A Death In the House, Part Two

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Summary:
Ever wonder if Mr Smith stopped in for tea? Pure insanity part two.

A/N: (Spoilers ahead...about the Stranger.) This is actually a very serious fic. Except…not. Half and half I think. I wrote this mainly because 'Death comes to dinner' is one of my favorite episodes, and I just find it hilarious if it happened again. Takes place...I'm not sure, actually. It's a bit insane...

Disclaimer:
I don't own Mulberry. Thank you ever so much fanfiction dot net! Truly!
Genre: General, with a teensy tiny bit of mindfunk.

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The afternoon was shy of sun and thick on clouds, but with her manservant attending the fire again, she did not feel the cold any longer. Smiling to herself near the covered easel, she was looking out the paned windows a little reflectively upon the cloudy day. Suddenly she turned when he stood, done with his work, "Penny for your thoughts?"

"Oh…" she hummed, "It's nothing."

"…Doesn't sound like nothing," he replied suavely.

Hiding a smirk, she turned and waltzed back slowly to her desk. She sat down in the old chair. The young man stepped nearer. "It's just…" she admitted to him, "While Mr Smith was here, I had the strangest feeling. Oh I'm sure it's silly."

Mulberry contained a very nervous belly laugh. "Well it couldn't be too silly. I felt it too last time he was here."

She cast him a quick, steely glance, "Yes but you are not human, Mulberry."

Trying to contain massive amounts of surprise, Mulberry attempted to vent the shock by sitting down casually. "W-Well, what was it, then? The feeling."

"Well…" she hummed again, pursuing the thought somewhere along the wall, "I've just been thinking of this house lately. It's been quite cold and drafty this month. It is quite outdated, as well. I just…had the feeling…that someone was walking over my grave."

"…That's not a very pleasant feeling," he said. "But you're right, it is a silly one."

Miss Farnaby smiled, "Yes, even my sister could sense it in the living room with us the last time she was here. Anyway," she digressed, "Thank you for not being too silly while Mr Smith was here. I might have fired you," she added craftily.

Mulberry smiled. "I'll be honest Miss Farnaby…Bert and Alice have been expecting you to say those words for a long time." He stood, and began to take leave.

"Yes, well…oh by the way, Mulberry," she turned around, "I know tonight is your night off, but I require you to stay in tonight. I also need you to bring in some extra fire wood for all the rooms upstairs."

"Oh! Well of course. Are you expecting—"

"And also I was meaning to ask you something about Mr Smith," she continued pointedly.

"Oh blimey," he muttered under his breath anxiously, rolling his eyes a bit.

"I was wondering. Now that I've seen him again. Had you two met before? Before I met him the first time? I want the truth, Mulberry."

He was opening and closing his mouth, but with little avail. Finally he smiled restlessly, "W-Well…you see…" He was about to say it! "Yes…?" she prodded with that I will winkle-it-out-of you look. "We…" Mulberry thought, "We were blood brothers once."

"…Why didn't you mention that before?" she said flatly.

"Well…you don't get around to tellin' people who your blood brother is, now do you! That's why it's supposed to be a secret! Honestly I—"

"Who is he, really, Mulberry?"

"…Some…bloke…I met at the pub once," Mulberry fumbled out as casually as he could.

"Albert would have seen him before."

"The pub in Tibet."

She gave him a deadpan look.

"Upper or lower?" she asked dimly.

"…Does it matter?"

"…No…it was a superfluous question," she agreed. "…You may go," she sighed.

He nodded and started to leave when he paused—"Oh, blimey!" And dashing out the door, Miss Farnaby watched his nature relapse. "There it goes…" she smiled a little. She'd ask him later.

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It was the second time Mulberry had paced down the steps to the kitchen so slowly, Alice gave a start when she turned and found him an inch away from her shoulder. Naturally he was only asking after her welfare. Alice put her hands on her haunches, "What do you mean to sneak in here and scare me half to death! You know I can't answer you if I'm lyin' on the floor, paralyzed!"

