Tomorrow is Mothering Sunday, time for a little Simnel cake, perhaps?…
I had overheard conversation on the topic but felt unable to examine the rumours from any rational point of view. Ultimately, the villain would be unmasked; more so, all my instincts pointed to the revelation of a scoundrel no more than a child or simple-minded adult (perhaps more than one) intent on concocting mischief!
But no matter my opinion; for it is the past. Instead, I will keep to the facts, simply told, and begin with the events of the afternoon of Mothering Sunday, two years before.
We had returned from church, the sky a bitter shade of grey; and at the margins of the unploughed fields surrounding us, dark clouds threatened with torpid heaviness. I passed my hand behind her back to support her frame and she, in turn, shrank further into my side, taking pitiful shelter from the bracing winds. It was the first time in many months I had seen her looking this frail.
Beside us, and looking nearly to be doubled-over by the strength of the gales, were Mrs Bentley and her son. He too was doing his utmost to support his mother and make some headway upon the path.
Finally, having negotiated such inclemency, we arrived at the front porch of our cottage, the middle of a nestled set of three.
I bid good afternoon to the Bentleys and stepped through the iron gate, at the same time removing a few veins of ivy that had made their way through from the adjacent hedgerow. Here, I made a commitment to spend time remedying matters at the front of the house having just spent a season behind it.
A few hours passed in drinking tea and conversation, when at half past three we were alarmed to hear an awful banging at the front door.
My mother indicated that she would rise to answer it, but I insisted that she should remain at rest and I should attend to the caller; though I was at a complete loss as to whom would be visiting at such an inconvenient time.
When I opened the door, I was surprised to see Mrs Bentley’s son and immediately I took note of his rather confused and distressed state. Holding his chest, he managed to find his voice and told me that I should come quickly to the house. I seized my coat and we rushed there immediately. Inside, upon the kitchen floor, I found Mrs Bentley, lying in a most unusual position, as if she had fallen backwards although, somehow, her arms had remained directly by her sides. With all the finesse of a well-read scholar I set about searching for signs of life upon the unfortunate woman’s body. But there was little I could do, as I soon became aware of a great coldness that had set into her. I recall having seen only one deceased person in my life, and I can assure you that I felt decidedly queasy despite deference in the duties I had in assisting her poor son.
A doctor was duly dispatched to the house and thereupon confirmation came that Mrs Bentley had suffered heart failure. It was a shocking circumstance despite Mrs Bentley’s advancing years; and on such a day, too!
That evening we invited Thomas, Mrs Bentley’s son, to stay with us. The situation was made all the more heartfelt by his insistence on persistently thanking us for our help in dealing with the day’s unfortunate events. Each time, I reminded him that it was the very least we could do considering the circumstances.
It was only through this close-hand hospitality did Thomas reveal a curious happening but an hour or so before his mother’s death. Continue reading