First of all, our girl's name is Euphemia. Which I persist in pronouncing 'you-FEEM-ee-ya', which is probably wrong. The name 'Euphemia' means 'to speak well'. I'm not sure this definition particularly applies to our girl. Euphemia was also the name of a 3rd century martyr The Great Martyr Euphemia, which does sound a little more like her. Euphemia is pretty great, but she does have a bit of a martyr tendency.
Euphemia (so sorry about the name) is driving home to Hampton-cum-Spyway in her aging Morris 1000. She's stuck at a light, right next to a great socking Bentley. Said Bentley is being driven by a handsome man with a 'high forehead' Question: is 'high forehead' possibly a euphemism for 'receding hairline'? Discuss. She's concerned about the wheezing and gasping coming from under the bonnet...but not as concerned as she's going to be when she gets home to find her father wheezing and gasping. Mr. High Forehead is standing in her father's bedroom with Dr. Bell. Guess what? Daddy's dying. No one has told Euphemia, even though she is:
- Twenty seven years old.
- A Nurse.
- The oldest child.
- Named after a martyr.
Dr. van Diederijk (he of the 'high forehead') has the final say-so about whether to operate on the Colonel's dicky heart...but frankly, it's a case of too little, too late. His bedside manner might be great, but Euphemia finds him cold. As Cold as Ice. Colonel Blackstock dies in the early morning hours without ever saying a word. He's left four orphans behind - Euphemia, age 27, Ellen, 20ish and two boys who are still going to boarding school (the older one is named Nicky). The boys are not important to the story at all - except for cluttering up the house with electric train sets and old hockey sticks, they may as well not exist.
The colonel, unlike most Neels parents, had managed to do a little estate planning. His boys are taken care of. There is a fund for their education. Besides that, the only thing the old man left were debts and a heavily mortgaged house. Euphemia does a few sums and decides that she will have to work really hard so that she can pay off the mortgage (in about 15 years) - because Nicky should inherit the house. Ellen is to go live with Aunt Thea in Middle Wallop. Dr. Bell gives Euphemia a little financial advice, Why don't you rent the house out? Euphemia is struck. That's a brilliant idea! No sooner said than done - Sir Richard Blake (who works at St. Cyprian's with Euphemia) has mentioned her house to someone...that someone turns out to be none other than Dr. Cold as Ice-High Forehead Guy. She's not thrilled, but money is money, and he's willing to fork over plenty of green.
Dr. van Diederijk arranges to have a walk through of Myrtle House (which sounds like a wood carving business). Euphemia races around cleaning and turning rugs before putting some cakes in to cook while she's tarting herself up. Euphemia is a forthright girl...she may have turned rugs so that they present their best side...but she doesn't shy away from pointing out the tear in the entryway carpet. Dr. van D. remarks that she could have it repaired - to which she mentally snorts, if you have the money for it. The house isn't all that he could wish for...he offers to put in another bathroom, on his dime. Euphemia can't figure out what a bachelor needs with a third bathroom.
Soon after moving to Myrtle House, Dr. van Diederijk throws a drinks party - he invites his landlady. That would be Euphemia. She gets her first glimpse of Diana Sibley, baronet's daughter, RDD's fiancee. She looked cold. As cold as Dr. van Diederijk. If they had children, they would be a bunch of little icicles. Euphemia hasn't had anything solid to eat all day, so she snags an apple and has a seat on the stairs. Eve and the apple, says he. He's come to get her...to introduce her to his fiancee. She hands him the apple core and prepares to engage the enemy.
Back at St. Cyprian's, Dr. van Diederijk shows up with Sir What's-his-face. He's the new consultant. That means Euphemia is going to have a lot more time with her tenant. Which gives her time to reflect on his still-single status. The only reason she can come up with for Diana the Dreadful and Dr. van Diederijk not to tie the knot is that they just don't love each other enough. Bingo. Girlfriend has hit the nail on the head. This doesn't mean she wants to have a go at him. Far from it.Dr. van Diederijk has a proposition to make. Diana the Dreadful has had a case of the mumps. He bribes her to act as nurse. The bribe? He dangled her old house in front of her like a carrot in front of a donkey. Sister Ellen and the boys can stay in the house during the upcoming school holiday.
Him: Poor Diana has been suffering. She is languid and listless.
Her: Why can't she just recuperate in England?
Him: She's in low spirits and out of sorts, and frankly doesn't want to be seen by her friends. She needs...
Her: She wants someone to brush her hair, massage on creams and feed her up.
Him: She's the ethereal type.
Her: That's all very well, but see what happens when she gets a bit off colour - she loses pounds and looks like a matchstick.
Him: What a rude young woman you are.
- Meeting with mother and father.
- House Tour O' Love.
- Garden Tour O' ditto.
- Meeting the household help.
- Scrumptious meal that helps make up for the short rations in Spain.
- Fiancee is introduced to another man - Cor de Vries (who sounds like an internet college). He may as well be a drive-by set-up for all the exposition we get.
- Awesome snogging. Oh, you mustn't! Then she leans right back in and kisses him back.
- Have you considered selling your house?
- Him: Is there anyone you'd like to marry? Her: Your roses are magnificent. Him: Do I know him? Her: Isn't that a mandarin duck?