Fortunatly I was on the computer when this chapter posted, it posted without any pictures so I had to quickly re-do it! I’m not entirley happy with this chapter, but I thought just get it done and move on was the best thing. The somg I wrote when I was 13. I found it in an old notebook and I thought it fited.
I didn’t get a letter the next day.
I got two.
“Jo! Look! Is it for me? Is it really addressed to me? And this one too?” I waved my letters under her nose.
“Yes! Yes they are!” Jo laughed at me. “Who are they from?
“Well, this one is from—” I turned the letter over to the back and my heart sank. Marjorie and Henri. Not Mother or Papa or even Elen or Miss Brown. But it only sank a little bit. These were the first letters I’d had since starting school and I was going to enjoy them no matter what. On this I was quite determined “Henri and this is from Marjorie. Wasn’t it nice of them to write? Which shall I read first?”
We chose Henri’s and I read them out to Jo. Henri told us all about helping her mother with the preparations for her upcoming voyage. The hight of her holidays seemed to be getting her summer uniform made and Marjorie spending the day with her.
“Not as an exciting time as we’ve had.” I said. “Should we write to her and tell her all about Frankie?”
“We could, but look at the date on this letter, it’s taken a good five days to get here and we only have five days left before she comes back. We’d best tell her about it all in person. What does Marjorie’s letter say?”
Marjorie’s letter was actually rather amusing, she outlined an average day in the life of Mariah in such a way that it sent Jo and I into a fit of giggles. She told us how Mariah and her mother received invitations to a tea party put on for charity by one of her mother’s posh friends who didn’t see fit to invite her so Henri had arranged to invite Marjorie to her house that very same day.
All too soon the letters were over.
The holidays slipped by and Jo and I behaved ourselves and had no more adventures of note. We came in from spending a pleasant morning outside a few days later to find a letter waiting for Jo from Michael.
“Oh goody!” I said as Jo opened it. “Is it the reply to your one?”
“Yes, now sit and I’ll read it!”
We settled down and Jo read.
“Dear Jo, see, I knew you would be interested, but knowing you there’s more to this that what I now, is there something you’re not letting on? Come on Jo, be a sport! Tell all!
The full story of the baby (well, as much as I heard, anyway) went something like this. One of the housemaids went to scrub the front step before breakfast one morning and on the step was a basket and in the basket was a note. Well, the girl took the baby and the note downstairs. The butler brought the note to Mr Cooper at breakfast that morning and after glancing at it he went straight to his study. The baby stayed downstairs where the staff took turns at caring for her. A while later, Bertie Cooper wasn’t sure how long, a nanny arrived and the baby was taken upstairs to be cared for. Mrs Cooper told her children they would be looking after the baby and her name was Francesca. She wouldn’t be staying with them for ever, just a short time, but in the meantime they were to think of her as a sister. One day two good friends of Mr and Mrs Cooper arrived, that was the Hiltons, and Cooper said they were very interested in the baby. They all had their photograph taken together. Then Mr and Mrs Hilton left. Francesca stayed with them a little while longer but one day the nanny left and Francesca was sent to a new home.
My guess is the baby was born to an unwed mother who left it on the doorstep hoping to give her a better life than she’d have if she left her at a church. Perhaps the Hiltons helped the Coopers find an adoptive home for the baby which is why they were interested?
I’ve written to the Cooper boys as you’ve requested, I’ve said that you’re jolly fine, for a girl, and I expect any friend of yours would be as well, so with any luck I’ll get a letter back from them.
Anyway, as much as I am devoted to my dear sister, I can’t wile my life away writing her long letters, so I’ll toodle-pip and rush this in for the next post then I’m off to have an adventure!
So write and tell me anything I should know! You know what I mean!
“Well I never.” I said.
“Trust him to know there was something afoot.” Jo said.
“And yet another story about Francesca. I wonder which is true?”
“Did your parents expressly mention that Francesca was living with the Coopers?” Jo asked.
“Whatever do you mean?”
“Well, if they didn’t, then maybe Michael’s right, Maybe your parents helped find a family to adopt Frankie and the Coopers kept in touch with them and included updates about her in their letters to your parents.”
“Maybe…” I said. “I— Well, I couldn’t say either way. They called her their daughter but never actually said she lived in their house, but why would you? Don’t daughter’s always? I suppose by that theory then this other Francesca we have here being called Frankie would be another person entirely.”
“Who just happens to have the same name and a similar age to the first Francesca and happened to work in the house that took the first Francesca in and happens to have a rather similar baby story—”
“All right! I’m still stumped. Mystery on Mystery! We have to hope the Cooper boys reply then you can write to them. We need to ask Henri to see what she says about Frankie getting herself registered with the agency and we have to show Henri your wand, I haven’t forgotten about that.”
“And we have to keep up our studies or last term will all have been for nothing.” I said. “I haven’t forgotten about that.”
“Oh, all right. And you have to practice what you’ll be doing for the soiree, have you decided yet?”
“Do you know what?”
“Some old favourite song from the Highlands. Not sure what one yet but something with rolling hills…”
“Don’t you think you should sing something a little more… well, what about Fraitessian Beauty? You could do that we—”
“What? Aren’t my Highlander songs good enough for you?” I’d leapt to my feet and my hands were curled into little fists.
“Woah! That’s your temper again Bobbie, that’s not what I meant at all!”
“Sorry.” I took a deep breath and tried to relax. “I didn’t mean— just— I just miss home. Forgive me, please?”
