Thursday, 13 December 2007

When the music stopped

What I have to tell you now must be told quickly, for I have not words or emotions left to tell it any other way. The ball has ended and everyone has gone home; and we are huddled here together in the house in the icy chill of a December dawn - Bill and Belle and I; Jack and Alice and Will. We have neither slept nor eaten, and we have nothing whatever to say to one another at this moment, so recent and so violent has been the shock which encompassed us in the night. For what has happened is that the ball has been over these seven hours – and Lady Macauley herself has lain lifeless on her bed for four of them.

Yes, she has died; and here, to the utmost of my ability to tell it to you, is how it happened. We had come back so happily across the garden, all of us in the highest possible spirits, and looking forward to a quiet hour discussing the evening’s events, before the others joined us for a final brandy. We had even joked a little, over the idea that Mrs Wilmot might perhaps have been persuaded to drag herself away from the scene of her daughter’s triumphs, and join us in that final drink...

“She will have to come back at some point I daresay” Lady Macauley had herself said with much amusement. “Since how on earth else is she to be got home, if not in the car with Bill?”

We had been content to leave that matter hanging temporarily unresolved however; and in any case, as Belle had pointed out, they could always in the last resort spend what remained of the night here, in the bedrooms they had occupied before. On we went then, just about as pleased with everything as we could be. And though it’s true Lady Macauley did stumble momentarily, on the steps leading up to the south terrace door, she was quick to recover herself, and neither she, nor we thought anything more about it.

That we ought to have done so; that we ought to have seen it as a sign of what was to come is now all too terribly clear. If we had called the ambulance then perhaps, we might have fore-stalled the major attack which was to occur little more than an hour later. We have reproached ourselves with that, over and over again. But after all, how could we have guessed, when she had seemed to be in such wonderful spirits, and in the very best of health? Belle had made coffee, and we were drinking it together in Lady Macauley’s favourite little panelled parlour when, on getting up to help herself to more milk, she stumbled again, this time uttering a little cry, and falling seemingly lifeless in a heap of crumpled silvery drapery on the floor. Nobody moved at first; each of us was frozen into immobility for a moment. But then Bill cried to Belle to call an ambulance at once, and himself gathered Lady Macauley in his arms and carried her to the nearest sofa, where he with infinite carefulness laid her down.

The ambulance was slow in coming, and while we waited for it Lady Macauley rallied a little, seeming to be regaining consciouness, and finally opening her eyes. She smiled at us once, a beautiful, lingering smile, in which she seemed to embrace us all. “You have all made me so very happy” she said. After which she relapsed again, and was still for what can only have been five minutes, though it felt to us like several hours. It was in a moment of sudden stillness a little later - we only realized afterwards that it was the moment at which the music from the ball had finally stopped – that she opened her eyes again, and sitting bolt upright all at once, seemed staring into the darkness near the door. After which she put out both her hands, and cried in a loud voice “Is that you Jack....?”

We had heard her ask that question before – but this time there was no answer to it; and what she was looking at in the darkness near the door was something that none of us could see. She had gone in that moment, though we didn’t grasp the fact at first. We tried every desperate way we could to revive her, but nothing could do so. And by the time the ambulance arrived, she had gone far beyond the help of human hands.

It is bright morning now. There will be sunshine later – but what is sunshine to us now, when Lady Macauley has gone? She lies at present perfectly serene, upon the bed she shared with Jack for all those many years. Bill himself carried her up there; we knew it was where she would want to be, and we arranged her as tenderly as we could. And now we sit in silence round her bed; each of us trying to grasp the impossible, and asking ourselves hopelessly now and then, just how it is we are going to be able to carry on our lives without her?.

For those of you who have perhaps not caught up with this comment I left on the previous post, here are my closing remarks:
And now I am about to post the very bleak penultimate piece, and I hope that some of you at least will be able to forgive me.

It was always going to have to end this way - and I tried every way I could to prepare you for it.

But perhaps after all I failed, and you will be as shocked and saddened as I have been these last several days, as I tried to find the courage to do it at last.

I shall return one more time (in 'real time': perhaps before Christmas, perhaps just after) - and try to restore some little bit of happiness to the scene.

In the meantime, I can only say a heartfelt thank to you all, for supporting me so faithfully and so well. I could never have come all this way without you.

And, if it's not in the very worst possible taste at such a moment, I wish a very Merry Christmas to you all!

It has only been a story after all...


debio said...

This piece has made me very sad; as, indeed, it should.

So well done. Really, really well done....

I trust the rest will not be silence. Please?

Anonymous said...

Poor Lady M, I found this a very moving piece. Perhaps we can have an epilogue at some stage in the future, but if not then you have given much pleasure with this novel as blog and I hope it gets the wider notice it deserves. xx

I Beatrice said...