"Sorry, Alice…" he smiled apologetically, "And for the record, I walked in here."

The woman huffed and turned back to her pastry work on the center island. She was constructing two pies—the scent of apples strong in the room. Mulberry advanced toward the window slowly, looking out through the slightly frosty glass. A few small flakes were falling, leaving the lawn a mottled sight of brown and white. "But you are feeling all right, aren't you Alice?"

"I suppose. I won't bother asking you," she added, a touch bitter.

"That's all right," he smiled.

A few moments later, Albert was heard opening the door off the corner, carrying a large bag in his arms. Readily, Mulberry nearly banged into him to help him. Sounds of "Be careful, Bert!" and "All right, all right!" entered the kitchen, along with the large blue bag they set down on the floor. "You need to be careful, Bert!" Mulberry continued in a rush, "That was—"

"Oh bug off," The older man and his thick coat rustled in to the kitchen slowly to take his seat. "Miss Farnaby told me to buy some extra salt for this winter."

"…Alice!" Mulberry smiled, "How you going to get that in your dough!"

"For the drive you idiot," Bert said.

"Oh I knew that…" Mulberry folded his arms, smiling. Alice readily procured a grim look over the subject of the drive, "It gets ever so bad in the winter." And then she moved the finished pie plates into the oven, to bake.

She took a seat afterwards, and Mulberry followed suit, "Expecting lots of snow and ice then are we?"

"We expect what we get," Bert sounded off wisely.

Mulberry had to think about that one.

"I just wonder how the gutters will stand up this year," the burly man continued.

"Why…" smiled Mulberry, "Aren't they nailed to anything?"

Bert gave the young man a tiresome look. "I'll have you know, I was out there last winter, fixin' 'em over on the south side. It was a total mess. Snow and metal troughs everywhere," his hands gestured, as if re-living an avalanche. "I never want to do that again."

"I never want to have to watch," Alice added, also mortified of the memory.

"…So you think this house is going to come crashing down, too?" exclaimed Mulberry. "Don't worry. I had checked for all that in the fall. Besides Bert, I'd be the one to come and save you!"

"No…" he crooned, "I rather consider you a deathly presence, I do."

It was the second time that day someone else considered him not human. Even in jest, Mulberry had to swallow mountains of surprise in his throat. But the stammering came out anyway, in spurts, "Wh-Wh-Wh-What makes you say that!" Mulberry suddenly looked down and tugged at his waistcoat animatedly, "Do you think I'd wear these if I was the son of death!" And then the young man paled—he'd said the taboo.

Bert shrugged. "You'd only save me to tell me, 'Oh by the way, Miss Farnaby is givin' a dinnah party tomorrow.'"

Mulberry's red cheeks began to disperse slowly. He was giving it a lot of effort not to panic. "Yes…Yes, you're quite right, Bert," he recovered his calm incrementally, "I'd do it then, Bert. You'd fall into your asparagus."

"Overworked," added Bert sorely.

Mulberry was still blushing.

Alice looked at the young man strangely. He looked as if he had goose pimples all over. "…Are you all right, Mulberry? Would you like a cup of tea? You, Bert?"

"I thought you'd never ask."

Meanwhile, Mulberry was still staring at the table, a very odd look on his face. "What is goin' on with you? It's not still that Mr Smith is it?" Bert questioned tediously.

Alice turned from the kettle on the stove, "Mulberry?" she inquired.

"Um? Oh! Um, yes, well, that's lovely…" he said to the table quite absently. He stood up, and walking in zigzags like Bert after an evening of darts and good spirits, took the stairs and disappeared from view.

"…As a hatter," Bert nodded.

Alice however harbored a very contemplative look in her eyes. Bert noticed, taking the reins of that stare easily soon after they got their mugs, "It's no use makin' sense of him, Alice," Bert said, warming his hands on the cup. "Besides, it was just likely that mister Smith that sent him off his trolley again."

