A bored debutante follows a figure down a forbidden corridor
The Smell of Lilacs
I hated these types of events. There was nothing good about them. All it was were a bunch of high-class snobs looking to make themselves look better in front of other high-class snobs. Looking at the crowd twirling and dancing, I thought, If this were one of my novels there would be a mysterious gentleman sneaking in here at the last moment after secretly stealing from some of these snobs to give to the poor. I shook my head at the thought. Novels were just that, novels. The only secrets any of these people were keeping were how many villas their daddies kept. I sighed at the long evening ahead of me and wondered just how I had let my sister talk me into this when I knew she was just going to abandon me as soon as we reached the ballroom.
So I stood like the wallflower I knew myself to be until something caught my eye. A figure disappearing into the hallway. I thought, How odd? I thought the earl and his duchess were known for never letting guests passed the ballroom and outer gardens? In that moment, I thought of the heroines of my novels. Of stories like Jane Eyre and poems like “The Lady of Shalott.” These women did not allow something like fear to stop their curiosity. And sure one discovered that her suitor had a mad-woman for a wife and the other gave up her life, but at least they got to truly live and when had I ever done that? Besides, what is the worst that could happen?
With that thought and before, I could convince myself otherwise, I carefully inched my way towards the corridor that held the figure that had disappeared. Once I had successfully entered said corridor, I turned left and began to walk. If there was one good thing about these balls, it was the dancing slippers that all respectable ladies had to don. After I had walked quite a distance, I smelled something that had no business being in an earl’s estate. It was the smell of lilacs and as I continued down the hall, it only seemed to get stronger. And then I reached the end of the hall, but I could still smell the lilacs, which by this point, were disgustingly sweet, but I had not the faintest clue as to where it had come from.
Then I thought of secret passages like the one that the Princess Isabella used in The Castle of Otranto. I looked to see if there was any cracks on the floor that could lead to a trap door and spotted a strangely placed carpet by the wall that marked the end of the corridor. Removing said carpet, I discovered the secret passage I had been seeking. I thought, How exciting! There really is a hidden passageway in this estate! This smell is starting to annoy me, but now I must know where this leads. I opened the trapdoor to reveal a stairway that led underground and was lined by torches. After entering the passageway, I closed the trapdoor so I would not get caught and then gathered the skirts of my gown so it would not dirty and made my way down.
At the end of the long stairwell was a door. To my happy surprise, the knob turned when I tried to open the door. I stepped into the room for only a moment, but the door slammed shut behind me leaving me in utter darkness. I thought, Don’t panic. In the novels the ones who panic are always the first to die. Remember, this is an adventure. I dropped the hand holding my gown and, ignoring property, began to feel around for the door. To my dismay, when I reached for the knob, it would not turn. I mumbled, “Come now, Lily, it is only a minor setback. Secret passages normally have two entrances so might as well continue forward.”
Feeling for the wall, I continued forward into the darkness only to trip over a chain like some ninny. What surprised me is that I had landed on something most unstone like, but rather fleshy. It was then that I heard a voice, a boy’s voice, ask, “Who are you?” I thought, I can only imagine what my sister and parents would say if they caught me in such an uncompromising position. The boy repeated, “I said, ‘Who. Are. You?’” I thought, to hell with property and replied, “Oh, I am terribly sorry. I am Liliana, but might I ask why you are down here?” He did not sound any older than I was and that was saying something considering that I was a debutante of only fifteen. He said, “Would you mind getting off of me, first?” I felt my face heat up and quickly extracted myself from what I assumed to be the boy’s lap. After, I said, “Oh, I am terribly sorry. normally, I am normally not such a ninny,but-” He interrupted, “I prefered the silence to your chattering.” I said, “Oh, I am-” He interrupted, “Please spare me the apology. You’ve already given me two. I have no need of more.” I was about to apologize again, but felt his glare so settled for a nod, even though, I knew that there was no way he could see me.
An awkward silence developed after this, but it was broken by him saying, “Why are you here?” I could feel the disdain in his words and said, “Sir, as humiliating as this situation is, I doubt that it is deserving of your scorn. If you must know, I am only here out of curiosity.” Incredulously, he said, “Curiosity?” I said, “Yes, I saw a figure turn towards this direction and decided to follow him.” At this, he said, “Uncle Jamie! But this damnable smell! He’ll never find me with it! Girl-” I said, “It's not girl, but Liliana.” He said, “Fine, Liliana, can you find the source of the smell?” I said, “And how do you suppose I do that? Sir, in case it has not reached your attention, I cannot see a bloody thing in this darkness!” He said, “Just feel around and you’ll find a table. On the table, there will be a vase with a lilac in it. When you break the vase, the smell will disappear.” I said, “How preposterous, a single lilac cannot produce so great a scent.” He said, “Yes, not by itself, but inside that vase, its scent is magnified a hundredfold, now do it quickly.”
As I began feeling around for a table on all fours I muttered, “Follow the figure, Lily. It’ll be an adventure, Lily. What a load of crock, Lily.” After a good amount of demeaning myself, I found the leg to what felt like a table. I kept one hand on the leg as I slowly inched myself upwards and felt around the base of the table before I felt something vase like. Taking out some of my frustration on the object, I slammed it to the floor and almost instantaneously, the sickly sweet smell of lilacs had dissipated.
After that, everything seemed to happen so fast. A man came in after a while with the torch that I should have snatched before entering allowing me to see the boy’s face for the first time. Handsome features, tanned skin with grey eyes and a slender frame wrapped in long brown trousers and an Edwardian club collar shirt. The man who had come in looked to be in his early forties with clean cut black hair that was greying at the edge and a smart suit. He said, “Kid, who’s the girl?” the boy said, “She’s the one who got rid of the smell. I don’t think she’s involved with them, but we can’t leave her here.” The man nodded and I thought, Yes, talk about the strange girl as if she’s not even in the room. How bloody fantastic! The man then picked the chains that were holding the boy and the boy grabbed my hand as we followed the man out through the a door at the opposite end of the room.
If anyone had asked me which path we had taken to exit, I could not have answered. The only thing I was aware of was the boy’s hand in mine as we twisted and turned through a complicated maze. At the end, we exited up another stairwell that led to the outer gardens of the earl’s estates. The man closed the trap door just as I heard my sister’s voice calling for me. I said, “My sister.” I don’t know why, but I felt as if it would be very bad if these two were seen so I hurried towards my sister and before she could turn around the bush that revealed them I turned her around and said, “Margaret, whatever are you doing out here?” She said, “Whatever am I doing here? I should be asking you that! Do you realize the trouble you’ve caused with your disappearing act?” Knowing that this was going to be another one of her tirades, I tried to catch one last glimpse of the two, but they were already gone.