Why the Interest?

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic
Message to family members of a death.

Submitted: February 08, 2015

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Submitted: February 08, 2015

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WHY THE INTEREST?

The letter from their dead brother’s solicitor arrived not long after breakfast. Its contents were brief and to the point. They were all to go down to Cornwall on a certain date. None of the brothers or sisters had been very close to Warren, who was the eldest, ever since he had gone to live so far away from the rest of the family. His children were virtual strangers to them, even though there had been some interest when they were younger. When they had all became a little poorer, and were living on pensions and bank interest, their nieces and nephews’ keenness had waned somewhat. The letter was a complete surprise to all of them, and in a short time they were all on the phone to one another. There was no mention of his children, but as far as they knew, none of them was dead, so why the interest? Warren lived on a promontory in Cornwall, which was very inhospitable even in the summer, and when the letters landed on their doormats, it was midwinter.

“I do hope that we don’t have to go down there in this weather,” Clara moaned to her sister, Isabel.

“Does the letter say anything about when we have to make an appearance?” Isabel asked.

“No, it doesn’t, so I’d better ring the solicitor. I don’t suppose we’ll get any help from him. His job is to obey any instruction that he’s been given by the deceased before he left his mortal coil, while he could still pay for his services.”

“Do you think we’ll have to pay for his services, too? Do you think he’s left us anything?”

“Warren had three children, and I don’t think for one minute he’ll have left us anything of any great importance,” Clara said to Isabel, who was busy making another pot of tea.

“One of us should ring Monica, just in case she’s not received a letter,” Clara said, looking up their other sister’s number. Clara heard the phone ringing in Monica’s nice warm modern flat. “Hello.”

Clara was happy that her sister had answered so punctually. “Hello, Monica. Have you received a letter from a solicitor this morning?”

“There’s a letter that came after breakfast, but I haven’t opened it yet. What’s the matter?” Monica sounded rather impatient.

“The letter states, if you open it and read it, that we are expected to go down to Cornwall, but it doesn’t give any concrete reason.”

Clara heard the sound of the envelope being opened. Monica said, “If Warren thinks of this as a little joke from beyond the grave, he has another think coming. I can’t think of a more miserable time than when we went down to see him a few years ago. He was extremely rude to Justin, making all sorts of comments about his name, and about our private lives. No, Clara. I’m not going down there. Oh, by the way, we’re going to be grandparents again soon.”

“How nice, Dear. I’ll let you know if there’s any more news. Bye, Monica.”

 

“Who was that, Dear?” Justin, Monica’s second husband, asked her.

“Take a look at this letter. It’s from some country solicitor informing us that Warren has died, and we should go down.”

Justin read the letter, and commented, “It doesn’t say much does it? The man must be mad thinking anyone is going down there in the winter when it’s so hostile in the summer. Are you thinking of going?”

“No, I’m  not. We are very well in our nice cosy flat. Why on earth should we abandon physical comfort, to stand in a freezing graveyard to pay our respects to someone who was so rude to you the last time we met?”

Monica and her husband were at one on such events to do with families or people they didn’t approve of, and Warren was one of them. The letter was left on the kitchen table, and eventually ended up in the rubbish bin.

 

Gordon was another one of the six brothers and sisters, who had also been at loggerheads with Warren during his life, and had the same reaction as Monica and Justin. He rang Titus, his younger brother, and told him about the letter and its message. Titus replied. “It might be interesting, yet, on the other hand, getting pneumonia isn’t at all interesting. I have a feeling it might be one of his jokes.”

“A joke like all his others, that in the end nobody laughed at. He considered himself to be the family clown. I’d forgotten all about that side of his bizarre nature. I’ll have to think about it and ring you later. How’s your family?” Gordon asked.

“They’re all very well, thanks. And yours?”

“Everyone is coming along nicely, thanks. Bye, till I ring again,” and Gordon rang off.

 

Titus rang Maurice, the youngest of the family, who knew Warren the least, and was the least interested in him. Titus let the phone ring several times, and then a lethargic voice answered, “Hello whoever you are. It had better be good. I’m not fully awake yet.”

“Hello, Maurice, it’s me, Titus. Take a look at your doormat. There should be a letter lying on it.”

