Lucy, pushing her way into the kitchen, broom in one
hand, cleaning box dragged behind, she glances at Meg
seated at the table. “Not able to hold that cup up this
The broom laid by the wall, the cleaning box swivelled
in front of her, Lucy holds up her hands, “Don’t shout
at me. I’ve been working.”
Without pause she proceeds
to mimic Annabell, who had seen Lucy on the way to
Annabell’s apartment privy.
“Lucy, dear. Miss Emily and myself will have breakfast
in my apartment this morning. Such a bore having to go
An expression exactly like Miss Annabell, Lucy
leans back, feigning Annabell at her most determined best: “Please tell uncle.
Squeals of laughter from Meg, “Both asleep when I took
up the tea. I’d to go back for another tray with Miss Adams
being with Miss Annabell.”
Now the gesture by Lucy where the hand sweeps over the head. “Tell dear uncle that after Miss Emily and
myself engaged him in the parlour, we spent some time
outside. The fine spring night air was delightful, but this
morning the lateness has absolutely tired us out.”
“Now then,” Mrs. Minton has her stern look about her,
but Lucy has the devil and she is not giving way.
A very performed leaning on the broom. With such a
pained expression of weariness, Lucy croaks, “I’ll... I’ll tell
Mr. McBride, Miss Annabell.”
Such a wheezing and coughing then proceeds. “It... It...
It will be Mr. McBride’s first intention indeed to inform
the Squire of your desire...” more coughing and wheezing, “of your deep held... deep held, I say, deep desire to have
breakfast in your apartment this morning.“
Then the pretend bathroom door is opened, the pretend
drawers lowered, and the bending to sit upon the throne.
Then the nose bit as Lucy holds her nose pointing it
straight up in the air while making high steps away from
the privy, still holding the broom.
Mrs. Minton waves her hand. The only way to stop her
is to change the subject. “I’ve told Nelly she’s to help you til you’ve finished with the front stair carpets.”
Lucy is about to say, “Dopey Nelly,” but that piece of
news has brightened her mood considerably. Lucy, when
she feels like it, can bully Nelly unmercifully; she certainly
intends to do so today.
“I know you don’t like doing the carpets,” adds Mrs.
Minton. “With all the guests coming, and it having to be
done, it’s only fair.”
Lucy hates doing carpets more than anything she knows. Cold tea leaves to stop the dust choking. The whisk brush. You have to be soooooooo careful with that or the thing turns on you, pricking and knocking.
The wafting odour of herbs from the big pan steaming
on the stove takes over at this point. “You cooking rabbit
for lunch Mrs. Minton, with barley?”
“I am dear,” Mrs. Minton steps back to the stove, dips
a wood spoon into the boiling stew pot, breathing upon the
hot juice before taking just a hint of a sip.
Lucy already has the plate of stew in front of her mind. Carrots and leeks, tender Rabbit with chunks of squared
potatoes. Mrs. Minton keeping the stew-pot simmering just until the moment the rabbit meat is to fall from the bone.
‘One day,’ Lucy thinks, closing her eyes tight. ‘I’ll make
a fine meal for...’ Tom does come to mind. This husband
who does look sort of like a grown up Tom, and herself
feeding him. All because Mrs. Minton has showed how.
The cook waves her spoon, “Taste dear?”
Lucy doesn’t have to be asked twice. “Ummmmmm...”
savouring of the morsel of stew on the spoon she’s offered.
“It might need a dab more sage, what do you think?”
Mrs. Minton dips into the saucepan again, passes another
heaped spoonful across.
Lucy, after breaths on the spoon and gingerly taking it
to her mouth, “Ummmmmm! I think it’s perfect.”
“Well, if you says so,” Mrs. Minton smiles. Lucy is easy
with her complements. “Why don’t you go and tell Nelly
you are ready for the rest of them carpets!”
Stepping across to the table Mrs. Minton picks up the
list of the food she is going to be needing. Twice she has
gone over it, adding half more again of each amount because
you never can be sure. Even with that it’s a worry. Items
she’s sure she’s missed. Lady Middleton has her wants, and
so does Mr. Hews.
