Mother then resumed her morbid mourning as the one remaining servant, Maeve, struggled because naturally Mother could not be expected to actually do vulgar housework. She took to protesting “I did love Father very much!” as if everyone was questioning her devotion to father. Perhaps she thought excessive mourning after the fact would counterbalance the lack of tenderness during his life. As there seemed to be some question as to when funds would materialize for me to resume my schooling we kids helped below stairs where our noise and offensive presence would not irritate Mother’s frayed nerves possibly brought on by kirk guilt. The kirk we all attended did specialize in excessive guilt framed by much damnation and brimstone with just a dollop of Jesus’s gentleness. Mary and I learned to take care of ourselves and the little ones, learning to sew and mend and cook and clean. As a ‘griffin’ I was ridiculed for being able to sew and mend my socks and uniforms but from the age of nine I was raised to fend for myself because absolutely no one was going to take care of me so if I did not fend for myself then I might as well roll up into a ball and die.
Mother ordered us to not associate with vulgar riffraff so we were not allowed to make friends or play outside with the other children who were clearly lower in class than ourselves. Class was, you must understand, something that did not relate to wealth but to breeding. However even as a young child I always noticed that we advanced civilized people belittled the foreign barbarians with their primitive sense of ‘Loss Of Face’ while practicing ‘Face’ or ‘Loss of Face’ just as obsessively with the most infinitesimal attention to details of clothes or calling cards or street addresses or this or that or some other thing and very rarely invited as saintly poor man into the house for Sunday Dinner. For that matter we did not invite our neighbors to dinner. Or even were allowed to visit to say ‘Hello’.
The grim row house that was now our new home was as black inside as it was black outside. It had an oddly clammy feeling, even cold spots, where the temperature dropped by 20 degrees. The worse cold cold spot was on the stairs. It always felt absolutely icy. I swore there was a faint scent of Jasmine but no one else smelled it. The mildew was dreadful after all. And the drawing room was always icy even when the fire was it when the minister was expected to visit. The wallpaper in the townhouse was all dark except for the embarrassingly faded patches which revealed the original color. Everything was slightly mildewy except the drawing room which for some reason still had a very faint smell of cigar smoke.
Every night as we tried to sleep in the new communal nursery which we now all had to share, we would wake to noises in the empty floor directly above us. It was like a sort of dragging, scraping noise above the ceiling of the nursery. And there seemed to be murmurings as if voices. And sometimes I swear I would hear a sound almost like a music box playing. But there was nothing up there. I checked. The empty floor was totally empty, dense with cobwebs, the slipshod floorboards dense with dust. But oddly I smelled just the faintest hint of roses. I could not figure out where the sounds were coming from. I checked the attic but it was clearly unused too though movers had disturbed the thick dust. Still the dust was thick on the abandoned junk so things were not being moved around by unseen hands.
I pretended not to hear and smell and see things which I did. I was the type who heard and smelled and saw things others claimed to not hear or smell or see. Mother blamed me for upsetting the older kids with my claims so now I kept my concerns to myself. But soon Mary heard them too and then the little ones. Alex started to stutter and Willie started to suffer from bad dreams. Charlie resumed sucking his thumb. In the end Mary and I had to share our tiny cots with the little ones er they cry and Mother come in and flog us. Oddly, she never seemed to hear anything out of the ordinary. Down in the basement Maeve never heard things or else she did not tell us but she took to collecting lucky charms and crossing herself.