Blanche and Helen - 11 The End and Epilogue
I had to face facts, and deal as quickly as I could with the situation in hand. I told my adopted parents that my brother’s wife had invited me to come and live with them, to help her as she is expecting another baby and doesn’t feel that she can cope. I said that I was unhappy in my job at the Warringtons anyway, and felt the need for a change for a while. I implied that I would come back to visit, and move back as soon as the situation with my family improved. They were not happy, but as I am an adult, they cannot stop me. And the fact that I told them that Fred was encouraging me to do this, was also very important.
Then I needed to write to Harry and his wife, Emily and ask if I could live with them for a while. I told them that I was pregnant, and the father of the child was not going to marry me, and that I wanted to keep the baby, but that I needed somewhere away to live for the time being. And I told them that before long Fred would join me, and that he and I would then make home together, so my imposition would not be forever. I wanted to go to them right after Christmas.
I told Mrs. Warrington the same story about being needed by my sister-in-law, and gave a week’s notice, saying that I would be leaving on December 27th. She didn’t seem at all worried or surprised by my decision. I didn’t have any words with Mr. Warrington.
Christmas came, and soon after it, I left and as Harry was willing to put up with the situation, it all came to be as predicted, and I found that I was loving having their children to help with and someone to teach me what being a mother was going to be all about. I had bought a cheap ring when I stopped in Stockport, en route for Nantwich, and I called myself Mrs. Jones, and said my husband had died in a mining accident.
Fred wrote to me frequently, and kept me up to date on the situation regarding the scheme that Mr. Warrington was involved with.
I hope you are well, as I am. Here is the news from this part of the world.
In mid January, Helen again had a letter saying that those who were involved in the housing scheme were invited to Harold’s house the following Friday night as he said that he had heard from Mr. Andrews on Lord Howard’s behalf. She said she didn’t want me to accompany her this time, because there was no knowing what I might do, when I came face to face with Mr. Warrington.
It was Alice who opened the door so they haven’t yet hired anyone to replace you.
“Bon jour Mesdames and Monsieur,” she said, and Helen said that Mr. Higgenbottom jumped as if someone had sworn at him.
“Bon jour,” she answered for all of them.
“Please to go into parlour,” Alice said as she took their coats.
When they were all seated, Harold stood up.
“As you know, it has been some time since the properties that we wish to buy were surveyed and assessed by Mr. Andrew. I have only this week received the letter from him which I will read to you in a moment. But it seems that Lord Howard has not been well, and that has been part of the delay. And then there were special parties for his son’s 21st birthday. And now finally, I have heard, but I must say, this letter was not what I expected at all.
Dear Mr. Warrington,
I must apologise for the delay in writing to you, but it was due mainly to the ill health of Lord Howard, who, of course, needs to be fully informed and to make the final decision on these proceedings. He has now given his permission for me to outline our proposal.
He feels that the fairest thing would be for the properties to be offered by auction. This might benefit your clients in that they might well get their property for a better value from their point of view. However, if there is competition, the opposite might be the case. Lord Howard has asked me to organise the auction to take place on the 1st of April, instant, and to advertise the properties as being for sale throughout the district, so as to raise awareness of the project. The auction will be held at John T. Goddard’s Auction House on Howard Street, at 10 am. Those whose properties are up for sale should expect requests from interested buyers to see the property the week in advance of the sale.
If there are any questions regarding this, please feel free to contact me.
I remain yours faithfully,
Charles Arthur Andrew
Agent for Lord Howard of Glossop
“I see from your faces, ladies and gentlemen, that you are as taken by surprise by this departure as I was. I am assuming that you, Mrs. Morrison, and you, Mr. and Mrs. Higgenbotham, would wish me to act on your behalf at this auction and bid for your properties. As for you other gentlemen you can either bid on your own behalf, or have me do it for you. We do have several months yet before the sale, so the decision does not have to be made tonight. What are you feelings at this time on the matter?”
