I quickened my pace.

Above the blue sky was turning dark with grey clouds. The idea of being lost out here in the dark made the fear grow. I tried not to think about it. I would find Rosy again and she would take me home, she knew the way well. I felt a rain drop splatter on my hand.

‘Rosy! Rosy! Come here, girl! Rosy!’ I screamed.

I was not a young gentleman any more but a lost child. I ran, half tripping over spiky bushes and long plants. I prayed that Trenworth Manor would appear over the next rise but every time there was just more moorland.

How far had Rosy and I travelled? Why hadn’t I paid more attention to where she was going? Why hadn’t I tied her up before I fell asleep? Because I had not thought she would wander away from me, she had never done before. What if she was hurt?

I stopped, my body aching and my breath painful. I tried to gather my thoughts. It was not likely that Rosy had tripped or got tangled in something, she was so surefooted and built for being on the moors. Maybe, she had heard some wild ponies and gone to see them?  Or perhaps, sensing the change of weather and not being able to wake me, she had trotted off home.

I wiped my face, not realising I had been crying. A few more drops of rain fell. Trying to stay calm, I carried on walking. Perhaps, I would find the road back to the manor or something else that would set me on the right path? If it got darker and wetter before though, I could find a hollow somewhere and rest there.

Something that was not a normal part of the moor was growing in the distance. It did not look like a pony or a house though, it was something tall and grey. Hurrying over, I got closer and saw it a large stone. Then there was more, a number of them making a circle, no, three stone circles almost touching each other. They stood in a huge patch of moorland that had been cleared away so there was only light green grass around.

I stopped on the edge, starting in wonder. What where they doing here and who had put them like that? Stones do not stand naturally in a circle. Had they once been enclosures for animals? Maybe the layout for houses of the past? I went forward and looked closely. The stones were old, weathered with some moss growing at the base. The circles were incomplete; some stones had fallen over and there were gaps were some should have been.

I had no memory of the stones and surely, if Rosy had brought me this way I would have seen them in the distance? I walked around the outside of them, looking this way and that. I called Rosy a few times but all I heard was the gathering wind and sheep bleating somewhere.

Getting cold, I stepped inside the first stone circle and rested against the biggest stone. Too many thoughts ran through my mind so that I could not think clearly. I kept coming back to the same problem though; how was I going to get home?

To be Continued…

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…

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…

Wings #WritePhoto

It was too hot to do anything but Rose had to stay out of the way. She sighed and flopped down in the wild meadow that ended the decorative hedged gardens. After Rose’s morning lessons and lunch, her maid had sent her outside to ‘play’, giving her a strict warning about not coming back until supper time.

Rose looked back in the direction of home but she couldn’t even see the chimneys from here as the tall trees hide them away. Everyone at the manor house was busy preparing for the ball this evening which she wasn’t invited to being ‘just a child’.

Rose knew when she got back she would have a simple supper in her day room then her maid would put her to bed. The sounds of the musicians playing, the guests’ voices, the cars and horse drawn carriages at the front door would drift into her room and keep her up all night.  She would try and sneak down as people started arriving, Rose decided. She liked to see the ladies in their huge ball gowns and the men in their black suits.

The flapping of loud wings and a large bird rising in the air, broke Rose’s line of thought. It looked like a hawk or some other bird of prey but she wasn’t sure. The bird flew over the meadow then towards the house. Rose wonder what it was like to be a bird as she dozed off.

Rose dreamed she was at the ball, wearing a dress made of bird feathers. She was dancing and drinking from the pretty wine glasses. The french doors were open, she went out, the dress transforming around her so that wings grew from her back. She took off and flew up to the starry sky and moon, the guests below gasping at her. Then she was falling, the sky seeming to move higher away and the ground rising to meet her.

Rose’s eyes snapped open and she rose up from the tall grass, looking around confused. The warm breeze on her face, the smell of flowers, the buzzing of the honey bees and singing of the birds, caused her to remember where she was. She rubbed her face, wondering what time it was.

Getting up, she walked back into the gardens and into the one where a proud bronze sun dial sat. The head garden’s boy had taught her how to tell the time from were the shadow lay. It seemed to be close enough to supper time to start walking back to the house. Still, sleepy and shook up from the dream, Rose wandered way back, thinking that maybe she wouldn’t sneak into the ball.

 

(Inspired by; https://scvincent.com/2018/06/24/new-photo-prompt-wings-and-last-weeks-beginnings-round-up-writephoto/ with thanks).

