Sunday, January 25, 2015

The Decision by Beryl Ensor-Smith

After Klaus van Dyk is outwitted by Hilda Jacobs and tricked into an engagement, he plans to flee, in Beryl Ensor-Smith's follow-up to The Deception.

It was at a social get-together of the 'Church Sisters' for tea at the Welcome Inn that the subject of Klaus van Dyk arose.

"For a man who recently became engaged, he looks pretty miserable," Marion Klopper stated.

"Wouldn't you, if your fiancé was Hilda Jacobs?" Elaine Ferreira replied. "She's hardly a bundle of laughs."

Normally Christina du Plessis would have objected vehemently to any criticism levelled at Hilda, but she was feeling slighted by her one-time 'best friend' and kept quiet while the 'Sisters' agreed that Hilda was beyond serious.

"All the same, you'd think that Klaus would look a little happier, especially seeing he chose her above Suzie. They were both after him and I would have put my money on Suzie any day!"

Suzie was not at the get-together, having driven Sarie Blignault to the Waterfontein vet with her two goldfish, as one was listless and seemed on the brink of death. Not only was Sarie worried sick about Fatima (she insisted she could tell the two apart), but was also concerned that Golda would catch whatever it was that was ailing her companion!

"We all thought he'd choose Suzie," Helga agreed. "It was very wrong of him to string both women along. Poor Suzie was very upset when he chose Hilda."

"For all of two weeks!" Mrs Merton snorted. "Fortunately for Suzie, she has the attention span of a butterfly and is easily distracted. Anyway, she would soon have become disillusioned with Klaus. He would never have lived up to her romantic notions!"

"Why?" Christina demanded, loading the last of her lemon meringue pie onto her fork, adding disdainfully: "He's quite good-looking if you like that type and is brainy enough to have attracted Hilda, who is no fool. Hans finds some of the topics Klaus raises very obscure."

Most women present privately thought that it didn't take much to confound Hans du Plessis, but were agreed that Klaus was quick on the uptake.

"That's part of the problem," Mrs Merton rasped. "He's far too intelligent for Suzie, being as flighty as she is." She waved a dismissive hand, nearly knocking her cup of tea over. "He'd have become bored with her and is much better off with Hilda. Whatever she lacks in jollity, she's clever and hard-working."

Christina frowned. It was a sore point with her that Hilda had taken up with Klaus and was totally absorbed with her new fiancé. Now Christina felt neglected and her frown turned into a pout of displeasure. She was glad to see Klaus looking so gloomy. It served him right for usurping Hilda's affections!

At the very time they were discussing him, Klaus van Dyk was busy plotting how he could escape Hilda's clutches. She had tricked him into becoming engaged and he had no intention of allowing himself to be dragged into marriage. He was petrified at the mere thought of being tied forever to the wily Hilda. He knew he was devious and untrustworthy, but she had proved she could beat him at his own game! While he regretted being thwarted in his plans to wed rich, chirpy little Suzie, all he now wanted was to flee this ill-chosen dorp as soon as it was safe to do so!

Klaus mused on many things as he paced the length of the room he had hired shortly after arriving in Prentburg with the intention of finding a wealthy wife. He couldn't fault Hilda on that score; she was very well-off, although not in Suzie's league; something he had only learned once he had insinuated himself into Hilda's affections. Now he was faced with the problem of beating a stealthy retreat from the dorp, as he knew he hadn't a chance in hell of breaking loose from her determined grip. She had wasted no time in announcing their 'engagement' to all and sundry. What flummoxed him was why she still wanted him, having discovered what an unreliable bastard he really was!

Klaus was also totally confused by her subsequent behaviour towards him. He had expected Hilda to exploit his demeaning situation by treating him contemptuously, but she carried on as if nothing had happened and they were truly in love! If anything, she was nicer to him than before and he didn't know what to make of it. What he did know was that she would react very badly if she were to discover his plans to cut and run, and decided that the best way to lull any suspicions would be to stay put until her doubts were dispelled.

He was also honest enough to admit his reluctance to make another move with winter setting in and nowhere to go! He had hoped to be accepted into the Prentburg community, although their response to him was as yet lukewarm. Still, he liked the village lifestyle. His hired quarters held little attraction, being bare of anything even hinting at comfort, but he had spent most of his days at Hilda's cosy cottage.