Several of the gentlemen spoke and seemed to agree that this might well work in their favour, and they were of the opinion that they would trust Harold to act on their behalf. But Helen was suddenly not at all sure that she trusted Harold.
“And are you with the others on this, Mrs. Morrison?” he asked.
“I will need time to think, and then I will let you know my decision,” she said, which I think somewhat surprised him.
Later after coffee Helen told Harold that she wished to speak with him, alone, about this matter and about another one and hoped that he might arrange it in some way. He smiled conspiratorially at her, and said he was sure he could arrange it.
I hope all is going well with you. Best regards to the others.
I thought you might again like to have information about how things are progressing here. Helen has kept me informed.
Harold arranged for them to have a meal together, a business lunch, which he made a point of telling her that his wife knew of and approved of. They went to the George and Dragon Inn in Charlesworth and picked her up in a carriage en route.
Neither of them spoke while the waitress was busying around them, but after the main course been served, he started, “I don’t know whether you planned this so we could be together or whether you do have reservations about my acting as your agent. But I must say I am very pleased with you for not agreeing straight away to the plan, so that we have had this wonderful time together again.”
He touched her hand from beneath the table, but she pulled it away.
“Harold, I am not at all sure that I wish to be a part of this scheme after all,” she said.
“Why should you change your mind now?”
“I somehow feel more uncomfortable about the way it is being handled. All along we were assured that it would be easy and straight forward and the prices would be given and we could either agree or disagree, but it would still be pretty much in our hands. Now with it going to an auction, I can see that I might be pressured into paying more for my house than I was willing to do. I do not want to lose my house, but I don’t want to spend more than it is worth either.”
“Oh, but you wouldn’t be pressured. You wouldn’t be there. No woman would go to an auction. My mother-in-law certainly would not be there with all the riff raff and shouting and finagling that is going on. It is no place for a woman. I wouldn’t allow you to go. I will do the job on your behalf.”
“What do you mean, you wouldn’t allow me to go? What gives you the right to think you can make decisions on my behalf?”
“Oh, don’t be like that, Helen. You know as well as I do that we have an understanding between us. I would always represent your best interests. Surely you trust me. Do you not? Am I wrong when I say that I have seen love in your eyes when you look at me?”
“It has nothing to do with love, or what I might feel, or have felt for you, Harold. I am not a puppet. I am not giving you my money to play with. I will make my own decisions as and when they occur - not the day before the auction - or the day after. The more I think about it the more I am determined to be out of this consortium completely. If I do bid for my property, it will be for myself alone. If I am unable to be present at the auction, I will have a solicitor or someone else do it, who is acting for me, and only for me.”
“Helen, I cannot believe that you have got yourself into such a state as this. You trusted me before. Why have you changed? Why do you imply that you no longer feel the same way about me? Please say that that is not true, that you still have regard for me.”
“This is not about our relationship, if you can call it that. This is about business, and I don’t think that I wish to have you represent me anymore. I’m sorry if that offends you, but that is how I think.”
“You will not get your money back. You paid £50 into the consortium, and at that time you were happy to be part of the group acting together. If you withdraw now, your deposit is forfeited.”
“You paid the deposit to Mr. Andrew on the day we met in Glossop. You told me that. If you will not give it me back, I will contact Mr. Andrew myself, and Lord Howard himself, if need be.”
“You little hussy. And I thought you were a nice pleasant woman. Now I see that you are a vixen. How I could ever have thought that I wanted to have you as part of my life I cannot imagine. I can find half a dozen women younger and more attractive than you who would be happy to spend time with me.”
“And what about Blanche?”
“What do you mean?”
“Was she one who was happy to spend time with you?”
“What are you implying?”
“It has come to my attention that you paid more than polite employer attention to her on at least one occasion last August. What do you say to that?”
“She is lying. She is a slut anyway, sleeping around with all and sundry.”
“Perhaps she did, but she claims that one of those sundry was you, and she told me there was a witness to it all.”
“What are you on about now? What do you mean witness? Who could possibly have seen?”
