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.The days when he and his mother had been servants themselves in the Duke’s old mansion in the City of London seemed such a long time ago now.To Jem it felt like a different life lived by a different boy.“Jem, you are training to be a gentleman, and I know you will be a very good one.You’ll have to take care of all this …” Ann gestured at the ceiling and the panelled walls, “… and your people too.”As if on cue, a huge laugh came from the hall beyond and Eliza’s broad, red-cheeked face appeared around the door.“Your friend Mr Jericho is a very wicked man, Master Jeremy.I hope you know what you and your mother are letting us all in for this evening.I’ve never heard such … Ooh!”Eliza jumped as Gabriel sidled past her and into the room.He was wearing a broad-brimmed hat with a huge red feather and a trailing travel cloak.“So this is where you’ve all been hiding, is it?” He thumped over to the fire and plonked himself down next to Jem, stretching his hands out to the flames.“Lovely place you have here.Bit of a surprise to find you own all this, eh?”Jem grinned broadly as the burly showman swept off his hat, loosened his cloak and began to pull off his boots.“Gabriel! It’s so good to see you!”“Well, we’ve missed you too, lad.I’m always saying to these two it’s not the same without you.Even if you are a lordling, there’s always a place for you with us – if you’ve a mind to it.”“It’s true, he often says you would have made a good player.” Tolly reached across to brush a glowing cinder that had popped from the fire away from the end of Cleo’s tail.Jem spluttered, “But I wasn’t much of an actor!”“Never you mind that – you’re a fine-looking lad and that’s what the girls come to see a play for these days.” Gabriel’s brown eyes twinkled mischievously.“What do you say, Ann?”Her pale cheeks flushed.For the first time ever, as far as Jem could remember, she seemed to be stuck for words.Gabriel laughed and the deep, hearty sound made Jem smile from ear to ear.He felt warmth tingle through every part of his body and he knew it wasn’t from the heat of the fire.“I am so glad you’ve all come.My mother kept it secret until yesterday.I don’t know how she did it.”“You couldn’t hold a proper Twelfth Night feast in the old style without players! Of course your mother wanted us here.We’re the finest mummers in the country.” Gabriel slapped Jem’s back.“And she knew how important it was to you, lad.We are your Twelfth Night gift.”Jem sighed contentedly, stretched his arms out behind him and leaned back, beaming at his friends.“I have another gift for you too, Jem,” Ann said.“I’ve been making costumes for us.” Cleo chirruped and jumped into the midst of the group.“Costumes for all four of us,” Ann continued, laughing at the monkey’s enquiring expression.“Really, Tolly, I swear that sometimes she’s a better mind-reader than you!”Gabriel shuffled back from the fire on his large bottom.Jem heard the big man’s knees crack as he stood up.“Mind-reading, is it? I’ll tell you three something in confidence now …” He tapped a finger against the side of his nose.“I’ve got something rather special prepared for this evening – a surprise, and that’s all I’m going to say.” He narrowed his eyes and looked pointedly at Tolly.“And before you, or that monkey, go rummaging around in my head to try to find out what it is, I’m going to leave you.”He plonked the feathered hat back on his head, gathered up his boots and padded in his thick woollen socks back towards the door to the Great Hall.Jem leaped to his feet.“You can’t go now! You have to tell us more.What’s going to happen tonight?”Gabriel removed his hat again and performed a sweeping theatrical bow.“All I’m going to say, Lord Jeremy, is this: tonight Goldings House will witness something so extraordinary, something so marvellous, something so completely, stupendously amazing that by dawn tomorrow Gabriel Jericho and his Theatrical Circus will be the toast of the county.And now, if you’ll excuse me, I have lions to see to.”The showman clapped his hat back on his head, pulled his cloak around him and swept from the room [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]