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The story begins with a narrator's description of five characters on horseback in the West Country in April.

The party is composed of a Mr. Brown and his nephew a deaf!mute servant named "ick a woman called #ouise and a bodyguard named $ergeant %arthing. Their &ourney began in #ondon and has taken them into "evon where the nephew is to meet his beloved for an elopement!!!or so they tell the staff at the Black 'art an inn near ()moor. When the narration becomes dialogue relationships seem different. The uncle *s subordinate to the nephew who is referred to as #acy not Brown. The woman seems unperturbed when "ick unbuttons his breeches and stands near her with an e)posed erection. $he does plead for an e)planation however when the nephew!!whom she refers to as +my lord+ and who calls her %anny!!chastises her for having worn a bou,uet of violets beneath her nose as they traveled that day. After -. pages of this narration whose dialogue is from the /0th century but whose narrator is from the late 1.th a facsimile page with no immediately evident connection appears part of the +'istorical Chronicle+ from The Gentleman's Magazine for April /234 when the fictional story has been taking place. The ne)t page is fictional but purports to be an item from The Western Gazette reporting the discovery of a corpse in the woods near ()moor hanging from a tree with a bou,uet of violets growing from its mouth. The ne)t /. pages are in a different dramatic mode an interrogation of the Black 'art's innkeeper Thomas 5uddicombe with the ,uestions and answers marked by 6s and A's and the whole transcript signed by one 'enry Ayscough. After two more interviews and two more e)cerpts from The Gentleman's Magazine Ayscough's role becomes clearer with a letter to his employer addressed as +7our 8race + who is evidently the father of the young lord in the party of travelers. Ayscough is confident that the so!called nephew is indeed +his #ordship + this unidentified duke's younger son but Ayscough cannot imagine what he was doing in this part of the country or why he brought the e)tra companions besides his now!deceased servant. The ne)t section is narrated in which Ayscough intimidates the actor %rancis #acy into admitting that he was indeed hired by a man he knew was only pretending to be +Mr. Bartholemew + and agreed to pretend to be his +uncle + Mr. Brown to help him reach the vicinity of his fianc9e undetected. #acy recounts several of their conversations in which #ord !!!!!!! revealed an interest in $tonehenge mathematics and philosophy. #acy further reports that %arthing told him that he had once seen the woman in their party entering a #ondon house of prostitution owned by a Mrs. Claiborne that "ick and +#ouise+ were having a clandestine se)ual relationship as they traveled and that his lordship had stolen out with "ick and her during the night that they lodged in Amesbury near $tonehenge!!all of which

information leads #acy to suspect that more has been going on than he can now e)plain to Ayscough. 'e does point out that he and %arthing separated from the rest of the party on the morning after the night at the Black 'art so he is unable to account for the disappearances of his lordship and the woman. The ne)t interview with 'annah Claiborne establishes that +#ouise+ is +%anny + one of her pri:e prostitutes who came to her as ;ebecca 'ocknell of a 6uaker family in Bristol< her ability to feign religiosity and chastity made her an especially sought!after prostitute known as +the 6uaker maid.+ #ord !!!!!!!! had paid Claiborne for %anny's services for one week for a party in =)ford he told her but for a trip abroad he told a friend. 'is real purpose remains obscure. Ayscough ne)t interviews >ones the real name of %arthing whom his agents have located and learns that >ones decided to follow the three others after they had parted on the road 'e tells Ayscough of having seen them meet a woman dressed in silver trousers near a cave in the woods by ()moor. $ometime after they all entered the cave he reports "ick came running out looking terrified and disappeared into the woods< then ;ebecca emerged naked< his lordship never came out. >ones recounts that he assisted ;ebecca in reaching Bideford from which port he shipped to Wales and she to Bristol but not before she told him that she had seen witches inside the cave had been raped by $atan and had witnessed what appeared to be a mock marriage between his lordship and the younger witch. $everal letters follow from Ayscough's agents who are searching for ;ebecca who is found in Manchester married to a blacksmith named >ohn #ee member of a faction that has broken off from the 6uakers. When Ayscough interviews her ;ebecca e)plains that she has repented her past life and is now a devoted servant of 8od!!as well as a mother!to!be. $he tells Ayscough that she lied to >ones about what happened in the cave first to keep him at a distance physically and second because he would not be able to understand what really had happened. %irst she e)plains that when they visited $tonehenge at night she saw a bright +floating lantern+ and observed two men watching them. $he then e)plains that she was told to engage in se)ual intercourse with "ick while his lordship watched and that she accepted "ick's subse,uent advances out of pity for him. About the cave ;ebecca e)plains that inside she saw a large maggot!shaped machine floating in the air with a door and lights inside. $he was taken inside it by a gray!haired woman who had previously been three women of three ages who merged into one. $he was shown moving pictures of a green world with large buildings that serve as communal housing which ;ebecca now refers to as +>une (ternal.+ The two men she saw at $tonehenge she recogni:es were 8od the %ather and 8od the $on and the three women were a female trinity of Christ's daughter widow and +'oly Mother Wisdom.+ Ayscough then interviews one of the

leaders of the religious sect and learns that ;ebecca's views are largely her own which she has not revealed to the others even though they do believe in a female aspect of the Trinity. When he calls ;ebecca back she stands by her bi:arre story claiming that she awoke to find the cave empty and his lordship gone having left with the spiritual +deities+ and left his fallen half!!that is "ick!!behind. Before the interview ends she has apparently seen a vision of his lordship in the room and the narrator has e)plained that she and Ayscough have radically different ways of seeing the world!!hers artistic female and right!brain hemispheric and his scientific male and left!brain. Ayscough does not believe her and he writes in his last letter to the duke that probably his son killed himself in the cave having felt more and more vile about not being able to accept the world as it is and himself as impotent. The $tonehenge incident he concludes must have been staged. "ick in despair over his master's suicide probably imitated his master. The narration concludes in Manchester where ;ebecca has &ust given birth to a baby girl whom she names Ann. %owles concludes the book in his own voice with an essay e)plaining that Ann #ee became the founder of the $hakers. (ven though %owles is he declares an atheist he admires religious dissenters and sees the year /234 as a convenient marker between the (nglish ;evolution of /400 and the %rench ;evolution of /20?. 'e observes too that sometimes novelists must use far!fetched tropes to convey truths and that ;ebecca represents an emotional enlightenment a +painful breaking of the seed of the self from the hard soil of an irrational and tradition!bound society.+