Chapter 26 - A Policeman at the door
The years passed. There was never any good news, there was never any bad news. Albert had ceased many years ago to live in the present world and his mind had reordered everything, to make sense to him. He recognised Jane, had no remembrance of the death of their daughter. When Ted was allowed to visit, he would believe he was the latter and so as time went on, he remained trapped within that period of time. No memory intact fully and by the grace of God, those too awful to remember expunged. He sat happy and content and it was so now, that each Sunday, Jane visited him, talked to him and read to him and he smiled. Every now and then he would raise himself up, as he used to, as if to start one of their great debates, which might last until the last embers had burnt out on the fire; only to smile and settle back down, already finished and successfully concluded. But she looked at him and she knew that the bond they had was as strong as ever and no matter what had happened, they would always have it.
She opened the door that Sunday morning and saw the policeman standing there.
‘Are you Mrs Jane Burns?’
‘May I come in for a second?’
‘Of course, officer.’ Her stomach turned over as they went in and sat down, he placed his helmet to one side.
‘I’ve come about your husband, Albert. The sanatorium called the station, well.... they say he had a seizure, something to do with his condition, and I’m sorry to tell you that he’s passed away.’ He stopped for a moment to observe her reaction, this was a part of the job that he had performed a hundred times before, but one that always made him uncomfortable, he always hoped that he had been kind, he hoped that if one of his colleagues had ever to perform a similar task to his wife then they would be kind.
‘Thank you for letting me know, it is very good of you to come. I was due to go and visit Albert today.’ She rambled on for a few moments, before collecting herself and looking at the constable.
‘You have been very kind letting me know.’ He knew that she had collected her thoughts, but he never liked to leave any of the parties he had to inform of bereavement quickly and would seek to aid them, if it was just to make a cup of tea, or get a friend or relation to sit with them.
‘Can I get someone to come and sit with you?’ She thanked him but declined the offer.
‘No, you see, I’ll just get Ted ready, and then I must go to his parents before they hear.’ He again expressed his sorrow for her loss and left. As he walked down the road he exhaled sharply, it was the relief, he was always very tense on these visits.
Once the policeman had left, she remained seated for several minutes, with not a sound to disturb her. She found herself in floods of tears, she did not know why she was crying, it was unexpected and having already exhausted tears for a lifetime many years ago, she stopped as promptly as she had started. Taking the small hankie out from her sleeve, dabbed her eyes and then spoke to the empty room.
‘Albert, I know that you’re still with me and will always watch over me and the boys. I’ll bring the boys up as best I can and never let them forget what a good husband and father you always were.’
As she finished, she felt a cold brush against her cheek. It could have been a draught from anywhere in the house, as these rooms were not in their first flush of youth, she smiled and touched her face.
‘Thank you, Albert. Until we meet again.’
She dressed herself and Ted and left the rented rooms walking to Albert’s parents. It wasn’t the usual time for them to call, Albert’s mother let them in as they went through to the kitchen, Jane caught Albert’s mother’s arm, she turned.
‘Mother I need to talk to grandda’ Burns and you before we go into the kitchen.’ She looked, but no panic was on her face. You go in the front parlour, I’ll just get him from the back yard, he’s just got back from his allotment and is cleaning his boots up.′
She returned with Luke, he was in his late fifties black hair beginning to grey and moderately built, his complexion showed that he spent most of his life in the outdoors. He had changed into his slippers but the rest of him showed a man just returned from toil, his collarless shirt undone, sleeves rolled up and the big thick black belt with buckle around his thick woollen trousers pulled tight. They came into the front parlour Luke sat while Mrs Burns remained standing, their faces rigid with fear, Jane commenced.
‘It’s Albert, a policeman came round an hour ago, Albert had a turn, and they couldn’t save him, he’s died.’ They all looked at each other for a moment, Mrs Burns sat in the chair, it was if momentarily the legs had been kicked from under her. After a moment she spoke.
‘You did right to come straight round, now, we’d been expecting it but it’s a shock all the same. Albert was always a good boy, but we have to think of what’s best for his boys now.’
‘Yes.’ Mr Burns was obviously shaken to the core by the news, Mrs Burns quickly decided.
‘Luke, you’ll need to go to the orphanage later with Jane and talk to the boys. I’ll keep Ted here; I don’t think he’ll make the walk. Ask the orphanage to keep them occupied, it’s not good for them to dwell on things. I’ll sort things out with Jane - why don’t you go in the back yard with Ted, for a moment he’s looking at the pigeons.’
He rose as if he had aged thirty years in the minutes they had been in that room and moved outside. She knew there would be no outward show of emotion and it was good that he was occupied as well. They talked through what was to happen, money was tight at the moment, but they would dig into their savings to give him a decent send off. It was now that Jane declined the offer, she couldn’t take any more money off of them they had already helped her out greatly since Albert’s injury, to such an extent that she knew if any misadventure befell them. It would result in their penury for their own retirement. They talked at length neither were happy with the situation, but both agreed, Mrs Burns said that Jane was not to worry she would talk to Mr Burn’s.
‘I’ll get something hot on for you and Ted. I’m sure the pair of you haven’t eaten today, with all the running around.’ All arguments were dismissed from Jane as they went into the kitchen. She didn’t have the strength left, she was glad for someone to shoulder the heavy burden she felt, if only for a moment. Neither of them cried, that would come later in the privacy of their own homes, after the shock had passed.