This page contains most of the content from the main 'story line' characters. It is designed to allow an easy way of keeping up with the story on slow connections (or for reading later). It is, of course, no substitute for the real thing!
Cuppa with Shirley
Cuppa with Shirley (or Martin)
Hello! Come on in, sit yourself down. I bet you'd like a hot cup of tea--there's a real nip in the air today. Let me just go put the kettle on...
Well, I'm sorry if I missed you last week. I had to go down to Brixton, you know, to see that Jerry Anderson. Hard to get away, it was, with all this foolishness about planning for tourists and all. Every ten minutes his lordship wants to have a meeting and waste my time talking about rhinoceroses and underground theatres and the like. I've got better things to be doing, I have, that affect real people that have lived in this house.
Anyway, Vera told me to go look Jerry up in the nick, so I took the bus down there and went to see him. Unrepentant, he was, even at my most charming. "I've got to talk to John," he kept saying. It's been twenty years and he hasn't talked to the boy, don't know why he's so hot to do it now. Oh, didn't I tell you? He's John's father. Well, I thought you knew. That Emma has been sharing the "news" since he told her last fall. I'm surprised it wasn't front page of the Gazette! I told him he'd upset John if he started talking about the past, that John was happy as he was and didn't need all that muck raked up. He said he'd think it over, and I left him.
Well, yesterday I was doing some cleaning, and what do you think I found, stuffed down
inside an urn in Emma's office? I'll tell you what--a letter from Jerry! You
can go look at it for yourself if you want to. She's a smart one; thinks I don't do
a thorough cleaning. Well, I take pride in my work, I do, and it's no use hiding
things in dusty places when I've got my rag with me.
Hold on a minute, there's the kettle. I won't be a minute...
I dont think lack of sex gives me energy. Things have been decidedly cool between Caroline and me since the Paris trip and I haven't noticed any great improvement in my performance at work. I think it's really great what you're doing, but I'm not sure if I had all that money I'd bother. I think I'd play some golf and pay some other slob to manage my accounts, I'd never as much as balance a check book again if I had the choice.
I did see Evelyn at the party. Definitely fit I'd have said! Off women indeed!
Just what the hell do you think you're doing? Chester sent me your list of five options for the house. As soon as I saw it I realized that you're playing with them. You got so motion-sick when we went to see VOLCANOES! at the Imax in Philadelphia that, I distinctly remember, you threw up on the way out. And you sent a chunk of our first check from the lottery to the World Wildlife Fund. Therefore, I find it hard to believe that a) you want be within 20 miles of an Imax, let alone have one in your back garden and b) you're going to set up a shooting match outside the house. So, what is this all about?
If you're leaning towards the VR thing, think long and hard about it. Can you do it without wrecking the house? How? As far as the fake maids and butlers, I have no objection other than I think it's kind of silly. Still, if people want to pay good money to come and iron your clothes for the weekend, I don't see why they can't.
Frank thinks this is all about you wanting me to come back. Is it?
For once in your life, tread gently. You're upsetting Emma.
I think I have found my mission in life. We had a meeting today and I was just awesome. Ann wanted the odious Chester Vyse to represent her interests, and I think she has Emma on her side too, but I have them on their heels. I presented this list talking about installing theme parks and introducing elephants and you should have seen their faces! What I really want to do is create a technology center here, use state-of-the-art computers and virtual modeling to create a unrivalled experience of the past by using the instruments of the future (don't tell anyone that quote, I'm saving it for morning TV). It'll be truly awesome! Course it early days yet, but I love this power thing.
Did I tell you we had another woman working here? You may have met her at the party, or seen me have a dance with her. Evelyn Prosser is a terrible name, but she's actually pretty nice. She's the archaeologist and, as soon as the weather improves, she'll be out digging, so she's pretty fit. But I'm off women right now, keeping my head clear. Actually I think lack of sex is keeping me focused. I seem to have a lot of energy at the moment. I've been doing all kinds of stuff, jogging, writing budgets and grants, reading and walking over the grounds.
I tell you, it's happening at Stoney Grove!
Could you please see that Ann gets this.
Couldn't you get your own email or something? This is a bit awkward writing to a man I've never met called Doug.
Anyway don't worry about the house. I will keep the
integrity of the buildings - that's what you want, isn't it?
Again, could you see that Ann gets this. Thanks
Cool out. I thought you were in a relaxed place. I have a plan, and I won't touch a brick of the house.
