Be Warned: These are the scribblings of a writer unruly, unsupervised, and largely unrepentant

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Special Valentine Price- Slowly Fell

Slowly Fell - A Tale of Love and Thumbscrews, is now available at a special Valentine's price. Pick up your copy now from Twisted E-PublishingAMAZONB&N, and all other online stores!

Do you believe in witches?

Adam Wyatt will tell you that he certainly doesn't believe. He's the solemn, sensible blacksmith of Slowly Fell and he keeps his distance from females entirely for his own tranquility of mind, not out of any fear of mischievous magic. In his opinion, the great number of souls lost forever to the village pond can be blamed on carelessness and unlucky accident; nothing to do with a witch's curse.

The Dowager Lady Bramley, widow of the local squire, also denies a belief in witchcraft. Or ghosts. Although she's lately enjoyed long discussions with her dear departed husband, who is intent on luring her to Slowly Fell, a place that haunts her dreams-a village with a macabre history, and a connection to her family that she would rather not remember.

Admiral Wetherby did not believe in witches either, until madness caused him to burn down his house and all his possessions, sending himself up in smoke with it. And now his daughter, practical, level-headed survivor, Sarah Wetherby, arriving in Slowly Fell to look after the vicar's sick wife, doesn't know what to think about witches. She is not a young woman prone to fanciful ideas, but she loves a good mystery, and there is certainly something going on in Slowly Fell. Sarah has begun to suspect that she's lived here before. Certain sights around the village are familiar- the house where a reclusive old woman resides in grand, but lonely splendor; the pond where a family of accused witches once met their deaths in the ducking-stool, and even the gruff manners of that handsome bachelor blacksmith seem to her familiar as old friends. Or something more.

But in Slowly Fell, nothing and nobody is quite what they seem.

Monday, December 16, 2019

New Year and New Stories Ahead!

In 2019, due to various events in my life, I was able to put out fewer books than usual, but the new year looks to be far more productive for me. Yay!

Looking ahead to 2020, I have a great many projects in the pipeline, including more "Bespoke" adventures for Lucy Greenwood and Detective Inspector Tolly Deverell, as well as The Crollalanzas and The Tempests of Little Doings -- both stories I've been working on for some time. I can promise you that the well of ideas is far from drying up!

For those of you who have accidentally stumbled here and not yet ventured between the pages of my books, please allow me to introduce you to my work. I write historical romance and Victorian mysteries with a touch of the eccentric -- even bizarre. My stories will take you to some unexpected places in the company of unusual characters. Time periods range from Tudor to Victorian, sometimes with a little modern day mixed in. Although I no longer include detailed (graphic)sex scenes in my stories, I do endeavor to create plenty of excitement, heat, chemistry and passion between my romantic couples, so you should never finish a book feeling let-down! I made the decision, some time ago, to concentrate on character-driven stories rather than step-by-step erotica, but that does not mean my books are prudish. I simply believe there are enough books out there now to satisfy readers of that genre and I could bring nothing new to it. In fact, I really enjoy the challenge of creating that heat for the reader without explicit descriptions. I prefer to let the curtains waft in a teasing breeze, rather than press the reader's nose up to the window.

By writing lively and (mostly) lovable characters in humorous situations, it's my intention to take readers away from their worries for a while and treat them to a mini vacation. So I hope you'll give my books a chance.

If you are already a constant reader, I thank you, from the bottom of my heart.

As I put them on paper, my characters tend to become my dear friends, and since I never really want to let any of them go for good, they have a tendency to come back again in later books. Various families sometimes find themselves linked between series, so if you become a regular reader of my work, you will enjoy the added bonus of spotting characters and places in the background, popping up where you least expect them!

My fictional romantic pairings are generally a case of opposites attract and full of vigorous debate -- rather like my own.

