And as the two cousins and friends, Roxy and Jinty, hurried along the narrow, cobbled, rubble-walled slope of Waird's Close, taking sharp turnings, climbing and descending seemingly random flights of steps, it struck Roxy that in centuries past this must have possessed some air of heimischness, being home for many families, as well as business premises for a variety of trades – she recalled hours spent poring over old city directories, pre-dating official censuses be several generations, finding flashes of humour in the bowdlerising by editors who entered the occupations of common prostitutes as Gentlemen's Nursemaid, and described the Old Town's many brothels as Places of Entertainment, or Gentlemen's Private Club; as they found the corner where the surveillance cameras failed to register the disappearance of the young man they had been observing, and set into the angle of two walls, a narrow space outlined by an embrasure held a narrow wooden door, stoutly built, brass-bound and studded, tightly-fitting and with barely enough space for the proverbial cigarette-paper to slip between it and the grey stone of the wall; Jinty squeaked, scanning the passageway in which they stood and the schematics she had grabbed before leaving her office, “where does it lead to/” asked Roxy, but Jinty shook her head, indicated the plans she held and said that this doorway was not shown, “but it's been here forever,” cried Roxy, “just look at it”; Jinty nodded, and hazarded that it must have been deleted - adding ominously that such action could only have been taken by someone very senior in the City Council; “we have to try it,” suggested Roxy and Jinty as the only authorised person present, reached out, took hold of the great iron ring which seemed made for the door’s handle, and turned it, expecting a shrieking scroop of rusty metals grinding, but the mechanism was well-oiled, turned smoothly and silently, and with just the whisper of different air pressures, within and without, balancing their flow, the door opened and from far within, where all was dark and muffled, deep beneath the Heart of Midlothian, there came a long-drawn-out and plangent miaowl, not perhaps, a howl, though more than a moan – a sound imbued with such an eerie reverberation that both cousins were dumbstruck for several seconds, until, together and in perfect harmony, the both screamed like banshees!
While Daphne, Maude, Trixie and Leigh were deep in their analysis of the documents which had been gathered, relevant to the matter of Sister Evadne Eglantine and Sir Parlane MacFarlane, Roxy and Jinty followed the movements of the two men Jinty had spotted on CCTV recordings from the area around the entrance to Waird's Close near the City Chambers; the older man, recognised by Jinty as Stage Performer Angus Og of the Bog had given his young companion a set of directions and sent him on his way into the warren of alleys and closes leading down on the North side of the Royal Mile, towards Cockburn Street and Waverley Station – he had then turned his steps uphill on The High Street in the direction of the Castle; the younger man's route the two cousins were able to track from the plethora of cameras erected in recent years to monitor the movements of Edinburgh's citizens (or rather, terrorists, subversives, criminals and malcontents – according to the City Council's justification for this encroachment on civil liberties) and on this occasion were grateful for they enabled close tracking of their target; “is he a shicker?” asked Roxy as the man appeared to stagger and use a wall for support, but Jinty thought he was no drank, rather an actor trying to disguise his own movements in case they are picked up on camera; “is he a Jinni?” asked Roxy as the man's form seemed to shimmer and weave through patches of shade and light as he turned into North Stairs – a short section of the thoroughfare, which dropped quickly by way of several flights, but Jinty merely indicated that on this stretch the lighting was erratic and the sudden pools of darkness followed by the patches of cynosure where intensely brilliant light sources drew the eye made for difficulty in distinguishing some objects and movements; she said that the cameras were not really up to coping with such high contrasts; Roxy suddenly grinned and asked where the cameras had come from and Jinty told her that they had originally been installed in the sumptuous and luxurious state apartments in Holyrood Palace – expressly for the security of Her Majesty, but that His Royal Highness the Duke of Rothesay had considered them to be merely for the use of Nosey Parkers and persuaded his mother to have them un-installed; so they went next to Murrayfield for surveillance of supporters outside the Rugby Ground, but a Writer to the Signet who was a keen rugby fan had invoked Civil Liberties Law and they were hastily re-un-installed and they went to the Foreshore at Cramond, but local youths used them for catapult practice, with well-softened chewing gum as the shot; and they had to be taken down again and have the lenses cleaned – which work had been outsourced to the Prison Workshop at Saughton before their erection around the City Chambers and its environs; “well I think the Old Lags have done a good job for their friends on the outside,” commented Roxy, before pointing out that the young man they had been watching, seemed to have completely disappeared from view as he turned one corner at the far left of the screen and then failed to emerge for the next camera, the lens of which was scratched and ingrained with something; “do you have time to come with me and we'll see where he could have gone?” and Jinty, never loathe to leave the confines of her office, was up like a shot and, slipping on her jacket, said that she loved Scott and Bailey and this would be a chance to do some proper detecting on the ground rather than from her usual eyrie high above the rooftops of the Capital.
