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Tuesday 11th July, 1876

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Tuesday 11th July, 1876

Dear Mr Smith,

I should like first to offer my apologies for not having written to you sooner, for I know part of the circumstances of our agreement are that I write you each week I avail of your sponsorship, and certainly the week begins anew each Sunday, so I am overdue.

Of course, I must thank you again for your kindness: I am sure I quite embarrassed you with my initial response to your letter, gushing over as I did with praise for your charity and your person, no matter the extenuating terms, but even some weeks later I feel no less overcome by my gratitude, nor indeed my admiration of my benefactor, anonymous as he might be.

I had thought the journey would take but two days, but instead it took four: the first  mischief that became the coach you sent to convey me was a sudden snap of one of the front wheels’ spokes, making the whole of the carriage tilt abruptly to one corner, spooking the horses. This was on a long, empty road some hours north of Birmingham, and once the driver, Mr Thornwell, had calmed the horses from their frenzy, I had to ride on to the nearest inn some forty minutes’ further on, that I might send someone back to assist him.

I confess, Mr Smith, I am extremely uncomfortable on a horse’s back, but Mr Thornwell disliked very strongly the idea that I should remain alone with the coach itself on such an isolated road, and luckily, when I arrived at the inn they had expected us, and readily sent a young man off with another wheel to assist Mr Thornwell forth.

By the time all this business had been completed, of course, five or six hours had passed, and we had lost the warmth of the day and would, in some hours, lose its heat as well: although summer yet gives us some bountiful sun, Mr Thornwell reluctantly advised that we should stay the night in the inn rather than merely lunching there, as had been the original intention, and we took a room together.

He is a very interesting gentleman, Samuel Thornwell – I was so very enthusiastic in rushing about to pack my things into his coach that I kept stumbling on the uneven step outside my previous lodgings, and he insisted – most gallantly – upon assisting me in packing all of it away, and was very quick indeed with a joke. I don’t know that you have ever met him, Mr Smith, for he had informed me his services had been requisitioned by letter alone by a gentleman bearing your name, and that he had no previous knowledge of you, but that payment had been given up-front.

In this case, perhaps I ought describe him to you – Mr Thornwell is a handsome fellow, a little below six feet in height, and although he looks at a glance to be quite the square and serious sort (his beard is certainly quite serious, and kept as keenly in check as I would only imagine the beard of a groundskeeper in command of neat hedges), he smiles very freely, and was quick with all manner of joke and pun as we packed away my things.

On the first night we spent together, I had been quite focused upon some sketches of the cities and towns and landscapes through which we had passed, and sat upon the floor of the inn and worked like a demon with my chalks, focused most fervently upon my work that I should recreate all the sights I had seen before they dripped out of my head like so much overflowing water. Undeterred by the acute concentration with which I devoted myself to my work, Mr Thornwell spoke very freely, with a great manner of charm and gregarious spirit, to our hosts in the inn, and when they went away, he spoke for my benefit, although I said very little in response to many of his anecdotes, and merely laughed and smiled along with them.

Mr Thornwell informed me that he was in possession of a wife and three children, of whom he was very proud indeed, and that in his free time he and his eldest son, Sam, spent a good deal of time focused upon philately, which he informed me is the study – and often, the collection – of postage stamps. It seemed to me at the time to be quite a queer hobby, but Mr Thornwell spoke very well on it, and with a great deal of enthusiasm about the different varieties of postage stamps and their designs, and he said a good deal of the enjoyment in receiving letters themselves was in the postage affixed. Strange indeed, but there is naught that creates such light in the world as another man’s unfamiliar passions.

On the second night, in this inn we had not intended to stay at, I was not quite so plagued by a need to note down every sight I had taken in that day, and once I had penned a few sketches of the fields I had observed on our way, we sat together beside the hearth in the inn.

“I must apologise for my laconism last night,” I said, sipping at my ale and looking at my companion, the handsome planes of his face lit by the glow of light beside us. The only light in the room came from the fire, with the rest of the candles dimmed, and I leaned in toward it, for the night was rather cool. “I have only a little while to really capture the details I want in scenes before they begin to fade from my recollection, and I saw a good deal of beauty in our journey, and wished very much to sketch it down.”

“Oh, I took no offence in it,” he said mildly, with a wave of one hand. “You are of an artistic temperament, I can see, and your art is quite important to you, no doubt.”

“Oh, yes, yes, quite.”

“Is that the reason,” he asked, suddenly curious, “that you are travelling so far north? Heatherton is so small a village it is not even upon maps – when we reach the last inn on our journey, we are to ask directions from our host there, that I might ferry you further on.”

