“Well, Rose”, said Sir Septimus, savouring the sound of her name, “we meet again!”
“Hmph!”, Rose snorted. Under the circumstances it was all she could say.
“It is indeed a beneficent providence”, Sir Septimus continued, “that has brought us together once more”.
Rose said nothing in reply. There were many things she would have liked to say but the securely fastened gag prevented her from doing so, while the tightly bound restraints prevented her from expressing herself by any other means.
Rose was both affronted and bemused by being thus restrained. Little did she know that in that Lunnon, men of Sir Septimus’ ilk would often pay handsome sums at discreet establishments to partake of such activities, and not always to be the one doing the restraining either; neither did she know that in the not too distant future such pastimes would become so commonplace that in somewhere called Hollywood a film would be made about them for the raucous titillation of women of a certain age. She was but a simple village wench for whom the word “dungeon” had only fairy-tale connotations and, living as she did in the 19th century, Hollywood hadn’t been invented yet.
Sir Septimus, meanwhile, was oblivious to her discomfort. “Such a pity,” he said, “the tragedy that finally befell your dear late husband – what was his name, Richmond?”
“I beg your pardon, my dear?” said Sir Septimus. “Forgive me”, he added, removing the gag, “I think we can dispense with this now”.
“Richard!” Rose spat.
“My husband’s name”, Rose said angrily, “was Richard!”
“Ah yes, Richard, of course. So very sad, that he should have met his end in such a tragic accident” Sir Septimus said. “Visiting the grave of his dear, departed Uncle too – a man for whom I had the utmost respect as you know. Most unfortunate that he should fall backward and accidentally impale himself upon the gravedigger’s pick-axe like that. If only someone had thought to install a hand-rail in the graveyard, the sorry tragedy may yet have been avoided”.
Rose grimaced at the memory of it. “It is all the more strange”, she said, “as the gravedigger swore an oath that he had locked his pick-axe in the vestry for safe-keeping and the only person, besides the vicar, who had a key to the vestry was you, Sir Septimus”.
“Are you suggesting that the vicar was in some way involved in your husband’s death?” asked Sir Septimus. He waved a dismissive hand. “You shouldn’t pay too much heed to what these bumpkins have to say, my dear”, he said. “That gravedigger is a particularly unreliable sort. The merest sniff of mead and he is trailing ribbons around and telling all and sundry that he is a maypole. Very unbecoming. Cucumber?”
Sir Septimus offered Rose his cucumber but she declined.
“What became of that brat of yours?” he asked.
“He wants to become a vicar, like his great-uncle” Rose replied.
“Oh, how charming” Sir Septimus said with as much enthusiasm as he could muster, which was none at all. “Out of the mouths of babes and children”.
“He’s twenty-three” Rose said flatly.
“Is he really?” said Sir Septimus, genuinely taken aback. “I had no idea it had been so long since last we met. Tell me, my dear, do you believe in re-incarnation?”
“Re-what?” asked Rose, surprised at the sudden change in subject.
“It is the belief that we come back as someone else” Sir Septimus said. “I was so intrigued that I made a full study of it, although now I am beginning to doubt the idea. What say you?”
“I don’t know” said Rose, “I suppose I thought that I’d be cast as someone else, eventually”.
“Indeed Rose, I thought that too” confided Sir Septimus, “but I fear we may have some time to wait yet”.
“Oh Sir Septimus, whatever shall we do until then?”
“Well my dear” Sir Septimus said, a wicked glint in his eye, “I do believe there is ample time for a Grope”.