a short story by
It started innocently enough, and with a conversation about the best news any woman, or man for that matter, can impart.
"You mustn't forget that I have this blessed business trip to America later this year," I said.
"Then we will have to delay the christening," Helen smiled at me across the desk. Her face glowed with the full bloom of expectant motherhood. "There's little point in going ahead with it if the godfather isn't going to be there."
"Won't Matt object?" I asked.
"He'll understand. After all, it was his idea to ask you, not that I could think of a more suitable choice, so stop worrying. You go off and enjoy yourself in America, and we'll hold the christening when you return. I can't think of anything more simple."
I returned her smile. "You're right of course. Tell me, how did Matt react to the news that he was to become a father? If I know anything at all about that old man of yours he started organising everything in sight."
"How true," Helen said, laughing. "He set about turning our spare bedroom into a nursery. Poor Matt, he's no hand with a paintbrush, anything in the slightest way practical totally confounds him. I put the wallpaper up myself. No, I must be fair, he's overflowing with enthusiasm. He took himself off to an auction over Long Melford way and came back with the most gorgeous bassinet. Oh, you should see it, John, it's absolutely delightful. Varnished wicker with a hood, on a cane stand. It will be ideal for the first few months, until the baby starts moving around; then we'll have to invest in a large cot."
Helen's conversation drifted into reverie as she told me of her plans and hopes for the child. I gave her a moment before interrupting. I could understand her excitement.
"And how are you?" I said at last. "I must say I've never seen you looking better."
"Oh, I feel fine in myself. I get a few butterflies occasionally when I think about what's involved, but I can usually control them."
I took her hand and squeezed it affectionately. "You're not to worry about anything. One of the top specialists at St Martin's is a very good friend of mine. I'll have a word with him and see to it that you get exemplary treatment."
"Now, John. I don't approve of favouritism," she said in mock admonishment, then added. "But thank you for the thought. Now I'd better leave you to your work." She glanced at her watch. "Heavens, I only called in for a few minutes to pass on the christening news. Your secretary will be going frantic rearranging your appointment book."
"If I had known you were coming I would have cancelled everything else and taken you to lunch. But thanks for coming in." We both stood. Helen leaned across the desk and kissed me lightly on the cheek.
"Come and see us soon," she said walking to the door.
"I shall. Keep well. My regards to Matt. Tell him I'll write to congratulate him."
With a final smile Helen left my office, closing the door behind her. I watched her go and then sat back in my chair, gratified that such an unlikely friendship between a man rapidly approaching retirement age, and a young couple could prove so rewarding.
We first met at a hotel in Austria. I was there taking a long overdue holiday; they were newly married and on their honeymoon. It was late in the year, near the end of the season. The hotel's only other guests were a middle-aged couple from Bruges who spoke no English, thus, Matt, Helen and myself found that we naturally gravitated towards each other.
At the beginning I did not know quite what to make of Matt. I found this tall bearded young man slightly arrogant. He observed the world through imperious eyes and had rather a cynical turn of phrase when engaged in conversation. However, as I got to know him better over the two weeks of the holiday, I discovered that the arrogance was a facade that concealed a basic shyness. Once I had broken through the double barrier I took an immense liking to him. The only fault I could find in him was a singular lack of imagination, probably due to the nature of his work as junior partner in a small law firm in Suffolk. Working within the strict practice of the law, where the main thing that matters is cold evidence, I could see how the most inquiring of minds could be dulled.
I found Helen, in contrast to her husband, to be one of life's true aesthetics, sensitive to the nuances of a Tennyson love poem, appreciative of every brush stroke in a Van Gogh painting. There was an empathy between us from the first, and our friendship developed into one of deep understanding and mutual caring.
I was fifty-five at that time, a bachelor with regrets, and had reached the stage where all I could look forward to was old age. My friendship with Matt and Helen changed all that, and gave me a totally new lease of life. In return I offered the benefit of my years, advice when needed, ears always open to hear the problems suffered by most newly weds. They became my adopted offspring, the son and daughter I never had. Now that I had been given the news of their impending parenthood I felt as proud as any father would be.
The following months passed quickly. I managed to find the time to keep my promise to Matt, and with a letter dispatched in the post I felt a little less guilty about not visiting them. I arranged with my secretary for her to send a dozen red roses to Helen once she had received word that the baby had been born, and with a final instruction for her to contact me as soon as she heard, I left the country.
