No. 4, Whitehall Gardens – Episode 33

No. 4 Whitehall Gardens illustration by Sailesh Thakrar

Clementine liked the flower-arranging room at No. 4, Whitehall Gardens better than any other part of the house. It was tiny – barely six feet by eight – and Mrs Peel had laughed about it with Clementine on another occasion.

“It’s the kind of room one has in a proper country house,” she had said, “but a foolish luxury here in London, though I don’t know what else we’d do with this cubby-hole.”

That day Mrs Peel had asked Clementine to make a vase up for Miss Everett. The governess was confined to bed with a cold in the head.

“Drayton Manor has a flower room, though I expect it’s full of cobwebs,” Mrs Peel said.

“Drayton Manor, ma’am?” Clementine repeated.

“That’s the Peel house in Staffordshire. My husband’s father, the baronet, still lives there, watching it crumble away, poor gentleman.

“That house has every room a country house could wish for – one for the removal of boots, one for the preparation of fish for dinner, one in which to beat naughty children.”

“To beat nau –”

“That’s a joke, Clementine!” Mrs Peel had laughed.

Lately she had regained her energy, and had told Clementine that when the first few months of a pregnancy had passed, along with some of the sickness, her spirits usually improved.

“Well, this vase will do,” Mrs Peel had said, stepping back. “Take it up to Miss Everett, if you please.”

Today there was a different task, and Clementine was pleased to have it.

Miss Everett said that nature was good for children’s health, and as the spring showed itself, she had sent Clementine to buy some flowers and to add to the arrangements from the garden.

“Nothing fancy,” Miss Everett had said. “And position the two vases out of Frederick’s reach in the nursery, for goodness’ sake!”

So Clementine was arranging flowers. She knew that there would be a few left over, and that nobody would mind if she took them to Dorcas.

Dorcas Barnes was a friend from her laundry days, and was only weeks from her confinement.

Until two days ago Dorcas had been stuck at home with her disappointed and hard-faced parents, then Clementine’s mother Bridget had declared that Dorcas must come and stay with them.

That evening Clementine would wrap the leftover blooms in a scrap of Mr Peel’s used newspaper, well dampened, and hurry home in the hope of cheering poor Dorcas. They both needed cheering.

In a fit of extravagance Mrs Peel had ordered a special flower-arranging pedestal to be installed in the room. Clementine enjoyed making the full circuit of this pedestal, checking her flower arrangements from all angles.

She knew that the children would take no interest, but still she took the trouble.

Just as she was completing the second arrangement, Griff Jones entered the room. His thick hair was plastered down, obviously with some care taken as to his appearance, and for once he had no items of saddlery hanging from his big shoulders.

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.