She couldnâ€™t help it. â€œMine, mine, mine, all mine,â€ Dinah sang, reaching out to embrace the entire property.
â€œWrong, wrong, wrong, all wrong,â€ said Cheryl, one of the concrete pieces of evidence that the plantation known as Chestnutt Grove was in fact owned by the state, on the National Register of Historic Places, and in fact, Dinahâ€™s employer. Cheryl Lassiter, intern and part-time docent at Chestnutt Grove, sat in a large white chair behind her, a history text clutched in her arms.
â€œWhat do you say we knock off early?â€ said Dinah.
â€œCanâ€™t be done,â€ said Cheryl, younger by too many decades.
â€œWhy not? Nobodyâ€™s here.â€
â€œTour bus due in at 2:00.â€
â€œOh damn. Well, who is it? Maybe we can quick close up before they get here.â€
â€œUh,â€ said Cheryl, checking the schedule she was using as a bookmark. â€œWinterhaven Active Adult Community.â€
â€œActive Adult?â€ asked Dinah. â€œThat sounds threatening. Oh well, at least itâ€™s not kids. I hate kids.â€
â€œUgh,â€ said Cheryl. â€œYou donâ€™t know the elderly. At least the kidsâ€™ leaders have some control.â€
â€œWatch it now, Iâ€™m not that far from elderly myself.â€
â€œPlus this will be Mrs. Treacher. Sheâ€™ll want to set up a stretch of tours for the year. Make sure she pays for last quarter. Bill could always get her check, but since heâ€™s been gone, no good,â€ said Cheryl. â€œAnd, that reminds me, she doesnâ€™t know about Bill.â€
â€œShe doesnâ€™t know about Bill?â€
â€œYeah. We didnâ€™t tell her; youâ€™ll guess why shortly. So if she asks... what time is it?â€
Dinah walked into the house and looked at the ormolu clock erratically ticking on the fireplace mantel. Tick, tiiiick, tick, tick, tiiick. â€œOh, damn, itâ€™s almost 2:00 now, too late.â€
The unmistakable groan and wheeze of a hydraulic brake system could be heard in the distance behind the live oaks, and shortly the silver monster pulled into the drive and directed itself toward the building. At precisely two oâ€™clock, the bus stopped in front of the house. The bus door slid open and a tall, sveldt blonde with a megaphone stepped out, and aimed her megaphone into the bus.
â€œThis way ladies, and you too, Mr. Palmer,â€ she announced.
A clutch of women dressed in brightly colored track suits and golf visors descended from the steps of the bus, accompanied by a single man, clothed in a brown suit. A small subset of the women clustered around him, chattering.
â€œThis is Chestnutt Grove, next on our tour of central Louisiana plantation housesâ€ announced the blonde.
â€œMrs. Treacher,â€ identified Cheryl to Dinah, and headed down the stairs of the gallery.
Mrs. Treacher continued through her megaphone. â€œIt was built in the late 18th century by a third cousin of Thomas Jeffersonâ€”yes that Thomas Jefferson, Mrs. Appleyâ€”as part of a sugar plantation.â€ She took the megaphone away from her lips. â€œNow where is that girl?â€ she said irritably. Her voice, a full-throated strident sound which carried perfectly well without mechanical aid echoed up the stairs.
Cheryl reached the main gallery.
â€œAh, Sherrie, how nice to see you again,â€ said the blonde, insincerely.
â€œMrs. Treacher, welcome back,â€ said Cheryl. â€œAs Mrs. Treacher told you, Chestnutt Grove was built in 1795 by Charles Jefferson, a relative of Thomas Jeffersonâ€™s, who left Virginia in rather less-than honorable circumstances with a great deal of money.â€
The sound of Cherylâ€™s voice disappeared into the first floor of the house with a trail of tourists behind her. Dinah climbed down the gallery stairs and introduced herself to the blonde.
â€œHow do you do, Iâ€™m Dinah Simmons, new manager of Chestnutt Grove.â€
â€œOh,â€ said Mrs. Treacher. â€œWhat happened to Bill, I mean, Mr. Shepherd?â€
â€œIâ€™m not sure,â€ lied Dinah. â€œI believe heâ€™s returned to North Carolina.â€
Mrs. Treacherâ€™s face fell. â€œWhat a shame,â€ she said. â€œYou donâ€™t happen to know his current address, do you?â€
â€œNo, Iâ€™m afraid I donâ€™t. Would you like to set up the seasonâ€™s tour schedule?â€
â€œYes, that would be fine, Diane. Do you mind if I call you Diane?â€
"Why not?" said Dinah, as she led the way into the office.
Created by. Last Modification: Saturday 31 of January, 2004 16:18:17 UTC by .