Alison: This is William at his most imperturbable. Very much at ease. Playing chequers and looking out of the window. Could do with some exercise. His fingers are itching to get in the saddle and handle the weapons, but there’s nothing to do. The sky outside looks nice but there’s nothing to do. It’s as if there’s a lull and it’s women’s work to do now. It’s as if the women have taken the spotlight. So he’s thinking it will be Isabelle who will be straining her sinews, exerting herself, pushing herself to the limit, but he knows she can cope because she’s a strong, fine woman.The baby’s born and he’s standing up. He’s just kind of sauntering, he’s not excited. He’s very calm. He’s asking ‘boy or girl?’ and being told ‘girl.’ He’s thinking ‘that’s good – a good balance.’ He goes in the room to see Isabelle and they’re connecting very much at a rational, intellectual level. So it’s ‘how are you, and how was the birth?’ It’s not gushing emotions at all. We’ve seen her before very much in control and it’s just like that. He sits down beside her and then he does put his arm around her and gives her a kiss on the side of the head. The child is then put in his arms. He looks at her and oh, he does like her. He thinks her gorgeous. She’s got dimples. He’s very good, he’s very at ease. He could just sit there all the time with the baby in his arms as if nothing was happening. And they’re just talking about everyday things. He’s taking it all in his stride completely and so is she. He can see that she’s a bit tired now and the baby’s getting restless, so he passes Mahelt back to the nurse and from the door he says goodbye and goes out. And he shouts to everyone ‘A fine baby girl has been born!’ And it’s like an official announcement and they have a celebratory drink and salute. Now he feels free to go out and do something. I can see a boat on the river – a trading boat. So I think he wants to go down and meet it.
Mahelt in small childhood - a scene not in the novel
Alison: She’s running up to him with her hand out like that. ‘Daddy, daddy, daddy!’ I don’t know what’s in her hand. I think there’s….Oh .eeeeukk! Oh, this is so gross. Fish bones, like a fish skeleton.
‘Daddy, daddy, daddy, look what I’ve found. Look, look! It’s head’s still on!’ Eeeeukk, it’s so smelly! She’s not bothered about picking it up then?’ No! Oh gosh, I never expected this.
William looks interested until he sees the fish thingy and then he puts his arm well out and just steadies her on her head at a distance and says ‘Oh, that’s very interest darling, very interesting.’ And for a moment he relaxes his arm and she starts heading towards him, so he has to jam the arm out again. ‘Yes, well what do you think that was then?’
‘Daddy, it was a fish, a fish that we ate for our supper last night!’
‘How do you know that Matty?’
‘Because I saw the cook put it in the bin!’
‘So why have you got it out of the bin?’
‘Because I wanted to show it to you daddy. I wanted to show you the fish, because look it’s got lots of things inside, and it’s got lots of bones! Look, they’re all joined on! What’s this daddy?’ And she’s pointing at the end of the backbone and he says
‘That’s where the tail was joined on.’
He’s very forbearing with her isn't he?
What does he do then? How does he disarm her?
Alison laughs. That’s exactly what he’s thinking himself. He thinks I’ll be safer if I just have a look at that fish myself.
So he says ‘Let me have a little look at that then. So he takes it in his hand, holding it with the tail bit over that way (Alison indicates) Then he allows her to come a little bit closer but he’s still a bit wary of her hands, so he directs her attention, with her back to him, towards his hand, so he brings her round like that.
He says. ‘What do you think that is then Matty? Ohhhh! (Alison gasps) And before she says anything, he squashes the head and opens the mouth and she shrieks
‘Ooooooh! Daddy, daddy, it did something! Daddy, it’s still alive isn’t it!’ And then she has a bit of a screaming fit, and so all the care he’s taken to keep her hands off him has all gone, because she’s grabbing him. But he’s laughing, he thinks it’s funny.
He says ‘Oh no, child, no, no. It’s me, look, I’ll show you how to do it, then you can do it.’ So he’s actually getting involved in all this now?’ Yes, he is. Oh dear….But she can’t do it because her hands are too little, but when he does it she screams anyway. And then she starts getting interested. Oh no! (Alison is disgusted). Tut. She’s only putting her finger in its mouth. She says ‘Daddy, it hasn’t got any teeth!’
‘No, fish don’t need teeth. Anyway, what about your teeth, let’s have a look at your teeth. Oh, they’re nice teeth. I bet they need something to eat now. Shall we go and find something?’
She doesn’t want to. She’s says ‘Oh but daddy, there’s still some things in there that I want to see!’ And she wants to go back to the rubbish bin and get some more things out.
