C3PO thought it over, then he said, "I believe Miss Madeline was quite
astounded upon learning she was in Oz. What with having a fine house in the country
and one in the city. Seeing you and your Ozian friends at that dinner party
must have giver her quite a jolt."
I had to laugh because Madeline's reaction wasn't quite the jolt as 3PO assumed, more like being struck by a million lightning bolts.
"3PO," I said, "that didn't happen until well after she arrived at Lindens End, and that was an experience in itself. See, Maddie had just learned, in part, the reasons why Charlie spirited her to Oz. She also received Marbe Tasou's lightsaber, and I suppose she suspected there was more to her great ancestor than previously known. Here, let me tell you what transpired once she arrived at the house. Her cousin James was already there, as well as a bevy of servants. My friend, what the maid told her, while helping Madeline dress for dinner, gave that lady pause. Mary recounted her previous employment with a prominent London family. The kicker was not just the family's identity itself but the time period...That gave Maddie plenty to ponder..."
Madeline breathed deeply, taking in the sweet fragrance of linden blossoms. It
amazed her that this trees, which normally bloom in May and June in her Midwestern
home, were full and leafy. This is still February, isn't it?
How odd I left drizzly, chilly Chicago just hours ago, but here everything is green and fresh as if it's spring already. Ah, so this vacation spot is somewhere warm and pretty, like California. No wonder the weather's so pleasant.
Yet the balmy weather wasn't the major thing weighing on her mind. So many things about this mysterious vacation spot gave Madeline pause. Firstly, she had no idea where she was; Charlie never bothered to tell her otherwise. Secondly, the trip itself: A long westward-bound train ride which took her from Illinois across the Plains. Oddly enough, just after passing through Omaha, the train took an unexpected detour. Repairs on the tracks, or so the conductor explained. Even more odd that extremely long tunnel appeared moments after the train veered onto another track. The trip itself took the better part of the day, all morning into the afternoon, having left Chicago precisely at 7:15AM. It was now nearly 3:00PM.
Madeline thought of something else: that incredibly beautiful woman who handed over a woven band. Well, it wasn't a band of sorts, more of a picture woven from leather thongs and wool yarn. What did the woman mean by, "With this woven band, you hold your past – and your future – in your hand."?
Paying no particular attention to the splendidly gorgeous scenery passed along the way, Maddie got out the band and studied it. The more she tried to make out the picture's meaning, the more bewildered she became. Just then she got another jolt, as if, somehow, she'd seen this scene before. The intricately detailed textile image depicted what looked like a valley, a lake, and other particular landmarks. Those semi-precious beads of lapis lazuli, carnelian, and rose quartz had to stand for either people or animals which lived in the valley. One bead, of brilliant amethyst, seemed to jump out at Madeline, as if it, perhaps, represented her. All right, if this little bead is supposed to be me...
With a sigh, she hastily stashed the talisman into her purse, vowing never to look at until later, when she's had time to rest – and practice. So many long hours not practicing made her nervous, so Maddie felt such intensive mental exercise should be reserved for her music, not peering into a silly textile rendering of a scene that had nothing to do with her.
Right, it has nothing to do with me, but why am I feeling so odd and apprehensive? Okay, let's put this out of my mind. I want to concentrate on this lovely change of scene, and why I'm here. I do know why I'm here, don't I?
"Welcome to Lindens End, Miss Madeline. Your luggage has already been taken
up, and I'll show you to your room. Did you have a pleasant journey? I trust Mr.
Boatwright didn't keep you waiting at he depot."
The housekeeper, Gladys Davies, a pretty young woman with dark hair and eyes, and a lovely Welsh lilt, stood on the front porch the moment the car pulled up. What a house!
A very pleased Madeline scanned the house, a huge structure reminiscent of those large, fine homes she passed while going through the "big town" with her mother. A massive Colonial Revival structure, the house boasted three stories, huge shuttered windows, and three dormers at the top. The expansive front porch, with its comfortable wicker chairs, ornate wrought iron and glass tables, and swing was especially inviting. The porch ran the full length of the house, winding around to both sides. The house itself was painted a lovely shade of pale yellow and trimmed in white. Oddly enough, there was much yellow throughout the countryside, the delicately scented linden blossoms notwithstanding.
Yellow house, yellow flowers, yellow everywhere. Even Gladys' dress is pale yellow...
"I had a lovely journey," said Maddie graciously, "and Mr. Boatwright was very
helpful. Told me much about this place, how it was once owned by a soldier and how
the house got its name."
