December 18, 2021 at 12:59 pm #6243
In reply to: The Elusive Samuel Housley and Other Family Stories
William Housley’s Will and the Court Case
William Housley died in 1848, but his widow Ellen didn’t die until 1872. The court case was in 1873. Details about the court case are archived at the National Archives at Kew, in London, but are not available online. They can be viewed in person, but that hasn’t been possible thus far. However, there are a great many references to it in the letters.
William Housley’s first wife was Mary Carrington 1787-1813. They had three children, Mary Anne, Elizabeth and William. When Mary died, William married Mary’s sister Ellen, not in their own parish church at Smalley but in Ashbourne. Although not uncommon for a widower to marry a deceased wife’s sister, it wasn’t legal. This point is mentioned in one of the letters.
One of the pages of William Housley’s will:
An excerpt from Barbara Housley’s Narrative on the Letters:
A comment in a letter from Joseph (August 6, 1873) indicated that William was married twice and that his wives were sisters: “What do you think that I believe that Mary Ann is trying to make our father’s will of no account as she says that my father’s marriage with our mother was not lawful he marrying two sisters. What do you think of her? I have heard my mother say something about paying a fine at the time of the marriage to make it legal.” Markwell and Saul in The A-Z Guide to Tracing Ancestors in Britain explain that marriage to a deceased wife’s sister was not permissible under Canon law as the relationship was within the prohibited degrees. However, such marriages did take place–usually well away from the couple’s home area. Up to 1835 such marriages were not void but were voidable by legal action. Few such actions were instituted but the risk was always there.
Joseph wrote that when Emma was married, Ellen “broke up the comfortable home and the things went to Derby and she went to live with them but Derby didn’t agree with her so she left again leaving her things behind and came to live with John in the new house where she died.” Ellen was listed with John’s household in the 1871 census.
In May 1872, the Ilkeston Pioneer carried this notice: “Mr. Hopkins will sell by auction on Saturday next the eleventh of May 1872 the whole of the useful furniture, sewing machine, etc. nearly new on the premises of the late Mrs. Housley at Smalley near Heanor in the county of Derby. Sale at one o’clock in the afternoon.”
There were hard feelings between Mary Ann and Ellen and her children. Anne wrote: “If you remember we were not very friendly when you left. They never came and nothing was too bad for Mary Ann to say of Mother and me, but when Robert died Mother sent for her to the funeral but she did not think well to come so we took no more notice. She would not allow her children to come either.”
Mary Ann was still living in May 1872. Joseph implied that she and her brother, Will “intend making a bit of bother about the settlement of the bit of property” left by their mother. The 1871 census listed Mary Ann’s occupation as “income from houses.”
In July 1872, Joseph introduced Ruth’s husband: “No doubt he is a bad lot. He is one of the Heath’s of Stanley Common a miller and he lives at Smalley Mill” (Ruth Heath was Mary Anne Housley’s daughter)
In 1873 Joseph wrote, “He is nothing but a land shark both Heath and his wife and his wife is the worst of the two. You will think these is hard words but they are true dear brother.” The solicitor, Abraham John Flint, was not at all pleased with Heath’s obstruction of the settlement of the estate. He wrote on June 30, 1873: “Heath agreed at first and then because I would not pay his expenses he refused and has since instructed another solicitor for his wife and Mrs. Weston who have been opposing us to the utmost. I am concerned for all parties interested except these two….The judge severely censured Heath for his conduct and wanted to make an order for sale there and then but Heath’s council would not consent….” In June 1875, the solicitor wrote: “Heath bid for the property but it fetched more money than he could give for it. He has been rather quieter lately.”
In May 1872, Joseph wrote: “For what do you think, John has sold his share and he has acted very bad since his wife died and at the same time he sold all his furniture. You may guess I have never seen him but once since poor mother’s funeral and he is gone now no one knows where.”
Anne intended that one third of the inheritance coming to her from her father and her grandfather, William Carrington, be divided between her four nieces: Sam’s three daughters and John’s daughter Elizabeth.
In the same letter (December 15, 1872), Joseph wrote:
“I think we have now found all out now that is concerned in the matter for there was only Sam that we did not know his whereabouts but I was informed a week ago that he is dead–died about three years ago in Birmingham Union. Poor Sam. He ought to have come to a better end than that”
However, Samuel was still alive was on the 1871 census in Henley in Arden, and no record of his death can be found. Samuel’s brother in law said he was dead: we do not know why he lied, or perhaps the brothers were lying to keep his share, or another possibility is that Samuel himself told his brother in law to tell them that he was dead. I am inclined to think it was the latter.
Excerpts from Barbara Housley’s Narrative on the Letters continued:
Charles went to Australia in 1851, and was last heard from in January 1853. According to the solicitor, who wrote to George on June 3, 1874, Charles had received advances on the settlement of their parent’s estate. “Your promissory note with the two signed by your brother Charles for 20 pounds he received from his father and 20 pounds he received from his mother are now in the possession of the court.”
In December 1872, Joseph wrote: “I’m told that Charles two daughters has wrote to Smalley post office making inquiries about his share….” In January 1876, the solicitor wrote: “Charles Housley’s children have claimed their father’s share.”
In the Adelaide Observer 28 Aug 1875
HOUSLEY – wanted information
as to the Death, Will, or Intestacy, and
Children of Charles Housley, formerly of
Smalley, Derbyshire, England, who died at
Geelong or Creewick Creek Diggings, Victoria
August, 1855. His children will hear of something to their advantage by communicating with
Mr. A J. Flint, solicitor, Derby, England.
The Diggers & Diggings of Victoria in 1855. Drawn on Stone by S.T. Gill:
The court case:
Kerry v Housley.
Documents: Bill, demurrer.
Plaintiffs: Samuel Kerry and Joseph Housley.
Defendants: William Housley, Joseph Housley (deleted), Edwin Welch Harvey, Eleanor Harvey (deleted), Ernest Harvey infant, William Stafford, Elizabeth Stafford his wife, Mary Ann Housley, George Purdy and Catherine Purdy his wife, Elizabeth Housley, Mary Ann Weston widow and William Heath and Ruth Heath his wife (deleted).
