The Secrets of Covingport Manor: Part Six
- The Secrets Of Covingport Manor: Part One
- The Secrets Of Covingport Manor: Part Two
- The Secrets Of Covingport Manor: Part Three
- The Secrets Of Covingport Manor: Part Four
- The Secrets Of Covingport Manor: Part Five
- The Secrets of Covingport Manor: Part Six
- The Secrets of Covingport Manor – Part Seven
- The Secrets of Covingport Manor: Part Eight
- The Secrets of Covingport Manor: Part Nine
- The Secrets of Covingport Manor: Part 10
Finding a gardener was more complicated than I expected. Elaina and Frank weren’t joking when they said Aunt Blaire ran off most of the professionals around.
All the ones I called, she either fired, the grounds were too much for them, or they didn’t have any openings on their full-time client list.
I was on the verge of giving up hope when I got a phone call.
“Is this Hannah Covingport?” the male voice was deep and grave.
“My name is Thomas Jones. I’m told you are looking for a full-time gardener.”
“I am. Were you told any details? They have scared most people off,” I half-joked.
“Yes, ma’am. Possible haunted manor with a new inheritor and a large piece of land in need of desperate love.”
I chuckled. “That sounds about right, yeah.”
“If I may be so blunt, I want to be honest with you, Miss Covingport. My family suffered a major bankruptcy after my wife’s death.”
The desperation was clear in his voice, even without hearing his whole story. I knew what it was like to lose loved ones. Then you add losing everything after? I couldn’t imagine. We were opposites. After his loss, he lost more. After mine, I gained an inheritance.
I couldn’t help but feel we were meant to meet, and I was given an opportunity to help someone.
Before he had finished speaking, I had already made up my mind.
“My brother, son, and I have all the necessary tools to care for a large estate, but we don’t own a company or have an established reputation. We’re three hard-working guys looking to get back on our feet.”
“I appreciate your honesty, Mr. Jones. It seems we’re both desperate for help. Why don’t the three of you stop by to look at the place, and we can talk more about it?”
“Thank you! Any time that works for you, we will be there.”
“Tomorrow around four?”
“We look forward to speaking with you then, Miss Covingport.”
Frank and I were in the kitchen. I sat on one of the bar stools at the center island and was making a list for the gardeners with Frank’s help. He busied himself preparing a charcuterie board and afternoon tea for the visitors. We had a hefty list, and I wanted to prioritize the items for all of us.
“Can I ask you a question, Frank?”
“You and Elaina, you live here, right?”
“Yes,” he said with a nod. Frank had laid out a few select rolls of meat and cheese. He claims both had to be cut with different knives because a cheese knife would not cut through sausage the same way. Watching him work was soothing. He knew his way around the kitchen and masterfully prepared food with speed and efficiency.
“When Mr. Watts told me about Aunt Blaire, he said they found her when the maid returned from the weekend. Were you both gone?”
Frank stopped cutting the salami to look at me. His face was sad as if he remembered a long-lost friend. Which, for all I knew, was absolutely true.
“We were. Miss Blaire encouraged us to take at least three weekends a year to check on our families. We’re estranged from them, but she encouraged the regular interaction,” Frank sighed. He placed crackers around the tray and continued speaking.
“I don’t think Elaina will leave for a while. The loss overwhelmed her.”
“She was the one who found her?”
I had guessed already that Elaina was the only female working here, but hearing it confirmed after meeting her was hard to hear. She seemed happy. I wouldn’t have known by looking at her that she had found her boss’s dead body recently.
“Where do you guys live? I never see you upstairs.”
“Upstairs is the family housing. We live in the servant’s quarters.”
I swear I could feel my heart drop at the admission. “What-”
Frank was quick to cut me off from protesting that new information. “By choice,” he reassured.
Still, I wasn’t too fond of it.
He nodded and continued preparing the tray by placing the salami he cut into perfect lines. “Every manor around here does, even if they are no longer in use. A few even rent them out for that new trend, Air-Bib.”
I chuckled. “You mean Airbnb?”
“Why are the two of you staying down there? Basements don’t have windows. Some manhole-size ones, but you’re practically in darkness. There’s plenty of rooms upstairs.”
Frank’s chuckle was quiet. “You sound like your aunt. She didn’t agree either, but I assure you, she made it very comfortable for us. We have our ensuite and a shared living area.”
“It’s still ridiculous.”
“You were born here yet raised in America. The English have a particular way of doing things. Here, we are more traditional. Elaina and I prefer it that way.”
Frank shrugged. He began closing the containers and bags holding the rest of the food he couldn’t set on the plate. “Michael grew up here with us and is as traditional as any of us. He has a corner room away from us old folk. He is happy where he is.”
“I didn’t think culture shock would be this strange.”
Frank laughed as he poured hot water into the teapot. “Miss Hannah, you’re in England. This is our cultural custom. The shock will soon pass if you choose to stay with us.”
I hope he’s right. Things would have been different if my family weren’t royalty because I would have packed my aunt’s house and gone back home. I felt an obligation, though, not just to the staff, but to my family and myself, to get this place back to its glory. I had time to decide what to do with this place after I restored it.
“You didn’t have to do all of this,” I admitted while he washed some green grapes.
“We don’t get guests often. A few refreshments are not a hassle,” he whispered. He was staring into the cupboard. “You said there were three men?”
When Frank saw me nod, he grabbed four glasses to set on the tray with the teapot. I watched Frank work in curiosity. He studied the drinks and snacks like he was mentally checking things off on a list. Maybe he was.
He looked up at me. “Shall Elaina and I accompany you while they’re here so you are not alone with them?”
“Are you worried they’ll try something, Frank?”
“You can never be too safe. I may be old, but I served my country well—I know a thing or two.”
Warmth spread through my chest at Frank’s kindness. He and Elaina took me under their wing, and I was beginning to understand how my aunt would have felt loved and cared for in her isolation.
The sound of the intercom crackling echoed in the kitchen before Michael’s voice flowed through.
“Gardeners are here. We’re headed up to the house now.”
The com went off, and I got up from the stool. “Can I help take something, Frank?”
I knew his answer before I asked, but I hoped they would let me help one day. Today was not the day if Frank’s offended expression had any say in the matter.
“Absolutely not, Miss Hannah.” He stood up straighter and grabbed the tray of tea.
“We’re back to the Miss again, are we?” I laughed.
“If it reminds you of your place and status, then yes, we are.” Frank signaled for me to head out first.
We headed to the study, and I couldn’t help but tease Frank while he was still playful.
“Isn’t it supposed to be me who reminds the servants of their place?”
I glanced behind me to see Frank’s eyes burning with amusement. He didn’t respond as his playful side disappeared. Standing tall and straight, Frank turned into serious-butler mode as we entered the entry hall.
All jokes aside, Frank was an amazing person, and I was glad for his support in discovering the unknowns about Covingport Manor.