Friday, May 24, 2013

The Inheritance by Beryl Ensor-Smith

The town bully discovers a sensitive side when he receives an unexpected inheritance from his uncle; by Beryl Ensor-Smith.

Willie Slabbert was amazed to receive a letter from his cousin Hester, and even more amazed at its contents. He and Hester had never hit it off, yet here she was, writing that her father, Oom Koos, had died and she was sending Willie something to remember him by on the goods train.

Hester had always resented Willie's good relationship with her father. Jealous, she was, and he could only assume that Oom Koos had asked specifically that Willie be sent something of his when he died. Even Hester could not disregard the wishes of a dying man! Trust her, though, not to give Willie the opportunity of attending the funeral by keeping quiet about Oom Koos's death until now. She could be truly vicious, could Hester.

His mind roved pleasantly over his prospective inheritance. Hester had said it was too big to post. Could it be a piece of that beautiful Cape Dutch furniture? If so, he would place it in the hallway where it could be shown to best advantage. That would make some of the old cats in this dorp sit up and take notice. They had all written him off as an odd-ball, not that he cared, but not one of them had anything to equal even the meanest piece of Oom Koos's valuable antique collection.

The next week passed slowly, Willie's anticipation mounting. Whenever he met any of the ladies of Prentburg, he could not help giving them a knowing grin. They had delighted in mocking him in the past, but now the tables would be turned as even their crass ignorance could hardly fail to recognise the worth of Oom Koos's big dresser (for surely it was the dresser? Hester had never liked it!) gracing his entrance hall. When the dames of the dorp came round asking for money for their various charities, they could not help but see and admire his new acquisition.

His attitude did not go unnoticed. At the next Sisters of the Church meeting, Marion Klopper commented over tea: "Have you bumped into Willie Slabbert lately? He's acting in a very peculiar manner."

"Hmm," sniffed old Mrs Merton, "he seems just the same, only more so; more secretive and twice as snooty!"

"Come now," put in Helga Swanepoel. "We must be charitable. We must remember he had a hard childhood when his parents were alive. So short of money! And then to be orphaned at thirteen and sent off to live with his uncle." Helga didn't like Willie any more than did the other "Sisters," but regarded herself as a good person and thus bound to offer at least token support for Willie, who was, of course, a lost cause!

"Who did very well by Willie," Marion retorted tartly. "In fact, he was really fond of Willie and gave him a tidy sum when he fell out with his cousin Hester and decided to come back here, more's the pity."

"Sisters, we must be Christian in our attitude to Willie," Helga said sanctimoniously. "He did, after all, put the money to good use buying that bit of land and turning it into a productive market garden. You can't deny that he's built himself a lovely house and is making a small fortune out of his fruit and vegetables."

That, of course, was the rub. That a sinner like Willie should be doing so well when some of their own God-fearing men were finding times difficult was hard to stomach. As Helga Swanepoel well knew. For such an upright woman she had a way of expressing her Christian tolerance in such a manner that it called forth even greater abuse of the unfortunate body she was defending. Helga was not above a bit of stirring when life in Prentburg became dull... which it often did.

"He's up to no good, you may be sure of that!" Mrs Merton said, "Can you ever remember a time when Willie did anyone any good?"

They couldn't. Most of them had been schoolmates of Willie's in the junior years before he'd been sent to his uncle and they all had memories of his merciless teasing, pulling pigtails and putting worms into their lunch boxes. They had tried from the beginning to put him in his proper place, as one of the dorp's undeserving poor, but Willie would have none of it. He just would not behave in the humble way expected of him. He seemed to think that having above average intelligence made him the equal of the moneyed boys of the district.

"All I can say," said the gentle Sarie Blignault, "is that Willie looks happier these days than he has for ages, and isn't that lovely?"

She was a relative newcomer to the dorp, having lived there for only five years. The other members of the sisterhood found her artless outlook on life baffling, to say the least. Some were convinced she was severely "mentally challenged," though they all conceded that she had an innate kindness that often made them feel guilty.

"Perhaps" continued Sarie, "something nice has happened to him?"

"I sincerely hope not!" said Mrs Merton venomously. "He doesn't deserve to have one scrap of good happen to him."