He says ‘No, not today, we’ll not do that today Matty. We’ll do that another day because I need to keep my cloak clean (he thinks ruefully). He persuades her to go in and get her hands washed. And he passes on the fish to a retainer. It’s a little bit like the royal family when they’re given posies and they pass them on to the person behind them!
Alison: Oh, I can sense a lot of open space, glorious open space. It’s golden, it’s honey, it has a lovely taste, feeling, openness and colour. It’s just glorious. And she’s looking over the wall at this scenery. She’s on the crenellations at the top of the walkway. She has a toy in her hand (a doll) in bright colours of red and blue - the cloak is blue. This looks a bit dangerous to me, but she’s holding the doll over the edge and she’s dropped it – just to see what will happen. And now she’s running down the stairs, down, down, down, down, all the way down the stairs. Her hair’s flying back. She’s quite happy and she’s breathless now too. She’s going through a door, a little arch into…I’m seeing it from above now… into the mud at the bottom. She’s not really supposed to go into this mud. I think she’s got a good excuse now because she’s dropped her toy in it. It’s not just mud, there’s all sorts of bits and pieces in there and there are pigs snorting around in it as well.
So she’s looking all over for her toy and she’s having to turn over all sorts of different things looking for it, so she’s getting in a horrendous mess. She’s having a little bit of a tussle with one of the pigs as well which is in the way. She’s put her arms round it and she’s trying to push it away with her shoulder, but it’s much bigger than her. At first she seemed to think the pig was a bit of a toy in itself. She quite likes it. I think all this looking for the toy is a bit of an excuse to do these naughty, dirty, things. Oh, (Alison sounds like a shocked parent) she’s just getting worse and worse now! It’s like in for a penny, in for a pound. She’s just really got involved with it and she’s digging down with her hands in the really soft mud, so it’s all over the top part of her as well. She thinks she’s just seen her doll being sucked down into the mud as she’s clawed her way through it. Ah, she’s got it, although it’s covered in mud now of course. She saw the last bit of the blue as it went down. She’s saying ‘I’ve got it, I’ve got it!’ Oh, and then she realises the state she’s in. And she’s thinking ‘Oh dear.’ She’s come out of the mud and she’s back on the path towards the doorway , but she’s thinking ‘better not go in like this.’ She’s wondering what to do. Ah, she’s seen an animal’s water trough and she goes and dunks her doll in it to wash it. When the doll sank into the mud, it went in head first and the feet were sticking up. That was the last bit I saw going down. Alison says she was surprised to see the doll still intact as it fell such a long way. Alison and author are laughing at this point. Yes, she’s washing the doll and as fast as the doll gets clean, it gets dirty because her hands and arms are all dirty, so that’s muddying the water and ahhh, the more she washes herself the muddier she gets because it really ditches in and spreads so she’s completely muddy now, all over her face, her hair, everything. And she’s wet and she’s cold and starting to shiver and still wondering what she should do.
A grown up has seen her. It’s a man and he’s got a broom and he’s shouting at her. ‘Hey, get away from that trough you…girl! Get away! Because it’s got to be fresh water for the animals and he doesn’t recognise her of course. He thinks she’s just one of the locals. She shouts back ‘But I was just trying to get myself clean!’ And when he hears her voice he realises and he says ‘Oh, my God. Oh my God, young Mistress!’ And he comes over and he takes her hand (– very brave Alison says with a laugh, given the state Mahelt’s in) and he takes her to the door and shouts for a mistress to come forward and take the young lady. Two women come and they say ‘Oh! What have you been doing with her, what’s happened here!’ They think he’s had something to do with it and he has to explain.
And then they say ‘Well what have you been doing Mahelt…No they don’t call her Mahelt, they call her … Maheult…Mahiltay…Maheultay. ‘What have you been doing?’ Her bottom lip starts to go down and she’s starting to cry. Great big tears welling up in her eyes. And she feels so sorry and she feels she’s been disgraced. And she feels embarrassed and all the other things. The two ladies are actually trying to be cross but behind their hands they’re laughing. They’re saying ‘We’ll have to show her mother before we clean her up! She can’t miss this!’
One of them leads Mahelt into a big room with a clean wooden floor but they’re not allowing her to walk about too much. The other one goes off and gets the mother. Isabelle’s already been told the story and she’s laughing too, but pretending to be serious. And she does a pretend scolding as well but can’t stop laughing when she sees poor little Mahelt’s eyes watering again and she says ‘Oh never mind, we’ll get you cleaned up. There’s some water boiling for you right now and we’re going to bring it to you and you’ll have a tub.’
Mahelt says ‘Not here, not in this big room, no!’
And her mother says ‘It will be all right. It’ll be right in front of the fire. It’ll be warm.’