From 2012 to 2016 I published two series with Sourcebooks Casablanca (The Sydney Dovedale series and The Book Club Belles), and now publish with Twisted E-Publishing (The Deverells, The Ladies Most Unlikely etc). Below, for reference, you will find a listing of all my books and in series order, where applicable.

Sydney Dovedale

The Most Improper Miss Sophie Valentine
The Wicked Wedding of Miss Ellie Vyne
Lady Mercy Danforthe Flirts with Scandal
Miss Molly Robbins Designs a Seduction

Taming the Tudor Male
Seducing the Beast*
Once a Rogue*
The Savage and the Stiff Upper Lip*

The Book Club Belles

Before the Kiss - Freebie Prequel Novella
Once Upon a Kiss
Sinfully Ever After
How to Rescue a Rake

The Deverells

True Story
Storm
Chasing Raven
Ransom Redeemed
Damon  Undone

The Ladies Most Unlikely

The Trouble with His Lordships Trousers
The Danger in Desperate Bonnets
The Bounce in the Captain's Boots

The Slowly Series

Slowly Fell
Slowly Rising

The Peculiars

The Peculiar Folly of Long-Legged Meg
The Peculiar Pink Toes of Lady Flora

Bespoke - Victorian Detective Mystery series

Bespoke
A Loveliness of Ladybirds


Books not part of a series (Although some do have links to characters and places mentioned in The Deverells and in The Sydney Dovedale series):

Last Rake Standing* - Novella
A Private Collection*
Souls Dryft
The Mutinous Contemplations of Gemma Groot
Pumpymuckles
The Snow Angel - Christmas Novella
The Snowdrop - Christmas Novella

(* Denotes an earlier, more erotic story.)


So I'm full of anticipation for the year ahead and looking forward to more releases that, I hope, will capture your fancy! Roll on 2020!

Monday, December 9, 2019

The Snow Angel --Special Christmas Price!

The Snow Angel is currently available for a special reduced price for the holidays, so here is your chance to grab a copy! Also, if you enjoy The Snow Angel, you'll love this year's Christmas release, The Snowdrop.

Happy Holidays to all my readers!

The Snow Angel:


It's Christmas 1877 and Anne Follyot— of little beauty and no fortune, but sturdy spirit and an excess of imagination— is invited to stay with her favorite aunt in Cornwall. She's all anticipation, waiting for the man chosen to escort her on this journey. According to her aunt, she met him before, many years ago, but Anne cannot remember him and she's positive that he must long-since have forgotten her. She's never been memorable.

But J.P. Deverell, Esq. is now a grown man with a dangerous reputation, of which her aunt cannot possibly be aware. And Anne means to make the most of her aunt's mistake and this adventure. She considers herself a modern, independent woman, for whom a little scandal is well overdue. If she doesn't seize this chance now, she might never have another.

As Charles Dickens wrote, "No space of regret can make amends for one life's opportunity misused."

* * * *

He's in no temper for eggnog and mistletoe; no mood to tolerate the painfully polite company of some plain spinster, in a carriage, for three days. It's probably a contrivance to get him home for Christmas.

Remember Anne Follyot? He doesn't care to remember himself sixteen years ago, let alone recall the dull vicar's five year-old niece.

He'd planned to spend his Yuletide working, alone and in peace. But a letter from his mother has guilted him into this act of begrudging chivalry, aided by the whispers of his best friend's mischievous ghost.

"Bah, Humbug!" As Charles Dickens also wrote.

* * * *

But this journey will not turn out quite the way either traveler expects, for when these two opposites collide, so do ghosts of the past, the present and the future.

It will be a holiday season with all the usual fare—peril, pandemonium, family quarrels, mulled wine and bodily injury. Certainly a Christmas adventure never to be forgotten this time.

At least, by one of them.

****

Special price:
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Friday, December 6, 2019

Exclusive excerpt from The Snowdrop

Greetings Readers! On this snowy day, I have an excerpt to share with you from my newest release. I hope you enjoy!


