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Authors: Lyn Andrews

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BOOK: Sunlight on the Mersey
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‘Oh, I couldn’t possibly consider accepting payment! Things aren’t
that
bad, just . . . difficult. I hope you don’t think I was hinting . . .’ Charlie was concerned; tempting though the offer was he didn’t want Edward Taylor to think he was scrounging or wasn’t capable of making a success of his business. ‘No, things are bound to pick up soon and I’m still learning the ropes. It’s very generous of you to offer but I couldn’t take payment for what is basically just “helping out”. Anyway, I gain great satisfaction from the fact that you trust me with the knowledge of your business affairs.’

The older man nodded slowly, his estimation of his future son-in-law rising.

Chapter Twenty

T
HE PURCHASE OF
A wireless set brightened Kate’s days considerably and, as the weather got warmer, with more rest the pain in her back gradually subsided. Iris too was thankful for the balmier days, light mornings and longer evenings. ‘It’s certainly easier getting up in daylight and not ending the day half frozen,’ she remarked to Tom when he arrived to drop off her order. ‘And Mam isn’t in nearly as much pain now either and that’s a blessing. Even our Charlie isn’t moaning as much about business although Florence and her mam are starting to fuss, which is irritating him.’ Florence had arrived the previous evening, bringing with her swatches of material for bridesmaids’ dresses and she could see her friend was impatient for a decision.

‘Mother said the choice is really mine but I wanted to
discuss the colours with you, Iris. I just can’t make up my mind between these two.’ Florence had handed over two pieces of silk taffeta, one apple-blossom pink, the other a pale primrose-lemon. ‘They’re both colours I like and they’re just perfect for a spring wedding.’

‘They’re both lovely, Florence, but I think I prefer the pale lemon, it goes better with my hair and if our Rose is going to be a bridesmaid, it will suit her too. I think the pink is a bit too pale,’ she’d said.

Florence had nodded happily. ‘That’s just what I thought too. I think white and pale lemon with touches of green will be a really lovely spring colour theme. Now that’s decided your mother and mine can choose what colours they’ll have. All we need to do now is decide on the style for your dress,’ Florence had continued.

Iris had sighed and had listened while Florence had outlined what she had in mind.

Now she rolled her eyes and grimaced at Tom. ‘I told you she’d want us in something frilly, didn’t I? You should have seen what she had in mind! We sort of compromised in the end as I said it was pointless having something I could never wear again – not that I’ll have much call for pale lemon silk taffeta.’

‘Oh, you never know, one day I might be able to afford to take you to a posh dance,’ Tom replied.

‘I don’t know if I’d feel comfortable at a posh dance,’ she laughed.

‘Is Charlie getting more involved in all these arrangements now?’ Tom asked.

‘No, he’s managing to stay well out of it – so far – and I think Mam is glad she’s going to stay with Gwen for a couple of weeks next month.’

Tom nodded. It would do Iris’s mam the world of good, he thought, but wondered who would keep the peace between Iris and her brother for they frequently bickered.

When both Rose and Gwen had written suggesting that Kate go to Tregarron in June for the flower show she had been delighted. It would be wonderful to spend time in the country with her old friend and her youngest daughter, she’d thought, and she’d never been to the show. Gwen had suggested that she get the taxi from Denbigh to Tregarron for she certainly couldn’t ride on a farm cart now, not with her condition. She would arrange it and try to obtain a special rate for her. Rose had written saying that not only would there be the entertainment of the show but that there was to be a party too as Miss Elinore was getting engaged to Mr Williams and the whole household was excited about it. Yes, with the prospect of a few weeks’ holiday and her wireless set Kate felt her life was definitely better than it had been.

Gwen had all manner of things planned for when Kate came to stay and had discussed the travelling in detail with Rose.

‘She should tell the bus driver that she has this medical condition so he should take it easy,’ Gwen said firmly one evening in June as Rose was helping her to tie up the climbing rose beside the front door.

‘I can’t see her doing that,’ Rose replied, breathing in the heady perfume of the deep pink blooms.

‘Well, I intend to tell Mr Griffiths who has the taxi to take things very easy. Pass me those secateurs,
cariad.