The Squire’s brother from India, he’s something new and
Squire has told her he’s taken to Indian ways and doesn’t
She’d stared at Master in astonishment, but Squire right
then handed her a book he’d bought in Biddiford. “Not
that she isn’t skilled in the spices,” he said. “But this might help.”
The Squire’s brother is not a guest. He owns half the
Manor. She skims again over the food list. Stout in build, Mrs. Minton is as robust with energy
as they come. This morning however her nervousness over
upcoming days is making her feel a bit queer. Mr. Hews
arrives today. Lady Middleton with Miss Hooper, Lady
Middleton’s companion, will be here tomorrow.
There’s the woman from Australia coming to help with
the work. Miss Ackrim will need feeding and who knows
what they eat in Australia.
Mr. McBride sat with her last night and together they
went over the menus, from breakfasts to suppers. Woolly
is a Godsend with his cheer. He mostly leaves kitchen to
her, but she has been in such a flutter. Him, suggesting
particulars for the afternoon sandwiches, for the cakes to
be baked, it has been such a help. All her life she has
worked as a cook, before this for a household larger than
the Manor. “It will all get done,” Woolly says. “Done well!”
Mrs. Minton, wiping her face with the back
of her hand, says, “We will see.”
“We, will see, what?” asks Meg loaded with pots.
“All the ordering, you never know if it’s right. The
specials from the Biddiford grocer for Squire’s brother. I
“It’ll be fine,” Meg says calming. “If Squire’s brother
don’t like what you give him, then he’ll have to lump it,
that’s all.” Meg strolls across to the rabbit stew, picks up
the wooded spoon. “Leeks have blended well.”
The cook, seeing Tom coming in by the back door, walks past him towards
the pantry for some eggs for his breakfast. “I’ll leave the
list as it is then, if you say so.”
Meg strolls back to the table, sits, brings out a penny
dreadful she keeps in her apron. The farmer
boy walks across gives her a sort of wink, which she does
“How old are you,” she asks.
Mrs. Minton, coming out
of the pantry with Tom’s eggs, answers for him, “Sixteen.
When he gets to seventeen I’m going to bake him a cake.”
“Oh! A cake!” sniffs Meg, staring at the lad.
Tom is going through one of those ‘phases’ Mrs. Minton
and Meg have decided. Son of John Hopkins, owner of
the farm behind the Manor, Tom has had it out with his
father, over a woman named Mange Celaban who his father
has been seeing.
Nelly Appleton’s mother, Charlotte, who does the laundry two days a week, says the woman works at the Stogg
farm in Atherton.
The farm also being a pub, the woman serves ale. John
Hopkins it appears has become a regular, and a bit more
than a regular, hear tell.
Tom only a week past came into the kitchen saying he’d
never work for his father again, and would never work on
the farm again. He said he’d told his father such.
‘If ‘er dain’t do work, ‘er dain’t get food,’ is how Tom
mimicked his father’s response. So Tom, who has a loyal
streak, loyal at least to the farm he’ll one day own, decides
he will continue to do some work.
Tom has been visiting the manor regularly since his
meeting Olath two years back and becoming friends. Olath
taught him the beginnings of leather working.
When Olath packed up his things, it was natural for
Tom to ask Fred if he could help. Staying up in the loft over
the carriage house where Olath had his things, Fred doesn’t
have to come back after his meal to tend to the horses if one is under the weather. With this wrangle with his father,
Tom has planted himself firmly in the stables.
It is Mary Hopkins, Tom’s mother, who came running
to the Squire for his assistance. She is not happy with Tom
sleeping with the horses, not every night, not coming back
to the farm for meals or anything.
Squire Bexfield, well known as supplier of perspicacity as well as local magistrate, Mrs. Minton likes to make the comment, he arranged an adequate solution in this. Tom
will remain in the stable loft until after the wedding. He will help with the carriage house, and be an additional help
to McBride as porter and water carrier for the guests.
He will be given payment for his trouble but he has to
also do his duties at the farm with the pigs and the cows on
the days off of his father’s workers. Once a permanent
man is brought in to help Fred, Tom will have to return to
sleep at the farm.
