Alfred’s Emporium – Episode 48

“What can you possibly know about it?” Miss Baines demanded.

“I know why Alfred Hapstall would never have married Miss Bassett. He likes someone else better.”



“Rose Bryson?” Mrs Dee asked.

“It’s true,” Molly replied. “And Rose likes him. But she must have thought he was in love with Miss Bassett. She wrote to him to say goodbye. Look.”

She pulled the letter out of her pocket.

“I was to put this in the post. Rose thought she and Alfred would never meet again. And they won’t, unless he can stop her in time. She’s leaving on the coach at one o’clock. That’s why I have to get this letter to him now.”

There was a laugh from Biggins.

“Away with your romantic fancies,” he said with a sneer. “Leave the young man be.”

He turned away to warm his hands by the range.

“How can you say that, Mr Biggins?” Molly answered passionately. “Alfred and Rose could be happy together.”

“There’s nought wrong with the life of a bachelor; he don’t need a wife to fetter him.”

A chill fell on the room. Neither Miss Baines nor Molly dared look in Mrs Dee’s direction. Mrs Dee had her gaze fixed on the back of Biggins’s head.

“So you think no man should be fettered with a wife, Mr Biggins?” she asked in a dangerously calm voice.

Biggins, being neither quick nor clever, took a few moments to realise his mistake. In the tense silence of the room, he turned to confront Mrs Dee.

“I didn’t mean . . .” he began, cowering beneath her glare. “You and me – we has an understanding.”

“Quite,” she replied. “An understanding that has gone on for more years than I care to remember.”

“These things shouldn’t be rushed,” Biggins protested, but Mrs Dee was not for turning.

“Put on your coat and hat, Molly,” she ordered without taking her eyes off Biggins. “Mr Biggins is going to take you in the cart to Datcherford and deliver the letter.”

“Drive to Datcherford?” Biggins whined. “I has too much work to –”

“On your way back, Mr Biggins,” Mrs Dee cut in, “you may wish to go to the parson and arrange for the banns to be called.”

“Banns?” Biggins was now visibly trembling.

“The banns for our wedding. Until you show intent to enter into matrimony with me, you will not take your breakfast in this kitchen again, nor enjoy the privilege of evenings by this fire, nor have me prepare your supper.”

Molly pulled on her coat. The hapless Biggins was staring at Mrs Dee with disbelief, but he knew he was beaten.

“Please hurry, Mr Biggins,” Molly pleaded. “There isn’t much time.”

Muttering darkly, he stamped out of the kitchen.

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.