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Rich Man, Poor Man, Butler, Thief

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The letter of resignation crumpled in Lady Gloria’s grip.

“But, Carruthers—"

“I’m sorry, m’lady, but I can stay no longer. I’m afraid it simply isn’t possible.”

Helen, Lady Gloria, felt her usually cool, controlled demeanour slipping away. A worried tremor infected her voice. “Carruthers, whatever will I do without you?”

“I can’t say, m’lady – but I’m sure you will find someone else to manage the household.”

“It’s not managing the household I’m worried about!” Helen’s voice rose to a desperate soprano squeak. “I rely on you to bring some sanity to this house! Whatever will become of us if you leave?”

“Madam, I am afraid there is no ‘if’ about it. I must leave. I can no longer put up with the disorder wrought upon my every effort to run an efficient household. As my letter states, I would appreciate immediate release. I wish you well, m’lady, but I can be of no further assistance to you.”

 

…oo0oo…

 

WANTED for immediate start: experienced BUTLER.
High profile private house. Staff of seven.
References essential.

 

…oo0oo…

 

“Theo, I’m not happy about this at all. The advertisement stated clearly that applicants were to communicate with me. I don’t feel inclined to even speak to an applicant who has ignored that most basic requirement!”

“Now, Helen, do be a little flexible. He comes recommended.”

“Recommended? By whom? One of your affected irresponsible friends, I suppose.”

“Recommended by Sir Emory Clifford—”

“Emory Clifford? That jumped-up repertory actor?”

“Helen, Emory Clifford is a highly respected theatre identity. He was knighted by the late King for services to British theatre!”

“I’ll never understand how that came about! He was an awful actor and he’s an awful person. He’s little better than a pimp!”

“Helen!”

“It’s perfectly true! He comes here to your wretched parties, and he always has a string of young men trailing after him—”

“And what are you suggesting?”

“That when you invite him to your parties, it’s not for his sparkling personality. Emory Clifford is a reprehensible old queen—”

“Helen, please! The children will hear you!”

“I can’t imagine what kind of butler he might be recommending!”

“Helen, you’re getting overwrought—"

 

…oo0oo…

 

Theo, Earl of Gloria ushered the applicant in and closed his study door quietly. His wife had refused to interview the applicant, or to be present while he did so. When the doorbell rang, she had pleaded a headache, and had gone up to her bedroom to lie down.

“Now then!” The Earl rubbed his hands together, infusing his voice with as much hearty jollity as he could. “Your references are very good, Stanfield. Perhaps you could tell me a little about your last situation?”

“I was with Sir Axel Grimsby. He had an estate just outside Bath.”

“Grimsby? I know Grimsby,” the Earl said. “Breeds racehorses. One of his was placed in the Grand National last year.” He could have sworn he saw the slightest twitch of a nerve beneath the applicant’s left eye. “You got on well with your employer, I take it?”

Stanfield cleared his throat. “A fine man to work for, if I may be so forward as to say so. A man of action.”

“What?” The Earl frowned. “Are we talking about the same man? Axel Grimsby’s eighty-seven.”

Stanfield and the Earl stared at each other for a few moments.

The Earl’s frown deepened. “You don’t know Sir Axel Grimsby at all, do you?”

Stanfield hesitated. At last, he said, “No, sir. I don’t.”

“You’re not a butler at all, are you?”

“No, my lord. I’m not.”

The Earl leaned forward, elbows on his desk, fingertips pressed hard into his forehead. He breathed in slowly, and out again. What on earth will I tell Helen?

He straightened up and looked the applicant in the eye. “Sir Emory Clifford recommended you highly. As a butler. Am I to understand that he lied?

“Well, your lordship, I wouldn’t like to say anything like that about Sir Emory. He’s a gentleman.”

The Earl sighed. “Would I be right in saying, Stanfield, that your acquaintance with Sir Emory is more theatrical than domestic?”

