Dirty Aristocrat

By: Georgia Le Carre



They just saw the gold digger.

All I could see was the rosewood coffin. Pale morning light streamed in through the stained glass of the cathedral’s windows and fell on his fine casket with its gilt handles and a lush arrangement of dusky pink roses on it. Inside I knew it was silk-lined and perfumed with sandalwood oil.

Robert was lying inside.

I took my seat on the hard bench and listened to minister’s words and the well-spoken words of all those people who had not come to see him in his last months. They waxed lyrical about what a wonderful man he was. Then Rosalind took the pulpit for her tribute. I kept my eyes to the grey flagstones while dry-eyed, she told the world about her great love for her father.

‘I sat on his knees. I loved him. Before he lost his mind he knew I loved him. But the sickness, it turned his brain to mush and he could no longer tell the difference between true love and the lies of strangers. People who were only there for what they could get. Daddy, I love you. Always. Wherever you are.’

Then it was Ivan’s turn. I looked up and his gaze met mine. I dragged my eyes away in confusion.

I sat staring at the floor and listened to old stories about Robert. Things I never knew. He loved to hunt. I never knew. He could out drink any man. I never knew. There was so much I didn’t know. I only knew him when he was sick and diminished.

My eyes became wet, but I did not even realize that I was crying until my ribs began to heave as if they were suddenly too full of sorrow. I put my head down and closed my eyes. It was good that he was gone. He was in pain. It was a good thing.

Of course, I did not take the stand. I told him I wouldn’t. ‘Please, Robert, don’t make me do it.’ And he had smiled. ‘No, your love is pure. What is pure must never be examined. It will hurt the impure.’

So I didn’t speak at his funeral service. Instead there would always be a part of me still dressed in full black, sitting on the front pew at his funeral, listening to ‘The Lord Is My Shepherd.’





CHAPTER 4


Tawny Maxwell

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lEUgORVsECs

There were six pallbearers dressed in black suits and white gloves. The gold handles glinted in the sunlight as they lifted the casket onto their shoulders. I saw Ivan go up to the man in front, tap him on the shoulder, and take his position. I stared at him. Why, he must have loved Robert too. I stood at the bottom of the church steps and watched them carefully load Robert into the back of the hearse.

I tried to imagine him, lying in there as if sleeping. Finally peaceful.

They closed the doors and I turned away and walked towards the convoy of stationary black cars. My car was at the head of the long line. As I was about to get into it I felt a hand on the sleeve of my coat. I turned around, startled.

Rosalind smiled at me. Her dry-eyed crying had not smudged her make-up at all. Everything was perfectly in place.

‘Would you mind terribly if I rode in the car with you? Seeing that you are alone and ours is overcrowded with my obnoxious brother.’

I didn’t want her in the car with me, but there were people all around us avidly watching the stepmother and daughter’s interaction, and I could hardly turn her down. Mercifully, the ride to the cemetery was a short one.

‘Of course,’ I said.

With a triumphant smile she stepped in front of me and slid into the car. She did not close the door as if she expected me to close it for her and go on over to the other side. I stood bemused, the color rising into my cheeks.

Fortunately, Barry hurried around and closed the door. Looking at me kindly he said, ‘Come around to the other side, Mam.’

I cleared my throat and, keenly aware of many eyes watching, followed him around the back of the car to the passenger door on the opposite side. Barry opened the door and I murmured my thanks and sat stiffly on the seat, leaving as much space between her and me.

As soon as Barry turned out of the church’s driveway and into the main street, Rosalind ordered Barry to put the partition glass up.

I turned to her, my face devoid of expression.

Her face was equally drained of any emotion. ‘Can you tell me why we are all being summoned to Barrington for the reading of the will as if all of this was a particularly bad Hollywood production?’

I frowned at her. ‘How else would the solicitor tell us what is in the will?’

She sighed elaborately. ‘I realize that you are a bit of a redneck, but it is actually customary for all beneficiaries to simply receive written notification from the solicitor.’

‘Right,’ I said slowly. She said redneck like it was a bad thing. Still, it was in Hollywood movies that I learned of the custom of reading a will to a gathering of people.

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