Marion had not gone back to Mount Lœng House, yet. She had stayed at the Dower House, spending her days quietly with Aineytta and with young Anya, who was Aineytta’s special guest along with the newborn child, Seogham junior. The child grew stronger every day and so did Anya, who grew less and less worried about his survival.

Rodan was away most of the day. She went off in the limousine, driven by Gallis Limmon, and tended to her horses, installed in a disused garage at Maison D’Alba. The little girl was being very grown up about their welfare, and Marion was proud of her for it, but she missed her about the house.

She missed Kristoph, too. He was divided between duties at the Citadel and overseeing the beginning of the work to repair his ancestral home. He returned to the Dower House late every evening and though he talked warmly to Marion he was so obviously tired, mentally and physically, that she rarely pressed him about anything.

But he did bring some consolation. The discovery of those treasures hidden beneath the east wing was a pleasant surprise. She was happy to see the servants compensated so generously for their lost possessions, and Kristoph was pleased that some of the valuable jewels and precious metals horded by his ancestors might help pay for the repairs to the house. Of course, he could afford the work anyway, but the idea that the former patriarchs of his House made provision against such a disaster had cheered him enormously.

He brought Marion a pure gold sculpted rose on a long stem that she kept beside her as she sat in the drawing room of the Dower House with something that was hers only on loan – the first volume of that long dead Chrístõ de Lœngbærrow’s poetry. She could read High Gallifreyan naturally, now, without needing it translated in her head, and she understood fully all the subtle nuances of the words that might be lost in translation and the beautiful internal and external rhyming schemes that the young aristocrat used so exquisitely.

She read aloud his longest poem of longing for the lovely Shayna to an all female group of companions who gathered in the warm drawing room and ignored the grey, sullen sky of an afternoon in the mischievous month of Fibster. Aineytta was there, along with Anya who held the baby in her arms as if she would never put him down. Rosanda was hand sewing one of those pieces of antique satin that Caolin had brought to her. All listened in rapt attention to the recitation.

“Amazing to think that one of my dear man’s ancestors was so creative,” Aineytta said when Marion finished that piece. “Mooney is a very clever man, of course. But he couldn’t rhyme two words together.”

“I don’t think Kristoph could, either,” Marion admitted. “But he does love reading poetry and prose. After all, he pretended to be a professor of literature on Earth when I first met him.”

“Kristoph is a man of great accomplishments, too,” Aineytta said with the pride of a mother. “There is no doubt that all of the de Lœngbærrow men are talented in some way or another. Those of us who are married to them or who give birth to their heirs, are honoured.”

“Indeed,” Marion agreed. Of course, she had not yet given birth to a talented de Lœngbærrow heir, but she knew that she would in the course of time, and so did Aineytta. It was not a subtle criticism of her. That dear lady was above such things.”

“We who are a part of the Household of de Lœngbærrow have much to be thankful for,” Anya said in a soft voice. “I more than any. I have not words, plain though they may be, to express my gratitude for the kindnesses done. Even allowing me to sit here with you at my leisure….”

“You are my guest, child,” Aineytta assured her. “And likely to be for a little while, yet – which gives me chance to keep my eye on both you and the little one.”

“You should be at leisure, anyway,” Marion told her. “At least as much as a new mother gets to call leisure. You shouldn’t even think about anything else, yet. It is nice to think, though, when we do go home to Mount Lœng House, that there will be a baby growing up in it again. Rodan was the last when she was brought to me.”

Of course, Marion knew, in other Oldblood houses of Gallifrey the children of servants were not considered part of that household. That was in part Kristoph’s generous nature and her own Human outlook on such things. But it began before her husband became patriarch. His father, in choosing Aineytta, a Caretaker and a servant of the house, as his wife, broke down some of the distinctions. The House of de Lœngbærrow was unique among aristocrats not only on Gallifrey but among the elite of all the worlds she had visited in counting the servants as something akin to an extended family.

