(Part of a series of tongue-in-cheek and sometimes dark stories about the St. John-Smythe family)
“Grandfather shot Fern’s pet rabbit this morning,” Frederick informed his mother and sisters Constance and Imogene that afternoon while taking tea in the sitting room.
“Oh Frederick, you’re joking. Whatever for?”
“He claimed it was looking at him strangely.”
“Fern won’t be pleased. Can we switch it with a new one without her knowing?”
“Not this time I’m afraid.”
“Ah well, not much for it. We’ll have to get that gun away from your grandfather I suppose.” Mother was the practical one in the family.
“Didn’t you already take it away from him? Last month when he went after those badgers he said were laughing at him?”
A frown flitted across Mother’s face for just an instant before being replaced by her calm and matter-of-fact, if world-weary, expression. “Yes, we did. Your father snuck into his room when Grandfather was out chasing the butterflies off the property. Unfortunately your grandfather has a nose like a bloodhound and he found it two days later.”
It didn’t need to be said, but Frederick said it anyway. “Well, we must do something.”
His mother gave him a ‘yes dear, I know’ look and leaned back in her chair. There was no point doing anything until the tea was done and the dishes removed. But her son was right, they would have to act. And act quickly. Grandfather’s behaviour was getting worse and she feared that it was only a matter of time before he shot one of the maids or, God forbid, one of the hunting dogs.
As the serving-girl cleared the dishes Frederick’s mother came up with an idea.
A few days later the following small but dignified announcement appeared in the Hampshire Evening Post:
St. John-Smythe, Cornelius. Deceased. Suddenly, after an unfortunate shooting accident. Father to Dexter Edwards and Grandfather to Frederick, Constance, Imogene and Fern. Grandfather Cornelius will be much missed.
The hunting dogs were groomed for the funeral.