Page the Second


A fronte praecipitium a tergo lupi. (In front of you, a precipice. Behind you, wolves.)

Friday, August 26, 2011

A Bit of Summerhouse

I just thought I'd post a bit of my W.I.P.:

There was an unearthly, pearly light in the summerhouse, where no light should be. Charlotte Pennington picked her way across the grass to investigate. The moon plated each leaf and blade with silver and lit her way. Charlotte had hastily donned an old blanket--not proof enough against the chilly summer night. Her bare feet encountered the occasional sticker hidden in the grass. Any cry of hers fell upon deaf ears; the servants had long gone to their beds.

The summerhouse glowed with a ghostly, stark white light--not that of a candle, but something stronger and unwavering. The light poured steadily through the wooden curlicues and embellishments like a frozen, white star.

Charlotte slowed, hesitant to surprise whatever or whoever was trespassing on Pennington land. Fear rose up to take her throat in its grip. She should have brought her father's saber. At least then she might have felt herself to be safe. Her mother was always telling her she was too impetuous and daring. Father seemed to secretly enjoy those traits.

She edged slowly closer, trying desperately not to make a sound. She could not make out the form of a person anywhere in the structure. Slowly she approached, until she stood at the bottom step. She put one foot on the riser, which let out a loud 'squeak!'

“Who's there?”

It was the baritone of a man's voice! Charlotte froze.

“Come on, mate. Who's out there?”

Charlotte swallowed convulsively.

“If you don't come out where I can see you, I'll shoot you where you stand!”

Charlotte stepped up and into the light, which temporarily blinded her. Her face was a mask of rage. “How dare you? This is Pennington land! You, whoever you may be, are trespassing and I shall have the servants fetch the beadle to have you off!”

“Why would a beetle mean anything to me? I'm the caretaker here, and you, girl, are the one trespassing!”

“Girl! Why, the impertinence of you! How dare you call me 'girl' as if I were the kitchen skivvy?” She blinked several times so that she might better see who it was with which she was contending. Slowly a shape came into focus. It was a youngish man of about average height dressed in outlandish clothing. She saw at once that he bore no sidearm.

“I'm sorry, you were just leaving!” he exclaimed rudely.

Charlotte nearly went into an apoplectic fit. “Go away from here, you despicable lout! I'll not stand by while vagrants infest my family's holdings! Be off with you! And take your garish light with you!” She lifted her chin arrogantly, and stomped her bare foot, unfortunately encountering a splinter in so doing. She hobbled over and sat down upon one of the window seats to remove the offending shard of wood.

The young man examined Charlotte closely. “What is this rubbish? Why do you insist on calling this your family's property? This land is part of the National Trust.”

“I have no idea what you mean by 'National Trust'. This land has been in my family's hands since Queen Elizabeth bestowed it upon us. Furthermore, I know every single worker, hand, and servant upon this estate and you, Mister...”

“Harris. Jack Harris.”

“You, Mister Harris, are not one of them. Thus I adjure you to be off.”

“So you say your family owns this land?”

“Indeed. I am Charlotte Marie Pennington, only daughter of Viscount Sir Robert Pennington and Lady Elizabeth Pennington.”

“Get off, lady, there have been no Penningtons here for nearly two hundred years. I'd know! I've lived in Shipston-on-Stour for nigh on three years now, and I know everybody affiliated with Pennington, except you! And you are clearly a loony. Get along out the gate before I set the dogs on you.”

Charlotte stood with her arms akimbo, staring at the impertinent young man. He was tall with a shock of unruly brown hair. His blue eyes studied her with a scowl. He behaved as if he belonged there in her summerhouse!

The man wore some sort of rough, blue working man's trousers, the oddest footwear she had ever beheld, and an undershirt which bore the words: Do Not Disturb. I'm Disturbed Enough Already, as if he were some sort of peddler hawking his wares. Charlotte wondered why such a peddler should be skulking about on Pennington land.

Over it all, as if he wanted to hide the fact of his livelihood, he wore some kind of strange, truncated waistcoat with metal-toothed edging. Her gaze slipped from the cap bearing the words 'Manchester United', perched atop his dark elf locks, to his piquant face. The strange blue windows of his eyes held her the longest.

He was enjoying her discomfiture.

Jack stared back at the girl, seeing long, brown hair, flashing green eyes, and a figure that wouldn't stop. Even though she was barefoot and dressed only in a nightie and blanket, she was a luscious 'bird'—one his mates would sell their eye-teeth for.

The girl saw him eying her blanket-draped form and began tapping her foot impatiently. “Be off with you! And never you mind about the dogs; I shall call them myself!”

He folded his arms, frowning thunderously. The stalemate dragged on for what seemed like eternities. Then a thought occurred to Jack. His glance snapped to her face. “Wait a tick. What did you say your name was?”

