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 Post subject: THE MYSTERY OF THE WHITE TULIP (continues)
PostPosted: Tue August 4th, 11:31 am 
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The next morning the train arrived at Viktorya Station precisely on schedule. Miss Brown stepped off the train and looked around the platform for a sign of Miss Felice-Lytton. She had not seen her friend since dinner the evening before when the girl had made a perfect fool of herself flirting with those soldiers. Miss Brown scowled at the memory. Stubborn girl, acting fast and loose. She sniffed. Why, everyone knew about soldiers. They were perfectly honourable of course—a soldier maid could hardly be anything else, naturally—but…strong-natured. It was a well-known fact that they were strong-natured.

The weather was beautiful. The soft morning breeze and the clear sky promised a very warm day. Miss Brown did not like very warm days much, but temperate summer mornings were an entirely different matter. While she stayed in the shade in any case. Her head ached a little; she had been slightly incautious with the brandy the night before and then had slept restlessly for some reason. Very unlike her.

Dr. Fieldstone followed Miss Brown down the little double step onto the platform, landing with a thump, interrupting the younger brunette’s uncomfortable thoughts. She looked bright and well-rested. She stretched, then, turned to Miss Brown, her intelligent face shining with friendliness. “Dear Miss Brown, it was such a pleasure to travel with you. I am on a busy schedule today but it would be my honour if you would consider staying with me,” She looked away for a moment gesturing to a porter and pointing at the trunk which was being lowered from the train and then turned back to Miss Brown. “…at the little apartment the museum keeps ready here for visitors. I have been there often and the housekeeper is a most amiable blonde. She will not mind preparing another room.” Dr. Fieldstone smiled. “As I said, I will be busy during the day but we could dine this evening. Please say you accept.”

Miss Brown smiled back at her new friend. “I would be most honoured, Doctor, but I am afraid that I cannot accept. There is a certain blonde of my acquaintance I need to keep an eye on. She is not used to travelling.” She shrugged slightly.

A sudden shriek made the brunettes look around. “Oh! Do be careful with that!”

Miss Brown recognised Miss Felice-Lytton’s voice. She sounded vexed. Following the voice she found her friend waving at a porter from the carriage door. Miss Brown quickly strode toward the porter who was tugging at Miss Felice-Lytton’s trunk and motioned her to put it down.

“Miss Felice-Lytton, where are you staying? I assume you have arranged lodgings here in Viktorya.” Miss Brown suppressed a grin. “Please do tell me at which hotel you are staying and I shall ask this young brunette here to arrange for your luggage to be taken there.”

The sudden redness of Miss Felice-Lytton’s face confirmed Miss Browns suspicion that the blonde had not thought of a making any such arrangements.

Miss Felice-Lytton stiffened and shook her parasol at Miss Brown. “Go away! I am not talking to you!” Miss Brown saw that her chin trembled slightly in spite of her fierce words. The blonde spun around and stood with her back to Miss Brown.

Miss Brown raised her eyebrows and gripped the handle of her carpetbag tightly. She was not used to the kind of behaviour Miss Felice-Lytton displayed. She did not know what to say to her.

Suddenly Dr. Fieldstone stepped between the girls. She whispered to the porter and gave her a tip. The young brunette tipped her cap and whistled for a friend to come and help her move Miss Felice-Lytton’s trunk.

The blonde turned around quickly. “Wait! Where are they going? Where are they taking my luggage?” She looked at Dr. Fieldstone with a frown. “Who are you?”

Dr. Fieldstone bowed ceremoniously then held out her hand to Miss Felice-Lytton to help her down the carriage steps. Miss Felice-Lytton took the proffered hand automatically and descended.

“I beg your pardon, young miss. I am Dr. Jane Fieldstone, a curator at the Arcadian National Museum. I met your friend Miss Brown on the train. I am staying in Viktorya for a few days to oversee the transport of an exposition and I insist that you both are my guests for the night. I understand that you are both travelling to Kronaberg tomorrow. I simply cannot let the opportunity pass to entertain such a beautiful creature as yourself, Miss Felice-Lytton.”

Miss Felice-Lytton’s eyes twinkled. “You are very kind, Dr. Fieldstone.”

The brunette waved away the thanks. “Not at all, not at all. I know it is awfully forward of me to simply tell those carriers to take your luggage to my lodgings here but I can tell you are a lady of character. I dared not risk losing your company.”

“They took my trunk to your hotel?”

“Oh, not a hotel; a pretty little apartment looking over Queen Viktorya Park. Courtesy of the Museum.”

Miss Felice-Lytton quickly looked in Miss Brown’s direction. The little nod Miss Brown gave her settled her doubts. She smiled again. “I would be most honoured, Dr. Fieldstone. You are terribly generous.”

Miss Brown and Dr. Fieldstone shared a satisfied smile. Giving Miss Felice-Lytton her arm, the elder brunette guided the two girls out of the train station and toward the carriage she knew would be waiting outside.

Not long after Dr. Fieldstone guided Miss Felice-Lytton up the steps of a charming little house situated in a large square in the middle of a park. Across the square was the formidable building housing the Viktorya Natural Museum. The little house was pale yellow and surrounded by trees. From a balcony at the right side hung baskets full of flowers in soft pastel colours. Miss Felice-Lytton’s eyes shone at the sight of this charming place where she would stay.

“Oh Doctor, it is delightful! The museum takes good care of her employees.”

Dr. Fieldstone smiled. “I am always happy to stay here while I work across the street. It is a very convenient arrangement to be lodged across the street from where you work.”