"But why?"

Bert simply shrugged.

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The young man fluttered in the foyer and then fetched his coat quickly when he remembered his duty. The few rounds of pacing sent him veering out along the grounds rather aimlessly, but somehow he made it to the shed for the goal of a wheelbarrow. He was beginning to believe he was alone until he opened the shed door and Death pierced cool dark brown eyes upon his son.

"DAD!" Mulberry stammered in shock. "Dad…er…it wasn't my fault, I swear!" A shaken young man blurted out just like a child, "I didn't mean to say it, but I think I did and oh crackers, does this disqualify me from the job?" he began to smile hopefully.

"…What?" his father stared blankly, stepping out a little into the light.

"I…" his son stopped.

"You…?"

"I said…I said 'if I was the son of death' in front of Bert and Alice."

Mulberry's father merely laughed lowly. The chuckle ended up laughter in front of Mulberry's frowning, embarrassed face. The young man huffed in the cold. Death recovered. "That's all right then. But you still have your job to do."

"In the spring, dad," Mulberry insisted directly.

"Yes, in the spring."

"Oh God dad, just tell me. Is it going to be Bert, or is it Alice?"

"What do you mean?"

"Showin' up for tea!" his son boomed and fitted angrily, "In the house! Or have you completely forgotten who you are!"

"Oh, yes, that," Death let loose a small chuckle. He raised his thick eyebrows with intrigue, "Well you'll find that out before midnight. Hold steady, my son. Remember, this is all apart of your work."

Mulberry mumbled.

"Besides, it's not you who's dying."

Mulberry rolled his eyes. "Yes. I suppose I already did that once. Dad, you're not being fair."

"Do you need to take an English lesson again? It is not fair, nor is it unfair. It is not cruel or kind. I am going to teach you this even if…" He stared at his son evenly. "One day Mulberry…one day, you'll understand."

Mulberry was about to respond until his father squeezed his son's shoulder with a brief, sad smile and walked on. The young man watched him. Death soon disappeared after a moment. Mulberry pursed his lips and frowned, feeling something very strange in the air.

Perhaps it was just old man winter.

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After making several more health inquires, Mulberry was beginning to panic. And despite being banished by all three of them in the house, he was sent for magically by (presumably) Miss Farnaby in her sitting room later that evening, just before dinner. She informed him company would be coming around six—there had been a call, earlier.

Mulberry looked as if he might faint.

"Shall I tell you who, or are young going to continue staring like that at my walls the rest of the evening?" she asked dully in her chair.

With effort, "W-Who, Miss Farnaby…?"

"It is Elizabeth and her daughter Jocelyn. They are staying two nights…" Except Mulberry's face grew paler yet. "Mulberry…I can't believe I'm saying this, but are you feeling all right?"

"W-Who, m-me?"

"No, I was talking to the giraffe, behind you."

"Oh well he's just fine," Mulberry pointed.

"And you are not?"

"No—well, I—um…"

"I can see you shaking," she said. "Shall I call for a doctor?"

He was tempted to nod feverishly and scream yes just for the sake of the guests, but instead he shook his head, intoning, "No, no…"

"Well…" Miss Farnaby looked at him queerly. "I was expecting you to greet them, but if you are ill, I suppose Albert can—"

"No…" the young man found his voice, "I should."

The older woman regarded him a little dubiously. "Are you sure?"

"…No," he said again. "No I'm not," and broke his stance with a fidget and a pacing turning—a few of them, each spiraling circles on the rug. "No, I can't do this. I just can't! I'm never going to understand this!" He was more talking to himself than his employer. "I'm not cut out for this!"

"…Are you firing yourself from my employ?"

He huffed, holding back, and glancing at her as if hadn't heard. She repeated her statement. He mumbled something. "You're not going to run away again, are you?" she wondered aloud. "You run when you're acting like this."

"I do not."

"You do. And something is frightening you," the older woman rose from her seat. "I wish you would just tell me Mulberry because I am expecting my company very shortly."

