Book Two
Viēre
Weave Together
Personalities in their
learning are the
staple of The Game
sometimes winning, sometimes losing
they play their part, move on
Great
Personalities
mind accumulations — Great Actors
reside at the highest skill set
These great minds believe they
are the real players
They also
believe they are
real
You had a dream, well I had one too
I know mine’s best  ’cause it was of you
Come sweetheart tell me
now is the time
You tell me your dream
I’ll tell you mine
Chapter Sixteen
The Funeral
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I
n the library alone with his thoughts, the pain cannot be removed.  Ronald is gone.  The son never known is gone.
The years spent in India, so many times dreams of returning.  His uselessness has no bounds.
Could in all the wisdom he has thought himself to have acquired not seen that the boy Lawrence is his son! “George!  How interesting!  A white cat!  A raven!”  His brother had begun with his familiar smile, a nod.  “I am afraid this is not my territory.  George!  George, old man!”
Last Sunday in the library after they returned from church, Ronald pulling out first editions, showing all the rarities he had acquired since they parted, the poor woman coming to speak with them, distressed beyond belief:
“Please, Squire Bexfield.  Please!”  Such high-pitch the tone.  “This perhaps...  must not...  Could you help?” Then:   “Falseness!”  That last draining all other comment away.
“Wouldn’t do much good, Miss Hooper.  I read that the surgeon took ship to Southern Africa with the troops.”   Ronald, always with a bemusement at human foibles.  “In his medical capacity of course.  He works in a field hospital, the paper suggests.”
“The great Mr. Holmes in a field hospital?”
“I was thinking of his pseudonym, A. Conan Doyle.  But yes, of course, Mr. Sherlock Holmes.”
Shouldn’t he have known!  Always it is there in plain sight! Always the clue!.
Couldn’t he have followed the lady where her thoughts were going!  He could have?  He should have!  What in his mind did he not wish to know?
So expectant the day he had arrived, yet so hard getting out the carriage.  Placing his arm around Ronny he had kissed him on both cheeks, on the lips.
His brother turning to Conny: “Only a Mediterranean affliction George does not seem to have discarded.”  They had laughed.  He himself had laughed.
That last Christmas here, Ronald roaring with his Ho, Ho, Ho. Sacks brought to the Weatherby poor, Ronald pulling out a small toy he had so carefully made.
With the chocolates, the sweets, on to the almshouse, a huge crate of food delivered.
Always an awe that Ronald had the will to do this.
At the boat tears streaming down his mother face, but also Ronald’s.  He can see Ronald frantically pretending to pull the ship back.
Tick!  Tick! — the longcase goes — Tick!  Tick!
He stares at the face painted above the main dial, the smiling sun almost out of sight.  Tick!  Tick!
A servant of Srinivas killed by an elephant charging, he watched the argument, the servant in these moments before death speaking so heatedly to his master.  Some matter of strong feelings expressed.  Some consideration Srinivas is proposing.
It isn’t the difference of opinion.  A lifelong servant, respected and expected to present his view, Srinivas has no choice but to listen, and to change his mind, to forget the proposal if the sentiment is so severe.
The party watched in horror as the servant not minding where he is, gets trampled by some mad terror that causes the elephant to come charging through, to knock the man down.  Fate of course, the beast’s feet stamping upon the old man’s chest.
Yet so shaken is everyone with the death, including himself, and Srinivas who cannot find the flowing words that must be given at the pyre.
He is asked to help.  He did so then, and he must find the strength to do so now.
That moment where after their careful writing, Srinivas begins his Śrāddha: this that the soul departing will hear, so as not to become entangled in illusion, in human desire. For Ronald he will begin this Śrāddha, then soon, when he knows more, when he has discovered his son, who he is, he will do Śrāddha for him.
Taking from the hide a paper so carefully kept, George begins to read:
Oh!  Soul know of which we leave.

The mortal body we have been: the head, the heart, the organs that have held our human presence.

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Know now mind enclosed in spiritual essence is moved beyond, devote you to a new purpose.

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Oh!  Soul know of which we leave.

That head having been not one but two, one knowing without inquiry, the other knowledge-bound within worldly sense.

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Oh!  Soul know of which you become. To awareness that has no time.

To bask within the vast ocean that has no space.

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Oh!  Soul know moments of bread, of money, of books, of service, all have past.

Do not search for such mortal states.

Do not hold them.

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Within each day, each year, each cycle that has captured you, accept these have brought benefit, and profound has been the learning.

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This grand encyclopaedia you have become, take your knowledge with you, your wisdom!

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Depart ’O Soul, minding that which remains is you, the greater you.  In your finer body be at peace with who you are. Go well.

