Of Katherine’s four children, her second-born Lauren, was undoubtedly her favourite. Cara, the eldest, was wilful and disobedient, while the two youngest, Robert and Alex were as feeble and timorous as their father. Lauren was dutiful without being sycophantic, obliging without being needy. She never entered Katherine’s bedroom without knocking, and when she was invited in, she frequently brought with her curious gifts : snails from the garden, or a perfectly-round pebble, or on one occasion the bones and beak of a bird, which cat-like, she mutely laid at the foot of her mother’s bed.

Glancing to her right, Katherine…

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