“Why do you have stairs leading from the fourth floor of the library instead of the lift?” Sandra asked on their way to the garden through the labyrinthine corridors of the sprawling manse.
“That floor was added to the library after the lift had been installed.” Charles replied brightly.
“So this place just keeps getting bigger huh?”
“Yup. In fact, the garden is probably the oldest thing in this place.”
“Really?” asked Sandra, nonplussed.
“It was here before this house was; the people living there were here long before my family bought this land and built all this.”
They entered a large oblong hall, its vaulted ceiling and walls covered with ornate plasterwork sculpted into the shape of vines, mice and, in the style of a English church, various green men. Along a whole length of the hall there was a series of large glass panelled doors through which glared the bright light of the sun. As they approached one set of double doors Sandra’s eyes adjusted to the incandescence after having been in the relative gloom of the mansion’s interior, and she saw the green flora of the garden.
Charles opened the doors and led her along a path through tall grass. All manner of trees and exotic plants were dotted around seemingly haphazardly, and Sandra found herself wondering how long ago they had been planted, and by whom, as their heady perfume regaled her senses. She raised her hand to her forehead to cover her eyes and looked up, saw glass panels overhead.
“So this is a conservatory then?”
“Kind of – take a look over there.” Charles replied, pointing at the ruins of an old building which resembled an ancient temple, dominated by an ancient tree which usurped its flanks. Sandra stopped and peered at it.
“Doesn’t that thing belong in Angkor Wat?”
“You’d think that wouldn’t you? I had it forensically tested though. It didn’t come from there, nor did some of these plants.”
“I have no idea.”