Five O’Clock Tea, by David Comba Adamson
“Would you like a cup of tea, Miss McClain?”
“Oh, that would be wonderful. Thank you.”
Mrs. Levy brought over two porcelain cups from the cupboard and set them on a table in the kitchen. Both women took their seats
“Your house is lovely.”
“Oh, I’m glad you like it. I don’t like to boast, but we do have one of the finest boarding homes in town. My husband, Jacob, God rest his soul, built it with his own two hands.” She smiled proudly.
Miss Levy poured steaming tea into the cups, offering cream and sugar.
“How long have you lived in San Francisco?”
“Oh, well, let me see. A while. Our journey started in the spring of 1850.We traveled by covered wagon, down the California Trail. There was no choice but to sell most of our belongings before the trip. The load needed to be light, it’s hard on the horses otherwise.” She smiled with a far off look.
Mara nodded with interest. Mrs. Levy took a deep breath and went on.
“My husband and I were newlyweds, just starting out on our own. Mr. Levy had recently inherited some savings from his father. It gave us the means to travel and start over in a new city. We decided to try our luck in San Francisco. There was so much to do before we left; we had to pare down our possessions for the long wagon ride. We discussed what was most important to us—what to sell, what to give away, what to keep. My husband brought along his carpentry tools packed in an old
cedar chest. Mr. Levy came from a long line of carpenters. Many generations of Levy practiced thetrade. He’d worked with his father in the family business back in our hometown in Idaho.
“Well, I brought along my hope chest, a wedding present. Inside were a few family quilts, photographs, my wedding dress, and an antique silver brush and mirror. I had three homespun dresses, which I washed between wearing. The wagon train often camped by rivers and lakes along the trail. We used the water for cooking, bathing, and cleaning. It was quite an adventure, and a long, difficult journey. My husband and I had joined a wagon train over near Fort Hall along the Snake
River. It’s good that we left when we did. We were able to bypass some storms that season.
“We made sure to time our trip so we wouldn’t be caught in the snow. You see there was a terrible incident that took place back in’46. This was a few years before our journey. A group of travelers were trapped by a heavy snowfall in Truckee, in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. I believe they called themselves The Donner-Reed Party, if I remember correctly. Their wagons couldn’t get through the storm. The poor souls were low on supplies. Quite a few starved to death. Only about half of them made it to California. Good Lord, I heard that some of the travelers resorted to cannibalism.”
She shuddered. “Thankfully, we were luckier than that. We left earlier in the season and avoided most of the heavier snow.
“We traveled along the California Trail, through the Nevada desert, down the Sierra Nevada Range. Oh, the heat was terrible in the desert. It was more than anything we could have ever imagined. Afterwards we boasted that we had seen the elephant, meaning we hit some hard traveling for sure.
“So many stories…good and bad, but I’ll have to wait to tell you about those tales another day,” she smiled.
―AnneMarie Dapp, Autumn Lady
Here are a few of my favorite Victorian inspired teatime paintings. Enjoy!
Afternoon Tea by Frederic Soulacroix
Joseph Scheurenberg (1846-1914) – Ladies Taking Tea
Frederik Hendrik Kaemmerer (1839 – 1902), Afternoon Tea in the Garden
The Serving Girl, Emil Brack (1860-1905)
Afternoon Tea by William Oliver
Painting by Sandy Lynam Clough
Victorian Afternoon Tea Time art prints: Harrison Fisher
Andrea Landini ( 1847-1935)
Tea Leaves by William McGregor Paxton
Old woman Pouring Tea, unknown artist, 19th Century
Albert Chevallier Tayler (British, 1862-1925) – Tea Time, 1920
I hope you enjoyed today’s afternoon tea!