So far, the “Saga” readings have passed off fairly successfully – no terminal
blips, as yet. Julian appears well-addicted to the tale, which is encouraging.
Seems to be a chap of his word – applies his ‘wiv comics’ system to the reading
of the book, as well. He read the last chapter of the third volume by himself even
before Parsons had kicked off with the introductory blurb, and so on. I’m fairly
chuffed about that as the final chapter will have told him absolutely damn-all
about the rest of it. Bit of a ‘sucks ya-boo’ situation, really. The downside could
have been that he rejected the whole thing for lack of battle, murder and sudden
death at the end. My fears were unfounded, and he’s been working his way
backwards ever since – and solo.
Pottered through to the conservatory this morning to cull a few bunches of
grapes and dead-head the odd rose. Was in ‘mid-snip’ with the old secateurs
when there was a tap on the window behind me. Managed not to fall off the
steps, for a change.
“’Ere, Guv’!” drilled the chain-saw through the glass. “Got a minute, ‘ave yer?”
“Can’t be sure of anything these days – but at the moment, yes.”
I clambered down the steps and tottered over to the rose garden door – I find
that change of altitude has a greater effect on the old equilibrium than it used to
a few years ago.
“Well, don’t stand there like a prune, old chap, better come in and help with the
grape harvest, what? Corrie’s popping over for elevenses – and that should
indicate the odd biscuit, don’t you know? Hoping for chocolate digestives,
meself – you?”
I was burbling on a dash – largely I think to restore something of the comfortable
predictability of Amblewick life – a luxury much less in evidence since the advent
of the turbulence of youth into our staid old world.
I observed that there was a questing look about the boy – something of the
Labrador when tracking a covey of partridge clattering towards the guns
- anticipation – urgency and determination. I should have recognized the
symptoms and steadied my nerves against a further dose of the un-expected and
its inevitable negative results for me.
In the event, Julian’s ‘got a minute, Guv’?” preamble was not pre-cursor to
anything particularly world-shattering - direct result of our ‘horse-pistol’ second
meeting in the library, in fact.
“Just found the bit in the “Saga” when Mouse and Murat abi explore the Secret
passage at North Withering…..”
At least I now knew what was coming.
“Yee-s.” I said in my most encouraging tone.
“Good bit that, Cor!”
And then the true purpose of this invasion was clarified.
“When are yer goin’ to show me the secret passages at Amblewick, Guv’? Yer
“I did no such thing, old sport.”
Sure of me ground here.
“What I suggested was that you should discover them for yourself – sort of
Sherlock Holmes undercover operation, what?
“Yea, right. Trouble is they wouldn’t be very secret if I could find them, now
Couldn’t really argue with that sort of logic, now could I? Fair’s fair, and the time
had come for the granting of a clue or two. There’s a part of me which reverts
to the nursery as soon as youthful memories take hold - when the Vicar farts in
church, as well……...
“Tell you what, old son, I’ve already told you there’s a passage from the library….”
Julian butted in.
“Ruddy great room, that – where am I s’posed to start lookin’? Go on, Guv’, give
us a proper clue….”
“Fruit,” I said laconically. “but not good to eat like these chaps here.”
I tossed him a cluster of grapes.
“Cheers, Guv’.” he said.
But I could see, with some satisfaction, that his mind was elsewhere – the bait
had been taken, and with a bit off luck Corrie and I would be left in peace with the
biscuits – all of them….
“Trundle off, old chap - keep us posted as to progress and what-not, eh?”
‘Our Jules’ trundled off, and Corrie trundled in from the rose garden. Parsons,
bearing coffee and ‘bikkies’, emerged from the dining-room – everything as
though in cool and precisely-syncopated sequence.
Usual prelude to a Parsonian rocket.
“Good morning, Lady Constance. Black, Milady - or is this a ‘café latte’
Inclusive half-smile of welcome and approval – I was studiously ignored.
“What ho, Parsons dear!” Corrie beams. “Black will be fine – what a lovely day!”
“Most clement, Milady – the roses are at their best, this week, I see.”
“Yes indeed, be nice to bring a few blooms in while they’re so good, don’t you
“Yes, Milady. I have had my eye on two heads of “Peace” – for the Ccllini flagon
in the hall, I wondered?”
“Oh splendid, Parsons – stunning but discreet. A hint of glories yet to come,
don’t you think?”
“Precisely, Lady Constance, Amblewick has always been renowned for its
discretion and charming English understatement.”
Meanwhile, I sweated like a guilty schoolboy at the Headmaster’s study door!
Eventually, I could stand the tension no longer and butted into this stream of
pleasantries - first with a watch-makers probe – and then, perhaps unwisely, with
“We also serve, old thing, who only stand and wait, don’t you know? Nose a dash out of
joint, this morning, is it, Parsons, eh?”
Imprudent, I fear – a fleeting aberration – and a dash below the belt – ‘not on’, in
Parsons’ right eyebrow rose, as it has always been inclined to rise when I have
gone a dash too far. It was enough.
I reverted immediately to mere putty in the glazier’s hand – never was much of a
gladiator – no guts or moral fibre, so the blighted Cousin Marguerite maintains.
She has a point, I suppose.
“Sorry, Parsons, out of order, what? Silly old tongue ran away with me – I stand
Parsons is nothing if not charitable and infinitely forgiving.
“Milord, I am lost in admiration for your open-heartedness, and for the generosity of
the manner in which you have welcomed young Julian to Amblewick. My concern is
for the artifacts and treasures with which you and Lady Constance have entrusted me the
custody and safe-keeping. As I intimated on a previous occasion, to permit the young man
unfettered access to every nook and cranny in the Castle would seem to me reminiscent
of the story of the fox in the chicken run – or at best - the fox and the grapes.”
“Pineapple, actually” I prompted.
Once again, before the brain had been properly engaged. However, I was saved
from risk of further castigation by a strident screech of triumph from the library.
“It’s the bleedin’ pineapple on the chimley, innit, Guv?”
Parsons, whose knowledge of the Castle secrets is unsurpassed, knew the
pineapple in question all too well. The merest suggestion of the famous
elusive smile perched for a brief moment at the corner of his mouth and then
“I must entreat Your Lordship to make sure that any exploration is supervised.
There are, if you remember, Milord, an intricate number of side-passages leading from the
Library tunnel – a veritable maze. It would be unfortunate if the fox became a cat, and Julian
Involuntary twitching of ears proclaimed that imminent danger to meself had
“Parsons is right, though, Biffers – pretty dodgy some of those tunnels - could
get well and truly lost on his own, couldn’t he? We always went together for
safety’s sake when we were children, didn’t we?”
“True, old girl. Trouble is me knees won’t take all those stairs, any more.”
Game as hell, our Corrie.
“I’m still fairly intact, old man, thanks to the ‘Wufflums’– I’ll go with him – and
bollocks to the Watts woman!”
From darkness into light, and from travail into ease.
“I will instruct Mrs Fenner to prepare some sandwiches, Lady Constance – my
memories of the labyrinth inform me that your expedition may well extend some
way beyond the luncheon gong.”
“Good egg!” I enthuse. “I think we should now beard the London Tiger in his den
before he plunges headlong into the entrails of the house unsupervised.”
I winked a little saucily at Parsons.
An answering, and rewarding, twitching of the ears.
“Thank you, Milord – the wisdom you exhibit, if I may make so bold, is that of
King Solomon himself - before he became compromised by association with
Asmodeus, of course.”
No idea what old Parsons was rabbiting on about, but I beamed like Billy-ho!