I had fully intended to take matters into my own hands this morning, after Josiah spoke sharply to Villiers again at breakfast. I was planning to ensure that the servants were all out or occupied so that they would not be witness to an angry exchange between husband and wife – I pride myself on having ensured throughout our marriage that Josiah and I have hardly had a cross word and any we have spoken have been entirely in private. I had left a note for Villiers instructing him to go shopping for the wherewithal for me to knit something for Boo’s girl, and I knew the kitchen staff would be going to the markets.
As I approached Josiah’s dressing room door – which was closed as usual and most probably locked – I could hear voices. Josiah was talking urgently to Villiers. They were both trying their best to whisper, but, being men, were unable to stay quiet for long.
“God damn you, man!” I heard my husband say. I could tell he was speaking through his teeth, which always makes him spit a little. I hoped for the sake of the laundry staff that he had already removed the silk jacket he had been wearing.
“Sir, please do not involve me any further – I am a faithful butler to you, you cannot gainsay me there – but I do not wish to carry out your instructions on this matter.” Villers was pleading in his whiny way, but I could tell he was determined.
“You will do as I ask!”
“I will not!”
“You most certainly will!”
“Do not ask it of me!”
They argued this way like grown schoolboys for a minute or two, before falling into an enraged silence. Then I heard Villiers say,
“Very well, sir – as you are my master I must do your bidding. But I wish you to know that I object most strongly to your instruction. There is a child’s welfare involved here, Sir. A child whose happiness should surely be of concern to you.”
“Damn you, Villiers! You will not speak to me again about that child, except to tell me when he and his wretched, grasping mother have left that house. Now get out of my sight and go do as you have been ordered!”
This sounded quite final and I did not wish to be caught listening, so I rushed to my own room and stood where I could not be seen from the landing. Villiers threw the dressing room door open and – with a noise which was neither a sob, nor a roar but something in between – hurled himself down the stairs and through to the servants’ quarters. My good intention to approach Josiah deserted me momentarily, as the door was slammed shut and immediately locked again.
Villiers was clearly about to go out to perform a task for Josiah – one which he was extremely reluctant to undertake. I reasoned that he would not want at the same time to be burdened with a choice of wools, so I moved as quickly as I could to retrieve the note I had left for him. It was at that moment I decided to follow him.