It stood alone at the end of a long stone lined driveway, a sprawling old mansion in a remote part of the countryside. The Internet research she performed while in flight to England showed a guest house to the West surrounded by trees, and sagging fences didn’t have room to fall down but the manor had room to breathe.
Whoever ran the place could never quite keep up with it; the castle grounds needed maintenance. However, the flower gardens were well kept. Long shoots of grass grew up between the slats of the benches scattered here and there along the crooked paths. On a winding, narrow road called Woodlands Trace was a handmade marker welcoming visitors to the Shaldorn property.
The long curvy driveway is lined with a short stack of ancient stones cracked and weathered from time. At the end of the drive a large open area revealed stairs surrounded by wrought-iron railings. Shaldorn Manor; standing tall and proud, ancient in its history but foreboding in appearance. Late on a Sunday Jennifer arrived onto the Manor property. The frigid drizzle slashed down from the gloomy skies onto the already sodden ground, but it went unnoticed by her preoccupied eyes as she gazed upon the Manor.
In my dreams alone have I imagined such a place?
Dressed in her casual travel clothes. Her usual long straight, brunette hair brushed back into a ponytail. A servant standing at the steps next to the car greeted her. “Hello, my name is Jennifer Ferimore. I am the one that called yesterday”, said Jennifer, like she didn’t believe it herself.
“Hello, Ms. Ferimore and congratulations. I’m Cindy. Welcome to Shaldorn Manor. The driver called along the way and told us you were coming.” She spoke with a British accent and offered a smile as she reached out to shake Jennifer’s hand. Jennifer noticed Cindy’s olive tone skin and soft brown eyes. She seemed nice.
One of the staff helped carry her luggage as Cindy guided her up the stairs into the main entrance. The massive oak doors opened up revealing a large wide staircase at the entrance leading to a foyer where doors to the bed rooms could be seen. Jennifer took notice of the exquisite detail in the woodwork and ceilings.
The staff showed her to her bedroom situated toward the end of a long hallway. Opening the double oak doors to the bedroom showed impressive Victorian period furniture. Not being a wood or antique expert she asked Cindy about the room.
“Would you like a tour of the place once you’re settled?” said Cindy adjusting the bedding.
“Yes I would love a tour, thank you, but after I rest from the jet lag”, said Jennifer putting down a hand bag. Cindy had just fluffed the pillows.
“What kind of bed is that?”, said Jennifer admiring the woodwork of the bed. Cindy described it as a hand Carved French walnut Cherub Gryphon Canopy Bed. Cindy also pointed out that across from the bed is a solid walnut Victorian period cheval mirror with brass knobs.
“Oh my God, I’ve never seen anything like this except in movies. Good thing I did my homework on the Manor website. But seeing this place in person truly does it justice.”
“Yes, most people would agree with you”, said Cindy bringing in some fresh towels from the hall while the staff dropped off Jennifer’s luggage to her room. Her smartphone lit up, and vibrated indicating a text message.
“Uh, another text message, I hate technology.” Her fingers tapping yet another reply.
“Shaldorn Manor is sometimes used as a Bed and Breakfast, on occasion weddings, and sits on some of the most prized land in Cornwall. It has sixteen bedrooms, two of which are in the outside turrets, a garden, stables and a guest house.” Jennifer had finished her text message. “So where are you from, Cindy?”, she said putting her phone away.
“I’m originally from Portsmouth”, said Cindy laying some fresh towels on the bathroom sink. “My family is from there. I would have never thought I would end up in such a place as Shaldorn Manor.” She moved to the door. “I’ll be downstairs for a while. I’d be happy to show you more if you feel up to it. If you need anything let me know.” Cindy smiled.
“Thank you, Cindy”, said Jennifer smiling back.
Jennifer unpacked her clothes then reached over to the dresser to set her jewelry box down. She felt a cold chill, like she had stepped outside without a jacket. Turning to Look at the window she noticed it wasn’t open. Well it is autumn in Cornwall after all. Feeling completely exhausted she shut her room door. Quick to call it a day and go to bed. It had been a rough night, full of long stretches of wakefulness punctuated by snatches of restless sleep.
Beams of light shown through the windows as the morning sun filled the room with its warmth. The sounds of conversation down the hall woke Jennifer from a deep sleep which had lasted twelve hours. Not realizing the time of day she got up groggy, and after a shower, and breakfast decided she would finish the fresh coffee Cindy had prepared for her before taking her own tour of the Manor.