“Ah, so you do admit there was something to see then?”
“You confounded woman. She had already been serviced that afternoon, and what could I do, a mere man, when she offered me herself on a plate?”
“Not quite the story I have heard,” she said. “But perhaps now you know more why I don’t trust you, and why I no longer look at you with unreserved love. And why I have decided to have no more to do with you in any regard.” With that she got up, and left the table and the room. She then went to her brother Samuel’s farm to see if he could offer her a lift home, which he did.
When she told me this story, I felt so sorry for her, as she really did have feelings for the man.
I told her I thought he was a mongrel, and that I was so pleased she came to her senses about him, only I was sorry if he had broken her heart in the process. I told her that I intended to leave the area, to find a job near where you are. If I stayed here, I would be very tempted to kill the man every time I saw him
She said she intended to continue living in Ludworth. She said, “My roots are here, and my family’s roots. I will not be forced out of my neighbourhood by him. If someone else bids more for my house and gets it, well, that is the way of things. But I will not run away because I have found him an unpleasant man. I very much hope that somehow he gets his comeuppance, and I will do everything I can to thwart him.”
Then I told her that I had hoped that one day I might be brave enough to see if she might be willing to marry me, but now that was no longer an option.
She said, “Oh Fred. What a wonderful husband you will make some woman. And I do wish you luck and understand that you must leave to be with Blanche. But I could not have married you. I do not love you. I don’t think I really loved Harold either, although you are right when you say that I gave that impression, and I thought that I was for awhile. But thanks to you, I can now see clearly, and I am happy with my lot. I have a lovely daughter and sufficient funds for us to live comfortably. Hopefully, we will continue here, but if not, somewhere near by.”
As I was leaving, I returned the stone head (pictured above) to her, saying that I would not again be going to the Warrington’s house, so she best deal with it herself.
She said, “Oh, that awful thing. I feel like all my bad luck - all my unhappiness started when Rosie brought the ugly thing into the house. Please, Fred, you deal with it.” So although it was dark and late and cold, I took her spade from the garden shed, and finding a spot near the rose bushes, I dug a deep hole, and put the head down into it.
I do hope Blanche, that your troubles too, will soon be over, and I will be with you hopefully by next month, as I have had a tentative job offer from a Mr. William Wright of Nantwich, but need to work my notice out here.
From your brother Fred
I am a frequent visitor to Bench Wells, which is now combined into one house. The other houses mentioned are still in existence.
My friends, Mags and Ken, who own Bench Wells purchased it from Mag’s Aunt Sally, who bought it when it was still two properties, being used for holiday lets, back in about 1937. It was they who found the Stone Head in the back garden. Her husband, Ted, answered an advert in the local paper asking if anyone in the area had found Stone Heads, and as a result, archaeologists from Manchester University came out to the house, looked at the head, and verified it to be from Celtic times - perhaps 3000 years ago.
Mags and Ken inherited the head, which they call Fred and because they felt that Fred should never be separated from the property, they have had him permanently fixed above their front door.
I know that Bench Wells was bought in 1907 by Jane Almond because she is mentioned in the deeds for the property which Ken and Mags have. It also states that the owner had to pay a ground rent of £4- 10 shillings a year to Lord Howard of Glossop, from whom she was buying the property.
There was a Queen Elizabeth silver coin from 1568 found in Marple - perhaps five miles away, in 1929, and a prehistoric stone hammer head was found in Ludworth in 1935. I just used these two unrelated incidents to give a bit more substance to my story.
This book is fiction - but based on a certain amount of historic fact. Bench Wells did get sold by Lord Howard of Glossop, and the buyer was Mrs. Jane Almond, the wife of Henry Almond, one of the characters who I said was a friend of Harold's. I do not know if Helen and her neighbours, Mary and her family, continued to live in the house after it was sold or not.
From the ancestor site, I found that Helen Donaldson Morrison of that area died in 1907, aged 43. Her daughter married a local farmer. I have no details of Fred or Blanche beyond the year they left.