I wrote in a previous blog post about how information brings inspiration, that is, how doing research has led to different elements in my stories. You can find the post here if you would like to refer back to it. Today I am writing about how one experience brought about some inspiration.
As most of you know, in the current WIP, Mr. Darcy’s Rival, Anne de Bourgh is an author who has written a novel entitled, A Peculiar Engagement. In that story, which I am posting on this blog, a turret on top of Rosings comes into play. You can read that segment from A Peculiar Engagement here. The turret also has a small part to play in Mr. Darcy’s Rival.
My inspiration for the turret came about because of a Bed and Breakfast my husband and I stayed at, called Castle Inn Riverside, in Wichita. It was built in the late 1800s and is beautiful! We were given a one night stay as a gift, and we went in January, a few weeks after Christmas. The proprietors lived in the carriage house, which was located behind the castle. That is where we went to check in.
When we got there, we were told something very interesting. There was no one else staying at the Castle Inn that night. We would be all alone.
The proprietor took us over to the castle, and gave us a tour of the main rooms and took us up to our room, which was The English Room (which I had chosen). Since no one else was staying there, we were able to peek in each of the twelve bedrooms. Some Christmas decorations were still up, which made it nice, and after giving us a few more instructions, the owner left, saying she would later bring in an evening snack, and in the morning she would have coffee ready for us when we got up. Breakfast would be served around eight o’clock.
I must tell you, it was almost scary. Not in a way we were really afraid, but in the sense that it was exactly the situation you would see in a murder mystery: a big old house, heavy dark furniture and draperies, leaded windows, and – believe it or not – somewhat odd proprietors. But pushing that aside, I decided to grab my lap top and camera, and go through the house, writing down my thoughts, descriptions of the rooms, and maybe even the beginning of a plot.
There was much inspiration to be found here, but I was fascinated with the turret. As you can see from the picture, there were windows that went all around, making it quite light and cheery. But at the top, there were only a few smaller circular windows (you can barely see the top window in the picture at the left). As I looked out the windows, I knew someday I wanted a turret to play a part in one of my stories.
I wrote about the turret in Anne’s story first. Then I knew I had to go back and include it in Mr. Darcy’s Rival, as well. I thought I would include an excerpt where the turret comes into play from that book. As you read, you may readily guess that Mr. Rickland is Darcy’s rival.
Here is the excerpt:
“Mr. Rickland, I am most curious about the turret on the west end of Rosings. Do you know what is up there?” Elizabeth asked.
Mr. Rickland jumped to his feet. “I do! Would you ladies like to go up to it? The prospect from atop it is exceedingly grand, and not only that, there is a telescope that allows you to see for miles in all directions.”
“I should like that very much!” Elizabeth said, clasping her hands together. “Charlotte, Maria, would you like to go?”
Charlotte shook her head. “I will decline, but I am certain Maria would enjoy it.” She turned to her sister. “The two of you can go, and I will wait here for you.”
As the three walked across the lane to Rosings, Mr. Rickland told them a little more about the turret. “Lady Catherine does not allow anyone to even mention the turret, as that is where her husband died.”
Maria’s eyes widened and she came to a halt. “Really? He died up in the turret? Do they know what happened to him?” Her face paled as she was likely imagining all the horrors that may have transpired up there, as Elizabeth knew her to be fond of Gothic novels.
Mr. Rickland gave a quick wink to Elizabeth. “Well, now that you mention it, his death was quite odd. No one missed him for three days, and when he was found, he had been stabbed several times and had written three initials with his own blood before he died.” He shook his head slowly and let out a moan. “Dreadful affair.”
Maria began to shake. “I think I shall return to the parsonage. I do not want to go up anymore.” She turned to leave, but stopped and looked back. “Whose initials did he write?”
Mr. Rickland and Elizabeth began to laugh. “I was teasing, Miss Lucas. He did die up there, but strictly from natural causes. The turret is perfectly harmless!” “
No terror shall befall us, Maria,” Elizabeth assured her.
“I shall protect you both!” Mr. Rickland said gallantly, raising an arm as if hoisting up a sword. “But seriously, my aunt wants no one to mention it in her or her daughter’s presence. She does not even want anyone to go up there, but I own that sometimes we sneak up there anyway. As both she and my cousin are from home, it is the perfect opportunity to see it.”
Once at Rosings, they had to walk down to the west end of the manor and take the stairs up to the third floor. Rickland led them to a spiral staircase.
“Oh, my!” Elizabeth said. “I have never seen anything like this!” She began to climb the stairs, eager to get to the very top of the turret. As she ascended, she heard Maria begin to voice her doubts again.
“It is quite ominous looking up there,” Maria said. “I read a book once that had a spiral staircase.”
Elizabeth halted with the intention of encouraging her, but then continued up when she heard Mr. Rickland’s gentle voice soothe the young girl. “I promise you, no harm will befall you. It is light and bright and quite airy up there.”
Elizabeth reached the top of the stairs and took the few steps to the door, which was slightly closed. She gave it a gentle push and walked in. The sight of the surrounding windows looking out in every direction delighted her. Unfortunately, she was looking to the north as she turned to move in the opposite direction.
