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Two So Far
In this episode:
Cuppa with Shirley
Dining Room Tape
Series Two So Far...
Stoney Grove owners Ann Simmons and Simon Tinsley split, and Ann returns to the Caribbean with friends Amy and James. After a short visit, she decides to find a place to live on Nevis and explore the "other" Stoney Grove, a ruined eighteenth-century plantation house. Doug Wood, an American ex-pat, befriends her, renting her a house, providing her with e-mail service, and giving her lessons in sailing, dancing and, well, who knows what else...Ann's more serious hours have been spent transcribing a document that she found at Nevis. It's an autobiographical account of the life of Stoney Grove's first lady, Fanny Rawlins Blake. Only part of the manuscript is on the island. The rest is hidden in a safe in Basil's bedroom. Emma breaks the code, finds the missing document, and uncovers a journal as well. She gives these to Simon, who carries them to Nevis in an unexpected visit.
In the months following Anns departure, Simon has decided to channel his energies into making the house an important tourist destination. He's set up a series of regular meetings with the staff and other assorted residents of the property, and is working through a plan. After presenting a number of options, most of them unpopular, he's decided to pursue a policy of creating a "virtual house" that will allow visitors to see each room's history at whatever period strikes their fancy. While he's ironing out a few minor technical glitches, Emma has organized a group of volunteers to lead old-fashioned tours. Simon is also in negotiations with a production studio who want to film an upcoming mini-series on the grounds of the estate.
Simon's longtime friend Phil is suffering a bit of a mid-life crisis. He's quit his job, left his wife, and come to stay at Stoney Grove until he decides what to do next. After a quick trip to Nevis, where he and Ann are reconciled, Simon decides to try his new-found personal skills to "sort out" Phil and Caroline.
Emma, when not giving tours, is prying into the more recent history, determined to uncover the story of John White's origins. John, housekeeper Shirley Johnson's grandson, learns that Jerry Anderson, a village antiques-dealer serving time in prison for theft, is his father. Jerry and Emma suspect that John's grandfather may not be Shirley's husband Martin, but rather Montgomery Hall, a former owner of the estate. In searching for answers, Emma finds a locked box in the safe in Basil's bedroom. In this episode, she opens it...
Cuppa with Shirley (or Martin)
Come in, come in. Dont be shy! Lord knows no one else around here has been. The place is like bloody Trafalgar Square today, and Im left to clean up the droppings. Still, I dont mind. Everything will be tidy soon enough. Well, sit down, do. Just give me a minute and Ill fetch you a nice hot cup of tea.
Well then. You havent heard? Sergeant Archer and his mates just left this minute; I would have thought youd have passed them in the hall. They came to arrest Emma Knytleigh, they did. You know, the historian. Well, she may look sweet as one of Martins apples in October, but shes rotten to the core, is that one.
Last autumn she started meddling in my business, and I warned her then,
I did, that thered be trouble if she continued. You see, I had something on her,
didnt I? Bobby Archer knows a bloke who worked in the juvenile detention house,
where they send young hooligans and addicts and such. Out in Boxbolton, I think he said it
was. It turns out she spent two years there. Arrested on drug charges, she was. Buying and
selling. She would have been just a girl then, was sixteen when they let her out.
Well, like I said, I warned her against her meddling ways. But she wouldnt have any of it, would she? Went right on, talking to Jerry Anderson, having my own grandson turn against me, upsetting Frank. So when I found drugs in her room, I called Bobby right away. Cannabis and cocaine. To think whats been going on in that room! And with my John about! Im not having that sort of thing in my house. Good riddance to her, I say.
John certainly saw the light once the police showed up. Packed his bags and left this very afternoon. Still, its best that he learned the truth now, before things went any further.
Frank doesnt know yet. Poor man. Weve really lost him since Emma found his birth certificate. I dont know if hes read the letters, or even knew about them. He just sits in his room, staring at the walls or muttering to himself. Ive been carrying dinner down to the Hermitage for him, but to be honest hes hardly touched a bite in the last week. Im afraid well have to call for the doctor if he doesnt get better soon.
Oh, and if youre looking for is lordship, hes gone round the station. Seems that Bobby had a few questions for him. Not sure why, really. Said something about a Caribbean cartel.
Well, well. All in all its been quite a day, and Im done in. Fancy another cuppa?
