. . .
“I can’t hear you,” Bella shouts through the receiver.
The oak-wood booth holding the telephone is at the back
of the hall near the servant’s passageway. Still cautious, she
adds barely a whisper. “The butler just carried coffee
to his legal study. He is in there. That’s where the papers will be.”
Lawrence’s voice comes crackly through the instrument.
“The picnic they’re having tomorrow, I’ll meet you.”
“I’ll be working. After the food is served, I can meet
“Trees on the road side of the drive.”
He says more but a stream of crackling destroys any
sense of it. She places the hearing piece back on its hook.
Listening for movement, her heart pounding wildly, she
pushes down the wooden handle that releases the door.
She is not used to this. Never has she done anything
that might be considered intruding. Leaning against the
wall of the servant’s corridor, she has to stop. At last in the
quietness she takes up courage, steps back into the kitchen.
“Did you get through, dear,” asks Mrs. Minton, covered
in steam from lifting the lid of a large pan of boiling water “Very crackly those phones. I can’t abide them.”
Bella picks up a paring knife, resumes peeling and eying
the potatoes. “I was telling the agency I should be staying
till Monday week. Then I would be ready to move on. It
was difficult to hear.”
“I don’t know when Mr. Hews and Lady Middleton will
be taking themselves off. I heard some talk of the Squire
and her Ladyship departing for overseas after the wedding. You are welcome to stay until the agency sends you on.
“When Miss Annabell moves to the estate and Miss
Emily going home there will be less work. I’ll tell Woolly
the hall phone is not as good as it should be. The battery
goes down. Batteries have to be charged at Biddiford ‘til
the electricity comes. Woolly just has to change the wires. There is a replacement underneath.”
Mrs. Minton comes over with a large empty cake canister, a cake just taken out of the oven. “Would you give
this to Nelly to clean, love. I have to keep my eye on these
pans, and the new Italian chocolate soufflé recipe is taking
its time to rise. Tell Nelly when she has a moment to come and see me.”
Leaving the potatoes, taking up the kitchen cloth that
holds the warm canister, Bella walks with it to the scullery,
puts her back to the door.
As she opens the door, Nelly seems to be staring at the
wall with a most unusual face on her. She turns to Bella with a big smile: “She knew you were coming in.”
Bella drops the cake canister into the dish water. “Cook
says to clean this while it’s still warm.”
“She’s talking about you.”
“She’s been following you. She says you’ve come looking
Bella turns quite cold at that comment.
“Looking for something?”
The young scullery girl stares into the wall. “She says
you’re here for a reason.”
Bella goes completely white. “Who says it?”
“The girl I told you.”
Bella sees things, but she cannot see anything now. She
stares at the wall where Nelly is staring.
Meg had told Bella about the girl who had done away
with herself. “She still prowls about!” Meg’s eyes had been
popping out as she spoke of it. “That’s why we didn’t want you to have the room. No
one’s stayed in Polly’s room since she did it. Ain’t been up
those stairs myself since.”
For Bella, the tiny room had been a pleasant surprise. Meg and Lucy both helped, the three of them quickly getting rid of the dust. Fresh dark-red curtains were brought
up, together with bed linen and a quilt made by Mrs Minton. Mrs. Minton said she was glad someone was going to be
staying up there.
“She’s saying she likes you.” Nelly is looking very pleased.
Bella stares at the wall, still she cannot see anything.
“She’s saying she likes me?”
“She’s saying she likes you.”
Nelly makes a sort of a screech of a chuckle. “Look at ‘er
peering at us. She’s ever so respectful at how you dress.”
. . .
Ronald pops his head around the library door. “Arthur? McBride thought you might be here.”
Arthur peers through the gold-bridged, rimless pincenez eyeglasses he is wearing.
“Glad you’re alone. Know anything about Yerkes? That damn 40 inch they have operating. I’m seeing
dots that appear in one place one day, then another place
another day. They must be seeing something. I’ve watched
for hours. I swear I see some of these dots move.”
Arthur removes the eyeglasses from his nose, folds them.
