No. 4, Whitehall Gardens – Episode 20

No. 4 Whitehall Gardens illustration by Sailesh Thakrar

“Edward came to me and said he was sorry, but it was impossible . . .” Dorcas was weeping now, and Clementine knelt before her and embraced her.

“Did your mother tell him what a faithless cur he is?” Clementine asked.

“My mother is the worst of it!” Dorcas interrupted, anger entering her tone for the first time. “She is disappointed in me.”

She looked down at Clementine, and her eyes were red.

“She wasn’t disappointed when I told her I was having the child, only when I didn’t come up with the goods in the end – with the husband on an officer’s salary!”

“But you’re at home still?”

Dorcas nodded.

“For now. My father says it would be easier if I found a place of my own. How am I to do that, Clemmie? I’ve no position and no wage.” She laid a scrawny hand on her belly. “And this about to happen.”

Clementine did not hesitate. She stood up.

“First, a hot meal for you,” she said. She could deal with Miss Everett’s disapproval later. “Then we will see where you can stay.”

If Dorcas had not come to No. 4 that day, Clementine thought with horror, she might have ended up in the street.

“Thank you,” Dorcas said. “Thank you.”

“We’re old friends,” Clementine said. “You’d do the same for me. Now, let’s see what’s in the larder. It’s the larder of the Home Secretary, so it’s never empty.”

Clementine headed for the cool, dim interior of the larder, and as she went inside she heard the thin voice of Dorcas beginning once again to weep.

Fuming with indignation, she found the remains of a ham and of a chicken pie that nobody would miss, and a jar of pickle. That would be a start, and the pie would warm nicely in the oven, which was still hot.

Clementine emerged with her laden tray to find the large, broad figure of Griff Jones standing in the middle of the kitchen. He was staring down at Dorcas, obviously lost for words, but he beamed at Clementine.

“Now, then, Miss Clementine, let me take that for you.”

He lunged across the room, eager to help, and knocked over a stool.

Clementine listened to him righting himself and the stool as she slid the pie into the oven.

When she saw his face again, it was a picture of disappointment, most probably at his clumsiness, but also (she guessed) at finding her in company.

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.