Look, I designed this.  It’s a Kusari doi, a rain chain.
Across the tiers, tile drips onto carved pots
pots onto tile.
Water pots drip into more water pots.
Chapter Three
The Estate
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Foreboding mahogany it is to eye of John Hopkins. Foreign wood reeks of gentry.
Manor doors with dark red finish, solid brass plate, two raised pelicans either side, door never fails to give him a strong loss of power.
These many years he has worked the southern fields of the Bexfield property.  Done well by the land if he does say so himself, as well as his own.
Both farm and manor produce more than ever has been produced before.
But those doors!  This Wednesday morning he feels like a boy about to get upbraid from his father.
John places his ear to the door, listens to the ring as he pulls the side porcelain knob down.  Wire all the way back to kitchen, he’s not surprised when all he hears is silence.
Here is good breeding.  His father is good stock, not that did the old goat any good.  Worked land for gentry all his life serving and bowing, and left nothing.  Nothing for John.  Nothing for anyone.
John Hopkins is a great believer of the ‘Five Certainties:’
The Politicians with their lies - We kill and plunder.

The Bishops puffed in pontificals - We prey upon you in your ignorance.

The Game - The Enslavement Dream. TheWE.biz The Soldiers and their regimentals - We fight for who pays.

The ordinary soul who works and slaves - I'm taxed to pay all.

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For John the gentry are rogues, not the least the lawyers:
The Lawyers in wigs and gowns - We steal.

The Bishops puffed in pontificals - We prey upon you in your ignorance.

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And don’t they rob all!
John, as Devon a son as any, considers these gentry rogues ‘foreigners.’ Even Magistrate, whose family has held Manor for as long as he or his father can remember.
Gentry and their agents, these damned ‘Solicitors,’ rob anything and everything from you.  Have all of Devon angling for farthings if they could, if they didn’t know the country folk would rise up.  The gentry was a fear.
When John married he thought it was a lawful marriage. Lawful in all sense, meaning he’d be owner of farm.  Not according to solicitors.
Old man Hendrey, Mary’s father, taking sudden dislike to him, had by legal written-on-paper of Exeter solicitor, engaged to espouse a ruling by law and power that he, John Hopkins, should not become owner of prized land, his farm.
No!  What was his by rights through all known means of virtue, was now not his.
Mary, his supposed dutiful wife, had been given, by those who wouldn’t even talk without payment, written legal on solicitors paper, guardianship of property.  Farm going to Tom come forty. What did John, who did all the sweating, all the mucking, what did John get for all his jollity — nothing.
Farmhouse, fields, even bedroom stolen from him by legal Latin. He, John Hopkins, who has made the farm land so prosperous, so bountiful as it is today.
He, just a paid hand, wearing Mary’s dress and she his trousers. Might as be.  All over they say: ‘John, d’ain’t do nought wit ’er quane Mary don’t agree.’
Damnation to all gentry and those with their Latin. John spits to the side just as the door opens, just as McBride stares benevolently down at him.
“Come t’see Magistrate.” John winces.
“Mr.  Hopkins,” McBride steps back, waits for the farmer to enter. “I will show you to the study, sir.  The Squire is expecting you.  I will notify him you are here.”
Inside the study, John glances around: grand windows, rich leather, silk coverings, foreign carpet.  He’s been in this room more than a few times.  Plenty of opulence here.
A door near the north window John has opened before, but for curiosity he turns the knob.  Full of books is the room, books stacked to the ceiling.  Impressed, he knows the Squire has learning.  This room he’s staring at proves it.
John shuts the door.  Squire’s knowledge is what made him come here.  Atherton, where Mange works at the Stogg, is a forty minute ride on a good horse.  And cold on a winter early morn. Nevertheless, John has been considering it.
Mange has a little cottage on the farm property that he would move into.  She has asked the new owners, Lilly and Tommy Rose. Those two got plenty of money. Tommy and him get along. Tommy has told him he’s got a job on Stogg farm any time he chooses.
It’s a lot to give up your own farm to go and work on another man’s.  It takes some consideration.  He wants to keep working his land if he can, and Manor’s.
Manor land alone gives him a good income.
Knowledge of the law is what he needs and that’s why he’s here. No better man than Magistrate, even if he is gentry and speaks Latin.  He ain’t one of them solicitors.
A note sent yesterday told him Magistrate had looked through his books.  As far as he knows, married he can keep working his land, married to Mary that is.  Staying married to her, she cannot force him from it.  So can she divorce him?  Can Mary divorce him, that is what he has come here for. Apprehensively standing by one of the fancy chairs he waits for the butler.
Then Squire himself comes through the door.
“Good to see you, John,” Squire is shaking his hand.  “My account books are set up in the work study as you know. But I keep everything to do with the law also on those shelves.  We should go there.”
Outside the study, they walk, by a door on the left with opaque, stylised glass, the room full of books.  They turn right down a passage to the door on the left which the Squire has opened.  He stands waiting for John to go through.
The Squire knows as a farmer they come no better than John Hopkins.  He has no desire to spoil the very agreeable arrangement both have with John managing the manor’s southern farmland.
“Have a seat, my friend,” the Squire pulls a chair away from the front of his desk so John can sit down.  “How’s the manor land doing?”
