The Grand Tour

I know a secret! And as I am simply bursting with it, I shall tell you, Dear Reader, as I know you shan't tell a soul. The secret is this: Adelaide is in love with Arthur!

A better match I cannot imagine, for he is tall and handsome (if constantly filthy), and knows everything there is to know about trains. He told me that even after Samuel inherits the train, he will probably stay on to help, as this family is as good as his own after working here so many years. And Samuel cannot do everything by himself, especially if the littlest boy decides to go and do something else to earn his living instead of staying with his brother. It is clear that he loves Adelaide, because his tone changes when he speaks to her, and his eyes get all misty and far-away whenever he looks at her. It is so romantic!

Adelaide tries to act as though she does not love him back, giving cool answers to his questions and pretending not to notice when he reaches out to steady her when the train hits a particularly bad bump, but I know better, for when she saw me with Arthur earlier, she got such a look on her face! I have never had much practice flirting, having lived amongst girls my entire life, only venturing into town on brief, strictly-monitored educational trips, but I suppose I have read enough romances and done enough daydreaming to get by well enough, for Arthur was blushing bright red and shuffling his feet and ruffling the back of his hair like nothing I've ever seen before! And ooh did it upset Adelaide, though she did her best to pretend that she did not care. I only did it, of course, to test my theory that Adelaide felt more for him than she let on. I've no reason to flirt with a dirty train conductor's apprentice whom I shall never see again after a few more days, even if he does have the prettiest eyelashes I have ever seen on a man.

Oh dear, I have gone and got ahead of myself now. I suppose I had better back up and "begin at the beginning" like I would always tell Maggie when she came running in to relate a story to me.

Now I have wasted several minutes crying. I began by crying about Maggie, and crying about Maggie made me cry about Miss P__, and that made me cry about the girls, and that made me cry about the sweet little dormitory with hand-pieced quilts made by volunteer church ladies, and then I couldn't stop! Oh! How I miss them all! But no, I must get a hold of myself and move forward, looking back only fondly, not with tears.

I think I am all right now.

About Adelaide and Arthur: Adelaide returned for me last night as she said she would, and brought me through all the train cars to the very end, where she and her family live. We passed a couple more cars like mine, full of nothing but people and seats, three on one side and two on the other, all facing front. Then the dining car, which I had peeped into before. The tables are indeed bolted down, but the chairs are not. Adelaide said the train does not rock that badly. She said her father would say I "hadn't got my train-legs yet," but that I was lucky not to be sick, as some are on trains. How terribly unpleasant, to always be running off to the water closet when one is trying to have an adventure!

After the dining car were several cars with private compartments. The corridor here was along one side and very narrow, with the compartments all boxed in with sliding doors and little windows, which could have a curtain pulled across them from the inside for privacy. Adelaide said that beds can be pulled down from the ceilings of the compartments, and that is her brother Samuel's job. How I wish I had known that when I was telling Maggie about Arabella! (Mustn't cry, mustn't cry.) I and my companions in my care have to sleep sitting up in our seats, in plain view of fifty other people!

"I hate bringing the food cart to these compartments," she whispered to me as we passed through. "Since they can afford private rooms, the people are too snobby to eat anywhere but the real dining car, and think my food cart is beneath them, even though Mum's pastries are much better than most of what Ethel can make. Er, don't tell her I said so, though." Ethel, I assumed, was the cook, and was soon proven right. "But I have to stop at each compartment at least once, when there are new customers. If they tell me not to stop by again, I'm glad."

Beyond these cars were several for entertainment: a smoking car, which we hurried through due not only to the smoke, but to the men occupying the comfortable chairs there; a gaming car, with tables and chairs like the dining car, but with shelves full of board games and decks of cards, as well as magazines and some novels (which I made note to peruse later); and a music car where, upon occasion, musicians are brought in to play for paying customers (Adelaide's next-oldest sister sells tickets), or clockworks trained to play instruments.

Then we came upon the Kyntons' private cars. First was the kitchen. Adelaide briefly introduced me to Ethel, the cook, who was hacking up vegetables for soup. It smelled delicious, but Adelaide hurried me on before I could say much more than "Hello" and glance around. Everything was very neat and compact, but otherwise it looked like a normal kitchen.

The next car was a sort of parlour/school room. Her mother taught her and her siblings, as they could not, of course, attend regular school like other children. Books, pens, atlases, and the like lined the shelves on one wall. There was a table with straight-backed chairs at that end of the room, and two old, squashed-looking sofas facing each other at the other end. The whole place looked quite worn and patched-up, but I was used to seeing such things and proclaimed it very quaint. Adelaide didn't think I would want to see the sleeping compartments, but on the contrary, I told her I did, very much.

There were four rooms in the next car, connected by a narrow hallway like in the cars with private compartments. The furthest one was the water closet, the other three bedroom compartments. She and her two sisters, as well as Ethel and Mary, the maid, shared one, which she showed me. The middle one belonged to her two brothers and Arthur, Mr. Kynton's apprentice, and the furthest one to Mr. and Mrs. Kynton.

