Authors: Rachel Hore
Praise for Rachel Hore’s first novel
The Dream House
‘A beautifully written and magical novel about life, love and family . . . tender and funny, warm and wise, the story of one woman’s search for the perfect life which isn’t quite where she thought she would find it. I loved it!’
‘What a treat! I devoured it over the weekend. It’s so very real and utterly unputdownable’
‘I loved it. It’s brilliantly evocative, wonderfully romantic and it kept me guessing right through to the end. It was so engrossing, in fact, that I had to lock myself away most of the weekend so I could be allowed to finish it . . .
The Dream House
is also more than a little unnerving for those thousands of naive optimists (self included) who’ve recently downsized themselves’
‘I found this a totally absorbing, intriguing and romantic read, and the period detail, in particular, was beautifully evoked. A wonderfully atmospheric debut by a writer to watch’
The Dream House
is a book that so many of us will identify with. Moving from frenzied city to peaceful countryside is something so many of us dream of. Rachel Hore has explored the dream and exposed it in the bright light of reality, with repercussions both tragic and uplifting, adding her own dose of magic. It’s engrossing, pleasantly surprising and thoroughly readable’
‘I enjoyed it enormously and was genuinely disappointed when I got to the end, having read deep into the night to finish it because I couldn’t put it down! I was completely drawn to the plot. I thought it a wonderfully evocative and cleverly woven story’
‘Warm, very true to life and totally engrossing’
First published in Great Britain by Pocket Books UK, 2007
An imprint of Simon & Schuster UK Ltd
A CBS COMPANY
Copyright © Rachel Hore, 2007
This book is copyright under the Berne Convention.
No reproduction without permission.
® and © 1997 Simon & Schuster Inc. All rights reserved.
Pocket Books & Design is a registered trademark of Simon & Schuster Inc.
The right of Rachel Hore to be identified as author of this work has been asserted in accordance with sections 77 and 78 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988.
Simon & Schuster UK Ltd
London WC2B 6AH
Simon & Schuster Australia
A CIP catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library.
eBook ISBN: 978-1-4711-2717-5
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either a product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual people living or dead, events or locales is purely coincidental.
Typeset in Palatino by M Rules
Printed and bound in Grey
and to Ann Boase, Pearl’s granddaughter, p cs.in memory of his father,
We are here to learn both light and dark; without one the other cannot be. Black shows up the white, purple enhances yellow, rough gives value to smooth.
Dame Laura Knight,
Oil Paint and Grease Paint (1936)
Merryn Hall, Lamorna, Cornwall, TR20 9AB
Ms Melanie Pentreath
23a Southcote Road
London SW12 9BL
15 March 2006
Thanks for returning the agreement to rent the Gardener’s Cottage and for the cheque. I’m enclosing your receipt and a map giving directions from Penzance.
I’m looking forward to meeting you here at Merryn Hall next month. As I said on the phone, I shall probably still be up in London when you arrive, but Mrs Irina Peric, who looks after the place for me, will give you the key to the cottage. Could you ring her a couple of days beforehand on 01736 455836 to tell her when to expect you?
I’m sure you will find Lamorna a peaceful haven for your studies – it’s an enchanting place. As your sister will have told you, I have only recently inherited the Hall and you will see there is an awful lot of work to be done to the house and grounds. However, you should find the cottage is comfortable enough.
Merryn Hall, Lamorna
The Blue Anchor
Easter Monday, 1912
Dear Mrs Treglown,
My cook, Mrs Dolly Roberts, who I believe to be your sister-in-law, has let it be known that you are seeking a position for your girl and she assures me the young woman is sober, honest and industrious.
I have need of a general housemaid I can also train up as lady’s maid, and Pearl sounds most suitable. My gardener, Mr Boase, takes the trap to Penzance every market-day and, should it serve, can fetch her next Thursday from by the Davy statue at twelve noon. I can pay her twelve guineas but keep back 6d a month for her uniform.
I was most sincerely sorry to learn of your troubles.
Emily Carey (Mrs.)
Cornwall is a great place to lose yourself, Mel reflected with a sense of unease as she turned off the crackling car radio and peered through the rain-lashed windscreen into pitch darkness. She had simply no idea where she was going. Even at a snail’s pace, negotiating the meandering country lanes with their steep embankments was like steering on a rollercoaster, the stony hedgerows rearing up in the glare of the headlights with heart-stopping suddenness.
A mile and a half out of Newlyn, turn left past the pottery on the crossroads
, Patrick had scrawled in thick-nibbed fountain pen at the bottom of the photocopied map he had sent. But Mel hadn’t noticed a pottery sign in the dark and had veered left at what she hoped hadn’t been the wrong junction. Why did all these little roads appear to go round in circles, she asked herself crossly, and why were there hardly any signposts?