Anyway, remember you were the one who walked away from Stoney Grove. I'm still here.
Emma's OfficeDear Emma,
Thanks for the information about William and Fanny. It certainly looks possible that Fanny didn't die that night at all, but just made it look like she had. I've made a great find--a portion of her journal! I've also solved the mystery of why she doesn't show up on the Rawlins's genealogy. You'll have to read it for yourself!
I began the week at the archives looking for more Stoney Grove (Nevisian) material. I managed to find some survey notes of the property from the 1740s and a few tax records, but nothing about Fanny, her connection with the Rawlins family, or her mysterious reappearance here. I did find a catalogue entry from 1937 for a "Blake manuscript" that was temporarily on loan to the archivist. It is not there any more, however, and no one could tell me anything about it.
The owner was listed as Pauline Williamson, so I spent two days calling on every
Williamson on the island until yesterday I found her daughter. She not only knew of
the manuscript, she had a portion of it, which she was generous enough to lend to me. The
rest (are you ready for this??) had been sent to Stoney Grove in England in the
1940s!! It must be somewhere in the house. Can you enlist Shirley to help you find
it?? I promised Miss Williamson I would share it with her when it was found.
I spent all last night and this morning transcribing, I have several pages left, and am desperate to find the rest. Please find it and bring it to me as soon as you can. Having read the beginning, I can't wait to continue!
After all that happened between Simon and me, I can't face the thought of coming back to England, not even to save the house. You'll have to battle on without me. Chester has been in touch about the latest plans. To give him some credit, so has Simon, although his comments were fairly brief on the subject. I've sent him an email expressing my opinion on his list of possibilities, and will see that he doesn't do anything too out-of-hand.
It was nice of you to visit me last year. People seem so nervous when they come, but you seemed quite at home and business-like.
I think about you a lot, and about my life. I've been trying to get the courage up to talk to John. Last week Shirley came to see me, all of a twitter, trying to keep me quiet. Brought me a cake, she did, though I wasn't allowed to keep it. They worry what's in them, you know.
Anyway, I am writing to John today and telling him I am his Dad. Trouble is, as I said to you, I think that Monty Hall is his granddad. I want to tell him that too, I mean there might be an inheritance or something, right? He should know his roots. When Elizabeth was pregnant with John, Monty called me into his office and said that I should leave the child be, that he would provide for him, and that he knew what it was to have an unacknowledged child. As he said it, it passed between us, almost like it was spoken aloud, that Elizabeth was his daughter! I don't know the details, but I know it's true.
Shirley, of course, was having none of it. So I need you to do some research, find out the truth. I'll tell him who his father is, but, Emma, let me tell him about his grandfather too.
Jerry (Gerald Anderson)
I was really quite excited to see your discoveries on Nevis. I've
spent the past week going through microfilms and finally put my hands on the obituaries
for William and Fanny Blake. I've enclosed them for you
to see. It seems at least for William there was a body to bury.
By the time you get this, we'll all probably be learning how to tame lions --or shoot them! Simon is out-of-control. He's just shared several ridiculous ideas on how to make the house an "experience" for our visitors. I'm sure Chester has told you all about them by now. He left the meeting at a trot to go share the news. Frank thinks this is all just about you--that Simon wants you back, and thinks this might be the way to get your attention. I'm not sure that he's right, but if you value the investment you've made in this place, you'd best talk to him!
I'm thinking of moving back to the Hermitage. Frank can't stay here. He's been hearing voices again and they keep him from sleeping when he comes to stay with me. I also need some space, and if we open the house for tours, I can't imagine living in it as well.
I'm going to head back to Essex as soon as I can cut loose from these meetings. I hate to risk leaving at this point, as I'm afraid of what will be voted in whilst I'm away. Any chance of you coming back for a short visit?
Fanny's HistoryFor Mary Blake, from her mother, Fanny Rawlins Blake, who swears an oath to God that the following account is true and complete.
FRB, November 1804, written on the merchantman Marguerite.
An Account of my Birth and Childhood
My father, Edmund Rawlins, was born at Stoney Grove, on the island of Nevis, but considering himself an Englishman, he returned to that country upon his majority to find an English wife. This he did in the year 1757. The pair lived in the county of Essex, in the village of Thaxted, at Hundley Hall, the home of my fathers progenitors. I have not seen the house, being unwelcome there, but I recall my fathers descriptions of it, and am glad that I was fortunate enough to have been his daughter at Stoney Grove instead.
