Overnight thunder, lightning and torrential rain kept Timothy Michaelmas-Daisy MP PC* awake, as did Fenella Cholmondeley-Featherstonehaugh, the first – and probably only – woman Tim had ever spent a night with and, although he had only a perfunctory knowledge of heterosexual relations, gleaned mainly from his early reading in the Encyclopaedia Britannica, Fenella had experience, desire and a combination of superior size, weight and strength, to be able to overcome his lack of those, and ensure that her needs were met; surprisingly, for him, there was considerable pleasure in being able to satisfy her – it was a change from Julian or Sandy, and also – and more particularly – Kristof, his regular partner of the past three years: Kristof was a barman in The Hispaniola Club, an immigrant from Poland who lived in Brixton with his West Indian wife and their five children, and he treated Tim in bed as he would a woman, which Tim, secretly, found both demeaning and deliciously satisfying, because it enabled him to let go of his pretensions to any aspect of manliness and simply enjoy being the recipient of what he supposed was love – something never alluded to in his family, since his father had died when Tim was five, "of a heart attack at the hands of Mistress Whiplash," as Tim's mother used to refer to the incident, in a bitter, fellifluous voice, and he was then packed of to his first Prep School, assuming that he was being punished for some reason, never explained, like Josef K in The Trial – rather than duty; he had been nervously excited on the first occasion when, after a rather late night at the Club, Kristof came home with him – calling his wife and telling her that he was working at an all-night Poker School – and Tim caught his first sight of the Pole's penis: even in repose, nestled in the extravagant curls of his pubic hair, it was much larger than Tim's own could achieve even when erect, although that was only ever managed after laborious masturbation by someone else and not many people cared enough to expend the energy, so when he was straddled by Kristof and it grew to it's full engorgement, it quite took his beath away – literally! through time, Tim had accepted that his only true role in sex was to be accommodating, to be a vessel into which was poured – or, rather, shot – the ambrosia produced by Kristof''s hyperactive balls, two billiard-sized organs which, depending on his position, either battered Tim's chin or his buttocks; but Fenella was quite another matter altogether: she knew nothing of Tim's private (that is, sexual) life; he was not as flamboyantly gay as Quentin, who made no secret of his husband, Dan, but nor did he pursue any of the secretaries as some of the more louche Cabinet Minsters were wont to do, so he had acquired a shroud of mystery and it was this that Fenella tore away; by the time she had used, or even exploited, Tim's cock, he was utterly spent and when she rolled off him and settled her bulk against him, Tim was in a welter of confused emotions and had no time to reflect when Fenella started giggling, but he was greatly relieved when she asked: "did you hear Boris's Acronym, for Dunkirk, Unite, Defeat, and Energize? it's such a shame that he can't even say Dude, without pronouncing it as Jude! seems his Mojo just ain't workin' right, hee hee! he's such a hapless quakebuttock, maybe now he's at Number 10 someone'll get a safety-pin to his shirt-tail, stop it blowing in the wind, ha ha ha," and they both dissolved in laughter.
"Does that mean I'll still be Secretary of State?" asked Tim and Sir Wilfred beamed at him: "not for Brexiting the EU, Tim, dear boy," he said, giving Fenella and Quentin a wink: "but for the People's Vote, and your Departmental Ministers are Annie 'Get Your Gun' Soubrey and Maggie 'She'll Never Walk Down Lime Street Any More' Hodge," and then his phone chirruped again and he sneaked a peek at it: "hold your horses chaps," with an apologetic nod to Fenella, who grinned broadly, then he continued: "it looks like The Dame has changed her mind again; but that must be her prerequisite, so, in what was supposed to be her last Audience as PM, she's now going to ask Her Majesty to dissolve Parliament and call a General Election! and you, my dear Timothy, will be her Paladin – she actually names you as Chief Strategist, so get your thinking cap on!" and Tim blurted out: "but what about Winnie-the-Pooh? is he still going to be PM?" at which Sir Wilfred laughed: "that's the beauty of it, Timmy, there can't be a change in Party Leader and PM during an Election campaign, so his inauguration will be delayed until after the electorate decides – he might find himself Leader of the, or perhaps one of the, Opposition Parties, ha ha ha, serve him bloody right, excuse my language Fenella, but the whole point of having a Manchurian Candidate – or in this case, a Trumpington Candidate – is that he's supposed to get into High Office, not be left waiting on the doormat, and when High Office is his whole desideratum, it must feel a bit like being jilted at the altar, but in a Broadly Churchical Party like ours, no-one's got any time for babyish boody – if he wants petting when he sulks, he should have joined the Greens!"
