THE CHAPEL A novel by Sheila Willar Copyright 2016 Sheila Willar ISBN 978-0-9867101-4-8
CHAPTER 5 ............................ THE CHAPEL
Erin was anxious about the visit to Mrs. Mancinni's so she asked Kelly to go with her. Early the next morning a sleek black car drove them into the country, and after about an hour they arrived at a secluded driveway that led down a virtual tunnel of lush green oak trees. They stopped in front of a large stone house with floor to ceiling double glass doors. Mrs. Mancinni who was dressed in swaths of lemon and lime, came to greet them and descended a wide set of steps one at a time, with the help of her grand-daughter Errin.
They laughed at the fact that the two girls had the same name and similar looks. Mrs. A quickly corralled Erin to herself and asked her grand-daughter to take Kelly to see the horses at the stables. Erin dearly loved horses and wished that she could trade places with Kelly.
Errin with two “rr’s” was the daughter of Mrs. Mancinni’s oldest son, Alexander. He travelled constantly with his father, John, and together they were the underpinning of the company. Nearly every waking moment they spent hunting for stone that was “hewn from heaven”. John was very particular about what he wanted and often purchased the entire quarry, and over several decades had acquired a majority of the best in the world, and had taught his sons the spirit, soul and body of the stone business.
While Alexander and John circumnavigated the globe, Mrs. A had schemes of her own. She was determined to make her absentee husband return home long enough to renew their marriage vows, and she was going to do it with the help of a young girl from Ireland. John’s favourite stone was “Irish Blue” and Mrs. A had just bought the quarry in Kinkerry as a wedding gift for him. In addition, she was going to have Erin-from-Kinkerry restore the Irish Blue flooring that was in the wedding chapel on their estate.
Mrs. Mancinni led Erin along paths that were lined with canopies of rhododendrons and past mounds of aster, dianthus and phlox. They meandered through herb gardens dotted with topiaries of hydrangea and cedar, and hurried by raised beds of tufted, powder puff flowers meant for drying. Erin wanted to stop and literally smell the roses but her host had other plans, as Astor rushed them through the maze of trails as if they were late for a meeting. Eventually they came to a stop when they reached a tall, ivy covered rock wall with a weathered wooden gate in the middle.
Mrs. A smiled and motioned for Erin to go through first. As Erin opened the door her mouth dropped open. The sweeping view revealed a twenty-five acre hillside meadow of tall amber wheat grasses that kissed a sapphire blue summer sky on the horizon.
In the centre of the meadow almost hidden by tall oak trees, stood the most lovely stone chapel that Erin had ever seen. Its profile was so low that it could almost pass as a root cellar, but the central spire gave it away. Erin couldn’t hide her excitement and asked if she could run ahead.
“Go on!” encouraged Mrs. A with a visible sigh of relief.
When Erin reached the chapel it flickered in the dappled light from the trees, and wild flowers were everywhere. Yellow buttercups were spread randomly throughout the chapel yard and patches of ocean blue forget-me-nots filled the shadows that lay under the eaves. A gentle breeze made the whole image sway back and forth as if to say “welcome.”
She had never seen such an exquisite example of a country chapel. It was shaped like a cross and had been built from large, heavy grey, granite stones that looked as if they had been tumbled to soften the edges. The window sills, cornerstones and mouldings were also of a large scale and gave a solid feeling to the structure. It looked as if nothing could unseat its grip on the countryside.
The weathered V-shape slate roof sat with grace under the soft shade of the oak trees that criss-crossed their limbs above its peak. In its centre stood a weathered wooden cross with a petit bell tower at its base.
Mrs. Mancinni made her way to the chapel huffing and puffing and said, “It was all brought here from Ireland. Every piece of it.”
There were four sets of doors, one on each side, and they entered through the front. Erin followed Mrs. A down the main aisle to stand under a candle chandelier that hung at the centre point of the doorways.
“Look down,” urged Mrs. A. “This is why I brought you here.”
Beneath them lay a circular shaped layer of Irish Blue limestone that had seen better days.
“I need you to repair it,” said Astor simply, as if Erin was completely up to speed with her intentions.
“Repair what?” asked Erin, still not getting the whole picture.
“The Irish Blue of course,” stated Mrs. A. “It’s the original flooring that was brought over from Ireland. It’s damaged and needs to be fixed. Right away!”
Erin gazed at the Irish Blue stonework and immediately knew what Mrs. Mancinni was talking about. It looked as if the foundation under the stone had become loose, and as a result some of the tiles had broken, and others had obvious fracture lines and were about to break.
“I need it done now,” repeated Mrs. A in earnest.
Erin had no idea how to repair the stone and was about to say so when a monk, dressed in a brown robe with an ivory coloured rope belt, walked into the chapel from a side entrance.
Mrs. A sang out, “Oh Fenton. How are you today?” and “Did you get the tea that Lilly left for you?”
Erin thought, “Why shouldn’t she have her very own monk?”
Without so much as a nod, Mrs. A and Fenton disappeared out the south entrance and spent the rest of the day planning the wedding.
Mrs. A and Fenton met at a funeral just outside of Rome a few weeks ago. She had picked away at the armour of his life and managed to talk him into returning with her to New York to perform the ceremony.
Erin reached into her canvas satchel and pulled out a notebook, mechanical pencil, a measuring tape and a digital camera that her “Uncle” Michael had given her just before she left for university in Dublin. “Take lots of pictures,” he told her with a wistful smile. He had paid for the tuition and boarding for her and her siblings to go to university. Where he got the money from, nobody knew, but he provided scholarships for most of the students in Kinkerry.
After a few moments of daydreaming, Erin measured the broken tiles, drew the layout of the entire floor plan of the chapel, and took dozens of pictures with varying angles and advantages of light.
Then, as she packed up her things, a tiny wisp of dust fell on her nose and she heard a voice say, “Look up.” In a reflex response she peered up through the centre of the chandelier and for one immeasurably small instant, she thought she saw a perfect white light. It was so bright and pure and almost “living” that she wanted to scream out loud but caught herself and held her breath instead.
She was shocked by the light and grabbed her canvas bag and ran out of the chapel, and kept on running as she picked her way back towards the main house by remembering the gardens and sculptures that she had seen earlier. She caught caught a glimpse of the weathervane on top of the stable and felt a sense of relief, in hopes that Kelly and Errin would be there.
It had been a strange day and friends and horses were exactly what she needed to soothe her rattled soul.