“Lucy will be at do,” Tom’s mother shouts above the clatter of pots she’s crashing down on the sink board.
Mary knows her son.  In a way she wishes Tom hadn’t sided with her against his father.
She leaves the dishes, takes out more pieces of black pudding from the pan, walks over, drips them onto Tom’s plate.
“I’m pleased you’ll be at picnic.”
Chapter Six
Picnic
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J
ohn Hopkins is in another of the shouting matches he has become so used to with Mary.  He’s had enough. It is all out in the open about Mange Celaban.
“You got me trousers, then?”
He would leave now, leave for good, never come back. Why don’t he.  Why don’t he just go upstairs, put his clothes in a sack and walk out.
Mary, at the ironing board, picks up the trousers, walks across the kitchen, drops them on the floor in front of him.  Hurrying to the wood stove where Tom’s breakfast meat is being kept warm, she feels John’s eyes following her.
“Mary!”
“Don’t Mary me,” she hisses.
“It ain’t like this, Mary!  It ain’t like I don’t still love you.”
She looks across at him, the trousers still on the floor.
“Pick’n them up.  Or since as like ‘e spend so much time without, you think’n y’ might be do’n we’out none.”
John doesn’t answer.  Tom has come ambling into the kitchen.
“Breakfast ready, Tom?”  Mary plops three eggs into the large breakfast pan.
Tom gives her a half-hearted smile.  “Eard ‘y shouting all way out to cow barn.”
Mary fiddles with the black pudding, the sausage, the potatoes stacked beside the pudding.  She doesn’t know what to say.
“You sit and eat your breakfast, boy,” John says.  “N’er bother t’ Ma and me.”
Tom glances at his father holding his trousers in his hands.  He pulls out a chair from the table, sits midway ’tween his mother finishing eggs at the stove and his father.
“Y’ coming t’ picnic do?”
“Yes!”  is the snappy answer.
A wave of perplexity crosses his father’s face as John feels the comfort of the cloth around his legs.  The Lord knows he tries not to bring lad into this.
Mary sets the hot plate down on the table in front of Tom. Leftovers from last night she’s warmed and stacked over the meat.  The boy likes leftovers.
John tries again.  “You coming wit us, then?”  his father asks.
“Wit Jimmy.”
“Oh!”   John Hopkins stares at his son scrunched over his plate of breakfast.  He should have known that.  Lads grown now. “Thanks for t’k’n care o’cows for ‘m last nait. I thought that ‘e wodner now as work’n for Squire in stables till late.”
“Man’s off.  Man’s zick, id’n’er.”  Tom does not stop his shovelling food into his mouth.  “I always gid a hand wens need.  T’aint for ‘e.”
The ‘T’aint for ‘e’ stabs John.  He tells himself mostly grown or not lads got some learn’n to go.  E’ll come round when older.
It’s silence as John searches for the turning gouge he absent mindedly carried into the kitchen.
Tom munching his food again considers taking off for his Aunt in London.  In London it’d be grand.  His aunt would feed him.  All those things to do.
But that would leave Fred without help.  And he’s no good at society.  Or what Grand Aunt Amy calls having the ‘graces!’ Then there’s Lucy.  He’s been thinking of proposing to Lucy.  Should the two of them go to London?
What about the farm?
“Lucy will be at do,” his mother shouts above the clatter of pots she’s crashing down on the sink board.  Mary knows her son.  In a way she wished Tom hadn’t sided with her against his father.  She leaves the dishes, takes out more pieces of black pudding from the pan, walks over, drips them onto Tom’s plate.  “I’m pleased you’ll be at picnic.”
She gives him a long, loving look.  Tom smiles.
John, finding the gouge, reaches for his overalls on the wall peg. Slipping the overalls over his shirt and trousers, he notes to the interested company: “I’ll be d’n work on ’ay cart avter veed’n pigs.”  He slides a chair out to sit down, begins to pull on his Wellington boots.  “Mary, I’ll be back t’noon fer picnic do.”
Mary in a spasm of rage that she cannot stop, even though it makes her faint as she speaks the words: “‘Ores monger!”  In the huskiness of her voice the words sound whispered, but not whispered enough so all can’t hear: “You ’ores monger liar.”
John swings the door open, then turns back to look at the two, some moment remembered of the past, before it all changed.  He stares at his wife, his expression pleading. No response, he slams the door behind him.
