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Home Features The tragedy of Gilroy, Carla, and “Little One”

The tragedy of Gilroy, Carla, and “Little One”

From British Honduras to Belize: one family’s drama - a novel written by the late Chrystel Lynwood Hyde Straughan

Chapter 25

In early September of 1967, a short time after her nineteenth birthday, which she had spent at home with her family, Jewel had come to my work area asking if I could spare the time to help with a problem she was facing. She being very resourceful and self-reliant, I had felt it must have been about something critical, so I had invited her to go ahead and speak; and she had related how the Agriculture Department was threatening to take away her father’s twenty-five acre plot, as he had developed only a small portion of it, and turn it over to another villager. One of the conditions under which the lease had been granted in the first place had been that the land should be developed or purchased outright.

Although her father had receipts for the amounts paid annually, it did not total the purchase price, and unless he could pay the difference within a short time, they would pass the land to someone who could pay the total, forfeiting the amounts paid to date.

The problem had stemmed from the fact that the government cooperative project had never got under way, so it had been decided that the lands not fully paid for would be redistributed to individuals able to purchase them on their own initiative.

The value of the land had been assessed at a little over $700, whilst her father’s payments had totalled about $350, leaving nearly $400 outstanding.

Apart from the financial problem, which was large enough on its own, there was the additional concern over suspected ill-will on the part of the Area Representative, who was related to the village Alcalde (Mayor), as was her father. To complicate matters further, the Representative, Absalom Itza, had expressed an interest in Jewel when she was younger, but had been told that she was committed at that time to pursuing the nursing profession as far as she could go before settling down.

On Absalom Itza’s part, however, there had been the belief that the reason for the lack of interest was that he did not measure up to her standards. Additionally, a subtle rivalry and mistrust had developed between their respective ethnic groups over time, unwittingly fuelled by the personality of his kinsman’s wife, who was definitely not the submissive female to which the young suitor was accustomed. He suspected that Lucille thought her children better than the inhabitants of the village, and that she had influenced Jewel against him.

Years before, when she was only thirteen Abel had actually been sounded out about such a union, at which time he had bewildered his hearers with the statement that he and his wife would allow their children to choose their own partner when they were ready. This, of course, had been a radical departure from village custom, bearing in mind that Abel’s parents had been fifteen and sixteen at the time of his birth!

In addition, her father still owed a small debt to Miss Millicent and did not want to increase the amount if it could be avoided. There was the accumulation of Neville Enright’s pension allowance to Jewel up to her sixteenth birthday, but her father had vowed not to touch this for family purpose but to save it for her higher education. So she was indeed in a quandary!

Knowing that Jewel would never have approached me if she didn’t have an idea in mind, I had asked if she had any thoughts of how the money could be raised, and she had been forthright about a solution. Staff members on her scale were given two weeks of vacation leave each year which could not be accumulated, but had to be used, or lapse; plus eighteen days of what was commonly called “long leave,” which could be accumulated up to three months. Having joined the staff as a student nurse at fifteen, to date she had reached a total of two months and two days according to the finance department’s calculation, which at her current monthly pay rate would total roughly $381 before deductions, so her proposal would be manageable if the head of department would allow two specific concessions.

The regulations were that pay in lieu of leave could be granted on condition that the department head was satisfied that foregoing such leave would not be detrimental to the health of the applicant, since the purpose of leave was to allow staff the rest and recreation necessary to ensure maintenance of efficiency on the job.

And this is where I came in, she said. Once again Jerome was acting as CMO, since the expatriate holding that office was entitled to six months’ furlough every so many years, a perquisite he never forewent. Would I ask my husband, the Hospital Administrator, if he would approach the CMO on her behalf about granting her the concession of receiving such pay in lieu of leave and, also, postpone the deductions for two months?

We had put heads together and agreed that she should speak to Nigel directly and not through me, and he had made representation to Jerome on her behalf and advised her by Monday afternoon that the first concession (the pay) had been granted, but not the second (the deductions).

Without deductions she would be forty-odd dollars short of the required figure, so I had offered to lend her that amount; but she had preferred to be short of pocket money rather than incur any debt not agreed on beforehand with her parents.

I had discovered that she sent home a hundred dollars out of her pay each month and subsisted on the balance; and while it is true that boarding and lodging is provided by the institution, considering the monthly amounts Nigel and I spend on our teenage daughter, a schoolgirl living at home with us, I realized the strict self-discipline which Jewel practiced in foregoing everything but the bare essentials.