It was a pity this had proved such a nightmare journey, for Mel had been looking forward to this trip for ages. Ever since David Bell, the Senior Tutor at the college in South London where she was a lecturer in Art History, had suggested she take a term’s study leave. His words of warning still rang in her ears: ‘If you don’t have some time away, Mel, I’m frightened you’ll make yourself ill.’
There were more ways than one of losing your bearings, she thought miserably as she steered the car around yet another bend . . . what was
! She slammed her foot on the brake as a missile hurtled out of the dark. An owl – she glimpsed a dazzle of shiny eyes above a curved beak before the bird swerved off into the night a second before impact. Mel sat for a moment in shock, then, her heart still thumping, eased her foot off the brake and the car rolled forward once more. Only for her to lurch to a stop again around the next corner: a T-junction. Which way now, for goodness’ sake? She wrenched up the handbrake, glanced at the clock – eight-fifteen, it really was dark for an April evening – and stabbed on the navigation light.
In the weak beam Mel squinted at Patrick’s map, flexing her neck and shoulders against the beginnings of a headache. Her finger traced the faint lines of roads all running into one another, then along the one she was seeking. It zig-zagged past Merryn Hall, before turning left through the village of Lamorna and down to Lamorna Cove itself.
She wound down the window and leaned out, shivering, peering through the rain for a signpost, a landmark, to match up with the map. But there was nothing. She must be very near Lamorna now, surely, but if she wasn’t careful she might be driving around all night. She took her duffel bag from the passenger well and scrabbled about for her mobile, then tapped in the contact number Patrick had underlined at the top of the map. The words ‘no network coverage’ flashed up on the screen.
I wish Jake were here
. The treacherous voice crept unbidden into her mind. Jake had a knack with maps and cars as well as with cats and televisions. Unfortunately, in the end, he hadn’t had a knack with Mel. Jake was gone and she would have to get out of this mess by herself.
The thought gave her resolve. It was a nuisance, but she would just have to retrace her route. Hoping another car wasn’t going to careen around the corner at this particular moment, she executed a five-point turn in the small space available and set off back the way she had come. Luck was on her side, for after a few minutes she found what she had missed the first time – a narrow road leading off to the left.
Lamorna was in a valley, so her hopes rose when the road started to wind downhill, the hedges towering on either side. After a while the slope became steeper, the twists in the road more regular and every ounce of her concentration was required to keep the car on the road. At least the rain seemed to be easing.
She began to look out for signs of habitation. A short while later, the hedgerow on her side gave way to a low stone wall lined with trees. Soon a pair of gate-posts loomed in the darkness. She slowed the car. Could this be it? She lowered the side window to look. A battered board, half-covered in ivy, hung lop-sided from one post. The words ‘
’ were just visible on the cracked paint. Relief flooded through her as she swung the car between the posts.
Pitch black. No, she could glimpse a small blur of light, there, in the distance between the black hulks of trees. The headlights picked out a winding muddy drive full of potholes and lined with great banks of vegetation on either side.
The rain had stopped at last and she bumped the car down the drive for a couple of hundred yards until, before her, the yellow glow of a porch lantern picked out two great columns of a Georgian portal. At its base, three semicircular steps rippled out towards a battered flagstoned forecourt grown up with weeds. The porch light was the only sign of life.
Mel hesitated, then parked at the edge of the forecourt and switched off the engine. She sat for a moment listening, gazing around, trying not to think about all those corny Gothic horror films she had watched as a teenager, the ones in which the heroine arrives at the dark deserted castle on a stormy night, seeking sanctuary, only for the front door to creak open and the terror to begin . . .
Pull yourself together, she thought. There are no vampires in Cornwall.
As far as you know
. . . the words, spoken in a creepy voice, as frequently rehearsed by her brother William when they were children, floated into her mind.
Oh, don’t be silly, she remonstrated with herself. There is no point sitting here if you want supper and somewhere to sleep. So she pushed open the car door.
The only sound was the dripping of rain on leaves. The house waited in the damp darkness, the glass in the windows reflecting ebony in the porch light. She could just make out a pattern of crenellations in the stone, like castle battlements, high above the porch, disappearing left and right into the gloom. Trees, shrubs and brambles grew right up to the Hall on either side of the courtyard, and indeed across the front of the house so that in the dark she could gain only a limited sense of the scope of the frowning building. The cumulative effect was of desolation and decay, and of something more ominous.
The last drops of Mel’s little stock of courage drained away. There was hardly need to knock on the door, for the house was clearly empty. After her long journey from one world into another there was no one to meet her, no welcome. Just this great hulk of a place that almost willed her to go away.