April 21st 1860, Blindingham Hall
Such flightiness in a grown woman, so unbecoming! No sooner do I take up my pen after 6 years of silence than I set it down again. I fear my first entry after so long was of sufficient darkness to make a person wonder what the intervening years have wrought upon me.
I can scarce bear to recall – but, if my musings to come are to make any sense at all I suppose I must.
In brief, then, prior to my resumption of this journal, these are the events which have brought me to my current state. I fear it is simply a tally of gains and losses, so I will start with the most painful of those.
Papa spent scarce twelve months with us here at Blindingham before contracting a lung condition which took him from us in the space of an afternoon. From the first cry of the Welshwoman to the last gasp in his frail body, I was frozen in fear – my Papa! Dying of a disease which took hold in an instant. He had been enjoying his time here, I fancy, what with his reading and his daily circuits of the grounds. The Welshwoman did indeed take an interest in him and would visit him with things she had baked. I never ate them myself – they seemed to me a love token, for his consumption only. The afternoon he died she had called up to the Hall with a basket of Welsh cakes – I have no notion of what was welsh about them, apart from her having made them – and with only his second or third bite he was overcome with A fit of coughing. I heard her call out for me and as I ran down the lawn to the stone seat he was perched on I saw her beat his back – I am no medic but I do not think that violence towards a man with a sudden onset of infection can be for the good. I asked her to stop hitting him as he was clearly struggling to breathe – poor Papa was red in the face, staring wildly up at her, and me, as I arrived behind her. He reached his hand to me, the one that was not clasped to his throat, and asked for water. But there was no time – he fell forwards, onto the paving, and fought for breath. A tiny piece of welsh cake appeared on his lips as he passed to the next world (where his spiritual friends were no doubt pleased to see him) – the Welshwoman sobbed and fell to her knees asking for forgiveness, but I like to think his last act was to accept a gift of love and succumb to his infection with dignity. Poor Papa! The doctor from the village, summoned by me and upon hearing my account of events, declared him dead of an unknown lung affliction. But I can not to this day look at baked goods without a rising in my throat – such a kind man, snatched too soon.
And Jennet. Poor Jennet, who was never happily married to that stupid girl but was married to her all the same. He took delivery of a new machine designed to make cutting the grass less arduous. As Head Gardener he was always abreast of new methods in the gardening world. He was teaching his new boy – a booby whose only chance of work was outdoors amongst nature – how to handle this machine on a quiet afternoon on the top lawn when it malfunctioned in some fashion. According to Villiers, who was watching this lesson with great interest, the boy pulled a lever which set some mechanism in motion. Jennet shouted ‘Not yet, Boy, not yet, take it slowly!’ Which made the boy laugh for some reason – the machine took flight, Jennet leaped to control it and it fell on him. He lay under it, I was told, for an hour or so waiting for the boy to fetch help. But some form of grinding mechanism was still activated and Jennet became embedded in its grip. He died in agony, I gather, but in the pursuit of his beloved profession. Poetic, but also bizarre.
There were other losses, but of no-one consequential. Villiers saw off that fool Garforth – not to his death, I must point out, but to a luckless household in Bideford.
I make mention of Villiers and what do I hear? He is even now warming the water for my bath. I shall speak of the gains another time, when I have fully grasped what they were.