A further small problem of getting the money to her father for payment in the district had been easily solved by Nigel, who had asked Jerome if he would take a parcel (containing the money) to his aunt, whom he visited once per month in those days, for pickup by Mr. Lino, to which Jerome had willingly agreed.

Everything had gone according to plan, and Jewel had informed me, with lavish gratitude, as soon as the mission had been accomplished!

ooo0ooo

Not long after the incident of the land title Jewel, had brought to my attention the case of the malnourished little boy of two years who had been admitted to the Children’s Ward one night when she had been on duty there. When the background details to this story had been aired on the hospital compound, I remember Nigel remarking that my protégé seemed to attract problems, as the little boy’s case had affected her very deeply.

The infant’s mother had been well-known as one of the earliest female drug addicts to walk the streets of this city, all the more noticeable because of her former status as the “up-to-date” daughter of a civil servant who was a local preacher in his parish.

At seventeen, the girl had fallen in love with an eighteen-year old clerk in a custom broker’s office, which had met with her father’s strong disapproval, his preference being for the other applicant for his daughter’s affections – the ambitious, high-school-educated young man accepted for training at the Teacher’s College in October of that year.

Mr. Horace Belezaire did everything in his power to keep Gilroy Welcome and his daughter apart, but without success. As headstrong as her father, she had withstood all his whippings, threats and punishments, yet persisted in the friendship; and, to spite him, had insulted and driven his candidate away. Things reached a stage where they stopped speaking to each other, and he finally gave up and washed his hands off her.

Young, impetuous Mr. Welcome, madly in love and wanting to improve his financial situation before proposing marriage, had rashly left his job and, with little money, tried to go to the United States “through the back,” that is, by way of a Mexican point of entry, to seek his fortune, taking the one precaution beforehand of obtaining a visitor’s visa to join relatives in Brooklyn.

He had reached Los Angeles safely, but being naïve as well as having luck against him, he had met with some unscrupulous countrymen on the way to Brooklyn, was duped by them into becoming involved in a money-making scheme of some kind, had been left holding compromising evidence and sent back home by the immigration authorities in the United States.

Without money, a job, or any prospects of finding one in our Third World situation, he had drifted around the town until his grandparents had taken him in to live with them and help in his grandfather’s mechanic shop. Neither father nor mother made any effort to assist him, having been alienated by his rashness in giving up a good job in these hard times to embark on a foolish venture “just to please woman,” despite their warnings. They had no choice but to concern themselves with their five other children, they had said, and leave him to work out his own salvation.

Hard labour, open-vote (casual) worker in the government service, or what was called “ketch and kill” and the many precarious occupations under that heading, were all that he could expect in the circumstances, as, when he had approached his former employer, the customs broker, in the hope of getting back his old job, he had been told by him that he couldn’t afford to take another chance on someone so undependable.

With the small change earned working with his grandfather in his pocket, he had started hanging out with other idlers, who teased him about his descent from the civil servant’s daughter, whom he was now ashamed to approach, to the young “sketels” (female drifters) knocking around the neighbourhood.

An easy target for the avant garde of the drug culture which eventually gained a strong foothold in our society, he had fallen a victim to its inducements at about the same time as had his ex-girl friend, Carla Belezaire.

When he had kept away from her after his return home, she, in despair, had stopped attending piano lessons, going to church and teaching Sunday-school, and lost interest in her appearance. To avoid her mother, who forced her to bathe and change her clothes, she had stayed away from home, only slipping in through the back door to steal food when she was hungry and creeping in at night to sleep if she found the door open. Many a night she had slept on the back veranda.

It was only a matter of time before the two outcasts came together in consolation of each other, paving the way for the physical union which had produced the little life that was surrounded by much suffering and ended up in the hospital dehydrated, feverish and worm-infested, still unable to walk or talk at the age of two.

Then Mrs. Belezaire had learnt about her daughter’s pregnancy, she had turned on her husband with vicious bitterness, releasing the long pent-up resentment of his bullying control of her life and home.

The house belonged to her, the legacy of her maternal grandmother, who had inherited it from her abusive husband, Carla’s great-grandfather; and had proven to be her only possession all through that marriage. The improvements, the remodelling of that now attractive structure, had all been made with her husband’s money, earned by his hard work through his talents and abilities and under his tasteful direction (to hear his account).

According to him, also, she had played a minor part, an unnoticeable nine months of self-indulgent holiday, in producing the treasured and cherished apple of his eye; whom she, through her ineptitude and stupidity, had finally managed to infect by her example and or negligence. Why else would a child of his be attracted to the kind of simpleton who had made a mess of his life and hers, when an intelligent and ambitious admirer had been available?

