Miss Clementine Everington
I have come to Landsdowne Square in Harredon, London, from Harredon London countryside. It is a very beautiful square with the facades of all sixty residences being painted a different colour, the homes keeping very conservative and subdued ofcourse – nothing too garish. I lug my belongings to my new front door with me, and a small boy who goes by name of Master Fletcher Mason departs with the horses. Thank goodness the front door isn’t very far from the gravelled road, for every little house in this square is without front yard really. We are compensated with a large communal lawn, which exists as the centrepiece of Landsdowne square, and this has been by architectural planning and land design. 42 Landsdowne Square is of white brick, with a deep green front door which I adore. It is both aesthetically and functionally pleasing, with two sleeping rooms, one drawing room with its own fireplace, an internal washroom, with a free standing white porcelain bath that has glossy black wrought iron feet, which is an
absolute luxury that I did not have at mama and papa’s home in the countryside. Our bathing was done in a large tin bath afront of the fireplace of as Sunday evening, when father made himself scarce. My new home also has an internal kitchen where we can cook on a coal hob which is just grand. I have come to live with Miss
Charlotte, who is 21, whose elderly parents recently passed away, leaving her orphaned, and alone, and quite lonely.
After reading her ad in the newspaper, I took pity upon her circumstances and mine own – that of needing to escape the countryside for a borough more happening – and wrote to he of my interest in becoming her tenant. Two weeks ago horsecart was sent to me from Landsdowne Square to bring me to meet Miss Charlotte so that we could converse
living arrangements etcetera. We warmed to one another instantly and agreed today to be my living in day. Miss Charlotte meets me in the hallway where she helps me with my luggage. I have two cases we take into a room down the hallway on the right, which is to be mine room. We chat for a few minutes before she leaves me to unpack alone, to take in my surrounds and gather my thoughts. She closes the door behind her. I untie my bonnet and put it on the bed. I rub my head just above my ears where my bonnet has been digging into my head. I fold my dresses and petticoats and place them in the drawers chest in the room. I fold my overthrows and undergarments and place these
onto the plain white wooden shelving to the left of the chest of drawers. The few other bonnets I possess, I pile neatly next to my stockings, and then I close the lids on my brown leather cases and stow them under the large square bed. My bed is made of brass and looks rather new – not a bed that would belong to an elderly married couple. I look down at the embroidered duvet I am sitting on – it is a colourful masterpiece that would have been lovingly and painstakingly crafted over many hours by Miss Charlotte’s mother, I presume. I leave my room to find Miss Charlotte sitting in the drawing room by the fire, her stockinged feet resting on the footstool afront of her, while she knits babies booties, and her freshly boiled cup of tea, waits patiently, in its saucer, on a small round-wood side table to her left. Her boots have been discarded on the floor under her feet. I sit down in the soft chair facing her and she looks up at me and smiles. She inquires how I have found my new room and I tell her that I am very happy with it, that it is very comfortable indeed, and isn’t the brass bed-frame ever so lovely? Is it brand new? To this she says, it is new and it was purchased especially for me, as her parent’s bed frame was extremely outdated, and just would not do for someone of my age, I being 20. I thank her for her generosity and spirit and she tells me that her home is now mine home, and we shall do everything together like we are sisters. I smile warmly and tell her of my new job at the nursery commencing tomorrow, the nursery where she too minds the children of Landsdowne square. The room we will mind the children in, she explains, is a room inside the Square hall building, which is at the very back of the Square, and located in such a way as though it presides over the Square. She tells me I will be fond of the children there, as she is fond of them herself, and she might as well be for she might not be a mother, with not having any line of suitors calling on her, at her age. Miss Charlotte says she is content either way, to be with husband or without, and to have my new-found friendship in her life is a great source of comfort for her anyhow. I second her
appreciation for our new-found companionship, and say that I would like to boil the kettle, for I would like a cup of tea. She throws her knitting aside, jumps up from her soft chair, and leads me into the kitchen whence she puts a metal kettle on the hob to boil some water. She does not have running water and any water we need for the kettle
must be got from the water pump outside in the rear garden. I nod and say I am used to using water pumps as we had one at home in the countryside. We sit down at her small dining table set for two, chatting away happily while the water boils. She tells me she is an only child, her mother passed away seven months ago from old age. Her father’s
passing was three years ago before now from pneumonia. A kitty walks across the table past my elbows, and jumps off the edge of the table and onto the rug on the ground, stopping to curl up on Miss Charlotte’s stockinged feet. Miss Charlotte scoops Fox up in her lap, and walks with her to the hob, to make the tea. We go into the drawing room
once more, to drink our tea, which is much warmer than sitting in the cold kitchen. I sit down again in the same soft chair, propping my cup of tea onto the little sidetable beside me. It is the same sort of sidetable as Miss Charlotte’s.
The fire crackles softly in the background, and I hear the click click click of Miss Charlotte’s knitting needles. The room is peaceful and calm. I do away with my boots, setting them down on the ground next to my footstool. Miss Charlotte says that they are beautiful boots, and I say I purchased them from Harrington’s the last time I was in
Harredon, which was four months ago. She asks where I buy my petticoats and dresses and I tell her about Mrs Briggs, the clothier in the countryside, where I was born, that sells everything a young woman needs for dressing.
She smiles and asks if I am reading Far From The Madding Crowd by Mr Thomas Hardy, and I say I have heard much ado about it however have yet to buy a copy, after which she says, well go to the bookstore during your lunch break tomorrow and buy it then. She would lend me her copy, she says, however she is in the middle of reading it. As
women who love reading, we should read it together sitting by the fire of an evening, thus she will stop with the book at once, and wait for me to arrive at the same sentence, so that we may read it aloud and follow the narrative together. This is a splendid idea, I say, smiling and then sipping my tea. I say I have a cross stitch in my case I ought
to be working on, and so I leave the drawing room to retrieve my cross stitch from my new room, and rejoin Miss Charlotte with my cross stitch. She knits and I sew, and we sip tea, and we enjoy the warmth emanating from her fireplace, on this, a very peaceful Sunday afternoon.
