Chapter 5 Matthew.
“Matthew Havilland, David Havilland’s son” said Pamela quietly. “We grew up together. We both had ponies and used to ride them on the Havillands estate. I used to come to Havillands house after school and once Matthew’s tutor had finished his lessons we would both go out to play. When Matthew went to boarding school when he was eleven we would write to each other, we spent the holidays together. You would always find us in the stables with the horses, we even used to ride in gymkhanas together.”
“It sounds like you had a lovely childhood” commented Gareth trying to be positive.
“I did, oh I did,” replied Pamela with a brittle smile “Matthew and I were two of the happiest children you could ever meet, Matthew didn’t like his boarding school because he loved Havillands house so much, but he was always cheerful and carefree when he was at home. He loved horses and doted on his grey pony Charlie.
Things changed though, they always do, we grew up. Matthew out grew Charlie and after a succession of ponies and horses his father bought him a chestnut hunter as an twenty first birthday present. He was a beautiful and very valuable horse. He was called Phoenix and Matthew was devoted to him.
I had left school by that time myself as well and I was working as a secretary in the solicitor’s office in town I still went over to Havillands whenever I could on Summer evenings or at weekends to see Matthew and to ride the horses there. My own pony, Domino, was sold when I outgrew him and with the secretary’s job I didn’t have time to keep a horse, Matthew was always very good about letting me borrow a horse from the stables to ride.
David Havilland, his wife Judith and Matthew all used to hunt. I didn’t care for it myself but Matthew was always very dashing and brave riding Phoenix across the countryside. David was the Master and kept the Roxmoor hounds in kennels on the estate.”
“I work at Havillands and I have never seen any kennels.” said Gareth.
“They were just behind the stables,” said Pamela, a long , low brick building.”
“They aren’t there now” replied Gareth “Behind the old stables now is a big metal barn, we keep the livery horses in it.”
Pamela looked sad, and began to sniff again,
“When I saw you across the green, dressed in the sort of clothes that Matthew always wore and riding a big chestnut horse, I thought somehow you were Matthew, it was as if I was nineteen again, waiting for the bus into town to go to the office, I thought I had gone back in time.”
“That must have felt very strange,” commented Reverend Ellis, pouring more tea.
“I forgot myself for a moment and ran over to give -what I thought was Matthew- a hug. I am so sorry for grabbing hold of you like that, what must you think of me?” concluded Pamela abashed.
“Not to worry, I’m just sorry I wasn’t who you though I was.” said Gareth cheerfully trying to raise Pamela’s spirits.
“ I must go,” said Pamela the next bus will be here soon, and I must get into town. Thank you Reverend for the tea, and thank you Gareth for being so understanding.” and with that she picked up her handbag and rushed out of the vicarage, across the green and over to the bus stop where the number 14 heading for the town was just arriving.
Reverend Ellis came back in from seeing Pamela out,
“I wonder where Matthew is now?’ Mused Gareth, “I know the Havillands family sold the house and Mrs Mc Kinsey bought it but they must be somewhere.”
Mrs Ellis who had been quiet all through the proceedings spoke up
“Matthew Havilland died in 1973!’ she said.
Gareth felt cold all over,
“Ooer,” he said “Pamela didn’t mention that, so she mistook me for a dead man? That’s seriously creepy that is! What happened?”
Mrs Ellis continued the story in her abrupt and gruff way.
“Matthew Havilland broke his stupid, foolhardy neck out hunting! The idiot!”
“Mother!” admonished Reverend Ellis, “Have some respect!”
“What for?” Mrs. Ellis snapped “A man who got himself killed through an irresponsible act? A wastrel who not only ended his own life but caused the death of that beautiful horse? An inconsiderate fool who broke the hearts of all those who loved and cared for him? I have no respect for him at all.”
Gareth and Reverend Ellis both sat on the sofa looking a bit stunned by this outburst. Mrs. Ellis was known to be short tempered but this tirade was unexpected. Gareth opened his mouth to ask a question but then thought better of it and closed it again.
“You there, the one with the funny accent” snapped Mrs Ellis again “Stop gaping like a carp! You want to know the details don’t you?”
“Er......yes....I do, sorry.”
“Oh yes Pamela Fletcher was right, the Havilland boy was devoted to his horses and David Havilland did buy him the big chestnut for his birthday. But Matthew went out with the hunt one winter and destroyed many lives.”
Gareth had crept closer to listen, he found the idea chilling but he wanted to find out exactly what had happened all those years ago.
Mrs. Ellis continued in a slightly softer tone. “The Roxmoor Hunt had met on the green just out there, David, Judith and Matthew were all up on expensive horses, and David’s hounds were milling around. I remember the photographer from the Essex Chronicle taking pictures. lots of people had turned out to see the horses. Pamela wasn’t there, she stayed away on purpose, it was the only thing that she and Matthew didn’t see eye to eye on.
The hunt went out onto the Havillands estate and the hounds soon found a fox to chase, all went as planned for a while until the fox crossed the estate boundary on to Greenwood’s farm in the western corner by the poplar spinney. There was a large untrimmed hedge there with twin oaks growing from it. The fox dodged under the hedge, the hounds pushed their way through. The horses would have to stop and go through the five barred gate further down the field. David wheeled his horse round to signal to the rest of the followers that that is what they should do. Matthew however was keeping up with the hounds. He set his horse to jump the hedge.
The stupid boy, it was far too high. That brave horse of his tried to jump the hedge but it was over faced, the horse caught it’s hind feet in the tangle of brambles at the top of the hedge and fell.
Matthew was thrown and landed with a sickening crunch, the horse fell and rolled on him.
When David and Judith arrived on the scene Matthew was dead, killed outright, and the horse was so badly injured that it had to be shot right there.”
“Horrible” whispered Gareth, thinking of chapter two of Black Beauty!
“David and Judith were distraught, over the following months David disbanded the Roxmoor hunt, sold all the horses in the Havillands stables, gave the hounds away and sold Havillands house. He didn’t want anything near him that reminded him of his dead son. His mother never stopped mourning, she sort of faded away a few years later.
“That’s terrible Mrs. Ellis,” whispered Gareth hoarsely.
“It is poor Judith I miss the most, “said Mrs. Ellis uncharacteristically softly, “She was my best friend.”
Gareth thought that he had better make an exit, too many peculiar things had happened to him that day already and it was only three o’clock.
He took his leave of the Vicar, thanking him for the tea. He collected the clothing donations that had been amassed for him and rushed out into the garden to find Rockwork who had been tethered to the garage door. He loaded the saddle bags with blankets and woolly socks and set out for the village shop.