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A Plethora of Pirates

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It was spring. The year was young, it was a beautiful day, and Hilda Bracket was young and beautiful too.

Though at the moment she was rather concerned that she might not live to enjoy it.

Hilda clutched at the passenger seat with one hand and held her hat firmly in place with the other as she and her mother sped along the narrow country roads.

Gertrude Bracket turned her head and beamed at her daughter. “I thought we’d take the scenic route!”

“I really think we should have taken the Rolls,” shouted back Hilda. She pushed her hat a little more tightly to her head. “Jenkins could have helped with my luggage at the other end too!”

Gertrude giggled. “You’ve got to let me have some fun with my new toy, darling. And we’ll be in London far faster with this car. Don’t want you to miss your train.”

Hilda flinched somewhat as the sports car accelerated.

Her mother glanced over at her. “Now you’ve got the General’s address in Penzance, haven’t you? Tremorden Castle? He’s expecting you. Says it’ll be no bother at all to put you up.”

Hilda smiled weakly. “It is kind of Daddy’s old friend to offer.” She hesitated. “But I’m still wondering if it might not be better to stay with everyone else in the boarding house. Set a good example.”

“Oh, no…” Gertrude slowed briefly for a bend before speeding up again. “The General is so looking forward to having you. I think he’s hoping you might be a sophisticated new friend for his daughters.”

“All eight of them?” Hilda looked doubtful. “And I am perhaps a little older than them.”

“Nobody could be more glamorous though,” smiled Gertrude.

“Well, yes…” Hilda preened somewhat.

Gertrude looked across at her. “And it’ll mean the Rosa Charles will save on your living expenses. That’s a good thing for the company at the moment, isn’t it?”

“Yes.” Hilda sighed. “Yes, it is.”

 

 

It was spring. However, it was a dull day, in a rundown London boarding house, and Evadne Hinge was feeling somewhat dull and rundown herself.

But then her mother generally had that effect on her.

“Really, Mona...” said Maureen.

Evadne winced but carried on packing up her belongings.

“Only you,” continued Maureen, “could start off in London and then take the show on a tour of the provinces.”

“Thank you, Mother,” muttered Evadne. She smiled tightly. “We have to go where we can book theatres. Money is tight for a lot of people at the moment.”

Maureen gestured vaguely. “True. But surely you can give your audiences something better than Gilbert and Sullivan?”

Evadne added her hairbrush and toiletries to the suitcase. “HMS Pinafore is a proven favourite. We can’t afford to take risks until things pick up. I do have the whole company to think of.”

“Well, I’m sure you know best, Mona,” said Maureen, with an expression that said the exact opposite.

Evadne paused in her packing. “Mother, I am grateful to you for coming down for a few days to see the show and offer your support. But don’t you have to get back to Scotland, or Mexico, or wherever your next port of call is?”

“Trying to get rid of me, dear..?”

Maureen smirked.

“Actually your stepfather has quite a lot of business to deal with presently, so I’m free to amuse myself for a couple of months.”

Evadne stared. “You’re not coming on tour with us?”

Maureen rolled her eyes. “Thank you for the gracious invitation, dear, but I do think I can find something a little more exciting to do with my time.”

Evadne attempted not to show her relief. “Of course. Not that you wouldn’t be welcome, Mother.”

“I’ll bear that in mind,” said Maureen drily.

Evadne put the last item into her suitcase and fastened it up. “There. I’m done.”

“At last!” said Maureen. “Well, let’s get going then.”

Evadne picked up the suitcase, her music case and her handbag and looked at her mother doubtfully. “You know, you don’t have to drive me. I can easily get a taxi to the station.”

“Nonsense, Mona. I insist. Might as well make use of the car while I have it.”

Maureen turned and led the way out of the room. Evadne sighed, and followed her down the stairs.

“Hilda making her own way to the station, is she?” called back Maureen.

Evadne adjusted her grip on her bags. “I told you, Mother. She went to spend the weekend at her parents’ place. Bracket Towers. Says she needed to pick up a few odds and ends before setting off on the tour.”

There was a smile in Maureen’s voice. “It’ll be nice to see her again. She did so well in the performance.”

They had reached the bottom of the stairs. Evadne smiled politely at her erstwhile landlady and handed over the key. Then she trundled after her mother, who was already on the pavement opening the boot of her hired car.

