Donald had always been a very logical and methodical individual and, as
such, found disorder debilitating.
Unfortunately, his wife of ten years was neither logical nor methodical and was the usual cause of his debility. Not that she wasn’t a nice person, no indeed, she was sweet and even-tempered and he had loved her dearly at first, overlooking her imperfections with an indulgence possible only in the first flush of lust.
Over the years, however, Donald’s patience had started to wear thin and as Mildred wasn’t the beauty she once was, albeit still very attractive for her age, he was less and less inclined to overlook her slovenliness or some illogical viewpoint or action not to his liking.
In short, he was fed up with her. Hot on the heels of this realisation was the thought that he wanted rid of her. Immediately.
Divorce was not an option he wanted to consider. For a start there was the question of his inheritance.
Aunt Maud was almost ready for her pine overcoat, but whilst there was still breath in her, she would not hesitate to cut him off without a brass farthing if he so much as hinted at divorce.
Not that Aunt Maud was all that keen on Mildred herself - he thought his wife probably irritated his fastidious Aunt at least as much as she did her husband, but Aunt Maud did not hold with divorce on Principle. Something about making beds and lying upon them.
No, Divorce was not an option. For the moment at least. When Auntie finally popped her clogs, he could maybe get away with it, but although in her eighties, Aunt Maud was still very spry and looked to be around for a while yet. That was not going to be soon enough for his needs.
Another point to consider was one of the settlement should there be a divorce. Even if he did wait for Auntie to shuffle off this mortal whatsit, Mildred would still deprive him of at least half of his inheritance and without the money he would not manage the upkeep of Brasenose Hall. His beloved family home would have to be sold, and that would never do!
There had been a Brasenose at the Hall for over two hundred years and he was cognisant of the fact that he was the last male of the family to carry the name. He was also aware that this was the main reason why he had been named heir.
All of his cousins and other relations were women, mainly married, but to other ‘names’. And Auntie wanted to keep up the family tradition of Brasenoses at the Hall. She had even not married so as to preserve her name.
There had been some talk of relaxing this rule a couple of years ago when it became apparent that he and Mildred were having some difficulty reproducing. Only the timely emergence of his daughter, Sabina, had quelled that small rebellion and the appearance of a second daughter only made them all gossip about the possibility of him not being able to father a son.
He still had not and it was becoming less likely by the day, seeing as he now very rarely slept with Mildred.
Auntie was a damn nuisance with her Morals and Principles. Perhaps the problem was not with him, but with Mildred! The thought flashed through his brain for about a nanosecond before he remembered his biology lessons at the very expensive private school he attended for six years.
Donald glumly sat down in his armchair reading his newspaper. Full of bad news and violence, he thought. Violence! Yes! Perhaps Mildred could meet with an accident of some kind. Nothing too painful, you understand. Just fatal.
At once his mood lifted. Yes! With Mildred out of the way he could re-marry, if someone suitable came along. The girls would need a mother and he’d make sure she suited him this time, no moon in June stuff to cloud the issue.
With these happy thoughts, Donald spent the next few months brooding and scheming, thinking of possible ways to do away with his wife but even though each time he thought of something and a flaw emerged, he remained optimistic. He was in such good sorts, he even bedded Mildred a couple of times - a thing he came, later, to regret.
She told him one evening after tea about the baby who was on the way.
“I knew you’d be pleased,” she twittered, “and so will Aunt Maud. I didn’t tell you right away because I wanted to be sure. It’s going to be a boy! Mr.Pilkington checked and double-checked. It’s definitely a boy!”
A death-knell sounded in Donald’s head. Well now he couldn’t bump her off! Could he? What she was carrying was his guarantee of succession.
They duly went off to visit Aunt Maud to impart the glad tidings and he was left with the distinct feeling that they had pipped the post not a moment too soon.
“About time too Donald,” his Aunt chided, “I was beginning to wonder what kind of a gelding you were! Now Cecily’s husband has produced three strapping chaps and to look at him, you wouldn’t think he had it in him! Not Brasenoses though. Great shame. Good-lookin’ boys too.”
When they got home, Donald’s spirits were at an all-time low. He looked at the chaos they lived in and groaned. Soon there would be a third collection of toys cluttering up the place and a third set of nappies to invade his sensitive nostrils.
He let Mildred go up to bed ahead of him. He couldn’t stand it if she got all lovey-dovey with him tonight. So he stayed downstairs in his study until after two with a bottle of Scotch.
The finding of the inquest was death by misadventure.
If Donald had not consumed nearly three-quarters of a bottle of whisky, he may well have seen,and avoided, the roller-skate at the top of the stairs.
But it was understandable; he was apparently celebrating the conception of a long-awaited son. A tragedy if ever there was one.
Mildred and her mother-in-law Annie clung together through the following months. They’d always got on. They were not unalike in some ways, both being easy-going and sweet-natured. They also shared troubles and secrets.
“...and after everything was going to be alright...” Mildred wiped her eyes with the corner of a crumpled hanky.
“...I know love,” Annie placed a comforting hand on Mildred’s arm.
“..and you know I wasn’t bothered about having a son. I only did what I did...”
“...I know my dear. You did what you did for the same reasons I did. You did it out of love. And I’m certain Cecily’s husband won’t tell either. He’s too nice a man. Anyway, she’d skin him alive if she knew he’d fathered your son! Still, it’ll give him a secret chuckle to have a son at the Hall. Once the old girl goes, your son can change this ridiculous inheritance ritual. The really ridiculous thing is that there hasn’t been a true Brasenose at the Hall for generations. Donald’s father wasn’t one and Donald certainly wasn’t!”