Hetty’s Room at Hellens Manor – Rebecca Gethin

Hetty’s Room at Hellens Manor

It is a part of virtue to abstain from what we love if it should prove our bane. Hetty Walwyn,
18th century

She was locked in the room
……..a) because she’d run away with a lowly man
………….and no one would ask for her hand.
……..b) because a woman who defied convention
………….should be given shelter but not their freedom.
……..c) because she was deranged with grief and no one had a better idea.

It began with
…………..a) the click of the key in the lock.
…………..b) the gardener thudding a wheelbarrow.
……………….with a squeaky wheel over the cobbles.
…………..c) a terrible row where the parents
……………….couldn’t agree and both thought they’d let her out.

She didn’t know
…………….a) lock-up would last a lifetime.
…………….b) no-one would come even when she rang the bell.
…………….c) if she could have a small fire to warm the room.

She could see
…………..a) a small yard where a robin and a wren sang.
…………..b) the comings and goings of kitchen staff,
……………….tops of heads with bonnets or hats.
…………..c) smoke from chimneys.

Her cell contained
…………..a) a bed, a table and a bell rope.
…………..b) a cupboard to hold her nothings.
…………..c) a roomful of air.

She scratched the sentence on the window
……………a) because no-one listened to her beating on the door.
……………b) to show she was sorry but questioned the meaning of virtue.
……………c) to leave something of herself behind.

Downstairs, guests sometimes heard
……………a) footsteps going back and forth on the wooden boards.
……………b) sounds of crying or screaming and a tolling bell.
……………c) the scratch of her diamond ring across panes of glass,
………………..etching the word she hoped
……………….might release her: Bane, bane, bane.

Note: After an elopement Hetty Walwyn was locked in a room at Hellens Manor at Much Marcle for 30 years. With thanks to Regi Claire for the idea of the form

Rebecca Gethin has written 6 poetry publications. She has been a Hawthornden Fellow and a Poetry School tutor.  Palewell Press published Vanishings in 2020 and Marble recently published Fathom.  She blogs sporadically at www.rebeccagethin.wordpress.com.

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