The Genius of a Place

“…and this of course is the conservatory,” finished Miss White, her hands tucked neatly into her apron. “Hardly used now, been shut up for years, but a fine room, sir, a most handsome room, with very fine furniture, though I says it as shouldn’t. The old grandfather had marvelous taste, sir, very excellent taste indeed, and did the whole south wing himself.”

“Ah, er, yes?” said Mr. Virshup, a little lost in the cool dim immensity of the room.

“Yes, sir, he did, sir. No expense spared. Which cost him something, I’m sure, for the poor old man was never quite the same after everything was all said and done.”

“Um. No?”

“No, sir.” Miss White leaned in conspiratorially and placed one immaculately gloved hand upon his shoulder. Mr. Virshup leaned away from her as much as he could without giving offense. “In all honesty, sir, he was a little bit off the rails after that. Didn’t entertain like he’d done before, wouldn’t see people. All this magnificence just sat here and rotted away.”

“Uh, yes, hrm,” said Mr. Virshup.

“And I’ll tell you something else — “

“Really, Miss White, there’s, ah, there’s no — “

“– this place is riddled with secret passages. There’s not a room in the south wing that isn’t connected to some other room through the walls. Here, for example,” and she pressed a rose high up on the moulding, “this one leads to the kitchen.”

Mr. Virshup leaned into the airless little passageway in wonder. “And you say these, all of these have something like this?”

“Yes, sir, just so, sir,” said Miss White, and reached for the candlestick.