Consequences - Chapter 26
CHAPTER 26 – Charles’ Diary for September
September 1 THURSDAY
Only a few more days before Mary goes back to York. We have put about the story that her mother has asked her to come & help as she doesn’t feel well (with her mother’s consent) so people are expecting her to be away for awhile. I wish I could be with her to protect her through this difficult time coming up, but we have made our plans & must stick with them. I will travel up with her, and then come back by the next train.
Went to work as usual today, knowing that Mary planned to visit Mary Ann one more time before her trip to York & Scarborough. But midafternoon, I was amazed to find that one of Mr. Boyce’s servants came to my office, looking very concerned. He said I was to go to Mr. Boyce’s house as quickly as possible, as Mrs. Walker had need of me, and that he had the carriage to take me there waiting outside. I didn’t know what to think, but giving Mr. Needham an excuse of family emergency, I made my way as quickly as I could to Gregory’s Bank.
When I arrived I was ushered into an upstairs bedroom & found Mary in labour. I pieced together what had happened, in between her contractions, which were about five minutes apart. She had apparently been calling to say goodbye, but found Mary Ann in distress & Mary Ann appealed to stay & help her through it, which she agreed to do. But after the births (twins as expected) Mary suddenly became faint & collapsed on the floor, hitting her body awkwardly. The injury & stress was sufficient to bring on Mary’s labour & she was installed in the next door bedroom & I was summoned.
Mary seemed in a dreadful state & screamed with each contraction. How guilty we men all feel to know that we are the cause of our wives having to go through this agony. Yet it continues to happen, time after time & I’m told that mothers do forget & are prepared to go through it all again.
After an hour or so, the midwife who luckily agreed to stay on & care for Mary, told me that the birth was imminent so I was asked to wait downstairs. Fredrick Boyce was from home at the time & I sat by myself in their parlour, twisting my hands & worrying. I did have the presence of mind to write a letter to Aunt Ann telling her that she was not to expect Mary & that all the plans were off, which I sent out with a servant. I told Aunt Ann to make whatever excuses were necessary to clear up the situation in York.
At 5 p.m. I was invited back to Mary’s room & beheld our newborn daughter, looking pink & wrinkled & fussing softly. I was told that she didn’t cry immediately on birth. The midwife quickly tied off the cord even before the placenta was delivered & then resuscitated her by breathing into her tiny lungs. But thank God, she is alive & she has all her fingers & toes. She looks very small to me, but I understand that she is not overly small considering she is at least three weeks before her due date. But what a miracle she has survived. I told Mary that we should call her Mary, both after her & after my sainted Mother, who would so love to be here to see her first grandchild.
Before an hour was up, the midwife hurried into our room looking distraught. One of Mary Ann’s twins had died. She said she had overheard Mary telling Mary Ann that we didn’t intend to keep our baby & she wondered what we would think of replacing the dead twin with our baby. She said we had only a few minutes to make up our minds, as Mary Ann would soon we awake & we would have to make the switch before she realized what had happened. May God help us through these difficult times.
From Mary’s Journal – September 4th, continued
“It would be the answer to all our problems, Charles,” I said. “Mary Ann expects to have two live children and wants them. We would prefer not to have a child just yet. I could still see my baby when I went to visit Mary Ann, but I know that she would have a good upbringing, and would save us the scandal.”
“But she is our baby,” said Charles. “She was made from the love of you and me, and I don’t think I could watch someone else claiming her as their own.”
“Can you watch as people cross the street to avoid speaking to me, Charles? Can you watch while all your fancy friends suddenly don’t want to know you any more? Do you think the Mayor of Worcester and the Rector and the Baptist Minister will be inviting us to any more parties or allowing their wives to call on us? This is a solution to our problems and no one will be hurt. Mary Ann will have her two live children – which she is prepared for and has help to raise. Her dead child will be buried quietly by us. Many women have miscarriages and the products are disposed of, not even buried properly. No one would expect a proper funeral. Some have suspected that I was increasing, so to find out that I had miscarried at three and a half months would not shock or upset anyone. It would take me awhile to recover from this, but that would be expected anyway. Please do this for me Charles.”
“I wonder if the midwife was negligent and is worried about being blamed over the death of the other baby,” he speculated. “I am not sure I trust that she would continue with our lie if she were put to the test.” But we only had a few minutes to think about it and in the end I convinced him.
The babies were exchanged, and our pretend daughter was covered with a blanket to indicate that she was dead. Little Mary, although that would not be her name now, was moved from her lowly dresser drawer to the silk and lace draped bassinet next door. I sobbed but it was as much from fatigue and relief as from giving up my daughter. Charles said he would arrange for the baby to be quietly buried at St. Martin’s Church.
Charles Diary – continued
Visited with Mary at the Boyce’s house today. No one has suspected anything. Mary must stay in bed for the next ten days, but she & Mary Ann pass messages to each other through the servants. Mary Ann was very sorry to hear of our loss.
I arranged with Reverend Bullock at St. Martin’s for the baby to be buried in the churchyard. As I intimated to him that it was an early miscarriage but that Mary wished it to be buried quietly, without ceremony, he agreed to do that. He & I were the only ones present when the poor little thing went unmourned to its grave, unmarked except by the loose dirt on the top. The churchyard has a section put aside for such burials, so the request did not surprise Rev. Bullock.
Saw Fredrick Boyce briefly when I was visiting Mary. He offered his condolences on our loss & I am afraid I found it hard to keep from telling him the truth.
Visited with Mary again. She says she has seen Mary Ann’s twins, when the nurse brought them down for their parents to see last evening. She says baby Mary, whom she can recognize, has lost her pink appearance & now has a slightly yellow hue. I hope she will keep well. But apparently she is feeding & sleeping as she should.
Went to Wilsons’ for dinner. Told them Mary was indisposed & staying with friends for the time being. They obviously thought it strange, but didn’t comment.
Letter from Aunt Ann asking for details of what has happened. I don’t know what to tell her. I will for the moment just say that Mary is unwell & that we won’t need her as originally planned. I will write more when I can think what to say.
Letter from Ned Thackray who is ill with lameness. Invited to Mr. N's for breakfast having told them that I am temporarily a bachelor again. Visited Mary after work & then at Hilbourne's in the evening; Mr. H “3 sheets in the wind” grew eloquent & sentimental in his respect, unbounded & without limit, for our Parents & me; Poor drunken good fellow! What honour is not due to the family who with such a degraded head can pursue their way uprightly & conscientiously? Aunt Wilson called, talking to her about Mary being indisposed.
Long letter from Lindsay of the old fraternal & confidential pattern; he is hurt that Charley Cox & Eliza do not seek his & his wife’s company; as if married couples were not selfish always, living each only for the other; giving me a routine of his existence & its sorrows, small ones enough which his imagination magnifies alarmingly. Began a letter back to him in a corresponding spirit, quietly reproving him & showing like my own life, which with more to sorrow over than his, is yet happier.