From the diary of Jacob Jones
Sunday, 15th December
A black day.
A little before noon, a nervous-looking boy, no more than fourteen years of age, called at the house. He informed me that he had ‘come directly from Mr. Willis’. I suddenly had a presentiment that Mama Willis had unexpectedly died during the night – that she had been ill. And if Papa Willis lay prostrate with grief –
I was wrong. It was news of a tragedy – the boy put in a cab and instructed to travel to sundry friends and relations with the dreadful information – but it came from another quarter entirely.
Dear me! It is an evil thing to write it, but I suppose I must.
Prince Albert has passed away.
What news! Of course, the man was but flesh and blood; and we had heard all the reports concerning his health. Nonetheless, I felt a sense of profound amazement and great sorrow. A bulwark of our great Nation lost to us forever.
I gave the boy a penny for his trouble and spent the afternoon in solitary reflection. D. suggested we close the shutters; I concurred.
We went to evensong – though it is not our custom – and found the little church quite full. It would be uncharitable to suggest that the ladies wished to display their best black silk; but there was a good deal of that material in evidence. Dora, too, most fetching in her moirée.
Dull service, awful choir. A dreadful intake of breath, from all present, when the customary prayers were said for the Queen and her family, and his name left absent.
It is a salutary lesson that we all live on quicksand; nothing is sound or certain.