Shortly afterwards, in The Red Lion, Quentin, Tim and Fenella found an empty table, most of the politicos, Lobby correspondents and other riff-raff, being clustered around the bar, watching the BBC 10 o'clock News and that was where Sir Wilfred found them when he rushed in, flustered with excitement; he signalled to Maggie, the Irish bar-maid, who brought over a large whisky for him and three pints of Guinness for the others: "what's that under your oxter?" asked Quentin, but before the Cabinet Secretary could answer, his phone chirruped, and almost immediately, as if it weree a mating-call, it was joined by most of the other phones in the room; which was whn a loud whinge erupted from a tall, skinny man with a radiole spine: "she can't!" he cried, "she shan't!" he cried, "she mustn't!" and Sir Wilfred chuckled, taking the sheaf of papers from under his arm and handing them to the others: "not like old Moggie to utter so many solecisms in one breath," and he waited for the response from his companions: "she has!" gasped Fenella, as Tim and Quentin scanned the press release from The Dame: she was not now resigning as Prime Minister because she had reached an agreement for an Interim Government with the majority of her Cabinet colleagues and supporters among Conservative MPs, together with the Labour, Liberal, Green, Scottish National, Plaid Cymru and Change UK parties, which would organise a People's Vote on the choice between leaving the European Union without a Deal, or Remaining in the EU on present terms; on the TV screen, Winnie-the-Pooh who had expected to become PM on Wednesday was huffing and puffing about "body blows," and "just not the sort of thing one human being does to another, no, not half, it's a bit below the belt," and he turned and walked away, with his shirt-tail hanging out as always, while on the other side of the room, the apoplectic Moggie was being given the Heimlich Manoeuvre by one of his acolytes.
Timothy Michaelmas-Daisy and Quentin Quibb sat in the Cabinet Office with the only secretary they trusted sufficiently, Fenella Cholmondeley-Featherstonehaugh* redacting Government documents before the result of the Conservative Party Leadership Election, to ensure that if, as was widely expected, Winnie-the-Pooh should be announced on Tuesday as the winner, he would have no evidential leverage on the retiring Cabinet Members; Tim was always bemused by Fenella, whose cut-crystal accent, courtesy of Cheltenham Ladies College and Somerville College, Oxford, never quite matched her yokozuna-like build and the delicate lunules of her fingernails, painted a glittering aventurine gold, but he had tremendous respect for her ability to spot a dangerous word or phrase in a dense page of text and instantly consign it to the afterlife, as much as for the Gold Medal she had won in the London Olympics in her chosen sport of Arm-Wrestling: "there," she said, "all done, there won't be any hanging, drawing or quartering here, or at least until he fails to deliver Brexit by Hallowe'en and has to face up to his promise to Do or Die! has any previous PM committed Hara Kiri in office?" and her laughter tinkled around the otherwise empty Bunker: "now, which of you boys is going to stand me a pint of Guinness?"
(*pronounced Chumley-Fanshaw - Ed)
It was one of those days when the lunule of the moon could be seen even though the sun had not set and he tried to remember the last time he had set foot on the lunar surface, but his head was so scrambled, he felt like a bloody gamphrel, unable to form a cogent strategy, lying there on top of the hay, bumping down the lane, through the trees he saw houses and the spire of a church – wait a minute, he took a more determined look at that church spire, he had seen it before, and surely the sun had been in a different position; he was trying to work out whether the wain was being dragged north or south, east or west, and then realised as he once again saw a cow standing under a solitary tree, that they were going round a single village in a wide circle, with never any road leading away; he tried to think how long he had lain here, since his plummet from the sky – half an hour, three hours, it could just as easily be three days! nothing else changed, the driver never stopped, the two horses just kept plodding along, the sun and moon were always there in the same place; what the hell was going on?