Provincial solicitor employed in Derbyshire.
From the Narrative on the Letters:
The solicitor wrote on May 23, 1874: “Lately I have not written because I was not certain of your address and because I doubted I had much interesting news to tell you.” Later, Joseph wrote concerning the problems settling the estate, “You see dear brother there is only me here on our side and I cannot do much. I wish you were here to help me a bit and if you think of going for another summer trip this turn you might as well run over here.”
In March 1873, Joseph wrote: “You ask me what I think of you coming to England. I think as you have given the trustee power to sign for you I think you could do no good but I should like to see you once again for all that. I can’t say whether there would be anything amiss if you did come as you say it would be throwing good money after bad.”
In September 1872 Joseph wrote; “My wife is anxious to come. I hope it will suit her health for she is not over strong.” Elsewhere Joseph wrote that Harriet was “middling sometimes. She is subject to sick headaches. It knocks her up completely when they come on.” In December 1872 Joseph wrote, “Now dear brother about us coming to America you know we shall have to wait until this affair is settled and if it is not settled and thrown into Chancery I’m afraid we shall have to stay in England for I shall never be able to save money enough to bring me out and my family but I hope of better things.”
On July 19, 1875 Abraham Flint (the solicitor) wrote: “Joseph Housley has removed from Smalley and is working on some new foundry buildings at Little Chester near Derby. He lives at a village called Little Eaton near Derby. If you address your letter to him as Joseph Housley, carpenter, Little Eaton near Derby that will no doubt find him.”
In his last letter (February 11, 1874), Joseph sounded very discouraged and wrote that Harriet’s parents were very poorly and both had been “in bed for a long time.” In addition, Harriet and the children had been ill.
The move to Little Eaton may indicate that Joseph received his settlement because in August, 1873, he wrote: “I think this is bad news enough and bad luck too, but I have had little else since I came to live at Kiddsley cottages but perhaps it is all for the best if one could only think so. I have begun to think there will be no chance for us coming over to you for I am afraid there will not be so much left as will bring us out without it is settled very shortly but I don’t intend leaving this house until it is settled either one way or the other. ”
Joseph’s letters were much concerned with the settling of their mother’s estate. In 1854, Anne wrote, “As for my mother coming (to America) I think not at all likely. She is tied here with her property.” A solicitor, Abraham John Flint of 42 Full Street Derby, was engaged by John following the death of their mother. On June 30, 1873 the solicitor wrote: “Dear sir, On the death of your mother I was consulted by your brother John. I acted for him with reference to the sale and division of your father’s property at Smalley. Mr. Kerry was very unwilling to act as trustee being over 73 years of age but owing to the will being a badly drawn one we could not appoint another trustee in his place nor could the property be sold without a decree of chancery. Therefore Mr. Kerry consented and after a great deal of trouble with Heath who has opposed us all throughout whenever matters did not suit him, we found the title deeds and offered the property for sale by public auction on the 15th of July last. Heath could not find his purchase money without mortaging his property the solicitor which the mortgagee employed refused to accept Mr. Kerry’s title and owing to another defect in the will we could not compel them.”
In July 1872, Joseph wrote, “I do not know whether you can remember who the trustee was to my father’s will. It was Thomas Watson and Samuel Kerry of Smalley Green. Mr. Watson is dead (died a fortnight before mother) so Mr. Kerry has had to manage the affair.”
On Dec. 15, 1972, Joseph wrote, “Now about this property affair. It seems as far off of being settled as ever it was….” and in the following March wrote: “I think we are as far off as ever and farther I think.”
Concerning the property which was auctioned on July 15, 1872 and brought 700 pounds, Joseph wrote: “It was sold in five lots for building land and this man Heath bought up four lots–that is the big house, the croft and the cottages. The croft was made into two lots besides the piece belonging to the big house and the cottages and gardens was another lot and the little intake was another. William Richardson bought that.” Elsewhere Richardson’s purchase was described as “the little croft against Smith’s lane.” Smith’s Lane was probably named for their neighbor Daniel Smith, Mrs. Davy’s father.
But in December 1872, Joseph wrote that they had not received any money because “Mr. Heath is raising all kinds of objections to the will–something being worded wrong in the will.” In March 1873, Joseph “clarified” matters in this way: “His objection was that one trustee could not convey the property that his signature was not guarantee sufficient as it states in the will that both trustees has to sign the conveyance hence this bother.”
Joseph indicated that six shares were to come out of the 700 pounds besides Will’s 20 pounds. Children were to come in for the parents shares if dead. The solicitor wrote in 1873, “This of course refers to the Kidsley property in which you take a one seventh share and which if the property sells well may realize you about 60-80 pounds.” In March 1873 Joseph wrote: “You have an equal share with the rest in both lots of property, but I am afraid there will be but very little for any of us.”
The other “lot of property” was “property in Smalley left under another will.” On July 17, 1872, Joseph wrote: “It was left by my grandfather Carrington and Uncle Richard is trustee. He seems very backward in bringing the property to a sale but I saw him and told him that I for one expect him to proceed with it.” George seemed to have difficulty understanding that there were two pieces of property so Joseph explained further: “It was left by my grandfather Carrington not by our father and Uncle Richard is the trustee for it but the will does not give him power to sell without the signatures of the parties concerned.” In June 1873 the solicitor Abraham John Flint asked: “Nothing has been done about the other property at Smalley at present. It wants attention and the other parties have asked me to attend to it. Do you authorize me to see to it for you as well?”
After Ellen’s death, the rent was divided between Joseph, Will, Mary Ann and Mr. Heath who bought John’s share and was married to Mary Ann’s daughter, Ruth. Joseph said that Mr. Heath paid 40 pounds for John’s share and that John had drawn 110 pounds in advance. The solicitor said Heath said he paid 60. The solicitor said that Heath was trying to buy the shares of those at home to get control of the property and would have defied the absent ones to get anything.
In September 1872 Joseph wrote that the lawyer said the trustee cannot sell the property at the bottom of Smalley without the signatures of all parties concerned in it and it will have to go through chancery court which will be a great expense. He advised Joseph to sell his share and Joseph advised George to do the same.
