As Megan Rose drove up the long, winding lane that lead to Triloby manor, she felt her excitement rising. Every time she started a new project, she got a thrill that could not be matched by anything else in her life.
She gasped as she got her first sight of the old historical home. Its façade, with tall, majestic columns, was breath taking. She parked at the entrance to the drive into the estate, just before the iron gate, and just took her time looking at the old home. It was obvious that it had been cared for at one time, but was now in a state of disrepair. However, even its sad state of care could not hide its majesty. She knew this was one project she was going to really lose herself in.
As she just sat absorbing the ambiance of the old home, she thought again of her dearly loved grandmother. It was her grandmother who had given her the middle name of Rose. She said that Megan Rose was as beautiful as a little rosebud when she was born. Her grandmother had always called her by both names, insisting that genteel Southern ladies always went by both names. Megan Rose knew that was not necessarily true, but she loved the sound of both her names together. She loved it when her grandmother called her by both names. When she started her career, she insisted on being called by both names. She felt it added a note of authenticity.
It was also her grandmother who made it possible to pursue the career she loved. It was the inheritance from her grandmother that had enabled her to give up her job as a high school history teacher and pursue her true love – restoring old homes, researching the family history, and finding suitable owners for the homes who would love them as they should be loved. She helped some families get their history published. She was also collecting material for a historical novel she hoped to write one day.
Often she restored a home for an owner who planned to keep it. However, she much preferred to restore homes that were going to be sold. She had an ulterior motive for that. She had a dream of owning one of the homes she restored. She had not found the one she wanted yet, but was always hopeful that the next home would be the one. She had spent the last five years restoring other people’s homes. She really wanted one of her own. She planned to retire from restorations when she found the home of her choice, then work on writing her book. Until then, she continued to search for “her home” among the many she restored.
The owner of Triloby Manor, John Robert Triloby, had given her carte blanche to do as she wanted with it. He knew of her reputation for diligence in restoring the homes to their original plans. He knew she would be true to the history of the old home. He told her she could use whatever she wanted that was in the home, disposing of what she did not feel belonged. He did not plan to keep it, but rather was going to sell it.
“Someone will really be lucky to get this home.” Megan Rose surprised herself by speaking out loud. She had become totally engrossed in studying the old home. She thought that maybe this might just be the home she had been searching for. The home seemed to be calling to her. John had told her the home had some sort of “haunted house” story related to it. Megan Rose found that was often the case with these old homes. Most had seen some real tragedies, and stories often circulated around the tragedy. Megan Rose was eager to go inside and get a feel for what lay ahead for her.
As she drove around the curving driveway to the back of the house, she was really astounded by the home’s beauty. A huge, circular balcony jutted out from both stories. The tall columns repeated the style from the front of the home. Though in definite need of repair, the glory of the homes past could readily be detected. The floor of the balcony on the first floor formed a ceiling for a covered portico below. Megan Rose did not know what the lower part of the home was used for. It was not tall enough to be a ground floor, but it was obviously a living arrangement of some sort. She was not sure of its function, but intended to find out.
She parked her car, eager to get inside and see what was inside. John had told her that some of the original furnishings were still there, though he was not sure of their condition. He had never lived in the home, having inherited it after it had been closed for years. It was structurally sound, but in total disrepair.
She walked around the house, arriving in the front at the bottom on one of the curving stairways up to the first floor porch. Several balusters were missing, desperately needing painting. The rails were splintered and faded, but the steps seemed safe enough. They did need some repair, though.
Megan Rose climbed slowly to the first level porch, which was about ten feet off the ground, due to the base of the structure, whatever it was. As she climbed, she imagined ladies dressed in all their finery, climbing those very steps to enter the home for a ball or other social gathering. She felt kinship with the home for some reason. It was as if the mistress of the Manor was waiting at the door to greet her.
Just as Megan Rose got to the top of the stairway, she heard a shout. It was like a voice from the past. It startled her from her reverie.
“Hello.” Megan Rose turned with a start at the sound of the voice, catching a glimpse of a very handsome man, about her age. His thick, wavy brown hair, brilliant blue eyes that sported an ever-present twinkle, and winning smile reminded her of the “Southern gentlemen” of her dreams. She momentarily wondered if she was seeing a ghost. However, the dress was too contemporary to be a ghost of the past.