Conflagration #WritePhoto

The sky was the colour of fire; red and orange flames with grey smoke which blocked out what should have been a pretty blue afternoon. Below was the dark green mix of nature that made up the countryside raising around me.

I had stopped on the little road in the seemingly middle of nowhere, at first believing the sun was setting. Then I had double checked the time and saw it was a little after four PM. The wind carried the scent of smoke to me and my brain connected the dots.

I got back in my unmarked car, knowing it was too late all ready but continuing to drive all the same. Soft classical music whispered from the radio but it did little to calm down the spikes of tension I was now feeling. I thought about trying to trick my mind into thinking it wasn’t a fire, maybe the summer sun that normally set around eight or nine had decided to have a very early night today? I couldn’t live with that denial.

The road weaved like all country tracks did, following the flow of the land like a river would do. A few miles later, I passed a sign; Lachandra Manor, private house, no entry. Tall trees blocked my view for awhile then a towering black gates with stone pillars emerged. The same sign hung below one of the pillar tops on which sat a stone lion with a single paw resting on a ball, facing it’s companion on the other pillar.

The gates were open and I drove through. Had they been open on my previous visits? I couldn’t remember expect for the first two times when they had been closed. I had had to get out of my car and open them myself. Thinking about that give me something to do as I drove along the long straight driveway.

Towering trees lined up either side of me like giant guards silently judging me. I knew that behind them were farming fields and woodland. They also blocked the view to the house but I knew it was actually the road that caused the manor to appear and disappear. The road dipped unknowingly and at first you didn’t feel it but then you saw the road rising ahead of you and you realised the slope.

My car handled it well enough and after the climb of the hill, another set of gates and the stone monster archway came into view. Behind that, the fake castle gatehouse stood looming and beyond it Lachandra Manor was heavily a blaze with fire.

A chill went up my back and there was no point in trying to focus on anything else. I carried on driving and saw the second gates where closed. I flung open my car door, yanked the hand brake on and got out. The gate wasn’t locked and I easily swung them open. The smell of smoke was thicker here and I thought I head the distant screams of sirens.

Getting back in my car, I drove through and up to the fake gatehouse. I stopped and parked a meter or so away from the looming stone archway. Opening the door this time, I could smell the smoke right under my nose and also hear distance voices and the roaring of the fire.

I hurried through the gatehouse and found chaos on the other side. A huge black horse was rearing up and a small boy on the ground was trying to control the beast by loose reins. Two teenage maids were off to the other side, standing and screaming, their clothes soot stained and faces flushed. Male servants were dashing about with water and sand buckets, shouting at each other. Thick smoke billowed all around, the sounds of crackling and snapping echoing loudly. And the heat….it was as hot as I imagined the surface of the sun to be.

I grabbed the maids, they resisted at first but when they saw who I was, they let me shove them under the gatehouse. Next, I grabbed the boy who refused to let go of the horse but his hands were sweaty, so I was able to tug the reins out easily enough and take them. I half carried the boy and led the horse to the gatehouse. Once there, the black beast shot off down the driveway and the boy give chase after it.

‘The Lady is still inside!’ one of the maids shouted and pointed upwards, behind me.

I turned and saw through one of the broken windows, a woman dressed in blue. Some of the men were trying to save her. I knew it was too late and their efforts in vein, just as it was to put out the raging fire. The woman disappeared and flames licked at the window. Wood popped and hissed, blackening under the heat and crumbling away.

‘Do something, Detective!’ the same maid cried.

But what could I do? It was all my fault anyway. I had solved the case and been on my way to arrest her for the murder of her husband and son. She would have been found guilty and hanged. Lady Ellis had known it last time we had met. She didn’t want to die like that so had chosen this instead.

I looked up at Lachandra Manor engulfed in fire and knew that nothing would be saved.   

 

(Inspired by; https://scvincent.com/2018/05/31/thursday-photo-prompt-conflagration-writephoto with thanks).

Hopewell #TwitteringTales

pexels-photo-816501

All that was left of the old manor house was the front gate post with the name plaque on. The driveway led to nothing and nature was running wild. What happened no one knew for sure, there were too many secrets that the dead now kept.

(Inspired by; https://katmyrman.com/2018/02/20/twittering_tale_72-20_february_2018-hopewell/ with thanks).