And the haywain trundled on, bouncing him as it creaked and crashed over ruts grown hard as the sun had dried out and baked the muds from the recent rains, and his knee, with the torn meniscus, sent spasms through his bruised body and he could barely think; through the trees he caught glimpses of houses, a church with it's steeple pointing skyward, and he followed it's path up to the scattered clouds, little puffs of cotton-wool, wondering if he could see the lunule gash through which he had plunged in that rapid descent, during which he knew, for a certainty, that he would die and, even when he spotted the horses pulling the laden cart, never for one tenth of a second, entertained the briefest hope that it might save his life, until that last, tumbling moment, when he realised that it had been pitched perfectly, and that he would land on it's cushioning load, rather than under the horses' flailing hooves, and with equal certainty, that the driver would be utterly oblivious to the unexpected addition to it's weight; he had closed his eyes just before impact and been momentarily blinded and stunned, until the first flash of pain from his knee told him that he had survived and he had to bite down hard to stop himself laughing aloud, the gnomic alive, alive, alive, alive-oh-ho, and the sun was setting, he was able to make himself reasonably comfortable and take stock: he was in England, surely, for wasn't this the place of Constable, of the pre-Raphaelites, of horses and wagons and rolling hills and peaceful villages, or maybe he was simply romanticising the snatched glimpses of thatched roofs, of chestnut trees, of neat fields with hedgerows, and bluebirds, swifts and swallows darting in the open sky above, but he thought not, he had travelled through many centuries, many countries, many worlds, since his first, undignified passage through the backwaters of Time and Space, he had heard strange tongues and yet understood and could interparle in them all, had encountered so many different forms of intelligent life, but this was the first time he found himself alone, and with no escape route; he wondered if he could crawl over, or through the hay, to catch a sight of the driver, barely registered in the moments before landing, but he must try, for if it became necessary he may need to dispose of thee driver and take his place, but his knee, his bloody knee, was going to be a handicap, certainly it would be a tall order, so if it should prove necessary, the only advantage he could have would be that of surprise!
By the time the Curate returned, with a jug of soup and three bottles of beer – two of brown for the Churchwarden and the Sexton, and one of mild for soft Mick – the rescued man was sitting on a low slab engraved: Sacred to the Eternal Memory of Job Daniel, Farmer, of Lower Exbury, March 1st 1879, aged 84, his wife Euphemia Daniel, July 7th 1884, aged 65, and their beloved children, Jonah Daniel, February 11th 1840, aged 2, Gilbert Daniel, September 3rd 1844, aged 3, Simon Daniel, March 9th 1850, aged 5, Job Daniel, August 24th 1870, aged 23, Catherine Daniel, December 26th 1872, aged 22, Maryanne Daniel, May 3rd 1877, aged 25, Constance Daniel, October 2nd 1880, aged 26, and Nathaniel Daniel, June 11th 1881, aged 24, now reunited and reposing in the Light of their Eternal Lord; Mick gladly supped the soup and drank the ale, smoking one of the Churchwarden's cigarettes and seemingly none the worse for his incarceration: "methinks I was avin a luvly dream, sir," said he, "an wen I awokened, it was darker than any night ever I saw, sir, an me room seemed ter be shrunken around me bed – or else me an me bed ad growed as big as me room, not that it's much big anyhow, but there weren't no winder, nor blanket an there were me, an no door as I could feel anyware; so I called fer help, until I fell asleep agin, an wen I awokened agin, it were still night, an I kicked the ceilin, an the walls an cried fer help, until I fell asleep agin, an wen I awokened, it were still night, an I thought I must be still asleepin, so I slept agin an it were still night, so I went ter sleepin agin, even though I were starvin ungry, sir, an after a bit I ears sumdy shouting back at me an tellin me ter stay ware I were, cos e din't know I got no door ter go noware else, sir, an then after truly believed I'd bin there fer a long time waitin fer a blue moon there wis awful bangin on the roof an it got broke an the two gennlemen ere, sir, pulled me up an out o the 'ouse, but it weren’t no ouse, sir, it were ere! an I'm right sorry, sir, to give you gennlemen so much work to do, but I thanks ye all fer yer kindliness, sirs," and the Churchwarden whispered to the Curate: "them's more words than soft Mick's ever spoken at one time in his whole life, sir, and I don't think it's really sunk into his soft head that he was taken for dead and buried, quite footfast and facing his real death, for I reckon he thinks it was all a dream, maybe still is, though happen we shouldn't speculate too much about it within his hearing, eh sir? but honestly, have you ever heard the like of this little adventure before, sir, with your knowledge of the world?" and the Curate – who wasn't used to being spoken directly to by anyone in the village, this being his first parish and the Rector usually