Edward looked up at the Griffith Manor with distinct unease. The place was perfectly pleasant, picturesque even. Only, it belonged to Edward’s Aunt Agnes. Ever since Edward had read the history of Lancaster witch-hunting, he nursed a strong suspicion of Aunt Agnes having used her magical powers to escape prosecution and extend her lifespan, essentially to torment him.
The old relative had summoned him from his sanctuary, a modest flat in London, to keep her company, in what she stated were distressing times for her. He had read her letter with considerable trepidation.
Aunt Agnes, even in her most pleasant moods, distressed Edward. She had a way of looking him up and down every time he entered her frame of vision, tut-tutting his appearance with an aristocratic sneer. What possibly could a distressed Aunt Agnes want of him, he shuddered to imagine.
He waited for the usher to announce his arrival but was guided inside by the old housekeeper Mrs. D’Isa, who looked solemn.
“Is everything alright, Mrs. D’Isa?” Edward ventured.
She turned to him and exhaled a sob. “Well Master Edward, you heard about our great loss, in your last correspondence. Madame was most unhappy. You have always been her favourite.”
Edward frowned. Well he certainly was her favourite punchbag.
“I’m sorry Master for my sudden outburst. Pillsbury would’ve never approved of such blatant show of emotion. I’ll leave you to settle.”
“Where is Pillsbury, that gem amongst butlers? He was always most welcoming to me.”
Mrs. D’Isa teared up at his mention and turned away, breaking into poorly stifled whimpers, rushing to the kitchens. Yes, Pillsbury would never allow such melodrama, Edward mused.
Edward stepped out from his bath to find his evening wear neatly laid out. Aunt Agnes was very particular about dressing properly for dinner. Something Edward always challenged.
He was carefully adjusting his bowtie, looking in the mirror, when he caught the reflection of his Aunt standing in the doorway.
“Edward! Just what I expected of you!” she cried in disdain. “I’d have believed you to come to my room to comfort me, as soon as you arrived. But you never let me down, dawdling away in your simple manner. Oh, with Pillsbury gone, I thought I’d have some company when you arrived. But I should train my nerves to get accustomed to your glacial ways!”
“Where is Pillsbury, Aunt Agnes?” Edward asked again as be bent forward to kiss her.
“Why you tedious little tortoise! Pillsbury is dead!”
Dinner was a quiet affair. Aunt Agnes never showed up, probably still angry or training her nerves as she had declared. Edward could relish his meal in peace. Griffith Manor’s only attractions were the sumptuous cooking of old Mrs. Cook and Pillsbury’s anecdotes. Edward missed the jolly butler severely for his lively conversations, but more importantly for always helping him sneak Mrs. Cook’s desserts from the kitchen at midnight. Such fond memories.
Edward retired to his room to find Aunt Agnes seated in the sofa. Taking a deep breath, she started, “Edward, I apologise for my outburst this evening. You must have been so tired by your half a day journey. Although a strapping youth such as yourself could show more life than a garden slug.”
“I missed you at dinner Aunt Agnes!”
“I prefer having my meals in my room now. The infernal stairs aren’t kind to my poor knees. The reason I summoned you so urgently was because of Pillsbury’s sudden departure. You know how I depended on him. The nerve of him to leave without a notice!”
“He died Aunt Agnes! I’m sure he had no choice in that matter!”
She ignored him and went on, “Seeing as you are not up to much in London, I thought you would do better to keep me company. We have a reading by Pastor Canterbury at seven in the morning. It helps me cope. I want you ready and in the study at the time. Now sleep well. I will not have you dozing early in the morning.”
Edward watched her leave, his heart sinking. A sudden sugar craving reminded him of Mrs. Cook’s treacle pudding. Changing into his night slippers, he tiptoed towards the kitchen.
In his attempt to rummage through the storage, he overturned a pitcher of ginger ale into the neatly arranged cutlery, in a loud crash. Oh, Pillsbury was so much better at this!
His heart hammering Edward turned around to see if he had roused any of the staff. He bumped into the very subject of his thoughts- Pillsbury mirroring his expression of shock!
Both half shrieked and Pillsbury turned on his heel and shot out of the kitchen. Edward stood rooted, his jaw hanging, white as a sheet.
It wasn’t difficult for Edward to be ready before seven that morning, for he hadn’t slept at all. He waited in the study. Mrs. D’Isa came in to announce that Mr. Parker, his Aunt’s attorney sought to meet him in his Aunt’s room. Flummoxed Edward consented, fearing a retribution for his night’s adventures. But an attorney for treacle theft?
“Mrs. D’Isa, aren’t we having the reading by Pastor Canterbury today?” Edward suddenly felt like praying.
Confused, Mrs D’Isa shook her head and left.
Edward mustered courage to walk up to his Aunt’s room as instructed. Best to apologise right away, he fathomed.
He found Mr. Parker seated at his Aunt’s ornate reading table. She wasn’t around. He turned to give Edward a solemn smile. “Mr Edward, I am here to discuss your Aunt’s last will and testament.”
My Aunt’s what?
“It is unfortunate that you were in for a rude shock yesterday, as I was informed you had missed my telegram stating her sad demise two days ago. I offer my sincerest condolences. What with that absconding butler of hers and thieving reported by the staff you must be completely befuddled…”
Edward, who was convinced of his Aunt’s immortality, was rendered speechless once more.
Photo Credits: Pixabay
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