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Dear Amy,

Another chapter in the continuing saga. The night I last wrote, we were eating dinner by candlelight (the power was still out), and Chester came in with this crazy old man that he’d found wandering around outside. It turns out he’s the same nut who had been sending Simon and me threatening letters demanding money, and whose nephew had written to warn us that he was on the loose. I must admit I freaked out when he came in (I've never actually screamed in fright before). He turned out to be harmless, and we gave him a pickled onion sandwich and asked him to sit down.  He quickly lost interest in me when he "discovered" a woman --quite invisible to the rest of us--in the corner of the room. The two had a quiet discussion, or at least one of them did, until it was time for bed. A very surreal evening.

It actually gets worse.  The old codger stayed at the house for a few more days, chatting with Martin and puttering around with Simon's dad, and then one morning, they found him dead in a chair in the dining room.  No one knows how long he was there, or why, but they had to send for Dr. Waterfall  to take him away. I was really sad to hear about it.  Not that I knew him, but he seemed like a nice old man.

Anyway, I spent several days in Puckering while Simon was ill, staying with Nigel Banks (the vicar) so I could be close to the hospital. It took a few days for us to get the roads cleared up and the phones back in working order, and I was afraid that if I went home I might not be able to get back in time if he got worse. He’s much better now, although a bit thin. It was touch and go for a while there. No one is quite sure what was wrong with him. He underwent all kinds of nasty tests, and in the end the best that anyone could offer was that he had some as-yet-unidentified but virulent form of flu. No one else at Stoney Grove got sick, which is odd, but after witnessing what it did to him, I’m glad we escaped!

Since coming home, I’ve received a letter from Tia, and have sent Emma on a mission to the Essex County archives. It seems clear that there is indeed a relationship between my painting of George Rawlins and your Stoney Grove on Nevis. Emma should be able to tie down the details from this side of the Atlantic. In the meantime, I got a notice from Christie’s that a portrait of Fanny RAWLINS Blake is coming up for auction. Another connection? I’d really love to return it to the house, but I’m not sure we can afford it right now. I’ll have to talk to Simon and see if we can scrape together some money, or even borrow some. I’ve been trying to live frugally here, but everything is so expensive.

So you've gone snorkeling?  How was it? I’ve been trying to imagine being hot --I mean, really sweaty. I spent at least an hour yesterday remembering when I was a kid and we stayed with my Aunt Elaine in Atlanta and the air conditioner broke down. It was 80 last week and everyone in Puckering was complaining about the heat wave. I went out and sat in the sun, but try as I might, couldn’t muster a sweat. I MISS the summer!!

I miss tree frogs and fireflies and cookouts and peanut butter sandwiches. I tried to get Shirley to make some iced tea, but after she tasted it (under extreme duress), she spat it out and said that nothing that vile was coming out of HER kitchen. Martin’s managed a few fresh fruits in the spirit of the season, but it’s not the same as watermelon or corn-on-the-cob on a sultry summer’s night. Still, the flowers are glorious here, and the lake is a vivid shade of blue…

I’m looking forward to a full account of your weekend jaunt, and to seeing you (and James?) in October.  Any time that month is fine with us--just let me know.