The applicant looked abashed for a moment before he replied.

“I was in Sir Emory’s touring theatre company after the War. I specialised in playing butlers, valets and royal retainers. I had the right stance; I could wear the suit. I toured with him for ten years. Then when he moved into film, he got me a lot of work. Minor roles, you understand. Non-speaking, mostly. But he knew I could—”

“—wear the suit. So you say.”

“Look, m’lord – Sir Emory told me you needed someone who could organise your household.” Stanfield’s voice had lost some of its refined enunciation. “He told me you had a slightly unconventional set-up here. Said you entertained a lot. Actors, writers, artists – not the usual country house fare. He said you needed someone with what you might call a flexible outlook.”

The Earl regarded Stanfield with narrowed eyes. “Should I understand that you’re comfortable with men who have— shall we say— broad preferences?”

“Omipalones?” Stanfield’s face broke into a broad grin. “Lord Gloria, I’ve been in the theatre since I was sixteen years old. Of course I am.”

The Earl gathered up the letters of reference Stanfield had handed him, folded them up, and pushed them back into their envelope.

“Lady Gloria will expect me to hire a butler who can manage the household properly. Do you think you can do the job?”

Stanfield grinned again, more widely this time. “Of course I can. Don’t worry. I’ll learn the part fast. I’ll be word-perfect before you know it.”

 

…oo0oo…

 

The door to the Chinese Room was always kept locked. It was one of those domestic practices that evolves for a good reason, but lives on long after the need for it has gone. Sometime during the reign of Queen Victoria, the Earl of the time – Theo’s grandfather – had wanted to keep his children out of the room in case they smeared fingerprints over his treasured Oriental lacquered furniture. All these years later, the practice remained – and most people had forgotten how it started.

Stanfield switched his basket full of polishing cloths and dusters to his left hand and pushed the key into the lock.

What’s this? The door was already unlocked.

He pushed the door open, and was startled to see the youngest of the Gloria children, six year old Master Dorian, sitting on a chaise longue in the window nook. Moreover, the boy was wearing a richly-coloured garment, which appeared to be a velvet dress made for someone of much larger size. He had a pink ribbon in his hair, and a string of bright blue beads around his neck.

“How did you get in here, Master Dorian?” Stanfield asked, coming in and setting his basket of cleaning materials down.

“I picked the lock,” the child replied.

“Did you, now? Very clever of you,” said the butler. “And what’s that you’re wearing?”

“My sisters have been dressing me up again. I’d had enough, so I ran away from them. They won’t come up here, because Mother says it’s not allowed.”

“But you’re here.”

“Mother won’t find me. She never finds me.”

Stanfield sat down on a nearby chair. “Do you like it when your sisters dress you up?”

“I don’t mind sometimes,” Dorian replied. “Some of the things are pretty. But sometimes they do things up too tight or put rubber bands in my hair that pull.”

Stanfield nodded. “Mmm. I see.”

“This material’s nice,” Dorian said, brushing the velvet back and forth. “I like the way it shines one way and goes dark the other.”

“That’s called ‘nap’,” Stanfield offered.

The child gave him a scornful look. “Nap’s when you go to sleep in the afternoon.”

“It means the fluffy surface on velvet, too,” the butler said.

“I like velvet.” Dorian smiled. “It’s like cat’s fur. You can brush it one way and it’s easy, and the other way and it’s hard. Cats don’t like you to brush the wrong way, though. They scratch.” He stopped stroking the velvet. “I don’t have a nap in the afternoon now. I’m six.”

“Who taught you to pick a lock?” Stanfield asked.

“Nobody really. I watched the gardener picking the lock when he lost the key to the tool shed. Then I just taught myself. I practised on the tool shed first.”

Young Master Dorian plunged his hand under a cushion and pulled out a shiny object – a small gold bangle, which he slid over his left hand.

