Excerpt of A Perfect Stranger by Roxana Robinson
(Page 2 of 10)
Printer Friendly Excerpt
After we were through the gates, my mother turned to us.
"Well, we made it," she said humorously. "They let us in this time." She
smiled and raised her eyebrows, waiting for us to answer. My mother was
small and lively, with thick light brown hair parted on one side and
held with a barrette. She wore her clothes casually; sweaters, and long
We said nothing to her. We disapproved of my mother's levity, all of us:
Sam and Jonathan, my two older brothers; Abby, my older sister; and me,
Joanna. I was the youngest, and the most disapproving.
Inside the gates, the road meandered sedately through the Park, which
was on the slopes of a small steep mountain. Up on the top, along the
ridge, the land was still wild and untouched. Deer moved delicately
through the thickets, and we had heard there were bobcats, though we had
never seen one. Down along the narrow paved roads all was mannerly, a
landscape of wide lawns, great towering shade trees and luxuriant
shrubberies. Unmarked driveways slid discreetly into the road's docile
curves. Set far back, even from this narrow private interior road, were
the houses. Tall, ornate, gabled and turreted, half-hidden by brick
walls, stonework, and the giant old trees that surrounded them, they
stood comfortable and secure within their grounds.
Our grandparents' house was called Weldonmere, and it stood below the
road, at the bottom of a wide sloping oval of lawn. The driveway traced
a long semicircle, starting from one corner of the front lawn, swooping
down to the house at midpoint, then back up to the road again. Along the
road stood a screen of trees: dogwoods, cherries, and an exotic Japanese
maple, with small fine-toothed leaves, astonishingly purple in season.
Down the hill, protecting the house with its benevolent presence, stood
a great copper beech, dark and radiant. Its dense branches, like a vast
layered skirt, swept down to the lawn, and beneath them were deep roomy
eaves, where we played in the summer. Now all these trees were bare, and
mantled with snow.
Weldonmere was white, with pointed Victorian gables and round
neoclassical columns. At the front door was a big porte cochere, and
above it the house rose up three stories to the scalloped blue-black
slates of the roof.
My father stopped the car under the porte cochere, and we cascaded out.
Huge darted alertly into the bushes, his long nose alive to a new
universe. We children, following our parents through the brief shock of
cold air, lurched stiffly into the big square front hall. We stood among
the suitcases on the Turkey carpet, blinking in the light of the
chandelier. Our parents called out to the household in a general and
"Well, hello! You're here!" Grandpère appeared in the doorway to the
living room. Grandpère was tall and dignified, with a neat thick silver
mustache. He held himself very straight, like an officer, which he had
been, or a rider, which he still was. There was about him an air of
order, he was always in charge. Grandpère carried his gold watch on a
chain in his pocket, and he wore a waistcoat, which was pronounced
"weskit." He was a formal man, courtly, but kind. Underneath the
mustache was always the beginning of a smile.
"Hello, Robert! Sarah, children." His voice was deep, his manner
ceremonial. He included us all in his smile, and he opened his arms in a
broad welcoming gesture.
Excerpted from A Perfect Stranger by Roxana Robinson Copyright © 2005 by
Roxana Robinson. Excerpted by permission of Random House, a division
of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may
be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the