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Day After Day: Five

Muriel, still keenly pursuing John Day with a view to getting him to propose marriage, sends a letter suggesting a date for a picnic.

Jean Day continues her romantic novel set more than a hundred years ago.

Muriel was eager to find out more about Miss Pulett. She wrote to Miss Eva Walker of Perdiswell Hall, thanking her for the invitation to the ball, then asking for information about Miss Pulett, to whom she might be related.

A week later she received the following letter.

Dear Miss King,
I have delayed in replying to your letter as I felt it was incumbent upon me to ask permission of Miss Poulett before I provided you with her personal details. I have now done that, and she agrees that you might know her address so that you might write to her.

She is of course curious as to why you think you are a relative as she knows of no connection with the King family.

Her name and address are as follows:
Eleanor Poulett, 60 Queen’s Gate, Kensington.

I am pleased that you enjoyed the ball, and it was very nice to make your acquaintance. I thought I saw you and your friend at church a few Sundays ago. Perhaps if you are in this area again in the future we might possibly meet.

Yours faithfully,
Eva Walker

Muriel immediately wrote to Eleanor Poulett at the address provided. She explained why she thought her grandfather King’s mother had been related to the Pouletts, though the name could have been Paulett becuase the writing in her source material was not clear. She explained how the material, the letters, had come into her possession, then asked Miss Poulett if she thought she had descended from Peter Poulett, the Marquis of Winchester.

This time she had to wait several weeks before a reply came back.

Dear Miss King,

Thank you for your letter. I don’t think we met when we attended the ball given for my friend Miss Eva Walker at Perdiswell, but I am pleased to reply to your enquiries.

As far as I know, I do not descend from “noble lineage” as you think that you do. However, as I move in circles with many gentry, I have come across others with the name Paulett, which is very similar to ours, and I can tell you a bit about some of them.

The head of one noble family, Lord George Paulett, was born in 1804 and lived in London. He was in the Royal Navy and eventually became Rear Admiral. His wife, Georgina, was born in Calcutta, and they had two sons, George, born in 1837, and St. John Claud, born in 1839. Neither of the sons married. George was a 2nd Lieutenant in the Dragoons. In 1871 the family retired to 36 Pillamore Gardens in Kensington. By 1881, Lord George had died, and his widow and her son, St. John, lived at Corktree House, Farnbow Road, Berkshire. George at that time lived in Marylebone, as a lodger ,and retired from the army.

There was another ancient branch, headed by Lord William Paulett born in 1805, who came from Andover in Hampshire. A female of this family, whose name I cannot remember, though she was Lady something beginning with an L, presumably his daughter, lived at Amport House, Andover. She was born in 1860, but I don’t know what happened to her.

Lord Charles William Paulett, born in 1833, was a Lt. Captain in the 7th Hussars. He lived at Wellesbourne House, Mountford, Warwickshire. He and his wife had two sons.

I’m afraid none of this information will be of much use to you, as you say your Lord Peter and Lady Elizabeth Paulett had only daughters, and all of these families I have listed seem to have only sons.
I am sorry not to be of more help, but you might try some of the addresses I have given above as someone may have more information than I do.

Yours faithfully,
Eleanor Poulett

This letter disappointed and frustrated Muriel. She had hoped for better news. She decided to put aside the attempt to establish royal ancestry for the time being and concentrate on her main quest: to get John Day to ask her to marry him.

Muriel's 21st birthday was on May 11th. Having already been given the ball gown she was not expecting to receive any other gifts. However her father announced that a special present had been ordered for her, though unfortunately it had not arrived on time. To celebrate her special day her parents took her out to a celebrated restaurant, and there was champagne to accompany the meal.

May’s house, 9, Lansdowne Crescent, was similar in appearance to that in which Muriel lived. May and her mother were now its only occupants, and both of them had spent their entire lives in Worcester. Her mother, now fifty years old, had been born Eliza Smith, the daughter of George Smith, who in 1871 had lived in Lansdowne Road. George was a seed merchant and master miller, employing ten men. His wife had died young, and he was pleased to have Eliza and her husband Tom living with him.

As the years went by the roles were reversed. Tom and Eliza bought a house in Rainbow Hill Terrace, and George then moved in with them to spend his final years. George's son, Sydney, was also a miller and part of the household. Eventually Tom and Eliza bought this house in Lansdowne Crescent. May’s younger brother Tom, named after his father, also lived with them, but he attended King’s Cathedral Grammar School and was not often at home. Tom, like his father, was of an academic bent and hoped to go to Oxford, there to become a classic scholar, with a view to teaching and perhaps becoming a headmaster.

Also living in the house was a maid in her mid-twenties, Elizabeth Wilcock, who was from Martley. Even though the house had five bedrooms and three reception rooms it seemed crowded when everyone was at home.

The houses in which Mya and Muriel lived had many features in common. At May’s house the ceilings were high, over 9 feet, with moulded cornices and sash leaded windows. The entrance hall was elegant, featuring a fine spindled, cantilevered staircase with paneling beneath. Because the houses were built into a steep hill, they had several half floors. The dining room in each house had twin sash windows from floor level almost to the ceiling. These gave access to a southerly facing terrace. There was a polished marble fireplace surround and mantle with a cast iron insert. The floor was polished English oak parquet and there was a multi-paned glazed door from there to the sitting room. Again, this room had sash windows overlooking the garden, but an ornate pitch pine fireplace surround with a polished marble and hearth insert. There was extensive book shelving, deep mouled plaster cornicing and a picture rail. The kitchen to the rear of the house was a large room but it combined as a breakfast room. The cook used a large black Aga.

Going up to the half floor above, there was a very large drawing room which overlooked the garden and had a magnificent cityscape view of the Cathedral and St. Andrew’s spire with the Suckley Hills beyond, then over a wooded conservation area to the Malvern Hills.

