The Lost Ancestor

The Lost Ancestor by Nathan Dylan Goodwin Read Free Book Online

Book: The Lost Ancestor by Nathan Dylan Goodwin Read Free Book Online
Authors: Nathan Dylan Goodwin
then I’m stuck here for the rest of the
day.’
    Morton smiled, hoping that it might
enliven the jaded cashier.  ‘I’m a forensic genealogist and I’m trying to
find out if any staff records exist for the Edwardian period here.  Do you
think there’s anyone I could speak to today?’
    The lady sighed.  ‘They’re not keen
on opening up their records to the public,’ she warned, handing him his change.
    ‘Any chance you could ask for me?’ Morton
pleaded.
    She rolled back her sleeve and looked at
her watch.  ‘I’m off on my break shortly.  I’ll see who’s around to
ask.’
    ‘That would be great, thank you. 
I’ll be in the main house.’  Morton flashed his best smile and made his
way into the grand entrance hall, joining the tail-end of a snaking queue,
penned in by narrow maroon ropes, which separated the public from the ornate
furnishings.  Strategically placed around the room were enlarged stills
taken from The Friary , showing the approximate location the actors had
stood in a particular episode of the programme.  Morton would have liked
to get some photographs of the house to help him build an impression of what
life was like here for Mary in 1911, but numerous large signs explicitly banned
it in every language possible.
    The line of babbling, excited visitors
wound their way past an officious custodian, who directed them into the grand
saloon.  The two women directly in front of Morton stopped dead.
    ‘Oh my golly!’ one them said in a thick
southern American accent.  ‘Did you ever seen such a thing?’
    ‘It’s like I’m in The Friary !’ her
friend replied.  ‘Good afternoon, Your Ladyship,’ she added in her best
attempt at an aristocratic British accent.
    The first woman turned to Morton. 
‘Would you look at that?  Have you ever seen anything so beautiful?’
    He had, but he didn’t like to put a
dampener on their visit.  ‘No, it’s amazing,’ Morton said, trying to sound
more excited than he felt.  He had to agree, though, that the saloon was fairly impressive.  The room was long and rectangular with a high, vaulted
ceiling.  Stone gothic arches gave Morton a glimpse of the stream of
visitors being herded through the first floor.
    The line continued to move through the
wooden-panelled room with its enormous stone fireplace, where the coats of arms
of five generations of Mansfields were intricately carved.
    The saloon opened out onto a large hallway
dominated by a sparkling chandelier and several imposing oil paintings of
long-deceased members of the Mansfield family.  Morton took out his guide
book and took a cursory glance at the information given about some of the
paintings.  The vast majority had been hanging since pre-Edwardian times.
    Morton continued through the hallway, past
several out-of-bounds doors until he reached the extensive library.  When
he entered the vast room, he understood why it was described in the guide book
as ‘the jewel in the Blackfriars crown’.  It was one of the largest
private collections of books that Morton had ever seen.  Visitors were
funnelled through the library in a one-way system, giving little time to stop
and take in the splendour of the room.  He looked longingly at the dusty
books, tantalisingly close, yet imprisoned by lines of wire, never to be
touched or read again.  It seemed a tragic waste to Morton that such an
impressive collection of tomes should have been reduced to a mere back-drop for
a Sunday night television drama.
    From his peripheral vision, Morton was
aware that he was being pointed at.  He turned to see the lady from the
visitors’ desk smiling and directing a well-groomed man and lady towards him.
    ‘Morning, I’m Milton Mansfield; this is my
wife, Daphne,’ the man said, in a perfect Etonian voice, as he shook Morton’s
hand.  He looked to be in his late sixties, wearing an expensive-looking
suit and a red bow-tie.
    ‘Morton Farrier, pleased to meet you,’ he
said, a little

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