Bedlam


Blindingham
May 27th 1852

May the Lord save me from ill-health and infirmity. I decided to repay Mrs Everdown’s loyal service by re-engaging her silly daughter as a maid. I reasoned that her parlous misuse of the mangle could not be replicated with hair combs and I was, to an extent, correct. So, newly dressed and arranged, I set off for Horsham to see Cook.

I have never been in such a terrible place and pray that I shall have no need to return. I do not refer to Horsham as a whole, of course, but to its hospital for the demented, where Cook has been incarcerated for the past three months. My journey was spent listening to the carriage driver slavering over gruesome tales of the inmates there, to the point that when we turned into the gates of the hospital I could not help but cry out. How, then, must it feel to be taken there against one’s will?

The sound of the inmates was the sound of hell itself. Crying, cursing and keening in turns. I should have run mad there myself in minutes.

Cook was brought to me shackled to a miserable nurse who looked no better than the patients. I wept to see her. She was thin with dull eyes and dank hair. Her cheeks were paler than my washstand. She has not seen daylight since she arrived there, I shouldn’t wonder. She thanked me for coming and began to apologise for leaving the Hall without proper instructions for its maintenance. I begged her not to be concerned with domestic matters but to concentrate on getting herself well – I fear, though, if I am truthful, that she may never leave that place. The poor, deranged soul. I gave the matron a sum of money and insisted it be spent on Cook’s personal upkeep since I could not bear to see her so dishevelled.

The carriage ride home was no more comfortable than before and I was glad to see the lights of Blindingham welcoming me home. The new maid was kind enough to comfort me as she prepared me for bed, but I spent a terrible night thinking about how Cook would manage. I shall speak to Josiah and try to arrange special nursing for her. For two pins I would have her back here with us and care for her myself – if only I could be sure she would not come to, or cause us, any harm.

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