26 November, 1853
Redlaw Mansion, Hamworth
Patricia went missing! This is something that the whole of Hamworth had anticipated, for she had gone against the norms of the society. She has done something that no man could accept, and no woman would dare to do. It was a moment of shock and despair for her family, which consisted of a few servants and her father.
Being a lady, she was not supposed to write, or encourage other girls to write too. This was not tolerated by the elder writers of the Writer’s Association, which was an fellowship of the well-known male writers in London, who believed that she was going against the norms, and she would face the consequences someday, but Patricia escaped their rage every time because of William Redlaw, who was one of the esteemed members of the association, and a loving father.
People gathered in her house at break of dawn: the neighbours, elder writers, lawyers, detectives, to see what had happened to her. The police suspected it to be a kidnap, but they feared to raise any questions against the Writers’ Association. The neighbours had heard her screaming, talking to someone loudly.
Mrs Mary Tetterby told everyone that she assumed some people were present in Patricia’s room the previous night, and Patricia was asking them to leave her alone, however she didn’t hear anyone else’s voice at all; she also heard things being thrown everywhere: she heard an glass utensils shattering on the floor, books falling off the desk, the candelabra hitting against the stone wall. After an hour of ruckus, silence weighed the night, except for occasional howls of the wolves from the woods.
Mrs. Tetterby is Patricia’s neighbour: a kind lady in her middle age, with a husband, and six children. Her husband, Mr John Tetterby, works as an accountant in the town bank, and is a very noble man. He tried to find Patricia in the town, in the woods of the Hampton Hill, and also notified Patricia’s relatives about the disaster. He wanted poor Patricia to return, and start a new life. She was talented, kind, smart, and a beautiful woman, whom he loved like his own daughter.
Sad and shaken by the incident, Mrs. Tetterby could not stop weeping. She was answering to Mr Lucas, the Senior Police Officer of the town, along with Martha, the oldest maid of the house. Martha was unaware of the happenings of that night, as she went to visit her ailing daughter then.
“It is completely fine, Martha”, Patricia told her when she was in doubts whether to leave the young lady at home all by herself, “nothing wrong could possibly happen to me over one night. You may leave in assurance”.
But now, when Martha recalled her last words, she wept harder; her tears flowed down her pale cheeks, wrinkled and lined with age. Patricia was missing, and the entire town wanted to know what has happened to her. Was she kidnapped, or has been murdered, only Patricia could answer these questions.
Patricia’s father visited the town the following day to see what has happened. Mr Tetterby had written to him, explaining everything, and had asked him to come down as soon as possible. Mr William Redlaw, the old and proud father of the missing writer, had gone to the Oxfordshire, to talk to publishers about her books.
Being a writer, he had encouraged Patricia to write, and not worry about the society. A well-known writer himself, he had saved his daughter so far from being punished by the elder writers. He fought for her, and did not let anything come in her way. He protected her, and let her bloom as a brilliant poetess and a writer under his wing.
William arrived in a carriage, which moved as slow as the air moved around the house that morning. The carriage stopped, and an old man appeared from inside: a man in his late fifties, dressed in a black coat, and a black hat on his head that covered his silver hair, dressed up in fine English linen.
As he walked towards the beautiful garden of his house, he saw a small crowd of neighbours and spectators. They made way for him, and were relieved that he has finally arrived. He stepped inside the house, and took his hat down, with sorrow, grief, and tears in his eyes. There were two policemen in uniform questioning Mr and Mrs Tetterby.
The detectives were looking behind the tables, under the sofas for clues. Mr Tetterby saw William, and walked hastily towards him; he put his hand on William’s shoulder, but could speak nothing. Mrs Tetterby was still weeping, and trying to answer the questions that the policeman had asked her. William floundered towards her, slowly, as he had drained all his strength.
Mrs Tetterby said, “I am sorry Mr Redlaw, I am sorry for everything that has happened. Oh Lord! Listen to my prayers, and send our Patricia back to us. Oh Lord, please listen to my prayers!”
William could say nothing, he looked towards the staircase. He held his breath and climbed the stairs. With each step, he was preparing his heart to see his missing daughter’s room. He remembered how Patricia spent her days in that room; thinking, scribbling and writing something with her beautiful white quill, which Martha had gifted her once on her birthday. She would look at what she has written for a moment, shake her head in disappointment, tear off the paper, crumbling it to make it a small ball, and toss it on the floor. She never let anyone disturb her while she was writing, but many a times William would stealthily watch her from the narrow opening of the door, and would be proud to see his daughter working, carving her ideas on sheets of paper.
He took a deep breath, and walked inside the room with his eyes lowered. When he raised his eyes, he saw the room like he has never seen it before. Everything inside was shaken, like him, with the beautiful chair lying on the beige carpeted floor, her beautiful white bed was in disorder, with the sheet and pillows torn and thrown apart. Her books and papers were scattered on the table and on the floor; the sight of her room took his breath away; his heart ached in his chest to see his daughter’s belongings being scattered in the room in such wretchedness. William walked in the room slowly, to find it to be lifeless, devastated, and in misery.
He could sense his daughter’s shadow in the room; he could visualise her sitting by the window, at her desk, holding the beautiful, white, and feather quill, writing some story about a distant land somewhere. He moved towards her table, and he spotted her leather notebook lying on the ground, with the white quill lying on the floor.
He kneeled down on the floor, to touch the notebook, feel it with his hands; he picked the brown leathered notebook in his hands, and flipped through the pages. He ran his finger through a page, where she had written a part of a short story, and the outline of her new book. In some pages, he saw the sentences jumbled and incorrect.
He realised that Patricia’s passion drove her insane. He held the notebook close to his heart, and broke down. Tears started flowing from his eyes, as his lips trembled and called his daughter’s name in gloom. The charm of the house was gone, and so of his life. He felt a cold rush through his bone, and cried to his heart’s content.
He stared at the cold, grey sky from the window, trying to find his loving daughter somewhere in the lifeless clouds.