Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Excerpt from NIGHT GARDEN

They walked down another corridor. Laura began to worry that she might easily get lost,
when Dorcus paused before a door. They entered a large, lofty room. Against one wall sat a
four-poster bed dressed with gold brocade silk bed hangings, a washstand and basin nearby. A
tapestry chair with carved feet perched beside a writing desk near the window. A French
armoire stood in a corner, its mahogany wood gleaming. A richly-colored Oriental rug covered
the floor and a gilt mirror hung over the fireplace. Laura caught sight of her pale face in it. She
went to the narrow casement window and pulled aside heavy brocade curtains woven with gold
thread. She looked down on the garden she had first seen from the jetty, the long grass dotted
with headstones. The sky had finally cleared to a smudged blue-gray. She could see the
causeway, a built up carriageway of about a half-mile or so, the receding tide lapping at its rocky
foundations. The land was terraced with greenery, and granite steps cut into the stone walls led
down to the restless expanse of slate-colored sea. Movement at the stables caught her eye. The
trap had arrived. Two burly men unloaded her trunks as her husband stood watching, tall, dark
and magnificent in his riding clothes, tapping his knee with his riding crop, his dogs romping
about close to his heels.
“Agnes will attend you, my lady,” Dorcus said. “I’ll send her to you when your trunks
are brought up.”
Only a few hours of daylight remained of a very long day. “I think I’ll rest for a little
while, thank you, Dorcus.”
“As you wish, my lady.”
Laura sank onto the bed. It was quiet except for the mournful sound of the gulls through
the open window. Tomorrow, her adventurous spirit would return to her, she was sure. She lay
back and closed her eyes.
She ran blindly down one corridor after another, but the wisp of white still followed. It
seemed such a fragile thing, like smoke, and yet it filled her with a terrible fear. She could not
escape it. She called out.
“Laura?”
She sat up quickly, her head spinning. “I must have fallen asleep.”
“I heard you call out.” Nathaniel sat on the bed beside her. “Were you dreaming?”
She pushed her hair back off her forehead. “Yes. A kind of nightmare.” It had been so
vivid. She trembled and wished he would hold her, but gazing at his concerned face, she forced
a smile. “A daymare, perhaps.” She put her hand to his cheek. “I’m all right now.”
“It’s been a long tiring day. Do you feel better?”
She slipped her hand into his. “Yes. Much.”
“I thought you might like to come for a walk before it grows too dark.”
“Oh yes.” She jumped up.
“Put on your cloak, its growing cooler.”
They emerged into the passageway. “Where is your chamber?” she asked.
“Close by.” He opened a door. A similar room to hers appeared, decorated in somber
dark green.
Determined to shake off the lingering affects of the dream, Laura took his arm.
“I’ll take you up to the tower. You’ll have a wonderful view of Wolfram from there.”
They descended the staircase. At the far end of the corridor on the ground floor, behind a
curved door lay a winding stair. Laura followed Nathaniel round and round to the top. He
opened a door and they stepped out onto a narrow parapet with a stone wall. Laura clutched the edge and looked down. The ground seemed a long way away. She gazed out across the endless
sea. The village looked tiny, linked to the abbey by the carriageway. She could see the church
spire and the cluster of dark trees of the churchyard, the schoolhouse tower with its bell, and the
square of village green.
Below, a lane lined with ancient oaks led to the stables then branched around the abbey to
a row of stone cottages on the ocean side. Rolling parklands stretched away to the woods.
Where they had arrived at the wharf was the land’s lowest point. At its highest the cliffs looked
sheer and impenetrable. A tree-lined lane linked the stables to paddocks where horses frolicked,
stretching away towards dense woodlands.
Laura followed Nathaniel’s pointing finger. “You can’t see it, but beyond the woods is a
small home farm that supplies most of the food for Wolfram.”
“It’s all breathtaking,” Laura said.
He smiled. “Come, it’s growing late.”
Having returned to the ground floor, they left the abbey by another door which led into a
tiny rose garden. The bushes were heavy with blooms and their delicate perfume scented the air.
Laura thought it heavenly; there wasn’t a gravestone in sight, just a small stone statue of a lady
in a wide-brimmed hat. It wasn’t old, but Victorian in style and Laura wondered if Amanda had
chosen it. A stone bench sat under a spreading chestnut tree. “I shall spend quite a bit of time
here.”

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