Evadne swung the suitcase into the car, and carefully put the music case on top. “Anyone else do well in the show, Mother, do you think?”

Maureen smiled kindly at her. “Och, yes. You had the orchestra keeping time very nicely, dear. But it’s not quite the same as being the star on stage, is it?”

Evadne smiled tightly, closed the boot, and walked round to climb into the passenger seat. She glanced nervously across at Maureen as her mother slid herself into the driver’s position and slammed the door.

“You will… drive carefully, won’t you?” said Evadne.

Maureen grinned. “Now where’s the fun in that, Mona?”

The car set off with a roar. Evadne yelped and gripped the sides of her seat.

 

 

They pulled into the railway station and Maureen found a parking space. Almost immediately a smart little open-top sports car zoomed up and parked not far away from them.

“Good gracious!” said Evadne, staring out of her window. “That looks like Hilda.”

“Is that her mother then?” Maureen was watching with great interest.

“It is indeed. Lady Bracket.” Evadne raised her eyebrows at the car and then again at the somewhat eccentric outfit of twinset and balaclava Lady Bracket was wearing. “Well, you know what the upper classes are like.”

Having retrieved her luggage from the boot of her mother’s car, Evadne made her way over to the sports car just as Hilda and her mother were alighting.

“Hello, dear!” beamed Hilda.

“Hello, Hilda. Hello, Lady Bracket.”

Hilda’s mother grinned. “Oh, do be a devil, Evadne, and call me Gertrude!”

Evadne smiled awkwardly. “Thank you… Gertrude.”

She turned her attention to Hilda’s luggage, piled up on the back seat of the car.

“Great heavens, Hilda!” Evadne frowned at her. “You said you were going home to pick up a few odds and ends. You’ve got more clothes there than the wardrobe department.”

“No more than I need,” said Hilda with dignity. “And I’m not asking you to carry them, am I?”

She fluttered her eyelashes at the nearest porter, who completely ignored her.

Evadne sighed and raised her hand to signal to another. “Excuse me. I wonder if you wouldn’t mind helping my friend…”

“Of course, madam.” The chap smiled at Evadne, then turned to Hilda’s luggage and flinched.

He looked back bewildered at Evadne who smiled weakly. “I’m afraid so. I’ll sort out a suitable tip though.”

The porter nodded in thanks and began moving the cases onto a trolley. Evadne added her suitcase and music case, and the porter took them off in the direction of the platform. Evadne in her turn led Hilda and Gertrude over to Maureen.

“This is my mother, Mrs. Montero,” said Evadne. “Mother, this is Hilda’s mother, Lady Bracket.”

Gertrude extended a hand. “Do please call me Gertrude!”

“And you must call me Maureen!” smiled Maureen.

She gestured to Gertrude’s car. “Lovely machine you have there.”

“Thank you,” beamed Gertrude. “It’s my pride and joy. Are you interested in cars?”

“Well, I like to drive ‘em,” laughed Maureen.

“And crash them,” muttered Evadne.

Maureen raise an eyebrow. “What did you say, dear?”

“Nothing, Mother.” Evadne turned quickly to Hilda. “Hadn’t we better get onto the platform now and see if the rest of the company has actually turned up?”

“Might be a good idea, yes.” Hilda smiled over at her mother. “I’d better say goodbye then, Mummy.”

Maureen turned to Evadne with a smirk. “And I’ll say goodbye too, Mona.”

“Mona..?” Gertrude frowned in bemusement, and Hilda rolled her eyes.

Evadne was glaring at Maureen.

“Mother, please. I have told you over and over again.”

Hilda glanced at her own mother and attempted to diffuse the situation. “Oh, don’t make such a fuss, Evadne. It’s not as though it isn’t your name. It is on your birth certificate.”

“After ‘Evadne’,” said Evadne, through gritted teeth.

“Well, I think you’re making a fuss about nothing,” said Hilda, checking inside her handbag.

Gertrude grinned at her. “Quite right, Brünnhilde.”

Hilda froze.

A look of pure delight appeared on Evadne’s face. “No. You’re joking surely.”

Gertrude shook her head. “That’s the name we gave her.”

Hilda came to life again. “And it’s a fine name. But obviously one cannot actually be called Brünnhilde.”

“Of course not, dear,” smiled Gertrude. She turned to Evadne. “That’s why we called her Popsy until she was sixteen...”

“Yes! Thank you, Mummy!” said Hilda.