I open my eyes and look around the room. It is a strange room with foreign shadows and I have momentarily forgotten where I am. It soon dawns on me that I am sleeping
inside 42 Landsdowne Square. I grab my timepiece which says that it is seven o’clock in the morning. I turn the lantern up higher and get out of bed. I remove my nightgown, fold it, and put it away on the shelf. I pull on my undergarments and find a petticoat to wear. It is made of a white cotton. I find my favourite lilac coloured dress that
has small brown flowers all over it. I step into it, holding the shoulders as I do, and put my arms into the long narrow sleeves once the dress is high enough up my torso to do so. However will I close the buttons on the back of the dress without mama here to help me? Tis a huge dilemma I have never encountered before. Thankfully there is a knock on
my door and Miss Charlotte walks into my room. I breathe a breath of relief and ask her however have you been dressing unaided for seven months? It has been difficult with bending my arms at all sorts of odd and strange angles, but I have managed, she answers. Once she has finished fastening the button on my dress, she turns her back to me, so that I may fasten the buttons on hers. I put on a matching bonnet, tying it under my chin. Miss Charlotte has her bonnet on already. We go into the washroom to brush our teeth together, I using some of her tooth cream as I haven’t brought any with me from the countryside. How silly of me to forget it. Miss Charlotte says she doesn’t mind sharing hers until I buy mine own. Her basin and her bath both have drainage systems however no running water, so if I am ever wanting a bath I must boil the kettle on the hob in the kitchen, and cover my hands in teaclothes so as not to burn myself. She says the pots are quite heavy when full so she will help me. I explain to her that mama and I sat inside a tin bath beside the fire using pots of water we boiled over the fire, and with these, while resting on our knees, we filled the tin bath with water until it was full. I inquire however have you been bathing with no one to help you? And she says she has been bathing in very low water, and to this, we both laugh. It doesn’t do to live alone we
agree. We go into the kitchen where we scoop porridge into bowls and sit down to a hearty and warm breakfast before we walk to the nursery. The children will begin arriving at eight in the morning, Miss Charlotte says, and so we leave our dirty bowls in the washtub, put on our brown leather boots, and leave for the nursery. Miss Charlotte
locks the door behind us with a silver key, and puts it in a grey felt pouch that she sewed herself and wears around her neck. She says she never carries on herself more than two shillings at a time. Whilst the square is a lovely place, one never knows when they’ll be mugged, she says. I close the gate behind us and follow Miss Charlotte, listening to
the beige gravel crunching under our boots as we step onto the road to walk toward the nursery. I take in the square and my surrounds – it is such a beautiful square with four lines of houses bordering the square naturally, all fashioned in one cottage style, painted in either white, cream, or lemon, light green or pale blue, every door
mismatched, wooden picket fencing boxing in every home. Miss Charlotte points out the church, the infirmary, the officer’s house, the bakery, the butcher, the bookstore, the hatmaker, the clothier, the bootmaker, the writing store, the grocer, the confectioner, the toymaker, the public house, the bank and finally, the post office. Miss Charlotte says
that if I do not want to keep my pennies at home I ought to go to the bank on my lunch break and open an account there, to which I say I will do just that. In the nursery room, we go around, pulling curtains back off windows to let the sun shine in. The first child arrives and goes by the name of Timothy. He says hello to Miss Charlotte, nods to me, leaves his lunch-tin in Miss Charlotte’s hands and runs off to play with a toy train-set. The day has passed; I have watched and played with thirty-six babes – some of them related, and some of them not. I have bottle-fed seven babies, changed their soiled clothes and sung them lullabies, lulling them to sleep. At one o’clock I have my lunch break for half an hour. I make way for the bakery because I am famished. I buy two cheese buns and devour them before going into the bank and opening an account there. I deposit money I do not need one me into the new account, and breathe easy knowing my purse is lighter with less for the muggers to rob me. I go next door into thew bookstore where Far From the Madding Crowd is piled several copies high atop a wooden table on most visible
display. I pick up a copy, take it to the counter and pay for it. The young girl behind the counter is very pretty and has a beautiful smile. Knowing I am new to the square she introduces herself to me as Miss Lily Patterson. Her parents own the bookstore, and she lives at number sixty, with them and her sister Miss Hilary. I tell her I am a new
companion to Miss Charlotte Broadfall and her eyes light up. She explains to me that they all used to walk to school together, their school being in the rear of the square hall. It teaches students aged five to fourteen, at which age students commence working, or continue their education for another three years if their parents can afford it. Miss
Lily works in the bookstore three days a week, and is studying a course in typing two days a week. She says her course helped her initially with the cash register in the bookstore. I wouldn’t know how to operate this new contraption, a cash register, if my life depended on it, I say to her. I do however know how to use a typewriter, I tell
her, taking my book from her. We say our goodbyes, and I leave, catching the names of some more books on my way out. As I approach the building housing the nursery, I see a man and a woman laughing, sitting up rather high in an expensive looking horsecart, two horses at the front of it for pulling it. How extravagant, I think to myself, taking a
closer look at the man, without making it obvious that I am inspecting him. He is the first man I have seen in the square – and rather dashing too. The woman beside him is blonde, her hair pinned in a tight bun high on her head; she wears a small expensive looking hairpiece on this bun. She is laughing happily. He entertains her, and I think