It was great to hear your voice last night. I was leafing through my diary this morning and read about the day we met. Do you remember? Heres what I said:
Life took one of those unexpected twists today--I met Simon Tinsley. A great improvement, I suspect, over Jake Waterman, who I was supposed to show around the Museum of Art but who got sick at the last moment and had to cancel. Simon was my consolation prize. We spent the afternoon at the museum and most of the evening at Pizzaria Venezia. Hes straightforward and witty and smart. I like him. Saturday were going biking in the park at Wissahickon. I felt really comfortable with him, in spite of the fact that we have almost nothing in common. He's great!
Our lives have changed so completely in less than two years, havent they?
Youre right, I am happy. I thought I was moving on, getting over you, "starting a new life" and all those other post-relationship cliches that people tell themselves. But once I saw you again, I remembered what real happiness feels like. It doesnt make sense for us to be apart. Im not ready to move back permanently, but I want to be with you. Im thinking about coming to England for a few weeks. Sound good? I miss you ;)
From SimonDear Ann,
Great to hear your voice again, you sounded happy and I wish you'd come here and be happy also.
Funny thing is, I remember our first meeting a little differently. I don' think I ever told you, but Jake wasn't sick. He just didn't fancy wandering around a museum with a 'stuffy uptight medieval historian' so I offered to go instead. I was thinking what the hell, she can't be that bad, but as soon as I saw you I thought silly sod he doesn't know what he's missing. I had fun telling him about you the next Monday. I had been to the Philly Art Museum before, but I loved going around with you. It was strange, we had different backgrounds, different interests yet I still felt like we had so much in common. I don't think there is anything like that feeling when you are starting a relationship. It's scary and fun at the same time and there is the exquisite agony of uncertainty.
I want to see you again
Actually there's a problem!
It's been bedlam here. Emma was carted off by Sergeant Archer, who was at his most pompous. Somehow he got wind that she had drugs at the house and turned up with a search warrant. The thing is, he found some pot and a quantity of white powder that they think is cocaine!
It gets worse.
Firstly Emma has a record, some juvenile detention centre thing when she was younger. The charge? Drug possession. And now Archer, getting ideas above his station (they're re-running Miami Vice here), suddenly decides that it's not just Emma, doing a bit on the side, but a vast drug cartel. It would almost be funny, but now I have to go down to the station to 'answer a few questions.'
If that's not enough he put two and two together and got seven and has now decided that your friend James is running a drug ring though Puckering! Black guy, Caribbean, I mean it's obvious, isn't it! Thing is, I think he now has you involved. In some twisted way our separation was all a plot to enable you to act as a shipper to me. Who I am supposed to be selling the stuff to is beyond me. I just can't see the Village Hall full of seventy-year old crack heads or the church wardens snorting coke!
So hold off on the tickets. I really want to see you but let this die down first.
I'll be in touch
p.s. I know this is completely out of context but I won the 'Most Promising Newcomer' award from the Puckering cricket club. I was dead chuffed!
The church has gone digital! Part of a new program to reach out to the community. Trouble is almost none of my parishioners are on-line, except you. Fascinating this new technology, isn't it? You send off a message into the air and wait for a response, rather like prayer. Still waiting for an email from the Big Fella, but perhaps this is the Devil's medium! It's amazing what you can find on the web, isn't it? I had no idea that people did such things. Still I did find a rather jolly reference for my Sunday sermon on false idols.
Glad you and Ann are talking things through. You should get that girl back here, and not just because she's been so helpful to the church restoration (though could you send me her email?) Perhaps we'll have the two of you in church someday soon.
Rev. Nigel Banks
Absolute oversight on my part that you were not included in the eleven for last Sunday. As you will have seen, it was rained off so no harm done. I'll pencil you in for the next game. We've two young lasses playing (against my vote I can tell you!) so we'll make sure you're batting at least number 9.
It is my pleasure to announce to you that you were awarded 'Most Promising Newcomer' for your performance last season in our final game. I think with some good guidance you could be a useful contributor to our team again this season, and I hope to see you in the nets on Thursday.
Hope I can also count on your support for the upcoming village elections.
Captain, Puckering Irregulars Cricket Club
Im sorry to have interfered with you, Frank and John. You can be quite certain that I wont get involved in any of your private concerns in the future.
Ive finished reading through Fannys journal. Combined with her manuscript, it tells an amazing story. I wont give it away, but Ive enclosed a hint--some Guinea powder. Its used here as a headache remedy. I think Fanny administered a version of it, in a much more concentrated form, for more than that. See if you can find someone to analyze it.