Maurice patted to the doormat on bare feet and picked up the letter. “I’ve got the letter and I’m opening it. Is it the one about going down to Cornwall?”

“Yes, it is. Now that Warren’s dead, he’s sending us messages from the beyond. What do you make of it?” Titus asked Maurice.

“I need a large mug of coffee and a hot shower before I can take all this in. Warren was very negative about my wanting to lead a creative life. I can’t see why, as I never asked him for money to fund any of my projects. Frankly, I don’t think I’ll be going down there. Anyway, my girlfriend wouldn’t like it. She prefers trips to warmer climes. Are you going, Titus?”

“I’m inclined to think it’s one of his practical jokes, so I’ll be sending back a negative answer. How’s everyone?”

“Fine, thanks. We’re all OK.” Maurice rang off.

Titus went to his computer and sent a letter to the solicitors, informing them he had no intention of attending his brother’s funeral. That done, he rang his sisters, Clara and Isabel, and the other members of the family, to ascertain who was, or wasn’t, going down to Cornwall for Warren’s funeral. The main problem, apart from the fact that none of his siblings were keen on going down there in the winter, was that they could only go so far, and then would have to take a small train or a taxi to the house on the promontory.

 

In the end, it fell to Gordon, Clara, and Isabel, to attend their elder brother’s funeral. The date of the funeral was the end of January, not a very propitious moment for travelling. The weather that winter had so far been anything but tolerable, and as the date for going to Cornwall got nearer, even the ones to make the effort to go, were beginning to have second thoughts.

 

Monica rang her sisters and asked them if they were still considering making the journey despite the snowy conditions that were broadcast on television every day, night and morning. “Why don’t you stay at home and leave Warren to be buried by the local people and, of course, his solicitor? I can’t see what you’re going to get out of it, however much he’s left. He was always a fantasist. Just be careful, that’s all.”

Clara, who had answered Monica’s call, said, “He can’t do anything now that he’s dead, and maybe the weather won’t be so bad. You know how the scaremongers come out of their hidey-holes either in midwinter or summer, to exaggerate how bad the weather conditions are. Well, we’re going - and that’s that. I’ll let you know what happens on our return. Bye.”

“On your own head be it. Hopefully everything will turn out well. Bye.” Then Monica rang off.

Justin opened the living-room door as Monica was hanging up. He was carrying two cups of coffee on a tray with biscuits and cake. “Were you speaking to Clara, or was it Isabel?” he asked, putting the tray down onto the table.

“I was talking to Clara. As they’re going to Cornwall soon, I wanted to make sure she understood how serious the weather conditions were.”

“You’ll never be able to convince your sisters about anything, unless they have a mind to be persuaded.” Justin switched on the television to see the horse racing for the afternoon. “I’ve got a little flutter on one of the horses in the second race. If it comes in as it ought to, then we’ll have enough money to add to our savings for the new car.”

“You make me laugh, Justin. Hope springs eternal with you. I don’t know how you do it. Have you ever had a loss on the horses?” Monica said, smiling at her husband with the look of concentration on his face, as the horse racing started on the screen.

 

Maurice was in his studio with a small heater on. He was busy painting a picture of a garden from a photo. He had quite a few clients who wanted something original to hang on their walls, however bad it was. He didn’t mind painting other people’s dogs, cats, or family members, because it kept the wolf from the door. Maurice charged below the top prices, and so he was never without work. His secret dream was to show his work in the Royal Academy in their summer exhibition. Meanwhile, he and his girlfriend lived comfortably on the proceeds from his less memorable paintings.

He received Monica’s call that afternoon, “Hello. Monica here. How are you?”

“Hello, Monica. What’s with the call?”

“I rang Clara to find out whether they were still going down to Cornwall, and they are. I’m a bit worried, as there’s a lot of snow.”

“Don’t worry, snow is normal down there. I’m sure they’ll be OK. Wish you were going too?”

“No thanks. We’re very happy in our cosiness. That’s all I have to say. Do you wish you were going?”

“Never,” Maurice said, and then rang off, to return to his painting, thinking of the money it would make him.

