“Love is a Choice”, Ch. 24 (PG-13)– Fanny’s Revealed Cause of Death has a Far Reaching Impact, June 09, 2013 Gratiana Lovelace (Post #415)
[From time to time, I will illustrate my story with my dream cast of: Richard Armitage as Lord Rafe Wingate, Carla Gugino as Lady Katharine Southwick Wingate, Lesley Nicol as Mrs. Plunkett, Emilie Francois as Anna Wingate, Mark Strong as Sir Collin MacGregor, Alan Bates as Lord Charles Wingate, Christian Bale as Stuart MacGregor, Daniel Day-Lewis as Sir Antony Southwick, Michelle Pfeiffer as Lady Charmaine Southwick, Catherine Deneuve as Lady Esmѐ Sinclair, Julian Sands as Sir Percival Southwick, Samantha Morton as Lady Lucinda Southwick, Raymond Coulthard as David Harriott, Rosamund Pike as Fanny Miller, Brendan Coyle as Uncle Miller, Princess Adelaide as herself, and others, etc.] [Story Logo 1abcd]
Author’s Mature Content Note: “Love is a Choice” is a story of love and romance set in the early to mid 1800’s. I like Regency sensibilities with regard to comedy of manners, but Romantic period modes of dress. Ha! As such there will be some passages in this story involving heartfelt love scenes (perhaps some R rated) and some passages involving highly dramatic moments. I will label the maturity rating of those chapters accordingly. Otherwise, the general rating for this story is PG or PG-13 due to some mature situations and topics. If you are unable or unwilling to attend a movie with the ratings that I provide, then please do not read the chapters with those labels. This is my disclaimer.
Additional Disclaimer: The Wiki and other reference links I cite contain general information merely to indicate that a place, person, or artifact, etc., possibly existed. Though I try to use real locations in England and I make reference to some historically complementary information whenever possible, the fictionalized history that I write about for these towns, towns folks, and areas in my story are mostly figments of my imagination and should not be taken as fact.
Author’s Recap from the previous installment: Lord Rafe, Lady Katharine, and Anna’s visit to the sea side in Essex at Sea Grove Cottage proved to be a wonderful bonding time for little Anna and her father Lord Rafe–and also as the new little Wingate family with Lady Katharine. Lady Katharine was also able to reconnect with her childhood friend, Cassie, who just had her first child Beatrice. And the newly little Wingate family’s project to honor Anna’s mother Fanny Miller’s memory–in addition to Anna and Lord Rafe writing down their memories of Fanny and Lady Katharine’s lovely portrait drawing of Fanny [(2) right]–now also includes moving Fanny’s body from her village cemetery to the Dearing Manor Estate’s private Wingate family cemetery with full funeral honors. Lord Rafe’s best friend Sir Collin MacGregor will undertake the charge to bring the late Fanny Miller’s body to Dearing Manor near Warwick in Warwickshire. But Sir Collin will run into obstacles, and a dark and sinister mystery that will impact more than just the Wingate’s and their extended families–though it will affect them most personally.
“Love is a Choice”, Ch. 24: Fanny’s Revealed Cause of Death has a Far Reaching Impact
During the remaining week that Lord Rafe, Lady Katharine, and Anna spend in Essex at Sea Grove Cottage, Sir Collin MacGregor [(3) right] travels to young Anna Wingate’s former village home in Clearwell in Gloucestershire to arrange transferring Fanny Miller’s body to the Dearing Manor family cemetery in Warwickshire. This is a very personal commission for the gentlemanly and distinguished Sir Collin from his lifelong friend Lord Rafe. And Sir Collin is honored to attend to the arrangements of this heartfelt family matter. However, Sir Collin runs into an impediment–if one can call a person an impediment–and then he uncovers a very dark and sinister mystery involving the deaths of more than Fanny Miller. Sir Collin MacGregor finds Anna’s Uncle Miller most uncooperative as they speak at the mill that he now owns outright.
Sir Collin: “Mr. Miller, I say again that I am surprised that both my and Lord Rafe Wingate’s letters should have both been misdirected such that you are unaware of Lord Wingate’s desire to transfer Fanny Miller’s body to his estate in Warwickshire for reinterrment in the Wingate family cemetery.
Mr. Miller: “I can-na help yo surprise.” He sneers gruffly. The Miller [(4) right] is a coarse looking man, accustomed to hard labor and long hours in keeping his flour mill running–as well as his own farm. Not tall, but not short–with a rounded face and a body girth that conveys a sense of strength, if not power. And the Miller has a set way of looking at his betters–in this case, Sir Collin MacGregor, Magistrate of Oxford–as if they were not his betters. To venture to say that Mr. Miller is being uncooperative and obstreperous–a state of being that Anna would say is generally true to his nature–is an understatement.
Sir Collin: I assure you that I will pay for your and others’ assistance in this matter.” He adds enticingly.
Mr. Miller: The miller stares coldly at Sir Collin, weighing his response. “Yo gold is na needed here. We might live cheap, but we be honest hard working folk of property.” He says pridefully as now owner of the mill and his farm–well, he rents his farm from the local squire landowner. “Our hands be too busy with the toil of our lands to do extra work that does na need doing.” Miller shows Sir Collin his rough calloused and very dirty hands. “And Fanny be dead. Digging up her body and moving it will na change that. Let it be.”
