‘We have to get the gear there for 2.30, the auction starts at 4.30 sharp.’ Cicely
informed her sister Virginia as they loaded the truck.
‘Oh. Are you taking the ginger jar?’ asked Virginia looking at the old blue vase with
’It’s not real’ said Cicely ‘so it might as well go.’
‘I don’t care if it’s real or not, I always loved that old thing’.
The ‘Old thing’ stood about four feet tall and was round. It had a white background
which could hardly be discerned from the host of blue flowers, creepers and birds
which covered its surface. It had a round lid with a porcelain knob to match the rest of
Virginia felt sorrow at its going, like the passing of an old pal; but there wasn’t much
she could do about it. She didn’t own it.
‘You don’t mind not going do you Ginny? but there’s Mr.Whatshis name’
‘Geeson-Smythe’ provided Virginia.
‘Yes, that’s him, and Reggie’s coming to see to Velvet, she’s gone lame; and we need
someone competent to be here. Charlie should be back by four at the latest. So you
won’t have to entertain Mr.Whatshis name’
’That’s it, for long’ Cicely Frazier, finished packing the truck and gave her twin sister
Virginia Holt a quick hug. ‘I can always rely on you’ she said.
They turned together as there was a loud shout from the house
‘Stay where you are you blaggard, or I’ll shoot you dead.’
‘Mother’ they gasped together and raced in the direction of the house.
Brewster’s Hall was a huge old place. In part medieval and in others Georgian and
Victorian, where various owners in various eras had stuck bits on.
Both women raced through the great Oak door together, across the vast hall in the
direction of the shouting.
Their Mother Lady Winslow-Holt was standing legs apart, back straight, with a
shotgun pointed at the door of the Library.
‘Mother what on earth?……..’ enquired Cicely.
‘Burglar dear, in the Library.’ said Mother by way of explanation.
‘A burglar?. Oh Mother, if there is a burglar I am sure we can sort it out without the
gun.’ Virginia pushed the barrel of the shotgun down to face the floor, and gently
pushed open the door. She saw a shadow on the wall of a crouched figure. ‘I do
believe there is a burglar’ she said.
’ Told you so’. said Mother raising the gun again.
‘Mother. Put the gun down. The poor creature is cowering in fright. Now! Mother put
it down.’ Ginny made her normally sweet voice sound harsh. Her Mother did as she
was bid. Virginia pushed the door open wider, then gasped. ‘Mr.Geeson-Smythe. Oh
my goodness. I am so sorry. I had no idea you were in here. What can I say?’ All this
was said to the cowering figure of Arthur Geeson-Smythe a fellow stockbroker and
friend of her brother-in-law Charlie – Lord Charles Frazier.
The poor man had his knees tightly clenched together his hands between them. He
was staring at the floor like a frightened wild animal caught in a trap.
He started to shake. ‘I thought she was going to shoot me’ he stammered ‘and I thought
I was going to pee myself’ his voice was like that of a small boy about to be beaten.
Virginia’s heart went out to him. ‘Please Mr.Geeson-Smythe accept our apologies. Go
to the toilet and then meet me in the Drawing Room where I’ll pour you a stiff
Brandy.’ Geeson-Smythe nodded his head and rushed past their mother giving her a
baleful glance in passing on his way to the loo.
‘Mother. How could you?’ challenged Virginia and Cicely together.
‘The man is a guest in the house. You saw him at lunch for God’s sake Mother.’ said
‘And to threaten someone with a loaded gun is awful.’ said Virginia.
‘Oh it isn’t loaded’ was Mother’s retort.‘you don’t think I am foolish enough to point a
loaded gun at someone do you?’
‘Not loaded. Oh Mother that’s almost worse. You frightened the poor man almost to
death with a empty gun. Whatever got into you?’ Virginia now was furious.
Her Mother pouted. ‘I heard a noise in the Library and I was protecting our property
from burglars.’ she retorted. ‘I knew the gun wasn’t loaded, I just used it as
‘Protection of what?’ asked Virginia more kindly.
‘Me of course.’ and Lady Winslow-Hall marched off in the direction of the stairs. ’I’ll
be ready in five minutes Cicely and then we will be off to the auction. Incidentally,‘she
paused on the third stair ’where are the children?. I thought they were going.’
‘They are. They are about somewhere. I’m sure they won’t miss us going.’ replied
Cicely turning back to continue her efforts to get to the auction.
Both women went outside to the truck ‘Mother really is the limit. What one earth am I
going to say to Mr.Geeson-Smythe when he eventually returns to the drawing room?’
‘Oh. I dare say he will be over it by then. Give him a few stiff Brandies and he’ll be
alright. Don’t worry Ginny old bean none of this is your fault.’ Cicely gave her sister
another hug. ‘Chin up old thing. Mother’s with me all afternoon and out of your hair.’
At that Mother came back out of the house shouting ‘Tally-Ho! ’ at the top of her
This brought the clatter of young feet running. Three pairs. Henry and Rebecca the
twin children of Cicely, and Leah their cousin the daughter of Virginia. They were all
the same size and all bore a resemblance to each other, but Leah was noticeably
quieter than the other two. A sensitive child, she ran up to Virginia and threw her arms
around her. ’Are you sure you don’t want to come Mum? We will make room for you.’