George sent a “portrait” so that it could be established that it was really him–still living and due a share. Joseph wrote (July 1872): “the trustee was quite willing to (acknowledge you) for the portrait I think is a very good one.” Several letters later in response to an inquiry from George, Joseph wrote: “The trustee recognized you in a minute…I have not shown it to Mary Ann for we are not on good terms….Parties that I have shown it to own you again but they say it is a deal like John. It is something like him, but I think is more like myself.”
In September 1872 Joseph wrote that the lawyer required all of their ages and they would have to pay “succession duty”. Joseph requested that George send a list of birth dates.
On May 23, 1874, the solicitor wrote: “I have been offered 240 pounds for the three cottages and the little house. They sold for 200 pounds at the last sale and then I was offered 700 pounds for the whole lot except Richardson’s Heanor piece for which he is still willing to give 58 pounds. Thus you see that the value of the estate has very materially increased since the last sale so that this delay has been beneficial to your interests than other-wise. Coal has become much dearer and they suppose there is coal under this estate. There are many enquiries about it and I believe it will realize 800 pounds or more which increase will more than cover all expenses.” Eventually the solicitor wrote that the property had been sold for 916 pounds and George would take a one-ninth share.
January 14, 1876: “I am very sorry to hear of your lameness and illness but I trust that you are now better. This matter as I informed you had to stand over until December since when all the costs and expenses have been taxed and passed by the court and I am expecting to receive the order for these this next week, then we have to pay the legacy duty and them divide the residue which I doubt won’t come to very much amongst so many of you. But you will hear from me towards the end of the month or early next month when I shall have to send you the papers to sign for your share. I can’t tell you how much it will be at present as I shall have to deduct your share with the others of the first sale made of the property before it went to court.
Wishing you a Happy New Year, I am Dear Sir, Yours truly
Abram J. Flint”
September 15, 1876 (the last letter)
“I duly received your power of attorney which appears to have been properly executed on Thursday last and I sent it on to my London agent, Mr. Henry Lyvell, who happens just now to be away for his annual vacation and will not return for 14 or 20 days and as his signature is required by the Paymaster General before he will pay out your share, it must consequently stand over and await his return home. It shall however receive immediate attention as soon as he returns and I hope to be able to send your checque for the balance very shortly.”
1874 in chancery:
Everyone seems happy about the rain, and I don’t blame them. I’m not daft, I know we need rain but it’s not so easy when you don’t have a home. But I am nothing if not stalwart and stoic, resourceful and adaptable, and I found a good way to keep warm and dry during the downpours. It’s amazing how much heat an animal gives off, so I camp down in stables or kennels when it’s cold and wet. It can get a bit smelly, but it’s warm and dry and when my clothes are damp and stinking I just throw them all away and get some new ones out of the recycling bins. Just to clarify, I find the new clothes first before throwing the ones I’m wearing away. I’m not daft, I know walking around naked would catch attention and I try to stay under the radar. Nobody really notices smelly old ladies wandering around these days anyway, but naked would be another matter.
There’s a stable I really like just outside of town, lots of nice deep clean straw. There’s a white horse in there that knows me now and the gentle whicker of recognition when she sees me warms my heart. I don’t stay there any two nights running though. One thing I’ve learned is don’t do anything too regular, keep it random and varied. I don’t want anyone plotting my movements and interfering with me in any way.
There’s not much to do in a stable when it rains for days and nights on end but remember things, so I may as well write them down. I’m never quite sure if the things I remember are my memories or someone elses, a past life of my own perhaps, or another person entirely. I used to worry a bit about that, but not anymore. Nobody cares and there’s nobody to flag my memories as false, and if there was, I wouldn’t care if they did.
Anyway, the other day while I was nestled in a pile of sweet hay listening to the thunder, I recalled that day when someone offered me a fortune for that old mirror I’d bought at the flea market. I know I hadn’t paid much for it, because I never did pay much for anything. Never have done. I bought it because it was unusual (hideous is what everyone said about it, but people have got very strangely ordinary taste, I’ve found) and because it was cheap enough that I could buy it without over thinking the whole thing. At the end of the day you can’t beat the magic of spontaneity, it out performs long winded assessment every time.
So this man was a friend of a friend who happened to visit and made me an offer I couldn’t refuse so of course I sold the mirror to him. He was so delighted about it that I’d have given him the mirror for nothing if I knew he wanted it that much, but I’m not daft, I took the money. I found out later that he’d won the lottery, so I never felt guilty about it.
Well, after he’d gone I sat there looking at this pile of money in my hands and knew exactly what I was going to do. But first I had to find them. They’d moved again and we’d lost contact but I knew I’d find a way. And I did. They’d given up all hope of ever getting that money back that I’d borrowed, but they said the timing was perfect, couldn’t have been better, they said. It wouldn’t have meant all that much to them if I’d paid it back right away, they said, because they didn’t need it then as much as they did when they finally got it back.
They were strange times back then, and one thing after another was happening all over the world, what with the strange weather, and all the pandemics and refugees. Hard to keep food on the table, let alone make plans or pay debts back. But debt is a funny thing. I felt stung when I realized they didn’t think I intended to pay them back but the fact was, I couldn’t do it at the time. And I wanted it to be a magical perfect timing surprise when I did. I suppose in a way I wanted it to be like it was when they loaned me the money. I remember I wept at the kindness of it. Well I didn’t want them to weep necessarily, but I wanted it to mean something wonderful, somehow. And timing is everything and you can’t plan that kind of thing, not really.
It was a happy ending in the end though, I gave them the whole amount I got for that old mirror, which was considerably more than the loan.
The rain has stopped now and the sun is shining. My damp clothes are steaming and probably much smellier than I think. Time to find a recycling bin and a fresh new look.
“Let me see that,” said Tara, snatching the phone off Star. “Aha!” she exclaimed. “Just as I thought! You’ve been hacked. I’d spot those tell tale typo’s anywhere. That’s not the real Lemoon. Now the question is, what have they been advising you to do? That’s exactly what these cults and oracles do, they infiltrate and dish out bad advice.”
