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For over a year and for nearly forty instalments, the story of the Devil of Moravia has slowly unfolded on this blog. Now the time has come for the very last part.
Special thanks to all those who have followed the terrible tale of Edmund William Spencer – thank you for sticking with him and with me. Very special thanks go to Joy from Tales from Eneana and to Amanda of Mandibelle 16 for their kindness and encouragement. And for being – as far as I’m aware and forgive me if I’m wrong – the only people other than myself who have read every instalment. Thank you so much, ladies.
So here is the final part. And we end where we began, with a very special Auntie and her very tall tales. See below to experience the Devil’s world.
One, two, three, four, five, six , seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven, twelve, thirteen, fourteen, fifteen, sixteen, seventeen, eighteen, nineteen, twenty, twenty one, twenty two, twenty three, twenty four, twenty five, twenty six, twenty seven, twenty eight, twenty nine, thirty, thirty one, thirty two, thirty three, thirty four , thirty five and thirty six.
‘Edmund died?’ My tongue felt gummed and gluey, as if I hadn’t drunk for days.
Aunt Gloria plucked another cigarette from the crumpled packet, twisting it into the holder, leaning towards me with an expectant air. I fumbled with the matches, taking two attempts before the tobacco began to glow and crackle.
Through a fug of smoke I saw Gloria shrug. ‘We all die, darling.’
‘I know that. I’m not a child. It’s just … Not in stories. At the end of stories evil loses and good triumphs.’
She stretched her legs out before her, wriggling her painted toenails. ‘The Devil was slain and Edmund did the slaying.’
Exasperated, I said, ‘But you hanged the hero. No one hangs the hero.’
‘Not much of a hero. Killing those two young girls.’ Taking a long drag she stared at me through squinted eyes. ‘Besides. In real life every story has the same ending.’
‘But I thought … Edmund and Frances …’
Her lip curled into a bitter smile. ‘True love conquers all?’ She pulled the cigarette from the holder, stubbing it into the full ashtray, her fingers coming away grey at the tips. She opened her mouth to say more, but the spark suddenly left her eyes. Pulling her knees to her chest she stared at the swirls in the hearth rug, both of us lapsing to silence until the back door slammed open and shut.
‘Fi! Where are you, Fi?’
It was my brother Fred, back from fishing, his face glowing from the fresh air.
‘Dad and I caught the biggest carp. Well, almost caught him. The blighter wriggled free before I could grab the net.’
The door went again. ‘Who has left muddy waders on my kitchen floor? Frederick Edmund Spencer, come here this instant!’
I looked up then, at Gloria, her chipped nail polish, her grey roots and smoke stained teeth. It was as if the story had changed me a little, as if my childhood was falling away and for the first time I saw what Gloria was – a rather lonely woman spending the summer where she wasn’t truly welcome or comfortable because she had nowhere else to go.
I avoided spending anymore time alone with her that holiday. Edmund’s story had been too dark – it seemed to stain the air between Gloria and I. And soon the summer was over and I was back at school and Edmund’s story – Gloria’s story – receded to the back of my mind, swamped by Geography lessons and hockey cups and English Grammar and Home Economics.
I thought of Edmund from time to time over the years, wondering how Gloria could know his story if his confession had really been burned, dismissing the Devil as a ridiculous fiction borne out of a lonely Aunt’s need to be liked. But still I searched The Clock every time I visited Gran’s, slipping my fingers between the cogs, scouring the panels with a torch. Perhaps that’s why Gran left it to me, why it stands now, a silent watcher over my own family.
Gloria died on the day my first marriage was annulled. I found her timing ironic – the eternal spinster aunt dying on the day I regained my own independence. She left a will, though the list of possessions made pitiable reading. Her flat was rented, the furniture rented too – even her furs were fake. She left an antique fishing rod to Fred which he sold to a friend at his club within days. He hadn’t fished since that summer I was twelve.
To me she left a large manilla envelope. Inside there were several sheets of a heavy paper covered with lines of sloping handwriting so dense the whole was more ink than paper. My fingers trembled as I flicked to the last page and read the inscription.
… Finished on the eve of his execution, the 5th day of May, 1799 …
The pages whispered as I straightened them, as if Edmund himself was trying to speak again.
Finally, I read the dedication on the envelope written in Gloria’s own thin hand.
For Fiona Frances Spencer. So you always remember your family’s brave past.
And below, Old Noah’s words.
Know who you are. Embrace it, no matter how dark, no matter how squalid. Only then will you triumph.