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Consequences: Chapter 26

"On Sunday, Charles and I took Mary out in the perambulator for her first outing since her birth...''

Mary Walker and her husband Chalres face up to the ignomony of being the parents of a child conceived before they were married.

To read more of Jean Day's vivid narrative of family life in moralistic Victorian times please click on Consequences in the menu on this page.

Mary’s Journal

October 1st
Today was the first of Sarah’s half days off, and we coped well without her. Since we still have Ella coming in, we asked her to do an extra feed tonight at 9, rather than us have to cope with the bottle method that Sarah is using.

October 3rd
On Sunday, Charles and I took Mary out in the perambulator for her first outing since her birth. We walked along to his Uncle Richard and Aunt Elizabeth’s house for afternoon tea and as an early celebration of Charles’ thirtieth birthday on Thursday. I didn’t feel up to inviting people around to us, so was very relieved when someone else took it upon themselves to make the party. Of course they know by now of our baby’s birth. But nobody except Mary Ann and Fredrick know that we tried to give her away (unless they have told). I was nervous and I know that Charles was too, but he said unless we behaved as if we thought everything was normal, we would never get over this situation.

All the family had gathered as it was Charles’ birthday celebration, but I think they also came out of curiosity as much as anything. They bent over the perambulator and said what a bonny baby she was – and indeed she has progressed well after her poor start, her colour has improved and she is now starting to resemble a normal baby. She is quite good in that she doesn’t cry very much. Ella frequently has to wake her to feed her, and she seems to go easily back to sleep again afterwards. Many of my friends have had babies who cried for hours without end, so we are lucky in that regard. No one overtly referred to her birth in relation to the time of our wedding, for which I was truly grateful, but everyone was embarrassed and stiff and it was not a pleasant afternoon. But we have made the first step and Charles assures me that each visit from now on will get easier and soon everyone will forget all about her early birth.

We told my family about her arrival as soon as we had brought her home. We hadn’t told them of our pretend child’s death which is just as well, as that would have caused no end of explaining. In fact I rather think Charles planned all along that we would get Mary back as soon as I was well enough to accept the situation, and that is why he didn’t tell anyone anything about it. He just said I was unwell and staying with friends when asked.

October 8th
I did go out on Charles’ birthday, and bought him 2 books which he is very pleased about. He is very easy to buy for, as he values books so highly. I bought him Oliver Wendell Holmes book called the Autocrat at the Breakfast Table, and Tom Brown’s School Days by Thomas Hughes. I shall enjoy reading the latter myself but can’t say I have any interest in the former. Charles finds it fascinating and is already well into reading it.

October 20th
I am writing in this journal less and less these days. I have such a lack of interest in what I am doing that there is no need to compound the problem by putting it in writing. Here is the receipt I found for preserving fruit.

Pour into a clean earthen pot two quarts of spring water, and throw into it as quickly as they can be pared, quartered and weighed, four pounds of nonesuches, pearmains, Ripstone pippins, or any other good boiling apples of fine flavour. When they are done, stew them gently until they are well broken, but not reduced quite to pulp; turn them into a jelly bag, or strain the juice from them without pressure through a closely woven cloth, which should be gathered over the fruit, and tied, and suspended above a deep pan until the juice ceases to drop form it; this, if not very clear, must be rendered so before it is used for syrup of jelly, but for all other purposes once straining, it will be sufficient. Quinces are prepared in the same way, and with the same proportions of fruit and water, but they must not be too long boiled, or the juice will become red. We have found it answer well to have them simmered until they are perfectly tender, and then to leave them with their liquor in a bowl until the following day, when the juice will be rich and clear. They should be thrown into the water very quickly after they are pared and weighed, as the air will soon discolour them. The juice will form a jelly much more easily if the cores and pips be left in the fruit.

October 26th
We have just read the most dreadful news. In Liverpool a merchant vessel of Royal charter came aground and 459 on board have died. I can just visualise the area where it happened, as we were walking very near there on our last days of honeymoon. God have mercy on their souls.


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