Evadne had a hand up, covering her face.

Hilda turned to her and glared. “Shall we get on, Evadne, then?”

Evadne sobered somewhat. “Yes, I suppose we ought to get ourselves sorted out.”

She turned to Maureen.

“It was… lovely... seeing you again, Mother.”

“Thank you for the wonderful weekend!” called Hilda to Gertrude.

Gertrude winked at Maureen. “I think that’s our dismissal then. Better let the young folk get on with all their terribly important work.”

Evadne considered Maureen cautiously. “So what will you be doing, Mother?”

“I honestly don’t know. The world’s my oyster at the moment, my girl.” Maureen turned to Gertrude. “My husband is busy travelling on business at the moment, you see. So I’m at rather a loose end.”

Gertrude held up her hands. “But that gives me a marvellous idea! Why don’t you come and stay with me for a week or so?”

“Truly?” said Maureen.

Gertrude nodded enthusiastically. “I’d love to get to know the mother of Hilda’s best friend a little better. And we’ve got plenty of room. We’re out in the country, in Kent. I’m sure you’ll love it.”

Maureen beamed. “Well, why not! Thank you so much!” She looked thoughtful. “I’ll just need to go back to my hotel and collect my belongings. Oh, and there’s the hired car to return as well, of course.”

“Well, I’ll meet you outside your hotel in two hours, say? And then we can travel down in my car.” Gertrude grinned. “Perhaps you’d like to drive part of the way?”

Maureen’s face lit up, and Evadne and Hilda exchanged a look.

“Oh, that would be marvellous.” Maureen took a pen and notebook out of her handbag. “I’ll just note down the address of the hotel and I’ll see you later.”

She scribbled down a few words, tore out the sheet and handed it to Gertrude.

“There you are! Oh, I’m so looking forward to this!”

She smiled at Evadne and Hilda.

“Bye then, girls!”

“Yes, bye! And good luck!” said Gertrude.

The two mothers got into their respective cars, and with a wave they departed.

Evadne watched them go with some trepidation. “I think your mother is in more need of luck than us. I hope she knows what she’s getting herself into.”

Hilda nodded. “I just hope she has that car fully insured.” She shook her head. “Still we can’t worry about that now. Time to worry about this wretched production instead...”

They made their way onto the platform, and Hilda looked about.

“Now. Who do we have?”

Evadne gestured discreetly. “Well, here’s Dodie coming towards us for a start.”

Hilda glanced over. “Oh, great heavens. What is she wearing? I hope it’s deceased, whatever it is. It’s hideous.”

“Now, now,” said Evadne staring at the fur stole. “It’s impolite to speak ill of the dead.” She smiled politely. “Dodie! Glad to see you here all ready to go, dear.”

Dodie smiled at them both. “Well, I made sure to allow plenty of time to get to the station. I do so want this production to be a success.”

She smiled shyly at Hilda.

“I’ve been rehearsing Josephine’s part in my own time. I want to be perfect, just in case—God forbid—that you ever couldn’t go on.”

“Very reassuring, dear,” said Hilda. “But I can assure you you’re unlikely to have to stand in for me on this tour. I’m in fine form.”

“Oh.” Dodie looked somewhat deflated. “Well, maybe one day I’ll go on as the lead.”

“Yes, one day,” said Evadne briskly. “Now, you’d better go and take your seat, Dodie. Not long before the train leaves.”

“Of course, Evadne.” Dodie obediently made her way over to a carriage.

“Well, that’s your understudy ticked off the list,” said Evadne. “And here comes your tenor.”

Baddesley Ensor stepped up to them beaming. “Not long to the off now! I’m so excited to be touring with you, Miss Bracket.”

“Me too, dear,” smiled Hilda.

Her smile fell away once Baddesley had moved off again.

“What I wouldn’t give for another leading tenor. And the sad thing is, he’s the best of everyone we auditioned.”

Evadne shrugged. “We’ll be able to attract someone more accomplished once things pick up.”

“I suppose so,” said Hilda. She glanced at Evadne. “Anyway, that’s two of the singers. What about your orchestra?”

Evadne beamed over at the man hurrying towards them. “Well, here’s Boothby at least. I know I can always rely on him.”

Hilda rolled her eyes. “Most musical directors have a first violin. Trust you to have a first cello.”

Evadne ignored her. “Hello, Boothby!” she called.

