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Rated: E · Fiction · Action/Adventure · #2240632
A beautiful old Mansion on the Western English coast.
Copyright © 2020, E. G. Owens
All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this story or any part of this story in any form by any means including digitized forms that can be encoded, stored, and retrieved from any media including computer disks, CD-ROM, computer databases, and network servers without permission of the author except for quotes and small passages included in book reviews.

This story is dedicated to my mom for teaching me right and wrong, the value of work and the love of Christ. You supported the post World War II effort helping the government develop the world’s first ever portable electronic computer. What we call a laptop today. You raised me and my two brothers on your own. You taught me the appreciation of music and the love of family. I am a better man today because of you.
You are my hero!


CAST OF CHARACTERS
Jennifer Ferimore, - As name, a full-time Reporter, who has an unlimited number of cliches in her repertoire, would say, "You're only as old as you feel". At twenty-seven, she's a real pistol, ready to be fired. She'll do whatever it takes to help her uncle, Tom Ferimore, out of a rough spot.
William Witherston, - Owner of Witherston Development Company, Inc. He's unimpressed when Jennifer inherits Shaldorn, but is more interested in ...... Did he find a clever way to eliminate the competition?
Tom Ferimore, - Jennifer’s uncle and friend of William Shaldorn.
John Penmore, - Jennifer's attorney and friend of her uncle Tom Ferimore. Having spent his entire career in law, he's a handy guy to have around when the you-know-what hits the fan.
Cindy, - Head maid for the property.
Nigel, - Groundskeeper
Ms. Baxter, - Property Manager
Simon Carter, - Tavern Manager
Henry Driscoll, - The Bank Manager
Edmund Audlington, - Eldest citizen of Carbis Bay. Friend of Tavern Manager and of William Shaldorn
When Jennifer Ferimore inherits Shaldorn Manor—a beautiful old Mansion on the Western English coast—it is like a dream come true. Expecting a meager place and to sell off the estate, she is also impatient to learn about the place. But not long after she arrives, she struggles to overcome setbacks then makes a startling discovery and is forced to make a decision that will change her life forever.


THE LETTER


Why was I sent the letter?

The smartphone buzzed another text message. Her sister sent it showing she had just received a letter from England sent to Jennifer, and that there was a package waiting for her. They forwarded the other one to Susan. Susan pulled the last of the weeds and was heading back to the house when her sister came bursting through the backyard gate laughing and shouting. Why is she so happy? She could hear her babbling, her dialog giving only fragments, asking herself what is going on? Pacing and jumping, giddy as a child on Christmas morning. She noticed Jennifer wearing a light windbreaker, jeans, and her tee-shirt showing ‘Women Rock’, pumping her fist in the air as she held mail from her attorney for her recent divorce a month prior. Walking over to the patio Jennifer sat on a wooden bench outside on the back porch, at her sister’s home, clutching the letter detailing how her life would change while Susan passed her entering the kitchen. Jennifer stared vacuously at the bird fountain standing in the garden amidst the many colorful blooms accenting the lawn and tugged her thin windbreaker tight around her slender frame to ward off the chill permeating the dawn air. Inattentive only to realize it dresses her so inappropriate for the morning. Reflecting on how different things were just a month ago. Contemplating her current situation, hearing the back door swing open admitting her sister, Susan, out onto the porch. Approaching the bench where Jennifer sat, still wearing her warm blue fleece robe, hair in a ponytail and make-up free. Gazing out at the rising sun which spilling small rays of sunshine across the frosty grass in the yard. She held two steaming cups of coffee. Offering her the welcomed cup of hospitality.

“Here you go, Jen, nothing like fresh java to start the morning.” Susan gave her an affectionate smile.

Jennifer took the mug her sister offered, slow and deliberate sipping it. She closed her eyes to savor the kindness. “This is amazing,” she replied, holding it between both hands, willing the heat to warm her entire body. “Thanks, Suz, I needed coffee.”

“Here is the letter I mentioned you got from the firm. Saw you dancing. What’s up?”

“My divorce is final. No more nasty phone calls, emails or him begging me to take him back. I’m free of that jerk.” Her eyes sparkled. Her tone was bright.

