Thursday, January 4th, 2018
Visiting with the dead. A learning experience.
William could not sleep. He tossed and turned fitfully, unable to find comfort in a strange bed; though he had slept in hammocks and on straw ticking, in stables, and on hay with less difficulty, despite the predations of biting insects. Perhaps the bed was too comfortable considering where he had found sleep over most of the previous five years. Certainly the social setting was much different. The company of women, ladies, young women—and so close—he was not used to. Had he actually married one of them? Yes he had, and promptly seen her snatched from him too.
His thoughts were a jumble of confusion, trying to find some meaning in the fog of what had just transpired. It was too much to try and fathom how everything had so suddenly rolled along like a gigantic snowball, picking him up in its roll.
Was he really married one moment and then a widower the next? He was used to being caught up in a not easily escapable circumstance in battle, where he knew how to deal with what was happening, even the totally unexpected; for extreme violence and quick thinking usually would solve most problems with expedition. But not here in a family setting. War, even with all of its unexpected qualities, he understood clearly enough. This kind of intrigue and gentle inexorable maneuvering and dealing with heart-rending anguish and gentle feminine emotions could confuse, fog, and enmesh a man more firmly and securely than any ambush or becoming mired in a swamp; for it was subtle and had achieved its end before a man had time to think about what was happening or to back from it, if he might.
His head was feverishly going over the events of the last few hours, trying to make sense of it all. Had he been mistaken in the matter and could his cousin have been the intended groom? As far as Mrs. Barristow had known, they could be brothers with the same father. It might be easy to confuse him for his cousin, for they had shared the same father in so many ways, and there was a notable resemblance in facial features, if not in stature. Nothing he could do about any of that now, anyway. What was done, was done. Besides, the young lady would have been dead long before George might have been able to respond, considering where he was.
From what his sister had related to him in her letters, it had seemed that just such a fate had been planned for him by his mother; though from his guarded conversation with Lady Seymour, it seemed that her thoughts had not been along those lines at all, for she had obviously disapproved of him and found him to be lacking in every way as she always had. Perhaps he should not have led her along as he had done. It had been unwise to give her more ammunition to use against him. Too late now to change any of that, but now was not the time for any regrets either, though the Maxton death had been unfortunate and not intended. He found he really did not care what his godmother thought of him any more than he had as a child.
He wondered for a few brief moments if he had not been caught up in a devious and clever conspiracy hatched by his relatives to marry him off. Could Cousin George have been part of some plot and had known what would happen? A moment’s consideration convinced him that no such conspiracy might also include the untimely deaths of two individuals. His cousin had known none of this; everything had been tragic and unexpected.
He had seen gratitude and relief in the face of Mr. Barristow, looking his last upon the world and the faces he loved, and true anguish and grief in their faces. He had married a woman that had been on her deathbed with blood leaking from her mouth and nostrils. These were good people whose world as they had known it had come to an end—losing a husband, father, sister, and daughter.
He had learned of his fellow man the hard way and had rapidly learned who it was that one could trust and believe and who not. Perceptions were misleading and rarely told the entire story. They had been hard lessons at first, for he had been as green as grass. Mrs. Barristow was a true lady, with never a mean thought, unkind word, nor devious plot in her formidable womanly arsenal. He would trust that perception at least.
But his godmother was not one he might trust other than to serve him ill if she could. That again. There had been that about her that made him uncomfortable as they had met. She had seemed to set out to provoke him for some reason and get under his skin and loosen him up, having got him there on false pretenses, and had tried to read more of his character and about him than perhaps he should feel comfortable about.
What had he got caught up in?
Less than a day ashore after a five-year absence, and already he had seen three people die or had been soon to die, all in his presence. Not only that, but he had also married and was a widower, all within ten minutes. He had seen more of life unfold in a day than most might see in a lifetime. What curse had he brought back with him? Further, he had too easily promised enough to a dying man to ensure he might never get to Brooklands before the month was out, or back to London as he had intended.
