It was around sundown. Although, sun rarely visits these parts.
The light filtering through the dark blanket of clouds was fading and oil lanterns took its place. Heavy rain was pouring down like God's rods, crumbling Theodore Hold's constantly malfunctioning parasol and aptly revealing him to be as out of place as he already felt. A chapel was nearby. He stood beside a weather-beaten cypress tree, part of a small congregation of figures surrounding a hole in the ground. Funerals always made him uneasy. It was the people there. This one, luckily, was attended only by a few.
Uncle Audacious Sage was not particularly beloved among his professional flora-related circles - or any other circles for that matter, especially the years after his unanimously acknowledged dramatic departure from the Duchess' Botanical Gardens. The matter was so flammable back then, that nobody even dared fire a question. They all waited in silent anticipation, for either uncle Audacious to boast his erudite posture and win the auditorium, or Duchess Absynthia to act according to her reputation and exile him off to the Quarrel Quarries. In a rather surprising turn of events, Audacious decided to walk away, “leaving you self-centered broccoli to clear the mess” as it was evidently noted in the headline of the Evenhanded Gazeteer.
He had no clue of his uncle's whereabouts ever since. Not until he received correspondence bearing the news of his death a few days ago.
With a clumsy move he tipped his semi top hat to his unprotected side to reduce the already large amount of water soaking into his clothes. Vision was hampered by the watery lashes and the faces of the attendees blurred as they suffered through the burial ceremony. Nevertheless, he tried to suppress the vexation of a wet left sock and took an inspective look.
The zealous, old vicar, a skeletal tall man - whose phalanges between his finger joints were as big as regular fingers, held a tattered Bible and recited loudly, competing with the rain's booming sound. '...and whoever lives by believing in Me will never die...' Next to him the imp-like, middle aged curate - vicar's precious errant man by the looks of it, held an umbrella above his employer's head in an attempt to cover the holy vestments. He looked dedicated and proud of his deed, while he was probably catching pneumonia. A couple of accordingly black-dressed ladies of indistinct age were sobbing behind their lacy veils, in an apparent, staged mourning. The occasional 'Why God? Why did you take Audacious Sage, a respectable man, from us?' between the vicar's fiery preaches, was just another fine stroke in this tragic satire. There was also another man, standing uncomfortably beside the featureless gravedigger, a few meters away from the rest. Theodore hadn't noticed him initially and suspected he must have gotten here halfway through the sermon. He couldn't take a good look on the face under the hat, but the man held his hands crossed to his belly and rocked impatiently on his feet. He seemed like he was having an unpleasant time coping with the rain.
The funerary bell rang loudly, interrupting the music of the dissonant orchestra they had made for themselves. Startled, he lost his focus and his mind drifted away accompanied only by the mournful sounds. What exactly was he doing here? Obviously not paying respects to his dead uncle, whom he hardly even knew. He was probably his last remaining relative of his mother's side of the family - albeit a distant one both in the family tree and at the level of acquaintance - and indeed, he had received an invitation addressed specifically to him. But did that justify in Theodore's mind; the fact that he had spent his last savings to make a three day trip across the country? Well, for a significant period of time he had been going through a series of misfortunes, as he would mildly-apologetically describe them when asked. After his mother's death and its meager compensation in penny-translated assets, he was forced to make ends meet all by himself. He started as as a dish washer and then an attendant for Shawthorn City's mid-class society's social events. All the while - trying to make use of some unreliable connections, he kept sending manuscripts of his prose works to several of the local paper media and small-time publishers, until he got a column at a gossip periodical. “Nothing too controversial or scandalous”, as the editor always complained. “You have to give them the titillating Tilde and the puissant Pedro having picnic on top of each other, not the one legged monster of Candu whats-its-name and people eaten alive! Nobody wants to read that.” he had quite aptly stated before firing Theodore. What followed was an uneven battle with the unrelenting bureaucratic mechanisms of the city, which deprived him of most of his property.
So, why did Theodore decide to put himself through this clearly unpleasant and awkward situation? The answer to this question, even not fully accepted openly, is bequeathment. Uncle never had any children and was a reclusive person even when he was working for the Duchess. Maybe he was just an antisocial sort of person with eyes only for his work, or maybe this was because he had something to hide. Maybe Theodore, inheriting that something was the solution to his problems.
The chapel's bell rang again, returning Theodore from his dreams of affluence back to the wet cemetery. The vicar had just finished the sermon and the gravedigger already shoveled dirt on the dead uncle. His casket had remained closed for the whole duration, upholding the superstition that water-filled caskets sink before they get across, which in turn, supported the superstition that Death's emergency bucket is hollow.
His contemplating observation of human planting was violently abandoned by an urgent nudge on his arm.
“Excuse me sir. My condolences, but I couldn't wait any longer” said the uncomfortably damp man. He had no umbrella, but a long trench coat which he cautiously inserted his hand into. “I am to give you this.” From inside his coat he revealed a postman's bag - and trying not to get it wet as much as possible, he pulled out an envelope and handed it to Theodore. “Thank you for using Considerate Correspondence for your correspondences.” He raised his coat, lowered his hat, turned his back and left.
In the distance the dim lights of the wagons outlined the way to the harbor city of Rumporth.
“He did wait for the sermon to end. How considerate.” mumbled Theodore holding the unexpected envelope. He stood there still, staring at the unfamiliar wax seal, while everyone silently hurried back to the comfort of some hospitable blazing hearth.