Stanfield leaned forward a little. “What’s that you’ve got there, laddie?”

“A bangle. It’s Margaret’s.”

“Did she lend you that while they dressed you up?”

Dorian smiled again – smug this time. “No. I took it from her jewel box.”

“You pinched it?”

“I’ll put it back. I have to put things back before Mother finds out. She gets cross.” He held his arm up, watching the gold bangle glint in the sun. “I sometimes show Daddy when I take things – it makes him laugh – but Mother gets cross at him, too. So now I take them for a while, then put them back before anyone knows.”

Stanfield watched the small boy toying with the bangle, thinking hard.

“Master Dorian,” he said, “do you know what a quest is?”

“Knights have quests.” Dorian stopped playing with the bangle and looked at Stanfield instead. “It’s in The Knights of the Round Table. Daddy reads that sometimes at bedtime.”

“What if I gave you a quest? Would you like that?”

“I think so. What is it?”

“I want you to see if you can pick the lock on the chauffeur’s store-room behind the garages, and bring me the fountain pen the chauffeur keeps on his desk.”

“Why?”

“It’s a quest. To see if you can do it. And when you’ve done it, and shown me, then you’ll put it back, and lock up the store-room again. Nobody will know about it but us. It’s our secret.”

The boy looked puzzled.

“It’s a quest,” Stanfield said again.

“All right,” Dorian said. “Tomorrow?”

“Next Thursday.” The chauffeur would have started his annual holidays by then, and wouldn’t be around to catch the child in the act.

“And nobody must see you, or see that you’ve been there.” Stanfield added.

Dorian jumped down off the chaise longue. “I have to go now. I have to put Margaret’s bangle back before she finds out it’s missing and tells Mother.”

Stanfield watched the boy toddle out of the Chinese Room, incongruous in his velvet dress.

Precocious, he thought; let’s see how that talent develops.

 

…oo0oo…

 

Lately, the fights had been more than Dorian could bear.

His mother and father had always argued – about money, about Daddy’s parties, about decisions over purchases – but more and more, Dorian was hearing his own name brought up in these vitriolic exchanges, and he didn’t like it. More and more, when the fights started, he withdrew to one of his hiding places around the Castle – rooms his sisters never went to, places where he would not be found.

Locked doors were no barrier. He knew how to get past locks. Knew, too, how to leave no trace behind him so that his use of the rooms remained secret. Stanfield’s ‘quests’ had helped him in this.

His first quest, when he was only six, had been such a success that Stanfield had given him a whole bag of liquorice all-sorts. He’d had to keep these hidden from Mother, of course. She disapproved of sweets in large amounts, and she thought liquorice all-sorts were vulgar. Dorian had made the bag last for a whole week, savouring every sickly mouthful, happy that he’d earned this secret treat by being clever.

After that, Stanfield had come up with other quests. Not often. Weeks would pass in between. The anticipation came to be as exciting as the quest itself: what would Stanfield think of next?

Thanks to these challenges, Dorian had learned how to pick every kind of lock there was at the castle. He’d learned how to climb a wall and open a window-latch from outside. He’d learned about fingerprints, and how to avoid leaving them.

“How do you know all this stuff, Stanfield?” he’d asked the butler one day, just after his eleventh birthday.

“You learn a lot of things in the theatre, laddie,” Stanfield had replied, and somehow, Dorian knew that it would be no use to ask any further questions.

He still showed off to his father by pilfering things inside the house, and the Earl still laughed when he did – but his mother disapproved. Vehemently.

Mother and Daddy fought so often. Even little things would set her off. Dorian knew it wasn’t all about him, but he hated it when Mother brought his name into the arguments. It was as if she was making him into a weapon to use against Daddy.

Today’s argument had broken out over the household accounts that the cook had left on her writing table for her approval.

“Five dozen bottles of champagne? Theo, what on earth is the meaning of this?”

“I can hardly entertain guests without lavishing a little luxury on them, Helen!”

