No. 4, Whitehall Gardens – Episode 11

No. 4 Whitehall Gardens illustration by Sailesh Thakrar

A couple of afternoons later, Clementine was pushing a nasty green sludge through a sieve when Cook told her that she had a visitor.

“A visitor for my mother, surely?” she said.

Mrs Denny, Clementine’s mother, worked in the kitchens at No. 4.

“Bridget is out fetching cheese,” Cook said. “Anyway, the girl definitely asked for Clementine.”

Clem held up the sieve.

“Could I ask you –?”

Cook shook her head, and her great bulk wobbled.

“You know very well that I do not touch baby food. It’s a horror to me.”

Clementine stared at the sludge, which was an appalling mixture of boiled greens and whey cheese that both the baby and Miss Everett favoured, and dropped it in the basin.

“It’ll wait,” she said and wiped her hands on her apron.

When Clementine made her way round the side of the house, she saw some way off the unmistakable figure of Molly Westall, hopping from foot to foot in her impatience, pulling at the spent raspberry canes until they threatened to topple.

“Clemmie!” Molly called. “It’s good to see you!”

It was so like Molly to be able to wave aside all the trouble she had caused. She was always full of energy, but it was rarely directed well.

Clementine smiled kindly.

“I only have a minute.” She could tell from the look of jumpy enthusiasm on Molly’s face that whatever she had to say would not be beneficial.

“The little ones are asleep,” Clementine added, “and the older children at the end of lessons.”

“Let’s sit on this wall,” Molly said.

“It’s icy,” Clementine pointed out.

“But we’re young,” Molly said, pulling Clementine down beside her. “You’re a hardy beast, Clem. I’ve always seen it. In fact, I said so yesterday to Silas.”

Molly looked very pleased to be slipping her beau’s name into the conversation.

Clementine was less delighted. Silas was no good influence, as far as anyone could see.

“I was saying that you have spirit, with a sharp brain to match my own.”

Clementine looked at Molly’s profile, the small turned-up nose, the pale lashes and freckled cheeks.

She sensed that this visit would not necessarily bring good things.

Molly had nearly brought down a large group of young women, all employed in a Hyde Park laundry, with a fraud scheme doomed to disaster.

“How did you find me, Molly?” she asked.

“By asking about,” Molly said. “It doesn’t matter. The important thing is that I have an idea –”

“Surely you have not forgotten what happened before?”

“But Clemmie, it did not happen! The laundry was a foolish plan. I admit that I hadn’t the wit to see its pitfalls. But in the end my error had very little bad effect. I received no sentence of imprisonment.”

“Only because we were found out early. Molly, I think I hear the hall clock chiming.”

“You are half a mile from the hall,” Molly scoffed, looking up at the massive wall of the house. “This place is the size of a palace and the hall is on the other side. I have a far better plan for a project that will make my fortune, and yours –”

“I don’t want my fortune made, Molly,” Clementine interrupted. “Not if it means I risk arrest.”

She thought of policemen, and after that of William Grant and his handsome face.

Abigail Phillips

Abbie is the newest member of the fiction team at the "Friend." She loves how varied the role is - every day is different and there is always a new story to read. She is keen to work closely with established writers and discover new writers, too.