“You’re never going to believe this, but I received a letter from England on behalf of Uncle Tom. I am required to read his will.” Reading the letter her sister gave her. Only two months have passed since they last spoke with him, and he had no children.

Jennifer didn't respond but stared out past the lawn, she expected a reply. Her smartphone, showing yet another text message. Typing a response, it vibrated again. She disliked the endless interruptions, and to pay for all those impersonal people-dividing tech toys, people think they can’t live without, knowing they will break as soon as the warranty runs out. Distraction was a common theme in her life, and her mind kept revisiting the events causing her current state of confusion.

Her emotions became a roller coaster of sadness, confusion and sometimes excitement at the mystery awaiting her. After a few moments of companionable silence, she glanced up at her sister and asked a question she knew she couldn’t answer but still felt compelled to ask.

“Why do you suppose I was sent the letter? I’m not certain if I should be excited or not. I don’t understand,” said Jennifer, feeling bewildered and uncertain. Susan was busy reading the letter she was sent. It was from their uncle Tom bequeathing his home in America to Susan. “Oh my God, it’s from Uncle Tom. He’s giving me his property.” The corner of her mouth quirked up. Glancing at her sister in her periphery. Seeing her staring thoughtfully, out past the lawn knowing from years of living with her, she is contemplating, reflecting a bit before she offered an answer. Susan is never hasty, always planning and thinking ahead, never quick to judge without considering the variables.

“My fear of flying is enough for me to not want to leave the US, while you have always dreamed of traveling to Europe,” said Susan.
“Well, congrats Susan. I’m happy for you.” Smiling.
“Our family and friends have always known of your passion for European history Jen.”
“I’ve always wanted to travel to Europe.” Sipping her coffee.

“Well Jen, it makes sense our uncle would list you as his benefactor. I think he felt closer to you”, she stated with quiet objectivity and understanding. She paused and then continued.

“You always seemed to understand one another but I can’t offer any insight regarding the mysterious will, you are a bit of a Nancy Drew, especially when it came to finding lost treasure. I’m sure you’ll figure it out.” Glancing at her sister returning a sibling compliment. “You're pretty smart yourself Suz!”

Her smartphone lit up and showed yet another text message. She begins typing a text reply followed by listening to yet another voicemail message.

“Perhaps, the lawyers will be able to offer more of an explanation.” As she thought about what Susan said, and the conclusions reached, realizing how right her sister can be. Ever insightful, she managed to answer her question with the simplest, most obvious explanation.
“I’m going to get on the computer and make flight reservations for you.”

“Flight reservations?” said Jennifer concerned. “Hey, Suz? Let me pay for it. It isn’t fair to you, I mean with the kids and everything.” She hated feeling like a burden to her sister since she had been living with them since her divorce. “Stop worrying. My husband and I are doing fine.”
Placing her hand on her sister’s arm.

Jennifer’s smartphone showed an email message indicating her reservation for the next morning. “OK, kiddo, you’re all set.” Your plane goes through Chicago with a stop in New York before heading over the pond to England. Maybe this will be an easy thing for you, and it will all be over soon.”

Out of concern for her sister, she advised her to check for a contact number for the law firm and to call them to let them know she has flight reservations and would arrive the next morning. Per her sister's advice, Jennifer called the number in the letter. They advised her a driver would be picking her up at the airport.

The next morning she showered and packed, partly excited and nervous about the whole thing. After getting dressed she glanced at her reflection in the bathroom mirror. She slid her fingers over the necklace, gently fingering the surface of the ancient coin. It had been a gift from her uncle. He’d assured her that it was authentic, and not a replica from some tourist shops. “It will bring you luck. Wear it always,” he’d said. She missed him. Her uncle Tom gave it to her when she was a child. She didn't have that many relatives scattered around the world. There was just herself, her sister, her mother and now this. What if she had relatives she'd never met?

The smell of fresh coffee filled the house as her sister entered the room handing her a package.

“Suz … thank you.” her cheeks blushed. “You’re always taking care of me.” Jennifer’s eyes began to water.
“Hey … don’t worry about it. You’re my sister.” Susan spoke slowly, her eyes giving away her concern.

“OK, Jen. Here you go.” Handing her the package, Jennifer—this came the day before yesterday. I mentioned it to you yesterday but I guess we got caught up in our conversation about the letters, and your trip.”