Her memories of Willie as a youngster were even less enthusiastic than those of his contemporaries. He had stolen eggs from her ducks, terrorised her beloved Pekinese, played tok-tokkie on her door, placed tacks in her driveway and been unpleasant in every possible way.

"Come, now, sisters," admonished Christina du Plessis, who thought it time someone reminded Helga that she wasn't the only pebble on the beach when it came to Christian charity, "we mustn't wish ill on our fellow man."

"Fellow man?" retorted Mrs Merton, "Willie's a toad! He was a menace as a boy and he hasn't improved any that I can see now that he's an adult. He hardly bothers to greet any of us when we bump into him. Downright rude, that's Willie Slabbert."

Had he a more sensitive nature, Willie's ears would have burned while they were discussing him. As it was, he had long since accepted that he was a social outcast in the community and nothing they said or did now could hurt him. There had been a time, after he had returned to the dorp as a young man, when he had longed for acceptance, though he was too proud to show it. But those days were long gone and he was now pretty well indifferent to the attitude of the dorp volk, though he liked to score off them when he could.

The day arrived eventually when he was notified by the railways that his "goods" would be arriving on the noon train of the 25th. Willie felt a real sense of occasion on that day. He scrubbed himself until he shone, shaved and put on his navy blue serge suit. He had last worn it five years ago to the funeral of the Dominee's sister and was dismayed to find his muscular frame had filled out so much in the intervening years that the buttons strained across his broad chest. That is what physical labour did for you, he decided, and set off jauntily for the station, hoping that a large crowd would be meeting the train for some reason or other, so that the arrival of his beautiful dresser would be the talk of the town.

The station was deserted, but with the arrival of the train, Willie's momentary disappointment vanished. The guard handed a bag of mail to the dorp's Station Master, Shorty White, and then vanished into the van.

"This is it!" Willie thought exultantly, and hopped into the van to lend a hand. The guard looked displeased.

"What you doing in here? This is government property and not for the general public!"

"I've come to help lift the dresser out. It'll be too big for you to manage on your own," Willie replied amiably.

"What dresser? The only thing for off-loading here is this musical hinstrument."

"Musical instrument?" Willie echoed faintly, looking at the black case the guard was tapping. It was hard and shaped rather like a coffin.

"Ja, this 'tjello. It's for W. Slabbert. Know him?"

"I'm Slabbert," Willie replied dully. "Acello!"

"Ja," said the guard knowledgeably. "It's a hinstrument." He should know. His son-in-law who lived with him pretended to be an intellectual and was always sounding off about something or other.

"A man called Pablo something was a hexpert on it. Pablo... Pablo, could it be Picasso?" he scratched his head.

"Picasso, the nut who painted blue ladies with eyes in the middle of their foreheads? Yes," said Willie, eyeing the cello bitterly, "I can believe he'd be interested in a thing like that!" His disillusionment was overwhelming.

"Nou ja, get it off. The train can't wait for ever, you know," said the guard.

Two stations later as he was pouring coffee from his flask, he remembered the name of the cellist. Pablo Cassals, that was it! Well, it didn't matter much to that fellow back in Prentburg. That kind of information only interested people like his son-in-law Mervyn, he thought morosely as he downed his coffee.

Meanwhile, Willie was left standing on Prentburg station with the cello balanced beside him. It was quite heavy and he called to Shorty White to bring the baggage trolley over so that he could wheel it home. Not that he really wanted to keep it, but he could hardly leave it littering the station which was probably just what Hester expected him to do. Hester, he thought savagely. This was her idea of a good joke, no doubt. Well, he would sell the damned thing and get something back for his trouble and disappointment!

Willie looked up to encounter a truculent Shorty White. "You want the trolley for that thing? No man, it looks like a coffin. If you're seen wheeling it on my trolley, it'll blacken my name. You know what a superstitious bunch these dorp volk are!"

In vain did Willie explain and plead. Shorty was adamant. Willie would have to carry his coffin home.

And an awkward thing it proved to be. The cello case had a leather strap, but when Willie slung it round his neck and tried to suspend the instrument sideways along his front like a guitar, it kept slipping so that the case banged against his knees, tripping him up. Eventually he picked it up reluctantly and carried it like a baby, hoping ardently that no one would see him.

