August 13th 1853
My Dearest Boo
I send my fondest regards to you and LB and baby Angelina – and to Mr Pitt as well, of course. I confess my household is in a state of disarray, such that I am not happy to invite you into it. This letter is to explain a little of what I have suffered recently and to ask for a pardon for my desultory show of hospitality over this summer in London.
The most terrible thing has happened, Boo. Villiers has left us! You told me he was turned upside down by the impending marriage of Jennet to that blockheaded girl. That wedding has now taken place in the village and it seems that Villiers is unable to bear being employed in the same family. So, the Hatherwicks have lost a butler and gained a stupid kitchenmaid. In my generosity I offered Jennet’s bride a place amongst the Blindingham staff – hoping she has improved since she was last with us. We are not returning there for another month (Oh, Boo – you will adore the new rooms we have had built. We have Chinese silk in the first guest room – from China!) but Villiers could take no more of Josiah’s teasing and whilst I was away they had the most awful falling out. He did not even work out his notice.
I went yesterday to the lodging house in Camden where he has taken refuge. His sister owns it, I believe, although she was not present when I called. It is a pleasant enough place, although quite drab on the outside, with flower baskets which were woefully unattended for the time of year. The sister is landlady to a number of distressed young men, it seems, as the downstairs parlour was full of Villiers’ co-habitants, all clucking and plucking over their lunch. One of them came to the door when I rang the bell and as I entered I was minded of a mother bird returning to the nest at feeding time – there was a silence as they all turned to me with expectant, open faces but as Villiers emerged to greet me they returned to chooking and scraping at their soup bowls.
Villiers was adamant that he could not return, despite some pitiful pleading from me. He allowed me to reclaim Dauncey – which is the least I expected of him – but sent me on my way with a sad resolve not to accompany me. He seems convinced that I am not safe in Josiah’s care and insisted on making prophecies and warnings which meant nothing to me at all. Remembering his shocking treatment of the Girl and her idiot child and his distress at the loss of the booby from Blindingham, I fancy he may be a little unhinged, Boo. There can be no other explanation for his hatred of Josiah and his concern for me – he is driven by guilt and unrequited love for that farm animal of a girl.
Do you know of a physician who specialises in diseases of the mind, Boo? I should so love to restore Villiers’ senses to him. I wish above all else for him to be happy and for Garforth to be on the watch for employment elsewhere.
Really, what with Cook and now this, I fear Josiah and I have been most unfortunate in our employment of the mentally fragile. I wonder whether I have been too tolerant and understanding in my treatment of them. Perhaps a few more harsh words from me would stop me having to save them from themselves when I am most in need of them!
I shall come to see you soon, Boo. I give you my word that you and yours will be the first guests to stay with us at Blindingham. I know that Josiah is keen to give my closest friend the best of our newly refurbished bedchambers,