"It's that! It's…that!" he regretted saying it, but he rolled with it, especially upon her provocation. "It's…Miss Elizabeth's bassoon." he lied easily.

"I admit the noise she makes with it could easily get me on a train to the next city, but the instrument itself does not frighten me. Now tell me the real reason," she said. "I am trying to make an effort to understand you."

"Well…" he was about to drop off another flippant comment at her feet when he said seriously, "Well it's better if you don't." And was bold enough (or scared enough) to excuse himself without ceremony and leave her presence.

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He started praying to God when the cars drove in.

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"By the way, Miss Farnaby," said Bert quietly while the company advanced to the sitting room, "Have you seen Mulberry?"

She frowned. "I'm afraid not. I…rather think he's gone off. I told him to stay in tonight, but…"

"Gone off…!" Bert said incredulously and mumbled a few things inaudible.

"Do forgive me, Bert…Perhaps…" She struggled to say it. "Perhaps…another advertisement might be in order," she sighed.

Albert's brow rose in surprise. He contained it soon. "Please serve the coffee, Albert," the woman requested softly.

"Yes Miss Farnaby."

The woman brooded in the foyer a moment longer, ahead of the staircase, until the doorbell rang again unexpectedly. The woman glanced back at the door but decided simply it was worth the effort to answer it herself.

It was a policeman.

"Sorry to bother you ma'am," he tipped his hat, "But I'm afraid there's a suspected criminal on the run in this area. If you see anything suspicious, please don't hesitate to contact the police."

"…Good Lord…" was her only thought, "…Mulberry…"

"Actually…we don't know his name, ma'am...why, do you have a suspicion?"

"No, no, no! I just mean that he's my employee, and he's gone."

"…The criminal is your employee?"

"No! No, no no, for Heaven's sakes, why would I employ a criminal!"

"Well I don't know, ma'am…" Seeing as the conversation was turning in a giant loop, the officer continued formally, "Well, if you do see or suspect anything, call us."

She nodded curtly, and by then, Bert came come into the anteroom with a confused look on his face. "Thank you." Miss Farnaby muttered while closing the door. Bert advanced, "What was that about?"

"There is a suspected criminal on the loose."

"Really?"

She nodded.

"…And…Mulberry's gone," Bert connected the dots gravely.

Just then, Jocelyn poked her head out the door of the sitting room, "Coming in, Aunt Rose? Is everything all right?"

Bert looked at Miss Farnaby. "I'll go tell Alice."

The older woman nodded seriously, "I'll go tell them."

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After dinner, they were all present in the sitting room. The bassoon was even present, resting idly in it's case on the floor. "My, my," Elizabeth repeated. "It is so strange to come on the night a criminal is on the loose."

"Indeed," her elder sister returned solemnly. "Incidentally…I had just finished another murder-mystery," she added somewhat frivolously.

"Did it end well Aunt Rose?" asked Jocelyn.

"…Not particularly," replied her aunt dimly.

"…Well I left my tandem out by the door tonight," mourned Bert.

"Maybe Mulberry moved it inside the shed before he left," Alice said hopefully.

"Or he coulda rode off on it." Bert muttered.

"…Mulberry's…left?" asked Jocelyn curiously. "I thought you just said he was 'out', Aunt Rose."

"Well…" Rose began uneasily. She had trouble continuing.

"Left…you can't mean for good?" Jocelyn said.

"Well he was in a bit of a panic, earlier. I don't know if he'll be back," Rose turned her eyes down again over her hands.

The room turned eerily silent once again, save for the hissing cackle of the fire.

"…What phase is the moon in?" asked Jocelyn.

"Already thought of that one," answered Alice. "But I don't think Mulberry can be explained in human terms."

"Yes, I agree," voiced Elizabeth all of a sudden. Rose rolled her eyes. The phrase had been uttered frequently from the last visit with her sisters. But tonight Elizabeth was adamant about it. "But I think he'll be able to look after himself, wherever he is."