“Good morning, Evadne!” Boothby was smiling as he approached. “I think I’ve managed to round up most of the orchestra now.” He stopped and checked his list with a frown. “Though I haven’t been able to locate Freddie Willoughby so you may have to do without a fiddle tonight.”

Hilda raised her eyebrows.

Evadne shook her head sadly. “This is why I have you as my ‘first violin’, Boothby. That wretched man just can’t be relied on.”

“I’ll just do one last sweep of the pub…” With an apologetic smile Boothby moved off again.

Evadne looked at Hilda. “Right then. I’ll just check off the rest of the singers. And our crew too.”

She left to walk up and down the platform—speaking briefly to each member of the company, before eventually coming back to Hilda.

“I think that’s everyone then— Oh, wait.” Evadne sighed heavily. “What about… Maud?”

Hilda’s eyes widened. “Good heavens, I almost forgot, dear. I’ve had a letter from her—Arthur’s finally popped the question. She’s getting married! So she’s staying in Stackton Tressel and won’t be coming back to the company.”

Evadne frowned. “You mean she’s not working out her notice. Leaving us in the lurch just like that.” A smile eased its way across Evadne’s face. “How marvellous...”

Hilda shook her head. “You always did get on so well with Maud.”

Evadne looked at her. “Admit it, dear. Things should go a little more smoothly without Maud about. And we really cannot afford to make a mess of this tour.”

She checked her watch.

“Speaking of which, I think we’d better take our seats.”

“Right.” Hilda pointed herself in the direction of the first class carriages.

Evadne cleared her throat. “Er, no. I’m afraid not.”

Hilda turned slowly. “Evadne, please tell me we are not travelling second class.”

“Of course we aren’t,” said Evadne. She furrowed her brow. “There hasn’t been a second class since the 1890s. We’re travelling third class.”

Hilda drew herself up. “Evadne Hinge, if you think the leading lady of the Rosa Charles Opera Company is going to travel third class, you have another think coming.”

Evadne shrugged. “We simply can’t afford any extravagances at the moment. And we’ve got to consider morale. You’re already off staying in a glamorous castle while we’re in Penzance. How is it going to look if the leading lady and the musical director are travelling in luxury while everyone else is in the cheap seats?”

“Yes, fine,” said Hilda. She shuddered. “Just as long as we’re not right next to the orchestra. All that drinking and shouting.”

“Yes, I can understand you’d want to do that privately,” said Evadne vaguely.

Hilda glared at her.

“I’m just joking, dear. But the orchestra isn’t quite as bad as you think.” Evadne watched Hilda set off for a third class carriage, and added the rest under her breath. “I’m sure they’ll stick just to the gambling and swearing while we’re travelling.”

She hurried after Hilda.

 

 

“You know, I’ve never been to Penzance before,” said Hilda as she watched the scenery go past.

“Me neither,” said Evadne looking up from her book. “Sounds like a nice, quiet place though.”

“Oh, I don’t like the sound of that.” Hilda turned to Evadne. “I prefer a bit of excitement.”

“Well, at the moment what we need isn’t excitement. What we need is to be able to pay the cast and the orchestra, and the rest of the company.” Evadne nodded. “No, this is exactly what we need—nice, quiet, dull Penzance.”

 

 

Once the company had alighted at Penzance station, Evadne looked around for the bus.

“Ah! There we are. Come along, people!”

Everyone clambered aboard, chatting merrily, and found themselves a seat.

Boothby though hung around at the front of the bus looking anxious.

“Are you all right, Boothby, dear?” asked Hilda.

“I’m just wondering what I should do with my cello,” said Boothby.

Hilda turned to Evadne. “Dear, can you tell Boothby where to stick it?”

Evadne regarded Hilda for a long moment before turning back to Boothby.

“Just pop it in the space under the stairs, Boothby, dear. And then let’s get on!”

 

 

When they reached their stop in the town centre, Hilda alighted too with the rest of the company.

Evadne furrowed her brow as everyone sorted out their luggage. “Hilda, I thought you were staying at your Tremorden Castle, or whatever it’s called.”

“I am,” said Hilda. “But the bus doesn’t go that far out. I was told to go to the boarding house and a car would come to pick me up.”

Evadne sighed. “Well, come on then.”

And with Evadne at their head, everyone made their way to the boarding house—a few unfortunate male members of the chorus press-ganged into carrying Hilda’s luggage.