they must be husband and wife. Inside the nursery I tell Miss Charlotte that I have just seen a very dapper man with a very beautiful woman sitting in the tallest horsecart in town. The horses themselves are even dressed – no word of a lie. Did the woman have blonde hair and was she dressed somewhat expensively? She asks me, to which I say, yes, and that she was. Did the man have dark brown curls and a dark brown beard and was he wearing a day jacket? She asks me, to which I say yes, and that he was. She tells me I have seen Mr Gregory Picton, the mayor’s son, and a Miss Anna Hollingsworth – the woman he is courting. She is the daughter of Mr Herbert Hollingsworth, the owner of
the bank in the square, and a few others in Harredon, as well. Miss Anna lives in country Harredon on a private estate, whilst Mr Gregory Picton resides in the square with his father, often taking horsecart to the countryside to visit her, and bringing her back to square sometimes to picnic on the lawn afront of the Square hall building. Miss Charlotte says their engagement was announced in the paper two months ago. Miss Charlotte is sitting on a little wooden stool eating a sweet bun, whilst some babes and toddlers tug at her hems on the floor, and children older than two run around the room, or sit playing quietly, with wooden toys, nattering to one another in gobbledegook. She tells me we are allowed a thirty minute lunch break, albeit, this is how she usually eats her lunch, sitting amongst the children, and watching them, only ever leaving to go to the lavatory. It’s a very nice way to have lunch, I think, and I vow to leave all my errands for my days off, so that I can sit with Miss Charlotte and have lunch with her and the children. Who does the nursery belong to? I ask. It is a council initiative that has been running for two years now, and time before that, babes and children were minded, by neighbours in private homes, with the minding fee set by each minder. The council decided that the child minding fees needed to be consistent across the whole square, so that anyone wishing to have their children minded, they would pay no more than 3p per child a week. You and I are paid 10p weekly by the council. A woman who works for Mr Picton puts the wages into our accounts. Just give me 1p at the end of every week for your room and we shall be calling it fair. How is that? Miss Charlotte says. I say tis more than fine, and I’m delighted to be working and living with her. At four in the afternoon, all of the children leave, and we go about the room picking up empty milk bottles and crusts of bread, the children have left where they have been playing and napping. Miss Charlotte and I wash the bottles and teats in the kitchen using a faucet that has running water. I’m overjoyed by the faucet with running water, and this I tell Miss Charlotte. She agrees that it is indeed a luxury, and she wonders if she will ever have running water in her own lifetime. We prop the milk bottles on a draining board upside down to drain and dry overnight, and go back into the nursery, pulling all curtains across all windows, and go home for the evening. As we enter the cold night air, Mr Picton is coming home in his horsecart. Miss Charlotte and Mr Picton nod to one another in greeting and I smile politely and we keep walking.
Miss Charlotte is telling me about all the wonderful things that happen in the square such as: the flower shows, the mayor’s quarterly debutante ball, the community picnics on the lawn, the swap days – which are monthly events where everyone gathers in the townhall bringing items from home with them that they no longer want or need to swap with neighbours. A group of ladies in the square bake scones and bread and put on tea for the adults whilst the babes and children drink milk, and everyone chats whilst swapping items of value. It’s a place where they can eat cake, drink tea, and socialise with their neighbours, in one place all at the same time. It sounds absolutely wonderful and I can’t wait to attend my first swap day. Swap days are great for mingling with the single lads in the square, Miss Charlotte says, and I feel this is a great thing for we single ladies, for working with children five days a week does not leave much time to socialise with single men mine own age, and I am not the sort of woman to be drinking ale in the public house. I ask Miss Charlotte to forgive my impertinence, but was it ever a desire of hers to settle down and get married? And she goes on to explain that many a man in the square would be seen as lowering himself marrying a woman who owns her own home, when he does not, and she believes this to be the sole reason why she has been
overlooked marriage-wise. I feel at once gum upon hearing this might be the reason behind why this lovely, attractive and highly fashionable woman of 21, is a spinster. Miss Charlotte delighted in a few courtships when she was younger, when her mother was still alive and her mother owned the house, so, she says, she isn’t without knowing
love at all. It dawns on me that she no longer lives alone, and that I live with her as a sister of sorts. Single men in the square ought to court her, if they know that I am living with her, and nothing untoward would happen if Miss Charlotte’s home housed another young woman, surely. Surely the single lads in the square would have to come to
this conclusion? I say all of this to Miss Charlotte and she is thrilled I have thought such a thing. A joyful expression floods her face. She tells me the next ball is this coming Friday, and one million ideas start buzzing about the room, about what dresses we ought to wear, and how we ought to style our hair, with Miss Charlotte saying she cannot wait
to introduce me to, tapping a commentary of names off the tips of her fingers, and she mentions the few I could do without being acquainted to. I tell her I would like to be introduced to Mr Gregory Picton and his lady friend officially regardless of whether they are betrothed to one another, not because I am immoral but because it would be
nice to become acquainted with the mayor’s son. The otherwise never crossed her mind, she says.
