The Man In The Mirror

By: Georgia Le Carre

“Yes, you are expected. Come right up to the side of the house. There is a staff entrance there.”

A mechanical growl sounded then, and nearly pulled my soul out of me. I jerked back as the heavy gates were pulled automatically apart. I felt a shiver go through me. It was a completely fanciful feeling, but I had the sudden and completely bizarre sensation that I wouldn’t come back out the same if I went in. Shaking my head at my own silliness, I walked quickly up to the taxi, and got in.

“Are you going to be working here, then?” the taxi driver asked as we drove through the first gatehouse.

“Yes, that’s right,” I murmured, not taking my eyes off the frightening sight of murder holes in the ceiling high above us. Hundreds of years ago heated sand, lime, or boiling water would have been poured down on the enemies who had managed to breach the first defense. They suffered the cruel death of being roasted or boiled to death inside their metal armor.

Up ahead the second set of gates were opening inwards as if by magic. Surrounded by a moat we drove up towards the castle. It was easily the most impressive building I had seen in my life.

Two thick towers rose up on either side of the drawbridge. The gothic structure with its ramparts, arrow slits, bastions, battlements, timber corbels, and strangely beautiful crenelations, made me feel as though I had gone back in time to a lost and forgotten world.

The taxi came closer to the castle and I could see the massive front door was covered in iron studs, but I could also see a very much smaller door that was almost hidden away.

“Can you drive to that side, please?” I told the driver, pointing to the left.

The taxi came to a stop and I got out. The fare had already been paid in advance by April. She had insisted on it, because she knew I would have taken the train otherwise. He had not put the meter on, but I guess it must have run into the hundreds.

The driver smiled, his first of our four hours trip, wished me luck, and drove away. I walked over to the small door. It had a large lion-head knocker, but before I could use it the door opened and a balding, frighteningly thin man, attired in white gloves, a peculiar green vest, and a long-tailed charcoal morning coat, stood in front of me.

Wow! A real-life butler in full garb.

“I’m Barnaby Boothsworth,” he introduced, his posture rigid and his eyes expressionless.

“Charlotte Conrad,” I replied with a wry smile. “I guess I’m here to see Mrs. King.”

“Of course.” He stepped aside politely and waited for me to enter before closing the door and offering to take my suitcase directly up to my room. I handed my single piece of luggage to him and he led me down a dark corridor.

“Mrs. King will meet you in the drawing room,” he said as he walked in front of me.

Just before we reached a wooden door, he stowed my suitcase into a nook in the corridor, then ushered me into a massive space.

Ah, the great hall.

Light flowed in through stained windows set high on the soaring walls. There was a humongous stone fireplace which I imagined in winter would heat up the entire room. A long wooden table that could seat about twenty chairs upholstered in green velvet stood in the middle of the room. Above it hung a truly massive chandelier. In a touch of almost poetic beauty a magnificent marble sculpture of a centaur reaching his arms upwards had been placed in the middle of the table and underneath the chandelier, so it seemed as if the creature was reaching up to touch the light.

Large tapestries of hunting scenes decorated the walls. Green was the main color scheme of the décor here, and I understood then where the concept of his vest probably came from. It also gave me a look into the psychology of the mistress of the house, who had decided to match her servants attire with the furnishings. I suddenly recalled reading a book by a Victorian servant. He said the best servant was an invisible one.

Our shoes were loud on the flagstone floor as we crossed the great hall and made our way towards another room, which Mr. Boothsworth referred to as the drawing room.

“Please wait here,” he said stiffly, before closing the door quietly behind him.

I looked around the room. The décor had obviously been executed by a professional decorator. It reminded me of watching a program on TV about a billionaire who was trying to sell his yacht to buy a bigger one. Its great selling point was everything in it was made from something unique that no one else had. The coffee table, for example, had been made from the skin of twenty-seven lizards, or something equally ridiculous.

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