I had not known this, and was quiet for a moment, gazing into the fire. I was quite curious about Heatherton, for in your initial correspondence it was communicated to me as but a modest settlement overlooking a bay, and I was excited indeed to see it, as I am to see any new place of mystery. I am not, Mr Smith, well-travelled – until now, I have never left London.

Misinterpreting my silence, Mr Thornwell said swiftly, “Please, I did not mean to pry into your affairs – merely that this is an errand quite odd, and quite unlike any I have pursued heretofore. I ought have kept my questions to myself.”

“Oh, please, Mr Thornwell, you have caused no offence,” I assured him softly. “John Smith – the gentleman from whom you received the request for your services – is my benefactor. I have just completed a course of schooling in the arts at the Royal Academy, and Mr Smith, having observed the exhibition of my work in the years I have been a student, wrote to me some weeks ago and offered to sponsor me in further artistic pursuit.

“He suggested that I should take my place at his home in Heatherton that I might be free to concentrate upon my work without the distraction of the city’s bustle – and has offered, most graciously, this sponsorship and space to work, although we have never been acquainted before now.”

Mr Thornwell observed me with fascination, his lips pursed loosely together, his brow furrowed very deeply, that several lines appeared in the surface of his forehead. “Indeed?” he asked, leaning toward me. “Is he very rich, this Mr Smith?”

“I suppose,” I said, although the question offset me, for I have long been taught it is impolite to discuss such matters. “Certainly, it strikes me that he is very kind, and evidently, a great supporter of the arts. My tutors informed me that the Academy has received donations previously from Mr Smith, and knew him to be quite devoted to his support of the arts in all their forms.”

“Hm,” Mr Thornwell said. “And he sponsors individual artists, also?”

“If he has done so before, it has not been another member of the Royal Academy,” I said quietly, with a delicate shrug of my shoulders. “But his donations to the institution go back over a decade – I have no doubt in his support.”

“For how long will you stay in Heatherton?”

“Oh, a year, perhaps two. My medium is sculpture, and I work in marble – it is my intention to sculpt a representation of the Titaness Euryphaessa, the wife of Hyperion, with her three children in orbit of her: Helios, Selene, and Eos.”

My companion looked at me somewhat blankly for a moment, and then said, with perhaps manufactured brightness, “You are a Michelangelo, then?”

I flushed with embarrassment, feeling the heat burn in my blushing cheeks, for it was a painfully lofty association – though I know that it is true that many people might not know another sculptor in existence. “Not hardly,” I said hurriedly. “I could never hope to match such skill in any mode of art, but like him, I do sculpt in marble.”

“It must be very expensive, stone like that,” he said, with a low whistle. “He won’t make you quarry it yourself, I hope? I mean not to impugn your strengths, Mr Cavendish, but you hardly seem fit for such work as that.”

I laughed, and shook my head. “I do not believe he plans to put me to such labour as that, Mr Thornwell, no. He shall provide me a workspace and materials, room and board, and a small stipend as recompense for my work, as though he is not already giving me enough.”

“All that,” said Mr Thornwell wonderingly, “for one sculpture? That is all the recompense your Mr Smith demands?”

“Well, I shall produce other works of art, in my placement here,” I said, feeling quite embarrassed for reasons I did not – and still do not know – how to put into words. “I shall paint, I expect, but being a finer sculptor than I am a painter, I shall no doubt create smaller sculptures, too – there are beautiful things to be wrought in clay or wood, as well as marble.” Mr Thornwell did not seem convinced, and thus I added, almost blurted out, “And, of course, Mr Smith asks that I should send him correspondence.”

Mr Thornwell regarded me in bafflement. “Correspondence?” he repeated.

“I am to write to Mr Smith once a week, informing him of my progress, and to tell him of my moods and my experiences in the week having passed. He will never reply to me, he informs me, but it is important to him I should write to him, that he knows I am taking seriously the terms of his sponsorship.”

“Rich and lonely,” said Mr Thornwell – pray, Mr Smith, do forgive him – and I gasped.

“Mr Thornwell,” I chided him. “It is not so uncommon that a young man should send his sponsor reports upon his progress.”

“Perhaps,” said he, “but queer indeed that he should not reply to them. You say you have never met him?”

“Never – and Mr Smith said in his first letter to me that I likely never shall. He is not an artist himself, he said to me: he appreciates artists.”