Evadne collected a list from Mrs. Milne the landlady, read out who was sharing with whom and which room they were having, and everyone but Evadne and Hilda dispersed.

Evadne looked at her companion. “That’s one good thing about you staying somewhere else. It means I’ll get a room to myself for once.”

“Thank you very much,” said Hilda. She gestured over at her luggage. “I’ll leave my things there till the car comes. And I’ll give you a hand taking your bags up.”

Evadne raised an eyebrow. “Good heavens. You must be feeling guilty about staying at your castle.”

“Just trying to be supportive, dear.” Hilda picked up the far lighter music case and, head held high, started up the stairs. Evadne sighed, picked up her suitcase and followed on after her.

 

 

Once they reached the small single room, Evadne unpacked while Hilda investigated the furnishings.

She patted a pretty but rather battered bedside table. “I have to say, this is adorable. What a lovely little boarding house. I’m so envious of you all.”

Evadne raised an eyebrow. “Fine. You can share my room instead of going to stay in that grand castle. I’ll ask Mrs. Milne to send up a camp bed.”

Hilda’s answer came extremely quickly. “Obviously I can’t turn down the General’s invitation though. Old friend of my parents and all that. He’d be so offended.”

Evadne hid her smile while Hilda made her way over to the mantelpiece and looked at the clock there.

“Looks like I’m going to have a bit of a wait before the car arrives.”

She turned back to Evadne.

“I know. Why don’t we have a cream tea together while we’re waiting? I’ve heard great things of the Penzance cream teas.”

Evadne’s eyes lit up. “That might be quite nice, dear.”

 

 

Downstairs, the dining area was almost deserted.

Evadne and Hilda had no problems getting a table and a waitress quickly came to take their order of scones, clotted cream, jam and a pot of tea.

“Is it too early in the season for tourists?” Hilda asked the waitress when she returned with their food.

The waitress’s eyes flicked about nervously. “No. It’s…” Her voice dropped. “You know.”

Hilda and Evadne exchanged a look.

Evadne smiled politely. “No, I’m afraid we don’t.”

“It’s…” The waitress glanced about and, puzzled, Hilda and Evadne joined her in this examination of their surroundings.

The waitress looked back at them, her eyes staring wildly. “...the pirates!”

She scurried away.

Hilda frowned as she watched her go. “That was odd.”

“Yes.” Evadne was frowning too. “Did she say… ‘pirates’?”

Hilda turned to look at her. “It did sound rather like that. But surely there can’t be any pirates round here?”

“No, I suppose not…”

Evadne shrugged.

“Well, come on. Let’s have our tea and then hopefully your car will finally have arrived.”

 

 

Just as they were sipping their second cup of tea there was a toot on a horn.

“Ah, that must be my transport,” beamed Hilda.

They finished their tea as quickly as possible and made their way outside. A splendid Bentley was waiting and an elegantly dressed chauffeur was politely holding the rear door open for Hilda.

“I’m Methuen, ma’am—Major-General Stanley’s man. Come to collect you. I’ve already stowed your luggage in the boot.”

“Oh, thank you, Methuen.”

Hilda got into the car gracefully, and Methuen closed the door and went to take his own place behind the wheel.

Hilda wound down the window and smiled up at Evadne. “I’ll see you tomorrow at the theatre then, dear.”

“Yes, all right,” said Evadne.

Methuen started the engine, and the car drove off with Hilda waving graciously at the window like a member of the Royal family.

Evadne sighed and made her way back into the boarding house.

 

 

After a drive of only perhaps ten minutes, the Bentley approached Tremorden Castle.

Hilda looked about in utter delight.

There was what seemed to be a ruined chapel. An orchard. A small maze. A fountain!

And then there was the castle itself, a compact but dignified baronial mansion—two small sets of steps leading up to it, one on the left and one on the right.

“Good heavens,” murmured Hilda. “This is absolutely splendid.”

Methuen drew up in front of the fountain, and then got out to open the car door for Hilda.

“Thank you so much.” Hilda stepped out and gazed up at the castle.

Almost immediately an elderly man in a dress uniform came bustling out of the front door.

“Hilda, is it?”

Hilda nodded with a smile, and the man beamed. He hurried down the steps to his left, and rushed over to Hilda, holding out his hand. “I’m Major-General Stanley—so pleased to have a daughter of old Bracket here.”