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. . .
The desolation, the wish not to continue, the sense of awfulness of all that life has brought, the deaths that have no possibility to be stalled, George gets up from the library table.
He knows it is time for him to hold his strength.  His father would do it.  The funeral of his brother, his son, must proceed.  He must do now his Śrāddha for his brother.
He will do as Ronald has done while he has not been here.  He will be the shepherd.
He returns the paper to the hide, he looks up.  From the library window the driveway, the passage to Oath Highway, remains. The world is still here.  The wedding of his niece, the seasonal farming of the land, he will not let it flounder. The manor will have his care.  He will do it for Meg and himself!  He will do it for those who work here and expect it of him.  He will!
. . .
Mr. McBride is doing his best.  Missy allows half an hour for him to stare at the Squire’s wine, to get all that needs to be got over. She calls him then, finding some work, some reason to be beside her.
Mrs. Minton at the manor is the only one who hasn’t cried.  From the moment she sat down at the kitchen table, because her legs would no longer hold her, crying had to come later, much later, she knew that.
The food is what did it more than anything.  Trades people keep arriving and if it hadn’t been for Tom doing all the fussing, arranging this to be sent where, she couldn’t, she couldn’t have handled it, but Tom takes care of the speaking with them. Weatherby workhouse are the first to receive, and when they’re full the remainder goes to the Biddiford poor.
Enid Coulter has taken control of notifying all who have to be made aware.  Enid, after the to her incalculable... comes quickly to realise there is no one else. Mandalmane’s telephone to Biddiford’s telegraph office is kept reserved.  The telephone company are good about having all other parties asked to wait unless a dire emergency. Archibald, her revered butler and she, together they have it all done, priority telegraphs sent to all.
For Enid how close she and Ronald!  With Edgar’s death and Ronald living alone, it is natural he should fall to be a companion.  Card nights, the few social yearly occasions at Mandalmane and Stonebridge.  With Lady Middleton returning things will change, but that is recent and Enid still plays cards with the Squire.
Edward growing into manhood, Squire’s counsel became ever more important.  Ronald taking Edgar’s role, and not only for Edward but for her.  How will she get over it! She would have collapsed if it were not for the telegraphs to be sent.  There are guests already at Mandalmane and Ronald is dead.
All that she can manage in her mind is that marriage is not taking place and people have to be told.  The telegrams finished, alone Friday night, everything becomes numb.
Friday moves to Saturday.  Mandalmane guests make their departures.  Edward remains with Annabell.
If only to distract herself, Enid begins to consider how the Manor must be coping.  She speaks on the telephone to Augusta Minton. Augusta says she’ll be pleased to have a cook from Mandalmane take over, but then Horace telephones back moments later, a message from Augusta thanking her but she has to keep cooking.  If she doesn’t have all her mind on her cooking...   Enid understands that.
McBride forcing his practical side, something he knows he has to do, tells Enid Mandalmane can help.  If laundry is done at Mandalmane then Nelly and Charlotte will be free to work both in the kitchen and at the front. Meg keeps to the drawing room with Mr. George.  Lucy won’t come out of the stables.  Tom says she won’t stop crying.
Tom is being a godsend both with the horses and with fetching water.  If it weren’t for the lad...   But McBride stops himself then.
Edith suggests one of the scullery-maids, Beatrice, can come and work scullery.  Beatrice has a good head on her shoulders and works well with Elsie who also is capable of dining room work if needed.
They’ll be delivered each morning by carriage, arriving promptly at the Manor at seven, and will return evenings when no longer needed.  Both she’ll offer extra money and they’re glad to help.
It is arranged.  Beatrice quickly takes control of the scullery, including all collecting and shipping of laundry to Mandalmane. Elsie and Nelly take parlour and front house duties, wheeling food trolleys, taking linen to the rooms, cleaning as much time as they have available. Charlotte Appleton, Nelly’s mother, seems to be everywhere where’s there’s a need.
Biddiford constabulary question Miss Stanton, ask her to remain at the Manor.  George speaks to Bella, asks her to become a guest of the manor.  It is important to him that she no longer act as a servant, he tells her.  Lucy meeting Bella in the privy court finds herself more and more with Bella comforting her.  So distraught is Miss Stanton, Lucy quickly sees she is the only one who can be with her. They cry often.
Nelly, not so affected as the rest, events and strangeness being as they are to Nelly, when it all does seem to become too much she wanders off to be with Jimmy.
Each evening after work he’ll be out at the bough, a hidden place they have inside a tree copse on the Hopkins’ farmland.  They sit there for hours not speaking, just Nelly and Jimmy holding hands.
Emily remains always with Annabell.  Edward arrives at the apartment early, leaves late.  The pain for Annabell is unbearable. Annabell has convinced herself that she killed her uncle.  There is nothing they can do about it.  Emily feels in the middle of this, completely responsible, but she cannot speak of it.  The two sleep much of the day, even Edward dozes.  At night when Edward leaves, unable to cope with the pain and the guilt, the two fall asleep clasping each other tight.
Meg spends her time with George.  The place they have found to hide is the drawing room.  The small amount of food they eat, Meg fetches from the kitchen.  Mostly what she brings is a tray of hot tea.  George is in a fitful sleep often.  Meg thinks that her walking out with him last Sunday, it was planned somehow from above.  So she will be here to be with him.
She knows he needs her.  She doesn’t know if he will want her when he wakes from this.  But she is here now.
Miss Hooper attends Lady Middleton with her bathing and dressing and the small amount of food and the trays of tea of which Miss Hooper now brings herself from the kitchen. Afterwards she finds refuge in the library.  Lady Middleton does not wish to be with anyone.  Miss Hooper having such terrible concerns for her own culpability finds she is cared for by Shapanzi, who licks and caresses, presses his small body against her bosom.
Arthur in his room sits alone.
Sunday morning I wander into the solarium for warmth, for the solace of the living plants. Constance is seated within the plants. I almost retreat.