His mother reluctantly agreed. More importantly, Tom
agreed. His father made no fuss. In no fashion does John
Hopkins want to get on the bad side of the Squire for the
land John works south of the Manor brings to John an
income independent of Mary’s farm. John does not want
to forgo that if he is going to move out of the farmhouse.
Squire is also looking into marriage law for him.
So a truce between Tom and his father is in force for the
moment. Tom understands the agreement and has swore to
it. Mucking out the pig-shed, milking and settling the cows
when needed. The rest of the time he’ll spend at the Manor.
Tom looks younger than his age. Long, absolutely black
hair, often in a tangled, curly mess, he seems more a boy
of fifteen at times then a young man close to seventeen.
Giving his serious, hungry look, Mrs. Minton tells him
breakfast is almost ready. Something different about him
today, she thinks, and taking another glance she at last
sees the brown ring about his eye.
Ever a mother, not having a child of her own, she’s
solicitous with Tom, “You got something wrong with your
Tom swags as he walks over to the pot of tea that sits
side of the stove, pours himself a cup, doesn’t say anything.
“Cat got your tongue?” Meg, putting down the penny
dreadful she’s half-heartedly been attempting to read, stares
Tom up and down. It’s not just the ring around his eye. His trousers are covered in mud, and not stable muck, floor
mud. One of his shirtsleeves is torn right to the elbow.
Tom, enjoying the stove warmth, shrugs, continues to
“This ain’t between you and your Pa, is it lad?” Both
Mrs. Minton and Meg now look concerned. Meg’s throat
goes dry. John’s father has fourteen stone on him if not
more, and he’s all farm muscle. If he gave the boy a clout,
he’d knock him clear to Christmas.
Tom just sups at the hot tea. Both the women watch
Bringing himself and the cup back at the table, Tom
glances hungrily down at the bits of food remaining on the
breakfast plates, plates not yet cleared away. Picking up
a tad of bacon from one plate, a piece of sausage from
another, he munches away.
“You’ll have your Ma in bed if you don’t stop with this
quarrelling,” Mrs. Minton says. “You know how it upsets
“D’aint noth’n ‘bout ‘er,” Tom stuffs himself with a
piece of leftover fried bread. Tom, who reads anything and
everything he gets his hands on, speaks perfect English.
When he wishes. But, his father the same, he breaks into
broad farm Devon when it suits. “We d’aint do nait.”
“Who then?” Meg could give him a clout. The boy
does exasperate her. “Who you been fighting with? I see
you have.” She turns to the cook for confirmation.
“Jimmy Briggs! I know it!” Mrs. Minton walks over
to him, pushes him away from the plates. “You a cockerel,
Tom Hopkins? That meat is for the poor cockerel out back. I’ll be the one to give you a meal. It’s cooking!” She points
to the stove as the handsome boy beams at her.
“Sit yourself down.” Cook stacks up the leftover plates
remaining on the table and turning her back to open the
scullery door, she moves them into the scullery.
Meg grabs to hold Tom’s head, stares at a puffed eye
that has turned green and black around the edges. “This
happened last night, didn’t it? It was Jimmy Briggs!”
Tom jerks away from her.
“Thought you two were over all this. That you were
now firm friends.”
“We is,” Tom says smiling. “I just had to thump ‘er.”
“Looks more like he thumped you,” Meg glances at the
cook just returned from the scullery. “And your shirt is
torn. What will your mother say?” Meg gathers up the
bits of shirtsleeve hanging. “I’ll fix it, if you let me!”
It wasn’t quite what she expected, but Tom peels off his
shirt, hands it to her, sits half-naked at the table.
Mrs. Minton carries across from the stove a stacked plate of black blood-sausage,
bacon, eggs and fried thick bread to the table.
Bare above the waist, the boy quickly begins his ravage.
“I’ll sew as best I can,” Meg pulls from a cupboard
drawer a needle and cotton reel. “The rip’s bad. I can’t
do the impossible, you know.” She picks from the drawer a
small pair of scissors, comes over to the table to sit by him.
Wiping the grease from his hands onto his trousers, Tom
gives her a sort of seductive grin. “I clobbered ‘er.”
Meg attempts to look stern but she is having difficulty.
