The Secret Of The Silver Locket – Episode 11

IN the kitchen of the house perched high above the sea, Alfred Hicks sat at the table. He’d spread a layer of newspaper before beginning on the laborious task of polishing the silver cutlery and candlesticks he’d lovingly packed up the previous September for storage in the town house.

Emma walked in, her face flushed and with a strand of hair escaping from the green cotton scarf she’d wrapped around her head.

Alfred looked up at her.

“Hot work?”

“I’ll say. But we’re making good progress upstairs. There’s homemade lemonade in the pantry. Shall I call Grace so we can all take a break?”

Alfred sat up straight and put down his polishing cloth.

“In a minute. Emma, it’s high time you and me had a little chat.”

She pulled her scarf off and shook her coppery curls free to fall around her face.

“I… you and me… we go back a long way, Alfred.”

He pulled off his chamois leather gloves and stood up, his face serious.

“We also have much in common. Would you say yes if I asked you to take an evening stroll with me after supper?”

She hesitated.

“I don’t want to leave Grace here on her own.”

“She might enjoy it. You know how she likes to explore the library if she only gets the chance. Without Miss Rowena racketing round, she’ll probably jump at the opportunity.”

“Shall I ask her then?”

Alfred’s face lit up but he had no time to answer before Grace entered the kitchen.

“Shall you ask who what?” Her eyes shone with laughter.

“Mr Hicks has invited me to take a stroll with him later. Would that be all right with you?”

“Goodness me, yes indeed. About time too!” Grace grinned at Alfred. “I’m happy to potter about the garden as long as I can go down to the beach tomorrow. The weather’s set fair, don’t you agree, Mr Hicks?”

“I should say so, Grace. Now, how about that lemonade, Emma?”

This request from Alfred to walk out with Emma made her feel very happy indeed. She’d felt for a long time that the two of them belonged together as a couple and now it seemed she could be proved right.

How strange to think that Emma and Alfred might soon be facing an important decision while, back in London, Rowena appeared to be on the verge of a new phase in her young life. And what of herself she wondered?

Alfred Hicks was consulting the local newspaper they’d picked up on the way and smiling with pleasure as he announced there’d be a low tide that evening for his and Emma’s stroll on the seashore.

“That’ll be almost as good tomorrow, then? For Grace to take a walk, I mean.”

Grace, hearing her name mentioned, tried to concentrate on the moment. She’d had decisions made on her behalf for so many years now, the prospect of breaking out of her long-established routine gave her a tremulous feeling, like butterflies dancing the polka in her stomach. How silly of her!

“There’s no reason why the pair of you can’t go together tomorrow,” Alfred said. “I always think it’s best for one of us to stay around, once the house is occupied again.”

“We’ll see.” Grace shot a mischievous glance at the housekeeper. “You might prefer to take the opportunity to spend time alone together. That’s something you’re not going to find easy when we’re back in town again.”

“Grace! That’s a little presumptuous, don’t you think?” This time, Grace thought the fetching pink of Emma’s cheeks owed nothing to physical exertion.

Alfred cleared his throat.

“But what Grace says is true none the less.” He drained his glass. “Now, I must get on. I want to have this lot finished and the table cleared by six o’clock. Will that suit, ladies?”

He was true to his word and after they’d eaten cold meat and new potatoes with fresh vegetables, Grace decided he should be rewarded.

“Off you go, you two,” she said when all the plates were cleared.

“But what about the washing-up?”

“This is nothing compared to what there is at Seymour House. No arguments, Emma. Or you, Mr Hicks.”

“You could call me Alfred, you know, Grace.”

“Thank you. Perhaps, while we’re down here but not once we’re back in London.” She smiled at him.

“I must powder my nose. I shan’t be a minute.” Emma disappeared upstairs.

Alfred gazed after her.

“Do you think she’ll say yes?” he asked.

Grace surprised herself by flinging her arms around him.

“I never guessed you were such a romantic, Alfred.” She stood back and watched him straighten his tie. “Even if it has taken you years to get around to a proposal.”


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!