December 3rd, 1886



“Well?” he snapped, not looking up from his papers. “I hope you have good cause for interrupting me, Chauncey.”

“A Miss Mayferry has wandered up from the gate, sir, in all this rain.” Hiccup. “She has come from a place called… Mayferry Marsh.” Hiccup. “Claims to be expected, sir.”

“What?” Only half-listening, he still studied the papers on his desk and dimly wondered whether it was time he started watering down the port, before his steward emptied the cellars entirely. “If she’s begging for food, send her to the kitchen door and have Elkins…ah, no, she will have gone home by now. You’ll have to see if there is any food left out.”

But he felt the man hovering uncertainly behind him, tilting and weaving even more than usual.

“Chauncey, do you have something more to say? Your lurking silence is only marginally less irritating than the high-pitched twittering of an addled wench who feels herself hard-done- by. Which is more than three quarters of the damnable female populace, apparently.”

“No, sir. It is just that—”

“If the decrepit crone wants money, send her to the church. Old Sproat has more coin and gold plate tucked away in his coffers and vaults than anybody. Besides, he likes to preach about providing for the less fortunate. Can’t say I’ve ever attended his sermons, but I believe that’s how the church works. Give us your money and we’ll provide for the poor. Is that not so?”

The steward cleared his throat, but the next words came in a clear, slightly impatient voice that was definitely not Chauncey’s.

“I have, in my possession, a letter confirming my employment and instructing me to come here, to Stanbury House. This is the place, is it not?”

An ink blot dripped to his paper. “By the Lawgod All Nighty,” he cursed, low. Twisting around in his chair, he discovered a damp and dowdy creature standing at the steward’s elbow and making a wet puddle in the doorway of his library. He had been so caught up in his work that he had not even heard the heavy rain falling against his window.

“The coachman who set me down at the gate assured me this is the place,” she said. “In the dark and the rain, not knowing the area at all, I was obliged to take his word for it. I sought shelter at the end of the drive, where I saw light in these windows, and this good fellow let me in.”

He remained silent, still retrieving his thoughts from where they were scattered across his papers like a spilled file. A woman stood inside his library, and that was an occasion he generally avoided for good reason. Dash Deverell was not well-schooled in social niceties and would be perfectly happy never having to use any. It took him a moment to adjust, as it does for an eye coming from dark to light.

As the pause lengthened ominously, he heard every clock in the house ticking too quickly. Was Chauncey over-oiling the cogs again? Rain tickled his window with mischievous fingertips, and the coals in the grate exhaled a low hiss. As a boy he used to imagine a dragon lived there, in the fireplace. Tonight, it had slept, until she caused it to open one eye and give that warning grumble. Now it turned over again and resumed its slumber. A coal tumbled to the hearth, as if disturbed by the beast’s heaving hump.

The woman he could barely see had brought with her a fragrance never before known in that room, and a sense of anticipation equally rare.

A disturbance felt even by the sleeping dragon.

“I pray there has been no mistake,” she said, her sentence ending on a gentle, tentative uplift.

At last he gathered his words and managed a reply. “Well, I wouldn’t rely on prayer. It’s a long time since anybody prayed in this house, and I suspect it was too little and too late.”

He heard Chauncey give a little snort. The candelabra held aloft in the steward’s shaky hand, swayed about like a ship with all its sails aflame, set adrift on a stormy night’s sea. Somewhere near it, her face floated, a moon sunk into that dark water, her features fuzzy. Although Dash had two oil lamps on his desk, she was too far away for that light to reach and help him make her out. As for the fire, he had let it die away to a lazy smolder that gave out nothing more than a dull gleam of old, pirate gold.

He squinted harder, trying to make out where the dark ended and she, in her black garments, began. “All the way from Mayferry Marsh?” he grumbled. “Forty miles at least. No little journey for a woman alone. What could possibly have put you to such a foolish exercise in winter? What name did you say?”