“What are you doing here,” Megan Rose demanded. She did not appreciate the intrusion on her reverie. “This is private property. You are not to be here without permission.”
“Oh, but I have permission. The owner gave me permission to look over Triloby Manor in my research. He said you would be here to let me in. And, I see you are. However, he neglected to tell me how beautiful you were.”
“Flattery will not get you entrance into the Manor. How do I know you have permission?”
“John thought you might be suspicious. He gave me a note to give you. Here, see? I have permission. Now, can I enter? After you.” The man gestured with a sweeping motion, much as a suitor of old might have gestured to his lady to enter before him.
“He did not tell me anyone else would be coming by. I do not like to have anyone around the first time I see a home. It spoils the effect.” Megan Rose was surprised at how petulant she sounded. But, it was true. She really needed to just wander around the interior, absorbing the feel of the place.
“I feel like you. I do not want the feel of the place spoiled by anyone’s being there. However, this time, I guess I have to share, as will you.”
“Well, come on in, then.” Megan Rose unlocked the side door, feeling anger at the intrusion of someone into “her” home. She already felt a sense of ownership, which was crazy because she did not own the home and had no intention of doing so. She knew no one in this town, so did not plan on staying after the restoration. However, she did feel as if she had an ownership of sorts. It was to be her home for several months while she restored it.
Megan Rose gasped as she got her first glance of the grand entry hall. Even though in a dilapidated state, with dirt everywhere, peeling wallpaper, and scuffed wooden floors, Megan Rose could readily see its grandeur showing through. It was huge, opening into a beautiful grand ballroom that was entered through a beautiful arched doorway. Megan Rose lost awareness that anyone was even beside her for several minutes, until the man with her spoke.
“I see you love old homes as much as I do. I guess we should introduce ourselves. I am Lance Edward Sanders. And your name is?”
“Megan Rose,” she answered absent-mindedly. She knew the home was grand by her first impression from outside, but the interior surpassed all her expectations. She was going to thoroughly enjoy her work, this time. Not that she ever had a problem with enjoying here work. She always enjoyed it, usually immensely. Sometimes were more enjoyable than others, though.
Megan Rose stood in the middle of the ballroom, imagining swirling in the arms of a handsome gentleman, carefree, with her hoop skirts swirling around her. Funny, in her mind, the gentleman looked surprisingly like Lance Edward. She guessed it was because he was standing beside her. Standing entirely too closely beside her, in fact. She became very conscious of him.
The room was a double parlor, the men’s parlor in front, and the ladies’ parlor behind that. There was a divan, covered in a sheet, directly under the window looking out the front of the house. On the wall to the left of the doorway was a large table, its sheen obvious through the layers of dust. On the table was a beautiful, rosewood box. Megan Rose stepped over to the box, opening the lid. She suspected it was some sort of treasure box. She was wrong. A lilting tune came forth when she opened the lid. It was a beautiful antique music box. The tune was haunting. She got a brief image of a young lady, laying her head on the table, listening to the song and weeping inside, though not able to show her emotions on the outside. She listened for a couple of minutes, and then closed the lid. The music from the music box made her suddenly very sad.
She moved over to the fireplace on the outside wall, just past the arched opening to the back ladies’ parlor. It had ornate, carved posts and mantle, looking much like a dark walnut. Megan Rose could almost feel the warmth radiating from the fire she imagined in it.
Across the room was a huge old piano, also ornately carved. Megan Rose walked over to it and lightly ran her fingers over the keys. It was badly out of tune, and the wood was scratched and crackled from the years. It was obviously very old, possibly a part of the original furnishings. John had told her there were many of the original pieces in the home. On the back wall, directly across from the gentlemen’s sofa, there was a pair of tables with decorative items on them. They were sitting in opposite corners of the wall, much as if they were beside each end of a sofa. Under the window to the side of the end wall, beside the fireplace, was a small round marble-topped table, with an old lamp on it. A small wing chair was beside the table. It had a beautiful floral covering in a deep red and gold, with gold braided trim and gold upholstery tack on it. Megan Rose longed to sit in the chair and just absorb the feel of the room, but was afraid Lance Edward would think she was weird though she really did not care what he thought.
