Boo is such a wise and dear friend to me. I sat in her parlour for an hour this afternoon, with her doe eyed baby drooling into my skirts and LB giving orders to his toy soldiers in the corner. Boo looked so calm and happy even though I know she has the pressures of business at her shoulder all the time. I twiddled Angelina’s fingers in my own as I poured out my woes to my friend.
I told her about Villiers’ outburst and described the callous merriment with which Josiah greeted the news. I have been beside myself with fear at the thought of Villiers leaving and could not for one moment understand what Josiah found so amusing. I told Boo everything that had passed between us all. She – wise owl that she is – was silent throughout my story. When I had finished she said,
“Eff – has there been any news from the country?” At first I considered the possibility that she had not heard my tale and was simply offering a pleasantry. “What on earth does that have to do with it?” I asked her – a little curtly, I confess.
“Well, have you asked Villiers why he wishes to leave? Has he received distressing news from his family perhaps?” Bless Boo, I would never have thought of his own life outside my household. I felt almost ashamed.
I thought back to that morning’s post and really could remember nothing arriving for Villiers’ attention. In fact he had not been sent any personal communication for a long time, not since Cook stopped writing to him when they had to start strapping her to the bed in that hellhole in Horsham.
I told Boo,
“No, he had had no news. In fact the only letter we have had this whole nine days was that morning. It was a note to Josiah from Jennet back in Blindingham, asking us to allow him a day off in August so he can celebrate his wedding to that stupid child who used to work for us. You remember, Mrs Everdown’s daughter – the one who could break a canteen of china just by looking at it. Josiah laughed and laughed at this thought. In fact now I think of it he made special efforts to find Villiers to tell him the news – not that he could speak for guffawing.”
Boo took a little time to think about the picture I had painted for her. Then she said,
“Jennet is to marry a girl from the village? Why? Is she with child?”
“Boo! I have not the slightest knowledge or interest in her physical state. If she is to have a child I can only weep for its blighted future. Why are you bothering to ask about her, when it is Villiers and my imminent abandonment I have come to discuss?”
Boo wandered over to me, sweeping a few of LB’s soldiers from their viewing station as she did so. He gave her a look of utter disdain and replaced his men to their positions. She took Angelina from me and rang for the wet nurse – I was grateful for this as the child’s dribbling and squeaking had become quite tiresome. After the nurse had taken the baby, Boo sat next to me, took my hand and said calmly,
“My dearest Eff, you are such a booby sometimes. Surely you can see that Jennet’s marriage is the cause of Villiers’ distress?” I could see no such thing, I assured her. “Poor old Villiers was being made fun of by Josiah and couldn’t bear it. If you wish him to stay in your employ your only hope is to beg your husband to atone for his behaviour.”
I had another cup of tea and then came home, still a little confused as to why Jennet’s nuptials should cause Villiers such pain.
And then of course I realised. My poor loyal servant must have been in love with that idiot all along!
That is why he encouraged us to give her mother a job and why he was angry when Josiah dismissed her for her incompetence. I can see it all now. Villiers loves that silly girl and cannot bear for Jennet to have her. I must see what I can do to prevent the wedding, if that will keep Villiers with us. Unless of course she is indeed in a predicament, in which case I must do all I can to force Josiah to act responsibly. As master of Blindingham he has a duty to care for the staff, past and present. I shall get straight to sorting the matter out to the satisfaction of all of us – I will not go on without Villiers and Josiah must see that I need reassurance that he will take the situation in hand.
So, Boo has proved her superiority in domestic affairs once more. She is a marvel and I am blessed in her friendship. I wish her life were mine in many ways, but I love her too dearly to wish my life were hers.