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You can't grow red hydrangeas on clay, they said, as the gossip spread round the neighbourhood. Yet no one said this to Mrs Frange, and her scarlet Hydrangea borders bloomed bright every year. Every year the village garden judges came by, and every year they asked her how she did it. Mrs Frange just smiled and said they didn't need to know, and every year she won.

The neighbours talked among themselves, but they said nothing to her. It would only have upset her. When she was burgled, mysteriously unharmed though she was home, and the police could find no trace of the burglar, they said nothing to her for it would have upset her. When her husband died and she vanished all the way to Devon to have him cremated and returned without an urn for her mantelpiece, the neighbours said nothing for it might have upset her. When her son vanished and she told everyone that he had gone to America, the neighbours nodded, and said nothing to upset her. The Hydrangeas bloomed particularly well that year.

When she won the prize again, they decided that enough was enough. They gathered the night after the prize-giving, and gathered their spades and forks and torches, and made their way to Mrs Frange’s house. And they knocked on the door.

They told Mrs Frange that they intended to dig up her hydrangeas. Mrs Frange objected, talking about all the work she'd put into them. The neighbours asked about all the work she'd put under them as well, and Mrs Frange said she didn't know what they meant. But when push came to shove, Mrs Frange was after all an old woman and old women don't take shoves very well. The neighbours looked at the blood on the stoop and Mrs Frange lying on the doorstep with a dent in her skull that matched the corner of the doorstep. But push had come to shove, and they had come too far to stop, so the neighbours ignored her and dug up the hydrangeas. At its second stroke, the fork hit something hard, caught in the roots.

They knelt and clawed the dirt away,...

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