Mrs. Belezaire, defending herself for the first time, had questioned why he should now blame her for how things had turned out, after taking over the child from her ever since she was born? Wasn’t his superior influence more powerful than her little two cents’ contribution could ever be? She who, according to him, didn’t know how to speak, to dress, to cook or do anything worthwhile?

She had threatened to move out of the house and beg lodging with her grand-aunt, leaving him, being so highly qualified, to deal with all the problems of the home, including the grandchild who would be making an appearance in due course.

He had “lorded” it over her for so long, with no resistance or complaint whatever on her part, that he had been at a loss to cope with this new rebellion, and had threatened to leave also. She had reminded him, however, that all the bills in connection with the home would follow him wherever he went, so that he might as well stay and reap the benefits of his investment.

That night, after that one and only devastating quarrel of their married life, they had slept restlessly on the right and left edges, respectively, of the marital bed.

Mrs. Belezaire had woken up early the next morning and gone to visit her aunt, confiding to her all that had happened and had received comfort from that outspoken and daring old lady, along with a frank and critical assessment of her mate.

“That is why I could never put up with any man in my life! They don’t like me and I don’t like them! They could call me ol’ maid if they want, but not a man could ever get the chance to rule over my property and handle me how they want! I watch her all these years put up with that man and think to myself, what is wrong with my niece? The man musbe give she some strong ‘do so’ fuh gat she so fool-fool!! Now, after ‘e done blight ‘e poor daughter life, ‘e brazen enough to try put the blame on Iris, when ‘e never give her a chance to open ‘e mouth to chectise (sic) the chile one day from the time she was born! Only he know ‘bout train children! She have the belly pain, that is all she was good for; but he have all the brains and the money to take over and bring her up! She dreg up! No know nothin’ ‘bout table manners! ‘bout sanitation and health! ‘bout nutrition! Or how to decorate house! You know how many times I wanted to ask that man how it is that he have the same post in the government service from the time I know him? Can’t get promotion – have all this big brains and can’t make progress? But I say to myself – mek a ‘tan safly’ and keep mi mout’ quiet before ah cause trouble in me niece home life. The day mus’ come when ‘e open ‘e eye, so let me bide mi time ‘til then, whenever she bring her troubles to me.”

I’m sure you must realize by now that I am quoting straight from the horse’s mouth, as the saying goes, as Miss Evangeline Jenkins, the aunt of Mrs. Belezaire, was the famous housekeeper of Dean Wilson of the Anglican Diocese, and her mouth, as she openly asserted, “no join church,” and was an earlier, more potent “Mouth, have mercy” when it came to voicing her opinions.

Anyone who came in contact with her was regaled with the details of whatever problem was current on her agenda. She lived alone and supported herself working as housekeeper to the Dean of the diocese. Everyone was afraid of her mouth, including the Dean it sometimes seemed; and she boldly spoke up for herself if the timetable arranged for her did not please her or encroached on her free time. “They can’t handle me like Miss Warrior, who used to report for duty at 5.00 in the morning, seven days a week and leave after dark every night, as if ‘e no have no personal life,” she would say. The only person she dared not clash with was the Bishop, and although she grumbled long and loudly whenever he overruled her, she showed a calculated respect for him due to the fact of his having control of the purse strings. Needless to say, nobody was really comfortable with her, although they were much entertained by her.

Mr. Belezaire, fearing his wife might really carry out her threat to leave home, had appeared on the front veranda of her aunt’s house to make an appeal to her to be reasonable. Used to his bullying ways, however, she had become nervous as she had seen him through the window. Observing this, her aunt had called to her: “But wait, stop! What you getting so nervous about? Who you looking at by that window? Ooh! The Mr. Gentleman himself! Call him in here let me tell him a thing or two about himself!”

Her spirits bolstered by her aunt’s sympathetic championing of her cause, as well as her concern for her daughter, however, had given Mrs. Belezaire the courage to quiet her aunt and agree to return home with her husband; and, finding him chastened, she had sat down with him to consult about their problems rather than leaving him to make the decisions.

Together they had been able to agree to an arrangement whereby their daughter could come home and try to clean up her life in preparation for the arrival of their grandchild.

However, there had been conflict between father and daughter, who had unreal expectations of each other. Carla wanted Gilroy to be allowed to visit the home, an idea which her father strongly opposed. He did not object to their meeting at the gate and going out together, but her lover was not to come inside, as they were not running a brothel, he had said. She had wanted to know what he was afraid of since she was already pregnant.

