The Secret of The Silver Locket – Episode 09

IS that the lot now?” Alfred Hicks took Grace’s black valise from her and wedged it inside the boot of the Rolls Royce.

“I believe so. Grace looked at Emma.

He ushered his passengers into the vehicle, stepped on to the running board and settled behind the wheel.

Grace sneaked a swift glance through the rear. Matthew stood, face impassive, watching their departure. She raised her hand to wave but lowered it again, seeing him turn quickly away and go indoors.

Mr Hicks wasn’t attired in chauffeur’s uniform, as no family member was making the trip. Grace wondered what age Mr Hicks might be. He had to be well over forty years of age, probably nearer forty-five.

“It’s good news about the new girl, isn’t it?” Grace said.

“If Polly survives a few days under Mrs Potter’s supervision, she’ll be more than all right, in my humble opinion,” Emma said.

Alfred cleared his throat.

“It’s to be hoped everything goes smoothly while we’re away. Being short-staffed is something we’re used to but with the three of us away from Seymour House, it’s not going to be easy for the rest of them.”

“You’ve trained Matthew very well,” Emma said. “Don’t you think so, Grace?”

“He seems very competent indeed.”

“Well, I shouldn’t say this, as he’s my own kin, but I’m pleased with the way he conducts himself,” Alfred said.

As their journey continued and they began to see fields rather than row after row of terraced houses, she said, “I expect you could do with a break, Mr Hicks. Could you stop when it’s convenient, please? I have a flask of tea with sandwiches and cake when you’re ready.”

Alfred drove on until he found a suitable place to park. They got out and Grace untied the package provided by Cook and offered the pile of sandwiches to Emma and Mr Hicks.

They munched in silence, enjoying the fresh air. Grace got out of the back and placed the flask of tea and three cups on the grass verge so she could pour without danger of spilling anything on the upholstery.

Mr Hicks addressed her while Emma was out of earshot.

“Grace, I know this is none of my business but both you and Matthew are important in my life. I don’t like to see either of you unhappy.”

Grace stared at her feet.

“I take it the boy’s hopes have been dashed?” Mr Hicks looked anxious.

“Your concern is appreciated, Mr Hicks, but I don’t think I should discuss Matthew’s feelings, even with his uncle.”

She looked up at him, her eyes troubled.

“You must realise it wouldn’t be right for me to agree to anything I don’t feel comfortable with.”

Alfred nodded.

“Emma would scold me for raising the subject but I wanted to say how sorry I am. You’d be the making of that young man, even though he’s come a long way already.”

Grace sighed.

“You pay me a compliment, Mr Hicks. But I don’t deserve it. Matthew feels things are about to change within the household. He may well be right but it’s too soon to say and I need time to weight up my situation. We best be on our way.”

She enjoyed watching for landmarks as they drew closer to their destination. At last, she saw the chimneys of Admiral’s Rest rising above the fields in the distance. Alfred slowed the vehicle ready to tackle the narrow, twisting lanes.

The three of them stood on the gravelled drive looking up at the lovely old house they all knew so well. Grace walked to the paved area before the front door, with key in hand ready to unlock the summer residence.

“Smells musty!”

“As you’d expect.” Alfred loomed behind her.

Grace wondered if she’d imagined it or had he given a more than cordial look at Emma? She picked up a scattering of engraved calling cards from the floor.

“It looks as if the family will be welcoming all the usual suspects this summer.” She frowned as she read the details of the last one. “Although this is a newcomer, by the looks of it. A Mister Harry Gresham.”

“Not another prospective suitor for Miss Rowena, surely?” Alfred was heading for the stairs. “I’m taking these straight up to the top floor, ladies.”

Grace noted Emma frowning at her.

“I don’t mean to pry, Emma, but this Mr Gresham gives Sea Breezes as his summer residence. His home is actually in New England.”

“So, he must be renting the house next door? Let’s hope he doesn’t sweep Miss Rowena off to America although I can’t see their lordships agreeing to that, can you, Grace?”

“They probably wouldn’t appreciate a suitor who doesn’t come from British stock. But I wouldn’t dream of trying to guess Mr Gresham’s pedigree.”


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!