Alfred’s Emporium – Episode 16

“Have a care, Sturgess. The step is too high.”

Rose stood by, trying not to show impatience while Mrs Jameson was helped to climb inside the carriage.

Mrs Jameson did not maintain a vehicle of her own, only the cart and horse Biggins had used to collect Rose on her arrival.

Whenever she ventured out, she hired the carriage belonging to Mr Sturgess, the farrier, whose stables were nearby. It was said he kept a black coat and hat just for these occasions.

This was to be Rose’s first visit to Datcherford. Mrs Jameson wished to call on a Mrs Bassett, to whom she was related by marriage.

The prospect of escaping from Cross Roads House for a few hours was a reason for joy.

At last Mrs Jameson was settled.

“Up you come, miss.”

Rose stepped on to the high board and took the driver’s outstretched hand.

“You’ll be quite safe,” he said as she took her place beside him at the front of the carriage.

“Can we get on, Sturgess?” Mrs Jameson ordered from her cushioned seat behind them.

The carriage lurched forward, down the long drive in front of Cross Roads House and on to the Datcherford road.

Their arrival in Datcherford attracted the attention of people about. There seemed to be little else of interest.

Mr Sturgess halted the carriage before an imposing old house; the engraved stone beside its iron gates announced it to be Datcherford Manor.

An elegant lady appeared at the door and called a greeting to Mrs Jameson. Rose assumed this was Mrs Bassett and, unsure of what to do next, she climbed down and waited.

As Mrs Jameson was assisted from the carriage, a girl of Rose’s age came out of the house. She had the same golden hair and blue eyes as Mrs Bassett.

“And here is my Delia,” Mrs Bassett said.

“Good afternoon, ma’am,” the girl said, brushing Mrs Jameson’s cheek with a kiss. “How pleasant to see you again.”

Rose thought there was a pertness about this girl – she was well practised in the art of pleasing.

“You have a new companion, I see,” Mrs Bassett remarked.

“Oh, yes,” Mrs Jameson replied, remembering Rose. “Sturgess will give you directions to the attorney’s office, Bryson, and to the dressmaker’s. Return as soon as you have finished.”

“Yes, ma’am,” Rose replied.

Hearing this, Delia turned to her mother.

“Mama, if Mrs Jameson will excuse me, I promised to visit the dressmaker today. I need to speak to her about my new walking dress before I go to stay with my aunt.”

Mrs Bassett hesitated.

“I could go there with Mrs Jameson’s companion. We will be back in an hour,” Delia pleaded, adding with a serious air, “If I do not keep my word, it may appear ill-bred.”

It occurred to Rose that it was most ill-bred of Miss Bassett to leave when Mrs Jameson had come to visit.

“Very well,” Mrs Bassett agreed with an apologetic glance to Mrs Jameson.

Delia went inside, reappearing wearing a hat and cape. She was helped aboard the carriage by Sturgess, and Rose climbed up to her usual seat.

Datcherford’s main street was only a few minutes’ drive away.

“Stop here,” Delia called to Sturgess and both girls got out.

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.