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The Unseen

By:Katherine Webb

The Unseen, - Katherine Webb

Katherine Webb


May 14th, 1911

Dearest Amelia,

It’s the most glorious spring morning here, on a day of some excitement. The new maid arrives today – Cat Morley. I have to admit to feeling a touch of nerves, such is the reputation which precedes her, but then I’m sure she can’t be all bad. Albert was not at all sure about the appointment, but I managed to persuade him with a two-pronged argument, thus: That it would be an act of commendable Christian charity for us to take her on when surely nobody else will; and also that because of her reputation we would be obliged to pay her very little, and she would therefore represent a sound household investment. We are doubling our household staff at virtually no increase in expense! I received a letter of introduction from the housekeeper at Broughton Street – Mrs Heddingly – giving a list of duties with which the girl is familiar, and also urging me not to let her read ‘for all our sakes’. I am not sure what she means by this, but I find it generally wise to heed advice given by those in the know. She – Mrs Heddingly – also passes on a peculiar rumour about the girl. I can’t think why she chooses to mention it and can only assume a love of gossip – that the identity of Cat’s father is the subject of much speculation, and that it has been whispered, taking account of the dark tones of her skin and hair, that he may have been a Negro. Apparently, the other staff at Broughton Street took to calling her Black Cat after this story got about. Well, I’m certain that the girl’s mother, however low her station, would not stoop to such degradation, unless she was the victim of a most heinous crime. And that her poor daughter should go under such an ill-luck name hardly seems fair. I will not hear her called it again, I am quite resolved.

Amidst the nerves I confess I also look forward to her coming. Not least because there are balls of slut’s wool beneath the beds the size of apples! It’s been many months since Mrs Bell, God bless her, was able to bend down far enough to see to them. The whole house is in need of a thorough seeing to. But it will also give me great pleasure to gather up one of God’s creatures who has been led astray, and who has wandered perilously close to ruin. Here she will find a Godly house, forgiveness and the chance to commend herself to the Lord with hard work and clean living. I intend to offer her every succour in this endeavour, and to take her quite under my wing – she will be my project – imagine it! The chance to truly reform a person, and set them back on quite the right path. I’m sure the girl will see how fortunate she is – to be given such a chance to redeem herself. She comes to us tarnished, and will soon be polished to a shine.

And such work is surely the perfect preparation for motherhood. For what else is a mother’s job than to nurture her children into Godly, worthy and virtuous people? I see how well you do with my niece and nephew, dear Ellie and John, and I am full of admiration for your gentle, guiding way with them. Don’t fret so over John and his catapult. I am sure he will grow out of this mood of violence very soon: a boy’s nature is – by divine design – more warlike than a girl’s, and it’s to be expected that he feels urges that you and I can’t understand. How I look forward to having little souls of my own to grow.

Amelia – please forgive me for asking you again, but I fear your last letter has left me still quite in the dark on the subject in question. Must you be so vague, dearest? I know such things are not easily discussed, and indeed are better not spoken of at all if possible, but my need is great, and if I can’t turn to my sister for help and guidance, then who, pray, can I turn to? Albert is an exemplary husband, only ever kind and affectionate towards me – each night before we retire he presses a kiss to my hair and praises me as a good wife and lovely creature, but thereafter he sleeps, and I can only lie and wonder what it is that I am doing wrong, or not doing, or indeed not even trying to do. If you would only tell me in the most specific terms how I should behave, and how our bodies might be ‘conjoined’, as you put it? Albert is such a wonderful husband, I can only assume that it is I who am not performing my right function as a wife, and that this is the cause of – well, of my not yet expecting a happy event. Please, dear Amelia, be specific.

All is well, then. I had better end this letter now. The sun is high, and the birds are singing fit to burst, and I shall post this on my way to visit poor Mrs Duff, who has no such problems as I and has been kept abed with a terrible infection since the birth of her sixth child – yet another boy. Then, after lunch, Cat Morley should make her appearance on the three fifteen train. Cat – such an abrupt name. I wonder if she would take to being called Kitty? Write to me soon, dearest and best of sisters.