(Mark Rutherford)

Blackdeep Fen, 24 Nov. 1838.

My Dear Esther,—This is your birthday and your wedding-day, and I have sent you a cake and a knitted cross-over, both of which I have made myself. I can still knit, although my eyes fail a bit. I hope the cross-over will be useful during the winter. Tell me, my dear, how you are. Twenty-eight years ago it is since you came into the world. It was a dark day with a cold drizzling rain, but at eleven o’clock at night you were born, and the next morning was bright with beautiful sunshine. Some people think that Blackdeep must always be dreary at this time of year, but they are wrong. I love the Fen country. It is my own country. This house, as you know, has belonged to your father’s forefathers for two hundred years or more, and my father’s old house has been in our family nearly as long. I could not live in London; but I ought not to talk in this way, for I hold it to be wrong to set anybody against what he has to do. Your brother Jim is the best of sons. He sits with me in the evening and reads the paper to me. He goes over to Ely market every week. He has his dinner at the ordinary, where many of the company drink more than is good for them, but never once has he come home the worse for liquor. I had a rare fright a little while ago. I thought there was something between him and one of those Stanton girls at Ely. I saw she was trying to catch him. It is all of now. She is a town girl, stuck-up, spends a lot of money on her clothes, and would have been no wife for Jim. She would not have been able to put her hand to anything here. She might have broken my heart, for she would have tried to draw Jim away from me. I don’t believe, my dearest child, in wedded love which lessens the love for father and mother. When you were going to be married what agony I went through! It was so wicked of me, for it was jealousy with no cause. I thank God you love me as much as ever. I wish I could see you again at Homerton, but the journey made me so ill last winter that I dare not venture just yet.—Your loving mother,

Rachel Sutton.

Homerton, 27 Nov. 1838.

My Dearest Mother,—The cake was delicious: it tasted of Blackdeep, and the cross-over will be most useful. It will keep me warm on cold days, and the love that came with it will thicken the wool. But, mother, it is not a month ago since you sent me the stockings. You are always at work for me. You are just like father. He gave us things not only on birthdays, but when we never looked out for them. Do you remember that week when wheat dropped three shillings a quarter? He had two hundred quarters which he might have sold ten days earlier. He was obliged to sell them at the next market and lost thirty pounds, but he had seen at Ely that day a little desk, and he knew I wanted a desk, and he bought it for me with a fishing-rod and landing-net for Jim.

My husband said he could not think of anything I needed and wrote me a cheque for two pounds.

O! that you could come here, and yet I am certain you must not. My heart aches to have you. In my daydreams I go over the long miles to Blackdeep, through Ware, through Royston, through Cambridge, through every village, and then I feel how far away you are. I turned out of the room the other day the chair in which you always sat. I could not bear to see it empty. Charles noticed it had gone and ordered it to be brought back. He may have suspected the reason why I put it upstairs. My dearest, dearest mother, never fear that my affection for you can become less. Sometimes after marriage a woman loves her mother more than she ever loved her before.

It is a black fog here and not a breath of air is stirring. How different are our fogs at Blackdeep! They may be thick, but they are white and do not make us miserable. I never shall forget when I was last in Fortyacres and saw the mist lying near the river, and the church spire bright in the sunlight. The churchyard and the lower part of the church were quite hidden.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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