The Secret Of The Silver Locket – Episode 03


AS Grace closed the back door behind her, she heard the sound of Matthew’s cheerful voice, followed by Mrs Potter’s West Country burr, though she couldn’t catch what they said.

She also smelled the spicy whiff of freshly baked gingerbread but didn’t dare linger, her mind focused upon her sewing task. She tiptoed past the door to the stillroom where Matt was doubtless drinking a cup of strong, sweet tea with the cook, and rushed up the back stairs and along the corridor to Rowena’s room. She tapped on the panelled door.

“Who is it?”

“It’s me, Grace. May I come in?”

“No, no! Not just yet, Grace, please. Did you buy the ribbon?”

“Of course. Do you want to see it? I can pass it through if you open the door a crack.”

“Just go ahead and I’ll see you at lunchtime. We’ll have ours in the little sitting room. In peace,” Rowena added darkly. “Emma said she’d bring you some tea. Miss Phipps and I have just had ours.”

“Thank you,” Grace called, setting off again. Wasn’t that just typical of Emma – to think of her on such a busy morning. Wondering what Rowena could be up to behind her closed door, Grace arrived in the sewing room moments ahead of the woman who, while carrying out the duties of housekeeper and acting as maid to Lady Carmichael, provided a comforting presence in Grace’s life.

Plump and motherly, Emma sailed into the sewing room bearing a tray upon which sat a chubby little china teapot complete with cup, saucer, spoon and slice of sticky gingerbread.

“Emma, I’m utterly parched. I hope you realise you’re truly an angel.”

Emma smiled, placing the tray upon the table next to the ironing board and picking up the pot ready to pour.

“What’s all this secrecy over Miss Rowena’s hair? I wasn’t allowed inside her room.”

“I’ve no idea.” Grace sipped her tea.

The older woman regarded her affectionately. She’d taken over as substitute mother after Grace’s mother died of the Spanish flu, leaving the thirteen-year-old alone in the world, Grace’s father having perished in the trenches towards the end of the Great War.

The couple had arrived in London from Scotland when Grace was a babe wrapped in a shawl, and they obtained positions with Lord and Lady Carmichael on the strength of glowing references provided by their former employers in Edinburgh.

Emma had been much relieved when Lady Carmichael called the serious young girl to her and explained Grace would never lack a home and that Emma would tutor her in the duties necessary to her position. Emma, much more than a mentor, had provided cuddles and helped Grace learn to live with the loss of her darling mother.

Fortunately, Rowena loved Grace like a sister and the two girls joined Rowena’s parents at table for family meals and accompanied them on outings, except the more formal ones.

“I’ve finally agreed to go out with Matthew,” Grace said, as the housekeeper turned to leave.

The woman who knew her so well gazed at her without comment.

Grace hesitated, seeing something in Emma’s eyes she didn’t quite comprehend.

“You don’t think it’s a good idea, do you?”

Emma smoothed her hands down her apron front.

“That young man worships you, Grace. You’d do well to bear that in mind before trampling all over his feelings.”

“I wish you’d told me that before I agreed to go out with him. I’m not so insensitive that I haven’t been worrying about the possibility of hurting him.”

“Surely you knew how he felt? Can you not see the way he looks at you and has done for a long time?”

“He teases me a lot, that’s for sure. I don’t know about special ways of looking.”

“No,” Emma said. “You obviously don’t.” She shook her head. “Oh, how I wish your mother was still alive!”

“And you think I don’t wish that too?” Grace’s eyes were bright with unshed tears. “But we can’t bring her back. The past is in the past.”

“Except when it comes back to haunt you.” Emma rushed from the room.

Grace, puzzled by the anguish she’d seen on the older woman’s face, stared after her, knowing better than to follow.

 

Tracey Steel

Having worked on a number of magazines over the years, Tracey has found her perfect place on The Friend as she’s obsessed with reading and never goes anywhere without a book! She reads all the PF stories with a mug of tea close by and usually a bit of strong cheese too!