“Mayferry,” she repeated slowly and steadily. “Miss Daisy Mayferry. I replied to an advertisement that was posted last month in The Lady, for a companion with some light housekeeping. And an interest in water painting.”

Once again Chauncey gave a bemused snort and tittered, while his great height leaned precariously, first left and then right, his shoulder eventually bumping up against the doorframe.

“After my application, I received a letter, inviting me to start my employment here as soon as possible.” She paused and, even with his poor sight, he caught a gleam of something strange in her eyes as she finally lifted her gaze from the carpet to his face.

It caused just the tiniest of jolts to his pulse. As if there was an electrical storm in the air.

Apparently, she suffered a similar shock.

“Oh,” she exhaled. “Oh, no. Surely not. God help me. Not another one.” The words dropped from her lips, like rejected bites of something unexpectedly sour and maggoty. “Deverell.” If both her hands were not tucked inside a black velvet muff, she would undoubtedly have crossed herself, he mused.

“That is what they call me. One of the names.”

You…live here?”

“From time to time. When it cannot be avoided.”

“Then a terrible mistake has been made. I must leave at once.”

But as the new arrival began her retreat, he gave a sharp whistle.

She came to a halt out of sheer surprise, he suspected. Doubtless she’d never been whistled at before.

Still seated, but twisted around in his chair, he demanded, “Where do you think to go in this weather and at this late hour, madam? That coachman will be halfway to Folkstone by now. I suggest you stand where you are, until we get to the bottom of your curious account of events. For all we know, you could be a thief come here to steal the spoons. Or sent as a distraction, while your accomplice lurks in the rhododendrons, waiting for you to let him in through the drawing room window.”

“That is quite ridiculous, sir.” Her gloved hand emerged from the muff, gripping a letter. “As you will see, I speak the truth—”

Impatient, he clicked his fingers and Chauncey quickly took the letter from her hand, delivering it to Dash with four long and lurching strides and a dangerously exaggerated bow. Whilst being flung about like flags on a windy day, the flames of that candelabra clung with admirable and astonishing determination to their wicks.

“I was told that the vacant post is for companion to the Dowager Lady Audley,” she said crossly. “That is what the letter says. And there was no mention of any Deverell involved in the business.”

He gave a curt laugh. “Madam, there is usually a Deverell somewhere, involved in most things. People like you, content in your tidy, tranquil, comfortable lives, never give much thought to how the world keeps turning. Just as long as it does, and none of the dirt gets on your hands.”

Her disdain was so palpable from across the room that she needn’t have put it into words. But she did. “Aren’t we fortunate? Thank god for Deverells.”

“Place the blame wherever you will. But I rather think the devil has more right to it in my case.”

While Chauncey returned to her side with long, unsteady steps that suggested he saw puddles on the carpet and meant to avoid them, Dash scanned the note very briefly in the glow of an oil lamp and then heaved a brusque sigh. “Madam, Lady Audley lives on the estate in the dower house, on the other side of the lake and the park. She moved here many years ago and now belongs to the Stanbury estate. Like the pointless bloody marble folly and the ridiculously ostentatious fountain.” Refolding the letter, he slid it away in the little drawer of his desk, and she, after holding out her hand in vain for its return, finally tucked her fingers back inside her muff.

“I’m afraid it’s impossible for me to stay,” she said. “Had I known that you were, in any way, connected to this lady, I would not have come.”

“Once Miss Mayferry has got her protests out of the way, Chauncey, you can show her to a box room or a linen cupboard, priest hole or some other out-of-the-way place upstairs for the remains of the night. Have Elkins traipse her down to the dower house in the morning.” He turned back to his work. “No point making any introductions in the middle of the damned evening. The quarrelsome jade is likely abed now, and if roused from it she will likely meet her guest at the door with a loaded rifle. She generally shoots first and asks questions of the corpse.” He picked up his pen. “Now I should like a piece of quiet.”

