Death on the Brandywine by Kathryn Ramage

"It doesn't matter about Mr. Frodo's bed," said the maid named Daffy as she and Sam went into the room next door. "He's only slept in his sheets the one night, and we'll get 'em for washing after you've gone." As she began to strip the bed, she glanced up at Sam and asked, "Will you be staying with us for very long?"

"I don't know rightly," Sam answered, and came forward to help her gather up the bundle of sheets. "We'll stay 'til we've finished what we came here for." He looked about the bedroom, which was very like the one Frodo was staying in. "Whose room is this?"

"Mr. Fredegar Bolger, who's visiting too."

"He didn't come 'til just before we did," Sam ventured. "Isn't that so?"

"Yes, that's right. Just the day before." As they left the room, Daffy took the armload of sheets from Sam and dropped them into a large wicker basket sitting in the hallway. "He's come up for the funeral. But his sister Miss Estella's been here awhile with their aunt. This is her room," she announced as they went into another room farther along the passage. "A sweet little miss, she is, and hardly any trouble to look after, 'cept for that once..."

As they went from room to room, Sam helping the maid to gather the bedsheets, she told him many interesting things about the occupants of each. Sam listened attentively, asked questions, and thought he would never be able to remember it all to tell Frodo. He'd have to write everything down when he got a chance!

"You're sweet to give a hand, Sam Gamgee," Daffy told him when they had finished with the last bedroom. "It's got my job done so much quicker."

"Glad to've helped," Sam mumbled rather shyly. It was the least he could do to repay her for the information she'd given him. He had only one question left to ask. "Can you tell me, Daff? We've been in all the rooms. Which one belonged to this Mr. Berilac who died?"

"It's that one." Daffy pointed to a closed door at the far upward curve of the hallway, a room they had not entered. "It's been shut up. Nought to look at, if you've a mind to go in. Why d'you want to?"

"Oh, I was curious. I've heard so much talk about him. All sorts of odd things."

"That's no surprise!" she laughed. "Mr. Berilac was a caution! Old Bramblebanks warned me about 'm the day I started to work here at the Hall. 'You're a pretty girl,' he said. 'Watch yourself around that one.'"

Sam wondered if Berry had paid improper attention to Daffy--she was quite pretty--but he couldn't suspect her. They were looking for a dark-haired girl, and Daffy's hair was yellow. "He didn't give you any trouble, did he?"

The question made Daffy smile at him. "No," she answered, "save for a teasing word or two. I was on my guard, but I've heard stories about girls that wasn't!" She leaned closed to Sam and told him confidentially, "Last summer, there was a maid who worked here, Milliflora, her name was. She had to go off and marry quick-like to a lad at one of the farms down the river Standelf-way. She had her baby only three months after." Her eyes were wide. "Now that's scandal enough, but it was settled all right in the end, 'til her husband came to the Hall wanting to see Mr. Berilac--wanting to fight with him over Milli! He said Mr. Berry'd disgraced her."

Sam was agog at the dazzling array of sexual indiscretions he had discovered going on around Brandy Hall--and all centered around one person! It made his own secret with Frodo seem quite mild by comparison. "You mean the baby was Mr. Berry's?" he whispered.

"Well, there's no way of knowing," Daffy admitted. "The cook has it that even Milli wouldn't know for certain one way or the other. But her husband wouldn't have any more to do with her after that. She and the baby went home to her family, and they've been there since. What else can we think of it?"

Sam agreed that this was suggestive. "And what about the husband? Did he fight Mr. Berry?"

"No," the girl answered regretfully. "Old Bramblebanks sent him off, and he never saw Mr. Berry."

Sam was eager to find out more about this incident, but before he could ask for more details, there was a shout from someone below: "Daff!"

"Coming!" Daffy shouted back, and gave Sam another smile. "I shouldn't stand out here a-talking all day when there's work to be done." She shoved the wicker basket full of bedsheets down a narrow, steep side-tunnel, and went after it.

After she had gone, Sam tried the door to Berry's room, and found it locked.
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