Out of all of Maurice’s siblings, only Titus had rung him after the letter about their dead brother had arrived on his doormat. He was also very cosy in his life, and didn’t enjoy being bothered about the family. He liked them at arm’s distance, and had never approved of Warren disappearing to an area of difficult access. Surely he could have chosen somewhere with a decent road, rail, or bus service. The day Warren left for Cornwall meant nothing to him, and he had wiped Warren out of his mind.

 

The timorous trio made their way to Paddington Station first thing in the morning. The weather was not promising, and the passengers were eager to climb aboard and settle in the warm carriages. Clara and Isabel were happy that Gordon had offered to accompany them. They stared out of the window as the train left the station, and saw the dirty slush that had been pristine white once, lining the sides of the railway lines. The train went round a bend, and then the city was lost to view and they only had the sights of suburbia to stare at. The ticket inspector entered the carriage and viewed their tickets. “How long will the train take to get to Plymouth?” asked Gordon.

“Today it could take quite a few hours due to the snow on the lines. There’s also another reason why, this train isn’t direct, but will stop at all the stations, which will add a lot of time to your journey. If you’re interested, there’s food and drink being served in the restaurant.” The ticket inspector on those words left the carriage.

“I’m beginning to wonder why we decided to come on this journey, and especially this train.” Gordon moaned.

“We’re here now, so we might just as well make the best of it. We can always get out at one of the villages on the way, if we really feel this trip isn’t in our best interests. What do you think Isabel?”

Isabel, who was Clara’s echo, sat still in her seat, and said, “Whatever you say, Clara.”

 

The day grew longer and longer. When the train stopped, it was for a matter of seconds only before it started up again, or that’s what it seemed like to those on board. There were always more passengers getting off than getting on, which bothered the three immensely. The ticket inspector passed by regularly and greeted them. Sometimes he told them how far they had left to go, and at other times he said there was more food and drink being served in the restaurant. The atmosphere inside the carriage was becoming a little stuffy and they all fell asleep.

The train stopped, and the ticket inspector said, “There’s too much snow on the railway line from here on. I’m sorry, but now you’ll have to make your own way home.

 Gordon stared out into the darkness, and asked, “Where are we exactly?”

“We’re on the Devon and Cornwall border. You’ll be able to get your connection here when the snow is cleared.”

All the travellers alighted. There were not that many of them. Isabel was rather worried and felt that something was terribly wrong.  Gordon went up to the station master, “When is the next train due, please?”

“Where do you want to go?”

“I think we ought to have been on the train for another couple of stops.”

“We hope the next one to Cornwall will be at six o’clock tomorrow morning. Excuse me, but I have to lock up”

The other passengers had taken taxis, and the drivers and ticket inspector had gone.

“Let’s go and look round the village and see if we can find somewhere to stay,” suggested Clara.

The brother and sisters picked up their travel bags and strode out of the station. Sleet was falling, and it was getting worse and worse, as they could see from the light of the street lamps. They were walking in falling slush, and all of them, without exception, were feeling utterly miserable.

 

An ancient inn was where they had to pass the night. Luckily for them, there were still empty rooms, and they got one for the three of them. The restaurant and bar downstairs were not full to overflowing, but there were enough people to create an atmosphere of well-being on a night of such bad weather. Gordon ordered the evening menu for the three of them. They never remembered what it consisted of, only that it was hot and comforting. No one stared at them, although they should have, by the way they spoke. Gordon found that strange, but as he was so fed up with their circumstances, he said nothing to his sisters about his unrest, so that they wouldn’t get upset.

They went up to their room and put their pyjamas on the radiators to warm up. The television wasn’t offering anything much in the way of entertainment, and was switched off immediately. Gordon went over to the window and gazed out onto the dark street and the sleet still falling.

“Gordon, if we’re on the Devon Cornwall border, why do we have to return to Plymouth?” Isabel asked her brother.

“That’s a good question, which I’m unable to answer. The best thing for us to do, is to go home and forget all about this weird situation. All right?”

The two sisters nodded in assent.

Gordon rang down to reception, and asked for them to be called at five-thirty a.m. The receptionist said that they would get a call on the room phone. It wasn’t long before the three were fast asleep in their beds, and the sleet was still falling.

 

Promptly at five-thirty, their phone rang and they were informed of the time, and that they could have breakfast if they so wished. After a quick wash and change of clothes, they packed their bags, and went downstairs with their heavy winter coats over an arm. The smell of coffee and bacon reached their noses as they entered the dining room.

