Mother Damnable’s Occasional Diary of Days
19th August 1815
What wickedness. Today was a hot bright one, and I set about to enterprise. Not all working men can attend the house during day hours, so I chose to take ale to them. Since losing George I need as all the pennies I can get. I filled two heavy pitchers, and each reddened my fingers as I carried them.
I’d heard there were some workmen, bricklaying close to the house. They were from far afield. My visit would bring them refreshment, and an invitation to the house later on. I put on my cap. I’ve always loved my red cap. It keeps me warm in the winter and cool in the summer.
I know the streets here well. Though the men were not working far away, in the heat and carrying both jugs of ale, they seemed very far away. On my walk, I spotted a big black bird. He was shiny and fat. I decided that I would call him Black Jack. I called his name, and he came to me. His brown eyes shone thirstily for my ale. I did wonder, what would a drunken bird think? Could he fly straight after a mug of ale? The idea did make me smile.
As I neared the marble statue, I saw a peddler. On this hot day his big coat weighed him down with pegs, cloths and matches. He pushed a large barrow, filled heavily and covered with a sack. I put the pitchers down as I watched him struggle. I called to him ‘Peddler! Some ale?’. He looked angrily at me. He put down his barrow and started toward me. I did not move. He came close to my face and his nose touched mine. I did not move. Then he stood back, and I can’t recall what he said, but he laughed. He laughed loudly. I began to tremble, and as I did so Black Jack started to attack the man. With his claws and his beak he did stab the peddler’s face, over and over again. The peddlar clutched wildly, to stop the attack. It did not stop until I called Black Jack’s name. Blood flowed from the scratches made in his skin. I did tell that peddler to never laugh at me again.
28th November 1815
Darby is getting worse. We have been as one for many moons now. I always hope that his manner will improve. Alas, it degenerates as each day passes. I have known men but none such a layabout as Darby. He can be romantic, calling to me once he has had the first ale of the day. By the last, he is his usual self. Sullen, wasteful and rude. He smells a stale pot, left unslopped. I lie in our bed at night, and I pretend to sleep as he tries to make love to me. It is easier if I don’t move, that way he soon falls asleep. I watch him when he sleeps and I think terrible thoughts. I wonder how much better we would be without him drinking the house dry. I think it is time for him to go.
29th November 1815
No sooner had I writ that Darby should go – he is gone. We had the most terrible quarrel. He was soaked in ale. I stood my ground this time. I know not where he is, but I know that he will not be back here. Just like my beloved, Gipsey George. Once they are gone, they are gone forever.
01 February 1915
It was an awful winter. My poor family. My child became weak with illness, and is only just recovering. I tended to her as much as I could, while still working in the ale house. My family barely survived. Folks around here haven’t helped at all. It was a long lonely winter, and I began to miss Darby. Even though he was a terrible drunk, he did care for us. In his way.
My mother and father became part of some terrible trouble. It happened that a girl my father was seeing came to her death. Now, this was by coincidence, and my mother and father had no part of her death. Not at all. Why, they were very shocked when they heard! Even my mother was sorry for the girl.
They say that upon hearing of the affair, my father did lure the girl to the river. They say that my mother waited by the water, and that they both took turns to drown the girl until she was dead.
I think that my father’s story – that she became so upset as he wished to stay with my mother – she did drown herself. I believe my father. We don’t have so many people in the ale-house now.