PAST STORIES : 2010
A Birds-Eye View (of Kingsbury Manor)
October 12th 1873 3:15pm
Lydia Hayward was nervous. As she passed thru the library she walked past the small ornate bird cage that sat on the table. The bird cooed once and stared at her with its abnormally large eyes. The almost completely white Diamond Dove had come from Australia at great expense. It had been a favorite pet of her employer's daughter, Clara Kingsbury, who had died in a tragic boating accident three years prior. Her employer Jonathan Kingsbury was fanatical about the bird and its care, apparently because it was one of the few last remaining links to the memory of his daughter. The bird remained still but followed her movement through the room with its eyes.
Ignoring the bird, Lydia crept slowly up the back stairs. She began to sweat. Although it was cool fall day outside the late afternoon sun beating through the window on the stair landing seemed to make it feel like a furnace. Or was it her nerves? Lydia felt her hands sweating, the sweat being absorbed by the linens she held in her hand. She rounded the third level toward the top floor of the manor and walked down the attic hall toward the last room where she could see the door ajar. Nellie's room. Nellie was the most senior maid at Kingsbury Manor and the only one of the servants who had a room here.
She stopped for a moment. The attic had been finished off quite nicely years before, and while it lacked some of the amenities of the elaborate and ornate rooms of those "upstairs" folks on the second floor it was much nicer than most servants of the day were used to. This was a source of jealousy on the part of the other servants who worked the Manor. Lydia and the other two female servants had to sleep in a basement room near the pantry food stores where sometimes the rats and mice would try and get into the food, often waking her in the middle of the night as they scampered about. Shuddering at the thought, she shook herself out of the day dream. As she approached closer to the slightly open door she could hear Nellie humming a tune. She saw the dressing screen in the corner and noticed Nellie's dress and corset were neatly folded over the top of the screen. On the floor near the screen was a pair of men's riding boots.
She was just about to turn and leave when a loud voice boomed from behind her. "What are you doing here?" She whirled, flustered and took a step back toward the wall. "Mmm… Mr. Kingsbury! Sir!" Lydia's voice squeaked. "I was taking these linens to freshen up your room." Kingsbury stared at her, eyes narrowed. "As you can well see this is not my room or even the second floor!" He took a step toward her. "Spying on Miss Nellie are we?" It was like she was a child caught with her hand in the cookie jar, but worse. "No sir I just…" The back of his hand shot out so fast and hit so hard across the side of her face that she had no time to think. Lydia stared dumbly and felt the slow spread of heat on here face where the bruise was sure to appear. She had already turned and begun to flee down the attic hall as his angry words followed after her. "You need to learn your place and mind your own business girl!" He was saying something else but his words were muffled and cut off by the time she burst back out into the afternoon sun. Running across the open expanse between the house and the horse stable tears streaming, mouth set in hard line with a drop of blood in the corner, she vowed to herself that he would somehow regret striking her today…..
October 13th 1873 1:30pm
Lydia was cleaning the furniture in the conservatory. Putting down her duster she picked at the seed pod of the Yellow Oleander plant. Oleander was not common to New York and did not do well outdoors here but seemed to thrive indoors in the conservatory. The plant was a gift from one of her employer's business associates who owned a plantation down South. Myrtle or something like that she recalled. One thing she was sure of was that it was highly poisonous if ingested. The children were always warned not to go near theplant. The seeds were fuzzy. Like milkweed or a dandelion she remembered blowing on the wind in her childhood. She took a handful of these and picked the individual seeds from the fluffy parts and placed them in a small envelope in her blouse.
October 13th 1873 8:00pm
Jonathan Kingsbury was on his way to bed. One of his evening rituals before retiring for the night was to stop as he passed through the library and look in on Clara's dove. As he approached the cage it was obvious something was terribly wrong. The bird lay on its back with its feet in the air unmoving. Obviously dead. He peered closer and tried to imagine what could possibly have caused this. After all he had seen the bird earlier that morning and it had appeared healthy in every way. Then he noticed some abnormally large seeds in the bottom of the cage and in the food dish. Suddenly a single thought passed through his mind and he knew. Lydia! His face felt flushed and the rage began to boil up inside him……