Christopher and Adam were deliriously giddy in October 2004 as they splashed accelerant onto the floors and walls of the main block of Hafodunos Hall—a residence in disrepair since 1993. The glint in their eyes was nothing short of evil as their lighted matches hit the floor.
Flames licking hungrily at their heels, they didn’t stop running until they knew they were safe. Cheating death for profit had become a ritual as they flopped down on the slope for a smoke to admire their handiwork.
With relish they awaited the police and local firemen and shivered in the chill of the Welsh air.
When they finally slithered over the brow of the hill, a silver-plated lighter with Christopher’s initials was left behind.
“Here my sweet, you must keep up your strength,” Henry pleaded, offering the spoonful of broth.
“I just can’t…please Henry,” Margaret muttered through tightly flattened lips. Gently, she pushed aside his offering. “Don’t look at me that way. I haven’t given up…honestly…I haven’t. It’s just that…today’s…not a good day.” She reassuringly squeezed his hand. “Maybe… later.”
Born in 1812, Margaret had been on a trajectory to fame as a poet until she had been diagnosed with breast cancer twelve years earlier at the age of 28. She and Henry had lived in Hafodunos Hall since their marriage.
Henry waved for the servant to take away the tray. “I heard what you just said…but…might you be up to going to the conservatory? It would only be for a short stay.”
“There’s mischief in your eyes.”
“You know me too well, my sweet,” he laughingly replied. “Well?…Are you?”
Nodding, she shut her eyes and breathed deeply as Henry pulled back the covers and scooped up her frail, feather-weight body in his arms.
Nuzzling into his neck, she nibbled on his earlobe. “You still know how to sweep a lady off her feet, Henry Sandbach.”
“So, I haven’t lost my touch, then?”
“Not in the least, my darling.”
He placed her on the wood carved tapestry chaise in the conservatory and tucked the blanket around her. “Are you warm enough?” She looked up at him with a quizzical expression. “Be patient, you’ll soon learn.”
Her brother, Edward, and their cousin, Charlotte, entered and took up their positions: he at the piano and she standing beside him.
The melodic union of word and song flowed with ease across the room and washed through Margaret. They were her words. From her poem “Lamentation.”
Intent on putting most of her poetry to song, “Lamentation” was the only one she heard before she passed away later that night.
The conservatory and service wing survived the fire. During a routine search of the property by police, Christopher’s lighter was found, eventually leading to their arrest.
Seven years later—like the Phoenix rising from the ashes—the abandoned beauty of Hafodunos Hall was restored to a residence again and Margaret’s poetry was finally put to song by Linda Lamb and Mark Baker.