“I am Charlotte Marie Pennington--which you would know if you had been an invited guest at Pennington Hall.”

Jack's face blanched white in the glare of the halogen bulb. “The Charlotte Pennington?”

“Of course. Whom else?”

Jack sat for some minutes staring lack-witted at the vision in white. “It can't be...” he muttered under his breath. Charlotte Marie Pennington had disappeared from this estate in the year 1811—almost two hundred years in the past! There was simply no earthly way this woman could be that Charlotte Pennington. “Who are your parents, Miss?”

“I do not believe it to be your affair who my parents are. You, Mister Harris, are trespassing and must go away at once.”

“Humor me, Miss. Please.”

She sniffed. “Once again, they are Viscount Sir Robert Pennington and Lady Elizabeth Pennington.”

Jack gasped. He knew there couldn't be two such Lady Penningtons. He knew all the Penningtons and their offspring. It was his business to know everything about Pennington Hall and its past and present inhabitants and environs. It was, in fact, his job to oversee everything on the estate including the museum and gift shop. He knew the estate like the back of his hand, and he had never heard of this particular person, unless she was that Charlotte. He looked over at the girl sitting beneath the window. She was ethereally beautiful with the light gleaming on her creamy skin. Her eyes were huge and the lashes rimming them, luscious. The nightie she wore appeared to be hand-sewn and of antique design.

He reached to touch the girl in the blanket. She shrank away, her eyes wide with fear and something akin to curiosity.

“What year is it?” Jack asked.

“Now I know that you must be an escaped lunatic from Bedlam. Everyone knows the year.”

“Humor me.”

She sighed. “It is the year of our Lord eighteen hundred and nine. Do you wish to know the reigning monarch as well?”

“Mad King George the third, whose son, George the fourth, will become his regent in one year,” he said quietly.

Charlotte glanced at him sharply. “What do you mean, Prince George will succeed him in one year? How can you possibly know that?”

“I know that because I live in the year 2009.”

It was her turn to be struck dumb. Only the music of the crickets broke the silence for some time.

Charlotte drew a ragged breath and eyed Jack suspiciously. “Of course you would say that, as you are clearly lacking wits. Has your nurse misplaced you, perchance? I would think that, had there been searchers about, I would have seen the lanterns and they would have asked my father's permission first. He is sleeping just across the grass, you know. Should aught happen to me, he and all the servants would surely hear me scream and come at the run.”

“There are no searchers, because I am not lost. You, however...”

“I am neither lost or mad. I know perfectly well where it is I am.”

Jack muttered, “Sure. If you only...” then stopped. If she were the famous missing Charlotte, he could ask her anything he wanted! He could finally solve the mystery! People would flock to the estate in droves. The Euros would simply pour in. He looked over into the quizzical gaze of those green eyes. They were so full of innocence and dawning wonder. Apparently her fear and sense of modesty had battled with curiosity and lost. “Knew...”

He felt that she was picking through his memories and dreams like she were at a jumble sale. Every fault and foible lay on the table for her perusal. Apparently she liked what she saw, or at least chose not to run screaming into the night. He knew in that instant that he would never be able to pull a fast one over on this one.

“You were speaking the truth, were you not? Your outlandish clothing speaks volumes for you.”

“What? These old things? They're just my mucking about duds. You can't expect me to roam the estate in my posh gear, can you?”

She rewarded his question with a wry grin. “Clearly not.”

“Tell me something,” he said quietly. “When you first got here, you were off your nut witless. What gives?”

She was confused. “I beg your pardon?”

“You were afraid. Now...?”

“I believe that, should you have wished to harm me, you would have done it by now, correct?”

He smiled warmly. “I'm not going to hurt you. My job is to keep unwanted blighters from camping on the estate. It seems as if you, at any rate, belong here.”

“It grieves me for you to have misunderstood me at all.”

“Here. Let me clear it all up for you--at least on my end.” He took a Euro from his billfold and held it out to her. “Look. Do you recognize this?”

Charlotte looked at the paper. “I have never seen such a paper in all of my life, however it appears to be some kind of currency. What is it?” She reached to take the bill, but somehow her hand grasped empty air. She looked up at him, aghast. “Why...?”

Jack poked and pinched himself and was satisfied that he, at least, was not a ghost. Charlotte followed suit. Their eyes met. They reached out gingerly to touch hands, but both met only empty air. Charlotte shuddered. “I am not a specter! See, I have form and substance!”

Jack smiled nervously. “I think we have just settled the fact that we are not sitting here together in the same year.”

Charlotte gave a start. “We have?”

“Naturally. Or rather unnaturally. Since neither of us are loopy and for you it is the year 1809 and for me, 2009, it is safe to say that we are experiencing a paradox.”


  1. Absolutely fantastic blog!!! Glad I found it! Love it!!!

    Lola x

  2. Thanks!!! Bring your friends! And now I'm off to check out yours.