Grace quickly hurried out the door of her room and down the staircase. She wanted to know who this man in the garden was and why did he look at her so. Even more perplexing than this, why had she dreamt about him in such a vivid manner. She went straight toward the only room in the house she knew, the kitchen. She flung open the hinged door expecting to find Millie, the frail older woman whom she had met earlier. She was surprised that instead a younger woman stood in her place. Her eyes the same green and her hair a bright auburn like her own. “Supper will be ready shortly, the biscuits are finishing in the oven.” She spoke as if answering Grace’s questioning look.
Who is that man in the garden? What is he doing here? Grace spoke abruptly. The young woman smiled “that is my father; he tends the garden for Bayless Manor. Grace returned her cheerful answer with another likewise abrupt question. And who might you be? “I am Faith, daughter of Michael & Millie Calhoun. I help my mother out in the evenings with meals and extra chores.”
About that time laughter could be heard in the hallway and shortly after through the door walked Millie and the man Grace had seen in the garden earlier. ‘Welcome home child.” He said to Grace as he came closer. It is good to finally have you here with us. About that time a young boy, no more than 7 came running thru the door also. He stopped suddenly when he became aware that the room was filled with adults. With his head hung, he took off the hat which was perched on his head and held it solemnly. “Excuse me.” He muttered softly. Faith took the cap he held and ruffled his hair lovingly, “Wash your hands before supper Thomas James and your face also. And be polite and say hello to Grace, she is James’ little sister.
The boy looked at Grace and softly said hello, holding his small hand out to her in friendship. She shook the young boys hand and returned the greeting. She could not help but think he looked like someone she once knew, yet he turned before she could figure out whom and was off to clean up for supper. “He is my son.” Faith said as Thomas left the room. Grace smiled no knowing exactly how to respond. Soon the table was set and it was time to eat. Grace had so many questions buzzing around in her head. Yet as she took her first bite of the warm stew before her she could not see the urgency in any of them at the moment. It was delicious, no it was more than delicious… it was wonderful. She could taste the fresh carrots and potatoes as they mingled together in her mouth. Hints of fresh herbs of thyme, sage, and what she thought was rosemary were also present. And the fresh biscuits, did she mention the biscuits. Her first bite was like biting into a pillow. The taste of fresh butter was evident as well as a touch of chives. She could not help but remark to Millie, “This is absolutely wonderful” she said as she continued to eat. The others smiled as Millie replied, “I thought you would like your favorite meal on your first night home.”
With that said Millie rose from the table and returned with a large platter of sugar cookies. Grace looked at the platter as it sat before her. She reached out taking one of the large cookies. As she took her first bite it melted in her mouth. Remnant of the sugar that covered each cookie remained on her lips and she licked the excess away. “This sugar… it taste different, yet familiar, what is it?” she asked. Millie smiled again, “Lavender sugar dear.” Grace continued eating until she could eat no more. She could not remember the last time she had been privileged to such a grand meal even with its simplicity.
Grace noticed that the old man had watched her intently all through meal time. His eyes were soft and caring. She could not help but feel he was a kind soul. Finally she managed the courage to speak his way. “Faith tells me you are the grounds keeper.” He smiled and nodded. “If that is what you choose to call me. I have many functions at Bayless Manor, yet the upkeep of the grounds is foremost.” I help him; Thomas broke into the conversation and added. He is teaching me all he knows. Someday I will take his place.
Grace smiled. She wondered if they knew of the petitions to tear down the manor and its surroundings. Truly nothing she had seen thus far gave her reason to see why such a thing would need to be done. She wondered why the towns’ people would request such an action. She spoke once more thanking Millie and Faith for the beautiful meal and for all they had done to make her arrival pleasant. She then turned to the old man once more and spoke.
“Would it be possible for you to show me around the manor tomorrow? I have many questions and I feel you are the one to give me all the answers I need.” The expression on his face as he gave his reply seemed to be one of joy, “Of course child, I would be honored.” “Can I come too?” Thomas once again broke in. “Of course you may.” Grace replied. With that being said, she excused herself and retired to her room to prepare for bed. As tomorrow, she felt, would be a busy day.