The door opened and a small chubby blonde with greying hair raised her arms in welcome. Miss Brown was struck with a pang of homesickness at the sight of the housekeeper who so resembled her aunts.

“Dr. Fieldstone! How good to see you again. It has been too long! Too long by far! I see you have brought guests. The girls from the train station have come with their luggage and I have Sally arranging their rooms. Welcome, welcome!”

Miss Brown quickly composed herself as the housekeeper ushered them in.

“Mistress Tweedale, it is a delight to see you again and to stay in your exquisitely run household once more.”

At these words the housekeeper’s pink cheeks shone with pleasure and she bowed her head slightly accepting the doctor’s kind words. She took pride in her work and enjoyed having others recognise the skill with which she ran the little yellow house.

“I am afraid I must rush to the museum at once. The crates will be arriving soon and I must oversee that everything is in order. Mistress Tweedale, I fully trust you will take care of my friends Miss Felice-Lytton and Miss Brown.”

“Oh yes, of course doctor.” Mistress Tweedale bowed her head again.

Dr. Fieldstone turned to her guests. “You two might enjoy strolling about Viktorya Square for a bit after you have rested. It is a cheerful place and the weather is beautiful.”

“Oh thank you, Doctor.” Miss Felice-Lytton chirped. “When can we expect to see you again?”

“I shall be back in time for dinner at the latest, Miss Felice-Lytton. You will be taken good care of until then.” With a smile for Mistress Tweedale and a bow to the two girls Dr. Fieldstone walked out the door and strode briskly away.

“Well!” Mistress Tweedale clasped her hands and beamed at the two girls. “It has been a long time since I last had such delightful young creatures to take care of. Usually it is professors and doctors. Guests of the museum, you know. I had a Vintesse violinist the other week.” The blonde’s brow furrowed. “That certainly was a first. A week of little sleep I can tell you. She had a habit of practicing during the night. All these odd Vintesse melodies.” She shook her head and sighed. Then her face brightened again. “She was a lovely lady otherwise. Now, follow me ladies. I shall show you your rooms.”

Miss Felice-Lytton and Miss Brown followed Mistress Tweedale up the stairs. The older blonde was panting as she reached the top. She stood aside and let the younger girls pass her. “Oh my. Heh heh…I am no longer the spritely little thing I was in my younger years.”

A young blonde came out of one of the rooms and bobbed.

“Ah! Sally! The rooms are ready?” Mistress Tweedale’s benign expression became somewhat sharper.

The girl bobbed again and smiled cheerfully. “Yes, Mistress Tweedale.”

“Good girl. Now go and tell Cook to prepare a light meal for our guests. It is to be brought to their rooms. Don’t mind about the doctor, she ran off to the museum as soon as she set a foot into the house.”

With another bob the blonde hurried down the stairs.

Miss Tweedale turned to Miss Felice-Lytton. “A wonderful girl, Sally. Well raised and polite. I shall make a housekeeper out of her before she is thirty. I notice you are not travelling with your maid.”

“I gave Patty some time off to see her family,” Miss Felice-Lytton lied uncertainly.

Reassured, Mistress Tweedale nodded her head and walked to the other side of the hallway. She opened the door to let Miss Felice-Lytton in. “You room, young lady. I shall send Sally up to assist you.”

Miss Felice-Lytton gave the housekeeper a bright smile and thanked her before closing the door.

The room the maid had just come from was intended for Miss Brown. As the housekeeper left, the young brunette dropped her bag, pulled of her gloves and let herself drop in a little chair at the window looking out over the square.


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 Post subject: Re: THE MYSTERY OF THE WHITE TULIP (continues)
PostPosted: Tue August 4th, 1:14 pm 
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Oh thank you! I LOVE it - as always.

But why is Miss Felice-Lytton behaving so strangely? What has poor Miss Brown done?

I love the pictures of Arcadia - you are so wonderful at drawing them. Thank you again!

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 Post subject: Re: THE MYSTERY OF THE WHITE TULIP (continues)
PostPosted: Tue August 11th, 10:14 am 
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After a delightful little meal consisting of cones, strawberries and strong, sweet tea, Miss Brown changed into her afternoon walking dress and stepped out of her room. The view from her window was marvelous, but she desperately longed to stretch her legs.

She tapped softly on Miss Felice-Lytton’s door. Though the blonde’s mood seemed to have improved when they arrived at the little yellow house, Miss Brown was not entirely certain her friend had forgiven her for trying to exclude her from the Kronaberg expedition. Miss Felice-Lytton had been cheerful and friendly when the doctor was in their company but had ignored Miss Brown when she could without appearing to be impolite.

“Come.”

Miss Brown opened the door and saw Miss Felice-Lytton standing at the window, looking out. The sun pouring through the little panes lit up her blonde hair and made it look golden. Miss Brown smiled. At times her friend managed to look utterly angelic. Then Miss Felice-Lytton looked up. She scowled. “Oh. It’s you.”

Miss Brown sighed inwardly. She had not been forgiven yet. She ventured, “Miss Felice-Lytton, would you care to go out with me for a stroll in the park?”

The blonde looked out again and for a moment Miss Brown though she saw a flicker of indecision on the girl’s face, but then she sniffed archly and walked over to the little bedside table. She picked up her embroidery. “No, I think not. I am very busy.” She sat down at the side of her bed and bent over her embroidery, her face a little too close to her work. The brunette could see the stylized images of improbably coloured peonies.

