Snow is falling outside, and I am thinking about the Samodiva. It seems strange now, but there was once a time when I had never even heard the word. Since then, the Samodiva has infected the course of my life in many ways.
The story was told to me in 1935. War was still a few years off but England was in the grip of a fierce winter. My fiancée Ruby Soames (as she was then) had invited me out to stay with her family over the Christmas period. It was a comparatively small house, set in a wide expanse of snow-dappled land. As we drove up the gravel drive, I saw Ruby’s mother and father waiting for us, framed in the glowing doorway like a couple of phantoms.
Ruby’s mother was a quiet and insipid woman. She was stout and dignified, with a sweet little voice. She always wore black, and today favoured us with a funereal dress that reached her ankles and culminated at her neck in a rippling ruff. With her white skin and sunken eyes, she looked like nothing so much as one of those Victorian memento mori photographs. Mrs Soames gave us a faint smile as Ruby and I climbed from the car, our breath snatched from us by a biting wind.
Ruby’s father was more garrulous in his greeting. He stepped forward and gripped my hand in a tight shake: ‘How are you, my boy?’
‘Well, thank you Colonel.’