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‘Envy is the desire to own what another has by right which can never be yours.’

When she exited the purple tunnel, Nessa arrived in a Highland castle upon a hill. She was the owner of the castle, left to her by her family when her father and mother died. They were part of the MacKenzie clan going back hundreds of years. As the family’s heiress she believed she had been given an absolute right to own the castle, but in reality, nobody owns anything. We are all only caretakers for the time allotted to us while we are here upon this Earth, but she did not think in this way at all.

As the older of two sisters, she was responsible for, and charged with, maintaining the estate. In the event of Nessa’s death, the estate would be left to her younger sister, Annie, who had been adopted as a baby when her mother had died giving birth. Nessa did not fully accept her as a sister, but she had been left a small income from the estate, so she was well cared for. Being younger, Annie was constantly a victim of Nessa’s bullying and she kept her badly clothed. As an adopted member of the family Nessa felt Annie did not possess the same rights as she did as a blood descendant of the MacKenzie clan.

Annie was kept in the kitchen where she was made to work with Delores, the cook, and her husband, Ewan, who was gardener and general handyman, as well as chauffeur when it was necessary. Delores was in charge of the kitchen and woe betide anyone who challenged her authority or interfered with her work. She was very capable. Her meals were outstanding and well known in the district.

Annie was never allowed to meet anyone and was made to do menial jobs such as cleaning the stove and emptying the ashes from the fires every day. She was kept busy but she liked to work and this was her responsibility. It gave her some sense of purpose, which was important for her, and as a lover of nature, she would also enjoy working in the garden. She was so happy in her work she would often sing with a voice that was so perfect it held the sound of angels with blessings from heaven. There was joy in every note. All of nature would stop to listen to such beautiful harmony. Even the clouds passing overhead would pause, the rain would be silent and the birds would stop to listen, as did the heather.

Nessa was very envious of Annie’s voice, although she had a good voice herself, but not as sweet as Annie’s. Nessa would have taken Annie’s gift for herself, but it is not possible to take a gift bestowed on one person and steal it for oneself. How could she live another person’s life? Even as a kelpie, it is not possible. What was meant, for good reason, to belong to one individual could not possibly have any purpose to be purloined and usurped by another, but Nessa could not see this. She was filled with envy and resentment. She wanted Annie’s voice, whilst ignoring her own gifts which, of course, every person has.

Despite Nessa’s bullying Annie was always trying to please her older sister who she cared for and wanted her to be happy. She was a generous soul and was always seeing the best in people, but this made her vulnerable. Delores understood this very well and felt quite protective towards her.

For Nessa’s birthday one year, Annie bought her a little gift. They were seated in the garden as Nessa unwrapped the present with greedy excitement, but she was quickly disappointed to discover it was a vase with an uneven rim.

“That is ugly,” she declared ungraciously and threw the paper wrapping on the ground. “Its rim is uneven.”

“No, I don’t think so,” replied Annie, picking up the paper. “It is meant to be imperfect because a pot with uneven edges is more beautiful than a perfectly smooth one. It reminds us that nothing in life is perfect.”


Nessa directed her face towards the sun, her nose twitched, tasting the air with the arrogance of pride. She was not impressed with Annie’s wise words. It just showed Nessa up for being so pragmatic and narrow minded.

She would always find a reason to scold Annie and made her life quite wretched at times. Nessa lacked self-esteem and this was the basis of her envy. She had decided long ago to hide Annie away and to dominate her. If Nessa could not have Annie’s gift, then she would not allow her to enjoy her life either. This was her attitude. Nessa would often hold parties in the castle but Annie was always kept hidden away in the kitchen, away from others’ view. So, nobody really knew Annie or that she even existed, apart from Delores and Ewan. Nessa had joined the local operatic society and choir and often displayed her talents as a singer, and particularly inviting these friends and fellow choristers to her evening parties. Of course, her voice was not anything like Annie’s and this was why she was deliberately hidden away. Nessa liked people to be envious of her and liked to flaunt what she had, not just her singing but also her castle home and position in society. At one such party, Jane, one of her operatic friends, had been showing off her new engagement ring.