Miss Brown noticed her friend also had changed into her walking toilette and looked ready to go out. “Darling, must you stay angry with me?” she said softly.
Without looking up Miss Felice-Lytton replied: “I am not angry.” and pulled the embroidery closer to her face.

“You will ruin your eyes.”

“They are mine to ruin.”

“Miss Felice-Lytton, are you certain you wish to stay inside when there is so much to see and do outside?” Miss Brown tried not to bristle. She kept her voice gentle.

“Quite certain.”

As the door closed behind Miss Brown, the little blonde dropped her embroidery on the floor and let herself slump into her pillows. She wept.
--

As Miss Brown stepped outside a puff of warm air blew into her face. She squinted in the dazzling light. It was very sunny indeed. She decided not to let this discourage her and strode across the road separating the yellow house from the park in the middle of the square. There, she saw, were several dense copses casting pools of deep shade. It looked cool and inviting, Miss Brown noted. Miss Felice-Lytton would have liked it. Normally she would have. Miss Brown felt as though she no longer knew her friend. The brunette leaned against a tree and kicked idly at a tuft of grass.

It was busy in the park. Miss Brown saw couples sitting together in the shade and families picnicking. Nannies pushing babies in their perambulators chatted together while their charges stared phlegmatically at each other. She saw children walking barefoot in the cool grass and was briefly envious of their youthful privilege. This was a very cheerful scene, but Miss Brown did not feel cheerful. It was too hot by far, she told herself.

The square was oblong shaped with at one end a statue of Queen Viktorya and on the other end something Miss Brown believed to be a stage. It was a closed arc with angels on each end. One holding a trumpet, the other a harp. There was a bustle of activity there. The steps going up to the stage were being scrubbed by two blondes and a crew of sturdy brunettes were moving about carrying huge props as if they weighed nothing. Two of the brunettes were loading wooden benches off a carriage. It all seemed very much like a performance would take place soon. Miss Brown sat down on a marble bench under a tree and observed the work in progress for a while. Then her eye was caught by a wooden board being take off the carriage. On it was a poster picturing a tall blonde with her hair swirling around her body. From her distance Miss Brown could make out the words “Imelda de la Rey, Tonight”. The show began at eight o'clock

“Oh! I should take Miss Felice-Lytton. She adores music.” The very instant the thought popped up Miss Brown knew Miss Felice-Lytton would not go with her and the momentary delight disappeared as quickly as it had come. She stood up and walked back. It was too hot to stroll about in parks. How did these people bear it?

When she was about to cross the road back to her lodgings Miss Brown’s attention was caught by the sound of a little jingling bell. She looked around. A smiling brunette wearing a red and white striped frock and a crisp white apron pushed an ice cream cart into view on the path curving behind the trees.

A few minutes later Miss Brown knocked on Miss Felice-Lytton’s door again. The frown on the blonde’s face as she opened the door disappeared instantly at the sight of Miss Brown standing in the door holding a tiny bouquet of blue flowers in one hand and a cone of melting ice cream in the other. The look on her face as she said: “Lemon ice cream. You like lemon ice cream, do you not?” was utterly endearing and the sight of ice cream dribbling onto Miss Brown’s usually impeccably white gloves was almost too much to bear.

“Oh, Miss Brown,” Miss Felice-Lytton quavered, “I love lemon ice cream.”

She took the cone Miss Brown held out to her.

“I am afraid it is melting. It is a little warm outside.” The brunette said gently.

The blonde looked down as tears welled in her eyes. “Oh, that is quite all right. Thank you, Miss Brown.” She sniffed.

“Darling, are you all right?”

Miss Felice-Lytton’s shoulders shook as she sobbed. “Oh Miss Brown I am so sorry. I hate being angry with you. I really am not angry, you know. I was just so hurt and…”

Miss Brown took her friend into her arms and pressed a kiss on her head. She heard the ice cream cone crack in the embrace. “You silly girl. You silly, silly girl.” She sighed and kissed Miss Felice-Lytton’s hair again. “Life would just be too easy if I didn’t have you.”

Suddenly Miss Felice-Lytton’s body went still in her arms, then she started to shake a little. Miss Brown held her a little tighter. “Are you laughing?”

A snorting sound emanated from near Miss Brown’s shoulder.

“You imp! You are laughing, aren’t you?”

The shaking became more pronounced and a little voice hiccoughed: “...yes...”

“Ah, yes. I thought so. And the…er…ice cream? It is probably trickling all over my suit, isn’t it?”

The response was a pealing gurgle of laughter, somewhat muffled but welcome nonetheless.

“Oh dear.” Miss Brown smiled broadly. Miss Felice-Lytton’s merriment was impossible to resist.

Miss Brown laughed.


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 Post subject: Re: THE MYSTERY OF THE WHITE TULIP (continues)
PostPosted: Thu August 27th, 1:23 pm 
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There...I put back a new and improved version.


Last edited by Cecile Landgrebe on Sat August 29th, 3:47 am, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: THE MYSTERY OF THE WHITE TULIP (continues)
PostPosted: Sat August 29th, 3:46 am 
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When Miss Brown and Miss Felice-Lytton arrived back at the little yellow house, comfortably arm in arm, they found Dr. Fieldstone waiting for them in the sitting room.

She beamed at the two of them benevolently. “Ah, dear Miss Felice-Lytton, dear Miss Brown. Mistress Tweedale has a special surprise in store for us. Please go and change for dinner quickly. We will start a little early today.”

