10 Monk’s Orchard

Chapter One


The flaps of the Air Canada Airbus engaged and the plane began its descent into Heathrow. It was a bright cloudless morning sky. The cabin supervisor alerted the passengers of the upcoming descent and subsequent landing advising all to abide by the landing instructions. As Marijke[1] reached over and secured the seatbelts of her twin boys Mark and Michael, she felt a wave of apprehension and anxiety come over her at the thought of spending the next few years in England. Her husband John Stiles, a Commander in the Royal Canadian Navy, landed an exchange job with the Royal Navy at Portsmouth — at the Royal Navy’s Defence Research Agency at Portsdown Hill. This was going to be an all new and exciting adventure for them all.

‘It will be wonderful.’ John said to Marijke. ‘Think of what we can do over there. The travel, the culture, new friendships, everything. It will be great for us and for the boys.” Marijke smiled at the thought of that discussion with her Navy husband just a few months back.

A few minutes later into the descent Marijke looked out of the window and marveled at the lush green checkerboard squares of the English countryside, separated by hedgerows, and the dull red-brownish tiled roofs of the houses of the many villages that seem to have been sprinkled across the landscape, willy nilly it seemed to her. She smiled at the sight. She was happy and excited too. This will be a great adventure she thought. John had gone on ahead to secure accommodations for them all: a place in a small town in the South Downs area of Hampshire. It was a big and beautiful house. She had seen the pictures. He was then called back to Canada for some emergency planning session for an upcoming NATO deployment, or so she had been told. Marijke smiled at that and chuckled to herself as this was not the first time that she had to organize things for the family on her own. She was a good Navy wife.

The plane landed at Heathrow’s Terminal Two. Being on NATO orders they were escorted through immigration and customs without incident. Marijke, on exiting the terminal, took the tube to an area called King’s Cross, where they had a room booked at a prearranged hotel. Their luggage and long-term necessities would be shipped later. For now, all they had was one suitcase and a carry on for their immediate needs. The next day she and the boys took the tube from their hotel to Waterloo Station where they caught the London to Portsmouth express train. In just over an hour’s time they disembarked with their luggage at the town of Petersfield, an old market town of about seven thousand souls located about two train stops north of Portsmouth. At the station she was greeted by an Estate Agent who had held a placard with her name on it for identification purposes. She had been notified of Marijke’s arrival by a previous phone call from Marijke at the King’s Cross hotel.

“Good day Mrs. Stiles…. and hello to you two…” she bent down to shake the small hands of Mark and Michael who were too shy to respond. “Welcome to Petersfield. Our small but quaint and historic market town. My name is Margaret Sterling.” Marijke smiled, shook her hand and said “thank you…finally here. I cannot believe it.” The Estate Agent laughed and directed them to a small passenger van.”

“Your husband, Commander Stiles, has arranged everything. I am sure you will love this house. He told me all of your preferences and likes and dislikes, so I feel I have done my best to accommodate you. I thought it would be nice to show you the house now even though official possession isn’t until next Monday.”

“That would be great Margaret, I am so excited and I am sure I will like it.” Marijke responded nervously. “By the way, where is the house located exactly…in town or in the country?”

Mrs. Sterling smiled. “Well Mrs. Stiles, it is not really in the town or in the country. More of a transition area really. It is located in an area that we call Tilmore Gardens.

“And the address?” Marijke asked.

“Oh, yes.” She pulled out a picture and a form and passed it to Marijke.

“Yes, here it is. The address is…10 Monk’s Orchard….”


On exiting the train station at Petersfield, they drove down the A272 or the main road from Petersfield to Winchester. After a short ten minute drive that took them into a semi-rural area, they entered a housing district called Tilmore Gardens.  There, after a mile or so, they turned into a long oak and hedgerow bordered laneway, or driveway as Marijke would say back in Canada…10 Monk’s Orchard. Nearing the end of about an eighth of a mile stretch of pea grained gravel, the laneway opened up to a large courtyard that served as the gateway to a very large manor house. Behind the house were grounds with a number of low rises, hills and fields where sheep and lambs could be seen to graze.

