All weekend long the delegates of the Caretaker Council had been arriving, close relatives of the family being put up in the specially reopened west wing of the oak-timbered and limestone manor house whilst others found rooms at the village inn and at Mrs Murphy's guest house, much to the bemusement of the largely elderly residents of High Langton. Not since the outbreak of the First War had the sleepy hamlet seen such a level of organized activity, and given the secrecy surrounding the meeting, wild rumours were rife, further fuelled by the deliberate release of disinformation by Miss Crawford, the council's honorary secretary.
In her early to mid forties, Mary Crawford was a slight figure, standing no taller than five feet six inches in her sensible heels and tweed two piece suit. Her unfashionable, mousy, permed appearance and eagerness to please fooled many a stranger, but not those who'd come to know and ultimately admire her. The councillors and co-opted dignitaries might have been masters of waffle and debate and have the final say when it came to a vote, but it was the unassuming, organized and efficient Mary Crawford whose hard work brought them all together in the first place and made the event possible. The woman had the worthy gift of being able to attend to fine detail without falling into unnecessary pedantry.