Alfred’s Emporium – Episode 07

“So that is the man who brought silk thread to Datcherford,” Delia said when the door had closed.

She stood before the mirror, turning this way and that, watching the folds of the gown flow around her.

“I think it is perfect, Mrs Maloney. Will you have it brought to the house? Your account can be sent to my father, of course.”

Delia’s companions waited while she changed into her walking dress and the three left together. Alfred was standing in front of his shop as they passed and he nodded to them.

“He is not what I would imagine a shopkeeper to be,” Delia remarked when they were out of earshot. “How very gallant to tell me I had true elegance.”

“I think he was referring to the gown,” Augusta muttered, but Delia did not hear.

*  *  *  *

“Good morning,” Rose said as she entered the kitchen of Cross Roads House. It was her second week of employment.

Only Molly, the young scullery maid, smiled to see her. The other servants murmured a good morning, but their conversation quickly died down.

It had been so since Rose’s first day, when she’d gone downstairs for breakfast. Mrs Dee, the cook, had been particularly unwelcoming.

“We weren’t expecting you, Miss Bryson,” she’d said. “It’s customary for the lady’s companion to take breakfast in her room. Molly here can bring it to you.”

“I would rather have my meals here,” Rose insisted. “If you don’t mind.”

From Mrs Dee’s expression she clearly did mind, but nevertheless Rose sat down at the table where oatmeal, bread and tea were laid. There was also a used bowl and cup.

“Where is Mr Biggins?” Rose asked in a friendly manner. “Has he breakfasted already?”

In the awkward silence that followed, the other servants looked to Mrs Dee to reply.

“Biggins is ground staff,” she said, fixing a withering stare on Rose. “He has to take his meals in the outhouse. We wouldn’t want anyone telling Mrs Jameson we broke her rules.”

Finally Rose understood. They thought she had Mrs Jameson’s confidence and were worried she might tell tales.

“Of course not,” she declared. “I’m sure they are followed exactly.”

Today, Rose had darning to finish before she began work so she ate her breakfast quickly and left.

Molly followed her to the stairs.

“I’ve something for you, Miss Bryson,” she whispered, handing her a letter. “I reckoned you wouldn’t want Mrs Jameson to see it.”

“Why would she see it?”

“All the letters are supposed to go to her first. She likes to know who is getting post. But when the delivery arrives we look through it before the mistress sees it. Are you all right, miss?”

Rose was staring at the envelope, her heart pounding. She recognised Mr Fell’s handwriting.

“Yes, thank you, Molly,” she muttered and hurried to her room.

She threw the letter on to the table, resolving never to open it, but already unwelcome memories were flooding back of that awful occasion when Mr Fell had offered her marriage.

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.