‘And she’ll be here for my birthday, although it’s just a normal working day for me and will probably be busier too with all the preparations for the party. Miss Olivia has been making lists for weeks and is always having long discussions with Mr Lewis and Mrs Mathews about taking on more staff.’

Gwen nodded. ‘Quite an occasion for them, it is, see. There hasn’t been a party up there in years.’

‘I don’t suppose there has been much to celebrate,’ Rose replied. She was looking forward to it. Everyone was; both family and staff seemed far more animated and Miss Elinore had certainly blossomed since the news had been announced.

‘Has anything been said about a date for the wedding? That will be a very grand affair, I shouldn’t wonder. There’ll be people coming from far and wide. I know there are aunts and uncles and cousins and family friends: I suppose they’ll be staying at Plas Idris,’ Gwen informed Rose, standing back to inspect her handiwork.

‘I haven’t heard a date mentioned yet but I should imagine it will be later in the year or early next year; these things seem to take a lot of organising. I know Mam will be glad to get away from all discussions on weddings,’ she said, gathering up the gardening implements. ‘Florence and Iris have already decided on the colour for Iris’s dress.’

‘What about you, Rose?’ Gwen asked.

Rose shook her head. ‘I’ve written and told Florence that it’s just not practical for me to be a bridesmaid too. I don’t mind, I’m sure they will give me the time off to attend the wedding, but I can’t expect them to let me traipse back and forth to Liverpool for fittings and the like. And Iris was Florence’s friend before Florence even met our Charlie and me.’

Gwen nodded. ‘Just as long as you don’t feel slighted.’

‘Not at all. And I’m really looking forward to Mam coming,’ Rose replied happily.

The weather was glorious when Kate arrived, tired and hot and relieved that the journey was over.

‘Kate, come on in: I’ve some homemade lemonade in the kitchen. It’s so lovely to have you to stay.’ Gwen hugged her friend gently.

‘I won’t break, Gwen, luv,’ Kate laughed.

‘That’s just what you might do, Kate,’ Gwen said seriously. ‘We’ll have to take good care of you. Rose won’t be back until after eight; they are all getting in a bit of a tizzy up there what with the show in a few days and the party. She’ll be able to tell you all about it when she gets in. Now, I’ll take your case up and we can unpack after you’ve had time to rest a bit. Bethan said she’d pop down later to see you.’

Kate settled back contentedly in her chair. She was really going to enjoy this little holiday.

Rose arrived home later that evening and after leaving her bicycle in the outhouse found her mother and Gwen sitting in the small garden at the back of the cottage.

‘It’s such a lovely evening I thought we’d have supper out here. Bob called so I got him to bring the table out,’ Gwen told her, indicating the table already set for the meal beneath the shade of the old apple tree in the corner.

Rose hugged her mother, feeling as if it had been a year instead of just months since she’d last seen her and noticing too that Kate had become thinner. ‘Mam, I’ve really been looking forward to you coming to stay.’

Kate smiled affectionately at her, thinking the life here did seem to suit Rose. She had more colour in her cheeks and looked fit, healthy and happy, which was indeed a blessing. ‘And I’m delighted to be here. You’re looking really well, Rose. Working up there must suit you.’

‘I do enjoy it, Mam, even though the hours are long and at the moment we’re all really rushed off our feet,’ Rose assured her, and then went to help Gwen to bring out the evening meal on two trays.

Gwen poured the tea and Rose handed her mother a plate of cold roast beef with cheese, tomatoes and chutney, accompanied by slices of crusty bread and butter from Bryn-y-Garn Farm.

Over the meal Rose informed them of the preparations that were going on at the big house and Kate relayed all the news from Liverpool. They were about to start clearing away when Bethan Williams arrived.

‘Bethan, how lovely to see you again,’ Kate greeted her as Rose went into the cottage for another cup and saucer.

‘I’m so glad you have come to spend a few weeks here this time, Kate, and not just a few hours,’ Bethan said warmly, nodding her thanks for the tea Gwen poured.