Leaving the others pouring over the paperwork assembled by their Aunt Maude, Roxy hurried off to the City Chambers – a quick call to Jinty Moncrief, another cousin and descendant of the Match-Maker who had brokered the marriage between Griselda of Longformacus and Angus MacAngus, had so energised her that she reached Jinty's office in just 10 minutes, though it did leave her breathless; sitting at her desk, before a large monitor, Jinty looked askance at Roxy, and drew her to a chair beside her – Roxy squeezed in close to Jinty, she could smell her friend's perfume, a delicate mix of Heather and Almond, which Roxy found delightful; she leaned in closer, as Jinty pointed to the monochrome scene on her screen, and said that she'd seen the elder of the two figures standing at the close mouth, and that the elder was a Tummler - “a tummler,” asked Roxy, puzzled, wondering if Jinty was using the colloquial term for a drinking glass, or an acrobat,” but no, for Jinty explained that the man was a comedian she had seen at the Komedy Klub, where he targeted hen parties and cajoled some of them up on stage, and persuaded them – against their better judgement, but encouraged by their friends - to do things they would never have done sober; “ah,” said Roxy, “like Derren Brown,” but Jinty said that no, the man hadn't hypnotized anyone – so far as she could tell, it mas just through his personality, and this was what she felt the scene on her screen showed – adding that the way the older man was addressing the younger was a classic example of Mind Control; can you imagine a syzygy, she asked Roxy, then without waiting for a reply told her that it's an alignment of three celestial objects, and in his stage act, this man – she now remembered his name, Angus Og From The Bog, but didn't suppose it was his real name – got three girls to imagine that they were the Sun, the Earth, and the Moon and form a line, while he talked to them and after a few minutes asked them to demonstrate how the planets move around each other and the three girls did as he said, the Earth stood still, the Sun went around it, and the Moon round the Sun – the audience kept shouting out how they should really move but the girls kept doing what Og had told them – it was if they really believed him; “so how do you think it works,” asked Roxy and Jinty replied that she thought the man became a sort of Mama Bear with her three Cubs, and that the girls wanted to please him, and this – she again pointed at the screen - is him doing the same thing to that boy, look – like putty in his hands!