Sir Collin wonders why this man is so reticent to assist him–even refusing payment, when the offer of a few coins usually makes the lower classes more amenable to their tasks. Nay, Sir Collin feels that Mr. Miller is not only argumentative, but obstructive. The question in Sir Collin’s mind is, why? Though not born a suspicious man, as Magistrate for Oxford Sir Collin has had to adjudicate all manner of legal cases put before him–many including nefarious individuals who were judged to have acted with malicious and sometimes deadly intent. So Sir Collin is experienced in the ways of the world–and he recognizes a seemingly malicious nature in the Miller. However, Sir Collin then tries to appeal to the Miller’s sense of family in order to gain his assistance with exhuming Fanny Miller’s body.
Sir Collin: “Ah! But Sir, Fanny Miller’s daughter, Anna, does care. And she wishes her Mama to be near her so that she may visit her grave and put flowers on it to honor her Mama. Would you not show compassion for your young neice Anna in her time of grief?”
Mr. Miller: “Aye! Were she that you name truly my neice. But now all will know that she is not my niece. It was a lie! A lie that kept me from being owner of this mill when my brother died nearly twelve year ago–him not knowing that his widow would lie with a man so soon after he died and get herself with child that she passed off as his, or he would have willed the flour mill to me.” He states bitterly.
Sir Collin: “However, I am given to understand that Fanny Miller turned over the running of the mill–and all of its profits–to you upon her husband’s death. She only retained the small home she resided in and abundant flour for her pastry goods that supported she and her child.” Sir Collin looks upon the Miller with a raised eyebrow.
Mr. Miller: “The mill shoulda been mine, by right!” He reinforces intransigently to the magistrate, Sir Collin. “I knew Anna were not of my brother Miller! But I could na prove it.” He clamps his jaw firmly shut as he stares at this fancy dressed magistrate. When in actual fact, Sir Collin is wearing very conservative fabric as befits his solemn role as a magistrate–no fancy velvet or satin in sight.
Sir Collin: Looking at the Miller with a sickening growing suspicion about why the young and seemingly healthy young woman Fanny should so quickly wither and die, Sir Collin wonders if the Miller had anything to do with hastening Fanny Miller’s death. But Sir Collin states tactfully. “From what I hear, the woman and her child were of little bother or trouble for you. If anything, their bringing in of customers for her much sought after pastries brought additional customers your way to purchase the flour that she made her pastries from. You have full ownership of the Mill now and should be satisfied.” Sir Collin waves his hand in the air officiously–as he does when closing a case in his court.
Mr. Miller: “It still were not right.” He grumbles bitterly.
Sir Collin: Finally voicing his concern aloud, Sir Collin says slightly accusatorially. “It is also not right for a young woman in her prime to be struck down by a mysterious disease that claims her life in a bare few weeks time. What do you say to that?”
Mr. Miller: The Miller’s eyes widen, realizing that this Lord Rafe Wingate–Anna’s true father–is powerful if he sends a magistrate to do his bidding, and could see him hanged if he wished it. So he back peddles. “Life is hard for village folk.” Then he adds almost without thought. “The disease done carried off more wives and mothers than only Fanny. Three gone and four more village women sick and near to death. So do not pretend to understand what you do not, Milord MacGregor.” He forcefully addresses Sir Collin by his magistrate title.
The news of other women’s deaths, sends a cold shiver of dread throughout Sir Collin’s body–him wondering if these deaths are related? Or are these other women’s deaths meant to hide the intended victim–Fanny Miller–so that the Miller could claim his mill? Sir Collin looks upon the Miller and does not think the Miller capable of being so strategic–though certainly capable of murder. Perhaps the flour that Fanny used from the mill was tainted by Miller in some way and it inadvertently made its way to the other women and caused their deaths as well.
What had started out as a simple gesture of friendship in transferring Fanny Miller’s body for his friend, Lord Rafe, has turned into a murder investigation. Given the current circumstances of there possibly being a murder to investigate, Sir Collin secretly congratulates himself for thinking strategically and fortuitously bringing two constables with him as a show of the force of law–and because they had earlier visited another locality pertaining to legal matters there.
Sir Collin: Sir Collin’s patience is it its end as he assumes his role as Magistrate. “Mr. Miller, either you have a disease epidemic in the village that for some strange reason only affects and kills women, or perhaps they have all been poisoned. Why? I do not know.” Sir Collin stares warily at the Miller.
Mr.Miller: “What are you saying?” He becomes even more agitated–worried that he is being accused of something. “I did nothing!”
Sir Collin: “We will see what an investigation brings. Our answer will be with Fanny Miller and the others who have died–and with the women near death. Come man, organize your hands and get shovels. We are going to exhume the bodies.”
Mr. Miller: “Ex ume? What do you mean by that?” He thunders. Afterall, he is only a Miller and some words are beyond his limited lexicon.
Sir Collin: “We will dig them up and examine the bodies for signs of anything unnatural in their deaths.”
Mr. Miller: Looking at Sir Collin in horror, he spits out. “You canna to that! It is blasphemous! The church will na allow it.”
Sir Collin: “I am a magistrate and I can do this. And the church will allow it if they do not want more deaths. Now come with me and my officers of the court.”
Though it is unusual to have a murder suspect help dig up the potential murder victims, Sir Collin wants to keep the Miller under close watch. And without a gaol or other enclosure with which to detain the Miller, the miller will be obliged to help with the digging–while Sir Collin scrutinizes his behavior and actions.
After informing the village’s young vicar of their intent, Sir Collin easily persuades him to go along with their plan due to the vicar’s naivete and ingrained discipline of bowing to authority. And Sir Collin as magistrate is the authority in this matter. The vicar also informs Sir Collin that the three women who have died so far were near neighbors. So Sir Collin wonders if Fanny were killed by some poison to wrest the mill from her ownership and have it transferred to the Miller–then perhaps the other two women were killed because either Fanny had brought them into her confidence in case she worried for her own or her daughter Anna’s safety. Or, perhaps the Miller feared that the other two women might have witnessed his guilt in some way.