Lance Edward suddenly broke the silence. “I believe these may be original furnishings. That is an unusual find. I really hope they are original.”
“John told me many of the original furnishings are here. Especially in the upstairs. I believe these may be original. The chair may not be, but I believe the others are.”
“You seem to have a feel for the period. That is unusual. Most people just want to modernize the older homes. I think that is a shame.”
“My job is to restore homes to their original state, or as nearly so as possible. That is why I like to go through them the first time all by myself, so I can get a feel of the place.”
“I will keep quiet. I, too, like to get a feel for an older home before I begin work.”
“And just what sort of work is that?”
“I am a grounds restorer by occupation. I am also a free Lance Edward historian. I specialize in old homes and their history. I try to find out all I can about a home and its history. I research the families and their history as is related to the home. It helps me in my grounds restoration, but mostly it is just fun. I hope to one day write a history of the South and its complexities of grandeur and tragedy.”
“Oh,” Megan Rose said, lamely. She was beginning to even like this Lance, beside just liking the way he looked. Maybe they could even help each other. Her desire to one day write a historical novel of the South really tied in to his writing a history. Maybe the could actually help each other. Megan Rose loathed the thought of working with someone. She had thought of taking on a partner from time to time, but loved having the freedom to restore the older homes as nearly to the original as possible. Often, restorers just wanted to add some furniture from the period and say they had restored it. Megan Rose did not work like that. She did the research and tried to make the home like the original. Of course, she had electricity, indoor plumbing, and central heating and air conditioning added as necessary. She also added kitchen appliances, but tried to find modern appliances that mimicked period pieces as much as possible. She had one particular company she could count on to provide a modern appliance with the facade of a period piece.
As if reading her mind, Lance Edward said, “If we can lay aside our differences, may be we can help each other with our projects.”
“I always work alone,” Megan Rose said, irritably. She did not understand her own reaction. Just a minute before she was thinking the very thing that he just voiced. Yet, she felt irritated when he suggested it.
“Normally I do, too. However, in this case, I could make an exception. I think I could stand to work with you. Also, that way maybe I could prevent your desecrating the home with some new-fangled idea of restoration.”
“How—how dare you!” Megan Rose sputtered. “I restore a home as nearly to the original as can possibly be determined. I spend months researching and restoring to the original condition. I am not one of those who slaps some reproduction wallpaper up and says they have restored it. I study the home’s history, as well as its family’s history. I am true to the old home. I pride myself in that. How dare you suggest otherwise. And especially when you do not even know me and what I do.”
“Whew, I see I touched a tender nerve. Forgive me. You are right, I really do not know you and what you do. But, I think I would like to get to know you better. And what you do, too, of course. It seems I was mistaken about your intent.”
“Well, just see you do not get in my way. I guess I have to let you have access to the home, since John said so. But, just be careful. I will want to study all the old documents here and I do not want them adulterated.”
“Far be it from me to adulterate anything,” Lance Edward said, with emphasis on the word adulterate, and with a look of mild amusement. Megan Rose was not sure if he was making fun of her or not, so chose to just ignore him.
“I am sure you can find your way around. I am going to explore the other floors. Please remember to be careful, do not move anything, and touch things as little as possible. John said there were original documents left just as they were last used. Try not to disturb anything.”
“Yes, ma’am. I will be extremely careful. I will keep my grubby little hands off things. Of course, if you let me follow you around, you could keep an eye on me and prevent me from harming anything.”
“Just be careful,” Megan Rose said. She still was not sure if he was making fun of her or not. It seemed he always had a twinkle in his eye and a slight smile, as if he found the whole thing amusing. Or maybe it was her he found amusing. Never mind, she would try her best to stay out of his way, and keep him out of her way.
“Before you leave, let’s compare notes. Maybe we can share research and save each other some time,” Lance Edward said. “We could meet over lunch and discuss our findings from today if you want.”
“No, thanks. I do not have time to dawdle. I do not have much time and the restoration of a home is a very long, drawn-out process. I am sure you want to get on with your research and move on.”
“No, as a matter of fact. it takes a long time to do historical research, as well. John wants his whole family history researched, so I will be here for some time. Since most of his early history took place in this very home, I will probably be here quite a lot. We may as well make friends and help each other. Lunch would be a good start, as we both have to eat.”
