I remember vividly the time before my mother’s death; everything seemed fine as we were touring the beautiful Linnaean Garden when mother suddenly started to cough violently – becoming pale as the cough persisted. There had been a recent outbreak of the White Plague, at the time, which was why we rushed to the doctor as fast as we could. But there was nothing that could be done and she died a few months later.
I never thought that I would recover from her death, and I suppose you never do altogether as you find yourself crying in bed many years later. My father did not aid me in my grief as he hid away in his study rather than confronting reality. I believe it was because of him that I conquered my sadness as I was forced to take on the responsibilities he neglected, such as household finances. But, as it was his money, I could do nothing to prevent him from doing frivolous purchases, mostly books of different kinds that I rather not describe for fear of scrutiny. He was very secretive about his studies and he wouldn’t let me on what his purpose was, even if he had one.
One day, he used all of his savings and bought a house out in the country, in the wilderness to the north. His reasons were that our home reminded him too much of my late mother and distracted him from whatever he was doing. I didn’t want to forget about mother, but I saw new light in my father’s eyes and I didn’t want to take that away from him so I went along, young and unmarried as I was.
The house was very big, bigger than one might expect so far from civilization. There was a small village beside it which harbored no more than a couple hundred people. I remember them looking strangely at us as we passed in our carriage to our new home, their gazes were almost blank which sent shivers down my spine. The inside of the house was rather murky, as one would be expected of such an old building. Father spent the remainder of his money to restore it to its former glory and I have to admit, when the renovations were done, I grew to like our new home.
The villagers weren’t at all as creepy as they seemed, as well, as they were mostly reserved because we were outsiders; or more specifically, “rich” outsiders, which we incidentally were no longer. We were more or less broke and we ate very sparsely to sustain ourselves. I was content, for a time, until father began to act strangely. He began to speak ill of me and was very destructive when things didn’t go his way. His behaviour worsened as time went on and it was apparent that he was searching for something that he couldn’t find. He destroyed the floorboard, in several places, and dug beneath the foundation, and when he couldn’t find what he was looking for, he came after the villagers.
He was very condescending towards them, when he spoke, and I was impressed how the villagers contained their anger, or perhaps they simply didn’t care what my father thought of them? In any case, it became clear I could not live under these circumstances and I made my escape. It was many years later that I returned to the house, but I found it was yet again abandoned. The villagers pertained ignorance of my father’s whereabouts, of course. Though I wouldn’t have blamed them if they were somehow responsible for his disappearance. In my mind, father died the moment my mother did.
© Christopher Stamfors