Mrs. Belezaire had taken the initiative to explain to her daughter that the privilege of her returning home was solely for the sake of what would be their innocent grandchild, who had broken no rules, but was the victim of parents who could not provide for it.

This had stung Carla, who had accused them of really wanting to take her child away from her; but had been shocked into silence by her mother’s remark that anytime they were in a position to take responsibility for themselves and their child, she, for one, would be happy, as all children coming into this world deserved parents who would make the welfare of someone besides themselves their priority.

And although in front of her daughter Mrs. Belezaire had stood alongside her husband in support of his decisions where she was concerned, a radical change in their relationship had taken place as she began to assert herself.

When the unruly Carla after the birth of the baby had defied both parents and encouraged Gilroy to come upstairs and into her bedroom, it had been her mother who had finally given her the ultimatum of following the rules or leaving the house. This she had done with much hullabaloo, piling the baby and his things into his stroller and descending on Gilroy’s grandparents without warning.

They, who could not afford to feed three extra mouths, had sought relief from Gilroy’s parents, who had been forced to take them in, enlarging their household to ten; and to make matters worse, the hitherto pampered Carla, jealous of Gilroy’s siblings, became quarrelsome and demanding. But Mrs. Welcome had a solution! She had tackled Carla physically one morning, sat her down, told her to shut her mouth, feed her child, bathe and keep him clean and to leave her children alone, as they were in a different category from her, not drug-soaked, slack, lazy and wayward!

Carla had wailed like a child and, with nowhere to go, the poor baby’s father had begged his grandparents to allow them to sleep in the tool shed until they could do better. They had agreed, and his grandmother had found some bedclothes which she had thrown over a wide bench for them to sleep on. This had continued for some time until Mrs. Belezaire, hearing about their plight, had offered a storage room downstairs of their house where they could stay, allowing them to move the baby’s crib and Carla’s bed down there, which had a bath-house nearby and an old toilet bowl connected to their septic tank. Even with her back against the wall the unstable Carla had accepted on condition that her parents “keep out of their business.”

This had gone on for many months, with Gilroy going back to work with his grandfather and Mrs. Belezaire sending down food for them from time to time. Then Carla started to sneak out, as soon as Gilroy had left for work each day, leaving the baby on his own while she scrounged around in search of drugs, her mental condition having continued to deteriorate under the pressure of her responsibilities.

It was hard for me to believe that this could have been allowed to go on for as long as it did without anyone finding out until Mrs. Belezaire, defying her daughter’s warning to keep out of her business, decided one morning to investigate why there should be no sound of crying from a place where there was a young child!

To her horror, she had found her grandson lying on his back in a dirty, urine-soaked diaper and nothing else. His little body had been covered with sores from mosquito bites, while he had sucked hungrily on his thumb. Just as she had turned to leave, with the intention of going for help, her daughter had stood threateningly in the doorway with a large piece of wood in her hand, shouting: “Ah no tell you keep outa mi business?” bringing the wood down on her mother’s shoulders again and again until, hearing her screams, the neighbour had appeared and pulled Carla’s hand behind her back to halt the beating. Mrs. Belezaire had stumbled out of the room and run upstairs to telephone her husband while the neighbour had held on to Carla.

When he was told what had taken place, her husband had called the police, who had taken quite a while to show up. In the meantime the neighbour had let go of Carla and returned to his house, while she had gone into the room, locked the door and pushed her bed behind it, all the while screaming that she would kill anyone who tried to get in!

ooo0ooo

Our child-care system being in its infancy, and Carla being far gone over the edge and clinging to her only possession like a wild animal, it had been a long time before they had been able to bring relief to the situation and admit the little infant to hospital as a first step towards his rehabilitation.

Luckily, he had had the good fortune to come under the care of Jewel, who was in the midst of a six-month tour of duty in the Children’s Ward, and who had patiently devoted extra time to him as he started to recover, gain some weight, and a sweet personality had begun to emerge.

No one seemed to know his name on the night he was admitted, and Jerome, who had had to perform minor surgery on him, had requested that the “Little One” be brought to the theatre. That had become his name, even after it had been discovered that he had been christened “Alan” after Gilroy’s grandfather.

By March of the following year the improvement in his physical condition had been so marked that an informal group of hospital authorities comprised of the CMO, Dr. Branch; Jerome, the CSO; Dr. Swift, the paediatrician; Matron Ebanks; and Nigel, as Administrator, were faced with having to decide into whose care they should recommend his release: the newly instituted Children’s Home or the maternal grandparents, a lower court having decided against Carla, as being unfit.