Miss Felice-Lytton twinkled a smile at the doctor. “Oh, how delightful! What shall I wear? Did I pack my blue…” She let go of Miss Brown’s arm and, still musing aloud, trotted out of the sitting room and up the stairs.

“Did everything go well at the museum, Doctor?” Miss Brown asked vaguely. She dabbed ineffectively at a sticky stain on the front of her walking frock.

“Yes yes, everything went as planned. Dreadfully boring business, unpacking stuffed animals and parts of mythical creatures. There was a tooth as big as my head, Miss Brown.” Dr. Fieldstone shook her head. “Mammoths, they say. Bigger than elephants.”

Miss Brown left off trying to tidy herself. She looked at the doctor with great interest. “Are they like the Kronaberg bat, these mammoes? Mythical, that is?”

“Mammoths? Perhaps. These teeth seem genuine to me though. But I am not an expert on natural history. Now, Miss Brown, why don’t you go up and change too? I know they say blondes take forever to get dressed but I know of brunettes who take at least as long. We don’t want to keep Mistress Tweedale waiting.”

Miss Brown gave the doctor a short bow of assent and went upstairs to change.

When the girls came downstairs they were surprised not to be led into the dining room but guided back up the stairs again instead. Dr. Fieldstone offered Miss Felice-Lytton her arm and took the girls through a little sitting room onto a spacious balcony overlooking the park. Mistress Tweedale had set a large table decorated with candles and a centerpiece of large tubular flowers Miss Brown did not recognise. Their scent was intoxicating.

“Oh doctor, how lovely!” Miss Felice-Lytton exclaimed. “I have never dined on a terrace before. The view is superb.”

The moment they sat down Mistress Tweedale and Sally came onto the balcony carrying plates of the most exquisite and delicious foods. Instead of the several courses Miss Brown was used to, this meal consisted of one continuing course of small delightful dishes. Plates of savoury foods stood next to bowls of fruit and plates of little cakes Miss Brown would only have imagined as dessert. She looked at them all, then helped herself to a slice of pie with a very flaky crust filled with what appeared to be cubes of beef.

As the ladies ate and chatted it slowly became dark and the air cooled. As the plates were taken away and coffee poured Miss Brown heard music. Through the trees she saw lights blazing. She could not see whence they originated, but they seemed to be coming from where she imagined the stage must be. Suddenly a clear and light voice sounded through the night. Miss Brown had forgotten about the performance which had been scheduled for that evening.

“Ah!” The doctor sat back into her chair with a satisfied smile. “We finished just in time.”

Miss Brown stood up and walked over to the balustrade, carrying her cup of coffee. She shivered slightly as she felt the cool air brushing her bare arms. “Delightful.”

“Yes, isn’t it?” The doctor replied. “Mistress Tweedale reminded me of the concert and the possibility to dine out on the balcony. There are often concerts in the park on summer evenings.”

Sally came onto the balcony carrying soft woollen shawls. She offered one to Miss Felice-Lytton who gratefully accepted all three and gave one to the doctor before joining Miss Brown at the balustrade, putting a scarf around the brunette’s shoulders.

Together they stood, listening to Imelda de la Rey singing sweet songs about summer evenings and eternal love.

Miss Felice-Lytton stifled a yawn. “I am sorry, darling. It is not very late yet but I am so tired.” She turned around. “Doctor, will you forgive me if I retire early?”

The doctor stood up and bowed. “Not at all, dear Miss Felice-Lytton. It has been a busy day and tomorrow will be a very early morning indeed. Good night, Miss Felice-Lytton.”

“Good night, doctor. Good night, Miss Brown.”

Miss Brown bowed. “Good night, Miss Felice-Lytton.”

Dr. Fieldstone resumed her seat. “Did you have a good time in this lovely city, Miss Brown?”

“Yes, doctor, thank you. I had a wonderful day. The park is beautiful and everyone is so cheerful, despite the heat.” Miss Brown walked over to the table and sat down beside her new friend.

The doctor smiled. “Yes, it can get a little hot here. I don’t notice it much, entombed as I am in the coolness of the museum. Did your blonde friend enjoy herself?”

“Oh yes, immensely.”

Dr. Fieldstone took a cigar from a box and offered one to Miss Brown who declined with a short shake of her head. “I see you two are getting along much better than when I left you this morning.”

Miss Brown smiled. “Yes, indeed. She has finally come around to forgiving me.” She felt again the relief that had flooded her earlier.

The elder brunette lit her cigar on a candle and puffed lazily, considering her friend through eyes slitted against the smoke. The aroma of good tobacco filled the air for a moment before a breeze swept it away. “May I ask how you managed to get her to change her mind?”

“Oh, it was very simple really. Ice cream.” There was a touch of pride in the younger brunette’s voice.

Dr. Fieldstone raised her eyebrows. “Ice cream?”

Miss Brown waved her hand carelessly. “Yes, I bought her lemon ice cream. She loves lemon ice cream.”

The doctor sat up straight and leaned forward, peering at Miss Brown. “My dear girl, you don’t mean to tell me that you managed to bribe your friend into better behaviour by giving her sweets?”

“Oh, no. I wasn’t like that. She was terribly sorry, she had only not been able to show it. She was stuck in sulking, really. But once I gave her the ice cream, tears came and … well, she was all right after that.”

“Miss Brown.” The doctor shook her head. “You really mustn’t do that again. How will Miss Felice-Lytton respect you if you apologise when she has been wrong?”

“Oh, but I was wrong too. I should not have excluded her.”