My hand, at this moment, slipped to my jacket pocket, and lingered over the point where your letter to me was folded therein: I hope it will not embarrass you, Mr Smith, to note that I have read that particular line of your letter to me (Mr Cavendish, I am no artist, nor am I a poet, nor anything else. I have never and will never create anything, except love and enthusiasm for the artist, that heavenly being that serves as our modern Creator.) some thousand times since I first received it.

“You are young,” said Mr Thornwell musingly, “and quite beautiful. Being young you have sufficient energy to take on even the most exhausting projects; being beautiful, you understand beauty, and are thus well-poised to create it.”

I was silent, for this praise embarrassed me, and seeing this, Mr Thornwell took pity on me, and we retired to bed.

The next day, being as the weather was milder, the sun hidden behind thick cloud, he invited me to sit at the front of the cab with him – although I was no longer enclosed by the walls of the coach, sitting very close beside Mr Thornwell, I was able to benefit from his warmth, and our conversation kept me quite occupied as he travelled on.

We came to the inn where he had been advised we should be able to take direction to the village of Heatherton. The previous two inns, the Duck and Feather and the Coach and Horses had been venerable old pubs, very warm within and quite homey: this establishment, the Stone Post, was colder, and our hosts there were not nearly so sociable. I did not hear the name of our hostess, but that she was the sister of our host, but I knew his name to be Jude, and he never gave me his surname.

He and his sister surprised me, when first I saw them, because they almost seemed to be statues brought to life: both Jude and his sister were pale as white marble, with exaggerated emphasis in the shapes of their features. Each had heavily lidded eyes, carefully crafted lips, fine bone structure, and they moved as though some invisible conductor was coaching them through the ballet of their life, silent and effortlessly graceful.

I did not see Jude or his sister smile once: they were each possessed of a silent, frowning stare that made one take pause. Jude is, I would estimate, of the same age as me, somewhere about the region of twenty-five, and his sister somewhat younger, but he did not speak to me as much of a peer.

He scarcely spoke at all.

Leading me up the stair, he brought me to the room I was to take lodging in that night, a very large room that even then seemed quite cold, and I suggested that myself and Mr Thornwell might share a room together rather than being given separate lodgings, for it looked very cold indeed, and Jude gave me such a strange look that I felt very wrong for asking, and then fell silent.

Dinner was a quiet affair, and I tossed and turned the night through in the cold room, but when I went out into the corridor I saw no evidence of Mr Thornwell or our two hosts, and there were no other guests at the Stone Post that I knew of, and I quickly retired back to bed, for the corridor was even cooler than my bedroom. It occurred to me that it was quite strange that the only owners of the establishment should be two people so very young and seemingly so opposed to human contact, and as I turned this thought over in my mind, the most lurid of theatres playing out in my mind, as so often happens – of them perhaps being tragically orphaned, or something similar.

I slept, then.

In the morning, I was very sorry to hear that Mr Thornwell had been taken ill, suddenly caught with a fever, and as Jude’s sister attended him, Jude said to me, with a sort of quiet, grim determination, that he would take the coach forth to Heatherton in his stead.

I objected, of course, for I was worried indeed that my new friend should be so ill, and begged that I should be able to sit with him or even just check in on him, but the Stone Post siblings were vehement I shouldn’t go anywhere near him, lest I suffer the same fever he was afflicted with.

I quite forgot myself, so distracted was I as we came out to the coach, the horses already having been hitched in place, that I nearly climbed up to sit before the cab with Jude – never has a man looked at me so severely, and I felt almost as if Jude had struck me a blow with his eyes alone. They are such a funny colour, Mr Smith, a sort of brown that is so light as to be very near to gold, and they invoked in me a feeling most uncanny.

It was some hours travel to Heatherton in the coach from the Stone Post, as I’m sure you know, and yet despite how keen I was to look out of the window and make a note of the journey, particularly with how overcome with concern I was for Mr Thornwell’s good health, I fell fast asleep. I could not say how it slipped over me, for it caught me by certain surprise, but I suppose that exhaustion does these things to a man, no matter his pressing concerns.

When I woke, bleary eyed and disoriented, still in a somnolent haze, Jude was standing silently at the cab’s open door beside me, staring up at me. My luggage had already been packed away inside.

“You are very kind,” I said as I noted that my travelling chest and boxes of materials had already disappeared from the back of the coach, and Jude followed my gaze, looking, impassively, to the coach’s trunk, where all my things had been neatly tied before we had set out.

“Wasn’t me,” Jude said, and climbed back into the cab, taking up the horse’s reins. Before I could so much as say another word, he was riding off, and I was left in the yard of the house, alone, with my coat very loose about my shoulders and my carrying case held limply in my hand.