“But why?” asked Star, “It doesn’t make sense!”
“To cause chaos, apathy and inertia?” interjected one of the middle aged ladies, who got a swift dig in the ribs with the other ones elbow and a whispered “Shh! You’ll blow our cover!”
“Since everyone seems to be blowing their cover, maybe we should all come clean,” said the elderly man, who had sidled up behind them unnoticed. “May I join you?” he asked, pulling a chair out.
“It’s another trick!” hissed Rosamund, hoping to salvage the situation. “Don’t trust him! Look at the tattoo on his neck!”
“Ah, yes,” the elderly man said, rubbing his neck ruefully. “Let me explain. I was kidnapped and this tattoo was done against my wishes.”
“Why should we believe you?” asked Tara suspiciously.
“Will you believe me if I take you to the cult headquarters?”
“But I wanted a raspberry tart!” whined one of the middle aged ladies. “You promised!”
“Oh bugger off and buy your own tart,” snapped Star. “We’re on an important case and we don’t have time for starving middle aged ladies.”
“Did someone say drinks are on the house?” asked Rosamund, pushing past the burly bouncer as she entered the pub. “What’s your name, handsome?”
“Percival,” the bouncer replied with a wry grin. “Yeah I know, doesn’t fit the image.”
Rosamund looked him up and down while simultaneously flicking a bit of food from between her teeth with a credit card. “I keep forgetting to buy dental floss,” she said.
“Is that really necessary?” hissed Tara. “Is that moving the plot forward?”
“I’ll be away for a while on an important mission,” Rosamund said to Percival, “But give me your number and I’ll call you when I get back.”
“The trip is cancelled, you’re not going anywhere,” Star told her, “Except to the shop to buy dental floss.”
“I’m glad you mentioned it!” piped up a middle aged lady sitting at the corner table. “I have run out of dental floss too.”
“See?” said Rosamund. “You never can tell how helpful you are when you just act yourself and let it flow. Now tell me why I’m not going to New Zealand? I already packed my suitcase!”
“Because it seems that New Zealand has come to us,” replied Star, “Or should I say, the signs of the cult are everywhere. It’s not so much a case of finding the cult as a case of, well finding somewhere the cult hasn’t already infected. And as for April,” she continued, “She changes her story every five minutes, I think we should ignore everything she says from now on. Nothing but a distraction.”
“That’s it!” exclaimed Tara. “Exactly! Distraction tactics! A well known ruse, tried and tested. She has been sent to us to distract us from the case. She isn’t a new client. She’s a red herring for the old clients enemies.”
“Oh, good one, Tara,” Star was impressed. Tara could be an abusive drunk, but some of the things she blurted out were pure gold. Or had a grain of gold in them, it would be more accurate to say. A certain perspicacity shone through at times when she was well lubricated. “Perhaps we should lock her back in the wardrobe for the time being until we’ve worked out what to do with her.”
“You’re right, Star, we must restrain her….oy! oy! Percival, catch that fleeing aunt at once!” April had made a dash for it out of the pub door. The burly bouncer missed his chance. April legged it up the road and disappeared round the corner.
“Oh I say, that’s going a bit far,” interjected the middle aged lady sitting at the corner table.
“What’s it got to do with you?” Tara turned on her.
“This,” the woman replied with a smugly Trumpish smile. She pulled her trouser leg up to reveal a bell bird tattoo.
“Oh my fucking god,” Tara was close to tears again.
“I knew it!” Tara had gone to investigate early, disguised as an elderly jogger in a velvet teal jogging. “Seemed clear enough that that retirement home was a front…”
Later when she came back to the office, she was quizzed by Star, who was still yawning despite the bright sunlight.
“So tell me, a front for what?”
“Can’t you guess?” Tara said, removing her false teeth.
“Nooo?” her hand flew at Star’s mouth and incredulous face.
“Yes, hmm-hmm; you guessed right: a time travel agency.”
“Oh dangit, they stole my idea! After all the virus pandemic thing, they sure know how to surf the crisis to make a buck. The buying carrots alibi traffic, and now that!”
“Yep, guess that people unable to go anywhere for holidays make up for a good clientele. You can imagine the slogans: Celerity: Why go anywhere? When we can send you anywhen! “
“And a convenient way of disposing of nosy people too. I hope they didn’t send Uncle Basil to the Dinosaurs, can’t imagine the stench of those Time sewers.”
“Oh no, don’t think he was affluent enough, you see. Apparently you pay by the time meter. The further in time, the pricier. And I guess the surest way to dispose of someone would be in the past rather than in the future…”
“So Uncle Basil is in the past!”
“Well, I could have told you that from the start. No wonder Mr French paid us in advance then, he already knew we’d crack that case. Our first case’s closed, dear! If Mr French ever wakes up and calls, we’ll just redirect him to our Time Dragglers friends in Marseille for their ‘relative lost in time’ retrieval package. Now, anyone for mojitos?”
“It’s funny,” he said, squinting his eyes. “Looks like the maze kind of fades out.”
“Oh yeah, that happens all the time. People lose interest you see, then it all but vanishes from their experience. Quaint, I know.”
Kahurangi, nicknamed Kahu, was trying hard to get interested, see if the structure would come back into focus. But there were more fun things around. He asked again to the guy who was selling pop corn at the entrance.
“T’is normal that people wander around with… well, pets? Look at this guy, with a piglet on a leash. It’s cute, don’t get me wrong, and probably more useful when you’re looking for truffles…”
“Pretty normal. Seems animal have a sense around this thing, or so it’s believed. Many will bring one and try again. Look, I buried my snake not long ago, it was getting tired I think. Not sure they make the best animals to cover ground there.” He continued “Are you buying me something or what?”
“Oh sure, give me that, and a bottle of water.”
He handed a crumpled bill of 5 and thanked.
“A word of unsollicited advice?”
Kahu noded “Sure.”
“See those piles of rocks over there, along the way?”
“Looks like inukshuks, are they? Strange place to find them though.”
“Yeah, you’ll tend to see more as you get along. People started to build them to pinpoint places they’d been, but over time, they became encampments, and people lost the will to move on.”