She opened the cylindrical shipping tube and pulled out a rolled document, string-tied and sealed with wax with the curiosity of a child eyeing a birthday present. She took a breath. “This is strange. Why would uncle Tom send me a document with a wax seal?” She raised a brow.

“I don’t know, but he always did like history.”
“I know it’s one of the things I loved about him.” Her eyes twinkled. Picking it up from the table holding the rolled-up and sealed parchment in her hand about to break the seal, when her sister stopped her.

“Wait, look at the seal. Not the kind most people use. It’s not his initials.” Turning toward the mirror feeling the coin around her neck.
“It’s the same image as the one on the coin,” she said, holding it near the wax seal.
Her eyes widened. “Oh wow, they are the same. What’s up with that?”

“I don’t know.” Curious herself.

“I’ll give you some privacy,” said Susan padding for the door. “But I’d love to hear the scoop on what’s in the letter.”

Jennifer’s mind spun with questions as she broke the seal, and was slow to open the leather scroll lined with parchment paper. It was thick and rough as she smoothed the page out. Deep creases littered the surface. Sweeping black letters were written in calligraphy, not quite uniform lines, and a myriad of golden and scarlet clouds decorated the edge of the yellowing surface.

Dearest Jennifer, dated July 30

I miss you and wish we could spend time together like we used to. William died two months ago and he left his entire estate to me. Can you believe that? I was so shocked but I knew that he always trusted me. I’ve not been feeling well these past days while dealing with the affairs of the estate. This place is very special Jennifer, and there are many things you need to know. First, the staff here is terrific, you would like them. I have spent a lot of time thinking about my life, and yours. Right now I am trying to find a way to pay the taxes on this property, and am having a tough time with it. The property here is large and requires a small staff to maintain it. He told me of strange things like the legend of the Dagger. I couldn’t believe he would tell me all this but I guess he trusted me enough. I have so much to tell you. Wish you were here. You can trust the staff here except for...someone is coming. I have to go. Please come as soon as you can.

Love

Uncle Tom


Even more puzzled, Jennifer rolled up the parchment and put it into her carrying bag, and headed for the door. Standing on the front porch with her sister they say goodbye.

“Oh, and Jennifer,” Susan replied. “Is your passport up-to-date?” Her sister was always thinking ahead.
"My passport?" she replied, having forgotten to check it. "I'm glad you asked me that." Checking her carrying bag for the passport.
"But is it current?" Jennifer checks the date.
"Yes, I renewed it only a few months ago before the divorce was final,'' said Jennifer with a somber look.
“Hey kiddo, that wasn’t your fault. Things will get better. So what was in the letter?” Eyebrows raised.

“Oh, uncle was just writing to me about his friend he met during the war. I should get going. I have a long trip ahead of me; I’ll call you when I get there, and Susan, thanks for always being there.” Quick to give Susan a hug, secretive about the letter.

“Of course, what are sisters for?” They hugged as Jennifer got into the cab to the airport.


OVER THE POND


On a brisk autumn day, at twenty-seven Jennifer was on her way to handle the estate as the niece of a successful lawyer; her uncle Tom Ferimore. Flying to England in a 747 handing her the already prepared drink, she said, “Can I have nuts or cookies please?” The flight attendant gave her the food and a napkin. Turning to the gentleman sitting next to her. “My first time I’ve ever flown to Europe.” Her voice was chirpy.

“Well I hope your stay there will be a good experience for you,'' he said with a smile. “Thanks, I hope so,'' replied Jennifer, opening her laptop. Accessing the Internet on her flight over the pond she scanned the letter again for the name of the manor. Where is it located?

A picture emerged before her and she took a sharp breath, her head moving closer. It seemed more like a beautiful mansion perched on a cliff above the sea town, with gorgeous surrounding gardens and a swan pond. It was stunning, made of sand-colored stone complete with the remains of what was an ancient castle with four towers. Holding the thumb drive between her thumb and finger, Jennifer stared at her screen for the longest time before pushing it into a slot on her laptop. Picking up the envelope and turning it over in her hands she didn't recognize the logo on the outside which said: Fennal and Penmore. Checking the letter against her eyes scanning the page...as the niece of Tom Ferimore, we have identified you as the heir to the estate of Shaldorn Manor. The rest gave contact details and a map of how to get there. The letter dropped from her hands. Her heart was thudding against her chest and she couldn't help but shake her head. This was crazy. What was he doing with a castle in England? She scanned the letter again. In her haste to read she'd missed one important paragraph.

