The Haunted Season

The Haunted Season by G. M. Malliet

Book: The Haunted Season by G. M. Malliet Read Free Book Online
Authors: G. M. Malliet
    Rosamund made satisfactory cooing sounds to express her pleasure at this update. Bill Travis looked as if he might want to guy-punch Max on the shoulder but thought better of it.
    â€œAnyway, I didn’t mean to interrupt,” said Max. “You were talking horses, not a subject on which I am any sort of expert.”
    â€œYes, I was saying we have a foal, close to being a filly now, who seems to be going off. I’ve had the vet by to look at her. I don’t dare leave her for long.…” He turned his head, as if he might rush off right then to look in on the animal.
    No, thought Max, that was not what you were saying. That was not the topic at all. But aloud he said, “That’s too bad.”
    Bill Travis nodded. “She’s an expensive piece of horseflesh.”
    â€œI meant,” said Max evenly, “that it’s especially difficult for us humans when animals suffer. They can’t tell us where it hurts.”
    As if realizing how callous his statement may have sounded, Travis said, “She is a nice creature and I don’t like to see her suffer, of course. But she’s losing rather than gaining. We will soon have to take a decision on what to do.
    â€œWe can’t,” he added, “afford to let sentiment get in the way of progress.”

    Chapter 6
    Max was to remember these conversations a week later as late one evening he retraced his steps to the manor house. He had come in answer to a summons from Lord Baaden-Boomethistle; as it happened, he had been planning a walk with Thea to clear his head at the end of a long day, and the woods around the manor house provided an attractive venue. Awena had settled the baby in for the night, and when last seen, she was shelling English peas for their dinner. They would start the meal with pumpkin soup, she’d promised: while the rest of England had seen much of its crop rotted by the damp, the southwest of England had enjoyed a bumper crop.
    Whatever the lord wanted, it did not seem to be an emergency, and probably it could have waited. But the man sounded unlike himself on the phone—unsettled and subdued, and he could not be induced to say what the matter was.
    â€œI’ll tell you when I see you,” Lord Baaden-Boomethistle had said. “I’ll have Hargreaves set out the good whiskey, shall I? I’m taking Foto Finish out for exercise—I ride every evening—but I’ll be back in good time to share a drink with you. There’s something I’d like to take your mind on.”
    The blatant bribery made the summons all the more intriguing, so Max agreed he would see him in a few hours. He was told to come around the back of the house (which he understood to be an honor meant for family, rather than a demotion in status) and to find his own way to the study, as it was Hargreave’s evening off.
    In the end, it was a fruitless visit. Max arrived at the house a few minutes early and, leaving Thea by the steps with a command to stay, made his way down the hallway, taking the turns as he remembered them. But there was no answer to his knock at the study door.
    â€œHmm,” he said aloud, thinking, This doesn’t seem right. The lord was abrupt in manner and used to having his way, but standing up an appointment would not, in the world in which he lived, be the done thing.
    Max tried the door handle, a polished brass affair probably copied from something at Buckingham Palace. It turned. He gave the wooden door a push.
    There was the promised whiskey on a tray, with two clean glasses waiting.
    And the massive polished desk, a desk on which to plot wars and takeovers and strategies.
    But there was no Lord Baaden-Boomethistle, a fact Max found curiouser and curiouser. Rudeness just to be rude was not in the man’s makeup.
    Max spent fifteen minutes cooling his heels, taking advantage of the unlooked-for chance to admire the artwork,

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