"But A Little Time To Live"
Lady Cranleigh gazed at the old photograph, a sad smile playing across her lips. The picture showed two small boys dressed in sailor suits, their fair hair neatly combed, standing side-by-side. Her sons, George and Charles . . . "This was taken on George's seventh birthday," she told Tegan and Nyssa, who, like Lady Cranleigh, were dressed in mourning black. She sighed. "My husband and I had such high hopes for him until . . ."
She shook her head, unable to continue. George had been her elder son; he should have become Lord Cranleigh following her husband's death the year before. But, on one of his botanical expeditions to South America, he had been captured by a tribe who believed the rare black orchid he had been studying was sacred. Tortured into insanity and deprived of his tongue, George had been rescued by Dittar Latoni, the chief of another tribe, who had later helped hide George at Cranleigh Hall. George Cranleigh, once a widely respected botanist, had been reduced to a creature who could only communicate in animal-like snarls and grunts and sometimes even had to be tied up to keep him from wandering. And now he was dead, killed in a fall from the roof.
"Well, he's at peace now," Lady Cranleigh went on, her gaze shifting towards Nyssa. Dressed in a black 1920s dress and coat and with her long hair pinned up under a cloche hat, Nyssa resembled Lady Cranleigh's future daughter-in-law more closely than ever. Except, of course, for when she and Ann had attended the Cranleighs' annual fancy dress party in identical costumes, a prank initiated by Ann to make it impossible for anyone except Tegan (who was in on the joke) to tell her and Nyssa apart. Unfortunately, that included George; he had been engaged to Ann before his ordeal and, somewhere in his shattered mind, he had retained his love for her. But that love had turned into an obsession and George had already killed three members of staff, including Latoni, who had tried to keep him from Ann by the time he seized Nyssa and dragged her onto the roof. The Doctor, having seen what George was capable of and knowing Nyssa could suffer the same fate once George realised his mistake, had (along with George's brother) mounted a rescue, during which Nyssa had been saved, while George had fallen to his death.
But, Lady Cranleigh thought to herself, it was probably better this way. Looking after George would have grown harder for her as she grew older, even with the help of her servants, and it wouldn't have been fair on Charles and Ann to be burdened with an insane relative. And the only other option would have been to have George shut away in a lunatic asylum, something she had been keen to avoid at all costs. That was why she had claimed George had never returned from his ill-fated expedition, why she had had Latoni replace the body of one of George's victims with a doll she had been given as a child and had planned to pass on to her own daughter one day. But, though she had given birth to a daughter named Lucy between the births of George and Charles, the child had died when she was barely five months old.
Just then, Lady Cranleigh's thoughts were interupted by the sound of the door opening, followed by the entrance of the Doctor. He had swapped his usual cricketing outfit for a sombre black suit of the sort worn by Lord Charles Cranleigh, who, his arm around Ann, was following the Doctor. Tegan, standing beside Lady Cranleigh, quickly noted that the Doctor was not wearing his customary stick of celery. She supposed he had decided it would be inappropriate to wear such an outlandish accessory today; after all, they were supposed to be going to a funeral.
"Are we all here?" Lady Cranleigh asked, tearing her gaze away from the photograph of her sons.
"All but Adric," replied Tegan.
The Doctor sighed and rolled his eyes. "I told him to get ready. I'll go and tell him to get a move on." With that, he strode off, muttering audibly about the waywardness of the Alzarian youth. It wasn't that he wasn't fond of Adric, but the boy could be a law unto himself sometimes.
Lady Cranleigh stared at the Doctor's retreating back. Never in its 450-year history had Cranleigh Hall played host to house guests quite like the Doctor and his three companions - the Doctor, a member of an alien race capable of travelling in time; Tegan, a young woman who wouldn't even be born for another thirty-five years; Nyssa, the sole survivor of a lost alien civilization; Adric, a mathematical genius who, from what the Doctor had said, originally came from another universe. Not that she had ever given much thought to the possibility that life might exist beyond Earth . . .
Adric lay on the bed he had been using during his stay at Cranleigh Hall, staring at the ceiling. He was still wearing his usual clothing, the black suit and tie which the Doctor had picked out from the TARDIS's extensive wardrobe lying neglected on a nearby chair. Then, as he lay there, he heard someone knocking on the door and ignored it in the hope that whoever it was would go away. Seconds later, however, he heard the sound of the door being opened, followed by the Doctor's footsteps entering the room.
Adric immediately rolled over and pretended to be asleep. But the Doctor wasn't fooled for a second. Moving closer to the figure on the bed, he cleared his throat loudly, prompting Adric to open his eyes with a start. "Adric," the Doctor said, once the boy had pulled himself into a sitting position, "I thought I told you to get changed." He crossed to the chair, picked up the clothes lying there and held them out to his young friend.
Though Adric took the proffered clothes, the Doctor noted that he did so reluctantly. "These clothes are ridiculous," Adric muttered, holding the black jacket against himself. "Do I have to wear them?"
