Sarah Ann Green Collins

Sarah Ann Green Collins
with her son Henry Hone circa 1916

SARAH ANN GREEN COLLINS...Evans...Hone...Barnes...Breen b.1862 d.1935

A thrice married Englishwoman immigrates to Canada with her 4 surviving children and marries a widowed Ottawa Valley farmer with two children of his own.

This is my paternal grandmother's story RE-IMAGINED lovingly by me.

To post I have to ask you read from #1 and thence backwards to the top of the page.

Hope there isn't Word protocol stuck between the lines now.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

#2 Banbury Oxfordshire Spring 1871 Market Day

Banbury Oxfordshire Spring 1871
Market Day
“Sarah Mother told you. You must hold my hand. If you let go one more time I’ll takeyou home.”
‘Yes Annie.’
I’m sure she won’t take me home. We haven’t done Mother’s shopping yet and she hasn’t seen any boys her age yet. I love going to the Market with Annie. Annie knows the names of everything and never makes me feel silly for asking. When I go with Mary she just tells me I’m too young to know all that she knows.
The smells of the fresh bread, the bleating of the lambs, the calls of the hawkers selling fabric, hats, baskets and my favourite sweetmeats. Mother can’t keep up with the baking on Market Day because of the extra travelers who’ll stop at our inn for a meal. Father says we can learn many things in the market that we can’t learn at home. Mary says three Collins sisters is one Collins sister too many to go shopping together. She says she’d rather stay home and help Mother. I hate it when she acts ‘the good daughter’. It’s so much nicer when Mary’s naughty and Annie and I are the good ones.Father says people come here from three counties to shop on Market Day.
“Sarah mind the horse droppings. You insisted on wearing your Sunday best. You must be careful. Auntie Dinah won’t be happy to wash your pinnie again before Sunday.”
“Yes Annie.”
‘Lift your skirts.”
“Father says Auntie Dinah is a spinster. Father says the Smallpox scared off all the suitors. Are you afraid of the Smallpox Annie?”
“Of course I’m afraid of the Smallpox. Look what it did to poor Auntie Dinah’s face.”
I love Auntie Dinah and I’m glad she came to visit. She is Mother’s youngest sister. She is kind and firm all at once. Dame Bennett could learn a lesson from Aunt Dinah. Dame Bennett has a stick especially for children who cannot say their sums. My sister Mary got the stick because she couldn’t add six plus eighteen. Even though Mary isn't my favourite sister I didn't like her getting the stick. I cried when Dame caned Mary but I didn’t let Dame see. Dame sent Mary home to Father when Mary stuck her tongue out at her. Father doesn’t believe hitting children makes them learn. He sent a letter to Dame Bennett in his best hand. It said Dame Bennett wasn’t to cane any of his precious children. Simply send them home to him to punish. That night Mary did many sums after chores but after our chores Annie and I got to sit in our beds and read. Mary said she didn’t care but I felt her shaking when she got in bed and I know she was crying.
“Mind your pinnie on that sheep stall. Those lambs have been sucking the wood.”
“Yes Annie.”
I’m wearing my white pinnie and Annie let me wear her hair ribbon that matches my blue dress. Mary says that ribbons are for babies but she won’t give me her old ribbons. She hoards them in her box and says for me not to touch them. My boots are black hand-me-downs from Mary and Father shined them for me last night. When Father shines our boots they look like new. He says it’s the spit he uses at the end. Father has the best spit. Father kissed us both said we are very smartly dressed and he is proud of us.
“Annie did you see Mary making faces at us when we left?”
‘Yes Sarah I did. I don't care if but she is at home and
thinks herself clever for getting Mother and Father all to herself because we are at
the market just the two of us having an adventure. “
“I’d rather spend time with you Annie. You don’t boss me the
way Mary does.”
Annie squeezes my hand, “You’re my favourite little sister. I’ll bet you’d like to go down one more aisle of animals before we go around Banbury Cross to the food stalls”
“Oh do let’s go down one more aisle. I love the baby animals.”
“Silly goose .You know they’ll all be eaten anyway.”
“Why do you tell me that? I hate knowing that.”
