Jane Dougherty’s Sunday StrangeMrs Arbuthnot was always keen to inject a little culture into the village fete. One year she had produced a historical pageant. Two years ago, she organised poetic recitations, and last year there had been a delightful song cycle from a local mezzo soprano. This year she had come up with nothing, apart from an offer from the town’s brass band to do a medley of songs from the shows – “Very popular, Mrs A”, the band leader assured her.
You can imagine her delight, then, when Lady Shrewsbury contacted her and offered her the services of Evadne Pettigrew, celebrated for her performances on the harp. So delightful. So appropriate to an English summer afternoon. Mrs Arbuthnot accepted with delight.
The day of the village fete dawned bright and clear, and Mrs Arbuthnot surveyed the rectory grounds with satisfaction. Gaily coloured bunting fluttered in the breeze, and local ladies in summer dresses and bright cardigans loaded victoria sponges and jars of jam onto trestle tables. All was well.
Evadne Pettigrew was not quite what Mrs Arbuthnot had expected. She wafted onto the stage in a white robe and a wreath of roses, followed by two burly farers carrying her great harp. There were a few titters from the villagers as she took her seat and started to play. They soon stopped laughing, however, as the sweet notes of the harp rippled out towards them. Mrs Arbuthnot allowed herself a smile of satisfaction as tears started to flow down rosy cheeks, and grizzled farmers wiped their eyes with the back of their hands.
Nobody knows who noticed them first, but soon everybody had turned to look in amazement at the people in white emerging from the churchyard, and moving down the hill and over the stream towards them. It was Lizzie Jenkins who shouted “It’s the twins!”, and after that,everyone began shouting in reognition. All the dead of the village moved past them, saying nothing, but smiling at their loved ones as they approached Evadne, and gathered round her.
The music stopped, and the forms drifted away, fading into nothingness. The crowd were silent. Evadne Pettigrew was nowhere to be seen.
Written for Jane Dougherty’s Sunday Strange. It’s an odd image by Hans Thoma from 1914.