It did not take long for me to see the place. White Willow Estate was huge. The manor itself was towering to the sky with two twisting towers and gargoyles stared blankly down at passers-by from their places atop the concrete walls. As I got closer, I realised that the towering wrought iron gate which stood imperiously at the entrance to the grounds was open. The man had been right. Sir. Ranger was obviously used to guests. Whether they were female was yet to be seen. A soft music seemed to waft out towards me as I stepped forth through the open gates, spun with waxy leafed ivy. It was from a piano. Played perfectly. It was Danse Macarbre. A fitting tune to such a gothic exterior.
I stepped along the stone edged pathway, through a narrow passageway with high stone walls overgrown with ivy. Soon, the passage opened out into a wonderful garden: lush green grass mowed in stripes and huge towering white willow tree. It was paradise. Was this really where I was to spend the summer? Dragging my suitcase, I continued up the path until I reached the house. I stepped forth to a large step and pulled myself up it as I had to board the train and – swallowing- rapped on the huge wooden door three times with a golden lion’s head knocker. What was I going to say? Would Sir Ranger answer the door? What if he didn’t? Was I definitely at the right place? He did not answer for a while. I began to think he might not be home and looked around slowly, in case he was in the garden. He was not. A few short seconds later, my eyes were directed back to the door ahead of me when the door opened. The man who stood before me was tall with chestnut waves of hair hanging about his face. He had startlingly blue eyes which glistened like sapphires in the late afternoon summer sun. He was dressed in a suit with no tie or blazer. Was this Sir Ranger?
I looked at him nervously.
“Good afternoon, Miss.” He smiled with ruby lips in a soft low voice “Hello… Sir Ranger?” my voice wobbled a little “I’m so sorry, Miss, I was told you’d be coming this evening. I would’ve sent a car.” His brow furrowed “There was an earlier train, Sir” “Well, I hope you didn’t have to climb up Willows’ Hill with your bag, is that all you’ve brought, Miss, for the summer?” he questioned, concerned “It’s very pretty around here, Sir” I continued, unsure of how to respond to his previous remark “I know” he whispered looking me squarely in the eye. I smiled. “You’d better come inside.” He stood aside to allow me entrance into White Willow House. This was going to be the summer of my life.
I wandered into the house pulling my bag behind me. The hallway was vast with oak panels lining the tall walls and a chandelier suspended from the ornate high ceiling. Small cream cherubs stood nestled along the ceiling tops, staring blankly down at the scene beneath and small French paintings in wooden oval frames were hung, depicting young ladies in various stages of undress. The place made me feel a little uncomfortable. “Ill show you where you’re sleeping, Miss.It’s just up the stairs. You’ll want to change out of those clothes, it’s far too warm to be wearing that, the sun is hot in White Willows. Then, perhaps, we could talk.” He smiled with that same knowing smile “I don’t have anything for cooler weather, Sir.” I stammered “Why ever not? White Willows is hot in July and no body wearing such large garments anyway. I think I might have a dress you could wear.” He hopped to the red carpeted staircase and beckonedwith a soft sweet smile plastered onto his face. I felt a sudden pang of excitement. Butterflies began in my stomach and I wanted to follow him upstairs to see if I could fit into the dress. He bounded up the stairs and I followed him almostrunning behind. I followed him down a wide corridor until he stopped abruptly at a door and hurried inside. I waited outside until a musical call “Baby Girl” emanated from the room. What did Sir Ranger just call me? “Sir?” I gasped “Try this on.” I walked into the room to see it piled high with clothes. Were they all his? Some of them seemed to be ladies. I had not taken Sir Ranger for the type of man to engage in such things. Sensing my surprise, he laughed “No no, they aren’t mine Baby Girl. Most of this stuff is stuff left over after the parties. Hence the female garments.” he mimicked my tone as he finished he handed me a white dress with small red cherries with bright green stalks imprinted and said “try that on.” I suddenly became rather panicked by this idea, I could not get changed in front of Sir Ranger. “No, Baby Girl, put it on behind the screen.” He indicated a tall Victorian dressing screen in the corner of the room. By this time, I began to wonder if this man with the sapphire eyes could read my thoughts, every trepidation I had seemed to disappear into nothing when he spoke. He seemed to know just what to say. Blushing, I slipped quietly behind the screen as he passed me the dress “don’t worry, I’m not looking.” He smiled as he turned away from me dramatically covering his eyes with both hands, as if playing peak a boo with a small child. This annoyed me. Did Sir Ranger really think of me as a child? It seemed so. I pulled my clothes off nervously and pulled the cherry dress over my head. It was tight at the bust and seemed rather too short with a halter neck I couldn’t do up by myself. Then I remembered: Parties, what did he mean parties? Was he the sort of man to have parties?
I stepped out in the dress. It was so small and light and airy and it almost made me feel uncomfortable. “There we go, Baby Girl, now I won’t have to take you to see the doctor with heat stroke.” He giggled. I found myself wrapping my arms around myself, though I was in no way cold. “Now, I’ve put your case in your room and please join me for cocktails on the balcony before dinner.” He said almost decisively. I was not used to being spoken to in this manner. Quickly, I followed him out, taking little tiptoeing steps so my shows did notmake any noise.