We were thinking of buying it in hopes of opening a Guest house. It was going to be a lot of work, and a fair amount of cash, too, but we had high hopes. After the tour of all the buildings, I made arrangements to come back with a contractor. Before I laid out any cash, I wanted to know if there were any hidden problems. Rotten rafters, floor joists, thing like that, that could add greatly to the renovation/restoration costs. Three weeks later, the papers were signed, and we owned a decrepit Victorian mansion.
For a week, we did nothing but remove stuff. Some of it good, restorable furniture, rugs and equipment. Some just plain junk. Old, rusty plows, rakes, an old push lawn mower, rusty and broken bladed. The last place we emptied was the big attic, and it turned out to be a treasure trove. A beautifully carved cedar chest, full of hand embroidered linens, edged with hand crocheted lace, a child’s rocking horse, a doll with ceramic head, hands and feet, dressed in the Victorian style. It was in a small cradle, and there was a doll pram, too. A complete set of lead soldiers, painted to represent British and American forces. Tiny canons, horses and all the equipment an army would need. It was all stored in the original box, and was probably worth a small fortune, since everything was in perfect condition.
There were wooden crates filled with a carefully packed bone china dinner set. Wedgewood, in a lovely rose pattern, service for twenty. Tea and coffee pots, creamer and sugar bowl, salt and pepper shakers - everything! We didn’t take time to open all the crates, about twelve, all told. And one that really had us wondering. It was a good eight feet long and about two feet square, and fairly heavy. We took everything to a storage locker, to be investigated once the house was ready.
Six months later we were ready to move in, and open our Guesthouse. It would be called ConCord House, for our names, Conor and Cordelia. Concord means agreement, harmony, and that is the atmosphere we wanted to attain. When I walked into the foyer, I thought we just might have accomplished our goal. It felt peaceful and calm. Now, if only our guests would live up to it. We had done a few changes to the layout inside, so that there was a smaller sitting/dining room on one side, for our family, and on the other, we had opened up two large rooms, with an arch between. This would be the sitting and dining room for the guests. The front part of the room was furnished with several of the restored antiques. It had been a study, and we had left one full wall of shelves, now well stocked with books and magazines.
The floor was covered with a large rug in deep green, with a garland of red roses and lighter green leaves bordering a central panel of large red roses. In the other section of the room, we had placed the large oak dining table and dozen chairs. There was a large breakfront cabinet on one side, and a buffet on the other. The bone china dinner service, with the large array of crystal glasses we had found, were displayed in the top of this, and the table linens were stored in the bottom. There was another set of dinnerware in the buffet, along with plainer table cloths and napkins stored there. On top was a silver tea service. And in one corner was an oak tea trolley.
We were satisfied with it all, except for the large empty spot over the fireplace in the dining room. “What are we going to put there?” Cordelia asked me. “We can’t just leave it bare. And I don’t fancy another mirror.”
“I don’t know, love,” I said. “Is there anything left in the locker?”
“One crate, and that long one. We never did find out what was in it.”
We looked at each other, and laughed. We had forgotten all about the one crate that had intrigued us so in the beginning. In unison, we turned and headed out to the car. Once at the locker, it didn’t take long to open the smaller crate. It was full of Victorian wind-up toys, and mechanical penny banks. They could be set out on shelves to add to the ambience.
“Ok,” I said. “Now for the mystery box.”
When we got the top off, we found one long item, wrapped in waterproof canvas. Tucked in at one end was a leather case. I took it out and opened it, to find several papers. The first one I pulled out showed a hand drawn reproduction of cuneiform writing, with a handwritten translation. I read it, then read it aloud to Cordelia.
“This Persian rug was found by archeologist Sir Alfred Smythe-Johnstone near Babylon, in the year 1821. Also found were many cuneiform tablets. The one shown above describes this rug, and indicates that it had once been in the palace of Cyrus the Great, (557 to 529 BC) ‘King of Babylon, king of Sumer and Akkad...’ This rug has been in Sir Alfred’s family ever since. The last owner was James Johnstone, of 437 Bonniebrae Lane, Sumville, Ontario. Signed and attested to by Andrew Mitchell, LL.D., PHD, Attorney at law. Witnessed by Ira Goldbloom and Pierre Lablanc.”