While he was dithering in a welter of indecision about his immediate future, the Church Sisters were keeping a collective eye on him. All except Suzie. Having written him off as a bad job, she now ignored his presence. She did not take to rejection kindly, and to be ousted by a woman she thought of as totally unattractive added insult to injury. Besides which, she had another problem on her hands; Sarie!

Sarie's blasted goldfish Fatima had died before reaching the vet's surgery. He had handled her outpouring of grief with kindness and tact, telling her that although he was no expert on goldfish, it was his belief that Fatima had died of old age and posed no threat to Golda, her other fish. She was inconsolable. Suzie had to cajole her out of the surgery and into the car, promising that they would find a pet shop in Waterfontein and buy Golda another companion that very day.

Despite doing so, on return home she was daily called upon by Sarie for reassurance that Golda had not succumbed to Fatima's affliction, was not grieving for her lost 'Sister', would soon accept the presence of the new, as yet unnamed, goldfish.

"Perhaps Golda will take to her once you've given the poor thing a name," Suzie said, exasperated.

"I've run out of ideas," Sarie replied sadly. "It needs to be another name from that part of the world, otherwise Golda will think she's foreign. You'll have to help me find one."

Suzie was no better acquainted with 'that part of the world' than Sarie and felt resentful that the buck had been passed to her. She resorted to a bit of subterfuge. "Call her Freya. That's a... a Middle Eastern name." (It would not have bothered her one bit to learn that she was out by thousands of miles and that if Golda were indeed Israeli, Nordic Freya would be as unappealing to her as Muslim Fatima surely had been!)

Sarie considered this doubtfully. "OK," she said eventually. "If you're sure?"

"I'm certain," Suzie said firmly. "Goodbye, Sarie," and she put down the 'phone before Sarie had second thoughts, remembering another time when Sarie's goldfish had given her a sleepless night.

Klaus van Dyk was unaware that he had become the centre of the Church Sisters' attention, there being little else to divert them. They eyed him as he took his seat next to Hilda at the following Sunday's church service.

"He seems very unsettled," whispered Elaine Ferreira to Marion Klopper, seated next to her.

"Shifty-eyed, you mean. Like a man about to do a flit."

"You mean leave Hilda at the altar?" Elaine said, aghast.

"I mean leave long before the banns are even called! I bet even now he's thinking how to escape. His is the face of a frantic man."

"Hilda will kill him if he so much as tries. Marion, we must do something to dissuade him from such a rash act!"

David Klopper used an elbow to dig his wife in the ribs, drawing attention to the fact that the service had started and Dominee Seibrand was looking reprovingly at her.

'We'll discuss it with the others during tea," she told Elaine hastily and assumed an attentively pious expression.

She had no need to raise the subject after the service as, by the time she had inveigled David into conversation with Hans and Christina du Plessis and slipped away to join the Sisterhood, they were already in full swing.

"He's on the brink of self-destruction," was Mrs Merton's dire prediction. "Anyone who messes with Hilda comes off worst and he'll rue the day!"

"That's for sure," Miems Gouws agreed, awe-struck. "He obviously hasn't seen her wielding her meat cleaver. He's a brave man."

"No, he's a stupid one," Helga said in consternation. "She's intent on keeping him. Did you see the adoring way she looked at him? Sisters, we have to persuade him to stay and honour his commitment."

"But how?" Rina van Wyk fretted.

"This needs to be considered by all of us and some are now involved in serving tea while others," glancing at Christina who still had David Klopper cornered, "are unaware of how dangerous the situation is becoming. We'll call a special meeting and insist that everyone attends."

"All except Suzie," Elaine agreed. "She'd probably like to see him lynched!"

"And Sarie," Elsie Fourie said quietly. "She'd be upset with us for trying to persuade Klaus to do something he'd rather not."

"Well then, we need to act fast," Helga insisted. "Please put your minds to it and have some suggestions ready when we next meet."

Oblivious of having becoming the project of the Church Sisters, Klaus returned with Hilda to her house that Sunday, wishing he were devout enough to believe in the protection of angels. He could badly do with the intervention of a throng of them, as he was of the opinion that nothing short of the supernatural could rescue him from his predicament. It didn't help any, either, to realise he had brought it upon himself through playing one woman off against the other. If he were religiously inclined, this would be the moment when he would turn his life around and be a better man, he mused gloomily. Even the excellent dinner Hilda had prepared couldn't restore him to his usual cheerfulness.