“Wow, my God. This is beautiful.” Marijke said. “Is this all ours?”

Ms Stirling smiled and said. “No, not all of it Ms Stiles, The house and immediate grounds? Yes. But the hills there and the accompanying fields are catered out.”

“Catered out?” Marijke asked.

“I’m sorry, let, I mean rented out or leased by the landowner. He also owns the manor house that you will be renting. His is an absent landlord Ms Stiles so that should not cause you any concern. For you or for him.”

“Marijke please.”

“Yes, yes, of course Marijke, an absent landlord. He is currently living and working in Zurich on exchange with a Swiss banking firm. He is an executive with Barings, from the City.”

“Ah yes,” Marijke thought. “I do know about the City, the financial district of London. And I have heard of Barings, an international powerhouse of the financial sector.”

“Interesting.” Marijke said. Once out of the car Mark and Michael ran around the house exploring their new surroundings. Marijke laughed, and smiled at Ms Stirling, who was walking over to the front entrance.

“But this place is unbelievable.” Marijke said ” I cannot believe this is all ours, and at such a good price.”

“Mr Stillwell is a very generous and fair man Marijke. He is well respected in this area of Hants.[2] No doubt he gave you a fair price to rent this place.”

“Indeed he did Margaret.” She looked up at the house with awe. Its gables; its steep pitched roof, the grey stonework, and brickwork, the large bay windows on the main floor and the shuttered windows of the dormers of the floor above. It was as twice as long as it was wide and deep. Chimneys graced the home at each end. Ivy was growing on the northeast wall. “It is beautiful Margaret.”

“It is, isn’t it though?” Margaret answered.

“C’mon boys. C’mon back here” Marijke yelled. “C’mon, let’s check out your new home aaaannnnd… your new bedrooms. With that the twins ran back to their mother, excited, standing on each side of her as Ms Stirling opened the large and heavy front door.

“Ummm. This is tough Marijke. Must be solid oak, or mahogany. I will have to get it oiled to allow for better movement. There, there, gotch ya.” The door opened. A pitch blackness greeted them. Bits and flakes of dust particles could be seen floating in the air by the exposed light near the opening of the front door. A blast of dank air, mouldy and stale, hit them. Marijke could just detect some furniture covered with white sheets in the foyer.

“Needs a good airing out.” Ms Sterling said.

“How long has it been since someone stayed here?” Marijke asked of her.

“I am not sure. I will have to check on that Marijke.”

They began to cross the threshold. Suddenly Mark would not move. Marijke grabbed his hand to assist him but he would not budge. He had a terrified look on his face.

“C’mon Mark.” Marijke said. “What’s wrong schatje?”[3]

Mark remained silent and stared straight ahead into the door’s dark and dank opening but he would not move. Marijke gently pulled him forward but he pulled back. He began to scream. “No Mommy…no…I don’t want to go in there. Please mommy…No.” He dug in his heels into the pea gravel. Marijke looked at Ms Sterling. She was confused and embarrassed but concerned for her son’s well being.

“I don’t know what has gotten into him.” Marijke said. Michael was fine and eager to get going. But not Mark. “Dear, dear boy,” Ms Sterling said. “this all must be very strange for him.”

Marijke tried to gently coerce Mark to come into the house. He dug in yet again. “No Mommy…no, please Mommy. Joe says not to go in there, Mommy please no.” Mark was becoming hysterical. “I don’t know what has become of him Margaret. He was fine a minute ago.” Marijke crouched down on Mark such that her face was even with his. “What is wrong schat. Who is Joe Marky? Who is Joe?”

“Joe Mommy. He is my friend. He says not to go into the house.”

“Mommy.” Michael interjected. “You cannot see Joe.”

“Can you see him Michael?

Michael shrugged and then shook his head.