“They do. And it’s more than that, Ronny. There are
whole contingents passing by up there.”
The Squire looks surprised.
“From the package the service sent me, the Americans
have a team trying to make sense of what they are seeing.
Spiritualists of all things.”
“Spiritualists! You don’t mean séances, that kind of
Arthur laughs. “No. The training these mind mediums
undergo is very rigorous. Mind training, a viewing in the
mind if that makes any sense. Through the mind they are
able in a sense to see inside the airships.”
“What are they seeing?”
“That’s how they refer to them. Creatures if you like.
Beings highly advanced.”
“The American moon division is buried as ours, to an
extreme confidential, not even disclosed to those dispensing
the writs authorising funding. It is a strange business this
secrecy, but like our section, if people knew our work that
would be the end of it.”
“They are talking to these ‘People?’ ”
“Minds shared is how I read it. The two minds make
contact and thoughts are exchanged. Some get visions,
drawing sketches. Some write their thoughts on paper.
Once written as a report these contacts can appear quite
Arthur continues: “One report in particular, of a female
medium, was sent to me. She writes that whoever she is in
contact with has been appointed to talk to her. She refers
to him as a male. He tells her they do not wish to become
involved with our species, not at this time. He says we are
still too primitive.
“She asked him what he meant. He said many off-planet
beings stop by our planet. There’s much more than we
know taking place. Much of it underground.
“The ship’s sailors telling of airships rising out of the
water, this is real it seems. Big containers rising out of the
water. These fly off, some of them to the moon.
“The medium asked if he was one of those taking people off the planet, placing them into infirmary surroundings on airships. He replied in her thoughts that these who did this were of another species. She asked him
why they were taking people. He said that it goes back through great periods of time. Who she is now communicating are not taking people. His ship was observing.
“She asked him how long he had been upon the moon.
He said they came and went, his time is different. We
could bypass technology we are developing now, and pass
to a greater benevolence he said. We did not have to have
poverty. We did not have to have illness. But this was a
planet of imprisonment by controller people. The medium
asked him to repeat that last information he had given her. He did so.”
“A penal structure upon the whole of humanity!”
“The ships, how are they being seen with the Yerkes?”
“It seems they know we are developing the capability to
view them more closely. They say they have the capability
to disguise themselves from our telescopes when they wish,
which they do when they approach Earth.”
Ronald stares at Arthur. “The Americans they confirm
“Yes! The department sending us dispatches, hidden
mind, as hidden in their internal government structure as
we are hidden in the service structure. Funding comes from
a bureaucrat risen in power, an administrator who has control of a large government grouping. It is very similar to
“The experiments on humans?”
“The information we have is that a number of species
are involved. Mutilated bodies found dropped back upon
Earth, we don’t know who are doing it.”
“What have you heard with regard to this great war
they have planned for Europe, Arthur?”
“As far as the Empire is concerned, the deaths in the
Southern African arena will first have to be ended. These
next weeks should see a major victory. Boer intelligence,
the Empire is suddenly swimming in gold.”
across the table, softens his voice. “The service want me
back because of new evidence of a larger war being talked
about. One for all of Europe. Three to six million to be
killed, perhaps up to ten million including the civilians.”
“My God,” Ronald comments.
“The plan is to bring America to its zenith of power.”
Ronald looks thoroughly stricken. “I know you are serious, Arthur. I think of Annabell and her children.”
“If these large wars continue throughout the century...”
“Time is nothing to them,” Ronald says. With the central banks they have unlimited funding.”
Ronald looks troubled. “I fear the law itself is becoming
one might say useless at obtaining truth.”
“It has never been not useless except for protecting the
“Yes!” answers Ronald. “Yes! You are correct.”
. . .
“Zpectin er be gwain awm ver zex t’en!”
Annabell looks down from the trap. “Six is when we
think we might need the horses. But we are hoping to take
a room if the hotel has one, so we might stay until late.” She holds up a crown to the ostle. Two inn stables they have
tried, enticing each ostler with a shilling in vain.