“That’s correct; you were wrong too. Of course you should have let her know you were going to Kronaberg and then you should have forbidden her to come with you. But that is not what I am talking about.“ She waved a hand in front or her face, dispelling cigar smoke. The fine scent of it filled Miss Brown’s nose.

“Ever since you two were on that train she has been behaving like a sulking child and you permitted it, though it was your duty to end that behaviour.” The doctor took a sip of her cold coffee absentmindedly. “You said it yourself. She was sorry but her pride prevented her from showing it.”

The breeze picked up and carried away the smoke. Miss Brown pulled her shawl more tightly around herself as the doctor continued: “Miss Felice-Lytton is a wonderful young woman. She does not delight in argument but once she had decided to be angry with you she didn’t know how to stop being angry with you. I am quite certain she knew she had been wrong the moment she stepped onto that train. She was sorry she had behaved the way she did and she was no longer angry. And yet you allowed her stay that way.”

Miss Brown frowned. “If she was sorry why did she not tell me?”

“Pride, my dear, pride. And besides that you were stuck on a train with hardly a moment to yourself. But that is all beside the point. It was your duty to end it. You should have disciplined her, you should have accepted her apology and then it would have been over. It dragged on unnecessarily. You did not do either of you a favour.”

Miss Brown looked up guiltily. “You mean I should have spanked her.”

The doctor smiled. “That is exactly what I mean. You have spanked girls, have you not?”

“I spanked my maid once but usually my aunts take care of disciplining the servants.”

Dr. Fieldstone sat up straight. “And in school? You never disciplined a younger student?”

Miss Brown shook her head. “Not really. I handed out some lines as a senior.”

“Well, that explains it.” Dr. Fieldstone took Miss Brown’s hands. “Dear Miss Brown. You are a grown brunette now. You have to start being serious about discipline. Your friend is a blonde and she is younger than you. You are travelling alone so you are responsible for her. It is too late now but next time you find her misbehaving you will spank her and get it over with. It will do you both a world of good.”

Miss Brown thought for a moment. She had never considered disciplining Miss Felice-Lytton but now that the doctor put out the facts for her it seemed odd that she had never come up with the idea herself. She nodded. “You are right, doctor. I hope I shall not have to discipline her, but you are right that it is my responsibility.”

Dr. Fieldstone patted Miss Brown’s hand and sat back.

“You know, doctor. She seems like a silly blonde on occasion, but she is not. She is very intelligent and the bravest girl I know. Without her I would not be here.”

“I am mighty glad to hear you have a friend like that, Miss Brown. You must take good care of her.”

Miss Brown nodded seriously. “Yes, I will take care of her.” Then in a different tone altogether, “And I believe I will take one of those cigars after all.”


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 Post subject: Re: THE MYSTERY OF THE WHITE TULIP (continues)
PostPosted: Sun September 27th, 11:46 am 
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The next morning Dr. Fieldstone drove the girls in her carriage to the station to see them off on the second leg of their journey to Kronaberg. It was still early but Miss Brown recognised the promise of heat on the soft breeze and the bright sun. The steam engine puffed loudly as the girls made ready to board the train

Miss Felice-Lytton, on the platform several yards away, watched the loading of the trunks with much concern, ultimately handing her precious hatbox, with evident reluctance, to the brunette porter. The little blonde shook her finger and remonstrated at length as the porter bent respectfully toward her.

Miss Brown turned her attention to Dr. Fieldstone. “Dear doctor. Thank you so much for your kind hospitality. Our stay was delightful. I hope we weren’t too much of a burden.” Miss Brown clasped Dr. Fieldstone’s hand with great affection.

The older brunette smiled a little sadly. “Oh dear Miss Brown, I shall miss your company. I am very glad I have met you. Once we are all back in Loveton you must do me the honour of visiting me. I shall want to hear everything about your adventures.”

Miss Felice-Lytton arrived just in time to hear the invitation. “We would be delighted, doctor.” she said, a portion of her attention on the last of the luggage being lugged aboard the train. “You mustn’t deny us an opportunity to entertain you in turn. Thank you for your kindness.”

Dr. Fieldstone took the blonde’s gloved hand in her own and bowed over it. "Miss Felice-Lytton, it was a very great honor to make your acquaintance. I do wish you well on your journey and hope it will be a very pleasant one. My dear, will you excuse us brunettes for a moment?" Dr. Fieldstone bowed again deeply then gestured, summoning a nearby porter. "Please take this lady to her cabin, porter, and make certain that she has every convenience." The porter offered her arm to Miss Felice-Lytton and the two walked away.

Dr. Fieldstone turned to face the Miss Brown squarely. She lay a hand on girl’s arm and spoke seriously. "Miss Brown, do you remember everything I told you about the legends of Kronaberg?"

The younger brunette smiled. “I certainly do. One does not easily forget a bat with cat teeth.”

“Yes, well, there is something I forgot to mention.”

The conductress leaned out of the door and blew her whistle. She called "All aboard!" Both brunettes turned to look at her shortly then regarded each other again.

“You see, the Kronabergers have this habit of not inviting anyone in.”

Miss Brown frowned. “How very impolite.”

“Yoohoo! Miss Brown!” Miss Felice-Lytton called out from a window in the train. “Darling! This machine will leave without you if you do not hurry!”

Miss Brown waved at her friend. “Yes darling! One more moment.” She turned to Dr. Fieldstone. “They do not invite people in? Does that meant they do not let people into their homes? They are an odd people, are they not?”

“No, no! That is not it. They will let you in but they will not invite you. You just have to step inside. When you arrive at your lodgings you just have to step inside.”

