Jacob Naseby and his wife move away, satisfied that their effusions of sorrow have absolved them of any further involvement, and I shift position on the chair. The wood does not yield and a dull ache throbs in my lower back. I stroke the black bombazine of my dress to distract me, fiddling with the crepe trimmings and adjusting the fabric. I like wearing black, but it will be two years before I will be allowed to wear grey again. You could say that I know the mourning etiquette inside out, having gone through it twice before. I smile to think I always meet my next husband at the funeral of the previous one.
Speaking of the next husband, a handsome young man approaches me. I take in the deep chestnut hair and green eyes without looking obvious. He clutches his top hat in one hand and offers me a firm handshake with the other.
"Mrs Bagshot, I am sorry for your loss," he says.
"Thank you," I reply.
"I am Daniel Tenrigg. I worked with your husband at the bank. I cannot stay long but I wished to pay my respects."
I bow my head in gratitude but take the opportunity to look at his hands. I do not see a wedding ring.
"It is such a shame about Nathaniel...do they know what caused the malady?" asks Mr Tenrigg.
"The doctor was unsure." I permit myself to look up. He starts; I do not think he expected direct eye contact from a widow. He must not realise I have had plenty of practice.
"Forgive my boldness, but I heard a rumour it was strychnine."
"What a vicious rumour! Where did you hear it?" A knot of unease settles in my stomach.
"A friend of mine, Thomas Shuggleworth. I believe he also knew your second husband, Percy Farrow." Mr Tenrigg stares down at me and I suppress the twitch in my lower jaw.
"Poor Percy," I reply.
"I believe he was a victim of arsenic poisoning, was he not?" A shadow flits across Mr Tenrigg's face, twisting his beautiful features into a detestably smug expression
"Indeed he was. Percy was a sickly fellow and he bought many medicines from less than reputable salesmen. The doctors believe one of the remedies must have contained arsenic."
"That is indeed unfortunate, Mrs Bagshot. Was Henry Tidmuth unfortunate as well?" asks Mr Tenrigg. The knot of unease blossoms into panic and I fight to control my nerves.
"He was. My first husband was an amateur horticulturalist but he mis-identified a plant in our garden. He ate the berries, thinking they were something else, and sadly passed away," I reply.
"Ah yes. The deadly nightshade incident."
"Mr Tenrigg, I am mourning the loss of my dear Nathaniel, and I have other people to receive, so please forgive my frankness if I ask you to state what exactly it is that you would like to say?" I look him in the eye but I fear the tremor in my voice may give me away.
"I have nothing to say, Mrs Bagshot. I am merely commenting on your poor run of luck regarding your husbands and their accidents. May I suggest that if you should choose to marry again, you select a more careful husband?"
Instead of retiring to my room to indulge in a histrionic wailing fit, I head for the cabinet concealed behind a false panel in the wall of Nathaniel's library. I caress the glass bottles and jars, the only belongings I have taken with me from marriage to marriage.
I am sure that one of my friends will be only too happy to take good care of Daniel Tenrigg and his suspicions.