Recipe for the Cook


Blindingham Hall
August 23rd 1852

Dear, Dear Boo

I am so weary of playing nursemaid! I have asked Josiah if he will let Villiers come with me to London – I am beside myself with the need to see you and LB, and Mrs Doughty and all my friends – but he says he cannot spare me from the Hall, not even for a day. I am not entirely sure what it is he needs me for, since he is hidden away in his office much of the day and overseeing the Nurse’s progress in the late afternoons. She is a very capable girl and I have told Josiah that I do not think she needs daily supervision, but he insists that Cook deserves only the finest of staff to attend her and that the Nurse is still in need of some training. He is a very conscientious man, my husband, Boo, as you know. So much so that he has asked me to consider keeping the Nurse on after Cook has recovered. He wishes to retain her services so that we may look after other unfortunates, should we ever encounter any. I am overcome with admiration at his thoughtfulness and shall agree to his request.

I walk with Cook in the afternoons now. She is robust enough to withstand a stroll in my little garden, which is by far the best place since it is not overlooked and we can be sure no staff can watch us. No-one approaching from the village would ever see her, thank goodness, because she does present an alarming vision to someone unused to her condition. She has begun to fancy herself as Mistress of the Hall and is wont to give me instructions as I walk with her! I do not correct this delusion – indeed it can be quite amusing – but I do not carry out her orders, of course. She does not notice my insubordination, poor woman, and I have no wish to distress her further by asserting my true position.

My concern is with her appearance, Boo, really you should see her. Nurse gave her some clothes belonging to Josiah’s Mama – who has been dead for fifteen years – and dresses her hair each morning in a variety of mountainous arrangements which make her feel quite the fashionable lady. Nurse then allows Cook to wander around the rooms she is occupying as if she were in charge. Her delusion, which gives her a frighteningly haughty demeanour, is thus fuelled by our actions. I do wonder whether this is the best course of treatment for the poor soul, but Josiah assures me that he and Nurse have drawn up a plan which requires us to pander to her fantasies for a while longer. I am tiring of it and should love to see you, as I say, but I fear that cannot be.

This has been the longest Summer in memory. Josiah is already talking about our Winter in London – I simply can not wait!

Yrs

Effie x

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