Not entirely silence Debio - there is one last rounding-up piece to come. And I hope to be able to end on a happy note. Just for now though, I am all written out - and shall be able to get on with my Christmas cards at last!

I refer you to my general note of thanks to all those who have been kind enough to read me all the way. And add this personal note to you: that I have valued your comments, and your companionship, more than you can ever know.

I have been writing stories since I was ten years old - but this is first one I have ever actually finished! And I don't believe I could have done it without the support of all my fellow bloggers; and others who I know have been reading without ever commenting.

Now comes the (happy) task of re-editing, and trying to make it into a proper book....

Meanwhile, I hope you and your family have a very happy Christmas - and I shall visit you again as often as I can.

I Beatrice said...

Thank you so much Anon. You have been perhaps my most surprising reader - but also one of my most faithful. And you will know better than most, just how much that has meant to me - so my very special thanks to you!

There will, as I said to Debio and others, be one more piece, just to round things off - but perhaps it had better wait till after Christmas, when my head will have cleared.

Lady Macauley has been with me in one form or another for more years than I care to admit - so it was only with the most tremendous wrench that I was finally able to let her go!

The happy thing for me however, is that she will be immediately resurrected - just as soon as I start out on the editing process...

So all is not yet entirely over!

aims said...

Dearest B -

I had to go away for a while after I read this and have a cry. Not just for Lady M - but for you too.

I can see there was no other way - and you did it so beautifully and with such style.

I have enjoyed your experiment more than I can say and its ending will leave a gaping hole in my mornings.

You have done such an excellent job dear B - I reiterate my statement that it should make the best sellers list.

Anonymous said...

Sad but beautifully told.

You showed such respect for the aged Lady M.

& while it had to end like this -let's hope for happier times in store. Rosalind x

I Beatrice said...

Aims dear, you have been one of my most faithful readers! The little red light which comes on so often (on my site meter) in Red Deer, Alberta, has been a constant source of encouragement to me - and I shall miss its presence dreadfully, now that there is nothing left to comment on!

We must keep in touch though. And even though I may not be blogging myself for a while, I will keep the site open, and will be sure to keep on visiting you, to follow you in your own very brave and excellent on-going story... All power, and very good wishes to you in the endeavour!

There will have to be a short temporary lull for me however - while I write my Christmas cards! But you may be sure I'll be back - and willing you on every step of the way!


I Beatrice said...

And to my dear friend Rosalind, who doesn't blog herself (and for whom I know the comment-box has presented so much personal angst!).... thank you so very much for staying with me all the way to the end!

I have always known you were there, reading away loyally, but in silence. It has meant more to me than you can ever know - so thank you, thank you!

merry weather said...

Only a story? I think it's been one of the best stories I've enjoyed Bea. Not simply because it is beautifully told, shrewd and funny. No, also because following you on your path post by post, comments included, seeing you develop the characters and unfold the plot, writing out a long-held dream from inside your heart, has been a unique reading experience for me.

Lady M's demise is sad, yet you gave her a lovely passing. She went out in a good way, I think. And it makes sense to bring the story to a close in this way. (If it has to be closed - big sigh!) I shall miss keeping up with it! If not published as a novel it would make a great radio play.

So, congratulations on a great achievement here and thanks for keeping us all so well entertained. I shall come back to read the last real-time piece and I do hope that later, you'll be back again, weaving your splendid stories, one day soon...

I Beatrice said...

Your thoughtful and perceptive comments have been a constant source of encouragement to me Merry, and I cannot thank you for them enough. You came to me lateish in the story, caught right up, and stayed with me every step of the way thereafter - and nobody could ask for more than that!

I'll have a little rest now - well, prepare for Christmas in fact! And after that, who can say? I'll certainly be visiting you still, in the hope that you too, will at some point try out the blog method of telling a story... I can throughly recommend it if you do - since in no other way do I think I could ever have got my own completed!

Meantime, a very happy Christmas to you and your family - and I hope we'll be able to meet up in the early new year.

Marianne said...

It was always your story, Beatrice and your right to end it in the way you have chosen.

Thank you for such wonderful entertainment over the last few months. What a journey it has been.

I Beatrice said...

Thank you Marianne. And thank you too for your wonderful support all the way through - right from the moment when we were both novice bloggers, fearing we were never going to get a single comment!

The music hasn't quite yet stopped for me however. (There's just no silencing some people, is there?) I shall keep the blog open, perhaps popping in with a little essay on my "Just Blogging" page now and then. Have all sorts of ideas for the next 'big thing' besides (see my comment to you on "At the Ball")...

And shall always come back to visit you - to see how things are progressing for you, especially with TMITWJ!

Merry Christmas meanwhile..

Omega Mum said...

As soon as she started talking National Trust it was inevitable, so I have to say I did see it coming (unlike any of the other twists and turns in the plot). Sad but satisfying. Well done.