July 4th 1860, Blindingham Hall
Villiers is such a thoughtful servant! How lucky I am that Papa brought him back to the Hall. He has, of late, become a little slower and more pensive – I notice this in myself, too, of course. I suppose I must acknowledge that increasing age brings with it more experiences, not all of which are welcome, so perhaps Villiers and I are feeling our losses more keenly than we would wish. I wonder also whether the duties involved in running the Hall and grounds are weighing heavy on him – I do often hear him say aloud that he wishes Jennet were still here, and he has that stupid boy at his heels much of the day. I must ask him whether he feels the burden is too much. I have no notion, however, what I could do if my guess is correct.
I digress. What brought me to write this entry was a thought he came to me with today which was like the Villiers of old – it was such a joy to see him bright-eyed and full of fun again. He opened my curtains this morning with these words:
‘Ma’am! I have had the best of good ideas! Today it is eighty-four years since the day your new adopted friends across the sea cut themselves adrift from our ancestors. We simply must mark the occasion. I have hatched a plan which I should like to discuss with you after breakfast!’ He ran from my rooms on light feet and with a laugh in his throat, I swear if he could have danced down the stairs he would have.
I was not so enamoured of my time in America to want to share their delight at being free of people like me, and I am not aware that eighty-four is a significant number, being at neither end nor the middle of a decade. But I was intrigued to hear his plans.
As my breakfast was cleared and before I could get up from the table, Villiers skipped into the dining room and shouted ‘Gunpowder, Ma’am! We must use gunpowder!’ He paused, clearly expecting me to know of which he spoke, but I did not. I waited.
‘Tonight, the groundsmen and I would like to entertain you with a display of firepower and colour, to mark your time abroad and your welcome return’. I asked whether he had put this idea to Mr Hatherwick – he should at least be made to feel he has some influence over what happens here (I did not say those words to Villiers, naturally). Villers gave me one of his looks and said ‘I asked the master for his opinion, but he gave none save for telling me he has an appointment in the village this evening and that we are free to do as we wish in this regard’.
So it seems that this evening, at dusk, Josiah will be in the village – in some commercial pursuit, I expect – and I will be seated on the terrace while Villiers and the grounds staff set fire to things in front of me. I will set my face to be pleased, for Villiers’ sake. I may even actually enjoy it!