We continue the saga of our Victorian pupil, in the month of February.
Ross is living his life amidst the drudge of school but nevertheless finds ways of making the days go by. He seems to do so through practical jokes and by watching his friends instigate playful(?) rows at the College. On the 4th, Charles and his friends crow that they’ve ‘humbugged’ a classmate of theirs, for which they almost immediately get punished, on the 5th and the 6th, by one of the teachers. Thankfully, they decide that the trouble isn’t worth it and instead spend their energies on other pursuits, such as inventing their own secret alphabet. Thankfully, the diary is not written in this coded language, although Ross’s handwriting is arguably made-up of 19th-century hieroglyphs.
The pace really picks up on the 12th when Ross writes ‘I have given up the idea of sending the valentine. I do not think it good enough for her.’ Where did this come from? In the hours I have spent pouring over this tiny notebook, there has never been a mention of a love interest. Perhaps it is Alice, the girl who on the 4th of January asked little Charlie to be in a play? Perhaps it is Haly Morris, whom Charlies mentions on the 17th of January as a girl who ‘acted for him’ while he was sick. He writes that ‘he liked it very much.’ But how much do you like it Charles? Enough to send Miss Haly a valentine? Enough that you were too shy and lovestruck to send it at all? The drama continues to rise when he writes that he went to the post office ‘discreetly’ on the 13th. Presuming that he changed his mind and did send his valentine, he never specifies to whom. In fact, on February 14th he mentions only briefly
that he had received one the night before, but that his friend Blayet had not. Poor Blayet! And Charlie, you enigmatic young fellow! Will you ever confess to us the secrets of your heart?
If he had any secrets, they are not for us to find in his diary. The rest of the month passes rather smoothly and uneventfully. No illness, no romantic tragedy. Charlie usually places first or second in most of his classes, belying any sort of leaning towards mischief. Then, on the 25th our darling boy turns thirteen. He is no longer a child, but a teenager, with small loves, academic aspirations, secret languages, and a thirst for toeing the line. Much in the way of acting, his valentine is never mentioned again. But perhaps that is more the nature of the young; the passion of today is gone tomorrow, replaced with a brighter and better dream.
This post was written by Pattie Flint, who volunteers in the Brighton College Archive