It was during the last week in November that the telegram arrived at my hotel in New York. Helen had given birth to a seven pound three ounce baby girl, and mother and child were in excellent health. I immediately sent off a letter of congratulations, and told them to set the date for the christening in the second week of January, as by then I would be back in England.
The flight home was appalling. The aeroplane passed through a violent storm over the Irish Sea, and for a few dreadful minutes the fear of an air disaster played on my mind. I soothed myself with thoughts of the baby, wondering which of her parents she would take after. Would her eyes be liquid blue like Helen's, or a deep impenetrable brown as Matt's were? When we finally touched down I carried from the aeroplane a picture in my mind of a child that could be carried away from a beautiful baby contest with all the prizes.
I arrived at my London apartment to find a letter written in Matt's spidery scrawl, informing me that the christening was to be held on the following Sunday at St Leonards, their small parish church, and including a post script inviting me to stay over at their house for a few days.
They had made a home from a converted farmhouse which nestled just inside the boundary of a tiny village a few miles outside Bury St Edmunds. It rested in tranquil splendour, surrounded by thickly wooded countryside. An ideal setting in fact for an exhausted, globetrotting business man to play truant for a while, away from the commotion of the city. I arranged a leave of absence at the office, and on the Sunday morning, with my weekend bag on the back seat of my car, I set off towards East Anglia.
The roads on that particular Sabbath were blissfully clear, and I made good time throughout the journey, pulling into the side lane which led to the farm house just before one, an hour before the service was due to begin. As I approached I could see the house in between the stout elms which encircled it. Wisps of grey smoke eddied upwards from the chimney stack, giving the place a warm inviting appearance, a welcome sanctuary from the biting January wind.
Matt must have heard my car approaching, for as I pulled up outside the front of the house he swung his angular frame into the doorway, a large grin showing through his beard, a hand extended in a gesture of welcome.
"John, marvellous to see you," he boomed, as I stepped out of the car. "Here, let me take your bag. Bitterly cold, eh? How about a whisky to keep out the winter's chill?" He led me into the house to the drawing room, where a small group of people clustered around a log fire that roared in the hearth. I recognised the respective parents of my two young friends from the photographs I had been shown of them. Helen's mother sat closest to the fire holding what looked absurdly like a bundle of rags. It took a few seconds to register that it was in fact the baby swathed in a crocheted shawl. Mrs Williams, Matt's mother, looked on enviously as the other woman cooed and cosseted the child, pausing only to look up and bid me a polite hello. The two fathers stood and extended hands as Matt introduced me. Mr Williams looked more like an older brother to Matt than his father. The hair was greyer, and the skin more weathered, but apart from this it was difficult to tell them apart. Mr Hebden, Helen's father, however looked nothing like his daughter, and as I looked from this rather weasel-faced man to his plain and plump wife, I wondered from which distant ancestor Helen had inherited her stunning good looks.
I shook hands with both men and then my hand was occupied again, but this time with a tumbler full of whisky. It suddenly struck me that someone was missing from this cosy family portrait.
"Where's Helen?" I asked Matt.
A frown creased his forehead. "She's lying down, upstairs."
"Nothing wrong, I hope?"
He shook his head vehemently. "No, no. Just a little tired, that's all. Midnight feeds, the usual thing."
I grimaced. "Poor girl. I hope you're sharing the load, Matt?"
"It's a question of routine," a feminine voice sounded behind me. I looked across to Mrs Hebden who was peering at me as if I was some kind of intruder. "Once she settles into a routine she'll soon be back on her feet."
"I'm sure you all know better than me," I ceded. "What I know about looking after babies could be written on the back of a postage stamp." This demonstration of self-effacement restored the status quo, and a broad smile of acceptance spread across the woman's face.
Footsteps sounded on the stairs, and all eyes turned expectantly to the door. Helen entered the room; at least, a parody of Helen entered the room. Gone were the luxuriant flaxen fronds of hair, replaced by dry straw scraped severely back into a knot at the back of her head. The skin was sallow, black rings of tiredness encircled her eyes, and the eyes themselves were dull, lifeless. The pitiful pinched-faced creature who walked feebly across the room and took the baby from Mrs Hebden's arms was Helen, but a Helen who looked as if she hadn't seen sleep for weeks. Bravely she had tried to camouflage her emaciation with the use of make-up, but this only seemed to heighten the effect. Those ruby lips looked incongruous as they whispered tender endearments to the baby. I realised with numb surprise that she hadn't even noticed me.