Marijke was confused and fearful for her son. She hugged Mark to reassure him that everything was fine. Ms Sterling smiled at Mark and then went inside to lighten the place up. “So cute.” She said. “An imaginary friend. Hmmm. So cute.”  She went into the drawing room just off of the main entrance foyer and threw open the curtains and drapes. Immediately, the hallway entranceway and foyer lit up with natural sunlight. She went into all of the other rooms and did the same thing. She also opened many of the windows to generate a cross breeze to freshen and cleanse the air. It improved it somewhat but there still remained a heavy musty odour nevertheless. It was a smell that exuded age and decay.

Marks’ demeanour changed dramatically when the darkness lifted. He and Michael took off and ran into the house as if nothing had happened; eagerly keen on the exploration of this new but strange environment.

“He seems to have improved greatly.” Ms Sterling said to Marijke. Marijke just smiled. She had an uneasy feeling about Mark’s reticence and moodiness, and his new friend Joe. “An invisible friend.” she said aloud. “Imaginary! I would never have thought that…”

“I would not be concerned Marijke” Ms Sterling interrupted. I have seen this with many other children. The strangeness, the newness of the place would startle most children of his age. Some have a teddy for security; some a blanky and others…well…an imaginary friend.” She smiled. “I am sure that he will settle in just fine in a few days time with of adjustment to his new surroundings.”

Marijke smiled. “Yes, I guess you may be right.”

“Of course I am.” she smiled at Marijke, a patronizing smile at that.

Mark and Michael burst into the drawing room. They almost ran into Ms Sterling. They were laughing and kibitzing like four year olds will do. “You’re it Michael.” Mark giggled and ran away.

“There, there,” Ms Sterling said. “Mark seems to be okay now. Boys will be boys.”

“Are you okay Mark? Marijke asked. Without looking at his Mom Mark replied. “Yes Mommy, this house is great. So much fun.”

“I will show you around now Marijke. Looking at the boys. “Will they be okay?”

“Oh yes just as long as they are within sight of us. I also have some colouring books here.” She took them out of her handbag and with crayons placed them on a table with a few chairs. She took off the table white sheet covering, wiping a layer of dust off when she did. “Who wants to colour?” she asked of the boys. “Me, me, I do, I do,” they hollered in unison. With those words they settled down at the table eager to start. In a few minutes they were both lost in their creative effort. “Mommy will be busy for a few minutes…okay boys?” “Mmmm Hmmm,” Mark and Michael said as if she wasn’t even there.

Margaret began to show Marijke the house. The main entranceway and front door were situated in the middle of the main wing. The first thing Marijke noticed when she entered the home was the large foyer space that was furnished out with a large oak table on the back wall, opposite the front door. Above it hung an old and large faded portrait of a man staring straight ahead it seemed. He had a stern look about him, the look of a mariner perhaps, maybe Dutch, as evidenced by a landscape of windmills on a flat plain and a seascape of old sailing vessels in the far distant background. The painting was very old, as the surface of the painting had cracks and streaks and smears across the entire painted surface. It was an odd welcoming piece for visitors to the home. It was not a warm portrait in the slightest, but cold and reserved. To the right and left of this wall there were very wide openings and stairs going to the second floor. Portraits were hung on the wall going up the stairs to a landing above.

“There is another set of stairs at the back of the house, off of the kitchen and pantry area.” Margaret said. They are less formal than these. They were probably a servant’s access from the kitchen area to the bedrooms above.

To the left of the entranceway was a large sitting room. It was framed with a massive bay window, the glass of which was sectored into squares. This was a very popular feature in these older homes but a window washer’s nightmare to clean. The room had a large area rug that was stitched with a maritime theme. It needed a good cleaning. It covered a dark, solid oak floor. The walls were adorned with hung tapestries that depicted various country scenes and waterscapes.  Not quite Marijke’s taste but she could see how her husband John was drawn to this place given his Naval background. The ceiling was about 14 feet in height.

“There seems to be a nautical flair to this place.” Marijke said to Margaret.

