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The Old Rose Garden

A Victorian Romance and Erotica short story
by Lady T. L. Jennings

I ran out of the house through the servants’ entrance, not caring if anyone saw me or what they would think.

It is not like they care, and they will probably only pretend that they did not see me anyway! I thought bitterly as I crossed the large lawn at the rear of the house. I knew, of course, that everyone at Halifax manor were all used to both me and my odd behaviour.

Without caring about the thin crepe fabric of my day dress or the light slippers that were not meant to be worn outdoors, I climbed down the moss-covered stonewall to the ha-ha that kept the sheep from getting too close to the main house. A few grazing sheep scurried away from me and skedaddled to safety in the long grass next to the wooden fence that enclosed the kitchen garden.

I did not stop running until I had left the narrow path that led diagonally through the meadow and I reached the rather rusty iron-wrought gate in the high flagstone wall that surrounded the rose garden. I paused, a little bit out of breath. My left arm still trembled slightly; however, as I gradually calmed down, it only shuddered occasionally.

Slowly I reached for the worn iron latch and opened the gate, which creaked softly and welcomingly, before I stepped in to the quiet old rose garden.


We had always simply called it “the old rose garden” for as long as I could remember.

It was our grandmother’s sister, Lucinda, an avid gardener, who first established it. According to my mother, there had always been roses growing in the little garden that was next to the gamekeeper’s cottage; however, it was Lucinda who transformed it into a magnificent rose garden with pergola arches and garden obelisks for the roses to climb along, and built a round pond surrounded by marble statues in the middle of the garden.

As a child I remembered how lush and splendid the garden used to be and that we siblings loved to play “Tag” or “British bulldogs” together along the gravel paths: Stuart, Martha, Anne, and me.

Lucinda must have been something of a pioneer when it came to modern Victorian gardening some fifty years ago, because not only did she redirect the nearby brook to meander through the parks and gardens and arrange for a small lake to be dug, she also landscaped more or less the entire grounds of the estate before I was born.

In addition, Lucinda also built a winter garden and two large glass-covered conservatories that used to be filled with all kinds of exotic plants from all over the world, and although we children were not really allowed to go there, on more than one occasion we sneaked through the glass windows and breathlessly walked around in the hot and humid glass building to look at all the strange flowers that Lucinda called “orchids” and steal sweet oranges and figs. We learned that forbidden fruit always tasted the best and swore solemnly never to tell anyone about it.

Halifax manor had never been an impressively large estate and was not particularly old or famous: it was a two-hundred-and-fifty-year-old two-storey stone building with a main hall and two adjacent pavilion wings and a grey shingle roof made out of slate. However, it was not the actual manor that had drawn people from all of Yorkshire to come and visit.

During her lifetime, Lucinda had managed to make Halifax manor more or less famous for its extraordinary landscaped parkland. In fact, when we were young, there were even a group of members from the Botanical Society in London that came all the way to little Thornton in Yorkshire to marvel at the park and gardens and to ask Lucinda for all kinds of advice and recommendations.

But that was more than fifteen years ago. Lucinda passed away gently in her sleep about a year before my strange accident in August of 1844. The entire household went into mourning, of course, but during the years that followed, no one took over the task of taking care of the parkland, and gradually it began to grow more and more wild.

The conservatories were closed now, and some of the glass panels had been broken, and it was filled with cobwebs and dead and withering plants, and only God knew what kind of small creatures had moved in there instead.

The front of the estate was still reasonably presentable, and the lawns and the hedges that were closest to the main house were regularly being cut down with scythes and pruned; however, pretty much the rest of the parkland behind the manor, including the old rose garden, had been more or less abandoned. But I cannot say that I really minded that the old rose garden had been left alone to grow however it liked. The weeds and vines had long ago claimed the moss-covered marble statues around the circular stone pond, which was filled with some sort of green algae that had killed most of the water lilies.

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Copyright © 2013 Lady T. L. Jennings