“At least we had a good night’s sleep. We are better off than we thought we would be,” Clara said, as she put a forkful of egg and bacon into her mouth.

“Can you imagine anyone staying out in last night’s weather? It was definitely a killer,” Isabel commented.

Gordon had only one thing on his mind, and that was to get all three of them back home as soon as possible, and away from the freezing weather.

 

Their breakfast over, they had put on their outdoor clothes and went to the receptionist to pay the bill, who said, “By the way, there’s a taxi waiting for you.”

“We haven’t called for one, so it can’t be for us. The station isn’t far, so we can walk.”

“The driver said it was for you,” the receptionist persisted.

 

They left the inn and saw that there was indeed a taxi stationed outside. Gordon walked up to it, and said, “Are you free, or waiting for anyone in particular?”

The driver said, “I was informed to come and get you this morning,” he got out of the taxi and opened the boot for their bags to be deposited inside, and both Clara and Isabel, closely followed by Gordon, got in.

“Where are we going so early in the morning?” Gordon asked.

“To see a solicitor, that’s all I know,” the taxi driver answered.

The taxi hadn’t gone very far, when it stopped outside an office with the words.

 

HAWTHORNE AND HAWTHORNE

Solicitors

 

The driver was paid, and left. Gordon rang the bell, and the door was opened almost without their having to wait.

“Good morning. We have been told to come here. A couple of weeks ago we received a letter each, informing us of our older brother’s demise,” Gordon said without preamble.

“Please come in. I’m Clive Hawthorne. Warren Agren was my client, and I wrote out his will and testament.”

They were all sitting in the solicitor’s office, and Mr. Hawthorne said, “There is a letter which is to be read to the three of you. No chance of anyone else arriving, is there?” looking at each of them in turn.

“No, I’m afraid there isn’t. Why do you ask?” Gordon asked the solicitor.

“I’ll read the letter, and then you will understand, I hope”

 

Dear Siblings,

All my life I’ve been the adventurous one leading a colourful life. I was the clown of the family, always thinking up ways to make you laugh. Hawthorne’s been a trusted ally for many years. I have no money to leave you or my children, so from beyond the grave, I hope you’ll take pity on poor old Hawthorne, and pay him what is his due from me. The funeral will also have to come out of your pockets. Sorry, old things, but I was never good with money. The house on the promontory is no longer mine. The money from the sale has been spent.

Hope you won’t think too badly of me.

Warren.

 

Gordon stood up, and said, “We are not responsible for our brother’s debts, so you’ll have to go without. Anyway, how do we know he wrote this, and not you trying your luck?”

Mr Hawthorne stood up, and said, “I suppose that means you won’t help pay for the funeral.”

“No, we shan’t pay money out for the funeral, or your fees, for such a despicable person who never did anything for us,” Gordon said, and then added. “Our other brothers and sister had more common sense than to come all the way down here to be presented with this story. Good morning, Mr Hawthorne, “You don’t happen to know the times of the trains to Plymouth, do you?”

He got no reply.

 

Clive Hawthorne let them out and went back into his office. “I thought you were rather exaggerating when you said they would pay up. In your case, there’s no such thing as brotherly love, is there?”

“Clive, old boy, I was the odd one out from the beginning. Pity they didn’t cough-up. You would have got your cash. Now we’ll have to think up another trick or scam, eh?” Warrren said, laughing weakly.

“What happened with the train last night?” Hawthorne asked.

“That was another trick to make sure they got here, and not to the promontory. The bad weather helped, of course, and a fat remuneration for the drivers and the station master. The train services are so bad nowadays, no one’s going to investigate. Well, come on. Let’s go down the pub for a quick drink before we put our thinking caps on,” Warren said, guffawing at the thought of how some of his siblings were gullible. That was one trick he couldn’t play again.

 

Gordon, Clara, and Isabel, got to Plymouth and took the train to Paddington. There were no stops on the way back to London, but they all felt sick to their stomachs about the time lost getting down there, only to be asked for money.

 

On the journey back they started talking, and Gordon asked, “Do you two think the newspapers might be interested in such a strange and inexplicable story?”


© Copyright 2020 Georgina V Solly. All rights reserved.

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