Gladys, out of Madeline's view, shot Gilles Boatwright a withering look as she ushered her mistress inside. Honestly, if that man keeps babbling on so, the entire secret could be given away, and before Miss Madeline learns of her true destination, and why she's here.
Once inside, Maddie gasped. How beautiful this house! Large, spacious rooms decorated with soft yellows and blues, hardwood floors, leaded glass and highly polished woodwork. The gracefully curving staircase with its hand-carved bannister and newels commanded attention from the expansive entry hall. On the left was a huge living room, very comfortably and lavishly furnished. On the right was a formal dining room, its Hepplewhite dining table expertly polished, graced by an antique lace runner, and, as centerpiece, an ornate crystal epergne filled with pretty yellow flowers and green foliage.
"Your room," said Gladys, "is on second floor, overlooking the gardens. I'll send Mary up to help unpack. Tea will be served promptly at four o'clock. Mr. James should return by then."
Maddie raised an eyebrow as she followed Gladys upstairs. "James is here already?"
"Oh yes, miss," replied Gladys. "He arrived this morning, stayed long enough to get settled, then went into town. As I said, he will return in time for tea."
Gosh, even the second floor is huge...I wonder how my room is...
Madeline didn't have to wait for an answer, for as soon as Gladys opened the
bedroom door, it took much fortitude for Maddie not to faint. Is this luxury or
what? The bedroom was actually a three-room suite: A well-appointed sitting room
complete with bookshelves already stocked with Maddie's favorite reading materials,
a big screen TV, and her three cellos patiently sitting in the corner waiting to be
played. Just beyond the sitting room was the main bedroom, and to the left of that
was a spacious bathroom complete with sunken marble tub, ornate golden fixtures,
separate shower stall, heavily cushioned brass settees, and many mirrors. The
bedroom itself was quite spectacular: a full-sized canopied bed dressed in pale
yellow satin comforter and shams, a large dressing table, a dainty vanity.
For all this house's luxurious appointments and humongous size, Madeline concluded this was no cold, unfamiliar place. No, it had to be once filled with love, children, laughter. Already she felt at peace; there was no need to worry about strange women handing her little woven bands. She didn't have to worry about where this place was. All she looked forward to was much rest and relaxation, and a trip into town if James finds it so compelling. There must be something exciting going on in town or else he wouldn't tear himself away from this slice of paradise.
Gladys smiled, saying, "I'll send Mary up. If you need anything, the bell is here." She indicated a button beside the small fireplace then quickly and quietly left.
While the maid busily unpacked, Madeline went into the sitting room, picked up
the Vuillaume, then began tuning. When was the last time I actually practiced? Not
since last night, a long time to go without it. Gee, I have a tour...No, wait, I
don't have a tour this fall, but still need to keep the skills sharp...
Wait! How did the third cello end up here? I didn't pack it; I left it back in Bloomington, in my apartment. I only take it when I need it, and this time I didn't need it...
"Mary," she called out, "when did my luggage arrive?"
The maid instantly poked her head out the bedroom door, replying, "Oh, your things came after the train arrived, miss. Here, all baggage is unloaded at once then put in the brake."
Maddie shrugged, saying, "I just wondered how my other instrument got here. Never mind, I'll ask James. By the way..."
She continued to tune the cello then warmed up with a series of scales and short pieces. Somewhat curious about the house and its servants, she asked Mary, "How long have you been here, Mary?"
Mary, while sorting books and music scores before putting them in their proper place, replied, "I've been living here so long, miss, I've lost count. At first, I worked for a family in the neighboring country. Huge family, miss, loads of children, and I liked working there. I came here only a few days ago, but Gladys' been here ever since Mr. Spikeblade sold this house."
"Spikeblade?," said Maddie laughingly, "That's a comical name. So he was the original owner. Who owns it now?"
"It belongs to Mr. Charles Lavigne, miss. He said you were to stay here as long as you want, and we're to see to your every need."
"Oh, I see," Maddie said, still practicing her bowing techniques, as if they needed any more perfecting. "So, Charlie – he's my godfather – bought the place. It's nice, this house. Who's Mr. Spikeblade?"
"A soldier, miss, long retired and lives far from here, miss."
