The Wedding Quilt – Episode 27

“Dad. Mum.”

Mamie looked up from her stitching.

“What is it, dear?”

“I’ve had an idea about how we can save the store.” She hesitated.

It had been Paddy’s idea and it was wrong of her to take the credit, yet she had to avoid putting Dad’s back up before she even started. He was likely to get annoyed if he thought that outsiders were meddling in his business affairs.

“Did you hear that, Matt? Beasie thinks she knows how we can save the store!”

“Hmm?” Matt turned a page, peering at an item that caught his eye.

“Do pay attention, dear! Beasie is trying to tell us something.”

“Not now,” he grumbled. “Can’t a man be allowed to read his paper in peace?”

“This could be important, dear,” Mamie murmured.

Matt looked at his daughter over the top of his spectacles.

Beasie blushed.

“Listen, haven’t you been complaining that people are shopping in town now, instead of buying from us?”

“What of it?”

“Then if the customers won’t come to us, why not take the store to them?”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about!”

“If we had a horse and wagon you could take a selection of groceries from farm to farm. Busy people would be so delighted they wouldn’t need to go shopping in town.”

“If you think I’d roam the countryside begging for business like some kind of tinker, you’ve got another think coming, Beasie Burke!” He buried his head in his newspaper and the subject was closed.

Mamie put a finger to her lips.

“Wait until your father goes out for his evening stroll and you can tell me all about it,” she whispered.

Beasie’s hopes rose. Matt Burke was the head of their household and his word was law, yet she had long been aware that her mother was the power behind the throne.

If she could convince Mamie of the worth of her plan, it might yet come about, by gentle persuasion on her mother’s part.

When Matt finally stood up, yawning and stretching, she prepared to say her piece.

“Spit it out!” Mamie said, laughing. “He won’t be gone long. You think we should start a delivery service to the outlying farms? How would that work?”

“Paddy says that the ice man wants to put his horse out to pasture for the summer. We could keep it in that field out back and Mr Billings would probably let us use the animal in return. We’d need a wagon to carry the goods, of course. Maybe Dad could borrow one until we see if the idea will work.”

“Go on.”

“At first we’d carry a selection of staple goods and then people could give us orders for items to be brought out the following week. All it would cost is some extra feed for the horse.”

“I don’t know, Beasie. I know that horse and it isn’t getting any younger. I wouldn’t like to see the poor beast drop in its tracks some fine morning.”

“But don’t you see? It wouldn’t have to go the whole distance in one day. Dad could go out two or three times a week, going in a different direction each time.

“Think of the local people who bring us things to sell, like Mrs O’Neill with her butter. He could pick that up on his rounds and save her youngsters that long walk carrying a heavy pail.”

“I don’t see what we could lose by trying it,” Mamie said. “If it took off I might resurrect my idea of a lending library. Your father didn’t altogether reject the idea before; he was just so distressed when he learned about the excursion train being run for the benefit of the town merchants. All he could see was a dark future threatening our livelihood.”

“Yes! Books can go out on the wagon for people to borrow, and when they’ve finished with them they can hand them back when Dad calls round next!”

Beasie’s face fell.

“We’ll not get far with the number of books we have here at home, and where’s the money to come from to buy more?”

Mamie put down her sewing, smoothing out the piece she’d been working on.

“Where there’s a will, there’s a way, Beasie. Other people have books in their homes. I’m sure we can persuade people to lend them for the scheme.

“Of course it won’t make us any money, unless we charge a few cents to give to the Women’s Missionary Society. But the books will be like those loss leaders the Ararat grocers are so fond of.

“Housewives coming to the wagon to exchange them will buy other odds and ends at the same time, or place orders for the following week.”

Beasie nodded. Given time she might be able to come up with other ideas to help promote their business.

“There are endless possibilities, aren’t there, Mum?”

“Indeed there are, but let’s not put the cart before the horse. We must first persuade your father that this idea of yours has merit, and I think you must leave that to me.”

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.