No such luck. He had hardly stepped from the station precincts when Elaine and Bennie Ferreira turned a corner and beheld him. They stared at him in surprise. Elaine couldn't remember ever seeing Willie so smartly dressed. Bennie was intrigued by the weird object he was carrying so gingerly. "Hullo, Willie. What's that there?"

Thoroughly embarrassed by this time, Willie muttered into his tie that it was a cello.

"A cello? Why, Willie, I didn't know that you could play!" commented Elaine.

Shuffling his feet and edging away from them, Willie murmured that it was a gift. He left them gaping after him.

"Well of course," Elaine said, staring at his retreating back, "playing any instrument is a gift, a talent. But wait until the Church Sisters hear this. Who'd have imagined Willie, of all people, being musical?"


Even while Bennie was telling her sternly that gossip was the tool of the devil, Elaine was mentally planning the way she could break the news of Willie's musical ability to best effect. The community had been starved of any really interesting tidbits for months - ever since Mary Dewar's baby had been born with ice blue eyes and the fairest skin, while Peter, Mary's husband, was black eyed and swarthy and everyone knew about dominant genes!

Meanwhile Willie had struggled home with his inheritance. It was then propped against a wall while he brewed a much needed cup of coffee. After drinking it he loosened his tie and took off his shoes before examining the clasps of the cello case. When he opened it, a note fell out.

Dear Willie, (it read)

Pa wanted you to have something to remember him by. When I was clearing out the attic, I found this and thought it just right for you! The strings are made of gut, sheep gut, and the bow is made from the hair of a horse's tail. Now you know I've always felt you were a gutless wonder and real horse's arse, so you'll understand the connection.

Your cousin
Hester.

For a few seconds Willie was consumed with black rage. Had Hester with all her crudity been present, he'd have grabbed her by her scrawny shoulders and shaken her until every tooth in her head rattled.

When he had calmed down, he took the instrument from its case and inspected it. Why, it was as old as the hills! Beautiful workmanship, mind you, with its gently curved belly with different woods inlaid round the edge, but definitely ancient. He wouldn't get much for it. He ran his fingers over its worn surface. He could swear it was hand made. He would give it a new coat of varnish to spruce it up a bit, put it in Cohen's saleroom and take what he could get for it.

Willie inspected the finer details in wonderment. Yes, definitely hand made. Someone had taken a great deal of trouble over it. Suddenly he was consumed with a desire to hear how it sounded before he got rid of it. There was no one in Prentburg who could play it, but surely there would be someone in Waterfontein where he marketed his produce? It was, after all, a fully-fledged town, though on a small scale. So thinking, he packed the instrument away, little realising that his whole image was at that very moment undergoing a radical change.

In the church hall the "Sisters" were working away at their charity needlework.

"I tell you, it's true," Elaine Ferreira was saying in exasperation. "He was dressed like a real gent. I hadn't realised before how manly and handsome he could look."

She blushed as she encountered the raised eyebrows of her friends. "Anyway," she continued hastily, "he told me he played the cello. He said he had a real gift for it."

"Willie Slabbert?" queried Mrs Merton in patent disbelief.

"Who are you talking about?" Miems Gouws's mother asked, pressing her earhorn to her ear. She refused point blank to wear a hearing aid and consequently missed most of what was being said, becoming very confused. "Is it Dominee Seibrand? "He's been looking very restless lately and I said to Miems that his wife had better do something about herself. She's grown really fat and he is, after all, a man!"

"Ma!" shrieked Miems, aghast.

"You can 'ma' me if you like, but I've seen that Cilliers girl in the choir making sheep's eyes at him. Shameless creature, brassy as they come with that blonde hair and makeup like a mask. At that reckless age, too. Eighteen. I remember, Miems, when you were eighteen, you..."

"That is enough!" Miems cut her short, "we're talking about Willie Slabbert. WILLIE SLABBERT, ma."

The other ladies looked disappointed. Miems was such a little mouse it seemed impossible she could have anything interesting in her past, yet her mother had definitely been leading up to something.

