A Chapter by Peter Rogerson



The thrush was gone and the day was slowly getting longer. It was time, thought Annie, for a cup of nice hot coffee. She’d like that and it would take her a few minutes to make it and she needed something to occupy her time, and making coffee would help even though hobbling to her kitchen was difficult. But there was so much time going spare, hours and hours of it and very little to put into it.

She had a book or two, but she’d read them when the lock down was in its infancy. Then there was the television, but there was one thing she’d always resisted and that was becoming one of those old souls who wasted their last few years in front of a television set. She’d love to get some fresh air, spend an hour or two in her garden, sitting on her seat out there, but two steps down into her small back garden were two too many.

It was making coffee that set her mind whirring, taking her back to that first day at work for the Davidsons, a day that opened all sorts of windows into the kind of life that was, to begin with, brand new to her.

She was wearing the new apron over the pretty pink dress. It had to be over it because she hadn’t been told where she could undress and change out of it. So she’d have to be careful not to get anything dirty on it, and cleaning silver can be such a grimy job. Good thing, she thought, that the apron covered so much of her dress.

There was a lot of silver and Annie could tell that it was all in need of a good clean and polish. There were several sets of cutlery and there were items of table furniture, a vase or two for floral centres, receptacles for some things she’d never heard of, mustard for instance. It all took a long time to do properly, and memories of mother’s own frowns when she’d polished her late father’s tankard and not done it exactly right served to guide her.

She hadn’t quite finished, though when Gertrude came drifting back in, looking, so far as Annie could tell, rather bored as if she needed something to do but now had a servant who could do it, which left a great vacuum in her life which she hadn’t as yet thought of how she might fill each day.

How wonderful, Annie!” she gushed when she saw the sparkling from her silver, “I’ve never managed to make it look anything like as glorious as that! It’s hard to believe it’s the same silver! You must show me how you do it, but not now. I’ve got something else I want to talk to you about.”

Yes ma’ … Gertrude?” she asked nervously. People hardly ever wanted to talk to her about anything, and certainly not something as important as the expression on the mistress’s face suggested her talk might be.

I’m wanting to write a book,” said Gertrude rather grandly, “come along with me, dear, and we’ll have elevenses. You’d like a morning coffee, I presume?”

Annie had never had a coffee at any time and certainly not the morning. She knew there was a drink called coffee, of course, but mother’s budget never ran to buying it and she rather suspected that even if it had it would have been for mother alone.

That would be nice, Gertrude,” she said politely.

She’s got the voice and the manners of an angel, thought the lady of the house approvingly.

They sat at a table in what Gertrude called the morning room and much to Annie’s horror her own mother carried a tray with two cups and a coffee pot with cream and sugar, and placed it on the table, frowning at Gertrude as if that woman had said or done something offensive.

Will that be all, madam?” she asked, and without waiting for a reply turned round and made her way back to the kitchen.

I don’t think your mother likes me very much,” sighed Gertrude, shaking her head, “and, you know, I’ve no idea why. But she’s good at her work, so I put up with it.”

I think,” said Annie slowly, “I believe it’s probably because your husband came back from the war, and hers didn’t.”

Gertrude nodded. “I had the idea it might be something like that,” she murmured, “silly woman, but I really do understand. When Ralf returned he was changed. And the worst thing is, since he was injured we can’t have children, and we did so much want a boy or girl, it wouldn’t have mattered which, we’re not old fashioned and need a boy to carry on the blood line. Blood lines are silly, I think. I suppose there are quite a lot over the years that have really been lies, untruths, fictions...” She looked vacantly at the window, and Annie felt uncomfortable, as if in her ignorance she was trespassing on someone else’s sorrow.

There’s one knight of the realm that I’m thinking of,” continued Gertrude, turning to Annie and smiling again, “a friend of Ralf’s. He fell in love with and married a rather common creature, a music hall actress of all things, and when their son was born he looked nothing like his father but had a remarkable likeness to the gardener!”

Annie smiled, echoing her mistress’s smile, which seemed the safest thing to do.

It must happen sometimes,” she said quietly, contributing something to a conversation that was barely bordering on her knowledge of life,nature ensuring that women must be always sure of who the mother is but maybe less certain, sometimes, about the father...” She had done basic biology at school and the topic of paternity had been debated even though the teacher, if she followed the rules of her employment, must have been ignorant of the practicalities of the topic.

You are remarkably perceptive for one so young,” sighed Gertrude, “but that’s not what I wanted to talk to you about.”

I’m sorry, ma’ … Gertrude,” stammered Annie, perceiving that she had made a blunder somehow.

That’s alright. Have no fear, dear. But I wanted to tell you about a task I’ve set myself while Captain Davidson is painting. He does a lot of painting, you know, and it takes up a lot of his time, and I believe him to be quite good at it. I want to write a book. A whole novel with all sorts of characters in it, and the main character, I thought, would be rather nice if I based her on you!”

Me, Gertrude? But I’m nobody!” stammered Annie.

Don’t be silly, dear! Everyone’s somebody and I rather suspect that you’re quite a special somebody!” exclaimed Gertrude.

Annie didn’t know how to reply to that, so she didn’t, but just sat there uncomfortably aware that she was slowly being dragged into a world she didn’t understand. Artists painting pictures, beautiful pictures, and now this very attractive woman talking of writing a book. A whole book with loads of pages in it about made up people with no feet in the real world.

Or maybe they did. Maybe her own feet were going to tread the pages of Mrs Davidson’s book and her own life fall under the microscope of a novel.

What’s it to be about, Gertrude?” she asked, boldly, “I mean, your wonderful book?”

Oh, it isn’t wonderful yet, dear!” laughed the older woman, “I’ve barely started it! But I thought I might write a mystery story. It’s the thing these days, you know, ladies writing stories with all sorts of unpleasant things going on in them. We could have an imaginary house a bit like this one, there are quite a few empty rooms here, you know, so I could put people into them, make-believe people but with realistic lives. And things could happen. I haven’t thought that far ahead yet, but it would be really nice if my main character was the maid who goes everywhere about her duties, sees and hears everything, and narrates the story. Maybe a lass like you, pretty, personable and intelligent. I’ve told Ralf of my idea and he says he’ll paint a picture for the front cover...”

The past drifted out of her mind as the thrush returned, breaking into the old drama from long ago that was replaying itself in her mind like it had thousands of times before.

I never dreamed,” she told the window and the thrush outside it, “I never dreamed how that first day would grow into what it became and the lengths an artist would go to in order to make sure things were just right!”

© Peter Rogerson, 07.05.20

© 2020 Peter Rogerson

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Added on May 7, 2020
Last Updated on May 7, 2020
Tags: silver, polish, author, writer, cove picturer


Peter Rogerson
Peter Rogerson

Forest Town, Nottinghamshire, United Kingdom

I am 77 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..

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A Chapter by Peter Rogerson