No. 4, Whitehall Gardens – Episode 21

No. 4 Whitehall Gardens illustration by Sailesh Thakrar

“It’s your free afternoon,” Griff said. “I got one, too, and so I thought . . .”

He had come with his jacket brushed and his unruly brown hair tamed, in hope.

“I thought that although it’s cold we might go to see Buckingham Palace.”

“That would be pleasant, Griff, but as you see I have a visitor.”

“A visitor, yes.”

He sat down on the stool a few feet from Dorcas’s chair, glancing at the swelling beneath her dress.

He felt awkward, despite all the younger brothers and sisters Clementine knew he had, seeing a pregnant woman in the kitchen. Then Clementine saw his eye travel to Dorcas’s hands, to see the lack of a ring.

“This is my friend,” Clementine said firmly, “and she’s in need of a dinner. You are welcome to stay, Griff.”

“I’ll just sit a minute, then,” he replied.

“You’re Welsh?” Dorcas asked in a small voice.

Griff was such a large man that he seemed to take up four times more space than tiny, shrinking Dorcas beside him, but he was awkward all the same.

“Yes, I’m Welsh,” he said uncertainly.

Clementine spooned pickle on to a plate, and went to the bread crock in search of a slice of something. She sensed Griff watching her move about.

“I don’t sound Welsh myself,” Dorcas said, “but my family come from Machynlleth.”

“Oh, yes?” he said, watching Clementine search for the butter dish.

“Yes,” Dorcas went on. “I came to London at nine years old, I think, or ten.”

He had to turn back to her then, or appear rude, and his massive shoulders swung round, followed by the rest of him.

Clementine worried briefly about the stool, which was small and old, but it held firm.

“I’m from Dolgellau,” he said.

“Not so far away, then?” Dorcas’s tears had dried and she was sitting a little straighter.

“You say Machynlleth almost as though you hadn’t left, I’ll say that much,” Griff remarked.

She smiled.

“My da makes me practise it. He says London is a loathsome pit and the devil’s work.” She looked down at her hands. “He can be a hard sort of man, in many ways.”

“Why does he stay living in the loathsome pit?” Griff asked, frowning with real confusion. “Why not go back to Machynlleth which is not a pit at all?”

“He’s a non-conformist,” Dorcas said. “He says he came to do good work in the city. He wants to . . . Well, what might a person do to improve a pit?”

“Well,” Griff began, deep wrinkles appearing on his brow, “you might provide a ladder.”

The two of them sat for a moment, side by side, contemplating the best way to improve a hole in the ground.



He nodded.

They sat for a minute longer.

“Miss Clementine,” Griff said eventually, “I’ll come another time if I may, to see if you are at liberty. For the Palace, I mean.”

“Thank you, Griff,” Clementine replied.

“I’ll be getting back to the horses, then.”

“I suppose so.”

Griff nodded at Dorcas and she nodded back. He left, ducking under the lintel as he went.

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.