Friday 2 September 2011

Friday Flash - The Widow

The worst part about a funeral is the endless stream of condolences. I sit on a hard wooden chair in the drawing room listening to an array of well-meant but deeply resented cliches. I would very much like a cup of tea, but I must keep my hands free in order to greet the many mourners at Nathaniel's funeral. I am most surprised that they cannot tell me they are sorry for my loss, that I must be brave, that I am not alone in my grief, and that I can count on their support in this difficult time, without clasping my hand in theirs. Twenty minutes of wet eyes and earnest sentiments are taking their toll.

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 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?"

Mr Tenrigg performs a stiff bow and walks away. He stops on the other side of the room and engages one of Nathaniel's cousins in conversation. The panic in my stomach dissolves into rage, and I excuse myself. My maid tells those wishing to pay their respects that I am overcome with sadness and will return soon.

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.


Carrie Clevenger said...

This was quite lovely! I like the character of Bagshot? Fantastic surname. Curious of her motivations...

Tony Noland said...

Excellent ending. Don't drink the punch, Daniel.

Anonymous said...

Deliciously devilish! I love villains such as this.

Laurita said...

I loved this. You know exactly what she has done, but the ending loses nothing. I like Mr. Tenrigg's tenacity.

pegjet said...

Maybe she should target the next husband somewhere other than the previous one's funeral--people who know each other notice things.

Larry Kollar said...

The black widow. Classic, classy, and well-done. Loved this line in particular: [they] move away, satisfied that their effusions of sorrow have absolved them of any further involvement. That's pretty much the way it is, huh?

Janet Lingel Aldrich said...

I started out feeling sorry for her, but you stopped THAT in its tracks. :) One hopes Mr. Tenrigg is _extremely_ careful in his eating habits for the next little bit...

Tim VanSant Writes said...

Poor Tennrigg. He'll likely realize too late that she doesn't have to marry all her targets.

Unknown said...

Wow, she's quite the woman. I wonder how often she isn't wearing black :)

Anonymous said...

She is on the warpath. Somehow I have a feeling it won't turn out like she expects.

Cat Russell said...

Deliciously wicked!

But I'm still waiting for a funny story too! :D

Heath Lowrance said...

That was just excellent.

Cassie said...

Absolutely love this...sneakily spooky, was just expecting dark or sad, and then that cabinet crept out of nowhere. Loved it!

John Wiswell said...

Is the name "Bagshot" any linguistic relation to "Bagehot," which I associate with the UK?

The worst thing about a funeral is all the condolences, says the living. Why don't they ever ask the dead's opinion?

Anonymous said...

OMG I love this!!! Go mix Daniel a nice cocktail ;D Ha, great writing, Icy!

Anonymous said...

I felt sorry for her at first, but you took care of that. LOL Loved it!

Jason Coggins said...

You nailed the era and the careful reveal of her dark side worked well.

Helen A. Howell said...

I suspected she did away with her husbands the moment she said "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." - however I never expected the ending LOL.

Good tale, told excellently that kept me smiling ^__^

Eric J. Krause said...

Very cool story! She's not one to be crossed. I wonder what her husbands did to make her think they deserved her brand of justice? Or did she simply get tired of them? Looks like this guy is not going to get the chance to call her his bride before he gets offed.

Steve Green said...

I like the thought that she meets her next husband at the funeral of the previous one. I think maybe a woman of such cunning can woo Tenrigg's suspicions away, and take care of the problem.... Personally. :)

Jen said...

I was onto her at "Speaking of the next husband," and I love it. What a woman.

Icy Sedgwick said...

Carrie - I think Harry Potter, and Batilda Bagshot, unintentionally influenced my choice of name!

Tony - I'd like to hope he's not that stupid.

Apple - Glad you liked it!

Laurita - He's dicing with death!

Peggy - She's not as bright as she thinks she is!

FAR - I think that's what funerals are for, most of the time. Closure.

Janet - Fingers crossed!

Tim - She's a feisty little mare.

Michael - Not very often!

Lara - She's been rumbled now!

Cathy - I'll see what I can do!

Heath - Thanks!

Cassie - You have to love a dark ending!

John - I'm not sure, it might be. I'm assuming Bagshot probably has some kind of military derivation, since most of our surnames are place names or occupations.

Lisa - Glad you liked it!

Sonia - Thanks!

Jason - I can't stop writing historical stuff >.<

Helen - Glad you liked it!

Eric - Probably nothing - she doesn't seem the most stable type!

Steve - She doesn't hang about! Though she might do just that if Tenrigg has his way.

Jen - :-D

Craig Smith said...

She's certainly not one to be trifled with!

Stephen said...

Always a bride, never a bridesmaid. I enjoyed Daniel's boldness, but that quickly turned to worry as Mrs. Bagshot (great name, by the way) reveals there are more like her out there. What a terrific way to end this one, Icy.

Emilia Quill said...

Mrs.Bagshot reminds me of Mary Ann Cotton, most of her husbands died of "gastric fever", in reality arsenic.

Icy Sedgwick said...

Craig - Not at all!

Stephen - I'm glad you liked it!

Emilia - Sadly, Mary Ann Cotton was from my part of the UK! Very bad advert for the region.

Anonymous said...

Calls to mind the film Black Widow - we never really get inside of the head of the murderess, but Bagshot reminds me of her - the cold calculations, the social posturing. Cruel and beautiful and without mercy.

KjM said...

Excellent tone all through this. This line is priceless: "May I suggest that if you should choose to marry again, you select a more careful husband?"

I suspect the good gentleman may come to a bad end. Although, I would advise the widow to move to another part of the country. There are altogether too many friends of friends in her area - the impact of keeping herself safe would be too great on the local population.

Excellent work.

Stephen said...

Hi there Icy -- let's hear it for 'bombazine'. What ever it is, I like it.

Nicely done, plenty of crocodile tears in this story, too, and if the sugar accidentally ends up next to the rat poison, why what is a person to do?

Tea Mr Tenrigg?


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