For the men assembled in the simple country church yard, theirs is a grim task ahead of them. The three women’s bodies will have been buried for three to four weeks already–and sure to be decaying–especially since none were buried in a casket, just in burial sacks. Despite the corpses being buried in relatively shallow graves–three feet under–the heavy clay soil and recent rains compacting that soil makes digging difficult. After three two man teams dig for two hours, all three dead women’s bodies in their burial sacks are returned to the surface of the ground. No one wants to open the sacks to see what grisly visage might be staring back at them–what with natural organic decay processes and insects that claim their meals indiscriminantly.
But Sir Collin is the one who started this and he peals back sack of the first woman who died to reveal her face. Curiously, the first village woman to die was not Fanny Miller. The other men do not look upon the sight. The vicar crosses himself and also refrains from looking upon the dead woman’s face. However, Sir Collin is astounded at what he sees. Though not the most pleasant of faces, it has not decayed–nor are there noticeable signs of insect infestation on the chalk white face of the first woman. But there do appear to be some dead insects in her hair. This is most unusual.
Sir Collin: “Everyone! Look at this!” He commands.
The men grumble. But their pride as men causes them to flinchingly look where they are bidden. None of them can believe what they see.
Vicar: “This cannot be!” He exclaims in surprise. “I have been told that bodies decay after two weeks. And it has been hot and rainy which should have speeded that up.”
Sir Collin quickly unties the burial sacks of the other two women–including Fanny’s burial sack. And their dead faces are in the same chalk white nearly pristine state as when they were buried weeks ago. And these two women also have some dead insects in their hair or in their burial sack. Sir Collin has part of his suspicions confirmed.
Vicar: “The faces of the women who are ill but not yet dead are also deathly pale.” He offers offhandedly.
Miller: Pointing to the dead women’s bodies lying on the ground before them, he cries out in a frenzy. “Their bodies should be rotting–but tarne’t. This be the devil’s work!” He shrinks back in superstition as he crosses himself.
Sir Collin: “No! It is not the devil! These women–and I suspect that the women who are ill–have all been poisoned–arsenic would be my guess from their deathly pallor.” [(5)]
The village men and vicar look at Sir Collin in horror.
Vicar: “But why? How? Milord MacGregor, you cannot think that we have a murderer in our midsts?”
Sir Collin: “That I do not know? Do these dead women have any connection with each other beyond being neighbors? Were they friends or relatives?”
Vicar: “We are a small village of 200 people. Everyone knows everyone else–and villagers are often related to each other by marriage.” He shakes his head.
Sir Collin: “Very well, that line of reasoning will not help us. What about the women who are currently ill? Can we see any pattern about these women’s lives that might have made them vulnerable to harm from a murderer?” Sir Collin is still not ruling out intentional causation of death by murder–as he stares directly at the Miller.
Mr.Miller: Defiantly, he states the obvious. “They are all women.”
Men: The other men sneer. “We know that!”
Sir Collin: He quiets them with an officious wave of his hand. “No, no. That is a salient point. Why have the men not become ill? What is different between the women and their husbands? Are these women being targeted for death by a killer, or is it something else?”
What else could it be, they all wonder silently to themselves? The men look at Sir Collin as if he is mad. Sir Collin is mad–with the germ of an idea that is taking terrible root in his mind.
Mr. Miller: “The men work and the women do not.”
Of course, the women toiling away with cleaning and washing and cooking by hand would have something to say about that. The miller means that the women do not work outside their homes.
Vicar: Not wed yet himself, he offers up what he thinks is of little help. “I do not have a wife yet. So I cannot offer any suggestions. I only interact with the village women at church, or when they do my laundry.” He shrugs his shoulders sheepishly.
Sir Collin: “What did you say?” Sir Collin stares at the vicar, not certain that he heard him correctly..
Vicar: The vicar repeats himself slowly. “When they … do my … laundry?” Then he quickly adds, lest Sir Collin think that the vicar is taking advantage of the village women by procuring their domestic service. “But the task has been much easier for the women of our village in the last few months with the new and closer water well that was opened after it was discovered at the Clearwell Caves mines.” [(6)]
Sir Collin stares at the vicar in mounting disbelief.
Vicar: “You see, the women do not have to walk as far as to the convent aquifer wells to obtain water any more.” The vicar looks at Sir Collin curiously.
Sir Collin: He looks to the heavens and entreats mournfully. “Is there no man of learning–or even common sense–in this place?”
Mr. Miller: “Insulting us will not help?” He balls his fists, wanting to strike Sir Collin–but knowing that it would mean his own death. Sir Collin as magistrate represents the crown. To harm Sir Collin would surely mean prison and the gallows for the Miller.
Sir Collin: “No! But returning to using the deeper convent water aquifer wells will make the town safe from further poisonings. The mine water well is contaminated with arsenic–most mine wells are. And that is a deadly poison in sufficient amounts to all living things.” [(7)]
Vicar: “How can this be? We men have also drunk water from that well and not sickened and died?”
Sir Collin: “Yet I see a large cistern to catch rainwater next to your parish rectory.” He gestures toward the cistern
Vicar: “Well! I am all alone and the rainwater serves my needs in abundance.”
Sir Collin: But I would guess that the women do not have that luxury. With their washing and laundry and cooking and such women have a much greater exposure to the well water so far–and thus to the arsenic. Eventually, the whole village will die if you do not close down that mine well.”
Mill Hand: Stepping forward, a worried young man asks. “My wife is ill. Will she recover if she does not drink the mine well water anymore?” He asks hopefully.