In any event, heres the latest transcription. More to follow shortly.
Are you crazy? You can't send stuff like this through the mail! You should have had Simon carry it back with him.
I hope it doesn't become a problem. I'm not sure who I can bring it to. I'll check around and let you know what I find out.
The Birth of Ned and Its Consequences
To my relief, Mr. Blake was often away from the estate, conducting business in London, and I gradually took up an acquaintance with Mr. William Heath, the architect who had designed the house and was completing work on the pleasure grounds. Though he shared the same given name as my husband, in this alone they were allied. Here was a man of broad knowledge, great generosity of spirit and delicate sentiment. There was about him a sense of sadness that I shared. He was a man who felt deeply. We began our acquaintance talking about the placement of shrubberies and the lay of the walks about the lake, but gradually began to converse more widely on botany, history, English literature and music. It was not long before the lasting bonds of friendship united us.
Being desirous of securing the goodwill of the neighborhood, Mr. Blake hosted a series of dinners at Stoney Grove during our first season of residence. Whilst adept at seeing to the comforts of the bachelor guests that my father had entertained during my youth, I was uncomfortable in the society of ladies, for I associated with them all of the ill will and contempt that I had experienced from their sisters and aunts on Nevis. However, not wishing to gratify their expectations of inexperience and provincialism, I observed their habits keenly, and learned to emulate them. Soon our household was deemed acceptable, and I was welcomed into the company of the Puckering worthies.
During your infancy, Mr. Blake began to entertain misconceptions about the nature of the relationship that had sprung up between Mr. Heath and myself. A chance comment by one of the household servants aroused his jealousy, and he banished Mr. Heath from the property. I was subjected to a steady stream of accusations, and as the time drew closer for me to deliver his second child, he threatened dire consequences if it should prove to resemble the darkly handsome features of Heath rather than his own common visage.
The child, when he came, resembled neither my friend nor my husband. Instead, through some mysterious power that sought to recall my early ancestry, the babe had the beautifully brown skin and eyes of my grandmother. Prior to his birth, I had settled on the name of Ned should I bear a son. I thought it the best tribute to my dear brother I could give when I first looked at the child's innocent new face. Yet whilst I greeted the tiny newcomer with great joy, I also knew great fear. I was ignorant of my husband's familiarity with my own history, and I had taken no pains to enlighten him about it. About his displeasure, there could be no doubt, and I dreaded his return to Stoney Grove.
Mr. Blake was away from home for a fortnight after the birth of the child, and as each day passed, the dread of the inevitable meeting grew within me. My fears were not extravagant, for when the father saw the son, he flew into a great rage, and swore to kill me and the babe. I was subjected to a thousand curses, and he paced the room furiously, racking his brain to arrive at a satisfactory solution to the paternity of the child. As no persons of colour lived in the neighborhood, he could not comprehend how I had betrayed the marriage vows. I pleaded with him, promising to solve the mystery if he would spare the child. To this he eventually agreed, his curiosity overcoming even his abhorrence of the infant or myself, and I explained to him the circumstances of my birth.
To this intelligence he could find no quick response, could place no blame, for he had never enquired about my family connections before, and I had never lied to him. The child, clearly, was his own, though how he would bear the shame of it was not to be seen. He departed my company, and went to brood in solitude, whilst I fell into exhausted sleep.
When I awoke and called for the nurse to bring me the child, she did not come. I rang for the maid, and receiving no answer, set out in search of some aid. In this I failed, however, for the door was securely locked, and I was a prisoner in my husband's house.
How many days passed in that state, I do not know. Periodically the nurse brought me food or drink, but I could not eat, thinking of my poor baby starved for want of his mother's milk. When it became clear that my health was endangered, the nurse sent word to my husband. "The child is dead," he declared, without preamble. "Don't be a fool, Fanny. You must eat. You've still got one child to look after, and she needs her mother." He paused, and then roughly added, "And you need not fear for your own life. I shall not die without an heir." And with these words, he quitted my company.
I did not see him again for many weeks, for following his callous declaration, he left the estate altogether. I cared not where he had gone, nor for how long. I cared little for anything. I sat in my rooms, nursing my hatred for him and for life in this foreign place. Carefully I reviewed my history, examined my actions, held myself accountable for the death of my son. What had I done wrong? How could I have saved him?
