The closing days of January saw hectic preparations for the funeral of Indira Gayetri, the dowager Maharani of Maharashtra.
In an effort to be helpful, Lucia also contacted Lord Ardingly as Lord Lieutenant of the county to enquire discreetly as to the etiquette regarding the possible representation of His Majesty the King at the funeral of a Dowager Maharani.
Snow and ice still gripped Tilling as February began with the day of the funeral. An impressive cavalcade of motor cars drew slowly away from "Grebe" that morning. Behind the long black hearse followed the Rolls driven by Cadman with Lucia and Georgie Pillson and Elizabeth and Major Benjy Mapp-Flint, as chief mourners.
There followed Lord and Lady Ardingly in the Ardingly Daimler, bearing the Lord Lieutenant's armorial shield.
Next was the Wyse's Royce, today driven by the bovine Boon, whose funereal demeanour was well-suited to the sombre occasion. Susan and Algernon were accompanied by Diva Plaistow and Evie Bartlett.
The cortege was completed by a black Riley driven by Inspector Morrison, wearing dress uniform, with Bunty Morrison at his side. The twins were at school that morning and, in any event, deemed too young for such an occasion.
The rest of those attending, such as Quaint Irene Coles, Diva's servant Janet, her sister's son Neville and his girlfriend Muriel Twistevant, went straight to the church and awaited in their pews as the hearse arrived and the coffin and principal mourners were greeted and led ceremoniously down the aisle of Tilling Church by the padre, Kenneth Bartlett.
All present agreed that the service "went" very well indeed. Hymns included "The Day Thou Gavest," and, "The Strife is O'er."
Lucia had endeavoured to put together an eclectic selection of readings, beginning with her own rendition of Shakespeare's sonnet,
"Fear no more the heat o' the sun,
Nor the furious winter's rages."
Lucia had aimed to distinguish between the heat and dazzling sunshine of the Raj and the icy chill of a February morning in Sussex, "thus encapsulating the sharp contrasts of Life's journey." She thought she had succeeded quite well.
To broaden proceedings, Lucia had inventively included a touching poem by the Bengali writer Rabindraneth Tagore, "Farewell My Friends," to be given by her husband, which began,
"It was beautiful as long as it lasted
The journey of my life.
I have no regrets whatsoever
Save the pain I'll leave behind."
As he sat down, much relieved after his reading, Lucia patted Georgie's hand and whispered, "Beautifully read, Georgino mio," and paradoxically adopted her "Beethoven expression" to listen to the organist's performance of a Bach fugue, which she was forced to admit was "passably competent," though privately she felt it lacked the poignancy of her own version of the "Moonlight Sonata."
After the congregation essayed a spirited rendition of "Lead Kindly Light", Algernon Wyse gave a resolute reading of Alfred Lord Tennyson's "Crossing the Bar" with its final stanza so meaningful to Mesdames Mapp-Flint and Pillson, after their ordeal together on the Gallagher Bank, six or so years before:
"For though from out our bourne of Time and Place
The flood may bear me far,
I hope to see my Pilot face to face
When I have crossed the bar."
Psalm 42, Hope in God, was followed by a reading of high sentiment by Major Benjy. The brittle leather of his old riding boots creaked and his spurs clicked and occasionally sparked on the stone floor, as he marched stiffly to the bronze eagle of the lectern.
Ignoring the neatly-typed copy of the poem allocated to him by Lucia, "Life," which Charlotte Bronte urged her readers to
"..believe, is not a dream
So dark as sages say;
Oft a little morning rain
Foretells a pleasant day."
Instead, in a clear voice, the Major almost barked "If " by Rudyard Kipling. As delivered from memory, the lines seemed redolent both of the mores of the dusty plains of the Raj, as much as the muddy playing fields of a hundred public schools in England many thousands of miles to the north.
As he concluded with the thundering assertion, "And - which is more - you'll be a Man, my son!" and a dramatic, shuddering salute, which rattled the row of campaign medals on his chest, more than one member of the congregation wondered privately at the relevance of the poem to an Indian Maharani. Some thought the choice might have been intended as the mournful tribute of one son of Empire to another following the poet's sad passing shortly after the turn of the year. No-one, however, denied the sincerity, and indeed volume, of the declamation. Only Major Benjy and Elizabeth knew that his reading was a father's farewell to the brave soldier son, he had never known.
Gathered outside the West door after the interment, in the shadow of the flying buttresses, those attending were invited by Elizabeth Mapp-Flint to "a reception and simple fork buffet at home." From Tilling Church, the cortege, other than the hearse, retraced its tracks in the gently falling snow back across the marsh and out to "Grebe," where refreshments were laid out in the dining room in readiness.
Coming out from his office, Inspector Morrison took control of the situation and sent his Sergeant and two constables out in the patrol car to the spot described by the Curate. He followed in his Riley with the Curate,who grew more composed and explained what had happened.