Bradford on Avon, ergonomic stool, Gap Year student, John Hurt, Kim Kardashian, l'enfer c'est les autres, maxima culpa, moveable feast, penny dreadful, QE2, Sartre, The Inferno, Thornton's chocolate, Underworld
Drusilla Fotheringay, Housemistress at St Vitus’ School for the Academically-
Gifted Girl lifted the post from the entrance hall. There was a personal letter
addressed to her in spidery writing. She felt curiously excited, as when she
had anticipated a pound note, or a book token on her birthday, as a youngster.
It was so rare to be sent snail mail. The stamps were curiously lumpy.
Obviously they been steamed off and re-used. They depicted the QE2.
Hang on! They are pre-decimal! How did she get away with that? Dru
Fortunately she had a free period before the onslaught, so she sat down in the
office and looked at the postmark. It was from Rochester, Kent.
Aunt Augusta! she sighed. She had been meaning to write to the old bird, but
had been so busy. No doubt she wanted her to visit, but she was supposed to
be clearing out her things in Bradford-on-Avon before Mum handed over the
cottage to its new owners. Thank goodness she had already moved her harp
into the boarding house.
There was no pound note, but there was a Thornton’s voucher for a discount
on a second Easter egg, if you bought more than one.
Dru supposed that it was a hint that she should bring some chocolate down
with her on her next visit. Easter might be a moveable feast, but there wasn’t
going to be too much leeway as far as dutiful attendance went.
A newspaper cutting fell out of the envelope. It was headed The Rochester
Messenger and dated the 30th March, 2014.
Dru cast her eye over the column and nearly fell off her ergonomic stool.
Wasn’t that a bodily excretion peculiar to vegetarians? No, don’t go there!
The cutting was an obituary for Anthony Revelly, the man whom they had
identified as being her grandfather. They hadn’t had time to work out a
strategy for revealing the information they had pieced together on their visit
to Wyvern Mote.
Yes, dear. Why are you phoning me now? Aren’t you at work? Are you all
Mum, I’ve just had a letter and a cutting from a local penny dreadful from
You mean Great-Aunt Augusta, don’t you?
Whatever. (This lazy way of speaking was rubbing off on her from her
teenage charges. It was technically called convergence, according to the
pedantic English teacher) Mum, Anthony Revelly is dead.
The Anthony Revelly from the nursing home? Your-em-grandfather?
He died at the end of March. Aunt Augusta has enclosed his obituary.
Did she know..?
No, we hadn’t told anyone, so that’s why we hadn’t been informed.
Why is she sending you the cutting then?
Because…well, it’s a bit awkward. The truth is..
..that she complained because he was suffering from dementia and wandered
around at night and attempted to get into bed with her. He obviously thought
that she was her sister, Berenice. They were so alike.
Tragic, said Diana. I bet he didn’t get a very good reception. From what you
said, she seemed to have never really cared for men.
She seemed to have never really cared for anyone, Mum, though she is rather
keen on herself naturally! To be fair, she cared for Dad practically when he
was at prep school.
Poor old Revelly was lonely, vulnerable and frightened.
It’s so sad and final. Suddenly Dru brimmed over. I never got to know him.
Diana felt guilty. If only she had been honest about Dru’s real father being
Augustus, instead of fabricating her deception which had taken in Murgatroyd
Syylk and led to his honourably, if unwittingly, taking responsibility for Dru as a
She had deprived Augustus of paternity rights and kept her daughter from her
grandfather. There must be a special circle in Hell for women such as herself.
(She had just been listening to a Radio 4 adaptation of The Inferno. She
thought John Hurt was rather good in it; he was rather good in
Mea culpa! Mea maxima culpa, she beat her breast. Ouch! She might
have to share a gyre, or spiral thingy with Kim Kardashian. That would be
a just punishment. Who was that Kardashian woman again? Someone she
knew instinctively that would make her repeat Sartre’s statement: L’enfer
c’est les autres for all eternity.
Mother and daughter sobbed together.
Dru! Come over to Sonia’s. We need to sort this out.
But I have to teach at ten o’clock. How am I going to cope?
You tell them that you have just had notice of a bereavement and the rest is
their problem. They can double up the little blighters with another group.
The Gap Year student can make up the extra adult presence, surely?
But she’s got a mental and emotional age of fourteen, Dru protested.
Just do it! She’s got the edge on them by a couple of years and at that age,
it’s a gulf never to be bridged. Oh no, that sounded like a geophysical
feature of the Underworld again!
Okay, Mum. I love you.
Sonia’s already worked out what’s happening, Diana soothed.
Well, she is supposed to be a clairvoyant.
Never mind that now. Just get over here and we will think of how to
tell your father.
Okay, Dru sniffed. She would just about have time to call into Thornton’s
on the way.
Boy, did she need some chocolate.