Miss Clare Remembers and Emily Davis

Miss Clare Remembers and Emily Davis
Miss Read

Illustrated by J. S. Goodall

HOUGHTON MIFFLIN COMPANY
Boston • New York

First Houghton Mifflin paperback edition 2007

Miss Clare Remembers
copyright © 1962 by Miss Read,
Copyright © renewed 1990 by Dora Jessie Saint.

Emily Davis
copyright © 1971 by Miss Read,
Copyright © renewed 1999 by Dora Jessie Saint.

All rights reserved

For information about permission to reproduce selections
from this book, write to Permissions, Houghton Mifflin Company,
215 Park Avenue South, New York, New York 10003.

www.houghtonmifflinbooks.com

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Read, Miss.
Miss Clare remembers ; and, Emily Davis / Miss Read ;
illustrations by J. S. Goodall.—1st Houghton Mifflin paperback ed.
p. cm.
ISBN
-13: 978-0-618-88434-6
ISBN
-10: 0-618-88434-3
1. Country life—England—Fiction. 2.Villages—England—
Fiction. I. Goodall, J. S., ill. II. Read, Miss Emily Davis.
III.Title. IV.Title: Emily Davis.
PR
6069.
A
42
M
57 2007
823'.914-dc22 2007030762

Printed in the United States of America
EB-L
10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

MISS CLARE REMEMBERS

To My Father
with love

•

EMILY DAVIS

To Beryl and Philip
with love

CONTENTS

Miss Clare Remembers

Part One: Caxley 11

Part Two: Beech Green 75

Part Three: Fairacre 123

•

Emily Davis

1 Two Old Friends 11

2 Dolly Clare Alone 18

3 Manny Back's Marrow 26

4 Wartime Memories 40

5 Edgar Hears the News 51

6 Edgar and Emily 61

7 Ada Makes Plans 74

8 Did Emily Tell? 86

9 Jane Draper at Springbourne 98

10 The Flight of Billy Dove 108

11 Billy Dove Goes Further 125

12 The Return of Billy Dove 135

13 Mrs. Pringle Disapproves 148

14 Peeping Tom 167

15 Off to America 177

16 Heatwave in London 192

17 Snowdrops at Springbourne 208

18 Doctor Martin's Morning Surgery 216

19 Doctor Martin Looks Back 226

20 Two Old Friends 233

MISS CLARE REMEMBERS

He who, in the vale of obscurity, can brave adversity, can behave with tranquility and indifference, is truly great.

OLIVER GOLDSMITH
The Disabled Soldier

Part One:
Caxley

CHAPTER 1

A
FINGER
of sunlight, wavering across the white counterpane, woke Miss Clare from a light sleep.

The old lady lay for a while, without moving, watching it tremble like water across the bed and down the uneven bulging wall of her cottage bedroom.

She knew the time without troubling to turn her head to consult the china clock which ticked busily on her bedside table. Her own easy waking, and the strength and direction of the sunbeam, told her that it was a little before six o'clock on this June morning.

And there was no need to get up, thought Miss Clare, with a little shock of pleasure. Each morning, since her retirement from schoolteaching, this tremor of elation had stirred her waking moments. To be freed from the tyranny of the clock, after so many years of discipline, was wholly delightful. Almost every day of her working life Dolly Clare had resolutely thrust the bedclothes from her as the clock struck six. The habit of years dies hard, and still she woke at the same time, and rose very soon after, but with the blessed relief of knowing that, at long last, her time was her own.

She lay now, frail as a bird and very still, beneath the light covers, listening to the early morning sounds. Above her a starling chattered on the chimney pot. To thwart just such nestbuilders she had prudently had wire netting stretched across the mouths of the chimneys, and now she could hear the starling's claws and beak plucking the wire and making metallic music. Far away a cow lowed, and farther still a train hooted imperiously as it rushed towards London. Miss Clare could have slipped back easily into slumber again.

But suddenly there came the roaring of a motor-bike kicked into life. The clock vibrated in sympathy, and Miss Clare sat upright.

'That's Jim off to work,' she said aloud. 'Time I was up.' The motor-bike thundered by, shaking the old lady into wakefulness.

'And this is the day that Emily comes! Plenty to do today!'

She put back the bed clothes and thrust her bony legs towards a patch of warm sunlight on the rug. Miss Clare's day had begun.

It was strange, thought Miss Clare, half an hour later, moving methodically about her small kitchen, how little Emily Davis knew of the important part she had played in her own life. For almost seventy years now she and Emily had been friends. For several years they had taught side by side as pupil teachers, and when their ways had parted, weekly letters, lengthy and beautifully penned, had sustained their affection. No matter how long their partings, on meeting they fell together as sweetly as two halves of an apple. Now, in old age, the warm friendship had an added quality, for the knowledge that it must end before long quickened their love for each other.