Despite her madness, she had not missed a day during the intervening months of spending visiting hours at the hospital with her son; and it was touching to witness their interaction. She hugged, kissed, and caressed him, played games with him, sang to him, tickled him and was so tender with him that everyone began to believe in the possibility of his being the means of her returning to normalcy, especially seeing how he responded to her with total trust.

Sometimes Gilroy would accompany Carla on these visits, but left after a while, to return to work long hours with his grandfather, living frugally and saving most of his earnings, apparently with the hope of a future for his small family. But an undercurrent of hopelessness seemed to haunt the young couple, as Carla manifested such a deep hatred of her parents, especially her father, which she expressed in outbreaks of cursing and ranting from to time, and refusing permission for her mother to see Little One and sinking deeper into her drug habit.

ooo0ooo

Early each morning Jewel would visit Little One, either on her way from or to work, after she was transferred from duty in the Children’s Ward, maintaining a close connection with him and updating me on his progress.

One morning as she approached the Children’s Ward, Gertrude Atkins had called out to her that she could turn back, as Little One was not there; and on asking where he was she had received the reply that the crazy woman had come and carried him off.

Almost in a state of shock, she had come running to me with the news she had just received and asked if I knew what had happened? I had told her to come along with me to the Matron, who had confirmed to me that the mother had indeed taken the baby out of hospital, and that the matter was now in the hands of the Police.

I had suggested to Jewel that she go and change out of uniform while, in the meantime, I would make further enquiries and give her an update as soon as I learnt anything. As she had turned to go, however, news had come that the bodies of the pair had just been taken to the morgue after recovery from the sea. Someone had witnessed Carla jump from the seawall with the little boy held tightly in her arms. I had watched Jewel’s face as she had taken in the news, and she had straightened her shoulder and moved purposefully in the direction of the morgue.

She had returned after a while to seek my help with finding out what would be done next, as people near the morgue were sounding off with wild speculations. One thing that had seemed reasonable was that after the post mortem it would be decided what would come after, but it had alarmed her to hear that the bodies would not be “churched,” because of being suicides. This had disturbed her, particularly as she could not understand how the act of a person not in her right mind could be condemned as suicide, or how a child who had no power to resist its parent could share the blame for her action.

So, there we had been on a beautiful Tuesday morning in March, waiting to hear the fate of the bodies of the tragic mother and child, with Jewel sitting still and twisting something in her hand, which had turned out to be Little One’s “peak cap.” She had bought it for him as a present when he had reached out for that of a fellow patient’s, and which he had worn night and day and even slept with since then. “Peak cap” had been two of the few words in his vocabulary at two years and nearly seven months!

After a while I had urged Jewel to try and get some sleep, as I knew she would be due to go on duty by ten that night; but she had said she could do nothing until learning what would be the fate of their remains; so she had continued to sit near me at my work station and wait, while I had carried on with my work.

ooo0ooo

That day seemed never-ending, while bits and pieces of news had come our way from time to time. The hospital administration was preoccupied with consultations with the Police about the security situation, and it had been questioned at length how someone could invade the Children’s Ward and without hindrance remove a patient!

It had been late in the afternoon that a decision had been officially conveyed to Mr. Belezaire about disposal of the bodies of his daughter and grandson; but he had not lifted a finger to make any funeral arrangements, while his wife was helpless with grief, anxiety and lack of funds. When it appeared to me that things had come to a standstill, I had asked for time off for personal reasons and, together with Jewel and with her encouragement, went to see our parish priest. Using the influence of Mama’s and Nigel’s names, I had persuaded Rev. Pratt to read the burial service at the graveside.

We had hurriedly informed Mrs. Belezaire who, with the help of her aunt, had been able to obtain a car, paid for by that lady, and gone to the gravesite along with Gilroy. I had driven our car with Jewel in the front seat and Rev. Pratt in the back, and had set out for the cemetery in a mini-motorcade following behind the ambulance with the bodies together in a hastily built coffin.

Mr. Belezaire, who had been informed by his wife about what was taking place, had remained at work until it was over and walked home as if nothing had happened.

Around the grave, Miss Evangeline’s brave and erect form had stood behind her niece in stalwart support, while she and Gilroy had held on to each other as Reverend Pratt had raced through recital of the burial service. As he had tried to signal to me that he was ready to depart, Miss Evangeline had glared sternly at him and resolutely launched into “Amazing Grace,” leaving him no choice but to join in, while she had followed through with each funeral standard one after the other, as the gravediggers completed their final attention to the resting place of Little One and his mother.