And she was glad to be a part of such a happy household. She wondered if she would have felt as comfortable with her life if it had been otherwise. She had always regarded her personal maids as friends, often inviting them to sit with her in the White drawing room in the afternoon. Mistress Calitha often did the same when they planned menus for dinner parties or discussed replacement of curtains and table linen or such domestic subjects. Rosanda was a frequent companion on trips to the Capitol or Athenica, and she was looking forward to Anya filling a similar role now that her baby was born. If she lived in the sort of house where all of the servants were silent, distant people who came in and out of the rooms without speaking unless spoken to, would it have been as happy?

She was musing over such thoughts when the elder Caolin, Aineytta’s faithful butler, knocked and entered the drawing room. He bowed his head to his own mistress and then addressed Marion politely.

“Madam, will you allow one of your servants to speak with you? He is anxious for an audience.”

This was exactly what she had been thinking about. An audience with one of her servants? Of course she would allow it.

“Which of my servants?” she asked. “What is the problem?”

“Eohan Dyer,” the butler told her. “He is a junior footman in your household, and he feels he needs to confess a matter to you.”


“Yes, of course. Let him come in,” she said. She looked at her mother-in-law and at the other two women who sat with her. She wondered if she had the etiquette correct. Should this ‘audience’ be private? But after all, this was Aineytta’s drawing room, not hers. She should decide who might sit in it.

She knew Eoghan Dyer by name as well as by sight, of course. He was relatively new to the household, having been engaged as junior footman when Seogham was promoted to second butler, but she found him a cheerful and efficient servant and Kristoph had no complaints about him.

He looked solemn and more than a little nervous. Of course, the fire had upset everyone, but he seemed especially unhappy when he stepped forward and placed a small leather bag on the tea table before her. She looked and found a handful of those ancient coins that Kristoph had given to the servants to use as they pleased.

“I cannot accept this gift from his Lordship,” he said. “I do not deserve his kindness. The… the fire was my fault.”

“I’m sure it was not,” Marion told him kindly. “My husband believes that the fire began accidentally. He has not blamed anybody for it.”

“I dropped the cigar which began the conflagration,” Eoghan insisted.

“But you couldn’t have known that,” Marion told him. “It was early in the morning when the fire took hold. You and all the other footmen would be in bed long before. It could have been a cigar left by any one of the others, or a candle, an electrical fault. You cannot possibly blame yourself for certain like this.”

“Lady Marion….” Anya spoke up quietly. She passed baby Sheogham to Aineytta, who was happy to be nursemaid for a brief time. “May I speak to you on this matter?” She stood and went to the window furthest from where Eoghan stood. Marion joined her.

“He’s not telling you the whole story,” Anya said. “I can’t feel his thoughts wholly, but there is a sense of deception about him. I think he is taking the blame in order to protect somebody else.”

Marion was not wholly surprised. There was something odd about such a confession when nobody was being blamed for the fire.

“He doesn’t smoke,” Anya added. “Seogham doesn’t go to the footman’s room much now that we are married, but his friends come to our rooms. Eoghan is from the same township and we know his family. He has spent evenings with us, and he always refuses the offer of cigars.”

“That puts a different complexion on things,” Marion agreed. She looked around at the worried man. “But why would he….”

“I do not know, madam,” Anya admitted. “But I don’t think he should be punished if he is not guilty.”

“No, he shouldn’t.” Marion went back to her seat. She pulled a padded footstool close and invited Eoghan to sit. He refused at first, but she gently insisted.

“Please, don’t be afraid,” she told him. “But I know this is not the whole story. Will you please tell me the truth?”

Eoghan put his hands over his face. If he had been Human, or any other race that had tear ducts he might have broke down in tears. As a Gallifreyan, he simply broke down, shaking with grief.

Marion let him be until he had worked through his emotions and come to the only possible conclusion – to tell the full story.

“My younger brother,” he said. “He was at the civil service school, but when my father died at the start of winter, there was no money to pay the fees. He had nowhere to go. I… let him sleep in the annex beside the footman’s room….”

“But that annex is barely wide enough for a grown man to lie down in,” Anya protested. “It was used to keep boot blacking and cloths in. He must have been uncomfortable.”

