Echoes From The Past – Episode 02

Dunskillen Castle

He studied the screen, trying to capture in a computer drawing the ideas drawn on the cartridge paper in front of him. Normally the job of estate manager kept him occupied pretty well full time, but his landscape design business was growing and profitable, and he didn’t like to neglect it. He looked up in mild irritation as the door opened, and a small wiry man in corduroys, jumper and flat cap that looked as though moss was growing on it, stamped his way in.Daniel Hepburn’s office was housed in the ground floor of one of Dunskillen Castle’s outbuildings. There was a large desk with a computer on it, and several other tables stacked with papers. There were state-of-the-art filing cabinets, and two pairs of boots. The room looked chaotic, but Dan knew where every invoice, drawing, and seed catalogue were to be found.

“Eric,” Dan said. “Are you looking for something?”

Eric Taylor squinted up at him from under thick brows.

“I’m going to cut back those conifers that are taking over the path to the greenhouse. I take it you’ve no objection.”

Dan straightened up.

“Personally, I’d uproot them, but they do provide a good screen. Maybe just a short back and sides.”

The older man wandered further into the room, giving the computer a wide berth, while being fascinated at the same time. Eric was a man of the soil. He didn’t hold with technology. But just the same, there was a magical attraction about it. Dan wouldn’t have been surprised to find him having a go one day, when he thought no-one was looking.

Dan smiled, and clicked the Save button, before the picture disappeared.

“I’ll come with you. I’ve been in here long enough.”

“I’ll manage,” Eric said roughly.

With that, he stomped off into the yard, enveloped in a cloud of grumpiness. Dan sighed. If Eric wasn’t such a brilliant gardener, and a ludicrously hard worker, Dan would have been tempted to let him go. On the other hand, he was almost as old as the castle, and his knowledge of the buildings and the grounds was irreplaceable. So Eric stayed, as did his wife Maisie, mainstay of the castle’s domestic cleaning arrangements. Maisie was twice Eric’s size, though less grumpy, and was invariably solemn and just a bit mysterious.

Daniel locked up automatically, and set off out of the yard and down the driveway to where the castle stood. It was the strangest thing, but that view of the castle never failed to delight him in any season. It seemed no time since every roof, arch and battlement had a frosting of snow that made it look like something out of a fairy tale. Now that spring was here at last, it basked in a fitful sun like the pretty little Victorian castle it was. In spite of its crenellations and crow-stepped gables, it looked charming rather than grand. And there was the mediaeval bit, too, to give the place authenticity. What looked like an unimaginative extension was, in fact, the only original bit of the building left. It wasn’t much used, though Dan was mulling over various plans for it.

As usual, Dan entered the house by the kitchen, where his mother was ministering to the Aga. She was wearing one of her hallmark PVC aprons, this time advertising mustard.

“There you are, Dan. I thought you’d like to know, I’ve had another idea for the hallway.”

“For goodness’ sake, Mum, haven’t you done enough refurbishing? Didn’t we do it all five years ago?”

“Eight, actually,” she said a little waspishly. “Anyway, the fact is that the hall is a tad tired, and I’ve got a few ideas for doing it up. Not all that expensive –” she held up her hand to forestall Dan’s objections “– and we’re doing all right, aren’t we? We’re not expecting the bailiffs any time soon, are we?”


Lucy Crichton

Fiction Editor Lucy is always on the look-out for the very best short stories, poems and pocket novels. As well as sourcing enjoyable content, she enjoys working with our established contributors, encouraging new talent, and celebrating 155 years of 'Friend' fiction!