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Day After Day: Six

Muriel and May visit the Tree household, and a huge family picnic is suggested.

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

Warren Tree was at home on the day when Muriel and May called at his home, at the invitation of his daughters Margaret and Jessie. He was a tall man, with light brown hair, pale blue eyes and a pleasant face.

“Miss King, may I congratulate you on the way you recited the poem at the Queen’s memorial service,'' he said by way of welcome. "Might I ask, did your great grandmother write much poetry?”

“All we have of it is the album which she left,'' Muriel replied. "She died in about 1850, so of course I never knew her. My mother says she was a prolific writer, but unfortunately most of her writings were lost. We do have an oil portrait of her. She is wearing a black dress and cloak and looks rather bemused, with her finger on her chin. Perhaps she was portrayed while she was in the process of composing a poem. The portrait hangs in our front hall, so I see it every day and think of her.

"There are around 50 poems in the album, and some of those I am sure she wrote because she initialed them M T, Martha Trew. I suspect she wrote others which are not initialed, because the penmanship is the same. However, there are other poems in different hands signed with different initials. I presume these were passed on to her by some of her friends. Some are signed with a complete name, and many are dated 1834.

“What would you and your mother think to the idea of having some of them printed?'' Mr Tree inquired. "My uncle, James Arrowsmith, is a printer in Bristol. Members of my family used to run a publishing firm here in Worcester, but when I was in my teens they moved to Bristol after buying a publishing house there.

“I spent a summer working as a reporter for my grandfather. He was often asked about the possibility of publishing books of poetry. Check with your parents, and if they approve of the idea you could bring me some of the best poems in the album, including the one you read about Queen Victoria. I could then see what my uncle thinks of them.''

“That sounds very exciting, Mr. Tree,'' said Muriel. "It would be a good endeavour to make the world aware of my great grandmother’s poetry.”

“Well, don’t put too much stock on it just yet. It was only when I heard you read the poem which so impressed me that I thought perhaps there may be more that can be done with the poetry.”

Margaret and Jessie, somewhat frustrated by this opening exchange, were eager to show Muriel and May into the front parlour so that they could all catch up on the latest gossip. Margaret had just left school, but Jessie had two more years to do before she completed her studies. Their younger sister Beth, a violin prodigy, would be starting at the school later in the year, there to take advantage of the tuition offered in its excellent music department. The Tree family was musical, both vocally and playing a variety of instruments.

"You know when you mentioned seeing the portrait of your great grandmother every day,'' Margaret began when the girls were finally alone. "Here's one I unfortunately see every day. Pa insisted on commissioning a portrait of his four eldest daughters. Just look at us. We look like four fat cherubs. Cherubs with curly blond hair. I wish the picture had never been painted, or at least it was hung where no visitors could see it.''

The girls examined a large oil painting which did not flatter the four sisters. A great deal was made of four mops of unruly curls. Margaret had been so pleased at the age of sixteen to be allowed to put her hair up into a bun, but blond strands seemed to be trying to escape from that bun.

After chatting in the parlour, the girls decided, since it was such a lovely day, to walk out towards Malvern, continuing their conversation in the open air. Muriel told of the letter she had reeived that morning from John Day, inviting her and May to cycle to Perdiswell on the following Sunday. After attending the church service he was proposing to show them something of the surrounding countryside, then they could enjoy a picnic prepared by his cook.

Margaret thought John sounded wonderful, expressing the hope that one day there would be a man like him in her life.

"He has several younger brothers,'' said Muriel. "May can have the eldest of them, Harold.''

May pulled a face.

"Perhaps your younger sisters might be interested in them,'' Muriel continued. "I am sure family outings lead to many marriages...''

May interrupted her. "I found out yesterday that my younger brother Tom is the best friend of one of John Day's younger brothers, Mark. Tom stayed at the Days' house on March 31, the day of the national census. He thought it funny that he might be listed as a Day rather than a Stinton.''

"March 31,'' said Muriel, somewhat piqued. "That was before we went to the church at Perdiswell. I am surprised Mrs Day did not make the link between you and your brother.''

"I don't suppose Tom was forthcoming in talking about his family with the Days,'' said May.

"Here's a thought,'' said Muriel, trying to regain the ascendancy. "Perhaps one of your younger sisters would be interested in marrying Tom Stinton, Margaret. Which one might it be? Beth is 14, Carrie 11. One of those?''

The girls giggled. Match-making was often foremost in their minds. Many girls in that time were married by the time they reached 20.

“I know,” said Margaret with sudden enthusiasm. “We often have family picnics. Why don’t we arrange for all our families to picnic together? Then we would see which boy would pair off with which girl. I'll put the suggestion to my mother and father.''

Mrs Tree, Juliana - fondly called Julie by her husband - was enthusiastic about the idea of a shared family picnic and said she would organise one.

Muriel and May were well-satisfied with their visit to the Trees when they eventually took their leave and set out for home.

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