“Carry me quickly to the last place you remember us being happy together,” was the requirement that Davis had written on the paper that I took from the envelope on the day we buried him.
Too late, as ever with Davis. He was buried in the one suit he owned, inside the breast pocket of which he’d popped the letter before going out into town for his last night.
It could have been the start of a poem or suicide note, you simply couldn’t tell with Davis. He’d written both before, sometimes in the same project. He had worked for two years in a series of mainline railway stations in a variety of jobs. He was tall and slim, dark, he wore spectacles and what used to be known as stout boots. He was an atheist and a big drinker but only on Fridays.
He was my friend and we often went rambling over England. Davis had emerged from Pentonville prison in 1882 as a rumpled man, convinced that his role there as the Chaplin had resulted in his crisis of faith. He came directly to my home in Yorkshire to remind me of our childhood together and of the fact that his ‘descent into religion’ was the only reason that my wife Mary was my wife rather than his.
To an extent, of course, he was correct.
Mary, Davis and I had revolved around each other before he had taken up the cloth and Mary had taken my hand. Writing now, forty years after his death in 1884, I can see that Mary and Davis loved each other.
She is my friend and we have a house, two grown children – both boys, now men and both abroad. We talk about Davis but although our conversations are joined at the words, they are separate and personal.
Not for the reason you think though.
I was in the knowledge, you see, that Davis had murdered Mary’s father.