Lady Violet called for a car. She kept no chauffeur of her own, but relied on the big house. Since few were in residence right now her request posed no problem. She asked for a smaller 'machine,' something inconspicuous, so they sent the Crosley, a somewhat compact, dark grey sedan. Denker asked if she needed any help, after all, trips into York were almost as good as trips into London. The dowager said - Not today. And please play nice with your little brother while I'm out... The lady's maid pretended not to notice. Sprat was cloistered in his room typing out his column anyway. She wouldn't knock. Wouldn't give him the satisfaction. So she perfunctorily straightened up the dowager's dressing table and holed up in her own room with a copy of Lady Chatterly's Lover.
York is a special place, a classic English city, if you will. There's the Minster (the cathedral), the university, not to mention a warren of streets going back to the middle ages and newer thoroughfares to rival anything in Liverpool, or London. In a sense, it's the second capital of England. London serves the south and York serves the north. That's how it is. At one time, centuries ago, Northerners remembered legends of a 'Raven King,' an all powerful wizard, who surreptitiously ruled from there. But Lady Violet searched for memories of a different sort.
She had the driver take her to a narrow hidden street deep within the university district lined by tiny row houses. He helped her exit the car and climb the three, white marble steps...
The dowager said - Wait here please. If you must, there's a nice little café around the corner, with a 'necessary' and quite serviceable coffee, but either way, I shall be finished within thirty minutes.... Then she took out a key, opened the door and went in.
The small front room was shrouded in gloom. A few pieces of furniture hid under white sheets and the aged wood floor creaked softly. The old woman looked around, took the measure of the place and sighed. She touched the small mantelpiece and for a few moments stood lost in thought. Then she went into the kitchen, a basic affair with an old iron stove, a small primitive sink and not much else. There was a narrow closet on one wall, a pantry of sorts. The door stuck, but she managed to get it open. The shelves were empty and dry. The green paint largely gone, or absorbed into the wood. But the back wall wasn't solid. There was a small square etched into the surface. Maybe at one time, when the paint was fresh, it was less visible, but those days were long gone. The dowager opened a squeaky tableware drawer, took out a corroded butter knife and pried it open revealing a wood-lined hidey-hole containing a small metal box. She took it out, held it to her lips for a few moments and put it in her pocketbook.
Then she carefully put everything in its place, as best she could, went back into the front room, took the sheet off a slat-backed rocking chair and sat down, staring at the dust motes in a thin sunbeam sneaking in between the almost closed draperies.
A bit later there was a knock on the door. She got up, sighed and opened it..... The chauffeur said - I just wanted your ladyship to know I was out here.
Her ladyship whispered - Thank you. I'm ready.....
He helped her into the car and drove off, just as the cathedral bells began to chime.
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