Mahelt is still a bit worried. So one of the ladies is putting a screen round. Looks like sheets on a string they’re putting round, so Mahelt feels better about that than. They do that before even the bath comes. It’s just a tub. Aaah and when she gets in it and they’re washing her, she goes right under the water and she starts to enjoy herself, floating and making her hair float. And when she comes out and she’s being dried, she’s happy again.
Mahelt's appearance and personality
Mahelt is a real daddy’s girl. She adores William. There’s nothing he could do that she wouldn’t adore. Her father is her world. She would be married to him if she could, she loves him that much. With reference to her marriage, she will do as William wants, and will do her best for him. She is able to detach her emotions sufficiently from her dad though, so that she can go into the marriage openly. She has William’s integrity and does everything whole-heartedly. Because of this she takes on an adult role and feels grown up at being left behind when her family go to Ireland. They are trusting her to maintain the family honour and she will do her best. She has a round, delicate face, pale pink skin, dark hair, dark eyes. Although she’s only half grown she has a very refined ‘being’ inside her. She’s mature. She knows life will hold sacrifices and has always known that at some point she will have to leave her family for a husband’s household. Her family feel confident enough to leave her behind. She is also a presence in England that will represent their interests albeit in an understated way. Her relationship in childhood with her 2 older brothers has been one of cub-fighting and fisticuffs due to a certain amount of repressed sibling rivalry. They can’t compete in their father’s affections in the sort of way that an adoring little girl can, and it rather gets up their noses. They have a natural masculine buoyancy that makes them shoulder her out of it, although not in a nasty way. As they grow older they are protective of her. Matilda has a very maternal nature. Her older brothers are distanced from it, but her younger brothers regard her as a mother figure. She loves her little sisters and treats them like dolls. She’s very maternal with them.
Mahelt’s interaction with her two big brothers – William (Will) and Richard.
Alison: Oh! (Alison makes a face at Mahelt’s incorrigible behaviour). Oh, I just saw her… the older one Will, she’s stamping on his feet and kicking him in the shins, and I mean kicking him – hard! And she’s saying ‘You can’t get me. You can’t get me, you can’t do anything to a girl!’ And it’s making his eyes smart. She’s really hurting him. If he flinches and goes for her, she says ‘No you can’t get me. That’s not honourable!’ So they have to put up with being attacked like that. Richard says, ‘Oh come on, let’s go and play somewhere else. So the boys go off and she follows them at a distance – not much of a distance. They’re having a game with a really fat little pony. Will’s hiding one side of it. Richard is the other side with a wooden stake like a spear and Will has to get on the pony from his side. He’s crouching down so he can’t be seen from the other side of the pony and the game is that he has to get on the pony and Richard has to pretend to attack him and steal the pony from him. And Mahelt wants to join in. She wants the tail of the pony. Her idea is to plait the tail. She’s saying ‘Leave the pony alone it’s mine.’ And they’re saying ‘Clear off girl. You’re only a girl.’ So they’re paying her back in kind for what she said about boys.
She says ‘I don’t care about you, I’m going to tell my daddy, you won’t let me play.’ (Her daddy, not her mummy?) Absolutely, she’s calling in the big guns. So they say, ‘okay, you can be the saddle maker.’ And when they bring the horse in after the fight you have to make a new saddle and repair the old one.
Before when I was looking at him, the horse didn’t have a saddle on, and now I’m seeing it, it’s got this white cloth draped over it with embroidery on, so it’s not a real saddle, it’s a cloth with embroidery on it. So they say you can do that, and she says ‘but I don’t want to do that!’ So they ask ‘What do you want to do?’ And she really pushes it and says ‘I want to ride it. And they say, ‘oh well go and ride it then!’ And she says ‘No, I want you to come with me. You’ve got to hold the reins! I think Richard will do this up to a point, but Will thinks ‘Oh, I’ve had enough of this. And he says ‘I’m going to get some hay for the pony.’ And that’s his excuse to go and he leaves. So she’s got Richard all to herself and she’s saying ‘Go this way, go that way. No, go round again. Let’s go out into the field. Pretend I’m on a big charger now and I’m galloping over the field!’ And you’ve got to be the horse too, because this isn’t big enough for a charger.’ Ah, eventually she falls off and she falls off more or less on top of Richard. And they kind of struggle about in the grass and then start laughing and then they just roll about in the grass and they’re lying on their fronts, fiddling with the bits of grass and clover and stuff and the sun’s warm and they’re just relaxing in that childhood frame of mind of finding it all interesting just doing nothing. So generally she gets on better with Richard than she gets on with Will? Yes, much better. Will hasn’t got patience for her. He’s likely to get in a bad mood with her, I think because they’re both quite imperious.
Here's an audio clip I put up at youtube featuring a section from an Akashic Record session.
That's all for now. Another post to follow next Sunday!