The Secret Of The Silver Locket – Episode 05

AFTER the girls ate together, Grace collected the luncheon things and stacked them neatly, ready to carry the tray to the stillroom. She wondered what kind of mood Emma might be in, having rushed off earlier, looking so strained.

The housekeeper turned to see who was bringing more dirty dishes.

“Grace! Is it really you?”

“It’s definitely me. What do you think of my new hairstyle?”

“I’m not sure.” Emma didn’t meet Grace’s eyes. “I… I’ll need time to get used to it. I thought you only wanted a trim?”

“So did I – until Rowena persuaded me otherwise.”

“Anyway, Matthew’s clearing away the main course as Mr Hicks is still swanning around the golf course with his lordship. So I probably shan’t see her ladyship on her own until I help her dress for their night out.”

“I see. I’m sorry if you’re missing Mr Hicks.”

“I’m sure I don’t know what you mean by that!”

Puzzled by the instant rosy blush flooding Emma’s cheeks, Grace hesitated.

“I only meant, he’s a safe pair of hands and you must be wondering how well Matt’s doing in the dining room, without his uncle to keep an eye on him.”

“I wonder what Matthew will make of your new look,” Emma said, scrubbing at the prongs of an engraved silver fork as though her life depended upon it.

Emma straightened up, dried her hands and moved away so Grace could take her place. There had been a strange look in Emma’s eyes, almost, Grace thought, as though the older woman had imagined she’d seen a ghost.

“New kitchen maid, is it?” Matthew, his brown eyes sparkling with fun, deposited four empty wine glasses on the draining board beside her.

“Now, Matthew, none of your cheek,” Emma retorted. She rolled her eyes, hearing the cook calling. “I’m on my way, Mrs Potter. I expect you’d like me to take in the trifle.”

Left alone with Matthew, Grace waited for another cheeky comment but nothing was forthcoming.

“This is a surprise,” he murmured, coming so close, she detected the tangy scent of coal tar soap.

“Get a move on, Matthew,” Mrs Potter called. “Trifle’s going through now. Mr Hicks saw to the glasses earlier and pudding wine’s in there, in case you hadn’t noticed. You pour while Emma serves dessert.”

Matt winked at Grace.

“I’d better go before our cook has my guts for garters.”


“You look like a movie star.” Grace clapped her hands together and stood back to admire the full effect of Rowena in her finery. “It’s so fashionable you look as though you’ve stepped straight from the pages of ‘Vogue’ magazine. I can’t believe your mother won’t approve.”

“She’s bound to find fault. She prefers much more formal wear for evenings but I think I can get away with this outfit at the Ritz.”

“Who exactly is attending this dinner, Ro?”

“Several of Ma and Pa’s cronies with assorted offspring. It’s supposed to be an informal start to the formal start of the London season if you see what I mean. I missed most of last year’s functions, of course.”

Grace nodded. Rowena had fallen from a particularly frisky horse while a guest at a house party in the country and much to Lady Carmichael’s exasperation, had been laid up and therefore slipped behind in the “marriage stakes”, as Rowena called them.

“So, are you to be partnered by anyone in particular? You said something about the son of an earl.”

“I’m told Lord Redvers Fountain, heir to the Carnforth Estate, is my beau for the evening. I despise country sports. I can’t drive and I’m nowhere near as good as you are at tennis. I doubt he cares about women’s rights and as for liking musical theatre productions…”

Grace giggled.

“You might be agreeably surprised.” She handed Rowena her stole.

Grace was ready for her outing but before using the back stairs to the kitchen quarters, she couldn’t resist hovering on the landing, to be within earshot of Lady Carmichael’s reaction to her daughter’s new look.

Oddly, it was Rowena’s father’s deep, cultured voice she heard first.

“By George, my dear, you look very elegant. New dress, is it? Very nice indeed. Let me put that lacy thing round your shoulders for you. Doesn’t our daughter look a picture, Cressida?”

Upstairs, Grace held her breath.

But instead of the tirade Rowena had anticipated, Lady Carmichael’s opinion appeared as positive as her husband’s.

“My goodness, Rowena, what a surprise! But I like the way your dress is trimmed. And how strange that you have had your hair bobbed. According to a friend of mine, who knows the Countess, Her Grace is wearing a new look too. Now, let’s not keep Hicks waiting any longer, shall we?”


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!