AFTERNOON TEA 1906. | By: Terry Collett | | Category: Short Story - History Bookmark and Share


And then Mrs Smallbridge calls you back again with that voice of hers that could sour milk and asks about the curtains in Master Henry’s Room whether they had been changed yet because he was due down later the following day and she wants everything to be just so for him and there was the chance that he would bring the Chiffon girl with him as a kind of introduction for something serious maybe but no mind to that Sally she says to you make sure that the bed is aired and the linen clean and ask Forbright (the gardener) if there are flowers to go in the room too and with that she lowers her eyes to the book in her lap and leaves you to gape at her sitting there with that air she has as if you were something the dog had left in the back porch and yes she says lifting her head to you and her eyes focusing on your hands holding a featherduster and cloth when Mr Smallbridge returns home ask him to come and see me Sally as I need him to arrange things for Henry’s possible marriage and mind you ask about the flowers for the room and then she lowers her eyes again to the book and her fingers smooth down the page and you nod and take the featherduster and cloth and make for the door to carry out the jobs she has just mentioned when she lifts her head again Ask Mrs Brooks( the cook) to come and see me I want to discuss tomorrow’s dinner and who will come and what we might have and do stand up straight Sally you will slouch so and the wines yes I need to see Harper (the butler) about that have you seen Mr Harper? You say you have but she doesn’t seem to hear because she’s on about the weather and how the trees have dropped their leaves early and all the time she has her eyes running over you like warm oil and her tongue clicking away with words and you have stopped listening now and have decided that she must have been quite a goodlooker in her day even if she’s a bit of a wreck now what with her hair hauled up like it is and her eyes all washed out and then you realize that she’s stopped talking and the room is silent and she looks at you as if waiting for an answer and you nod and grip the featherduster tight like a weapon and your nose is slightly red Sally she says in a softer tone holding her palm on the open book have you a cold? But before you can answer and tell her about the iceberg temperature of the attic and the wind that comes through he cracks by the window she breaks through your attempted dialogue and says ask Brooks for something she’s bound to have something for colds and such things we cannot have you coughing and sneezing over the guests or Mr Smallbridge or I and then she pauses and gazes at you her eyes settling on you like moths and yes Sally tea I would like tea and maybe cake ask Brooks if there is cake and you nod and smile the kind of smile you reserve for her and she looks down at her book her finger rubbing the edge and you stand watching her taking in her lowered head her hair her hand on the book and then moving away from her you walk to the door waiting for her to speak again but she doesn’t and escaping from the room you pull the door shut behind you with a soft click and put away your smile like a miser putting away coins.

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