I have learned a little of Mrs Doughty’s maternal leanings from Villiers. A short time before I sent him and LB to stay with her she had fallen foul of a rotten cold. I was swift in my dispatch of them, as anyone with an inferno raging in their home would be – and had not thought to enquire as to her health at this time. Indeed I had trusted to fortune that I could not be so unlucky as to have two sick friends as well as a burning house. I was wrong.
When Villiers entered her home with the boy, Mrs Doughty gave my letter of explanation the briefest of readings and went directly to bed for a week. Villiers says she instructed her servants to be welcoming and courteous but it was soon evident that domesticity and child welfare were alien to them all. There was no fire laid in LB’s room, no playthings, very little food save for a kind of broth Mrs Doughty favoured when ill and no-one to give him his bath or read to him. I had expected Villiers to undertake such duties, I suppose, but it seems he was keen not to change his nocturnal arrangements – which, when I was there to mother the poor child, were not in jeopardy. Mrs Doughty keeps unusual hours, I now know, and the whole household was silent from seven o’clock in the evening til daybreak.
So LB was bored and not a little frightened I imagine. At least I believe that to be the reasoning behind his behaviour. Poor lamb, who could blame him for being so terrified of a cold, quiet house when he was used to Boo’s chatter and my ministrations. The boy needed to hear noise and life going on around him.
And it is utter folly to place glass ornaments on an upstairs landing anyway, everybody must know that.
Mrs Doughty tired of LB’s boyish exuberance after the third day, Villiers tells me, by which time only the Waterford was left intact. She whisked him by hansom cab back to Boo’s house – whereupon Boo was heard to blame me – in my absence – for the cuts on his face! The injustice of it.
I have decided to go to Blindingham and find this mysterious set of siblings who have secreted Cook away. I shall find out for myself whether they are heroes or scoundrels. If they are village bred it is sure to be the latter, mark my words.