Virginia hugged her only child back with great fervour. ‘No darling, honestly. I would
rather stay and make sure Velvet’s alright. You cannot ride her, any of you, if she has a
bad foot, now can you?’
Leah saw the logic in this and kissing her mother ran to join the others scrambling into
the truck. Suddenly around the corner bounded two small dogs, yapping, and heaved
themselves also into the melee that was the truck. Virginia shook her head and
laughed. ‘What a menagerie’ she thought ‘and then there’s mother’.
The truck started and after a small hitch as it tried to pull its heavily weighted wheels
away from the gravel of the drive, it was off and running.
Virginia waved as they went and saw a myriad of arms waving back. Goodness knew
who belonged which. As the truck pulled away she saw the blue ginger jar standing on
the gravel. ‘Dear,dear Cicely.Bless you’ she thought and ran and gathered her old
friend the ginger jar into her arms and carried it back to where it belonged in the great
hall. She placed it carefully on the exact spot it had sat on for as long as she could
remember. ‘Welcome back old friend’ she said to the vase.
‘Pardon?’ enquired a voice from the Drawing Room doorway.
Virginia jumped. ‘Mr.Geeson-Smythe there you are. Ready for your Brandy?’
She ushered Mr.Geeson-Smythe into the Drawing Room and motioned him to a seat.
She went to the drinks table and poured a large Brandy for Mr.Geeson-Smythe and a
considerably smaller one for herself. She didn’t normally drink spirits at all, but today
she felt she needed it. Had earned it in fact.
‘Mr.Geeson-Smythe.’ she said handing him his glass. ‘Cheers’.
‘Geeson-Smythe didn’t bother with the niceties. He gulped down his drink in one.
Then looked at the empty glass.
Virginia took the glass from him and enquiring ‘Refill?’ she again filled the glass with
Brandy. After the third double Brandy he slowed down a little. ‘I do hope you have
recovered from your fright. The gun was not loaded of course. My Mother wouldn’t
really shoot you’. Virginia babbled not sure how to tackle the conversation about the
‘I didn’t know that. She almost frightened me to death’ he retorted.
‘Well all I can say is, on behalf of the family, we are very sorry, and I hope it will not
put you off us altogether.’ replied Virginia, not bothered by now whether it put him off
them or not. He really was not a very gracious little man, five feet six at the most she
extimated, and quite rotund. Probably all the Brandy he drinks she thought unkindly.
She really wished Charlie would come soon and take the disagreeable man off her
hands. ‘Are you finished your Brandy already? Would you like another?’ she enquired
eyeing his empty glass.
‘Please’ he responded. His voice sounded a little shaky Virginia thought. Well, he had
had a shock and an awful lot of Brandy.
She poured him out another liberal helping and he took it greedily, but didn’t drink it
straight off. He held the glass in his hand savouring the colour as if he hadn’t noticed
the others he had drunk.
‘I came to see Charlie you know’ he slurred his words and Virginia felt a strong urge to
laugh. But didn’t. ‘Yesh, we’re going to do some bishness together.’ he finished.
‘Lovely.’ said Virginia ‘I hope it will be very successful. Here’s to your success Mr.
Geeson-Smythe and raising her glass in salute took a tiny sip. Mr.Geeson-Smythe on
the other hand raised his glass also and downed the lot in own fell swoop. He then fell
back into his chair, out cold.
‘Well it had to happen’ thought Virginia. She rang a bell and Albert the faithful
retainer, appeared almost at once. ‘Everything alright Miss Virginia?’ he asked full of
’Everything’s fine now Albert. Do you think you could get a blanket and throw it over
Mr.Geeson-Smythe? I’m sure he would sleep more soundly if he was nice and warm.
What do you think?’ she winked her eye at Albert, and he laughed in reply and hurried
off in search of a blanket. On his return he said ‘Mrs. Soames says there’s a nice cup of
tea in the kitchen and some home made scones for you’.
‘Albert! Were you listening at the door?’ she mocked with laughter in her voice.
‘Well Miss Virginia I said to Mrs. Soames I did.’I don’t like the look of that fellow I
don’t,’ and when I heard you giving him so many drinks I was sure I was right.’
Albert and Mrs.Soames had been with her family for as long as Virginia could
remember and had been second parents to Cicely and herself. Sometimes first.
They had had an elder brother twenty years their elder and when they had been six
years old he had been killed in the army. Their parents had been devastated and
sometimes forgot about the little girls altogether, they hadn’t really planned on having
When their father had died when they were fifteen, everyone had attributed their
father’s death to a broken heart over the death of his only son.
When Virginia had been small and even as she was growing up, when she had a
problem or was troubled, or even had a secret, she used to take off the lid of the ginger
jar and, before she was tall enough, standing a stool, and later standing on tip toe she
had whispered everything to the inside of the jar. It was full of her secrets and that was
why she had been so upset when she thought it was going away. Albert knew about
this and now remarked ‘I see the ginger jar didn’t go Miss Virginia. Last minute
Virginia laughed. ‘Cicely left it behind. She knows how much it means to me.’
