The cream-and-gold Roller swept under the archway purring to a stop in the Burrow courtyard and Dame Barbara emerged, followed by Anticant who was dreamily warbling:
‘Mud, mud, glorious mud!
Nothing quite like it for cooling the blood.
So follow me, follow
To Anticant’s Hollow
And there we will wallow
In glorious mud!’
He then tottered off to his den, supported on each side by the Beadle and Mrs Malaprop, who were cheerily calling ‘Hi-de-Hi’ and ‘Ho-de-Ho’ to each other.
Dame Barbara proceeded to hold a press conference, saying she had three important announcements to make.
“First, I have decided that in future I shall be known as Dame Barbara de Carteblanche, to avoid any confusion with other best-selling Romantic novelists, living or dead.
“Second, Anticant and I are so enchanted with the Thermal Health Spa we have just been visiting that I have purchased it for his 80th birthday present, and it will accordingly be re-opening in the near future after appropriate refurbishment as ‘Anticant’s Hollow’. We shall be inviting applications for the important post of Water Beadle.
“Lastly, I am embarking upon my 954th epic, inspired by our trip. I had intended to call it Water Sporting, but as dear Ben Trovato has pointed out this might be misconstrued I have decided that its title will be Aquatic Passions. The heroine’s name – need I say? – is Undine.
“Six large pink gins please, Ben.”
Ben Trovato, who had followed Dame Barbara out of the Rolls accompanied by a primly dressed young woman with her hair scrimped back into a bun, hastened to attend to Dame Barbara’s requirements.
The young woman, he explained, was a highly qualified Crafty Chambermaid whom he had recruited from Mrs Jump’s renowned Impeccable Domestics Agency, guaranteed to supply only persons of unblemished character. Her name was Demure Dorcas.
Left alone in the courtyard, the new acquisition looked furtively around to see that she was unobserved, and then announced:
“I am the Craftiest of Chambermaids!
I’m a dab hand at getting laid
By rich old men as big as tents
Whose largesse helps me pay my rents
And buy a big Mercedes Benz.
“Dame Chastity don’t plough my furrow -
I mean to liven up the Burrow.
But better not tell Anticant
Or the old fool will start a rant
And set the Beadle on my track
With Mrs Malaprop, alack.
“I’ll have to wheedle Master Ben
And throw Wooffie a bone, so when
A likely man checks in
They’ll turn a blind eye to my sin.
If Trousers calls, or maybe Wook, or Zola,
I’ll be ready for you, guys.
- Yours, Lusty Lola.”
She then skipped saucily into the Burrow.
Meanwhile, Miss Marple was reporting to Anticant on the absence of any startling incidents during her stewardship. No inappropriate articles of clothing had been hoisted aloft on the flagpole, and no rude messages had been received. There had been only one phone call – from a hiccupping Wooffie, barking somewhat incoherently from a “divine distillery on Dartmoor”, where the superb quality of the brandy had delighted both Lavenderblue and himself so much that he had ordered two dozen barrels for the Burrow cellars.
It looks as if there are interesting times ahead at the Burrow. Watch this space!