“Very good, sir.” With his free hand, Chauncey gave a salute that almost knocked Miss Mayferry’s bonnet from her head.

“Pardon me,” she interrupted, pert, “but I just told you that I cannot remain here in this house with a Deverell. I suppose you do not remember me, but I—”

“You needn’t be a fretful Fanny. I shall be down here, at my desk, working all evening. As for the future of your employment, I’m not here very often. When I am, you won’t know it.” Through gritted teeth he added, “I shan’t expect an invitation to tea.”

“That is fortunate, since you would never be invited. I’d as soon throw the kettle at you. And the name is Daisy, not Fanny. But I prefer Miss Mayferry, since we are hardly intimate acquaintances. Nor likely to be.”




Find out what happens next in The Snowdrop.

Image: Yes or No, by John Everett Millais

Saturday, November 30, 2019

This Christmas...



He was once a boy abandoned, left to make his own way in the world.

She was a girl stifled by the demands of her family and constrained by the strict customs of Victorian society; a bird caged and without hope.

Raised in two disparate worlds, with one fortune rising while the other tumbled, they might never have known each other.

But when a disreputable old rogue dies unexpectedly and in spectacular, explosive style, a chain of remarkable events is destined to draw these two strangers close— to the bemusement of one and the disgust of the other.

The last Will and Testament of Sir Mungo Lightfoot Mayferry McClumphy has gone astray, and a large number of claimants are fighting over a vast fortune.

She wants nothing to do with it, her grieving heart bereft of hope.

He is in the thick of it, a man of ruthless perseverance and— in her eyes— a dark, mercenary, unfeeling heart.

Drawn together one Christmas, these two “Mortal Enemies” must find a way to put aside the strife and be civil. Whether or not they can survive the season remains to be seen.

If they also find hope and love along the way, it will surely be a Christmas miracle.

********


Thursday, October 3, 2019

What really happened in the village of Withering Gibbet in 1882?

For the month of October you can grab an e-book copy of THE MUTINOUS CONTEMPLATIONS OF GEMMA GROOT (An Unlikely Romance) for a special low price, so if you've been wondering whether to take a chance on that one with the spooky cover, here is your opportunity!

**

Venetia Warboys, by most accounts, a mild-mannered, generous, church-going woman, had reached her thirty-fifth year with little out of the ordinary happening in her life. Until she decided, one evening, to rise from her neatly-laid dinner table, fetch an axe from the woodshed, chop her husband into pieces and bake his gristle into some pies.

"That's the last time he'll criticize my pastry," she said calmly when apprehended in the act of selling her grisly wares.

Although her husband had been an infamous philanderer— or as much of one as an oily, simpering blob of a man could be in a small, rural market town—nobody knew what had really happened, on that last day, to cause a deadly fissure in his wife's sanity. I was the only soul to whom she gave any clue, but the six words she once whispered into my ear left me, a girl of twelve at the time, with more questions than answers.

Suffice to say, after Venetia's axe swinging rampage in the autumn of 1882, the men of Withering Gibbet took greater care of what they said and did to their wives. We had all learned some important lessons: everybody harbors dark truths; there is no such thing as "ordinary", and never buy a savory pie at the county fair, especially when the contents are described as "revelation meat".
For many years Venetia was our town's sole claim to infamy.

And then there was me.

* * * *

So begins a story of silence and noise, secrets and lies, sisters and lovers, murder and redemption. Gemma Groot grows up in the long shadow cast by an old sin, but she is about to step out of the dark and shine the light on a few startling truths about her family. With the help of a man who falls out of the sky, she will finally discover the strength she needs to revisit the past and unleash the spirit of a wronged woman.

But will she find that some skeletons are better off left buried?

Images used here: The Twins by John Everett Millais 1876 and A Backward Glance by Charles Edward Perugini c. 1870

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Saturday, July 20, 2019

Special Price!