“That is an amazing ring,” said Nessa who was glued by the capture of its radiant beauty.

“I have always liked rubies,” said Jane, and Gerald was so extravagant to buy me this as an engagement ring. Quite unnecessary, but I love him more for it.”

“Oh Jane, you are so lucky,” said Nessa, that evening.

Nessa was remembering this episode when she started planning her next shopping trip with Annie, using her to carry the bags.

“Come on, my girl. Let us go shopping. I need to get some things. We’ve got an old friend, Angus, coming to see us this week and I have arranged for him to stay for dinner that evening. He does not know you and I would ask you to stay in the kitchen so I can entertain him alone when he comes. Is that understood?”

“Yes, Nessa. Who is this Angus?”

“He is an old friend I grew up with. You don’t know him.”

“No, I don’t know this person, so I will be quite happy with Delores and Ewan in the kitchen.”

“That is settled then, good. Can you please call Ewan? He can get the car out and take us shopping.”

Annie always enjoyed a trip to the shops. It was her rare day out and an opportunity to see other people as well as admire things to buy. She was excited about the trip. Nessa was always happy to go out as well because she could show off her Rolls Royce car, believing everyone would be envious to own such a beautiful model.

“We are going shopping,” Annie told Delores.

“Oh, that’s great. You haven’t been out for ages. What are you going to buy?”

“Oh, I don’t know yet. I would like a new dress and some other clothes, but we shall see what Nessa says.”

“Why does Nessa always have to have the last word on what you buy? You should decide for yourself and choose what you want,” said Delores. “I don’t like the way she bosses you around and dominates your life the way she does.”

“Oh, that doesn’t matter. Nessa has some good qualities as well.”

“I should co-co. I don’t believe a word of it.”

“I am happy the way I am. I have you and Ewan to look after me, as well.”

“Of course, you are very special to us,” said Delores. “Come on, Ewan. You’re needed. Get in ‘ere. They’re going shopping.”

Ewan was happy to oblige and exchange the hard work in the garden for a restful day in the car. He stood ready to open the front passenger door for Nessa as soon as she appeared, not that he was required to perform this formality but he knew how to impress Nessa.

“Thank you, my man,” said Nessa. Annie gave Ewan a smiling wink and sat in the back seat, out the way. As they drove off Delores called to them.

“Don’t be late. I am expecting you back for tea at four.”

Ewan parked the car at an appropriate space, settled down and prepared for a long wait while Nessa and Annie went to explore the shops in the town.

“We won’t bother with lunch. We haven’t got time and we can get back for a tea before four, as Delores suggested,” said Nessa. Ewan was already aware that lunch was a dim memory from yesterday, and two sisters could not go shopping and think of food at the

same time. Annie had not taken any notice of what Nessa had said, in any case, only focusing on her exciting escapade.

Nessa decided to equip Annie with the first purchase of clothes so that she could have the rest of the day for her own indulgences. So, they went to the nearest clothing supermarket and kitted Annie out with the basic requirements to cover her essential needs, ignoring all sense of decorum. She had to be dressed in the most basic fashion, not to draw any attention away from her older sister.

“Well, that is done. We can concentrate on my essentials now,” said Nessa, gleefully enjoying the prospect of gold panning in the high street shops.

“Yes, thank you, Nessa. I have all I need now,” said Annie.

“That’s good, because I want to go in here.”

Nessa led them into a small local dress shop. The shop owner recognized Nessa as a frequent customer and displayed a range of dresses for her.

“I know your taste madam and what suits you best. Allow me.”

“No, no, I can’t wear that. I look terrible in pink. Yuk!”

“Would madam like this one for formal wear?”

The shop owner presented Nessa with the most expensive dress in the shop and displayed it to avoid her looking at anything else, knowing her exquisite taste in kitsch and excessive garishness.