"Klaus," she said, looking at him keenly, "you haven't enough to keep you entertained, especially now, with the winter weather setting in. I've been thinking."

Klaus's spirits drooped even further. What now?

"The manager of the sports club has resigned. He and his wife are moving to Bloemfontein to be nearer their children and the post has become vacant. You'd make an excellent manager. If you apply, you're bound to get it." She smiled kindly at him. "I'll draft a letter of application for you once we've done the dishes." She either did not see, or chose to ignore, the glazed expression that dimmed his eyes.

Klaus would be the first to admit that he was lazy. That had been the reason for his looking for a rich wife, as he'd decided he no longer wanted to work, yet see where that had got him? - engaged to Hilda and very likely employed again, and in a job with long hours! Could life get any worse? Yes, he decided, it could. If he didn't move quickly he would find himself married to Hilda, who was probably frigid into the bargain! Even though they were engaged, being so strait-laced she'd informed him that no liberties would be taken until they were married. She needn't have bothered; he wouldn't have dared try!

The Church Sisters had met and spent an enjoyable hour debating how to proceed with the redemption of Klaus but had been unable to come to agreement. They had finally decided that those who had any ideas should act on them independently.

Christina was all for taking a stern moral approach.

"He needs to know we'll not stand for fast and loose behaviour. I'll tell him so."

"You'll send him on his way even sooner! How will that help Hilda? She's expecting marriage!"

"I'd be doing her a favour. She'd realise that as time passed." Christina's voice was not as confident as her words. She still craved Hilda's friendship and knew that if she handled things badly, she would never be forgiven. Hilda knew how to hold a grudge, as many could testify to.

Christina diluted her first acerbic anonymous attempt and stuffed its replacement under the door of Klaus's rented room the following Sunday, knowing he would be lunching at Hilda's. She had decided that the safest approach was to quote from the bible. Surely Hilda could find no fault with that in the unlikely event that she would find out? Even so, Christina had trouble finding suitable verses, as most referring to infidelity concerned themselves with faithlessness in marriage. After much searching she found only two that were fitting. Her note read:

"You libertine! Hear what the bible says about such as you:

Ezekiel 9 : 10 My eye will not spare, nor will I have pity; I will bring their deeds upon their heads.

Isaiah 3 : 8 But evil shall come upon you, which you will not know how to charm away. Disaster shall fall upon you.


Klaus smiled wryly on reading her missive. "It already has!" he said aloud, scrunched up her note and aimed it accurately at the dustbin near the door.

Two other Church Sisters, singularly lacking in imagination, settled on much the same method of warning Klaus of his impending doom. Miems Gouws sent him a wreath with a card stating tersely, "You'll be needing this for your grave if you try baling out on Hilda!" A shiver travelled the length of Klaus's spine and for a moment he wondered whether his fiancé had sent it. He soon discarded the idea, knowing that Hilda was nothing if not direct and would disdain using such tactics. Nevertheless it bothered him that his intention to flee was so obvious that the loony Sisters had latched onto it! Nor was that the end of their interference.

Helga Swanepoel also resorted to writing to him, but in more positive vein. This arrived in the following day's mail.

"Sometimes it's better to accept a situation and do the best you can with it. Most women respond to affection. Perhaps a few tender gestures will get you further than trying to abscond? (This will not work and you'll be made to pay for it!)

A well-wisher.


Her effort at reconciliation made an impact on Klaus, but not quite in the way she intended! If, as he suspected, Hilda wasn't into physical intimacy, she would surely be repulsed by any overtures he made in that direction? He would play the part of impatient lover, eager to get her into his bed and have his way with her! She would surely feel so disgusted by the very idea that she would abandon thoughts of marrying him. Klaus laughed aloud in relief; that was the way out of his dilemma! Hilda must be the one to end the relationship, and 'well-wisher' had provided him with the answer to his problem! He immediately set about planning how to offend Hilda to the point of her sending him on his way post haste. He kissed Helga's note gratefully before sending it through the air to join Christina's in the bin.

So relieved was he at the thought of his release from bondage that instead of rubbishing the wreath Miems had sent, Klaus hitched it over his arm and, taking a short-cut into town through the church graveyard, stopped at a neglected-looking grave and placed it gently near the headstone. Perhaps an angel had indeed been listening to his desperate pleas, and if so, this was his act of acknowledgement. Feeling foolish at such fanciful thoughts and totally unaware that his whimsical act had been seen, he went on his way.