Miss Brown looked mildly shocked. “Are you quite certain this is common practice in Kronaberg?”

The doctor nodded. “Quite certain.”

“Very well.”

“Miss Brown!” Miss Felice-Lytton waved.

“Coming!”

The doctor took Miss Brown’s arm and gave the girl a worried look. “Something has been bothering me, Miss Brown. I find myself worrying a little about your trip to Kronaberg. It is probably nothing but I’d be happier to know you would not invite anyone in either, like the Kronabergers.”

Miss Brown looked puzzled. “It would be rude not to.”

"I do believe it might be important," the doctor insisted. Her grip tightened slightly on Miss Brown’s arm.

"Excuse me ma’am." The conductress, stepping down from the car, gestured towards the door. "You must board immediately, with respect."

Miss Brown nodded. She turned and, with the doctor by her side, walked toward the car Miss Lytton had boarded.

"All right doctor. If it makes you feel better I shall abide by Kronaberg customs."

Dr. Fieldstone smiled. "Thank you, dear. Do write me when you have arrived. I’d like to know you are well. Goodbye, Miss Brown. I hope to see you again soon."

--

The three day journey to Kronaberg was long but uneventful. A small delay caused by ducks sleeping on the track was the only irregularity.

After a few initial quibbles the girls settled into a routine allowing them to spend days together without needlessly hurting each other. Miss Brown actually started liking travelling. The constant rattles and puffs of the train, the endless gentle rocking, lulled her into a somnolent comfort. She believed it affected her normally so very active friend too as Miss Felice-Lytton happily spent her evenings reading and crocheting at her side in the dining wagon. The blonde had only busied herself intermittently with interfering in the lives of the porters, whom she regarded as under her care for the duration of the trip, advising one young brunette with warts and a glum expression to seek the services of a dermatologist. This was a very low level of activity indeed, Miss Brown thought. Normally, she mused, it would not be at all out of the ordinary if Miss Felice-Lytton had rearranged the luggage in the luggage car, discussed the route with the engineer and corrected the train timetable before luncheon had been announced on the first day.

Slowly the views from the window changed. The sunny plains and hills of the midlands made way for steep mountains covered in morning mist and dark coniferous forests hiding the pale summer sunshine.

On the third day it rained.

Miss Felice-Lytton dropped her book on the table with a thump and looked out of the window listlessly. . “How much longer, darling?”

Miss Brown took out her pocket watch and glanced at it. “About two more hours.” She looked outside at the forest passing by, then at the raindrops sliding down the window diagonally. She followed the path of one drop as it slid down, moving faster as it gulped up other drops and gained weight. She had never seen rain slide down a window diagonally before.

“Two more hours?” Miss Felice-Lytton sighed. “The sun is going down. It will be dark by the time we arrive at the station.”

Miss Brown nodded. It did not seem like summer at all. The gloom outside was distinctly autumnal in her opinion.

Miss Felice-Lytton peered at the letters in her book. “It’s too dark, I can’t read it without daylight.”

“I sometimes wonder, darling, if perhaps the light may not be to blame. Your nose is awfully close to the letters.”

“It is dark.”

“Also when it is not dark.” Miss Brown insisted.

Miss Felice-Lytton put down her book. “I do hope we shall have better weather than this. It is so depressing.”

“I hope you brought a warm cloak”

“I did. It is on the bottom of my trunk however. I suppose I had better go and pull it out before we arrive.”

Miss Brown stood and sketched a bow as her friend left the dining car. She sat again. Her gaze soon returned to the window. It was becoming difficult to make out the passing scenery in the gloaming. The porters would pass through shortly, lighting the lamps as night fell. She smiled faintly. Miss Brown rather liked autumnal weather.


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 Post subject: Re: THE MYSTERY OF THE WHITE TULIP (continues)
PostPosted: Thu November 5th, 2:22 pm 
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It was nearing dark when the train arrived at the little station of Kronaberg. The lights from the lanterns shone an eerie light over the empty platform, illuminating the billowing fog and very little else. The train’s engine slowed gradually to a halt. The silence that followed, broken only by the irregular ticking of cooling metal, made Miss Brown uncomfortable.

Both girls had been ready to disembark; Miss Felice-Lytton , wrapped in her handsome coat, held her purse and a very small suitcase in her lap. Miss Brown stood and made her way down the corridor to the exit. The door had been opened and the little steps lowered for the passengers, but there were no other passengers decending, and none behind her in the corridor.

She stepped down onto the platform and looked around. The dense fog made it impossible to see for more than a dozen feet ahead.

“Help me down, darling.” Miss Felice carolled behind her. She extended her arm and wiggled her fingers. Miss Brown took the hand her friend held out and helped her descend to the platform.

“Goodness, it’s foggy, isn’t it?” Little clouds came from Miss Felice-Lytton’s mouth as she spoke. “And chilly too. I’m glad I got my warm cloak out before we arrived. If this is summer in Kronaberg I’d rather not be around for winter.” The little blonde straightened her hat and looked around. “Where is the porter?”

Miss Brown shook her head. “There doesn’t seem to be anyone around.”

“Of course there is someone around, silly. Someone has to take our luggage off the train.” Miss Felice-Lytton sniffed at the absurdity of Miss Brown's statement.

A sudden thump sounded over the platform. Miss Felice-Lytton frowned. “That had better not be our luggage.” She raised her skirts a little and stomped furiously off in the direction the sound had come from.

