clean up the foyer.
Cecily climbed the stairs to the second floor, hoping that Lady Lavinia would not be too ill to see her. According to Mrs. Chubb, the woman refused to see a doctor, preferring instead to be left alone to handle her grief in her own way.
While Cecily respected that, there were one or two questions that remained unanswered, and time was of the essence if she were to make some sense of Sir Richard’s death before Inspector Cranshaw arrived to question everyone.
Reaching the door of the Marltons’ suite, Cecily gave the paneling a gentle tap. “It’s Mrs. Sinclair, Lady Lavinia,” she called out softly. “I just wanted to enquire as to how you are feeling and if you need anything.”
After a pause a weak voice called out, “You may enter, Mrs. Sinclair. I’m in bed and can’t come to the door.”
Cecily pushed the door open and peeked in. Lady Lavinia reclined on the bed in a swirl of pink satin sheets. The lace curtains of the canopy were drawn back, allowing the sun to fall across the satin and lace bedspread, and a book lay open near her pale, fragile-looking hand.
“I’m sorry,” Cecily said, advancing into the room. “I don’t wish to disturb you, but I was a little concerned when I heard that you had declined to see a doctor.”
Lady Lavinia shook her head. “I do hate being pulled around by doctors, especially ones I don’t know.” She made an effort to sit up, then fell back on the lace-edged pillows.“I do hope Stanley isn’t being too much trouble. He was getting very restless being cooped up in this room, and he promised me faithfully that he would behave if I let him play outside.”
“Master Stanley is quite all right,” Cecily assured her, crossing her fingers behind her back. “He is being looked after by the kitchen staff and seems to be enjoying the attention.”
“I hope he isn’t eating too much.” Lavinia stared up at the roof of the canopy. “That boy seems to put on weight just by looking at food.”
He does more than look at it, Cecily thought, remembering Stanley’s demolishment of the bread and cheese. “I’m sure Mrs. Chubb will keep an eye on him.” She pulled up a padded velvet chair and sat down on it. “I’m concerned about you, however. Have you been eating?”
Lavinia moved her head as if it weighed a ton. “I’m not interested in food right now.”
“Perhaps if I sent up something light later on?”
“Perhaps.” Lavinia sighed. “There doesn’t seem much point to it all, does there?”
Cecily frowned. She felt a very deep sympathy for the poor woman, but Lavinia had a son to think about now. She just couldn’t give up on everything.
“I mean,” Lavinia went on, “when one thinks how easily life can be taken away from us, it makes one wonder why we struggle so hard to preserve it.”
Cecily leaned forward, her ears suddenly alert. “Taken away from us?”
“Well, yes. I mean, there Richard was, hale and hearty and seemingly happy with his life, and in a few seconds …” She waved a limp hand. “Poof! He’s gone. Like blowing out a candle.”
Cecily tensed. “So what do you think happened?” she said quietly.
Lavinia’s eyes looked feverish when she turned towardCecily. “Who knows what happened? Black magic, if you ask me. Something made him do it. I wish I knew.”
“Did he meet with anyone the night before?”
Again Lavinia’s head moved from side to side. “He was with me all evening. And in the morning, until Stanley wanted to see the Punch-and-Judy show. Richard hates … hated the sands. He always said it made him feel itchy for days. I wasn’t going to go without him, but Stanley threw a tantrum, and Richard was so restless I thought it would give him an hour or so of peace and quiet.”
“How was he restless?”
Cecily waited while Lavinia apparently considered the question.
“I don’t know,” she said at last. “Just the way he was acting. He kept looking at his watch, as if he had an
Sarah Marsh, Elena Kincaid, Maia Dylan
William Sutcliffe and David Tazzyman