The rear elevation of the house was showing decay brought about by weathering and a badly damaged entrance door, but it was still secure and the giant semicircular fanlight seemed to escape. Had there been an attempted break in? Alice realised that she would not know if a burglary had occurred in recent months. She had found no inventory of the contents, and what she saw told her she had enough to fill a small museum on one floor alone, never mind the others.
Her head was beginning to buzz and Alice noticed the time: It was already mid afternoon and she had not eaten since her early breakfast. Chiding herself, she made coffee and took it with her packed lunch through to the Library. She chose to sit on a rather lazy-looking seat, half sofa, half arm-chair, by the fireplace. Relaxed by the warm coffee, she could imagine Sidney’s ancestors sitting in this very spot at twilight, telling tales to their children about days gone by.
She pictured a bright fire burning in the fireplace, with blazing logs adding a cheerful glow to the room as evening drew in. All around on every side of the room were well-filled book-cases, reaching almost up to the high beamed ceiling. A large study table sat proudly in the middle of the room. It was covered with books and papers, and close by an arm-chair, pushed back in such a way it gave the impression it had been used only a day before. Alice felt comfortable here and thought it could easily become a favourite place to relax. Over the fireplace hung a painting of an old monastery it was rather dull and not to Alice’s taste, it could be added to the list for removal and sale.
Suddenly the sound of a bell striking with a clear, sweet tone brought Alice back to the present moment. The sound was coming from the tower where the bell struck the hour, while the hands of the clock, small as they were, kept perfect time in their journey round the clock face. The clear ringing of the clock could be heard all over the house, and suddenly she remembered Sidney saying with a smile, on her first visit:
“Grandfather called it ‘the Convent Bell’!”
Some curious little items were scattered about on the table and open shelves, or in the drawers; many of them from far-off places. One was an inkstand on the study-table; It was made like the claw of an eagle – the three toes, tipped with silver, formed the stand, and a little socket in the leg, was to hold an inkstand. A Regency Spiral Library Ladder with built in cabinet stood by the bookcases to the left of the great fireplace and a green leather wing back armchair with very detailed brass studding sat to the side of the large deep Bay window. The C shaped window seat cushions were very badly faded and threadbare, eaten by many years of unfiltered sunshine.
The inventory of furniture was growing longer than a litany:
- A George III turnover leaf tea table or side table with satinwood string inlay, two original Lion head handles, and brass escutcheon on a long shallow drawer with the whole piece terminating in original brass caps and castors.
- A Beautiful Ladies writing desk with a brass gallery wonderful inlay and original brass handles and green leather tooled writing surface.
- George III mahogany standing corner cupboard the dentil cut moulded cornice above a pair of glazed doors enclosing shelves, below twin panel cupboard doors enclosing a shelf raised on a plinth base.
- Georgian 3 drawer drop leaf occasional table on a turn column and platform base.
- A beautiful rich mahogany breakfast / dining table on centre pedestal with four out swept supports that terminated in brass caps and castors with seats for eight diners.
- A lovely circular George 111 mahogany snap top table with piecrust edge and birdcage action.
- Splendid French Victorian arm chairs with original tapestry covering.
They were very fond of ‘George’ smiled Alice as she added the items to her list, yet she had not discovered a George or Georgina on any of the old papers she had come across so far! These pieces were just for starters, and only a few items from one room, add the items from the library and multiply it by the large entrance hall and other rooms. The list might take a year to complete. Alice was beginning to realise she was out of her depth and would need the advice and help of professionals if she wanted to undertake this task properly. Suddenly, Alice realised she did want to begin a thorough and sensitive restoration programme of the house, overseen by experts in each field. This fascinating and beautiful building could combine the old with some new features, to provide an interesting and comfortable future for herself and Lovell.
At the thought of Lovell, she realised it was time to return to the Home house. It had been a long day, but she wanted to check the windows at the back of the building on the upper floor before securing the house for the night.
Running up stairs, she turned to the left and walked to the end of the corridor to check the rooms along the back wall of the house, the first was secure with no sign of water getting through. It was the same for the next three. Alice caught sight through a window of the outbuildings, they would certainly fulfil the needs of ‘recreational facilities’ as Morgan would say, but that was for another day, a long way down the line.
Two more bedrooms on this floor to check, the others up in the attics were smaller and could wait until next visit. As Alice moved across the last bedroom on this level she tripped, catching her foot on a floor board. In her hurry she had not noticed it, but she certainly felt the sting of the graze on the left side of her face. She got to her feet and checked the window, it was secure and dry. Turning to the reason for her fall the floorboard was now loose, her shoe had acted like a claw hammer. Alice decided to lift it altogether and place it over against the wall. As she did so, she noticed something in the gap, it was a box of some sort, she lifted it out for further examination. She wondered how long it had been there but decided to put it in her bag and open it at home when Dinner was over and she could relax for the evening. She returned to the ground floor, collected her things, locked up the house and turned her car for home.
Once through the door, Alice was met by Lovell and Crumbs, both excited to see her and vying for her attention. It took a full twenty minutes before they allowed her to make a start on dinner. Thankful for meals she had prepared in advance for the freezer, she sorted one and set it in the oven to thaw and reheat. It gave her time for a shower to clear the dust of the day from her body and allow her head to relax enough to enjoy the meal. Lovell eat well clearing her plate, then left the table for the evening round of soaps on TV.
As Alice stacked the dishwasher, the doorbell buzzed. It was Morgan. He often called unannounced to check that they were alright. He knew Alice was going to ‘Thudder house’ and wanted to know how she had got on. Alice made coffee and they carried it through to the den for a quiet chat while Lovell was busy. She told him about the back door and he agreed to take a look at it over the weekend.
He agreed with her that it would be wise to seek assistance from the experts before making changes to ‘Thudder house’. He told her about his day and the latest progress on the Workshop. He was about to leave, when he asked what happened to her face. Touching the graze she remembered the box!
Taking it from her bag, she noted it was quite old and inlayed with an intricate pattern in ivory. Alice opened it and they both gasped loudly.
Sitting on the deep black velvet lining were jewels that sparkled under the new deep set lights Morgan had installed around the room and above the chair where Alice now sat. There were diamonds, sapphires, aquamarines and an emerald, all set in beautiful pieces!
There had been no mention of any jewellery in Sidney’s will and the solicitors practice had been with the family for several generations, surely they would have mentioned ‘jewellery’ if they had known.
“I wonder if Sidney knew about these?” They both exclaimed in unison.
These stones might have lived under some old dark and dusty floor boards for many a long year, but Alice was not very happy about having them here in the Home house.
“Under the pillow with them for tonight” she thought. In the morning she would take them to a reputable jeweller in the city. They needed to be listed, checked over, cleaned and valued, before deciding what to do with them. She did not see herself parading about dripping in jewels as she went about her chores or while poking about in Thudder house as it was right now!