“Indeed Marijke. I am not entirely sure but Mr Stillwell’s ancestors were farmers and mariners. They ran a large agricultural operation around here, orchards I think, and were also leaders of the woollen trade with Europe. I am told that they had a number of commercial sailing ships at their disposal that were based at Southampton and Bruges, Belgium…and then later Rotterdam. They have an interesting past I am told.”

From there Margaret led Marijke to another room. The great room as Margaret called it. And it was. As they entered it Marijke was taken aback by the grandeur of the place, of another time. The focal point of the room was a large fireplace with a huge oak mantel. Above it was another large portrait, this time of a young woman who was dressed in the fashion of the 16th or 17th century. Marijke could not tell for sure. Her face reflected a softer, warmer nature than that of the man in the foyer picture. Close to the fireplace were two very large sofas. One was oriented toward the fireplace while the other was off to the right side. On the left were a number of high wing backed chairs, some tables separating them and some standing lamp fixtures. This room had two large bay windows, not unlike the one in the sitting room. With the curtains open there was a great deal of natural lightness about the room. Behind the centred sofa facing the fire place the room was bare except for two more large area rugs that were adorned by a hand made stitch of pastoral scenes…local no doubt. Chairs and tables were set up along the walls. There were sitting benches framing both of the bay windows. All of the furniture was covered with white sheets.

“Wow, this is one large space.” Marijke said.

Margaret smiled. “I think this room was used for receptions, banquets and parties. I am not entirely sure though. The Stillwell’s loved to entertain…or so I am told. She paused to look around. “There is a lot of local history to this place Marijke.”

“This is the older, original part and wing of the home.” she went on. “Legend has it that there had been a great fire at one time. The manor was rebuilt after the fire and over the years modernized. This room, and the sitting room, foyer are all part of the original footprint.”

Mark and Michael ran into the room.

“Look Mommy, at what I did.” Michael held up his artwork.

“And what I did too.” Mark added as he was picking his nose.

Marijke smiled as she examined their colouring pages. “Wonderful boys but can you do another?…And stop that Mark…bah, slecht erg vies Mark.”

“Don’t talk funny Mommy.” Mark said.

“You speak Dutch Marijke?”

“Just a little she answered. Marijke is a very common Dutch name for a girl. I never lived there…in the Netherlands. Some family did…in the past I believe. I picked up a few words and expressions.”

“Interesting.” Margaret said.” Let’s keep going as there is still a great deal to see.”

They went back to the foyer area and then crossed into the more modern traditional part of the house. There was another sitting room; a cozy and comfortable drawing room, a family sized dining area that was attached to an incredibly long, spacious and modern kitchen. Two large windows looked out from the kitchen to grounds that were immaculately groomed. A large wildflower garden could be seen in the far right corner of the grounds, which abutted a walking trail that went up into the hills beyond, separated from the manor by a fence. On the other side of the lawn area was a very large and expansive interlocking stone patio, complete with sitting areas and a stone oven and grill.

“John will love that.” Marijke said.

The entire space was about a half acre in size.

“The boys will love to play out there.” Marijke thought.

“We will have a look out there once we are finished in here Marijke” Margaret said. But don’t worry. You do not have to look after the grounds. Mr Stillwell has a gardener and a caretaker here. He was adamant that no one should touch the gardens or the lawns. Just enjoy them.”

“I am sure John will be thrilled with that Margaret…and me too.” she laughed. “I may be of Dutch ancestry but I have a brown thumb.”

Margaret laughed and then continued: “The far end there Marijke, where the pantry area is now, was part of the original kitchen. Obviously it has been was renovated over the years, upgraded and modernized to that which we see now. There is a door there that leads to the main reception room, which we just saw as that part of the kitchen serviced the old part of the house. Oh and there is a large water closet[4] and powder room off to one side but far enough away from the kitchen.”

“That’s good.” Marijke said.

There was a large island area in the middle of the kitchen for food preparation with pots, pans and various cooking utensils hanging from a wrought iron oval framework that was hanging from the ceiling. Everything was tiled: backsplashes and countertops were tiled with travertine.  A large upright fridge and freezer was located on an inside wall. The large gas stove or multi-element cooker was located to the right of the fridge.

