No. 4, Whitehall Gardens – Episode 15

No. 4 Whitehall Gardens illustration by Sailesh Thakrar

“For the little man?” Griff asked.

“Yes, though it’s past its best now,” she said with regret. “I think he will have to have milk today.”

“Let me fetch that,” Griff said quickly.

“Oh, it’s no trouble.”

“The pail is heavy.”

She smiled. Griff, she thought, should have been born in the age of chivalry. He was a sentimental man, fond of ballads with themes of romantic love, and novels of derring-do.

A few weeks before, a housemaid had found one of Griff’s books tucked under a pile of straw.

She came into the hall with it held high above her heads and danced about, making jokes about sighing lovers and ladies in high towers.

But the household was fond of Griff, and privately they said how charming it was that a big man like him enjoyed novels written for a female readership.

They would often join in with his songs of faded roses, or the coming of spring, and make him blush.

“That’s kind,” she said, and Griff leapt up, sending his book flying.

Three minutes later he was back with enough milk for ten babies.

“They’re all work, the little ones,” he said, seeing the book and bending to pick it up. “I’ve noticed your difficulties with them.”

Clementine nodded.

“I’m an only child, Griff. I’d no experience of children until I came here.”

“That was the fifteenth of January,” he said.

“Was it?” She was startled.

He blushed again.

“I am one of nine,” he said. “Children, that is. I’m the oldest, and I never wish to see another baby in all my life, and that’s a fact. I took my first job with horses with that end in mind.”

Clementine laughed and he looked delighted.

“Griff,” she said with a heavy heart, “I have a small matter to discuss with you.”

He beamed. Looking at his open, honest face she could not bear to draw him into Molly’s plans.

“It will wait,” she said. “What are you reading?”

He tapped his pocket.

“Nothing of consequence. I’m not an educated man.”

“But you love to read.”

“Well, it’s a tale of knights,” he said. “I know that they laugh at me for –”

“I won’t laugh,” she interrupted.

He looked at the floor.

“It’s a tale of a man who will one day declare his love for a fair maiden, but for now he seeks to do her every service.

“Do you need any more milk fetching?”

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.