My landlady, Mrs. Mac is given to moody. If she is displeased with me as often happens of late, breakfast is delayed or cold. I must eat and make my lunch before I leave for school and lately I am also making my dinner to take with me. So, I get dressed and go down. I step firmly down the narrow stairs telling myself that I have paid for my room and board and it had better be ready or I’ll give her a good blowing over. She knows that Pa or Uncle John will be here again if all is not just right for me.
This morning the kitchen is warm and I gratefully pour myself a cup of tea and serve myself porridge from the pot on the black stove. I stand close to the glowing behemoth savouring the warmth before I move to the scrubbed wooden table to eat my meal. The old lady is already seated and glowers at me over her tea. I brace myself for the questions I know are coming but I am determined not to be baited.
“I take it bad your going out so much since our Neilie came home,” she starts in on me. ”The whole neighbourhood will be remarking on your going out so much when my son is home. Indeed they already are.”
I could feel my face flush in anger but I did not reply. T’was none of their business if I went out and I was always careful to be brought home by some two or three from any household I visited so nothing could be said to that. Still not speaking, I made to rise from the table when the old lady’s daughters Miss Kate and Miss Sarah entered the room. Miss Sarah stood blocking the door and watched me gather up some bread and cheese and pickle for my lunch and dinner.
Miss Kate spoke sharply. “You’ve paid for your meals. That means you should take them here and be a bit more sociable especially when our brother is here.”
I whirled around to face her and replied just as sharp. “’Tis no loss to you when I go out and when I paid for my meals I could surely do as I chose.” I clenched my hands so tightly I could feel my nails digging in as I fought for control over my temper.
The old lady chided me again. ”Such an evil temper you have, Miss Jennie, but if you want to see real temper you will.” By now she was shouting. ”Why do you go out so much of an evening? And where do you go?”
Nell, at that my determination to remain calm evaporated and my response was sharp enough to halt their barrage. “There is sufficient reason for my absence as I am frozen by your coolness to me when I was not immediately smitten by Neil’s presence. Perhaps you thought it was my duty to be enamoured of your son? Who by the way, has been most courteous, far more so that any of you.”
”You could do much worse young woman. Neilie is a fine catch.”
By now I could not control my words and the anger and frustration of the past weeks poured out.“Yes, Neil is a fine man. Yes, he is ‘specially courteous. No, I am not interested in him or in marriage. You have all plotted and planned to throw us together in the house. I have a job, I have lessons to prepare, I have papers to grade. I cannot work here if you are forever pushing Neil at me. It is embarrassing for both of us. And, I have other friends who welcome me to visit.
“Don’t scream at me young woman” The old lady was white with rage. ”Your job means nothing. Women should only work until they find a husband and Neil is an excellent choice”
Oh, Nell, even writing this makes me angry. I must to bed. More tomorrow.