The year of our lord 1832 – The journal of Thomas Spencer
August 17th – The cottage is quite beautiful, the slate is sound while the stone matches colours quite contrasting of the peaks. A wall surrounds the property on three sides, while to the rear, a steep acclivity of limestone rises to the heather topped slopes of the heaths above. A stream runs nearby and generous gardens support fruiting trees bordered by rose but lost to thorn.
The children still mourn their mother but we are none of us missing the city and are glad of the seclusion. People mean well, but such gestures of pity act merely as a marker in memento. Beth would have loved the rambling aisles that drag in wander across the purple covered fells and would approve of our new life.
August 28th – We have settled, more in occupation of effort than sentiment toward cheer but the air is pleasing and the trappings of a simple life suit us well. Elsa treads the fell, often gone all hours, while David hunts trout from the stream.
I had thought our cottage the only building for some miles yet today I saw a young woman on the heath. She was at some distance and showed no interest in my presence. I shall ask in the town, for if we have neighbours we must surely be friends.
September 29th – The gardens look well, while colours flood in jonquil, chocolate and carmine, the beds are cleared and ready for sowing. The purple is in fade and we feel our seclusion as the comforts of summer give way to dour skies and shadow.
In destitution of the comforts afforded by city life, we fill our time making ready for winter. David continues to supply our table with trout and has become quite skilled in hunting. Elsa is more the image of her mother each day and makes busy with baking and shaping a home.
I am lonely and miss Beth. Last night I woke suddenly and for a moment was sure she was here. – A shape, no more than that, filling the light from the window.
October 3rd – I saw her again today, the young woman from the heath. The weather is quite inclement and yet still she bares the fashions of summer. She was close to the house, out by the stream, but when I went in greeting she had already left.
I shall make further enquiry, for neither the smith nor the baker knew of others living on the fell.
October 18th – This evening, on retiring, I found the blossom of cherry and the petals of rose to adorn the blankets of my bed. We are in full passage of autumn’s fall, and this simply cannot be, and yet they are there.
This morning, while gathering wood, I happened a gaze to the window and felt sure of an image. Lately feelings have stirred, as not felt since Beth was taken and wish in longing for her presence.
November 3rd – The cottage seems warmer yet the flame of our fire burns the same. The first snows of winter blanket the fell and daily since, I have found the tread of print to our door.
I gaze aphotic lines as cuts tenebrous silhouette to bleakest heavens and I wish for the light. So forlorn in its austerity, the landscape weighs heavy at my window and I dream again of summer.
November 18th – I woke to tears in burst and the sound of weeping. From where these sounds came I cannot say, but feel sure Elsa still feels her mother’s loss. I often hear the soft tones of footfall as cross the landing and worry she wanders so wrestles at night.
November 19th – This morning I rose to the sound of laughter and the smell of cooking soup and yet upon arrival at the kitchen, found only an empty room.
Later, while Elsa and David busied themselves in town, I felt sure I heard whispers, first of words and then of a name. The wind here can play such deception as to leave me a fool, but I am certain of my faculties and feel restless with fret.
December 1st – There was somebody in the house, as woke I to the face of a woman, her robes of white and complexion so pallid as would surely be from snow. I know her, for it was she I saw that day on the heath and she who rest a moment by the stream.
I gazed without words and drifted helpless amidst the darkest pools as would pierce my vision – and then she was gone. Elsa mocks my insistence, telling me of dreams so real as would leave me certain – but I am certain and she was no dream.
To be continued … (Part II to be published December 25th)