Alfred’s Emporium – Episode 08

Young and inexperienced as she was, Rose had been too shocked to speak.

“My proposal has perhaps surprised you, Miss Bryson,” he said. “You will need a moment to consider. It is an important undertaking.”

“Mr Fell,” she forced herself to reply. “I know nothing of your interests nor your disposition. And you know nothing of me. How can you consider me a suitable wife?”

“By those qualities you display,” he said. “Your honesty, integrity and sobriety. As for myself, I have little time for interests other than my business. But I trust there is nothing objectionable in my nature.

“I am even-tempered; I dislike to become angry, preferring to remain in control of my emotions. We have that in common, Miss Bryson. I have observed and admired your self-mastery.”

“Mr Fell, I am not as you think,” Rose declared. “Circumstances have forced me to live quietly, but I have known joy and frivolity, and when my debts are paid, I will find them again. There is the reason we are unsuited.”

“Naturally, as my wife, all your debts would be settled by me,” he said, ignoring all other objections.

“Mr Fell,” she argued, “this cannot be. What tastes have we in common? Where is the affection? These things are the cornerstones of marriage.”

To Rose’s dismay, instead of being discouraged, Mr Fell went on.

“Do not be swayed by whimsical notions, Miss Bryson. You are alone and in debt. The past year must have been a hard lesson on the evils of poverty for you. I offer you a life of ease and plenty.”

Overwhelmed, Rose followed her instinct and fled without another word. But Mr Fell wasn’t put off.

Although she refused to see him when he called at her lodgings, and returned his letters unopened, it was impossible to avoid him.

They often passed by in the street and he would linger after church service in the hope of speaking to her.

But Rose always hurried away, sensing his eyes following her. When she could bear it no longer, she answered Mrs Jameson’s advertisement and, on receiving her offer, left the town.

It will not do, she thought. I must read the letter.

She opened it with trembling hands.

Miss Bryson, it began.

I fear your departure was connected to my proposal of marriage. If I have given offence, I apologise. It was never my intention to cause distress. I saw no harm in seeking a companion for myself and it is my belief that we would do well in a marriage of mutual benefit. I ask you to reconsider my offer. However, if you do not reply, I will deem the matter closed.

With my respect, G. Fell.

Have I been too harsh in my judgement of him, Rose wondered.

He was an honest man, self-aware and consistent. A short note from her – that was all it would take to be free of this awful house, to be no longer in debt.

If she accepted him, she would want for nothing. She wouldn’t be alone any more, though he would never love her, nor she him.

She closed her eyes and tried to imagine Mr Fell’s hand placing a wedding ring on her finger and leading her to his grand house.

What should I do, she wondered.

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.