She was suddenly hurled forward, having tripped on an immovable object. Before she could even turn her head to see what had caused her to stumble, arms went about her, preventing her fall. She inexplicably found herself in the lap of Mr. Darcy.
He stared at her for a moment, appearing somewhat dazed, still holding her tight.
Elizabeth gasped at the sight before her. It appeared as though Mr. Darcy had been reclining in the chair up in the turret, quite informally attired. He wore only a shirt and breeches. The sleeves of his shirt were unbuttoned and rolled up, and his feet – which she had tripped over – were stretched out before him. He must have fallen asleep reading, as Elizabeth also found herself sitting on a book.
When Mr. Darcy did not immediately release her, Elizabeth said firmly, “I believe, Mr. Darcy, that you may let go of me now. I should be steady on my feet… as long as yours are out of the way.”
He suddenly seemed to gain control of his senses and removed his arms from around her, but not before Mr. Rickland and Maria stepped in. The young lady’s eyes widened and a blush tinged her cheeks.
“Darcy! Unhand Miss Bennet immediately!” Rickland demanded.
Elizabeth quickly stood up and stepped away. “I tripped…”
“And I caught her,” Darcy added indignantly. He stood up and looked down at himself, suddenly realizing what he was wearing. “Pray forgive my attire. I did not expect anyone to come up here.”
“So it seems.” Mr. Rickland frowned and his brows pinched together. “Well, Darcy, it appears as though this is at least the second time being up in the turret has contributed to you behaving rather shamefully.”
Darcy clenched his jaw. “It would have been more shameful had I not caught her. What would you have me do, leave her to fall?”
“I am quite all right,” Elizabeth said. “Mr. Darcy acted in all prudence and was most proper.” She paused and then lifted a single brow and smiled. “Perhaps he alone must defend himself for this other offense, for I know not what it was, but I fear,” she said with a soft chuckle, glancing down at his attire, “that we cannot extend any mercy towards him for his choice of attire.” She turned to Mr. Rickland. “And what was that first offense he committed?”
Mr. Rickland leaned against the wall and crossed his arms in front of him. “I understand that he and his two cousins came up here once without permission, upsetting my uncle greatly.” He glared at Darcy, and in an accusing voice, asked, “And were you found holding Anne in your lap that day?”
Darcy’s jaw tensed. “Anne and I were no more than eight, and Fitzwilliam was ten. We were playing war and came up here to shoot at our enemies.”
“And using our uncle’s brand new telescope, if I recollect.”
Elizabeth let out a soft laugh. “Were there many enemies, Mr. Darcy? Did you save Rosings from marauding enemy troops?”
Darcy pinched his lips together. “I like to think we did. At that age, it was fun, but I confess, I should have known better.”
“So Mr. Darcy has exonerated himself in two of the three accusations.” Elizabeth gave a toss of her head. “I suppose he can also be forgiven for dressing so informally as he did not anticipate encountering anyone.”
“That is true, and I appreciate your clemency. My aunt and Anne will not step foot in the turret because it is where our uncle died. They found him in the chair. At first they thought he was asleep, he looked so peaceful.”
“In that chair?” Maria gasped and shrunk back.
“Actually, no,” Darcy said. “We thought it best to get rid of the chair, and I bought a new one. But still they will not come up here. If we do not come up here, no one will.” He looked at Rickland. “I assume they are from home.”
Rickland nodded. “They are.”
“That is a shame. The view from up here is beautiful.” Elizabeth pointed to the telescope. “May I look through it?”
Darcy extended his arm, and Elizabeth walked over to it. She leaned down and put her eye up to it.
“Oh!” she said suddenly. “It is aimed directly at the parsonage garden!” She began to laugh. “I can see Mr. Collins meticulously picking weeds!” She pulled back and eyed Mr. Darcy. “Can it be that you were spying on him to discover his secrets to gardening?”
Darcy’s face clouded over, and he looked down. His hand came up and rubbed his jaw.
“I hope you do not suspect him of being an enemy.” She put her eye back to the telescope and looked around.
“May I see?” Maria asked.
Elizabeth stepped away, allowing her young friend to look through it. She then turned back to Mr. Darcy with a taunting look. “I certainly hope you do not consider me an enemy, as I was out in the garden earlier, as well!”
Mr. Darcy’s posture stiffened, and he muttered, “I certainly do not.”
Elizabeth could readily see his discomfiture at being teased and turned back to gaze out towards the park. “If I had a turret, I would likely stay up in it all day!” She laughed. “Of course I would require a telescope.” She gave her head a quick shake. “And a good book!”
“And a more excellent prospect would prove to be much more interesting,” Mr. Rickland added. He then turned to Darcy, and Elizabeth noticed an accusatory tone in his voice, despite speaking again to her. “I think perhaps you would find things more interesting to look at than a parsonage garden.”
A side note: The Castle Inn Riverside was recently put up on auction, but as far as I know, no one has purchased it, and it is no longer offered as a bed and breakfast. Maybe one of the readers here would feel inclined to buy it!
Hope you enjoyed! Watch for more information coming soon about a release date, hopefully later this summer.