“Well, that’s nothing to be proud of. Jimmy’s bigger than
you, and even if he is your friend, he could have done you
Tom looks at her seriously. Then he smiles his boy smile.
How the years have changed, Meg thinks as she lays the
shirt onto the table. He has been coming off and on to the
manor kitchen a couple of years more at least. She can see
him now with Olath, sitting here eating. Summer days he’ll
be rolling on grass out back by the greenhouses, watching
to see who’s noticing. Back to the kitchen when nobody is
looking, for strawberries and cream summers, mince tarts
“You need a good spanking,” she says. “I should give
it you for all the trouble you cause.”
Tom, enthusiastic about anything Miss Trenton might
wish to do to him, gives her a sly look, says in perfect
English, though softly so it doesn’t go further than the
table. “You can give me a spanking, anytime.” He picks
up the shirt she’s holding out to him, slips it over his slim
but muscled body.
“Just you go and give your face and hands a good scrub,”
Meg pushes him away as he leans towards her. “And stop
wiping your greasy hands on those poor trousers.”
“Yes, Miss,” he says as he disappears into the scullery
to bother Nelly.
Cook shouts across, “You’re too good. I’d give lad box
“He’s too old for that,” Meg laughs.
. . .
“Good morning Mr. Hews, sir. I hope the journey was
Arthur grabs the carriage handle to help him step down.
“Surprisingly easy on the joints for a rental.”
McBride smiles at the cheerful fellow holding the reins. “You’ll be staying for a draught, coachman!”
“Zum veet ain water vor ‘orses and ai be on way,” the
driver touches his hat.
“There’s food and drink in the kitchen for you,” McBride
closes the carriage door. “Cook is best around. You’ll not
“Y’zir,” the driver touches his hat again.
Leaving the driver to lift the box seat to get at the
luggage, McBride escorts the Squire’s guest into the hall.
Arthur takes off his coat and hat, hands it to McBride. “I’ll inform the master you have arrived, sir. I believe the Squire is working in his study.
“Doing legal work?”
“I believe so, sir.”
“Tell him I’m eager to see him.”
“I will. I’ll show you to the drawing room, sir.”
Just entering the drawing room, memories begin to flood. The sepia his wife had taken of Belinda, Annabell’s mother, stares at him. Annabell is beside her tall mother, holding her hand.
A year before Belinda and Bert died, Henrietta took this
sepia. Arthur has never reconciled himself to the deaths. He could not believe a whole train full of people would
be used to get at one woman. But they have done much worse.
He asked his superior in the department to detail a specialist investigator. Many suspicions, the three in a carriage
by themselves at the end of train, this carriage becoming
somehow derailed, splitting in two as it came off the track.
Annabell had been thrown into a tree, that is how she
survived. The official report was a faulty coupling. Later
when Arthur tried to obtain the report, a message came
back no copies could not be found.
Belinda was the militant of the three Bexfield children. She had the bravery of ten men. She was already speaking
out against the families and beginning to gather around her
women who wanted the vote and wished to take back their
Her group was still small in number but Belinda merging
the woman’s movement with her connections to the families, this was seen as a threat. She had to be removed before
others began to take her seriously.
Arthur forces thoughts of his work away from him, steps
across to the sepia. He was not present at the taking but
he can picture his wife now distancing correctly, taking her
excruciating time as she always did. The child would have
been fidgeting, outrageously fidgeting. Annabell must have
been only three when this was taken.
Moisture collects in his eye. He has not known how to
proceed since Henrietta took her last breath. Eight months
now since her presence left him.
He sent his resignation into the service once she became
very sick, but they returned his letter attaching one of their
own, a notice placing him upon indefinite absence.
The service moving to Victoria Embankment had little
affect for him. Henrietta and his work had always entailed
travelling, within the United Kingdom but also extensively
upon the Continent.
Henrietta and he travelled as a couple. Her knowledge of the families through generations of her
own family’s work was invaluable.
Two years since Henrietta and he were here in this very
room. Two years and eight months and everything exactly
the same. It is beyond pain to see Henrietta so very present.
An oil painting he steps across to view. His fingers touch
lightly the ivy on the redbrick, solid, square house. Her
colouring of the Manor is faultless. He could step outside
right now and see these exact same tints of ivy roaming.