“Zilling t’lent vir bouver, me ‘anzum,” the horseman
winks at the young Miss. “Crown ‘n vamlee ‘v party t’zeven
ain’t even look’n f’n zay seek’n stay. Stay long as ‘n likes,
young misses. Stay all night best ‘f ‘un. ‘Osses ‘b’good ‘n
“Thank you!” Annabell and Emily climb down from the
trap. “Do not prepare them, then. We will let you know
when we are to leave.”
The two young women stroll briskly through the inner
door into the foyer. The hotel man tells them two
rooms to suit the young misses are available. The price
he gives is somewhat extravagant. Annabell asks for the nicest, should be nice the price. She requests the rose portmanteau be brought immediately as items they will be needing.
“Right away young Miss.” The desk clerk rings the bell,
a porter is given instructions to fetch the ladies bag from
Now in their spacious room, both women are undressing.
“The town is impossible. Whole world seems wanting
to be in Biddiford this Friday.” Annabell removing her
chemise, wearing only flower accented, silk drawers that come just below the knees, walks into the alcove separated
from the main body of the room. Two water bowls are set
out for them. Pouring water from the jug, she immerses her
face completely. “Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhh!” Annabell blowing
bubbles in the water, trying to get the dust of the journey
out of her face.
Completely naked, Emily comes to stand behind her. Fingers softly massaging Annabell’s breasts, the pressure
becomes firmer as she moves up and down.
“Ohhhhhh! That feels so good.” Annabell raises herself,
grabs for a towel.
The hands that were touching her breasts are now at
the waistband of Annabell’s knickers. Just ever so slowly
they are being pulled down.
Emily’s hands around Annabell’s hardened mound, the
two mouths and tongues press into each other. “Oh! My
Heart,” Annabell murmurs when the mouths are separated.
Tears are falling from Emily and Annabell reaches to
brush them away.
“It’s all right,” Annabell murmurs. “It’s all right, Heart. I’m not going anywhere!”
Emily pulled to the bed, cover
moved back, upon the soft satin sheets they fondle, both
girls completely naked.
“Will you marry me?”
“Marry you! How can I marry you!”
“We will marry just you and I, together, in private!”
“Oh! Can we?”
“That’s what I have come for.”
“You have come here to marry me?”
“For the rings. Then we will marry.” They both start
. . .
Through the market stalls the two girls hurry. Through
egg, cheese and milk, duck and chicken. One fellow at a
gap is calling for the end of British troops in a war of no
purpose. “We have the gold,” he shouts. “Rhodes has their
diamonds. Leave the Boers in peace.”
Along, a boy has his
cap at his feet singing. A woman tosses a coin into the cap. Annabell reaches into her purse, tosses a shilling.
Crossing from the market to the street, the young women
go inside a milliner shop. “I’m looking for something very
thin. Linen you can see through. Do you have anything
“The kind of linen you are speaking of Miss is from
Syria. Their weave is very special.”
“Can I see some, please?”
“I’m sorry Miss, but expensive items we do not carry in
stock. We can order!”
“Yes! How soon will the linen be delivered.”
“We will telephone if the mistress pays for the telephone
message to the merchant in London.”
Back out on the street they stop to buy at a roasted
chestnut stand. Two bags are purchased.
At a bench, eating the chestnuts, Emily asks, “Why do
you wish for such fine linen?”
“I want to have some under garments made with it.”
“Yes, I was thinking for our wedding night.”
Annabell smiles shyly, “And for you!”
Annabell dabs at Emily’s tears which have begun to
“You will marry Edward and you will forget me.”
“No I won’t, Heart.”
“Yes, you will.”
Annabell takes hold of Emily’s hands. “I will come and
visit you and stay for weeks and weeks. You will visit me
and stay for weeks and weeks. We will do this all the time.”
Only a few of the chestnuts eaten, lucky for an urchin
who cannot be more than six who passes and is handed the
Annabell points to the shining glass clock above the
jewellery shop further along. “See! That’s where we are
going. I am going to get uncle George a tie pin as our
wedding gift to him. To welcome him home, I want it to
be special. We will get our rings there.”