. . .
“It’s mother and father sitting on the beach rocks at Torre Abbey. There’s you, Uncle.”  Ronald laughs.  “A little more hair then.”
“Look!  That has to be Uncle George.  Uncle Arthur! That’s Aunt Constance!”  Annabell giggles at the younger, very attractive woman.  “Oh my gosh, Aunt Henrietta! Who is taking the photograph?”
“Back then we would all have to sit and sit and sit until Henrietta would decide she had it right.”
Ronald returning from his walk out to the copse this Saturday morning has asked Annabell if she will meet him for a few minutes in his private study.  He’s some things to give her.  Now, they’re viewing a photographic album that Constance brought with her.
“Constance said you must have this.  One of the few photographs we have together.  Henrietta captured Herbert and Belinda just perfectly.  Constance wanted me to give it to you.  She knew I was going to speak to you of something important.”
The Squire gazes fondly at his niece.  This moment here in his study with his niece!  She has grown to be such a lovely young woman.
“After your wedding Constance and I will be planning something.  I haven’t asked her formally yet, so I won’t say it in words.  Our going away, I won’t miss you so much.  We’ll be traveling for a few months.”
Annabell puts down the photograph, instinctively takes her uncle’s hands.
“Did you sleep well at the hotel?”
Annabell smiles.  “We had a wonderful dinner and when night came we were wandering around under the electric lights.  It’s exciting to see everything so bright.  I’m waiting for the electricity to get to here, and to Mandalmane.  The apartment has wire inside the walls. It’s so wonderful.  The furniture, the new lights waiting, the apartment looks so lovely, uncle.”
The Squire, captured as always with his niece’s youthful high spirits, opens a drawer of his desk, takes out a new Moroccan leather hide that he lays in front of her. “Details are all here, my dear.  A trust for you, Annabell.” He looks up to see Annabell staring at him most earnestly.
“Your aunt Constance, well as I say, fortune being our way, Constance has far greater wealth than me.  She doesn’t need my money.”  The Squire pushes the hide across the desk.  “I have spoken to Constance and she was so excited when I suggested the idea.  The solicitor brought the document out to us last night.  It is all settled.”
The Squire gets up, walks around the desk to the fireplace where with the poker he stirs the coals.
“Having a legacy will provide a sense of freedom for you. The trust can never be transferred to your spouse or an agent of your spouse.  Not that I do not trust Edward.”  
Ronald holds up his hands.  “I would wish to see that you are independently secure.  This isn’t because I do not think Edward as ...  a good husband and benefactor.  But for my personal satisfaction.  Edward is a fine young man. I believe he loves you. And I believe you love him.  I think altogether you could not have chosen better.”
Ronald smiles.  “This trust, I believe what I am doing is exactly as my dear sister would wish.”
Annabell responds earnestly.  “You have always been so kind to me, uncle.  My mother could not have wished for a better brother. Nor I for someone to care for me”
The Squire mumbles, shakes his head.  “As well as this trust set aside for you, upon my death whatever land, bonds, stock possessions and bank accounts of mine, will become yours.  You will own my half-share of the manor, my dear.”
. . .
It’s been such a bustle.  Madness in the kitchen is how Lucy would describe it and she has escaped. Sitting in the glasshouses, Lucy is conversing with a rising Poinsettia plant, something she does when everything becomes too frantic and gets the better of her.
It’s not that the plant is not concerned with its own affairs, and she of course she is telling it much of nothing, but it does seem to be listening.
Tom spies her through the glass.  Quite aware of Lucy’s hideouts, he had an idea she might be here.  Sitting next to Lucy, a Stork’s Bill geranium in full flower beside him, Lucy’s Poinsettia the side of her, it takes a few minutes, perhaps three, before Lucy inquires, “What you doing Tom?”
“Sitting here, Luce.”
Then his leaning as he does and before she knows it, he’s kissed her.
In the kitchen the baskets for the picnic are complete.