“This is huge Margaret. Beautiful and wonderfully laid out and very, very functional.”

Margaret smiled as she looked around. “Okay, now for the upstairs.”

They left the kitchen area and immediately to the right in the hallway was a door, which opened to stairs that led to the upper rooms.

“Of course the main stairway is off of the main foyer.” Margaret said. This is another way to and from the bedrooms. It is more functional and private for a family such as yours.”

“Mark, Michael. Come here please. Marijke yelled. “Come now.”

The twins came immediately, but without their colouring books. Together they went up the stairs to the second floor. A long and wide hallway greeted them. At one end the passageway turned to the right at a ninety degree angle to service the other wing no doubt.

“There are six bedrooms up here Marijke, two large water closets and shower / bath areas and a large den or office. I would recommend that you and your husband and the boys take those bedrooms as they are in close proximity at this end of the house. Leave the rest for guests. That would be my recommendation.”

Marijke nodded.

“I’m taking this one Michael yelled out.” he was already jumping up and down on the bed in one of the bedrooms at the end of the hallway. It faced out over the back lawn and garden area. It was large room with a double Captain’s bed and a large window and sill. It also had a nice view of the hills of Tilmore Gardens. It had been a child’s room at one time.

“And I am taking this one” Mark said assertively in the presence of his twin and mother. It was almost an exact duplicate of Michael’s room, but across the hall and facing the courtyard. One could see the tree lined and hedgerow bordered laneway that went back to the A272. Beyond that you could see the spire of Saint Stephen’s Church in Petersfield. Both rooms were wallpapered and had closets, which was a rare commodity in England, and small sinks for washing their hands.

Marijke and Margaret laughed. “Okay boys. Marijke said. These will be your rooms.” Margaret smiled. “And for you and your husband Marijke? She opened another door. “This is the main bedroom. Actually this is the bedroom of the head of the manor and his wife. If you so choose though there is another bedroom beside this one if you and your husband prefer separate rooms. They are connected by a door. You never know these days with snoring and such. It is very common.” She laughed. “But each of these rooms is fitted with baths or as you say…an ensuite. And this one has a large dressing area off of the ensuite with a wall to wall closet organizer. There is also a main family bath right across from this room and beside the room that Mark has ownership of.” They laughed at that.

She and Marijke left the main bedroom and proceeded down the hallway to look at the other rooms. There were three bedrooms on this wing of the house. Mark and Michael were left to play in Michael’s new bedroom but not to leave or return to the main floor without their mother.

The walls of the main hallway were adorned with many portraits. Some were recent while many of them were very old.

“This is a rogues’ gallery Marijke of the Stillwell family, going back I believe to the Armada days…or so I have been led to believe.” They adorn both sides of this hallway and of the main stairs coming up here. The men are on the left side walls with their respective women or wives directly across from them on the right. The walls of the other wing, or the north wing as it is referred to, have pictures of a more traditional nature in land and seascapes. I even think there is a Gainsborough there.”

As they walked along the hallway and looked at the various portraits, Marijke was struck by the portrait of one woman who was dressed in the style of the Pilgrims of the 17th century. Looking at the portrait Marijke felt a real connection with this young woman. She didn’t know why. The woman had the look of youthfulness, of vibrancy and of energy. She wasn’t beautiful per se but possessed an attractive rebelliousness and independence that emanated off of the canvass. It seemed as it she was looking directly at Marijke.

“Oooo,” Marijke said to Margaret. “I am getting a chill looking at this portrait. She has a familiarity about her. I do not know what it is.” A pause. “Oh Margaret, it seems as if she is trying to communicate with me. I am getting a sense of apprehension just looking at her. Ohhhh.” Her whole body seemed to shiver. “Keep going Margaret. There must be a draft in here.”