“Oh, yes. I like that. What do you think, Annie?”

“Mm, not sure.”

“I am sure all your friends would like it. I am sure they would be most envious.” The shop owner, knowing Nessa well enough, knew exactly how to appeal to her inadequate sense of self-esteem by promising all and sundry would admire her.

After trying on the dress and parading in front of the full-length mirror in the shop Nessa announced, “Sold, wonderful. I’ll have it.” Sometime later, after selecting and trying on a few other items, including some silk lingerie, Nessa was happy with her choices and handed the lady her card. She turned to Annie. “Good, that’s done. I have only one more thing I would like to look at.”

Before leaving the shop Nessa loaded the bags of clothing onto Annie, who was always obliging in wanting to please and help, no matter the cost, but she was weak in allowing herself to be used in this way. Deep down she knew this but brushed the thought aside. The next stop was a petite jewelry shop. A small, thin man of beyond retirement age smiled from behind the jewelry counter as his next customer entered the shop.

“I am looking for a ring, something one would wear if one was engaged to be married?” said Nessa, rather pompously.

“You mean an engagement ring?”

“Yes, something like that, but with a ruby in the middle?”

“Yes, certainly, madam.”

He reached into a draw and laid out a selection of rings on a purple cloth, supported on a red velvet display, with slightly trembling fingers and black dirt hiding under his nails.

“We have these, but I think this one would suit madam’s taste superbly,” said the ‘Uriah Heep’ most ‘umbly in his obsequiousness, reaching under the counter again and taking out a ring box. He opened it to reveal a splendid ruby surrounded with diamonds.

“Oh, that is beautiful,” said Nessa. “How much is it?”

The shop owner exposed the price tag hanging underneath the ring. He said nothing and just displayed the tag under Nessa’s nose, perhaps a little too weak to utter the price he was hoping for. Annie peered closer to read the price.

“Wow, that is expensive. Can we afford that?” whispered Annie.

“No, perhaps we can’t, but I can,” said Nessa, confidently.

“I am sure that would complement madam’s social status,” said the sycophant. “The ruby is of the finest quality and would be appreciated by anyone of good taste.”

Again, the magic words were used well and his advertising skills paid handsomely.

Slipping the ring on her finger of the left hand she admired the lavish jewels.

“Yes, I think I will take this one. It fits perfectly. Will a cheque do?”

At least Nessa did not waste time and knew exactly what she was looking for.

“Yes, of course, madam.” He knew his customer well by reputation and that she could be trusted.

As they left the shop with Nessa’s ring Annie visualized the shop keeper rubbing his hands together most ‘umbly. So, all was well, as they went back to the car. Nessa was pleased with the success of her shopping adventure that morning, but felt a little uneasy about all the money she had spent. She was a shopaholic. She had the habit of overspending to raise her excitement levels which would always be tempered with the depression afterwards of having relished an extravagant indulgence. She tapped on the side door window to

awaken Ewan who, with the long boredom of car-minding, had drifted off to the land of Nod.

“Come on, wake up. Time to go.”

“Successful shopping trip?” he asked.

“Yes, indeed. A perfect day,” said Nessa.

When they got back home Annie went and told Delores about the expensive ring Nessa had bought.

“I hope she can afford it, Delores, because I wouldn’t be able to.”

“No, you bet. I wonder why she bought it? It must be for a reason.”

“I wonder too,” said Annie. “You can bet there is a reason. There’s always a reason for everything she does.”

“Yeah, you can say that again,” said Delores.

The next day Nessa gave Annie a brown woolen dress to wash.

“I want this cleaned until it is pure white. I am to wear it when my old friend, Angus, arrives this week from the village. He is very well thought of as a gentleman of some means and I don’t want his visit spoiled by meeting you, so stay below in the kitchen where you belong, you scruff-bag!”