“A fine collection of food, if I might say.”
“You might, Augusta,” answers Nelly’s mother who has popped over from her farm cottage opposite to help with the afternoon delicacies being prepared, now stacked into the baskets to be taken outside.
Three full salmon in fennel leaves, surrounded by a very tangy sour cream, tarragon and lemon.  Grilled fowl, olives in white rice, beet slices in red wine to go with them.
Cob loaves that Meg just had to pull one apart, to check it was done, packed in a large bamboo chest.  A bread smell so heavenly that Meg, daubing a dash of butter over her pulled-apart loaf, couldn’t resist.  “Oh!  Oh!  and Oh!”
Even the food box used by the Squire when he goes out to the moors is being used, because they have completely run out of baskets:
Glasshouse tomatoes from Jersey, rich aged in a malt and blackcurrant vinegar sauce mixed with oregano, basil, bay, sage and thyme.
Cheddar, radish and scallion salad.  Chickpeas in olive oil with white wine vinegar.  Mushrooms and garlic with heaps of peppercorn.  Spinach cake, Leicester cheese, and almonds.
Then the deserts: Strawberry mandorle, Crème fraîche Devon, a Mrs. Minton specialty.  Chocolate cherry cheesecake.  Peach, apple and pear tarts.
Mrs. Minton has not forgotten Shapanzi and Skyler. Placed in His Nibs’ fishing creel, treats for them.  A woman to be admired is Mrs.  Augusta Fay Minton.
Annabell, returning to her apartment with the hide that encloses the trust document given by her uncle, begins to debate what exactly she is going to wear.  It’s already warm and it is going to get hotter.
A high wasted lemon-cream silk faille?  Too warm!  She’ll be dancing by the Pavilion band with Edward and some of the other boys.  She’ll be dancing with Heart.
A short sleeved peach rose silk with crepe?  Creased and needs to be steamed, everybody's much too busy.
“You pick for me, Heart”
“Don’t you think it will be a good idea if we’re by the stream?  Somewhere to go where it’ll be quieter, cooler. We can lay a rug under a tree.”
“There’s that rug that Aunt Constance gave me for the beach,” says Annabell.  “We can take that.”
“Oh!  What fun!  Where is it?”
“I wouldn’t have put it in the closet.”  Annabell strolls out of the bedroom into the apartment parlour.  “None of these drawers...  It must be in the closet in the hallway, Heart.  It has to be there.”   Heart returns with the green and red tartan.
“Ah!  Dear Aunt Constance.”  Annabell expresses such delight at seeing the rug.  “Now, all we have to decide is what I should wear?”
“Well, I think we should start,” Emily agrees.
Tom and Lucy have ended their kissing.  At the the back door they join Fred going in to the kitchen.
“I’ve been looking all over for you,” Meg hollows seeing Tom.
Mr. McBride comes in at that moment.  “Tom!  Just the fellow. Will you take the tables and set them up.  They’re stacked in the rooms behind the stables.  Up the stairs.  I’d appreciate the help, Fred.”
Fred gives a quick wink.  “Glad to be ‘elpin.  ‘Ope Tom lad’s up to it a’ter them glasshouzes.”
McBride stares at the two young ones.
Mrs. Minton calls from the stove, “You look all a bother, Woolly?”
“I’ve still to get the wine from the cellar.”
“Lucy, love.  Will you help Mr. McBride bring up the bottles.”
The coolness of the cellar greeting them, the butler asks Lucy if she and Tom are getting serious.  “I do like to think those who work here can come to me.”
“I think we are serious, Mr. McBride.”
“Well, Tom has a good head on his shoulders.”
Lucy smiles.
Bottles are then taken out of racks, stacked upon the floor. Arms filled, back up the steps the two trudge into the kitchen.
“Over here, Lucy,” Meg points to the spring flying geese cooler with its large brass handles.
. . .
Now later in the afternoon, for two hours Edward has wanted to escape his mother.  Enid is not easy to get away from and for whatever reason she has been fixated upon following him since they arrived together in the carriage.
But at last Annabell and he are perched, sans mother, on the piano stool in the manor parlour.
“Away, away, away down south in Dixie,” Annabell sings.
“Away, away, away down south in Dixie,” follows the deep voice of Edward.
His right hand accompanying Annabell’s two hands, his left hand fondly clutching his betrothed’s slim waist and buttocks, they romp madly through the gay song Dixie:
His face was sharp as a butcher's cleaver

