The Fateful Croquet Game Tale 44 The Fateful Croquet Game Tale 44 The hot and sultry August weather continued. Dave was confined to the farmhouse working on his book. Quentin and Angelica ran wild in the fields, and the Beaver Club held the Annual Croquet Game. The Beaver Club had increased the membership numbers due to Greconville's "Baby Boom" after the 14-18 war which was now reaching maturity. They enjoyed playing croquet annually, with a great ferocity and intense concentration. It was also a good social occasion when one might "pull a beaver"since there were several widowers around but most had accepted a quiet decorum in the latter stages of life. There were some Derby and Joans who had celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. The prime ones being Rose and John Barton, parents of Bill, Ben and Norman, happily married for so many years, never a whiff of scandal, real pillars of the community, founders of the Barton Dynasty. 199355700 A buzzing sound eventually reached ears that did not hear so keenly as in the past. Grey heads raised from the hoops and faded eyes focused on a snazzy Lambretta ploughing ferociously across the field towards the Croquet Lawn.....Who could this stranger possibly be? 199366600 A pony-tailed gentleman was riding the beast. The ladies crowded forward. A ponytail! Siani and Cascade were the only owners of such things in Greconville. Who COULD this alien be? 199367478 "Howdy folks" he greeted them as he leapt nimbly off his smart steed. "Do you happen to have a beautiful lady called Rose in your group here?" 199367479 Ignoring this question, Captn. Ahab and some of the others came forward to give all their envious attention to the abandoned steed. 199367480 Wordlessly the others motioned towards Rose in her deckchair with her faithful husband John in devoted attention by her side. Rose looked at the stranger, her eyes widened, and she fell back into the desk chair....... 199368782 Undeterred by this, the stranger strode forwards and kissed her full on the lips. "You haven't forgotten your old friend Oriel Thompson from Pasadena, California, U S of A, have you, my love?" At that moment Edith staggered slightly, and she uttered an indistinct word. Rose looked at the stranger, her eyes widened and she fell into a dead faint. 199368783 Luckily just then a diversion occurred -Ahab and Grandpa Crimple..were about to "road test" the splendid scooter. The amorous stranger turned and ran over to it, whilst Rose slowly recovered her senses. 199370717 Behind her closed lids, she was thinking fast. So why the hell was he here right now after all those years......When she had walked out on him in Mexico over half a century ago she never thought that she would ever see him again..... Complete amnesia - that was the answer! . O.K. Rose thought, here we go, the biggest act of my life to save my marriage and she fluttered her eyelids and opened her eyes..... 199370718 Guiltily they hopped off- curiosity had almost got the better of them. They put on their best smiley Oriel approached. 199371046 Rose's heart was palpitating and her mouth was dry so it wasn't too hard to look out blankly from her faded blue eyes and say "I can't remember what happened. How silly. I can't remember a thing" but of course she could. That was the trouble. She could remember it all in it's painful clarity. That wretched Edith had a look of the cat that's got the cream - I do hope that she doesn't suspect anything, she is such a nosepacket......She closed her eyes again and let them carry her off the Croquet Lawn (or Field as it was known in Greconville) Oriel roared off on the scooter. "I'll be back" he called to her over his shoulder...... 199384512 At last she was settled in the matrimonial bed at home, but in an almost Royal Tudor fashion, as friends and neighbours crowded around. All eyes were upon her, varifocals, bi-focals,weak eyes and strongly sighted eyes. She was the centre of attention for everyone. She fluttered her eyelids slowly and decided to remain dead to the world. Who would have thought that the philandering old charmer would turn up in England all these years later. Five decades and more had passed but his araneous ways were trying to ensnare her into his web again. She had assumed him dead by now, all that Jack Daniels having coursed through him, but like a bad penny - or should that be cent? - he had appeared to haunt her. 199393128 Now everyone had gone and dear John was safely tucked up beside her, she returned to her thoughts. She smiled ruefully, thinking of her dear dead daughter, Vera and her grand-daughter Marianne. Both so beautiful, impetuous and thoughtless. Vera's marriage ending so dramatically on the Grossglockner Pass - Rose had always wondered why she had been travelling towards Italy in a snow storm, having left Marianne in charge of her nurse in the Schloss von Velden. The Count had never made mention of the circumstances of the tragedy. 