Angus was an old family friend whom Nessa had grown up with and she still held some romantic dreams of winning his affection. She had always kept Annie apart from him in case her youthful loveliness and beautiful singing voice could detract him from her intentions. Angus had been away for many years but had just returned to look after the family estate. He had never met Annie and was unaware of her history.

Annie spent the whole day washing the dress, but with every effort it still turned out brown. In the evening Nessa scolded Annie yet again.

“The dress I gave you is still brown. You haven’t cleaned it.”

“I have. I spent the whole day working on this and it is clean, but it will not change its colour to white.”

“Then you will spend all day tomorrow washing it until it is clean and white as I asked.”

The next day Annie took the dress to the castle moat and sat at the edge and started scrubbing the dress as she had done previously, her eyes streaming with tears. Suddenly a koi carp fish surfaced nearby and spoke with her.

“Why are you crying, my child?”

Annie shot back in amazement. She had never heard a fish speak before, and the voice seemed so gentle and wise.

“Who are you?”

“I am the spirit of your dead mother disguised by this fish, and I want to help you.”

Annie explained what had happened and how unreasonable Nessa was being.

“Then speak with your cook, Delores. Ask her and she will help you.”

Suddenly Nessa appeared and saw Annie talking with the fish.

“What are you doing here? Get on with the washing. I expect that to be clean by tonight.”

Annie took the dress into the kitchen and spoke to Delores about it as the fish had suggested. Meanwhile, Nessa found the fish and killed it. Watching Annie with the carp she could not bear to see her so happy. That wicked envy within her resented Annie enjoying any pleasure.

Annie was crying again when she explained everything to Delores.

“Don’t worry, darling. I’ll soon sort that out for you.”

“Delores, you are a diamond,” sobbed Annie.

“Oi, give over. Give it a rest,” replied Delores with her strong East End of London accent.

“But you are, Delores. I don’t know what I would do without you.”

“Do me a favour,” said Delores, smiling warmly and giving Annie’s arm a gentle squeeze.

Delores did not have a classical education, but she contained a natural wisdom of someone who truly cared. All nature purred with the warmth of her generous voice. She took the dress away and soaked it in bleach for a few hours.

“Oi you, Tadpole,” said Delores. She was addressing her husband, Ewan. “’ave you got any sparrow’s grass in the garden?”

“Do you mean asparagus?” asked Ewan, who knew exactly what she meant. “Yes, do you want some for lunch?”

“Yes, please, darling. That would be lovely.”

Delores smiled a wink to Annie which cheered her up enormously. Annie was never one to hold a grudge and was always very open and direct.

Delores showed her the dress when it was dry. The result was amazing to Annie. She did not know about the effects of bleach and was so relieved. The dress was pure white as Nessa had demanded.

Pleased to present Nessa with the white dress, as she had asked, Annie also found a bunch of white lily-of-the-valley flowers to go with the dress to give her as well. Nessa was in the drawing room, lying on a chaise longue, in a scheme dream, planning her evening with Angus when Annie came to present her with the white dress. Nessa scarcely looked at the dress when Annie showed it to her. She was staring at the flowers.

“Where did you get these flowers from?” asked Nessa rudely.

“I found them in the wood and thought you might like them.”

“They are bad luck. You would bring me an evil omen like this? Go away!”

Annie was so upset with Nessa’s response to her that she ran away into the grounds of the castle, hid in the garden and cried bitterly. In her torment she sung a sad lament that was so distressing to hear that all creatures were disturbed by her despondency. Her song became louder as she wept and sobbed for all the hurt and bad treatment she had received from Nessa over the years. The song was heard over seven hills. The fairies and the goblins, the local wee folk, got to hear this and were greatly grieved. They came to see Annie and explained how Nessa had killed the fish. She was distraught with the horror of it all. Where her tears fell violets sprang up there in the garden. Some months later Annie found the bones of the fish and planted them in the garden. It was there that a few years later, with the help of the fairies, a beautiful apple tree grew from the magic of that spot.