The kiss she gave as he leaned over her while she was
creating this reflection. “On Oath Highway,” she had placed
her brushes down, holding him. The ‘Oath’ naming of the
road she had come to be fascinated.
She had said to him: “People take oaths, and then so faithfully without hindrance to any concern of inner integrity, that sense of right people have, they carry out the mandate of those who commanded the oath to a tee.” He had nodded.
Seeing her image of this place, her work set around this
room, resurrecting her words, he shouldn’t have come.
A power she had of bringing forth memories. “I can see
it,” she had told him, of an encampment where the Manor
is now built. A place to rest while appearing at the High
Druid court. They came along this path to take their oath,
to swear allegiance, to bend their knee.
Henrietta’s family is now mixed with the Etruscan. Her
bloodline seemed to extend back beyond time. “At the time
of Mithra we wandered before we returned to what is now
Italy. We became hidden inside their civilization.”
The family held their secrets long before the Egyptian
rulers, before the Ark and the flooding of that time, before
even Atlantis and the far civilization of Mu. The family
was an initiating priest-line.
Henrietta herself could draw Arthur through various
stages of initiation. Each very unassuming ceremonies.
“For your protection,” she said. “For the work we do.”
His inner eye had been opened to where he could sense
much more of which is beyond.
When the Druids began to force their enslavement over the people, the family went underground. Teachings of the past they stored, both extremely ancient and those of our written history, to be studied by this present generation and kept for the world’s future.
“Lion, fish, are avenues we travel. Druid power has never disappeared. Nor the goodness of the old druí,” she had said. “All we need do is deny them their coveting power. Stop playing with them. Take back the kingship of person.”
“Arthur! Arthur! Bless my heart Arthur, it is good to
“Ronald!” Arthur hadn’t noticed the door opening. “I
can see her here, Ronald.”
Ronald grasps both of his hands. “Ah! The journey not
too taxing, I take it. Annabell wished to know the moment
you arrive, but McBride tells me she’s with her friend Emily
at the moment. Out on the Warmblood gelding I purchased
for her. Emily is getting used to the pony John Hopkins
sent across. Emily is from her school. They became friends
with some terrible consumption business. You are in for a
treat. Annabell has grown, Arthur. She is a young lady
Arthur places his good hand over the nervous one to
calm it. He grabs for a fireside chair, “I’m sorry. It has
been doing that lately. Truth is I’ve gone to pieces since
“Then it’s good you came here, old man. Be amongst
the young for awhile. Annabell and Emily, Edward, and
Edward’s friend, Lawrence, the fellow standing for Edward
at the wedding, it is going to be all the young. Conny is
coming tomorrow. You and I, we will pretend we are back
at the Apostles again. I will tell Conny she has to join us
in the fun of our own Apostles.”
Arthur slumps into the brown leather chair. “Has George
“My dear brother arrives on Friday. If the ship docks
Just the thought of George can place Arthur into a
frenzy of emotion if he allows himself. Another reason he almost
had not come.
Henrietta would never forgive him for not attending
Annabell’s wedding. He had to come. He sits staring into
the fireplace. “After all these years.”
“Water under the bridge, old man.”
“You say Friday?”
“I’ve ordered a post for then.”
“Henrietta insisted I was all wrong about George. She
never paid any attention to him. She said she laughed at
The Squire pats his old friend on the shoulder. “There
never was any aggrievement, I believe.”
Henrietta, her rich hazel-green eyes, hair that shone
with the colour of fire, she captured everyone’s attention. George, his handsome youth, his recklessness, the opposite
of his staid older brother, it was natural he would make
a play for her. All this so long ago. “Watching the
“By God, I have.”
McBride knocks, enters. “Mrs. Minton is asking if you
wish for sandwiches, sir. It will be an hour to lunch.”
Ronald looks at Arthur who shakes his head. “We will
“Some Darjeeling, Mr. Hews, sir?”
“Very good, sir.”
“Same for me, Horace. I understand Mrs. Minton has
made a chocolate and whisky cream torte Arthur likes so
well. Why don’t we tempt him.” The Squire nods at
The butler without further comment exits the room.
Arthur has to smile. “You have a good man there.”