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Never will I forget that moment when brought by George to the scene, she kneels in front of him.  An eternity she touches Ronald, her arms wrapped around him. She will not rise.

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In that critical moment when the bullet had gone clear above Mr. Morton’s head, I had failed.  Ronald paid with his life.

I, a lifetime in the service, trained to any circumstance, foiled by a horse shying.

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On the ground Ronald lay dead. All so much of hell one might never endure:  Annabell weeping, Constance when she came.  Forcing my statement to those investigating.

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The narrow cart brought by the police from Biddiford. The dreary procession. If the police had not taken Ronald out first, I think I would have lost what was left of my sanity.

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The endless drive to the manor. Constance, George behind the cart. Constance forcing George to stop when the trap turns to the driveway.

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I see her running.  She will not let the cart holding Ronald’s body proceed.

I don’t think she would have listened to anyone but George.

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Held by George, tears streaming down her face, we watch as the cart moves, as the light seems to become dimmer in that moment, as all becomes shrouded in the encircling darkness. Then only the rustle of the trees.

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“I am so sorry!  How can you ever...”
Constance waves her hand, her voice choked.  “Hush!”
I sit with bowed head.
“We try, Arthur.”  Her hands reach towards me.  Tears fall from her eyes.  “I always knew Ronald and I would not be together.  Not in this life.”
As we sit, the fragrance of the vines above caressing, caring becomes mixed with nothingness.
She stares at me:  “You do not believe the whispers that spirit gives has validity!  Plans!  Plans!  It matters not what we hear, we have to make plans!  Knobs and I, we had such plans!”  She holds up an envelope.  “The tickets came today!  Our voyage!”  More tears gathers.  She brushes them away.  “I’m sure this is part of some greater event.  I have to believe this.  That Ronald’s soul was in agreement.  Was mine?”
I turn to peer through the plants to the outer window.
“I do believe, Arthur.  I do believe him or Annabell, one of them had to go.
Her hands fold together.  “We choose not to know the details, our mind.  I could not have faced it.  Mr. Morton, there was a strangeness about the young man, I knew that!  Did I make sense of it!  No!  I could not!  Could I?”
Constance reaches again to touch me, “I do need you.”
“Henrietta, I believe she is here to help,” I murmur.
“Yes!”  Constance presses my hand.
. . .
Mr. McBride standing stove side of the kitchen table clears his throat, gazes at those seated, then somewhat helplessly down at Missy.
“Monday already, three days since Squire Bexfield was killed.  Some details you know.  But you might not have heard all, and this past hour we have received welcoming news, if you can call it that.  So it’s good to have you all here now.
“Constabulary have informed that the body of Squire is being released and will be able to be viewed at the funeral parlour as soon as the funeral parlour announce.” McBride waits but no one comments.  “Mr. Moffit, the funeral service owner with agreement with Mr. George will bring the casket to the manor Thursday at ten. Casket will be placed in the study, surrounded by lit candles and available at all times for those who wish to spend time in prayer.
“Mr. George has set this Friday as the funeral day.  All notifications are being handled by Mandalmane.  A carriage from the estate has already taken the list we have given them.”
McBride begins to totter for a moment, but grabs hold of Missy’s chair.
“Would you like me to stand with you, Woolly?”  Mrs. Minton asks.
“I’ll be right, soon as this is over, Missy.”  McBride pulls himself up straight.  “Mr. Moffit has already arranged much of the details that I will tell you now:
“The Biddiford court will notify court dignitaries and clericals who worked with Magistrate.  Judges from south counties, even some from London we think will attend.
“For Weatherby and surround, a notice of Friday for the funeral is being posted by Vicar Stanley on St. Brannoc’s church board, and upon the village board.
“The Dog and Gun, and Stogg farm pub in Atherton, will receive notices.  Mandalmane is handling the funeral meal to be held in Weatherby.  I have been told by Mrs. Coulter that several marquees will be on the green due to the number of expected.”
The butler, exhausted, decides to sit in the empty chair pushed out by Missy.  “Funeral cortège will depart Manor for Weatherby Church at 1:00 P.M.
“Driveway carriages will hold Lady Middleton and Mr. George, Miss Annabell and Mr. Edward, Mrs. Coulter, Mr. Hews, Miss Adams, Miss Hooper,” the butler takes a long breath before he emphasises, “and those employed here at Stonebridge.”  His voice quietens, “the two farmers and families.  Others to station themselves on Oath Highway where they will follow the driveway carriages.
“This is somewhat not of custom as family members, distant but family, and dignitaries would be expected to proceed from manor door.  But due to such large numbers expected to be in the procession, Mr. George Bexfield has requested this arrangement.
“Seats have been reserved for all of you here present at St. Brannoc’s.  This seating behind the Squire’s pew. Church will be more than full so a companion service will take place on Weatherby Green by deacon Æthelred, with a special message written by the Squire’s brother.
“Vicar Stanley is to conduct the church funeral service which will begin at 2:00 PM.  Bishop we understand will be sending a message.  Vicar Stanley and the Squire were very close friends.
“As to running of manor during this time, Mrs. Coulter is sending extra people from the estate for bedrooms and to work in kitchen on Friday.
“Mrs. Coulter has asked me to inform you that those at estate employment are available to take care of all your duties for any number of days that you wish, both after the funeral and from now.
“The Squire’s brother has made special mention for me to remind you that any wishing to take time for solitude during this period are requested to do so.”