Left alone in the front yard of the house in Heatherton, I looked about at the stone walls, the half-open stable empty of horse or goat, the shed piled high with firewood. The house itself surprised me in its size – I confess, Mr Smith, when you had offered me lodgings, I expected somewhere quite modest, perhaps with a wider space to make into my studio, but it seemed to me to be almost like a manor. It was some storeys higher even than some of the buildings I worked in at the Royal Academy, and very wide indeed – the orphanage in which I grew up was quite a small one, and I have never really had cause to visit anyone else’s home.

The door was ajar, a key in the lock, and I took it loosely from its keyhole, stepping into the house proper, and closing the door behind me, putting the key in my pocket.

The lamps within were already lit where needed, although a fair bit of daylight was still coming in through the windows, and waiting for me upon the end table in the hall, where there was a case waiting for some calling cards – and the idea itself quite delighted me, for I have never been called on before – was a note.

Dear Mr Cavendish,

Your luggage has been placed in your bedroom, which is south-facing on the third floor, that you might have a pleasant view of the bay below. Mr Smith has advised us that this would likely be your preference, but that if you desire, you ought select any of the other bedrooms which brings you the most pleasure.

The supplies and equipment you have brought with you have been placed in your studio, which is also on the southside of the building, and can be accessed from the ground or first floor.

Other locations of note ought be the master bath, which is on the third floor, in the room adjoining the master bedroom; the library, which is on the second floor; and the dining room, which is on the ground floor, in the second door ahead of you on your right.

Mr Smith has advised that you are to explore and make use of the house at your leisure, and that while you reside here, you are to consider yourself its master.

Dinner will be served at seven o’clock this evening in the dining room; you might take what you please from the kitchen and its pantry that adjoins it.

Welcome to Mnemosyne’s Rest.

There was no signature upon the note, though I presume it was from the house’s staff – which, again, surprised me, for I had no idea I would have staff attending to me, and I confess, the idea made me quite giddy and uncertain. Perhaps you will think me very foolish, Mr Smith, but I have really only ever read about households with servants in novels, or heard about them in conversation, and it never really occurred to me that I should ever avail of such services.

When my father died, I was left a small apartment in London, which I inherited upon reaching my age of majority, and I have lived there alone throughout my education at the Royal Academy. In the orphanage, all we boys slept in one room together, ordinarily between ten and twelve of us, and I confess, it was a great relief when I became a man and was able to live alone, without so many breathing mouths creating such a racket all around me, and yet—

Perhaps you will think this very strange indeed, Mr Smith, I do not know, but I have always found the idea of living with servants, when one is a fellow without family or attachment, to be one as comforting as it is mysterious – surely, it would be a balm to any lonely man, to know that there are others living in the house in which he rests?

Perhaps I am a fool, I do not know. No one has ever told me so – but then, perhaps I am so foolish everyone I have ever met has thought it quite obvious, and not thought it worth saying.

I hope I do not bore you.

I know in your letter you requested that I should treat these letters as a diary to you, or perhaps as a confessional, and pour fourth my soul, but I have never kept a diary before, and I am not a Catholic, and to be very honest indeed with you, Mr Smith, I do not know that I am in possession of a soul at all. They seem to be allocated to the most interesting of people, and I am no such thing.

Once more, I must thank you for your kindness – I was a man quite uncertain of my bearings, when my graduation from the academy loomed, uncertain as to where next I should go, and you have given me not only your sponsorship or your kindness, but a sense of purpose I might not have gotten, otherwise.

And— Pray, Mr Smith, do forgive me if I overstep my bounds, or if I speak too freely, or if every letter I pen to you is quite a lot of nonsense. I have never written to anybody before, and but for schooling exercises as a youth, the practice is one quite foreign to me. Perhaps I thought thank you for this addition to my experience of the world, as well?

I have not yet conducted my exploration of Mnemosyne’s Rest – oh, what a name, Mr Smith, I wonder if it was you that named it? – for as soon as I came into my bedroom, the south-facing one – and you were correct in your estimations, Mr Smith, the wide windows create such a beautiful view of the bay below, with its grey-and-white cut waters, and its view of the cliffs, and its picturesque, dark-sanded beaches, and I should never want any bedroom other than this one – I sat down at my desk to pen this missive to you, that you should not think I was ignoring my obligations to you.

Thank you.

Once this letter is finished, and I have let the ink to dry, I shall send it off to you post-haste – and perhaps this evening, I shall pen another letter to the Stone Post, asking for news of Mr Thornwell’s condition… Ah. But that is a thought for later.

Yours with gratitude overflowing,

Ganymede Cavendish

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