As the hours unfolded, he heard the others retire reluctantly and uneasily to their undoubtedly equally restless beds considering what their minds would dwell upon, and then he lay there as the clock struck each hour as sleep still eluded him. His life suddenly seemed to consist of only this one last day, for his mind went repeatedly over his encounter with his godmother—wearisome enough—and then with Maxton and then getting caught up in this. Everything was occupying his mind too strongly for him to rest. He could hear one of the night birds moving through the espaliered branches outside of his window and an owl somewhere, then a fox screaming and other myriad noises rustling outside of his open window that he could not easily identify, along with the constant scurrying patter and prying of rats in the attic above his head. It had not been so long ago that he had learned to relish them for what little meat they carried, but he would relate none of that to any of this family. Those times had gone and would not be missed.
When he was a child, he recalled his mother calming him at night when he could not sleep or had a nightmare. She had told him that if he was ever afraid in the dark, he just needed to look at the cat that invariably spent the night at the foot of his bed. If the cat were not disturbed by some noise, then he need not be either. He had lost his fear soon after that.
That was also when he noted a cat actually lying down near his feet on the bed, taking advantage of his warmth with the cooler air blowing across the bed from the window, wide open. It seemed like a good omen in the midst of such ill goings-on. When the rats then also began to fight and to let out eerie screams like those of a child, and the cat left to investigate that and other noises, he decided that he also had had enough of rest for the moment. There were too many unanswered questions racing through his head and he needed to refresh earlier impressions that refused to let him rest until they had been answered. He struggled to understand what had filled his day thus far.
As the clock below stairs chimed the quarters, then the halves and then the hours, and let him know that it was two o’clock, he arose and dressed and made his way along the landing in his stocking feet, realizing that he broadcast his presence and progress with every step, as the boards creaked loudly beneath his weight. He did not need a candle. There was light enough from the windows letting the moon in, for the rain clouds had cleared, and most of the rooms obviously had some light in them for he could see the flickering of candlelight under the large gap at the bottom of some of the doors.
Pausing at a doorway, he heard a male voice within reciting some religious text. He recognized Thomas’s voice and one of the Psalms. This was the master bedroom that he had been in earlier, where Mr. Barristow was now laid out awaiting what little future above ground was his. It was hard to orient himself with such a darkened corridor where previously it had been quite well lit. He made his way in his stocking feet down the equally complaining stairs to the parlor.
A light still burned there from a single candle on the table, and he was surprised to see Mrs. Barristow with her head down on the table, sleeping the sleep of emotional exhaustion, almost as drained of life as her husband upstairs. A large comfortable chair by the parlor fire had been placed there for her to sleep in, but she had been as restless, it seemed, as he had been, and could find no comfort in it.
He chose not to awaken her if he could avoid it, but she seemed in danger of sliding off to the side and to the floor, risking injury as well as a rude awakening, so he could not ignore her predicament. He sat her up and then lifted her easily into his arms and walked over to the chair made ready for her and carefully deposited her in it. Apart from a slight change in her breathing and some mumbling from the depths of what little consciousness she had, she gave no sign that she was aware of anything that might be different. He placed a small cushion beneath her head, and carefully put a blanket over her, made up the dying fire with as little noise as possible, and then returned upstairs.
He must have gone off in the wrong direction; the house was not so large, but it was a veritable rabbit warren, for he found himself in the corridor opposite the one in which his own bedroom was located. He retreated and found again the master bedroom. He heard a voice, Thomas’s, reciting a poem, a dirge, that was also of Viking origin, but common in parts of Yorkshire, which he knew fairly well: a Lyke Wake Dirge. He listened, as Thomas recited it through.
THIS ae nighte, this ae nighte,
—Refrain: Every nighte and alle,
Fire and fleet and candle-lighte,
—Refrain: And Christe receive thy saule.
When thou from hence away art past
To Whinny-muir thou com’st at last
If ever thou gavest hosen and shoon,
Sit thee down and put them on;
If hosen and shoon thou ne’er gav’st nane
The whinnes sall prick thee to the bare bane.
From Whinny-muir when thou may’st pass,
To Brig O’Dread thou com’st at last;
From Brig o’ Dread when thou may’st pass,
to Putgatory fire thou com’st at last;
If ever thou gavest meat or drink,
The fire sall never make thee shrink;
If meat or drink thou ne’er gav’st nane,
The fire will burn thee to the bare bane;
This ae nighte, this ae nighte,
—Every nighte and alle,
Fire and sleet and candle-lighte,
—And Christe receive thy saule.
He knew the meaning of that ‘Brig o’ Dread’; that decisive moment when there was a choice to be made whether a soul should pass into heaven or hell.