On the evening of the ball Miss Charlotte and I touch down on the gravel track in our heels and are joined by our neighbours, who too are walking the gravel road toward the hall, in a row: Miss Dorothy Fortescue, Miss Annabelle Fortescue, Miss
Magdalena Baroche, Miss Elizabeth Walton, Miss Arabella Walton, and Miss Bessie Forthampshire, and her fiancé, Mr Harvey Bradbury. Miss Charlotte introduces me to our neighbours as Miss Clementine Everington, the woman who has been living with her. To this they all smile, and nod their hellos, saying how do you do, and Mr Bradbury says: The mystery woman and elusive new-comer is now but among us! We all laugh and walk into the stone marbelled foyer of the hall, acquainted and ready to mingle, over hordeurves, strawberry spritzers and whisky. I have seen the inside of the foyer before – I walk through it daily to get to the nursery. What I have not seen before is the
magnificent ballroom right before mine own eyes. Miss Charlotte tells me it was personally designed and built by Mr Clarence Picton – Mr Gregory Picton’s father. Eight large white columns line the room, with white renaissance embossed walls, and white filigree. Pattern after pattern, depth after depth, detail after flawless detail, haloed by a Sistine Chapel-esque ceiling, which is quite in contrast with the dark, deep red, polished, mahogany flooring that seems as though it goes on forever. The minimalist approach works wonderfully drawing attention to women’s dresses and the couples who are dancing and the different coloured fabrics swishing this way and then that way. There is a white-cloth table stationed against the west wall and the east wall – they hold bottles of champagne, glasses of strawberry spritzers, gins and brandies, and scotches and whiskies, and a pyramid of clean flutes for guests to drink from. Somewhere above my head a clock strikes eight o’clock, and we silence ourselves and anticipate Mr Clarence
Picton’s presence to perform a welcome speech in the heart of the ballroom. This evening, there are only three young lasses entering the social arena: Miss Lily Patterson, Miss Marbella Gideon, and Miss Margaret Jones; they have all just turned 15 in the last three months or so. The coming out age is a little younger in the square because a longer
courtship was preferred by the council, and by the young girls living in the square, steering them away from having to marry some lad they hardly know, in such a short space of time, which is the custom the world over. The age used to be 17, Miss Charlotte explains, so lovers are not allowed to engage in any physical relations until the girls are
seventeen. Miss Marbella, Miss Margaret and Miss Lily take up the hands of their suitors to dance. The ballroom follows suit and women and men line up facing each other to commence some steps and some hand claps. Miss Bessie and Mr Harvey disappear and Miss Charlotte and I stand in front of a white wall next to twins, Misses Dorothy
and Annabelle, and Miss Magdalena. At 19, the twins have wasted two years yearning for admirers, but admirers have been scarce. Appearance wise they are attractive, however they both have a bump on their nose that causes their noses to take over the whole face, and this makes them appear hawk-like. They are short in stature, and very narrow-shouldered and flat-chested, giving them pre-pubescent appearances. They have a small jaw each and barely a chin, and have enormous chocolate eyes and very long eyelashes that take prominence anyhow. The rosiness in their cheeks gives them femininity so combine this with their eyes and their lashes – I personally find them endearing – but I am not a man and have no idea what men seek in a mate. Miss Magdalena is very shy and suffers severe bouts of anxiety the second any man asks for her hand to dance. She instantly rescinds, turns bright red, and appears as though she will faint if the experience doesn’t end promptly. She tells me she must find another doctor with whom
she can work on her anxious feelings, lest she becomes a spinster at eighteen. She is very attractive – she has black curls; a curl cascading either side of her face – and she wears a black silk embellished floor length ball gown that has beading all over it – it was apparently custom-made for her eighteenth birthday four months ago. We instantly
become great friends and I promise to help her with her anxiety. She tells me every woman in the square admires Mr Gregory Picton, with a relationship between himself and Miss Charlotte being quite intimate around three years ago. This was information Miss Charlotte had neglected to share with me, and I am left feeling curious and intrigued. Apparently Miss Charlotte was not in high enough esteem because her business was in childminding. Mind you, three years ago, his father was not the mayor. What Mr Picton was so hoity toity about, neither of us knows. Miss Charlotte has not overheard us speak her name thankfully, for she is engaged in conversation with a Miss Vivian Glossman a few metres away. I ask if Mr Picton was Miss Charlotte’s only suitor, and I am assured that she has had three suitors in as many years, and then none at all in the last seven months, since her mother’s passing and since she owns property. I am dumbfounded and I say: How can Miss Charlotte be of not a high enough station one year, and then be of too high a station the next? Miss Magdalena is just as baffled as I am, and calls the lads in the square pillocks. A young man holds out his hand afront of me to ask for mine in dance. I give him my right hand in acceptance, farewell Miss Magdalena with a smile, and allow myself to be stolen away into the crowd of dancers. He
introduces himself as Mr James Boroughshaw, and inquires who I am. I introduce myself. He knows I’m living with Miss Charlotte, and how long have I been in the square? I say I arrived on Sunday evening, although unbeknownst to him and everyone else, it was really Sunday morning. I don’t suppose she wants Father to know she skipped Sunday Mass because she was waiting for me to arrive by horsecart. I pass by Miss Charlotte who is in dance with a man I don’t know; we smile in unison and then are led away in the throng. The hems of every woman’s dress brushes against her neighbours’, and sometimes we laugh at this and sometimes we don’t. Mr James asks me if I know many in the square and I tell him about the women I met on the way to the ball, saying that they have been my only acquaintances thus far. He leads me away from the throng of dancers and hands me a strawberry spritzer. Walk around with me, he says. I nearly my spritzer into his face. Excuse me? I say. Oh no, not in that way. Walk about the room
with me; there are a few neighbours of ours that you must meet. And then he winks at me. My heart relaxes after nearly jumping through my corset, and I reclaim a hold on more glass more tightly so as not to drop it and send it smashing and shattering the ballroom floor. I find myself many amiable new friends – Miss Lily’s older sister Miss
Hilary, who too works in the bookstore. She tells me how proud of her little darling sister she is; squishing Miss Lily’s small white-gloved hand, brimming with pride. Miss Lily confides in her sister my purchase of Far From the Madding Crowd, in both volumes, of recent, to which Miss Hilary confesses she has finished reading both volumes. My astonishment must be written all over my face as I say it: it has only been on shelves but 7 days, and Miss Hilary says she is a fast reader, however she does not plan to spoil the ending for me. Miss Lily says she is reading it too, confessing she hopes Miss Bathsheba chooses Mr Oak as her husband. Mr Oak has the nicest demeanour out of the
three suitors. Mr James excuses himself for our conversation is far too feminine for his tastes. He bids his farewell after saying we shall dance again. Miss Charlotte joins us; she is rhubarb in the cheeks from dancing. I tell her we are conversing all matters Far From The Madding Crowd to which she says it is a book that is newly her most dearest
and Mr Thomas Hardy is most definitely London’s literary genius. Miss Hilary asks her if she has finished it, and Miss Charlotte says she has not for she is up to the part where Miss Bathsheba is given a private sword demonstration by Mr Francis Troy. What a toff! Miss Lily scoffs, expressing disdain for this character. Where are the older generation
this evening? I inquire of the group, Miss Charlotte explaining anyone older than 25 does not attend the ball, so that more of the young ones can attend to become familiar with one another. Have you had your ball? Miss Hilary asks me. No – we don’t have such things in the country. I say. Miss Lily says: you have missed your grand entrance by a
whole year, and Miss Hilary tells her to hush. Miss Charlotte says: nay – the lass is still young and has plenty a time to settle down with a husband, do you not pet? She then winks at me which makes me feel easier. I did not wish to ponder how much of society life I had missed simply by living in the countryside. Besides – look at me – I am but 20.