Marion didn’t even know what the ‘annex’ looked like. She had seen the footman’s room occasionally and assumed that the doors built into it led to cupboards.

“Why didn’t you ask?” Marion asked Eoghan. “I am sure my husband would have allowed your brother to share your room until something could be arranged for his education? It would have been no problem.”

She remembered what she had been thinking about before Eoghan came into the room. Perhaps the idea that the de Lœngbærrow household was an extended family wasn’t completely understood. Of course it would have been no problem accommodating one young man in the servant’s quarters. But Eoghan thought he had to keep his brother’s presence secret.

“He had candles to see by,” Eoghan said, going on with his explanation. “He was reading his text books by them in the room after everyone had retired to bed. That was how the fire began. He was frightened and ran away. I didn’t know until later, when the house was ablaze and all was chaos and he came and told me. I had thought him dead until then, and when he told me what he had done, I almost wished that he were. It would have been better than the punishment for what he did.”

“Eoghan, the fire was an accident,” Marion assured him. “No matter whether it was a cigar or a candle, and no matter who dropped it or knocked it over or whatever mistake they made. I am sure my husband will not want anyone punished for it. Put the matter from your mind and tell me where your brother is now.”

“He is… in an old shed a little way downriver from here,” Eoghan answered. “I think it was once used for fishing equipment. He has a blanket and some food….”

“Rassilon forbid,” Aineytta cried. “That old shed is barely standing. Go and fetch him, unless you want your brother to drown in all this rain.”

“Absolutely,” Marion concurred. “Tell Gallis Limmon to drive you there. Bring him here and give him dry clothes and hot food and we will discuss his future welfare later. But we’re not going to worry any more about how the fire began. That matter is closed.”

Eoghan still looked a little worried, but a load was clearly off his mind. He went with Marion’s chauffer and her orders were carried out. The young man was found a bed in the servant’s quarters of the Dower House.

When Kristoph came home in the evening Marion lost no time in relating the whole story to him. He fully agreed with her that there was no sense in blaming anyone for the accidental fire.

“What more can I do to make our servants realise they can approach me with any personal problem they might have?” he wondered aloud. “Seogham and Anya waited a full two months before telling me they needed to be lawfully wed! Now we have this young man hiding the facts of his circumstances. Of course his brother could have stayed with him without resorting to subterfuge. As for those school fees… the Civil Service School is hardly the most expensive of places. I could have made a scholarship fund available for him if he had told me of the need.”

“When their father was alive they were able to afford the fees. And afterwards, I suppose they were too proud,” Marion explained. “It’s not always simple to give working people money they don’t feel they’ve earned. But talk to them both tomorrow. Perhaps they’ll feel better about it if you make it sound less like charity and more like an investment – perhaps you can use a new personal secretary when the boy is due to graduate.”

“You are a clever woman,” Kristoph told her. “I’ll do just that. Meanwhile, think about what gowns you would like retrieving from your wardrobe – the sort you would need for a long trip away.”

“A trip?” Marion queried. “What sort of trip?”

“I had planned it for later in the year, but it might as well be brought forward. A tour of some of the worlds Gallifrey has diplomatic, trade or dominion relationships with by the Lord High President and his First Lady. If Rodan can tear herself away from her horses she may come, too. There will be balls and banquets and civil receptions in our honour, VIP tours. Just the thing while the building work is going on.”

“You don’t want to supervise it all for yourself?” Marion asked.

“I’ve supervised the drawing up of the plans. The rest is stone and mortar, plaster and paint. Caolin is happy to oversee the work on my behalf. There is nobody I would trust more. Seogham is capable of acting as his aide. Meanwhile their wives will be happy as my mother’s guests.”

“I’ll miss seeing the baby’s first months,” Marion pointed out. “But the tour sounds exciting. I will need some NEW clothes, of course, as well as my old wardrobe. And so will Rodan.”

“If all else fails, there are a lot more precious coins in the vault,” Kristoph said with an indulgent smile. “But I think my credit line with the couturiers of the Capitol is still good.”