10. THE PRECIOUS PARCEL

10. THE PRECIOUS PARCEL

A Chapter by Peter Rogerson
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The morality of an earlier age seems dated and rather silly...

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Breakfast was always a time, in the Spandex household, for setting high standards for the day. After all, work lay ahead for Bert on the farm where he still laboured, mostly fiddling with fencing, and his good lady wife had a doorstep to scrub, bedding to wash until it was whiter than white and an evening meal to prepare. And Ursula, of course, had the village shop where Old Auntie Emmett was getting to be increasingly dependant on her due to an increasingly severe affliction from arthritis.

There’s one thing I’m not having, my girl, and that’s that man in our lives. He’s a lazy no-good toff with too much trouble in his trousers and too little bother about anyone but hisself.” It was a long speech from Bert Spandex to Ursula, and she wasn’t used to long speeches from that direction. The topic of Charles Snootnose had cropped up, and Ma had said she thought he had an eye for Ursula.

I can make my own mind about folks, dad,” she said, “and there’s no way he’s doing an etching of me.”

What’s an etching?” asked Ma Spandex. Her real name was Dolly but nobody would have known that because she was usually called Ma as if motherhood was her only function in life.

A picture,” Ursula told her, vaguely. “He draws pictures of what he likes to look at and etches them into a sheet of tin and then prints as many copies as he fancies from them.”

And what does he like to look at, that’s what I’d like to know,” rumbled Ma Spandex.

At a guess it’s ladies with no clothes on,” murmured Ursula, shy to mention so horrific a subject to her parents.

You can go and wash your mouth out!” barked Bert. “Dirty talk. Filth! Plain filth!” he added.

Mum did ask,” protested Ursula, “and anyway, I’m sixteen now. That makes me grown up enough to know about people with no clothes on!”

Well he’d better not get any ideas of anyone in this house taking their clothes off for him!” declared Ma Spandex. “There’s nowt filthier than a body with no clothes on it. Nowt filthier indeed!”

They do say,” ventured Ursula who knew she was of a very different age to her parents, “they do say that sometimes the King has to stand naked...”

That’s a wicked thing to suggest,” shouted her mother.

But it’s true I suppose, acknowledged her father. “What I’ve been saying, though, is that the young toff wants to draw pictures and etchy-thingies of young ladies, not kings, and that ain’t right!”

Well he’s not going to draw anything of me,” Ursula assured him. “The only man to see me in the altogether will be the man I marry.”

And only then on holidays and high days, I hope,” approved Ma. “A man shouldn’t see too much of his wife or he might get ideas he shouldn’t have, and that can lead goodness knows where.”

I’m past all that nonsense,” grunted her husband, but the glint in his eye suggested otherwise.

And a good thing too,” his wife replied, and the expression on her own face softened as though with fading memories. “Ain’t it time you were off to that shop where you work?” she added, directing her words at Ursula.

In a minute, Ma,” protested Ursula, “I’m there till dark anyway. I need a few moments to myself.”

That’s the trouble with you young folks these days,” Ma remonstrated, enjoying one of her favourite themes, “all you want is time to yourselves and no time for work. You mark my words, it’ll end in trouble, having time on your hands, and doesn’t the Reverend say nearly every Sunday that Satan finds work for idle hands to do, eh?”

The Reverend might say that, but as I see it he has more time on his hands than most folk, only working on Sundays,” grumbled Ursula.

That’s a wicked thing to say!” almost screeched her mother.

The conversation was primed to follow a popular and commonly used theme when an unexpected knock on the door startled the three of them.

Now who can that be?” asked Ma.

The Dickens I know,” replied Bert.

I’ll go and see,” said Ursula, knowing that it would be she who had to answer the door on the rare occasions that it was knocked.

It was a delivery boy, a lad who must have pedalled his rusty old bicycle from Brumpton, which was a good ten miles away.

Looking for Miss Spandex,” he said, perspiration in beads on his forehead.

What’s that?” squawked Ma, joining Ursula at the door.

Miss Spandex?” asked the boy, who couldn't have been a day over twelve and so should have been at school.

Mrs,” Ma corrected him. “I’m Mrs Spandex for my sins. Mrs Dolly Spandex, though most people call me Ma.”

No. That’s not the one,” the boy said, concentrating on the label on the small parcel he was holding. “Says, U…, let me see, Ur… I can make it out, “Urs...”

Ursula?” put in Ursula. “That’s me. I’m Ursula Spandex.”

That’s it!” crowed the lad triumphantly. “From Jingo the Jeweller. Said it was urgent, like. Said it was from, let me see, from … from someone by the name of, let me see, I’ll make it out any moment now, from a bloke by the name of None… er Nonesuch. That’s quite odd, ain’t it, Nonesuch?”

The chauffeur,” Ursula said, “Tony Nonesuch, the chauffeur from the Squire’s big house.”

Well, here you are, Miss,” said the lad, recovering from his pedalling. “You’ll have to sign this slip of paper for me to take back to old Jingo.”

Ursula took the small parcel and the slip of paper, which she duly signed, using the stub of pencil proffered by the delivery boy.

What’s that servant lad sent you, our Ursula?” asked Bert, curiously. “You’d best open it before I’m off to the farm or I’ll die of curiosity, else.”

From that Jeweller in Brumpton,” sighed Mrs Spandex, “that’s a shop I daren’t walk past lest I breathe the air as blows out of its door, and get charged for it!”

The delivery boy, obviously as curious as everyone else when it came to what a young girl would be doing receiving a parcel from Jingos, reluctantly turned his bicycle round after folding the slip of paper carefully and pushing it into his pocket.

I’ll be off, then,” he mumbled.

Yes. Here, have sixpence,” said Bert, handing the small silver to the lad.

Core, that’s smashing!” the lad exclaimed, and pedalled off.

That was a lot to give the lad, Bert,” muttered Ma, “I could have used that sixpence mysen. I need a bar of soap, I do, for the doorstep.”

Oh, sod the soap! You get that parcel open, our Ursula!” grunted her father.

It was neatly wrapped in brown paper, and very carefully she opened it. Inside was a box, an expensive looking box.

With trembling fingers she opened the box and took out a slip of paper on which was written for you, the owner of my heart, so that you may never be late for me…

And underneath that slip of paper was a shiny, polished silver watch with a leather strap.

Fit for a queen...” sighed Ma, “it’s bloody beautiful!”

Language, our Ma!” reproved Bert.

But it is,” she whispered, “nobody ever bought me one of these.”

You can take it, Ma,” said Ursula, her voice breaking, “I don’t want it! What on Earth does he think he’s doing buying me something like this? Why, he’s old enough, nearly, to be my father!”

I’m your father,” Bert said to her indignantly, “and it’s to my mind that you should be taking your time over this. Taking your time good and proper...”

© Peter Rogerson 19.07.18



© 2018 Peter Rogerson


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Added on July 19, 2018
Last Updated on July 19, 2018
Tags: breakfast, discussion, nudity, morality, royalty, jewelry, wristwatch

A WOMAN OF EXCELLENT TASTE


Author

Peter Rogerson
Peter Rogerson

Forest Town, Nottinghamshire, United Kingdom



About
I am 76 years old, but as a single dad with four children that I had sole responsibility for I found myself driving insanity away by writing. At first it was short stories (all lost now, unfortunately.. more..

Writing