The Squire walks across to the sherry table. “With
me a long time. How about a taste of sherry before the
tea?” He fills two copitas. “The wine merchant, you know
the one in the city that constantly tries to bankrupt me,
he sent this. The Albariza chalk gives its flavour. From La
Frontera.” He hands the sherry to Arthur.
“Do you think she is here, Ronald.”
“I can feel her in this room.” He stares at the rosewood
Loo table upright against the wall. “She loved five-card
“She loved Tarok better, if I remember.”
“I see her laying out the table. The chip pots next to
her. She said she would make contact when it was right!”
“Then I am sure she will.”
“She talked a lot of her fears before the end. She so
afraid with the Hiéron du Val d’Or. She thought darkness
might be coming in another great wave, you know. But as
that grouping began to splinter, she knew then this was only
a step, a necessary step to establish complete rulership.”
“A new Empire?”
“Some of her last words were about Europe killing off
half its younger men. She believed it would rise into a new
unified body. North America would become the military
arm, she thought. That was the real reason for their war
between the states. So they would not splinter into units
separated completely from each other.
“Unified, the United States would join this new European
body they hope to create, through both its military arm and
its financial power.”
“Do you think she might have been mistaken,” Ronald
asks awkwardly. “Some of it, you know...” he doesn’t finish
McBride knocks, enters. His foot guiding the rose wood
stopper he uses to prop the door open, he pushes the trolley
through, begins to arrange the cups.
“McBride, do you always show visitors to the drawing
room?” Arthur from his chair, stares at him.
“Visitors to the drawing room, sir?” McBride brings
across the steaming Darjeeling tea. “Usually visitors are
shown into the study, sir. That is the custom when visitors
wish to speak to the Magistrate.”
“I was shown here?”
The butler looks puzzled. He glances at the Squire.
“You are a friend of the house, sir.” A slice of torte cake is
moved onto a china plate covered with red dragons. “Mrs.
Minton’s torte, sir?”
“The drawing room is more cheerful, especially in the
morning, sir. The solarium sends through the sun.”
“Place is damned more cheerful anytime,” the Squire
Arthur leans across the small table to set down his
teacup. “Thank you McBride. Thank you for being honest
and frank with me.”
“Honest and frank, sir. I am always honest and frank,
“That he is,” the Squire’s face is full of rueful merriment. “They don’t come more honest and frank than Horace.”
. . .
In Biddiford on Tuesday morning, a young man Mr.
Lawrence Morton, tall and lean, and his thought-to-be wife,
Miss Bella Stanton, having long auburn hair, eyes to the
depths of the sea, step off a train that has arrived from
The young Mr. Morton is the essence of style. A fawn coat to keep away the morning chill, the
coat lined in golden-yellow satin, the single-breasted front
nevertheless is undone. Azure silk decorates a straw boater
that sits atop sable, perfectly trimmed hair. At the feet
fawn-leather spats complement the coat.
The lady, Miss Bella Stanton, has an open
coat of lamb-nappa, aniline dyed, the dark champagne
ornamented by soft violet fur around the collar.
Fully revealed underneath a sharply-tailored taffeta silk,
chequered with shimmering rose butterflies. Covering the
more than ample bosom, a silk outer chemise, the silk
flounced by ruffles of a vertical nature. A delicate rose
bow is at the neck. Upon the feet, though rarely can one
catch a glimpse, brandy-rose steeple boots adorn, twenty
laced eyelets rising up around the calf.
They appear a modish couple waiting for a porter on the
station platform. Older eyes might glance enquiringly upon
the young man’s shirt with its spread-collar worn up, but
even more upon the moleskin waistcoat, the young, they
get away with anything.
Indeed a delight the waistcoat gives in its brazenness, is the very reason to continue with the style in the young
man’s opinion. Several moles have been ripped open for
this creation, and were no doubt screaming in the process
of their killing.
Male eyes wandering do study his companion, the high cheeks, her lips filled with blood. A private fancy that
the two are, as street language has it, giblets, that these
are no husband and wife, but journeying to these parts to
get away from family, to copulate and then return.
The young man’s angular, serious face, bright eyes
forever searching, has a porter and now walks quickly
through the station entrance, the lady following.