Throughout the day Annie continued to cry and to sing her lament, confused and deeply hurt with all that had happened.

“How could she be so cruel?”

The ravens and the golden eagle heard the song as well and they came to see the cause of such sorrow, concerned by the melancholy of it all. Even the wolves came, and howled in sympathy as they listened to the story Annie sang.

“Be aware. Uncertain is the temper of the wolf,” said one of the fairies, and Annie stopped singing. She stayed out in the garden, crying and wondering what her future should be. The fairies and the other creatures, the wolves, stayed nearby in a supporting vigil. Avery, the leader of the fairies, drew near to her with concern.

“Annie, be aware that your sister is envious of you and your singing talents. You know this?”

“Yes, I do, my small friend.”

“Envy is one thing, but if she also becomes jealous, she could seek to do you harm. Do you realise this as well?”

“No, I hadn’t realised this, no. I shall remain guarded.”

Meanwhile, indoors during the evening, Nessa was putting on her white dress just as she heard Angus arriving at the front door, as expected. Nessa embraced him, welcoming him into the castle, and showed him into the dining room where they were to enjoy a dinner together that evening.

“You look lovely in white,” he said, admiring the dress Annie and the cook had prepared for her. “You know I always go for ladies dressed in white.”

Of course, Nessa knew this as she had been told before by Angus and taken note.

“Oh, do you? How opportune!” she declared with a smile and a glint in her eye.

“But then you always were a good-looking lady,” said Angus.

They both sat down to dinner prepared by Delores. It was a glorious meal and Delores was, indeed, well skilled in her expertise.

“I heard you have a younger sister, Nessa?” Angus inquired. “I’m surprised I have not met her.”

“No, she prefers to work in the kitchen with the cook, a little simple-minded. She is happy there, and not very sociable.”

“That is a shame. I thought I heard her singing in the garden when I arrived this evening, or so I was told by your cook. She has quite a special voice.”

“Yes, that is one blessing she has, but she is not the only one here with a good voice.”

“She sounded very sad?” asked Angus. “What makes her so sad, then? Perhaps she was singing about the sadness of beauty because it is transient?”

“Oh, she has her moods. She can be very tiresome at times. Why do you ask? Am I not enough company for you?”

“Indeed, you are, but I like a good voice when I hear it.”

“Even from a scullery maid?”

“No matter who. Why should that matter when one is gifted as she obviously is? It should not matter how she lives. Are you a little envious, Nessa?”

“No, of course not. Why should I be?”

“Indeed, why should you? But are you sure? You cannot live another person’s life. That is their life, as yours is yours.”

“I am quite happy with my life. Why should I not be?”

Angus was a good psychologist by nature and a bit of a philosopher. He also liked to tease Nessa as well as charm her.

“What is envy? Is it not the desire to achieve or acquire something which is beyond our ability? Is it not better to know one’s limits and aspire to endeavour within one’s potential and not try to be something else? So, is it not then most important to learn about one’s potential before anything else?”

“Yes, how true.” But was Nessa just playing along and not really fully understanding Angus’s philosophy. She was more focused on her flirtations with him than anything mentally stimulating.

“Then you are not an envious person?” asked Angus.

“Good gracious, no.”

Nessa was not going to admit to something that was quite obvious to others. The evening was well spent as they laughed and teased each other, while the wine flowed in abundance accompanied with such good food. Then it was time for Angus to leave.

“I want to say, thank you for such a splendid evening, and your cook is a remarkable woman.

“Yes, Delores is a gem.”

“Oi, I ‘eard that. Do us a favour!” came a voice from the kitchen. “I don’t want to start getting big ‘eaded now, do I.”

“She is well appreciated,” Nessa whispered quietly, “and you have been a great guest, a refreshing change. Thank you for coming.”

“And thank you for a splendid evening, Nessa,” added Angus, as he gave her a kiss on the cheek and left. “And thank Delores for me, would you?”