Hilda took his hand and shook it. “Well, I’m delighted to be here. Thank you so much for inviting me.”

“A pleasure. Absolute pleasure.” The General turned to Methuen. “Take Miss Bracket’s bags up, will you, old chap? You know which room.”

“Yes, sir.”

Methuen went round to the boot and began unloading Hilda’s luggage, and the General gestured towards the orchard. “Do come and meet my daughters. They’ll be thrilled to know you’ve arrived.”

Hilda followed him over. Amongst the trees, a large group of girls were admiring the apple blossom, playing, or simply sitting and reading.

“This is my eldest, Edith.” The General indicated a competent and attractive girl who was busy sprinkling fertiliser around the base of the trees.

“Good afternoon!” called Edith, looking up.

“And that is Kate.”

Kate was a tiny blonde, who was talking to an elegant brunette.

“That’s Julia with her,” smiled the General.

Both girls halted their conversation and smiled and nodded.

The General next pointed at a large blonde who was… Well, Hilda hesitated to use the term ‘galumphing’... But anyway, she was running through the trees with perhaps not total grace.

“That’s Flossie,” said her father fondly.

He pointed at a dainty girl reading beneath a tree. “That’s Maisie.”

Her companion, a sensible looking girl, looked up and smiled. “And that’s Isabel,” said the General.

Another girl came running up, waving excitedly. She came to an abrupt halt, and promptly toppled over.

“Yes…” The General considered her worriedly as Maisie and Isabel hurried to pick her up. “And that’s Millicent.”

Hilda did a quick and discreet count on her fingers. “So… you have one more?”

The General beamed at her. “Quite right. Quite right.” He looked thoughtful. “So the other one must be…”

Edith rolled her eyes, and she and her sisters called out in chorus.

“Mabel!”

Mabel appeared from behind a tree. “Yes?”

Her father smiled at her. “Oh, there you are. I’d like you to meet Miss Bracket, dear. Daughter of a friend of mine, don’t you know?”

Mabel approached and held out her hand. “I’m very pleased to meet you, Miss Bracket.”

“Do please call me Hilda.”

Hilda gazed about.

“You have such a lovely place here. Thank you so much for allowing me to stay.”

Mabel blushed a little and looked at the General. “Shall I show Hilda her room, then, Father?”

“Certainly, certainly.” The General smiled at Hilda. “Mabel will get you settled in.”

 

 

The room was set out in perfect taste.

“Oh, isn’t this lovely!” said Hilda.

“Thank you.” Mabel smiled shyly. “It’s actually my room.”

Hilda’s face fell. “Oh, good heavens. I really didn’t want to turn anyone out of their own room.”

“It’s perfectly all right,” said Mabel. “I’m sharing with Edith while you’re here.” She sighed a little. “We don’t actually have any guest rooms because there are so many of us, and so we don’t often have people to stay. But it is nice to have a guest.”

“Surely you can’t be lonely with all your sisters?” said Hilda in concern.

“Well, no. But it’s nice to see a fresh face.” Mabel gazed at her. “Especially someone famous like you. It must be so exciting being on the stage! You’re so glamorous!”

“Oh, no…” Hilda giggled coyly.

Mabel looked down at her feet. “I sometimes wish I had gone on the stage, you know.”

“Oh, yes?” said Hilda. “As an actress?”

Mabel looked up again. “I sing a little, and dance too. Well, we all do.” She hesitated. “Would you... like to hear us sing?”

Hilda smiled. “I think that would be lovely.”

 

 

The sisters gathered in the sitting room with Julia at the piano.

Hilda fixed a polite smile ready on her face. She was well used to being subjected to the performances of ‘talented’ amateurs and had no wish to hurt the girls’ feelings.

But the song began and Hilda’s smile turned to something far more genuine. The sisters sang so sweetly and tunefully. In fact Hilda would have been happy to have them in the company over some of the female singers they actually had. Charming song too—something about climbing over rocky mountains to reach the sea. These old Cornish folk songs were so evocative.

At the conclusion Hilda applauded wildly. “That was marvellous. You’re so talented.” She looked round at them all. “You really should be on the stage.”

Mabel blushed. “That would be lovely. But of course Father needs us all here, don’t you, Father? You’d never want us to leave you all on your own.”

“Yes…” The General smiled weakly round at his many, many daughters. “Well, yes, of course.”