Day after Day 10
August 18th dawned bright and beautiful, a perfect day for a picnic. The Tree family had a long-established tradition of al fresco dining. Opening their garden to new visitors was not the
least bit daunting.
Soon everyone was mingling and chatting on the lawn. There was food and drink in abundance.
May went up to Harold and John Day who were standing to one side. "How lovely to see you again,'' she said. Then, addressing John "Will you soon be off to Oxford?”
“Micklemas term starts late,'' he replied. "I won't be going there until the end of September. However my clerical training involves quite a lot of reading, so I will be quite busy.''
Muriel, somewhat annoyed that May had stolen a march on her, asked Harold “And when are you going to Camborne?''
“I start at the beginning of September,'' he replied. "We put in many more weeks than those Oxford toffs. I will go down the week before the term begins to find lodgings.”
“What sort of courses did you take to qualify you to study to be a mining engineer?” asked Muriel.
“I took Latin, French, Arithmetic, Additional Mathematics, Euclid and Scripture Knowledge for my lower certificate and have just qualified for the higher certificate in French, Elementary Mathematics, Additional Mathematics, Trigonometry, Statistics, Scripture Knowledge, and English essay.”
“I studied Greek and Latin at school,” said May "though I can't see that those will do me much good.''
“What sort of courses do you take to become a clergyman?” Muriel asked John.
“Well, this last year I had to write four papers,'' he said. "I chose to study Israel from the beginning
of the Exile to 4 BC, The Gospels and Jesus, the development of the doctrine in the early church up to 451 A.D. and God, Christ and Salvation. Each paper had to be 10,000 words long, so it was almost like writing a book.''
“Which College are you at?” Muriel asked, genuinely interested.
“Hertford. It is located in Catte Street, directly opposite the main entrance of the Bodleian Library. The college was originally founded as Hart Hall in 1281 by Elias De Hertford. Some of our famous students include John Donne, the metaphysical poet, Thomas Hobbes, the political theorist and William Tyndale who first translated the Bible into English. We are great contenders in the annual college boat race. I hope you will be able to come and see that sometime.''
“Oh, I would love that,'' Muriel enthused. "Do you have special parties or festivals?”
“There is a ball at the end of each academic year. All the colleges are involved in May Day celebrations. The Magdalen College choir assemble on he river bridge to sing as dawn breaks. Lots of visitors come on that day. They go punting on the Isis.''
"I shall mark the event in my diary,'' said Muriel somewhat forwardly "and hope that you remember inviting me.''
“I would like to come too. Perhaps you can find a friend to pair me up with,” said May.
“I’m sure that could be arranged,'' said John, "I will of course write to tell you the details.''
Tentatively Harold asked the girls "Will you write to me?''
“Of course we will,” May assured him, taking it upon herself to also answer for Muriel. “I expect being so far away you won’t get home very often.”
“Probably not until Christmas, then again in the summer,” said Harold. “I will check to see if there are any social occasions to which I could invite you. I believe Cornwall is a very attractive county.''
At that point the host, Mr Tree, gathered everyone together for a group photograph (above). Muriel observed the process with the keenest attention, being interested in becoming a photographer.
“Come now, boys,” said Mr. Day. “It is time for us to be going home.''
So the Days gathered together, expressed their thanks, then departed.
Mr. Tree called Muriel to one side and informed her “I have heard from my uncle, James Arrowsmith. He has read your great grandmother’s poems. He thinks they are very fine, but not quite of that quality which is required for them to be published as a book. He suggests that you should try to get them published one by one in a lady’s magazine, The Women’s Home Companion perhaps.''
Muriel was inevitably disappointed, but she maintained a brave face. She thanked Mr Tree. "I will follow your suggestions,'' she said "and please do thank your uncle for taking time to read the poems.''
So May, Muriel and their families, after offering profuse thanks for a pleasant day, took their leave, with a promise of another picnic and get-together, this time at Lansdowne Crescent.
May and Muriel were radiant as they wended their way home.
Harold Day was true to his word. Early in September the girls received a letter from him. Though it was addressed to both of them he sent it to Muriel's address.
Dear Muriel and May,
I have now been at Camborne School of Mining for a week, and am absolutely fascinated by everything we are being taught. I don’t know how much you know about this place, but I shall assume that you know nothing and tell you all about it.
Camborne, which is near Redruth, is in the centre of rich lodes of copper and tin. By the end of 18th Century there was a huge boom in copper mining here, followed shortly after by tin mining. Redruth
became the richest mining area in the world. There are engine houses at East Pool and Agar Wine. A local man, Richard Trevithick, was the inventor of the high pressure boiler and the Corning beam engine. He died back in 1834, but he is still very much remembered.
We have a huge celebration each year on April 26 which is called Trevithick Day. Perhaps you would be so kind as to see if you can come to visit me at that time. One of our attractions is the 300-years-old Plough Inn on College Street.
I hope to hear from you soon.
Muriel immediately went to May's to share the letter with her. “I think we have made a conquest,” she said. “I do hope our parents will allow us to go to visit him. I should so like to see Cornwall, and of course to see Harold again.”
Not many weeks after that a letter arrived from John Day. He had settled back into a routine at his college, and all was going according to plan. He said he was very busy but would no doubt be seeing them at Christmas, and had not forgotten their arrangement for May Day.
“We will be very busy if we spend April 26th in Cornwall then go straight over to Oxford for May Day,” said Muriel. But even as she said this she was determined to keep both dates.
Because their men, as the girls now liked to call them, were not available to take part in social life in Worcester, Muriel and May felt a need to keep busy. They felt committed to Harold and John, and had no desire to socialise with other men. They therefore paid a visit to the Museum/Technical and Art College the next day to see if they could enrol in some suitable courses.
