On Sparrow Hill
- Saturday, March 08, 2008
“I will contact them first if you like. Just to make sure it’s valid.”
“You’re my champion, Rebecca. Protecting me again.”
She studied the names even as she wondered why he’d used that word again. A reference to protecting him shouldn’t contain an undertone of disdain; she was paid to do that very thing—by Quentin himself. “I doubt this could be a hoax. They have too much of the correct lineage.”
“I’ve an idea,” said Quentin, leaning forward, “Since you claim not to need tea, why don’t we go down to the vault now? I can’t imagine Americans having the original journal belonging to one of my grandmothers.”
“Kipp Hamilton might have owned it. He was Cosima’s son, and he went to America.” She eyed him. “It would be fun to have a look, though.”
Quentin went to the door, holding it open. “To the vault?”
Nearly three hours later, Rebecca tucked an annoying strand of hair behind her ear. She should have it cut to shoulder length or at least go upstairs and find a hair band to pull it away from her face.
“Ready for some dinner at last?” Quentin asked from another corner.
Perhaps she’d sighed aloud when she had only meant to complain to herself about her irksome hair. “In a bit.”
He neared her, his long white sleeves covered in black butler’s wraps, his dark hair uncharacteristically unkempt from sifting through crates and boxes for the last few hours. “I’m not for throwing in,” he said, “just taking a break.”
She stood away from the box she’d been hunched over, feeling the pull of an oddly used muscle. “I hope you know I realize how ridiculous this is. I should know everything in this vault. Wouldn’t Cosima have left something here if she was prone to journaling?”
“Maybe she wrote only one journal and gave it to the child who went off to America as you said earlier. In any case, not being certain about what’s in this vault isn’t your fault, Rebecca. If anyone is to blame, it’s I.” He lifted a hand to take in their tall surroundings. “This is all mine and yet I’ve no idea what’s here.”
Rebecca glanced around the high-ceilinged room. Part of a 1920s renovation, it was a veritable bank vault of security with its steel walls, complete darkness when closed off, and more recently, a regulated temperature. “When your father hired me three years ago, one of the pledges I made was to update the inventory system.” She saw items she knew were catalogued. “I honestly cannot fathom how I could not know as much about Cosima Hamilton as another branch of your family—one not even English!”
Quentin’s gentle laugh echoed off the high metal.
“I’ve never seen you so perturbed, Rebecca,” he said. “I like it.”
“Like . . . what?”
“Seeing you as frustrated as the rest of us when looking for something.”
She raised a brow. “The rest of us?”
He nodded, leaning over to shut the curved lid on the trunk of china she’d been searching. “The rest of humanity, Rebecca. I’ve always thought nothing could irritate you and you were therefore set apart.”
“Never irritated? Perhaps that’s because you’ve not been home when the goats manage their way beyond the gate and rummage one of the gardens, or a nervous bride changes her banquet menu a dozen times, or a corporate manager expects a two-hundred-year-old hall to easily accommodate his electrical needs for an online presentation.”
“Perhaps I’ll be fortunate enough to witness something along those lines this summer.”
She returned his smile. “And may I say I hope not?”
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