Charles Barclay pulled up in his silver Jaguar and approached the house clearance team. His velvet loafers crunching upon the gravelled driveway as he made his way to the front door of the huge period property. It was perched on the grassy silk covered throne of Richmond Green, and stood seven stories tall. Its double fronted stone face was adorned with purple budding wisteria that only highlighted its regal dignity.
“Its my late mother-in-law’s house. My wife Margaux couldn’t bare the pain of having to go through all of her Mother’s belongings”, Charles said sorrowfully. “It’s such a huge undertaking, so your house clearance services are a real godsend.”
He began to unlock the door, struggling to turn the rusty key. The brass lion head doorknocker glinted in the sunlight, its furrowed brow and grimacing mouth warding off unwelcome visitors.
The house clearance team entered the hallway, which was lined with a red carpet that was peeling away at the corners with bald patches where moths had chewed it. There was a musty smell that lingered in the air and the faded striped wallpaper bubbled with damp.
“Well this is it. Everything can go. I’ve got a meeting in half an hour that I must attend so will leave you to it.” Charles announced as he drew his watch closer to his face.
The imposing wooden door shut behind him as he went and the house clearance team were silent. Each of them was rooted to the spot, just taking in their surroundings.
“She was obviously a collector”, Terry, the leader of the house clearance team mused; his eyes scanning the shelves stacked full of bric-a-brac and sheathed in a layer of dust.
There was a rose pink lampshade that was fringed with silk tassels, various porcelain figures of crinoline ladies, and a collection of bone carved rosary beads.
The house clearance team wandered through to the main room, which was lined with huge oak panelling, and the ceiling was embellished with cast plaster ornaments, in the centre of which a glass chandelier was suspended.
Liberty print curtains grazed the parquet floorboards and draped across the double fronted bay windows. There was a wooden table and chairs in the centre of the floor, opposite the grand marble fireplace, which had been boarded up.
“If only these walls could talk”, Mark, one of the members of the house clearance team said speculatively, shaking his head with consideration.
“I imagine some pretty distinguished people have quaffed bottles of red and feasted on the finest cuts of meat at this table”, Terry replied, glancing around the room curiously.
“Take a look at this!” Omar shouted urgently from the next room.
The rest of the house clearance team hurried to what appeared to be the drawing room, where a leather-lined desk was perched in the corner.
A handwritten letter on personalised notepaper addressed to Margaux was sitting on the desk.
The calligraphic words read:
“My dearest Margaux,
My twilight years are soon to fade into night and with that I must rid myself of the biggest secret I have hidden for over fifty years. It is with such pain and regret that I have to tell you that the man you have believed is your father for all of these years, is in fact not.
I have carried the shame of this secret like an albatross around my neck, and your father died never knowing the truth.
I could not go to my grave having not relieved my conscience of this heavy burden.
Your biological father is a man called Harry Edgar Price, whom I met while your father was away with the army.
I hope you can forgive me.