Harriet rolled her eyes at her brother’s petulant bleating. She supposed this was about her beating him at real tennis after church. A man of nineteen years should know better!
‘Saints preserve us, Freddie!’ Mother called from the kitchen as she prepared water crust pastry. ‘Whatever this “flying cigar” was, I’m sure there’s an explantation…Did you see it, Harriet?’
Harriet wandered in. ‘No, just all those poor deer.’
Mother clapped her hands and clods of dough flew like hail. ‘Can’t let all that venison go to waste! Now go away.’
Freddie stormed into the drawing room and moments later Papa hurried out as Beethoven was pounded from the good piano.
‘You alright, old lady?’ Papa asked.
‘Mother thinks I’m in the way of her work…’
He leant down and made a face. ‘Work of Satan, that water crust.’
Harriet giggled. It was true, Mother’s water crust was somewhere between snuff and mortar, but Harriet was more worried eating from the herd who’d been discovered dead – as if Doctor Fell had been at them; those incisions!
‘Papa, aren’t they spoiled?’
‘No, they’ve not been dead long enough,’ he said.
Freddie’s angry No. 2 in D kept her from the drawing room but she did wonder about his incredulous story of the flying cigar. What had he seen?
The doorbell chimed and Soames returned with three men dressed all in black; derbies, greatcoats, gloves – in the height of summer!
She pressed herself against a pilaster and listened to the men’s iffing and butting with Papa. Their odd movements – heads twitching like mother’s beloved Java sparrows – unsettled her more than Freddie’s Beethoven.
They also discomfited Papa, who shook as the trio sped off in a horseless black moriah.
What could they have meant?
“Whatever you think you saw, you did not see.”