199393362 So it had been between leafy Surrey and the Austrian mountains that Marianne had spent her childhood. Despite the magnificent wedding Rose had already sensed a malaise within Marianne. She pulled herself together - her thoughts were wandering. She must never let John know about her months with Oriel. What a charmer he had been - that curly black hair, that enchanting mustache, the twinkle in his beautiful blue eyes. Life was always fun with Oriel. Naturally she had accepted his proposal, the waves of the Atlantic ocean lapping below them, on that balcony in Mexico...... she drifted into sleep. (Perhaps an apology is due here, - as Dave has commentated already, it is so much easier to write a la Cartland than rough vernacular - but this is Rose's story, not "Lady Chutney's Chaser") 199393361 At Knaresbro' Lodge, Edith's voice could be heard above the clattering tea cups. "Did you notice? The moment she set eyes on the American stranger, she fainted. You don't do THAT unless SOMETHING HAS OCCURRED between them at some time" she remarked maliciously. The ladies looked at her enquiringly. "But Edith, John and Rose have been married for ages and ages"said Rita "That's a long time faithful marriage" "Time will tell"responded Edith, tossing her head. "I have my suspicions" 199429951 The ladies glanced at each other. Edith could go "over the top" and they knew that there was no love lost between herself and Rose. Rita reached for a piece of home-made cherry cake and chewed it thoughtfully. 199430129 "Edith" she thought to herself" was a disappointed woman!. Oscar, her only son, took little notice of her, being so wrapped up in his own affairs. There had been Oscar's romance with Bryan, his rejection of her bird collection, and now his establishment in the Clock House with Binkie(and dog) All this had rankled with Edith. He was her only child and she liked to be in control, which is why she snooped upon Greconville society so much. She was an unhappy woman and therefore dangerous. The cherry cake was very good, Rita pushed all these worrying thoughts to the back of her mind. 199430130 Meanwhile at the Towers things were NOT going smoothly. Exasperated by Marianne's constant entertaining, Sir Thomas was about to go to his club in London,( and also have a good look at the Dolls' House exhibition at Bethnal Green before it closed) when he was surprised to see a shaggy stranger on the doorstep, "There's a hole in his jersey" Thomas thought,"and he looks as if he needs a good wash."Aloud, he said "Tradesman's entrance is at the back, my good man" 199461457 Marianne was enjoying herself. She adored Sophie - her two little girls were being entertained by cook in kitchen so as not to interrupt the grown-ups. She hadn't even noticed Thomas packing his bag - no Basil to do it for him - no replacement had been found for Basil as yet. Doing things for himself had not improved Thomas's temper either. 199461458 The Library door opened and there was the strange man she had seen in the woods, shyly proffering her a bunch of what she thought were wild flowers. 199461459 All eyes were upon the stranger.......... 199461456 When Thomas had settled into his first class train compartment he opened his copy of The Sphere. His heart missed a beat - here, depicted by an artist, was his dream, the dream that he had hoped for by marrying Marianne. A jolly blazing Lines/Triang fire, and his beautiful bride and himself relaxing in front of it. Things had begun to go wrong from the start. Basil's defection. Princess Tai Liu had been savage, to say the least of it, when evicted from the Bridal Suite. Michelle's capable hands still showed the scars. Marianne's wanderings of the grounds, Her insatiable appetite for her "salon evenings" He sighed heavily as he closed the page on the idyllic scene. Was it his umbrella that was causing the rift between this so newly married man and wife? 199464246 Back in the library, everybody clustered around - a ripple of excitement ran around the room. This was due to the fact that no-one had ever seen a blonde beard. White fuzzy ones in great profusion but blonde - and on a relatively young man. Such a thrilling surprise. Just as Sarah was returning from the kitchen with the gift of flowers now arranged in a