But that did not seem to grieve her

The Game - The Enslavement Dream. TheWE.biz There's buckwheat cakes and Injun batter - Makes you fat or a little fatter.

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Look away!  Look away!  Look away! Dixie Land

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Oh, I wish I was in the land of cotton, In Dixie Land, where I was born, early on one frosty morn.

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Look away!  Look away!  Look away! Dixie Land

The Game - The Enslavement Dream. TheWE.biz
Then Edward adds:
I wish I was in Canaan, Oaber dar — Oaber dar, In Canaan's lann de color'd man Can lib an die in cloaber

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Oaber dar — Oaber dar, Oaber dar in de lann ob Canaan.

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Annabell affectionately brings her arms around Edward, taking in his young virility, his strong handsome face. She kisses him.
Feeling the quivering of his body, she murmurs, “My Bear,” as his lips gently touch hers.
Now out of the parlour, Constance spies them.  “Dears! Over here!”
Constance kisses Annabell on the cheek, whispers, “You do look as if you have been having some high excitement.”
“We have, dear Aunt!  We were practising Mikado for tomorrow evening.”
“And after that Dixie,” Edward laughs teasingly.  “She was pounding, pounding, pounding, away with it.  You know how she gets.”
“You should have been there, George,” Enid says.
“Well, tell me then!”
“Arthur was there, weren’t you my dear!”
“Ronald major put on a birthday dash for Zona, you know how they liked to have guests.  Ronald had become somewhat inebriated, so had your cousin, the one they called Marigold.  A bet the two made, arm wrestling, the loser to take a bath in the large outside fountain. Stipulated to strip down to his knickers.
“Squire lost the bet.  No coaxing, nor the endless calls of ‘bounder’ could persuade him to discard even a modicum of clothing.  He just plunged in.  Soaked only to be whisked upstairs where it seems he immediately passed out and remained so the rest of the night, fast asleep, snoring, according to Zona.”
“Plum wine he’d been drinking,” laughs Arthur.  “The next day he couldn’t, or perhaps wouldn’t, speak, for the shame of it.”
“George,” Enid’s tone has a ring of amusement.  “I have been meaning to question you again about that grace.
“Grace, Enid?”
“The Game George!  Don’t try and get out of it.”
“Yes!”
“Did you get that from Henrietta?”
“Henrietta had her thoughts,” laughs Arthur.
“You do believe in an after life, do you not, George?”
“Yes!”
“And the families?”
“They are playing their game, and we, well most, those who are the serfs, are playing their game.”
“That’s how it works, George?”
“Enid.  I am trying like you to make sense of it.”
. . .
At the bandstand the band is playing a tune, an old country song about a young maid who seeks a lover.
The vocalist sings of a maid taken with a fellow who drives a cart, a carman — carmen known as being versatile in both lovemaking and musical ability.
Why should young virgins pine away, And lose their chiefest prime,

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All for want of sweethearts To cheer us up in time?

The Game - The Enslavement Dream. TheWE.biz
The young man heard her ditty, And could no longer stay,

The Game - The Enslavement Dream. TheWE.biz
But straight unto the damosel, With speed he did away.

