You pass through the arch with the fox and unicorn, Lionel’s and the Queen’s crests combined. The house is square, low. You walk under the long, imposing loggia of arches to the enormous wooden door – oak, long ago bleached white-grey. They say a baby elephant could fit through those doors – at least, that is what my grandmother used to tell me – but, like all her stories, one never quite knew if it was true or not. There is a statue of Lionel himself on the outer wall of the East Wing, in an alcove, hands on hips, beard pointed and bristling, as if to remind his guests of his importance. His head is missing. He has bombasted breeches, great stone rings on each finger, an intricately carved sword, but no head.
Our greatest treasure is not inside the house, however, but flanks it: the garden, a hidden paradise, laid out by my ancestors, cultivated and developed until it has become like nowhere else. Pineapple pits, the rarest blooms, the strangest trees, like alien creatures, a scent like perfume heady in the air. It is filled with our secrets, marvels that are too strange to relate here. The gardens slope up behind the house towards a meadow, and in front of the house they lead down towards the creek. Behind the head of the river and up to the harsher north coast of the country, in the moors, are the tin and copper mines, the source of our wealth for so many years and now long abandoned, sold or closed.
In summer the river and the sea are sometimes sluggish. The
house is warm and dry, shaded by the trees which hug it close, the ivy and creepers that try to pull the house to the ground. In autumn the mists swirl around it and winds fly in through the windows and we shutter ourselves in, boarded up for winter. We are protected against the worst of the storms and the cold.
That is why the butterflies came.
You follow the hidden creek towards a long-forgotten house.
They call it Keepsake, a place full of wonder … and danger. Locked inside the crumbling elegance of its walls lies the story of the Butterfly Summer, a story you’ve been waiting all your life to hear.
This house is Nina Parr’s birthright. It holds the truth about her family – and a chance to put everything right at last.