“A little luxury? A little? Hundreds of pounds, Theo! All for that pretentious rabble you had here last Saturday!”

Dorian retreated to one of his hiding places, but their voices could still be heard through the heavy mahogany door.

“Your so-called friends, Theo, are a bad influence on the children!”

“Now, Helen, don’t exaggerate.”

“I am not exaggerating! I watched the way those posturing out-of-work actors were fussing over Dorian—”

“Darius and Bill like children. They’re only being kind to him.”

“He’s growing up thinking all those affected airs and graces are normal—"

“Don’t be silly, Helen, there’s nothing wrong—"

You’re teaching my son to be a homosexual and a thief! How can he ever lead a normal life if that’s what he turns into?”

Dorian looked around the room desperately, wishing there was some way to shut the voices out. He should have gone to one of his more distant hiding places. No, it was no good: he couldn’t stay in here. Slipping out of the room, he hurried toward the passage that led to the little-used Tudor wing, far enough away to blot out the sounds of his parents fighting.

Here, in the old wood-panelled rooms, he could feel at peace. He could feel separate from whatever was going on in the rest of the castle. His mother and sisters scorned this oldest part of the building as uncomfortable, dark and spooky. Dorian liked it. He remembered his father bringing him up here when he was small, telling him that this was the part of their home that had belonged to the first Earl of Gloria. The one who was a pirate.

His name was Benedict, and his portrait hung in the entrance hall beside the big wide staircase. “You’ll look a lot like Benedict when you grow up,” Daddy had said – and Dorian liked that thought. His ancestor was handsome, and in the portrait, he wore a beautiful red velvet doublet and a delicate white lawn collar.

That's better, Dorian thought, settling down on the upholstered window seat. He looked around at the quaint furnishings that had been in the family for hundreds of years. Benedict had been rich, and he’d spent his money on beautiful things.

That’s what I’ll do, thought Dorian. I’ll be rich, and I’ll have beautiful things around me. And I’ll have interesting friends, like Daddy, and I won’t have arguments. I’ll live as I please, and whatever I want, I’ll have.

 

…oo0oo…

 

Stanfield found Dorian in the Chinese Room. “There you are, Master Dorian! His lordship’s been looking for you. He’s getting worried.”

Dorian turned a tear-streaked face toward the butler.

“Have you been crying?” Stanfield asked gently.

Dorian sniffed, and scrubbed at his face with both hands. “No. Yes. A little.”

The butler sat down on one of the silk-upholstered chairs. “What’s the matter, laddie?”

“Mother and Daddy are getting divorced.”

“Oh.”

“They’re getting divorced, and Mummy and the girls are going to live in Surrey. I’m to stay here with Daddy.”

The butler shoved away any questions of what this change might mean for him and focused on the boy who’d become his protégé. “Did they tell you this morning?”

“Yes. They made us all sit down around the dining room table, and they told us. They say it’s for the best. It’s all arranged. Mother and the girls are going on Thursday.”

Dorian sniffed noisily; tears welled up again, and he blinked them away. Stanfield handed him his own clean handkerchief. The boy wiped his face, blew his nose loudly, then sat twisting the white linen between his fingers.

Stanfield let the boy gather his thoughts.

“Mother said I should stay with Daddy because ‘a boy needs his father’. And she said because I’m the heir and will be the Earl one day, it’s the right thing to do.”

The butler nodded, trying to look understanding. What could he say? The boy’s distress was terrible to see, but nothing he could say would help.

 

…oo0oo…

 

“Dorian! How nice to see you! But – are you here on your own? Come in.”

Dorian stepped through the open door into a cool, wide hallway, and Sir Rex Price closed the door behind them.

The hallway had a black and white tiled floor, laid out like a chessboard. On a long-ago visit, Dorian and his sisters had tried to make up a game, with themselves as chess pieces moving from square to square.

