I’m on the home straight with A Raging Madness. Ten more scenes, I think, and the mystery will unravel, but not before Alex and Ella have to decide what matters to them most.
They have several more surprises in store; the book has been a series of them, mostly nasty. They’re almost due a nice one. Almost. Meanwhile, one of the latest incidents has provided today’s excerpt.
As always, I invite you to post an excerpt on the day’s theme in the comments. Surprises. Of any kind: exciting, unpleasant, spoken or in action. Mine is snakes.
“No thank you, Miller. I have had sufficient to drink. Indeed, you can put the rest of this into the slop bucket.” Ella handed her cup to Miller.
“But you must have your chocolate, my lady. I made it especially for you.”
Ella looked at the cup, and almost picked it up. Whether it was her irritation with the maid’s insistence or her revulsion at the thought of any more liquid, she decided against it.
“No, Miller. I thank you for making it, but I will not drink it this afternoon. In fact, please do not make it unless I ask for it.”
For a moment, she thought the maid would argue some more, but Miller pressed her lips together and turned away to take the remains of the tea into the bedroom.
“Amy, I will have my wash now, darling. And you should find your room and freshen up from your journey.”
Ella was about to follow Miller when the maid screamed.
“Your Hounslow has won my admiration, Susan,” Alex told his sister over dinner after the fuss was all over. Hounslow had joined Jonno and Alex in recapturing the snakes Miller had released when she knocked the slop bucket over in her shock at its contents.
He was now directing an inch by inch search of the room to make sure they’d not missed any of the creatures, and proposed to spread the search to the whole house to prevent further nasty surprises. After he finished supervising the dinner service to his new employers and their guests.
Adders! They were shy creatures, on the whole, slithering away from an encounter with human beings. But, as Miller discovered, they would bite if they saw no alternative, such as if they were woken from hibernation as these were, disturbed with no way out except through a person.
The maid had been put to bed, her bite washed and Miller herself dosed with elderberry wine. Apart from some pain and swelling, she had not yet evinced symptoms of severe poisoning, but adder venom was not to be trivialised. Ella had set another maid to watch Miller, with a list of symptoms of which to beware.
The whole household was on alert to regard all receptacles with caution. Hounslow, however, had taken firm charge of incipient hysteria amongst the maids, and had fostered a competition in bravery amongst the footmen, grooms, and carpenters by suggesting the maids could depend on their protection.
“But how could the snakes have got there, Uncle Alex?” Amy asked.
Alex had just finished a frustrating and unproductive hour questioning servants and carpenters about who had been into the room, or seen carry the bucket or a bag that could have contained snakes. “I don’t yet know, Amy, but I intend to find out. Meanwhile, Jonno has gone into the village to see if he can find anyone who has recently uncovered a nest of the pests, and to borrow a couple of dogs to help search the house.”