vase, Dave gave them all another surprise. "I see that you are reading one of my bukes" he said, opening the volume that had been thrown down amongst the magazines. "I'm embarking on a new one" he added, casting his eyes somewhat lecherously at Marianne who was sitting closely beside him. Henry gulped. A kindred spirit..... Marianne was thrilled. A real author. At last her Salon could finally get on a cultural level - instead of just a hot-bed of malicious gossip and rumours. Poor Rose's character had come in for some assassination this week. She had remained indoors behind the shielding lace curtains of no.15, recuperating in bed since the unexpected stranger and ridden into their midst and caused such speculation. 199472422 Marianne threw a hasty glance at the bookcase. She hadn't really explored the contents yet - Sadie's choice. She took a bet that there would be a fair bit of - oh what was that woman's name, north country - made a fortune - Catherine Cookson, that was it! She had better get Sarah to help her check the shelves tomorrow, and perhaps some boxes to be packed for a charity shop.... and a quick new supply of culture from wherever you got it in Greconville. She didn't think there was bookshop, just Hill House Antiques. Well, it was almost certainly assured that they would have a nice row of Gibbons "Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire" somewhere and that was better than nothing. 199472421 After all the guests had left Sarah did a perfunctory tidy-up and left the room. Marianne picked up the book that Dave had claimed that he had written. She looked at the title -no wonder she had thought it either Sadie or Sarah's reading matter."Women in Love" What sort of a Mills & Boon title was that? Maybe he WAS Barbara Cartland in disguise, maybe the beard was a decoy...... but he had not looked as if he lusted for shocking pink, well, not to wear perhaps but he had eyed her rather strangely. It put her in mind of someone else, Henry perhaps? She had heard stories about Henry but she had put them to the back of her mind as being the usual mindless gossip that the village was always so full of - but perhaps there was no smoke without fire? She knew that gossip was always rife about her dear old uncle, Vlad, but she knew of both his strengths and weaknesses and never divulged anything about his eccentricities. 199478585 She started reading, turning the pages slowly..... A few hours later, she rang the bell and requested Sarah to bring her a stiff brandy. Naked wrestling! Who would have thought that little Dave would have such imagination. She must most definitely invite him to her next soiree. You certainly can't judge a book by it's cover she mused,and she wasn't referring to the volume that was in her hand. 199478584 "Where is my husband?" she asked Sarah. At his London club, m'lady. He left this morning". There was no chance like the present - perhaps she would take a stroll through the fields to Charleston Farmhouse tomorrow morning. Whilst the cats away.......and where was that annoying Siamese cat, she hadn't seen it for several days now she came to think about it. 199479455 The two little Dorset girls had persuaded their mother, Sophie, to allow them to stay for a while and "help" Michelle to tidy up Marianne's bedroom. They loved looking at Marianne's collection of shoes -especially her pretty cream kid with pink roses Louis heeled wedding shoes. "Put away that banana, dear" rebuked Michelle a trifle sharply. "You shouldn't be eating in here" "But Lady Marianne does" said Fiona "she eats whole boxes of chocolates and we have found one!" 199479429 They arranged the shoes in a circle and then began on the box of chocolates. 199479430 What a mess. Michelle began to feel that she really couldn't cope. Had Basil still been was so difficult without his help. The whole house seemed to be topsy-turvey since Marianne's arrival - and she hadn't even bothered to go round to see how her frail Grandmother, Rose was faring since her "turn" at the Croquet Field. 199479428 Luckily Bathsheba came around to collect the girls and started to help Michelle with the tidying up. She was a bit of a dreamy art student so her idea of tidying was not that of Michelle's. She put the hat on a cherub statue and hung a pretty little bag from his marble hand "My Lady does not deserve this lovely wardrobe" thought Michelle, as Bathsheba helped to stack the shoe boxes so they could go neatly onto the shelves and be hidden from sight. 