The big mansion and gardens several miles from the city, amidst the engulfing housing developments, seemed a hallmark of decades gone by, and so did the aged owner who occupied its spacious rooms. Past ninety, white-haired and a little bent, he nevertheless retained considerable spirit. On this February day, as often, he was in his study, scrupulously examining through a reading glass reports and accounts on his desk, relishing the warmth of a blazing fireplace in the opposite wall.
Item by item he studied income and outgo, figures and totals, enjoying his task and the sense of accomplishment in a life now more and more isolated and without change.
He began to feel a chill; rising and moving about a bit creakily, he crossed the room and built up the fire again. A rejuvenation, the old man mused as he stood watching, hardly possible with himself. His reflective mood lengthened. Why, he wondered these days, had he lived so long? Was there, perhaps, something else in the world for him to do? Some unfinished business to attend to? Idle speculation, he decided, with an impatient shrug, and returned to the papers on his desk.
“For dessert,” Martha Doowinkle said, “we’ll have a cherry cobbler.”
“Sounds special,” John Doowinkle said. An assistant district attorney, he was a slight man, wearing glasses and, from the cut of his jaw, rather stubborn by trait.
“But we’ll have it later,” Martha said. “Paul and Sue Leland are coming over.”
“Paul and Sue – Oh. The newlyweds you matched up at the shore last summer.”
“All I did was to have two nice young people meet,” Martha retorted coldly. “Anyway, they’re back from their honeymoon…”