At the tail end of this ""saga"" set in Edwardian England, a character cuts the tongue from his servant to conceal his own whereabouts. Of all the many gestures in this novel filled with gestures, this is the most extreme and gratuitous. The scenes are in London, Dorset, Yorkshire, the Lake Districts, Paris, and Rapallo. The time is 1908, motorcars are frightening the horses, and the heroine, too often described as ""headstrong,"" is startling the older folks in her ""bloomers."" Her lover, David, a painter, first appears astride a black stallion, later poses for admiration in velvets and silks. They flaunt convention, sort of: she refuses to live with his mother and his work has moved beyond the Impressionists. Into what we never learn. That would be asking too much, however, of characters who frequently ""fall to,"" as in ""he fell to eating.