John Hopkins, ten-years-younger, is measuring the older man and this large, somewhat cluttered room; its fireplace with a fire, small but friendly, taking the chill off.  Books on the magistrates desk and books stacked to the ceiling behind gives him a sense of awe despite himself.  Not as many books as that room t’other side, but books enough. More books than John Hopkins is ever likely to read.
“Pretty good, Magistrate.  Pretty good.  Weather holds, we should have a fine early harvest, I’m thinking.”
The Squire seated behind his desk, beams.  “Good!  I’m delighted to hear it.  Your skill in the fields are certainly allowing us to prosper.  So you think it is going to be a good year?”
“Don’t want to knock the apple cart, do we Magistrate.”
“No!  I don’t suppose we do.  Well, you came for the law, so we will get right to the law.”
“Yes, Magistrate.” John takes out his hand-cloth, which Mary has ironed and folded for him, mops it around his neck.
“John, you asked me if Mary...  you wanted to know if solicitors could inform Mary that she is able to make papers for a divorce, should she wish, should you move from the farm but continue to work the land.”
“I did Magistrate.”
“The law as you know is a complicated matter.  While I believed I could answer your question, I felt it was wise to clarify this situation with my clerk in Biddiford.”
The Squire laughs.  “To be truthful a good court clerk knows more about law than his magistrate.”
The Squire hopes to see John enjoying his humour but the response is unreceptive.  “Property and marriage law has changed as you know.  We still are guided by common law, you understand what I mean by common law?”
John nods.  “I do magistrate.” A morose expression sets in.
“Perhaps changes against what you are thinking should be, John. Common law would have you in full entitlement of all income of Mary’s property through marriage ‘all farm land passed to her from her father.’” The Squire begins to fumble through a page of the law volume he has open:
A man cannot grant any thing to his wife, or enter into covenant with her for the grant would be to suppose her separate existence; and to covenant with her would be only to covenant with himself.

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The Squire stops reading, stares at the farmer.  “That is the words of Sir William Blackstone.”
“Magistrate,” John knows Parliament has been fiddling with things.  What don’t they fiddle with, besides taking his money. “So that if I’m understanding means to Common Law...” John thinks he knew what it meant but now he isn’t sure.  “So Mary can divorce me, Magistrate?”
The Squire hesitates to respond.  “The opposite, John.  It means you couldn’t give Mary a divorce even if you wished, for that would mean divorcing yourself.  Only previously could the church, in considered circumstance, or the state by the King, issue a divorce decree.  But that was Common Law as it was understood previous.  In more recent times, Parliament has made itself able to issue divorce decrees.”
“And if I could not divorce Mary, she could not divorce me.  If I’d to have my way...” John is even more upset now.  All this farting and not getting to facts has John assured of one thing.  Bad news!
“I’m not saying that Mary could not divorce you today, John, in certain circumstances.” The Squire is not about to be rushed.  “Let me say a progression of law has taken place over Common Law these past fifty years.  ‘The Divorce and Matrimonial Causes Act.’ ‘The Married Women’s Property Act of 1870’ ‘The Married Women’s Property Act of 1882 and 1883.’
“These changes and supplementations brought to previous common law means that a wife does now have control over her property as if she were unmarried.”
John would groan but he remains silent and the Squire decides to proceed.  “A wife in arrangements of all property has full legal say, whether owned at marriage or if it should be by inheritance after marriage.  She also has full legal say of all personal earnings should she acquire any.  If Mary owns the farm...  but I understand...”
“She doesn’t own farm, Magistrate.  She has trust.  Tom, lad owns farm.”  John would spit in disgust if he didn’t have such respect for the Squire.  “T’old zod never did like me marry’n Mary, which all showd even wedding day.  If you ‘cuse me Magistrate t’old zod, took umbrage with me virst day ‘er met me, didn’t ‘er. Jealous how good lant gett’n.”
“‘Bert ‘Endrey fer spite – zeth I, nought else fer spite – ad Exeter z’licitor draw up documents to pissen on me.  Left it t’lad, ‘Bert ‘Endrey did.  Mary’z ‘t guardian till Tom reach forty.  Me and ‘er, we can live on prop’ty ’long as we ‘live.  Had to do that, I’ve b’n told.  When Tom claims land...  not that I mind that...  when he does...  past t‘er m’self, mind.  Land should go t’er. He’s m’lad ’aft all.”
The Squire, making pretence of going through his thick leather-bound law tome, knows all this but he waits until John had finished.
“So the primary question is your leaving the farmhouse, that is why you have come.  Can Mary divorce you if you no longer live with her!  Well, the answer to that is... not unless you give her opportunity.”
John looks somewhat astounded.  “Dn’t leav’n farm gi opportun’t, Magistrate?”
“No!  There are only specific situations in which Mary can divorce you, John.  For adultery alone she cannot.”
Suddenly John’s face is all smiles.
The Squire coughs.  “Mary would be able to petition for severance of marriage if there are causes beyond a proven act of adultery.”
“Causes beyond adultery?”
“John, I’ve spoken with my clerk and a magistrate I talk with.  It is clear in law.  ‘The Divorce and Matrimonial Causes Act,’ stipulates that divorce is not allowed by the wife if there are no pertinent other causes.” Staring down at the law book, he converts the wording to:
have engaged in incest, that as her husband you have taken another wife, any form of recognised cruelty, have left the home as in desertion.