McBride brushes a tear from his eyes.  “We all here at this table are special friends of the Squire.  He always said that.”
“He did indeed, love,” calls out Mrs. Minton.  “Always made known to us we are family.  Mr. George, he ain’t no different.”
“Yes!”  answers Mr. McBride, shaking.
“Now I don’t have to tell you, Squire was well liked through Devon and surrounding counties.  Many calling in person both at the police station and at the funeral parlour.
“Rented carriages will be all booked and carriages from as far away as London brought to provide transportation from Biddiford for those arriving by train.
“People in Weatherby as well as Biddiford will be told of the service given on the Green, that church will be more than crowded, overflowing.  Thursday evening fellows from the Coulter estate will station themselves overnight to keep the driveway here clear and keep places reserved. Distant family staying as guests at Mandalmane, special friends attending, have reserved places behind the seven mourning carriages as they leave the driveway.
“The constabulary will be on duty in Weatherby from nine o’clock in the morning they have informed me.  All travel along Oath Highway from Weatherby out to moors will be prevented as of noon hour to allow unobstructed passage of the cortège to the church.  From early, nine o’clock, constabulary will be halting any carriages not living out here or attending the funeral procession.
“With regard to the pallbearers, mutes, feathermen and the Squire’s heraldic bearer, Mr. Moffit has instructed that service carriages after first bringing the accompaniment here to the manor, will station a quarter mile past driveway.  Those walking will then ride to the Mason farm where they will take their positions for the walk to church.
“At the kindness of Farmer Mason and his wife, empty service carriages will remain on the Mason farm driveway until the complete cortège with all vehicles has passed the farm.  There will likely be a short waiting time while the full walking accompaniment proceed at distinguished pace before the hearse as it enters Weatherby to St. Brannoc’s.”   The butler takes out his pocket watch, looks at it.  “I’ve been informed police will be keeping Mr. Morton’s body.
“As you know Miss Stanton is a guest of Mr. George. Miss Stanton had no knowledge of that which was about to take place.  Miss Stanton is in mourning at the Squire’s death as we are.
“She is also in mourning for Mr. Morton who she most dearly had affection.
“Miss Stanton at her own request will remain at the manor during the funeral.
“Lady Middleton has suggested Miss Stanton take care of the Chinese dog, which she has accepted.  Miss Hooper will now attend the church service.
“It may be that a policeman or two will be seen at the manor.  This is routine procedure.
“That is all I have to say.  I do need to get some air for these words have been a toll upon me.  I think I will take a walk, call Skyler to accompany me, as the Squire was so fond.”
Mr. McBride rises from the chair, smiles at Mrs. Minton who nods at him.  Striding from the table to the back kitchen door, the butler opens it, takes a long, deep breath. Scent of wild flowers blowing from the surrounding fields come to him.  Exiting into the servant’s cobbled courtyard, the kitchen door is closed.
. . .
The days that Constance spends up to the funeral is a confusion of tangled anger.  They are to be married. Ronald and she have found their love.
They should be together.  He is gone.
With Percy she had forewarning.  Leukaemia of the Blood the doctors gave his illness name.  A weakness he began to feel, night sweating, a constant sense he wished to be sick.  His not wishing to eat.  Thin and wasted, extremely in the end, he died peacefully in his bed. But this, not being able to say goodbye, how could They, whoever They are.
Constance never has accepted the religious God.  She has no idea what that notion is about.  It is always They to her — beings looking down upon the foolish.  Pulling the strings, a better elucidation.  Now They have done this and she is angry.  But not angry, how can you be angry. She is empty.
Ronald has been lost to her.  She has lost herself.
Arthur comes to visit her in the solarium.  Does she want his words!  Does she want to even speak about this craziness flowing through her mind!
“Soul, I have never seen Soul,” at last she says to him. “‘Soul lives on,’ they say.  Will Ronald live on, Arthur?”
Arthur can feel the anger.  “That is what the preacher is going to talk about in the church,” he replies.  He feels the anger himself.  Not wanting to deal with anything, not even the hurt!  He feels a repugnance for everything life has to offer.  Life have to offer!
“What I am going to tell you.  I don’t know if it is real.”
Constance stares at him.
“There is something I am in contact with!”
“Something you are in contact with?”
“I think it is Henrietta!”  There is excitement in his tone.  His eyes they do not look at her.
“You have spoken to Henrietta?  You have found her?”
“They say they come to you after death!”
“I have heard that!  Percy, I don’t know if he came to me!”
“I know you are wondering if my mind is disturbed.  My mind is disturbed, but she has come to me.  I have heard her words as I hear you.  Not my ears.  It is not in my ear. But I have heard her.  I have spoken with her.”
“What have you spoken with her!”
“I have to tell you that I asked why she has allowed Ronald to die?”
Arthur starts to get up, but she holds him.  “No!”
“No!  You do not wish me to leave?”
“No!”
There is silence, long silence.
“Ronald is dead, Arthur.”
“Yes!”
“Ronald’s death, They did not stop.  God if you like?”
“God?”
“Did he wish to punish me?  Did he laugh and say, ‘I gave you all this time.  You did nothing with it!’ ” Constance thumps her hand on the chair.
She would brake her arm if she could.  “How I hate Them!”
“Yes!”
. . .
It is Friday, May 11, 1900.  One hour past noon to be precise.  The moment for the great procession to Weatherby.
Today, the dear Squire, man and judge, taken from all in the very heart of his prime, is to be presented to the church for service and to be entombed.
Fleeting is life.  Everlasting death!  Only the promise to be somewhere else!
Across the Manor black drapes hang, dimming all light to the windows.
Mourning guards, plain black dress, stand against the seven carriages.  Waiting in the first carriage behind the hearse, Mr. Bexfield, Lady Middleton, Miss Samson, Mr. Coulter.  In the carriage that follows, Mrs. Coulter, Mr. Hews, Miss Adams, Miss Hooper.
