September 5th 1853
I awoke with the startling realisation that I can no longer trust anyone to look after me. I have for far too long relied on the protection of my husband, the care of my closest friend and the paternal instinct still just present in Papa. I must grow up!
The Italian in the village has stirred up a good deal of rivalry amongst Blindingham folk and I, as Lady of the Hall, must show leadership. I must set the tone for the village’s dealings with this man and must, above all, ensure that my place in Blindingham society is reflected in the portrait he will paint of me. I may ask him to paint me here, in the Chinese Room – it is surely the most beautiful room in the Hall and will provide permanent evidence of the tasteful refurbishments Josiah and I have made. The light in the mornings is perfect for my skin tone, but I fear my hair may be too subtle against the darkness of the hair on the oriental women depicted in the silks. I am once again plunged into despondency in the absence of Villiers. He would know exactly where I should sit and how I should dress. This is too much!
I breakfasted well enough but the staff are still becoming familiar with the new kitchens, so my kedgeree was almost cold. I had not the will to go down and complain. I shall allow the cook some time to get to grips with her domain and will observe the route the serving staff take to reach the dining hall – it may be possible to save some seconds that way to ensure the food arrives at a palatable temperature. I have arranged to see Jennet this afternoon to discuss the winter maintenance plans and will walk the grounds with him. I shall enjoy his company, I expect, since he will not ask too much of me except some agreement and general encouragement.
There is so much for me to consider now I am returned! How shall I direct the staff? Which rooms should be made ready for guests over the coming months? What linen has survived the fire? What shrubs are people planting now? Where will I sit for the Italian and would Josiah prefer me to be chaperoned, and by whom?
Oh, I am quite giddy with the responsibility! The resolve I had at breakfast to behave in a more adult manner is slipping away from me even before luncheon…