Author of the Dido Kent mysteries
A Tale of Midwinter
'Well, you remember that it was the tenancy agreement for Bridge farm he had been consulting.'
'And you yourself have told me that Charles Boyd is in arrears with his rent.'
'By God I have!' he struck his knee as if understanding was dawning, but then a disappointing stupidity settled on his fine features. 'But I'm damned if I can see why…'
'Dorothy, your master summoned you here to tell you that he planned to close on your nephew – Charles Boyd was to lose Bridge Farm, was he not?'
Still Dorothy made no answer.
'And you could not allow that to happen could you? Your family have held that land for centuries, I am sure you are very much attached…'
'I never meant to harm him!' Dorothy suddenly flung back her head in terror. 'I only meant…'
'To make a bargain with him? That was your intention was it not?'
'Aye. And it was a fair bargain. I weren't to know the old gentleman would be took ill with the shock.'
'Upon my word, Dorothy! What was this bargain you made with my father?'
But the housekeeper only looked at Dido, waiting for her to speak.
'You undertook to reveal the Secret of Monkswood in return for a promise that your family might remain at Bridge Farm. That was it, was it not?'
There was a small nod, nothing more.
'You had been making your own investigations, and so when this threat burst upon you, you undertook to show old Mr Carew the clue to it all which was hidden here in this chamber.'
'There was another document!' cried Carew.
'There was indeed.' Dido stepped forward and laid her hand on the tapestry. 'It is hidden here.'
'Do you mean,' said Kate, 'that it is hidden behind the tapestry?'
'No. The clue is hidden in the tapestry. Here.' She laid her hand on the snake-tormented fellow and found that she rather enjoyed her friends' looks of puzzlement. But Robert Carew was being remarkably dull-witted. Those fine bright eyes ought to penetrate more deeply. There was no sound but for the wind fumbling at the casements. Dorothy raised her head – and Dido began to speak more quickly for she found that she did not wish to have the right of explanation stolen from her.
'This,' she said, pointing at the tapestry, 'which I had supposed to be the moon, is in fact no such thing…'
'Oh!' cried Kate jumping up and examining the pale disc more closely. 'It is the carving on the stone! It is the face of Lady Olwen!'
'That is the clue!' shouted her brother. 'The treasure is hid by the stone and they have dug it up!'
'Dorothy and her nephew have certainly taken advantage of your absence in Bath to make a search. You have dug on the hillside, have you not?'
'Oh yes.' Dorothy gave her gauntest smile. 'And you may have everything we have dug up, Master Robert.'
'You see,' Dido continued quickly (for it really would be too bad if the tiresome woman pre-empted her tale now), 'the tapestry not only reveals the place of Monkswood's secret, it explains it's nature too.' She turned to Kate. 'Miss Carew, what was the name of your ancestor?'
'But in the chronicles he is also given another name. He is 'Sir Dunstan that was called…'
'Yes, quite so. In fact Sir Dunstan was a cripple. And here he is,' she said, laying her hand once more on the wall-hanging. 'What appears to be a pall-mall mallet in his hand is, in fact, a crutch.'
'Why is the poor fellow surrounded by snakes?' demanded Carew. But his sister put a knuckle to her lip and appeared to be thinking very hard.
'They are not snakes,' said Dido. 'Tapestry is an uncertain way of picturing forth the world is it not? It is little wonder that today we prefer the effect of paint on canvas. But as I stood beside the carving of Lady Olwen this afternoon and was –' she sedulously avoided Mr Carew's eye, '– and was for a moment very still, I caught a sound which explains the true nature of this picture. In that moment I heard an unseen stream flowing close by.'
'Oh! They are not snakes,' cried Kate, 'it is a depiction of…'
'Water,' said Dido firmly. 'Running water. The treasure which Sir Dunstan had found here was an ancient holy well – a well of healing water. The gentleman waves his crutch, not to fend off snakes, but to prove that he is healed.'
My dear matter-of-fact Kate is delighted with the notion of there being healing waters at Monkswood, wrote Dido later that night. She has travelled with her mother to almost every spa in Britain and knows how eager sick folk are to find cures. She is of the opinion that, properly managed, Lady Olwen's well may indeed restore the fortunes of the Carews.
But her brother is disappointed. I believe he has cherished a little boy's dream of buried gold and jewels all his life and resents my having stolen from him the hope of getting rich without any exertion. 'By God!' says he, 'Trust a woman to spoil everything with her meddling', as if, by revealing the truth, I am somehow responsible for its unsatisfactory nature.
However, I find I do not much care about his opinion…
Dido stopped writing and looked across at the tapestry with a friendly smile. Tomorrow she would return to the sheep-pasture. She wished to thank the Lady Olwen in person for revealing to her the truth about Monkswood – and about her own heart.