Deception is at its best with these two, for there is
falsity. ‘Keep away! Keep away! Do not approach.’ Keep
away indeed, for those even with some stronger spirit, for
here is more, more than those around them could ever hope
in their untamed imagination to conjecture. A gleam of
horror shall we know the story.
Twenty-three years past this young man’s mother had
been found on a doorstep. The infant a few days old barely
escaping with his life from a house his mother had fled.
Taken into a new home, the mother’s fever bringing
delirium, the baby had been fed by a suckling woman paid
for by the owner of the home, a certain Angulse Sherod.
It was a strangeness some could call fate that the young
mother had found herself at such a home. To keep the boy
became the issue, not for his benefit, but for a far more
“My wife does not have the blood,” Angulse professed
to those in his group who had interest in listening. “But
this boy has!”
Catherine Sherod, wife of Angulse Sherod, had nothing
to bring him, only the half-breeds, one that had come before
and one that would come after the infant Lawrence became
settled in the home.
“The mother of Catherine,” Angulse
had discovered soon after their marriage, “had taken the
whore-pipe of a young goat. The bloodline held by a Buck’s
Face.” There was a weakness with Angulse. He could not
kill her, nor could he allow the coven to take her.
So here was the son Angulse knew he should have.
As Angulse Sherod quickly found out, the boy found on
his doorstep was not only a Keys by the mother, but also
a Bexfield by the father, high family lineage from both.
It was at it should be that Lawrence is taken with him
to his business in the northeast. A coven weakening, the
boy had brought his blood.
“Lawrence, you have saved us,” Angulse would say as
he and the boy travelled in the carriage to their destination
and the ceremonies. “Now be a good boy! Do as the priest
says. In time you will come to understand. In time you will
crave for what is done to you.”
His uncle was right about that. Lawrence did crave for
it. At his college at Oxford, the first experience came of
him seeking it for himself. The pain he would be given, the
humiliation he now so avidly sought. He could barely feel
After his college try, meeting Bella in St Pancras and in
some sense falling in love, he had rented a cottage for them
where indeed they did act as man and wife. Here there
was a brief interval where the lust and the higher senses
prevailed but it was short-lived.
Going to a Pinchcock once more became the necessary for him and he resumed the dependency. He wishes
it wasn’t something he did before he came home to her, but
without the thrashing the prostitute would do to his body,
the binding, the tying of his genitals, no love could he make
in any sense.
A piss proud he was, nothing more, and Bella though
she sensed the pain, could not hold it.
In a way he did not understand, he had to make love
to her. If that meant a Pinchcock with the pox, who never
expecting him to do the normal, then he had to do it.
Bella couldn’t talk to him about that which he feared.
Nor could he respond to her warmth. If he should the coven must come to
his lips, and he could never allow those words.
He was afraid, afraid of Angulse Sherod, his uncle as he
called. But he was more afraid of them, those who came to
see him, to see what they had done to him.
The carriage taken from the railway station has stopped
due to congestion. The young man raps on the glass of the
carriage, points to an inn with a sign in the window, a
notice of rooms available. “We will stay here.”
Lawrence pushes against the public house door, holds it
“A room if you have it, good man. An overnight room
for my wife and myself.”
“Yes sir. Indeed sir.”
“If all is satisfactory I will make lodging here for the
one night. My wife will be staying for two.”
“Yes sir. This way, sir.” The proprietor bows low.
Directed through a narrow, low ceilinged entrance, the
two climb to a half-landing where a door is open.
“I hope this will be a pleasing to the gentleman and his
wife.” The proprietor stands aside while a waft of blueness
envelops them: Sapphire curtains, Chatham velvet carpet,
azure woven woollen bed covering not unlike the colour of
Bella’s dress. With its conformity of colour the room would
appear regal would that the hefty iron bed not take most
of the available space.
“The market from here, sir. An excellent view.” The
proprietor manoeuvres his way to the window to glance and
point from the leaded panes. “All the main shops, madam,
within easy walking distance.”
“Thank you. We will take it.”
“Will you be wishing for food, sir? The oven is hot. Kidney and steak is on the menu. And something to drink
that I might bring up, sir?”