They had first met under the steep slated roof of Beech Green school, when Emily Davis was seven years old and Dolly Clare a forlorn newcomer of six. Standing now in the kitchen, her brown breakfast egg poised in a spoon above the saucepan of bubbling water, Miss Clare looked back across the years and saw the scene as sharply as if it had all happened that morning.

***

It was the same kitchen that she and her mother had left to make their way to the nearby school. It was a wet Monday morning in March and the Clare family had moved into their new home on the Friday before. Two hours earlier Francis Clare, Dolly's father, who was a thatcher by trade, had set off to work, pushing before him a little handcart containing his tools. Upstairs lay Dolly's sister Ada, two years her senior, and smitten this morning with a timely cold and a violent cough which meant that school was out of the question for her. Envying her from the bottom of her heart, Dolly set out for the unknown, clutching her mother's hand.

'Don't you stir till I'm back, Ada,' called Mary Clare, her face tilted up to the bedroom window. 'I shan't be ten minutes.'

She hurried off so briskly that Dolly was forced to run to keep up with her. Her mother's hand was hot and comforting through the cotton glove. The child had need of comfort. New black boots pinched her toes and rubbed her heels. Her long tartan frock, decently covered with a white pinafore, bundled itself between her legs as she ran along. Her straight yellow hair had been strained to the top of her head and tied there so tightly with a black ribbon by her over-anxious mother that she could feel the skin over her temples drawn upwards in sympathy.

But her physical pain was as nothing to the ache in her heart. Fear of the ordeal before her, the entry alone into a strange and possibly hostile world was bad enough, but even this was less than the misery which had gripped her since the move from their old home at Caxley. This was the third day of grief for young Dolly Clare, the third day of mourning for her lifelong companion, her other half. Emily, her rag doll, had disappeared during the chaos of moving day, and for her young mistress the world was in ruins.

The road to the school was muddy and rutted deeply where the cart wheels made their way. This morning rain lay in long bright bands on each side of the rough flints in the centre of the lane. Other children were making their way to school, shabby satchels or plaited rush bags containing their dinner bumping on their backs. They looked curiously at breathless Dolly, scuttling at the heels of her mother, and nudged each other and whispered as they passed. Dolly was glad when they clanked over the door scraper and entered the high schoolroom.

Mr Finch, the headmaster, was a solemn figure in black with a silver watch-chain drawn across his waistcoat just on a level with Dolly's throbbing temples. The room was very quiet, and a number of children were already in their desks sitting very prim and upright, but with their eyes fixed unwinkingly upon their new schoolfellow. Dolly was too overcome to return their gaze, and looked at her new boots already splashed with chalky water from the lane.

'Yes, sir, she's already been to school at Caxley,' her mother was saying. 'She can read and reckon, and is a good hand with a needle.'

'Date of birth?' asked Mr Finch sombrely.

'Tenth of October, sir, eighteen eighty-eight.'

'And her full name?'

'Dorothy Annie Clare, but she's called Dolly, sir.'

'I will tell my wife. She will start with her.'

'I've another girl to come. Ada, sir, she's eight, but in bed poorly this morning.'

'Very well,' said Mr Finch with a note of dismissal in his voice. Taking the hint, Dolly's mother gave her daughter's cheek a swift peck and disappeared homewards, leaving her younger child as lonely as she was ever to be.

She stood on the bare boards of the schoolroom trembling from her tight black boots to the top knot on her head, fighting against tears and longing for the comfort of Emily's hard stuffed body in her arm. But Emily had gone, even as her mother had gone, and though in an eternity of time, when the great wall clock struck twelve, she would see her mother again, yet Emily had gone for ever.

The figures in the desks wavered and swelled as the hot tears pricked her eyes.

'You can sit by Emily for now,' said a woman's voice above her head. She found herself being led to the further end of the long room. Emily, Emily! The word beat in her head like a bewildered bird trying to get out of a closed room. In her present dream-like condition it seemed possible that she might be advancing to meet her long-lost familiar again, although the dull ache at her heart counselled otherwise.

She found herself in front of a double desk. At one side sat a grave dark child, with black hair smoothed from a centre parting to fall into two long plaits. Her eyes were grey and clear like water and her smile disclosed a gap where her two front milk teeth had gone.

'This is Emily,' said Mrs Finch.

It wasn't, of course, to Dolly Clare; but the smile was engaging and the grey eyes reassuring. Ana, amazingly, the stranger was called Emily!

Tremulously, through her tears, Dolly smiled back, and the friendship began.

Buttering a finger of toast on her breakfast plate, Miss Clare mused on that far-distant meeting with the second Emily in her life amid the misery which had engulfed her in the schoolroom. That such 'old, unhappy, far-off things' should have the power to prick her into acute feeling so many years after, made the old lady marvel. Yet, she told herself ruefully, she had difficulty in remembering the name and aspect of a friend's house she had visited only three days earlier! Memory played queer tricks as one grew old.

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