Bourbon biscuit, Caracas, crystal ball, DNA analysis, Elgin marbles, exhumation, Katherine of Aragon, kinship, Lady of the Bedchamber, perjury, St Birinus, Tindall, Tyndale, Wyvern Mote
Costamuchamoulah must-seen cafe was open on the Bank Holiday and, the
weather being clement, Sonia, Diana and Dru were sitting in the courtyard,
out of earshot, they hoped, of the other customers. Snod came in, looking
ill-at-ease in this bastion of good taste. He was probably the only
customer who could have explained what a ‘bastion‘ was. Most would
have thought it a term of abuse.
I just want a simple coffee. Why does life have to be so complicated? he
Diana cleared her jacket from the spare chair that she had been reserving.
I’ve been studying the paperwork from Aurelia, she began. The Tindalls of
Coquetbrookdale! Quite a family.
Not related to that rugby player with the smashed nose who married Zara?
No, not the same branch. Elizabeth Swan married John Tindall and this was
how the- here Diana lowered her voice and looked around furtively – the
Tindall jewel came into Elizabeth’s possession. It had been handed down
from generation to generation, from mother-in-law to daughter, or daughter-
A relation of Sir William Tyndale, who was knighted at the marriage of Arthur,
Prince of Wales to Katherine of Aragon, originally seemed to have acquired it,
possibly from a royally-esteemed Lady-of-the-Bedchamber.
Whose bedchamber? asked Sonia, forthrightly.
Ah, that might have been telling! said Diana, coyly. No, it might have
come into the family through a marriage.
Which leaves the problem of what you are going to do about it, said Snod,
nodding to Dru. The letter says that it comes to the wife, or daughter of any
of her sons.
I’m definitely out of the picture, said Diana. But what if you were to marry in
the near future? Would that rule Dru out? She was desirous of protecting
her daughter’s interests.
And can we be sure that Lionel and Peregrine did not have any illegitimate
daughters? asked Sonia. They would have entitlement.
I suppose Bunbury et al will advertise in the press in Thailand and Canada for
any claimants to come forward within a certain period of time. They might
have to be subject to DNA analysis, said Snod.
I might have to give a swab too, interrupted Dru. They might want to check
Diana blushed and her chin disappeared into her collar. Shhh! she hissed.
I might have to have a DNA test, agreed Gus, not relishing the idea,
as he confused it with sperm banks for some reason. After all, my father is
not named on my birth certificate and my mother is designated as Berenice.
Just because Lady Wyvern, er.. Aurelia, paid some school fees and confessed
to perjury in her letter, it might be seen as the ravings of a madwoman and
Anthony being dead too, how can we prove kinship?
There could be a hair on Aunt Augusta’s sheets, suggested Dru.
Don’t be silly, laughed Diana. I expect that in an establishment as genteel
as Snodland Nursing Home for the Debased Gentry, they have probably
changed the bedding since Anthony’s last nocturnal perambulation.
Dru looked sceptical. From what I’ve read, it’s a miracle if the sheets
are laundered at all on some of these premises. But, seriously, DNA
is pretty resistant material. It survives washing machines, apparently.
Sonia said: Washing machines have inbuilt obsolescence nowadays,
so it wouldn’t be difficult to outlast them. I only had mine three years.
Yes, but you don’t use de-calcifiers, reprimanded Diana. That’s why
your towels are brick hard.
Sonia shot her a look that might have been interpreted as inviting
her to lodge elsewhere if she had any further criticisms.
Well, I am not going to sanction any exhumations, avowed Gus. And
that includes Berenice’s. It’s rather extreme to rule out a blood
You wouldn’t have to, clarified Sonia. You could get a sibling swab from
Aunt Augusta which would disprove your relationship to her entire family.
Not by stealth, Diana countered. Only by informed consent and the
authorities might think she is too confused to comply.
Nonsense, said Sonia. From what you’ve told me-here she nodded
towards Dru- she has all her marbles and it wouldn’t surprise me if she
had some of the Elgin variety too, stashed in her bedside locker, alongside
her gin. Anyway, you could ask that De Sousa chap in Caracas to supple a
hair. That would disprove that he is your half brother.
Oh, I’d forgotten about Hugo, said Snod, a trifle guiltily. I’d better write to
him to disabuse him of our familial ties. He will be disappointed.
Well, you asked me what I was going to do, Dru finally chipped in. And I have
already decided. If the lawyers are satisfied that Dad is Aurelia’s son and I am
offered the jewel, I am going to say that I want it to remain on exhibition at
These things can bring a curse on families and I don’t want Mum to regret
that she should have had no stake in it. Nor do I want to alienate any future
step- mothers. (Here Gus flushed deeply) And, anyway, what would I do
It’s probably uninsurable in private hands. I don’t need the money. I am more
interested in my career and this seems as good a time as any to announce
that I have been short-listed for the post of Head of St Birinus Middle, with the
blessing of its finest Master, my father!
And she raised her coffee cup to her lips in a loyal toast. I wouldn’t need
any treasures, as there is accommodation provided and, without having to
worry about a mortgage, I would be well provided for and would have an
adequate salary and pension.
That’s my girl! Gus flushed with pride. He could only hope that she would
He had declared his affiliation and conflict of interest to the Governors and
had stepped down from the interview panel. He had yet to be informed of
the other candidates.
But what about your parentage? Sonia challenged Gus. Don’t you want to
have everything cleared up? I know there is no inheritance involved, since
Wyvern is now National Trust, but aren’t you a teeny bit curious?
I thought you would have taken out your crystal ball and enlightened me,
teased Gus. But, I’ll take Aurelia’s word for it. As far as I am concerned, at my
time of life, I am grateful to one parent alone and he is the one who has
perpetually looked out for me through thick and thin..
And that is..? they all asked simultaneously.
St Birinus. And Snod twiddled the ring on his little finger and drained his
cup of basic filter coffee with satisfaction, even though there were no
accompanying Bourbon biscuits on offer.
So, you don’t mind the uncertainty? Sonia probed a little further.
No, Gus shook his head. It’s just like many of life’s vicissitudes: an
exemplification of Snod’s Law!