A sheet of printed paper landed at our feet, swept along with the autumn leaves by our governess’s skirt. Isabella – she preferred Bella – picked it up and read: ‘OGDEN’S EXTRAORDINARY EMPORIUM – ONE NIGHT ONLY’. The spidery black words filled us with anticipation. The address was not far from the house where we lived with our governess. Our parents both died after being pulled from the wreck of the train in which the famous writer Charles Dickens had been travelling. We felt an affinity with Dickens, devoured his books, and attended as many of his readings as we could afford on the inheritance our parents had left us.
“What do you think, Dora?’ My name is Isadora but, like Bella’s, we shorten it in private. “What might we find at an extraordinary emporium that is open for one night only?”
We scanned the flyer for further details. It was happening that night. We had to go.
Miss Pecksniff, our governess, waited by the fountain in the centre of the park, scowling as we strolled along the path. I slipped the flyer into my reticule.
“Come along girls!” she said, waving us through the gates. We were no longer girls, but she treated us like children.
We breathed a sigh of relief as Miss Pecksniff turned left, in the direction that would take us past the venue. As we neared it, we craned our necks. It was a bottle factory that had been closed only recently after a fire. We looked at each other and nodded.
We hastened to keep up, Miss Pecksniff was anxious to retire to her room. We would have plenty of time on our own to plan for the night ahead and discuss what we might find at the Emporium. Bella was interested in astronomy. She was hoping to find models of the universe or a decent-sized telescope, for which she had been squirreling away her allowance, going without ribbons and other treats, which we both agreed were unnecessary frills forced on young ladies. I was more interested in biology and botany. I grew exotic plants rather than the usual aspidistra, ferns, and parlour palms, in a hothouse attached to our conservatory.
Kim M. Russell, 30th May 2021
Image found on Pinterest
This will be my last post for a while, as I’m taking a break to visit my daughter and grandson during June and my sister in September; in between I’ll be editing my husband’s memoir, working on a pamphlet, and trying to finish a YA novel.
Because this story is too long to link to the Writers’ pantry, I have split it into two parts. Here is the link for the second part