Blanche and Helen - 10 Blanche tells Fred
One day in late October, I had a visit from Fred. He really had come to see Mr. Warrington, to tell him about a find that Rosie had made. When she brought it into the house, Apparently Helen had not been impressed at all. Rosie thought it was a dolly’s head, and it was very dirty and ugly. But Helen had washed it, but quickly realised that it wasn’t from a doll at all. She had given it to Fred to take for Mr. Warrington to have a look at to see if he considered it of any value. About eight inches high, made of stone, it was the face of a man with a moustache and beard. His eyes are very prominent in the head and staring straight ahead. Helen remembered Harold’s talk at the first garden party when it talked about Celtic heads, so wondered if it might be one of those. But Helen was not really keen to come and see Harold about it herself for some reason.
I thought the item most odd, but as Mr. Warrington was not at home at the moment, I wondered if Fred wanted to leave it with me. But he was very reluctant to be parted from it.
“She had her visitation from the men from Glossop,” he added. “She spent ages getting her house as clean as possible and then Harold and Mr Andrew finally came to her, late afternoon it was. They hardly paid any notice at all – didn’t measure the rooms as they said it was a typical building of the period. They peeked into the kitchen, and went upstairs and looked into the two bedrooms. They asked about the outhouses but didn’t wish to inspect them. Then they went to see Mrs. Thornley’s half of the property. And then, not half an hour later, they were off again, not even stopping for tea and the cake she had just baked. Mary agreed that when they went into her house, they looked as if they could not be bothered. Helen seems to think that she will have to pay between £300 and £400 for each half of the house.”
Fred decided not to wait any longer for Mr. Warrington but said he would be back in the next day or so.
When Mr. Warrington arrived home that night, he told his wife about the day.
“Mr. Andrew and his colleagues did not get here when they had said they would, and then we had to break for a large lunch and went to the Lane Ends Public House for it. What might have taken an hour was stretched into two and a half, with their chat and basic lack of interest in what was going on. They wanted to do the job in such a way that it took all day, without doing much at all. I cannot stand that sort of mentality. I expect and I give my full attention to the job when I am working, and do not waste time unnecessarily. But at least now the job is done.
“They didn’t give me any indication of the amount of money they are going to ask for the properties - but only said that they would consider the situation, consult with Lord Howard, and advise me accordingly, and that I would be hearing from them within a fortnight or so. What a sham. They could have given me a rough estimate on the spot. But no, they need to waste more hours doing nothing much and then in two weeks eventually they will decide what I could have decided in two hours.”
I was quite surprised when Mr. Warrington asked to see me after supper that evening, just as I was getting ready to go home.
“Are you quite well, Blanche?”
“Yes, I think so, sir. I’ve had a touch of flu lately, but nothing so bad that I couldn’t manage to do my work,” I said.
“I must say, I have noticed that you seem to be putting on weight.”
“Oh, well perhaps a bit,” I admitted. “I seem to be hungry all the time.”
“Don’t play the innocent with me, my girl. Do not think you can put any blame on me. I will deny it until I am blue in the face. You had already been serviced that day, and even you cannot deny that you gave me no reason not to think that you were willing.”
I might be naïve, and no doubt I am very innocent in the ways of the world, but Mr. Warrington’s words stopped me in my tracks, and I could hardly believe what he was implying. I denied that there was any problem, and quickly ran home, but even then, I must have known that I was fooling myself.
I have finally been brave and told Fred what was bothering me. He made me see a doctor, and it was confirmed that I will be a mother in four months’ time. I haven’t said anything yet to my adopted parents, and as I don’t see them all that often, I have managed to be wearing inconspicuous clothing on those occasions. I did think Mum was looking at me somewhat oddly, but nothing has been said by any of us.
Fred wants me to move to Nantwich where Harry lives. He says I should buy a ring, and pretend to be a widow. They can help me when the baby comes. He says I can give it away if I want to, as there are adoption agencies that deal with things like that. I have not even got my head around the fact that I am expecting, but I felt its feet kicking me gently a few weeks ago, and after that, I knew there was no way that I would be giving it up.
Fred suggested that as soon as he can, he will find a job near where I will be living, and then the baby and I can go and live with him. He says he will need to find a job, as there would be no point in us both being a burden on Harry for the present, but that he would try to get fixed up as soon as possible.
