Wednesday, February 26, 2003

News of the pending arrival of 14th Great-grandmother Elise's parents has the entire staff of the castle in a flutter. Windows in the master & mistress' bed chambers are flung open wide, feather beds are aired, and fresh linens grace the pillows while silky sheets become buried under piles of damaske covered downfilled duvets. Evidence of scrubbing and polishing are evident everywhere. Even the barn gets an extra raking, and fresh bales of hay are strewn about. The shiny lion head door knockers reflect the red berries of the holly garlands strung around the huge double doors of the main entrance. Inside, the kitchen staff begins preparation for days of feasting with extra pies and cakes, and little treats to give townsfolks during the annual holiday celebrations. With only 2 more days of preparation before the master arrives, staff members are on full alert.

With all this hustle and bustle, our curious ancestress has been left to her own devices for entertainment all Saturday afternoon. Waiting to investigate the strange light from under the wood paneling is just TOO MUCH, and so the adventure begins. Mindful to avoid raising suspicions, Elise pretends to bring in flowers to adorn her mother's dressing room, but she slips away as soon as the bedchamber maid isn't looking. Tiptoeing down that unused back hallway, 14th Great-Grandmother returns to find the break in the stone wall that is paneled quite elegantly with panels of dark stained wood.

Searching for a way to open the panel, she sees this is no ordinary door, for there are no visible hinges nor is there a door knob. She runs her fingertips across the deeply carved panels half dreaming and half fearing whatever lies beyond in the hidden chamber. For surely there MUST be a chamber since there was light shining under the wood paneling in the dark yesterday.

Mon Dieu! There is simply no way to enter. In frustration, 14th Great-grandmother Elise slumps against the wall in anguish, only to be rewarded by the slight movement of the panels behind her. The wall only moved about 2 inches, but it was enough for her to notice. She looked high and low, and calculated that if she pushed a little more on the right side of the panel it might break open far enough for her to peer in to the room.

Cautiously, Elsie pushes, and to her surprise, the panel rotates inward to reveal in the contents of the chamber, privy to a single, small window on the far wall. One last peek into the outer hallway hind her, Elise takes a deep breath and takes two steps into the room. Almost without warning the door panel swings shut. To mark the spot, Elsie removes a hair ribbon and places it in a minute crack at the bottom the nearly concealed entranceway.

The room has an old, musty scent about it, seemingly appropriate to the ghostly sheets covering furniture in the cramped space. The chamber is octagonal in shape, and perhaps not 14 feet from one side its opposite. Dust covers the floor, so her footprints stand out as she walks slowly to peer out the tiny window to get her bearings. The glazing is exquisite, a leaded design of gold, greens and frosted clear glass. But there is no lock, and no apparent way to open the window. Looking up, Elise sees that the rafters for the roof are perhaps 2 stories up, forming a a tent like canopy to the room.

Just what was this room used for? There are no paintings on the old stone walls. The only adornment is the window, and a short wooden shelf on an adjacent wall -- maybe the sort that cook would use to display unused porcelain platters. Yet no platters, plants, or candelabras adorned this room. Imagining what's under the dust covered furniture, Elise can determine that a round table, two wing chairs and a bed with perhaps a trunk at the foot are the main components of the rooms furnishings.

"What a thoroughly delightful hideaway for me!" she thought. I could come here and draw to my hearts content without Marzie to object. "That's what I'll do, I'll make this MY room -- my private place. Obviously no one has been here for years, so I am sure to find absolute privacy. YES, that is what I will do."

Choosing to immediately retrieve her pastels and some sheets of paper from her room, Elsie quietly presses against the hidden doorway, peers out into the empty hallway, then slips away to her side of the castle. Little did she remember the hair ribbon she left on the floor of the secret room behind the panel.

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