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The Squire, deeply embarrassed at bringing up personal issues between two people he knows, has now gone a deep red.  “To be succinct, if Mary can prove that you ‘have left the farm, as in desertion,’ John – with the qualification that she also is able prove you have engaged in adultery – then she can petition for divorce. There is a section in law that does define desertion – 27 of the ’57 act”
Divorce can be granted to the wife on cause of desertion. Desertion must be two years or longer. In addition to desertion, adultery must also be proven.

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“Let me make this clearer if I can.  Mary may partition the Probate and Divorce Court if she is able to prove by witness testimony recognised cruelty on your part, or if you have not resided with her in your recognised home, or been with her as man and wife, for any period of more than two years...  and adultery is proven.  If all that cannot be proven, Mary will not receive legal severance of marriage from you John.  She can leave you John, leave the recognised home, but she cannot divorce you.”
John wipes his neck as the Squire finishes speaking. “Well, I never beat Mary if that’s what you are saying, not once Magistrate.  And Tom, lad, would back me.  Tom tells truth.”
“Yes, I’m sure...”
“As to leav’n Magistrate.” John breaths quickly as he wipes his face.  “Mary’s ai ‘ard woman.  And man wants cumv’t when t’get it.  T’aint noh’t do but Mary and Mange and me, but zays I do vlee, Magistrate.  Zays I do zaparate wit Mange ver time.  Due to lad Tom ‘aving property, an Mary cain’d ‘ave n’mair childrain doctor sazs, and ‘m thinkin ‘m no gett’n younger, Magistrate. What’s zituation t’me then if Mary and ‘m do zaparate?”
The Squire looks at the shrewdly staring farmer.  “You will have to be gone missing for two years, John – live away from Mary for two years – and you will have to be found guilty of adultery.” The Squire repeats: “Divorce can be granted to the wife on cause of desertion. Desertion must be two years or longer.  Mary must have additional proof that you have committed adultery.”
“Mary can leave farm herself, Magistrate?”
“Yes!  No longer is it possible to force Mary to stay with you, as many still believe.  A husband no longer has the right to imprison his wife...  for conjugal rights or other reasons...”
John has a sour smile.  “You know Mary, Squire.  ‘Er’s not a bad girl.  We ‘ave reared lad together.  Don’t know what ai’d do times weren’t she ait zide t’ere.”
The Squire stands up.  “Something to consider John.”
“If Mary t’wer t’leave varm.  How’d ’at stand wit lad? Propertyship and all ‘m mean?”
The Squire smiles.  “The property would remain in trust for Tom. He might partition for an earlier release of full rights.  I am sure a consultation with a solicitor would be appropriate on that matter, John.”
“Yes, Magistrate.  Thank you for knowledge.” John gets out of the chair.  “How’s t‘lad.  ‘Er doing work right?” The Squire rises. “Everything asked, and a lot more, Fred tells me.” Accompanying the farmer towards the door, he asks, “You come around on your horse, John?”
“Walked ‘t vields.  Dinna wan a'Mary ‘t bai questioning.”
“Tom is a fine boy.”
“T’lads growing up, that ‘er is.  Be marry’n soon.  Mary and ‘m wed not t’year older.
The Squire as he walks with the farmer to the north door says, “Hope to see you at the picnic.”
“Picnic on Saturday!  Yes, Magistrate.  Mary and me, we’ll be there.”
The Squire is thankful Mary will be coming.  That means they must still be talking.  Relieved this is over, he grins as the farmer opens the door into the courtyard.  “See you at the picnic, then.”
“Yes, Magistrate!”
John stepping down the stone slabs walks briskly to the gate that separates the privy courtyard from the laundry drying and servant’s outhouse area.  Watching him step through the gate, the Squire in his heart hopes that Mary and John will sort this out.  The farmer does not look as the gate closes. Sombrely the Squire steps back into the manor, closes the courtyard door.
. . .
To Edward, train stations have always meant roaring boilers, steam and smoke par excellence!
Biddiford station no exception, Edward leans out of the horse carriage, searches for the black and green painted engine, for the soot rising.  Again being ten years young makes him jump out of the carriage before it stops.
He stares.  No train!  Not even one person wandering to make it seem as if the station has life.  Certainly no Laurie!
“Mr. Morton doesn’t appear to be here,” Edward looks up forlornly at Henri the coachman.  “Perhaps we have the time wrong.”
Neither Henri nor Seth, the young footman riding beside him, has any comment.  “I’ll go check inside.  Ask if there has been a delay.”
“Très bon, Monsieur.” The coachman touches his hat, tugs at the reigns to move the horses towards the water trough.
Edward gazes perplexed at the empty ticket hall.  Out on the platform a station porter pops out from a door.  “Has the Exeter train arrived, my good man?”
“Past fifteen minutes more, sir” the youth doesn’t even glance at him, proceeding in haste towards stacked boxes.
“Did you see a man my age, tall?”
“I do not think so, sir.”
“Thank you.”
“Very good, sir.”
Inside the ticket hall, perusing the arrival board, he’s about to walk back to the horses when a sharp tap descends upon his shoulder.
Edward turns.  “Laurie!”