Behind them Mr.  Horace McBride, butler of Stonebridge Manor, Mrs.  Augusta Minton, cook and house harbour, Miss Meg Trenton, Miss Lucy Evans, once servants to the beloved departed.
In the fourth mourning carriage, Mr.  And Mrs. Enlem, stablemaster and wife, Mr.  And Mrs. Entwistle, gardener and wife.
Next the Appleton family: Mr.  Wilfred Appleton, Mrs. Charlotte Appleton, Miss Ellen Appleton
In the sixth carriage Farmer Hopkins rides, operational manager of Stonebridge Manor farmlands that lie by the south east.  His wife Mary.  His son Thomas.
The seventh mourning carriage Farmer Briggs, manager operational of Stonebridge Manor land that lie west of Oath Highway and extensively south, rides with wife Nell and son James.
As all are seated, pallbearers sombrely pass through the Manor doors, descend the steps holding firm the casket upon their shoulders.
A glistening vehicle awaits, shining glass, embellishments of gold. Foot attendants, feathermen, pages and mutes stand stiff, silent while the casket, raised by silver handles designed by Shelley and May, is placed inside the hearse.
An outer casing of elm has this coffer, planks, wide, resistant to splitting in the damp English weather.  A thin lining of lead shelling as a protection against the ages placed against the elm. Next to the lead, fine English oak, shining and polished.
Inside to repose upon, soft white velvet quilting.
The Squire in his finest day suit has his magistrate’s violet gown upon him.  Long wig adorns his head, flowing, resting about the back.  Over the left shoulder court tippet scarf is placed.
Viewing has been as natural as life, but now, frilled white puffed lace is draped over the Magistrate’s face.  The casket secured, the pall of black velvet, a design upon it depicting planet and stars and the firmament above, woven through with gold and silver thread, is placed.
With edges of the pall made fast, the signal to proceed is given by Mr. Moffit the funeral-undertaker as he steps up and sits by the hearse driver.
Immediately the Bearer of the Bexfield heraldic sword strides forward.  Holding high the sea-blue handle whose blade shines startlingly in the mid-day sun, he marches on.
Feathermen follow holding silver trays adorned by black feathers of ostrich.
Next the pall-walkers, batons raised high above their heads.
Then the mutes, six young athletic men with top hats, trailing bands, three dressed in gown, three in suit, their wands pointing to the side, to the front, to the back, now upwards, scattering as mutes.
Long ready to go, tossing black ostrich plumes adorning their heads, shivering from their waiting, six black steed, clip, clopping, as they begin to move along.
“The coffin is coming!  The coffin is coming!”  cries a watcher stretching his neck.  All who have stepped out of their vehicle hasten upon Oath Highway to return.
From the driveway, first the sword-bearer.
Now the feathermen with their silver trays, turn.
Pall walkers stride next, and in the gravity of the slow procession as the waiting manifests, in spectacular frenzy dance the mutes.
Grotesque shapes they form, hands upon the ground, feet up in the air, whirling, spinning, shielders from evil, wands pointing everywhere, clambering one upon the other to fall back upon the roadway.  Off to the sides of the hearse, to the back, protecting the coffin from spirits of evil.
The first morning carriage follows, then the second, the third to the seventh, then all carriage drivers and horses advance.
Only a momentary delay as a short distance down Oath Highway the walkers jump into their coaches.
And so the slow awesome clopping in this early summer afternoon proceeds.
And at the far rear, engine noise barely heard, three new motor-carriage contraptions.
A slowing at the Mason farm while the walking begins anew. Then to the solemn-eyed stares, those waiting by the Weatherby milestone, the procession forming again into its doleful gravity.
From seven morning has continued the knell ringing, this tolling ancient mystery surrounding and absorbing the village.  It closes upon the walkers and all those behind the walkers who approach.
Outside St. Brannoc’s the large carved rear doors of the hearse opens.  Cloth pall removed, the casket slides on its rails to where the bearers raise it up upon their shoulders.
The bells peel loudly as Reverend Stanley has a hand outstretched towards the opened door of the first mourning carriage.  “Please allow me, Lady Middleton.”
Into the church following the casket, the Reverend, then Constance in her silk warp, George in his black morning suit holding her arm.
Annabell and Emily behind, from neck to foot covered in black. Annabell’s wedding seamstress working through the night with Canton silk crêpe for the comfort and look of the two young women.
Edward in black follows, holding his mother’s arm.  Mrs. Coulter dressed in Henrietta black attire.
Mr. Hews suited in a rushed delivery from his home in Buckinghamshire.
Behind is an aunt, Ronald’s mother’s sister and an uncle, brother of Ronald major.  Then the cousins.  With the cousins are their children.
Meg is in her new gown.  Miss Hooper dressed in black crepe that arrived only last evening from Crouch End. Lucy and Nelly, Ruby and Beatrice from the estate, all with their new attire purchased on instructions of Mr. George from Stonebridge Manor funds.
Behind, Mr. and Mrs. Enlem, Mr. and Mrs. Entwistle, the Hopkins, the Briggs. Tom and Jimmy getting their new black fabrics from London, Biddiford merchants having to telephone distant proprietors due to the suddenness and urgency of so many orders.
Judges come next, then the barristers, esteemed wigs who at some time have taken work with Ronald.  Solicitors have come, those who worked closely, one such specimen driving his new motorised carriage at the regulated speed all the way from London to pay his last respect.
Then the Biddiford gentry, then the store owners, then the work tradesmen who Ronald has had dealings with, all wishing to pay their respects.  All have brought their families.
From Weatherby and Atherton everyone is here; not a soul, or almost not a soul, it would be said later, is missing. The casket, placed at the centre of the aisle beside the first pews, George stops before moving into the wooden seating.  Taking a long, bewildering glance Constance reads the silver plate centred upon the lid.
Squire Ronald Arthur Bexfield, Magistrate Born upon God’s Earth, April 17 1852

