Monday, December 7, 2009

TOPSY TURVEY WORLD 9th installment

A roll in the hay? Flo and friends. 1907 or 8.

"I have some good news," Margaret announced to Flora, as she closed the door behind kind neighbour Mr. Skinner, who had picked her up at the train and seen her home. It was Sunday evening, 7 o'clock. Marion was already on her way back to Sherbrooke. Finessing her lesson plan, no doubt. "Edith has given her notice into the head man there. She'll be returning home for good on the 26th of June."

Flora blinked, but was not surprised. Her mother had clearly gone to Three Rivers on a mission - and now she knew what the mission had been.

Poor Edie. She'd only taken the position out of a sense of duty to her parents. If she were not getting married, better that she earn her own keep, even if her wages were barely enough to sustain herself, let alone help out her parents.

A year before, on her birthday, things had looked much rosier. Marion and Flora had sent their older sister a note:

My dear old girl,

To greet thee on thy birthday (age?) we the undersigned wish to express our appreciation for your very valuable services rendered so grudgingly and grumblingly up to this venerable old age. We sincerely wish you many happy returns of this notable day and we will multiply our regards a 'tousan fol' if by this time next year you would take unto yourself a spouse and charm him into realms of bliss with your exquisite and delicious cooking.

Marion Annie Nicholson and Flora Margaret Nicholson.

The note was kindly meant, as it did look like Edith was soon to be married. Why else had she suddenly decided not to attend the Symons Business School in Boston.

But her beau, one Charlie G. had not proposed as expected (perhaps it had something to do with the Nicholson's fall in fortunes, Mrs. Montgomery had cruelly speculated) and Edith was left, in 1907, without any plan for the future.

J.R. McLeod, Minister at Three Rivers, came to the rescue with a request. "Dear Edith,

The Manager of Works at a town 15 miles from here says he is looking for a suitable girl to teach 1o children. Her pay would be 20 dollars a month, and it would likely cost 10 dollars a month for room and board. A diploma is not needed. I am sure you are up to the task."

Edith took the job, hoping, no doubt, that her absence would make his heart grown fonder.

Her work was going well and the people in charge were very pleased - they'd had so much trouble keeping their teachers. And she was something of a fashion plate in the small company town "Everyone here loves the way I do up my hair, " she wrote in a letter home.

But in winter word got back to Edith that Charlie was attending dances in Richmond.

So the couple parted ways in March.

She called it 'a growing experience' in a letter to Marion and seemed to take it all in stride; but Margaret and Norman were worried. Edith was being pursued by a certain Mr. Young. In a letter home, Edith described him as 'a persistent beggar who won't take no for an answer'. "He's not a bad sort, but his people aren't much," she added.

This is what Flora knew of the situation, the information Mrs. Montgomery had tried so hard to squeeze out of her at Saturday luncheon.

Flora also knew that Margaret blamed Edie, at least to some degree, for the break up. She had overheard her mom telling Marion at Easter:"She does not put any effort into it. She loves the attention and suspense, but she isn't practical about romance.

Edie is not practical about very much, replied Marion. She's impulsive. It's not in her nature to compromise. She wants to taste it all.

Yes, I'm afraid you have all the focus in the family, Margaret had told her second oldest daughter, which was true enough, but Flora did not like hearing it.

Margaret, at the moment, in the master bedroom, as Flora placed her suitcase beside the giant vanity table, was admitting to nothing.

But then little Flora was deliberately kept out of the loop on so many things. All Margaret offered was this., " It is such a lonesome place. You should see the sad examples of humanity there. The poor young girls wasting the best years of their lives, the way they cling to friendships and are desperate for news of any kind. Well, at least I learned how my pots and pans are made.

How are they made, Mother?

Well, there's bogs and iron deposits, and coal and immense furnaces and smokestacks and molten iron and sand and moulds. And father says the ironworks are antiquated, by modern standards. He says they are probably spewing soot into the air and that's why Edith has suffered from so many headaches lately.

The Company doctor there said she had to give up drinking tea. Can you imagine?

Both Father and I agreed, she must leave. For her health.

So you will have your sister back, for now. Oh, and I've decided on something else. I will be going to Quebec at the end of July for the tercentary celebrations. I must keep an eye on the Prince.

And then you and Mae are off to Massachusetts. Oh, Flora, At least I have one child who is giving me no worries. Speaking of which, was there a letter from Herb in the mail yesterday? Father is frantic.

"No, Mother." Flora blushed. If mother only knew the truth. If she only realized how topsy turvy her world was at the moment. How confused she was about it all. How she could find no consolation anywhere, even at church. How her favorite place, the verandah at Tighsolas on a sunny afternoon, provided no peace of mind, either. It was June and exams were coming up. And she had no one to help her pass.