Single Occupancy

Sydney Walk
May 30th 1853

Darling Boo

I do not wish to impose on your precious time with the new one, sweet kitten that she is, but my mind is sore with sadness about Papa. I know you love him almost as much as I do and it is for that reason I shall lay out in this letter details of my visit to him this morning. You may be able to make more sense of the exchange than I have yet managed.

I went to his house without first sending word that I was coming. I usually send a boy to announce my arrival, as you know, but I have been terribly ill recently and was not thinking with my customary foresight. As I rang the street door bell I felt a little nervous about what reception awaited me – since the fire I have hardly spoken twenty words with him. I have been much occupied with finding Cook and making plans for the rebuilding of the Hall and had quite forgot my duty to him as a daughter. I would have forgiven him if he had no wish to welcome me in unnanounced.

But as the maid began to show me up to his study, I heard him calling out. I could not decipher the words but he was most definitely in some degree of distress. I was alarmed, naturally, and even more so when the maid stopped on the stair ahead of me, turned abruptly and said,

“I’m ever so sorry Madam, I shouldn’t have shown you up without knocking on his door. I’m under strict instructions never to open a door without him knowing. Please don’t tell him what a silly mistake I have made!” As she said this she made as if to bustle me back down to the hall, all the while with Papa shouting from the other side of his study door!

“Do not push me downstairs, you silly child!” I said, crossly. In truth it is becoming impossible to find servants with the sense of a newborn babe of late. Quite where Papa found this one, I dare not guess. “My father obviously needs assistance and if you won’t go to him, I shall!”

She stood aside to let me carry on up the stairs. Her face was a picture of terror and she tried to protest again but I paid her no heed. I ran to Papa’s door and turned the handle but he must have locked himself in, the goose. He need protect himself from no-one in his own home in broad daylight, even in this ungodly city. His cries had died down by now, so I called out to him,

“Papa! It is me, Effie – can you let me in? Are you able to get to the door, or have you fallen? What has happened to make you cry out so?”

There was no answer from him, save for some sounds I could not quite understand – I heard a chair being moved, I think, and he must have been lying on his daybed because I heard the springs creak. I was frantic with worry that he was not able to speak or move.

“Papa! Please – are you alright? Shall I send for someone to help you up?”

The door flew open and there was Papa, with his necktie undone and his hair not brushed. This was not usual for him, he is always dressed for the day by dawn and now it was nearly 12 o’clock.

“Effie!” he shouted “I hear no word from you for nearly two months and now you are hammering my study door down – what on earth do you want?” He was quite crazy, Boo, I have never seen him so flushed and breathless.

“I am sorry, Papa – it is precisely because of my inexcusable absence that I am here now in such a rush to see you. I know I have not been a good daughter to you of late. You see, there was the most dreadful fire at the Hall and no-one knew where Cook was, so Josiah and I…”

“Please, Effie, not now. I am engaged in important business and am in no mood to be disturbed. Why did you not send a note to say you were coming?”

“I forgot, Papa – I have had the most dreadful..”

“No matter! I cannot hear your tales now. I will have tea with you tomorrow, if you still wish to tell me your news. For the moment, though, you must let Constance see you out.” And then he just shut the door!

So although I have learned that his maid is called Constance – which is a name ill-befitting one who showed such indecision in her dealings with me – I know nothing about his welfare and am not likely to until tomorrow.

Boo, what does this behaviour signify? Why was he shouting, and why so dishevelled in the middle of the day? Why, having seen me come to visit, did he shoo me away like a dog?

I dare not commit my fears to paper, but am concerned that his living alone since Mama passed has driven him witless. And my neglect of him has left his mind free to unravel. I am such a dreadful woman – I have allowed my own problems to obscure the obvious need my father has for his daughter’s attention.

I shall wait for your answer, Boo – you know Papa, please tell me what you think of the events of today. I must be forewarned before seeing him tomorrow. And I must think about asking Josiah if Papa can come to live with us. Must I not?


4 thoughts on “Single Occupancy

  1. I find myself deeply wondering at this point if Effie has ever trully engaged in “marital relations” with her darling husband… I DO believe it’s been amply shown he’s capable of fathering children, and Effie seems totally oblivious to the truth of coupling…

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