"Helen?" I said uncertainly.
An age passed before I received a reaction. Slowly she turned, a wan smile crossed her lips then vanished, as if it was too much of an effort to maintain it.
"John," she said in a world-weary voice. "How nice to see you. Come, see the baby."
I crossed the room and eased aside the shawl with my finger. A small pink face shone out, serene, asleep.
"We're calling her Amy, after Matt's grandmother. Such a pretty name." Helen's voice trailed off as she once again became absorbed in her child.
The christening proceeded without incident, marred for me by the sight of Helen supporting herself for much of the service on Matt's arm. Afterwards we all returned to the farmhouse for the obligatory drinks and platitudes. Helen sat quietly throughout, with the baby in her arms. Around teatime Matt took himself off to the kitchen appearing some while later with sandwiches of ham and cheese, and a plate filled with fairy cakes.
Once we had eaten, the proud grandfathers made great play of looking at their watches and remarking how important it was to miss the traffic, though what traffic they were expecting to encounter on a quiet Sunday evening was anybody's guess. They finally departed at about seven, after uttering several more banalities, and we three were left alone in the house with only the baby for company.
"Amy should be in bed now, Helen," Matt said quietly.
For the first time that day Helen's eyes revealed there was some life behind them. They took on the appearance of a frightened child's.
"Our bed?" It was almost a plea.
Matt looked at her sternly. "If you insist. But only until we're ready to turn in ourselves. Then she goes back to the nursery."
He walked across and took the baby from Helen's unyielding arms.
Anger glinted in his eyes. "For Heaven's sake, Helen," he hissed, "not now, not in front of John." He glanced uneasily over his shoulder at me.
Helen gave a long sigh, almost a moan of despair, and slumped back in her chair. Matt took the baby out of the room and closed the door. I waited until I heard his heavy tread reach the top stair before I spoke.
"Helen?" No answer. "It's me, John, remember? What on earth has happened?"
Her reaction to my words shocked me. She leaned forwards, cupping her face in her hands and began to cry. I went across and put my arm around her shoulder, comfortingly. "If something so terrible has happened that you can't tell me about it then I won't pry. But please, if I can be of any help..."
"There's nothing you can do," she said, catching her breath.
"What is it? Is Amy unwell? Hasn't Matt been pulling his weight? Why don't you want the baby to sleep in the nursery? I can't begin to help if I don't know." Her body convulsed with more sobs. I tightened my arm on her shoulder, drawing her close to me, and stroked her hair.
"There," I said, at a loss for words. "There."
"It's the nursery," she said suddenly, pulling away from me.
"What about the nursery?"
"Oh, I don't know, John," she sobbed. "There's something in there, something evil. I can't explain. Matt won't listen. He says it's only nerves. Oh, John, he just can't hear it."
"Helen!" Matt stood in the doorway. His face a study of fury.
Helen looked up, confused at the intrusion, then once again her body shook and she got to her feet and fled the room, knocking Matt sideways as she forced her way past him. I heard a door slam upstairs and a sound as if Helen had thrown herself onto the bed.
"Matt," I said, standing up to face him.
He shook his head firmly. "John, please. I know we're old friends, but this is something Helen has to sort out by herself. She's seen the doctor and he's prescribed some tablets. There is really nothing more that can be done."
"Rubbish." I snapped. "Look, Matt, there's something seriously wrong with Helen. She needs more than a few pills from the doctor to put her right."
"No, you look." The sudden ferocity in his voice startled me. "I invited you down here for a few days in the hope that your presence might have a calming effect on Helen. I know how close you two are. So far you've just made matters worse."
I took a cigarette from my pocket lit it, and inhaled deeply. "Then I apologise. I didn't realise you had an ulterior motive for asking me here. If I've blundered into a marital squabble then I shall mind my own business, but you are right, Helen and I are close, at least we were close before this, and I care a great deal about her, just as I care about you. You must realise how worrying it is for me to see her like this."
Matt went across to the drinks cabinet and poured two large whiskies. He handed one to me then settled himself in the armchair opposite mine. He drank the Scotch in slow easy mouthfuls. "I'm sorry, John," he said at length. "I shouldn't have lost my temper with you. I know you're concerned. I'm concerned, but I feel so damned helpless. She's been like this ever since she brought Amy home from the hospital. I'm at my wits' end."
