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Authors: D. E. Stevenson

The Young Clementina

BOOK: The Young Clementina
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Copyright © 2013 by the Estate of D. E. Stevenson

Cover and internal design © 2013 by Sourcebooks, Inc.

Cover design by Eileen Carey

Cover images © The Advertising Archives, Francis Frith/Masterfile, wad/Veer, Banex/Shutterstock

Sourcebooks and the colophon are registered trademarks of Sourcebooks, Inc.

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means including information storage and retrieval systems—except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews—without permission in writing from its publisher, Sourcebooks, Inc.

The characters and events portrayed in this book are fictitious or are used fictitiously. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental and not intended by the author.

Published by Sourcebooks Landmark, an imprint of Sourcebooks, Inc.

P.O. Box 4410, Naperville, Illinois 60567-4410

(630) 961-3900

Fax: (630) 961-2168

www.sourcebooks.com

First published in 1938. Most recently published in 1979 simultaneously in the United States of America and Canada by Ace Books, a division of Charter Communications Inc., a Grosset and Dunlap Company, by arrangement with Holt, Rinehart, and Winston.

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Stevenson, D. E. (Dorothy Emily)

The Young Clementina / D. E. Stevenson.

pages cm

(pbk. : alk. paper)

I. Title.

PR6037.T458Y68 2013

823'.912—dc23

2013010787

Contents

Front Cover

Title Page

Copyright

Part One:
Charlotte's Friend

Chapter One:
A Bunch of Country Flowers

Chapter Two:
The Hermit in the City

Chapter Three:
Days of Friendship

Chapter Four:
The Birthday Dance

Chapter Five:
Years of Waiting

Chapter Six:
“It Is Odd How One's Tastes Change”

Part Two:
Kitty's Husband

Chapter One:
An Unexpected Visitor

Chapter Two:
“Garth Is Mad”

Chapter Three:
Fog in Court

Chapter Four:
Mrs. Lily Cope

Chapter Five:
“She Asked Me Not to Disturb Her”

Chapter Six:
Mr. Corrieston Explains

Chapter Seven:
The Cross-Roads

Chapter Eight:
The Road Is Chosen

Part Three:
Clementina's Father

Chapter One:
Altered Circumstances

Chapter Two:
Arrival at Hinkleton

Chapter Three:
The Bracelet Men

Chapter Four:
Brown Betty

Chapter Five:
“You're a Stranger, Aren't You?”

Chapter Six:
A Sentence Overheard

Chapter Seven:
“The Young Diana”

Chapter Eight:
Settling Down

Chapter Nine:
“She Was Beautiful”

Chapter Ten:
Nanny's Story

Chapter Eleven:
“I'm Glad They Aren't Like the Other People”

Chapter Twelve:
Bad News

Chapter Thirteen:
Simple Documents

Chapter Fourteen:
“I Shall Never Be Like Other Girls”

Chapter Fifteen:
The Rock Garden

Chapter Sixteen:
Waiting and Looking Back

Part Four:
Charlotte's Dream

Chapter One:
Clare

Chapter Two:
Garth's Diary: “The Desert Wind”

Chapter Three:
The Steeplechase

Chapter Four:
“The Good Companion”

Chapter Five:
Bluebeard's Chamber

Chapter Six:
Garth's Diary: “Old, Unhappy, Far-Off Things”

Chapter Seven:
Garth's Diary: “Battles Long Ago”

Chapter Eight:
Charlotte's Tears

Chapter Nine:
The County Calls

Chapter Ten:
Prospect Hill

Excerpt from
Miss Buncle's Book

Excerpt from
Miss Buncle's Married

About the Author

Back Cover

Part One
Charlotte's Friend

Chapter One
A Bunch of Country Flowers

I wonder how a hermit would feel if he had spent twelve years in his cell and were called back to the world to take up the burden of life with its griefs and worries and fears; if he had passed through the fire of rebellion and achieved resignation; if his flesh had been purged by sleepless nights and his mind had found the anodyne of regular daily work. Would he feel afraid of the world, afraid of the pain awaiting him, afraid of his own inadequacy to deal with his fellow men after his long, long years of solitude? Would he refuse to listen when the world called, when his conscience whispered that his duty lay outside his cell, or would he gird up his loins and go forth, somewhat reluctantly, into the world which had turned its back upon him for twelve years?

My mythical hermit is standing at the parting of the ways, and so am I. Two roads are open to me, one lonely but well known, peaceful and uneventful; the other full of dangers and difficulties which I cannot foresee. Do what I like I cannot determine which road to take. There is a fog in my brain which clogs its working and prevents me from weighing the points at issue. I have tried to think out my problem for days—and nights—without getting any nearer a solution of my difficulties. Let me try to write it out for a change.

The idea of writing down one's difficulties and perplexities is not a new one. Great men have found it valuable in clearing their minds and helping them to wise and deliberate judgment—why shouldn't I, in my smaller way, find a solution to my difficulties in the same manner? My mind needs clearing, God knows, and if pen and paper will help me to clear it, I shall not grudge the time or the labor involved.

***

Having got thus far I sat down at my bureau and reached for my pen. Where should I begin? The roots of the matter lay buried thirty years deep—or very nearly so. Should I start in the present and go backward, digging up pieces of the past as I required them, or should I start in the time-honored manner with my birth in Hinkleton Parsonage on a cold, wet, windy night in the autumn of 1895? The first method seemed full of pitfalls, and the second a weariness of the flesh. My soul turned from the labor of writing with sick disgust.