He moved further, and paused at the next door along the corridor, this time before the door to the bedroom of the lady he had just married. There was a light showing under the door. He entered quietly and moved across to the bed to look down upon his late and short-lived wife, seeing only a pale face on the pillow, barely illuminated by the one candle sitting on the dresser. Her face showed no sign of blood now and even had a look of peace and contentment. He could now see that she was heavily suntanned as though she had led an outdoor lifestyle. She was neither laid out as he might have expected to avoid problems once rigor mortis set in—he had seen enough of the awkward problems that rigor caused when limbs had to be broken in order to bury someone if there had been the rare luxury of a coffin—nor was she covered over completely as she should be.
He almost jumped when the body let out a faint sigh and adjusted her position. He held his breath. She was alive. He stood still for a few moments and puzzled over the situation, realizing that he was in a strange house, whose arrangements he knew little of, and that few things were what they seemed. What he was thinking could not possibly be true. He must have become disoriented, for it could not be the same room; and yet it was, for there was a smudge of blood on the headboard that he had earlier noticed, and there was a bloody towel almost out of sight, under the edge of the bed, perhaps laid there earlier to try and counter the forces seeking to pull life from the body. He had seen others place a knife, a sword, or even a gun under the bed of a wounded man as a means of sympathetically countering the injuries he had incurred from one of those weapons. Like, to like, was the belief. The towel left there must have been an accidental oversight, as this young lady was well, and clearly alive—the healthiest corpse he had ever seen, and he had seen many. She would be alarmed to find him wandering the house, and in her bedroom.
He recognized her now. This was Annis, the young lady, the daughter who had seemed to judge him harshly for whatever reason. But if that were the case, where was his bride who had occupied that same bed a few hours earlier?
He quietly—as far as the groaning floor would allow him—backed from the room and closed the door, relieved to find that he had not awoken her and that there was no one else to see him. He regretted his decision to go for a walk with so many young women in the house who might be afraid, or worse, if he blundered into their rooms, making all of the noises that the floor made with his passing.
He walked back along the corridor and stopped before the door on the further side of the master bedroom from which mumblings could still be heard and beneath which a light also shone. He tried the door, and cautiously opened it and put his head inside, ready to back out if it were occupied by any other. In this case, there, presumably, was the daughter’s body properly laid out as he expected on top of the bed, and this time the entire body was covered by a sheet—also as expected. As before, a single candle was on the top of the dresser in this room too.
He walked silently over to the bed in the dim light and pulled back the sheet from her head and upper body. She was now in a clean nightdress, free of blood. She had been moved over to this room and laid out while the other room had been tidied up. There was that lifeless, pale face, also free of blood this time, which had been wiped away. Here was the lady he had married.
He put his hand on her cheek and was surprised to feel how cold and lifeless she now seemed, though he should not have been surprised. He looked down at her for some time and then retrieved the candle from the dresser, bringing it closer, and observed her more closely, taking care not to drip wax upon her pale face or on the bed in which she lay. He felt even more like an intruder, violating their expectation that a stranger such as he was, would not risk giving alarm to any of these women. They would trust him not to wander the house and possibly risk blundering in where he should not be, as had happened just a few moments before, and especially not with young daughters in the house and him such an unknown quantity. Or perhaps too well known for his own, or their comfort.
They knew nothing of him at all and certainly knew nothing of his disruptive past nor what caused his father to drive him from these shores five years earlier. At least he hoped not. He doubted they would feel so much at ease with him if they knew any of his difficult past. He was thankful that they didn’t know, or they would not feel so trusting or easy in his company, for how could they know that they had nothing to fear from him?
He had met this lady for the first time just a few hours earlier, had married her, and was now able to view her properly for the first time without all of the uncharacteristic emotions that had attended his previously being with her. Yes, he had cried easily, and from the heart at their pain and grief. There was no shame in that. It had been honest emotion. From the little he had seen of her and her sisters, they were all to be described as beautiful women, despite their faces showing signs of grief and anguish. He felt a lump rising in his throat again at the thought of it all, and how utterly desperate they must feel to be so burdened by such losses that even he began to feel yet again on their behalf; for he had lost something himself that he would never be able to experience again, or recover.