Entered unto the heavens, May 4 1900 Anno Domini

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Tears flooding her eyes, her legs weaken.  Buckling, she would have fallen had not George, Arthur and Edward held her.
Then something not expected takes place.  Constance has made special request to have the outer seat so that she will be next to Ronald.  Her want is to be near enough to be able to touch the casket during the service.  Emily, Annabell and Edward are to be seated first, then George in the pew, then herself.
But now in the confusion, Arthur and George holding her from falling, Arthur steps backwards, steps back to the end seat of the pew next to the pillar.
Constance, her mind in disorder, moves into the pew with Arthur, George, holding her other arm.
Emily follows George.  In the confusion, Edward now has the outer seat.
It takes some moments for Constance to realise what has happened with the seating.  A moment of desperation, but the commotion it would be to making a change, and the impropriety.
In the end it is weariness that closes her eyes and causes her to acquiesce.
Mr. Moffit places the Pall Cloth over the coffin.
Hearing the rustling, opening her eyes, turning to see, all she can focus upon is the sparkle and shimmer, the planets and stars reflecting light from the surrounding high candles being placed.
‘Knobs!  Oh Knobs!’ Tears stream down her face.  ‘How could you Knobs!  How could you leave me!  We were to be!  We were to be!’
George presses his hand to hers.  “Soon!  Soon it will be done!”
The pews behind fill.  Men wearing Coutauld, top hats held in their hands.  Women with black crepe, black veil, black gloves, jet brooches, jet necklaces, black unopened ostrich fans.
All seated as the nine bell peals.  Nine strokes of the largest bell for the passing of man.  This followed by single strokes of forty-eight, one for each annual of Earth’s seasons since the Squire has been born.
When the bells fall silent, those who have not managed to get into the back rows of the church begin to move across to the stage upon the green.  The same stage where the Squire in his fools costume spoke only a week and three days since.
Choir singers from many churches have gathered to be here, the outside stage considered a musical presentation. Signals will be relayed from the church to the stage by the young men previously employed as mutes, this to allow the ending of the service to be in accord with that within the church.
From the roadway, over the low church wall, the casket will be seen as it makes its way to the Bexfield vault, where the closest of the family will gather for interment. Inside the church is the singing of the first hymn, One Sweetly Solemn Thought Comes To Me, by Phoebe Cary.
One sweetly solemn thought

Comes to me o’er and o’er;

Nearer to my home today am I

Than e’er I’ve been before.

