a traveler wending his way over the moors between pashingham and wedley-on-stover, expecting to enjoy the complete solitude promised by the guide books to that romantically desolate region, might be brought up short by the sight of a ruined edifice on the horizon - an edifice so ravaged that it could not easily be determined as to whether it had been a church, an abbey, a public building of some kind, or a private domain.
it had in fact been the chief residence of a family once fabulously wealthy, though ever disinclined to take a part in the affairs of the kingdom.
it was madwood - the ancestral home of the fotherintons.
the extinct fotherintons.
2. jasper and arboreta
"you sicken me."
"do i, jasper? on such a lovely morning as this?" arboreta laughed her peculiar twittering but unmusical laugh. "but i had not even spoken to you."
"but you were about to, were you not?"
"i believe i was brought up to offer polite salutations to my fellow creatures at the appropriate times - such as my first sight of them after the break of day. i also have reason to believe you were brought up the same way."
"oh, do bugger off, you simpering frump. out of my sight, if you please."
"but, jasper, i have as much right to sit on the verandah and enjoy the view as you do."
"it's a long verandah. sit at the other end of it, if you would be so kind."
"i will humour you, jasper. emphasis on 'humour'"
3. an accusation
"virtue, and the profession of virtue, do not really become you, jasmilda."
"i am sorry that you feel that way, grandmother," jasmilda answered stiffly. "but i do not really see that my personal qualities are the issue here. it is jasper's machinations, and the inevitably deleterious effect they much have on the family fortune, that should be your concern. if i may say so."
"you may say so if i give you leave to say so. but what is all this nonsense about jasper's machinations? jasper couldn't machinate to put his own slippers beside his own bed. you of all people should know that."
"you are being disingenuous, grandmother - "
grandmother laughed. "surely that is the longest word you have ever used? who taught it to you? and how long have you practiced saying it?"
jasmilda flushed but continued - " you know what - and whom - i mean."
4. in the library
"might you not be mistaken?" cousin bartholomew drawled. he was standing in front of the fireplace in the library, in his all too familiar pose, with his left elbow on the mantelpiece and his unlit pipe held loosely in his clawlike right hand.
"i might be. of course, i might be. it goes without saying that i might be - "
5. the secret
6. cousins and uncles
"must you sit down here in the dustiest corner of the verandah, arboreta? a little sunshine would do you a world of good."
"but there is only the barest hint of sunshine," arboreta protested feebly.
"nonsense." aunt gerontia lowered her ample personage on to the wicker chair beside arboreta's. "it is a lovely day."
"indeed, it is. it is a lovely day because for once there is no wind and rain and we can actually sit out of doors. but there is, in point of fact, very little actual sunshine."
gerontia sighed. "what a literal mind you have, my dear. a literal mind is a little mind, as cousin lawrence used to say."