Wragby Hall, March, 1921
Clifford speaks as if I could pick up a man to service me in the provision of an heir to Wragby as easily as I could pick up a pound of mutton from the butcher. But not just any mutton! Oh no. Best mutton, it would have to be. Not stringy, wastrel, unkempt mutton. It worries me that he may have solicited certain members of his writing coven on the matter already. One or two are most definitely friendly and accommodating towards me when they visit. I am afraid, my dearest, that I suspect their motives.
Michaelis, the playwright, suggested that we run away and marry, that I divorce Clifford in his inability to consummate our marriage. It would sound so much more romantic if I had not already consummate experience of Mick and his nether quill. Oh, he writes a clever scene, indeed. But he cannot even put on an act in the bedroom. Maybe it is a failing of authors and writers in general; that they feel their work is done the moment they pen The End. The rest is all the responsibility of the audience to worship, and to pay homage. The writer then just has to exist; to be idolised. Not to perform spontaneously. Hah! Actors do all the performing for them!
I am a little distracted by the queer creature that fills the post of gamekeeper here. At first I thought he seemed oddly elegant, and distant, for this day and age. Now I know it to be the case that he is not of this day and age at all. Not a ghost, to be precise. Some sort of living-ghost, in a partial human shell. Not nearly so partial as my husband’s, for the gamekeeper has legs, feet, is mobile, and articulate.
But I happened upon him taking a bath in his garden yesterday, only clad in his strange velvet breeches. His back was to me, and I could clearly see the bones of his ribcage, the skin parted like a rip in old white silk. The lesions did not bleed, and did not seem to bother him in the slightest. He just washed his hair like any normal man. But a man full of holes. Perhaps he sustained them in a foreign battlefield, and was kept alive by witch-doctors.
But Hilda, the sight gave me such a jolt as I have not experienced in a long time. The bare back of a man, standing unsupported and unaware of a casual observer; the vulnerability of being outdoors, in such a state of undress and in a private moment of function. That his body was incomplete did not deter my thoughts away from that white skin, the shape of the man’s hips visible above the loosened belt, the water as it trickled down his spine… Only a blink of a scene did I witness before retreating, Hilda, but it is burned into my memory forever.
I cannot sleep or eat for thinking about it.
Then obliged to speak to him, there was no sign he was wise of my intrusion. And yet his eyes are so knowing! So distant, but somehow speaking volumes that cannot be filled with words. I found myself almost wordless in turn in his presence, barely able to pass on my message and make a cordial small discourse.
I wonder perhaps now, looking in the mirror, without eating, how long it will take the holes to appear in my own body. I can barely support one side of my husband as he transfers from bed to chair to seat at the washstand. But he will never yet take a nurse. He rejects all that holds indication of hospital surroundings.
‘No longer an invalid!’ he shouts. ‘Just a man with a strong wife at his side.’
I wonder how long his strong wife can last, with no support of her own.
Inspired by D.H. Lawrence