No Such Cold Thing – Taster

Over the next few days, she learned more about her English family. They were called Levinson and they lived in a place called Wiltshire, which was a little like an American state but much smaller. They had an estate near the city of Salisbury, and a very grand, old house. Her great-grandfather’s name was Sir Francis Levinson. When Kitty heard that, she was surprised and a little impressed. She had read many stories about Sir Lancelot and Sir Gawain.

“Sir?” she said. “What, like a knight? Is that for real?”

“In England, the title can be given to a man as a reward for his services to the monarch,” explained her father. “Sir Francis got his knighthood from Queen Victoria, no less.”

“Do you think he has a suit armour?” asked Kitty with mischievous glee. She was pleased to see that it made her father smile.

“I doubt it,” he said. “He has been bed-ridden these past ten years.”

Kitty instantly felt sorry for her great-grandfather; she might never have given him any thought before but to learn that he was too old and frail to leave his bed touched her heart. She was glad to learn that he was not alone in that big, old house. He shared it with his surviving son and daughter. They were quite old themselves, this great aunt and uncle, and unlike her grandfather, had never moved away from the family home. She learned that Great Uncle Toby had been married, but his wife had died very young and he had never remarried. Great Aunt Alice had never been married at all and had stayed to look after her father and brother all her life. Kitty did not feel so sympathetic towards them. She could not help but feel that if either of them had managed to have a family of their own, there would have been other heirs and the Levinson family would have had no claim over her. But she was curious to know more about the big house.

“Is it a mansion?” she asked.

“I believe it is, but I don’t know any more than that,” said her father. “Your mother didn’t know what it was like. She had only been there as a baby before her parents brought her to America.”

“But will it really be mine one day?” asked Kitty in amazement.

“Well, your Great-Uncle Toby will inherit it when Sir Francis dies,” said her father. “What he does with it when it is his is entirely up to him. He may wish to sell the place and spend all the money. What is left when he dies will pass to you.”

“Well, it is probably a good thing that I am going to see it now,” said Kitty. Until that moment, she hadn’t thought it was a good thing at all, and she was surprised to find herself suddenly looking forward to it. It would be an adventure, she realised, and something her father and Grandmother had never done.

“When am I to go?” she asked. “And how will I get there?”

“I will write to your Uncle,” said her father, “and arrange for him to come and fetch you.”