As the sound of Miss Felice-Lytton’s footsteps retreated into the fog Miss Brown heard heavier footsteps approaching. They were irregular footsteps; the footsteps of someone who walked slowly, stopped, walked a little faster and stopped again before walking further. From the fog a stooped, elderly brunette emerged. Her grey hair hung over her shoulder in a neat braid.

As the porter came to a halt she dutifully tipped her cap and said: “Good evening ma’am” and looked back over her shoulder. Miss Brown looked too, curious to see what it was the porter was looking for but the fog prevented her from seeing anything. The porter looked at Miss Brown, wide-eyed, then peered over Miss Brown's shoulder into the fog there.

Miss Brown cleared her throat with some emphasis. “To the Queen’s Arms, please," she stated firmly.

The porter looked blankly at Miss Brown again. The young brunette felt annoyance bubbling up. This was not the way things were supposed to go. The porter ought to tip her cap and whistle over a few colleagues to arrange for the luggage to be carried onto a carriage that would take them to their inn. Instead the old porter jumped nervously, startled at the sound of Miss Felice-Lytton striding smartly back towards them.

“Well!” the blonde huffed. “It was our luggage indeed and not a soul about to take responsibility. They simply tossed our luggage onto the platform and left!” Then she noticed the porter behind Miss Brown. “You! See to it that our luggage is loaded onto a carriage, please. At once.” she snapped.

“Er...yes, ma’am.” The porter quickly hustled into the direction from which Miss Felice-Lytton had come.

“What a strange place,” Miss Felice-Lytton remarked. “I wonder where everyone is.” She sighed. "I suppose we had better find a carriage, darling. I don’t think someone is going to do it for us.”

The two girls walked into the fog in the direction they assumed to be the exit. Outside the station the streets were deserted and silent. Miss Brown looked at her watch. “I don’t understand,” she said. “It isn’t even ten p.m. yet. The train arrived on time.”

Miss Felice-Lytton touched her friend’s arm. “Do you hear that?”

“What?”

“That scraping sound.”

Miss Brown put her watch away and listened. Miss Felice-Lytton was right. From behind the girls the sound of something scraping on the ground became louder.

Suddenly Miss Felice-Lytton cried out and ran into the fog.

“Darling?” Miss Brown’s heart raced. Without thinking she dashed into the fog after her friend. Almost immediately she found the cause of Miss Felice-Lytton’s distress. It was the porter, was pulling their luggage over the ground towards the exit of the train station. Miss Felice-Lytton shook her finger in the porter's face, upbraiding the cowed brunette who stood more stooped than ever, twisting her cap in her big hands, allowing the fierce little blonde’s voluble reproach to wash over her as she nodded her head and tried fruitlessly to speak.

Miss Brown watched with mixed amusement and pity. It was like watching a parakeet scold a shaggy dog. "...and don't think I won't have a word with the District Governess about this...this gross dereliction of duty! Oh, it's a shame is what it is.”

“But, ma’am, 'scuse me ma’am. All the other girls went home, ma’am. It’s my old bones, ma’am. I can’t carry them big trunks all by myself anymore.” The porter looked defeated.

Miss Brown intervened. “Let me help you.” She picked up Miss Felice-Lytton’s trunk and moved it to the street side of the station. The elderly porter scuttled to and fro with hat boxes and suitcases, halting every so often to stare intently into the fog, as if she could penetrate it with the force of her gaze.

When Miss Brown put down her own trunk at the sidewalk the girls heard a carriage approaching.

The muffled clatter on the cobblestones sounded rather alarming in the deserted street. After a moment a shambling black form lurched out of the fog, quickly resolving itself into the figure of an enormous black horse drawing an equally black carriage. The driver sat huddled under a hairy-looking cloak.

Unconsciously Miss Felice-Lytton had stepped closer to Miss Brown, bumping into her with a sharp gasp as the brunette stepped forward and raised her hand, motioning the driver to stop.

“The Queen’s Arms Inn please, driver.” Miss Brown called firmly.

The driver’s head swivelled slowly to observe the two girls and the porter who stood as if nailed to the ground by fear. The carriage came to a halt.

“I am not taking on any passengers, Miss.” The driver said softly but without apology.

Miss Brown, who had felt rather chilly and uneasy up till now felt heat rising from her toes to her head. “What?"

“It is time to go home. My family worries when I stay out in weather like this.”

“And you will leave us standing here in the street? Is there a storm coming? Is there some obscure religious prohibition against aiding travellers? Our suitcases are thrown off the train, I have to carry my own trunks to the street and now you refuse outright to take us to our lodgings. I am getting a nice little first impression, I must say. What do you suggest we do now?” Miss Brown paused with her hands on her hips, glaring up at the form under the shaggy cloak.

Unmoved, the driver shrugged. “Maybe the porter will take you to the Queen’s Arms. It isn’t far.”

The porter jumped up with shout. "Oh no! No, you'll not keep me out in this...this unholy fog!" She turned around and ran heavily down the street. Her form quickly disappeared and the sound of her uneven footsteps was soon muffled.

Cocking her head slightly Miss Brown looked at the driver and raised her eyebrow. “And now?”

The driver sighed but wasted no time climbing down from the driving box. She gestured at the luggage. “I'll need your help with these, ma'am."

--

Not long afterward, the carriage stopped in front of the Queen’s Arms Inn. As Miss Brown stepped out she almost slipped on the wet cobblestones. In the fog she could barely make out the wooden sign hanging over the door. It showed a picture of two elegant arms that indubitably belonged to an equally elegant lady. The fringes of her dress were visible in the picture though the rest of the lady was not. On the hand of one of arms glistened a big diamond ring. These were not the kind of arms Miss Brown had envisioned when she heard the name of the Inn the first time. These were a much pleasanter kind of arms, really.