“Didn’t mean to startle you, old man.”
“I just asked about you.  The boy on the bags said he hadn’t seen anyone.”
“Observant.” Lawrence remarks in the snappy timbre he uses with the ‘The Not-Quites.’
“Oh!”
“I caught the earlier arrival.  Couldn’t sleep after the preparing so I told myself, if you’re going to go, go.” His silver cigarette case taken out Lawrence opens it, offers it to Edward.  “I did get some sleep on the way.” Lighting Edwards cigarette and then his, he takes a deep draw. “Last time I was here you were refusing to smoke.” Lawrence smiles with the intoxicating bright eyes he has.
Edward laughs.  “Yes!  This time I thought I would be polite.” He glances across at Seth tending the horses.
“We’ll get your bags and be off.”
The two young men cross to where Henri is patting down one of the horses with a cloth.  “Ready?” asks Edward.
“It is hot afternoon Monsieur, and the horses I think are a might bit steamy.  They will cool soon.  Before we go, yes?”
“Of course.  We have to get the luggage.”
Returning from their request of the porter, Lawrence strolls around the bulky carriage.  “New as well, a Double Brougham.” He opens one of the doors, peers inside. “Not many equipped in this style, even in London.”  His hand runs over the new glistening leather trim.
“Mother wanted something to give her an easier ride. The supplier praised this model.  Nothing being smoother riding than the triple spring version, he said.  So she ordered one.”
“‘Non shabai’ thing,” Henri remarks, hearing his pride and joy spoken of.  “Perfection her drive, merveilleux.” He puts his hand to his mouth, kisses it, raises his hand in the air.
The young, scraggly railway guard emerges from the ticket hall, brings the luggage over in the rail cart.  “Here are your bags as requested, sir.”
The rear hatch opened, the bags are loaded.  Seth the footman jumps up beside Henri and they are off.
Lawrence takes off his jacket in the warm carriage, lays his head against the padded leather.  Sprawling his long legs out in the spacious interior, he exclaims, “Spacey!”
“Keeps them thinking we’re not at the poor house.”  Dust swirling inside, Edward fiddles with the window to bring the glass up.  “Glad you decided to agree.”
“Agree!”
“To stand at the wedding.  I was surprised you did.”
Lawrence, closes his eyes.
The carriage rolls along.  Edward lies back.  They both relax and begin to sleep.
For Lawrence, closing his eyes inside any carriage has become precarious.  Any journey without Bella, any closing of his eyes and the shadows come.
One is over there, just at the side.  Seeing it, he jerks quickly.  The shadow has darted with rapid speed, flinging itself into his head.
“It is your fear that brings them,” the American Shaman had told him.  ‘From Michoacán,’ the sign on the fairground caravan. Underneath the sign with its images of trees: ‘Ask the Shaman!’ and beneath that: ‘Healing potents!’
He had stepped through the rickety door, staring at this peculiar face in a half-sized chair.  The shrivelled hand had beckoned him forward and he had obeyed. Whatever the creature was, he had thrown him two sovereigns.
“Rid yourself of it and they will not come.” The wizened face bent over him, “They are from yourself, you need not fear.”
But he cannot rid himself.
“Take pilgrimage, it is the only way.” The accented words he can hear now.  “Cleanse the evil,” the creature said. “If you do not, I see your death.  I see your ghost.”
“Take pilgrimage!  Where!”
All now is a dream.  His lying on the ground.  His crushed head gushing with blood.
Closing that small wooden door, some pain had gone from him.
“Weatherby village, Laurie.”
“Weatherby?” Thatched cottages begin, then the larger houses.
Edward taps Lawrence’s knee: “St. Brannoc’s.”
“St. Brannoc’s.”
“Where you’ll be giving me the rings.”
Uneven blocks of granite of the tower stare at Lawrence.
“There’s history to that church,” Edward rambles.  “Old Saxon part they built around.”
The carriage has stopped.  Some geese in front of them.
“New construction began just before the Black Death reached Devon.  The Death took a lot from here.” Edward rolls down the window.  “Mother had the clear windows replaced this year.  Blue sapphire and blood red she chose.  It’s another world when the sun shines through.”
“Blood red,” Lawrence’s response is almost inaudible.
“The plague!  They had to stop working on the church. Not enough workers to continue.  Mother said she donated the windows for the wedding.”
“You can do it,” the witch priest had said.  “Go across the water.  To America lands.”
The coven had a library in Hartlepool.  A book on the Black Death, Lawrence had read.  Images of spherical shape said to be flying ships, in that book.  Flying ships appearing before the sickness. Many deaths the testimonies stated came afterwards.  Villages filled with death.
The coven having such a book in their library, they were not fools. They were far from fools.
“Come out!” they scream in their ceremony.  “Come out!” And this thing inside him will become him.
Up his body it will come.  Up through his stomach.  Up through his naked body so all could see.  And he screams when it does! Screams!  Screams!  Screams for the power of it to stop.
They kneel then, prostrate their bodies before what he has become.
“It is from your tree, your great tree,” his uncle has told him proudly.
And now as the carriage races along he sees the shadow again.
From far, far away it rushes.  Rushes towards him as his fear mounts.
The shadow is almost to him, almost catching him!
Lawrence screams now!
Screams!
Screams!
Screams for mercy!
