“You must eat something, Jonathon. You can not go on like this.”
Lord Higgins stands over me like a well-intended monk, his curly red hair coiling around the edges of his bowler.
“You have done everything you can possibly do, and now it is time to attend responsibilities. It has been six months with police searching night and day and an advertisement in every paper in England. If she were alive she would have been reported. It is hard to face John, but her body must have been carried away in the river, and washed out to sea. It’s simple logic. The horse was dead. The coachman was dead. How could she have survived?”
How could she have survived? I ask myself the same thing every day as the scene plays in my mind again and again, like a bad dream I can not escape: the mangled carriage, the open empty eyes of the coachmen, the broken gouged carcass of the horse, all bloody and lifeless in an avalanche of tragedy, all laying in a wet mass of mud and silt. I am possessed by the image of rain dripping from the brim of my hat as I surveyed the scene, like tears falling from the sky, acknowledging the end of my life.
But there was no Ivy, no sign of Ivy anywhere. I have taken a leave of absence from parliament, intending to continue my search but find I am weighed down by depression and grief.
My head rests in my hands as I watch Lord Higgins pace around the table, his good intentions beginning to grate on my nerves.
“And another thing, you must employ Julia again, even if she does remind you of Lady Attwood’s absence. Constantly shuttered windows and an untidy house is not a sign of health or leadership. You have responsibilities John, to your country and community. Admit that Ivy is dead. Have a service, grieve and get on with your life. It is time.”
He turns before leaving. “I will pray for you John.”
I smirk. Save your prayers, for the devil has my soul now. I follow like a good host, but only to lock the door behind him.
The sofa looks inviting and I am tired. No need to remove shoes or shirt, just close my eyes and melt into a dream beyond this troubled place, but the night brings no relief. Night after night I bolt upright in cold sweaty clothes, hearing her call my name, hearing her tell me that she is still alive. I kick over a stack of newspapers as I pass the table, grabbing one in my hand, as if squeezing it hard enough will reveal her location.
“Where are you my love?” I yell into the empty room, pleading through tears. “Please, forgive me for not being with you and come back to me. You can not be dead, can you? Could you really be gone? Has my grief brought me to an insanity I can not contain?”