“All right. Just let me know when you are ready to leave. I guess I do have to eat, and maybe together we can dig up things more efficiently. Just do not get in my way. I have to get a feel for a house, and I need to be alone to do it.”
“I’ll meet you back here in an hour. How is that?” Lance Edward asked.
“Fine. Just stay out of my way until then, so I can get into the feel of this beautiful home. It is the most beautiful I have ever done, even through all its neglect.” When Megan Rose talked of the home, she got very animated, eager even. She forgot her frustration at having to share the home in her enthusiasm. She even sort of enjoyed sharing with someone who obviously had some sense of understanding about remaining true to history.
Megan Rose walked back through the grand entry hall, crossing to the other side to the library. Here were some other excellent pieces of furniture. It was apparent that the original family had exquisite taste, and no lack of money. There were several large pieces of ornately carved furniture. Megan Rose could not resist running her hand lightly over them, even though she knew that repeated contact with body oils would spoil the old finishes.
On one desk in the library there were some papers lying spread out, with a pen and bottle of dried up ink beside them. She peered closely at them, with touching or disturbing them. Megan Rose always tried to get the feel of a place before moving anything. The papers seemed to be some sort of legal documents, and several sheets of paper beside them showed where the writer took notes from the legal documents.
Megan Rose glanced at the crude sketch of the floor plan that John had given her, before moving on. There was another room that ran behind the library, and alongside the grand ballroom. The sketch showed it as the ladies’ study. She walked into it, seeing very few pieces of furniture here. There was a writing desk, very delicate-looking, and a small arm chair upholstered in a deep gold and dark red silk damask. It was framed in dark cherry wood around the back, the arms and the legs. It really looked too delicate to sit in, but Megan Rose could imagine the mistress of the home sitting in it for hours, carrying on the business of running the vast household that must have been necessary for such a large house.
Glancing at the sketch, Megan Rose saw that behind this room, running beside the grand ballroom toward the back addition, was a hallway that led to the main dining room. Megan Rose walked through this hallway and into a room that was really neglected. The walls were plastered, but were peeling, plaster falling off, and some faded, ugly wallpaper falling in shreds to the floor. Still, with the tall, floor to ceiling windows, arched overhead, a huge mantled fireplace, and double French doors leading to the outside, the splendor that the dining room once had could still be seen. Megan Rose was itching to begin her restoration, but knew she must move slowly to avoid making mistakes that could be prevented by doing her research.
Megan Rose walked through the dining room to a small, narrow passageway leading to an addition at the back of the whole house. The sketch showed that the addition here was one of the kitchens. It had at one time been detached, but early on was connected to the rest of the house with this passageway. The kitchen was quite large, and still had some cooking utensils and furnishings. In the very middle of it was an old, battered kitchen work table. A huge old fireplace was on the back wall, with a huge old black pot still hanging in it. There was a very narrow door beside the fireplace that led out of the kitchen to a long narrow passage. The passage had no windows and was very long and narrow. The sketch showed it as the servants entrance. It made a sharp right angle turn at the end of it. The sketch showed servants quarters to the left of the house, not connected but accessible to the hallway. Megan Rose did not go down the passage to the servants’ quarters. She wanted to explore the rest of the main house first, and she really felt uneasy at the darkness of the passage.
Megan Rose went back to the grand entry hall to ascend the stairway to the second floor. She was eager to finish her quick tour and begin her research. The wide stairway wound up to a landing that overlooked the grand entry hall. Megan Rose could just imagine the young ladies looking over the railing down on their suitors that were waiting for them in the entry hall. At the top of the stairway, she again encountered Lance Edward .
“How is you investigation going?” he asked Megan Rose . “Are you about ready to go get lunch?”
“Not quite. I have not seen any of the second or third floors, or the attic.”
“I glanced in the attic, briefly. There are lots of boxes of stuff stored, some furniture, trunks, even some dresses on old dress forms. It is very dirty and jumbled, but looks like there might me some information there. There are some old books, some that appeared to be diaries or something. Others are records of the plantation. They are always good sources of information.”
“I know that,” Megan Rose answered, irritably. She did not understand why she was so irritated with Lance Edward. It was probably because he was intruding on her looking over the home. She really did not like to be interrupted at that task. Lance Edward really seemed to be a nice person, one she probably would have been attracted to in any other situation. Well, to be truthful, she could not exactly say she was not attracted to him. But, still, she was irritated that he was there.