Old Mrs Gouws was disgusted.

"Willie? What could possibly be interesting about Willie? I taught him in junior school. Too clever by half, he was. Always getting bored and resorting to mischief. An obnoxious child and now an obnoxious adult, from all accounts!"

"He's musical, ma. He plays the cello. The CELLO," Miems bellowed.

"Willie? You're crazy, Miems! Willie won't even get to play the harp, never mind the cello, the place he's headed for!" And Mrs Gouws placed her earhorn in her lap and settled her head against the back of the chair preparatory to having a cat nap. What nonsense these young folk spoke. Willie play the cello indeed! She snorted derisively.

"Well, I don't care what you people think," Elaine retorted, visibly upset, "you can ask Bennie. We saw Willie carrying his cello, looking very smart. He told us he was a gifted performer and I wouldn't be surprised if he'd been playing at a concert somewhere. He was coming from the station and seemed really embarrassed when we bumped into him. He was different, somehow."

There was a short silence while all present digested this unlikely news.

"How, different?" Mrs Merton asked sceptically.

"Well, he was carrying the instrument so carefully, reverently, almost, as if he felt some deep emotion for it and he was so... quiet and humble, somehow."

Another silence while those present tried to picture a humble, talented Willie. Without much success.

"Well," said Sarie Blignault tentatively, "It can happen that way. A person putting on a front, I mean. A gruff exterior hiding shyness. Do you suppose..."

"That we've misjudged him?" Helga Swanepoel completed doubtfully. "Sisters, it's possible, though I must say he's been a very good actor, if that's the case."

"Willie's always been one big act, but we've been able to see through him," Mrs Merton put in nastily. "As for playing an instrument, that takes real sensitivity and he's about as sensitive as a slug!"

"Slugs do not play the cello and certainly not to concert standard!" Marion Klopper interceded a trifle hysterically. Old Mrs Merton took too much upon herself sometimes and needed putting down. "He must have learned to play at high school when he was living with Oom Koos. My word, isn't he a dark horse! We must ask him to play at the Old Age Home in our Christmas concert."

"Don't be absurd, Marion," Mrs Merton snapped, taking revenge for the slight just aimed at her dignity. "The only music the old folk know is Oom Fanie's boere orkes. I hardly think they can be expected to convert from sakkie-sakkie to Dvorak's cello concerto overnight. They'd be totally flabbergasted at being subjected to the sight of Willie, of whom they thoroughly disapprove, performing on the cello. They'd think they were going senile."

Marion glared at Mrs Merton, thinking angrily that she wasn't so far off senility herself.

"Little birds in their nest agree," Helga put in sweetly. "We'll just keep an eye on Willie and see what happens."

What happened was that the following week on the Friday after market day, Willie Slabbert once again bathed, put on his blue serge suit, tried to flatten his blond curly hair into a semblance of smoothness and was seen driving off in his truck with the cello in the back.

On market day he had called at the local College of Learning in Waterfontein and enquired about a cellist. They had given him the name of a lady who taught at the college and took private students after hours. Willie had made an appointment to see her at her home. Wanting to create a good impression, he'd stuck a red carnation from his flower beds into his button hole.

Sarie Blignault was thrilled to be the one to see his departure and spent a happy hour on the telephone imparting the news.

"Elaine was right. I've just seen him drive off looking lovely. He even had a carnation in his jacket. The cello was in the back of the van and I swear he's gone off to play it somewhere," she told the others happily. "Isn't it nice to think we've got such a cultivated person in our midst?"

The 'cultivated person' was at that moment perched uneasily on the edge of a frail looking chair which could scarcely contain his bulk. The cellist was an equally fragile looking lady with hair dark as night, twisted into a knot and pinned onto the back of her head, from which it escaped in curly protest. Her eyes were as blue as the sky on a summer's day, fringed by thick black lashes and delicately arched brows. Willie was struck dumb with admiration.

Miss Kinnoch's voice was lilting and as gentle as her expression. She sensed Willie's discomfort and tried to put him at ease with some small talk before asking what she could do for him.