After he had been married some years, he grew impatient to return to the Caribbees. His wife refused the trip, and so he went out alone, spending the years 1762 and 1765 on Nevis, and returning to live out his days there after his wifes death in 1770. His three English sons he surrendered to the care of his brother, my uncle, fearing that life in the Indies would not prove agreeable to ones so young.
I was born on the 14th of November, 1763, at Barrowss Estate, on the windward side of Nevis. My mother named me for her mother, Fanny, who was brought to the island from Africa as a young woman. Though my grandmother remained a slave to the end of her days, her owner, my grandfather, freed my mother when she reached adulthood.
She went to work for Benjamin Barrows as a maidservant at his mansion, and it was there that my father met and bedded her. I never knew my mother well, for she died at the birth of my brother, Ned, when I was but an infant of three years. Mr. Barrows, though a great friend of the sire, was no friend of the progeny, and said he would be rid of us before my mothers body was cold in the grave. And so we were taken to live at Stoney Grove, the estate of my father, a short distance from Charlestown.
By the time that I was born, Stoney Grove was already an old estate, having stood in the shadow of Nevis Peak for nearly 50 years. The first house, like most built by men of the 17th century, was of wood, and stood only a storey and a half high. In 1710, my grandfather Rawlins replaced this rude structure with one constructed of rubble walls faced with hewn stone, and roofed with slate brought from England by ship. The thick walls kept it cool within, whilst the windows above and below admitted a steady breeze at all but the stillest season of the year.
He furnished the house with polished mahogany tables, gilt looking glasses and leather campeachy chairs, and although it was neither fashionable nor well appointed, I still recall it as tasteful and elegant in its simplicity. It slumbered beneath the shade of an ancient silk tree, on a small hill surrounded by pleasant grounds filled with fragrant bushes and fruit trees.
A short distance from the house sat a number of buildings: kitchen, laundry, stables and further still, the mill and sugarworks where the cane was broken and boiled and the sugar formed in great earthen jars. These I was forbidden to visit during the harvest, for many slaves lost their limbs, and indeed their lives, to the great grinding wheels that crushed the cane, or to the scalding cauldrons of boiling juice from which the sweet sugar was derived.As a child I was often alone, for my mother was dead and my father gone to England. At his insistence, I lived in the great house with Miss Craighill, an antique lady who had been nurse to him, and Sawney, my infant brothers wetnurse. Three other women shared the habitation with us, Juba the cook, and Maria and Latitia, the washerwoman and maid. Like my grandmother, Sawney was an African, Guinea born, with country marks on her face and arms. In the heat of the afternoon, when Miss Craighill lay abed and my brother slumbered too, we often sat beside the cool stucco walls of the cistern and she told me tales of Annancy, the spider, and of jumbies, and of crossroads on moonlit nights. Each morning, Sawney took us bathing in the warm sea near Pinney's Estate, and under her tutelage, I quickly learned to swim. Indeed, so pleasant was the water and so gentle the current that Ned joined the play of the fishes long before his skills on land surpassed those of the crab. Following our bath, we would dry ourselves on the warm sand of the beach, and then make our way home, rambling along the roadside in search of a mango or papaya to ease our hunger until the noonday meal.
These morning walks proved among the most valuable lessons of my childhood, for Sawney taught us about the world around us. She cautioned us to avoid the manchineel tree, whose fruits were poisoned and whose very shade was fraught with danger for, if wetted by a passing shower, the leaves dripped a caustic solution that blistered and burned the skin. She showed us the aloe plant that God had made to defeat the malice of the manchineel, and taught us to spread its gel on our faces and limbs if we had lingered too long in the sun. We learned how to cut cane and suck the sweet juices from it, how to break open a ripe coconut and scoop out its crunchy core, and how to avoid the centipede and the great spider that scurried through the wilderness.
Like all young girls, I was attracted to the beauty of the flowers that surrounded our house and grew wild along the roadside. Sawney taught me that these plants were put on earth not only to share their beauty, but to cure a variety of ills. We would gather leaves and flowers in great bunches, and she would carry them to the quarters to share this pharmacopoeia with mothers of ailing infants or adults crippled with years of hard labour. I learned to respect the mysteries of the earth, for like the aloe and the manchineel, she provided many things that a person adept in her lore could use to cure or to kill.
