The Headless Victim
of Step-Mother Love
Pye’s relationship with his step-mother had always been rather strained.
Lady Pye had no love for her step-son. Ever since her marriage to Sir Robert Pye, all
those years ago, she had tried to undermine Hampden. She had tried hard to
poison Sir Robert’s mind against his son, and with some success too.
Hampden was seen as a lazy good for nothing by his father, but in truth
all his efforts to make his way in life were thwarted by his wicked
step-mother. When Sir Robert and Lady Pye’s own little son appeared on
the scene, Hampden’s life became even more unbearable. The lady’s life
soon revolved solely around her own little lad and, as he grew to
adulthood, she began to see Hampden as nothing but a threat to the boy’s
inheritance. Hampden was
rarely allowed out of the house, and Lady Pye even took to vetting his
friends. But he was now a middle-aged man of fifty-five! He wasn’t going
to have any more of her interfering. She had tried to hide him away behind
the gates of Faringdon House for too many years. He didn’t care what the
old witch said anymore, he was going to have some fun no matter what the
was a bitter argument the night that Hampden first announced he was going
into the village unaccompanied. He was going to meet some friends in a
local tavern. His step-mother could not believe her ears. A common tavern
was not the place for someone of his station to be seen. What could he be
thinking of? And what sort of people might he meet? Ruffians and
pick-pockets, harlots and prostitutes. Oh no, Hampden was definitely
staying home. Hampden however was quite determined. Her arguments held no
sway with him. “I'm going out,” he roared, slamming the door as he
tore out of the house.
Pye was furious, but Hampden’s little jaunts continued. He would go out
at night, and in the day time too. Sometimes only into Faringdon,
sometimes to Abingdon, sometimes to Oxford or even London. Sometimes he
wouldn’t tell her where he was going, and sometimes he came home drunk
and abusive! If Hampden wasn’t around, she couldn’t control him, and
if she couldn’t control him, she couldn’t protect her son’s
inheritance. There wasn’t much she could do though, especially when her
husband backed Hampden up. She had hoped her step-son’s rough ways would
incense her husband, but instead he seemed to warm to Hampden’s new
in the village, Hampden had become well known at all the local inns. He
was enjoying his new found freedom to the full. That’s not to say he was
a particularly excessive drinker, but he certainly knew how to have a good
time. He had become especially popular with the ladies. They were forever
vying for his attentions. However, there was only one girl who held any
interest for Hampden. The young barmaid in his favourite tavern was the
picture of perfection. She was dark and petite, with the most entrancing
smile. He couldn’t keep his eyes off her. Hampden was in love.
the weeks, the two became very close. The little barmaid was flattered by
all the attention from the dashing heir to the local manor. He was
handsome and charming and extremely eligible. She was quickly swept off
her feet, and before long Hampden stopped returning home to his own bed
was at this point that Hampden’s step-mother became suspicious. Her
step-son had taken to spending all evening with drunken hoodlums, true,
but he had always returned home in the small hours. Now he was out all
night long, and she was lucky if he appeared again for lunch the next day.
He had avoided all her questions, and her husband knew nothing. It could
only mean one thing: A woman! A
woman who could give Hampden an heir to take the Faringdon estates away
from her own precious little boy.
Pye was determined to find out who the floozy was, who had ensnared her
foolish step-boy. So she sent a servant out, on successive evenings, to
spy on Hampden. Of course, she soon found out all about the young barmaid.
The little tart! How dare she try and wheedle her way into the Pye family.
If she thought she was ever going to get her hands on any of the Pye
fortune, she had another thing coming.
will be boys, my dear,” Sir Robert tried to tell his wife. “Leave
Hampden be. He’ll soon settle down once he’s had a chance to sow a few
wild oats.” Lady Pye would not listen though. Hampden “settling
down” was the last thing she wanted. Once Hampden had found his
confidence with the opposite sex, her husband would be introducing him to
every eligible young lady in the county! The second her step-son returned
home, Lady Pye confronted him with her findings. Hampden was horrified. He
could not believe that even his step-mother would spy
on him. What was wrong with barmaids anyway?
Robert and Lady Pye were both stunned. For some time they stood there open
mouthed, not knowing what to say. Hampden turned to leave.
father was highly troubled by this turn of events. He did not mind his son
having a little fun with the village wenches, but marrying one of them was
out of the question. Lady Pye was over the moon however. She could never
have foreseen such an opportune turn of events. Now was her chance to be
rid of Hampden once and for all. For several days they pondered their
situation. Sir Robert was keen to reverse matters, but the local vicar was
clear that a divorce would be very difficult. Their best chance was to
keep the two as far apart as possible, while they tried to sort things
out. Eventually Lady Pye persuaded her husband to agree to have Hampden
sent away to join the Navy. He would no doubt be posted overseas, and
would be safely out of reach of his, so called, wife.
Naval hierarchy was always keen to take new men on board and they easily
agreed to give Hampden a lieutenancy, no matter what his own wishes might
be. The young Faringdon man was bundled into a carriage and was half way
to Portsmouth, and a ship sailing for the Spanish Coast, before his wife
even knew he had left the village.
though Hampden was to be well out of the country, his step-mother was not
satisfied. She could not bear the thought of him finding someone else.
Even little bastards running about in Spain might be a threat to her son.
She was taking no chances. He might be away from that village harlot, but
now she had pushed him into the navy. Everyone knew what sailors were like
when it came to women. What had she done? Her thoughts tormented her mind both day and night,
until finally she could endure the torture no longer. There was only one
way to truly protect her son’s inheritance. It was the perfect solution.
She began to plot the murder of her own step-son!
Pye had already become friendly with the captain of Hampden’s ship
through their arrangements to have her step-son removed from England. He
was a man of few scruples, and she was certain he would help her in her
cause for the right financial reward. She was sure Hampden’s ship had
not yet sailed from Portsmouth, and so hurriedly wrote to the captain,
cryptically suggesting a scheme. She did not spell things out in words of
two syllables, but the captain got the idea and all was set.
ship soon left for the Iberian peninsula where it became engaged in the
Spanish Wars through an expedition under Sir George Rooke. It was
therefore not difficult for the captain to stage an “accident”. He
engaged the help of one of the more coercible members of his crew,
“Hairy-faced Dick” as his ship-mates called him. During their next
battle, Hampden stood on the foreman’s deck, cutlass in hand, ready to
defend himself. As the bullets flew around their heads, Dick waited for
the signal from his captain, and, when no-one was looking, he pushed poor
Hampden in front of a stray canon. His head was blown clean off.
in Faringdon, Lady Pye wore her grief with hypocritical pride. She even
organised a memorial service in Hampden’s honour. Though she had
justified her actions to herself, her step-son’s ghost was not about to
forgive her. Before she left for the church, his spirit appeared to the
lady with his mangled head resting in his hands. Her screams could be
heard throughout the village, but the servants could see nothing and were
quite concerned for the lady’s sanity. Her young son, meanwhile, was
more interested in the thousand pounds a year he was now due. It was not
until the two entered their coach, to leave for church, that he too saw
his brother appear, and his mother was forced to reveal her wicked deed.
Hampden also terrorised his old captain at his club in Bath, where he had retired as an admiral, and Hairy-faced Dick in his newly bought quayside store did not escape either; and ever afterwards Hampden’s headless phantom haunted the graveyard of Faringdon Church where his memorial service had been held. His restless spirit worried the villagers for a hundred years before they were eventually forced to have the vicar exorcise him. Now at last, he does, finally, rest in peace.
|© Nash Ford Publishing 2001. All Rights Reserved.|