Elaine Ferreira had been weeding the grave of her deceased mother-in-law. After Klaus had left, she made her way curiously to the grave on which he'd placed the wreath.

'You'll never believe it," she told the Church Sisters at their next sewing circle, "he stood with head bowed after putting a wreath on the grave of that vagrant who arrived in the dorp about ten years ago. You remember? The one who died and we all felt so bad because we didn't realise he was sick and didn't even know his name."

"Yes. Dominee and Jan Badenhorst tried to find out more about him but failed. We eventually buried him naming him Lennie Tramp, with the epitaph 'Gone and Forgotten!' You say Klaus put flowers on his grave? Why, I wonder?" Marion Klopper looked sceptical. "He isn't the sentimental type."

At this point Miems Gouws joined them. The tuner who came from Bloemfontein to tune the church organs in the district had arrived and she'd had to unlock the organ for him. Having missed the first part of the discussion, she did not associate the 'flowers' Marion mentioned as being the wreath she had sent Klaus.

Elaine, having a soft heart, took umbrage. "It was a kindly act, that's all! Klaus looked so embarrassed after doing it too, even though he thought he was alone. I must say I was impressed at such caring in a man who seems so... so..."

"Utterly selfish," Mrs. Merton barked, "as indeed he is!"

This led to spirited argument, most of the Church Sisters siding with Elaine simply because they were heartily tired of Ethel Merton's malignant opinion of her fellow man. At its conclusion, Klaus had gained sympathetic support from even the most stony-hearted. After all, a man who showed such empathy with the sad lot of a homeless man must have some good in him!

Everything was put on hold the coming week because of unseasonal rain that caused massive flooding in the area. The Church Sisters were called upon to muster help for those stranded in the squatter camp and were kept busy collecting clothes, blankets and food for the afflicted. They thus had no time to concern themselves with the affairs of Klaus van Dyk.

He, too, was affected by the floods as the room he rented was in a low-lying area and water seeped under the door. When Hilda heard this, she insisted that he move in with her temporarily.

"You can't stay there, Klaus, you'll become ill! You can move into my spare room until the water has receded."

"I can't... your reputation!" he protested weakly.

"In the circumstances the dorpvolk will understand," she said dismissively. "They would think far more poorly of me if I left you in such discomfort in that hovel!"

Klaus was tempted to protest at this insult to his choice of lodgings, but there was no denying that in prevailing conditions it was a miserable place to be and it was with something close to gratitude that he allowed himself to be persuaded to move into Hilda's very comfortable, warm, spare room. After two days he began to see how this new arrangement could promote his plan to make a move on Hilda that would result in her throwing him out. Looking out of the window at the pouring rain, he shivered and decided to wait until the weather cleared up!

A day later he was informed that 'his' application for the post of Club Manager had been accepted. No-one else had applied and Hilda had presented him in such a favourable light in the letter she drafted, to which his only contribution had been his signature, that the decision to appoint him had been immediate and unanimous! Klaus had no choice but to accept the news stoically. He was less than charmed to learn he was to start immediately. Yet, giving it thought, his usual optimism returned and he saw some benefit in escaping to the club each day. Since moving in with Hilda he was expected to keep abreast of the news and was given informative books to read, Hilda saying, "This will interest you, Klaus." Grudgingly he had to concede that her choice of reading matter did interest him, but it was disconcerting that she knew him so well. Working would mean less time spent in her unsettling company!

The rains continued and the Church Sisters' efforts to alleviate the plight of the squatters intensified. Klaus started work and after a few days was surprised to find that men who frequented the club and who had previously ignored him were now quite friendly. Part of this was relief that they were not faced with a club with minimal/no management; part with the fact that Klaus had surprised them by applying for the position and was clearly not the good-for-nothing they'd branded him; part with acknowledgement that since he'd been there, things were running smoothly. As for Klaus, his sharp eyes had already discerned many aspects that could be improved on, especially where casual Alf, the barman, was concerned. If he were staying on, the staff would start earning their keep instead of treating their jobs as a sinecure! As it was, he was just biding his time until the weather improved.

Which it did a fortnight later. Klaus decided it was time to act, before his will to do so was sapped by a comfortable home life and the congenial company his job now provided. He knew himself well enough to know that if he didn't act soon, he never would!

