Miss Frobisher And The Circle Line

Miss Frobisher appreciated the uncomplexity of the Circle Line. It had no specific points of departure or arrival. If a desired stop were missed, a person simply remained seated until the train rolled around once more to the station of choice. There was never a necessity to change coaches or platforms for the Circle Line (whose route, despite the name, was actually more"bottle-on-its-side" shaped than spherical) was unwavering in its ceaseless orbit.

Miss Frobisher recalled the first time she had taken the Circle Line. She had been seven, if memory served (which it frequently did not lately). It had been a brisk, spring morning and, together with her classmates, similarly attired in regulation uniform of white blouse, navy tunic, matching blazer, and straw boater with dark blue grosgrain adorning the crown, she had embarked on an excursion to the Tower of London.

Mrs. Abbott, the rosy-cheeked, dumpling of a teacher had ushered "her girls" into the station, as though she were a mother hen and they were her chicks, rather than the daughters of South Kensington's uppercrust. Most of her charges, Miss Frobisher included, had never been in the subway before.

"The tube is confusing," Mrs. Abbott had said. "We must stay together...and pull up your socks Charlotte. Are you listening?"

Miss Frobisher sighed and deposited coins into the slot, retrieving the ticket thrust at her by the self-operating machine. Gone were the days when one paid the courteous attendant residing in a tiny kiosk. Everything was automated now. She sighed again, carefully descending the steps to the platform. It had been decades since anybody had called her "Charlotte."

Miss Frobisher remembered gazing wondrously at the Underground map on the wall that spring morning, fascinated by the criss-crossing bands of different colors, each depicting a different route...District Green...Bakerloo Brown...Northern Black.

"That's the one we're taking," Daisy had informed, tracing the canary yellow stripe with a grubby forefinger. "The Circle Line." Charlotte had sniffed disdainfully.

Daisy was an unsuitable acquaintance, being a common Cockney ragamuffin. She attended the Pimlico Academy by virtue of a scholarship, but her clothes never fit quite right and her textbooks always had a secondhand air about them. She was constantly snubbed, mocked (behind her back, of course, since the rest of the girls were dubious of Daisy's unpredictable temper) and socially ignored; however, none of this ever dampened her buoyant spirits or affected her studies. She invariably scored higher on exams and could speak French more fluently than any of her classmates, albeit with an unconventional accent. Rumor had it that Daisy rode the tube (which she referred to as the "tubby train") to and from the Academy every day instead of being chauffeured. Charlotte, overcome with inquisitiveness that spring morning, had haughtily inquired whether such were the case.

Daisy had readily concurred. "I get on 'ere," pointing to Bethnal Green on the red Central Line. "Change 'ere," indicating Liverpool Street, where the red, brown and yellow stripes intersected. "Then, catch the Circle straight ta Sloane Square. That's where we are now."

Daisy grinned. "It's easy-peasy." Involuntarily, Charlotte had returned the grin. It was difficult to resist the cheerful expression on Daisy's round, freckled face.

Such had been the beginning of a firm friendship. During the summer, while Charlotte's father attended to business and her mother was preoccupied with plyaing bridge or attending gardening club meetings, Charlotte slipped away to the Underground to meet Daisy. Daisy always waited at one of the Circle Line stations. Charlotte was nervous about the other routes. Once on the Circle Line, she could merely sit and wait for her destination. It always rolled around sooner or later.

Daisy had taken her to St. James Park, where the sparrows were incredibly tame and flew out of bushes to perch on one's hand for breadcrumbs. "They don't do that nowhere else in the 'ole bloomin' wide world, Lottie," Daisy had told her.

Nobody, either before or since, had ever called Miss Frobisher "Lottie."

Daisy had shown her the Monument, a commemoration to the Great Fire of London in 1666 which, so Daisy had said, ended the bubonic plague by engulfing in flames the flea-infested rats which carried the dreadful disease. And together, they had paid many visits to the Tower, where Daisy knew how to get in without paying and relished in revealing the most gory details of its long history.

St. James...the Monument...the Tower...all points attainable via the Circle Line. It had been by far the best summer Charlotte had ever experienced.

Then, war had erupted and Hitler's bombs had destroyed much of the East End. When the announcement had been made during assembly that Daisy had been killed during an air raid, all the girls had shrugged...good riddance to unacceptable rubbish! All the girls that is, except for Charlotte. Later that day, locked in the washroom, she had cried for hours.

Miss Frobisher's head nodded to the clackety-clack of the wheels against the track as she journeyed through the tunnel. She awoke with a start as the train halted jerkily at Baker Street. She smiled. She had often met Daisy here too. Daisy knew a back entrance into Madame Tussauds and they could wander the waxworks-filled halls for free.

Through the window, Miss Frobisher noticed a figure standing before the Underground map on the wall. The too-long tunic and oversized blazer were very familiar. Curious, she exited the carriage.

"There's a new line, Lottie," said Daisy, tracing the grey stripe with a forefinger as grubby as always. "It's called Jubilee and we can catch it from 'ere. Course, we'd hafta change platforms."

She grinned. Miss Frobisher grinned back.

"Wot d'ya fink?" asked Daisy. "Finally ready ta try a different route?"

As the train left the station, a gush of warm wind whipped Daisy's straw hat from her head. Miss Frobisher, pulling up her socks, tossed her own beribboned boater (she'd always hated it) onto the rails.

"Wonder where it'll take us," whispered Daisy, eyes bright as the St. James Park sparrows.

Miss Frobisher happily seized the outstretched hand. She believed she already knew.

Back to Scribbles