When I was young we would often travel the twelve miles to my grandparent's house at Eppersly or the fifteen miles to DuTeit. The trip would take four hours. I would be obliged to listen quietly as my parents and their parents reminisce about how things were when the world was at peace, how the rents had declined and the tenants seemed to be getting strange and amazing ideas from France and America.
Now my children's and grandchildren's world is so very different from the way things were. We can travel to London in the same time it took to visit Eppersly Close. There has been peace for 35 years now and it looks like it will continue on this way forever. The reform bill is now nearly 10 years old, and the voters roll has expanded to nearly a quarter of the tenants, as opposed to only the innkeeper, the blacksmith, the apothecary and the squire. That remarkable charlatan, Mr. Disraeli, sometimes speaks of enlarging the franchise to all the men of England. I cannot see that happening in my lifetime. The quality of politicians, such as Mr Fillmore, you see in America argues against expanding it further.
This period of peace is gratifying for one who was born in time of war. I was one who was left a widow by a war that began before I was born.
My mother was the second wife of my father, who already had two sons of 10 and 14 when I was born in February 1792. My mother was but 17 at the time of her marriage and according to my cousin quite bitterly resented being married off to an elderly one armed officer who talked of nothing but his service in America. However, being the youngest daughter of a mildly successful attorney with no dowry, she made the best of he small choices. Despite all that, it seems to have been a happy marriage. My aunts used to tease her by saying she got a very good ride from Hobson's livery stable.
My father sold his majority for a very good price and purchased Grantly and its farms from a fellow officer who was deeply in debt.
We lived modestly for a family with such a large estate, my father's careful management and improvements increased the revenue year after year until he died when I was 12. By that time, I was his sole heir, my brothers having lost their lives in the wars in Spain.
My mother had a wide acquaintance in the neighborhood, and spent much of her time visiting friends and relatives as much as 30 miles away, which would oblige her to be gone as much as a week at a time. Therefore I spent a great deal of time with my father as he visited tenants, met with his stewards or spent his time reading. He liked to read Shakespeare aloud, and I can still remember him, book in hand, as he read out the parts to an appreciative audience of me, my dolls, his hound and the terriers. There was not schoolwork as such, but I learned sums by counting up the rent payments, reading and writing by assisting with his correspondence, and I learned a great deal of the geography of the southern American states as he told of his service there, and from the letters of my brothers from Spain and Portugal.
After my father died, my education was placed in the hands of Miss Elliot, who knew sewing and art and music, and Master Beresford who knew Geography, literature and French. There was a mild scandal around the time I was 15 when it proved they knew each other better yet, but by that time it was decided my formal education would be concluded, and Mr Beresford would be given his promised living at Coldwyn after his marriage to Miss Elliot. Their first daughter was born while I was at Bath.
When I was 17, just after Christmas my mother and I went to Bath for my first season there. Despite our generous income we still maintained a strict economy. By my fathers will Mr. Congreave was appointed guardian of the estate till I reached 18. He was a stern, narrow, pedantic methodistical conscientious bore. He would collect the rents and pay the bills and maintain the estate. Because we lived so small on our estate we had a large income. Several neighbors lived quite large on their smaller estates, so Mr. Congreave would buy out such lands around us that come up for sale. So while our income was large, our spending was kept to the level of my grandfather. My mother had quite wanted to be the giddy widow, but the sums doled out by Mr Congreave kept her sensible. However, for my coming out at bath he had given us a budget of £200. He repeatedly pointed out this was a vast sum, and that servants had to live on £17 a year (plus meals and perquisites mother rejoinded). I listened to them bicker and dicker over the budget and I just dreamed of what it would be like to finally see the world beyond the horizon. So, on the Monday after Christmas, 1819 my mother and I set forth to Bath together.
Since the coach was due at the nearest coaching inn at 10:AM, we were obliged to set out at 5:30. Like my Father, I was an early riser, but my mother was quite peevish about the hour of departure. There was not much she could do about it, as the horses and coach could only do 4 ½ miles per hour carrying us and our trunks. Bulstrode, the driver, did not add much to the joy of the occasion. He was sullen at the best of times, but getting up at 3 to harness and load the coach, drive the 9 hour round trip and put the horses to bed compounded his usual mood. My mother did not lighten the load. Despite the cold wind, the frosty coachman, the jolting carriage, the brief rain and snow squalls and my mother's grumbling and bickering it was a glorious day. We saw only two other travelers along the rode. A solitary horseman came trotting down the road behind us, cursed our carriage, whipped our horse and swore at Bulstrode and rode on.
I asked "Who was that extraordinarily rude man?" Mother turned a bright pink and cleared her throat, but it was Bulstrode who answered
"That is the Marquis of Sadwell. Bit of a cheat that one. If all the Frenchie aristocracy was like him, no wonder they threw them off."
"Bulstrode! My mother said with a bit of menace and shock
"Not like we are like those poor frenchies who don't have no freedom to speak or think." grumbled Bulstrode. "'Sides which, you know well as anyone that half the foundlings in the workhouse are hisn. And him always late with the Parish rates
"That will be quite enough of that." My mother said, and Bulstrode was quiet for the next several miles, when we came across the second traveler on the road, which was a small thin boy in a great coat pushing a barrow carrying a sea chest along the rough road. Right then there was a snow squall, which while not sticking to the ground was accompanied by a harsh wind. We all snuggled closer under our cloaks and blankets as the horses trotted along.
Bulstode said "That there be the Wyndward boy, the apothecary's son, him that delivered your physic during the storm back in October when you was so ill." My mom remained quiet. "Might be the Christian thing to do, to give him a lift, as we owe him, and it is a long cold mornings hike wherever he be going."
Under her breath mom uttered a very quiet "Very well." Bulstrode then gave a yell and brought the carriage close to the boy. They parleyed for a moment, and then Bulstrode lifted the sea chest into the carriage and put the barrow on the back.
The boy climbed into the carriage next to mother, who sat him in one corner and made my sit in the other. She spread the carriage cloths in such a way as the boy got none, but since he was under cover and no longer pushing the heavy barrow on the difficult road in the dark, he looked very pleased with his circumstances.
Gradually the clouds began to dissipate. Shortly before sunrise the sky was almost totally clear. Mother had managed to settle into the carriage cloths and fall into a light doze. Bulstrode urged on the horses as the light came up. He said that it was less than two hours before the coach left, but we still had seven miles to go.
With mother in a doze, I tried to converse with the boy in the opposite corner. He was full of stammer and blushes, but I extracted from him the information that, as he was the younger son of the local apothecary he must find work elsewhere, as there was only room for his brother in the business in our neighborhood. So his father had enlisted him as a midshipman on the third rate frigate, the Tisiphone, a three deck ship with 76 guns when he was 11, and now after being on leave while the Tisiphone was refitted, he was returning to duty in Portsmouth, a veteran of 14. When I asked him if had seen any great battles, he admitted he had not, as most of Tisiphone's duty had been to maintain the blockade of Marseilles. Most of his duty was to study maths, which his captain put great store by, drill the men, and keep the ship ready in case the enemy ever did decide to engage. As time went on he became less and less uneasy and more direct in looking me in the face. He told of his father's shop, and his family and I told him of my father's tales in America. The first part of the trip had been long and jolting. With the conversation of Mr Wyndward, the end of the journey to the posting house took but a moment.
When we arrived at the posting station we found the Marquis of Sadwell was there as well. He was making himself very disagreeable to