Hands clasped they rise. Boldly marching towards the
jewellery shop, Annabell trembling, excited, frightened, calls
out: “I don’t care. I don’t care! I don’t care! I don’t care!”
Emily joins: “We don’t care! We don’t care! We will
do what we wish!”
Turning the knob, the two young women step inside.
With the tinkle of the bell, a young man comes from the back, dark-brown sideburns slicked, as his hair rimmed spectacles in the fashion of young men who wear eyeglasses.
“Good afternoon, madams.”
“I saw your advertisement in the newspaper. You do
“Indeed we do, madams,” the clerk is full of delight.
“We are the only place in Biddiford who do such work on
our fine jewellery, in store, and I will say myself the etching
master is an artist.”
“Good!” Annabell brings from her purse a drawing she
has. Handing it to him, she asks, “Is it possible to do an
etching of this?”
The young man examines it. “On what would you wish
to place the design, Madam?”
“A tie pin. This is a Bodhi tree. They grow in India. My
uncle has arrived from India and I am desirous of presenting
him with an etching of this tree placed upon a tiepin.”
“Do you have the tiepin, madam.”
“No! I intend to buy one.”
Again the glow. “We have some very fine tiepins, I must
say.” The clerk strolls across to a side counter. “At this
table, Madame. And might I add what a fine etching this
will make. The drawing is very well done.”
Now it is time for Annabell to glow. “Thank you. It is
my drawing. I took some time over it so I am hoping the
etching will do it justice.” As her eyes roam over the large
range of tiepins, she points to one with three tiny diamonds
inlaid. “What do you think,” she turns to Emily.
“The one with the diamonds?”
Emily peers closer. “I think it will please your uncle George very much”
The clerk reaches into the counter, takes out the tiepin. Placing it into Annabell’s hand, he comments: “A very fine
choice if I do say so.”
Annabell fondles it. “Is it solid gold.”
“23 carat. 3 grain. Very close to pure, Madame.”
“How much does it cost.”
“Eight sovereigns, madam, which includes the work of
The inlaid tiny diamonds sparkling in the light, she
hands the tiepin back to the smiling young man. “I will
“A charming gift for your uncle from India, Madam.”
The clerk gives the two young women a gaze that could
be construed as something a town boy might give to two
young women if he thought he could get away with it.
Emily turns away from the gaze.
“The etching master does come in Saturday. I would
say it should be ready Monday afternoon, Madam. Would
you like the package delivered?”
“I wish to look at some rings, two rings, one for me and
one for my friend here.”
“Rings? Yes, Madam. Friendship rings?”
“Friendship rings? No I am interested in the wedding
rings. Show us the wedding rings that you have.”
“Ah! A double wedding,” the young man’s voice has
just become even more ecstatic. “We are specialists in double weddings, if I do say. For both grooms and ladies.”
The clerk walks across to another counter, picks up a tray
of very modern looking rings, brings the tray back to them.
The two look over the tray, some truly beautiful: seed
pearl, topaz, emerald, aquamarine. Some have bows, some
fleur-de-lis with shimmering cut diamonds encased.
Emily shakes her head.
“Can we see some more.”
“If you come to this counter, Madams.”
The three of them walk across. Reaching into the counter,
two trays are brought out. Picking a slender ring engraved
with a design of a flower, the clerk hands it to Annabell.
“These we have both in rose gold and yellow gold. They will
make a fine match for a double wedding.”
Emily whispers into Annabell’s ear.
“We are looking for two the same.”
“We do have rings that have not been set. Yes, indeed
we do, madams. Those can be made exactly the same.”
The clerk reaches inside the case, brings out a band with
an eternity leaf design imprinted.
Annabell studies the ring, shows it to Emily.
Again Emily shakes her head.
Now a ring is handed to Emily, a rose gold leaf pattern,
a mille grain surrounding both edges. Emily passes the ring
to Annabell, whispers.
“Something with no design, that’s what we are looking
“No design!” The clerk tries hard to not express his
disapproval. “Of course! Our undecorated rings are at the
central counter, Madams, if you will follow me.”
