Abbey Girls in Town, 1946 and 1967

‘Fat Orange’ Collins repr. 1946 v Children’s Press 1967

I have shown the first edition cover since the text is the same in that and the ‘Fat Orange’ which Amanda has used for the comparison. The first edition is illustrated by Rosa C Petherick with a colour frontis showing  Ros, Maid and Biddy  having their ‘feast’ at the hostel, and two monochrome plates of Ruth and Mary (in tunic) washing up and Jen (in fur-trimmed coat) piping in the cloisters. This book has 314 pages.

The CP cover/dw has Biddy meeting Ruth at a station (which doesn’t look much like Waterloo to me!) and the spine shows the same two girls and Big Ben. No internal ills, and 124 pages.

Chapter I – Ruth Arrives

Some minor changes; Ruth caught up in the excitement of visiting England, how cold it was compared to South Africa, Mary and Biddy being her only relatives in England. But the major cuts are Ruth thoughts on Mary – why did she not go out, was it because she couldn’t afford to, what happened to make Mary send the ‘alive’ letter full of her new interests, Ruth asking why did Joy and Jen like Mary – would it last, had they helped Mary in writing her stories.

Chapter II – Biddy at Home

Quite a few minor cuts that help the story make sense; general chatter about the fog, Biddy giving violets to Frost (Jen’s chauffeur), Mary and Biddy’s visit to Farnham to choose pottery, Jen jokingly calling their flat ‘House of Buttered Toast’ as they seem to always have some ready. Two major cuts here: one about Mary selling a story and getting paid for it before it’s published and Mary wanting to spend it on the ‘cripple children’ Joy took out once a week in her car and the other is Biddy confiding in Ruth that she had found Mary desperately dull and often went out to escape.

Chapter IIIMary Explains

Major cuts are the explanation of why it’s Rosamund and Maidlin’s first school, having had measles during the summer one and that Madam won’t be attending the school. Mary, looking older because she works on her nerves and has grey hair as a result. Mary’s keenness to go to Chelsea and how she has awakened to the fact that her life before Joy and Jen was dull and lifeless. Jen helping her to understand colour, shape and lines, being encouraged to wear brighter work clothes. Minor cuts include; Biddy not sleeping as excited about Chelsea and Mary explaining that they attend Jen’s girls club for dancing.

Chapter IV – Ruth’s Christmas Shopping

Not much has really changed in this chapter, a couple of major cuts, Biddy explaining that she was saving her money for Chelsea so she could buy chocolates. Also that she had promised Mary she wouldn’t smoke until she was 21 and Ruth not smoking either. Biddy explaining that she has three whistles and describes them to Ruth. She plays a few tunes, ‘ Jamaica’ and ‘ Hudson House’ for Ruth and tells her what the difference is between a pipe and whistle. In a more minor cut, Ruth complimenting Mary on her tunic, how she was glad it was her first impression of her and not just work clothes.

Chapter V – Nine-Thirty at Chelsea

Quite a lot of cuts, although most don’t really affect the story line. Those that do include Biddy and Ruth going to the cinema as Biddy very restless and Mary needing time to type and send an article. About Christmas being a family time and Ruth lucky to have them to share it with. Ruth wondering why the class (Grade II Morris) was only 30 people, when Mary had said that at least 600 would attend the school. The Writing Person explaining why she is in Grade II and not Grade VIII; the fact that her ‘step and jump’ is bad, she is keeping a friend company who is one of her Camp Fire girls. Also that she missed Grade II and falls to pieces when doing some of the advanced work. Jen’s indignation that she didn’t wear her new coat, because of Mary’s old one and there she is showing off her new one.  Mary explaining Ruth had brought them and introducing her to Joy and Jen.

Chapter VI – A Blow for Mary

As far as I can see mainly missing is the indication of Mary’s feelings about the dancing. Also we lose the names of the dances given in the demonstration. Other more minor cuts; Mary feeling the blow of Jen not being in London for the spring, more than the temporary loss of Madam for the dancing. Ruth’s thoughts on why Mary worships  Joy  and  Jen,  that  she  herself  thought  they  were  nice  but wouldn’t go further than that.

Chapter VII – Going ‘Shenzi’

Only two really big changes here, whole page and half cut about smoking and that Joy gave it up so she could please her Aunt, Mrs Shirley, Joy and Jen explaining about their class, how it got muddled up in a dance with the hostess laughing and sorting them out. A whole page is lost about the Writing Person having the ideal class in swords. Jen’s knitting being her cigarette to calm her down.  Also Mary’s explanation to Ruth on why she is called ‘Mary-Dorothy’ by the Abbey crowd.

