Beth Emmerson may be rich, but she doesn't have everything; her father thinks she's proud and her distant cousin, Gordon Banks, clearly hates her enough to appear cold and distant. But when a strange poem is presented, written by an apparent admirer, Beth's entire world is flung upside down and she must venture to find out more about her family than she has ever known before. To do this, however, Miss Emmerson must first hear the tragic story of two lovers; one player and one young lady, who is dead and has been for five years. As the past and present collide, the nasty intentions of the mysterious poet are revealed and Beth must, and will, make her decisions.



11. 11.

"We were just visiting a Miss Amelia Westchild." announced Mr. Miles loudly, sitting down beside Beth.

Beth smiled. "Oh, yes." she said, delightedly remembering the kind, but bossy, aunt-like friend of her father's, whom lived in a white, stately house three miles away from the border of Pickely estate. "Miss Westchild is a very intimate dinner companion of ours. She and my father have been closely interlinked from birth."

"Is that so?" replied Mr. Miles, looking positively delighted. "Well, she seemed a very pleasant lady. She seemed pleased to meet Gordon and graciously accepted me, as well."

Beth nodded, smiling broadly. Yes, she could full-well imagine Miss Westchild being 'graciously accepting', what with her strict, but charming, ways and obsessive love of lavender shortbread. An image formed in her mind, a highly entertaining one, involving Miss Westchild welcoming the gentlemen into her house, oakmoor lodge, then severely scolding Mr. Banks for 'not being gentlemanly enough' ("And, you, sir! That is no way, certainly no way at all, of putting about your attitude to a civilized, middle-aged lady!") and Miss Emmerson had to fight hard to suppress a giggle. Beside her, too, her friend, Daphne, appeared to be struggling not to smile, for she had also met Amelia, many-a-time, and had heard her obstinate strictures on etiquette. Once the giggle was fully under control, however, Beth said innocently "Indeed. She is an amiable woman. Very elegant... And impeccably accomplished."

"Accomplished?" Mr. Banks interjected coldly, whipping around from where he was standing, stubbornly positioned by the window furthest from the conversation. "I should think so! I should hope - and I would be exceedingly ashamed if it were not the case - that any female connected, at all, with my family is impeccably accomplished. If they were not, then I should not take the trouble of getting to know them."

Beth snorted. As though that ought be a great loos! But she said nothing.

Mr. Miles then turned eagerly to her and Daphne. "Golly! That reminds me! I kept meaning to ask... Do either of you play the piano? Or sing? If you would tell me that you do, then I should love to hear you provide the honours of a performance."

Miss Dorweight beamed, for music was her most endeavoured passion, and replied "Indeed. We - the both of us - do play music and we would both, I am sure, be perfectly happy to console you with a song. Are you compliant, my dear friend?"

Beth nodded. "Of course!" she said. "You go first, however, for you are by far the better practiced of the two of us. I shall follow after."

"Nonsense!" replied Daphne modestly, but she soon got up and moved towards the instrument. Sitting down, she then pulled a sheet of music towards her and began to play a rowdy Scotch air. Beth, meanwhilst, as well as the gentlemen, sat and marvelled. Miss Dorweight's playing was perfectly capital, but her voice needed a lighter tone and, after a song or two, she was succeeded charmingly by her friend. Beth took a different route, playing two French melodies and one complicated Italian tune. Her actual rapidity and control over her fingers and keys was not, perhaps, as masterly as her friend's, but her voice was, no doubt, better, possessing perfect strength, equal pitch and the exact lightness and sweet manner of tone to it which Miss Dorweight had, unfortunately, fallen slightly short of displaying. In short, however,  both young ladies were equal and both were listened to with evident enjoyment, although Beth was probably the better preferred of the two.


After the piano had been carefully put away, when Mr. Miles had finally ceased clapping, then Mr. Banks declared that he was most agitatedly bored and wanted - or rather 'deeply required' - fresh air. Of course Daphne, who was practically terrified of the formidable gentleman, moved instantly to the side of Mr. Miles, and Beth, feeling supremely annoyed, was left to the poor attitude and company of Gordon Banks.


So off the four of them walked, taking one of the longer, more scenic routs that went around and eventually out of Pickely estate. Until reaching the gate that lead into the public lane, by the church, in the local, picturesque village of Pentanthon, there was next to no talk - beyond more than the occasional observation as of which route they were to take, anyway - however, Miss Dorweight did break the silence outside the drapers when they saw, coming out of the general store opposite, a familiar figure, holding a small bundle of shopping.

"Look!" Miss Dorweight suddenly exclaimed. "Miss Emmerson, is that not Sergeant Peft coming out of Phillips'?"

Beth and the two gentlemen looked.

"Goodness!" cried Beth, upon perceiving her friend's observations to be correct. "Why - it is Sergeant Peft! Whatever could have brought him back to town? I have not seen him around for some time..."

"Let us greet him." replied Daphne and, raising her hands to cup her mouth, she called out across the street "Mr Peft! Mr Peft!"

The sergeant glanced up, saw whom it was whom had called him, formally saluted them with his hat and, once a large blue carriage had rattled on past, crossed the road to meet them.

"Ah, Miss Elizabeth. Miss Daphne. It has been a while." and he bowed gallantly to both ladies, then turned to face the gentlemen. "My!" he said. "And who are your friends? Fine gentlemen, are they not?"

Beth curtsied. "Indeed." she said respectfully, for she knew that Sergeant Peft was highly esteemed in the eyes of both her parents. "This is Mr. Miles, whom has recently taken it upon himself to inhabit the previously vacant Hardon Hall. And this is his Yorkshirian friend, Mr. Banks."

"How do you do, sir?" asked Peft warmly, shaking Mr. Miles' hand and smiling beneath his perfectly straight toothbrush moustache. He then shook Mr. Banks', but afterwards stood back and interestedly looked him up and down. "Banks, eh? Seen your name on the Emmerson family tree many-a-time, I have. You are the cousin? Son of the second Miss Nightingale?"

But Mr. Banks made no answer and rudely turned away. Beth, however, was intrigued. She had never seen a family tree at Pickely and nor did she have any idea as to who the Nightingales were.She enquired it of Peft, now. "The Emmerson family tree? I know not of an Emmerson family tree!"

The sergeant blinked. "I speak of the large one hanging in the entrance hall." he said confusedly. "The one by the bell jar."

Now Beth was even more intrigued, for she knew nothing of a family tree or a bell jar being back home in the entrance hall. She glanced at Daphne, but Miss Dorweight's face was equally as dumbfounded as her own. There were neither of these items at Pickely and Beth was sure of it. Therefore, the conclusion must be this: "You are mistaken, sir." she told the revered old man firmly. "If there was a bell jar in the entrance hall - or, indeed, a family tree - then I would be, being one of the house's inhabitants, be fully aware of its existence."

And, as Miss Emmerson turned sharply away from Peft, towards Daphne, Mr. Miles and Mr. Banks, only two of whom looked as though they had no clue as to what it was that was going on, then Gabriel Peft puffed out his weathered old cheeks and sighted, plunging his hands deeply into the pockets of his trousers. He, for almost the first time in his life as a member of the police force, knew not what to make of it. Whenever he was with the Emmersons, there had always been the very same tapestry of family names hanging proudly on the wall then, below that, an elegant mahogany table with a cloth and the bell jar. It could not have changed, surely... Unless... But the sergeant firmly pushed that thought aside. No. Fitzwilliam would never have allowed that... Never in a million years...

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