For a moment, a fleeting smile played across the Doctor's lips; Leela had said almost exactly the same words when he'd asked her to swap her usual short tunic for the blouses with leg-of-mutton sleeves (a style not too dissimilar to the velvet shirt Nyssa usually wore) and other garments worn by women in late Victorian times. But it was quickly replaced by the frown which Adric had come to learn meant the Doctor was not in the mood for any nonsense. "Yes, you do," was the Doctor's curt reply to Adric's attempt to procrastinate. "I told you last night - it's the local custom to wear black clothes to a funeral." After dinner the previous evening, he had spent some time explaining the arrangements for the next day to Nyssa and Adric, neither of whom had attended a human funeral before. Although, to be honest, he hadn't been to many himself.
Adric tried another tack. "I don't see why we have to go to George Cranleigh's funeral anyway. We didn't even know him - and he tried to hurt Nyssa."
"Because the Cranleighs are our hosts. And because George was a very sick man - he wasn't always responsible for his actions," the Doctor replied. Why, he asked himself for the umpteenth time, did Adric always have to be so difficult? He had never had this problem with any of his other teenaged companions.
Adric sighed dramatically; the Doctor was adopting that annoyingly patronising tone he had often adopted since his regeneration at the Pharos Project. And it was a tone he seemed to adopt more with Adric than he did with Tegan and Nyssa. Any second now, Adric thought to himself, the Doctor would order him to get changed on pain of having the job done for him. That was the trouble with being the youngest; people always seemed to want to treat you as though you were permanently five years old.
The Doctor shot Adric a look, one which clearly said: "Get changed or I'll undress you myself." It had the desired effect; there were few things Adric hated more than being treated like a small child. Slowly, he reached towards his belt and began to untie it.
"Can I at least have a bit of privacy?" Adric snapped, as the Doctor continued to hover nearby.
"Doctor, I still don't understand," Tegan said, as Tanner continued to drive the quartet of time-travellers towards the village church. "How can Ann marry Cranleigh after what his mother did?" She nodded towards the head of the cortege, where the Cranleighs and Ann (George's immediate family and future sister-in-law) walked behind the horse-drawn hearse. No outward signs of grief showed on their faces; indeed, Lady Cranleigh seemed determined to hold her head up high.
"Different time, different values, Tegan," the Doctor replied. "Things people from your time would find unacceptable - like keeping a mad relative hidden away - were commonplace in this time."
"Besides," Nyssa added, "the George Cranleigh who died wasn't the same George Cranleigh Ann fell in love with." She thought of the large portrait of George which hung in the parlour at Cranleigh Hall; it was hard to believe that the wreck of a human being who now lay enclosed within an oak coffin had once been the handsome young man depicted in that portrait.
"But that doesn't make it right," Tegan persisted.
The Doctor did not reply to this; he was mulling over the events of a few days ago. There was no doubt in his mind that the man who had taken the harlequin costume he had planned to wear to the Cranleighs' party had been George. And there was no doubt in his mind that George had been the silent stranger who had danced with Ann on the terrace, who had led her into the house, who had tried to imprison her in one of the bedrooms. To do all that and return the harlequin costume before it was missed must have taken at least some conscious planning . . . From what Lady Cranleigh had said after Nyssa was snatched, George would never have hurt Ann, but Ann had been hysterical when she was found. And, when she saw the Doctor in the harlequin costume, she had immediately accused him of attacking her and killing the servant who had tried to intervene. Of course, once the truth had emerged, she had apologised to the Doctor at the first opportunity.
"Anyway," the Doctor said to change the subject, "Cranleigh told me he and Ann had planned to marry at the end of the month, but they've decided to put it off. Mark of respect, I suppose." He briefly wondered if he could one day use the TARDIS to take his companions to the wedding, provided, of course, he could find out the new date for the ceremony and the TARDIS didn't then materialise on the wrong co-ordinates. It might interest Tegan to see what a wedding from her own planet's recent history was like, but he wasn't sure about his other two companions. The last wedding Nyssa had attended had been that of her father and stepmother - and he knew, only too well, how that had turned out. As for Adric . . .
Just then, the Doctor's thoughts were interupted as the car drew up outside Saint Stephen's, the 13th Century church where the Cranleighs worshipped on Sundays and in whose churchyard George Cranleigh's body would shortly be interred.
As the final strains of Abide With Me died away, Reverend Shaw bade the congregation be seated. The Doctor closed the hymn book and held it between his thumb and forefinger, not suspecting that, one day, in a future incarnation, he would hear the same hymn being sung by the people he had just freed from a seemingly endless traffic jam in the remote future. For now, though, he directed his gaze to the front of the church, where George Cranleigh's coffin rested on a catafalque.
"We are gathered here today," Reverend Shaw said, "to say farewell to George Cranleigh. George made it his mission in life to study the plants which God created to fill our world with beauty . . ."
And Reverend Shaw proceeded to deliver the eulogy, speaking of George's travels, of his passion for plants, of the suffering he had endured during the last two years of his life. But, as often happens at funerals, few in the congregation paid much attention. Adric certainly didn't, partly because he was feeling decidedly uncomfortable in the suit the Doctor had insisted he wore, partly because simply being inside a church was a new experience for him. He sat gazing at his surroundings, at the large windows whose patterns of coloured glass depicted images of people, at the high ceiling, at the rest of the people who had come to pay their respects.