He felt the tears begin to flow again for a few moments, though he could not understand why they came so easily now where they had never come for him in any of the last five years of endless death. He recovered his composure and spoke to her gently, no matter how strange it might seem to be addressing the dead, for he felt a bond with her that he had never experienced before with any living woman. Not even his sister or mother. Most surprising, considering that he had married her barely a few hours earlier. He had never before in his life considered marriage, seeing only a disagreeable change in what was expected and required of one—loss of freedom and a change in lifestyle, and rarely for the better considering what he had seen. What might have been had she lived?
He spoke gently. “For what little comfort it may provide you, Arabella, Bella, my wife, I honestly do wish I had come to know you long before any of this happened. Who knows what different course there might have been for you, and for me? My presence then may have turned you aside from this day and that fate. But what trouble were you and your family faced with that you must needs wed a relative stranger—me—in such haste, and one with such an unenviable history as I?” He sighed. “Not only that, but you on your deathbed to do it.”
He brought a chair over to the bed and sat down beside her as he considered how best he might move forward without losing the trust of these vulnerable ladies. He took her bruised hand in his, for rigor had not yet started; and to his own surprise when he later considered his actions, he actually conducted a lengthy, one-sided conversation with his former bride. He told her far more about himself than he had ever shared with anyone in the previous five years, indeed ever. If there were any vestige of consciousness remaining even after death and in that transition to the other life, she would at least be comforted by knowing something—albeit one-sided—of the stranger she had married, from both words and caress. Or maybe nothing of any credit, considering what the general impression of his own relatives was of him.
Strangely, he gained some comfort from it, as foolish as it obviously was, for he believed in none of that intermediate, tenuous state betwixt life and death or of the passage of a soul, if the soul existed even, or even might move—called away upon the death of the body. Death was death. He had seen more than enough of it first hand for a hundred lifetimes and had felt it touch him more than once. No consciousness of any kind afterward, despite those who claimed the ability to converse with the dead. It was devastatingly final, and there was nothing to look forward to afterward. Dust to dust, indeed.
After about five minutes he replaced the candle and the chair, put her arm across her chest again, covered her and retraced his steps to the master bedroom, feeling more confident at what it contained, knowing that Mrs. Barristow would still be safely downstairs. He pushed open the door and entered. Thomas sat there with his eyes wide with fear as the door opened and a ghostly face appeared around it. There was the corpse laid out on the bed, covered fully as was the corpse he had found in the previous bedroom.
William smiled sadly and with understanding. “I see you are not used to sitting vigil upon a corpse?”
Thomas let out an explosive breath after holding it in terror as the door had swung in and a pale face, illuminated in the ghostly candlelight glow within the room, had appeared. He laughed quietly and nervously, but without humor at his own embarrassed fear.
“No, sir, I am not. Death is a fearful thing, even upon someone I knew and loved as I did this man, but I remember him as he lived and not as this one who is a stranger to me now. His soul is gone, and the man I knew is no more. I am not used to this for I was never called upon afore for this duty.”
William approached the bed. “I could not sleep. I was bidding farewell to my bride. A sad moment to meet someone and then see them die so soon after, with neither of us knowing anything of the other. If you wish, I can stay here and keep your vigil, as I cannot sleep either. I have watched over many such as this as they quit this life, and to keep animals off, though in less comfortable circumstances.”
“Well thank you, sir, I would appreciate that, but I shall not leave him. I promised the girls and their mother that I would keep him company at this time, and that he would not be left alone on this night, or they would have had to have done so themselves. It would not have been right putting such young ladies in such an unenviable and awkward predicament, for they would probably be more feared of this than I am, but then again, I’m feared enough for all of ’em, I think.”
“May I see him once more?”
“Well, sir. I expect you can. You have that right, I think. I doubt he’ll complain. Though there is nothing special to see other than that great scar on his neck, though he has a stubble on his face that will need to come off I see.”
“Yes, the hair continues to grow for some time. Quite surprising at first.” William pulled back the cover and saw his late wife’s father for the second and probably the last time in his life. He looked to be at peace without sign of the pain that must have been his lot in the last few moments as the carriage rolled upon him, and then accepting a stranger to marry his daughter dying in the next room. Then the final anguish, seeing his wife and daughters looking upon him tearfully as he slipped into unconsciousness and onto the path out of this life. He touched his hands and was surprised at how cold he seemed also, even as his deceased daughter had been, but then William was sweating for some reason, so everything would seem cold to his touch.
