October 3rd 1854
I am beside myself with joy! My most fervent fantasies could not have foretold the unutterable rapture of the past few days – my man, my rock, my most dependable friend and guide has been returned to me by the Gods of forgiveness and servitude.
Villiers is once again at Blindingham!
Papa had made no mention of who his new manservant was to be – I am as yet unable to determine whether guile or senility is responsible for his silence on the matter, he is so frail of late. But that is of no concern just now.
I had agreed that Papa was to be met at the station, so I despatched Jennet with clear instructions to speak plainly to him and to repeat himself if necessary. He does not have the sort of face one might remember, so I was worried that Papa may be disconcerted by his approach. I told Jennet that there would be a new man in attendance – bless him, he seemed quite cheered by the thought that Papa was being cared for – and that he must bring them directly to the Hall with no stoppages at the Inn or the market (I was particularly keen that the Welsh woman was not to meet Papa before I had had chance to smooth his hair and trim his nose).
The Cook and I waved Jennet off and then set about preparing the sort of lunch which would make Papa feel welcome but not weary – I chose asparagus soup with fennel, followed by curds and spiced apple. Whilst up in Town I had heard that a man’s diet says much about his character and as I have always believed Papa to be of clean habits and a sharp mind, I chose a lunch to reflect that . I hope his weakness is temporary, but if it proves not to be I shall stem its progress with Cook’s help, I am sure.
At the appointed time – calculated on trusting Jennet to drive slowly for comfort but speedily enough for Papa not to feel inconvenienced until he reached his own quarters – I positioned myself at the entrance to the approach. As I saw the carriage breasting the hill I began to wave – quietly at first but with increasing enthusiasm as they drew nearer. Then I saw Jennet’s stricken face as he drove the horse into the gate. He was ashen, as if his cargo were spirits of the departed – what on earth was the reason for his tears? My heart jumped about under my bodice – had something dreadful happened to Papa on the way here?
The cart halted, Jennet leapt down from the seat and began to unstrap the baggage he and his party carried with them. Papa’s gloved hand emerged gingerly from the window and as I moved to help him step down I almost fainted at what I heard.
‘Sir, please stay seated until I am in a position to receive you. I must be ready for you as you reach for the exit’
I knew that voice! I would recognise it anywhere! I have dreamed more nights than I care to mention of hearing that voice again. As the carriage door flung open I lurched forward and pulled at it as if to fling it from its hinges,
‘Papa! It is me, Effie!’ I shouted, ‘Who is with you?’
‘What did you say?’ called Papa, sounding vague.
‘Papa! Who is your servant?’
‘What a question! What does it matter who I have brought with me? Give me your arm, my dear, I wish to see my rooms as soon as I can!’
Before I could reach forward to take Papa’s hand, my gaze was met by the happiest of sights. Villiers alighted from the carriage as a pony steps on coals, carrying my Papa in his silk-sleeved arms. I nearly died of happiness at the sight of my father and my favoured servant, together and approaching my home.
Villiers smiled at me and said,
‘Madam, I am delighted beyond measure to be once again in your company and your father’s employ. I look forward to giving you my best attention and assure you that I shall look after my master – your father – with my life.’
Then he walked Papa into the house, handing Jennet a note as he did so. Jennet read the note, nodded to Villiers and immediately remounted the driver’s seat. He swept away, in the direction of the village, wiping his eyes as he went. I was pleased to see him so moved by my good fortune and trusted that the note he was holding in his teeth would survive until it reached the village shop – it must have been a list of urgent supplies for Papa.
We have spent two glorious days settling in together and determining our new way of managing the Hall. Garforth is a little in awe of Villiers, I am sure of it. That pleases me very much indeed.
I am truly the luckiest woman alive to have two men so precious to me in my home at last – only Josiah’s presence could make my happiness greater.