Madeline pressed more, but she didn't want to sound too nosy or pushy. She was
restless; the long train journey and those strange visitations from two long-dead
Jedi, not to mention that woman at the depot, set her on edge. Perhaps a nice long
practice, small talk with this very pretty and pleasant maid, followed by a joyful
reunion with James will ease her mind. The maid was curious enough, what with her
black uniform and lacy apron and cap, almost reminiscent of a time gone by. No, the
uniform didn't look that unusual, but the style did seem to evoke the early 1900's.
So Maddie asked, "Where are you from, Mary? I detected an accent. English, right?"
"Yes, miss. I was born in London."
"I thought so. Have you been doing this long? I mean domestic service."
Mary gladly offered many answers, and she didn't seem to mind. She replied, "I've been in service ever since I was fifteen, miss. My last place, before I come here, was with a London family. Big house in Belgravia, on Eaton Place. I liked it there; Mr. Bellamy, the master, was very kind to me, and he helped me when I got in a bit of trouble."
Now Maddie, her curiosity running overtime, stopped in midst of a passage; she asked, "What kind of trouble, Mary?"
Mary hedged a bit, knowing she shouldn't give too much away to Madeline too soon. What if the lady asks more questions? What if she figures out she's really in Oz, a land so far away, so hard to access without special means, such as that train...And she has yet to receive that lightsaber from Mr. James...And there's the grand dinner party in Emerald City this evening...She'll meet Princess Ozma and the Wizard...Then there's the matter of the mysterious valley...Miss Maddie has to find more of her family and bring them here...
The maid deftly changed the subject. "I've finished unpacking, miss. Where
shall I put this?"
She showed the needlepoint pillow, a delicately handcrafted item depicting an intricate musical score. Madeline smiled, stretched out her hand, saying, "Put it on the sofa, Mary. My mother made that long ago, after I made my professional debut. Sort of a gift."
"I see, miss. Well, if you don't require anything, I'll be going now. Gladys will want me to help set up–"
There was a soft knock at the partially opened door as Gladys announced, "Mr. James has returned, miss, and tea is served out on the porch." She looked at Mary who politely curtseyed to Madeline then exited the room with Gladys.
On the front porch, settling in a comfortable chair, James Rupert Fairburn lit
a cigarette as Gladys and Mary readied tea. He was a handsome young man in his early
40's, although looking at him one would guess he was years younger. James was tall,
average build, blue-eyed. His short dark hair grayed at the temple, his mustache
neatly clipped. James, named after another young man of a bygone era, was Maddie's
cousin, the son of Sarah and Charles Fairburn who still lived in their family home
in Wiltshire. James, a well-bred gentleman in every sense, who had traveled
extensively throughout the world, now called Oz home.
He smiled pleasantly at Gladys who laid out the tea treats. Taking a brief sniff of the enticing aroma from the bread basket, and in his very refined, cultured British accent, he asked, "Ah, Gladys. Is that crumpets?"
"Hot scones, sir," proudly announced the housekeeper.
"I trust my cousin has yet to learn of this place. Neither Boatwright nor Mary
"Oh no, sir, not a word."
"Good! Let us keep it that way, at least until this evening."
Once tea was set up, Gladys and Mary left the porch to have theirs in the
Now alone on the front porch, James lit another cigarette, pondering how to break to his cousin the identity of her vacation resort. No, not now. Charlie left explicit orders to wait until this evening, at the dinner party. James was to give Maddie the lightsaber, answer a few questions, and that was all. Once she arrived in Emerald City, to the townhouse, everything would be revealed.
Trying very hard to resist taking a bite of raisin-studded, butter-laden scone, James noticed a small dove alighting on the rail. He smiled at the pretty white bird, saying, "Ah, Blythe. You've cut close your presence. Can't have my cousin see us conversing. So, is all ready in Emerald City?"
Blythe, a special messenger bird used by both Jellia Jamb and Princess Dorothy, replied, "All is ready, James. Charlie and Lenore have just arrived, as have Madeline's two friends."
"That would be Anthony and Ronald," mused James, happy that he'll see those talented gentlemen again.
"Yes," replied the dove, "And you're to bring Maddie to Emerald City precisely at 7:30. Dinner will be served at eight. Don't be late as everyone will be there. Oh, did Esmeralda give her that woven picture?"
James replied, "Yes, she did. My only hope is Madeline's curiosity will kick in so much, she'll take a stroll through the valley. That little wonder holds secrets to her past, and her future. I just pray she doesn't fall apart. She is strong, but what will be learned may very well push her over the edge, to the dark side. We can't let that happen. Now, be off, and tell Ozma we'll see her this evening."
Copyright©2007 by PRP