Thursday, February 14, 2008

Entry: Historical Short Story

Maris Manor
by Carolyn Kenney


The year was 1840 and the English countryside was alive - finally. Rich green trees and vibrant flowers linked heaven to earth in a striking display of colors. Christine walked leisurely down the path leading from Maris Manor to Colina Hill situated on the edge of the family property. The green grass beneath her feet looked like velvet. She took off her shoes and felt the soft earth stir with each step.

Five months ago, Christine Kelly graduated from a private girl’s school. Why did it seem like five years? Shortly after graduation, her father, Patrick passed away from an unexpected heart attack. Christine and her mother, Rose, were devastated and now lived alone in the beautiful mansion with their few servants. Christine’s uncle, Charles Kelly, had told them two weeks after the funeral that her father had not left a will. Thinking about it now, Christine reflected sadly, “That is highly unlikely.” Now as the only surviving son, Charles said that Maris manor would fall to him.

Christine neared the top of the hill; on the other side, the hill abruptly descended to the sea below. The view from the top was breathtaking! A voice from behind startled her; she jumped and almost lost her footing.

“Christine, how are you?” Suddenly, Charles Kelly was standing beside her; she shivered despite the warmth of the summer day. “I was looking for your mother, but could not find her. You must watch out for her or something may happen to her.”

There was a sneer on his face and his eyes had a sinister look to them. He continued saying, “I need to get into your father’s library. My attorney would like to review some papers. However, the door is locked and the servants do not seem to have a key.”

Ignoring her uncle, Christine said, “It’s getting late, I must be getting back to the manor.”

“Here, let me help you,” said Charles. As he extended his hand to Christine, he gripped her shoulder firmly. They stood facing one another with Christine’s back to the raging sea below.

“Let me go!” she exclaimed. “Now!”

Charles released her and Christine stumbled forward. She quickly regained her balance and rushed away from her uncle. As she walked down the path, she heard Charles behind her laughing silently.

At the bottom of Colina Hill, Christine began the walk home, deep in thought. Suddenly, she heard a warm familiar voice. “Christine!” James Bentley was walking towards her.

“James!” said Christine. “I’m glad to see you!” They had been friends since childhood; James was now studying law.

“When did you get home?” Christine inquired with joy.

“I arrived today,” said James. “How are you and your mother?” The tender look on James’s face made Christine relax and almost forget the conversation with her uncle.

“James, I was on Colina Hill trying to sort things out regarding my father‘s estate. Uncle Charles followed me!” said Christine with a heavy heart. “He frightens me!”

James said, “Christine, what can I do to help?”

Christine blurted out, “Uncle Charles told my mother that father did not leave a will, so he will inherit Maris Manor. However, I know there is a will! However, nobody seems to know where it is.”

“You haven’t been told what is in the will?” asked James in amazement.

“No,” said Christine sadly. “Mr. Abington, our lawyer, is coming tomorrow to see mother.”

James said, “I would be more than happy to come over when Mr. Abington comes to visit you and your mother.”

Christine exclaimed, “That would be wonderful. He is coming at 11:00 tomorrow morning.”

“Good,” said James, “I will see you then. “Don’t worry about the will or Charles Kelly. I know things will work out.”

“Goodnight James,” said Christine with joy in her heart.

The next morning both men arrived promptly at 11:00 a.m. “Hello Thomas. Hello James,” greeted Rose Kelly warmly. “It is wonderful to see you both. Please sit down everyone.”

Thomas Abington said, “A few years ago, I drew up the necessary paperwork for Patrick’s will. However, he wanted to keep it in his possession. He took the will and I never saw it again. Rose, did he tell you where he put it?”

Rose Kelly’s face was stricken with fear as she said, “No. Patrick told me about the will, but he never said where he put it. I assumed that you would have it. Charles wants this manor and now I’m afraid that he may get his wish.”

Thomas Abington said with concern, “I believe the will is somewhere in this house.” He looked at Rose and Christine saying, “The sooner one of you is able to find it, the better. Otherwise, Charles will inherit everything. Look around the manor and I will be in touch with you again. If you find anything, please let me know at once.”

“We will Thomas,” said Rose and walked him slowly to the door.

“Christine, what are we going to do?” asked Rose.

“Mother, please try not to worry. I know this isn’t easy, but father must have put the will somewhere safe. Why don’t you rest? James and I will look for it.”