Sir Collin: “Sadly, I do not know.” Sir Collin shakes his head ruefully. “The sick are in god’s hands. But you can at least prevent anyone else from getting sick by stopping using the mine well water.” Then he turns to the vicar again. “Who is this mine owner? He should have warned you about the mine well water being poisoned.”
Vicar: “Milord, it is to Lord William Montgrieve whom you will want to speak. The mines are his. But he is mostly an absentee owner–living in London as he does.”
Sir Collin: “Mines?” Sir Collin is incredulous at the potential magnitude of harm to the populace from multiple mine water wells. “This Lord Montgrieve has more than one mine?”
Vicar: “Yes, five more mines in two other counties. And most of them have water wells also.” The vicar nods wincingly with a growing recognition of the potential scope of the poisoning.
Sir Collin covers his mouth in shock. Because if arsenic poisoning from contaminated mine water wells is killing these villagers here, then citizens in the other villages are also at risk if they consume water from mine water wells.
The remainder of the day is spent reinterring the dead–except for Fanny Miller whose body is carefully cleaned, put into a new dress that Sir Collin had brought with him for her, and lain in the finely carved wooden casket with a satin covered cushion interior that SirCollin had also brought with him per Lord Rafe’s request. Then Sir Collin organizes the other men in the village to board up the mine water well–spreading the word about the cause for the disease and their need to return to using the convent well aquifer water two miles away that is fed by a deep underground spring far away from any groundwater contamination issues. He also talks to them about developing an engineering project that might bring the water from the convent wells to the village via an aqueduct system like the Romans used [(8)].
The next day Sir Collin’s retinue–of himself in his enclosed carriage, two constables on horses, his stable hand driving the wagon carrying Fanny Miller’s body in her casket–travel to Dearing Manor near Warwick in Warwickshire. They will reach the Wingate Estate by mid day and Sir Collin will have several letters to send off to the authorities. The first is to the crown, warning them about the Montgrieve mines well water potentially poisoning six villages in three counties and the authorities will have to act swiftly to close the mine wells so that more citizens do not die. Sir Collin very likely thinks that charges of manslaughter will be handed down upon Lord Montgrieve’s head. And the second letter is to his longtime friend Sir Rafe to read upon his arrival home–since Lord Rafe is still on his wedding holiday with his wife and child–regarding the general details of Fanny’s death and the mine well water poisonings.
The sad fact is that Fanny Miller did not have to die but for the negligence of others. It will be a crushing blow to Anna that her mother’s death was preventable. Sir Collin knows that it may be small comfort to Fanny Miller’s daughter, Anna, now as she grieves for her mother. But Fanny’s death–and the decision to bring her body to Dearing Manor to be reinterred in the family cemetery–has halted a negligent and preventable poisoning of the English citizenry, saving hundreds, and perhaps, thousands of lives. Sir Collin also relates the full contents of the letter to Lord Charles Wingate, because it will fall to him to respond to any questions that Lord Rafe will have since Sir Collin must return to his duties in Oxford. Though he and his family plan to return for the funeral of Fanny Miller in a few days time.
Lord Rafe, Lady Katharine, and Anna have a pleasant two day journey back to Dearing Manor from their sea side idyll of Sea Grove Cottage in Maylandsea, Essex. To lessen the boredom and fatigue associated with their long trip, they play card games and guessing games when not sleeping. Anna is frightfully good at both games, Lord Rafe discovers to his delight. And the overnight stay at an inn was like a girl’s slumber party that Lord Rafe was privy to with all three of them staying in one room for safety–Anna slept on a cot at the foot of their bed. So, Lord Rafe and Lady Katharine’s chaste sleeping that night might have been construed to be a tad frustrating, if not unpleasant. But Lord Rafe watched enraptured as his daughter Anna and his wife Lady Katharine made each others’ hair up into different designs with ribbons and adornments–even asking him to have a go with styling their hair, given his ability to tie Lady Katharine’s curls up with his cravat earlier. However, Lord Rafe absolutely refused when the ladies wanted to dress up his mop of longish curly hair–a man does not do ribbons, no matter how much his young wife and younger daughter might plead. He has to draw the line somewhere on affability. Yet, he shakes his head and smiles at them bemusedly for requesting it.
As Lord Rafe’s, Lady Katharine’s, and Anna’s carriage turns into the long drive up to Dearing Manor looming before them, they cease their chatter as they pass by the Wingate family cemetery and see that a grave has been freshly dug–knowing that it will soon hold Anna’s beloved Mama Fanny. Sitting next to Lady Katharine on the carriage bench opposite of Lord Rafe, Anna turns her face into Lady Katharine’s embrace and weeps. Her tears have lessened over their wedding/family trip together as a family these past two weeks. But coming home to Dearing Manor and seeing the grave makes Anna’s feelings of loss come to the surface. Lord Rafe leans across to them and gently strokes Anna’s shoulder. Then Anna brings her left hand down from clasping around Lady Katharine and holds her hand out to her Papa and Lord Rafe clasps her hand in his. It is a moment of shared grief as they all weep.
However Lord Rafe is still, as yet, in the dark about whether his friend Sir Collin has managed to transfer Fanny Miller’s body to Dearing Manor. With the Dearing Manor estate grounds keepers having alerted the house staff that the young master, Lord Rafe, and his family approach, Lord Charles and Lady Leonora Wingate turn out to greet them. Lady Leonora is overjoyed to see them after their two weeks away from her. And she is especially eager to learn how her son and his wife fared with his daughter Anna. Lord Charles Wingate’s countenance is usually taciturn–though he cheers up for his grandchildren and family. However, the shocking news of why Fanny died that Lord Wingate must convey to his son Lord Rafe is a burden that he would wish to set aside. But such are the duties of family–whether noble or peasant–to share their lives together in good times and in bad, and to cleave unto each other when death claims one among them.
