The Withering Maze (Excerpt)
As the winter months began to wane, Vincent instructed a London gardener to design an ambitious hedge maze to be cultivated at the front of the Withering estate. The children, who were ordered to stay away from the site, would watch from the window as the routes of the labyrinth were mapped out and planted. Meticulously woven pathways would begin to take shape as baby hedgerows were placed into renewed soil which had lain lifeless for so long. The gardeners worked methodically and precise, completing the plans within a short time. Of course, it wasn’t much use to begin with, the hedges so low and bare, so the children patiently waited, watching growth of bud and leaf as they multiplied, slowly winding upwards to the sky. At first, only Joy could be hidden within it and shortly after the twins, if they crouched down enough. Then as the sun went up and down and the moon beamed its effervescent glow on the nights, weeks and months, Alex would soon disappear inside, the vast green blocks towering over him like living walls. The buzz of crickets and fireflies in the cool twilight air. The echo of intrigue folded into the blankets of passing clouds. In the centre was a fountain of two black swans intertwined, water flowing up through elegant, circular necks in a steady stream, frothy and white. The children would spend hours inside losing themselves, running aimlessly in and out of the cool corridors accompanied only by the silent moonlight and their shadows.
As the summer arrived, it had become taller than Papa and was now a chief focal point of the grounds, a handsome asset which had warranted a popular London magazine to feature. Embedded within the tall hedges were rose bushes which now bloomed red, pink and white, creating a look of paradise, an entrance into a secret box of jewels. A photograph of the maze with the children in the foreground was published the month following which led to multiple letters of enquiry requesting visits, tours and questions about the history of the family and the castle. Vincent decided against opening the grounds to the public and declined offers from local authorities looking to capitalise on the historical property. “Not until my family are dead and buried”, he remarked, “ I will allow such an invasion. Until then, this remains a family home, a private dwelling and not for profit nor nosiness of those wholly unconnected to the Witherings.” Family was sacred to him and so was the castle, his land. Mere stone and soil yet where so many before him had lived and died. A consequence of his recent dealings, he now trusted few and loathed many.
excerpt from my novel, ‘The Curse of Withering Moor’