BESPOKE is on sale now, for a limited time, from all online stores. So, if you still need to grab a copy, here is your chance to find out how it all began.
Below is an excerpt and your introduction to Detective Inspector Deverell's first case in Yorkshire.

*

            The grandfather clock in the hall read three o'clock, but nobody had yet looked at it today. In fact, nobody had glanced at that face for some time. Indeed, had they been asked, it was unlikely that any soul who lived there could even have described the two French enamel griffins and the rolling moon face that travelled back and forth between them every day. The clock had been there as long as the house itself and was, like most faithful servants, taken for granted, its cogwheels steadily chopping the hours and minutes away, its pendulum swinging with a quiet, dull thud inside the tall cabinet. A sound so constant that it was ignored.
            But today something different was about to happen.
            Perhaps it had already begun.
            Click-clack, click-clack, click-clack.
            No, that ticking sound was not the clock; it was the housemaid's boot heels striking the garden path with a brisk trot, two flints close to sparking, her forward motion all bustle and twitch, propelled as if by steam engine with no safety valve. The only pressure released sputtered forth in tiny, puttering curses through a thin, resentful spout of a mouth. But it was not enough relief. The rest of her being swelled to bursting point even as those whispered breaths escaped— broken and chipped gasps as fragile as the teacups that bounced and rattled on the tray she carried.
            The gardener, hearing her approach, opened his eyes, scrambled as upright as any man could with three jugs of scrumpy inside him on an unseasonably hot day, and made a half-hearted attempt at resuming his work. Although a number of unconvincing denials were poised upon his sloppy lips, none were needed. Whether or not she had seen him napping there in the shade of the privet hedge, the housemaid had no time to berate him for once; indeed, she made no acknowledgement of his presence at all today. Her cheek, he noted, was striped with the scarlet ghost of finger marks and, a loose, dark curl of sweat-dampened hair, having escaped the white lace cap that was knocked slightly askew, stuck there across her skin like a question mark.
            His hedge shears hung useless in the air, the blades swinging wide open, as he watched her go, admiring the tight sway of her hips beneath the grey skirt of her afternoon uniform. Two wide, broderie anglaise apron strings fluttered in her wake, crisp and virginal white. He hiccupped, exhaling a hot cloud of cider fumes.
            Why hadn't she seen him there? It wasn't like Florrie not to flirt or chide. Usually both at once. Since he could barely feel his own fingers, or the tongue in his mouth, perhaps he was not really there.
            But then he felt the first drop of rain on that sticky afternoon and knew that he was indeed still flesh. Something made him look up. A shadow flew across the sky, but not with purpose like a bird. Its trajectory was a wild arc that seemed too slow, as if it fell through clear paste rather than air. A stray shuttlecock perhaps, from the riotous game of battledore taking place on the lawn? With the hedge shears in his hands he had nothing with which to shelter his gaze and the sun's glare was a blinding white veil.
            What time was it? By the strength of that brightness it must be after one o'clock.
            His back ached as if he'd been at work for hours; his stomach grumbled. He could not recall when he last ate. But nor could he recall his own name. Was it Jonah or Jack? One name he was christened, the other was given him by his employer because she didn't like the first. Such was the way the world ran, he had no say in what they called him; he was their property as much as the plants he pruned. At that moment he felt resentment at his place in life, as if something had given him an uncustomary jolt and he recognized the injustice for the first time.
            Distracted then by a noise through the open terrace doors to the conservatory, he stumbled around to see what it was. But his eyes, still smarting from the bite of the sun's teeth, could see naught but a watery blur. His mind, fogged by too much cider, could make no sense of what little blotchy shape and form it recognized. What he really wanted was to sleep. The heat was too much. Knees bent, shears forgotten, he resumed his weary squat behind the bushes and pressed his back to the wall, yawning.
            Indoors, beyond sight of any observer, the butler let a bottle of port slip through his usually steady palms, so that it shattered on the flagstone floor of a downstairs passage, leaving a weeping, blood-red stain that trickled deep into the cracks, seeping into the very foundations of the house. One drop bled under his well-polished shoe, while he watched it spread a crimson web, his own movements frozen in place, trance-like.
            Farther below, in the kitchen, a large saucepan of eggs had been left untended until it almost boiled dry, the shells banging against the sides of the pan in half an inch of fiercely bubbling water, the cook and kitchen maids nowhere to be found. The scullery maid crawled in among the pickle jars on the bottom shelf of the still-room, hiding her face against her knees and stuffing an apron into her mouth, biting down on the cloth to muffle a cry of anguish. By the servants' entrance, the hall boy, sluggish in the heat, took pause to lean one shoulder and enjoy a stolen, roasted chicken leg. But even as his mouth opened for the first bite, he glanced back and then upward at the top of the house, his body stilled, as if he heard a rumble of thunder from above. Or a sound unusual, out of place.
            Meanwhile, the youngest son of the family, who stormed through the hall and out of the front door, laughed loudly and mirthlessly at the invitation in his hand.

