The auction was to be held on the site. It was a large Victorian villa and was the estate of the man known as the "hermit". He had rarely been seen outside the house; he had been reclusive for 20 years or more. He had two employees, a woman who cooked and did the cleaning and a man for the outdoor duties. This couple was trusted and trustworthy; Mr Thomas Fendalton remained a mystery.
After his death, and the reading of the will, the wishes of the late Mr Fendalton were made known. He referred to the house as his prison, and wished all contents to be auctioned and the house itself destroyed. He recommended that one piece of his extensive art collection, a painting named Circe, be burned in the fire, because he felt the house was haunted. His housekeeper, Miss Candace Cuthbert was to be in charge of everything, and as she was to be joint beneficiary with Jon Dodds, the general handyman, she must use her own discretion.
There was great interest in the mysterious man and this mysterious estate, not only from the local townsfolk, but also, because of his well-publicised collection of artwork, interest came from further afield. Thomas Fendalton also had a fine reputation as an artist in his own right, and there were many who were eager to obtain one of his masterpieces.
For others there was the challenge of solving or knowing about the reason behind his choice of lifestyle as a talented recluse, and the secret of the painting Circe. They were also curious about the strange stipulation that it was to be burnt with the house.
Miss Cuthbert would not comment until after the auction. It was only then would she disclose the secret of the painting Circe.
Of course, there were many more secrets, and the reporters were just as interested in the beautiful Miss Candace Cuthbert. Who was she? Was she just a housekeeper, or a partner, a lover? Was she a daughter or relative?
These questions arose because her charm and sophistication seemed to make her so much more of an enigma. Miss Cuthbert was a woman of indeterminate age, whose personality indicated a mature woman possibly of middle age, and yet whose features, clear skin, long glossy hair, may have set her age at less than 30 years. She refused to talk about herself.
On the day of the auction a large crowd gathered. Although many were eager to bid for the paintings, many were there to wait for the story. It would make headlines, and each journalist sat through the proceedings with pencils poised and shorthand pads ready and waiting. Only then, did Miss Candace take centre stage to explain the reasons of Mr Thomas Fendalton's self-imposed withdrawal from society.
"Many years ago he painted Circe as an abstract rendition of a Greek Legend. He saw Circe as an evil siren, a daughter of a king and a minor God, whose wicked ways so enraged her parents and the gods had her banished to a small island in the Aegean Sea. In truth, Circe was a sorceress, who delighted in seducing unsuspecting mortals, men and women, and once they were under her spell she used them to her own advantage.
"However, once the painting was completed Thomas changed. He became morose and irritable. He began having hallucinations, and refused to seek help. He refused to socialise; he refused to even leave the house. Finally he told me that he was possessed. Every female face he found in front of him bore the features of the painting Circe. Then it got worse. Every face became Circe. We decided to wrap the painting in a linen cloth and in brown paper and hide it in a dark cupboard, where he never had to look on it again. It was only then that he could once again continue to create the abstract paintings for which he has gained a world-renowned status. If you have studied the catalogue you will be aware that he paints only landscapes and abstract designs with the amazing use of colour and techniques.
"He remained here in this house, simply because he cannot look at people without transposing the face of his own creation Circe, on to theirs. His solicitor understood this, and was the only person who visited to give financial advice and advice on legalities. On the few occasions it was essential for him to leave the house, he wore dark glasses as would a blind man and I always accompanied him.
"He asked me to remain here to attend to the more mundane housekeeping matters, and I have been well-compensated. He was an interesting and talented man."
The listening audience was quiet for a while, and then one man asked: "before you burn this house of yours, and the painting, could we see it?"
Before Miss Cuthbert could reply, another reporter asked, "but surely the will only stated a recommendation? Would you really burn this magnificent villa to the ground because of one man's obsession?"
Miss Cuthbert replied: "to the first question - yes. You may see the painting, but be aware of the power it had over one man. It may have the same power over you. So only one person at a time may view the painting, and we must question him about any effect it had on him. To the second question, - No. This has been my home for over 20 years, and I am very attached to it."
Once again there was silence.
Miss Cuthbert spoke again. "You may come here by appointment to view the painting. I will answer questions privately."
A young reporter asked, "Do you have a home elsewhere? Are you a relative of Mr Fendalton?"
She replied: "I am not willing to answer personal questions". The reporter then asked, "who was the model for the painting Circe?"
To which she replied, "I was".
I was that young reporter, many years ago. I live in the town whereby Miss Candace Cuthbert lives in a magnificent Victorian villa. She has a lodger, a strange man who is known as a "hermit" because he is reclusive. He is a writer. Miss Candace Cuthbert must be in her 70s now, though her appearance is that of a much younger woman. She is still as sophisticated and charming as she always has been.