City Of Discoveries — Episode 17

Two hours later, it seemed to Hetty that Thomas was right. The self-aggrandising couple who ran the registry were cut down a peg or two. The duke of their advertising turned out to be a baronet who was related to a duke; but the duke was not a royal duke, after all, merely an ordinary type of duke.

Once this was discovered by Thomas’s probing, much greater co-operation was had from them and Hetty’s request for a part-trained maid turned out to be one they could fulfil.

A young woman was engaged from among several who were present in the registry that morning. She would be sent round on February 1 with her trunk.

“I can’t thank you enough, Thomas. So all that superiority was a front!

“How do they think to attract custom when they are so preoccupied with making the rest of us feel inferior?” Hetty said.

“Look across there. Isn’t that Carrie and Mr Crombie?”

The two couples met up as Hetty and Thomas reached the high school again. Carrie and Crombie had stopped in front of the elegant building and snatches of their conversation floated back to Hetty and Thomas.

“Your suffrage office is a very well-set-up operation, Miss Smith. Does it have close links with others?” John Crombie was asking.

“Yes, I’m in contact with the Edinburgh office daily.”

Hetty saw how Carrie’s face lit up.

She had been much affected by the death of one of her papa’s workers in an accident at the mill and Hetty thought her interest in the welfare and education of the poor began then.

Securing the vote for women was something Carrie regarded as a logical next step.

If women had to contribute so much in work and taxation, she argued, should they not have a say in who set those working conditions or levelled the taxation?

“Do you visit them?” Crombie must have heard them on the pavement because he half-turned.

“I do,” Carrie replied. “But I would like to travel further than just within the British Isles.”

“If not to hotter climes,” Crombie agreed. “Maybe I will tempt you to visit the vast territories I spend so much of my life in.”

Hetty saw the blush that tinged Carrie’s throat and was again surprised by her cousin’s reactions to this rather serious young man.

Perhaps the idea of permanent ice, whales and seals and Eskimos did entice Carrie; or was it more fundamental?

She and Thomas stopped alongside the younger people.

“I think our cousin, Elspeth, was inspired by some contact she had with a young mill girl, Mary Slessor,” Hetty said with an introductory smile.

“Who is she?” Crombie asked, and Thomas seemed interested, too, so Hetty continued.

“She is a Sunday school teacher in the Wishart Church, but it is her intention to become a missionary and perhaps go to Africa.

“Elspeth was caught up by the romance of that ambition, but her parents thought more of savages and malaria, so they took her on this trip to India.”

“Where she found a husband and has settled down,” Crombie said with a laugh.

“Settled down?” Hetty said. “Well, sir, if her letters are anything to go by, there isn’t a lot of settling happening at present.”

“How so?”

“She is keen to explore Australia, and Harold Sutherland’s work enables him to travel widely. I expect Elspeth will accompany him.

“I do believe that travel broadens the mind and can only be advantageous to an intelligent woman.”

“It certainly does,” Thomas agreed. “Talking of intelligent women, are you aware of the moves afoot in Edinburgh to secure matriculation for women in the university?”

“Carrie is very much involved with those ladies and their ambitions,” Hetty said.

They were all moving along now towards the hill that would lead them up to Aberdeen Road.

“In fact, I think I saw a letter from one of your Edinburgh friends this morning, Carrie.”

“Yes, they keep me well informed and I try to support where I can. It’s always very exciting to hear the ladies speak, and I do believe women will be able to become doctors within a decade or so,” Carrie agreed.

Alan Spink

Alan is a member of the “Friend” Fiction Team. He enjoys working closely with writers and being part of the creative process, which sees storytelling ideas come to fruition. A keen reader, he also writes fiction and enjoys watching football and movies in his spare time. His one tip to new writers is “write from your imagination”.