Screams to stop the pain.
To stop them.
To stop it.
As into him it passes!
And moves beyond.
“Whoa!  Whoa!”
The horses have stopped.
“Monsieur!  Monsieur!”
Seth the footman holding the reins, Henri on the ground is folding himself over the trembling horses, stroking them with his face and hands and body.
“Why would they rear like that, Henri?” Edward has jumped out of the carriage.
“Hush!  Hush!  Monsieur.”
For minutes they wait.  At last the horses calm.
Now passing along the outer edge of the Estate property, Lawrence wakes from his fitful sleep.
“We’re home, Laurie.  We’re home.” Edward grabs his shoulder, shakes it.
Lawrence stares through the carriage window at the high pine that towers over them.  “Home!”
. . .
“I am not sure I can, your Ladyship,” McBride looks beseechingly at the Squire.
“Constance my dear, I don’t think McBride can handle the pie and the dog.”  Constance, also now known as Lady Middleton, has arrived.  Spectacularly!
Shapanzi, Lady Middleton’s China sleeve dog is being presented. Unfortunately cooked kidney pie from the kitchen has brought havoc.
Yelping, as if Heaven itself is about to descend, the dog has his front feet on Lady Middleton’s head.  “If McBride cannot take him, you take him Ronald,” his ladyship responds.
Struggling to get him out of her hair, her ladyship holds the slight bundle of fir around the belly, raises it, and offers him to the Squire seated next to her on the sofa.
The dog yelps and the Squire immediately declines the request.
“Horace, my dear, will you please take him?  I will take the pie.”
The sight of four small legs wriggling in the air, striving most valiantly to get at the pie that McBride is holding only feet away, is much too much for McBride.  He backs away.
“Shapanzi!  No, Shapanzi.  No!”
McBride looks very grim.
The Squire, a peculiar expression matching his thoughts, considers this not only the strangest animal he has ever seen, but the noise it makes, a curious sound indeed, a queer resonance between a rat squeak and a hen.
Shapanzi’s front legs back on Lady Middleton’s head is disturbing the well-put togetherness of à la Conclerge – a style one might say slightly hiding the younger Gibson effect – à la Conclerge her ladyship having her hairdresser take great care with this morning before travelling.
Fortunately before disaster completely takes it course, Miss Hooper, Lady Middleton’s paid companion, rushes across to intervene.  Why she has waited for so long one can only surmise, but Miss Hooper now acts.
“Shapanzi, you must not, you surely must not do that.” Miss Hooper plucks the barking ball from the top of her ladyship’s hair.  “No!  It is not gentlemanly.”
Moved from the pie, pandemonium as it has never been before erupts.
A ‘caaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaw’ utterance emerges from the animal.
As they stare, not the least the Squire, at the tiny long-haired creature with its wrinkled short snout, croaking, as if its last dying gasp of breath is about to befall, the anguished croak begins not to cease, but to accelerate.
Miss Hooper running to the butler grabs the pie from his outstretched hand.  Now appearing to McBride as a wandering spectre, Miss Hooper – not the most attractive at the best of times, her prominent chin, most pointed nose, flashing, glaring eyes – rises among them.
Calling out in contralto voice, “Oh dear one.  Oh dear one,” she might not have bothered.  The small one has managed by this time to reach across to the good lady’s other hand, the hand holding the pie, and has grabbed a sizeable bite.
The noise ceases.
Suddenly all is silent.
The Squire, her Ladyship, the butler, they all open-mouthed stare as the good lady, who, mortally afraid her charge is about to expire from such a large chunk, proceeds to rush to the door.
Pie in one hand, dog in the other, the large parlour door is unopenable.  Fortunately McBride, coming to his senses, does rush across to assist.
The last thing they see, as Lady, Middleton’s companion glides away, is the small thing’s flat, over-hanging-ears. Or is it the most peculiar angle of the head, now raised, as the remaining pie wafts itself above it.
“Get some sleep, Gladys,” Constance calls as the aura of her paid companion drifts away.  “You know how your constitution is.”
“Will there be anything more, Sir, your Ladyship?” McBride manages to produce his best, long-suffering tone.
The Squire shoots him a long look of sympathy before glancing at Constance who shakes her head.  The Squire waves his hand.
“Very good, sir,” the butler bows, and then he himself is gone.
“I know!  I know!” utters Constance.
The Squire, with some intensity of passion, knows she will accept a modified defeat when her eyes flutter at him like that.
“Before you say it, I admit it is all my fault.”
The burnt sienna, the little dashes of flame that seem to dart about his eyes, even in her childhood he had come to love her fierceness.  When just a boy and he had asked her to marry him, when she said, ‘Yes!’ those flashes had been there.
“I saw China,” her ladyship quips with her coquettish, less than sad smile.  “How can you refuse China?”
Edging closer on the sofa, her escort begins to stammer. The years, the agony, all so long past, and now they’re back together.  “Do you think we should go to China!”
“They call them the ‘lion dogs,’” Constance smiles.  “Do you wish us to go to China?” Realizing she is free of being chastised, she turns fully towards the man seated next to her.  “Now I have to accept I am at your mercy.”
He kisses her ear.  “Indeed you are my dear.  At my every beck!”
“Nobs,” she strokes him gently on his arm as his tongue begins to move from her ear across to her cheek.  “It has been some time.”
