“You WILL like the Lodge,” Kristoph assured Marion as the hover car sped across country.

Marion looked out of the window and admired the breathtaking view of southern Gallifrey’s most rich and verdant places. They were roughly following a broad river meandering through its flood plain. She had asked what it was called and learnt that it was the bærrow. A mountain called Mount Lœng. A river called bærrow. And the Lœngbærrow family owned both and the land that surrounded them.

“Is that an order?” she asked. “I WILL like the Lodge?”

“What?” Kristoph looked at her momentarily before giving attention to his driving. “No, of course it’s not an order. It was a reassurance.” He sighed. “You’re not making it easy for me, Marion.”

“Am I supposed to?” she asked. “You have taken me for granted, Kristoph. You assumed that I would always be there when you need me, when you have time for me. And you haven’t thought about whether I needed YOU.”

“You DIDN’T need me. You were having a nice time with my mother and Lily. Between them I’m sure they have told you just about every embarrassing detail of my childhood and youth. And don’t tell me you haven’t enjoyed their company. Earth or Gallifrey, women love a chance to get together and gossip. Our worlds are not THAT different.”

“Yes, I liked being with them. But I still needed you. And you couldn’t even tell me WHY you were so distant from me.”

“I EXPLAINED that,” Kristoph answered. “Please don’t… Don’t keep punishing me for my mistake.”

“Maybe you deserve to be punished,” she replied, looking out of the window and avoiding looking at him.

“Maybe I DO,” he admitted. “But I wish you wouldn’t. Marion, I need you back. Please…”

“I need YOU back. The man I fell in love with. I know Professor De Leon was a cover story, but I always thought beneath the story I was still seeing the real you. And I LOVED you. But this now… I…We…”

“Marion!” Kristoph stopped the car. He looked around at her. She wasn’t looking at him. He knew she was crying. She wasn’t someone who cried a lot. This wasn’t a spoilt woman using emotional blackmail to get what she wanted. He knew she was genuinely, hopelessly upset and he knew it was his fault.

“Marion, I once told you that nothing you could do would make me angry. And that’s still true. But if we carry on like this we’ll both reach a point where we say things we don’t mean and hurt each other even more. I am sorry for all the stupid things I’ve done. I am sorry for taking you for granted. For taking it for granted that you would be happy here on my world, among my friends and family. I am sorry that you have had cause to question my love for you, and that I have risked losing even a fraction of your love for me. I BEG you to forgive me.”

He reached out and touched her shoulder. She still wasn’t looking at him but she had listened to him. She wasn’t crying now, just breathing very hard.

“Marion, please,” he began again, but this time she wasn’t listening to him. She was struggling with the safety belt and the door at the same time. “Marion what…”

“You have the superior hearing” she said. “Can’t you hear that?”

“Yes, I can,” he admitted. He was already snapping off his safety belt and opening the door. By the time Marion got out of the car he had reached the source of the trouble

“It’s a child,” she exclaimed as she ran towards him. He reached out and stopped her on the edge of a steep-sided shaft concealed in the rough grassland.

“Careful,” he warned her. “Don’t you fall down as well.”

“What is this?” she asked as Kristoph knelt and tested the edge of the shaft. “Why is there a hole in the ground?”

“It’s a disused mine entrance,” he answered. “It should have been filled in long ago. I’ll be having words with the area manager later. But right now…” He looked down and he spoke with a different tone. “All right, little one. I’m coming to you. Don’t worry.” And without another word he swung himself down, grabbing handholds as he quickly scaled the rough wall.

Marion looked down carefully. The shaft must have been filled in once. But the ground had shifted and there was a good fifteen or twenty foot drop now. At the bottom of it was a boy, maybe eight years old, lying in a twisted position that suggested a broken leg.

“What can I do?” she called down.

“Go back to the car and look in the back. There’s some rope. I might need help getting back up again.”

He hadn’t even thought of his own safety as he climbed down, Marion thought with a surge of pride. He had seen the injured child and made an instant decision.

She found the rope and ran back. She fixed the rope firmly to the top of the shaft and dropped it down to where Kristoph was tenderly examining the child.

“He’s got a broken leg and his head is bleeding,” Kristoph reported back. “He’s not a happy little boy. But we can help him.”

Marion watched as Kristoph touched the child on his forehead and spoke softly to him. At once he seemed to become calmer. He seemed in much less pain. Kristoph lifted the boy and had him put his arms tight around his neck. Then he took hold of the rope that Marion had thrown down to him. He climbed, hand over hand. As soon as they were within reach Marion reached and lifted the boy clear of the shaft while Kristoph climbed quickly out.

“You did it,” she said.

“We both did it,” he answered as he carried the boy to the car. “Can you sit in the back with him. Look after him while I drive.”