Roxy looked up sharply from her deskfast; they were all eating around the table with Daphne and Maude's paperwork before them – Trixie and Leigh followed suit; all three stared at Maude, who was examining her fingernails; she smiled and asked, “does the name Jinty Moncrief mean anything to you” and looked from one to the other; Roxy gave a start, for Jinty Moncrief was the name of a friend of hers in the City Chambers – but that couldn't be right, she blushed to her roots – as Maude continued, not waiting for any response, “Jinty Moncrief is an ancestor of ours, of all of us, and among her many talents she was a Match-Maker,” at which Daphne chortled, adding that Jinty Moncrief had also been a supplier of Wet-Nurses to the gentry of Edinburgh and had her fingers in many other pies – she gave a knowing wink; Roxy ingurgitated the last of her meal, and mouth crammed full she was unable to speak as Maude continued, “and one of her talents was to be a detailed recorder of every patient, client, customer – or whatever she called them – and her diaries, well, Account Books I should say, are in the possession of our cousin Gregor Dumbiedykes, who is also a Great-Grandchild of Dr Dean and inherited his Library, or again, I should say were, for he loaned them to me late last night – on condition, needless to say, that they do not leave the possession of the family,” and she picked up a small pile of rather battered and worn volumes which had obviously been subjected to much use, and continued “and Gregor is not so hidebound as one might expect of a Writer to the Signet, and has offered us the use of his daughter, Elvira, who is a student at Heriot-Watt and just happens to have a lot of free time this week,” at which there was a cheer from the young cousins, who all knew and were fond of their cousin Elvira; and Roxy, half choking as she swallowed a piece of pie-crust burst out that she had just remembered what her friend, also named Jinty Moncrief had mentioned to her en passent during a gossipy telephone conversation late last night, which was that shortly before Daphne's experience of temporary imprisonment in the oubliette, Jinty had noticed what she described as a gunsel, a young gentleman of the road, standing together with his older friend and confidant hard by the close which leads, by way of many twists and turnings, gates, doorways and labyrinthine passages, to the tunnels in which Daphne had discovered Sister Evadne Eglantine's final prison, seeming to peruse a map or diagram and she was this morning intending to study the CCTV tapes to ascertain what they had been doing and, added Roxy, washing down the remains of her hasty meal with a glass of Water of Leith, “I promised to call her about now to find out if she has learned anything of use to us in identifying the dastardly devil who slid the bolts to trap Aunt Daphne!”
Daphne laid the papers on the table, for Maude and the three girls to see; she indicated the separate piles – those relating to Sister Evadne Eglantine, the celebrated Scottish nun and bibliophile (not, however a bibliomaniac, for her collection was quite defined by her interest in medicine and healing, and of course her religious calling, and there were no random or impulsive acquisitions in it as catalogued by Dr Dean Dumbiedykes, Daphne and Maude's great-grandfather, curator of the Signet Library of his day and a noted collector of historic books and manuscripts himself); then those which detailed the life of Sir Parlane MacFarlane, infamous seducer of noble ladies and debaucher of young girls – and boys, it was whispered - openly atheist in a time and place where atheophobia was dominant – yet never brought to account because of it – perhaps he knew too much about those who might have pursued him – a man who relished his reputation and flaunted it everywhere he went; Griselda Longformacus was next, though less well documented than the first two, she was the daughter of Muckle-Heid Menstrie, and a renowned beauty who had caught the eye of several suitors, eventually marrying Angus MacAngus, son and heir of Angus MacIan and father of the dynasty which despite the vicissitudes of time still rules the Kingdom to this day; and lastly, evidence regarding the children of Angus and Griselda, including Sister Evadne's last testament discovered by Daphne in the deep oubliette far beneath the site of the Heart of Midlothian (Maude had applied her skills to the annotation of this evidence which came from diverse sources and – omitting the technobabble of Scottish legalese with it's reference to havers and pursuers and hereuntoaforesaids and assoilzied, art and part, and fugitation – she had turned all of the salient facts into a spreadsheet which delineated the relationships and dates of events for all those concerned), “and I even identified the shadchan who negotiated the match between Griselda and Angus - and you'll never guess who she was!”
“Oh, Frabjous Day, Callooh, Callay!” cried Ginger Goldfish, wildly quoting Lewis Carroll to the assembled cameras and journalists of the world's press, radio and television – she was about to fly to London for official duties as the First Minister of Scotland, but first had to express what could not be constrained, just as the attentions of her stylist could not master her bright cymotrichous locks – the vivid colour of which flowing waves perfectly matched her glass of Scotland's Other National Drink, giving her the soubriquet always attached to her, and which she now raised to the cameras, giving a huge smile and knowing wink aimed directly at her Cousins and Aunts, who she knew would be watching on their television sets; and, in what had once been a riparian dwelling, overlooking the Nor' Loch, now gone to make way for Princes Street's Pleasure Gardens, Ginger's Aunts and Cousins were indeed assembled and watching – having set aside the futilitarian political divisions which had been such a major part of their General Election Campaigning, and now united in both their fraternal joy for their beloved cousin's successes and their shared commitment to getting to the bottom of the intriguing story of Sir Parlane MacFarlane and his long shadow. which fell darkly across Scotland's Monarchical and Political establishments; Daphne turned to the group and proposed a Toast, “to Ginger,” and all voices were raised in unison for the response “and Confusion to her Enemies!” and drank deeply of their sparkling Irn Bru.
