A Chapter by Peter Rogerson

Two pieces of news collide, for the good.


It’s almost prescient that two things like this should happen on the same day, thought Josiah when he left the solicitor’s office in Brumpton. As chance would have it, it was the same company that employed Ophelia, which meant that she saw him when he walked in and paused for the least of moments as if her heart had fluttered at the very sight of him. Which it may well have done.

Her heart probably also fluttered when he walked out.

But his visit to Snaggle, Snaggle and Perkins had nothing to do with her, at least not directly, though it may well prove to have a great deal to do with her in the future. He ran over the gist of what Mr Snaggle Junior had said to him, face serious, papers in front of him ready to be rustled if such rustling was needed, and spectacles very much on the end of his nose. He may have been Mr Snaggle Junior, but there was, in fact, very little about him that earned the junior suffix to his name

Mrs Mildred Haystack made it quite clear in her will,” he said in his thin and rather reedy voice, “the habitat known as Tom’s Playground passes to you and any heirs you may have on the condition that you maintain the garden in whose soils the ashes of her three husbands have been interred as it is, and place an urn or vessel containing her own ashes in a fourth. My firm is to confirm that the last condition has been observed, but we won’t be spying on you to ensure future maintenance is carried out, so there will be no big brother breathing down your neck!”

So that was what Mildred had planned for her own Hereafter: a resting place in her own front garden. And that front garden and the cottage he’d spent the best years of his childhood in belonged to him! It wasn’t a huge place, but it was homely like all dwellings ought to be.

The second thing that had happened was as he was opening his post the Reverend Simeon Crow had scowled at him before reminding him that the few days he’d given Ophelia to find an alternative address was up and yet she was showing no signs of moving, but he had it on reliable authority (if her mother as an authority was reliable) that she would grudgingly accept her back home as long as she discarded her inappropriate wardrobe and obtained decent clothing.

Ophelia had to go from the vicarage and so, decided Josiah, must he. The relationship he had with Simeon was colder than ice since the row in which the vicar had been as good as accused of wanted to marry Mavis in order to have unlimited access to her daughter. It had been Ophelia who had come out with it and although Josiah considered it might represent a very extreme possible reality it did have a sort of ring of truth to it. He had concluded in his own woolly way that Simeon was a minor sexual predator.

Now he had a house, unexpected because he’d never given the disposal of Mildred’s property any thought at all, and the notion that he might inherit anything hadn’t been worth contemplating. And in addition it came with a sizeable sum of money, for Mildred had accumulated a tidy bank account as a consequence of having had three fairly wealthy husbands who, one by one, had sadly died whilst playing the husband role in her life.

It seemed as though his good Lord had answered a prayer and he muttered his heartfelt gratitude as he stood at the counter of a coffee shop and ordered a cappuccino.

I thought I’d find you here. It’s my coffee break,” said a voice he knew exceedingly well just behind him. It was, of course, Ophelia, who had followed him from her place of work.

He ordered a second cappuccino and they sat down by the window.

What were you doing with old Snaggle?” asked Ophelia curiously. “I was surprised when I noticed you walking in. If I’d known you were coming I’d have caught the same bus as you. That would have been nice.”

I got a letter in the post this morning,” said Josiah, “and I thought it needed attending to straight away, and Snaggle, Snaggle and Perkins was where I had to be to do it.”

I don’t want to seem nosy,” began Ophelia.

But you are,” grinned Josiah, “but tell me, Simeon’s been on to me this morning about where you’re going to live now that he’s told you to leave the vicarage...”

Getting on to you? It isn’t your problem!” exclaimed Ophelia.

He nodded. “I know that, but it’s me he asked,” he said quietly.

Oh dear. I was hoping he’d have forgotten. He hasn’t said anything about it since the row about him and mother.”

I suppose he didn’t think he’d have to. So have you made any arrangements? He says you can go back to your mother...”

That’s just what he’d like!”

As you explained the other day, which was what caused the row in the first place. Which brings me to my visit to the Snaggles and Perkins. Apparently Mildred left me Tom’s Playground. That’s the cottage I grew up in. I’m planning to move to it as soon as maybe, now that I know that it’s mine and if you like you can change from being the vicar’s lodger to being his curate’s lodger.”

You mean, move in with you?”

As a lodger. I don’t want a storm of protesters rising up against the church because I’m in what they might see as an unholy and improper relationship with the prettiest young woman in the neighbourhood.”

You mean, separate rooms?”

There are two bedrooms. I had one as a boy and if you like I’ll keep that while you, if you don’t mind the arrangement, have the main bedroom.”

If I don’t mind? Of course I don’t mind! But what about the church and you being its curate?”

It’s not a great distance and it’s about time I got transport of my own. But there is a bus service too, the one we caught to Mildred’s funeral.”

And we’re going to live together…?”

I suppose that’s one way of putting it,” nodded Josiah. “But not in sin. I’m afraid I’ve never, you know, slept with a woman, not anyone, not even the girl I fell for in my teens, Penny of the glorious long hair… and I won’t until I get married. That’s if I ever get married. A great big if it is too. I’ve seen too much of married life that doesn’t appeal to me.”

Can I have another cappuccino?”

Of course. I’ll get you one while you think about my suggestion.”

He went to the counter and ordered two more coffees. By the time he returned Ophelia had worked it all out. Or at least, she believed she had.

I’ve got it,” she said quietly, “I’ll move in with you as soon as I can, I’ll have that second bedroom just like you suggested and I’ll pay you rent for it, all above board and with a rent book to prove that I’m a lodger and not a wicked girl out for no more than your flesh! But if you like I’ll also help with the housework when I have the time and you can pay me for the work and, say, deduct it from the rent. No, not deduct it, pay me as if I was any old skivvy!”

He looked at her for a long minute, and then nodded. “That makes sense and it’s a valiant plan,” he said, “and I never asked, but do you drive?”

I passed my test two years ago,” nodded Ophelia, wondering what was coming next.

Then we’ll buy a car and you can drive it until I pass my test,” grinned Josiah, “I’d like having a lady chauffeur. You see, besides having Tom’s Playground (and I’ll keep that name for the place) I’ve got a bit of money and it makes sense for us to be mobile.”

I’ve got to get back to work,” Ophelia told him. “But now that’s sorted it’s a load off my mind even though I rather half-hoped that Vic had forgotten he’d ordered me to go.”

I doubt he’ll ever forgive you for what you said,” murmured Josiah, “and when I get back to the vicarage I’ll tell him that I’m moving out and where to. But I won’t make it seem that we’re moving out together … I know the way his mind works and he’ll jump instantly to a carnal conclusion. Then I’ll advertise for someone to clean the place … it’s been empty since Mildred died … and until then I’ll book a couple of rooms in the hotel at Henstooth Corner.

Two rooms?” grinned Ophelia.

Two rooms!” repeated Josiah, “two single rooms!”

© Peter Rogerson 27.03.18

© 2018 Peter Rogerson

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Added on March 27, 2018
Last Updated on March 27, 2018
Tags: house, Mildred, Josiah Pyke, inheritance, solution



Peter Rogerson
Peter Rogerson

Mansfield, Nottinghamshire, United Kingdom

I am 78 years old, but as a single dad with four children that I had sole responsibility for I found myself driving insanity away by writing. At first it was short stories (all lost now, unfortunately.. more..