Darby squeezed his fists where they were tied behind his back, feeling that somehow it helped him to think clearer. A clumsy movement beside him brought round a faint hope. Peter Quickenhelm! If Darby could only get Peter to be the object of the panther’s attention for a moment, he might have a chance to slip away. After all, wasn’t it a well-known zoological fact that panthers would stop and gobble whatever you dropped behind you? At least that’s how they told it in the books—that’s why people escaping from panthers often arrived to safety wearing no shoes or hat or jacket or—sometimes—anything at all. Yes. It was an applauded tactic in the old world. Perhaps beasts were similar here.
Darby drove his heel into Peter’s side—hard.
Darby took this to mean “what’s the matter” and since it also meant that Peter had regained consciousness, he smiled to himself and kicked again.-The Scarlet-Gypsy Song
“Adoniram—you simply can’t be letting Darby and Bertram go to battle—you can’t. It’s…it’s…indecent! If it was happening in London someone would call the Agency.”
The pen stopped. The head rose. The eyes glared. “My love—it is not happening in London. There has not been a battle in the streets of the Capital since the time of your grandfather. Therefore, I would greatly appreciate your silence and a cup of tea. Miss Woodruff—er, Lady Cecelia. Would you be so good as to teach my wife the proper way to do it?”
Mrs. Macefield fluffed her skirt and pursed her lips. “I am certainly capable of making a cup of tea, Adoniram.”
“Doubtless. Nevertheless, the need of tea is imminent and one or the other of you must make it, or I’m afraid the boys will be done for. You’ve no idea what a horrid business it is, writing a battle. I’ve no more idea of what happens in a battle than…than a cockroach does! There are only so many synonyms for ‘hack’ and ‘thrust’ and ‘parry,’ you know. They’ve been hacking and thrusting and parrying for several chapters now and I feel quite exhausted for them.”-Ibid.
Diccon shifted and gave a smile that was both shy and roguish. “In faith, my little sister, you showed yourself a bit of a vixen.”
Adelaide laughed and curtsied with an arch pursing of her lips. “A fox caught in a trap is never over-careful of her manners.-Ibid.
Darby hugged Diccon a bit tighter and shrugged. “I’m fine—I was just wondering if this daft plan would work.”
“Catching the panther in his lair, you mean?”
“Right.” Darby felt Diccon’s muscles rippling under his shirt, and it inspired him a bit of manly courage. “ ‘Course I’m not scared—I’d just think Growlbeard would be too smart for this sort of trick.”
Diccon laughed. “He is a clever beast, but a cat all the same—likes naps in the sunshine and doing his dirty deeds by night. Coming upon him like this in the full light of the morning—we’re like as not to catch him.-Ibid.
Darkness, punctured with the honey-gold globes of lamplight, filled the banqueting hall. Echoes of that feast before the battle still seemed to whisper in the corners, discussing this new, half-somber celebration. On the dais the King sat, Lord Diccon Quarry at his left hand—Captain Sparrow’s seat at his right empty, as is the custom when a beloved man has died. The Macefield children fanned out on either hand—even the babies—and waited in silence.
For it was silent in the hall—very silent, with a warm sense of expectation that was curiously in keeping with the gold-stitched gloaming of the hall. Lad, Dear-Heart, and Agnes waited like kindly wraiths in the deeper shadows at the end of the table.-Ibid.
“Oh, Diccon,” she whispered to herself. She had not thought he was by. She had not meant for him to hear those sorrowful words, but his rough hand closed around hers a moment later and she looked up to see him beside her. He did not look at her, and he did not speak, but his hand held hers and she knew all was right.-Ibid.
Tears ran down Adelaide’s cheeks and blurred the sight of the king’s noble face, pooling it together with the shimmering, honey-colored globes. She tried to stop her tears but it was no use. This fierce ache was familiar somehow, and she had to weep. Why was it familiar? Adelaide could not say, but as she mused on the king’s words it came to her. He had said it was The End…this feeling was that of turning the last page of a splendid book, only magnified and heightened and altogether unbearable. Adelaide sobbed once, and it thrummed through the hush of the hall, startling her into silence again.
Diccon put his hand on her shoulder and squeezed it. He leaned over and put his mouth close to her ear. “There now, sister-mine. We are only parted by the cover of a book. When you miss me—or any of us—too too much, you have only to ask your father to read to you. I’ll be waiting there for you…there amongst the pages, and you will always be able to find me.” There was a catch in his voice, and when Adelaide wiped her own tears away she saw that Diccon’s jaw was set in a determined line and a lone tear glistened on his cheek as Jupiter or Mar glistens in a winter sky.-Ibid.
Gone was the dusk-dim light of the banquet hall. Gone were the honey-gold globes. Gone were Diccon and Dear-Heart and all the rest, and Adelaide saw she stood on the strangely familiar marble staircase of…home.-Ibid.