They checked out the other three bedrooms then turned into the north wing. There they looked in on a large office or den. One of the walls was full of books. “The library, obviously.” Margaret said. A large window was situated behind a large cherry wood desk and accompanying chair. The view from the window was out along one side of the courtyard and then down a trail that led to one of the hills surrounding the property. Three other chairs were evident in the room as was a large, deeply textured sofa that was set out from a large fireplace, along the opposite wall from the array of books. The fireplace was the focal point of the room. Above the mantle was a painting depicting a land battle scene from the English Civil War.[5]

“Wow, lots of light in here.” Marijke said. A warm and cozy space. Look at that fireplace? And the view? John will love this room. No doubt this was probably one of the reasons he chose this house for us. Fantastic! Okay Margaret, How much more is there to see?

“That is it Marijke. There is another room on this floor that is adjacent to this one but Mr Stillwell uses it for his personal storage. It is locked and will remain so. He asks that you do not go in there. That is one of the conditions of living here…I am afraid to say, that and not touching the gardens.” Margaret smiled at Marijke.

“I have no problem with that.” Marijke said, chuckling with that remark.

They walked back the way they came. Marijke slowed her pace slightly as they came by the portrait of the young woman she had seen before. Sensing a chill she hurried past it without looking up until she reached the main stairwell.

“C’mon boys. It’s time to go now. Outside. C’mon now.” Marijke walked back to the room Michael had set for himself. Mark and Michael were playing with something on the floor. It was an old spin top: wooden, worn and very old. The string was almost threadbare.

“Where’d you get that top boys?”

“It was in one of the drawers of the bed Mommy.” Michael said.

“Better put it back, for now.” But before Michael did so, Marijke took it in here hands and examined it. The wood was rough to the touch. It was carved by hand and not very well. She had the sense that it was very old.

“This is a home made toy.” She said aloud, examining it in some detail, and to no one.

“Yes, best to put it back where you got it Michael.” She gave it back to her son who then placed it in one of the drawers from the Captain’s bed. The boys got up and joined their Mother and Margaret to return to the first floor. Just as they were about to descend the stairs Marijke excused herself from Margaret for a moment. “I think I left my scarf back in the room. Give me a minute. I’ll be right back. Stay here boys.”

Marijke re entered Michael’s room. Her scarf was lying on the bed. She picked it up and went to the mirror above the wash basin to adjust it, looking at her reflection for a moment to adjust the scarf around her neck. Pulling away she thought she saw another reflection in the mirror of someone, something behind her. A young boy perhaps, looking straight back at her. She gasped and turned…quickly. Nothing! Her heart was racing. Looking back at the mirror and at her own, the apparition was gone. There, but for a split second she thought. She shook her head as if to give it a shake from reality. Slowly she turned toward the door. There was a slight chill in the air. She kept looking back at the mirror, and the room.

“Are you okay Marijke?” Margaret said as Marijke reappeared. “You look like you have seen a ghost.”

Marijke smiled. “No, no, I am fine Margaret. Just tired I guess. From the jet lag and all of this excitement of moving, a new house, everything. She looked down at the twins. “Okay boys lets go now.” They descended the main stairwell together. Marijke had an uneasy feeling in her stomach, pressure in her chest, but she couldn’t explain it or what had just occurred to her…”if anything,” she thought.

They left the house to explore the grounds around it. The front courtyard was bereft of greenery except for the main laneway that led back to the A272. The courtyard was expansive enough to hold at least ten cars, with room to manoeuvre. They walked around the north side of the house to the backyard. There in front of them at the back corner jutting out from the house was a greenhouse. It was still intact. There was no broken glass. Briefly, they peered inside. Except for some empty gardening pots on some of the shelves there was little to suggest it had been used recently.

“The caretaker uses the greenhouse Marijke, to prep the garden. You do not have to worry about it.”

Marijke smiled but said nothing. She was still uneasy about what had just occurred to her in Michael’s bedroom. Being outside again she was feeling better, energized. She dismissed it. They walked over to the large stone patio that was connected to the kitchen by a Dutch style doorway. It was large enough to cater to about fifty or so guests. That and the huge green space of lawn and garden were impressive. The lawn was so well manicured that one could almost use it as a putting pitch.