‘If I go home looking as well as Rose does, it will have been well worth the journey,’ Kate replied.

Bethan nodded. ‘She’s a lovely girl, Kate, and is well liked, but she does have to work hard! Things are all at sixes and sevens at Plas Idris at present. That house is being cleaned and polished to death – I saw when I was up there this afternoon.’

Kate nodded. ‘Helping organise the show, I assume.’

‘I’ll be spending a few hours there tomorrow myself,’ Gwen put in. ‘If you like you can come with me, Kate, but you’re not to do anything at all strenuous – no helping to move tables or chairs or anything like that. Oh, I just hope that Mrs Llewellyn-Jones isn’t going to create the usual fuss, we can do without it this year,’ she added grimly.

‘She will,’ Bethan said flatly. ‘Full of her own importance, she is, but with all the fuss over Miss Elinore’s engagement I doubt anyone will take much notice of her.’

‘He’s a widower, isn’t he, the man she’s going to marry?’ Kate remarked. Rose had told her so in her letter.

Bethan nodded. ‘Sad, it was. Only been married for two years, they had, she was one of the Davieses from Aberdaron. Lovely girl. She died in childbirth and the baby with her. Little boy, it was. He was very cut up over it, poor man. Kept himself to himself after that.’

‘Until he met Miss Elinore.’ Rose smiled. ‘I’ve only seen him twice but he seems a nice gentleman and David . . . er . . . Mr Rhys-Pritchard’, she hastily amended, ‘says he likes him a great deal and thinks Miss Elinore will be very happy.’

The three older women exchanged glances. It was Kate who broke the silence. ‘There seems to be a lot of tragedy surrounding that family.’

‘There has been,’ Bethan agreed.

‘Let’s hope that Miss Elinore’s wedding marks a new beginning for them then,’ Gwen said sagely.

‘I doubt Miss Olivia will ever get married; after all, someone has to run that house and ensure that Mr David is well taken care of,’ Bethan commented.

‘He’s much better these days. I can see an improvement in him from when I first went to work there. He doesn’t seem to have nearly as many “difficult” days now and he’s just got one of those motorised wheelchairs, which will make it much easier for him to get around,’ Rose stated.

Gwen smiled. ‘Is that so? That should be a big help. Maybe he’ll start to take more of an interest in the estate now. I know he has a land agent but his father always kept a close eye on things, was always very interested in his tenants. You say he enjoys the time he spends listening to you read to him, Rose, I suppose that’s a start.’

‘He does and we often discuss who we think the killer is and why and the twists and turns of the plot. She really is a very clever woman that Mrs Christie.’

‘Do you discuss other things?’ Kate asked, thinking she
would have a word with Gwen later on about Rose’s attitude towards her young employer.

‘Sometimes. He always asks about you and the rest of the family,’ Rose admitted. ‘He’s very polite, Mam, but I am just a housemaid after all.’

‘So he doesn’t talk much about himself?’ Kate persisted.

Rose shook her head, feeling a little uncomfortable and wishing she hadn’t inadvertently called him by his Christian name. They were friends but she wasn’t sure what her mam would think of that friendship. ‘No, and he won’t talk about the war at all, except that he was in the Welsh Guards and he only told me that after I’d told him what regiment our Charlie was in.’

Bethan nodded. ‘None of them like to talk about it.’

Rose got to her feet. ‘I’ll start and clear away now, it’s starting to get dark.’

Bethan too rose to her feet. ‘And I’d best be getting back. I left Owen writing his sermon. I’d take the opportunity to rest tomorrow, Kate, get over the journey, while Gwen and I are up at the big house. You’ll have plenty of time to see the place on the day of the show and of course nearly everyone in the village has been invited to the party – after the family and guests have all had dinner, that is. We’re to be entertained in a marquee.’

Kate looked startled. ‘You never mentioned that, Gwen. I don’t know if I’ve brought a decent enough dress to wear.’

Gwen smiled at her. ‘It was to be a surprise – the icing on the cake, see, and don’t worry about a dress, we’re not
expected to wear anything fancy. After all, we’re mainly just tenants.’

BOOK: Sunlight on the Mersey
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