Back they walk to the counter with the passageway at
the side. The clerk turns to a drawer behind him. “These
are our undecorated rings, Madams.”
Two plain bands of yellow gold are handed to them.
“They can be bevelled, or left quite delightfully as they
Reaching out her hand, Emily fondles the ring that she
has placed on her finger. She slips the ring to Annabell,
places it over her finger.
Seeing the smile in Emily’s eyes, Annabell tells the clerk, “These are what we wish for.”
“Yes, Madam.” Turning to the counter behind, the
young man brings from a lower draw measuring rings. “For
the two Madam’s size.”
The measuring rings exchanged a few times, the correct
ones applied and then applied again, the clerk looks at the
rings he had first given them. Somewhat astonished he
places them again on Emily and Annabell. “They do seem
to fit.” He checks again the measuring rings in his hand. “Indeed, both exact fits, Madams.”
An omen of goodwill not escaping Emily, impulsively
she clasps hold of Annabell’s arm, leans over and kisses her
love on the cheek.
The clerk: “Will there be engraving on the rings?”
Annabell looks at Emily who shakes her head.
“No engraving! Can we take them now?”
“Yes, Madam, but normally we would package them
together with the gentlemen’s. When could we expect the
“There are no gentlemen. We will take the rings now.”
Suddenly nonplussed: “No gentlemen!”
“No gentlemen,” Annabell repeats
Staring strangely at them, the words are difficult for
him to get out. “As you would wish, madam?”
Hands now trembling, the clerk turns to the counter
behind him. Not moving for quite some time, at last he
picks up two glistening white ring boxes.
“Do you have one box.”
“Yes! For the two rings.”
Again no movement for some time. Then: “We do have
a box that packages a gentleman and a lady’s ring together
as a set box.”
“We will take that!”
“In the gentleman and lady’s ring box”
Continuing with his trembling hands, the rings are now
placed in a deep-green velvet padded box, its outside the
same colour. This is then placed in a rose coloured bag
with two gold braided carrying handles.
“I will just write out the receipt.”
Dabbing a quill pen into the ink pot, a receipt written
on cream vellum. Waiting for the ink to dry, the young
clerk takes it upon himself to make the unfortunate remark
that it is a pity.
“A pity no gentlemen can satisfy!”
His back still towards them, he takes the receipt, folds
it into an envelope that has the jeweller’s name embossed
at the flap.
With a flair, turning, he places the package in front of
Emily, hands the envelope unsealed to Annabell.
Picking up the envelope, opening it, Annabell instead of
taking from her purse the white five pound notes she had
intended, brings out a pair of nail scissors, begins clipping
first one edge of a nail, then another.
The clerk watches entranced at the performance, his
eyes resting on each thin piece of nail as it falls off.
“It would indeed be a pity,” Annabell’s tone, coldness
quite perceptible. “I’m sure you understand.” Very slightly,
another piece of nail is clipped.
“Young men do tend to converse with their fellows.”
She brushes the piece of nail from the counter. “In this
instance, that would be a pity.”
Another clipped edge of nail falls onto the counter. “That
would not be a good thing.”
Annabell then sticks out her middle finger so that it
points directly towards the clerk. A protracted examination
is now made of where the next cut should be. This time
the search is not for the nail itself, but alongside the edge
of the nail.
Aiming the nail scissors at the skin, slowly, very slowly
she moves her middle finger over the clerks open hand, rests
his hand on the counter. The tiniest piece of skin falls from
her erect middle finger onto his hand..
She glances at Emily. Both of them stare at the clerk.
“You understand our brothers. They would not wish... they might express their anger. They might even enjoy...” the sentence is not finished.
Nail scissors back in the bag, four five pound notes are
tossed upon the counter. “A man will present himself on
Monday. He will ask for the tiepin with the Bodhi tree.”
Annabell turns. “Come my dear. Don’t forget to pick
up our package.” A fondness to her tone, Annabell makes
a position with her arm, waits for Emily to slide her hand
At the door Annabell turns towards the clerk, smiles.
“The money over is yours to spend as you wish. Thank you
for your kind assistance.”