The Recorded Sorrows of Henry Turner *(spacing issues)*
27 April, 1850
The willow tree has begun to bloom again, and, when I see it, my heart pangs for Eloise. I miss her dearly, as does my Margaret, and we sit under the tree together every evening, talking about our little girl and how much we miss her. Perhaps it does not do to dwell on such sad things for so long a time, but she is gone, and we fear that if we do not think of her every day, our memories may begin to fade. Her photo is before us always, as we sit in the drawing room, in front of the fire. My wife cries herself into disarray knowing that she will never know how our girl would look grown.
2 May, 1850
It has been over a month now since we lost our little girl, and there is no comfort to be found, except for in my wife’s company. In my worst moments of grief, she rallies up and supports me, and, when she is brought to her lowest, I do all in my power to console her. We do not live always in a state of sorrow. When family visits, which is more often than we would wish, at the moment, our little nieces and nephews are a great joy. They sit on our laps and touch our faces with their chubby little hands and, for a moment, we forget our sorrows. The children give us a great deal of joy, but they also remind us of our loss. Eloise would not want us to be sad, but there is no help for it. She is gone and we do not know how to go on.
15 May, 1850
A surprising event broke the monotony of grief today. My Margaret and I were sitting at the table, partaking of the little breakfast we were capable of, when we received a boisterous knock on the door. I removed myself from my chair and went to open it. Standing before me was a plump, little boy with downy, blonde hair and cherub-like cheeks.
“Hello, sir,” he said in a small, timid voice.
He had a platter of biscuits in his hands and I could see in the distance behind him a lady who appeared to be his mother, standing on the doorstep. I was struck with the recollection of a new family that had come to stay in the vacant house across the way and I smiled at him. The boy seemed to lose his timidity at that point, for he walked directly around me and into the house.
I saw my Margaret look up from her untouched oats with no small amount of surprise, but her countenance only betrayed her for a moment. Her face was glowing as she looked at the young child.
“Hello, little sir. What have you brought us?”
The boy smiled an adorable, toothy grin at my Margaret and said, “Mum told me she was sure our new neighbors would appreciate a batch of her shortbread and told me to send it along as soon it was done. ‘S probably still hot, miss. Ehm, she wanted me to say something else, but I can’t remember what . . . something about welcome . . . and stop by any time. . .”
The little child stopped there, presumably for breath, and gave us another toothy grin.
My Margaret patted the boy on his head and said, “We are ever so obliged to you for the biscuits, sir. Thank you, and be sure to tell your mother the same. Please, sir, before you go, what is your name?”
“Jimmy Hopwood, miss. I hope to see you around more, miss!” With that sweetly worded farewell, the little sir ran through the kitchen and out the door. My Margaret watched him go for some time and then looked back at me. There was a light in her eye that had been lacking for some time, and it warmed my heart to see it. “Margaret, love?” I said, putting my hand on her soft cheek. “Yes, dearest?” She replied, slipping her arms around my neck. “I dare say we are going to be okay.” “Never the same, but all right, nonetheless.” she agreed, and together we sat down in the front room, hand in hand, and gazed out the window, at the rising and falling country hills, and at the little sir rambling home.
7 June, 1850
I am always amazed at the power of a child for warming a cold, sad heart. Whenever my Margaret and I see the little sir taking one of his rambles, we smile at one another or shake our heads and laugh over his incredible endurance. When we sit down to break our fast, we see him with his pup at his heels, and when my Margaret begins the afternoon tea, there he is still, among the hills, with his downy, blonde fuzz waving in the wind.
13 June, 1850
A friendship has begun between my Margaret, the little sir, and I. His many adventures always lead him to our doorstep where, plagued by thirst, he entreats us for a bit of tea. We always oblige, and his gratitude brings him back to us every day. Margaret teased him today and called him ‘the little hill gypsy’ and he gave her his toothiest grin in response before he departed. My Margaret and I love the little sir, and he us.
9 July, 1850
Today, the little sir, overcome with exhaustion, collapsed in our backyard. My Margaret brought him a cup of tea and we both sat with him on the grass, reveling in the cool of the day.
“That’s a pretty willow,” he reflected quietly. “I’ve never seen one so grand; what makes it so special?”
My Margaret, with a sad smile, looked at me for assurance, then returned her gaze to the boy and gave a soft sigh. “Little hill gypsy,” she said, “the answer to your question has been a source of great sadness for me and my Henry. Are you sure you would like to know?” The little sir, having regained full composure, conveyed his most hearty assurances that he would indeed like to know, and so, my Margaret, for the first time since our little girl’s death, told the story of Eloise and her tree.
“Well, little hill gypsy, you might be surprised to know that, not too many months ago, we had a little girl who was only a trifle younger than you, but much smaller. Her greatest joy in life was being outside, and she would sit in the grass and play in the dirt for entire afternoons. My Henry and I took our little girl to the park once, and seeing a great weeping willow, she was entranced. She played under the branches until we were required to return home. Our little girl asked if she could have a willow of her own, and my Henry and I were only too happy to oblige. We helped our Eloise plant the tree in that spot; my dear Henry dug the hole, and I taught Eloise how to care for it. The willow became Eloise’s greatest joy and she would tend to it every day. The moment we woke her, she would slip on her clothes and her little boots and grab her watering pot. She would water the willow and sing to it. It was her dearest friend. She was playing one day—” My Margaret had to stop for the tears she had been holding back were beginning to choke her.
I continued the story in her place. “She was playing one day, at the base of the tree, and my Margaret and I stepped inside for a moment to make refreshments. We heard our little girl scream, and when we came outside, she was lying face down in the grass, struggling for breath. There was a small bump on her arm that had not been there before, and on a branch of the willow, there was a wasp. We called for the doctor, but by the time he arrived there was nothing to be done for her. Our little girl breathed her last there, underneath her willow tree.”
17 April, 1851
The willow tree has begun to bloom again, and Margaret and I gaze fondly at it, in wonder of how much it has grown. This is where our Eloise was happiest, and we have learned to look on it with joy. I gaze at my Margaret, with her stomach pleasantly rounding, and I picture what the future will hold for us. We will tell our next child about Eloise at every opportunity, but we will never allow ourselves to go back to our grief. Our sorrows are behind us, but our memories of Eloise are ever present and cherished, as will be all the new memories we create with our next child.