The yellow stone architecture quickly fell way to rolling green hills and meandering, dry stonewalls as the taxi sped beyond the city limits. I had a second moment of panic when I realized we were heading in the opposite direction of the Bath Academy of Art.
Tiny cottages huddled together beneath climbing roses in the last days of bloom. After the controlled masonry of Bath, the warped walls, and sagging roofs looked unkempt. So did the people. Dirty-faced children in tattered jumpers stopped to stare at our passing taxi, already a novelty just a few miles from the urban boundaries. And just when I began to worry about straying too far from the tiny corner of England that felt at least a little familiar, Wilcox interrupted my thoughts.
“Here we are.”
We rolled to a stop beside a blocky house with lace curtains blowing in the open windows. On either side, wrought iron fencing stretched as far as I could see, only to disappear into the dusk. A sign bolted to the bars on the right read: Camden House, National Trust Home, Admission 1 pound adults, 75 pence seniors/students. Open Monday-Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. I looked at my watch. It was almost seven.
“It’s closed,” I said.
A man emerged from the house to approach the cab. Wilcox said nothing but rolled down his window.
“Mr. Wilcox,” the man greeted him. “Good evening. I mistook you for tourists in that cab.”
“I left the car in town,” said Wilcox. “Will you get someone to retrieve it.”
“Certainly,” the man nodded then pushed a button on the side of the house. An iron gate parted and we drove through.
We followed a winding road lined on either side with tall trees turning color in the start of fall. We crossed a small, arched bridge over a meandering stream and rolled slowly by a field of grazing sheep kept just for the pastoral look of them. Framed between the trees, the manor house glowed golden in the evening sun.
“It’s beautiful,” I said. “Will they let us in?”
“I should think so,” said Wilcox with a mischievous smile.
From novel Water Damage @VivianMcInerny, image @194angellstreet @ellowrites @ellocollaboration @ello