We request your presence at Shaldorn Manor to take part in the affairs of the estate along with all other connected properties, and estate under Tom Ferimore's Last Will and Testament. Jennifer played with the hem of her shirt as she contemplated her future. Through the Manor website, she learned more details of the Mansion and its surroundings and used Wikipedia for additional information. There is a lot more here. Jennifer put her laptop away and stared out the plane window, twisting the loop of hair around her finger. Feeling sad since her uncle died. She has fond memories of him living along the coast of Oregon. She loved spending time with him and her aunt at their home near the ocean, looking for seashells, listening to auntie play the piano, and eating her wonderful meals. There was a large garden on the property where they would grow vegetables and herbs. The home was filled with antiques and period furniture, and they ate fine things like china. She loved spending time with them during her summers. Peering out the window Jennifer was lost in thought reflecting on her life as a reporter.

#


Freezing Rain whipped the windscreen of the Jeep. Jennifer's hands were damp upon the wheel as she parked the car in her privileged place in front of the cold blue glass of the company entrance. Behind it, she knew, loomed a Flexitallic decorative lobby, as silent as a morgue, and perfumed with the smell of potpourri. And as fake as a six dollar bill. She felt her jaw tighten. She drew a deep breath and curled her lips into a practiced smile. The meeting with her boss had not even started, yet on her tongue was the bitter taste of failure. Would today mean the end of her career?

All her life Jennifer has been held back and prevented from seeing her greatest potential because of bad teachers, politics, and favoritism in the workplace. Anytime she tried showing what she was capable of, her bosses would find a way to prevent her from rising to the next level. She knew it was their fear of losing their cushy jobs and fat paychecks, easy money and privilege they so enjoyed while playing favors to the less qualified. Jennifer had always wanted to show them that she was just as capable as they are. Her briefcase contained the story that she had spent so much time researching. It was about two items lost in history. While researching her story she came across Internet links that pointed to an article about an artifact stolen by the Nazi’s during World War II. It was one of only two ever made. Anytime she shared a great idea they would say no but later steal it from her and take the credit. Even as a reporter she experienced these things on many occasions which is why she hated working for others. Jennifer attempted to convince her boss to take the story to the press. He told her it wasn’t the kind of story he wanted, and that she was wasting time on nonsense. He told her of complaints from upper management so he fired her. She believed much of the private sector is so corrupted by politics and spineless leaders that the only way she would ever make it is to do it on her own. If only she knew of a way.

After landing at London Heathrow she made her way toward baggage claim. She collected her bags and headed for the pickup area when she saw a man holding a sign that read, Jennifer Ferimore.

“Excuse me, are you Ms. Jennifer Ferimore?” he asked with a British accent.
“Yes,” she answered, feeling the jet lag.
“Right this way, miss.” He led her to the car where he offered to drive her to Shaldorn Manor.

Her mind wandered as the car began the long drive. She found her mind wandering to her childhood days of old. As a child, she spent a lot of her free time reading books as it allowed her to escape the sadness, responsibility and the unhappiness she felt in her childhood. Her mother was at times verbally abusive. She was an introvert and she considered herself to be smart but sociable when she needed to be. She loved reading stories of the past when people showed more respect for one another and spent time together unlike the fast-paced got to have it now world, where a cell phone is more important than the person you're with. She would read of Ancient Rome, King Arthur or a well-written mystery adventure novel. As a child, she would lose herself in a book or two on the weekends when her friends were outside playing. Inwardly, she suffered the quiet trepidations of a woman who had witnessed at least once in her lifetime the nervous breakdowns of a mother who had otherwise cared for her with stridency. Her high school years were filled with friends, academics and field soccer, which she loved playing. Playing soccer for her high school gave her an outlet to her dysfunctional home life.

"Pardon me, Miss, you look like you have a bad case of jet lag."