in residence, there was really no need in the normal course of things for anyone to have a reason to speak to him anyway, so while he was embarrassed at being spoken to so freely, he was also pleased that the Churchwarden – who had held that position for twenty years or so and worked directly under the present Rector for all that time – seemed to regard him as being worth confiding in about the young man, who the Curate had regarded simply as the Village Idiot, without even knowing he had a name, but as he knew that the Rector had strong views about clergy and laity attached to the Church indulging themselves in strong liquor, and might particularly concern himself with the fact that it was the Curate who had purchased the three bottles in The Bull, only because of the extraordinary events which had taken place, he thought perhaps this was now the time to exert some influence, so he stood and surveyed the scene and addressed the three who were all looking quite relaxed and jolly: "well, then, my good fellows, I do believe that you have had an extremely unusual and perhaps even distressing experience tonight – particularly you, Mick – and that the Churchwarden's alacrity in obtaining the aid of the Sexton has in all probability saved your life, Mick, but I do confess to feeling slightly uncomfortable about the three of you drinking alcohol in the church grounds. particularly lolling on tombs smoking. . . . ." he was interrupted by the Churchwarden who pointed at him with the bottle in his hand, saying: "thank you, sir, for purchasing these bottles of beer for the three of us and bringing them to us here, in the graveyard and I don't want to get your goat, so to speak, sir, but if you were served by the Landlord, Mr Harbottle, or by his wife, Rosie, or their daughter Rapunzel, I am sure that they will testify on your behalf to the Rector of your solicitude in bringing home-made soup and three bottles of beer to us three here, an act of selfless and truly altruistic charity, which we all appreciate and therefore will be able to testify on your behalf as well," and he proposed a toast: "to the young Reverend Curate, a friend to the Working Men of this this Parish and a credit to the Church of England!" and the other two joined in: "amen to that, sir!" and finished their beers with relish; but what of him who fell from the sky and landed in the haywain, with his torn meniscus, and confused mind? for it is he who is the central character in our story, so let us leave that convivial scene in the old churchyard and discover what happened to him next.
And by the time the Churchwarden, accompanied by the Sexton and the Curate – standing in for the Rector who was away on Diocesan business – returned, although the cries of "Help!" were fainter, they could still be heard when they reached the graveside: "perhaps," said the Curate, a callow youth, somewhat moonstruck and lacking in any decision-making ability, "should call the Chancellor at the Cathedral," and the Sexton regarded him for a minute and then said: "naow, sithee, Revrend, wudee prefer ter wait till Saft Mick's deid good'n'propur, aforen us digs 'im up?" which drove the Curate in search of provender for the prematurely buried man the two church officers, armed with a pair of the Sexton;'s stoutest spades, began the disinterment: "it can hardly be called an exhumation when the deceased isn't, so to speak," said the Churchwarden, taking a breath between digging out spadefuls of soil, and "least, it's still as saft as poor Mick," said the Sexton, as the pile beside the grave grew steadily, "opee grings a gottle o gear fer us laberurs, gissa fag, matey," and soon they saw the outline of Mick's pauper's box in the moonlight: "ang on, son, us's almost gotcha!"
When he tumbled out of the sky and landed on a trundling haycart as it jolted and juddered down a winding lane between high hedges, he heard the meniscus in his right knee tear but he was alive, more alive than poor old soft Mick who was buried last Saturday fortnight by mistake and only dug up five days later when the Churchwarden heard moans rising from the ground only because he hadn't been called to duty as an auxiliary ARP and had time to soak in the setting summer sun's last rays and enjoy a cigarette before cycling home for a good night's kip and had been scratching his wrist where the wristlet on his new watch had been chafing, with not another soul out in the vicinity of St Mary's and the usual chatter in The Bull being far enough that it was masked by grasshoppers and blackbirds, so the sounds were clear in the quiet evening for him to distinguish from the background: "heeeeeeelp! heeeeeeeeeeeelp! heeeeeeeeeeeeeelp!" and being neither skittish or fearful, the Churchwarden moved slowly among the headstones until he focussed on the as-yet-unmarked grave of soft Mick, which was where the cries were coming from: "who's that?" asked the Churchwarden, and "me!" was the reply; "who's me?" from the Churchwarden, and "soft Mick's me!" came back: "are you alive Mick?" asked one and: "of course I am, help me, for God's sake!" said the other and dusting the grass from his trousers, the Churchwarden pushed himself upright, swayed indecisively, then knew what he had to do: "don't move, Mick, I'm going for the Sexton, we'll soon have you out!"
