Alfred’s Emporium – Episode 46

Alfred had woken that morning from such a deep sleep that it was several seconds before he realised why he felt so happy.

When the realisation came flooding back he leapt from his bed and was down in the shop before daylight.

“Morning,” he said to Tom. “What a fine day it is!”

Tom looked up at the grey early morning sky.

“Yes, Mr Hapstall,” he replied, yawning.

“Look lively, Tom,” Alfred said. “I have a special task for you today.”

Alfred was aware that changes had to be made. He would be too occupied to make the deliveries from now on. He had it in mind to grant Tom’s dearest wish, because that morning he wanted all those around him to be as happy as himself.

“Come with me,” he said, and Tom followed him out of the rear door.

By the time they reached the shed where Lissip was kept, Tom was wide awake.

“You’re going to let me drive by myself?” he asked incredulously.

“Only about town,” Alfred cautioned. “You’ve taken the reins before, but you must have your wits about you when you’re alone.

“Lissip may be old but she has spirit. Help me put her to, then you can drive once or twice up the street before anyone is about.”

Despite his excitement, Tom was meticulous in preparing the horse and cart; he wanted Mr Hapstall to know he could be trusted.

When Alfred was satisfied, Tom climbed aboard and called out to Lissip. She twitched her ears and shook her mane and for a moment Tom held his breath, but then she walked on.

Bursting with excitement and pride, Tom drove slowly along the street with Alfred watching every moment.

They turned, walked back and Alfred signalled to repeat the manoeuvre.

Mariah had been watching approvingly.

“Can you look after the shop, Mother?” Alfred asked. “I want to call on Mr Darrowby and his son. I’ll be needing their services before long.”

“You won’t wait until you have agreed terms for the assembly building?”

“I’m sure of the outcome. I don’t want to delay.”

When the cart was loaded, Mariah and Alfred watched Tom depart.

“Are you sure you can manage?” Alfred asked his mother.

“I’ve been serving in this shop since before you were born. Go on, now. Tom will be back in an hour or two.”

He hesitated.

“I’ve been thinking about what we said last night. I told you that Miss Bassett is not the kind of girl I could love. She could never come to mean anything to me.

“The thing is, I think you can meet someone and, even though you don’t know them well, something tells you that they could come to mean everything. Is that possible?”

“Entirely possible.”

“But there’s no telling if she feels the same. What would I do if she didn’t?”

“Then there’s nothing to be done,” Mariah said. “But unless you ask Rose, you’ll never know.”

Alfred grinned at his mother’s perception.

“I will,” he said. “My life is going to change. It will be hard work, but I believe I can achieve great things.

“There is no-one I want to be part of it more than Rose. Tomorrow is Sunday and the staff at Cross Roads House are allowed two hours free in the afternoon. I’ll ride over there and talk to her. Tomorrow will be the perfect time.”

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.