“Wow!” Cordelia gasped. “Do you think it really is Cyrus’s rug?”
“Well, lets see what the descriptions are. Hmmm....multicoloured, no definite shapes or pictures except for black crows. Measures 304.8 centimetres by 243.84 centimetres, or 10 feet by 8 feet. That’s a pretty big rug! Ok, lets see what else is in here. Insurance papers, dated January 25, 1999. Ah! Photos...wow, take a look at these.” I handed the pictures to Cordelia.
“Oh! It’s beautiful. And just perfect to fill the spot over that fireplace. It would really brighten up the room.” She paused, and looked at me. “But we can’t just hang it like a picture. It would have to be well protected from dust, and smoke and fumes from the fire. Do you think we could have it framed? Not actually framed, but enclosed, sealed in. I know! Lets ask Uncle Bob - he does all kinds of framing. But first, can we open it to look at it?”
“I’d like to, but I think it’s best to leave it sealed for now. If Uncle Bob thinks he can prepare it for hanging, and still protect it, then we’ll open it. Of course, it may not be usable. Remember it’s over 2500 years old.”
She looked as disappointed as I felt, but agreed. So off we went to see Uncle Bob. He was stunned at the thought of working with something so old, and closed shop so we cold take him to the locker. At last, we were able to lift it out of the crate, unseal the canvas and unroll the rug. Never have I been so amazed. It looked like new, just off the weaver’s loom. The colours were brilliant, eye catching. And the more I studied it, the more things I saw. For a long while we just stood and stared.
“Well!” Uncle Bob sighed. “This will be the culmination of my career. Thank you, both of you, for giving me the honour and pleasure of working with this historic gem. Let’s get it rolled and back in the crate. We can load it in my van, and I’ll get right to work on it.” We did that, and loaded the other crate in our trunk, and went our separate ways.
Much to our surprise, Uncle Bob called less then two weeks later, to say he was done. If it was ok with us, he wanted to bring the rug over and instal it. Of course, we said yes. He came in the truck he used to carry large panes of glass, or other large, flat, solid objects. The whole thing was covered in canvas, tied securely. He and his helper unloaded it, and carried it into the house. In the dining room, they measured the wall and put ten heavy duty hooks in. Three at the top and bottom, and two on each side. Then they unwrapped the rug, and lifted it. They raised it higher than the hooks, then carefully lowered it. All of the hooks locked into braces on the back, and it was done.
We all stood back and gazed. It brought light, and life, and colour into the one room that had seemed, until then, drab. For a long time, there was no sound but our breathing. Then, at last, Cordelia sighed, and turned to Uncle Bob.
“Oh, Uncle, you have performed a miracle. It looks even better than I thought it would. Now ConCord House is perfect!” She stepped over and hugged him.
“I’m the one who should be thanking you. This has been the most challenging, rewarding, work I have ever done. Not just for me, but for all the crew who worked with me. We do have something to ask. Would you allow us to come over sometimes, just to look at it? Every time I do, I seem to see something new in it, and the boys all say the same. They really hated to see me take it away”
Of course, Uncle Bob,” Cordelia and I chorused. “In fact,” I went on, “why don’t we, right now, inaugurate a special day. Call it Cyrus the Great Day, and celebrate it once a month on this date. Everyone who worked on it can come, and whatever guests we have, and we’ll have a big party. We can challenge the guests to see what they can find in the blobs and blotches of colour.”
The idea was adopted unanimously. This year we celebrated our tenth Cyrus the Great day, with over forty people in attendance. Many of our former guests came back, even though most had to stay at hotels or motels. They said they had such wonderful memories of ConCord House, and the beautiful rug, that they wanted to join the anniversary celebrations.