"Have you any idea what's causing it?"
"The doctor said it's just depression. 'Only to be expected', he said. But the tablets he's given her seem to have done no good at all."
"What's this about the nursery? Helen said there was something evil in there. Do you believe that?"
Matt groaned. "You know she wallpapered that room herself. Before Amy was born she spent hours in there, preparing it, getting everything just so. Now she creates every time I insist that she puts the baby to sleep in there. She says that she hears things, sounds. That Amy's not safe to be alone in there."
"And this has been going on since she brought the baby home?"
"Can't the baby sleep with you two? Perhaps it would be the wisest thing to do until Helen's over this."
"Oh, we've tried that, John, but you must realise what babies are like, especially at night. I've been going into work some mornings and falling asleep at my desk. It's just not on, I can't allow it, I must get my sleep."
"And Helen?" I said, irritated by his selfishness. "Mustn't she get her sleep, Matt? She's beginning to look like an old woman."
He sat back and closed his eyes lapsing into a sullen silence.
"What are these sounds she hears?"
Matt laughed without humour. "How do I know? I've listened and I can't hear anything."
"Shouldn't you go up and see if Helen's all right? I'll help myself to another drink if I may."
Matt went upstairs and I poured myself another whisky. I drank it, sipping slowly, wondering what in Heaven's name had happened to turn an idyllic marriage into a nightmare.
When he returned to the drawing room it was simply to tell me that Helen had fallen asleep, he had put Amy in the bassinet in the nursery and that now he intended to turn in himself.
"We've made a bed for you in the box room. It's a bit small I'm afraid, but I think it's comfortable enough."
"I've been thinking that it might be for the best if I drove back to London in the morning," I said.
Matt's face took on a troubled expression. "I wish you would reconsider, John. I don't like to think of Helen being left here alone."
"I should have told you before now," he said, his cheeks flushing. "I've got to go to Ipswich tomorrow. It's for a case I'm working on. The problem is that it's unlikely that I shall be finished before Tuesday, and that means staying overnight."
"Another ulterior motive, Matt?"
"I'm sorry, John, I'll make it up to you."
"There's no need. That's what friends are for."
The box room was, as Matt had said, small. The only furniture being a single bed and a chair. My weekend bag had been placed on this. I opened the bag and took from it a book that I had had the foresight to bring with me. I was certainly in no mood for sleep. Instead I lay down on the bed fully clothed, opened my book and ploughed through several chapters, reading them only with my eyes, my mind elsewhere.
Some wakeful hours later I was startled by a soft tapping at my door. The door opened and Helen came into the room, clutching the baby to her breast as if she was afraid it might fall to the floor and break. I looked at my watch; three minutes past twelve.
"What's wrong?" I said softly. I noticed she was trembling. I put my dressing gown around her, but the trembling continued.
"I can't leave Amy in there, John. It's no good, it's started again."
"Wait here," I said, and walked along the landing to the nursery.
I put my ear to the door and listened. Silence. I opened the door and put my head round, peering into the darkness of the room. My hand fumbled for the light switch, found it and pressed it down. The room was bathed in the gentle orange glow of an electric night-light. The room was faultlessly tidy, a neat row of shelves on the wall held nappies and other infantile miscellany. The bassinet stood in the centre of the room, a chair, the twin of the one in my room, at its side. I had never seen a less menacing sight in my life. I switched off the light and closed the door quietly not wishing to wake Matt.
I turned to walk back to my room, and just as I did so I heard it. So soft as to be almost inaudible, but in the country silence of the night it was definite. A low murmured chuckle. I cannot be called a coward, but that sound made my skin crawl. I turned on my heels and threw open the nursery door, snapping on the light. Nothing, the same picture of calm as before.
By the time I reached my room I was beginning to wonder whether I had, for Helen's sake, only imagined the sound. Helen was sitting upright on the bed, the baby at her side tucked under the counterpane. In her eyes was a mixture of doubt, fear and hope. She looked up at me as I entered the room. She grasped my hand urgently as I sat down on the bed beside her not speaking.
"Please, John, did you hear anything, anything at all?"
I described the sound I thought I had heard.