My life, upon reflection, had been one of virtue, obedience and humility. I had been a loyal daughter, a diligent scholar, a loving sister, a faithful wife. After painful self reflection, I resolved that my only sin in life had been this: that I had seen injustice and cruelty in the world, but had always thought it beyond my duty to oppose it. In my birth, I was blameless, nor should I feel guilt, for who had loved me more than my grandmother, my brother and my father? That society sought to punish me for the affections that passed between my parents was neither just nor defensible. That such condemnation of affection had resulted in the death of my son was insupportable. It could not stand unanswered.
The resolution of my deliberations, when it came, neither surprised nor frightened me. If a blameless child could die at the hands of his father, surely this cruel man could expect no better sentence, delivered by the hands of his wife. In short, I resolved to kill Mr. Blake, your father, quickly, elegantly, and without mercy.The English countryside was still unfamiliar territory to me, and although I settled on poisoning as the most efficacious means of arriving at my goal, the agent of his death eluded me for several days. Then the arrival of a long-awaited package put the question to rest. Some months earlier, I had written to Miss Stewart to beg her the favour of sending me the seeds and tubers of some of my favourite flowers from my father's estate. With the aid of Mr. Heath, I was intent on raising them in the greenhouse. The comfort I had sought in the gentle company of their blossoms and sweet aromas was replaced by the gratification I felt when it became clear that several amongst them were capable of delivering Mr. Blake from this world to the next with great subtlety and swiftness.
Your father himself removed another obstacle to his demise, for being displeased with the unfinished state of the grounds, and realizing that his judgment of Mr. Heath had been unfounded, he recalled the architect to work. With his innocent assistance, I set about sowing the seeds and nurturing them to maturity. Whilst this undertaking delayed the achievement of my aim by several months, it filled me with a deep satisfaction at the appropriateness of the punishment.
As the plants grew and flourished in their glass prison, I considered the method of administering the fatal dose. I resolved that it would not be food-borne, for the risk was too great that some vestige of it would be consumed by one other than the intended victim. However, bearing no great love for members of the household, who had refused me aid during my hour of greatest need, I decided that a brief bout of illness shared amoungst them would not be undeserved.
I completed my preparations, and awaited the signs that would set my plan in motion. In early November, I awoke to a rainy, windy morning, and I knew that by nightfall my husband would be dead.
Dining Room Tape
Emma: You know I think there are laws against this.
Simon: All you are doing is recording their reconciliation - for posterity.
Emma: For the divorce proceeding, you mean.
Simon: Emma, trust me, after a month with him I really want Phil to go back to Caroline. He's lost without her, he doesn't know what to do with himself. Hes driving me nuts.
Emma: Well he seems to be happy enough in the grounds watching Evelyn dig.
Simon: Well, let's just keep that one to ourselves, shall we? Now set up the tape and run along.
Emma: Oh, it's running. I'm not getting in trouble with the police over illegal taping! You and Ann should get back together, you both live in your own little worlds.
Simon: The quiche is good.
Phil: Oh, very good.
Phil: These potatoes are excellent.
Simon: Martin grows them, you know.
Simon: More wine, Caroline?
Caroline: No thank you.
Phil: Yes please, since Im not driving.
Caroline: Well thats obvious, since it seems youve made your home here!
Simon: Well thats what we want to talk about, isnt it Phil? Coming home?
Caroline: Well Phil, have you anything to say?
Simon: Go on Phil, what we talked about?
Phil: Right. Well, thing is, I mean. Blimey, this would be easier if you didnt seem quite so hostile.
Caroline: Im sorry. I have to drive across England to have dinner with my husband. My husband who left me with no warning and a note about camels. My husband who now seems to be the ventriloquist doll of his so-called best friend. I think Ive got some anger, and I think Ill keep it. What do you have to say to that?
Phil: I dont know.
Simon: Perhaps I can speak.
Caroline: Oh yes, you can speak again. We were happy until you came back. But after ignoring us for years, all of a sudden you needed someone to show off your money to. We didnt win the lottery, Simon. We still have to work for a living, but you dont care, do you? Dragging Phil away from work, giving him ideas, making him feel unsatisfied with his life, unsatisfied with his wife. We were fine. We were fine, werent we, Phil?
Phil: Yes, we were. Caroline, it wasnt you. But suddenly it seemed there was a whole world out there that we werent seeing.