“Don’t stay too long around them.”
Kahu shrugged and moved along. The maze was starting to get in focus again, there was not a minute to spare.
They had to stop to get some rest. Rukshan knew the signs, the song of a black swan, a nesting bear in the forest, cubic clouds… All strange omens not to be taken lightly. He told the others they’d better find shelter somewhere and not spend the night outside.
As soon had he make the announcement that he saw the relief on their faces. They’d been enthusiastic for half a day, but the monotony of walking got the better of their motivation, especially the kids who were not used to such long journeys out of the cottage’s safety.
Fortunately they were not far from the Sooricat Inn, a place lost in the woods, it still had four walls, warm food and almost certainly a hot bath. Let’s just hope they’re open, thought the Fae.
When they arrived, the owner, an old man from Sina, looked at them suspiciously.
“Ya’ll have your attestation? I can’t believe ya’re all family. Don’t think I’m a fool, ya’re a Fae, and this little fella there, he’s smaller than the children but has a beard. Never saw anything like him,” he said with rumbling r’s pointing at the children and Gorrash with his chin. The dwarf seemed offended but a stern look from Rukshan prevented him from speaking.
“Anyway,” continued the innkeeper, “I can just sell ya food. Not’ing parsonal. That’s rooles, ya’know with the all stayin’at home thing from Gavernor Leraway, I can not even let ya’in. Ya can buy food and eat it outside if ya want.”
“Oh! I really shouldn’t. I don’t like breaking rooles.”
“I knew you more daring, Admirable Fuyi,” said a booming voice coming from behind them. They all turned around to see Kumihimo. She was wearing a cloak made of green and yellow gingko leaves, her silvery white hair, almost glowing in the dark, cascading beautifully on her shoulders. A grey cat strode alongside her.
“Oh! that’s just the donkey, Ronaldo. It got transformed into a cat after walking directly into a trap to get one of those darn carrots. He knew better, don’t pity him. He got what he deserved.” Kumihimo’s rant got a indignant meow, close to a heehaw, from Ronaldo.
“Kumi! I can’t believe it’s ya!” said the innkeeper.
“You two know each others?” asked Rukshan.
“It’s a long story,” said the innkeeper, “From when I was serving in Sina’s army, we had conquered the high plateaus. I gave up the title of Admirable when I left the army. After Kumi opened my eyes.” Fuyi’s eyes got wet. “Ah! I’m sure I’ll regret it, but come on in, ya’ll. Let me hear yar story after you taste the soup.”
“Adaptability and improvisation are the names of the game now,” said Liz, beaming with satisfaction. Her impulse had been a success. A quick call to the local dog shelter and the delivery of two dogs within the hour had solved the problem nicely. As anyone who’d ever had dogs knew, cleaning up spilled food was simply never a problem. “You won’t have to wash the dishes anymore now!”
“What do you mean?” Finnley asked suspiciously. “Surely you can’t mean…”
“Why, yes! Just put them all on the kitchen floor and the dogs will do it for you. They’re ever so good, they won’t miss a single morsel. Which is more than can be said for your washing up. Now don’t pout! Be glad you have one less job to do.”
Godfrey patted the black poodle’s head, which had a funny sort of spring loaded feel. “We’re keeping the dogs, then?” he asked, failing to keep the hopeful note out of his voice. He was rather taken with the funny little dog. Without waiting for an answer from Liz he said to the expectant little face peering up at him, “What shall we call you, then?”
The shadow of a frown creased Liz’s brow momentarily as she wondered if she’d done the right thing. Would she be able to stomach seeing Godfrey fawning over a poodle? Why on earth had the dogs home sent her a poodle? Did she sound like a poodle person? But then, they’d sent her a lurcher as well. Liz contemplated taking umbrage at that, did she honestly sound like a lurcher person? A lurcher poodle person? Or a poodle lurcher person?
“Are we keeping both of them, then?” asked Roberto. “What shall we call you, big boy?” he asked, addressing the dog.
“On the way back call in at the dogs home and pick two more dogs up, Finnley. We may as well have one each. I’ll ring them now.”
“Are you sure this is a good idea? Replacing all our culture with carrots seems a bit extreme.”
“We entered unheard of territory. And yes, carrots are the future of our community. We need more carrots.”
“Do you mind illuminating my inferior mind?”
“What do you think? People are allowed to go out only in a few cases. Walking your dog, buying food. It is easier to grow carrots than to breed puppies. It also take less time. We need to be able to go out at will. Take a bunch of carrots and no policeman can tell that you weren’t out for illicit purpose.”
“Oh! You’re so clever. No wonder you’re the head of our new cult.”
The evening helper said she was very sorry to tell me that my niece wouldn’t be able to make it this week, as she’d been on holiday and got quarantined. You needn’t be sorry about that, I told her, I don’t know who she is anyway. Not that I’m ungrateful, it’s very kind of her to come and visit me. She tells me all about people I’ve never heard of, and I pretend to take an interest. I’m polite you see, brought up that way.
Then she said, you’ll have to go easy on the toilet paper, it’s all sold out. Panic buying, she said.
That’s what happens when people start shitting themselves with fear, I said, and she tutted at me as if I was a seven year old, the cheeky young whippersnapper. And how shall I go easy on it, shall I crap outside behind the flat topped bushes under my window? Wipe my arse on a leaf?
Don’t be daft, you’d fall over, she replied crisply. She had a point. My hip’s still playing me up, so my plans to escape are on hold. Not much point in it with all this quarantine nonsense going on anyway. I might get rounded up and put in a tent by a faceless moron in a hazmat suit. I must say the plague doctors outfits were much more stylish. And there was no panic buying of loo rolls in those days either.
I don’t know what the world’s coming to. A handful of people with a cough and everyone loses their minds. Then again, when the plague came, everyone lost their minds too. Not over toilet paper though. We didn’t start losing our minds until the carts started rolling past every night full of the bodies. No paper masks in those days either, we wound scarves around our faces because of the stench.