199479431 The next day Marianne set out for Charleston. She passed Captn. Ahab on the way practicing walking on his regained foot, and he turned and accompanied her up the lane. "I still hanker for a life on the ocean wave" he confided to her, as they negotiated the rocky path "The roll of the ship, the flap of the sails, the screaming of the gulls following in the wake..." The old sea dog's voice faltered - his Great Great Grand-papa has been the last pirate to be hanged in the Pool of London, the sea was in Ahab's blood. Ever since that pesky crocodile had eaten his foot when when they were on fool's errand, digging for long lost treasure in the tropics so many years ago, his career as an officer and a gentleman (as opposed to being a pirate's Great Great Grandson,) had been scuppered. Like many of the inhabitants of Greconville, Ahab had had a varied career......... 199495871 Marianne considered all this as she stumbled along. "A yacht!" Coming from a land-bound country , the sea was a novelty to Trans-Ruro-Austri-Grecons. The only sailing that she had done had been on the Lake Wertersee in a rather Swallows and Amazons' fashion. She wondered if Thomas would allow her one. She had better be a bit nicer to him for sure. She realised that she had been quite waspish to him since the wedding. Such a glamorous and exciting lead up - and then ppht.... I bet a lot of brides think the same - "a lot of sound and fury" and then not a lot. Well, actually quite a lot - the Mouse Skin Fortune was not to be sneezed at, and the wedding HAD been fun- all those old friends arriving from the North - she hadn't heard much from them since then. How was Ophelia and her new garden,- and Rabbi - handsome fellow- he seemed to have a yen for some air hostess.... She realised that they were nearing the farmhouse and a plume of untidy smoke arose from one of the chimneys. It had also started to rain quite heavily - one of the few times that an umbrella would have been really useful. 199495872 They arrived at the farmhouse and pushed open the gate. Photograph of Charleston by Rosemary so no copyright issue. 199503797 Inside, in the kitchen, they found Vanessa struggling with a casserole dish . She was attempting to put it into the cooker, it being Grace's day off. Dave and Duncan were watching her with interest and offering no assistance. Captn. Ahab strode in, imitating the style of the man on the packet of Force cereals which was displayed on the cluttered kitchen table. He noted the piles of unwashed dishes decorating the sink - he certainly hoped that he would not be roped in to "help"- the place seemed to be in utter chaos. 199503799 At the sight of Marianne coming in through the door, Dave's face lit up...... 199503798 Marianne made her usual dramatic entry. "Darling Vanessa, whatever are you doing? Have all the servants deserted you? Why is the Cezanne just propped against the dresser? Have you done any painting today? And you, Dave, how is your new novel progressing?" Vanessa wiped her hands on the oven cloth. "I think it is time we all had a nice cup of tea - that's if we can find any clean cups. If not, I shall expect some help with the washing up" Inwardly, Ahab was as he feared, he would be here all day doing the work of women.....he should never have accompanied Marianne through the fields, but she was a very seductive woman. He wondered how Sir Thomas could bear to leave her, so soon after their marriage. 199503796 Vanessa brought in a freshly brewed pot of tea - amazingly a Clarice Cliff creation, not a Charleston effort. Dave eagerly started to divest Marianne of the figure enveloping Georgian silk velvet coat whilst Jim Ahab (as we now know him to be) grabbed the copy of The Times and scuttled towards the Garden Room determined at all costs, to get out of any washing-up that might have to be done. Duncan was eyeing the decanter - 11a.m. was a bit late for tea in his opinion. The sun , although not showing, was high in the sky and not far from the yard-arm but never mind......Duncan was Duncan. 199504983 As he entered the room, he saw Virginia and Roger reading a book together. " A Room of My Own" said Virginia somewhat pointedly but Jim ignored her and settled down into the bamboo chair and began to read the Personal column..... 199506119 No sooner had Marianne and her coat been separated, that Dave, ignoring the cups of tea being proffered by Vanessa, took Marianne's arm and headed for the conservatory, right past - and under Capt. James Ahab's nose. Just then, Jim gave a snort of surprise. "There is something here that may be of matter to our dear sick Rose" he mumbled, not sure that he should divulge to the present company exactly what it was that he had read. 199506117