September was the month of the much-awaited Choir Festival which involved the choirs of Worcester, Hereford and Gloucester. This year Hereford was hosting the event. The Kings invited Mrs Stinton and May to attend a concert with them. They encountered the Tree family. It seemed that all the members of that family were musical. Beth played the violin. Indeed she and May had
been taught by Mr Elgar, the composer who was becoming increasingly famous. Eliza Stinton sang in the Choral Society which Mr Elgar conducted week by week. Mr Tree also knew Mr Elgar. They were members of Malvern Golf Club and often played a friendly game together on Friday afternoons.
The audience enjoyed the Hereford concert, particularly a new work by Delius, Dance Rhapsony Number 1. As usual the performance of Mendelsson's Elijah received the most rapturous applause.
May and Muriel wrote to both Day boys individually, but usually the brothers sent return letters addressed to both girls. The girls told of their classes at the Institute and of their charity work. May worked once a week at the School for the Blind, reading aloud from books. Muriel supervised the distribution of donated clothing to those in need. They told also of their vist to the annual Worcester fair.
Harold sent at least one letter a month. In one dated October 5th he wrote:
Dear Muriel and May
My studies are progressing well. I am taking the following subjects: Applied Mechanics and Practical Mechanics, Technical Drawing, Dynamics, Hydrostatics, Practical Mathematics,
Practical Geometry, Practical Chemistry, Physics, and Practical Mineralogy.
I find the Dynamics class the hardest, so must spend more time on it. I find the science subjects to be easier than those we were doing at King’s so don’t need much work on them.
Do you remember our discussion about football when we met in the summer? Well one of the best rugby players in the world is living here. His name is Fredrick Jackson and he has appeared for the Cornwall team many times. I have not yet spoken to him, but have seen him in the public house.
There is a tradition for a rugby match between us and the Royal School of Mines in London
each year. I am not really the right build for rugby and far prefer running, but I do train with the team.
Have you heard about the submarine which was launched earlier this week? So many advances in science that it is hard to keep up with it all.
What sort of books do you girls read? I am a prolific reader but I must admit I seldom read fiction. I do like G.K. Chesterton. Have you read any of his books?
And by the next post there came a letter from John Day.
My dears May and Muriel,
I think of you both busy at your studies and projects, and wish so much that I could be spending time with you. I am very busy as always, but wondered what you would think of perhaps meeting me in London one weekend.
The new musical play, The Chinese Honeymoon, opened at the Royal Strand Theatre on the 5th of October, and has had very good reviews. Would it be of interest to you? I imagine you would take the train to London from Worcester on Saturday morning and I would endeavour to find suitable accommodation for you nearby. My father has relatives in this area, and although we don’t hear from
or visit them often, this would be a good reason for me to make their acquaintance again. If you write and say you are interested, I will look into it. I would suggest sometime in November, but will not book anything until I hear from you.
With great regard,
May rushed over to Muriel's house to discuss this letter.
“Do you think we could go?” she asked. “Do you think your parents would allow it? I expect my mother would if your parents agree, but it would depend on where we were to stay in London. Do you have any contacts there?”
Muriel was as excited as May. They discussed the invitation with Mrs King. She was not sure that two young girls should be travelling unaccompanied by train to London, and she was doubtful about them going to the theatre, even though they would be escorted by a man that she knew and respected. However, she agreed to talk to Muriel's father about the matter, and let them know the
outcome of the discussion.
Next the girls went to see May's mother to see her reaction to the London visit. Mrs Eliza Stinton had had little experience of the wider world and was unable to visualise her daughter travelling to the capital with only another girl as a companion. She thought it brash to arrange such a meeting with John Day, no matter how nice a man he was. And she did not like the idea of the girls staying with people they had never met.
"I know how much you want to do this,'' she said "but I think you should only go if you are accompanied by an adult. And you should stay at an hotel in a reputable part of London.''
“What if we get Charlotte Walker and Evelyn Duncan to accompany us?” May asked.
“Well,'' said Mrs Stinton doubtfully "I suppose they might be suitable. They are older than you two. But I need to give this a lot more thought. Don't send a reply to John Day until I have done so.''
The girls then hurried back to the King household to broach the idea of their being chaperoned by older women. “We will wait until your father gets home to hear his views,” said Mrs. King firmly.
After dinner that evening Muriel showed her father the letter from John, and voiced the idea of she and May being chaperoned. Mr King was immediately sympathetic to the suggestion. He wanted Muriel to have a well-rounded education, and a visit to London would serve that end. He proposed that the Misses Walker and Duncan should be asked if they were interested in the idea, and further
suggested that rather than going to the capital for just one weekend they should spend several days there, seeing the sights. He knew that Charlotte Walker's father would be able to recommend a good place where they could stay.
When Muriel and May went to see Charlotte she was immediately receptive to the suggestion. “What a wonderful idea,” she said. “I will write today to Dot to see if she will accompany us. You say the middle of November? Shall we pick the dates and then ask Mr Day if he can get theatre tickets for all of us?''
Muriel agreed, and promptly wrote to John. Three days later she received a reply from him.
My dear Muriel and May,
I have contacted the Royal Strand Theatre, and they have agreed to save me five tickets for Saturday the 9th of November.
If you find yourselves an hotel to stay in, I will make my way there as early as I can on that day, and we can take in some of the sights together and go out to dinner before we go to the theatre in the evening. I will find a nearby boarding house in which to stay.
Greatly looking forwards to seeing you all again.