The carriage stops a few feet in front of Lord and Lady Wingate. The footman alights from the carriage and opens the door. The persons within have all composed themselves, mostly. Sorrow will have its proper place in two days time. But today is a homecoming. Lord Rafe exits the carriage first and greets his mother then father.
Lord Rafe: “Mama!” He kisses her cheeks warmly and gives her a hug.
Lady Leonora: “Why Rafe, you look tan.”
Lord Rafe: “Yes. We spent half of everyday in nature. It is a wonder that you recognize us.” He smiles.
Then Lord Rafe greets his father.
Lord Charles: “Rafe.” They shake hands.
Lord Rafe: “Papa!” He hugs his Papa–who accepts the embrace warmly, but stiffly. Lord Charles is an old soldier who does not often show emotion–at least, not when servants are about.
Lord Charles: “All has been made ready for Fanny’s funeral. She is here. Fanny lies in state in the small parlor library.” He looks straight into his son’s eyes.
Lord Rafe: Lord Rafe’s demeanor saddens. “Yes thank you, Papa. We saw the grave as we rode up the drive. Seeing it upset Anna again.”
Lord Charles: “Rafe, let us get you all inside the Manor. But you and I will need to talk later. Sir Collin had some news to relate that he wanted me to give to you privately.”
Lord Rafe: “Of course, Papa.” Turning around, he sees that his wife and daughter have still not exited the carriage, though a footman holds out his hand at the ready. Lord Rafe points his finger to the carriage for his parents benefit and walks over there.
Footman: “They are detained my lord.” The footman explains why he has not helped them exit the carriage.
Lord Rafe: Lord Rafe nods his head knowingly–given Anna’s recent outburst when passing the open grave. “Let me.” The foot man stands aside and Lord Rafe peeks his head into the carriage. “Did my ladies wish to enter the manor with me to refresh and revive ourselves after our long journey?”
Lady Katharine: Lady Katharine still embraces Anna, who is very quiet and not looking directly at her Papa just now–though she sneaks glances out of the corner of her eye . “Rafe, Anna does not wish her Grandmama to see her so upset about her Mama Fanny.”
Lord Rafe and Lady Katharine exchange understanding looks and shrug their shoulders as to how to calm Anna. He decides the straightforward approach might work best.
Lord Rafe: Leaning in further and taking Anna’s hand in his, he begins. “Anna.” She does not respond. “Anna, please look at me.” He gently requests and Anna turns her head to look at him. “Sweetheart, your Mama is here in the manor. Shall I take you to her casket?”
Anna: Flinging herself into her Papa’s arms she weeps. “Yes, Papa! I want to see my Mama again!”
Lady Katharine: “Anna, I do not think …”
Lord Rafe: He interrupts her, but concurs. “I do not think that will be possible. But we will take some flowers to lay over her heart on top of the casket.
Anna: “Why can I not see her?”
Lord Rafe: “Dearest, do you remember the fallen bird we came across in our walks?” Anna nods. “In death, it had begun to wither away as all things do. Your Mama would want you to remember her as she was in life, not as she is in death.”
Lord Rafe: Lifting Anna into his arms and carrying her out of the carriage–even as Lady Katharine follows closely behind them–he whispers soothingly to Anna as Lord Rafe’s parents follow in step behind them as they enter the house. “Anna sweetheart, I remember your Mama Fanny as a young woman of twenty years with golden hair, rosie cheeks, and a musical laugh that made the birds envious–for their songs could not compare. She loved baking delicious concoctions and often had as much flour on her person as was in her pastries.” He smiles with the memory. “Fanny was the most gentle soul I ever met–giving, kind, loving and sweet. And with our memories of Fanny, she lives on in our hearts–and we are her legacy in the world.”
Anna gives a small nod to her head, but continues to weep. Seeing the open grave has brought it all back to her, her Mama is dead. And she must somehow find a way to live with her constant grief–for it will not abate, lurking ever present in the shadows, waiting to overwhelm her again.
Lady Leonora: Lady Leonora kisses Anna’s cheek as she rubs Anna’s back while Anna is still being carried in her Papa’s arms. “Anna Sweetheart, we will let you settle into your room for a few moments. Then we will have tea in the family parlor.”
Anna: “Yes, Grandmama. Thank you.” She manages to respond.
Lady Katharine: “Come Rafe and Anna, let us dispel the dust of the road from ourselves.”She smiles at them caringly.
Lord Rafe sets Anna on her feet and the three of them hold hands as they walk upstairs together. Once in Anna’s bed chamber, Lady Katharine helps Anna with her toilette–washing her face of tears–as she did that first night they met when Anna came to live with her Grandmama Leonora–whilst Lord Rafe returns to his boyhood bed chamber to refresh himself.
As Lord Rafe finishes washing his face after shaving in the basin [(9) right]–with his jacket, vest, cravat and shirt off–Lord Rafe hears a knock on his boyhood bedchamber door.
Lord Charles: “Rafe, it is Papa. May I enter?”
Lord Rafe: “Of course, Papa.” He strides over to the door and opens it.
Lord Charles: Lord Charles walks into the room and shuts the door behind him. “I am sorry to have to bring this news to you now, but it cannot wait.”
Lord Rafe: He motions for his father to sit opposite him in matching club chairs at the fireplace. “As you wish, Papa. Please sit.”
Lord Charles: Removing Sir Collin’s letter from his jacket pocket, Lord Charles hands the letter to his son and begins. “Sir Collin discovered something when he went to retrieve Fanny’s body.”