Nobody is as old for marriage as I am, Miss Charlotte remarks. A little birdie tells me that you and Mr Picton once had a fond friendship. I say. This being old news to Misses Hilary and Lily, sees them smiling and then snickering, with their faces finishing up in stone. They don’t know how to behave my dredging up the past, Miss Charlotte’s past, of which they do not know of her feelings. She feels she owes me an explanation being her newest friend. She starts: Mr Clarence Picton and Mr Gregory Picton were just as they were – no political titles. I had seen Mr Picton out and about, when we were in school. Our classes were given separately ofcourse – ladies in one class and men in another, so as not to be distracted by either sex. Mama and papa could afford extended education, so I stayed on for an extra three years until I was seventeen, learning French, playing the pianoforte, singing, learning Latin, and reading the materials my lecturers gave to me. Finishing school was not good enough in his eyes and after courting for two months he decided that we didn’t have a future together, because we were too different from one another.
Miss Charlotte finished. I found her story hard to swallow because I found her to be very loving, kind, loyal, generous, and from her account – very educated and talented too. What else could Mr Picton possibly desire? As though reading my mind, Miss Hilary says: someone with blonde curls whose father owns a chain of banks perhaps?
Rather sartorially. Would he really be so superficial as to overlook one’s parentage, upbringing, education, and character for their appearance? Miss Lily asks. Yes, perhaps he would, Miss Charlotte says. Miss Charlotte is plain in looks. She has thin, wispy, mousy brown hair scraped back into a bun, with her parting down the middle. When her
cheeks aren’t rhubarb from dancing her complexion is rather pale. She has small brown eyes, and a small narrowed and pointed nose, small pale lips, and large ears that stick outward. Her ears overwhelm her tiny face, and while she is not ugly, it can’t be said that she is pretty. That is just my sketch upon quickest glance however, and what she lacks
in appearance, she more than makes up for in character and heart and a wonderful nature, and any man in the square would be blessed to have her as his wife. I have been like her sister for but the past five evenings and we are well bonded already. A young handsome man with light brown wavy hair and deep chocolate dense eyes and a strong
jawline introduces himself as Mr Matthias Clark. It is my pleasure to meet you, I say. I am Miss Clementine Everington – a guest in Miss Charlotte Broadfall’s home. So I hear, he says. Will you dance? He asks me, holding out his left hand. And then he adds: and enlighten me on all the ado. Ado? I ask. Yes, Miss Clementine, there has been much ado about yourself in the square. To be sure? I ask. Surely, he says. I did not think I was known at all, I say, and then he whisks me away from the other three women. He owns the post office – a business he inherited when his father died. He has five younger sisters. He asks me if I am from the countryside, and I say that I am. He inquires about my coming out ball, and when I say I have not had one, he instantly stops dancing and asks if I am of age. I say that I am most certainly of age, and that in the countryside coming-out-balls are nonexistent. He breathes a sigh of relief, rejoins his hands with mine and goes back to twirling me around again. He asks if I’ll be wanting to write to mama and papa, and I say that I will be wanting to write to them. He says he will post my letter to them with no fee if I agree to have tea and scones with him, in the morning, in the teahouse away from the hustle and bustle of the ball. It is a very bold suggestion, I think, when he has only known me for three minutes. I do wonder what word of me is going about the square. I ask him, and he says: nothing indecent of course. I agree to have tea and scones
with him in the morning. The dance ends, I thank him for it, curtsey, and then take my leave. I tell my three lady friends about my dance with Mr Clark, and they all squeal with delighted excitement upon mentioning breakfast. They affirm that it is indeed great news for he can guarantee the woman he marries a great deal of financial security
and stability because he owns the post office. It is a positive meeting indeed and I am absolutely flattered this handsome businessman is interested in a lady of my standing. I say. Of your standing? Miss Hilary scoffs, believing wholeheartedly, I am but a lady like every other lady in the room. I left school when I was 14 and helped my parents
work the land. I sold chickens, eggs, and cow’s milk to farmers at market, and minded babes for a small fee when parents were out. I wrote letters for my illiterate neighbours, and for the elderly in the town, I sewed dresses and mended their socks, but this is the only kind of work experience I really have, and whilst I can read, and write, and
use a typewriter, I don’t feel I’m of station to wed a businessman, I say. They all gape and gawp at me, until Miss Lily finally says: Nonsense! News of you has been nothing short of quick in the square! Miss Charlotte and Miss Hilary second this. I confess that I am baffled to this being so. Miss Hilary says: you are very pretty – Miss Lily was
going on about the prettiest, bonniest lass she had ever seen, when you bought Far From The Madding Crowd from her just the other day. I feel my cheeks turning rhubarb. I look to Miss Lily who has turned rhubarb as well. Miss Lily then says: well, yes. I did say she was the prettiest. Yes. I did. Why, thank you ladies. I do feel short of breathe now. Or stifled or something. Might you excuse me a moment while I go outside for some fresh air? I ask. Miss Charlotte asks if I need her to accompany me, and I say that I oughtn’t, and I go outside. It has come as a shock and a surprise to me that people in the square have noticed my presence. I guess living in the countryside, where everyone
knows everyone, I took my recognition by others for granted. It was only natural. News travels fast in the square – and I am beginning to see that life in the square is no different to life in a small tight-knit town. I rest my palms on the concrete railing afront of me, the concrete cold and calming. I feel dizzy, and faint in the cold night air, and I
haven’t time to wonder why. My head crashes down nto the smooth curved edge of the concrete railing, and I keep falling until my whole body hits the ground.