“Where to?” she asked as she did as he asked.

“There’s a mining community about a mile from here. That must be where the boy is from. Somebody will be missing him.”

“What sort of mines?” she asked. “Coal?”

“Gold,” he answered. “It’s where our family fortune comes from. Gold, silver, a couple of diamond mines, too.”

“So the boy’s family work for you? You’re the mine owners?”

They reached the village quickly in the fast hover car. She thought it was the prettiest mining village she had ever seen. The houses were all built from a clean white stone and it was all neat and tidy and prosperous looking.

“You own the village, too?” she asked.


“It’s nice. You’re not slumlords, anyway.”

“We try not to be,” he answered. “I think those people over there might be looking for the youngster. You wait with him.”

Again she didn’t argue. These were Kristoph’s own people. Literally so. She wondered what she ought to make of that idea. Of course, there were people who owned big estates in England and lots of people would live and work on the estate. But she was going to marry a man whose family actually WERE such landowners. It was an overwhelming idea.

She saw the men bow their heads respectfully to Kristoph and then when he told them about the boy one of them came running to the car. He grabbed at the door handle and practically wrenched it open, calling out to his son frantically.

“Oh, be careful,” Marion told him. “Lift him gently. He is hurt.” She got out of the car and walked with the man. Kristoph came to her side. He put his arm around her shoulders. She didn’t try to stop him.

When they reached the cottage where he lived the boy’s mother was torn between concern for her son and anxiety to be a hostess to the lord by whose bounty they lived and worked. Kristoph practically had to order her to go with her husband and the village physician to look after the child while they waited in the parlour.

“You did well,” he told Marion. He took her hands and looked at them. She had slight rope burns from taking some of the strain as he climbed and several of her beautifully manicured fingernails had broken. He kissed her hands gently.

“So many women would have complained about their nails breaking,” he said. “I am glad you’re not one of those. But first thing after this weekend I want you to treat yourself to a full manicure. You deserve it.”

“That doesn’t matter,” she said, “Is the little boy going to be all right? Why didn’t his bones mend the way yours do? Don’t the ordinary working people here have the same ability?”

“The ability to repair our own flesh and bones doesn’t develop until nearly adulthood. Our youngest are vulnerable in that way, rich or poor. But the boy will be all right. The physician will mend the broken leg with a sonic tissue repair device. I told him to charge his services to me.”

“That was kind of you,” she told him. “You’re a generous man, Kristoph. And kind. And brave, too.”

“Am I still insensitive and thoughtless, too?”

“Yes,” she told him. “But… Oh, come here. I want to hug you before the mother comes back down here and collapses at the sight of us doing it in her house.”

“I DO wish they wouldn’t be quite so deferential,” he told her. “They’re our employees, not our slaves.”

“You pay them well. They live all right.”

“Mining is a hard and sometimes dangerous job,” he answered. “We provide these homes and a good wage. A school, the physician. And my family provide a bursary to help the brightest of them to attend further education. We’re good landlords, Marion. You mustn’t feel guilty about the luxury we live in. We’re not living off the broken backs of a poverty stricken peasantry or anything like that.”

The mother and father came back to the room with the physician. They were smiling. Their son was going to be all right after a few days' bedrest. They bowed to Kristoph and to Marion, thanking them both fully and pressing them to share their meal. Kristoph accepted for them both and over the dinner he talked to the man of the house about the mining. Kristoph was very knowledgeable about the subject, Marion noticed. He clearly had made sure he knew about the industry that gave his family their wealth.

As they finished the meal another man came into the house. He was introduced as the mine foreman and he was the one Kristoph had to talk to about the dangerous shaft. Marion realised as the conversation went on that Kristoph was being urged to go with the foreman and view not only that shaft, but other parts of the mine complex. He looked at Marion hesitantly.

“It sounds as if it is important you should go,” she said. “But…”

“A mine is no place for you, Marion,” he answered her. “And I am meant to be spending time with you.”

That was true enough, she reflected. But was she churlish enough to insist on him doing so? Especially when he was ASKING her if it was all right.

“You can do that later,” she decided. “But I REALLY don’t think I want to see a mine. Not even a gold mine.”

“Madam,” the lady of the house said. “Perhaps you would care to see the village while his Lordship attends to this business. You could visit the school. I am sure the children would be glad to meet you.”

“Isn’t it the weekend?” she asked. “Won’t it be closed?”

“Many of the brighter students spend their leisure time in extra study,” she was told.

“Amazing,” Marion said. “Where I come from everyone is glad to get away from school.”

It was quickly arranged. Kristoph went off in his car to view the mine. Marion was conducted by the daughter of the mine foreman to the school, where she was greeted like a royal visitor by the headmistress.