“Not for the lack of wanting.”
Even after fleeing the manor, fleeing from him, from the dreadful arrogance that she felt he held, his dreadful decision with the fire and the Tempest woman that she knew in her heart was wrong, even then she considered him only a lost boy, as her lost boy.
She had married a knight to rid herself of the memory of him.
He had never expected her to disappear.  She always surprised him.  He had never expected her to return after Percy died.  She is always an enigma to him.
The sound between a rat squeak and a hen distracts their kissing.  Through the outside open parlour door, the door that leads into the solarium hall, along the outside glass of the solarium hall windows, Miss Hooper and the unseen animal make a fleeting pass.
Ronald gets up, walks to the drinks table.  “Is that a croak, a squeak, or a bird’s bark?” He roars with laughter.
Constance following at his arm picks up the special orange-touched nectar that Ronald Major, Ronald’s father had purchased a crate of so many years past.  “I’m glad you kept this.”
“I never thought you would return, but I always hoped.” He pours her a copious amount of the brandy into a snifter, hands the balloon-glass to her.
“Sleeve dogs are an aristocratic species, you know,” Constance takes a sip of the liqueur, breathing the orange fumes into his nose.  “Shapanzi is a sleeve prince from Peking.  The trader told me so himself.” She begins to fondle his hair.  “The trader informed me that the Empress Dowager always carried Shapanzi’s mother in her elongated sleeve.”
The Squire, a filled glass of whisky in his hand, moves his face towards hers.  “A warrior inside him then!” Gently he touches her lips.  “Do you think this sleeve will turn out to be a Boxer and attack us?”
“I would say so.” Constance places her glass onto the table allows him to reach his arm and his glass around her most ample bosom. “They have a lion’s ferocious courage and independence.”
“Do you think this little one will fit into your sleeve?”  He uses a delightful scent of fern and wood.  He has always used the same scent since she has known him.  She has never asked him where he obtains it.  “I don’t have any sleeves big enough!”
“No ‘Peking’ out when we make love, then.”
She laughs.  “No!”
“Mmmmmmm!”  He had only hoped, he had never expected her and she had returned.  As her head tilts upwards, his tongue slides along her throat’s delicate skin.
Excitement creeping, Her Ladyship begins to feverously stroke the back of his neck.
The bouquet she has, maddeningly quickening.
“How was the road!’
“Increasingly potholed.”
“Indeed, yes,” the Squire’s smothered voice responds.  “Lots of potholes.  Shall we go to my rooms!”
. . .
“Coming old man!”
Lawrence unmoving stalls by the carriage door.  “Yes! Yes, of course!” Lawrence has become so paralysed he can no longer move.  The shock of feeling him has immobilised his body.
‘Why would you have interest here?’ he asks.
But ‘The Other’ chooses not to answer.
From in his loins, upwards from his member into the stomach, that is how he takes Lawrence’s body makes it his own.
“Laurie?” Edward grabs him by the arm.
The thing retreats, listens as it does by his groin.
“I want to show you something, Laurie.” Edward laughs.
“Why I told Henri to drop us here.  I wanted you to see what has been done to the serpentine way.”
Standing at the bottom of the angular stone stairway leading towards a well-trimmed growth of yew, an array of classic fluted columns, Mandalmane towers above them.
“We have to take the maze.”
Lawrence murmurs fitfully, yet his feet make the steps that take them up towards the yew.
Edward’s hand on his shoulder, they pass under the low curved entrance and are inside the first grove.
‘He could do you here!’ the voice, a woman’s, speaks her soft but vulgar words.  ‘Don’t you know.’
He does know.  But it wouldn’t be from her that he would get the warning.  It would be from him.
Edward removes his hand from Lawrence’s shoulder, runs off, turns a corner into the greenery, disappears from sight.
Deep inside the thicket, alone, Lawrence stares up at the large stately home of Mandalmane.  He cannot help but be impressed. The pilaster mouldings, above the ionic entablature built and maintained with exact care.  A newer addition of French-style volutes adorning the central face.  The whole place reeks of money.
“It’s all right, Laurie” Edward’s voice wafts back to him. “I know you refused to come inside here.  I ride Celandic through it.  It’s quite harmless.  I want to show you something.”
‘He’s brought you to do you in!  Don’t you know.’ Her voice is louder now.
A waft of strange perfume slips into his nostrils.  Ahead of him is a curtain of bamboo where he has to turn.
Why would Edward want to kill him!
The silly club, ‘The Not-Quites,’ Lawrence had formed in a boring, juvenile moment when someone inebriated had given the name.
“Not-quite for the aristocracy.  Not-quite for the rich. Not-quite for the Empire and its pervading control,” he had told his aunt in a moment of levity that they would share together sometimes.
She had laughed.
Everyone had money at the varied colleges of Oxford, except the few on scholarship, the poor who most of the rich ignored.  His uncle kept him supplied, but none of them in the ‘The Not-Quites’ had the money that Edward Coulter had at his disposal.  He hadn’t seen Mandalmane then.
‘Edward-in-the-library,’ was their name for him.  He seemed to like the appellation, beaming as if amused. Those who had had dealings with him said before the ‘The Not-Quites’ he spent his time taken by farming manuals in the library.