A Foot In The Past (Part 2)

House, Haunted House, Spooky, Scary, Old, Creepy

Scarlett sat on a sofa cushion in the corner of entrance hall, surrounded by cardboard and plastic boxes. Peering into another box and seeing more of Greyson’s model plane collection, she sighed deeply. Pushing the box away, she glanced backwards, before sprawling out on the floor. Straight away she felt the coldness of the marble floor sinking through her blouse into her shoulders and back.

She looked up at the ceiling and notices a smaller painting she’d missed. It was a white winged horse flying in a blue cloudy sky. She wondered how the artist had even gone about painting it up there. Resting her hands on her waist and shutting her eyes, despite the uncomfortableness of the floor, she listened to her own breathing for a few moments then focused on other sounds.

She could hear Greyson still struggling to put their wooden king size bed together in the background. There was the hum of the fridge and freezer too, due to the doors being open. Also, the slow drip of the tap into the metal sink that had been annoying her all day, but they hadn’t been unable to fix. Finally, there was the almost inaudible sound of wood cracking as it cooled and heated.

Scarlett felt herself drifting and decided if Greyson didn’t get the bed up soon, they’d just make the mattress up and sleep on the floor. Opening her eyes, she was just about to get up when a stair creaked loudly as if someone was walking down it. Pausing, she looked directly at the underbelly of the spiral staircase just to her left. The stair cried out again, but softer this time as if someone was aware of the noise they were making.

Easing herself up and dusting off her trousers, Scarlett stepped around the boxes and went to the base of the grand staircase. Looking up, she could see the other set of stairs fully illuminate in the lights hanging from the towering ceiling. However, she couldn’t see the landing of the first floor nor the top of those stairs.

‘Hello?’ she called.

Sliding a hand on to the banister she listened, but heard nothing. Heading up the stairs, she stayed to the edge to avoid any possible squeaking from the wood. The banister felt smooth under her palm and fingers. Reaching the small landing, she turned to the left and went upwards. Peering over the edge, she saw the entrance hall happily blazing with light, whilst above her seemed to be cast into a gloom.

At the top, she recalled where the light switches were and turned them on. The staircases re-joined together to her left forming a half balcony which overlooked the small landing and base of the grand staircase. From there they split off again and spiralled to the second floor. Scarlett looked down both long corridors, but didn’t see or hear anything.

‘Hello?’ she called again.

Her voice echoed faintly then faded.

‘Scarlett?’

She jumped, spun around and almost lost her footing on the top step. Grabbing the banister, she steadied herself and looked down.

‘Scarlett? Where are you? The bed’s up,’ Greyson shouted.

‘I’m here!’

He came into view at the bottom of the stairs and looked up at her, ‘what are you doing?’

Starting her descent, Scarlett replied, ‘I thought I heard something.’

‘Huh?’

‘A stair creaked twice as if someone was walking on it. It least that’s what it sounded like.’

‘It was probably just the wood moving,’ Greyson suggested.

Scarlett reached the landing and with her a shake of her head looked back, ‘I forgot to turn the lights out.’

‘We can do it from down here. Don’t worry about it.’

Rubbing her face and sweeping her hair back, Scarlett went down the rest of the stairs and joined him. Greyson took her hands and kissed the top of her head.

‘You’re tried. It’s been a long day. Let’s go make the bed and get some sleep.’

‘Okay,’ Scarlett muttered.

Stealing a last glance at the stairs, she let Greyson led her to their new bedroom. He turned out the lights on the way, throwing everything but the hallway leading to their new rooms into darkness.

Going through the first door behind the reception desk led them into a medium size apartment. The hallway opened to the right into a spacious living room with an archway in the left wall leading to a dining room. They passed the door in the hallway that also led into the dining room and second that led into a small rectangle kitchen. The hallway ended with two doors facing them.

Greyson took Scarlett through the first door then let go of her hand. The room was big having been converted from a study or a lounge area. Massive windows in the left wall designed to show off the side gardens of the house, were covered by thick drapes. The bed was taking pride of place against the back wall and Greyson had put the bedside cupboards into place and the huge bedding box at the foot of the bed. To the left, on the other end wall, their twin wardrobes looked to be at home. The floor though was littered with bin bags, suitcases and more boxes.

‘I’ve no idea where the bedding is,’ Scarlett said.

‘It doesn’t matter what we put on it. We just need a sheet, some pillows and the duvet. We can sort everything else tomorrow,’ Greyson pointed out.

