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"It is the sea isn't it?" I asked Jonathon.
"Yes it most certainly is," he told me, "it is but the other side of the meadow."
"So Redcliffe Manor is close to the sea?" I questioned.
"Indeed it is, my ancestors built on the land in the seventeenth century, although many parts of the manor have been added at a later date." He told me with pa.s.sion and pride in his voice; and I was soon to understand why. We walked for a few more yards along the track, the sun beating down on us. We then reached tall gates set into a high wall which were open as if in greeting and walked together up a long path which was sheltered from the sun by poplar trees which lined each side of the driveway. Suddenly without warning we stepped into the open once more and I was dazzled by the scene which lay before me. A lake of green water decorated with pink and white water lilies lay to our right and ahead of me was the most magnificent building I had ever or had ever hoped to see. The house was vast and hauntingly beautiful, its cream-coloured walls were basking in the sunlight, the building looked so still and peaceful, slumbering almost in the warmth of the sun. I could not begin to count the windows as there were so many, the sunlight playing on each and every one. I turned to Jonathon for we had been silent while I took in the view before me.
"It is beautiful," I said quietly and felt how a woman must feel when she instantly falls in love with a man.
"I'm more than pleased you like it so much for I can see that you are captivated by it," he said. "Would you like to come and see Georgina for she is at home today?" At the mention of his sister's name a cloud momentarily pa.s.sed over the sun and I realised that she overshadowed her handsome brother with her domineering presence.
"If you don't mind sir, I'd rather not today," I told him gently.
"Then let us walk by the lake together," He seemed almost pleased that I decided not to see his sister and I could understand why. So we walked together by the lake where I could see beautifully coloured dragonflies skimming across the water above the lilies. This place is a paradise I thought to myself and wondered why Georgina spent so much time at Middlepark when she had such a stately home of her own. But then I mused, the lure of Middlepark was Richard Roseby without a doubt. With each step we took I could see the beautiful building.
"You must have many servants to keep such a vast place going," I observed by way of conversation for I had come to realise that Jonathon Moor was a man of few words.
"No, we have but a cook and two housemaids." His answer surprised me, little did I know then that tomorrow all would be made clear to me. We nearly traversed the lake and I could hear the sea ever closer.
"We must be near the sea now," I commented to my companion.
"It is indeed just a short distance," Jonathon told me. "If we continue walking you will see how the manor got its name." We left the lake a short way behind us and walked across the gra.s.s which was starting to turn brown no doubt due to all the hot weather we had experienced in the past weeks. Suddenly without warning I could see the sea before me, the sun s.h.i.+ning on it like crystal droplets on a necklace. As I looked back behind me I could see the gra.s.s we had walked across was on a steep incline although it had not seemed so as we walked and we were now on a cliff path.
"See," said my companion, taking my elbow and turning me to the right, "there is Budleigh Salterton." And I realised that I could see the promenade in the distance with its row of hotels like dolls houses from where we stood.
"Why," I exclaimed, "so it is."
"And now if you look to your left at the curve in the cliff you will see why our manor is called such." Jonathon was once more pa.s.sionate of manner and as I looked where he directed I could see the cliffs in question were a deep red in colour so all was revealed. "And if you look back behind you Miss Trent you will see the manor nestling near the curve of the cliff." Doing as I was bid I could see that he was right, the scene was such a beautiful one I was aware of my sketchpad in my hand and wished to sit and capture the beauty of it all with my pencil but to have done so would have been unseemly and once more I thought of Middlepark and wondered again what was happening there.
Looking at my fob watch that was pinned to the bodice of my day dress I could see that it was already three o'clock.
"My goodness," I exclaimed to Jonathon. "I must start to retrace my steps."
"Then I shall walk with you," he offered and I was pleased to accept as I was sure I would not find my way. Before heading back to Middlepark I glanced once more at Redcliffe Manor, savouring the moment and holding the magical scene in my mind.
"You are very lucky to reside here Mr Moor," I said more to myself than to him. "Very lucky indeed."
It didn't seem to take us so long to walk back, our steps were swifter and in no time at all we were walking back along by the river. We walked in silence, what Jonathon's thoughts were I had little idea, but mine were very mixed, the river, my sketch of the kingfisher, Redcliffe Manor and the occupants of Middlepark. These thoughts were all jumbled in my head but given time they would all be unravelled and I would be able to make some sense of my mixed emotions. One thing that I have to concede this instance was that Jonathon was a very attractive young man and from now on I would see him for himself as a person and would never let Georgina overshadow him.
When we reached the gates of Middlepark, Jonathon took my hand and kissed the back of it with the gentlest of kisses as if a b.u.t.terfly had brushed over it and my heart skipped a beat.
"I shall look forward to seeing you on the morrow Miss Trent," he said, "for I have very much enjoyed your company today."
"And I yours," I told him truthfully for it had certainly been an eventful day and I watched his tall figure walk back along the lane before entering the house.
As I stepped into the hallway and removed my straw hat I could hear laughter coming from the slightly open door of the drawing room. It was a woman's soft laughter and I stopped wondering if it were indeed the visitor when the door suddenly opened and Lina started to run across the hallway towards me.
"Walk, don't run," I admonished her gently and she did as she was bid.
"Charlotte, please come and see what Miss Verity has brought me back from Paris!" She excitedly took hold of my arm pulling me toward the drawing room. As I stepped into the lovely green decorated room of modest proportions I could see Richard Roseby standing by the fireplace and seated on the settle was a lovely woman with chestnut-coloured hair, swept up at the back with soft ringlets adorning her brow. I had little time to study her or to think straight as Lina led me over to a small polished table beneath the long window which was draped with soft green velvet curtains.
"Look Charlotte, Look," urged Lina. I could see why she was so excited, silk ribbons of all hues and colours lay on the table in a profusion of colour along with white and cream lengths of intricately woven lace, together with a colourful round pomander.
"They are lovely," I enthused with Lina. "But do please try to control your excitement, especially in front of others Lina."
"Ever the dutiful companion." I turned to Richard at the sound of his voice. I could scarce believe now that I was back at Middlepark that my day had gone so well, it was now all like a dream.
"I'm sorry Mr Roseby, I should perhaps allow Lina some excitement for today as it is obviously very special," I said demurely.
"Miss Trent, I would have you no other way," Richard said smiling.
"Let me introduce you to Verity Hawksworth." At his words the young woman rose from the settle, smoothing her pale violet-coloured skirts as she stood to greet me.
"I am most pleased to meet you Miss Trent," she spoke softly, "for I have heard so much about you today."
"Good things I hope," I said rather foolishly, as for once the cat seemed to have got my tongue.
"All good indeed; I a.s.sure you," the young woman said. "And Lina very obviously adores you." The young woman's words held no hint of jealously or sarcasm and I warmed to her straight away, at the same time thinking as I looked at smiling Richard Roseby that my daydreaming days were finally over and I wondered idly if he adored the lovely Verity.
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