There was one of those quintessentially country moments this morning. It was half past ten; we had an appointment in Aberdeen around noon, but no engagement before then. So it happened that nobody had precisely, within the usual meaning of the word, got up. Miss Kit’s general droopiness continues to give some cause for anxiety: while the vet gave her a clean bill of health last night, it is perfectly clear that she is not all she should be; that is, she may not be ill, but something is wrong all the same. My latest theory is that she might have swallowed a wasp. So we were sitting upstairs with Miss Kit reading this and that, trying to be comforting, and so forth, when there was a faint sound of hallooing from downstairs. This normally indicates the presence of the Apparitional Gamekeeper (whose car is off the road and is, in consequence, enjoying a few days’ enforced holiday) so we paid it little attention, especially when we heard the Northern Gentleman padding off to deal with it. Something in the colloquy that followed suggested a definite note of puzzlement, so I got off the bed and went to find out what was happening. There, in the hall, was a grey-haired gentlewoman of the jeans and no-nonsense sweater persuasion, who introduced herself, as I came down the stairs, as a member of a family notable for having claimed to have risen from the red earth in the time of Adam: her son is the proprietor of a nearby castle, who has recently returned from abroad with a wife and a new baby, and it would seem, wish to establish some kind of circle of acquaintance within reasonable driving distance. This did not, in my view, explain why the good lady, though her name is well known to us, and vice versa, for entirely extraneous reason, was in my hall at ten-thirty in the morning. ‘We were wanting to invite you round’, she said, in the face of my general air of ‘this had better be good’, ‘and didn’t have your phone number’. Well, our phone number is in the book, twice. Under my name, and under the Northern Professor’s. It might also strike the reflecting mind that someone possessed of both enough of an address with which to turn up in person, of the relevant name, and of basic literacy could have written a note. I did not, I think reply at this point, but merely gave her what they used to call an old-fashioned look: this particular old-fashioned look was practically Jurassic. ‘Perhaps you could give it to me now?’ she asked brightly. ‘Oh, certainly’, I said, and headed for my study where pencil and paper could be found. Meanwhile, to my intense irritation, she beetled after me into the recesses of the house and went into the kitchen, from whence I heard ‘Oh! A dear old Labrador!’. I emerged again, and handed her a folded piece of paper, and she retreated in reasonably good order. ‘I’d no idea there was a house here’, she chirped. No, I thought, and that is why you are here. You turned up to see if the establishment was what it has been cracked up to be, in order to decide if you want to know us or not. How nice. ‘No’, said I. ‘It’s very secret’. ‘Toodle-oo!’ she said, scuttling for her car. There are are times when the world of Jane Austen seems just around the corner, or actually present.