‘Aye. it was her Ladyship your mother who decided it was to go. ’Dirty old thing’ she
called it.’ Albert pulled a face as he said it.
‘Well it hasn’t gone, dirty old thing or not I love it, always have.’ as she spoke she
pulled her face as she had as a child and Albert laughed fondly.
‘Aye. It was always your favourite that jar. Many a time I thought you were going to
fall in head first. Only your little skinny legs left dangling over the top.’
They laughed together at the recollection. ‘Lets go and have some of Mrs.Soames tea
and scones Albert, I believe Reggie has just come and I’ll have to go in a minute.,. I’m
The kitchen was warm and cozy and smelled of freshly baked bread and scones. ‘Hello
there you two. Thought you were never coming. It’s not like you two to miss out on
food it isn’t’ Mrs.Soames was a small dumpy woman with grey hair and a dimpled
face with a constant smile on it. Virginia gave her a hug in passing. Cicely and her had
always been hugged as children by Mrs. Soames and by Albert, whereas neither could
ever remember a hug from either of their parents. The Soames’ had never had children
of their own and once as a teenager Virginia had asked Albert why. His reply had been
‘We had plenty on our plate with you two ruffians.’ Perhaps she had thought, he was
Both girls had been engaged when they were twenty, Cicely to Lord Charles Frazier
who she consequently married, and Virginia to Johnathon Fitzwilliam son and heir of
Sir Henry Fitzwilliam. They had decided on a double wedding which had suited their
mother, she only had one lot of arranging to do. Ten days before the wedding
Johnathon had been killed in a riding accident. Virginia was inconsolable. She
couldn’t believe she would not see her beloved Willie again.
She had insisted that Cicely go ahead with her wedding but she didn’t feel able to
attend and had gone to visit a great aunt in Scotland. To all who observed her she
seemed to be pining away., getting paler and thinner. She was sick everytime she ate.
At her aunt’s behest she visited the doctor, not expecting him to be of any help at all.
She had a broken heart she just knew it, and the sooner she joined up with Willie the
better. The Doctor though had other versions of her illness. She was pregnant he
Immediately she had picked up. She may have lost Willie but a small part of him was
left for her to keep and cherish. She was so much better that she had returned to the
family home in time for her sister’s return from her month’s honeymoon. Cicely had
been so pleased to see her and so excited.
‘I have some news for you Virginia dear. I’m pregnant.’ she had been so delighted .
‘Snap’ had replied Virginia, and the two girls hugged each other and cried with
happiness, each for the other.
The months had passed quickly. Virginia gave birth first, to Leah and then Cicely had
had, not one, but two babies. They felt their worlds were complete.
Virginia shook herself out of her reverie. Reggie the vet was with Velvet the horse
and she must see if he needed help. Reggie McPherson was the kind of man that one
took to immediately. Kind, considerate and stable. He was also very good looking.
Tall and slim with a mop of ginger hair which he had inherited from his ancestors in
the North of Scotland.
He smiled at her as she entered the stables. ’She’s pretty lame. I am going to have to
clean the wound. Would you hold her head whilst I give her a local aenesethic.?’
Verginia held the horse and made soft cooing noises to her. The horse stood like a
‘That should do it’ stated Reggie ‘but I will return later and check her out. I think she
may foal soon, I know she isn’t due, but there seems to be a lot of activity where there
shouldn’t be. I’ll check that later too.’
The menagerie had returned from the auction, all smiles. They had sold everything
they had taken. Charles had arrived earlier and taken charge of his business
acquaintance who had refused to move from the Library.
Ginny went to the stables when Reggie returned. He had declared he would stay the
night, the mare might foal. Ginny had sat with Reggie and they had talked. He was so
easy to talk to, she thought. She even told him all about Willie, something she rarely
did to anyone.
Around midnight she had gone into the house to make cocoa for them both, and met
her sister in the hall. ‘Give me your coat Ginny, and I will relieve you for a bit. You
look all in.’ Cicely had donned Ginny’s coat and taken the cocoa to Reggie.
Suddenly Reggie jumped up and throwing his arms around Cicely, declared his love
Cicely burst into laughter, and poor Reggie looked totally dejected and deeply hurt.
‘Oh, I am sorry Reggie, but I really think you should be saying these things to Ginny,
not me. I don’t think Charlie would understand, do you?’
Reggie’s face was the same colour as his hair, as he realized his mistake. ‘I am so sorry
Cicely, I had forgotten how alike you two are.’ he blustered.
’I’ll send Ginny back out’ said Cicely laughing all the way back to the house.
On her return, Reggie explained to Ginny what he had done, and how much of a fool
he felt. Ginny only smiled and turned her face up to his. They kissed.
Ginny had always had a soft spot for Reggie, and was gratified that he felt that way
about her too.
’It’s that blue vase, it’s always been lucky for me’. Virginia whispered as she snuggled
into Reggie’s sleeve..