After Roxy and Trixie Davidova had spent a day wallowing in self-pity, had decided that self-indulgently scourging themselves over their respective political thrashings at the hands of the Scottish Electorate was senseless futilitarianism, had showered and washed their hair and were sitting over morning coffee with their cousin Leigh Waters – she of the Green Gown as they laughingly chided her, for her mingling of amorous dalliances with tending her Dahlias – they felt themselves ready to give credence to their Aunt Daphne's story about Sir Parlane MacFarlane and his possible pollution of the Royal Gene pool, according to Sister Evadne Eglantine or, in the words of Ms Waters: “when he jumped the bones of Griselda of Longformacus, it was surely a process of saltation, or genetic adaptation without the 'Missing Link' as his spermatozoa were dancing round Griselda's ova, like Pigs in Clover!” and the Twins hooted and their bodies ached with laughing, for Leigh had a very picturesque way about her mixing of metaphors, as Trixie put it, like mixing manure in a midden!
As Daphne threw open the curtains to let the morning sun pour in, she reflected on the night's results – her niece Ginger Goldfish had already telephoned to tell Daphne and Maude of her Nationalist Party's stupendous results in Scotland, winning all but three of the country's Westminster seats; another niece, Leigh Waters, whose Ethical Gardeners Party had failed to win any seats north of the Border, but had held on to its one constituency in the far south of England, was still upbeat, saying that as in nature, progress can take decades, and like the Chinese she though in the long term, working against adversity, investing in future generations, rather than seeking or expecting immediate gratification – although Daphne heard disappointment between the words; a third niece, Roxy Davidova, Leader of the Scottish Unionists, had wept the bitter tears of utter distress, overcome with a welter of emotions – despite her party's many successes in England, she felt submerged by a sense of futilitarianism, of Oblomovian logy, completely drained of energy, believing that all of her activity over the past year had been for naught; and Roxy's twin sister, Trixie – an advisor to the louche Workers Party Leader in Scotland, The O'Raeahilly, who like all but one of his fellows had lost his own seat – had wept too, unable to take any crumb of comfort which Daphne tried to offer her; replacing the receiver after the last call and turning to Maude, Daphne said that now the distraction of the election was over they could both turn their attentions to their investigation of Sir Parlane MacFarlane's involvement in the torture and death of Sister Evadne Eglantine; in his illicit relationship with Griselda of Longformacus, and the implications for the country and the Throne; “Mr Saloman will be at Westminster, leading Ginger's parliamentary party there, but there will be others intent on doing everything to discredit him, the Party and, by association, our dear, sweet niece and it behoves us to prevent any harm befalling her and the extended family; “I believe we can call on Leigh, Roxy and Trixie, they will all have some time on their hands now, and it may assuage their disappointments at their own political losses; so gird yourself for action, Dear Heart, we have another Battle on our hands!”