He was sitting in a pew near the front, with the Doctor and Nyssa on either side of him; Tegan was on the Doctor's other side. The Cranleighs and Ann were in the pew immediately in front of the one occupied by the TARDIS crew, their servants near the back. Sir Robert Muir, the local Chief Constable and a personal friend of the Cranleigh family, was here too, as was Sergeant Markham. And, then, there was Reverend Shaw. With his silvery hair, he reminded Adric of Decider Garif, one of the leaders of his people, the Alzarians. And that reminded him of the family he had lost.
In his mind's eye, he saw himself as an eight-year-old, sobbing in his brother's arms, frightened and bewildered by the death of his mother. At the time, he and Varsh had still had a grandmother, but she had died not long after, leaving the two boys to be cared for by one foster family after another, none of which had resulted in any permanent arrangements. Then, he moved on a few years to the day Varsh had died fighting the Marshmen, leaving Adric with no living relatives.
Lost in his memories, Adric did not notice the tears tracing their way down his cheeks. But Nyssa did notice. "Adric?" she whispered, touching him on the arm. "Are you crying?"
"Of course not," Adric retorted. But there was no disguising the shaking in his voice. Nyssa looked at him, dressed in the black suit the Doctor had given him to wear, the star-shaped badge he had been awarded for his mathematical talents pinned to the jacket, his face stained with tears, and made a decision.
"Come on," she said, getting up and taking Adric by the hand.
Outside, Nyssa sat Adric down on one of the old tombstones and turned him to face her. "Right," she said in a tone which mixed compassion with firmness, "I think you'd better tell me what's wrong."
"Leave me alone!" Adric pulled off the black tie he had been wearing, followed by that ridiculous starched shirt collar, and stuffed them into his pocket.
But Nyssa's only response to this was to move closer to him. "You're thinking about your family, aren't you?" she asked, looking him full in the face. "About your brother?"
"How do you know?"
"Because I've lost my own family, so I know what that feels like." Nyssa thought briefly of her father and how his body had become a vessel for the Master. Then, she shook her head to clear the image of the Master's gloating face from her mind; she hated that face, a distorted version of her father's face, more than anything else in the Universe. "But you don't have to be ashamed of your feelings," she went on. "It's natural to be sad when someone close to you dies."
Adric did not reply to this. He wanted to retort that he was too old to be acting like this, that he had wept for Varsh while he was alone in the TARDIS, that he had vowed never to cry again after that. But the lump in his throat prevented him from speaking. Nyssa placed her arm round his shaking shoulders.
"But your brother isn't really gone," she told him. "He lives on in your memory . . ." She paused. "Look, why don't we take a walk? That might make you feel better."
As Nyssa and Adric strolled among the gravestones, the rest of the funeral party emerged from the church, the Cranleighs' butler, Brewster, and five other male servants carrying the coffin on their shoulders. With Reverend Shaw in the lead, the mourners headed to the plot where George Cranleigh would be laid to rest. It was in an area of the churchyard already occupied by several other members of the Cranleigh family, one of the wealthiest families in the area.
Nyssa and Adric did not approach the graveside. Instead, they watched the burial from a distance, occasionally catching snatches of Reverend Shaw's words. Phrases like "In the midst of life, we are in death" and "our dear brother here departed". The latter puzzled Adric somewhat; he knew there was only one person present to whom George Cranleigh had been a brother. And how could someone be "here" and "departed" at the same time? Another of those odd expressions Earthlings were so fond of using?
Meanwhile, the rest of the mourners began to cast soil into the grave. Lady Cranleigh went first, followed by her surviving son, then his fiancee. Next, the Doctor picked up a handful of soil and threw it into the hole, where it landed on the brass plaque on the coffin which was inscribed with George's name and the dates of his birth and death. Then, as he moved aside to make room for Tegan, he looked up and saw Nyssa and Adric standing several feet away, neither of them showing any inclination to move any closer. He had seen Adric become upset in the church and had guessed the boy was thinking of his brother; it wasn't like Adric to start crying for no reason, certainly not for the death of someone who had been a stranger to him. He had been about to ask Adric if he wanted to go outside, but Nyssa had beaten him to it.
Perhaps, he reflected, it was better to let Nyssa handle Adric under such circumstances. She was the member of the TARDIS crew closest to Adric's age and she was also the only one who never lost patience with him. Tegan and Adric rarely did anything together besides bicker and, as for his own relationship with the young Alzarian, the Doctor had to admit that things had often been strained between them since his regeneration. And it didn't help that Adric had done some decidedly foolhardy things lately - such as his clumsy attempt to pilot the TSS on Deva Loka. Hopefully, given time, the boy would begin to show some signs of maturity . . .
But neither the Doctor nor Tegan and Nyssa had any way of knowing that, in a matter of weeks, they would be gathered in a seldom used room on the TARDIS, holding a ceremony in remembrance of the recently fallen Adric.