“You have a private dining room?”
“Oh, indeed sir. We have an admirable private room. I
will see a fire is set, right away.”
Lawrence nods. “Then
have the food made ready for we will be down as soon as
we have refreshed.” The two stare out the window while
the bags are carried up. The door is closed, water tipped
into a washbowl, the faces moistened, the hands cleansed.
A short time later, clambering down the circular stairs,
they are led into a small room, a wooden table projects
from the side. “Pickstone’s the name, sir.”
Lawrence orders a tankard, Bella gin and ginger. As
the drinks are brought they both stare silently up at the
rose-paper walls, decorated plates, grapes made of porcelain
fixed between the plates.
They are here in Biddiford because of a letter Lawrence
has received from his aunt, as Lawrence refers to Catherine
Sherod. ‘I have not spoken to your uncle,’ his aunt had
written, ‘for he gets so angry when I mention Caroline, your
The letter had been about Rachel, the family’s older
servant. ‘I do not know why she has not taken it upon
herself to disclose these facts before. Rachel insists that
your mother begged, had pleaded upon Rachel’s soul that
she not speak of that which she had overheard during the sickness.
‘As you know, you mother fell ill with brain fever the
day she came to our house. Rachel all of those subsequent
days remained by her bedside until your mother regained
His aunt’s handwriting so familiar to him, her
words burn even now into Lawrence’s brain. ‘Rachel was
younger then of course and it seems she had made light of
words by Caroline spoken during her fever “Popum,” your
mother would often speak, and “Bexi.”
‘Your mother was fair perplexed,’ the letter continues.
“‘Please tell me all that I have repeated,” your mother
asked. “Popum and Bexi, you spoke fair often, Miss. Sometimes Stonebridge, I think it was that. And a manor and
also a magistrate that owned the manor. Who is Popum?”
Rachel asked. She said she had laughed when she repeated
that. “You spoke very often of him, Miss.”
“‘It is our secret word.” Rachel said she could tell right
away the girl had been sorry of mentioning it. Then came
the pleadings. “I beg you, Rachel! Not ever! Not to me!
Not to anyone!” Rachel states she had been forced to swear
on her very soul. But she thinks now with time passing, and
the mother no longer living, that the boy, that you should
‘I do remember a young magistrate being appointed for
Biddiford,’ his aunt continues in her letter. ‘I remember
a function we attended for a Magistrate Bexfield of Stonebridge Manor. It was some honour he had been given in
Exeter. It seems your father is this magistrate. I dare not
speak to Angulse of this.’
Catherine Sherod had never spoken to her husband of
anything of importance since Lawrence can remember. A
chasm exists between the two that she will not cross.
Lawrence believes his aunt might suspect the ceremonies
and that Lawrence is involved, but he is sure she does not
know all that they entail. The many journeys Lawrence
has taken over the years alone with Angulse, her two boys
going to Hartlepool only when he has taken her.
His aunt has convinced herself her husband is having an
affair in Hartlepool. It stops her questioning. But he also
believes Catherine Sherod has a fear of Hartlepool. For her
two boys sake she does not wish to know.
Lawrence has met the magistrate, this Bexfield. Fate
playing its hand, Edward Coulter had become drawn to a
club at his college at Oxford that Lawrence had founded,
Edward’s money had come in handy on more then a few
occasions and Lawrence did not mind the time he spent at
the Coulter’s estate. Playing cards with Enid his mother
did have its reward. As his skill had often overtaken the
playing of the Magistrate from Stonebridge Manor.
The Squire, as he is known, lives within a few miles of
the Coulter estate on Oath Highway.
The letter is quite stunning for him. He has played cards
with his father!
His father is living only a short distance from Edward
Coulter. His father has money. Enid Coulter has mentioned
Stonebridge Manor as having copious farm land. His father
is a magistrate. If proof could be found at the manor that
Bexfield is his father, they could get some of the wealth.
He has been invited to the marriage of Edward, not
merely invited, he is to stand for Edward Coulter.
If Bella and he have enough money to disappear. To the
Orient or the Americas he has suggested to Bella. Bella’s
girlfriend working at an employment agency, it was easy for
the agency’s letterhead to be sent to the Squire.