Excerpt from From a Good Home: A St. John’s Family Saga
“I almost forgot. Mrs. Sinclair wanted me to dust the shelves in Mister’s room after I got Emily to sleep. Where would I find a cloth?”
Alva pointed to the cupboard by the back door. “In the bottom drawer.” Preoccupied with her polishing, she neglected to tell Hannah to wait until the Sinclairs were gone out before she ventured into the study. Hannah was gone before she could mention it.
At the end of the hallway, Hannah stood momentarily at the large wooden door, then gingerly turned the shiny brass knob and slowly pushed it open. She hadn’t been inside the room and was curious about it. She was surprised to find two lights on, and even more surprised to find Charles Sinclair sitting behind the desk at the far side of the room, between two tall, heavily draped windows. The desk, made of deep mahogany, was covered with papers and ledgers on top of a black leather ink blotter. A lamp with a brown shade shone across the desk. The sound of the door caused him to look up.
Hannah stood frozen in the doorway. “Oh, I’m very sorry, sir. But Mrs. Sinclair said to dust the shelves in here, and I thought while little Miss Emily was asleep I’d take care of that, but I didn’t know you’d be here, and I’ll leave again . . .” she gasped for breath.
“It’s fine,” he said with a half smile. “Hannah, isn’t it?”
“Go ahead, Hannah. You’re not bothering me.”
“Thank you,” she replied weakly, and went about her work.
At his desk, Charles momentarily laid down his pen and watched the young girl as she methodically moved the cloth across the leatherbound books on each shelf. Good worker, he thought. Rare these days. And a pretty smile.
“Do you like it here, Hannah?”
She kept on dusting as she answered, “Oh yes, it’s a beautiful house.”
“I meant, would you rather live in St. John’s than in your home? Falcon Cove?”
She stopped and turned around to face the desk. “I haven’t really thought about that, sir. St. John’s is a big place and it has so much. I met a girl who lives a few doors down. Her name is Caroline and she says she’s going to take me lawn bowling. Can you believe it? I’ve never been.” She shook her cloth. “But I miss my family.”
“You are close?”
Hannah didn’t understand the question. How can a family not be? But then there’s that crowd down harbour. She feigned an answer.
“Yes, I guess I am.”
“Then you are very fortunate.”
Later that night, as she lay in bed, Hannah’s mind raced through the events of the past two days, of meeting the Sinclairs and the rest of the staff. It was all so different from what she was used to. Warm rooms. Lights. Fruit and vegetables she had never seen before. Linen tablecloths, shiny crystal and silverware. She would have to tell her sister, Frances, that women like Mrs. Sinclair had a separate drawer full of gloves, day gloves and night gloves. Frances would be impressed with that.
Tonight’s encounter with Charles Sinclair left Hannah puzzled. He looked so hurt when he made that comment about her being fortunate. She wondered why.
From a Good Home: A St. John’s Family Saga
by Trudi Johnson
Flanker Press, April 2016