Together We Stand – Episode 16

“Mrs Humphries.” Andrew Banks quite clearly had no time for the beauties of the day, let alone the scenery.

Gwendolyn prepared herself for another battle.

“I’m surprised at you, Mrs Humphries,” he went on.

Andrew was enjoying this. She could see the frustration of every contradiction she had made on the board of her husband’s business gleaming in triumph from his eyes.

“The tearooms I was prepared to countenance. But a photographic studio!”

“I understand they are popular,” she replied. “And very respectable.”

“When run by a professional with a reputation beyond reproach. Not a slip of a girl. A girl,” he added for emphasis. “Who knows what she might be persuaded into?”

Gwendolyn felt her temper stir.

“I doubt Miss Phillips will be persuaded into anything. I know I certainly will not.”

He gave her a look of scorn. Gwendolyn’s temper made a bid for freedom.

“And if your concern is for images of dubious morality being produced behind the scenes, perhaps you would be better dealing with those who create the market by purchasing such images.”

Banks was scarlet.

“You are a disgrace to your sex to speak of such things.” He leaned closer as Madeleine abandoned her sketching and hurried towards them. “I had every respect for your husband, Mrs Humphries. For his sake, I was prepared to allow you to prove that these tearooms can be run in a peaceful manner.

“But as a councillor, I will not permit the youth of this town to be corrupted by a handful of bitter, discontented harridans, too plain to attract a mate, and too envious to allow others to enjoy happiness.”

He drew himself up to his full height.

“I will not,” he said loudly as Madeleine joined them, sketching pad held firmly in one hand, “allow this poison in our midst to spread.”

“A tearoom is hardly a hotbed of revolution,” Gwendolyn snapped, with a strong urge to box the man’s ears for his pomposity.

“No, indeed,” Madeleine put in. She smiled at Mr Banks. “How could tea and cakes possibly hurt anyone?”

Andrew Banks scowled.

“My fellow councillors will agree with me.” He sniffed. “A reputation once lost is lost for ever. We have our businesses to consider. I will not have our visitors subject to this affront.

“Just you see, neither the tearooms nor this photographic studio will be allowed to open.”

With that, he turned on his heel and made his way back towards the town.

“He can’t stop them from opening, can he?” Madeleine asked. “Tanni is coming to the Bron Derw to pick up some of the equipment tomorrow. Henry still can’t drive, but I can brave the scandal and take the automobile myself.

“It would be horrible to have to stop now. Surely someone can make him see sense. I’m sure Henry could talk him round, if he won’t listen to a woman. Henry can talk his way through anything.”

Gwendolyn watched the retreat of Andrew Banks.

She cleared her throat.

“Under most circumstances I would agree. But I’m afraid Councillor Banks will not let this go.”

“I see.” Madeleine caught the look on her face.

Gwendolyn gave a wry smile.

“Andrew forgave my husband years ago for offering me marriage. I’m afraid he has never forgiven me for accepting. And even less for loving him deeply until the day he died.”

She glanced back towards the shore.

“This urge of Andrew’s to close the tearooms and the photographic studio is not rational. Heaven knows how we are going to stop him.”

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.