There are three sort of cubbies on each wall in Adelaide's room, on the left and the right as you enter, and each cubby holds a mattress, pillow, and blankets, with a little built-in shelf at the head of the "bed" for a book and a lamp and whatever other little personal items one might wish to keep there. From bottom to top, each cubby is only a couple of feet tall, so that one cannot even sit up in it. Adelaide's is the topmost one on the left, with her middle sister, Ella, beneath her, and the littlest one, Matilda (called Mattie) on the bottom in case she rolls out in the night, as she is sometimes, apparently, wont to do. Ethel is opposite her, with Mary above. There is very little room between to stand and dress, so I suppose they must have to take turns. On the wall opposite the door are nothing but shelves and drawers, where the girls and women keep all their clothes and things.

"It seems to me you have very little privacy in this place," I said.

"Yes, indeed," said Adelaide with a wry smile. "But I have certain secret places where I can go to escape, when it gets to be too much."

"Where?" I asked.

She only smiled, and said, "If I told you, they wouldn't be secrets," then laughed, making me laugh as well.

"I know how it is, being always surrounded by people. I was one in twenty-five or so, depending on the year, at the orphanage where I grew up."

"You--" She checked herself. "Oh," she said softly, and averted her eyes. "I'm sorry."

I was used to this reaction, though I had not many interactions with strangers. "It's all right," I said as lightly as I could manage. "It is all I have ever known, and I am rarely sad about it. Anyway, I am on a quest to discover my family--any remaining relatives, I mean--so do not fret for me. I am quite as happy as a girl in my position could be." And I smiled at her to reassure her.

"Well I... I am glad of it," she said. A moment passed in silence. "Would you like to come and sit down? I can get us some tea from the kitchen, and perhaps a few biscuits."

"Oh, no I'm fine, thank you," I said, following her back through to the parlour car and thinking that I had already spent probably more than I should have that day.

As if reading my thoughts, Adelaide quickly said, "It's on me, of course! Or my family, rather. But you're my friend, there's no need for you to pay when you're a guest in my home. Please, sit," she said, and motioned toward one of the lumpy sofas. "I'll be right back."

I was alone for a few minutes while she, presumably, was begging tea and biscuits from Ethel. I studied the alphabet on the wall over the school table, which was homemade and very pretty. The letters were cut out of coloured paper and had little shapes drawn on them; apples on "A" and bugs on "B" an so on. Apparently some of the children were still young enough to need it; I did not know their exact ages as Adelaide had not told me.

I was about to get up and look more closely at the books on the wall when the far door (the one to the bedroom car) slid open and a young man stepped in. I did not recognize him for a moment--his longish brown hair was loose from the tie he usually kept it in, and damp, and I could actually see the colour of his skin as it was not coated with blackness-- but it was the same filthy man I'd seen a few times walking back and forth between cars. His clothes, also, were clean, though much stained and patched, and all in an off-white colour, just like Adelaide's and just like mine.

He stood just inside the doorway, staring at me. It took me a moment to put it together, but then I smiled at him and said, "You must be Arthur."

Though the dumbfounded look on his face had begun to fade, it returned again when he heard me, a stranger, call him by name. "Yes?" He took another half-step in.

"I am Miss Bernice Greenwater, a friend of Miss Kynton's."

"Of Adelaide's?" This was the first time I noticed that he had feelings for her, for his voice was softer when he spoke her name, and he seemed eager to hear anything I had to say of her.

"Yes, I'm in car three. She invited me here and has gone to fetch tea."

"Oh, I.... see." Finally he crossed the little room, and I stood (shakily) as he drew near, his hand outstretched. "Arthur Matthews," he said, "though I think you knew that already."

"I did," I smiled, taking his hand and shaking it. I wobbled a bit and kept hold of his hand. "I shall never become accustomed to this terrible rocking," I said with a laugh.

"You do get used to it, after a while," he said. "It didn't take me much more than a week, though I suppose you'll be off before then?"

"I've a few more days, I think. I'm going to Reliance, Madison. Is that much further?"

At this moment, Adelaide reentered with a tray in her hands, and Arthur was unable to answer. I realized that our hands were still joined, and let go quickly, especially after seeing the angry (though quickly-hidden) flash in Adelaide's eyes at the sight of us.

"Arthur," she said, coming in and setting the tray on the table between the sofas. "You're off early tonight."

"Your father said it's easy going for a while as we're starting across the plains. He won't need me to take over til past midnight, so he sent me to clean up, eat, and get a few hours of sleep before I go back."

"That was nice of him," she said shortly, and sat on the sofa opposite me.

Dear Reader, I do hate to leave you in suspense, but my hand is absolutely going to fall off if I write another line, and my head aches from trying to write in the light of one dim lamp so as not to wake my fellow travelers, so I shall continue the rest of the tale tomorrow. Goodnight!

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