Lady Isolda and Mr. Ezra Welford
request the favour of your company,
for tea, frolics and delicacies
at one o'clock in the afternoon, on Sunday, September 24th, 1893
at
Welford Hall
Quipsey Thwaite, York

            "Frolics?" he hissed. "They do not know the meaning of the word." With a sneer he ripped the invitation into halves and then quarters, before letting the pieces drift to the gravel under his riding boots. He looked around, wondering where his sister had gone. Damn her. Once again she'd stuck her nose into his business and got him into trouble. Or tried.
            In this intolerable heat, he ought to strip naked and swim in the ugly, bloody fountain. Show them a true "frolicking". Make them spill their tea and lemonade. Serve them all right.
            Blind with anger, he did not see his sister escaping through the bars of an iron, trellis-work gate. Avoiding everybody by hovering in the rose garden, the daughter of the house reached to pick a late blooming flower and felt the vicious stab of a lurking thorn. And as she watched the red bead bulge against her pale skin, she muttered softly, "By the pricking of my thumbs, something wicked this way comes."
            On that humid afternoon she shivered and looked up, frowning.
            High above, in a turret of the house, an old man with the mind of a child played with his doll house— an exact replica of Welford Hall— in which the tiny figure of a lady in a grand hat sprawled at the foot of some stairs, surrounded by crumbs of bread and with a smudge of rhubarb jam from his afternoon sandwiches smeared upon her head. A twig, snapped in two, lay by her side. The nurse charged with his care came up behind, breathing heavily, wiping perspiration from her forehead with a handkerchief.
            Shrill and cross in the thick heat, she exclaimed, "Lord Percival! How many times must I tell you not to play with your food?"
            "'Tis not my food," he replied with a giggle, as she wiped his sticky fingers on her handkerchief. "'Tis for the foxes."
            At that same moment, downstairs in the house, the eldest son of the Welford family paused to approve his handsome appearance in a looking-glass. Realizing he'd lost the diamond stick-pin from his ascot, he leaned forward, annoyed. The reflection of something dark fell behind him in the tall window. A dead bird, perhaps, its heart stalled by an arrow. But who would practice their archery on such a day, with the lawns full of people?
            "Did you see that, dear?" he asked his wife, belatedly aware of her presence in the drawing room behind him.
            "I never see anything, dear," came the reply, wielded like an ice-pick. "If it can be helped."
            The thing that flew through the air tumbled and tumbled for what seemed like forever. Until it finally landed with a smash into the tray of teacups carried across the lawn by the housemaid, the surprise causing her to drop everything and exhale all her steam at once.
            It was neither a shuttlecock, nor a dead bird.
            It was a boot. A new ladies boot.
            Still worn by a foot that had been squeezed into it for the first and last time earlier that morning.



*

Thank you for reading!



(Image used here : Lady with a book in the garden (1892) by Brunner Frantisek Dvorak)