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Nearer my Father’s house,

Where many mansions be;

Nearer today, the great white throne,

Nearer the crystal sea.

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Nearer the bound of life

Where burdens are laid down;

Nearer to leave the heavy cross,

Nearer to gain the crown.

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But lying darkly between,

Winding down through the night,

Is the deep and unknown stream

To be crossed ere we reach the light.

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Feel thee near when my feet are slipping over the brink; for it may be I’m nearer home, nearer now than I think.

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The congregation seat themselves.  The choir sing a hymn by John Henry Newman: Lead, Kindly Light
Lead, kindly Light, amid th’ encircling gloom, Lead thou me on;

The night is dark, and I am far from home; Lead thou me on!

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Keep thou my feet; I do not ask to see

The distant scene: one step enough for me.

I was not ever thus, nor prayed that thou Shouldst lead me on.

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I loved to choose and see my path, but now Lead thou me on.

I loved the garish day, and, spite of fears,

Pride ruled my will: remember not past years.

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So long thy power hath blest me, sure it still Will lead me on

O’er moor and fen, o’er crag and torrent, till The night is gone;

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And with the morn those angel faces smile

Which I have loved long since, and lost awhile.

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As the choir sits, a young man remains standing to sing, Asleep in the Deep, words composed by Arthur J.  Lamb.  In his deep bass-baritone voice the young man begins:
Stormy the night and the waves roll high, Bravely the ship doth ride;

Hark while the light-house bell’s solemn cry

Reigns o’er the sullen tide.

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There on the deck see two lovers stand,

Heart to heart-beating and hand in hand,

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Tho’ death be near, she knows no fear,

While at her side is one of all most dear.

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Loudly the bell in the old tower rings, Biding us list to the warning it brings.

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Sailor, take care!  Sailor, take care!

Danger is near thee, Beware!  Beware.

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Beware!  Beware!

Many brave hearts are asleep in the deep,

So beware!  beware!

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Many brave hearts are asleep in the deep,

So beware!  beware!

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Stepping forward to the lectern, Reverend Evans, as a personal friend of the Squire from his college days, speaks for the first lesson: “From the Book of Common Prayer, Lesson taken out of the fifteenth chapter of the Epistle of Saint Paul to the Corinthians.”
There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body.

And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul, the last Adam was made a quickening spirit.

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Howbeit that was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; and afterward that which is spiritual.

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The first man is of the Earth, earthy: the second man is of the Lord from heaven.

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As is the earthy, such that they are earthy: and as is the heavenly such are they also that are heavenly.

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And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly.

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Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God.

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Reverend Evans turns towards Reverend Stanley in the pulpit who announces: “All please stand for the next hymn. Henry Francis Lyte would be mentioned often as a favoured divine and hymnist by Magistrate Bexfield.”
Blest is the man whose spirit shares

A suffering brother’s wants and cares:

The Lord will visit him in grief,

And bring his trials sweet relief.

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The sinner’s Friend delights to see

His people kind and good as He;

And bids them each with each unite,

To make their common burden light.

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That burden well the Saviour knows,

He bore on earth our sins and woes;

By friends betrayed, by foes assailed;

Yet love divine o’er all prevailed.

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That love divine, o’er still let us share,

Still lead us on through foe and snare,

Till we thy face unclouded see,

And rise from earth to heaven and thee.

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Constance, entertained by friends at an establishment in London only a week before coming to Stonebridge for the wedding, had taken a special liking to a song sung by one of the women performing.
So much the words seemed to have a special meaning for Ronny and herself that she asked the young songstress who had just arrived from America to write down the words, a composition of two Americans, Brown and Rice.
Ronald had asked her to marry him, once long ago.  She was only a girl and he only a boy.  In her girlish passion she had accepted his proposal.  Constance has altered the words to reflect her love of Knobs and her dream that once was.  In the sweetest of voices a young woman, part of the choir in the church, begins to sing:
Two little children one morning, after their breakfast was o’er,

Were laughing and playing together alone of the dining room floor.

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The girl of a dream had been talking

but refused with a toss of her head

To tell it all to her playmate until he coaxingly said:

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You had a dream, well I had one too

I know mine’s best ‘cause it was of you

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Come sweetheart tell me now is the time

You tell me your dream I’ll tell you mine.

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Ronny said, “I dreamed you had promised that someday we should be wed.”  

“Why that’s just exactly like my dream,” Conny then blushingly said.

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Time they say brings many changes but their love no change ever knew;

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And so they were to be happily married

The dream of their childhood to come true.

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You had a dream, well I had one too,

I know mine’s best ‘cause it was of you

Come sweetheart tell me now is the time

You tell me your dream I’ll tell you mine.