The garden featured a southerly-facing flagged terrace enhanced by dwarf box hedging, and enjoyed a magnificent view. A natural stone step went down between low stone walling, and the garden had well stocked herbaceous borders and beautifully maintained lawns. It was overhung by flowering cherry and encircled by ancient yew hedging and mellow brick walling. A graveled path continued between the shrubbery and a seating area was located in a sheltered spot. At the lower edge of the garden, a pedestrian gate, inset into a yew hedge, lead to the lower road of Lansdowne Crescent.

Muriel’s house, No. 7, called Linacre, was very similar – again having five upstairs bedrooms. However in the King household, the cellar area contained the kitchen and the bedrooms for the servants. Muriel was an only child, and her parents, George Williams King and his wife Louisa, had two servants, Amy Bunce and Emily Smith, both 22 years old. Amy was from Abberley and Emily came from Worcester.

George Williams King was born in Guildford, Surrey. His wife Louisa, née Trew, was born in Axbridge Somerset. George came to Worcester in the late 1870s having gone into the grocery business earlier in his life in Guildford with his father, William. William and his wife,Ann, had had two children George Williams and James Downes (named after his grandmother), but William,from his earlier marriage to Frances Stanford., had a daughter Fanny (who married Thomas Wood) and a son, William, who lived with them and helped in his father’s grocery business.

James Downes died when he was only 12. After George William’s father’s death in 1870, his mother remarried, and George Williams (his second name was his mother’s maiden name as was the tradition) came to Worcester where he was taken into the James Williams’ family and treated as a son.

In the mid 1870s he became part of his uncle’s grocery business, which had been established in Worcester for decades under the name of J.J. Williams and Co. At that time, they had two shops – one on High Street, Pershore, where James and his family lived, and the other on the corner of the Cross and St. Swithin Streets in the city centre. They catered for the rich, offering the best coffees and teas and imported wines and spirits and they made a great deal of money. When, in 1881, James and his family retired to Surrey, they sold the Pershore shop and left George to manage the Worcester business. James died soon after they moved and Emily, his widow, and their children continued to live in Sutton, Surrey. Percy Williams was the only one of their five children to carry on in the grocery business, and he was also a tea planter. Charles became an electrical engineer and the girls, Kate, Ethel and Mary married and settled in the Surrey area.

George Williams King invested much of his money in works of art. He had brought Muriel up with a great love of painting, and she had learned a great deal about this art at her secondary school.

He had many paintings in his house, and he hoped they would appreciate with time. His intention was to establish a legacy for Muriel and her family which would appreciate in value.

Muriel’s mother, Louisa, came from Axbridge in Somerset but had not spent much time there. It had been her grandmother, Martha Trew, née Banyer, who had written the poem that Muriel had read at the Queen’s memorial service.

Louisa was brought up by her grandmother during her earliest years. Her mother had died when she was born. When she was old enough Louisa was sent to a boarding school. She met George when she was visiting friends in Worcester. Within a few months they were married.

Muriel and May, who were much better educated than most girls at that time, spent much of their time together. Sometimes they accompanied their mothers when they went calling around the neighbourhood, or did good works. For the most part though they took adbantage of their independence, doing just as they pleased.

Now Muriel rang the bell at May’s house. She was automatically allowed in by the maid, who conducted her to the morning room.

“We must make plans to go back to Perdiswell,” she said as soon as she saw May. “John will be home for his summer holidays. Do you remember, he invited us to have a picnic with him and his brother?''

“Perhaps we could cycle there one Sunday,'' May suggested. "It isn't far, and the exercise would be good for us.''

Cycling was becoming popular in Worcester. There was now a shop in the town which sold cycles. Both girls owned cycles, though they had yet to ride them on a long outing.

“I will write to John,'' said Muriel. "Perhaps we could go next Sunday, if that would suit you.''

"That would suit me,'' said May. "I look forwards to seeing John again.''

"Do remember that I am the one who wants to marry him,'' Muriel said somewhat sharply. "You could see what you think of his younger brother, Harold.'

"You shouldn't presume that your are the only one whom John likes,'' said May, standing her ground. "Harold is far too young for us. As I recall he is very shy and withdrawn.''

"There you are!'' said Muriel, pretending to tease. "You are also shy and withdrawn.''

May, who was in no way shy, did not react.

"I was thinking,'' Muriel continued "that we should also visit the Tree girls this summer. They might appreciate some company. Should I write to them and ask if that would be suitable?''

"Indeed you should,'' said May. "I would enjoy seeing them again.''

A year had passed since May had left the Worcester High School for Girls, which was run by Miss Alice Ottley. Muriel had left the same school two years prior to May. The school had offered instruction in English, French, German, Music, and Art. It served as a preparatory school for Cambridge University, and was also a local examination centre for entrance to the Royal College of Art and the Royal College of Music.

Muriel had taken every possible class in art, and May in music. Some of May's classes were taught by Edward Elgar, whose father owned the local piano shop.

Muriel duly sent a letter to Margaret and Jessie Tree, asking if she and May might call on them. She also wrote to John Day.

The Trees had eight children. Margaret, aged 18, and Jessie, 16 were the eldest of them. They lived in Camphill Road, Worcester. Mr Tree was a well-known solicitor, and his office in High Street was up-to-date, being equipped with a telephone. Besides his other legal duties he was a commissioner for oaths, a deputy clerk of the peace and a member of the committee which supervised the running of the local museum.

The house in which the Trees lived was huge. It contained eight bedrooms, a study, a music room, games rooms, and there was an adjoining coach house. Mr Tree, thoroughly modern in his thinking, owned a car.

So Muriel posted her letters, then she an May impatiently waited for replies.

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