The ladies of Upper Westing met for book club every week, alternating hostess duties. This week it was May Tolman’s turn and she had provided an excellent tea. The table was laden with fresh cucumber sandwiches, hot currant scones with lashings of creamy butter and tart jam, and delicate finger biscuits dipped in cinnamon. There were also several teas, infusions and home-made lemonade. The ladies were now engaged in animated social chit-chat, the real reason for book club’s popularity.
When they had dispensed with Sarah Hillin’s youngest and his lack of discipline (“just needs a good whipping”) and Tory Manley’s frequent visits to Dr Barham (“obviously a budding romance”), conversation turned to the newest resident of Upper Westing.
“John told me he’s a retired colonel. Rich as sin and nobody knows where the money came from.”
“Molly down at the grocers says he’s had builders at the old Foster place for days, tearing out all those beautiful Victorian fittings.”
“My Tom knows one of the builders. He says there’s some pretty strange things in that house – like books in German and foreign coins.”
“I heard he was the only survivor of his regiment. They all died in suspicious circumstances and he only reappeared after the war. Its all rumour of course, probably false, but where there’s smoke….”
May smiled to herself as she cleaned up. It had begun. The next bit was out of her hands, but she knew her friends well. Soon, the titbits she had passed on would spread throughout the village. Another few hints in the right ears and he would never be accepted here. He would always be an outsider. That would teach him to slight her, calling her a busybody when she was only trying to be a good neighbour.