It was a substantial building, with several classrooms. The students were aged between four years old and twenty.

“The brightest may win places in one of the great academies,” the headmistress told Marion. “It would be a proud day if one of our students became a Time Lord.”

“That has never happened?” Marion asked.

“It is difficult for the children of Caretakers, of labourers and servants, to acquire the knowledge. Most accept a lesser diploma which enables them to get jobs in the civil service or to be accepted in the officer-training corps of the Chancellery Guard. That in itself is a matter of pride for their families. But a Time Lord…. That would be a great achievement for a Caretaker.”

“I see,” Marion said. “That is why so many of them study at the weekend.” She had seen several rooms where young people were hard at their books and at computer terminals. Their determination was clear.

“The younger ones come, too. Because they love learning,” she was assured, and she was conducted to the room marked ‘nursery class’. There were about fifteen girls and boys, all busy at the sort of work that children of that age would be doing in any school. Painting, making things with coloured paper, reading books that had colourful illustrations and not too many words per page.

“It looks nice,” she said. “And the Lœngbærrow family pay for it all?”

“Of course. We are all their employees. We live by the grace of his Lordship in comfort and with all we need for our health and well-being.”

“That IS true, isn’t it?” Marion asked. It seemed just a little too much for her to swallow. “You don’t have to humour me, you know. I’m NOT a Lœngbærrow, at least not yet.”

“You are his Lordship’s betrothed,” the headmistress said. “But yes, the Lœngbærrow House has the respect and devotion of all here.”

It was a startling thought. Marion found it difficult to take in. She set it aside and concentrated instead on the children and what they were doing. She looked at the books a group of them were reading from. She saw they were children’s versions of the same epic poems that first enchanted her in Kristoph’s own library. They had colourful pictures to accompany a more simplified language and a rhyme scheme that would keep children’s attention.”

“Oh,” she said, “I love that story.”

“Why don’t you read to them?” the headmistress said. “I am sure they will all be good.”

And they were. Marion sat on a chair and the children gathered around her feet. She began to read the story to them. She felt a little self-conscious at first, but then she began to enjoy it. The children did, too.

It was several hours later that Kristoph came looking at the school where he was told Marion was, still. He watched her from the classroom door for a long time as she sat with a group of youngsters telling the Earth fairy story of Rapunzel. He waited until she was done before he made his presence known. He came and sat beside her. One of the children asked him if he could tell them a story. He smiled gently.

“I am afraid we haven’t got time for any more stories,” he said. “I must take Lady Marion away from you soon. But I have sweets.” And to Marion’s surprise she saw him reach into his pocket and produce a large bag of sweets that went around the whole nursery class exactly. He petted the little ones lovingly, picking some of them up on his knee. It was a side of him Marion had not seen before. Though she knew how kind he could be, she had not seen him with children before. What she saw made her smile. He was so very gentle with them. She allowed herself, just briefly, to wonder what it would be like if they had children of their own.

“You WERE wonderful with them,” she told him later when they were driving towards their destination after the unplanned afternoon diversion. “The children.”

“So were you,” he answered. “A born teacher.”

“Yes, but you were like… as if they were all your own children.”

“They were all born on my family property,” he said. “I suppose in a way they are.” He smiled at her. “OUR children, when you are Lady de Lœngbærrow. If you still want to be, that is.” With the hover car in cruise control and the way clear, he reached out and touched her left hand as it rested on her lap. “The gold in that ring was mined by the people in that village. The diamond came from some miles further west. And I want you to feel proud of that, not ashamed and embarrassed.”

“Now I have seen how your employees live, I do feel better about it,” she admitted. “But you have to understand, I am still not used to being attended by maids and waited on by butlers.”

“That’s why I thought you would enjoy a weekend at the lodge. With no servants, nobody for miles around. I’m afraid it will be dark by the time we reach it now. There will just about be time to make a little supper and go to bed.”

“Just like the first day we met,” she said. “We were both running late and we had supper and went to bed.”

“It seems so long ago.”

“It feels like another lifetime sometimes,” she agreed. “So much has happened since.”

“I’ve never been happier than I have been since I met you, Marion. I hope… Please don’t let my stupidity in this past week undo that happiness.”

“I don’t want that, either,” she told him.

“Well, there you are, then,” he answered. She laid her head back on the headrest and watched him driving. She remembered doing the same a long time back when he drove them to Whitby. She was still falling in love with him then. Now…

Now, she was travelling in a hover car, that moved almost silently six feet from the actual ground. She was on another planet where the sun came up in another direction entirely and there were twenty-six hours in the day.

There had been so many changes in her life. But the one constant was the ruggedly handsome man by her side. The man she loved.

She loved him. And in the end, what else mattered?