The worst thing was being locked in the house when the kitchen maid came down with it. All of us, all of the nine children, my wife and her mother, the cook and the maids, all of us untouched, all but that one kitchen maid. If only they’d taken her away, the rest of us might not have perished. Not having enough food did us in, we were weakened with starvation. Shut in the house for weeks, with no escape. Nothing to do but feast on the fears, like a smothering cloud. Like as not, we just gave up, and said, plague, carry me off, I can bear no more. I know after the youngest 6 children and the oldest boy died, I had no will to live. I died before the wife did and felt a bit guilty about that, leaving her to face the rest of it alone. She wasn’t happy about that, and who can blame her.
One thing for sure, it wasn’t running out of blasted toilet paper that was worrying me.
Finally! We’ve been disembarked, I thought I would go mad on this ship. Felt it must have been less excruciating for those on the Pequod. But whales are too smart nowadays, they don’t want to catch our silly viruses, they don’t taste as good as walruses.
The voices have quieted down for now, maybe it was only the voices of the other passengers carried through the pipes. Wife didn’t seem to suffer as much from the confinement, she just can’t wait to resume her life.
Just received a text from our daughter who went to buy groceries for when we return: “In the store now. All the pasta, rice and sauces have been cleared out. Preppers craze much? 🤦”
I had to laugh to myself. Guess it looks promising for when the real apocalypse comes…
“How in tarnation did ya do that?” Arthur looked at his wife suspiciously.
“Do what, honey?” Ella Marie replied, feigning innocence.
“This here lottery win! How did you do that? You aint been doing them there voodoo tricks again, have you? You promised…”
“Oh heck Art, it’s pure chance, a million to one, you know that! We just got lucky, is all.” But she couldn’t meet his eye. “Well I had to do somethin’! It aint for us, it’s for those friends of Jacqui’s. When I heard they’d been locked up in jail on cooked up charges, after being so excited about visiting the family, well I couldn’t bear it.”
“You promised you wasn’t gonna do that hokey pokey stuff no more,” Arthur said.
“Yes but it aint for us. This is different, just a one time thing, helping out friends. We can pay the bail money for ’em now and get ’em outta that stinking hellpit. Aint no place for decent ladies, Art.”
“They’ll need some darned expensive lawyers to fight the Beige House, and fat chance of winning.” Art looked doubtful.
“Oh they won’t stick around to fight the case. I had this idea,” Ella Marie had that old twinkle in her eye that used to get Art all fired up, back in the day. “We’re gonna buy them a boat. I been talking to Jacqui ’bout it. An old flame of hers turned up who can sail the boat for them.”
“How big’s the boat?” asked Art, an idea brewing in his head. He’d always wanted to sail around the world.
“Well we aint bought the boat yet, Art, the lottery check only just arrived. How ’bout we go down to Orange Beach Marina and see what’s for sale? We could have a seafood lunch, make a day of it.”
A big smile spread across the old mans face. ” Well, hell, Ella Marie, I guess we can do whatever we darn well please now! Let’s do it! And,” he added, planting a loud smackeroo of a kiss on her forehead, “Let’s get a boat big enough for all of us. I’ve got an adventure in me, afore I pop my clogs, I sure do.”
There’s no two ways about it: I’ve let myself go. There’s never any excuse for that, even if you are turning one hundred. I’ve always tried to impress this on Dodo, but will she listen? That hair of hers! God knows what’s hiding in it. And those nasty dungarees she likes so much; they’d stand on their own if she ever got out of them.
Not that I am one for fashion, mind. Last thing I bought was a few decades ago. Some striped pants that one of the twins helped me buy on the internet, on the line, as they say. The legs were that wide I was scared some critter might crawl up to my privates. Don’t want that going on at my age! When Bert said he had a pair like it once, well, that was the last straw.
One hundred! Wonder if I’ll get one of those letters from the King. That’s about all the monarchy are good for now. After that debacle back in the 20’s, thought they’d do away with them. But old big ears is hanging in there; reckon he must be nearing his hundredth soon.
Anyway, the mirror doesn’t lie and what it’s telling me ain’t so fancy. My hair looks like something the moths have had a chew at and I’ve put on that much flab the only thing will fit me is a potato sack. And now Prune’s planning some big birthday bash…I’ve got my work cut out! She thinks I don’t know but there’s not much gets by me. If people think you’ve lost your marbles, they’ll say all sorts in front of you. And since those magic pills the aboriginal fellow gave me, my marbles are all back where they should be, thank you very much! Now I just need some pills for my boobs.
Liz was not pleased about the latest insubordinate action of those plotting against her. Fashion choices indeed! She had been sorting out her wardrobe, having to do it all herself because of Finnley’s latest scam to take time off, putting away the summery things and bringing out the clothes for the coming cooler weather.
She’d had the usual little thrill at seeing familiar old favourites, clothes that she’d felt comfortable and happy in for many years. It would be unthinkable to throw them out, like tossing out an old friend just because they were getting wrinkled and saggy, or fat in the wrong places.
Liz prided herself on her thoughtfulness about the environment when making her “fashion” choices, always choosing second hand items. She liked to think they already had a little of their own history, and that they appreciated being rescued. She abhorred the trends that the gullible lapped up when she saw them looking ridiculous in unflattering unsuitable clothes that would be clearly out of fashion just as they were starting to look pleasantly worn in.
Warming to the theme, Liz recalled some of the particularly useless garments she’d seen over the years. Woolly polo neck sweaters that were sleeveless, for example. In what possible weather would one wear such a thing, without either suffering from a stifling hot neck, or goose flesh arms? High heeled shoes was another thing. The evidence was clear, judging by the amount of high heeled shoes in immaculate only worn once condition that littered the second hand markets. Nobody could walk in them, and nobody wanted them. Oddly enough though, people were still somehow persuaded to buy more and more new ones. Maybe one day in the future, collectors would have glass fronted cabinets, full of antique high heeled shoes. Or perhaps it would baffle future archaeologists, and they would guess they had been for religious or ritual purposes.
Liz decided to turn the tables on this new character, Alessandro. She would give him a lesson or two on dress sense. The first thing she would tell him was that labels are supposed to be worn on the inside, not the outside.
