Alfred’s Emporium – Episode 28

Alfred expected the room to be stark and unwelcoming, but it was apparent Mr Graine liked his comforts. A fire flickered in the hearth and the chair that Mr Graine indicated for Alfred was richly covered.

Mr Graine sat opposite, behind his imposing desk.

“Men of business come to me for two reasons,” he remarked. “They have been successful and want a place to invest their profits, or they are in difficulties and need to borrow money. I wonder into which category you fall, Mr Hapstall.”

Alfred took his cue to speak.

“Neither, Mr Graine,” he began. “That is, I need to borrow money, but I’m not in difficulties. In fact, my shop is very profitable.”

“I am pleased to hear it,” Mr Graine noted. “Why, then, do you need money?”

“I want to move premises in order to expand,” Alfred said. “My shop is too small for the range of goods I wish to sell. If I had more space, I could increase custom and the business would grow.”

“Hapstall’s has traded from the main street for generations,” Mr Graine noted. “Is it wise to move?”

“I don’t intend to move far. Just across the street.”

Mr Graine took a moment to ponder.

“I do not recall any empty shops,” he said. “Only cottages, the shoemaker, and the old assembly building, of course.”

“That’s the one,” Alfred declared, sitting forward. “I want to buy the assembly building and turn it into a store. I mean to achieve this over a period of time. I have some figures –”

He paused as Mr Graine held up his hand.

“Mr Hapstall, do I understand you correctly? You propose to open up the assembly building and turn it into a shop?”

“Exactly.” Alfred smiled nervously. “I have no funds to buy it outright, but if the bank will advance me . . .”

“Mr Hapstall, you already have a shop, patronised by all of Datcherford. It must make you a reasonable living. Why would you risk everything on some outlandish scheme?”

“It’s what I’ve always wanted to achieve. Besides, it’s what Datcherford needs,” Alfred answered, his enthusiasm starting to bubble over. “We need to give people a reason to come here and I know that I can make this succeed.”

“Have you considered your mother?” Mr Graine argued. “If you fail then her livelihood is threatened. Would you see her homeless?”

“It will not happen, sir,” Alfred replied adamantly. “I will always put her interests first. And when my business succeeds, she will be the first to benefit. All I need is a loan.”

Mr Graine shook his head.

“I am sorry, Mr Hapstall,” he said emphatically, “but the bank cannot lend out money on precarious schemes. We do not take risks in Datcherford.”

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.