Excusing himself, Sir Parlane stepped out by the open doors which led onto the terrace and he found himself looking at the golden Moon floating above the trees which surrounded the lawn and he though about the many superlunary worlds he and Dominic had visited – Kombu, where intelligent life only existed in the vast oceans and the dry land was populated by subhuman beings; Schloop, a moist planet inhabited by highly intelligent giant slugs, who had developed interplanetary travel aeons before Earth's science fiction writers first described it's possibilities; and Nug, dear old Nug, on the furthest reaches of the Universe, an ancient world believed to have been the original blueprint for Earth, cast aside by the Creator in favour of this blue dot just because of the lazy hedonism of all the creatures inhabiting it's balmy islands, floating on warm seas, teeming with more fish than they could possibly consume, which is the reason for their wealth, produced by their ability to market sea-food and by-products to half the populated planets on their side of the Universe, oh, and their rejection of any Belief in or Reverence for the Creator as evidenced by three Planetary Referendums in the past five millennia, my oh my, the remembrance of Nug bringing a rueful smile to his lips, because. . . . .but no! – this is not the occasion – he plucked some flowers, fashioning a nosegay, silvered now by the Moon's brilliant reflection, which was when a vice hailed him: "oh, sir, you gave me such a start, coming out of the trees so, please forgive me for speaking, if I have disturbed your thoughts, sir, I apologise, and I beg you not to tell the Marquis I spoke without permission," and narrowing his eyes he saw that it was Maree, the maid, and realised that this was the first, the only time, so far, that he had heard her speak at all, had even fancied her for a mute and he saw her hair haloed in the light from the dining room windows and her cheeks flushed, as she stood timidly before him: "fear not, Maree, there is nothing for me to mention to your employer, but tell me, why are you outside at this time of night?" and she pulled her shawl tight and stared at him as if debating whether to tell him the truth, or something else, or simply to turn on her heel and run back indoors; her shoulders dropped as she decided: "please, sir, this is the only time of day I have a few minutes to myself and I like nothing better than to step out and feel the weather, whether it is calm or windy, dry and warm or cold and wet, sir, I care not," and he nodded, smiled and said: "believe me, Maree, I understand just how you feel – I myself need a few minutes of solitude at some point in the day, away from talk, or doing things, or even reading or writing, I call it my funsy time, and I am sure that your funsy is as precious to you as mine is to me; how long have you been out?" and she curtsied and said "five minutes, sir, I should be going back," so he asked: "would it spoil your funsy if I walk back with you?" and the smile was the first he had seen on her face, normally sullen and put-upon, "if you care to sir, thank you," so with slow steps, they walked side by side round to the kitchen door, where she thanked him with a formality that amused him, for such a slight favour, but before she turned into the doorway, he caught one of her hands, raised it to his lips and kissed the fingers, which felt raw and chapped to him, the fingers of a servant, bade her goodnight, and she was gone.
However, his attention was drawn away from thoughts of Time-Travelling Art Thieves when he realized that the Symbol formerly known as the Marquis de Sade was speaking to him: "my dear Parry, have you ever heard of an ancestor of mine, Gilles de Rais?" and MacFarlane replied: "oh yes, Donny, a victim of the Spanish Inquisition, so I've read," not feeling the time was right to admit that Blue Beard was a descendant of his and an enthusiastic member of The Ring of Gold, but he need not have worried, for Donny went on: "one might otherguess that the entire case against him, prosecuted so enthusiastically by that turncoat old Queen, Henri V Duke of Brittany – did you know he was a double-yolker? no? oh, 'tis well known in the family that he preferred to dress as a woman and insisted that he be addressed as Henriette – was sheer embezzlement on a monumental State-sponsored scale," and seeming to have lost his train of thought, Donny turned to Maggie – or was it Daphne? - and asked her whether she preferred to be fucked in the front, or back? for her part, the girl neither blushed nor looked at all shocked, and replied: "where do you prefer to take it, Milord, in your gură or your cur?" using obscene gestures to indicate that these Roma words translate to mouth and arse, at which point MacFarlane was struck by that feeling of l'esprit de l'escalier as he realised what he ought ot have said to the Symbol earlier but that now it was too late, as Donny roared with laughter and made various suggestions to Daphne, or Maggie, but perhaps there will be another chance tomorrow.