"Yes, yes," she said, and for the first time since my arrival she smiled fully, and threw her arms around my neck and hugged me. "Oh, John, you don't know what I've been going through. I thought I was losing my mind. But I can't be, not if you can hear it too. Was it singing?"
"Yes, sometimes it makes sounds as if it's singing, a sort of crooning if you can imagine it. Not a hum and yet not a song with words. I can't describe it very well, you've got to hear it to understand." She shivered in my arms. "What is it, John? I've been so frightened." Her voice was tiny. I held her close, not wanting to lose the moment.
"I don't know, Helen. I'm not even sure that I heard anything at all."
Her body went rigid. "But you said you heard it." The despair returned.
"Now listen, Helen," my voice was firm. "I don't believe that you are losing your mind, going mad or anything remotely similar. I thought I heard something, surely that fact is enough to convince you that I am taking you seriously. I need more time though to be sure of what I heard. Come now, you had better sleep. We'll talk tomorrow. Sleep here in this bed with Amy. It will save an argument with Matt. I'll take a blanket and find a comfortable chair downstairs."
"Will you be all right?" she said, as I covered her over with the eiderdown.
"Don't fret, I'll be fine," I said, and slipped quietly out of the room. I went downstairs to the drawing room. The dying embers of the fire glowed reassuringly in the grate making the room tolerably warm. I cocooned myself in the blanket and endeavoured to sleep for what was left of the night.
I awoke late the next morning in a torturous position. I stretched my aching limbs and pondered on the fact that I was definitely not as young as I used to be. The clock on the mantelpiece chimed ten as I threw off the blanket and went to the kitchen to make myself a pot of tea.
Helen stood at the sink washing up the crockery from the day before. She turned as I entered the room and I saw that it was a markedly different Helen that faced me. She had washed and set her hair, and it shone slightly in the morning sunlight that streamed in through the kitchen window. Gone was the grotesque make-up; in its place natural hues were beginning to colour her face. She smiled.
"I didn't like to wake you," she said.
"I wish you had."
"I'm sorry," she began.
"No more apologies," I said. "Where's Matt?"
"He left for Ipswich early this morning, to miss..."
"I know, to miss the traffic."
We drank cups of tea together and talked; about Amy, about Matt, about anything apart from the nursery.
"Will you be all right here on your own for a few hours?" I said.
"Are you planning to go somewhere?"
"Whatever for?" A puzzled expression creased her brow.
"The auction where Matt bought the bassinet, was it a private house or at an auction room?"
Helen eyes me suspiciously. "The bassinet?" she said quizzically. "You don't think..."
"I don't know," I interrupted. "I just want to explore every avenue. The bassinet seems a logical first choice, that's all."
"Auction rooms. I think Matt said it was a firm of estate agents who organised it. Wait here, there might be a bill of sale in the bureau. Matt keeps most of his papers in there." She left the kitchen and returned a short while later holding a flimsy pink document. "Here it is," she said, handing it to me. I read it quickly.
"You'll be all right then, on your own?"
"I'll be fine. Amy is enough to keep an army occupied."
Once in the wide high street of Long Melford I had little difficulty in locating the offices of Jarvis and Glossop, the name on the billhead, but to my annoyance I found them closed. I could see a figure moving about inside and so I rapped loudly on the door. A faint voice sounded through the plate glass. "We're closed." I rapped again, louder, making the door rattle. It suddenly opened and a large man wearing tweeds glared menacingly at me from the doorway.
"Didn't you 'ear?" he said, in an uncultured voice.
"I'm sorry to trouble you," I said. "I've come about this." I thrust the bill into his hands. He read it and passed it back to me, his demeanour changing from one of ire to that of long suffering resignation. He looked over my shoulder at my car parked in the kerb behind me, as if he expected to see the bassinet protruding from the boot.
"You'd better come inside," he said, and ushered me into the office.
I arrived back at the farmhouse in the middle of the afternoon and found Helen in the drawing room reading, the baby nestled by her side.
"Did you discover anything?" she asked eagerly.
"Possibly," I said. "If I can have your permission I would like to try a little experiment tonight."
"Anything," she said. "I'll agree to anything if you can find a way to stop all this."
"Even if it means putting Amy to sleep in the nursery?"
She hesitated, looking from me to Amy, uncertainly. At last she said, "I trust you, John."
"I'll need Matt's permission too."