He went over to the nearest black bin bag and undid the knot. Scarlett moved to another and began opening it too. For a few minutes they searched until they had found everything they needed. Quickly, making their bed up then undressing, Scarlett got between the sheets and pressed her head to the pillows. She shut her eyes and listened to Greyson turning out the main light and joining her.

‘Hey, how about we christen the new bedroom?’

Scarlett groaned and tried to swat at him, ‘I’m too tried.’

‘Just a quicker?’ Greyson pressed.

‘No,’ she mumbled and rolled over.

‘In the morning, then?’

‘Maybe…’

Settling, Scarlett yawed and felt herself drifting off as Greyson snuggled in behind her. She felt his arm and hand resting against her skin. Placing her hand on top, so he wasn’t tempted to move his hand any higher or lower along her body, Scarlett surrender to sleep.

 

To Be Continued…

A Foot In The Past (Part 1)

House, Haunted House, Spooky, Scary, Old, Creepy

Scarlett Johnson stepped down from the black Land Rover and smoothed down her dark blue blouse. Pulling up her black trousers, she debated tucking the blouse in, than decided that she was not at the bed and breakfast’s office anymore. Still though, she tied her loose soft curled ginger hair back before craning her neck up at the seemingly giant gothic Victorian manor house.

The main square structure with two wings running off it was intimidating, yet magnificent looking in the early spring sunshine. The yellow and grey bricks were covered with patches of ivy and moss, giving the impression of a secret place. Large rows of windows on all four floors were covered by dark heavy curtains adding to this image and making Scarlett think of someone trying to keep the outside world away.

The grey flat staircase, decorated on every other step with potted small palm trees, lead up to a porch area and the double front doors which were flanked by dirty white Roman columns. At the top of the staircase, on either side, lying down on rectangle daises were huge stone statues of a lion on the right side and a lioness on the left. There were facing each other, with bodies and paws in relaxed poses. Scarlett marvelled at them, whilst deciding that the palm trees looked too out of place for Yorkshire and would have to go.

The slamming of a car door brought her back and she looked across as her husband, Greyson, started walking over the discoloured white stone chips. He was dressed in comfy black cotton pants, a green polo t-shirt, a black padded body warmer and pale blue trainers. He slipped his large hands into the pockets of his body warmer then stopped and looked back at her.

‘Having second thoughts?’ he called over.

‘No,’ Scarlett replied, ‘are you?’

He shook his head and turned back to the manor house. He began slowly moving forward, footsteps crunching loudly before he paused again. He tiled his head up as if listening and Scarlett listened too. Now that the rumble of the Land Rover’s engine had gone, she could hear birds singing merrily and a gentle breezing moving the trees that were growing at the wall boundary surrounding them.

Closing the passenger door, she went over to Greyson and slipped her arm around his. Leaning in and giving his muscled upper arm a squeeze, she felt reassured. Greyson dropped his head and Scarlett stood on her tiptoes to meet his lips with her’s. Gently, they kissed then walked on a few more paces till they reached the large circle fountain in the middle of the courtyard and parking area.

The dark grey fountain pool was empty but for a handful of loose coins and green slime. Rising above the pool on a circler stand were three large and badly water stained stone dolphins. Their meeting tails were stretching to the sky as their graceful long bodies curved downwards. Their flippers reached out and just touched each other’s in mid-air before they heads came to rest on the edge of the plinth.

Scarlett looked into the closet dolphin’s open mouth and saw the end of a rusty pipe. The water had once flowed from their mouths, blow holes and the space between their meeting tails. She recalled the photographs the estate agent and the internet had shown her that proved the fountain had once worked and been illuminated. It had looked spectacular.

She frowned as Greyson lent over and picked one of the coins out. He rubbed it before holding it up and inspecting it.

‘It’s an old penny,’ he stated, ‘looks like nineteen thirty six…?’

‘It’s someone’s wish,’ Scarlett pointed out.

‘Was. They’re properly gone by now. We should clean this out,’ Greyson said with wave of his hand.

Scarlett looked into the murky fountain and nodded, ‘I’m sure a gardener could. Wouldn’t it be nice to see it working again?’

‘Might need a plumber instead then. Put it on the to do list,’ Greyson added with a chuckle.

Scarlett tutted and give him a light whack on the shoulder.

Faking a hurt expression, he rubbed his shoulder and pouted at her. Scarlett rolled her eyes then turned as tires crunched on the driveway behind them.

‘Moving vans are here,’ Greyson pointed out, ‘I’ll go greet them. You want to open her open?’