"What makes you say that?" asked her elder sister.

"…Just…a feeling I have. Now…who's in the mood for a scary story? I heard a good one at Halloween…!"

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Tibet is actually a large place.

But not big enough.

"I think you're abusing your powers a bit too much, Mulberry."

Mulberry looked, but didn't bother to turn his head over his knuckles. "Oh it's you dad," He could tell by the color of the cloak. Black, as always.

"Now why are you here?" Death asked.

"It's still daylight over here."

Death sat down next to his son on the boulder. "Mulberry…I'm gonna be frank with you."

Mulberry of course lightened a few shades, his persona matching up with his waistcoat at last. He even picked his head up briefly before his father continued, "Poor choice of words, I know…" he smiled a little. Mulberry ducked down again, one side of his face smashed against the clenched fist. He continued to stare quite vacantly at the dirt and sod. "Dad…" he said and stopped.

"What?"

"—Can't I choose?"

Death shook his head. "As I've told you before," he said tiredly, "You aren't human Mulberry. And you do not have a choice."

"Well if you had a choice—"

"I know my place," he said firmly. "You'll soon know yours. You see Mulberry, there's something…Something I suppose I should say."

"What?" his son asked with a hint of tedium in his voice. But his father was reluctant, "Well…"

Mulberry clasped his hands, pointing them downward, and he turned a little more seriously. "…What?"

His father looked at him plainly. "I'm dying."

Mulberry gaped. He looked around and then at Death and then proceeded to stammer, "Y-Y-Y-Y-Y-Y-You're what!"

"I wasn't going to say anything, but…your mother was the one who convinced me…"

"Wait, w-w-what's mum gotta-do with this? Wait, you saw her?!"

"Mulberry—"

"Wait just a second, you're Death! You're just like me, you can't die! What in the world are you talking about!"

"Well what do you think all this has been for?!" Death exclaimed, finally to get a word in edge-wise. "Did you think I was just going to pass the reins and take a holiday? I've been trying to prepare you with Miss Farnaby. I've been pulling all-nighters for this, for you! Even going to see her and—"

"But dad…!" Mulberry's emotions swelled in him at last and his argumentative tone extinguished instantly, like a candle. Shaking, he looked back at his father's face after a while, anxiously pleading, "But…you can't die."

"…It's true…only to some extent…Son…" he mused quietly after a respite, "When it's your time, you'll know. And I've known it's been my time for…well…"

"…H-How long?" Mulberry advanced apprehensively, "How long…have you…"

"Next year," he answered. "I think some time…in the fall."

His son looked away. The young man's form slowly stilled like after ripples in a lake. Pale and blue as well, he sat like the stone beneath him. Death kept the silence reverently for a minute until he stood and squeezed his son's shoulder.

And vanished.

"Wait—!"

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It was quiet, and it was late in the Farnaby manor when Mulberry returned. He did creep in, and slowly walked down the stairs to the kitchen…to be met (almost like déjà vu) by Bert and a rather large and menacing weapon pointed at his face.

"Mulberry!"

"Bert!" They mutually exchanged.

Alice rested a hand over her heart and sat back down at the kitchen table. Bert lowered the double-barrel shotgun and followed suit, leaning the weapon against the table. "It's only me…" Mulberry smiled a little, relieved to see them both alive and well, "but I haven't been taking any girls out tonight."

"No? Still, you're as good as fired," Bert nodded. "You might as well have stayed out, with all the other criminals…you…You didn't see any, by the way, while you were gone?" Bert added nervously.

"No…" Mulberry smiled, inviting himself at the table too. "Why?"

"There was one on the loose," said Alice. "A police man came to the door, just after Miss Elizabeth and Miss Jocelyn came."

Mulberry's heart sank to his stomach, remembering the promise of death.

"Still perturbed I see," acknowledged Bert. "Nevermind. You won't have to be when she gets through with you."

