Psssst …

Do you wanna know a secret? Then come a little closer …

… closer …

*whispers* There it goes.

Spring 1817, somewhere north of the Tweed


When the century was still in its teens, and on one surprisingly sunshiny day in April, there drove up to rusty gate of Miss Pinkerton’s academy for young ladies, on Chiswick Lane, a large, battered coach, with two fat horses and a rotund coachman, his face mottled with hectic red. A scrawny youth, who sat on the box beside the rotund coachman, bit his nails, tugged at his sweaty hair, and scrambled down the box as soon as the coach drew up opposite Miss Pinkerton’s spotted brass plate. St. Cuthbert’s Academy for Young Ladies, it read with old-fashioned, un-neoclassical flourish. One corner was dented, and below the letters somebody had scratched a leering face. It might have been the depiction of a gargoyle, or perhaps the scratcher had simply not been used to working with brass. But the scrawny youth ignored these artistic endeavours altogether and instead pulled the bell, hard enough to make it bleat like a Doomsday trumpet. At the din, at least a score of young heads were seen peering out of the narrow windows of the once stately brick house.

Indeed, the bell sounded loud enough to be heard even in Miss Pinkerton’s private upstairs parlor, where she was presently entertaining two of her hopeful pupils with seed-cake and her usual parting speech. The latter typically covered topics such as The Evils Of The World Outside, Be True To Thyself, and Upholding the Spirit Of St. Cuthbert’s Even & Especially In Times Of Adversity (this part also involved a discourse on the importance of Carrying Your Needlework With You At All Times).

Hope you liked it. 🙂

P.S.: You can sort of tell that I taught Thackeray last summer. *g*

3 thoughts on “Psssst …

  1. Laura Vivanco

    I do like it, but can I ask a few questions?

    Is this set in Scotland (since it’s “north of the Tweed”)? If so, it might be better to avoid having a lane which reminds one of Chiswick, which is an area of London.

    The name “Pinkerton” reminds me of the famous detective agency. Is that deliberate? Wikipedia also mentions, in its list of notable Pinkertons,

    John Pinkerton (17 February 1758 —10 March 1826) […] a British antiquarian, cartographer, author, numismatist, historian, and early advocate of Germanic racial supremacy theory” and Lieutenant Pinkerton, a character in Madam Butterfly.

    You’ve repeated the phrase “rotund coachman.”

    “pulled the bell, hard enough to make it bleat like a Doomsday trumpet” – “bleat” makes me think of sheep, not trumpets.

    Sorry. I can’t seem to stop myself from making detailed comments about small issues.

    Anyway, what I really, really want to know is, what happens next?

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