Scarlett glanced at the manor house then back to him, ‘sure.’

Whilst he walked away, she realised that though this was her four time being here, she still felt like an intruder. Shaking that thought away and telling herself this was their new home and business now, she went over to the Land Rover and got the heavy ring of keys out from the plastic wallet. Most of the silver and bronze coloured keys were labelled and looked well used. Whilst some of the others were rusting and the smaller keys had questionable or even suggestable labels attached.

Instead of searching through them, Scarlett selected the master key that opened everything. Locking the car, she walked over and up the steps. The porch area held two marble benches against the walls opposite the door, a scattering of white wicker chairs, tables and more potted palm trees. She knew the estate agents had stage this scene to give the idea of people actually using the porch space. In her head though, she was all ready doing away with the tatty wicker stuff and the dreaded palm trees again. She imaged more tasteful, possible marble to match the benches, small tables and high backed wooden chairs.

Scarlett approached the massive dark wooden door with its large ring handles and lion head knockers. Just before she slipped the key in, she looked across at a blue placard nailed to the wall. The words Bruntwood Hotel Est 1972 caught her eyes and written underneath, though badly faded, was a brief history of the building. Turning the key, she pushed open one of the doors and stepped inside.

Letting her eyes adjust to the gloom, Scarlett tried to remember where the light switches where. Thinking back to the times the estate agent had turned them on, she remember a panel being to the right of her and the door. Patting down the oak walls, her fingers tripped over the switches. She hit them all causing the grand entrance hall and great splitting spiral staircase to light up.

Trying to allow everything in at once, she stood still and looked around. Of course, it was just as she remembered it from the other three visits. The floor was dark white, light grey marble with black lines scattering through. The walls were all covered in dark oak panels with sculpted grape and flower vines hanging down from the top edges, whilst the ceiling was divided up into large oval boarded paintings. Putting her head all the way back, Scarlett looked at the largest and central painting which showed a Greek Goddess surrounded by angels and cherubs. The other paintings also seemed to be on the same theme.

Telling herself, she needed to find out more about the paintings, she looked at the handful of furniture. There was a long, thick, reception desk to her right that had been designed to match the wall panelling. To her left, four over stuffed Victorian arm chairs were around a too low coffee table. Two matching sofas were beyond them around a higher table and there was a faded red chaiselong against the back wall. Dotted around were also a number of tall lamps with heavily pattered shades and dangly frills.

‘It can be fixed,’ Scarlett muttered.

It was the staircase that really drew her eyes though. The large dark and heavily polished rose wood banisters ends were intricately carved with scrolling patterns of roses, leaves and twisting vines. Atop them were two large lamps with multi-coloured glass shades, which let out a dim soft light. The banister swept upwards on both sides then seemed to curl onwards like a snake as the staircase spilt into two twin spirals. A red and green patterned carpet covered the centre of each step, safely secured down with a golden rod. Looking at the mid-section, which was a large square landing, Scarlett decided they were defiantly going to need a large painting of that back wall, but the green ferns growing in tall marble column vases sitting in each corner could stay for the moment.

Behind her a loud clattering made her jump and she turned to see Greyson barging his way in with a large packing box. Pressing a hand to her chest, Scarlet took a few deep breaths and watched him dump the box on the reception desk.

‘We should’ve hired more men,’ Greyson gasped.

‘We couldn’t afford them, remember?’ Scarlett pointed out, ‘anyway, we know where anything’s going. It shouldn’t take us long.’

‘Do you really think we’ll fit the bed through there though?’ Greyson spoke, looking at the two doors behind the reception desk.

‘It’s in pieces. I’m sure it’ll be fine.’

‘Where’d ya want these, Love?’ a rough Yorkshire accented voice cut in from her elbow.

Scarlet glanced at the fat, beard moving man in his blue overalls holding two cardboard boxes and she pointed a finger at a space just next to the bottom of the staircase, ‘just there if you will. Thanks.’

He nodded and stomped over to place the boxes. His three friends trailed in behind him, each carrying boxes, which they placed beside the first two. Quietly, they looked around as if they couldn’t believe they were being allowed to enter such a grand place.

‘I’ll find the kitchen stuff and put the kettle on,’ Greyson said.

‘Didn’t we pack that box with us?’ Scarlett put in.

‘I think we did…’

‘Could do with a cuppa,’ the first moving man called over.

‘Right. Let’s get cracking then,’ Greyson stated and rubbed his hands together.

 

To Be Continued…