Charlotte's Story

Newburn 1829
Charlotte could not remember a time when she and John did not live in Aunt Jane’s small cottage just outside the gates of Newburn Hall, She and John had been orphaned at the ages of 3 and 4 years old, respectively and Aunt Jane was the only parent they knew.  She did her best for them on the small income she received from an inheritance.  They did not have much growing up; however they were well loved by their dear aunt.

She did remember when John was sent to the parish day school when it first opened.  She also remembered Aunt Jane trying to soothe her when she cried that she was not allowed to go as well.
“It would not be proper for a little girl to attend school with young boys; we will continue your education here at home.” She smiled and continued, “There are many domestic skills that I can teach you, which will enable you to be a good wife and mother one day.”

Charlotte pouted, She did not want to be a good wife; she wanted to go to school with John, read books, and travel to London and beyond. She knew that she had no hope of going to school with John, but she would read every book in the circulating library, when she was older, and she would find her way to London and beyond one day.  This was not only her hope, but was a promise she made to herself that day after John went off to school.

Aunt Jane took the mending from Charlotte’s hand that morning, and replaced it with one of her beloved drawing pencils and handed her a small slip of paper from her drawing book. “Let us try a hand at drawing,” said Aunt Jane. “Why don’t you start with a circle?”

Newburn 1838

Charlotte opening the door of the draper’s shop stepped out to the High Street. She had picked out some calico and muslin, intended for new spring dresses. Charlotte would copy fashion plates of the latest fashion from London, and created lovely frocks, that were the envy of the neighborhood.

A blustery wind chilled her as she quickly turned onto Church Street. She collided into the Rev. Stephenson, spilling her packages onto the road.

“Miss Percy, I do beg your pardon,” he declared breathlessly. Bending to help gather the scattered packages, he continued. “I’m in such a rush; I have been informed of a serious accident at the steel works. Two carriages, racing, when they struck a wagon coming from the mill, there are surely injuries.“ He smiled bleakly, as he handed her the packages. “I must go and see if there is anything I can do. “
“Oh my, that is dreadful!” "Certainly you must be on your way.”

“Miss Percy, John still works at the steel mill?
“Yes, he is a clerk in the offices.” “Oh, no! You don’t think he could be injured?” She cried.

The Vicar put his hand gently on her shoulder to comfort her. “I'm sure he's fine, and will be home soon. Have his tea ready and wait with your aunt until he comes.” He smiled and took his leave.

Charlotte arrived at the cottage and told her aunt her worries for John’s safety. Certainly, he would have been in the office and not the yard or the road. Undoubtedly he couldn’t be among the injured. These concerns swirled through their conversation that afternoon

Aunt Jane had managed to send John to the parish school, where he had thrived under the instruction of the Rev. Stephenson. A good student, he should have continued his education, but for the money. Finishing his schooling, he went to work at the steel mill as a sweeper in the office. Mr. Spenser, owner of the mill, discovered and encouraged John’s ability with figures. Charlotte is proud that John is now junior clerk in the accounting room, using his small salary, to help his aunt and sister.

“Surely, he was in the office and not one of the injured,” Charlotte said aloud. She tried to put away worries and help Aunt Jane with tea. Setting the water to boil, she heard a noise.


Flinging the door open she again collided with the vicar. Smiling, he supported Charlotte in his arms and announced, “I brought John, and he invited me to tea. I hope that's convenient.”


Lemmington, England 1840

Charlotte was wandering through the church yard cemetery toward the bench where she often enjoyed sketching the church and parish school where her husband, Edward was vicar. Edward had mentioned yesterday at tea about an unusual epitaph, so now she zigzagged through the stones and monuments looking for the grave stone. She soon found it in the older section of the cemetery, where stones had been up turned, lopsided and weathered. The dates around it were of the last century. No name was carved on the stone, only a verse:
Here lies a miser who lived for himself, who cared
for nothing but gathering wealth.
Now where he is and how he fares;
nobody knows and nobody cares
“How wry and pitiable to be known; only as a miserly man. “ She thought aloud. There was a pretty aspect of the parsonage in the distance, so she set about sketching it quickly. She wanted to get back to the parsonage and show it to Edward, before tea time.
Charlotte and Edward had been married just a short six months. She had met him ten years ago when he first arrived in the village of Newburn as Deacon of the parish. She was but a child of twelve.  With her parents long dead, she and her brother John resided with their spinster aunt, in a small cottage at the edge of Newburn Hall. With her tiny income, Aunt Jane was able to teach them to read and enjoy books from the circulating library. She encouraged Charlotte’s drawing and was able to send John to the Parish Day School for several years. That was where they made the acquaintance of the young deacon, Edward Stephenson.

Aunt Jane would often tell them reminiscences of her youth when she and their mother were young ladies of wealth and standing in the neighbourhood, but nothing was said of how they became so impoverished. She was also silent on the circumstances of their parent’s marriage and death. One of the stories that neighbours told, was that Aunt Jane and their mother had been at the mercy of a miserly relative who did nothing to put them forward in society, leaving them nothing but the cottage and a tiny inheritance.

As the years passed, her brother eventually went to work clerking for the Newburn Steel Works. This supplemented the small income of their aunt and by living carefully; they enjoyed a satisfactory life with a small circle of friends. With no dowry, Charlotte had little expectations of making a good marriage. So everyone was surprised when, after receiving a church living of his own, Edward proposed.

Charlotte now securely ensconced in the parsonage of Holy Saviour Church, Lemmington, seemed unconcerned by the circumstances of her former life. She opened her book to look again at the sketch before showing Edward her drawing. She observed the gravestone in the foreground, thinking it ruined the sketch of her lovely home and began to fill it in with flowers and grasses. 'That is much better," she thought.
Lemmington, England
June 30, 1842
Dear Brother,
I have delight in telling you of the birth of our son over last fortnight.  I have recovered well from my confinement and Edward is happy in his boy.  Aunt Jane has been with me since I was brought to bed and announced the child looks just as you did as an infant. We have named him John Edward, after yourself and his father. We look forward to your visit in July, little John looks forward to meeting his favorite Uncle.
Aunt Jane will remain here with us in the parsonage, only to return to Newburn at summer’s end.  Edward and I hope we can persuade her to make her home with us as I worry that her cottage may prove too much a burden in her old age. When you visit, you must urge her to remain with us.
While you continue with us this summer, we hope you can become acquainted with our neighbor Mr. Carbury. He is a fine and amiable neighbor and tradesman in our village. He has recently asked Edward if he might have knowledge, of a person, able to assist him in his carting trade.  Edward was happy to be able to give him your name and knowledge of your clerking and accounting proficiency. Edward trusts, you could be useful to Mr. Carbury and this could be very advantageous to your future prospects.
I wish also, you to become acquainted with the Misses Carbury, his younger sister and his daughter of about the same age. They are gentle young ladies of agreeable disposition whose presence enhances the parsonage on many evenings. I have made them aware of your pleasant countenance, and good manners. Your connection Edward and the parsonage can only recommend you to them and the neighborhood.
I have every reason to be thankful for the Providence that brought Edward and our child to me. The distance I am from my closest relations often makes me uneasy and melancholy. My happiness would be complete if you and Aunt Jane would consider removing to our neighborhood. 
I am Affectionately
Your Sister,

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