I cannot bear to stay here another day. Mrs Cornbench seems so delighted to be able to provide respite and succour to ‘our poor, poor neighbours’ that I could almost fancy she set the Hall alight herself.
Happily, I may not have to endure her ministrations for much longer. Josiah is anxious to get back to London and arrange our finances so that we can begin to effect the restoration. I have told him I want the finest materials and the best builders working on my home – I was grateful that the men in the village came to save the Hall for us but I hardly think them skilfull enough to rebuild it!
Having suffered such a terrible shock, I find this house far too depressing to my spirits. I need light and fine things around me, but the Cornbenches have arranged this house as though they have taken a vow of self denial. There is scant furniture to speak of and what there is is dark and simple. There are a few pieces which I myself would have chosen – indeed I am sure that we have some very similar at the Hall (if they have been spared from the fire) – but mostly it is small and uncomfortable. I do not know where the Cornbenches came from originally, but very little in this house has been passed down, I can tell.
I am desperate to see LB again – I even miss Villiers, who would be discreet but just as horrified as I am by the way the Cornbenches live. (I may inadvertently pack a pillowcase in my luggage just to watch him squeal at its ordinariness. Has she some medical condition that prevents her from having silk next to her skin?) But we should not leave here until we have some notion of Cook’s whereabouts, I suppose. Jennet and a couple of the village boys have searched the lake as well as they can and Mrs Everdown has spent a great deal of time waiting for her to arrive at the Inn, but there has been no sign. I confess the concern I have for her welfare wanes with every bowl of lukewarm broth and stale biscuits I am forced to eat at the Cornbenchs’ table. Their meals are as drab as their curtains – at least we have the excuse that our Cook is insane.
Every hour without news is like a lifetime. I must go to London soon, I simply must.