“Is this kid friendly or child proof Margaret?”

“Don’t worry about the lawn Marijke. Mr Stillwell is only concerned about the wildflower garden over there at the back of the property. It is his pride and joy he tells me. The caretaker looks after it and the lawn too. The boys can play on the grass to their heart’s content. He would ask that you respect his wishes and leave the garden alone.”

“That will not be a problem.” Marijke laughed. She looked around the space. It was about a half an acre in size. A fence bordered the property from the fields and hills behind and to the north of them. The garden took up the entire south eastern corner and border of the property. It was enormous. There was plenty of room for the boys to play at whatever sport they desired. “John is going to love this.” She thought. And the boys too. As she examined the yard her eyes were directed to the window on the second floor at the end of the manor. That was the bedroom that they had just left. Marijke felt a chill as she looked up at it but quickly diffused the anxiety that potentially presented itself to her sense of wellbeing.

“What do you think boys? Is this a great space to play in or what?”

“Yeah, Mommy. Look at us.” as they ran around in circles on the manicured grass, falling and play fighting with each other and then up and at em as they chased one another in a game of tag. Marijke smiled at that.

She looked back at the house from the vantage point of the yard. She remarked to Margaret. “I can see now how the house’s footprint has changed over the years. That is clearly the original part,” as she pointed toward the greenhouse then sweeping her arm across to a point about two thirds of the structure across from the corner greenhouse. “The stonework here is very old and well pointed. But from here on in,” she directed their gaze to the opposite end of the manor, “the stonework transforms to more of a brick face than the larger cut stonework. You can see how they tried to mould the new stone with the old, but the separation is still there. It almost seems like an add on Margaret.”

“Right you are Marijke. I am not exactly sure but as I said earlier, Mr Caldwell, the caretaker, tells me that a large fire destroyed a portion of the house many, many years ago. It was rebuilt. My guess is that they decided to tear down a section of the house and rebuild it. Not a bad job either but you can see the demarcation line here.”

She added. “I think that about does it Marijke. Our team will come in here over the next few days to open the place up. A thorough cleansing and freshening up: carpets, drapes, everything. We will have it shipshape for you in a few days time. Ready for you and your family to enjoy.” She smiled at Marijke.

“That would be great Margaret.” They walked back to the courtyard and to Margaret’s van. “All of the furniture stays Marijke. And, at your request, Mr Stillwell had purchased a large freezer, which will be in place off of the panty in a few days time.” Outdoor furniture for the patio is in storage but will be brought out here while we are staging the entire manor. It should be good to go in about five days. Let’s say…”she paused to look at her calendar “…how about next Monday, as per your occupancy agreement.

“Sounds great Margaret.” Looking over past the van Marijke noticed a trail or a cart path that veered off of the courtyard, along a flat area and then up a hill toward the west. “What is that Margaret? And where does it lead to.”

“That is part of the property Marijke but has been let on a long term basis to the local Rambler’s Club. They will not interfere with you as there is a gate about a quarter of a mile to the west of us that directs the ramblers to the adjacent fields and away from the manor’s grounds.”

“Ramblers?” Marijke asked.

“Ramblers are walkers Marijke, or hikers…clubs. The sport is encouraged here and is very popular. Rambling is one of the quirks of being English. They have right of ways throughout the countryside for their use as long as they do not infringe upon the landowners or homeowners. It is very civilized indeed.”

“Indeed.” Marijke answered

“They should not be a bother to you. Oh and that trail leads to a promontory that has a magnificent view of the South Downs and the land to the west of us. It overlooks a broad valley that is home to a well respected public school called Bedales. It is very public and a very expensive traditional English school. That would be a private school to Americans. In our typical Brit fashion and parlance, a public school here is private Marijke, whereas a state school is very public. Bedales is home to the children of the rich and famous of the UK as well as some royalty. It is on par with Eton. But their grounds are open to the public and the Ramblers as per a written agreement with the Stillwell family as a condition of sale.”

They owned it? Marijke asked.