“Whoops!”

Miss Brown looked around the corner of the carriage just in time to see the driver catch Miss Felice-Lytton in her strong arms as the blonde's feet slipped on the wet cobbles. "Up you go, Miss. Mind the cobblestones there."

“Oh my! Are you all right, darling?” Miss Brown reached for Miss Felice-Lytton.

The blonde blushed and straightened her skirt. She took Miss Brown's proffered hand, tucked a loose strand of hair behind her ear and looked down at the cobblestones. “How can anyone walk on these stones sticking out?” She said crossly.

“This is what our streets are like, Miss.” The driver, who had been unloading the luggage before catching the blonde, nodded a thank-you as Miss Brown paid her. “The shoes you Southerners wear are too dainty. Girls here wear shoes with steady heels.”

Miss Brown looked at the driver’s shoes peeping out from under a thick woollen skirt that was, in Miss Brown's opinion, decidedly too short. They were steady lace up boots with broad one-inch heels. Miss Brown suddenly realised that the driver must be rather tall. She herself never wore less than two inch heels but this brunette towered over her.

And then there was that small expanse of leg between the boot top and the skirt that Miss Felice-Lytton was taking a little too much interest in. Miss Brown stepped between the blonde and the driver, who was climbing back up into the box.

“I wouldn’t stay out too long if I were you,” the driver warned, settling herself back under the hairy blanket. “Good night.” She slapped the reins and the carriage started with a rattle.

As the carriage drew away into the mist, the girls walked up to the door of the inn. Mellow light shone through the small mullioned windows and the sound of jolly voices and the clink of cutlery could be heard.

Miss Felice-Lytton put her hand on Miss Brown's arm. “Are you certain this is a proper establishment, darling?”

“Yes, quite certain.” Miss Brown cleared her throat and knocked on the door. Immediately the voices within muted. A few seconds later the door was opened wide by a sturdy-looking matron, well in her fifties. She eyed the two girls suspiciously. Two golden braids speckled with strands of white were coiled on the sides of her head. Miss Brown’s gaze was immediately drawn to her impressive bosom. She had never seen a matron wearing such a low cut garment.

“Yes?” the innkeeper said stonily.

“Good evening,” Miss Brown began. She felt heat rising up to her neck and cheeks.

The matron frowned and began to close the door. Suddenly Miss Brown remembered the doctor’s advice and without saying another word she stepped inside, dragging a startled Miss Felice-Lytton in with her.

“Darling!” the blonde gasped.

“Ladies, I bid you welcome to the Queen’s Arms.” The matron, who only seconds before had been closing the door to the two girls, suddenly beamed at them warmly . “I am Mistress Fernwald. And you are the Misses Beaufort I presume?”

The people sitting at the tables resumed their conversations, nearly drowning Miss Brown’s words in their sudden humming.

“Er, no.” Miss Brown stammered. “My name is Eliza Brown.”

Mistress Fernwald raised her eyebrows and then lowered them in the suspicious glower she had shown the girls earlier. “And who is this other girl? I thought you would come alone, Miss Brown. You never informed me of a…companion.”

The emphasis put on the word ‘companion’ made the heat rise to Miss Brown’s ears. This was the very sort of thing she had feared when Miss Felice-Lytton showed up at the train station that early morning in Loveton. Unfortunately she had not given it much consideration afterwards. She looked at her blonde friend. Miss Felice-Lytton blushed heavily and looked down.

“I am sorry.” Miss Brown cleared her throat nervously. “I did not mention it when I made the reservation. I mean... er... it was only later that it was decided. Last minute, one could say. My…er...my sister decided to come along the very last moment. Yes! You won’t believe what a bother it was arranging for the train tickets, not to mention her luggage." She gave a forced chuckle. "She has a lot of it. Don’t you, Agatha.”

Miss Felice-Lytton stared at her friend, horrified, and nodded slowly.

“So,” Miss Brown continued. “I brought my sister, Miss Agatha Brown. I do hope you do not mind too much, Mistress Fernwald.”

“Sisters?” Mistress Fernwald glared at the two girls. “So, separate bedrooms then?”

“Oh god, yes!” Miss Brown exhaled.

Miss Felice-Lytton’s face turned beet red.

“Hm.” The inn keeper squinted. “Yes, I can see the resemblance.” She smiled, good humour restored. “It is hard to tell sometimes with blondes and brunettes. You two have the same nose.”

Miss Brown looked at her friend’s nose. It was a long and straight nose. Miss Felice-Lytton had noble features as compared to her own unremarkable ones. Miss Felice-Lytton suddenly seemed very pale.

Mistress Fernwald continued: “I have a room free for your sister, Miss Brown. Not to worry. It is rather late, so I will show you to your rooms. Would you care for some dinner? I can have it brought up if you like. No need to trouble yourselves.”

The girls followed the matron up the stairs to their rooms. Before Miss Felice-Lytton went into her room she gave her friend a tremulous smile.

Miss Brown only hoped that the morning light would not change the matron’s mind about their noses.


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 Post subject: Re: THE MYSTERY OF THE WHITE TULIP (continues)
PostPosted: Thu November 5th, 2:51 pm 
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Such a fantastic story, Fräulein Landgrebe! Thank you for this new chapter. Kronaberg seems to be a very peculiar place - I wonder what it is in the night fog that brings out the fear in the local maidens?


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