I wake up in the infirmary having no idea where I am. I peer out the window opposite me, the sun is out so it must be day. I feel a pressure on my forehead. I put my hand to it and instead of feeling skin, I feel the crepe texture of a bandage, which has been wound around my head to stop all bleeding. Miss Charlotte sits in a chair to my right, holding a teacup and saucer, which are keeping her hands warm. She looks at me and smiles and asks me how I’m feeling. To which I say that I am but confused. To which she proceeds to describe the events of the evening before, stating Mr Clark found me unconscious, lying on the ground outside. He ran inside to the ballroom, and shouted for help. Some men arranged for horsecart to take me to the infirmary. Mr Clark, as miss Charlotte says, scooped me up in his arm, leaving my legs dangling in my beautiful black silk ballgown, lifelessly against him, and my head lolling, unsupported, until Miss Charlotte, herself, was alerted to come outside immediately, and she held my head in her hands. She asks me of my last memory, and I say I was resting my palms against the concrete railing because I was feeling dizzy. She asks if I have had a spritzer before, and I say that I have not, that I have not consumed alcohol before, and she immediately gets up from her chair, propping her tea on my blanket, to go in search of a Sister. Three Sisters return with Miss Charlotte to my bedside, and cries of: thanks heavens child – you’re awake, and good morning Miss Clementine, and a how are you feeling Miss Clementine? I hear. It soon becomes apparent that I am allergic to alcohol, and my nervous system was rendered dysfunctional and I blacked out. I was told Mr Clark carted me to the infirmary himself with Mr Picton horsecart. Miss Charlotte came along as well, acting as my guardian and next of kin. I am discharged from the infirmary the next
day at four in the afternoon. I feel well enough to walk home, and so I go outside to be welcomed by a glorious and warm sunlit day. Immediately upon exiting the infirmary I find myself standing outside Number 60 Landsdowne Square, where Misses Hilary and Lily live. Gravel crunching under my boots, I walk to their fence and see them sitting in rocking chairs. They jump up, cry Miss Clementine!, and push open their gate and rush over to me. Miss Hilary asks me why Master Fletcher Mason is not fetching me home, and I explain to them that his services were unneeded as I felt well enough to make the short distance home. They walk me all the way to number 42, knock, do not wait for Miss Charlotte to open the door, instead opening it themselves. Miss Charlotte shrieks in shock, in the hallway, grabs my arm and leads me straight to bed. She is harried and flustered and wonders why I did not call for Master Fletcher Mason. She unties my boots, and pulls them from my feet throwing them down quickly. She unbuttons my day dress, and pulls at the sleeves to free my arms, motions for me to stand, and yanks the dress
downward, taking my petticoat with it, getting me to step out of my dress. She puts me to bed like a wee babe, and tucks me in like she is my mother. I open my eyes when I hear Miss Charlotte coming into my room with a metal teatray. Atop it is a bowl of vegetable soup and a pitcher of orange juice. She sits down in a chair beside me and keeps me company. According to her timepiece it is eight in the evening. She tells me this month’s ball was hugely successful and each girl has been called upon by a suitor, Miss Lily, by a young man called Mr Joseph Lee, who called on her whilst she was at the bookstore, yesterday.
On the way to the nursery we stop by the newspaper boy to pick up the newspaper, which we can read through whilst minding the children. Miss Charlotte hands him 1p and he bids us a fair morning. we go into the nursery and go about pulling back the curtains. We go into the kitchen and fill the babes’ bottles with milk the milk man has left on the doorstep of our scullery. At noon, every child eats sandwiches, while all the babes suckle at the teats on their bottles. Miss Charlotte and I sit on little three-legged stools, eating sandwiches, and going through the newspaper. One article in the newspaper is announcing the opening of a teahouse that businessmen have introduced all over Paris of late. According to the article it serves its patrons tea and scones and it is a place where women can meet with their friends to gossip and hydrate themselves after a long day of shopping. Miss Charlotte says we must go to this café together one Saturday lunchtime. I agree that it would be lovely and that we should invite Misses Lily and Hilary along, and we could ask Master Fletcher Mason to take us there. Miss Charlotte licks her finger, and turns the page and we come to an article that says: MR GREGORY PICTON AND MISS ANNA HOLLINGSWORTH HAVE CALLED OFF THEIR ENGAGEMENT. Miss Charlotte and I inhale loudly, with shock, for not being able to imagine such news.
Misses Lily and Hilary have just finished their shift at the bookstore, and they are giddy, and skipping home like two small children. Miss Charlotte and I are walking by when they ask us whether we have read the newspaper today. I say that we have, and they inquire if we can believe the news, and we say we cannot. The four of us stand stationery in the road, gossiping and pondering who broke off the engagement. Miss Lily says she doesn’t mind who it was – she is simply overjoyed that Mr Gregory is eligible again, to which Miss Hilary says: you may admire him from afar, but you shan’t get your hopes up, for he is twenty, and you are only but fifteen, and he may deem you too young for such things. Why did the council lower the age then? Miss Lily is annoyed. Miss Hilary explains, it was made that way so she can spend some time getting to know the men her own age, and not those whom are much older than she. Miss Lily is still annoyed but this explanation suffices for she changes the topic rather quickly and asks if we have heard
about the new teahouse in London. I say that we have, and we ought to call upon Master Fletcher Mason to take us there, and they all agree. I ask Miss Lily have you had tea with Mr Joseph Lee as of yet, and she says that I have not, but I don’t doubt, he will call on me again soon, I am very sure of that. How is your head now, Miss Clementine, Miss Hilary asks, and I say that it is healed and I am on the mend. Tis a pity you didn’t see the ball to the end of the evening, says Miss Hilary, to which I say, that it is indeed a pity, and Miss Charlotte adds that I shall not worry for there will be another one in 3 months. All the good men might be taken in three months because of the pace at which all things romantically-inclined unravelled in the square, Miss Lily says, and Miss Hilary tells her to: speak for yourself; I don’t have any suitors and neither does Miss Charlotte. Miss Charlotte says she did but dance with a few men at the ball, but only time will tell if any of them will call on her at home. I say that they are bound to call on her
at home now that I am living with her and things are more appropriate in the eyes of society. Miss Hilary says the single men in the square ought to dispose of the bees in their bonnets, and Miss Charlotte laughs, agrees, and confesses, they are a strange sort of folk. Miss Charlotte and I arrive outside our house, we bid our farewells, and vow to see the Patterson sisters soon.
