Alfred’s Emporium – Episode 04

“At nineteen you are very young for this position, and your lack of experience will create difficulties for me. I am prepared to make some allowances, but my standards are high.”

“Yes, Mrs Jameson.”

Rose was standing before her new mistress in the morning room. She was aware of being dishevelled from the journey, having scarcely had time to take off her coat and hat before being summoned.

Mrs Jameson’s piercing gaze had already picked out the mud on Rose’s boots and her crumpled clothes.

“I expect your appearance to be neat. I rarely go out, but when you accompany me your attire must be appropriate to the occasion.

“You will find in your room two frocks, one black and one grey. The housemaid, Baines, is a competent needlewoman; she can make any necessary adjustments.”

“Thank you, Mrs Jameson, I am most obliged.”

“The cost of the frocks will be deducted from your wages. That is all. Return at three minutes to five. That is when I take my afternoon rest.” With that, Mrs Jameson turned away and picked up a book.

Rose left, taking care to close the door quietly behind her.

There had been six or seven others before her, she recalled. Little wonder.

*  *  *  *

Rose wearily climbed three flights of stairs to the small chamber she’d been allocated.

It contained a bed, table and chair and a closet. Clearly the luxuries of Cross Roads House were confined to the rooms Mrs Jameson occupied.

I won’t be downhearted, she determined. She had somewhere to live and the wages were more than she’d received previously. If she was careful with them she’d be free in a year or two.

Exhausted, she lay on the hard bed. Could this year be any more difficult than the last? Was that really herself she remembered fourteen months ago – a carefree girl, home from boarding school?

She smiled, remembering the day her father had met her.

“You’ll like our new home, Rose,” he had said in his cheerful manner. “It’s a shame it has no garden, but it’ll be so much easier to keep than the old place.”

The old place had been a draughty rented cottage, and the place before that a dingy house at the top of a dozen steps. Later, Rose would learn why each new lodging had had to be cheaper than the one before.

“I’ve received a new commission,” her father went on excitedly. “And once I’ve been paid, you and I will travel. Wouldn’t you like that, Rose?”

She’d agreed enthusiastically because she believed in him, unaware of how dire their circumstances really were.

Abigail Phillips

Abbie is the newest member of the fiction team at the "Friend." She loves how varied the role is - every day is different and there is always a new story to read. She is keen to work closely with established writers and discover new writers, too.