III. The Cottager to Her Infant

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Nothing untoward had happened to me yet, but I had felt this horrible sense of foreboding the moment I stepped onto the train. The platform had been empty that dry and destitute November daybreak, and only one other person entered the train after I had sat down. I found my own carriage and sat patiently.

The train was not due to leave for a little while longer, so I daydreamed and stared across the length of the platform. The cawing of birds kept me from falling into slumber, my eyelids heavy from a sleepless night. Fog poured onto the platform impulsively, and the saffron sky warned me of the danger I was to find myself.

But my naïve mind ignored the signs, and I remained on the train, blissfully unaware of what awaited me at Grasmere.

I was thankful, then, that my sister appeared on the platform, moments before my train departed the station. We did not speak, nor truly acknowledge the other. She came for the emotional support I needed to venture on my journey, and my gratitude was accepted without spoken word.

When the engine of the train finally roared and smoke bellowed from the funnel, Elizabeth extended an arm and waved goodbye. I lifted my arm in turn and watched her until Elizabeth, and the platform, disappeared from sight.

The journey home from the train station the day prior had been rather troublesome. Elizabeth had left me upset, and when I arrived at her house, she prevaricated every question I asked. She always did so when any mention of my baby escaped my lips.

Perhaps I did have a habit to talk about the past excessively. Perhaps Elizabeth had a strong argument concerning my usual dreary mood. It was an issue I was working on, but five years could not heal still-bleeding wounds. How still my chest had become these past years, as if my heart had stopped beating.

I remained locked in melancholic thoughts until my eyes managed to close. I was transported to dark images swarming in my head. The images I could not shake, nor wake from, until I saw everything I needed to see. A young boy and a young girl followed me, endlessly, down an unfamiliar church-yard.

The girl looked about the age my own child would have been, had she lived past infancy. She had my eyes. She wore a frilly dress, and it dominated the area she walked in.

The boy, of whom I could not fathom his identity. But he appeared sad and clamped in fabric. His shirt sported a line of buttons down to his trousers, trousers that stopped at his shins, as if he continued to grow after death. The braces and waistcoat were the typical fashion in England.

They wanted something from me, and in my dream-like state, I wanted to make sure they wouldn't take it.

A bang startled me from sleep. I instantly looked at the doors to my compartment and saw a man standing there.

'I'm terribly sorry, I did not mean to frighten you,' he said in the kindest of voices. I had to forgive him, despite some annoyance.

'You're quite alright, I was only resting my eyes for a moment.'

The man took a seat in front of me. I tried not to judge him for his rudeness. Perhaps he was raised differently. He looked like a regular gentleman with no distinct features. He could not have been much older than I, and his manner revealed his youth. Excitement bridled within him, and I could tell that he was struggling to keep his eccentric personality contained.

I continued, 'Are you heading to Manchester, or are you continuing further North?'

'My station is Manchester but my destination is Grasmere. That is my home. I've been away a little while and it was due time I had returned. What has become of it? I do not know.'

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