Lord Charles: “Fanny did not die of natural causes. She was poisoned.” Lord Charles [(10) right] states grimly.
Lord Rafe: “My god! By whom?” He thunders, feeling afresh the wound that is the loss of his daughter’s Mama’s life.
Lord Charles: “By what is the more accurate question. It is all there in the letter. But the short version is that the villagers had recently begun using water from a mine well and Fanny and several other women suffered arsenic poisoning and died. There are more who are ill, their fate is unknown.”
Lord Rafe: “Why the women only? And should we be concerned for Anna’s health?” He worries.
Lord Charles: “The village women with their washing and cooking and such had greater exposure to it. But soon the whole village would have become poisoned. And Sir Collin believes that with Anna spending the whole of her days at the convent for schooling that had the clean water well–eating breakfast and lunch there–she was spared. Though we should have the doctor examine her.”
Lord Rafe: “But were there no warnings to the villagers that mines have tainted water? Did not the mine owner warn them?” He asks incredulously.
Lord Charles: “Apparently not. And it is worse. The mine owner–a Lord William Montgrieve–has five other mines also believed to have water wells supplying their villages with water. Sir Collin has written to the crown about it and also to the vicar of each parish village to explain that they must not use the mine well water and why. Over two dozen people have died. But for us bringing Fanny’s body here to our estate and Sir Collin investigating her death–realizing the connection to the tainted well water–hundreds of lives could have been lost, and communities and families devastated.”
Lord Rafe: He looks soulfully into his Papa’s eyes. “As our family is devastated.”
Lord Charles: “Yes my son. And there is something else.”
Lord Rafe: “I am almost afraid to ask.” He shakes his head.
Lord Charles: “As you know, arsenic can be used as a preservative in taxonomy of species collections.”
Lord Rafe: “What are you trying to tell me, Papa?”
Lord Charles: “I have seen it with my own eyes–disbelieving what Sir Collin told me. But Fanny’s body is still preserved as if she died only a few days ago–not three weeks ago.”
Lord Rafe: “You are serious?” His mind races, wondering if he should let Anna look upon her dead Mama’s face once more before they lay Fanny to rest? Should even he gaze upon her?
Lord Charles: “Yes. However, it does look like the ravages of decay are just beginning.” He does not go into detail. Then he adds gently. “I would not suggest that you let Anna see her mother this way.”
Lord Rafe: Nodding his head. “Of course.”
Lord Charles: “Nor should you.” Rafe jerks his head up to look at his Papa. “Let both of you remember Fanny as she was in life.”
Lord Rafe: Tearing up, Lord Rafe admits. “That is what I whispered to Anna when I soothed her as we came into the Manor.
Lord Charles: “And another thing.”
Lord Rafe: “Papa, I do not think I can hear more.” Lord Rafe balls his fists and presses them into his thighs to try to maintain his composure.
Lord Charles: Taking another envelope out of his pocket, he opens it and pours out a small gold cross into the palm of his hand. “Fanny had been buried wearing this delicate gold cross necklace.” He hands it to his son. “They must have thought that anything on her person was diseased, so they buried it with her. I had it cleaned so that you could give the cross necklace to Anna if you wish to.”
Lord Rafe: “Thank you, Papa. But Anna may want her Mama to be laid to rest wearing this cross.”
Lord Charles: “She might. However, look at the back, there is an inscription.”
Lord Rafe: Turning the small flat cross over–it is not more than one inch long–he sees the initials on it and his tears flow. “RW, FW, AW.” He looks up at his Papa. “It is our initials–Rafe Wingate, Fanny Wingate, Anna Wingate–as if Fanny and I were married.”
Lord Charles: Looking caringly at his son, he says softly. “Son, your Mama said that Fanny always shone with love for you when your Mama mentioned you to Fanny. And Fanny took no other husband, though several had offered for her hand. Perhaps, Fanny felt that having born your child, she was your wife in her heart.”
Lord Rafe: Lord Rafe holds his head in his hands. “I wish I had known about Fanny bearing my child, Papa.” He wails. Then he says so quietly, it is almost a whisper as he looks up at his Papa again. “Fanny was my first love. My only love–until my wife Kate.”
Lord Charles: “I know, Rafe.” He stands up and walks two steps over to his son who is still sitting down and he lays his hand on his son’s shoulder. “When we lose the ones we love too soon–because it is always too soon–all we can do is to cherish the memories that we have of them. It is difficult and painful, but must be endured.”
Lord Rafe: “You speak as if you have experienced such a loss, Papa?” He asks questioningly. Because apart from his grandparents–who died of extreme old age–their family has not had deaths in their immediate family that he is aware of.
Lord Charles: “That is a story for another day, my son.” He says poignantly wistfully. “For now, we focus on Anna and you and the rest of us as we grieve for Fanny and prepare for her burial rites.”
Lord Rafe: “Yes, Papa.” Lord Rafe stands up, next to his father. “Papa, I think this is the most that we have talked at one sitting since I was a young boy.” It is not an accusation–but it is an observation.
Lord Charles: “Well son, before you became an old married man and father yourself, you were quite busy living your life with school and then beyond.” Lord Charles intones with a fatherly twinkle in his eye, alluding to his son’s formerly rapacious appetite for paramours.
Lord Rafe: “I was rather a rolling stone.”[(11)] Lord Rafe smiles bemusedly. “But I hope to see more of you and Mama now–especially since you are grandparents and guardians to my daughter, Anna. And, I would avail myself of your wise counsel now and again.”
Lord Charles: “I would like to see more of you, Rafe.” He smiles warmly at his son.