“Well good morning, Jennifer. You slept a long time. You must have been really tired from traveling”, said Cindy handing Jennifer a fresh made latte indicating to Jennifer she always uses the finest beans, freshly brewed and served with half-and-half.
“Good morning, Cindy. That isn’t like me but I did arrive yesterday. Is Mr. Penmore around?” Jennifer tells Cindy he is the man who signed the papers she read.
“No, he had to go to the office for a while but he will be back later”, said Cindy heading back toward the kitchen.
“Coffee, java, espresso…yes!”, said Jennifer bringing the cup to her mouth. Cindy smiled.
The vibrant aroma seemed to have extricated itself from the thick, cream coating over the surface,penetrating deep into her nose, watering her mouth. Jennifer craved the subtle undertone of caramel and her cup showed a festive color. She wraps her fingers around it, enjoying the heat spreading through her hands. But without a conscious thought it is in her hand, and the first milky sip creeps over her taste-buds and down her throat. After only a few minutes she is bathing in the kick of the caffeine. “I will be busy today with my duties but if you need me I’ll be cleaning the upstairs rooms”, said Cindy carrying cleaning supplies. “Alright, thank you, Cindy.”
With Cindy busy with her duties upstairs and John away at his office Jennifer decided to explore on her own. After finishing the coffee she walked through to the hallway. At the end of the hall from the main entrance she saw an ancient staircase, leading down into who knows where, but she didn’t want to go there just yet. Walking back the other way Jennifer passed the large kitchen. She continued down a long corridor, enjoying the rich tapestries of emerald green and gold hung on the walls, suits of armor standing guard, coat of arms, and swords crossed on the wall. Wanting to see more she ventured outside to the castle remains.
It stood apart from its surroundings, like an old mansion above a small town, on a bit of a hill scattered with trees. It had several spires and floors with lots of windows, some broken and dirty from neglect. A wrought iron fence met the grass, and kept the crowded little world of Carbis at bay. She entered through the door of one of the remaining towers were dank steps twisted downward into a space too dark to see anything without light. She decided she would reserve this place for later. Who knows maybe there is a dungeon, and narrow passageways leading to even more areas of the castle or Manor I have yet to discover.
Returning to the Manor house she continued to the library where she saw another large fireplace, but with much more lavish carvings and a huge painting above it. Who is in the painting I wonder? The wall next to the fireplace has a set of folding doors leading through to the sitting room. Across the hall is the dining room. My God this place is incredible.
Exiting the manor house she continued her exploration onto the open grounds, past the garden to the stables where she saw beautiful riding horses. Complete with all the equipment one would expect to see in a well-kept stable. Just then a man walking a horse into the stable saw Jennifer, and introduced himself.
“Oh hello, my name is Nigel.”
“Hello, Nigel. I’m Jennifer Ferimore.”
“Ah, you must be the niece of Tom Ferimore.”
Nigel resembled a stork with long boney legs and a neck that could fit on a flamingo.
“Well welcome to Shaldorn Manor. I’m the grounds keeper here, and help take care of the horses as well. You know your uncle talked a lot about you”, said Nigel brushing the horse.
“Nigel, a lot of time is spent keeping the stables nice why is the garden overgrown with weeds?” Looking around the manor eyes focused on Nigel.
“Thank you, Jennifer for your concern. Master Ferimore took personal responsibility for the grounds proper, a fine man he was. Since his passing we have all tried to compensate… we had applicants coming to fill the position until the state of the finances was revealed to us.
“Jennifer, I’m sorry about your uncle. I didn’t know him very well but he seemed like a kind man. If you need anything during your stay here let me know.”, said Nigel guiding the horse into his stall.
“It’s kind of you to say, Nigel, thank you. But I’m not sure yet how long I will be here.” Her hand blocking a yawn.
“Oh,I see. Well, however long you’re here should you wish to go for a ride let me know.” Putting some hey into the stall. “I’m a pretty good rider myself. These horses are well taken care of. I look forward to maybe riding them.” Stating in a hopeful tone.
“Yes, I can fix you up with a horse to fit your height. Just let me know when you’re ready.”
“That would lovely, Nigel, but I think for now I’ll just keep adjusting to the new time zone and all the incredible surroundings.”
“Yes it is beautiful here in the spring and autumn.” Patting the horse’s neck Nigel turned to Jennifer.
“Enjoy your stay here Jennifer, It’s very nice to meet you.” Moving toward the stable door.
“You as well Nigel.”