The votes are in! The final tally is:
- Pauline Gray: 6
- Caledonia: 5
- Whitney & Davies: 4
I will admit, the results surprised me. I didn’t realize until after I counted up all the votes that I had fully expected Maia and Len to win by a landslide. Instead it was a tight race, and they came in third!
So, Pauline it is. In honor of the choice, here’s an unedited snippet from the third book, accompanied by an illustration borrowed from a fashion illustration of the 1930s.
“How about a cup of tea before you go, dear?”
Miss Lewis said this every time, and every time, Pauline smiled and accepted. She didn’t care very much for tea, but she had said “yes” the first time out of politeness, and now it had become something of a ritual.
She enjoyed watching Miss Lewis prepare the brew. First she brought the kettle to a boil while she washed out the flowered china teapot. Then she poured the boiling water into the pot to warm it while setting out the two delicate teacups and adding a cookie from her always-filled tin to each delicate saucer.
Once the pot was warmed, Miss Lewis emptied it, added the fragrant black leaves, filled it once again with boiling water, turned her three-minute hourglass over, set the fine wire mesh tea strainer over the first teacup, and at last, when the three minutes were up, poured the tea.
It was an elaborate process, and it put Pauline in mind of the Old World, and the ritual that afternoon tea had been in Victorian England. She appreciated this touch of European elegance into her life, and in truth, the flavor of the tea wasn’t so bad once one got over wishing it was coffee.
Today’s cookie was molasses, much to Pauline’s relief. Some days it was a peanut butter cookie, which took all her grace to eat without grimacing. Those were the days she had to hurry home and eat an apple or drink a glass of milk, anything to rid herself of that cloying taste and feel in her mouth.
Today, she was happy to linger over the tea, looking out the kitchen window at Miss Lewis’s garden. Mostly vegetables, there were occasional bursts of color and bloom from various types of old-fashioned flowers: sweet peas, peonies, narcissi, sweet-smelling lavender, and of course roses.
“There is such a peacefulness here,” Pauline said, a trace of wistfulness in her voice.
“I do love to give out my books and flowers. I let the neighborhood children pick flowers out of my garden to take home to their mothers, you see. They do the weeding that my arthritic hands can’t manage anymore.” Miss Lewis looked ruefully at her gnarled fingers. “That’s the way to get through life, Miss Gray. Give what you can to others, and allow them to give to you when you have need.”
Pauline’s motto was more along the lines of “take care of oneself and never be beholden to anyone,” but she thought Miss Lewis’s way was, perhaps, the better.
Cycling back home with Barchester Towers and Cranford nestled into her basket beside a nosegay of roses and campanula, she was sure of it.
That passage is from Secrets of the Past, and I hope you will enjoy meeting Miss Lewis as much as Pauline does, and the story that unfolds from that meeting.