Chaos

Sydney Walk
August 12th 1853

This is the first minute I have had to sit and consider my own thoughts since I came back from Blindingham. So much has happened I can hardly sort one event from another. Indeed, those theories Papa expounds concerning destiny and connections may not be the ravings of an ageing widower, after all. It is possible that when a butterfly flaps its wings in foreign parts, my entire household is turned on its head.

When I had finally escaped from the intolerable Cornbenches,  I journeyed back to Sydney Walk in the most uncomfortable carriage known to man. The driver stopped at every watering hole along the route, claiming that the horse was in constant need of sustenance – by contrast I had eaten and drunk not a morsel since breakfast. To be carried by a well-fed horse is desirable, I suppose, but in future I shall ensure that the creature is catered for prior to departure. 

My headache did not disperse and when I approached my front door in the late afternoon I was met by a man I had never set eyes on who declared himself to be our new Butler! He smiled down at me rather as a snake may welcome a toad. In my dazed and hungry state, I fancied he was not actually human but some sort of visitation. I asked where my husband was and was told he was at his club. This vexed me more than a little since I had sent word that I would be arriving that afternoon. It appears Josiah had not calculated the dietary needs of the horse any more than I had and had waited in for me but become anxious to meet an associate who was in town for a few days from Lacock.  Something to do with photographic imagery, as far as I could understand.  I knew Josiah had been interested in this field for some time but it now seems he has been introduced to a very influential chap who thinks we shall all be able to make lifelike picture records of the most mundane of activities any day of the week – though why on earth any of us should wish to is beyond me for the moment. This ‘butler’ – Garforth he said his name was – leered a little and I saw perspiration upon his forehead and neck. I can not bear the sight of a man perspiring – not indoors. Villiers is an excitable man but even he can remain sweatless when necessary. Garforth told me he would send a boy out to fetch Josiah and then he ordered the kitchen to prepare me some soup. I was too confused to do much except drink the broth he brought me and go to bed. Josiah arrived home much later apparently and, wishing not to disturb me, spent the night in his dressing room.

It was not until the next morning that I realised I had not seen any sign of Dauncey.

At breakfast Josiah sat quietly, waiting for me to ask him what had happened in my absence. He was obviously reluctant to offer any conversation of his own unless pressed by me. How tiresome men are when they have domestic information to impart.

After half an hour of interrogation I learned the news that I had been dreading. Villiers had indeed left us after he and Josiah  had the most terrible argument. From what I could understand of my husband’s contribution to the debate the damage is such that I fear it may never be repaired. What is more, Villiers took Dauncey with him!  He accused Josiah of neglect and cruelty, saying that he was not fit to look after his own family, leave alone a defenceless animal. I was utterly shocked at Villiers’ assertion that my husband does not protect me, although I confess I was glad that Dauncey had a safe – if temporary – home with someone who loves him. I know Villiers had been dreadfully upset by the news that Jennet was to marry, but I cannot think his distress to be so severe that it has robbed him of his reason. What did he mean? How can he think that Josiah is not a provider for his family?

Josiah engaged the services of this Mr Garforth without observing the proper processes. He was anxious, I am sure, to maintain the household in my absence but nevertheless I am cross that I was not consulted. A Lady should be secure in the knowledge that she is being served by someone fit for the job. Despite being with us for well over a fortnight now, Mr Garforth has not supplied us with any references and is quite vague about his previous employment – Josiah says he was recommended by one of the fellows at his club, so I shall have to be happy with that. It is a gentleman’s establishment and all those who join are professional types with no wish to cause harm to each other, I am sure of it. Still, I do not like him. He gives instructions to the staff as if they are army soldiers and he is their General – he shouts a lot and produces the vilest little bits of spit in the corners of his mouth. The cleaning is no longer being done thoroughly enough and the staff are becoming sloppy in other ways, too. My clothes are not laid out as I would wish, but have an air of desperation about them – as if the maid prepares them with her eyes shut. I found her coming out of Josiah’s dressing room yesterday morning in rather too much of a hurry for someone who is supposed to be organised and capable. What on earth is happening?

So, with my faithful Butler and my cat having left home; my husband is spending every waking hour on his big new idea and I have the task of making everything straight again. I shall visit Villiers later on today – he has gone to his sister, I believe, who runs a guest house in Camden. If I cannot persuade Villiers to come home with me, I may well take one of the rooms and stay there!

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