- 16. Alfred’s Emporium – Episode 16
- 17. Alfred’s Emporium – Episode 17
- 18. Alfred’s Emporium – Episode 18
- 19. Alfred’s Emporium – Episode 19
- 20. Alfred’s Emporium – Episode 20
- 21. Alfred’s Emporium – Episode 21
- 22. Alfred’s Emporium – Episode 22
Rose overheard the conversation as she came down the back stairs towards the kitchen.
“Mark my words, she’ll be gone by teatime.”
“You think so, Mrs Dee?”
“I do. Rarely have I seen the mistress in such a temper.”
“I think it’s a shame. I like Rose. She talks to me.”
“It’s not about how she gets on with us, Molly. If she’s offended the mistress, she’ll be lucky if she leaves with a character reference.”
“What did she do wrong?”
“I’m not sure, Mr Biggins, but the mistress told her to go to her room as soon as they got back from Datcherford yesterday, and she has not left it yet.”
“Hush, I think she’s coming.”
Rose knew they’d heard her footsteps on the slate floor.
By the time she reached the kitchen, Biggins had finished his breakfast and was leaving by the garden door, Mrs Dee was stirring the porridge and Molly stood anxiously waiting.
“Mrs Jameson says you’re to go to the drawing-room as soon as you come down, miss,” Molly said in a trembling voice, before bursting into tears.
Rose, who had been anticipating the summons, calmly turned to Mrs Dee.
“I would be obliged if you would keep my breakfast, Mrs Dee,” she asked. “I don’t expect I’ll be long.”
Indeed she would probably be on her way in an hour or two, but she might at least have a meal before she set off.
There was no doubt in Rose’s mind that she would be dismissed. Mrs Jameson was not a forgiving person and she had been made to look foolish the previous day in front of Mrs Bassett.
It hadn’t been Rose’s fault, but she could see no way of defending herself. Clearly, Delia Bassett had not explained her part.
Rose knocked on the drawing-room door.
“Enter,” Mrs Jameson commanded.
Rose went in. Mrs Jameson was reading and did not look up as Rose approached.
She appeared to finish the page then closed the book with a snap.
“Do you have any explanation for your failure to carry out my instructions yesterday?” she said, fixing Rose with an icy stare.
Rose had spent the past night sleeplessly, fretting over how she might manage on her own. Her father’s debts were not paid, and without this post she would have no means to clear them. She’d have neither a home nor an income.
“I am sorry, ma’am,” she began, “if I you think I have been remiss in my duties. I followed your instructions exactly. The dressmaker said that the repairs would take an hour, so I went meantime to the attorney, returning with the papers.”
“Then you decided to go off frolicking and leave me waiting?”
“No, ma’am. I looked for Miss Bassett, who had left the dressmaker to pay another call. There was no sign of her in the street.
“The day being cold, I entered the premises of Mr Hapstall to look out for Miss Bassett from the shelter of his shop.”
“How long did you wait before she found you?”
“Miss Bassett was already there.”
Mrs Jameson’s reaction took Rose by surprise.
“I found Miss Bassett inside.”
“Miss Bassett had gone into Hapstall’s shop by herself?” Mrs Jameson asked. “For what purpose?”
“I don’t know,” Rose said, confused by the sudden turn of questions. “Presumably she wished to make a purchase.”
“Was anyone else there?”
“Mr Hapstall was there,” Rose replied, suddenly on her guard.
“Her mother’s suspicions were right,” Mrs Jameson muttered almost inaudibly.
Mrs Jameson was momentarily lost in her thoughts, and had apparently forgotten about reprimanding Rose.
“I will overlook your failings yesterday,” she said suddenly, “if only to avoid the trouble of replacing you. But I will not be so lenient in the future. You may go.”
Rose could scarcely believe her fortune. She was to keep her position!
It rankled that Mrs Jameson blamed her, but she would not put herself at further risk by arguing.
“Thank you, ma’am,” she said.
“I forbid you to divulge to anyone what happened yesterday. I will not tolerate gossip.”
“I don’t gossip, ma’am,” Rose stated quietly and left the room.