Turning by the bamboo, eight-foot hedgerows alongside him, he would turn back if he could.  If he thought he could find the way back.
“Look for where the hedge divides, Laurie” Edward’s voice comes from somewhere deep in the labyrinth. Down the path then a corner is turned and then another and another.  The hedge divides.  Edward-in-the-library stands by an archway, an archway out.
‘The Not-Quites’ never hid their delight in Edward’s purse.  “What better qualification could a fellow have for ‘The Not-Quites,” they’d tell Edward when drinks became sparse. “A flowing purse.  A mother who loves a fellow. The best qualifications!” And they would all laugh, including Edward as the singing resumed.
Lawrence climbs the steps that lead out of the darkness, Edward placing his arm once again upon his shoulder. “The labyrinth was the quickest way to get here.”
A Zen bell clangs.  Lawrence looks up.
“What do you think?”  They have stopped on a small Japanese footbridge.“Koi!  We opened up the spring this summer so it would flow this way.” Edward nods towards the ornamented pool sparkling below.  “My grandfather had it diverted to the back of the house for the greenhouses.  All it took to divert it back was clever engineering. Now it comes here first.”
Lawrence peers at the golden scales shining through the water.  At the side of the pool, dragons spurt water from capacious mouths onto the fish.
“I said to mother, ‘We need some Kin-Gin-Rin.’ She was so perplexed.”  Edward laughs.  “‘Kin-Gin-Rin?’ She had no idea what I was talking about.”
“‘Carp, Mother!”’ Edward leans across the wooden barricade of the bridge.  “Look, I designed this.  It’s a Kusari doi, a rain chain.”
Across the tiers, tile drips onto carved pots, pots onto tile. Water pots drip into more water pots.
The underbutler hurriedly walks towards them.  “The mistress is in the drawing room sir.  She has asked me to notify you.”
“Tell mother I am showing Mr. Morton the work done on the garden, Hæmma.  We will be with her shortly.”
“Yes sir.” The man quickly steps away.
Edward chatters: “I did want to have the place in order for Annabell.  There was no water here on the front.  That always seemed odd to me for an old painting in the library shows a fountain in this part of the garden.”
As they walk though the pathways and mountainous steps edged with flowers, Edward continues in his plaintive, seeking-guidance fashion:  “I told Annabell that everything in our apartment must be new.  All new furniture.  Everything to be completely redone.  She must choose the style.  Now it is all finished I think she is happy with it.  I hope she is.”
Lawrence half-listens.
“I told Mother that Annabell must feel she is part of the house.  What better way than to have her see to the refurbishment.”
They have reached the large open front door.  Archibald, the head butler, is waiting.
“Annabell and I, we have a cottage on the estate.  She has redone the inside.  I have to say her appraisal of what it needed is most pleasing.”  Edward leading him into the drawing room, Edward’s mother has her eyes closed. Her mouth is slightly open.  Edward reaches down, kisses her cheek.
“Edward.” The elderly woman grabs her son’s hand.
“Laurie’s here, Mama.”
Glancing at Lawrence who appears to stand somewhat uncomfortably, she asks, “I hope you had a journey that was tolerable, Mr. Morton.”
“I did enjoy the ride in your Brougham, Mrs. Coulter. Very comfortable!”  Lawrence extends his hand, which she takes lightly.
“Ah!  So you did.” The lady motions for him to take a seat.
“Bitter Campari, Laurie?” Edward walks across to the decanters.  “All the ‘The Not-Quites’ drink at least one ‘Corpse Reviver’ a day.  Club rules!”
“Yes, dear.” Enid stares at Lawrence now seated across from her. “You have told me.  Lime and orange.  I’m in the mood for something fruity.  A touch of soda.”
The grey-haired lady studying him makes Lawrence at least appear jolly.  Enid Coulter is not young.  Past forty she must have been when Edward was born.  Edward did have a sister, Nicola. He was little more than a year and a half old when she died. There are no other children.
“Mother says Annabell and I are to have one of the new horseless vehicles for a wedding gift, Laurie.”  Edward hands his mother the lime and orange.
“Light locomotive, Edward.”
“Light locomotive, Mother.”
Edward hands Lawrence the Aragon drink.  “With the push in Parliament to rescind the twelve mile-an-hour limit, I bet we’ll be seeing a lot more on the road.  Think how quick it will be to get to bathing on the beach. London, Wales, the north, Scotland.  We can go climbing at Snowdon and be back the same day if we pushed it.  I wonder how long it would take to get to Ben Nevis.”
Edward’s mother smiles teasingly at Lawrence.  “You must be waiting for them to change the law, Mr. Morton. I understand you often travel with your uncle to his business in the north. Hartlepool.  Is that correct?”
Lawrence gets up, walks towards the window.  He might have mentioned Hartlepool to Edward, or while playing cards with her, but he cannot remember it.
Any mention of Hartlepool makes him uncomfortable.
“They say the town has an American air about it,” Enid Coulter continues.
“An American air, Mrs. Coulter?” Lawrence flushes.
Enid Coulter advances cautiously.  The detective she had employed said he couldn’t point to anything, but his instincts told him there was more to Angulse Sherod than his business of importing and exporting.  “I have a friend from Exeter who tells me you like to wager only on horses imported from America,” her voice rises slightly.  “I know your fondness of wager, Mr. Morton.”