“You say you’ve done this afore, sir?” Thomas looked at him with wide eyes, though less scared now.
“Yes. Many times.” He re-covered the man who had become his father-in-law, and regretted that here lay another individual that he wished he might have known even a little. He moved back from the bed and sat down.
“I recovered the bodies of many of my friends and others from the battlefield on several—no—on too many occasions and laid them out ready for burial; even the French too, where their living counterparts were long gone, stood guard over them to keep away the dogs, and….” better not to speak of that, he realized; he was back in a different society now, “and even buried them with whatever little of the service I could remember. Often, the French and English in the same common grave. Soldiers all, following the same commands and deserving the same sympathy I thought. There were those who thought that was wrong, as they would then continue their interminable fighting in the grave and get no rest, so they got around that by burying a weapon or two with the English so that they might at least have an advantage if it unfolded that way, and earn their future peace. It was all a thankless and disturbing task.”
He suddenly remembered that one of his duties sometime in the near future was to visit the families of some of those he had seen die in his arms or under the surgeon’s knife or on a lonely and filthy cot far from loved ones as their lifeblood oozed steadily from them into the filthy bedding of straw or into the soil. He needed to pass along his memories of them or their final words or wishes. Death had come peaceably to none of them. They had raged inwardly at the injustice and suddenness of it all as he could see from their wild eyes filled with fear. He had promised himself that he would let their loved ones know of their death and that they had been attended to, no matter how poorly, just as he had earlier promised Mr. Barristow that he would look after his family.
He recognized that relating some of his own experiences might take the man’s mind off his own fears. “I have fought in many places, so many that I cannot remember them all—Portugal, Spain, France—small towns and villages whose names I no longer remember, and lost many friends to the enemy. Even onboard ship, when we were being moved about by sea to avoid an awkward trap they had laid for us on land, and encountered enemy ships then, in another trap, trying to sink us and sniping at us from the rigging. They got quite a surprise at the hail of lead in the return fire from marksmen that soon brought them down and emptied their decks and gun ports, but it was easier to dispose of the bodies then, of enemy and friend alike to get them out of the way. A fast trip over the side while the battle raged. I seem to have led a charmed life I would say, for I walked away with nicks and surface scars and nothing worse than wood splinters, a few saber cuts, and minor wounds, where many a better man did not. War was kinder to me in that way than my own society was before I went away. My mother once told me to stay away from ships and the sea. It seemed that too many of our family were drowned, and it was likely to be my fate too, so my mother said, if ever I went out of sight of land.”
He leaned back and stretched his legs out ahead of him. “My father survived the experience though, but I did go to sea many times with him, and alone too, despite her concern. I did not tell her. The sea shall not get me, I think. It’s had enough chances, and father Neptune threw me back ashore each time. I began to think that I did not so much lead a charmed life as one where even death did not want the likes of me. It seems that I shall either be shot in battle or on my home soil, or shall ride a horse foaled by an acorn—hanged–instead, as others predict for me. But I seem to have missed that fate at the docks by just a few days, and another of those unexpected welcomes just a few hours ago. Some welcome home.”
Thomas looked at him sharply at his last comment, but he was looking elsewhere. “I think I’m all right now, sir. The night was dragging too much for me, and I found my mind was playing tricks on me as though he were alive and moving. I could swear I saw him flinch once or twice.”
“You probably did.” Thomas looked startled at him. William explained. “Bodies will do that as their muscles relax or stiffen, even long after all life has gone. I have heard them belch as well and even sigh. When I have seen bodies burned on a funeral pyre, I have seen one or two of them even sit up in the flames and groan as though they were still alive and continue to moan dreadfully, but as one of them was without a head I knew that it was not so. The heat of the fire contracts their muscles and can cause them to make other noises too.”
“Well, I never knew that. I am not normally a superstitious man, but for a while there…. Thank you, sir. I thought I was going mad and that my mind was playing tricks on me.” He looked around into the far shadows with some concern. “Or that there was another power in the room.”
“No. The dead cannot hurt us, Thomas, and they should not frighten us. They may need our presence to make that final passage in peace, and we should not deny them that, though I have difficulty believing it. Only the living need us or can hurt us. There is nothing to fear from the dead. They can neither deceive nor lie nor do us violence when we least look for it. One can trust them, where one might not trust the living man. As for any other power, I think you will find none worse than your fellow man more capable of inflicting death and destruction. I have seen no evidence of any other evil power that one might need to fear, and I have been in many situations where malevolence would thrive and grow if there were any such evil force beyond that which the living can provide in abundance. My grandmother used to say that we were our own worst enemies and that there was no one we would ever be likely to meet that was worse than ourselves and what we could be. I think she was right.”