Sometimes Annie can act too grown up. I know she’s going to preach to me about how ‘God gives us the animals to our use'. And she does. I answer, “God should not make them so beautiful.”
The lamb is imploring me with her dark eyes to save her. I can just reach her soft black nose and scratch it. She nuzzles my hand. I’ll never eat lamb again.
“Sarah get your hand out of there. What if it bites??
“She won’t bite. Animals like me. You’ve heard the horses nicker when I go in the stable.”
“That’s because you always take them an old carrot or a shriveled up apple. Father calls that ‘belly-love.”
That’s not true. The horses really like me. I can go in their stalls while the groom is brushing them and they lower their velvet noses for a pat and snuffle their warm breath in my palm even when I don’t give them a treat.
I can see some of the neighbour boys skylarking about the cattle pens. They are walking the board fences like circus tightrope walkers. I watch Annie as the boys watch her. Annie holds her head high and pretends not to see them. Since she has turned fourteen and pins her hair up she says she must act ‘a lady’. Mother told her fathers are watching her to see if she’s enough of a lady to marry their sons. So I hold my head up like Annie and when I stumble over my own feet and fall into the fence I decide I’m not ready to act ‘a lady’.I regain my footing but now Annie’s got the giggles and we can barely walk for laughing.
“Am I really that funny?”
“Little sister you are funny and sweet. I hope I have a little girl as sweet as you someday.”
“Annie are you going to get married and move away?”
“Move away? Now where did that question come from?”
“Mother told me Granny Bryer was sad when she married Father and moved to Towcester and that was only seven miles away.”
“Mother tells altogether too many sad stories.”
“Well I won’t ever get married but if I do I’ll live right here at The Bear with Mother and Father.”
“I’ll get married one day but I promise I’ll never move far away.”
“Promise Annie. Cross you heart and hope to die.”
“Promise,” says Annie as she crosses her heart and points heavenward.
“Who will you marry?”
“I don’t know but Father says it will have to be a good marriage.”
“What’s a good marriage? One like our Mother and Father’s?”
Annie hesitates just a moment, “Yes like Mother and Father. A good marriage is based on love. But Father says a man must also prove he can keep a wife if they are to marry one of his daughters. A man who has a trade.”
“You mean they trade you for something else?”
“Not that kind of trade, silly. A trade is being a blacksmith or a carpenter.”
Father was a blacksmith like his brothers and Grandpa Collins until his hip was badly broken. He was shoeing a skittish mare when she reared and came down hard. Father has a big limp. Father says the mare was not to blame, that owner had mistreated her and made her skittish. That’s what I like about Father. He’s kind to horses just like me.
“Sarah can you hear the canaries? See those yellow birds in cages. Aren’t they beautiful?”
“Why are they in cages? I don’t like cages.”
“You can buy them for a pet and take them home in the cage.”
”Can you let them out of the cage when you get them home?”
“No they’d fly away. You keep them in the cage and they’ll sing for you every day.”
“I’d never sing if I were in a cage. If I had all the pounds in Banbury I’d buy all the canaries and let them loose.”
“Sarah if you had all the pounds in Banbury you’d spend them on sweetmeats and books.”
Maybe Annie is right about the sweetmeats and books. I’m reading ‘Alice in Wonderland’. I love the part where she gets really big. I’d like to be bigger than Mary. I might buy just one canary and set it free. My canary would sing outside my bedroom window every morning at dawn just to reward me for freeing it. No, that’s not a good idea. Mary and I share the bed beside the window and she doesn’t like to wake up early. Mary makes me get out of bed first to get our morning wash water because I’m the youngest. I know. I’ll train my canary to sing only at teatime.
“This is the end of the livestock stalls. I’m glad the pigs were last. I cannot bear the smell, ”Annie sniffs into her favourite lace hankie holding it against her pointed nose. Mother says she has Granny Collins’ nose. A nose for gossip.