Then father and son embrace–as they used to, when Lord Rafe was a little boy who clinged adoringly to his big and powerful father. They have always loved each other as father and son. But now they renew their pledge to not take that loving relationship for granted any more. Experiencing the death of a loved one gives one perspective on the fleeting nature of life–and the importance to truly cherish each other and to make our love known to one another.
During the next two days, Lord Rafe follows his father’s wise counsel and neither he nor Anna gaze upon Fanny’s face before her finely carved wooden casket is sealed prior to her burial service. They want to remember Fanny as she was in life. And Anna elects to keep Fanny’s simple gold cross necklace and wear it always as a measure of her devotion to her Mama and the little family that Anna, her Mama, and her Papa Lord Rafe are. Lord Rafe also elects not to tell Anna nor his wife Lady Katharine of the circumstances of Fanny’s death now, but rather wait until just before they return to London in a few weeks. Anna must know then, because London is sure to be talking about the mine well water poisoning scandal. But they will delicately break it to Anna when the time comes–that her Mama should not have died, but for the negligence of the mine owner regarding not saying that the mine well water was tainted.
Fanny Miller’s funeral is a small gathering of immediate Wingate family members–Lord and Lady Wingate, Lord Rafe, Lady Katharine, and Anna–and the MacGregors. The Throckmorton’s can not attend because Lady Louisa is now in her third month of pregnancy and feeling the full effects of her morning sickness, which precludes her being able to travel from London. Lady Louisa’s and Sir John’s third child is due sometime after Christmastide. But they write and ask Lady Leonora to have a beautiful floral arrangement made from the estate flowers on their behalf so that Anna knows that her Aunt and Uncle and cousins Henry and Lottie are thinking about her.
After the Dearing Manor Chapel funeral service for Fanny Miller ends, the Wingate family and friends walk from the chapel to the grave site. The pall bearers for Fanny’s slight casket are the men–Lord Rafe, his Papa Lord Charles, Lord Rafe’s longtime friend Sir Collin, and his Lord Rafe’s godson Stuart. The ladies walk behind the men who carry the casket along the short walk to the near side of the cemetery, where Fanny’s grave awaits her burial under a tall overhanging tree. It is a lovely setting for Fanny’s final resting place–near the heart of the Wingate family cemetery to show her due deference as Anna’s Mama, yet with lush green grass and trees sheltering around it to give Fanny’s grave the feel of a private enclave of peace and calm. Fanny’s casket is carefully lowered by ropes into the grave by the groundskeepers and the family tosses roses onto the casket–the family felt that this would be easier for Anna than them tossing handfuls of dirt, as if they were beginning to cover Fanny up.
Vicar Soames: He closes the prayers for Fanny’s burial using the 1789 Book of Common Prayer [(12)]:
“ALMIGHTY God, with whom do live the spirits of those who depart hence in the Lord, and with whom the souls of the faithful, after they are delivered from the burden of the flesh, are in joy and felicity; We give thee hearty thanks for the good examples of all those thy servants, who, having finished their course in faith, do now rest from their labours. And we beseech thee, that we, with all those who are departed in the true faith of thy holy Name, may have our perfect consummation and bliss, both in body and soul, in thy eternal and everlasting glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”
The family embraces Anna, each in turn. Then the MacGregors pay their respects to her with kisses on her cheek–or a clasp of hands in Stuart’s case. Then they all pair up and walk back to Dearing Manor for a light luncheon before the MacGregors must depart for Oxford. Sir Collin has many cases to sit in judgement over–and he must also travel to London to give a formal statement to a tribunal formed to investigate the mine well water poisoning deaths.
So Stuart’s time with Anna is very short–they will not see each other again until at Christmas. Stuart only wants to be a comfort to Anna as they walk back to the Manor with her arm lightly holding his arm. They walk behind the other couples.
Anna: “Thank you, Stuart. It was much nicer than when Mama was buried in the village–they did not pray over her, but I did. My Papa and Grandmama were kind to arrange today’s services.” Anna [(13) right] smiles weakly. Anna is glad of their honoring her Mama in this way. Anna is teary, but she has cried so much over the past few days that she is almost dry of tears–though Anna’s heartache for her Mama’s passing remains as a tear on her heart.
Stuart: “How are you, Miss Anna? Really?” He asks caringly. Stuart is still young enough at fourteen years to not have developed the manly art of ignoring his or others’ emotions.
Anna: “I am sad, Stuart. How could I not be? I will always be sad that Mama is not alive and sharing in my life, and I in hers.”
Stuart: “I am sorry that I never had the chance to meet your Mama. But I am certain that she was a lovely person.” He encouragingly squeezes her hand on his arm.
Stuart: “I know, because you are her daughter. And you could not be as wonderful as you are without your Mama’s loving influence upon you.” Stuart [(14) right] says sincerely.
Anna: “Thank you, Stuart. You are very kind.” Anna appreciates Stuart’s thoughtfulness to her. “But I must admit that Mama could be quite a perfectionist about her pies and other pastries.” Anna shakes her head with a small smile of remembrance. “Mama taught me how to make the most delicious featherlight pie crust–for meat or fruit pies. But her patience was beginning to wear thin until I understood the secret to making it.”
Stuart: “Oh? What is the secret?” He asks cordially.
Anna: “Stuart, it would not be a secret were I to tell you. Only family may know.” She says impishly, as she playfully rolls her eleven year old eyes at him.
Stuart: “Well at the very least, I hope that I might enjoy one of your pastries or pies someday.” He leans in and smiles hard, like the fourteen year old young man he is.
Anna: “Perhaps. Stuart, thank you for helping me remember about Mama teaching me to make pie crusts. I had forgotten that.”