“You look tired, sir.”
“Yes, I have not slept for too long, for I had a rough crossing from France before I received your mistress’s letter….” he thought for a few moments “…many hours ago now, at least two days I think since I slept. I have not yet slept in England for five years. Strange thought. I think I am overdue.”
“You should get back to your bed then, sir. I’m fine now. Just speaking to one such as yourself about my foolish fears put me right. I need to say my good-byes properly as is fitting, and without fear I think.” He listened as the clock struck somewhere below. “Well there now. It will be getting light soon and there will be someone along to spell me. What rank were you over there, sir?”
“I was a major.”
“You have that bearing about you. I did notice. Also, that horse you came in on? He’s a rare size, but then you’d need a horse like that to carry a man your size too. Strange that that mule is so attached as he is.”
“Yes. But the mule is a she. They will not be separated without a fight for whomever is trying to separate them. Much like many another relationship I think, except that there, there is often fighting leading to the separation, not a consequence of it.”
He stood. “Good night, Thomas. I doubt that this new day or any following one will be better than the one that has passed for this family for a long while, though time will eventually ease all of the pain, and they will get easier.”
“I hope so for all of our sakes but mostly for theirs. My heart goes out for them all. They did not deserve this, and the best of ’em ripped away.” He shook his head in disbelief. “Bella was a rare fine lady. The master was a good and kind man too. I do not know how they or we will all go forward now. Four young women to fend off who knows what. Do you intend to stay, sir?”
“Should I? Yet I must. I promised Mr. Barristow that I would. I feel like a square peg in a round hole as though I were intruding badly into their grief where I feel none by comparison, though I am saddened by their loss.”
“Aye. I know the feeling, sir. I am relieved to hear you are to stay. I was fair worried about what lay ahead without the master. It tears the heart out of me to see how it’s affected all of them since we first learned of it, and helpless to do aught but stand by and see that nothing worse comes about. If you can stay sir, then you should do so. It will be a hard time for everyone for some time, and they may not give in to their grief if you were around, though they will need to do that too and get beyond it, and the sooner the better.
“They will need a man’s guiding hand now and to keep others at bay, at least for a short while; for there are those who would try to take advantage of them, lurking close by as they have been before, and I do not have the authority or the strength to fight them off at my age.” He expressed himself remarkably well, to William’s way of thinking. “I am a known entity to them, and to be neither feared nor respected either, whereas you are not, and that will be an advantage for you. The girls and their mother will need to be distracted too and guided in ways they cannot know at this time. It will be hard for us all, I think, and hard for you too; but if you could stay for a while, it would help a lot I am sure.”
“Thank you, Thomas. I intend to stay but only as long as I am needed. I shall speak with you tomorrow when I have rested, about these others that I was warned of. But if you perceive that they would be better off without me, despite my promise to their father, please let me know. I am unlikely to see what you might see and I would hate to overstay my welcome here because of a promise to a dead man. I have made too many of those promises and have so far been able to keep few of them, but I will if I can. The living, need me more at this time. I have a knack of bringing out the worst in too many of my own relatives even, and I doubt I am better with relative strangers. My promise was to take care of them, and that may better be done at a small distance if I am not fully welcome or needed.”
“From what I have seen of you, sir, you would never be made to feel unwelcome here. They would be hurt if you lodged anywhere but here now. They are too kind to show such mean-spirited qualities when you have been so helpful to them, though I do not know what lay behind any of it. As for the others—aye, I shall tell you of them right enough, for they will be likely to descend upon the family now and try to put them out and cheat them. I am too old to stop them.”
Once the major had returned to his room, Thomas took up a quiet conversation with his former master. “Well, sir, I believe that you might now rest in some peace if you saw what I saw, and I know you did with you lying there listening. Nothing wrong with your mind despite the other injuries. If anyone thinks to strut in here and make the womenfolk uncomfortable or try to put them out, they will find their plates full, I would say with that young man. We shall do all right, sir, and God help those Thackerays. But then, he won’t be planning on doing anything of the kind I would say.”