“Sarah take my hand. We’ll go down the next aisle to the baker’s. We need to get the bread and buns. Father said to be back in an hour and Mary will make sure he knows when that hour is up.”
“Yes Annie. I’m going to buy Mother a Banbury bun. They’re her favourite.”
Mother has been smiling more since we moved to The Bear and not lying in bed all the day. She was always sad and almost always in bed when we lived in Leighton-Buzzard at The Greyhound. Father calls her sad days ‘remembering George days’. It’s because my only brother George died when he was a baby before I was born. Mary says I can’t miss someone who died before I was born. She says only she and Annie can miss him properly. Just because I didn’t know him doesn’t mean I didn’t want to. When Mother’s having her sad days and doesn’t hear me I tell Father that George is listening to me instead. Father says George is our special angel. That’s another reason I like Father. He believes in angels.
“Sarah please walk faster. I’m hot and these bonnet ribbons feel like they are cutting my head from my neck.”
We’re passing the first baker’s stall and everything looks delicious. I see Banbury Cakes in rows and lovely smelling bread and buns. But Annie has my hand and rushes us on, intent on going to Baker Jones stall.
“Annie you love wearing that bonnet. I saw you look at yourself in the hall mirror and smile.”
“You did not Sarah Collins. The vicar says that vanity is a sin and I am not a sinner.”
I did see Annie looking in the mirror and she knows it. Mother hung it high so that we wouldn’t be tempted to gaze at ourselves. I saw Annie take a stool from the pub and kneel on it to see in the mirror. I saw her from the stairway landing. She even pinched her cheeks to make them pink. When I tried it I got red marks like midge bites. I’ll say a prayer for Annie’s vanity at Matins this Sunday. Annie is my prettiest sister. Her hair’s the colour of a copper penny and it’s ever so curly. My hair is black and too shiny and won’t stay in its pins. Maybe if I got some vanity my hair would be like Annie’s and the cheek pinching would work.
“Here’s the stall with the best Banbury Cakes. Don’t they look wonderful?” Annie said as she bobbed and blushed at Baker Jones.
“Now where did I put Mother’s list?” she said shaking her head.
“Now you’re the silly goose. Mother gave me the list. It’s here in my pinnie pocket.” On the way home from Market Annie and I carry our cloth bags carefully out in front of us to avoid squashing the buns. Even though we are close to the inn I have to put my bag down to rest my aching arms. Annie says keep walking, as she knows by the clock tower that our hour is almost up. Around the corner of the last stall comes Martin Jones, Baker Jones' son and Annie stops walking causing me to bump into her and we both drop our bags. Martin stops and helps us put the buns back in the bags. Lucky for us we were on a grassy bit or we would have dirty buns for the travellers’ tea and Mary would have been happy to see us in trouble.
Martin whispered something in Annie’s ear and she blushed from her neck to her cheeks that saem blush she had when our cousins Walter and George and Aunt Mary Ives came to pay a call. That day we three girls were sitting in the parlour all in a row, only speaking when spoken to, our hands folded perfectly still in our laps. Walter was sitting on the loveseat next to Annie. I was thinking how proud Father and Mother must be of us and maybe we’d get an extra sweetmeat when I saw Walter pass something to Annie.
Without warning Annie turned a thousand shades of crimson and fell on the floor right at my feet. Mother was appalled and ran for the smelling salts. Father laughed that it was Walter making cow eyes at Annie that made her faint.
Annie didn’t faint. She dropped what Walter passed to her and didn’t want anyone to see it. She had his love letter in the sleeve of her nightdress when we knelt for our prayers that night. She secretly showed me the edge of it and told me that he’s being apprenticed to a carpenter in Banbury. When I heard that I was happy because if Annie marries Walter she’ll still be close by. She crossed her heart and hoped to die that she wouldn’t move far away. No one would dare to break that vow.
I’m not telling Mother and I’m not telling Father and I am certainly not telling bossy Mary. That’s what I like about eldest sisters. They trust you with their secrets.


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