"…Shall I go up…do you think…? Is she in the sitting room?"

He had never asked it openly like that before—there was a reservation about him Alice noted. The young man wasn't even looking at either of them. Exchanging glances with her husband, Alice nodded once.

"…Right," Mulberry sighed in the silence.

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"…Come in."

At least she was alone.

The young man took off his cap and advanced slowly.

"Mulberry…" she stood from the chair by the fire. "You're…" as if to say, "You're alive!" The young man found a smile.

But Miss Farnaby composed herself. "…It is in times like these I find you unstable and totally unreliable," she began seriously, in a scolding manner. "Therefore…if you cannot give me a good reason for your aberrant behaviour this evening, I will…terminate your employment here, effective immediately. I may also…call for a person from the asylum to take you away," she added facetiously.

He smiled again, smally. "I could probably use that."

"Well…I want you to know I'm serious. I await your answer, Mulberry."

The young man opened his mouth—deliberating on a sundry list of answers when he finally decided. Once and for all, "It's—my dad."

"Yes?"

"He—um," Mulberry hesitated genuinely, "Well, he um told me today that…" the young man faltered, kneading his hat out of proportions, "…he's ill."

"Is it very serious?"

"…Yes…quite," Mulberry nodded swiftly, restraining his emotions.

"…I am sorry, Mulberry," she said sadly. "But why on earth couldn't you have told me that before?"

"Well…I, uhm…" he smiled a little dumbly and had to quickly clear his face.

"…I see," she said, frowning upon the floor. Soon she was able to ignore the rug and her shoes in favor of the reticent young man before her. The old woman walked up to him calmly, and did something rather unusual in her case. She opened her arms and held him in a motherly fashion for a little while and then let go, watching him painfully hold back all his grief. There was so much of it, buried in such a lively frame. Like a tangible burden, on his shoulders, it appeared at last and she felt sorry for him. He was unable to raise his head. "…Will you be managing his…business? Is it…" she searched for the word he once used, "Did you say it was…removal business?"

He smiled quickly. "Yes. But—um," he finished clearing his face and his voice, "Not for a while, I think."

"May I ask what sort of removal business is it?"

His lack of an answer prompted her imagination to think it the most unpleasant kind; "Oh, I see…" she said simply, as if she understood. "Well…thank you, Mulberry. Would you please let me know if there is anything I can do."

He swallowed, "I will." He turned to leave, but he hesitated. The woman nodded, "You may go."

"No—um, I just wanted to…to thank you. Thank you," he said heartfully.

She inclined her head forward—a respectful nod. The older woman turned and glanced at the small clock on the mantel—"Good Heavens, it's nearly midnight."

Mulberry's face fell again as if the burden had clubbed him once more on the back of the head, "Oh no," he murmured grimly.

"What?"

"Well…it's…nearly midnight." he repeated.

"Yes, and somehow I believe we have just had déjà vu. Or don't you remember."

"Yes…yes I do remember," he managed a small smile. "…Goodnight, Miss Farnaby."

"Good night…" she watched him mope a little, vacating the parlor.

But Mulberry did not steer for the kitchen. It was far too painful. He followed the route upstairs, hoping that if he simply buried his face in the sheets, the house might escape Death.

He did just that, taking off his waistcoat and then fifteen minutes later, heard the short scream followed by a large and significant whump from somewhere upstairs in the house. The noise easily sounded like a decapitation on the stone. The young man jumped up in his black attire and ran instantly into her room…"Jocelyn!"

Another scream.

"Oh! I'm sorry!"

So he went to Elizabeth's room at once.

Another scream.

"I'm sorry! Augh!"

Panicked, he closed the door, "No! No! Not Miss Farnaby, no!"

And quickly raced for her room while the others eventually followed him, panic-stricken and incredibly confused.

"Miss Farnaby, Miss Farnaby!" he raced inside, putting his fists up in case of a midnight thief. But her lamps were on low and the fire was dying to embers. "Miss Farnaby…!" he saw her standing alone, near her bed, "Miss Farnaby!" he exclaimed, "Are you all right!"