“I am going out to look around the grounds. Let me know when you are ready to go.” Lance Edward passed her and started down the stairway.
Megan Rose did not answer, just walked down the loft area, to the first room on the right. It was a large bedroom overlooking the front of the grounds. It had a huge tester bed that was made up with coverlet made of what appeared to be silk. A dressing table and dresser was along one wall. A door led to another slightly smaller room. It was also a bedroom. It was obviously a child’s room. There was a crib, as small child’s bed, and a larger full size bed along the walls. In one corner was what appeared to be a play area. There was a huge homemade doll house. Small replicas of furniture surrounded the dollhouse.
As Megan Rose stared at the furnishings in this room, she heard a far off wailing, very dim, almost surreal. Megan Rose suddenly had a deep sense of grief, almost as if she were grieving the death of a loved one. She had to get out of this room. She immediately left the room, walking back through the large bedroom she had just left.
She walked across the hallway to another, even larger bedroom. I had two large beds in it, and an ancient crib. Some authentic-looking clothing hung on nails on the wall. There were two identical, huge ornately carved wardrobes in the room, facing each other on opposing walls. Megan Rose opened one. It contained a few items of men’s clothing. As she peered into the wardrobe, she felt a deep sense of dread. It was almost painful.
She rapidly closed the wardrobe and crossed the room to look into the other one. In it were a few dresses. They were beautiful, and Megan Rose wanted to look closely at them, but she never liked to linger over one particular area in the initial tour. There would be time to come back and look closer later. On the crib was a hand-quilted coverlet, old and faded. Megan Rose felt her finger tips tingle, almost as if she had just finished quilting the coverlet, piercing her fingers with the needle. It was almost as if she had entered the history of the old house.
Feeling a strong urge to leave this room and move on, she went through the doorway and entered a sort of hall that went behind the room she was in and connected to the child’s room on the other side. At the other end of the hallway, sort of behind the bedroom she had just left, was a very long passageway. There were windows on both sides of the hallway, but on the right side the windows were boarded up. There was a door halfway down the hallway, leading off to the right, but it was also boarded up. There was no indication on her sketch of a room or anything off to the right, so she did not really know where the door led. Maybe to an attic, she thought.
Megan Rose ’s excitement grew as she passed down the hallway. When she got to the end of it, there was a huge room, completely surrounded by windows on the left and the rear. It looked much like a lookout room such as in a lighthouse or something. Megan Rose walked to the corner, where the windows looked out over the servants quarters to the overgrown garden area on the left, and over the river bluff to the river below. The river looked deep blue in color with the sunlight reflecting off it, but Megan Rose knew it was muddy and treacherous. She had read enough preliminary history before coming to know that many men escaping political persecution were chased to this very point and perished in the river because they could not scale the high, stone bluff. The river was a cruel taskmaster. It was also the livelihood of the community in that era. She knew that the reason the home was built here was to be available for shipping payloads and to rescue expatriates.
Megan Rose could not seem to pull herself away from the window. It was as if she was expecting to see something in the river and could not bring herself to leave the window. She felt an eager anticipation that she could not explain. Maybe it was just the beautiful view that was exciting her.
Megan Rose finally was able to pull herself away from the window when she glanced Lance Edward walking on the grounds below. That seemed to break the spell. She felt disoriented, almost as if she had been on a time travel trip. She decided to save her exploration of the third floor until a later date. She felt exhausted, as if she had traveled a long distance. She had not, as she had spent the night in a motel in town, but she felt as if she had traveled for days.
“Lance Edward, are you ready to go into town?” Megan Rose called from around the corner of the house. She hardly noticed the elaborate curved balconies that had so fascinated here only a short time before. It was as if she was so overwhelmed with what she had seen she could not take in any more. She really did not understand it, but knew she wanted to get away for a while and come back later, alone this time.
“Sure, if you are. Have you seen these beautiful gardens:? Some of the old plants are still here. There are some really old rose bushes here.”
“I would not know about the plants,” Megan Rose answered. I usually stick strictly to the interiors. I let someone else so the exterior restoration and the grounds.”
“I love restoring old gardens. Maybe we can work together after all, without getting in each other’s way.”