The Game - The Enslavement Dream. TheWE.biz
When he had played unto her, One merry note or two, Then was she so rejoiced She knew not what to do;

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Oh, God a mercy, carman, Thou art a lively lad; Thou hast as rare a whistle As ever carman had

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. . .
The place beside the stream where Emily has picked is obscured by a sprawling oak overhanging the rug.  In her light cream blouse and dark green tartan skirt of which she is so fond, Emily lying on the rug is wondering if she should pick up the book she brought to read.
She was watching Edward and Annabell dancing for a short time at the pavilion, the old country dancing, then they slipped away.
Once they were gone she decided to move to the rug.  It’s difficult being alone, especially when she knows Annabell and Edward are together.  She’s had a short nap on the rug. Lying stretched out now, it’s peaceful by the stream.
“I suppose if it had been another man, he might have reconsidered his proposal.”  Annabell had laughed when she told Emily that she’d spoken to Edward saying she was more than just a friend.
She had asked if Annie mentioned what they did.  Annie said she did.
Does Edward really understand?  Can the three of them really have any happiness!
She herself, she doesn’t know if she, if there can be any happiness for her.  But how can she leave Annabell!
She has never loved anyone else.  All she has ever loved is Annie. The whole idea is too unbearable.  It is so natural when she is enfolded in Annie.  It’s not even uncomfortable when she’s with Edward. Where is she to go, remain only with her aunts?
Inside she knows Annabell and she, and yes, Edward, they are going to be together.
As these thoughts drift through her, Annie and Edward walk up. Annabell reaches for Emily’s face, holds it firmly with both hands. “I missed you.”
“You did!”
Bending down, Annabell gives Emily a long kiss.
“Will that do?”
Emily sits up, fortunate she does for the branches above creak, the three of them looking up, a body tumbles right beside Emily.
“Tom!”
“I was in the tree, Miss Emily.”
“You were in the tree?  Up in the tree!”
“Yes, with Jimmy.”
Emily begins yelling, begins calling Tom all the most wretched names she can think of.  “You were watching me?”
At that moment there’s a jump and Jimmy Briggs appears. “Hello, Miss Emily,” he nods gravely.
“Watching!  Oh No!  No!  Miss!  We was too busy,” says Tom most seriously.
Tom in his Devon then utters something which none but Jimmy understands.
“You were watching me, Tom Hopkins.  And you, Jimmy Briggs.”
“Luce is working and Nelly too, so Jimmy said why don’t we go up there for a time.  We saw you snoozing.  We were much too busy to be watching you, Miss Emily.  We didn’t hardly know you were down here, so to speak.”
“Busy with what?”
“Well, up in the tree watching, I suppose.”
“Oh!!!”  Emily shouts indignantly as she stamps her foot.
. . .
Bella has moved into the trees.
A rustle at the back.  She doesn’t look.  He is following her.
She grew up at the edge of a forest.  Trapping was an art taught by her father, the skill not to let the animals know. You slide through the trees as if on air.  It’s in your mind. Your mind does it.  No twig break, no stone moves as you pass over.
She had seen the welts on his back when he returned.
She had touched them when he tried to make love.  He asked her to touch them, to press her fingers into them. She knew that it hurt him.
But he did make love to her in the Inn.  He lay with her and he stroked and kissed her body.
That ‘Other’ wasn’t with him.  Just her boy and she, listening to the whistles and shouts as the fellows passed below.
She hopes it is the boy she loves who’s following.
She once asked the boy when he’d been crying, and all he says is that it comes through his prick.  It rises into his brain and takes over.
She doesn’t mind submissive
She will act submissive with the boy if he wants, but he does not want.
She doesn’t know why.
She loves the boy.
She knows he’s screaming inside.
She halts.  They have come far enough into the trees.
Reaching her, he places his cheek against hers.  Breathing a sigh of relief, she knows it’s Lawrence.
He smiles.
His hands caress her breasts.
“I was wondering,” his voice has that half-sound.  “I was wondering when you’d stop.”
She pulls him towards her, touches his skin, pushes a tear away.
Unbuttoning the flimsy pieces of cloth she wears, she pulls them over her.
He begins to kiss her naked chest.  His hands holding her.
She drops her lower garments and he moves down.