Caroline: I thought Simon was the one seeing the world. Tell me Simon, did you leave America because of the money, or had you just run out of people to sleep with?
Simon: I met Ann.
Caroline: Oh yes, and we know what a great job you made of that relationship! Look Im going. Phil, call me when you get a voice of your own.
Simon: Well it was a first meeting. Itll be easier next time. I think she still loves you. More wine?
8th meeting of the Steering Committee for Stoney Grove
Attendees: Phil Porkridge, Shirley Johnson, Martin Johnson, Evelyn Prosser, Mr. Tinsley Snr., Simon Tinsley, Chester Vyse, Emma Knytleigh, John White.
Simon: Well, first order of business is to figure out what all this stuff is in the box. Pretty disappointing I thought. Frank not here to contribute?
Shirley: Poor lamb is wasting away. Good job some of us care. Ive been taking him his food, but hes hardly eating. Skin and bones, he is. Well it was the shock, wasnt it?
Emma: He already knew Shirley, it shouldnt have been a shock. Remember?
Simon: Well, lets go through it all.
Emma: I can save you some time. Ive already examined it.
Mr. Tinsley Sr.: Go on then. What did you find?
Emma: I found Franks birth certificate, of course, a letter from his adoptive parents, thanking Ellen Hall for letting them have the baby, a photograph, and some dried flowers.
Shirley: What kind of flowers?
Emma: I dont know, rosebuds and babys breath, I think. Theyre all falling apart.
Martin: Be careful you dont crush them, miss. I might have a look later on.
John White: Smashing job, Em. Youve turned into a real detective!
Simon: Yeah, right. So, this is the big treasure. Some homely woman and a bunch of dead flowers. And we waited weeks for this?
Phil: I thought there might be a few thousand quid tucked away. You know, illicit gains or something.
Chester: Nothing about the house, then? That's a disappointment.
Evelyn: I dont know. All these things are a part of the puzzle. Do you suppose the woman was Franks adoptive mum?
Emma: Maybe. Frank wont let me in to see him, so I havent been able to show him the picture.
Shirley: I can save you another trip. Thats not Mrs. Churchill. She does look familiar though. I fancy Ive seen that face somewhere before.
Emma: Do you know who his father was?
Shirley: Thats not for me to say. Hell tell you when hes ready. The root of all his problems, if you ask me. Having to go through life with that burden.
Evelyn: Come on Shirley, out with it!
Martin: Go on woman, theyll find out soon enough.
Shirley: Well Im not one to gossip, but all right then. His father was a German. Shot down during the war, he was. A POW hereabouts, and Ellen, thats Miss Ellen Hall, fell in love with him. He was a good bit younger, as you can imagine. As far as I can tell, he went back without ever knowing she was in the family way.
Evelyn: So she put Frank up for adoption?
Shirley: Well, a women in her position. Its not like now, when everyone is an unmarried Mum.
John: Did Frank know Ellen? Did he ever meet his real mother? Or his dad?
Simon: All right, Franks business, I think. Enough time wasted on memory lane. Lets get back to it. Oh, bloody hell, what is it now?
Sergeant Bobby Archer: Im sorry to interrupt, but Ive come to arrest Miss Emma Knytleigh. If you could just step away from the table, Miss Knytleigh, and put your hands behind your back.
Emma: What? Whats going on?
Simon: You cant just barge in here and arrest Emma! I demand to see some authorisation! What are the charges?
Sergeant Archer: Possession of narcotics. Thats drugs. We searched her room and found cannabis, or pot in the common vernacular, and cocaineyou know, the white stuff they snort.
Simon: Who gave you permission to search her room?
Sergeant Archer: I went through the proper channels, Mr. Tinsley. Its not her first offense, you know, and Ive been keeping an eye on this house for months now. You know, it's a mistake to underestimate the criminal mind.
Emma: I dont know what you found, but I dont have any drugs
Sergeant Archer: Just you come along quietly. You can make a statement back at the station. Theres a good girl. And Ill be back to ask a few more questions.
Simon: She's not here Emma, you know that.
Sergeant Archer: Come along, come along.
(Archer and Emma leave the room).
Simon: This is outrageous! How could he possibly have found anything in her room?
Shirley: He didnt. I did. Found a stash on her desk, and some more in the cupboard. And Im not ashamed to say that I called him right away, I did. You might think otherwise, but I'll not have that sort of thing in this house. Not with my grandson around.
John: Oh, way to go Gran!