“But where is your father?” Sir Rex looked puzzled.

“He’s in London, talking to his lawyers.”

“Ah. Yes. I’m sorry that your family is going through sad times, Dorian.”

Dorian shrugged – a small, forced motion. “Mother and the girls left last week. They’re going to live in Surrey. It’s just Daddy and me at the castle now.”

“Well, I’m happy to see you, Dorian. Come into the drawing room, and we’ll have tea and cakes.”

Sir Rex’s house was a familiar place. Dorian had visited often with his parents and sisters. He’d always liked coming to this solid Georgian mansion full of beautiful works of art. Sir Rex understood art; Dorian loved to hear him talk about the paintings and sculptures he owned.

In the drawing room, Dorian chose the seat that let him see his favourite painting most clearly. Giorgione’s Young Shepherd gazed downward, his expression gentle, his eyes not quite meeting Dorian’s.

“The castle must seem empty with only you and your father living there,” Sir Rex remarked, arranging himself at one end of the long Regency sofa. Sir Rex always seemed conscious of how he looked; he seemed to treat himself as a work of art.

“Father says we can’t stay at the castle. We’re going to live in Cornwall.”

“Cornwall! Dear me, that’s a long way away.” Sir Rex looked concerned. “You and I won’t see so much of each other.”

“I know,” Dorian said miserably, looking up at The Young Shepherd. “I’m going to miss that painting."

Sir Rex smiled. “I’d rather hoped you might say you’ll miss me. I know I’m going to miss you, Dorian. I’ve always enjoyed our talks about art. You’re such a clever boy. I’m going to miss your pretty face.”

Dorian sprang up from his seat and went to stand below the painting. He’d spent so many hours imagining conversations with that handsome shepherd boy. A sweet, sharp hurt stabbed through him, knowing that after today, he might never see the Giorgione again.

Sir Rex came over to stand beside him. He rested his hand on Dorian’s shoulder.

“You love that painting, don’t you, Dorian?”

“Yes. Very much.”

“Would you like me to give it to you?”

Dorian turned, astonished. “You’d give me this painting?”

“You love it. I’m sure the Young Shepherd would be happier with you.”

“You mean, I can really have it?”

“Yes— if you’ll do something for me. A fair exchange.” Gently, Sir Rex brushed Dorian’s cheek with his fingers. “Grant me a small favour.” Sir Rex was still smiling, but there was a new light in his eyes that Dorian hadn’t seen before.

The boy took a step backward. Without the words being spoken, he knew what Sir Rex meant.

“You have to promise me that you’ll give me the painting.”

“I promise.” Sir Rex placed both hands on Dorian’s shoulders. “On your next birthday, when you turn fourteen, that painting will be yours.”

Dorian swallowed. He glanced up at the Giorgione. He wanted the painting desperately. He knew Sir Rex: he wasn’t a stranger. Perhaps—

“All right then.”

After all, it seemed like a simple matter.

 

…oo0oo…

 

As summer drew toward the end, there were more changes at Castle Gloria. Most of the servants were dismissed, sent away with good references and the Earl’s regretful thanks. Only Stanfield and the cook remained - and Stanfield had a new spring in his step, for the Earl had let him know that he would need a ‘manservant of all work’ in Cornwall, and had invited him to stay on in that role. The Earl put Castle Gloria on the market, and there were daily phone calls from his real estate agent about the sale of his ancestral home.

Dorian got used to not having his mother and sisters around. He and his father lived in what the Earl called – not very convincingly – ‘bachelor bliss’.

On Dorian’s birthday, a large package arrived.

Fingers trembling with excitement, Dorian tore off the protective layers of brown paper, cardboard and cloth. He’d been in agonies of anticipation, waiting for this long-promised gift to arrive.

“What’s that you’ve got, laddie?” Stanfield smiled to see the boy’s excitement.