On Sundays, my grandmother came to visit me on her way home from the market in Charlestown. She kept grounds in the hills above Watkinss Estate, and sold bananas and tamarinds, mangoes and shaddocks, cassava and yams in town. From time to time she would take me to visit the grave of my mother, and we would carry small presents to leave for her there. One day I asked her if she were to be buried beside her daughter.
"When my breath leaves me, daughter, I will fly across the sea to be with my people," she replied.
"Is that where my mother is now?" I asked.
Her face filled with sadness and she told me nay, my mother was Nevis born, and had the blood of an Englishman in her. "Just as I bear my country marks, you and your mother bear yours," she sighed. It was not until years later that I understood what she meant, for my skin was smooth and no one had yet scarred me.
Stoney Grove Steering Committee February 2, 2000
Meeting 2: Attending Simon Tinsley, Frank Churchill, Shirley Johnson, Martin Johnson, Mr. Tinsley Snr., Evelyn Prosser, Chester Vyse, and Emma Knytleigh.
Simon: Um, well then. Hello. Ann has requested that she be represented here by Chester Vyse. He is not here in an official capacity, but as the representative of Ann, though, of course, we value his professional expertise.
Chester: Thank you Simon, I hope I can contribute. I think that a responsible approach to opening Stoney Grove to a wider audience is a noble goal and I am honoured to be here on Ann's behalf.
Simon: Quite. Well, the floor is completely open at this point for ideas, so who has any?
Frank: Ive been conferring with Emma on house research and have planned a tour. We were thinking we could open the rooms on a part-time basis and be there to answer questions. I thought I could supplement the factual tour with what the rooms tell me as I go into them.
Simon: What the rooms tell you?
Frank: Oh yes, I hear a lot of things as I walk around the house. Raised voices and passions live a long time in the walls you know. Its one of the reasons I live in the Hermitage, it can get quite noisy in here.
Simon: Anyone else offered to do tours?
Emma: Irene Kent and Gladys Rutherford said that theyd like to help, but Miss Kents had a hip replacement and has trouble getting around.
Simon: Fine, I guess it's a start! Any bigger ideas than house tours?
Shirley: Oh you and your vegetables!
Martin: My vegetables have won prizes at national competitions. I think that wed get a good crowd in to see them grow. Of course I couldnt put the very best on display. There are saboteurs out there, you know. Its very competitive, the world of big vegetables.
Evelyn: Id be happy to give people information on what we are finding archaeologically, but obviously at this point it's very early in my research and am still framing the questions.
Simon: Can we have tourists dig with you?
Evelyn: Absolutely not.
Simon: Right. We've got talking walls, crippled grannies, second-rate squash and an antisocial archaeologist. I can see we're onto something big here. Any other great ideas?
Chester: Well, I think we should take a very softly-softly approach. The story in the Gazette last week was very embarrassing. We should spend some time looking at current thoughts on historical interpretation, perhaps do some surveys of visitor expectations, decide what we want to teach our visitors and see what other houses are doing to provide a quality experience.
Simon: Ive been doing that. Id like to present the following for thought and voting at the next meeting:
Chester: Well! I don't think Ann...
Simon: With all due respect, Chester, Ann's not here.
Longleat, Beaulieu, Alton Towers not good enough models for you? Should I instead feature
my recent attempts at modern sculpture? I could recreate my room at university, with the
dirty linen and scattered papers. But I do have another thought. We could use technology
in the house to create a series of virtual tours. Maybe computer-generated costumed
interpreters with each room dynamically changing to represent the house at any point in
its history. Anyway, meeting's over. Let's regroup and discuss this further when
youve had a chance to reflect on my ideas.
(Simon, Shirley, Martin, Mr. Tinsley Sr., Evelyn and Chester leave)
Emma: What the hell does he think he's doing? Is this all a game to him?
Frank: Don't be angry Emma.
Emma: It's easy for you to sit there. You don't really care what happens to this house, do you? Even with kangaroos in the dining room, you'd be able to ignore it all. Well, I'm sorry Frank, but I can't.
Frank: No, no. It's not about kangaroos. He's doing this because he's sad.
Emma: Simon? Did he tell you that?
Frank: He didn't need to. Just look at him. He misses Ann. He's hoping this planning will bring her back. If not for him, to save the house. Don't you see that?
Emma: I hope it works!