“One doesn’t write “Avon” in orange make up on one’s face, dear, even if it’s been seen in one of those shiny colourful publications,” Liz said it kindly so as not to rile him too much. “One doesn’t write “Pepto Dismal” in pink marker pen upon ones stomach.”
“While you’re out, I’ll see what Liz has thrown out, so I can cut it up for dolls clothes,” Fnnley said, to which Liz retorted, “I have thrown nothing out.” Liz cut Finnley short as she protested that Liz didn’t wear most of it anyway. “Yes, but I might, one day.”
Turning to Alessandro, she said “Although I’m a busy woman, I will come shopping with you, my boy. You clearly need some pointers,” she added, looking at his shoes.materParticipant
Thank God for Finly. She appears to be the only one who has any sense left in her noggin. Dodo is passed out on the sofa in the lounge, sprawled in a most unladylike manner. It looks like she got rip snorting drunk again.
Bert has disappeared. I can’t recall if I sent him to town to buy food for the guests … but perhaps I did. Bert is the only other person who knows the secret. I would like to discuss it with him but we’ve both kept our silence all these years and silence is a hard habit to break.
What monster will we unleash if we speak I wonder? But if we don’t speak, will the monster choke us all?
As I said, or I think I said, Finly is being a real trooper, showing guests to their rooms and for the most part being civil.
I did see her slap an odd looking gentleman in a ruffle shirt when he asked if he was in room six. “Sex is not included in your room rate!” she shouted at him and glared most ferociously. Fortunately the man was not offended, indeed he ragarded her almost with a look of admiration. She did look a fine sight standing there, hands on hips and her face flushed with righteous indignation. Unfortunately, Finly has never managed to rid herself of her awful kiwi accent, despite the years she has lived here.
Dear Prune is behaving oddly. I am loathe to even consider it but it did cross my mind she may have become one of those dreadful drug addicts I’ve read about. I caught her hiding behind a curtain and motioning for me to “Shush!” in a most agitated manner. After all, it wouldn’t be surprising given the influence Dodo has surely had on her over the years. I will be most disappointed if I find out this is indeed the case. In the meantime, I intend to give the dear child the benefit of the doubt.
The vegetable garden has provided a dismal crop this year. And what the heat hasn’t shrivelled, the insects have put paid to. Most weeks, I’ve had to send Bert to Willamonga to buy us veges from the Saturday markets. Or I will send him in to town to buy some of the bush food the Aboriginals sell from the store. “Yeah, yeah, Mater,” he says. “Don’t worry about food. There’s plenty.”
Of course I worry about food! We’ve all got to eat, don’t we? And look at my poor excuse of a garden; that won’t be feeding us!
There’s been some rain, not much, not enough to do more than dampen the surface of the ground. It’s down deep the soil needs water. There are secrets down deep.
“Bert,” I say. “You remembered there’s folk coming to stay? We’ll need extra food for them. Better go to the market on Saturday, eh?”
“You make sure there’s enough food for them all, Bert. We’ve not had this many booked for a long while. And Dodo can’t organise herself to get up in the morning, let alone look after others. Is she still drinking?”
“Don’t fuss, Mater,” he says with a smile. “All under control.” And he speaks so loud, like I’m hard of hearing or something.
People are always telling me not to worry, nowadays. Telling me to sit down and rest. Do I want a nice cup of tea? they ask. Telling me I’ve earned it. Treating me like I’m halfway in the grave already.
Except for that Finly. She turned out to be a godsend when I hired her all those years ago. Smart as a tack, that one. Not much she doesn’t see. Makes me laugh with her little sideways remarks. Works like a horse and honest as the day is long.
And my god, the days feel long.
Anyway, I won’t be going to the grave any time soon. There’s things need doing first. Wrongs which need putting right. Things the children need to know.
The grounds so dry. The worms have all gone down deep to find water. Better remember to put out food and water for the birds. And does Bert know to buy food? There are secrets down deep. The earth’s held them close long enough.
The note had troubled Maeve. It was different than the one Shawn Paul received, not only because it was handwritten and very long, but also because it implied someone, potentially even several groups, were after the dolls and the keys.
“You have to retrieve them,” the note eventually said, “and use the clues they hide to find the important people they protect.”
There was no signature, but it sounded so much like uncle Fergus, oddly wordy and mysterious. Was he still alive after all this time? Did he still ride his Harley?
Maeve’s first thought after the surprise was that she needed someone to take care of Fabio. The next thought felt like a brilliant idea. Lucinda. Maeve would go ask her to take care of Fabio during her vacation to Australia and would use that opportunity to spirit away the doll. She had the intuition she might need it afterwards.
So she prepared her luggage and cuddled Fabio who knew he wouldn’t be part of the trip.
“I’m sorry,” she said, “but I need you to keep that sad face of yours when we go see Lucinda.” In response, Fabio wiggled his tail happily and tried to lick Maeve’s face. “No! Keep the face,” she mimicked what she thought was a sad face.
After all was packed she went to Lucinda’s with Fabio and her luggage.
“I’m sorry, I’m going on a trip and I need someone to take care of Fabio,” Maeve said. As she had imagined Lucinda was moved by Fabio’s look and couldn’t refuse to take car of him.
“Of course! He’ll be well treated here with my new parrot.”
“Huhu,” said the colourful bird.
“I think it comes from New Zealand,” said Lucinda. “It flew in yesterday and had not left ever since despite me not putting it into a cage, so I’m buying it food. It seems particularly fond of that doll I told you about the other day.”
Indeed, the parrot was on the sofa, trying to open the doll’s head. That’s when Fabio jumped and tried to catch the bird. He clearly didn’t like it and the parrot flew away to a higher ground on an old grannies’ Welsh dresser, making a few glasses and china fall down in an awful breaking noise. Lucinda tried to catch the bird or the china or Fabio, but could do neither of the three.
Seizing that as an opportunity, Maeve put the doll in her messenger bag.
“I don’t want to bother you longer, I have a plane to catch. Bye,” she said, and she left with bags and luggage without checking if Lucinda had heard.
At the elevator, she met with Shawn Paul.
