I’ve talked quite a lot about On the Other Side of the Sky, so here’s a little part of of it. Jane Machin, the protagonist, has returned to England, with the assistance of two Sylphs – Air Elementals (find out a little more about Elementals here).
She awoke with a start to find her feet firmly on the ground, and the two Sylphs standing one on each side of her. They were clearly in the park of a great house. Deer were feeding some way off, and the sun appeared to have just risen. She looked to see a large mansion to her left, the golden stone of the house glowing in the morning light.On the Other Side of the Sky, Chapter XIV, The House
“We will vanish now,” said one of the Sylphs, “but we’ll be near you when you need us.”
“The music you played last night was wonderful,” said the other. “It reminded us of home.”
“But you don’t need to play if you don’t want to. Just want us badly enough and we’ll help you.”
“You’ve helped me a lot already,” Jane said. “Thank you so much.” She reached for the recorder, and started to play. This time the tune was a lively jig, and the two Sylphs broke into smiles, and then started to whirl in a fantastical dance. As Jane speeded up the tempo of the music, so the Sylphs’ dance became faster and faster until they were whirling so fast that they were lost to sight.
Jane sighed, placed the recorder back in the placket of her skirt, and wondered what to do with her old clothes from France. In the end, she decided to make a detour into the woods and hide them under a pile of branches and leaves before making her way to the house.
She hesitated before approaching the main door of the house. Would it not be more appropriate, she asked herself, to go to the servants’ entrance at the back? No, she decided firmly, she had come to see Thomas’s elder brother, whom Thomas had named to her as George, and when visiting the family, one should use the family entrance.
There was a bell-pull near the door, and she pulled at it, hearing the sonorous clanging of a bell somewhere inside the house. After a few minutes, she heard footsteps, the drawing of bolts, and the door swung open to reveal a liveried footman, who simply stared at her expectantly.
“I am here to visit Sir George FitzAlan,” she announced.
“Is he expecting you?”
“No,” she confessed. “I am a friend of his brother, Captain Thomas FitzAlan, and I have news of him.”
“I see, madam.” The servant’s manner was a touch more deferential at the mention of the family name. “Sir George is breaking his fast. I will ask him if he wishes to meet you. What name should I give?”
“Machin. Jane Machin.”
Jane can request favours of Sylphs, and these two have taken a fancy to her.
The house, by the way is loosely based on Shugborough Hall (pictured here), though the FitzAlan family are not based on the Ansons (Earls of Lichfield). There is a strange inscription on one of the garden monuments. No one has yet found a definitive answer. I considered putting it, or something like it, into the story, but decided it would be a dead end, and not add anything to the plot. More in Wikipedia.