"Over here," she said, again leading the way to the left. "Look!"
Another portion of an exterior wall had been cut away. Through its jagged edges, about the size of a double door, I expected to catch a glimpse of the outside, the library's deep backyard.
Instead another room lay beyond the opening. Approximately twice the size of the storeroom, it was fully furnished with a narrow maple daybed, two tables, two blue folding chairs and a floor lamp with a black iron base. A layer of dust covered every surface and cobwebs festooned the corners.
My initial impression was of color, shades of blue with touches of green, rose-red and yellow. Stripes and plaids, white lace and florals. It reminded me of a room in a museum, possibly a scene from a storybook, painstakingly re-created and set apart for posterity. Only this room had been hidden from view. Deliberately hidden.
Walled up. Unbidden, the two words echoed in my mind, conjuring an illusion of mysteries and dark secrets.
Ah, Jennet, I thought, you've read too many Gothic novels.
All the same, I seemed to have stepped into one.
"Well, Jennet, what do you think?" Miss Eidt asked.
"It's beautiful," I said. "A sort of tiny bedroom-sitting room. Or a guestroom, maybe? But why didn't you move the furniture out and use it for the library?"
"I didn't know this room was here," she said. "All these years, behind the storeroom... I never dreamed..."
"But how could you not know? You lived here."
She shrugged. "My father took care of storing the summer furniture. If I thought about it at all, this was just a room that never needed cleaning."
"Do you think he knew about the hidden room?"
"Well, I can't say. But I don't think so."
Something was wrong; there was some disconnect. "Wasn't this your family home?" I asked.
"Yes, but we weren't the original owners. My parents bought the house when I was five or six. The room could have been here then. It probably was."
"But what about the floor plan? It seems to me that from the outside you could tell there was more space than a storeroom would account for."
"I guess I never wondered."
That was like Miss Eidt, not to concern herself with architectural oddities.
"Besides there are climbing roses on the outside wall," she added. "They've been there for ages."
"Then it really is a mystery," I said.
"When I woke up this morning, for a moment I thought I'd dreamed the room. Then I remembered. It's real. That's one of the reasons I thought of you. I said to myself, 'Jennet can figure it out.' Who went to such lengths to conceal its existence behind the storeroom, why it was hidden away, when this happened."
"You give me too much credit," I said, "but can we go inside and look around?"
"Yes, but watch where you step. There may be nails on the floor. Tim Anderson--he's my contractor--was going to knock the whole wall down, but I wanted you to see the room first. Just as we saw it. Nothing's been disturbed. I didn't touch anything."
We stepped over the threshold into the dim silence, almost afraid to move. At least, that was my reaction. I had an eerie feeling someone had just left the room and that person would return any minute demanding to know the reason for our intrusion.
How silly! No one had been in this pretty room for decades. The air was close and dusty. Miss Eidt sneezed and held a white handkerchief to her face.
I stood entranced by the room's appointments, noticing items and details I'd missed at first glance. The sleigh bed was made up in blue gingham and white with a red flowered duvet. The small rustic table near the bed looked as if it had been fashioned by hand from logs and twigs. It held a book and a framed, sepia-toned photograph of a young man. A beribboned straw hat lay on one of the chairs, and there were blue and white striped bows everywhere.
The vase in the center of the table was empty, as was a tarnished silver tea service complete with two bone china teacups in a busy floral pattern.
"I'd like a room exactly like this in my house," I said, already planning which one to convert and where I would buy the furnishings and decorations.
Miss Eidt picked up the vase. It was obviously expensive, heavy crystal with a starburst pattern. "The bottom is stained, discolored. I wonder if there were fresh flowers in it all those years ago."
"I doubt it. They'd still be here, even if they had crumbled to powder."
She ran her hand along the log table's top, leaving a swirl in the dust, circumventing the photograph. "There should have been flowers," she said.
The room had no window. Small squares of spring flowers done in needlepoint and framed in gold adorned the walls. They blossomed in terra cotta pots and glistened in baskets. You could almost think you were in a garden.
"Look at this painting, Jennet," Miss Eidt said.
I'd just noticed it, the one picture that didn't depict flowers. A young auburn-haired girl in an old-fashioned cream-colored dress sat on a bench in an arbor, a book in her lap, a cascade of dark pink roses tumbling down the white wall behind her.
At her feet lay a snowy-ruffed collie with fur the color of my imagined gold nuggets. The dog's eyes were fixed on a white gate in the background, on some unseen thing behind the gate.
It was one of those sentimental turn-of-the-century paintings like my cherished picture of the bi-color collie and the child with the doll. Flowers, children or a dreamy maiden, a collie--all things beautiful. Those were favorite subjects for the old time artists.
A strong, strange desire to possess the painting gripped me.
wanting you to see the room," Miss Eidt said. "It's the collie."