Stuart: He smiles warmly at her. “My pleasure.”
Anna: “I will have to add it to my memory book about Mama.”
Stuart: “A memory book?” He asks quizzically.
Anna: “Yes. It was Lady Katharine’s idea–and Papa helped–for me to write down my memories of my Mama now, while they are fresh in my mind. And Lady Katharine drew Mama’s portrait from my descriptions. The portrait catches Mama’s likeness very well. I have it hanging on the wall in my bed chamber. But Lady Katharine also drew me a miniature version that I may take with me where ever I go.” She holds up her other hand with her reticule dangling from it.
Stuart: “May I see it?” Anna smiles, and takes out her folding case that has the miniature portrait of her Mama in it and hands it to Stuart. “Oh Anna, your Mama looks very beautiful–and she has a kind face.” He hands the portrait back to Anna.
Anna: “My Mama was beautiful, and kind, and loving, and funny, and caring, and and joyful. I will love her always.” Anna tears up more again, and whimpers. “Hmm.”
Stuart turns toward Anna and embraces her caringly–rocking her gently in his arms as he strokes her back and kisses the top of her head–wishing that he could take her sorrow and pain away. Anna receives Stuart’s comforting attentions gratefully. Lord Rafe watches this tender scene from a discreet distance and smiles–glad for Anna to have found a friend in his godson Stuart MacGregor. Lord Rafe turns back toward the Manor and walks inside when he sees Anna and Stuart resume walking toward the Manor. This day and everyday forward, the Wingate family and close friends will keep Anna in a protective cocoon of love and friendship. And slowly, Anna will find her way someday to remembering her Mama Fanny with more joy than heartache, and always with love.
To be continued with Chapter 25
1) “Love is a Choice” story logo is a composite image comprised of:
a) Gold wedding gown (cropped to fabric of skirt) found at http://0.tqn.com/d/honeymoons/1/0/C/w/belle2.jpg
b) Oval picture frames were found at http://www.inlineovals.com/product_images/q/675/602agp__91104_zoom.jpg
c) Image (cropped, masked, brightened, color) representing Lord Rafe Wingate is that of Richard Armitage as John Thornton in North & South (2004) episode 2, picture 66 was found at http://www.richardarmitagenet.com/images/gallery/nands/album/episode2/ns2-066.jpg
d) Image (cropped, masked, brightened, color) representing Lady Katharine Wingate is that of Carla Gugino as Nan St. George in “The Buccaneers” (1995), Episode 1 vlcsnap-ooh09m21s203 Mar1313 Gratiana Lovelace screencap (cap)
2) Fanny Miller image (crop, rough pastels) is of Rosamund Pike as Jane Bennett in the 2005 film “Pride & Prejudice” found at http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/jan/06/jane-austen-darling-child-turns-200
3) Sir Collin MacGregor image is of Mark Strong as George Knightly in 1996’s Emma Mar2513 was found at http://cps-static.rovicorp.com/2/Open/Ernst%20Seibold/Jane%20Austen’s%20Emma/_derived_jpg_q90_250x250_m0/Emma%20Kate%20Beckinsale%20Mark%20Strong_809869.jpg?partner=allrovi.com
4) Anna’s “Uncle” Miller image(cropped) is represented by Brendan Coyle as Nicholas Higgins in North & South (2004), Promo pix 3 Jun0613ranet found at http://www.richardarmitagenet.com/images/gallery/nands/album/NandSPromo/album/NandSPromo-03.jpg
5) Arsenic poisoning symptoms and treatments descriptions are found at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arsenic
6) Clearwell Caves in Gloucestershire have iron ore mines that as of this writing are no longer in use. This writer has no knowledge of water from these mines being used for drinking and washing, nor that any poisonings occurred from them. It is merely a plot device. For more information about Clearwell Caves, visit http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clearwell_Caves
7) For information about drinking water contamination by arsenic, visit http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arsenic ; “Many water supplies close to mines are contaminated by these poisons”. ; coincidentally, arsenic is also used to preserve organic materials for taxonomy and in taxidermy.
8) Aqueducts were structures that conveyed clean water from its source to the people who would consume it—sometimes over great distances. For more information, visit http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aqueduct_%28Roman%29
9) Lord Rafe image after shaving is Richard Armitage as Percy Courtenay in Marie Lloyd Queen of the Music Hall” (2007) by BBC4 and was found at http://www.richardarmitagenet.com/images/gallery/marielloyd/album/slides/ML-19.jpg; For more about the miniseries visit http://www.richardarmitagenet.com/career/174.html
10) Lord Charles Wingate image (hi-res,shrp) s Alan Bates and was found at http://www.peoplequiz.com/images/bios/alan_bates.jpg-1290.jpg
11) The phrase “a rolling stone gathers no moss” refers to someone who is in constant motion. For more information, visit http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_rolling_stone_gathers_no_moss
12) The 1789 Book of Common Prayer BCP is nearly identical to the 1892 BCP. So it would have been used by Anglican’s in 1826 when Anna’s Mama’s burial occurs. For the full text, visit http://justus.anglican.org/resources/bcp/1789/Burial_1789.htm
13) Anna Image (dress color changed from blue to black) is Emilie Francois as Margaret Dashwood in “Sense & Sensibility” (1995) vlcsnap35m50s209 Mar1613 Gratiana Lovelace Cap MaskClrBrtShrp
14) Stuart MacGregor image (crop, brt, clr, shrp, hi-res)is Christian Bale as Theodore Laurence pensive in 1994’s Little Women was found at http://christbale.ru/images/littlewomen/041.jpg
“Love is a Choice”, Previous Story Link to Ch. 23 is: