Mrs. Simpson's Regency Journal

Mrs Emma Jane Simpson

My Dreams Are Swept Away.                                                     1 July 1831


Looking back, I expect it was remarkable that I, a maid of 14, could look for the first time at a man’s body with neither shock nor alarm but settle down to wait for him on the bank.

Yet neither shock nor alarm were feelings I ever felt towards this man. It was more as though we both shared our bodies: each was part of the other. I had simply taken on another way of being. As had he.

I was sure they would sense the change within me, yet neith

er my mother nor my Grandam said anything untoward when we arrived home: – me and Nelly and Merlin and Clara – and of course George. As it was always to be George who would see me safe home for all that long summer. Albeit  one or all of the others  accompanied us quite often.

And then, one evening, when the leaves were just beginning to turn, and the evenings had a malicious nip to them, my Grandam, settling herself by the fire and lighting her evening pipe said mildly, once it was alive:-

“Now then, George Simpson”

At the tone of her voice my mother slipped in at her back while George, for a single beat, held still in the act of setting up the chess pieces for his nightly game with my mother.

Putting the piece down gently back in its box, he walked over to sit at the small milk-stool in front of my Grandam where I often perched to hold out bread toward the fire on a long metal fork.

“Now then Goodie Ridgeway?” he said in a soft questioning  voice, his long legs seeming to stretch on forever. And then he turned to my mother and bent his head in her direction with a strange formality. “Now then, Mistress?” he asked with a raised eyebrow and my mother, with equal gravity to the others, replied “Oh yes! Now certainly.” and sank onto the little settle behind her.

I had no idea what was to do, but I settled myself comfortably  cross-legged next to my mother and leant against her side; and my mother coiled both her arms around me and absentmindedly kissed the top of my head.  I had no real idea of what was happening,  but I knew it was something very wonderful,  as I sat in the firelight and watched, as I had seen so much of the world: - from my mother’s arms.

(Now:- I know that gentry do not do things in this manner, and not many townfolk now either , so to my future kin I feel I must explain. For unlike most Cooks and Housekeepers,  the “Mrs” is not an honourific).

Before I’d met George I had been immersed in nature and life, so knowledge of the ways of men & women had mostly come naturally to me; while both my dear ones would always answer any questions from  me if I was confounded by anything. (Unlike my Mistress who could not speak to her children about such matters ).

George and I had known, from that moment by the stream, that the two of us were put on this earth in order to find each other.  Yet we had not done that thing which male and female do.

For I, better than most maids, knew how it was for the girl who, but a girl herself, finds her youth cruelly cut off by bearing babes.

Yet somehow during that strangely long and exceptionally  warm summer we were content with this new knowledge. We knew as a certainty that  we had the rest of our lives together. But as the summer had proved also a busy one for all, we didn’t speak of it. Not hiding or forgotten, but put it to one side while the harvest was got and the fruit bottled and animals born.

 Nor had I said anything on the subject to my mother & grandma – less from a need for privacy, but more because this whole summer had felt somehow to have a different air to it.  It was as if we were all waiting for something – we knew not what – suddenly to happen. There was a kind of thrilling tension in the air, but also a sense almost of regret.

I know there was a sense of guilt to me in those days too.  My Grandam and my mother had been the only stars in my tiny firmament all my life. They were the only people I’d loved, or trusted, or understood. And yet, George too I loved and trusted and instinctively understood.  I was only a bit of a thing: - how could there be enough room inside me to stretch those feelings from two people to three? Someone would be deprived, surely? I couldn’t bear the thought.

“So, my chicken” my grandma began comfortably, “George here has reminded us of a promise he made us – as well as one we made to him.”

I was none the wiser: but something inside me was bubbling and fizzzing and I knew not why.

“Knowing ‘tis your Birthday next week he has made a present for you and asked may he give it you now. And we have decided, all three, that now would be a good time for you to receive it.”

At that George got up from his stool, strode across the room and out of the door.

“One of the vixen’s cubs!” I thought excitedly. They were weaned now. I sat up straight but kept my legs crossed so the skirt would make a cradle for the wee one. I was beaming away like the moon at harvest-time when he strode quickly through the door towards me, smiling into my eyes.

 And in his outstretched arms he held out to me a brand new besom! Colour flooded through my face. Had I been living in a world of my own? Was I wrong about our bond completely.  And who in God’s name had advised him that a birch broom was a gift every 15 year old woman covets!

And, may god bless me  if I hadn’t read the whole situation awry and built a kingdom in my head.

But I am the daughter and granddaughter of strong women, so I schooled my features not to show aught but a polite smile of thanks and held out my hand for the shame this black a-visaged giant, with his boots and his horse, held out to me.

Smiling demurely I put out my hand while in my own head I was calling him the misbegotten union of rabid dog and a poxy organ-grinder’s monkey. Bobbing my head in a slight curtsey I saved up the worst for last and informed him silently that I would never look upon his naked body again without wishing it alabaster white, and slight. Like a real gentleman!

And then I mounted the broom, threw a look of disdain over my shoulder, and flew out of the doorway.