Echoes From The Past – Episode 03

This was true, of course, but just the same Dan liked to keep a rein on the castle’s finances. Given her head, his mother would have the whole place done up by the kind of interior designers that would attract writers and photographers from the glossy monthlies.

On the other hand, she was right about keeping the place looking good. Now that they were offering their services for weddings and other functions in marquees in the grounds, it behoved them to keep the place looking smart for the occasional foray into the house by guests and organisers. Courtesy of Maisie Taylor and his mother, the place was cleaned regularly with military enthusiasm, but it did need refreshed.

“What were you thinking of?”

Anne Hepburn checked the saucepan where the evening meal simmered, and replaced the lid.

“Come and see.”

Dan followed her out into the hall, with wide wooden floors and rugs that still looked good in spite of their age. The wooden staircase wound up gracefully, the banister gleaming with beeswax. Portraits of three previous Hepburns looked down in a faintly superior fashion, which would have suited their ancient lineage if they’d had one. In fact, the castle had been purchased in the 1920s by Daniel’s great-grandfather. He had taken it off the hands of the previous family, who were reputed to have occupied the place since just after the Battle of Bannockburn. Most people, Dan included, were highly sceptical of such a claim, but the family had certainly been there for a couple of centuries before they fell on hard times.

Daniel’s father was an academic and historian who, when not giving lectures, lived in his study on the castle’s second floor and wrote books. He was also deeply interested in digging up the castle’s history. He believed implicitly in Dunskillen’s Bannockburn connection. To Lewis Hepburn, the year 1314 had an alluring magic about it. He knew that much of the real history was lost in the mists of time, but these same mists sparkled with possibilities.

Who were these people who cared so much for their country that they fought and conquered a greatly superior army? And who were the Englishmen who got caught up in it and found themselves on the losing side? They were all just people, after all. And they fascinated him.

Daniel looked round the hall, wondering what his mother was thinking of by way of improvement. Personally, he thought a coat of paint and new drapes would be all that was necessary.

“You’re not thinking of having Dad’s portrait painted, are you?” He laughed.

“And why not?” his mother retorted. “He’s the next in line, isn’t he?”

“Well, you can count me out when my turn comes. I’d die of embarrassment.”

Anne Hepburn drew herself up in a dignified fashion, which wasn’t easy while still advertising mustard.

“Actually, I was not thinking of a portrait just yet. I really want something in that space there.” She pointed to a blank wall between two of the hall windows. There was an antique dark oak table beneath it, on which rested a vase of tulips and foliage tastefully arranged.

“It needs something artistic. Your father suggested a sampler, but usually these things are quite small, aren’t they? Done by young ladies or schoolgirls. They’re very pretty, of course, but I’m thinking of something a bit more striking. Some kind of hanging, perhaps.”

Daniel sighed.

“Well, don’t ask me. You know I’m as artistic as a doorstop.”

“So I suppose that’s why you design gardens, is it?” his mother said dryly.

Dan grinned.

“Point taken. Well, it sounds OK to me, provided you don’t go daft with the money.”

“Oh, we’ll have plenty of money. I’m expecting the next wedding planner some time this afternoon.”

And with that, she swept back to the kitchen, leaving Dan open-mouthed.

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!