Praise for Nancy Atherton and Her Aunt Dimity Series
Aunt Dimity and the Wishing Well
Aunt Dimity and the Lost Prince
Aunt Dimity and the Village Witch
Aunt Dimity and the Family Tree
Aunt Dimity's Death
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
It was a fine day for a funeral. Rain plummeted from a leaden sky and a blustery wind blew the chill of mortality through the mourners clustered in St. George's churchyard. It was early May, but it felt like the raw end of March.
The funeral was well attended, despite the dismal weather. CLOSED signs dangled in shop windows throughout the small village of Finch, and cottage curtains, so often twitched aside to allow one inquisitive neighbor to observe another, hung motionless. Everyone who was anyone stood shivering in the churchyard, and in Finch, everyone was someone.
Short, plump Sally Pyne, tearoom owner and baker extraordinaire, shared an umbrella with her equally plump fiancé, Henry Cook. Christine and Dick Peacock, the pub's well-fed proprietors, served as a human windbreak for the more slightly built retired railroad employee, George Wetherhead. Ruddy-cheeked Mr. Malvern, a local dairy farmer, stood beside Grant Tavistock and Charles Bellingham, whose business was the purchase, sale, and restoration of fine art.
Near the three men, draped in a black woolen cape that hung to her ankles, stood Finch's resident witch, Miranda Morrow, who'd left her holistic health hotline unattended in order to pay her respects to the deceased. The presence of a pagan at a Christian burial might have raised eyebrows in a less tightly knit community, but Miranda's neighbors were accustomed to her funny little ways.
Four women-two widows and two spinsters, all retired-huddled together for warmth in the lee of a marble angel. Elspeth Binney, Opal Taylor, Selena Buxton, and Millicent Scroggins never missed a funeral if they could help it, but their patented piety was, on this occasion, undercut by the volley of resentful glances they cast at a fifth woman, Amelia Thistle. Amelia had wounded them grievously by winning the heart of the village's most eligible widower, who happened to be my father-in-law. The quarrelsome quartet had almost forgiven Amelia for succeeding so spectacularly where they had failed, but the cold rain had made them cranky.
Peggy and Jasper Taxman occupied their usual positions at the forefront of the assembly. Mild-mannered Jasper Taxman was a mere blip on the village's radar, but his wife was a supernova. Peggy Taxman ran the post office, the general store, the greengrocer's shop, and every village-wide event in Finch, and she did so imperiously, with an iron hand and a voice that could crack granite. None but the brave would dare to question Peggy's right to plant her Wellington-booted feet wherever she chose to plant them.
By contrast, Mr. Barlow, who was the church sexton and village handyman, stood at a respectful distance from the grave, while Bree Pym, the twenty-year-old New Zealander who'd helped Mr. Barlow to lower the coffin into its final resting place, rested her muddy hands on the headstone shared by her great-grandaunts, Ruth and Louise Pym, whose house and modest fortune she had inherited. Brave Bree rarely missed an opportunity to goad Peggy Taxman, but she'd sheathed her sharp wit for the day and watched the proceedings in solemn silence.
I, too, stood in the churchyard, along with my husband, Bill, and our eight-year-old twins, Will and Rob. My father-in-law, William Willis, Sr., had hoped to join us, but as he'd only recently recovered from a nasty inflammation of the lungs, he'd been ordered by his physician, his housekeeper, his gardener, his son, his daughter-in-law, and his sweetheart to stay at home.
My best friend, Emma Harris, had also been unable to attend the funeral because of illness, though in her case it was a horse's illness rather than her own. Pegasu