The shock of Daphne's discoveries had hardly landed on the three young cousins, when their mobile phones began to trill and, apologising profusely to their favourite aunts they scrambled their things together and, phones clamped to their ears, left the sweet courtyard to return to their respective Party Headquarters and enter into the final, astringent, throes of the General Election Campaign, leaving Maude and Daphne to finish off the scones and pancakes and the last of the tea; Maude gazed fondly at her dearest cousin, friend, partner and soul-mate; she reached for and took Daphne's hand in hers, and wondered aloud what might be the ramifications of that bombshell, so recently dropped in this most peaceful of settings; “oh, that,” murmured Daphne, “ is hardly for us to contemplate – I dare say there will be some quarters where it will not matter a whit, for it's a scandal of the distant past, so why should it concern us now.....and there will be some who will strenuously dispute and deny my discoveries, who even as we speak may be filling the oubliette with concrete to obliterate all trace of Sister Evadne and her testimony.....while yet others may seek to widen the scope and discover whether the Presidents of Russia and the United States are also descendants of Sir Parlane MacFarlane – I can imagine some falling over themselves to claim kinship, for evil; has a strange fascination, particularly for a certain type of Man; but I only hope that our dear nieces will not find themselves harmed by association; they may well be able to fly off like birds when needs must, for they are certainly volitant (or as Dear Old Mrs Malaprop once said to Uncle Bertie, do you remember, she said 'those swifts can go hither and thither, just because they're vol-au-vents – but we, though, are made of stern stuff, we can handle brick-bats and cannonades with the best of them; haven't we had many a scandal to feel our way through – I suppose there is a Law for things which are consequent of previous matters – or sequela as Dear Old Doctor Cameron used to say – or as young Mr Bennett wrote in The History Boys, a definition of History as being – now what was it - oh yes – 'One Fucking Thing After Another!' how we hooted, didn't we dear – quite the virtuoso; he'll go far, don't you think?”
The shock of Daphne's discoveries had hardly landed on the three young cousins, when their mobile phones began to trill and, apologising profusely to their favourite aunts they scrambled their things together and, phones clamped to their ears, left the sweet courtyard to return to their respective Party Headquarters and enter into the final, astringent, throes of the General Election Campaign, leaving Maude and Daphne to finish off the scones and pancakes and the last of the tea; Maude gazed fondly at her dearest cousin, friend, partner and soul-mate; she reached for and took Daphne's hand in hers, and wondered aloud what might be the ramifications of that bombshell, so recently dropped in this most peaceful of settings; “oh, that,” murmured Daphne, “ is hardly for us to contemplate – I dare say there will be some quarters where it will not matter a whit, for it's a scandal of the distant past, so why should it concern us now.....and there will be some who will strenuously dispute and deny my discoveries, who even as we speak may be filling the oubliette with concrete to obliterate all trace of Sister Evadne and her testimony.....while yet others may seek to widen the scope and discover whether the Presidents of Russia and the United States are also descendants of Sir Parlane MacFarlane – I can imagine some falling over themselves to claim kinship, for evil; has a strange fascination, particularly for a certain type of Man; but I only hope that our dear nieces will not find themselves harmed by association; they may well be able to fly off like birds when needs must, for they are certainly volitant (or as Dear Old Mrs Malaprop once said to Uncle Bertie, do you remember, she said 'those swifts can go hither and thither, just because they're vol-au-vents – but we, though, are made of stern stuff, we can handle brick-bats and cannonades with the best of them; haven't we had many a scandal to feel our way through – I suppose there is a Law for things which are consequent of previous matters – or sequela as Dear Old Doctor Cameron used to say – or as young Mr Bennett wrote in The History Boys, a definition of History as being – now what was it - oh yes – 'One Fucking Thing After Another!' how we hooted, didn't we dear- he'll go far, don't you think?"