Chapter VIII – Mischief Afoot

Mostly missing here is to do with Biddy visiting the hostel. Margaret not able to come. Joy worried that Biddy would keep Rosamund and Maidlin up all night. Biddy being wild to see rooms and live like a student. Maidlin worried about being honest with Joy. Joy not happy that Maidlin keeps secrets. Joy and Maidlin talking about how it is different for Rosamund, she thinks of Joy as a grown up whereas for Maidlin she is a guardian. Joy responsible for both Rosamund and Maidlin especially since the latter had been ill last year and that they were not to swap beds.

Chapter IX – Biddy’s Night Out

Quite an untouched chapter. Ruth telling Mary that she thinks too highly of Joy and Jen, that she has put them on a pedestal and her world will come crashing down if they aren’t what they seem. She also refers to her strong imagination, that it helps her to write books but hampers her in other ways.

Chapter X – The Kindness of the Pixie

Several major cuts; Ruth examining Mary’ s pottery, exclaiming over the colour, shapes and lines of them. Mary agreeing that it woke her up to a whole new experience and that Jen gave her extra things because of her articles. Big chunk about the Writing Person’s artist friend, doing drawings of the classes. Jen excited about Jacqueline Wilmot arriving and Biddy explaining to Ruth who she was. Writing Person and artist friend talking business and wanting somebody to demonstrate some moves for her. Pixie explaining she had spoken with Mary, who thinks of Joy as a fairytale princess, with the Abbey, her money and music. Her imagination has been stirred up as a result.

Chapter XI – Mary’s Wireless

Not much change here that affects the story. Rosamund explaining that the Abbey crowd had got home late because of the party and having to get ready in the dark but the lights came back on and they ended up having supper in Joy’s room. Mary is too worked up to rest and wanting to read through her book and polish it up, as she may need to start writing again soon. How the Writing Person helped her by saying it would be fresher after being left for a while. Ruth was feeling the change, after the hectic week with relief, being able to read Mary’s story, going around London seeing the sights properly.

Chapter XII – An Invitation from Joy

A few cuts, Mary saying Ruth ought not to spend money on them like she has been doing. Jen having to leave for the Abbey earlier than expected and saying her goodbyes in a letter. Biddy letting Ruth know that the Abbey crowd occasionally go mad with pranks but with consideration to Mrs Shirley. Joy’s possible romance with Sir Andrew would keep her near the hall if she married him. Pixie telling Ruth, when they met for lunch, that she knows about Mary from Joy and Jen.

Chapter XIII – The Meeting at the Station

Mainly descriptive cuts especially about Ruth’s train journey to Princes Risborough, the stations she passed and the history of the area as told by a fellow traveller. Jen, a bit annoyed about the fact she will have to learn French and Music as well as the domestic classes. Horse and carriage driven by Sir Andrew changed to car. Some description lost about the Hall being Tudor.

Chapter XIV – Rosamund’s Revenge

Although you would think it’s all about Rosamund’s revenge, that actually only takes up a couple of pages. Major cuts are some of Jen’s conversation with Ruth in the Abbey. Jen not wanting Rosamund to pay for the laundry of her wrecked clothes and Joy saying that she shouldn’t be let off. Rosamund saying that Jen is  a sport about it and she wishes she  hadn’t done it.  Jen explaining Joy is not always irritable and snappy, it was because Sir Andrew had come back.

Chapter XV – Joy in Difficulties

Quite big changes here as in the Children’s Press edition, Chapter 15 and 16 have been put together and Chapter 15 is therefore reduced to about two pages. Jen is enjoying school life and the renewal of her friendships with Nesta and Mollie. Joy having eventually to visit the Manor with her aunt. Jen not having any one to talk things through with until Ruth arrived. Joy’s fears that if she married she would have to leave the Hall unless it was to Sir Andrew who is crazy about her. She can’t decide though whether it’s Sir Andrew or the Manor she wants to marry.  Ruth stating  Sir Andrew ought really to sell the Manor and move away and Joy would know which she loved. Jen saying Mary has no opinion of herself and wishing her book were finished but that the children’s dance show for Lady Marchwood, will put it on the back burner for a while.

Chapter XVI – Ruth’s Valentine

We lose all Ruth’s descriptions of the Abbey and Park, her memories that she will take away and never forget. The visits to the village, where she saw the cottage the East End children stayed at, the home for overworked city girls, the village hall with the dancing and the many industries Joy was setting up. Seeing all that with fresh eyes, she understood how Joy couldn’t bear to give it all up. The Abbey crowd talking about marriage and wishing that it would be sorted out as Joy got irritable more each day, although Maidlin escaped being her adopted daughter. Ruth’s visit being over and being invited back when the weather was better. Jen, sorry that she hadn’t seen the May Queens in their robes and the proud mothers of the group. When Ruth is back in London, Biddy wanting to know what was happening with the Abbey crowd, despite Ruth’s letters being informative. Ruth telling them that she had visited Farnham with Joy and ordered some pottery. Then back at the flat opening up the crate and displaying all the contents for when Mary and Biddy returned. Ruth explaining she enjoyed the choosing, packing and arranging of the new pottery, she can’t choose her family’s until they arrive. Mary and Biddy’s shock at seeing them and almost refusing to accept them. Ruth’s thoughts on how much doing the show means to Mary, she has stopped her book and her own dancing for it. Ruth hoping it all goes well, as otherwise it will affect Mary badly. Finally Ruth watching the children and we lose the names of the dances again ie ‘Sellenger’s Round’.