“Always. Um… What about My Home is My Love? That could be about anywhere.”
“You think the company will be too stuffy for Highlander songs?”
“No no, just— Well, all right. The company will be full of snobs and Lady D’Winter will want to show off cultured Fraitessian girls Look at how Marjorie lost marks for making her dress a Freedonian dress? She’d never be allowed to sing a Freedonian song, I doubt Lady D’Winter would let you sing a Highlander song.
“What if it didn’t have the rolling hills in it?”
“Are there any?”
“Of course!” I rolled my eyes. “Make a home in your heart is one.”
“Never heard it.”
“Elen taught it to me. It’s an old song her folk used to sing. I’ll sing it to you.” I took a few deep breaths and then began.
“When I was jist a wee lad
Da sought tae send me on
A journey sae far that I’d
Too soon be sae far gone.
Now when Ah understood
Jist how far gone I’d be,
Ah shook mah heed, for Ah would
Ne’er again mah homelain see.
There’s nae way he would ever
Turn mah heed sae I’d agree!
But as Ah cried an’ shouted “never!”
My faither said this tae me:
Make a home in your heart, lad, not in a place,
Then you’ll ne’er leave it!
Make a home in your heart, lad, not in a place,
It will always be there fur ye!
Richly furnish yer home
With memories ye hauld dear ,
Then you’ll ne’er be alone
On this mah faither was clear.
Paint yer walls wi’ memories
Of yer ol’ maw an’ pa.
Yoor walls will be a treasury
Of us now as we are.
Fill th’ rooms wi’ things
That make ye feel safe an’ loved.
The happiness this brings
Is by far th’ mosr beloved.
Let all yer windae look out
On all yer past live
But build shutters saw withit a doubt
They’ll block out all past strife.
Let all yer doors lead
Tae yer future mah dear lad…”
The song continued, describing just how to furnish your home in your heart and though it wasn’t a short song all too soon it came to an end.”
“That’s really pretty Bobbie!” Jo said when I’d finished.
“Do you think Lady D’Winter might let me sing it?”
“Well… it does have a highlander sound to it… but maybe we could alter a few of the phrases? Could you change ‘lad’ to ‘son’ perhaps?”
Jo and I sat down together and knuckled out a re-wording that would be far more likely to pass Lady D’Winter’s approval. I wasn’t entirely happy, but I’d take altering a Highlander song over singing “Fraitessian Love” any day.
The rest of the holidays sped by at top speed and it wasn’t long before Jo and I were greeting Henri on her return.
Henri arrived a little after lunch time and Jo and I had talked Gladys into preparing us one last picnic afternoon tea. We took ourselves off to our usual spot and Henri told us all about her holidays. Afterward we caught her up on everything we’d learned.
“Well.” Henri said when we were finished. “It sounds like you’ve stumbled on a bit of an old family mystery all right, though I suspect the truth, if we manage to learn it, will be far more simple than we imagine!”
“But what about Frankie?” I ask. “Can she register herself with the agency?
“I don’t know.” Henri admitted. “But you’re both right, it’s bad that she isn’t. But we shouldn’t do anything until we know more, the agency might hold her for being unregistered and we don’t want to get into trouble.
“Can you ask your brother?” Jo asked. “He’d know, wouldn’t he?”
“Well, he would but he’s out of the country now so I can’t ask him.”
“Don’t you have an address?”
“Well yes, but— oh Bobbie, did your letter arrive from home yet?”
“Not yet.” I said.
“Oh, I am sorry.”
“Well, it hasn’t been four weeks since I sent the last one yet—”
“But haven’t you heard?”
“No!” Last time there’d been a mailboat strike I’d been seven and Papa had been away at sea. We’d gone a month without a letter from him before the authorities raised wages and working conditions on the boats. “How long do you think this one will go on for?”
“I don’t know, but until it’s over there’s no sense sending a letter to my brother as he won’t get it.”
“And my letter from home could be waiting on some ship or in some post office and I won’t get that until the strike is over.” I blinked back tears. “And if Mother or Father send me a letter then it might not get here either!”
“I know how you feel.” Henri said. “My parents left yesterday so there won’t be any letters from them until the strike finishes. Only at least I got to see mine in the holidays of course so it’s not quite as bad as all that. Jo, you shall have to ask your mother to write to Bobbie and I! Wouldn’t that be nice!”
“Well, I don’t think much of the letters my mother writes but she can’t! My home is still under quarantine. Nothing comes out, not even a letter!”
“Well then you have to be double sure to share your brother’s letters then! Fancy it, four girls in our class not being able to write to their parents?”
“Four?” Jo asked.
“Marjorie too.” Henri said. “Mailboat strike effects her also.”
“Of course.” Jo said. “Say, t almost feels like a conspiracy, doesn’t it?” She said giggling. “I mean, if we were naughty, what could Lady D’Winter do? She can’t write to your parents or send me home!”
“Josephine Cox you naughty girl! She can write to your parents.” Henri mock-scolded her.
“But Mother can’t write back and scold me!” Jo said.
“But we can get black marks and nature walks taken away from us.” I said. “And I don’t fancy being told I can’t sing at the soiree after all the work we’ve done on my song! And I still want to beat Mariah!”
“I suppose.” Jo said. “But it was a nice thought, anyway!”
So we were good.
Once term started we threw ourselves into our studies and the weeks sped past us. It wouldn’t be long now until I would see my dear Mother and Papa. But oh— at the same time it seemed an eternity!