went to the window and, shielding her eyes, looked down.
"Did you ever hear anything more?" Reverend Belcher asked.
"About Nan, you mean?" Finch shifted his feet awkwardly.
"Well, not in so many words. But it was made clear to me that
she has...left this world."
"Good," the Reverend said resolutely. "It was a world
that did not deserve her."
"I find it quite unbelievable, in retrospect. That entire episode
of my life."
"I quite understand," Lutwidge sympathized, thinking of
his own recent adventures with Nan's alter ego.
"A colossal waste," the Baron was grumbling, as the Tattsons
entered. "Why the energy they are consuming in that fool Tower
could ripen sixty acres of wheat!"
"My dears!" the Baroness cried, and opened her arms wide
as if to encircle both Finch and Miss Ethyl, who, she felt, must
be shattered at the engagement of their respective amours. "I
hope you will consider the possibility, if you have not already,
of each finding solace within the wounded heart of the other."
"Timothy Belcher," the Reverend blurted, unsure how to
introduce himself, and so sticking out his hand as a kind of unintentional
(though welcome) pinprick to her ballooning enthusiasm.
"Ah, you are officiating, then?" The Baroness pumped his
arm and refused to release it. She looked directly into the Reverend's
frightened eyes. "Can you honestly say that the ship you are
soon to launch will do anything but founder, in short order, on
the rocks of marital discord?"
"Oh no!" the Reverend said, trying to dispel several misapprehensions
"No? Let me tell you a thing or two," she said sagely,
and drew him off.
"I thought you were a bugger," the Baron accosted Finch,
referring to his wife's wishes for the young man and Miss Ethyl.
"Had a change of heart, have you? Well it won't last. You are
congenitally suited to your condition. Might as well make the most
of it, 'hay while the sun shines,' and all that. Have you read Kraft-Ebbing?
Sound scholarship, though I found the illustrations unnecessary.
"There is a footballer by that name," Finch frowned, "but
I was unaware that he had written--"
"The Psychopathia Sexualis," Miss Ethyl said.
Both men looked at her.
"It was in my father's library. I found it when I was a girl.
I could not make out much of the text, but I thought the pictures
"Hmmm," the Baron considered, looking from one to the
other. "Perhaps in this instance my wife has a less erring
eye than usual."
"Miss Ethyl and I are friends," Finch said, and, to soften
any insult the statement may have contained, went over and stood
"Your voice is unusually thin for the Abbey," the Baroness
was saying. "Have you practiced projecting?"
"Dorothy, stop intimidating the boy. Can't you see it is his
first dinner party?" the Baron called.
"Are you upset?" Finch took the opportunity to ask Miss
Ethyl. "I do recall now your accompanying the Earl on several
walks while at the Hall."
"Oh no, not really," Miss Ethyl shrugged. "People
like me never end up with people like him. I should be quite lucky
to have any suitors at all, much less one so dashing as the Earl."
"You mustn't think that way."
"Mustn't I?" she smiled. "Look at me. I am neither
pretty nor smart. I am rich. But you know there are situations when
I wish I wasn't. Because every time a man comes up and says something
nice to me I know it is a boldfaced lie. I suppose the man I shall
eventually marry will be the best liar. And that is a rather sad
fate, is it not?"
"Where is the Duchess?" the Baroness Tattson asked. "Lutwidge,
do go up and see what is delaying her."
"Lady Tabitha and the Earl are up there as well," Miss
"I would not dream of it," Lutwidge said. "I shall
play host, instead. Who is for a whiskey and soda?"
The drinks he passed sparkled brilliantly in the Tower's light.
Upstairs, a council of war was being held. The Earl and the Duchess
sat on either side of Lady Tabitha, who regarded her reflection
in the tilted mirror with the serenity that only the perfect application
of powder, paint, and scent can bring.
"Well imagine if this was the garden of Eden," the Earl
complained, "and Eve just happened to mention, 'Oh Adam, hope
you don't mind, I invited Mr. Snake over for dinner. Told him to
bring an apple, I did.'"