The Doublet Affair (Ursula Blanchard Mysteries)

The Doublet Affair (Ursula Blanchard Mysteries) by Fiona Buckley

Book: The Doublet Affair (Ursula Blanchard Mysteries) by Fiona Buckley Read Free Book Online
Authors: Fiona Buckley
table, it would be different. You should learn to cook. When you have your own home . . .”
    “I’ll not have any of them learning in my kitchen, madam. We’ve tried that if you recall, and I’d as soon have imps of Satan under my feet. If I had some extra hands, good, skilled hands in the kitchen, it might be different, but with only Mrs. Logan and Joan and Jennet, and them doing other things half the time and no spitboy . . .”
    “. . . is there no peace in this house, ever? Why is somebody always shouting?” Leonard Mason hadburst upon the scene. “In God’s name, what’s happened now? ”
    The angry voices receded and a slamming door shut them off from me. I withdrew, to find Dale standing wide-eyed in the doorway of our bedchamber.
    “It’s just the same as last year, isn’t it, ma’am?”
    “I’m afraid it is,” I said as I led us back into our room and closed our own door, softly. “I feel I’ve never been away!”
    “Ma’am . . .”
    “What is it, Dale?”
    “Well, ma’am . . . you’re here to find something out for Sir William Cecil, isn’t that right? That’s what you told us. That something might be wrong here at Lockhill.”
    “Yes, Dale, that’s perfectly correct.”
    “Well, I just wanted to say . . . if you’re looking for signs of a plot, ma’am, are you really looking for them here? ”
    I sighed, and sat down on the edge of the bed. “I hardly know. Sir William told me to be alert to anything that seemed odd or unusual. The oddest and most unusual thing I’ve seen so far is Master Leonard Mason hurling an imitation bird off the tower! Do you think, Dale, that that could possibly qualify as a sign of a plot against the Queen?”
    “I can’t see how, ma’am! It seems to me that in this house, well, it’s all children and uproar and Mr. Mason trying to study all sorts of peculiar things! As for plots—well, I just can’t imagine . . .”
    For a glorious and comforting moment, I saw my own private vision of Lockhill shared by someone else;given credence. I saw the Mason household bathed in merriment and innocent muddle, like a dilapidated building in afternoon sunshine. I started to laugh and Dale joined in. “Neither can I, Dale!” I gasped. “Neither can I!”
    Then Dale helped me to change my clothes, and we went downstairs to dinner.

CHAPTER 7
Intelligent Conversation
    “T he children used to eat separately,” Ann Mason said across the dinner table, “but Dr. Crichton has lately decided that it would benefit them to join the adults. So now,” she commented brightly, “we all eat together, as a family.”
    I could see that the brightness was an effort. Chronic weariness was evident in her eyes and her voice, but she had put on fresh clothes and was doing her best to uphold her dignity as the mistress of a manor house. Ann Mason had standards. She just lacked the time and energy to impose them in more than one or two places.
    She had evidently concentrated her efforts on the dining room. The side table, where Redman was pouring a sauce over a platter of boiled chickens, was protected from the hot dishes by a clean white cloth. There were aromatic strewing herbs among the rushes underfoot, and the dining table was furnished with another white cloth, and with burnished spoons and pewter goblets.
    Looking about me, I noticed that, like the Cecils,the Masons had improved their dining room since I last saw it. Here, too, were new tapestries. The old ones had been very faded, but the walls were now adorned by richly coloured panels telling the story of the Return of the Prodigal.
    Rob saw me looking and remarked on them to Mr. Mason. “They’re very fine. Florentine, are they not?” he said.
    Mason had also dressed for his guests, donning a tailored doublet, faced in fawn silk and embroidered with blue and green leaves. Dr. Crichton, on the other hand, was still in his dusty black gown and didn’t even have the presence with which to carry it off. An impressive

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