Chapter XVII ‘The Event of the Season’

An average chapter for cuts. Biddy thinking Joy was worked up as if she had trained the children herself for the show, that Joy obviously didn’t want to let down the Marchwood crowd and hoping it wouldn’t reflect badly on Mary if anything happened. Ruth thinking Joy ought not to dance, it looked like showing off to people she doesn’t know, Biddy would have been a better choice. Ruth shocking Mary by saying Mary will have to meet Lady Marchwood and be on stage hence wearing her white dress. Ruth shocked later by people in the audience thinking that Joy had done all the work and them wondering who Mary and Biddy were. Mary ought to have been introduced at the very beginning so there was no confusion. Mary defending Joy and saying she didn’t want to face the public anyway. Later when Biddy in anger shouts out about Mary doing the hard work, Joy knows she was wrong but wasn’t going to be humiliated by a schoolgirl. Finally Ruth concerned about Mary as she collapses after Joy’s hurtful words, offering to fetch her water.

Chapter XVIII Mary’s Letter

Mainly cuts about Mary almost breaking down over the realisation that Joy might have possibly forgotten about her hard work. She felt obligated to write an apologetic letter about Biddy’s rudeness. Ruth urging Mary to have a good cry and Biddy having a heart to heart with her.

Chapter XIX A Letter from Joy

Mary now disillusioned about Joy, no longer a heroine, the idealism and glamour have gone. How Joy didn’t know how Mary felt, she was no longer perfect as if she had died for real in Mary’s eyes. Mary feeling she couldn’t speak of it so soon to Ruth.  At Pixie’s dance an explanation about the dancers wearing rosettes and coloured braids and how Pixie used them in France when she didn’t have any men to use. Pixie making sure that they were all split up with other partners for the dances, keeping them busy as she had an inkling of what had happened.

Chapter XX The Queer Ways of Joy

At the big party Joy makes sure she meets up with Mary and Ruth. Mary not understanding how Joy could easily forget the problem.  Ruth saying that it was genuine Joy honestly doesn’t think she has done anything wrong. Joy explaining that Jen left school and couldn’t be May Queen. Later Mary still troubled about Joy never really understanding her and being disappointed.

Chapter XXI Back to the Abbey

Quite a lot of the Pixie’ s understanding of Joy cut, that she was impulsive, fiery, self-centred and always has been. Ruth explaining that it was Joy not understanding that hurt Mary, not the fact she was forgotten at the show. Filling Pixie in on the letters between Mary and Joy, how she suddenly became friendly again. Long chunk about Pixie saying how it’s Jen who has the gift of understanding and that it helps Joy keep straight most of the time. Joy has never really grown-up, she hasn’t had too unlike Jen. Ruth telling Mary this so she might understand a bit better, but that she has to pay for her temperament. Joy writing to invite them to the Abbey for Jen’s crowning, being put up in the Abbey, Mary suddenly seeing the real Joy and finding it funny. Ruth finally getting to see a real English spring at the Abbey.

Chapter XXII Joy in Trouble

Mostly descriptive changes in this chapter. Joy having a new car so ‘that she can take out whole families of cripples into the country in the summer’. Ruth and Mary having a session of baby worship with Janetta, Joan’s daughter. Jen, being secretly pleased about being Queen. Joan saying that Mrs Shirley isn’t fit enough to have many people in the Hall itself. On her return from Town, Joy is quiet and they wonder why, Rosamund even jokingly asking if she had killed Lady Marchwood ‘and left her under a hedge’. When the news about Madam’s son is given, Joy gives Jen the message that Madam had liked her vest and couldn’t believe it had been done at Chelsea as it could be such a dusty place.

Chapter XXIII The Man Next Door

This chapter is mainly untouched as it is all about Joy and Sir Andrew but Mary worries that Jen won’t like her story. Jen liking it and admitting she had cried.  Ruth going with Mary to the Manor knowing it is a big thing for her. Mary getting £50 for the copyright of her book as Pixie’s publisher friend liked the beginning. Finally Joy announcing the news of her marriage, and her acceptance of her faults, even saying she wasn’t good enough for Sir Andrew but that he still loved her.

The fact that the Children’s Press edition is almost half the page length of the Collins edition should have warned me how much had been cut, but it wasn’t until I got going that I realised just how much. Some are small things like updating words so they are more politically correct but most of the cuts do link the story along better. If you have a Children’s Press edition, it does make sense on its own; it’s only if you read an unabridged version, you can understand the story better.

Amanda Crawford