That night, after dinner, he made his play. As Hilda was washing up, he stole up behind her and astonished her by wrapping his arms around her. He then planted a smacking kiss in her neck and whispered with simulated emotion, "It's torture living like this, so close to you and having to restrain myself! I can't wait until we're married and I can take you passionately in ways you cannot begin to imagine." His voice ended in a growl and he tightened his hold on her, expecting to meet with rigid resistance. Hilda was like liquid in his arms and turned towards him, burying her face in his shoulder. "Oh, Klaus," she whispered, "Patience, patience, my darling." It was he who was shocked into immobility. These were not the words of a frigid woman! His arms fell to his sides and he stumbled out of the kitchen and back to his room.

Time passed. Klaus could not tell how long he'd been sitting on the edge of his bed when there was a soft knock at the door, it opened and Hilda stood looking at him. At first he did not recognise her, standing there in a long white nightgown that descended to her feet, and with the hair she normally wore screwed tightly into a bun now cascading down to her waist in soft ripples. Without her spectacles her eyes looked different too, larger and softer. He noticed that her feet were bare, slender, and highly arched. Klaus was speechless, not knowing what to make of his 'fiance' who confounded him at every turn. Standing there gazing at him appealingly, this was not the look of a frigid woman!

"Klaus," she began tentatively, "I didn't mean to reject you in the kitchen; you just surprised me! You've seemed so agitated lately and I wanted to give you time to get used to the idea of marriage, not realising that you were more than ready. I'll see Dominee about arranging it as soon as possible." On surer ground now, she continued joyfully, "Klaus, we'll have a good life together. I won't disappoint you, in bed or out!" Her eyes dropped modestly and she missed the consternation in his.

"Hilda," he said hoarsely, "Why do you want me? You know my faults. How can you possibly want to spend the rest of your life with someone as feckless as me?"

She looked more like the old Hilda as she replied drily, "Oh, I know you're a self-absorbed opportunist and not above using people, but I also know your potential. You're cheerful and interesting when you put your mind to it, and there's no real harm in you."

"That's it?" he asked aghast at being damned with such faint praise. (She had not even mentioned his good looks!)

"It's a sound enough platform to build on," she returned, with a surprising flash of humour, "and besides, I will help you develop your strengths, just as you will help me become less judgemental and to lighten up."

They stared wordlessly at one another for a moment, then she shrugged and said, "We'll talk of it tomorrow. I'll say goodnight now, but Klaus," with a catch in her voice, "I'm thrilled that you feel as I do and you'll find me a willing student!" Her voice was fraught with meaning. She closed the door gently behind her, leaving him to wonder how he had misread this complex woman so utterly and completely!

Breakfasting together the following day was an awkward business and Klaus hastened to finish, leaving for work earlier than usual. His job distracted him from thoughts of Hilda, but it was his afternoon off and when time came for him to go back to the cottage, he could not face her and found himself sitting on a bench on the banks of the spruit that fed into the vlei. It was here that Sarie found him when she came down to feed the ducks.

On hearing at the Church Sisters' sewing morning that he had left flowers on the tramp's grave, she had warmed towards Klaus and resolved that if a stranger could be so thoughtful, she would follow his good example, tidy the grave and put wildflowers on it from time to time. She sat next to him, casting anxious looks at his troubled face.

"What's wrong, Klaus?" she asked kindly.

Normally he would have responded flippantly, but she looked so concerned that his defences collapsed. Besides, she was such a simple soul that he saw no harm in confiding in her.

"By an accident of fate I find myself engaged to a woman I don't understand," he told her sorrowfully, "and I don't know what to do about it!"

"To Hilda Jacobs," she agreed. "But Klaus, most men don't understand their women! It is well known that Frikkie van Wyk has commented at the club that he finds Rina a mystery."

"Well Hilda's more mysterious than most!"

"Oh, she's not so bad. She's always been patient with me, which is more than I can say about some of the others. Christina, in particular, can be very rude."

"She's Hilda's best friend. That's another thing that puzzles me."

Sarie stole a quick look at him. "Don't you like Hilda? Has she been nasty to you?"

"No, on the contrary she's been kind to me; better than I deserve," he admitted. "She's quick tempered, though," thinking of an occasion when she'd lost it completely on finding a bag of refuse dumped at her gate. "She's also made me get a job," he added sorrowfully, "manager of the Sports Club."