“At one time yes. They owned most of the land around here. Now? I think they have ownership of about thirty acres. Primarily grazing land that they lease to some local farmers. The fields that border the main laneway on both sides entering the manor house courtyard are grazing fields for sheep. They are also let out to the local farmers. Don’t worry Marijke as they will not bother you in the slightest.”

“No, no it’s kind of nice Margaret, quaint.” Marijke said. “It will be great for the kids to see and experience too.”

Margaret smiled. “Okay, let’s be on our way. I will take you to your hotel.”

“Margaret drove them back to Petersfield, past the train station and onto Lavant Street. She drove strait down Lavant to the Chapel Street intersection. From there she turned right following the road along toward the main square, market and High Street. At the end of High Street and crossing a very busy A3[6] she took Heath Street to Weston Road where Marijke’s accommodations were located.

“Thanks Margaret.” Marijke said and got out with Mark and Michael. “This being Tuesday, the boys and I will explore Petersfield and the area surrounding area expecting to move in next Monday. Is that the plan?

“Yes Marijke but maybe earlier. Depends on how my crew works. In the meantime relax and enjoy yourselves. Petersfield has a lovely heath and pond to explore with the boys.

“When does Commander Stiles arrive Marijke?

“Friday I believe.” Marijke said.

“Okay, well let me know and I can take both of you up to the manor house on, erm, let me see…Sunday afternoon. How is that? You have my number.”

“Just fine Margaret. And thank you for meeting us and showing us the house.”

“My pleasure Marijke. And bye boys.” With that she left.

“Bye.” Mark and Michael said in unison, waving at Margaret as she left them.

“Well boys let’s go and see our new digs.”

“Joe is happy now Mommy.”

“He is? Well that is great Marky.” An uneasiness enveloped Marijke when Mark mentioned Joe again.

Chapter Two

Marietta felt a huge loss when the MAYFLOWER finally departed Plymouth Sound 16 September 1620 for America. Yes, she was with the man she loved and was embarking on a huge and exciting adventure into the unknown. Yet naturally, as the ship left the land behind, she gazed upon the scene from the afterdeck of the MAYFLOWER with mixed feelings of excitement and trepidation. Would she ever set eyes upon these lands again? England, whose rocky and chalky cliffs, black crevices, tiny bays, natural harbors and beaches that were crowned by lush emerald green undulating hills of the West Country beyond? England? So very different than the flat expanses of Flanders and the Low Countries where she was born and had lived most of her life, except for the odd visit to the family home at Monk’s Orchard.

The ship tossed about itself on a chaotic sea and swell. Up and down she went; veering hard right then backing left with the wind; lifting high on a crest of a wave and swell then falling forward and sideways into a trough. With every lift of the hull Marietta felt her stomach rise up and into her throat before falling again into its normal state. The seas behind her churned incessantly. The unrelenting wake snaked wildly astern as a bubbling and soapy white water: so much in contrast to the grey expanse of the sea that bordered it. Ahead of her lay a dark foreboding sky. Behind her she could see small puffs of cloud that reflected the sunlight away from the surface of the sea. Everything was dark and grey. She shuddered at the sight. A chill enveloped her. She said a prayer then left for her damp and cold quarters below.

Before long the visual horizon of Land’s End and England fell away: smaller and smaller, flatter and flatter the land became. In what seemed to be an instant in time, the last vestiges of Marietta’s known world fell away and disappeared into oblivion, as if by some sorcerer’s whim. Her comfort zone was no more. Her existence for the foreseeable future could be measured by the length and breadth of the MAYFLOWER. Her life was limited by the visual horizon ahead and the seas all around. What lay beyond the western fringe where the grey sea touched the dark sky remained a mystery that only God knew the answer to… for he was in control.

[1] Pronounced Mar-ay-ke.

[2] Hampshire

[3] Dutch, meaning baby or sweetheart.


[4] Toilet

[5] 1642-1649

[6] The A3 is a secondary highway from London to Portsmouth. Today it bypasses Petersfield completely.