Quickly changing into Afternoon Tea Wear, the friends made their way through the gardens and up to a select little tea-shop with a secluded secret courtyard, where they settled themselves with a degree of hauteur not particularly natural to them, but appropriate to their surroundings, to enjoy one of the most important of Edinburgh Rituals – High Tea; with the tinkle of cutlery on china and the gentle murmur of voices, mingling with the sweet chirrups of blue-tits and goldfinches, and Daphne began to explain what had happened, so very long ago: as they all knew, Sister Evadne Eglantine was a nun, in the order of The Poor Little Sisters of The Cross of the Wayfarer (claiming as its founder Mary Magdalene of the Gospels) and she spent much of her life in The Cowgate – then a principle thoroughfare running between The Grassmarket and Holy Rude, at the foot of Arthur's Seat; renowned as a healer among the poor and outcast, she was also sought out by the higher classes for they saw in her one who was both diligently earnest in assuaging sickness and injury, and also discreet, reserving her words for the Confessional (though, in truth, she could hardly have any sins to confess, other than that of Pride, for she took great pleasure in the efficacy of her salves and potions and their ability to cleanse and mend wounds and eruptions of the flesh; Sister Evadne 's name became known beyond the confines of the Old Town (there was at that time, of course, no New Town, the origins of which lay far in the future); but to the tale: among those who heard the name of Sister Evadne and her medical skills mentioned reverently was Griselda of Longformacus, who all will remember was eldest daughter of Muckle-Heid Menstrie, and betrothed to Angus MacAngus, the brave and dauntless son of Angus MacIan – Leigh raised a hand and asked if it was her daughter who became Queen Clotilda on her marriage into the Swabian Royal Family, which Daphne acknowledged as verifiable fact, and added that her other daughter was grandmother of Queen Margaret and that through these two daughters were descended people of great distinction and credit, right down to the present day; at which point Roxy raised her hand and asked if one of them was the present Monarch and her children and grandchildren, which Daphne acknowledged was also correct; and Ginger then asked if the first daughter was not a lineal ancestor of her Party's previous leader, her immediate predecessor, and Daphne once again acknowledged this; and then she paused (and as the pause lengthened, the eyes of the young cousins began to roam, from Daphne's face to that of Maude, and thence to each other, and still there was silence, until Maude coughed and suggested that perhaps Daphne should let them into the secret; three pairs of eyes fixed themselves on Daphne and she cleared her throat: “although my researches into Sister Evadne were prompted more from a personal interest in the genealogy of our own families – being rather later than my professional sphere – they did bring me into contact with certain other personages contemporaneous with her, and one of these was Sir Parlane MacFarlane; and when I put certain written evidences together (and written in the hand of Sister Evadne herself, in blood and urine on her wimple and scratched into the walls of her dungeon cell) in keeping with the guidance 'softly, softly, catchee monkey' I believe I can state two facts right here, right now – and these are that our present Monarch and her family, heirs to the Throne included, and Mr Hamish Saloman, erstwhile Leader of your Party, dear Ginger, are both direct descendants of the most foul-minded, debauched, villainous, treacherous, nefarious defenestrator of more than one innocent soul plunged from a topmost window of Edinburgh Castle to the depths of the Nor' Loch below and the most evil man whose long shadow spreads like blood over the history of Scotland, and that is Sir Parlane MacFarlane – there is no doubt, it is not interpretation, it is Fact!”
After Daphne and Maude – with interjections from Roxy – had quickly and concisely related to Ginger and Leigh the events which had befallen them that morning, they all felt like a secret cabal, a junto not conspiring to install a junta (which form of military dictatorship was anathema to this little group of committed democrats) Leigh asked – very pointedly and matter-of-factly, which was the style of this tireless woman, often portrayed in the capitalist press as a Stakhanovite Garden Gnome – how exactly the evidence of Sister Evadne Eglantine's torture and death at the hands of minions working for Sir Parlane MacFarlane hundreds of years ago had such a significant bearing on the present day (this particular present day, she elaborated, with a gathering gesture of her arms which encompassed the whole of Scotland and not just their particular Bench in Princes Street Gardens) and was answered by the BOOM of the One-o-Clock Gun high in the battlements of Edinburgh Castle looming over them; they all jumped, having forgotten the time and so failed to fulfil the fundamental requirement of true Edinburghers by anticipating the cannonade and therefore demonstrating their complete mastery of their features in defiance of the overhead explosion, and fell about laughing at themselves; “It will take more than one sentence to explain succinctly,” replied Daphne, reassuming mastery of her gravitas, for it's too complicated for an epigram and not wanting to cloak it in the shrouds of bafflegab, I must needs take a middle course and therefore, if, Dear Maude, and Delightful Nieces Three, we repair to an adjacent Tea-room, I shall tell you all – bearing in mind that you, Young Ladies, should be out on the Hustings, for if I am not very much mistaken, your Date With Destiny fast approaches, and I hear already the Clarions announcing the Countdown to Polling Day, so Hie We to Afternoon Tea and I will attempt to tell all!”
