Mrs. Simpson's Journal

Mrs Emma Jane Simpson


20th September 1831
While I shall continue my story  soon, I cannot forbear to speak of that daft Nelly - her who I branded with a poker last Yuletide*.
This time she hath been with one of the other girls to the lending library wherein they have discovered The World of Fashion. Fashion indeed for the great, daft lumpkin! 
Howsomever, remembering my scarlet stockings, I remained close-lipped when nothing would do but for one of the stable lads to fashion her a new pair of pattens.  Having sewn herself a modish gown for her going-out best, she was not wont to return with the bottom coated in horse-droppings, nor lights or entrails from the butcher or the fishmonger. So..
"Fashion them high, Davey, do" says she. "Higher than all the other girls. For my new gown be more prodigious pretty than any of 'em 'ave got."
And fashion them high is  what young Davey does - him being simple of mind, I am sure.
When first I spied her clip-clopping away alongside the Level, I'd to stuff a handkerchief in my mouth to stiffle my mirth - she looked for all the world like one of they Mummers - those that do walk on long poles like the fen people of Lincolnshire! Staggering and swaying, she passed me by unnoticed, so grimly did she cling to her companion's arm as she towered above her, petticoats aflapping in the sea breeze.
But woe to Daft Nelly when finally she collapsed into my kitchen that evening! 
Her bonnet having slipped down over one eye, she had a rakish air to her that was belied by the strings of hair that had escaped and hung around her face like a hoyden. The deep frill of her pride and joy - her new yellow gown - was coated with manure and wound out behind her like a bedraggled serpents tail; all pulled adrift from her gown and showing her second best petticoat, to her eternal shame.  Half-way up the skirt of her gown was a muddy patch with a hole that went deep through her petticoats and pantaloons and revealed a red-raw patch of knee still leaking blood; and the heel wrenched clean off one of her boots. Of the pattens there was no sign, but Emily did whisper that Nelly had sat in the mud puddle where she had landed when toppled from them, and had hurled them away downtowards the Stein as if she would throw them into the sea!
"Oh Mrs. Simpson" young Nellie did sob, as she sat by the fire with me, one leg propped upon my lap for the cold poultice I were applying to her ankle, all red and blue and swollen where it had twisted when her heel had broken.
"Oh Mrs. Simpson, I were that mortal ashamed!"  she burst into another anguished wail that minded me of Tib the cat when upon his night-time business. "There was I, for all the world to see, and not a stitch of lace or a silken ribbon to my petticoat!!" 
I slapped the poultice,  cold from the depths of the well, around her swollen foot." AAwww" she shrieked lustily, so we knew she had not harmed her voice-box, at any rate.
"And you all do know of my best petticoat, with its pretty blue flowers Emily hath sewn upon it, and the lace that cost me a whole sixpence!" She hid her face in her hands sounding heart-broken.
"Aye" I reminded her - " and we all do know as how you wouldn't wear it because Catherine had not brought down the goffering iron from Miss Martha's dressing room.  So you stamped your foot and sulked and looked daggers upon poor Catherine who would never hurt a fly!"
"Oh! Oh!  I am a wicked girl indeed, Mrs. Simpson!"
At that I did worry, for it were not at all like Nellie, and I did wonder if her adventure had addled her wits. 
But there! She is but a young girl, and never away from her Mam before, and unused to the excitements of a big city like Brighton.  'Twas more likely that which had addled her brains.
 But she did look so woebegone as to break your heart!
So John Coachman, who had come in to see if the shrieks meant Deadly Murder, stoked up the fire and brought in more coal; and was gentleman enough not to look upon the naked, bleeding knee.  And little Emily promised that she would mend the second-best petticoat and sew blue flowers upon it too, and Catherine, released from her duties with Miss Martha, did take it upon herself to make up a pot of tay for all to sup.
At length, as we sat sipping from our cups, a little snort escaped from Emily, to be hastily swallowed with her tay.  Catherine caught her eye and a tiny smile began to play around her mouth before being hidden by her handkerchief.
But it were John Coachman who was our undoing, as he said ruminating:
"Ah well. Forby they do say that Brighton be good for whatever ails ye. They do flock here for to drink that nasty water up by St. Ann's Well; and throw themselves into the waters of the sea for to take a cure.  You mark my words" and he managed to puff away at his old briar and smile at the same time.
"Come 3 o clock tomorrow, when all do promenade along the Steine, you'll see all the young ladies from the Square a-sitting down in all the mud-puddles as far as the eye can see. They will all be sure our Nelly hath stolen a march on 'em and each will be resting her bottom in the muddy waters telling all and sundry about the latest Cure!"
Ah! Many were the ambitions I had as a young girl myself, and many are the places I've gone and things I have seen.  But to gather round the fire with a full belly, and a cup of tay to one's elbow to chase away the wintery chill; to dry a young girls tears and to see them turn to laughter?  These quiet contentments, methinks, can never be with money bought.