“Hi. I’m going to the airport,” the young man said. “Australia. Like you?”
She felt uncomfortable. The note hadn’t mention anything about him. Unless he was part of one of those groups who were after the dolls. Maeve grumbled something while holding her bag closer. She didn’t know if she could trust him.
Distraction always worked best when one was trying hard not to try too hard, and luckily for Lucinda, it came easy. She was a natural. It wasn’t that she’d forgotten her mission to find out more about those mysterious dolls and the twelve addresses, but the Roman themed birthday party was today, and that gave her plenty to occupy herself.
The costume was easy, just a folded white sheet and a number of nappy pins. The birthday gift was another matter. She still hadn’t bought one, and had left herself no option but to buy something on the way to the party on the other side of the city. Counting the money left in her purse, she decided to travel by bus rather than taxi. She would have to change at the central bus station, which conveniently had a craft and antique market on in the nearby park. If she left home a couple of hours early, she could have a look around the market.
Not to look for dolls! she reminded herself, her mind already imagining unlikely scenes.
Checking the mirror one last time to make sure her toga was securely arranged, Lucinda left the flat and made her way to the bus stop on the other side of the park. She had debated whether to take her costume in a bag and change when she got there, and decided to just wear the toga. It was a diverse multicultural city, and there were often people dressed as if they were going to a fancy dress party, in biblical looking robes and scarves, or exotic coloured sari’s. If anyone wondered about her outfit, they’d probably just think she was from one of those foreign middle eastern places.
“Bugger,” said Maeve. “I’m out of butter. What shall we do, Fabio?”
Fabio rushed excitedly to the front door.
“Go and see if Lucinda has some butter? Good idea, but you have to do the talking. Okay?”
Clearly, I am in need of human companionship.
An old rhyme from her childhood came to mind. She would say it over and over, fast as she could without tripping over her tongue.
Biddy Botter bought bum butter. Blah said she the butters bitter but if i buy some better butter, better than the bitter butter that will make the bitter butter better.
Lucinda’s door has the number 57 on the front and a skull door knocker. Maeve’s door was numbered 22 so it made no sense at all. Lucinda opened the door a crack and peered out at Maeve.
“Oh Maeve,” she said, “Um, hi.”
“Hi. Is this a bad time? I just wanted to borrow a bit of butter if you have any spare.”
Lucinda hesitated before opening the door and gesturing Maeve in.
“Sure,” she said. “Excuse the mess.”
Maeve spotted the doll right away.
“What are you doing with Ima Indigo!”
Ima was sitting on the shelf near the the window, sandwiched between a cracked concrete buddha head and a dying fern. Maeve picked the doll up.
“May I?” she said, without waiting for a reply.
She turned the doll over and felt the back seam with her fingers. The stitching was rough and the thread didn’t match the tiny stitches on the rest of the doll’s body. She gently squashed Ima. No key.
“Where did you get this? Did you take a key out of her body?”
Lucinda patted Fabio and shook her head, annoyed at Maeve and at the same time feeling guilty.
“I found her at the market.”
“Oh my god,” said Maeve.
The light in the apartment darkened and Lucida glanced up from her book and noticed the gathering clouds visible through the glass doors that opened onto her balcony. Frowning, she reached for her phone to check tomorrows weather forecast. The weekly outdoor market was one of the highlights of her week. With a sigh of relief she noted that there was no expectation of rain. Clouds perhaps, which wasn’t a bad thing. It wouldn’t be too hot, and the glare of the sun wouldn’t make it difficult to see all the the things laid out to entice a potential buyer on trestle tables and blankets.
Lucinda had made a list ~ the usual things, like fruit and vegetables from the farms outside the city; perhaps she’d find a second hand cake tin to try out the new recipe, and some white sheets for the costumes for the Roman themed party she’d been invited to, maybe some more books. But what excited her most was the chance of finding something unexpected, or something unusual. And more often than not, she did.
She added birthday present to the list, not having any idea what that might be. Lucinda found choosing gifts extraordinarily difficult, and had tried all manner of tactics to change her irrational angst about the whole thing. One Christmas she’d tried just picking one shop and choosing as many random things as people on her gift list. In fact that had worked as well as any other method, but still felt unsettling and unsatisfactory. The next year she informed everyone that she wouldn’t be buying presents at all, and asked friends and family to reciprocate likewise. Some had and some hadn’t, resulting in yet more confusion. Was she to be grateful for the gifts, despite the lack of her own reciprocation? Or peeved that they had ignored her wishes?
Birthdays were different though. A personal individual celebration was not the same thing as Christmas with all it’s stifling traditions and expectations. It would be churlish to refuse to buy a birthday gift. And so birthday gift remained on the shopping list, as it had been last week, and the week before.
A birthday gift had already been purchased the previous week. Lucinda glanced up at the top shelf of the bookcase where the doll sat, languidly looking down at her. She felt a pang of emotion, as she did each time she looked at that doll. She loved the doll and wanted to keep it for herself, that was one thing. That was one of the things that always happened when she chose a gift that she liked herself: she talked herself into keeping it; that it was her taste and not the recipients. That it would be obvious that she’d chosen it because SHE liked it, not keeping the other person in mind.
But that wasn’t the only thing confounding her this time. The doll wanted to stay with her, she was sure of it. It wasn’t just her wanting to keep the doll. It wasn’t any old doll, either. That was the other thing. It seemed very clear that it was one of Maeve’s dolls. It had to be, she was sure of it.
When she got home with her purchases the week before, her intention had been to go and show Maeve what she’d found. Then something stopped her: what if it made her sad that one of her creations had been discarded, put up for sale at a market along with old cake tins and second hand sheets? No, she couldn’t possibly risk it, and luckily Maeve didn’t know the birthday girl who was the doll was intended for, so she’d never know.
But then Lucinda realized she had to keep the strange gaunt doll with the grey dreadlocks and patchwork dress. She couldn’t possibly give her away.
I hope I don’t find another doll at the market tomorrow, and have to keep that as well! thought Lucinda, and immediately felt goosebumps rise as an errant breeze ruffled the dolls dreadlocks.
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