And as he watched the interplay between Eunice and Dominic, in which each glance, touch, inhalation had an otherguess about it's assumed meaning, every gesture reached higher strings, notes which the human ear could never catch, Sir Parlane thought about the paintings, stolen probably in the 1960s and now stashed here at Lacoste – where better for the thief to lie doggo with her booty? another Time and Place altogether, almost 200 years before the crime; and where better for a calvous man to hide than in a room full of other baldies – yes, he had to give it to her, aligning herself with the Marquis – now apparently to be known as an unpronounceable symbol – engaged upon a torrid, hedonistic life, who could ever imagine her to be a Time Travelling Art Thief? it was too perfect and that would be her downfall!
By the time the maid, Maree, knocked on their doors, Sir Parlane MacFarlane and Dominic Doubleday were ready and presentable: their bags had been brought up to their rooms along with their wives, and all four went down together; Maree showed them into the dining room, where they found the Marquis and Eunice Eglantine there already and MacFarlane went straight to de Sade, shook his hand warmly and thanked him profusely for agreeing to this meeting; for his part, de Sade, a man in his mid-thirties – after asking Sir Parlane to call him Donny, at which MacFarlane said that his friends call him Parry, and Dominic hearing the Boss's blatant lie, quickly looked away – behaved with the impeccability of a French aristocrat, despite being quite otherguess in his beliefs and practices, while his eyes lingered on the two Gypsy women – no, girls, for they were by far the youngest people in the room and clearly unused to being in such exalted company and Donny said softly to Parry: "there seems to be a dearth of buxom wenches hereabouts, maybe it's because I'm here," and laughed; Eunice played the part of hostess, showing each of the visitors where to sit – the Marquis, naturally, sat at the top of the table, the girls on either side of him, MacFarlane and Doubleday beside them, and Miss Eglantine at the other end, facing de Sade; Eunice explained that this was the informal dining room, which they used daily, or for dining with close friends, while the formal Dining Room (with capitals) was used for larger gatherings and whenever local dignitaries or neighbouring estate owners and aristocrats were invited, more as a social duty than for the pleasure of their company, she asked the girls their names – something neither MacFarlane nor Doubleday had bothered with and they were surprised to learn that they were Daphne and Maggie and their family name was Maro, which translated to Brown in English: "they're only fuckin Broons," whispered Dominic to Sir Parlane and they giggled like schoolboys; de Sade's English was perfect, but he seemed content to let Eunice do most of the ice-breaking and only interjected whenever she indicated that his local knowledge was required to supplement her mention of certain people or places in the vicinity; his descriptions of the local Mayor, the Duc de Gaulois, or Comte Aristide de Pomade, among others, were highly entertaining and quite scurrilous and soon everyone was laughing and visibly relaxing – even the two girls seemed able to follow the conversation although it was obvious that their own knowledge of the world in which they were now living was sketchy, to say the least, a sketchiness which de Sade was happy to fill in for them; although MacFarlane – whose own French was good – was able to follow all of this, the girls knowing no English – Doubleday's knowledge of the language was restricted to Oui and Non and a few other one-word sentences, so Eunice interpreted for him and this went well for the scheme the two Scotchmen had decided upon; as the meal progressed, Eunice and Dominic quickly developed a closer bond: he looked to her for clarification, explanation and guidance and she clearly enjoyed playing the tutor to his student as he asked her about her travels and how she had come to la Coste – not that she gave anything away about Worm Holes, Space/Time or Bridget Riley – and for her part, she seemed delighted to be admired, praised and respected as she blossomed under his flattery; Sir Parlane just hoped that Dom wouldn't pile it on too thickly, concerned that Miss Eglantine might suspect his motives in giving her so much attention, but then, Vanitas vanitatum dixit Ecclesiastes omnia vanitas, and certainly, in that respect, Miss Eunice Eglantine was the living, breathing, glowing proof, so when Dominic held out his right hand and she took it in hers, turned it palm