He showed me the note he is giving to Helen, because he knows how sweet she was on Mr. Warrington and feels that it is only fair to let her know what an awful man he really is.
Here’s the note.
I must see you about something that I cannot put into writing. I know it would be improper for me to come to your house and I could not get privacy if you came to my house. Would you possibly join me tonight and we could go to the public house at Travellers' Call? There is an area where women can go, away from the public bar, and we can perhaps have a cup of tea and a cake or something. I will call at your house on my way home from work to find out if this idea suits you or not.
It is much later now, and after Fred’s meeting with Helen, he stopped in and told me all about it. I'll try to put it into his own words. They went into the lounge area at the Travellers Call, where there were other women present. The owner, Mr. James Sayer, came over to our table, and seemed most chatty.
“We don’t often see you in here, Mrs. Morrison. I hope you haven’t been spending your time at our rival across the road. You know our two pubs have been fighting it out for years. Way back in 1890 there was a challenge between our two pubs' regulars that might be worth repeating today, that is if one doesn’t mind the mess on the carpet. It involved the person challenged putting two large duck eggs into his mouth without breaking them. And while we have Almanac Shows, they across the road have Flower and Vegetable Shows. We also do sparrow shoots, if that’s the sort of thing you fancy.”
“When he finally managed to stop talking, we ordered tea and cakes, and then, when we had been served and had privacy Helen could contain her curiosity no longer.
“Well, Fred, what is it?”
“I don’t know the proper way to say this so I will come right out with it, but let’s keep our voices down as I don’t want anyone else knowing.”
“Yes, of course, but what is it?”
“It’s Blanche. She’s in the family way.”
“Oh, no Fred. Is she sure?”
“As sure as she can be. Seems like it must have happened in August. She hasn’t told anyone yet, as she doesn’t want to lose her job, but she is right moithered.”
“Will the father marry her?”
“The father is your smarmy friend, Harold.”
“No, you are lying. She is lying. No, it could not be. He wouldn’t do that.”
“Well, I believe her. And apparently it happened the day of the Compstall Fair, when his wife and the rest of them were off in Prestwich. She was serving his tea, and he plied her with drink, and then took advantage of her.”
“Oh, but I just don’t think he would do such a thing. But what reason would she have to lie to you? She doesn’t want to lose her position. And why are you telling me? What do you want me to do about it?”
“I want you to be aware of what sort of person you are putting your faith in. I would have to be blind, Helen, not to notice how you look at him, and him at you. And he looked daggers at me on the times he saw me accompanying you. If you say he is not the type to take advantage of young maids, would you say he is also not the type to try to get his way with rich widows?” She looked like I had slapped her.
“I will talk to him, Fred, and find out the truth.”
“How can you do that without telling him that she is pregnant and that he is responsible? He will fire her on the spot if he thinks she is spreading the story.”
“He will deny it, of course, and try to blame it on others. Has she had no others who might have given her reason to think it might be one of them?”
“She has had a boyfriend, yes. But she is adamant that the baby is Harold’s, and I believe her. She knows he will not leave his wife for her. She knows that she will get no support from him in any way shape or form. I think the best thing for it would be for her to go and live with our eldest brother and his family who live Nantwich way, if they will have her. She can pretend she is a widow, and after the baby is born, she can give it up if she wants, but she says she wants to keep it, but she mustn’t stay in this area.”
“I’m still not sure why you are telling me, as you don’t seem to want me to do anything for her. You say you are warning me of what sort of man Harold is, and I thank you for your concern. But I will deal with him directly, and ascertain his point of view, but I won’t do it until she has left the area.”
“I so want the chance to clobber him.”
“You must not do that, if her secret is to remain for the time being. You can tell her that she can come to me if she wants any advice on pregnancy, as I have been through it myself. Will she tell the Allsopps?”
“She says not. She doesn’t want them to have to take sides, especially as it appears that Harold will be their landlord as soon as this house buying business goes through.”
“Well, do tell her she can come to me, and I will not judge her, no matter who the father is or what she decides to do about it.”
“Thank you Helen. I feel much better for talking to you about it. And you will think again about trusting this man now?”
“Yes, of course, I will keep what you say in mind when I see him again. And I thank you Fred for your concern for me. You are a good man, and a good brother to Blanche. I do hope it all works out for the best.”