"Uh—yes, thank you." But weighing on her heavier than the jet lag was a nagging within her telling her that her status had been changed.
She was raised by a single working mother whose idea of a future for her was rocked to the core when Jennifer became pregnant, which caused quite the disappointment, and further distanced her from her mother resulting in a miscarriage, she thought, to her mother’s satisfaction. Her father who was a successful businessman before his death, and has served as an attorney, had her life planned out. He was more supportive of the choices she made growing up, and would often go against her mother on many occasions. Jennifer was always the outspoken child never afraid to speak her mind even when it irritated her parents. Being a reporter wasn’t what she wanted out of life. It was just something she went and did because she thought that was what you were supposed to do when you grew up—get an education, a job, get married and have kids. But her first serious relationship ended in a divorce. She needed freedom; she needed to discover who she was, to find her place in the world. For many years she would drive to work at the local town newspaper where she worked. She was your typical yuppie urban professional raised by a single working but struggling middle-class mother. Growing up they never had much. Save a roof over their heads, a bed to sleep in and three meals a day. Her mother struggled for many years until making enough income allowing them to live in a decent home.

"You know, you stand to inherit a lot of money." The driver stared back at her through the rear view mirror.
“I’m James. It's okay; you can trust me." The letter did state she could trust the help, but she felt uneasy. Everything would be different.
“So how are you related to the deceased?” His eyes burned with curiosity.
“I’m his niece.” She ran her fingers over the surface of the coin necklace.

On the way to Shaldorn Manor Jennifer reviewed what she saved on her laptop while on the plane. The Manor grounds to the Southwest drew a coastal English moor complete with fog along its bank. To the Northwest, the area was defined by the impressive cliffs of the North Irish Sea coast. The northern and western boundaries were defined by the steep scarp slopes of the Hills edging the lowlands and Carbis Bay. To the south lay the broken line of the Cornet Hill and portions of the town. She had just dozed off when the driver said they were almost there. Waking from sleep and realizing she needed a bathroom break pretty quick, Jennifer asked the driver if he could stop as soon as possible. Just a few miles down the road from the Manor they arrived at what appeared to be an ancient tavern. Returning to the present she rubbed her eyes and stepped out of the car; the driver held the door open for her. Walking toward the tavern entrance they noticed the sign swinging to and fro in the wind, the sign appeared to read Witherston Tavern.

After a bathroom break and a quick drink, she asked the man behind the counter, “How much further to Shaldorn Manor?” Glancing at her smartphone. “You’re almost there; you will know when you see the stone lions marking the beginning of the driveway, and entrance to the property,” He said. Texting a reply on her smartphone, Jennifer didn’t notice the man behind the counter eyeing the driver.

Stone lions, sounds mysterious.



CORNWALL ENGLAND
PRESENT DAY


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 on flight to England showed a guest house to the West surrounded by trees, and wrought-iron fencing all around. 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 was 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 mist fell 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, 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 bedrooms 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 handbag. Cindy had just fluffed the pillows.
“Oh my God, 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 was a solid walnut Victorian period cheval mirror with brass knobs.

“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.” Her mouth fell open.
“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 lands 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. If it gets chilly at night sometimes. Well, it is autumn in Cornwall after all. There are blankets over there. Pointing at them as she padded for the door. 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. 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 shone 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 tour of the Manor.

“Well good morning, Jennifer. You slept for a long time. You must have been tired from traveling,” said Cindy handing Jennifer a freshly 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. I hope you don’t think of me as unsociable. 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, and no, I don’t think of you as unsociable.” 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, creamy 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 wrapped her fingers around it, enjoying the heat spreading through her hands. But without conscious thought, it is in her hand, and the first milky sip crept 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 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 tapestry 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 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 where 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 into 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.”
“Yes.”

Nigel resembled a stork with long bony legs and a neck that could fit on a flamingo.
“Well welcome to Shaldorn Manor. I’m the groundskeeper 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?” Her eyes scanned around but 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 blocked a yawn.
“Oh, I see. Well, however long you’re here, should you wish to go for a ride let me know.” He put some hay 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 be 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 was very nice to meet you.” Moving toward the stable door.

“You as well, Nigel.”
© Copyright 2020 Eric Owens (ericowens at Writing.Com). All rights reserved.
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