"I've inherited this," Willie waved vaguely at the cello, unable to take his eyes off the intriguing Miss Kinnoch, "and want to hear how it sounds. Would you please play it for me? It seems silly to have a cello and not know how it even sounds."

"True," Miss Kinnoch acknowledged, taking the instrument from its case. "Why, Mr Slabbert, what a magnificent instrument! I'll be delighted to play it for you."


"Well," said Willie, embarrassed, "It looks a bit of a mess at present, but once I've given it a fresh coat of varnish and..."

"Mr Slabbert, you must not do that! It would ruin it. I'm not sure, but I think it was made by a famous Italian family and the varnishing is an important part of the construction process, affecting the tone. If you were to recoat it, the cello would become practically worthless."

"It's valuable now?"


Miss Kinnoch hesitated. "I think so, yes, but until I play it..."

She seated herself on a high stool, spread her skirt wide and balanced the cello between her legs with the end locked into a wooden wedge so that it wouldn't slip. Willie could not help noticing how dainty were Miss Kinnoch's ankles, how small and slender her feet. She picked up the bow, thought for a moment and launched into a vigorous piece.

Willie was transfixed, both by the rich sound emanating from the cello and the transformation of the gentle Miss Kinnoch. Her slender body arched to her playing and exuded such vitality and passion she hardly seemed the same person. As for the cello, it sang like a soul in torment and caused an ache to rise somewhere in his diaphragm and spread throughout his body. The piece ended with two brilliant strokes of the bow. Both player and one-man audience sat silent for a moment afterwards, spellbound.

"Yes," said Miss Kinnoch unsteadily, as if waking from a dream, "it's an exceptional instrument. The best I've had the privilege of playing. You are, of course, wanting to learn to play it yourself, Mr Slabbert?"

Trying to still the trembling that the unusual experience had set up in his limbs, Willie did some quick thinking. He knew he had no more hope of learning to play the cello than he had of flying to the moon. His large hands could prop up a wilting mielie and tenderly coax it to new effort, but that bow, when he held it, would remain a stick with horse hair and he the rear end of the animal Hester had called him. But he was being given an opportunity to see Miss Kinnoch on a regular basis and he would risk the embarrassment of being found totally wanting, just to be with her for a short while each week. She was an enriching experience for Willie. The different facets of her nature, the strange beauty of her unusual colouring, her lilting accent... everything!

Why, even the furnishing of her home attracted him. Much of it was shabby in comparison with the stark and shiny contemporary furniture in his own house, but the blend of colours and textures, the grouping of pictures on the wall, resulted in an effect that was pleasing to his senses.

"Yes," said Willie eventually. "I would very much like to try, but I don't know that it would be worth your while teaching me," he concluded honestly.

Miss Kinnoch's seriousness disappeared in a breathtaking smile, "Well, let's see how it goes, Mr Slabbert. After two months we'll review the situation and decide whether you should continue with lessons."

And so it was arranged that Willie would come for an hourly lesson each Friday evening at 7pm, a time which suited them both.

It was inevitable, in a village the size of Prentburg, that Willie's comings and goings, once having aroused curiosity, should be observed. During the next two months he was seen on a number of occasions, always spotlessly clean and smart, departing for his cello lesson. He had spent some of his considerable savings on a new wardrobe of distinctly formal clothes. Somehow the presence of that imposing cello demanded an upgrading of his entire life style!

In the late afternoons he had taken to practising diligently, and although the screeching and scrapings continued to sound anguished rather than musical, passers-by were impressed. (It was amazing just how many people now found it necessary to pass Willie's house en route to their destinations.) After all, as Marion Klopper observed, classical music, and particularly contemporary classical music, was bound to sound strange to ears accustomed to Oom Fanie's boere orkes.

Willie was at first startled and then amused at the deference shown him now. How strange that for years he had worked hard and succeeded in wresting a comfortable living from the soil only to be scorned by the dorp volk, yet a few weeks' ineffectual pottering on the cello had won their respect!

As for his lessons, they were a source of real delight to him. Not so much the actual playing, but being near enough to Miss Kinnoch to be able to smell her sweet scent; to watch and listen entranced as she demonstrated; to have his senses overwhelmed when she found it necessary to adjust his clasp upon the instrument or bow.

