Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Christmas at Rose Cottage

While something like this belongs on the Pace case 'timeline' series that I've been maintaining (and which will shortly be revived for another year of marking key events in the case), I presume that most of you will be doing other things on Christmas Day than reading this blog. (I know that I will be...)

So, I thought I would offer the following brief excerpt from the book, which has a definite Christmas connection, even if it's far from being filled with Christmas cheer.

To briefly set the scene: in December 1928, Harry Pace was ill at home, having returned from the Gloucester Royal Infirmary in late October. His condition appears to have been somewhat improving after his return.


On Christmas morning, [Harry's eldest daughter] Dorothy had, as usual, gone to light the fire in her father’s room. He told her not to bother as he would be coming downstairs. Putting the firewood into the grate, she noticed a bottle and placed it on a chest of drawers. Beatrice went upstairs to ask Harry about it, and Dorothy heard him reply, ‘I don’t know nothing.’

With [younger daughter] Doris’s assistance, Harry came downstairs for the first time since returning home. Rather than a joyful occasion, however, a terrifying scene unfolded. As Dorothy explained, her father, ‘in one of his tempers’, grabbed the tongs from the kitchen fireplace and attacked Beatrice. Dorothy intervened, and Harry, thwarted, bashed in the fireguard before sitting down.

After a pause, he took a straight razor from the cupboard and told his family to ‘clear out’ or else he would kill them. The two boys fled, and Beatrice sent Doris to fetch Joseph Martin, a neighbour who lived a couple hundred yards away.  Harry had ‘cooled down’ by the time Martin arrived, and he then returned to his room.  He would never again leave it alive.

Harry cried bitterly that afternoon and begged for his wife’s forgiveness. His condition, meanwhile, worsened, and on Boxing Day, Beatrice walked miles through deep snow to [family doctor William] Du Pré. She explained Harry’s outburst and said he was suffering from stomach pains, ‘feverish headache’ and shivering. The snow prevented Du Pré from attending until the next day, when he found Harry suffering from severe abdominal pain and vomiting.

He diagnosed gastric influenza. 

Du Pre's diagnosis, as described in the book, would not hold up for very long.

In that spirit: Wishing you all a happy (and, above all, peaceful and healthy) Christmas!

(Passage taken from The Most Remarkable Woman in England:Poison, Celebrity and the Trials of Beatrice Pace, pp. 15-16.) 

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