Miss Charlotte closes the door behind us, and I throw my bonnet on my chair in the front room. I get the fire going, whilst Miss Charlotte starts dinner. I go into the kitchen and start peeling potatoes at the kitchen table using a peeling knife, cutting them into small pieces appropriate for a cheese and onion pie, when I am done peeling them, for that is what Miss Charlotte fancies for dinner. The pastry bakes in the oven, and a pot of water boils on the hob. Miss Charlotte scrapes the chopped potatoes into the pot. We hear a knock on the front door, and I put down my board and peeling knife to see who may be at the door. Mr Matthias Clark smiles at me. I ask him to come in, and I lead him into the front room where he sits down in my soft chair by the fire. I sit down facing him, and tell him: it is lovely to see you. Would you like a cup of tea, I ask him. No, thank you very
much. Dinner is cooking at home, and I shan’t be late for that, he explains. I have come to ask of your health and to see how you are getting on, after the other evening when you hit your head at the ball, he says. Oh, I’m feeling really well, thank you Mr Clark, for asking. My head has healed and I am on the mend, I daresay, I say. I am in your debt
for finding me and for knowing so quickly to go to the infirmary, I say. I did nothing extraordinary and any man would have helped a woman in my predicament, he says. I thank him again. I would like to call on you again, Miss Everington, if you would so like that as well, he says, and looking into his chocolate coloured eyes, and feeling myself smiling because he is smiling, I say: why, yes, of course. I would like it very much to be called on again by you. He stands, and I stand, and we smile at one another, and I feel a happiness brimming in mine own heart, and I do wonder if he can see it, or hear it, or sense it somehow. I show him to the front door. Miss Charlotte asks whoever called on me, and I answer that it was Mr Clarke, and she throws her wooden spoon, and runs to me, and squishes me in an embrace ever so tight I think I might combust! I cannot exhale. We are both smiling and laughing feverishly. I didn’t come to the square for a husband, but simply put, to get away from the countryside to have a better life with
more opportunity. However, if finding a husband does so happen, I will embrace it, for I am a woman in need of a husband anyhow.
I write to mama and papa describing my new living arrangements, and how I am getting on. I tell them about Miss Charlotte and my new friends I have made. I send my love to my six little brothers and to the family dog called Guinea. I tell mama and papa I am newly allergic to ethanol and I shalt not drink another beverage containing ethanol lest I want to render myself unconscious again. My head wound is healing nicely because of the great care taken by the Sisters in the infirmary, I explain. I put the letter into an envelope, carefully writing my old address on the front of it, and seal the envelope with some red wax.
I push the door of the post office open to walk inside. Mr Clark is standing behind the counter, naturally. There is but one another customer looking at envelopes on my right, but otherwise, I have his undivided attention. He says good day to me, and I bid a good day to him, and I stop in front of his counter propping my letter in front of him. I think I promised a young lass free postage provided she accompanies me to tea and scones. Not only did this young lass not show, but she has not kept her word, and thus he suffers a deep dilemma – do I still give this woman free postage as I said I would, and be a man of
my word, or do I charge this woman for the postage of the letter that now sits afront of me? He asks me. I cannot help but laugh and all sense of propriety is but lost for he brings such a warmth and a humor to my heart, and I must laugh it out in this way. We shall have tea and scones to make up for the missed engagement, I say. Very well. Consider your postage covered. You shalt not pay a penny this time, he says. He chuckles somewhat and smiles that warm, kind smile he has. Forgive my impertinence, but how is it, Mr Clark, that you are a bachelor when you have such promising prospects to offer any a lady? I ask. In the company of women, I am intolerably shy, and despite being able to ask for your hand in dance, I’ve not had the courage before now, to call upon any ladies in their homes. He explains. I find this very hard to believe, as you not only saved the life of an unconscious woman by driving her to the local infirmary, but you have also suggested a second meeting with this same woman. You have struck up enough courage to find yourself inside the walls of her front room, to inquire of her health, I say. Such behaviour says much about a man who claims he has not the courage, nor the confidence to pursue a woman, that he is fond of, I say. He is dumbfounded and does not know how to respond. Instead, he just smiles a hard strong smile. With my own assessment I recognise the meaning behind mine own words, and conclude that I must marry this man at once, for I would be foolish if I did not. Miss Clementine. Whence do the children leave your care? He asks. I say four. He asks if I might like to walk around the square with him after work. I would like that very much so, I say. He smiles and is
completely chuffed with himself. I shall sit on the wooden bench and wait for you then, he says. I smile, nod and bid by farewell. I close the post office door behind me feeling elated. How I have struck such good fortune in the short amount of time I have been here, I ponder.