"Ah," said Sarie sympathetically. "Do you hate it?"

"Well, not exactly. In fact... I'm quite enjoying it."

"There you go, then! Hilda probably thought you'd get bored just sitting around doing nothing. There's lots of husbands here that get in trouble with their wives for drinking too much just because they're bored."

That was no lie, Klaus reflected. In the short time he'd been managing the club, he's seen that for himself. Perhaps it was a not such a bad thing that he was employed, and in a job he found agreeable.

"She also makes me read books," he grumbled, not yet ready to give Hilda any credit.

"Ah," said Sarie again, compassionately. "I don't like reading either. I have to take my turn at the old folks' home and don't enjoy it at all! You should tell Hilda you dislike it."

"Oh, I like it well enough," Klaus conceded reluctantly. "In fact, the books she gives me are usually interesting."

Sarie stared at him as if he were daft. "You like your job. You like the books Hilda gives you to read. Oh, I see," her brow cleared, "You find her unattractive!"

"Yes... no," thinking of the night before and his 'fiancé' standing in his doorway looking demurely feminine and, he had to admit, surprisingly desirable! "She can be quite, er, pretty, actually. Sometimes," he added lamely.

Sarie now looked completely stumped. "Does she love you?"

"Yes, she does. Definitely more than I... care for her!"

"It's probably better that way, unless two people can love each other the same. That's best, of course." She threw the last of her breadcrumbs into the spruit. "I must go, Klaus, I still have to feed my pets. I've got a new goldfish, Freya. My old goldfish, Golda, didn't like her at first but now they're great friends. Perhaps it'll be that way with you and Hilda?"

Klaus watched her retreating figure. She was the last person he'd have expected to shine the light of clarity on his situation, yet she'd put everything into perspective for him. He would go ahead and marry Hilda and be grateful that she loved him. In many respects they were well suited.

Just as he was beginning to feel more upbeat, Klaus was hit by a sudden realisation. He now had a new problem, one nearly as thorny as the last. He was as sexually experienced as the next man but through his foolish talk he had Hilda believing he was a real stud! His new-found peace of mind deserted him and he was gripped with debilitating uncertainty. Would he be able to live up to her raised expectations?

As for the Church Sisters:

"Sisters, another successful intervention!" Helga trumpeted triumphantly on hearing that Hilda and Klaus had set a date for their wedding. "Through our efforts we've saved yet another relationship!"

4 comments:

  1. Hi Beryl,
    Another highly entertaining observational tale, with wonderful wry humour. The edgy dynamics between the Sisters is very engaging, a good lesson to show that powerful stories do not have to be Gothic. Will we follow the hapless pair up the aisle in due course? Very many thanks,
    Ceinwen

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  2. I´ve said before These stories deserve a wider audience(no offence Charlie!) and this is no exception, they have a timeless Appeal

    Mike Mc

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  3. Hi Beryl, If I was Klaus I would get out of there as soon as possible. Who needs everyone getting interested in your life like this community. You have told the story with great control over the numerous of contradictions which only help to confuse Klaus's motives. The only character I understood was Christina, I suspect she was jealous. of Hilda. As for the rest of non-personalities there were twenty one named people in this short tale, including the three goldfish. It was like walking into a family gathering of long lost relatives and wishing I was somewhere else. Regardless, I was drawn into the story hoping that Klaus would see some sense but was shocked at the end with the sudden declaration. I would put this in the category as comedy.
    It seemed more like an extract from a longer story, is there more?

    Overall a fun read.

    James McEwan

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  4. Hi Ceinwen, Mike and James,
    Thanks for reading the story, and for your comments - always appreciated. James, reading a story later in the series must be daunting, having missed out on earlier ones introducing some of the residents of Prentburg, my fictitious town. Good on you for persevering! Nevertheless, I was surprised when you told me how many had poked their noses into this tale! When writing I start with an idea and run with it, wherever it may go, so that often I have no idea how the story will end until it takes shape. Perhaps Klaus, who is rather aimless, needs someone like Hilda to steady him?; always supposing they get as far as the altar! There are more stories in the series but, as yet, none in which these two grab the limelight, but who knows what they'll get up to. As yet, I don't!
    Thanks again, all three of you, and I look forward to more of your stories.
    Best wishes,
    Beryl

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