© Janet Scrivens
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This novel is my third book in a series known as 'Tales from Old Swepi'. It is based on the life of my grandmother and takes my family saga to the end of WW2
I have introduced a prologue, designed to remind my readers how it all began. Please will you include in your critique, whether or not, in your opinion, this works. Would the book be better without it? OR Should it stay?
Novel 3. - Street End
“Once upon a time in Swepstone”
Saturday evening, 12th November 1876
Billy Elverson backed quietly out of the bedroom. He allowed his sweaty hand to linger for a moment before carefully closing the door. He wiped the perspiration from his forehead and stuffed the red-spotted handkerchief into his trouser pocket. Billy scuttled back down the stairs; hob-nailed boots clattering on each and every tread. Sounds of muted voices could be heard through the tap-room door. Billy felt their tension. Before lifting the latch, he adjusted his shirt collar, prising the stud back into place, and straightened his tie. He pushed open the door to face a dozen or so concerned pairs of eyes, waiting expectantly. Billy’s face burst into a smile.
"It's a girl!”
The men rose to their feet, noisily voicing their congratulations and edging towards him, anxious to shake his hand. Billy hastily retreated behind the counter, frantically searching for his clay pipe. He found it next to the barrel of stout he had been tapping when when he heard his wife's cry. A nicotine-stained finger pushed the tobacco down into the bowl. Billy put a match to it and inhaled.
It was over!
Billy prayed this child would be the last. He had died a thousand deaths with each birthing, but this one had taken much longer. On hearing Bess scream, Billy had taken the stairs, two at a time. He had burst into the bedroom not knowing what to expect and had been shocked to see his Bess in the final throes of childbirth, with his mother leaning over her, a pair of scissors in hand, cutting the umbilical cord. Taking in the blood and dishevelled bedclothes, for one dreadful moment Billy thought his beloved wife had died. Then she turned her head and looked at him.
The delivery had left Bess exhausted. Thankfully, by the time he left the room she’d recovered somewhat and had a smile on her face. The baby had everything a baby should have, including strong, healthy lungs, judging by the sounds from upstairs.
"This calls for celebration!" John Booton pulled a handful of small cigars from an inside pocket, spreading them out on the counter for all to share. "Here Billy, put down that pipe and try one o' these."
"Thank yer, John," echoed members of the dominoes team, some rushing to light the cheroots from a candle burning on the counter, whilst others lit spills from the fire in the inglenook.
"Is Bess alright?" enquired Sam the sexton.
"Aye, as good as gold, my Bess," grinned Billy, hiding his relief behind a chuckle.
John Thomas, owner of the Newton Nethercôte Stage Coach Company, projected his chewing tobacco into the spittoon. "So, Landlord, what'll yer name 'er?"
"I think we settled on Ada for a girl," called Billy over his shoulder while reaching down a bottle of good French brandy; the one he'd been saving for just such an occasion, "if it had been a lad it would have been Jarvis after the missus's family."
"Miss Ada Elverson," declared Sam the sexton, allowing each syllable to slide gently into the air. "It sits well on the tongue."
Billy turned up the lamp. The men gathered round, swathed in a cloud of fragrant smoke. They watched in silence as the golden liquid poured into small tots-glasses. They drank it down in sips, appreciating the heat from the smooth spirit as it warmed their insides.
Sam broke the silence. "This is most agreeable," he said, licking his lips. "You've done well with the Elephant. You and your missus deserve every penny you make, so I would like to propose a toast." He raised his glass, "To Billy, to Bess and to their children."
"Hear, hear," echoed the team.
The door swung open. Billy cleared a space as Mary, his eldest, carried in a tray loaded with bread and cheese. She placed it on the counter with a pot of pickled onions and a dish of best butter.
"Good girl!" Billy waited until she had had set out the food. "Now sweet'eart, you go and help Grandma Elverson look after your mother, I can manage here."