Turning to James Christine said, “Let’s start in the library.”

They walked down the hall to the library where Christine unlocked the door. After searching the room thoroughly, Christine said, “James, I really don’t think it is here. Father would have left it someplace safe, but also someplace that few people would know about.”

“Do you have any idea?” asked James

Christine said, “Let me think about it. Can you stay for lunch?”

James said, “No, but I will return tomorrow and we can continue looking in other rooms.”

“Thank you, James,” said Christine. “You have been a wonderful friend.”

“I am glad to help you and your mother,” said James. “I’ll see you tomorrow.”

James walked down the front steps and Christine closed the front door gently. Suddenly she remembered an incident from her childhood and returned to the library. Walking over to her father’s desk, she sat down in the plush leather chair. She looked out the window as thoughts of her father came to mind.

As a child, she would spend hours here in her father‘s library playing quietly or reading while he worked.

One day she asked, “Daddy, what is that at the top of the manor?”

Christine pointed out the window. The widow’s walk always fascinated her. The widow‘s walk! Why hadn’t she thought of that before? A little alcove was tucked away at the top of the stairs near it. Years ago, Patrick Kelly had given his daughter a key and told her to put it in her jewelry box. Christine did as she was told and forgot all about it - until now.

Christine hurried to her room, opened the jewelry box and with relief found the key. Silently, she headed for the stairs to the alcove. Eyeing the door at the top, she removed the key from her pocket and slipped it into the lock. The door creaked open. She knelt down and felt around in the dark when suddenly her hand fell upon a large envelope.

Carefully Christine picked it up and stepped outside into the light. Her heart raced as she saw the familiar handwriting of her father on the outside with his name and underneath written “Final Will and Testament.” What a tremendous relief. Now, her uncle would have no part of Maris Manor.

Christine straightened up and locked the alcove door. She slowly walked onto the landing where she could see the land she had grown to love. She glanced once more at the envelope in her hands when a voice startled her. “Christine, my dear,” said Charles. “What do you have?”

Christine turned to see her uncle. She demanded, “What are you doing here?”

“I see you have the will,” he said. “Why don’t you let me have it?”

Christine shouted, “You will never get this house! Get out of here - now!” Slowly she started to walk around her uncle, but he stepped in front of her. She stumbled, grabbed onto the railing and steadied herself. All she could see was the drop two stories below to the rich green earth.

“Give me the will!” exclaimed Charles with a gleam in his eyes that revealed a side of him Christine had never seen before. She needed to get away from him and away from this precarious position.

Out of the corner of her eye, Christine saw James walk quietly through the door of the widow’s walk. He shouted, “Get away from her Charles!” Charles Kelly turned in amazement to face the younger man.

“J-James,” said Charles, “I did not expect to see you here!”

“I bet you didn’t,” said James glaring back. “I suggest you leave this property for good.”

“What!” exclaimed Charles. “This is my property now. Two women cannot care for this land.”

“That’s funny,” said James. “I heard that at the first opportunity you are going to sell this manor and the land surrounding it. Now leave here once and for all.”

“Th-this is my l-land!” stammered Charles as the younger man started walking towards him. Charles turned back to face Christine who was standing against the railing. “Give me the will, Christine.”

“Never,” she said. Charles lunged forward to grab the will; Christine stepped to her left barely avoiding him and he crashed through the railing to his death.

Christine screamed; James raced to her side where she buried her head in his strong chest. “Christine, are you all right?” asked James.

With tears she looked up into his deep blue eyes and said, “Yes, James. Is Uncle Charles dead?”

“Yes, he is.” said James hesitantly. “Oh Christine, I am so sorry.”

“James, I don’t know what I would have done if you had not been here. Why did you come back?”

“I decided to come back and have lunch with you and your mother. I thought you could both use a little company. As I came up to the front door, I saw you stumble onto the widow’s walk with Charles right behind you! I ran into the manor and up here!”

“James, I had the will in my hand, but it slipped when Charles went to grab it,” said Christine with a heavy heart. “I’m afraid that I may have lost it. Will life ever be normal again?”

“The will fell to the ground, but I can see it. Christine if I have anything to say from now on you will never worry again.” He put his arm around her waist and led her through the door.
Submitted by
Carolyn Kenney

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