In the morning Nessa wore her extravagant ring and invited all her friends round for coffee to admire it.

“Angus proposed, did he?”

Nessa said nothing but she acquiesced by her silence, deliberately so, to create the illusion. She was getting the attention she craved as all the friends crowded around to admire the ring. The special effect was thoroughly successful, but it was a strange quirk of her nature that Nessa was never completely satisfied. The excitement of the moment could never last or be repeated. She would then become depressed and resentful. After her friends had gone, she would revert to her old cheerless self again.

The next morning Nessa appeared in the garden looking for Annie, who was singing quietly to herself still tormented by all that had happened.

“Ah, there you are. What are you doing here when there is work to be done in the house?”

Nessa’s eyes glowed and her teeth gritted with anger, inspired by her envy, not just for Annie’s beautiful singing, but also her contentment in simple things and with nature. She was so incensed that she went up to her and slapped her across the face.

“Get back into the house and stop that awful noise,” she screamed and Annie raced off bruised and hurt.

The five wolves and the eagle had stayed in the garden to be near Annie. They were shocked and angered by Nessa’s behaviour and, in an instant, they charged at her. She tried to run away but tripped and lost her footing, and her slipper came off. The eagle swooped down and picked it up, flying off towards the village. The wolves then brought her to the ground, ripping her throat and she was dead within a minute.

Meanwhile, the eagle flew across the village looking for Angus who was resting on a sun lounger in his back garden. The eagle dropped the slipper into his lap. Angus immediately recognized the coat of arms logo on the slipper and realised something was wrong. He raced up to the castle and ran inside, rushing from room to room, looking for Nessa. He suddenly stopped when he heard the voice of Annie in the garden still lamenting in song all that had happened. What was this beautiful voice he heard? What was going on? Angus ran out into the garden, following the sound of the voice, and found Annie kneeling next to Nessa’s body.

“What on Earth has happened?” he asked, his voice shaking, as he bent down to examine Nessa.

Annie stopped singing and wiped away her tears. “She has been attacked by wolves.”

Angus was shocked to hear this and to see Nessa’s body on the ground. He looked to see if anything could be done, but no, she was dead. Delores joined them and they decided to call the police and the local doctor to confirm what had happened. Later, they then called the people in the village to do what was necessary. A little far off the wolves watched with the fairies, but they were unseen, although Delores, who was really very sensitive, knew they were there and she gave a little bow to them, unnoticed by Angus and Annie.

“Angus, although this is a difficult moment, may I introduce you to Annie?” said Delores. “She is Nessa’s sister and she will be taking over the castle from now on. However, a new rose cannot replace an old one in the same ground, so we might have to make some changes here.”

Delores took the engagement ring off Nessa’s finger and gave it to Annie.

“Here, girl. You should have this. It would be more fitting.”

“Indeed, it would,” said Angus, admiring Annie’s hand.

Delores was delighted to introduce Annie to Angus but also a little relieved that she would replace Nessa, who had never been kind to anyone. Not the appropriate time but Angus noted Annie’s beauty, in spite of her poor attire. He was also so intrigued by her singing. He certainly wanted to see more of her, which he did until, in time, they became inseparable. Nessa was never going to be his true love as she had intended, but Annie’s voice and other qualities convinced him utterly who he wanted to spend his life with.

She would sing for him for the rest of their days together, delighting all creatures and fairies, who always appreciated natural beauty and the sounds of heaven; and so, did Delores. Their kisses became invisible butterflies that fluttered around their heads while she sang sweet songs of love and he whispered delightful memories cherished.

The fairies and the goblins were so delighted by what they witnessed that they all danced in a circle, in the Scottish manner, of course, and sang with joy to wondrous music, from harps of gold with silver strings, that has not been heard in the Hills of Scotland since.

Chapter 6, Nessa and Annie, in Hedley Griffin’s book “Serventa, Shadow of the Light”, is a story defining envy, as each of the different chapters exemplify the flaws within Man.

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