No. 4, Whitehall Gardens – Episode 34

No. 4 Whitehall Gardens illustration by Sailesh Thakrar

Griff Jones stood in the middle of the room, taking up most of its space.

He coughed.

“How are you?” he asked stiffly.

“Well, thank you, Griff,” Clementine replied.

She picked up the small tray on which she had placed the vases, meaning to set off for the nursery, but Griff stepped forward and seized the tray, making water spill over the tops of the vases. He had a habit of following her about and trying to relieve her of work.

“The weather is clement,” he said.

Clementine looked out of the little window, and saw rain falling on to the leaves of a shrub.

“Not too cold, for March, certainly,” she said, not wanting to detain Griff.

He stood for a moment, holding the tray, then placed it carefully on the sideboard beside him.

“Have you been able to read any books lately that you might recommend?” he asked.

Griff’s Welsh accent, normally prominent, had almost vanished, and Clementine sensed something coming.

“I have not had time for reading,” she replied.

Griff nodded gravely.

“I cannot help but see that you are weighed down by some trouble, Miss Denny. Clementine.” He raised his large right hand and laid it dramatically on his breast. “It pains me.”

He sounded like a character from one of his sentimental novels. Griff was sometimes the butt of jokes below stairs because of the slim volumes he carried about with him.

“I recommend ‘Evelina’, by Mrs Burney,” he said. “A well-made story and one that makes the heart tremble.”

He blushed.

“I mean, I know ladies enjoy a story that touches their emotions.”

Clementine eyed the tray of vases. She ought to set off for the nursery, but Griff appeared to have forgotten the tray.

“It has a heroine,” Griff said, “called Evelina.”

“That seems logical,” Clementine replied.

“A girl of purity and inexperience, beset by the perils of society life, and in need of a protector.”


“A man’s highest duty is towards the woman he loves,” Griff declared.

She saw his Adam’s apple leap up and down in his thick, muscled neck, and realised with horror that he was about to declare himself!

Before she could open her mouth, he said, “The scent of the flowers, and your beauty, compel me to speak.”

“Griff.” Clementine tried to get a word in, but he wasn’t listening.

“I vow to love and protect the woman I dare to call my own,” he said, his eyes half closed with the effort of recalling the right words. “For she is a delicate flower.”

Clementine’s heart sank. The pedestal, standing beside her, seemed to mock her. He was putting her right up there on it, like some Grecian goddess.

He was a sweet, kind, idiotic oaf, worshipping her. Clementine thought of William, and the real sparks that had passed between them, and the way they had laughed together.

That was all over now, and how painful it was! She looked at Griff and knew that he didn’t really love her. He just thought he did.

Griff was – oh, no! – about to get down on one knee, when the door opened quickly.

Miss Everett, who almost never entered the smaller rooms below stairs, gave him a swift but steely stare and fixed her eyes on Clementine.

“A message came to the nursery from your mother,” Miss Everett said.

“She asks that you should come because a Dorcas Barnes is . . .” Miss Everett looked uncomfortable. “Well, her time is come.”

She coughed.

“You may have leave to go.” Miss Everett sighed.

Clementine’s mind began to work at top speed. If Bridget was with Dorcas, and Mrs Barnes was not sent for, then a midwife must be fetched, especially if this infant was coming before its time.

As Miss Everett glided backwards out of the door, Clementine turned to Griff, whose left knee was still slightly bent in preparation for his declaration of passion.

“Griff, go to Vauxhall Gardens immediately and find the red house on

St Oswald’s Place.

“Ask for Mrs Jessman and have her come to Bridget Denny’s in Walworth. She’ll know the name and the address.”

Griff was staring at her.

“Vauxhall?” he said.

“Yes. I will go to my mother’s, but the midwife charges extra for finding her own way to a birthing, so do this for me, will you?”

Griff seemed unable to take in the facts.

“Go to Vauxhall and fetch Mrs Jessman? How?”

“Don’t tell me that you can’t get yourself on a horse, Griff. Go! Dorcas is going to have her baby!”

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.