After Daphne and Maude – with interjections from Roxy – had quickly and concisely related to Ginger and Leigh the events which had befallen them that morning, they all felt like a secret cabal, a junto not conspiring to install a junta (which form of military dictatorship was anathema to this little group of committed democrats) Leigh asked – very pointedly and matter-of-factly, which was the style of this tireless woman, often portrayed in the capitalist press as a Stakhanovite Garden Gnome – how exactly the evidence of Sister Evadne Eglantine's torture and death at the hands of minions working for Sir Parlane MacFarlane hundreds of years ago had such a significant bearing on the present day (this particular present day, she elaborated, with a gathering gesture of her arms which encompassed the whole of Scotland and not just their particular Bench in Princes Street Gardens) and was answered by the BOOM of the One-o-Clock Gun high in the battlements of Edinburgh Castle looming over them; they all jumped, having forgotten the time and so failed to fulfil the fundamental requirement of true Edinburghers by anticipating the cannonade and therefore demonstrating their complete mastery of their features in defiance of the overhead explosion, and fell about laughing at themselves; “It will take more than one sentence to explain succinctly,” replied Daphne, reassuming mastery of her gravitas, £for it's too complicated for an epigram and not wanting to cloak it in the shrouds of bafflegab, I must needs take a middle course and therefore, if, Dear Maude, and \Delightful Nieces Three. We repair to an adjacent Tea-room, I shall tell you all – bearing in mind that you, Young Ladies, should be out on the Hustings, for if I am not very much mistaken, your Date With Destiny fast approaches, and I hear already the Clarions announcing the Countdown to Polling Day, so Hie We to Afternoon Tea and I will attempt to tell all!”
Just then, a wandering minstrel came sauntering along the path, picking out notes on a mandolin; the three ladies turned to look and each gave an involuntary gasp, for they all instantly recognised the scop for, despite her parti-coloured costume this was Ginger Goldfish, Leader of the Nationalist Party, Roxy's cousin and niece of both Daphne and Maude; she stopped playing and cried out “Hoots Mon” - standard greeting among her confrères - “wit're youse three daen here; ah didnae think ye's were really three Fishwives, sae far frae Newhaven Harbour, whit's afoot, sumpn fishy nae doot,” and plonked herself down between Daphne and Roxy, “can ah jine in?” which request met with immediate acclaim for, despite her effrontery there was a close bond which ran through the many-stranded Dumbiedykes/Lyttleton/Davidova/Goldfish families and their various branches; and it was no surprise in this diurnal company – it was still only a quarter to one in the afternoon, the sun shone down and the Castle Gun had yet to Boom above them - and it was easy for the younger members to cozen their way into the activities of their aunts and uncles, for all shared a common belief in Scotland and The Scots (even when they expressed this through many political shades and their individual interests in different epochs) so it was no great surprise to Daphne, Maude and Roxy when another figure suddenly appeared from the bushes behind their Bench: Leigh Waters, looking every bit the Ethical Gardener - for her environmental party was one in which its members lived and breathed their commitment to an ecological lifestyle all the way to their pre-owned gardening boots and recycled backpacks - climbed over the back of the Bench and squeezed herself between Roxy and Maude, gave a breezy chuckle and in a conspiratorial voice asked “what's the game?”
“Oh, Darling Girl,” cried Daphne, when Roxy, having finished her tale, sat back upon the bench between her and Maude and both ladies applauded her bravery and fortitude; “such bravery and fortitude,” her Aunt continued, “is clearly an example of instinctive forces from within coming to the fore, so that one acts without conscious thought, one's id taking over and the person simply becoming what one is and functioning as one does – a testament to your very treeness in which, Roxy, dear child, I do aver that every action which you performed this morning was predicated on your inner strength of character, your hereditary dedication to the common weal, your commitment to social justice and the rights of every human being to pursue truth, justice and happiness, to live without fear or favour and to the belief that free speech demonstrates the civility of a culture and a nation and its peoples, the which has always been so integral to your family for the better part of – at least – a thousand years,” and, when Daphne paused, Roxy quietly slipped in an aside about her weekly evening classes in Kick Boxing coming in handy, too.
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