Murder most foul

Mrs Emma Jane Simpson

Diary.  Oh lack a day! The most terrible thing has happened.  So dire is my news lately that even Eliza agrees that I should detail it in my journal. For, sure, never did a body hear news of such a shocking nature. Nor, I vow, has a body such as me known ought of such vile malefactors.

I spoke last of my strange little friend Celia Bashford – as daft and innocent a little lass as e’re drew breath. That she was a married woman mayhap seemed strange to some in view of her appearance. Yet to me, who knew the droll, childlike creature, ‘twas not at all a thing to be wondered at.

I had begun to worry about not seeing little Celia, who had  missed an assignation with me. Accordingly, I enlisted the help of some of the men-servants both here and around the town, who go oft abroad, in searching for news of her.

At first none had any news, but gradually the men began to hear strange rumours around the stews and slums where rumours often abound.  It seems that the on-dit around  the places  Celia’s husband was known to frequent was that – poor Celia!- he had mistress called Ann Kennet.  What none had told Celia neither, was that this scoundrel, this henchman of Satan, had gone through a marriage ceremony with his flight of fancy!

Now poor Celia, being completely in ignorance of the fact that her husband was a bigamist, was struggling to keep herself.  She’d already been forced to spend time in the Poor House alongside of her miserable wretch of a man, and it was this experience which, she confided in me, was now her greatest fear: - to return to the state of being on the Parish was a thing she could not abide even to consider.

‘Twas there that she had been treated so shamefully that tears would fill her eyes when she spoke of it.  They had called her an imp of the devil, a witch and a hobgoblin; they removed her chair so she could not reach the wash taps, put frogs in her bed claiming that those were her natural lovers – oh it was a cruel hard time for her.

Imagine her joy, then, when she heard that her errant spouse had not only returned, but had gained employment a-painting of the Pier!  Having been battered about by such storms and bad weather as we have had, this is regular work and her heart was uplifted.

But oh! That wicked and hard-hearted husband did revile and renounce her in front of all, making a show of her for all the others to laugh and poke fun at . So ribald and unlovely did this scene become that even passers-by stopped to take it in. Still unaware of her husband’s other love, however, she bethought herself to ask of the Overseer that her husband be made to put aside some of his wages for the upkeep of his wife and the coming babe. Which she did.  And which he, the Overseer – mayhap sore ashamed of the scene which was had been played out by one of his men to the amusement of all – did comply. Two shillings a week he did grant her!

Two whole shillings! ‘Twas when I heard this that my blood did run cold. I became afeared for her then most horribly.  What woman, with such news as this, after all her woe and worry, would not come tripping as fast as their legs could carry them, to share the news with their gossip?

 ‘Tweren’t right that she hadn’t come.  And ‘tweren’t right a’cos it weren’t natural.

But here I must stop for Eliza has been urged not to walk alone after dark in these days of violent goings-on, and must return to her home.