And then, quite suddenly, I saw the way to do it—an idea came to me which simplified everything and made the labor of writing a pleasure; and, just as a duster, with a dash of methylated spirit, clears a dusty window, so my view was clarified. One moment the window was obscured and I could not see through it, and the next moment it was crystal clear and I was looking out at the winding paths of my life.

The idea which came to me was this, that I should write my whole story for
you
, and then, since you will never read it, I should read it with your eyes, and give myself your advice. I knew that it would be a pleasure to write for you. I have often wanted to pour my troubles into your sympathetic ear, and here was the opportunity, here was the excuse. The words would flow out of my pen easily, confidently, I need not hesitate to wonder whether you would understand, nor to change a sentence lest you should read it amiss, for you are one of the understanding ones, my dear, and the milk of human kindness is in your heart.

You do not remember me, of course—how could you remember—since the only time I ever saw you was three years ago, riding down Piccadilly on the top of a bus. What was there for you to remember—a tall, gawky woman, a woman with long limbs and a lean, tired face? A woman neither young nor old, with gray eyes and crinkly brown hair. She was dressed in a shabby black coat and skirt and a dark red hat of the coal-heaver type, which happened to have just gone out of fashion at the time. Did you
see
this woman? You looked at her, of course, you smiled at her, you even spoke to her in a curiously deep voice. You thanked the shabby stranger for rescuing a bunch of wild flowers which had fallen under the seat and you said, somewhat apologetically, “I am taking them to a country woman who lives in a basement. She likes country flowers best, you see.”

There was meadow-sweet in the bunch, and dog-roses, and ox-eye daisies, and a host of other flowers which country children pick in the meadows and the hedges about their homes—country children with rosy faces and tangled hair.

I realized at once that you understand things; you were of the understanding kind. You were prosperous, that was obvious from the clothes you wore. (Your coat and skirt of navy blue flannel was plain but well cut, your black hat was perfect in its crisp line, your shoes and stockings, your gloves, your bag, the orange silk scarf twisted carelessly round your neck were all good, carefully chosen, the best of their kind. I noticed the soft wave of your dark hair and the smooth, well-tended texture of your slightly tanned skin). You were prosperous and comfortable, your life was a life of ease, but you still understood the feelings of those less fortunate than yourself, you still cared to understand.

How much easier it would have been for you to buy flowers in London for that woman you were going to see—how much easier than picking them yourself in the fields and meadows which lay about your pleasant country home and carrying them up to town in the train and the bus! You didn't do the easier thing; you did the thing that would give the more pleasure. All this flashed through my mind in a moment. Almost before you had finished speaking I saw you in the fields, picking those flowers to take to town for the country woman who lived in a basement. I had settled you in the country in a beautiful house, I had given you a park full of old trees casting grateful shadows on the thick grass, I had given you a rose garden with a sundial, I had given you a husband, horses, cars, dogs.

I buried my face in the sweetness of the country flowers before I handed them back to you.

“She will love them,” I said.

“You don't think they will make her homesick?” you asked, raising your dark eyebrows a trifle, and looking at me anxiously out of your night-blue eyes.

“They may,” I told you. “They have made me homesick, you see. But it was worth it.”

“Pain is worthwhile sometimes,” you said.

We looked at each other gravely (I wonder if you remember), I knew that we could become friends—we were friends already, I knew that we could talk to each other about things that mattered, not always agreeing perhaps, but always understanding and appreciating each other's views. I knew that we could be silent together without discomfort, sitting over the fire and dreaming, letting a few words fall and then lapsing into more dreams. I knew—from that little quiver at the corner of your mouth—that we would see the same jokes, the tiny droll incidents which defy you to put them into words so delicate and evanescent they are.

Could I ask you your name, or tell you mine? Would you think me mad, a woman you had met for a few moments on the top of a bus, with whom you had exchanged a dozen words? I couldn't do it, of course. I was too shy, too bound by the conventions of the civilized world (were you too shy, or didn't you care?). I was too shy to ask you your name, and so I let you go. You smiled at me as you went. I never saw you again.

I never saw you again—what made me write those words? False words they are, false and misleading. You have been with me every day, you have shared all my jokes, you have read with me in the evenings and exchanged thoughts and criticisms. You have walked with me in the park, and had tea with me in my tiny sitting room. We have sat over the fire together talking of the past and surmising about the future. You are my only real friend, you see, the only woman friend I have ever had. I had always longed for a friend, a woman friend of my own generation, wise and witty and tender.

Of course I know that you have forgotten me long ago, you are not lonely like I am. You have a husband to share your life, a house to care for, a garden to enjoy, perhaps you have children. You would think it crazy that a woman you met three years ago for ten minutes should think of you as her greatest friend, but you would not grudge me the consolation of your shadowy presence if you knew what it meant to me.

Just one thing more before I begin my story—I have always called you Clare. I never knew anybody called Clare, but I love the name and it seemed to suit you. I had to have a name to call you when I needed you. “Clare!” and there you are, sitting in my shabby old chair, smiling at me and waiting for me to begin.

BOOK: The Young Clementina
2.27Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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