“Maybe so,” Megan Rose answered. Maybe meeting up with Lance Edward would not be all bad. He would not be in her way if he was outside and she was inside. The prospect of working with him brought a sense of pleasure that surprised Megan Rose . She usually was adamant about not working with anyone, insisting that the grounds restorers wait until she was completely done with her work.
Over lunch, after they had followed each other into town, Lance Edward and Megan Rose grew quite animated discussing their proposed research. Both agreed that researching the history of an old home was the most exciting part. It turned out that Lance Edward had restored several old gardens, and of course, restoring the homes was Megan Rose ’s work.
“I ca not think of anything better than having a job that you actually love,” announced Megan Rose , after finishing their lunch and discussion. Megan Rose had ordered lemon pepper fish, and Lance Edward had blackened fish. Both extolled the virtues of the restaurant, and agreed to meet here for other meals.
“I can think of a couple of things,” Lance Edward said, smiling at Megan Rose with that twinkle in his eye that she was coming to recognize as his trademark. “But,” he continued, “work you love is high on my list. How did you get started restoring old homes? It seems a strange career for a person like you.”
“No stranger than your researching old family histories.”
”I have always loved to tour old homes and have always wanted to live in the Antebellum era. I guess I was just born in the wrong century.”
“I do not think you were born at the wrong time at all.” Again, he had the twinkle that made it hard for Megan Rose to tell if he was making fun of her or not.
“Anyway,” Megan Rose continued, “my grandmother left me an inheritance with the instructions to use it to pursue a lifelong dream. She had given up her dream long ago, and always wanted me to pursue my dream. She knew what it was, to restore old homes. That way I could study them and the surrounding history and earn “my keep” so to speak. I took that inheritance and bought my first old home, plus doing some promotion. I used some of it to restore the home, buying furnishings, etc. I then use the proceeds from each restoration to fund the next one. I thought of opening an antique store, but this is even better.”
“Sounds fascinating. I would love to see some restorations you have done.”
“I love it. It is better than an antique store because I get to see the old furnishings in their natural surroundings.” Megan Rose named a couple of her restorations, and Lance Edward indicated he had seen one. He had bid on the restoration of the garden, but was underbid.
“That is because the restorer that won the bid took drastic shortcuts. It is a very bad restoration,:” Megan Rose commented. “I hated it, because the home itself is beautiful.”
“And beautifully restored,” Lance Edward added.
“Thanks. I really enjoy what I do. It makes it so much easier to do when you love the home you are working on. I love all of them.”
“Have you ever thought that you might be desecrating something? Maybe it would be better left like it is?”
“How can you say that? The old homes need to be restored to their original beauty. It is a waste to just let them sit.”
“But sometimes the history is sordid, painful to remaining family members. Maybe it would just be better to let the history die and move on. Have you ever considered that?” Lance Edward surprised himself at his passion about this subject. He had often had fleeting thoughts about the pain of old family histories, but he did not realize how strongly he felt.
“I can see we do not see eye to eye on this subject. Maybe it would just be better if we let it ride. I will never agree that old homes should be torn down to make way for progress.” Megan Rose put stress on the word progress like it was a profanity or something.
“Well, maybe your way is not the only way. What if it was your family that had the sordid history? Would you still feel the same way? Think about it.”
“I would still want to know the truth. Every family has something unpleasant in their history. I should not matter, generations later.”
“You might not think so, but it does.”
Megan Rose and Lance Edward finished their meal in silence. They seemed lost in their own thoughts. After a short period of time, the waitress brought the tickets. Each paid their own. Though Megan Rose was a romantic at heart, she always paid her own way, unless it was truly a date – and this definitely was not one.
Lance Edward was not surprised to discover that he and Megan Rose were staying at the same motel. There really were not any choices in this small town. After he said good night to Megan Rose , Lance Edward went to his room to read over some notes he had made earlier at the library. He kept getting distracted, though, thinking of Megan Rose and her beautiful, thick brown hair, slightly wavy and full. The memory of her deep brown eyes, flashing in anger at his suggestion that the old home might be better left alone, kept intruding on his thoughts as he tried to organize his notes. He finally gave up and prepared for bed. He knew that later he would regret leaving the notes until later, but he just was not getting anything done.