This is fun. I get to pick through my writing and sort out all my favorite bits and pieces with you! So without further ado. . .
Peter was galloping in impatient circles on the lawn before the portico of the great ancestral home of the Bertrams. The boy’s eyes were dancing with fun and frolic, and his dark curls were plastered against his head with perspiration, for the spring afternoon was warm and the sun was smiling brightly over the green hills of Derbyshire.
“Guests!” cried Anthea, as the stable boy dragged an unwilling Gyp away to the kennel. “I wonder who?”
“I hope it’s the Thomases. They know the best stories and we always have gingerbread and cocoa when they come.” Patsy cried, capering about the others.
“I hope so too,” Peter replied, thinking of their friends, “and not the Ashby’s.”
Anthea wrinkled her nose, but did not speak her mind. “I hope it’s cousin Ella.”
“I guess that it will be someone new.” Peter said.
“Perhaps it’s the king!” Patsy cried.
Thea wagged her head, but Peter smiled a haughty smile. He remembered the king’s sojourn at Lyttelton.
The first to enter the receiving room was a tall man with a grand bearing and a striking mop of red hair, more impressive than usual in the ruffled state left by the motoring cap and goggles he had just removed. This was Walter Gilbreth, Lord Bertram’s junior partner in the financial business.
“Is he still in prison?”
“Yes. He has served thirteen years.” Lord Bertram said.
“That’s a long time.” Walter reflected, and Peter silently agreed. That was his longer than his lifetime.
As the Adventurers stood on the steps of the house, watching the Silver Ghost sweep down the arc of the drive, waving to Ella and shouting goodbye to both, Anthea sighed contentedly.
“I’m sorry they have to leave us. But I’m glad they came.”
“Me too.” Patsy added, “I like Mr. Gilbreth. He’s much nicer than the king.”
The next day was Saturday and Peter departed for Hampshire, as Easter holiday had come to an end. In his absence, the Adventurers left at Lyttelton neglected the little society they had made, for adventure was something that very much lacked in their comfortable lives, and Anthea and Patsy were content that it should remain that way.
Peter obeyed, albeit grudgingly, and ate his porridge up. It seemed that in addition to freedom, Lady Bertram also believed in porridge as an essential part of children’s up-bringing, and the Bertram children and porridge were well acquainted from very early in life.
Nothing was seen of him again for another hour, except by one or two of the housemaids, who observed that he had shut himself into his room with an evil-looking mess and was heard building something.
Peter, eyes alight with discovery, reached for the fateful object.
Lord Bertram was summoned from London, so that when the patient finally wakened he was greeted by the frightened and concentrated gazes of both parents and the Bertram’s country physician.
Walter Gilbreth was introspective. “I wouldn’t say that it was really low of him. Many people name their horses for famous champions like Isinglass. And Goloshes is an unusual name for a horse. But!” he held up a finger to quell a cry of protest. “Then again, so is Isinglass. To my knowledge, it is a form of gelatin.”
His siblings appeared at that moment bearing various news.
“We’re going to ride on the carousel after luncheon. Mrs. Cook won first prize for jellies, and in the cake contest.” Anthea told Peter, “And Mr. Davies for his roses and prize cabbages.”
“I hope he doesn’t bring them back with him.” Patsy said.
“I heartily agree.” Peter replied. “I can’t bear cabbage. Unfortunately, I know of a few dozen more in the gardens at home.”
“I wish Mrs. Cook was the gardener.” said Roger sagely, “She would grow cake instead.”
The twelve o’clock from Exeter steamed into Paddington belching cinders and smoke, and departed in a similar fashion several minutes later, having deposited its passengers and freight at the station. Among these was a roughly dressed man, not yet forty, with a little Gladstone bag as his only luggage, who marked his steps toward the outside of the station and hailed a cab.
The occupant of his cab was not cross on account of being asked, however. He was on his way to a meeting he did not look forward to, and that for many good reasons. He spent the majority of the drive composing speeches under his breath in preparation for the oncoming interview. Not that he was unready for the meeting; he’d had thirteen years to prepare.
“May I help you, sir?”
“Yes. I wish to speak with Lord Hathaway.”
“Lord Hathaway has retired.”
“Yes sir. Lord Bertram is managing now. Do you wish to see him?”
Werden was on the brink of declining, but something made him change his mind, for he replied in the affirmative and dropped a little rectangle of snowy pasteboard onto the salver the page held.
Lord Bertram read it with a sinking heart. Heinrich von Werden was not his caller’s true name. Lord Bertram knew that the name on the card belonged to his mother. Lord Bertram did not betray his dismay, however, but laid the card back on the platter.
“Show him in, Ramsey.”
“He hoped you would stay, and proving yourself, be given a position and be a part of the business. It is indescribably generous and forgiving of him, and I fear, rather blind.
“I cannot bear to stay here in England.” burst out his brother. He had become increasingly fidgety, like a little child in a long sermon, and now he rose and moved to the wide window which overlooked teeming Trafalgar. “Not after how you have treated me.”
He had sometimes wished that matters might be righted. But there was no place for reconciliation now, and he regretted such a delusional dream, feeling that he had been a fool to hope for such a thing.
Dartmoor lay behind him; before him was revenge.