Considering that Philip Lucas's aunt who died early in April was no less than eighty-three years old, and had spent the last seven of them bedridden in a private lunatic asylum, it had been generally and perhaps reasonably hoped among his...
Considering that Philip Lucas's aunt who died early in April was no
less than eighty-three years old, and had spent the last seven of
them bedridden in a private lunatic asylum, it had been generally
and perhaps reasonably hoped among his friends and those of his
wife that the bereavement would not be regarded by either of them
as an intolerable tragedy. Mrs. Quantock, in fact, who, like
everybody else at Riseholme, had sent a neat little note of
condolence to Mrs. Lucas, had, without using the actual words
"happy release," certainly implied it or its close equivalent.
She was hoping that there would be a reply to it, for though she
had said in her note that her dear Lucia mustn't dream of answering
it, that was a mere figure of speech, and she had instructed her
parlour-maid who took it across to 'The Hurst' immediately after
lunch to say that she didn't know if there was an answer, and would
wait to see, for Mrs. Lucas might perhaps give a little hint ever
so vaguely about what the expectations were concerning which
everybody was dying to get information. . . .
While she waited for this, Daisy Quantock was busy, like everybody
else in the village on this beautiful afternoon of spring, with her
garden, hacking about with a small but destructive fork in her
flower-beds. She was a gardener of the ruthless type, and went for
any small green thing that incautiously showed a timid spike above
the earth, suspecting it of being a weed. She had had a slight
difference with the professional gardener who had hitherto worked
for her on three afternoons during the week, and had told him that
his services were no longer required. She meant to do her
gardening herself this year, and was confident that a profusion of
beautiful flowers and a plethora of delicious vegetables would be
the result. At the end of her garden path was a barrow of rich
manure, which she proposed, when she had finished the slaughter of
the innocents, to dig into the depopulated beds. On the other side
of her paling her neighbour Georgie Pillson was rolling his strip
of lawn, on which during the summer he often played croquet on a
small scale. Occasionally they shouted remarks to each other, but
as they got more and more out of breath with their exertions the
remarks got fewer. Mrs. Quantock's last question had been "What do
you do with slugs, Georgie?" and Georgie had panted out, "Pretend
you don't see them."
Mrs. Quantock had lately grown rather stout owing to a diet of sour
milk, which with plenty of sugar was not palatable; but sour milk
and pyramids of raw vegetables had quite stopped all the symptoms
of consumption which the study of a small but lurid medical manual
had induced. To-day she had eaten a large but normal lunch in
order to test the merits of her new cook, who certainly was a
success, for her husband had gobbled up his food with great avidity
instead of turning it over and over with his fork as if it was hay.
In consequence, stoutness, surfeit, and so much stooping had made
her feel rather giddy, and she was standing up to recover,
wondering if this giddiness was a symptom of something dire, when
de Vere, for such was the incredible name of her parlour-maid, came
down the steps from the dining-room with a note in her hand. So
Mrs. Quantock hastily took off her gardening gloves of stout
leather, and opened it.
There was a sentence of formal thanks for her sympathy which Mrs.
Lucas immensely prized, and then followed these ridiculous words:
It has been a terrible blow to my poor Pepino and myself. We
trusted that Auntie Amy might have been spared us for a few years