Edward frowns at his mother.  “Laurie enjoys wagering for sport, Mother.  I myself like an occasional gamble at the track.”
“Of course, dear.” Enid turns innocently to Edward.  “I expect we will be playing cards later.”
Lawrence remains at the window.  Manicured flowerbeds far into the distance, a sea throbbing with colour, blues, reds, yellows. Below, two gardeners work on a climbing hedge.  He returns his gaze towards them.  What else does she know!
“Your uncle helping,” Edward’s mother is enjoying this, “I am sure your wagering is profitable.  You assist in your uncle’s business in Hartlepool, do you not, Mr. Morton. He is a lucky to have such a young man to work for him.”
Lawrence turns again towards the view.  On the far side of the coloured sea there is extensive wood growth. Beyond that a moor takes hold.  He will ride again to that moor while he is here.
“I do assist at times.  My uncle appreciates it.  The timber on your estate far outstrips my uncle’s wealth, Mrs. Coulter.” Lawrence turns, a force rising inside gazing at the woman.
Enid catches the eyes.  Something is there, mocking her. Some hardness.  She has not seen it before.  Indeed there is some strangeness about the boy and for a moment she has a tinge of fear.
She removes her gaze as Lawrence Morton turns himself back towards the view.
Edward gets up, walks to the window, stares also at the distant oaks.  “Did I tell you I bumped into Edgerton when I was in Exeter last week.  Good man, Edgerton. Passing through on the way to Cowes, he said.  Yachting. Asked about you Laurie.  Said he hadn’t seen you recently.  Wondered why you hadn’t replied to his invitation he sent.”
Lawrence can feel the power recede.  “Edgerton.  One of the best of my ‘Not-Quites.’  Besides you, old pal.”  He uses the word ‘Pal’ with its American tone, quite deliberately.
Now inside the colossal bedroom, his body stretched fully taut on the bed, at the side of his eyes, the shadow.  Soon it will dash across his vision.
“A creation made of you.  Of your fear of them,” the old man in his fairground caravan had said.
He had asked what he should do.
“Flee!”
“Where to?”
“To America?  As far as Spirit takes you.”
He will get money from ‘Bexi.’ Bella and him will then disappear, go somewhere far.
Lawrence drifts into a restive slumber.
The dreams come.  A train, in a dining carriage where he knows both entrances are locked.  His uncle is here.  They stand around him.  He knows he is naked.
Then all he sees is the young woman.  Brought him to her grime-filled room, she slips off her dress.
Hands reach to his face, fingers touching, playing.
These are not the hands of the woman.
The naked one makes her dance as she circles him.
She is pulling him to her by his penis. “Fill me!  Fill me, Great One!”
He is on the floor and she leans on top of him.
His face smothers itself into her breast.
Gasping at his hardness, she covers him.
Then she cries out but he holds her mouth, holds it tight, for the dagger is in her.
Bathed in sweat, he begins to waken.
“Let me go for God’s sake,” he screams to the shadow. “Let me go!”
The woman and he dance at some night place and he feels the power forcing its way through him.
“It is not your time, yet!  Fill me!  Fill me, lad,” his uncle places his mouth on top of him.
Not receiving an answer to the knock on the bedroom apartment, the door knob turns.  A man’s voice breaks through to him.
“I will come back if you wish, sir.  I hope we have placed your items satisfactorily.”
Lawrence moves his eyes towards the robing room door where the butler points.
Grasping dancing minuettes carved on the bedpost, he pulls himself from the bed.
“Would you like me to bring you a hot drink, sir?”
Standing against the towering bedroom window, his hand caresses nervously white cambric.  “Edward and I will be riding shortly.  I will take a bath when we return.”
“Yes, sir.  Is there anything more, sir?”
Nothing is spoken.
“Very good, sir.”
The butler turns to leave.
“Wait!”
Lawrence reaches inside his waistcoat pocket, holds up his cigarette case.  “A supply of American Old Gold.”
“Yes, sir.  I am not sure we have them here, sir.  We will send someone to Biddiford.”
“If they don’t have them at Biddiford, then a quality Gainsborough will do.  Fifties!”
“Yes sir.  I will give the man your instructions.”
“And have some Kalydor brought up.  My hands chaff with riding.”
“It will be here for your bath, sir.  Anything more, sir?”
“No!”
Lawrence pulls aside the lace cambric that hides the view from the window.  As the butler quietly closes the door, he picks a cigarette from the case he still holds.  His lighter out, the cigarette lit, he takes a long draw.
The killing had been to settle his loyalty.  So that he would never speak against them.  They said he would not know her.
The mind floats to when he was very young.  His head held inside water.
The ceremony is how they spoke of it.
When his mind had been pulled from its death, the eyes that looked from him were not his.
A little animal had come out, a little mouse speaking.  The mouse had squeaked and squeaked for a hole in the wall where it could run.
They had laughed at that.  “Here, little mousy,” they had cried. “Here is where it goes.”
One hand behind its back, hobbled on its knees, the body had been forced by the coven priest towards the bound child on the crucifix.
Guided, the dagger had plunged into the heart of the screaming boy.
Lawrence turns away from the window, draws deeply upon the cigarette.
© Kewe   All rights reserved.