Together We Stand – Episode 27

A few hours later, the tearooms finally opened.

“At least they are curious,” Madeleine murmured as the dozen or so women, some accompanied by husbands, made their way inside the tearooms, exclaiming at the change in the place in such a short space of time.

“Yes,” Tanni replied, doing her best to smile.

“Don’t worry,” Madeleine said, squeezing her hand. “It will all work out. Henry is doing great things with the broken camera we found at the back of the picture wagon.”

“It’ll be done in no time,” Henry added, joining them. “It’s a complete workshop in there. I’m sure there’s enough spares to build several cameras!”

“Thank you,” Tanni said gratefully.

“Not at all.” He exchanged glances with Madeleine. He’d already spoken to a firm in London who were sending up a replacement within the week. If only his damaged arm had healed enough to allow him to drive, he’d have fetched the camera himself.

At least Mrs Humphries had agreed that the gift should come from the suffrage ladies, and his name should not be mentioned at all, for the sake of propriety. The last thing Tanni needed was any rumours to start flying.

Gwendolyn had given him a sharp glance, but had agreed without any further comment that it was the most sensible course to take, and a generous gift to the entire venture of the tearooms.

“And at least the folding camera is safe,” he added.

“Yes,” Tanni said, patting the case, its straps slung across her body to prevent anyone from getting their hands on it.

She sighed.

“Except people will be expecting the photographic studio to be open this afternoon, and it doesn’t look like a camera you use in a studio. It’s more the kind rich men take out to photograph mountains and scenery for the amusement of their friends.”

“But only rich men,” Henry replied thoughtfully.

“Of course!” Madeleine caught his meaning instantly. “The people on the sea front and on the pier won’t all be rich. Just think of the backdrop that would be!”

“Take them there, you mean?” Tanni gasped. “With the real Llandudno and the mountains, and the sea as a backdrop rather than a painted one. That would be really special.”

Madeleine laughed.

“No-one is going to stop this studio – especially not some dirty little thief.” She slipped her arm through her brother’s. “You can be our chaperone, my dear, and fight off the marauders.”

“You mean, do it now?” Tanni asked.

She glanced back towards the tearooms. The volunteers and the paid waitresses were flying to and fro, fulfilling orders as if the tearooms had been there for years.

Laura St John shot past with a laden tray of cakes, followed by her cousin Edith, carefully balancing cups and teapots.

“You can talk to Edith later,” Madeleine said, following her gaze. “No-one will have time now. Once the tearooms have settled down a bit there will be plenty of time.”

Tanni nodded, excited. She couldn’t wait to begin.

* * * *

The sun shone brightly, and the sea was calm, lapping gently at the metal supports of the pier and along the sea front.

They made their way to near the end of the pier.

“I’ll take you with the mountains in the background,” Tanni said. “If we have time, we can take one on the beach.”

Within minutes of her posing Madeleine and preparing to take the photographs, a small crowd had collected, drawn by the novelty of the camera.

“If you go to the tearooms,” Henry said loudly, clearing enough space for the photography to be carried out, “you can have your portrait taken in the studio, and arrange for a similar one to this, if you wish, at the same time.”

He fixed his eye on a couple of lads who appeared ready to dash in to stand next to Madeleine, who was looking demure, steadying her hat in the sea breeze.

The boys grinned and shot off in search of alternative mischief.

“I think you might have a few customers from that, Miss Phillips,” Henry said as they made their way back towards the tearooms.

“People did like the idea,” Madeleine agreed.

Tanni smiled at them.

“Years ago, before he became ill, Mr Samuel used to talk about taking the picture wagon around the villages in the hills. I think the spirit of adventure never quite left him.

“He liked the idea of taking pictures to people who might never have a chance to have their portraits taken, so they could be kept for ever.” She sighed. “I’d love to do that – once the studio was up and running, of course.”

“And I’m sure it would be a success,” Madeleine said.

“All the more reason to find who has such an interest in the picture wagon and its cameras, and why,” Henry added.

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.