Mrs Emma Jane Simpson

Well ‘tis all up with poor Celia’s husband now, so ‘twas lucky I did not finish my tale last week. For now there is more to tell.

I had got to the part, Eliza tells me, when Celia had thought her troubles were at an end with her John now back and working, and herself no longer fearing the poor house.  What she did fear for, however, was the fate of her little babe.

Her first had been stillborn and she were sore afraid of this happening again.  And so I had promised her that, with my knowledge of women’s matters, I would not let this happen again.  I should supply her with strengthening herbs and potions afore the birthing; would see her through the birth; and over-see her lying-in period.  This time, she would have a live babe to hold in her arms.

This is why I grew so anxious when she did not appear at my kitchen on the Sunday, and had been seen by no-one since. Her confidences having been made to me in private, I alone knew her secret and how joyous she was; and I knew too, the determination she had that she would be advised by me in all things. She would not miss out on collecting the medicines I set aside for her each week! Not for all the tea in China.

But it seems that, down at The Ship, John Holloway was known as the husband only of Ann. An Ann who, as John was wont to boast,  had quickened almost at first sight him and was now near 7 months gone herself – exactly the same case as with poor little Celia.

This last news the lads and the other menfolk had kept from me until last week, as they knew my attachment to the little soul and took thought not to worry me further.  It is useless now to ponder how this news would have affected me and whether I should have sought help not just amongst the servants and the fisher folk, but from the Constable?  Mind, with old John Archibald a-supping of his free pints every waking hour down the Wick Inn,  much good it would probably have done me.

For even John Archibald could not have even given thought to what was to happen next – nor any other mortal man.

For now, ‘tis certain sure that on the Sunday she was to have come to me for her potions and a cosy chat, my unfortunate sister was already dead and cold – and her unborn babe with her!

Certain-sure are all the men in this town that this ghastly deed took place on the Saturday night for, late that night John Holloway did appear reeling and staggering down the Ship and talking loudly of retribution and sin... and all swore that there was blood upon his clothes.  He told young David Sweeper that he had killed a cock that eve for his supper.  But all who knew him and his   ‘wife’ Ann knew full well they did not have a kitchen in their lodgings but sent out for food.  Why then would he have killed a cock, nor any other beast – except in the execution of murder most foul?

But ‘twas only last eve that we heard the news which hath so  much more distressed us: -

 Because of the return of the rains which have tortured us so much in the past two years, a deluge did sweep the village of Preston yesterday morn. And early in the evening two handfasted lovers, out for an evening stroll near Lover’s Lane did find, in a gully etched out by water, a most foul sight: the dead and mangled body, all severed and chopped about, of a tiny little woman with a small babe dead in her belly!

Alas! The poor little misshapen hands did starkly prove to all: this was what had stopped my tiny friend from coming to sit in the safety of my warm and pleasant kitchen. Even as I did wait and doze before my fire, with a good hot broth a bubbling on the stove, our wee friend was already beyond all earthly concerns of food and comfort.  Done to death by an evil and malicious husband.

Yet even worse is this last news John Coachman hath imparted: search as they might, both high and low, no sign is to be found of that poor little head which had been disturbed and affronted for so long.

And Oh! I am sorely affected: for how comes a body to go to its grave without a head?