Henry didn’t give up and constantly sent Martha small tokens of his desire (shoelaces, dried flowers and occasionally salted fish). In 1660 he returned to the Hall with his proposal of marriage in hand and battle plans in his head. The royalists were approaching Hull and plans needed to be made.
That night, after a hearty meal and a decent amount of beer, he fell on his knees and proposed to Martha with his fellow soldiers, made stupid with drink, jeering around him. Bad idea… Mrs Baker swooped in like a vulture on a dying soul and clutching Martha to her, she announced that her daughter was betrothed to a local farmer; very wealthy (with a gut to match) and 20 years older than the delicate beauty. Martha was to be married the very next day. She then shuffled her off outside and bundled her into a cart which was to take her on to her fiancé.
Henry tried to pull her out but was stopped by the farmer’s men who were chaperoning Martha to her rather sad fate. He ran in front of the horses, only to be half trampled and left by the road side as the cart rattled off into the future. He never saw her again. Some of his men carried him inside where he downed enough beer to water down the anger and pain that ravaged his body. He stumbled onto a bed of straw and watched the shadows play all over the walls as his candle flickered. When he awoke he was dead, slightly toasted around the edges but most definitely dead. A house fire had almost destroyed the Hall, taking Henry and the mice in the walls with it. My mother and I had watched the blaze, feeling only its warmth in the cold night, never knowing he was burning to death behind the dark silhouette of the Hall.
When I joined him upstairs a short time later, all he could do was to pace the corridor that held the door to Martha’s room, as if she might appear and make the world a wonderful place again. Hating womankind, he rippled rugs that caused housemaids to fall downstairs, breaking their necks. Henry nudged the cook who found herself flinging boiling water on anyone around her. He did that for a while, about a hundred years if I remember rightly and then he gave up. Travelling became his passion combined with the search for his family which lead him all over the continents.
Around the late nineteenth century, he returned from a spell in a country called America with a poem in his head. He had witnessed the assassination of one of his heroes; Abraham Lincoln, another man of the people. The poem started with the line; O Captain, my captain (the name of poet, Walt Whitman comes to mind) and he repeated this day and night until, without realising, we were all calling him, the Captain.
Such is his story so far…