For all of us there is a special place. Somewhere we go to think, and to reflect quietly on our lives. Dear Reader, this is what Rose and Penelope Danderford delighted in. Their own secret, special place. I am a great friend of Rose and although I have never seen it, she told me of her secret place.
To get to it you must walk through their magnificent garden, have you noticed how manor houses always have magnificent gardens? Nearing the end you will find a beautiful rose bower. At this time of year it is laden with deep scarlet blooms. You must go through this, and follow a little gravel path edged with box hedges until you reach a small wooden gate. The gate leads to a circlet of pine trees, in the midst of which is a large, grand, topiary peacock. Rose and Penelope discovered this clearing when they were ten and now visit it frequently.
Rose Danderford’s heart is usually full of affection for her sister Penelope. But the arrival of the wealthy Highwells family has sparked animosity between them. For, lo and behold, the grand Highwells have brought an heir to their golden throne, in the shape of Thomas Highwell. He cuts a dashing figure, jet black hair and strongly chiselled features. His wild raven eyes hold such a power inside them that it is quite easy to see how the two girls have let him captivate their hearts.
Much as Penelope fancies herself in love with Thomas she desperately wishes to make peace with her sister. She realises Rose must be in the pine circlet. Rose has found solitude in their “secret room,” and is discomfited when Penelope bursts into the enclosure.
Now, my reader, if this had been any other place a vicious argument may well have broken out. But, as the fir trees whispered around them, Rose found it difficult not to keep calm. And so the sisters discussed dear Thomas reasonably peacefully.
Penelope is, I fear, a tad on the silly side. Some of her language is rather more flowery than necessary. For this reason, I shall not print word for word all that was said. Suffice to say, both Rose and Penelope made plain their feelings for Thomas, and how both aspired to glide down the aisle on his arm.
Both sisters refused to back down on this point, and were so busy trying to make the other understand this, that they didn’t notice the intruder of the glade.
Now, to travel back in time to when Penelope was about to travel to see Rose. Penelope was on the patio, a great slate affair, and was so immersed in her own thoughts that she didn’t notice the arrival of Thomas Highwell. If she had done, she may well have stayed with him. But as it was, she made off down the garden to speak with Rose.
Thomas was hurt at this. Not knowing about the secret room, he imagined she was running away from him. Now, this dented his enormous pride somewhat, and so he followed her. Upon arriving at the “room” he heard the beginning of Rose and Penelope’s conversation. Having enough sense not to intrude, and also intrigued at his name being mentioned he hid among the fir trees.
He had already decided that the two sisters were in love with him. Unfortunately for them, he also thought, like me, that Penelope was rather too much of a twittering fool. So this left only Rose as a possible object on which to centre his affections. Now, as you know, Rose is my best friend, and it pains my hand to command my pen to write how he thought of her. But, I clench my teeth, and so. He thought her an ugly pale thing, and did not recognise her sunny disposition in the slightest.
If, like me, you had known how headstrong and tempestuous both sisters could be, you would have escaped from them, then and there. But Thomas didn’t know this, and so stepped among them.
Rose and Penelope were shocked at Thomas’ intrusion. Upon asking they found how he had followed Penelope, and that he had heard all of their conversation. He gives an evil laugh at their fancies, and, as Rose said afterward “in one foul swoop dashed all our aspirations”.
Penelope, apparently, was on the verge of tears by this point and ended up falling to the ground in a fit of weeping. She just so happened to fall at the feet of the topiary peacock. This gave Rose a very comical idea.
Not caring about soiling her lengthy frock or white spotless hands, she scrabbled in the dirt by the side of the peacock. Penelope watched her and, calming herself down, began to help. While horrible, Thomas was a gentleman and fell to helping them. They soon had a small, foot deep pit.
Rose whispered to Penelope her plan, and before Thomas knew it, he had been planted firmly by the side of the peacock. Rose and Penelope flounced off, leaving him to “preen his ugly feathers with the peacock in the hole he really had got himself into!”