"He telephoned just before you came in. He is staying in Ipswich overnight. He won't be back until tomorrow afternoon. What did you find out, John?"
"I'll tell you later. Tonight. For the time being just concentrate on getting your strength back. If my suspicions are correct you may need it."
The look of uncertainty remained in Helen's eyes for the rest of the day, until the time came to settle the baby down for the night, then it changed to one of nervous apprehension. I ordered her to her bed at seven o'clock with instructions to get some sleep. She made me promise to wake her if anything happened, and then retired to her room. When I looked in an hour later she was sleeping soundly. I went to the nursery and opened the door, the steady rise and fall of Amy's breathing filled the room, but there was nothing more. I left the door wide open, returning to my room and doing likewise with my own door. Then I lay down on my bed with my book, and waited.
The clock in the drawing room had just chimed eleven when it began. I was almost dozing and it took a few seconds before I realised what was happening. For the second time that weekend I cursed my age, and rose quietly from my bed. I crept stealthily from my room and along the landing, pausing at the nursery door to listen. The sounds that came from the room chilled me. It was a voice, deep and sonorous, it crooned, it pleaded, finally it sang, an obscene droning lullaby that hung in the air. Gathering up my courage, I crept silently into the room. I pressed my back against the wall and edged slowly along until I reached the corner. There I stood and peered into the darkness.
Something was sitting in the chair, leaning forward over the bassinet. The merest shadow of a thing, with no substance to its being, just the hint of an outline. It was from this that the sounds emanated, as it nursed the baby in its crib like a doting parent. It was a figure of pale mist, unquestionably maternal in aspect, but also sinister in intent. I made as if to move forwards to rescue Amy from her hellish guardian, but my legs were leaden and I looked on, helplessly unable to move.
Then suddenly the night erupted into a frenzy. A hysterical mother appeared in the doorway, screaming at the top of her lungs. "Get away from my child!" Helen rushed forward, arms outstretched to take her baby away. The thing seemed to rise from its seat, and a bestial roar filled the air. A shadowed arm crossed Helen's face and she reeled backwards as if she had been struck a savage blow. The thing was the size of a large bull, grey, the lines of its body indistinct.
Jarred into action, I snatched Amy from the bassinet and ran forwards, bundling her into Helen's arms. "Get out!" I yelled, pushing her towards the door. "For pity's sake, get out." Helen stumbled, weeping, out of the nursery and I slammed the door behind her.
From then on events became blurred. The noise in the room filled my head, throbbing at my temples, the pressure causing my nose to bleed. The bassinet was lifted in the air and came crashing down towards me. Again and again it came, each time missing me by a fraction, but hitting the wall so hard that tiny splinters of wicker sheared off and drove themselves into my face. The fourth or fifth time this happened I managed to grasp it by one of its cane legs. Securing my hold I ran with the bassinet on my shoulders the entire length of the room, the shadow mother figure clinging to it desperately, and hurled it through the window, onto the concrete path below. The noise in the room rose to an awesome crescendo then, with a final shriek, ceased abruptly, leaving silence. I staggered to the door, clutching my bleeding face and fell out of the room, landing in a heap at Helen's feet. She stood pressed up against the wall, holding Amy securely, her mouth uttering silent prayers. My vision clouded and I knew no more.
The sun was up when I eventually opened my eyes. Helen sat at my side dabbing at my forehead with a damp cloth, a concerned look on her face. Concern changed to relief as I managed a self-conscious smile.
"How are you?" she said softly.
"Glad it's over. What about you? And Amy?"
"We're fine," she wiped a spot of dried blood from my cheek. "I know it sounds feeble, but thanks."
"What are friends for?" I said, then sank into a deep sleep.
I awoke at mid-day. I washed and dressed and went downstairs. Helen was in the kitchen preparing lunch. Over the meal I told her of my conversation with Jarvis, the man I had spoken to in Long Melford.
"Five times that accursed cot had come back from different owners. Each of them told a story similar to yours. If it hadn't been for that man's blessed greed, his determination to make a profit by constantly re-selling it, this whole affair could have been avoided. The couple who built the bassinet for their own child lost their baby before she was a year old. The mother never accepted the death and killed herself soon after."
After lunch I started a bonfire in the garden. When Matt arrived home he said nothing, but looked from me to the broken nursery window, and finally to the charred wickerwork on the fire. Then he went inside, took Helen in his arms and kissed her gently.
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