As he'd feared, he had no talent and persuaded Kathleen to spend more and more of each lesson playing to him, which she found hard to resist, both because of his enthusiasm and her own eagerness to play the lovely instrument.

Things may have carried on that way indefinitely, but during the course of their third month, after playing to him one evening, she suddenly put down the instrument, walked to the window and with her back turned to him, said, "William, this really won't do! You came to me to learn and by now we both know there is no hope of your becoming a cellist." She looked at him with troubled eyes. "I've been selfish. You're paying for these lessons and I've spent a good part of each indulging myself playing that lovely cello. This must stop."

Willie was frightened to the core of his being. He found himself clenching his hands. How could he prevent his world from coming to an end?

"Kathleen," diffidently, "I enjoy hearing you play. You enjoy playing. I don't see why... surely... oh, Kathleen, would you marry me?" he burst out suddenly.

Kathleen Kinnoch looked taken aback. "You're asking me to marry you because of the cello? Because you enjoy hearing me play?"

"No, that would be a bonus. I'm asking you because... oh, Kathleen," he who was usually so quick with an answer was at a loss for words and looked at her with love and longing. "But of course you couldn't! How could a lady like you feel at home on a smallholding?"

Her eyes sparkled. "William, you're an idiot! I grew up on a farm in Ireland and used to help my mother preserve the farm produce. Those were good days, before things went wrong." She was silent for a moment, her face soft with memories. "Do you keep poultry, William?"

It was his turn to look startled. "A few hens, yes, but I don't go in for that much. They need a lot of time and attention."

"They're worth it. I love poultry farming."

"If you marry me I'll buy new stock. As much as you want," Willie said desperately.

"Oh, William, if I marry you it won't because of your hens. They'd be a bonus!" Kathleen's eyes twinkled with merriment. "If I marry you it would be because," and here she blushed rosily, "because you are a dear person and a fine figure of a man."

Somehow Willie covered the distance between them in a surprisingly short time for such a large man, gathered her close into his arms and rested his face against her hair.

Six weeks later they were married in a little church in Waterfontein with only the minister's wife and sister to witness the wedding. Willie then helped his Kathleen move her few belongings to his house, being loyal enough to the locals to use Piet Meyer's transportation service. Mrs Meyer listened in open-mouthed amazement when Piet told her a woman had moved in with Willie.

At first the dorp was agog with gossip, then disappointed when they found "the woman" had, in fact, married Willie, then angered that he had chosen an out-and-out foreigner, not merely someone away from the dorp (conveniently forgetting how they themselves had always treated Willie as an outsider) and in a church in Waterfontein, at that!

However, such was Kathleen's gentleness and charm that it was only a matter of time before they thawed towards her. Her bottled preserves and flower arrangements competed healthily with the best at the annual show, winning enough prizes to gain her competitors' admiration, but not so many as to incur their jealousy.

What really won the dorp volk over, however, was that the very first Sunday after her arrival, she attended the local church service and continued to do so despite the fact that Dominee Seibrand conducted the entire service in Afrikaans, most of which was obviously lost on her.

It was also observed that as the weeks went by, Dominee Seibrand's sermons took on a new vitality and he used an increasing amount of English in delivering them, smiling warmly at the little figure in the centre of the congregation while doing so.

Miems Gouws's mother was heard to mutter on more than one occasion that the Dominee's wife really had better look to herself!

"Of course it won't last," Mrs Merton said snidely. "She's a thorough lady and Willie is such a clod! Besides, what can they possibly have in common?"
"They have the cello in common, that's what," retorted Elaine Ferreira, who was very sentimental. "I think they met at one of Willie's concerts. And they really care for each other. Why the other day when I bumped into her in town, she said that Willie was wonderful to her, putting her interests before his own. That's probably why he doesn't play the cello any more. He doesn't want to show her up. After all, he's a performer while she is only a teacher. Willie had a big heart to do that!" and her eyes filled with tears at the thought of such self-sacrifice.

Kathleen had, in fact, been thinking of the way Willie had swept aside his beloved Tretchikoff prints and furniture to make way for her bits and pieces. How he had pressed a generous cheque upon her to refurnish the rest of the house to her taste. How hard he had worked for a whole weekend converting a section of land near the house into the finest poultry run in the district.