Proudly, Dorian leaned the picture against the side of a convenient cabinet. “It’s Giorgione’s The Young Shepherd! Sir Rex Price promised to give it to me for my birthday as a going-away present.”

“The real thing?” Stanfield asked, surprised. He knew the Earl’s friend Sir Rex had so many art treasures he could probably spare one or two, but it seemed an extravagant gift for a boy who’d just turned fourteen.

“The genuine, original painting!” Dorian enthused. “I’ve loved this painting ever since I can remember.”

Together, they stood back to admire Giorgione’s masterpiece.

Then, suddenly, Dorian went very quiet. He moved back, to the side, closer, looking at the painting from different angles.

“What’s up, laddie?” Stanfield could see the boy was bothered by something.

“It’s different.”

“Different?”

“His eyes are different. He’s not looking where he used to look.” The boy turned to Stanfield, puzzled. “How can that be?”

“Let me have a close look at that picture, laddie.” Stanfield lifted it carefully onto a table-top, and gazed at the brushwork and the delicate cracking on the varnish. He turned the painting around and looked at the wooden framework and the canvas. He looked at it for a long time.

“What do you see, Stanfield?”

The butler sighed. “I’m sorry, laddie, but this painting is a lot newer than it ought to be.”

Dorian’s jaw dropped. “You mean, it’s a fake?”

“I’m afraid so, laddie. You see, this kind of canvas didn’t come into use until long after Giorgione’s lifetime.”

The storm of emotions crossing Dorian’s face alarmed Stanfield. The boy must have had a huge emotional investment in receiving this painting.

“Don’t let it upset you, laddie. It’s a low, mean trick to promise you a special gift and then send you a forgery, but perhaps it can be sorted out. Are you going to tell your father?”

“NO!” The boy looked terrified. “No, I can’t tell Father! He mustn’t know. He mustn’t know Sir Rex sent this. Please, Stanfield— please don’t tell him. Promise me you won’t mention it!”

“Well, all right, laddie. If you think that’s best.” The boy’s reaction seemed extreme. Why would he be so afraid of letting his father know? He got on well with his father – why would he want to hide this disappointment from him? Still, there was no reason not to comply with the boy’s wishes.

Huffing angrily, Dorian wrapped the cloth, paper and cardboard around the painting. “I’m going to hide this in the attic over the maids’ quarters,” he seethed, “and I’m going to go to Sir Rex’s house tomorrow night and steal the real one.”

Stanfield’s protective instincts surged up. “No! No, laddie, you can’t do that.”

“Why not?” Dorian raged. “It’s mine. He promised me. And I can steal things – you know I can!”

“No, laddie, not this. You’re not ready.”

“Yes, I am! I’m going to do it! And you can’t stop me!” Eyes brimming with tears of fury, Dorian stormed out of the room, carrying the hastily wrapped painting with him.

Anxious, distressed, desperately trying to think of a way to soothe his protégé and stop him from taking such a foolish risk, Stanfield bent to the task of picking up every last trace of cardboard, paper and string, to hide any evidence that Sir Rex Price’s sham gift had ever been in the room.

 

…oo0oo…

 

The next day, Stanfield tried again to get Dorian to change his mind, but Dorian, still in a rage over Sir Rex’s double dealing, refused to listen, and would not even stay in the same room as Stanfield.

The butler agonised over how he might intervene. Should he tell the Earl? But the thought of betraying Dorian’s confidence made him feel sick. Besides – what might Dorian do in retaliation? The boy was so angry, he was ready to lash out without considering the consequences. All he would need to do would be to tell his father just what Stanfield had been teaching him since he was six years old. Stanfield could imagine the prison doors opening for him only too vividly.

But what fate would await Dorian if he tried to burgle Sir Rex Price’s home, and was caught? Stanfield had spent time in Borstal himself when he was a boy – and it was an experience he wouldn’t wish on anyone. Especially not someone he was fond of.

