We were met by the Addie –Adeline-, our handmaid at the door, she was a sweet plump woman with curling grey hair and nimble fingers, and she smiled fondly at me and nodded her head with respect for my father as she took his bags through the door. As we walked through the entrance hall to the bottom of the stairs I breathed in the familiar musky smell. My father planted a kiss on my forehead at the bottom of the staircase and told me to tell my grandmother that he’d be down for supper, but needed to rest. Hesitant to let him go, I clutched at the edge of his jacket and watched as the dark material slipped through my hands and he made his way up the grand arched stairs. Once his tall figure had disappeared behind the oak mezzanine balcony and into a dim corridor, I looked at the hall around me. The ceiling was high and ornately coffered but the wood was faded and the gilding peeling. There was little natural light; the windows although tall, faced north so only the amber light from the sunset at the end of the day reached here. It was not dark though, just dim. The walls were panelled with a faded blue floral patterned wallpaper above, which was peeling off at the edges and in the corners. Most of the wall was covered in portraits and paintings of the family who owned the house, who passed it down to Henry, my Grandmother’s husband, my honorary Grandfather. His family were a hunting family so the stuffed heads of their prizes also lined the walls, deer mostly with glassy eyes, and golden plaques watched me walk through to the kitchen wing.
Running my fingers along the walls of the narrow corridor I waltzed my way to the kitchens. When I was not enjoying the gardens and lawns, watching them from my room or reading in the small library on the first floor, I was here in the kitchens. Finding myself comfortably sat at the end of the large wooden table on a small stool by the hearth I watched Mary bustle about preparing supper. Her apron and skirts were dusted with flour and her brow was dabbled with sweat, she smiled at me from her work bench as I quietly enjoyed her company. Mary was like a mother in many ways, she had been my wet-nurse when my Grandmother took my father and I in, and from the moment she laid eyes on me she said that she was smitten. I loved the smell of the kitchens and took solace in the cool of the stone floor during the summer, the hearth was not lit today but in the winter I would curl up on blanket next to it and drift off to sleep listening to the crackling wood and enjoy the sleepy warmth that the fire gave off. All manner of herbs and dried plants hung from above me, the latched windows opposite the wooden door were always open in the summer, bringing in the warm air, so that it smelled delicious and earthy. For a while I just sat there leaning against the wall drifting between sleep and awake. Forgetting that I was still holding my book and lost in thought I let my grip release and the book fell. Mary, startled, whipped around, and dropped her rolling pin. The sound bouncing off the stone walls. As her eyes met mine, I looked up at her in apology and although attempting to appear stern her smile reflects mine and her eyes crinkle.
“Ah, Miss B, I can ne’er stay cross with you, you’re too sweet for this world child” she muttered grinning as she picks up the wooden pin and continues.
“Go on girl, you shouldn’t be down here on a day like today, go enjoy the fine weather, or go and see your Grandmother. I sent up some tea earlier to the drawing room, she should still be there.” She encouraged, her back turned as she potters around the room.
“Fine, but can I can have breakfast with you tomorrow?”
Mary turns to me and smiles defeated, she nods “yes I suppose so, now go on with you”.
She ushers me out, but not before she embraces me. I linger in her warmth and comforting scent for a moment, before making my way up to my room. As I wandered back through the entrance hall I realised how late it had gotten; I watched as the sunset flooded into the room painting it with a honey orange colour, that was reflected in the marble floor tiles making it look like a sea of melting gold had pooled beneath me. Not wanting to disturb my Grandmother, I went straight for my room which was on the third floor at the back of the house, although small it had the best view of the gardens and lake. My father had even installed a window seat for me so that I could sit and admire it comfortably. My windows were southern facing so the room was dim when I entered but one of maids had been round to light the candles, which flickered reflected in the little chandelier crystals surrounding them. The small chandelier had been a gift from my Grandmother a few years before. It cast a twinkling scope of flickering light around my room. After dressing – I did not require a maid as when at home I wore simple comfortable gowns and only wore corsets on occasions, regardless I was blessed with a petite frame and an appetite for the outdoors so I did not really need one anyways- I made my way down leisurely for supper, and then before reading a few chapters of my novel, drifted off to sleep between my crisp linen sheets.