Steeling herself for the ecstasy of his tongue, she feels it, and in the shudder she bends backwards.
She feels his softness enter.  She knows it will be quick.
He jerks once, twice.
She watches through her locked-shut eyes, and cries.
. . .
“Lies!  Lies!  Lies!”  Mary Hopkins screams.  How quiet it has gone.  James Briggs, Nell, the rest of them by the tables, she feels their eyes upon her.
She hadn’t meant to call John to it.  But she has and all her hurt, all out in the dreadful sickness. Tom his own son seeing him.  In the cottage, doing it with her.
She knew something was bursting Tom.
Mary’s portly frame lurches forward in the wicker chair. Her stomach heaves.  She wants to be sick but she cannot be sick.
Mary moans.  A common barmaid.  The words choke in her throat. “A common barmaid whore.  A common barmaid whore.”
“She’s not!”
Mary looks up.  “What is she then?”
“Mange is a respectable woman,” John splutters.  “She does things.”
“What things.  What can she do besides whoring with you!”
“She talks to the dead.”
“Oh God help me!”  Mary leans forward in her lap.  Her hands clasped so hard the pain’s just part of everything else that hurts inside.
He done it in front of Tom.  Mary cannot breath.  Tom had followed them, watched through the window.  “To make sure,” lad said, “that it ain’t all lies.”
Nell reaches over to separate Mary’s hands.  “Let it go, May.  Let it go!”
Nell Briggs knows a lot.  Her husband never can keep a thing to himself and James Briggs is thick with John Hopkins.
She hasn’t told Mary that John Hopkins had a meeting with Squire on Wednesday over their marriage.  Nor about him planning to live with Mange Celaban.  That most of John’s worries is him losing the farm.
“You encourage his ways,” Nell spits the words out as her husband tried to draw her away.  “Don’t tell me that you don’t, James Briggs.  You’ll be doing same to me, soon.”
“Now Nell,” Briggs backs away, his eyes moving rapidly.
“Don’t Nell me, James Briggs!”  Nell’s words are nearly as loud as Mary’s.  To stop herself she reaches down, begins to rub vigorously Mary’s hand to get the blood going, then down to Mary’s leg to do the same.
Mary moans, a soft lowing, like one of the field cows.
This morning after Tom had left she had the sweetmeats to cook for Squire’s do.  Icing on cake she’d arranged to bring had to be done.
When John had stormed off, she thought he’d gone to this Celaban.  She’d been so upset she hadn’t heard him say he’d be back.  But then out of nowhere he had come into the kitchen.  He’d washed, gone upstairs.  When he’d come back down all dressed, it was as if nothing had happened, nothing was wrong.  “Mary, I can’t find my shoes.”
He’d even asked about Tom.  “Lad back t’Squire’s,” he’d asked, giving his cheeky half-smile, the same as always he does, same since when she’d first seen him.
“Not now, John.”  Mary stared him right in the eyes.
“Where’s shoes?”  he’d said not able to face her.
From the farm, to the marriage, to him, the words she couldn’t say just sat there.
They’d sat in Squire’s garden listening to the band from Weatherby.  Then walking through the Junipers, God knows why she’d walked with him through the Junipers.
Nell and James joined them when they came out.
And the words had just sat there.
And sat there.
And sat there.
Until they all rose up.
‘Til she couldn’t hold them no more inside.
“Oh!  dear God!”  Mary moans.  “Oh!  dear God!”
The Squire is with her, wrapping his hands around hers.
“What we all need, Mary, is some cheering up.  Look! Here’s Horace.”  The butler is handing a glass to the Squire.
“Champers.  Classic Champers, Mary.”
As if in a dream she takes the glass, sups it.  Miss Annabell is kneeling in front of her.
Lawrence from across the driveway stares across at the crowd gathered.
Edward walks up to him.  “Mother says that farmer’s wife beat any in Devon when she married Hopkins.  A kind soul, I’m told.”
Lawrence doesn’t answer.
“Squire wants us to join them in a game tonight.  Squire’s brother and Briggs used to be friends I gather.  Squire said the stakes would remain low.”
“Stakes can be as they like,” replies Lawrence.
“I’ll let him know.”  Edward gazes at his friend solemnly. They both stand staring at the group around Mary.
“John Hopkins the farmer over way has been having it off with a sweetie, I understand.  That’s what that’s all about.”
Lawrence doesn’t know where he is walking, a path that will take him to Oath Highway.  He’ll sit out near the road, sit under the trees searching, praying in some way, reaching for an ending to a life that he cannot find.
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