up and began tracing the lines, it certainly seemed that they may indeed be able to look forward to counting their chickens, which was a promising prospect, when their fortunes, otherwise, were rather abeyant; MacFarlane turned to Donny and asked: "we noticed a strange squiggly symbol set above the front door, it's not familiar to me as a coat-of-arms, can you tell me what it means?" and Donny laughed heartily: "oh, Parry, dear friend, it means, only what it is, itself," and Parry (how he hated that contraction of his name!) said: "but that is tautegorical, is there any way of pronouncing it? it is in no language I know of," at which Donny leaned forward and said, confidentially: "as I said, it is only what it is, and I have chosen it as my name, to replace the inherited one I was given at birth and no longer represents who I am," and MacFarlane's memory poked him in the ribs, as much as to say: I have encountered this conundrum before, or will in Time yet to come, but I can't for the life of me remember exactly what it was, so he said: "You are now therefore the Symbol ডিসাডrepresenting the Explorer of Human Sensuality previously known as Donatien Alphonse François, Marquis de Sade?" his host smiled, then said: "I rather like the ring of that, dear Parry, let us drink to our collaboration in my Grand Scheme!"
Dominic pulled out his sudarium and blew his nose like a trumpet: "don't make so much noise, Dom," said Sir Parlane, "we mustn't be discovered in here," then, "what's that you've found?" as Dominic eased a canvas to one side and indicated a stove: "it's ane o thae athanors," he said, triumphantly, "mind Doctor Dee had ane the very spit, thon big muckle thing he used fer aw his highfalutin alchemical experiments," and MacFarlane nodded: "it was a bit ostentatious, but what about it?" and Dominic shook his head: "unless ma memry's gaunin, this is the verra same ane, it's fair identickle," and he went behind it, and clapped his hands triumphantly: "bejasus, it is, the verra verra exact same, see here." and he pointed at something scratched into the metal; MacFarlane crouched down while Doubleday held the candle close, but careful not to let the hot wax drip on his Master's head, and then MacFarlane grinned back at him: "you're right, Dom, Doctor John Dee 1550! well now, unless she's got a strong Man and Cart to do her haulage at both ends of the Worm Hole, which could well be through a bealach, if not up and down a narrow mountain track, one of the entrances can't be far away, and she must be able to direct herself to particular Times if not Places – all these pictures must have been collected over a period, even if she had one exit/entry point in London in the 60s, on a particular date, she'd still have to spend time over there, gathering her loot, and it would take one journey back with each picture, look at the size of them! you can't exactly slip one under each arm, or hide it in a rucksack – this is a well-thought out plan, but unless she is a truly dedicated collector with a passion for Bridget Riley, it has to be a scam, like intending to put them up for sale at some future date when the price of such pieces will have risen, or even offering them back to the real owners for a slice of the insurance money they got; wash your hands well tonight, Dom, I think you need to have your Future told!" and they had a good laugh over that.
Sir Parlane MacFarlane shook himself, both physically and mentally, to get rid of the gloopy and eudemonic lethargy which had enveloped him in a haze in th immediate aftermath of his realization that Eunice Eglantine must have discovered the secrets of Space/Time travel utilizing the network of Worm Holes he had discovered in the continuum; he cursed himself for assuming that he and Doubleday were the unique possessors of such knowledge: "we must not pessimize, Dom, there must be a way to turn this to our advantage, come now, show me the storeroom," and removing their footwear so that they would not be heard, he followed his valet along the corridor from their bedrooms and down several flights of stairs: "that's the door, Boss, it isnae locked," and the handle indeed turned easily, and they were soon inside; using a cigarette lighter he kept hidden in a pocket of his breeches, Doubleday lit the candle he had brought with him and MacFarlane let out an involuntary gasp – the paintings stood along two walls of the room, there must be thirty, thought MacFarlane, some he recognised, others not, but all unmistakably the works of Bridget Riley, metathesized from the 1960s or later, to this château in 1776, but why?
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