Short of physically restraining the lad, which was out of the question, Stanfield could think of no way to stop him.

That night, Dorian went up to his bedroom straight after dinner. The Earl didn’t question his choice, because he had two old friends coming to spend the evening playing cards and drinking good whisky, and his mind was on enjoying himself.

About ten o’clock, Stanfield knocked on Dorian’s bedroom door. There was no answer. Carefully, he pushed the door open. The room was empty. Dorian was nowhere to be found.

Quickly, Stanfield went down to the garages, where his own little runabout was parked. He backed the car out, and drove swiftly toward Sir Rex Price’s mansion, praying he would be in time to avert disaster.

Sir Rex’s house was set in spacious grounds on the edge of a village. Stanfield parked his car in a village street, and went on foot toward the mansion. Just as he came within sight of the surrounding gardens, alarm bells started to sound within the mansion itself, and Sir Rex Price’s large pack of guard dogs began baying as they ran toward the building.

“Oh my god,” Stanfield breathed. “The lad’s tried to break in, and now all hell’s breaking loose!”

He hurried down to the end of the narrow alley, from which he could see clearly across the road and into Sir Rex’s grounds.

The dogs were running across the grounds in front of the house, baying loudly, like a pack of hounds in pursuit of a fox. Then – there was a massive rustling in the laurel bushes at the edge of the gardens, and Dorian burst through, not far from Stanfield’s hiding place.

“Laddie! Laddie, here! Quickly! This way!” Stanfield moved halfway out of the shadows so the boy could see him.

Luckily, Dorian spotted him straight away, and sprinted across the road toward his mentor, just as police sirens were heard wailing in the distance. Sobbing desperately, Dorian flung himself into Stanfield’s arms.

“Hush now, laddie. You’ll be all right. You just weren’t ready. But you’re safe now. Come on, quickly – I have a car.”

Stanfield led Dorian through the shadowy streets and bundled him into the waiting car, then drove sedately through the village and took a round-about route back home to Castle Gloria.

By the time Stanfield parked his little car in the garage, Dorian had stopped crying and was listless and despondent.

“I didn’t even get in,” he moaned. “I tried the window. It was just like the ones on the east wing here, so I should have been able to get in, but then the alarm went off, and the dogs started up, and I just panicked!”

“Don’t punish yourself, laddie. Burgling a house is a serious business. You’re not ready for that yet. You will be one day, but right now, you’re not. You still have skills to learn.”

The lights were still on in the room the Earl used for his card games, and the visitors’ cars were still parked in the drive near the front door.

“Right, lad. We’re going to go inside through the kitchen, and up the back stairs. You go to bed straight away. I think your father’s still playing cards with his friends, and I doubt that he’d have been looking for either of us tonight. Most likely he has no idea we’ve been out. So when you get up in the morning, just try to act as normally as you can. If you are a little jumpy, what of it? You’ve been going through a lot these past few weeks.”

Stanfield watched Dorian go into his bedroom and shut the door, then went straight to his own room where he poured himself a stiff brandy from the bottle he kept in his wardrobe.

“You got away with it tonight, young Master Dorian,” he thought, “but I think you’ve learned a lesson or two. You’ve got talent. If you stick at it, you could be one of the great burglars of our time.” He downed the brandy in a single gulp. “Right, laddie – if you haven’t been frightened off by tonight’s episode, tomorrow we’ll start talking about strategy and planning.”

In his own room, lying in the dark, Dorian thought through his failed attempt on Sir Rex’s mansion. “I dare say Stanfield’s right,” he thought. “I’m just not ready. There’s more to learn. I’m glad Father’s bringing Stanfield to work for us in Cornwall; I’m sure he can teach me the things I need to know.” He smiled to himself. “Because one day, I’m going to have a better art collection than Sir Rex, and I’m going to steal The Young Shepherd, and leave him his forgery in its place. And he’ll regret everything he’s done to me. Everything.