Alfred’s Emporium – Episode 39

Rose answered the knock on her bedroom door.

Miss Baines stood outside, appearing rather uncomfortable.

“Yes?” Rose said.

“I’ve come to tell you . . .” Miss Baines began, her face reddening. “That is, the mistress has told me to tell you that you’re to be gone on Saturday.”

“That’s tomorrow,” Rose said.

“She said you must leave on the post coach at midday.”

“I see,” Rose replied. “Did Mrs Jameson suggest how I might be transported? I have a heavy trunk and –”

“No,” Miss Baines replied, unable to meet Rose’s glance.

“Thank you, Miss Baines. And please don’t distress yourself. It is no more than I expected.”

Rose knew this was a deliberate discourtesy from Mrs Jameson, who was now using Baines as a temporary replacement.

She closed the door and looked about her room. Her trunk was already packed and her travelling clothes prepared, but still she had not written her letter of goodbye to Alfred Hapstall.

Now it must be done, she determined. Why do I hesitate?

Was it because seeing the parting words on paper would make it so final? She knew they would never meet again, and there was no foundation for the way she felt; Alfred had said nothing that betrayed more than friendship.

But right from their first meeting she’d had this presentiment of what might have been.

Her reverie was interrupted by a soft tap on the door.

“It’s me, Rose,” Molly whispered from out in the corridor. “Can I come in?”

“Of course,” Rose replied, opening the door.

Molly slipped inside.

“I came because of what Miss Baines was saying in the kitchen,” she said urgently. “Is it true the mistress has told you to leave on Saturday?”

“Yes, and quite honestly, I won’t regret going away from Cross Roads House. But I don’t know how I’m going to manage. I can walk to the Datcherford road, but I can’t carry my trunk. I thought of asking Biggins, but . . .”

Molly’s face was pinched with concentration.

“Wait,” she said. “I know. Mr Sturgess will take you.”

“What? In his carriage?”

“No, he has a small gig for his own use and he takes it out on Saturdays. If you were to walk down to his stables this afternoon, you could ask him. I’m sure it wouldn’t cost a lot of money. He’s a fair man.”

“Molly, you’ve saved me yet again!” Rose exclaimed. “I don’t know what I would have done without you.”

Molly’s face broke into a bright smile. Clearly she was not used to being praised.

“I must get back,” Molly said. “Don’t forget the letter to Alfred Hapstall, will you, Rose?”

Alone once more, Rose sat down at the table and opened her writing case.

I won’t give way to my imaginings, she told herself. I’ll write as a friend should.

She selected one of her last sheets of paper and prepared the pen and ink, then she began.

Dear Alfred,

I am writing to tell you that there has been a change in my circumstances and I am now at liberty to resign my post as Mrs Jameson’s companion. Having no connections to justify my staying in Datcherford, I have decided I will leave tomorrow.

I will not pretend any sorrow in quitting Cross Roads House, but I wanted you to know how much I have appreciated your kindness at a time it was most welcome. We cannot know what our futures hold, but I hope that yours brings success in business and joy in your life.

I send my best wishes for your good health and happiness.

Sincerely, Rose Bryson.

She folded the letter, and was writing out the address when the bell for the servants’ meal sounded.

She hurriedly sealed the envelope and tucked it into the pocket of her dress.

It is done, she thought. Tomorrow I will leave and I will never see Alfred again.

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.