January 15th 1853
I understand that you are not well enough to have visitors at the moment. Indeed I should hate to bring the dangers of the outdoors to your bedside at such a time. But I simply cannot contain myself any longer and decided that the contents of this letter would not be so shocking if delivered in writing, not in person. Please make sure that you are sitting down for the rest of this letter, if you are not already, and promise me you will not alarm Little Bradstone by crying out in amazement when you hear my news.
Boo – Mrs Doughty is not, nor has she ever been, married!
What do you make of that?
I had tea with her yesterday afternoon and after a long discussion about how I might fill your shoes at the Press while you are otherwise occupied, I asked her outright. Emboldened by the situation, I enquired about the whereabouts of Mr Doughty. I said I had always wondered where she kept him and thought he must be a remarkable man to allow her such freedom and power in the London business world. This is what she said,
“My dear, any man would need to be truly remarkable to call himself my husband. I have never met one worthy of the title and am not likely to. I use the title of a married woman to deter any approach of a romantic nature from the male of our species.”
I was so shocked a little bit of cake fell from my mouth.
“But then do you live alone, Mrs Doughty? You seem too full of life not to share it with a husband. I know I could not endure these long days in London without knowing I had Mr Hatherwick to talk to at night.”
” Effie,” she said to me “The prospect of having to explain myself to Mr Hatherwick every night is too awful to contemplate.” Before more cake could spill onto my skirts, she added “Oh, I do not mean your husband above all others, my dear. Please do not think that. I simply cannot regard any man highly enough to confide my hopes and dreams in him. Now, I must take my leave of you. I have a meeting of the London hospital board to attend.”
As she stood up to go, I ventured another question,
“Mrs Doughty, you have so much generosity in your soul. Have you never thought of children?”
She turned back to face me and stifled a little twitch of her mouth, I am sure.
“When I think of children, Effie, they are never my own. I have never imagined myself giving birth to or suckling an infant conceived from the sort of liaison necessary to produce one.”
When she saw my still open mouth she softened slightly and said, “I am the sort of woman who is able help many people with my work. That is enough maternity for me, more than enough. I shall no doubt be seeing you again soon at the Press, but for now, farewell.” Then she swept out!
Did you know this before, Boo? Why did you not say, if you did? If you were as unaware as I, then I hope I have not caused you undue shock. But goodness me, what a revelation! Mrs Doughty has turned her back on marriage and motherhood all so she can help others in greater need. She is truly deserving of a sainthood, nothing less.
Do write back with yr thoughts, Boo. We are in the presence of greatness!