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Sadness has entered the household where happiness had just again begun to reign supreme

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The sunshine of life now has vanished grief had dispelled the bright dream

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For Ronny her kind loving helpmate had yesterday slipped away

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And in sorrow Conny thinks of the morning When in childhood to her he did say:

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You had a dream, well I had one too

I know mine’s best ‘cause it was of you

Come sweetheart tell me now is the time

You tell me your dream I’ll tell you mine.

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The young woman sits.
Reverend Stanley has his hands upon the balustrade of the pulpit. Many seconds go by in silence.   Ronald and he were friends setting eyes upon one another.   No thoughts can convey the times they have spent together.   Staring out at the congregation, every nook and cranny filled with chairs brought from the village.   He has to begin.
“Dear people.  Dear friends and loved ones of the Squire, of the Magistrate, of Ronald Bexfield the man.  I start with a message from the Lord Bishop:
Magistrate Bexfield counselled with Reverend Stanley frequently. It is Reverend Stanley who must speak of him with the authority of the church. I send my most sincere condolences to Magistrate Bexfield’s bereaved,
to his loved ones.

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I send my most sincere condolences to Magistrate Bexfield’s bereaved, to his loved ones.

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The Magistrate has been part of my prayers at morning communion and will be so daily during this ancient time of ‘First Fruits.’

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Magistrate Bexfield is of that special wheat, his service now to those in Heaven. May the goodness of the Squire be with him, guide him to that place he seeks.

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Reverend Stanley places his hands together, looks to the coffin, the pall-cloth, silver moon and stars reflecting up at him.
“I speak to Magistrate Bexfield now, as I would speak to him were he seated in his pew in front of me: Beloved clay.  Now the time has come to place aside the burden that holds us within this Earthly toil.  As the Apostle Peter tells us:
We, according to His promise, look for new heavens, a new earth wherein dwelleth righteousness.

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The vicar smiles.  “The Squire and I, Ronny he insisted I address him, truly were friends.  I cannot, as you, but be filled with sorrow today.  Indeed my grief is such please excuse me when I fumble.
“So what to speak of.  How should we speak of Ronny. Of his passion with the telescope.  Of his engagement and service to all who came to him.  Of his magisterial work. Of his guardianship of a young woman who sits before us now, proud to say she is his niece.  His passing has diminished my existence.  Has left me in confusion.”
The vicar stops for a moment to glance at Annabell, takes a large silk kerchief, presses it to his face.  “I have had many conversations with Magistrate Bexfield.  ‘Life,’ he once told me, ‘is like a journey of Alice.  One falls asleep, one awakes, one begins to slide down a long, long hole. Life can be a pool of tears but it can also be a pig and pepper.  Who stole the tarts, that is a mystery we may never know!’”
Some of the wigs present laugh at that.
“One time I asked the Squire what he meant.  He picked up a Bible I had on the table, turned to Psalms 78 and began to read a verse to me:
They kept not the covenant of God: and would not walk in his law forgat what he had done and the wonderful works that he had shewed for them.

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He brought waters out of the stony rock so that it gushed out like the rivers.

Yet for all this they sinned more.

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“‘Do you understand now Victor?’ I said I did not.
There is a sigh:  ‘It is we who punish ourself by only following desire, only the hysteria of the moment.  We do not take command of ourself because we know not who we are.’
“I press him upon the point.  ‘We allow ourselves to be deceived,’ he responds gently.  ‘We do not know why we do that which we do.  We do not know because we listen not to that which we are inside our being, but to that which is outside, to them.’
“But we have the Bible,” I stated.
“‘The Bible has many pages,’ he replies.  ‘We are all born here equal, yet I do not see that, do you?  I see palaces for a few and hardship for many.  Why?’”  Reverend Stanley places the kerchief back to his face.
“Magistrate Bexfield requested in his will-papers that three verses, words from John Dunne be read at his funeral.  I will here execute that request.  It is from a Divine and so I will include this as the second lesson:”
The bell doth toll for him that thinks it doth; and though it intermit ao’ain, yet from that minute that that occasion wrought upon him, he is united to God.

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No man is an island, entire of itself: every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.

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If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend’s or of thine own were: any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.

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“Aye, it tolls for thee,” shouts a voice from the back of the church. “And so it should Magistrate Bexfield!”
Hope Tempest comes strolling up the nave towards the coffin. “When you took my mother and imprisoned her in that mad house!”
Hope’s voice rises: “At the stone bridge I told you, Magistrate.  At the bridge where truth comes.”
Legs wide apart, the Squire’s coffin directly in front, the velvet shimmering pall is pulled from the coffin.  “A curse upon you for it, Magistrate Bexfield.”
With a short wooden stick in her hand, the coffin is hit. “A curse upon your peace.”
The coffin hit again.
In a scream now: “A curse upon you!  Rest not!  Not now, not ever for all the wickedness thou art!”
Once more the coffin is hit.
Wood against wood, stone wall to stone wall the echo.
Onerous resonance filling every nook, every ear, every mind, in the darkness that has descended.
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