Mr Clark is sitting on the wooden bench, just as he said he
would be. He stands up smiling, and only sits back down once I have, myself, sat down. I have my light caramel coloured felt gloves on this evening. Some school-aged children play hopscotch in the road. Mr Clark is with hat and gloves as well, and we stare at one another’s gloves before looking up. So what have the men in the square been saying about me, I ask. It is nothing unjust or unfair, they just think that you are very pretty and very beautiful, and the perfect sort of fabric woven for marriage, he answers. How should they think this when they have not met me, nor if they know if I can cook, or sew, or darn socks, or light or rekindle the fire? Mr Clark chuckles and says that beauty stands alone, without these skills for measurement. What have the women in the square said of me, he asks. I’ve not been here long enough to hear of the opinions of women pertaining to you, but I am sure they would all view you as I do, I say. Miss Clementine, what is your view of me, he asks. I am stuped and stuck for words. The words will not find their way free from my thoughts. How does one tell a beautiful creature of his worth? I go on by
saying: I admire you greatly, for the way you found the courage to suggest a second meeting when we first met, for the way you helped me when I was unconscious, for the way you confessed to being shy earlier today, and for the way you have overcome your shyness to be in my presence, I explain. It takes courage to find courage, and if you
believe that I am truly beautiful, I am very flattered, and I accept your compliments, with the high hope that you will continue to call on me, I explain. It is not the explanation he has anticipated for is staring at the grass below our feet. I know I have delighted him when moments later, a smile forms in the corners of his mouth. He takes my gloved
hands in his own, and rests them in his lap, for there is no space on the bench between us.
I have not had a man hold my hands before, and it is a strange and wonderful experience. I look about me and hope that no one is watching us, and he reads my body language and tells my worries to hush, and that I ought not to be concerned for we are doing nothing wrong. A warm energy burns its way through my entire body, and I know I want to look at this man for my entire life. Mr Clark tells me to call him Matthias, and that he wants to very much to call me by my first name. You may call me Clementine, I say. He kisses my glove, and pats the kiss into the glove. Misses Hilary and Lily walk past
a fair way away, and I can see them giggling away. I need not wonder about the source of their amusement for I know that it is me. Matthias asks if I can visit him in the post office at four o’clock the next evening, and I say that I can. Shall we walk, he asks, and I say that we shall, and we stand up, but not I before he, and he loops his arm through
mine, so our bodies are close, and we begin our walk along the path bordering the square. Mr Gregory Picton passes us in his horsecart and dips his hat through the window. Matthias walks me to my front door, bidding me a fair evening. He kisses my gloved right hand, whilst looking sternly but lovingly into my eyes. I thank the Lord Matthias cannot read my thoughts before nodding my head to him, bid my good evening, and close the front door behind me.
In the drawing room, Miss Charlotte sips soup from a spoon, I confess that Matthias and I are now courting, and we will be seeing one another regularly from now on. Splay across her face does the broadest grin I have ever seen, one that outdoes the Cheshire cat’s, in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. She exclaims she would like to do away with her soup immediately so she can jump about the front room with glee; however, she is far too cold and hungry to do what her heart desires for her stomach growls louder than her heart. I chuckle at her dramatics. I untie my bonnet and throw it on my soft chair. I ladle myself some soup in the kitchen, and grab a chunk of crusty bread, both which I return to the drawing room with. It is much too cold an evening to eat in the kitchen. How long will you stay in the square for, I am asked. Would I return to the countryside? Would I like to raise children in the square or in the countryside? I haven’t thought about it, I say. But I do feel either setting is wonderful for children, I say. If you are to go to the country side, whatever you do, please do not ever forget me, for we are having such a jolly good time, and I shall miss you, infinitely so, she says. Your worries ought to hush, such a thing will never happen. I will never forget you because we are bonded like sisters, we are, I explain. My heart sings with happiness, she says. She smiles and bites off a chunk of bread before chewing it, difficultly. I admit, the bread is delicious, but I find it a little hard to chew, and I voice this aloud, and we both laugh at my silly little problem, knowing there are children in this world who go without food daily, and I ought not to concern myself with the unchewable nature of my evening bread.
Matthias is not in his post office. I ring the brass bell to let him know someone is at the door. He presents himself seconds later and I am reminded why I adore him so much. I take off my gloves and drop them onto the counter. He pushes a middle section of the counter upward, removing the wall between us. I follow him into the backroom where
there is a fire going. A small tea table with two chairs are near it. He pulls out a chair and faces it to the fire, and I sit down in it. He pulls out a second chair and faces it to the fire, then sits down in it. He places his hand on my lap and smiles. He is being forward and he knows it, and his courage surprises him. Clementine, he whispers. I look at him and our faces are very close. There is an anxiety in my chest that is new to me, and I cannot ascertain whether it is a good energy or a bad one. Matthias, I have not been this close to… I say, and he cuts me off by tilting my face to him, and kissing me firmly and hard on my lips. I am instantly rendered light headed, and the gravity around us disappears, forcing me to rely on his being seated beside me to remain upright. It is quite nonsensical to me that his touch makes me feel weightless and somewhat ill. If I pulled away from him, I would surely fall off my chair. I do not pull away and his kissing become stronger, and I can sense he thinks more of me, than I just being beautiful and
pretty. He tells me I am but the loveliest thing he has ever seen, and he does not know how he has lived his whole life until now, without me in it, which, in my right mind, is quite a great claim to make during one’s first kiss with me. Stand up, he says, and so I do, and he pulls me back down into his lap, wrapping his arms around my figure, until
his fingers interlock, which forces me to squeal, thinking I am locked inside a man’s embrace, and I would have no chance of escaping if I tried. He nuzzles his nose into the side of my neck, and looks at me in adoration. I wish to make you my wife Clementine, and we shall marry in Saint Joseph’s church, and you cannot possibly object,
because as you see, you are locked in my arms, and alas, now in mine own heart. He says. An overwhelming amount of love for him presents in my soul, and I can do nothing but kiss him, and so I plant my mouth firmly over his, and affirm my love for him. He pulls me into him even more tightly, nuzzling my neck and shoulder with his face and
breathing my scent in. Are you alright, my love, he asks me. I am, I say. How grateful to the Lord I am that he has led you here, he says. I have not known a love like this in my life, and I am elated and euphoric. I too am most grateful for our love Matthias, I say.