"Yes, yes…" she turned, "I'm fine," as the others crowded around him. She looked up at them all, "I've just killed a rather large spider in my room—what were the other screams for? Is everyone all right? Has someone tried to break in?"

By then, Bert and Alice were also in the doorway, behind the others. "Mulberry…I think…thought the scream was from my room," smiled Jocelyn strangely.

"And then me," said Elizabeth, casting him a weary look, clutching her soft pink robe tightly. William the bear was with her in her other hand.

"Mulberry," Miss Farnaby was ready to scold him again when he suddenly collapsed on the carpet. "…Mulberry!" Rose said again. "Here, help me get him in the chair…"

It was only ten minutes after when he came to. "Well," decided Alice, "I guess he is human after all."

"Ohh…Alice," Mulberry touched his head gingerly.

"You gave us all quite a fright!" Jocelyn grinned at him.

"…I agree," intoned Elizabeth, a touch sorely.

Miss Farnaby rolled her eyes.

Bert poked the restored fire again, "You really are somethin' Mulberry," he commented. "I don't know quite what…" he trailed.

Miss Farnaby smiled, "Of course I blame you," she said to her young manservant. "The spider must have come in on the wood. I even had to use that murder book from the library to get it."

"So that's what the noise was..." he remembered the terrifying sound and they all laughed.

"Are you well enough to return to your room?" she asked. He nodded, "I think so."

"Right then, the show's over," Miss Farnaby announced, a tad eager to usher everyone out of her room. Bert and Alice left promptly, exchanging 'goodnight's with about five people (counting Miss Elizabeth's bear). Miss Farnaby ended up seeing Elizabeth out as she was still a little wide-eyed over Mulberry all in black. Jocelyn of course took up the needless duty of escorting the latter to his room in the servants' wing. "You really didn't have to," he smiled again as they stopped outside the door.

"Oh it's all right," she blushed. "Actually—" she added uneasily. His look of concern allowed her to confess, "Aunt Rose told us about…your father. I am so sorry."

"She—She told you all! Oh for Heaven's sakes…!" he exclaimed, rolling his eyes painfully midway up the wall.

"It's only because she cares for you."

"Yeah—she cares enough for me, she nearly fired me today—again," he said with a smile.

"I don't she how she could ever fire you," Jocelyn smiled broadly. "I hear of you so much in her letters."

Mulberry suddenly frowned, "I hope…you're not sad none of them are from me."

"No, no," she said. "It's all right. I understand," Though in some way she didn't as she searched her eyes on the floor in the uncomfortable pause.

Mulberry filled it with an equally awkward, "Well, goodnight Joce—"

"Can I tell you my secret?" she said suddenly. "It's a happy one."

"Of course."

"I'm going to tell Aunt Rose and my mother tomorrow. The firm where I work is sending me to Paris, near Christmastime. I was rather hoping…Well I was rather hoping you and Aunt Rose would come."

"…Paris?" Mulberry grinned unexpectedly. "Fancy you saying that!" he smiled, "Your aunt and I have already been there!"

"What! You and Aunt Rose! She never mentioned it!"

"Well…we were only there for a short time," he admitted slyly. "Then we got bored and came home."

"Huh!" Jocelyn said, grinning. "Well…I suppose," she colored again, "Goodnight Mulberry."

"Goodnight Miss Jocelyn."

The man in black retired to his room. In the dark, he stood for a moment against door after he'd closed it. Light from the small window lit tiny squares of white light on the floor. And looking down at his depressing black form…

Some say they touch the sky,

Some say they see the wind—

A whisper of spring is near,

Can you hear it say,

These are mulberry days.

Some say they'll understand—

Some hold an open hand.

A shimmer of moonlit haze,

Can you hear it say,

These are mulberry days,

These are Mulberry days…

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-Caliko, Kariko Emma