Because the dorp volk liked and admired Willie's new wife and she made no effort to hide her deep affection and respect for him, his stocks continued to rise. The men sought him out for his opinion on weighty matters. The women flirted with him playfully. Willie didn't care much one way or the other, but there was a certain satisfaction to be derived from their change of attitude. What really mattered was that he had his Kathleen. Of an evening he would sit back and smoke his pipe while she made that cello speak in near-human tongue as he watched the play of different emotions cross her face. He was content.

His contentment was completed, however, when his cousin Hester arrived unexpectedly on his doorstep late one afternoon. She was passing through Prentburg, she said with a smirk, and felt she just had to stop by to see what Willie had done with his inheritance. Her eyes sparkled spitefully.

Granite-faced, Willie bade her enter and led her into the living room. She looked around at the tasteful furnishings in puzzlement. Her jaw dropped when Kathleen entered and was introduced as Willie's wife. She became noticeably bewildered when, after tea, Willie fetched the cello and prevailed upon Kathleen to play for them.

After a stony silence following the performance, Willie grinned at Hester.

"Well, cousin? I think Oom Koos would be happy with the way my inheritance is being used, don't you? That cello is really something. It's a hand made 17th century Casini (Kathleen had ascertained that on a visit to Jo'burg when she'd consulted an expert in the National Symphony Orchestra) and worth a great deal of money. I wouldn't part with it for the world. It's brought me so much happiness Hester, and I'm really glad you've had the chance to see for yourself how right you were to choose it for me."

In a highly agitated and emotional state, Hester insisted she had to leave. No, thank you, she really couldn't stay a moment longer. Not a moment!

"Oh, William," Kathleen said sadly after Hester's hurried departure, "my playing upset her. You mean well, darling, but not everyone likes classical music. Now I've chased her away."

"No, no, my love, it wasn't you," Willie put his arm around her and drew her to him. "It's just that cousin Hester doesn't feel at home with cultured people like ourselves!"

He threw his head back and laughed uproariously, as befits the one who laughs last.

13 comments:

  1. this is a very interesting story, not usually what i would choose to read. but it is so well written and draws you into a, for me, different world.
    well done!

    Michael McCarthy

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  2. Thank you, Michael for your encouraging and positive comments. They're much appreciated. This is the first story in a series of 17 all set in the same fictitious village, featuring the same characters. Perhaps others will be published on this site in future, if considered good enough!
    Best wishes,
    Beryl.

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  3. I particularly enjoyed some of the language in the dialogue, even though I wasn't familiar with how people speak in South Africa,

    Garreth Keating

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    1. Thank you, Garreth. Most countries have language idiosyncrasies that are particular to each; so does mine. In South Africa, some Afrikaans words have been adopted by English speakers and vice versa. Makes life intresting!
      Best wishes,
      Beryl.

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  4. What a well written story with a wonderful plot line. I loved the story, how it unfolded with Willie meeting the love of his life and of course the ending which put Hester in her place. Very nicely done. The characters were all wonderfully drawn.

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  5. Thank you, Laura. So glad you enjoyed it. Hope to read more of your stories too, on this site.
    Best wishes,
    Beryl

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  6. Thoroughly enjoyable read, with the twists and turns being fully utilized by characters and the author, and often seeking and learning new word definitions via immediate Google search. Nice work here.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks, Anonymous. Google's marvellous, isn't it? A wonderful educational tool. Glad you enjoyed the story.
      Best wishes,
      Beryl

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  7. Excellent details. A really rich and unique read!

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  8. Thanks, Emily, for your kind comments.
    Best wishes,
    Beryl

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  9. That was really fun. He who laughs last.....

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  10. Thoroughly enjoyed this get-rich, get-even story, the kind one of the old bards would run with, through the hay field, the apple orchard, the lemon grove, right to the camp fire to share with all the folks. It has it all. My grandfather, on the dark summer porch or the warm winter hearth, told such stories that still carry the early charm of words' magic.

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  11. Just love this story. Had me giggling out loud.

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