The time period is the Fourth Century CE, and the story takes place during the time of the Fall of the Roman Empire and eerily feels quite current. It is told in contemporary language, much of it in dialogue. The protagonist is a eunuch and the story of his life is historically accurate, as are the events depicted. The title refers to two bears owned by Emperor Valentinian. On his deathbed he orders that they be sent to his brother, Emperor Valens, in the East. One escapes from the messenger; the other one eats the messenger, and the two of them roam the Empire freely and destructively, a symbolic correlative of the times.

From PART VIII; Chapter IX

“You can raise an army?”
“Yes, my Lord… I mean yes, Arcadius.”
“It’ll be an army of eunuchs!”
“Not necessarily, Lord.”
“No, no. I’ll be laughed at if I sent a eunuch as a general. I’ll call Abundantius.”
“He’s in exile.”
“Oh, yes, you saw to that. Arinthaeus, then.”
“He’s retired, my Lord.”
“Where is he? I’ll bring him out of retirement. He would like another chance for an honor and a statue.”
“I’m sure he would not, my Lord. He is enjoying his grandsons and granddaughter and his renewed family life and his circus and theater…”
“Who do you suggest then? I’ll ask Eudoxia who.”
“I suggest myself. As I said. I have no doubt that I could raise an army, chop the Huns into pieces and restore order.”
“You don’t think they will laugh at me?”
“Who is ‘they,’ Lord?”
“STOP CALLING ME LORD! You know who—Stilicho, Gainas, all my people out there.”
“They will not laugh at you. They will think you astute to have chosen so well when I bring home the heads of the Huns and the problem is solved. In fact, ask Eudoxia that. She will tell you, I believe, that I am the person for this, and she may also whisper in your ear to make me Patrician and even Consul when I return as victor. And I wouldn’t be surprised if she ordered five statues of me to be put in the agora and along the avenue.”
“You think so?”
“Eudoxia thinks I am very special.” So special she hates me. “And she will know that I am the man for this job.”
“All right. Go ahead. If you succeed, you shall see yourself on every corner.”
Entropius smiled and left.

Excerpt from SUNNYWOODS, a memoir

Copyright 2010 Frances Webb



Mrs. Wood from across the street called Mother and said would Frances come for tea at four o’clock and meet Virginia from England.  I did not want to go to Mrs. Wood’s for tea.  “You have to.  The English are sending their children over here to be with families while the war lasts so they won’t get bombed in the Blitz…  The Woods have taken the Russell-Cargill children, and Virginia is your age you have to go.”

So tea with Virginia had to do with the war!  Like ration stamps and air raid drills.

I rang the bell.  Mrs. Wood opened the door, smiled, said, “come in and meet Virginia.”  We walked over to the sun porch where I saw the teacups and a teapot on a round wicker table and sat down in a wicker chair that matched.  Virginia was having a tantrum.  I watched her.

Mrs. Wood was not Virginia’s mother.  Howe could Virginia have a tantrum for someone else?  And in someone else’s house?  And even in another country?  I knew it had nothing to do with me walking into her sun porch in order to have a cup of tea…  I ate a cookie, and Mrs. Wood said, “Thank you for coming,” which I knew meant you can go now, so I said, “Thank you for the cookie” and got up and walked back through the living room and into the hall and out the front door.  All the way across the street, I heard Virginia crying and shouting.  She probably wanted to go home to England.