When all was over, Jewel, who had stood silently watching the proceedings, had produced a tiny bouquet of flowers she had held behind her back and placed it on the grave along with Little One’s peaked cap.

Before leaving with her aunt and Gilroy, Mrs. Belezaire had walked over to Jewel and, embracing her, had spoken earnestly to her for a few minutes, after which we had gone to my car and taken Reverend Pratt back to the rectory.

As I had driven to the hospital to drop Jewel off, I had observed that Mrs. Belezaire seemed grateful for what she had done to give her daughter and grandson a religious send-off. In the hope of hearing what had been the topic of their short conversation, I had been rewarded with learning that she had asked Jewel to thank me and to look into a little matter for her. She had continued that she had been asked to speak to Matron on Mrs. Belezaire’s behalf about being admitted to the one-year Midwifery course.

It seems that Carla’s mother had visited her grandson between the hours of eleven and twelve several mornings, unknown to her daughter, during which time she had got into conversation with Jewel about his progress. She had been allowed to hold him and try to teach him to talk, learning from Jewel that this was having a good effect upon him. She had remarked that her husband had discouraged her from holding Carla when she was a baby because it would get her used to “hand,” so she had been denied this pleasure with her own child.

Jewel had mentioned that this had been one of the joys of working in the Children’s Ward, and Mrs. Belezaire had wistfully observed that she had wanted to be a nurse but that it was now too late for her at her age. Jewel had quickly assured her that she could still be a part of the Midwifery programme, which was open to mature persons; and one thing having led to another, she had asked Jewel to make enquiries on her behalf.

So, there we were: some good coming out of the tragic tale of their lives so far; and on her return home, to find her husband sitting on the front veranda reading a book, she had sat next to him in the swing and calmly and conversationally informed him of her plans.

Having seen his wife and Gilroy come into the yard together, he going downstairs and she coming upstairs, he had started the ball rolling by asking what “that fellow” was doing there now; and that had been the signal for her unburdening herself! She had assured him that “that fellow” happened to be her last connection to her child and grandchild, and would have a home on that property as long as he needed one. He had been the only person who had stood up for her child when all the others who had professed to love her had let her down, including herself, who had allowed him to run her life and her child’s life until it was too late; but she was salvaging what was left to her now and would not allow anyone to change her mind.

She had enlarged on this theme by claiming her rights. Half of the property was hers, and she was willing to keep house, cook his food, wash his clothes and carry out all her wifely duties except one: she would not be his partner in bed. He could take over their bedroom and she would occupy Carla’s, or they could do the reverse, but that was the way it would be from then on. As far as she was concerned no one needed to know the details of their private life, unless he wanted to broadcast it. Either way, it would not matter to her.

Mr. Belezaire had listened in silence to all she had had to say, then stood up, taken off his glasses, set his book down, and, walking towards their bedroom, asked her to hail him when tea was ready. Turning as he had reached the bedroom door, he had remarked to her that there was no need to make new sleeping arrangements as they could sleep on opposite sides of the bed, as they had done before, and she need fear no disturbance from him.

And if you are wondering how I was informed about all this, it had been none other than Miss Evangeline Jenkins who, unlike her former practice, had given me these details “in confidence,” when I had met her at a Women’s Meeting and I had asked, sympathetically, how her niece was bearing up under her troubles.

I’ve been thinking to myself that I must be becoming like my dear mother, to whom many a casual acquaintance, encouraged by her kindly and sympathetic interest, had unburdened themselves of the most intimate of secrets, confident that no one would ever hear about it again coming from her mouth. And the only reason I expose the details of this story is that Mrs. Belezaire, herself, had publicly spoken of it months later once her life had changed.

She had been accepted into the Midwifery programme at the hospital not long after, and had proven a valuable and popular member of staff once she had completed her training; and had gradually shed her sadness and blossomed into an outgoing member of the community life of her parish, supporting her husband, who took his work more seriously, and, with a surprising generosity of spirit, had followed his wife’s lead in concerning himself with the welfare of his “to have been” son-in-law and his siblings.

She had spoken about the near break-up of her marriage due to the bitterness associated with the loss of her daughter and grandson; admitting, as an example of what forgiveness could accomplish, that she and Horace were now on good terms, and she could ask for no better treatment from him.

(Chapter 26 in next Tuesday’s Amandala.)

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