Constance took the back lane from her cottage towards the village station.
It was one of those lovely autumn mornings; a low sun shafted golden beams through the little pockets of mist that lingered. Glancing around to ensure she was not seen, she did a little hop, skip and a jump through a pile of crunchy horse chestnut leaves. She kicked conkers into the air and ate brambles from the bushes lining the lane. She beamed with the pleasure of it. Why shouldn’t she still enjoy the simple things she remembered from her childhood? She had lived in Studley-cum-Hardly all her life (with the exception of her years up at Oxford) and just loved the village, despite its problems and undercurrents.
As she left the wood, she glanced across at the Manor House, standing majestically at the top of the village green. It had been home to the Northcote-Savilles for long centuries past. Neville & Cynthia Northcote-Saville, yuck – not to put too fine a point upon it but she absolutely detested them both.
Whenever she had met either of them, at village functions or church services, they had either studiously ignored her or cut her dead. She had always put it down to simple snobbery.
Mumsie Twittering had always been a keen amateur historian and genealogist, but Constance had always found the subject somewhat boring as a teenager. Whenever she had asked her about their background, Mumsie has merely said that there had been a bit of a split in the family in the 19th century; so, she couldn’t trace the line back. However, since graduating and moving back to the village (she was fortunate enough to work from home) she had begun to take an interest in Mumsie’s research. During a lovely holiday, they had spent together in the summer, she had learnt that Mumsie had turned her attentions upon the local area and the Northcote-Savilles in particular. It was over a wonderful last dinner together and a great deal of Prosecco, that Mumsie had finally opened up to her.
“Don’t make a big thing out of it, Constance, but I discovered that we are related to the Northcote-Savilles.”
“Bloody hell, Mumsie!”
Painstaking research had revealed that, back in the 19th century, it seemed that George, the youngest son of the third Earl of Northcote, had impregnated one of the servant girls at the manor. Disowned by the Northcote family, she had been pressured into marrying Alfred Twittering, a local farmer and thus Constance’s great, great, great grandfather.
“So, it seems that you and Vanessa Northcote-Saville are first cousins five times removed.”
“Bloody hell!” was the reaction from Constance again, “That explains a lot!”
“Indeed, it does. But please let’s keep this between the two of us.”
A mixture of shock and fascination had engulfed Constance. But it got better (if that was the correct term). Mumsie went on on to reveal that George Northcote-Saville was obviously somewhat of a serial operator ‘on the wrong side of the blanket’! Some years earlier, he had established his modus operandi by impregnating the daughter of the head groom. On this occasion, obviously due to the importance of the groom’s role, it seemed that the girl in question had been married off to a young vicar in a neighbouring parish.
“Just to round off the tale,” went on Mumsie, “my investigations reveal that our very own Reverend Alistair Posonby at St Bartholomews is also a descendent of the Northcote-Saville family!”
Once more, Constance was sworn to secrecy.
Now, as she walked on past, St Bartholomews, the old Norman church, she smiled at the thought of the recent scandal that had rocked the village. The very same Reverend Alistair Posonby had recently been arrested during Sunday communion! She couldn’t help thinking that this had been done for maximum effect rather than necessity. However, it seemed he had been reported for a series of sexual offences stretching back over many years.
Now, as a result of some research of her own, Constance had found that the wealth of the Northcote-Savilles was founded on the proceeds of slavery. It seemed that the family had owned a plantation in Barbados since the early seventeenth century through to the abolition of slavery in 1833.
The more she had learned the greater became her distain for her local Lords of the Manor. Well, they were all in for a shock, the wretched, rotten lot of them!
This morning, she was going to meet Simon, the editor of the local group of newspapers. They had met at a recent reunion up at Oxford and got on famously. Having listened to the results of her and Mumsie’s research on the local dignitaries, Simon had agreed to her penning a column on the local area.
She had been going to call her column The TwitterBox but it seemed that there might be copyright problems. Anyway, it would have been far too easy to guess the identity of the writer.
No, ‘The Hardly Moral’ would do nicely.
Image courtesy of Gentrificationblog