Billy joined his patrons around the table in the dominoes' corner. The members of the team were all men he knew and trusted. They raised their glasses once more to celebrate the safe delivery of the Elversons' fourth child, before settling down to enjoy supper together at The Late Elephant: a coaching inn on the outskirts of the village of Swepstone in Leicestershire.
"Giving birth does not a mother make." - Anonymous.
“If we live and have good luck, then together we can achieve anything.” Ernest Forrester
Chapter 1 – Swepstone
Ada Elverson peered out of the front bedroom window to view the rooftops of the sleepy Leicestershire village. It was the morning of Saturday, the 12th December, 1908. The trees were stripped of their leaves and tiny droplets of morning dew collected along the bare twigs before exploding into a thousand particles on the earth below. It was a dank and still day; not at all the weather one would expect so close to Christmas.
The cottage was situated on a crossroads, on top of the hill leading out of the village towards Heather. Ada had a clear view of the whole length of Street End. The only signs of life this morning were spirals of smoke rising gently from the chimney stacks of Victoria Cottages. It was surprising no-one had renamed the road. One would have expected it to be Heather Lane, or even Measham Road, considering it was a direct route from one village to another, but Street End, purely because Church Street ended there, seemed simplistic in the extreme. It was even more surprising that the notion had chosen that precise instant to flash into Ada's mind.
A sudden movement disturbed the moment and her face broke into a radiant smile. Mr Thomas was steering his gleaming black carriage, out from the end of Church Street and up the hill towards Ada's Cottage. The white plumes on the horse rippled as they made their way towards the house.
"Mr Thomas is here," called her brother George, from his vigil at the parlour window. “Look, he’s wearing his best black frockcoat and satin topper.”
Ada stood before the mirror. Careful not to disturb the dark, thick tresses which had taken a good half-hour to twist into a bun at the nape of her neck, Ada placed her hat at exactly the right angle and secured it with two new hat pins; their pearl heads nestling into the cream satin roses piled high around the brim. Ada lingered just long enough to pinch her cheeks, check that her nose hadn't taken on a shine and dab a little cologne behind her ears, then she picked up her prayer book and delicately tackled the narrow, winding staircase in her new, satin court shoes.
George reached out his hand to steady her as heels clattered on the polished wood. "I say, our Ada, you look lovely." George took her hand and escorted her out of the front door, through the railings and to the carriage.
Ada was about to thank him when Mr Thomas joined in, "Aye you do, Ada. Your mother and father would have been proud to see you this day."
"Thank you, both of you," Ada replied as they helped her up the metal steps and into the carriage.
The remarks lay uncomfortably with Ada. She was thinking Mr Thomas was wrong. Father would not have been proud of her on this day. In fact, she was about to do the one thing he had repeatedly begged her not to do.
Ada placed herself on the seat, arranging her skirts so they wouldn't crease. The soft cream silk of the dress caressed her skin and she threw a shawl around her shoulders. She was too old to be wearing the family crinoline and veil, but was content in the knowledge that, despite being thirty-two years of age, she was fashionably attired. She waited for Mr Thomas to take his place. He picked up the reins and without even the slightest instruction the horse backed the vehicle into the bridle path in order to turn it around, and resumed a slow, gentle trot down the hill. The carriage passed Victoria cottages, unusually quiet, which was to be expected as most of the occupants were already in church.
They turned into Church Street, passing Manor Farm with its rick-yard full of hay and beyond to where the church tower rose, somewhat assertively. With prayer book in hand and brother George by her side, Ada settled into the final few yards of their journey to St. Peter's Church, where, in front of the good people of Swepstone, she was to plight her troth to Ernest Forrester.
The horse pulled up outside the gate. Ada slipped off the cream shawl which Nelly, her sister-in-law, had crocheted especially for today, and placed it on the carriage seat for later. Ada would never understand how Nelly had managed to complete the beautifully crafted shawl in such a short time. It must have taken hours of work, not to mention a visit to Ashby to purchase the yarn. Nelly had given it to Ada three days ago, carefully washed, folded and wrapped in tissue paper. It had come as a complete surprise. Nelly had kissed Ada, first on one cheek and then on the other. She had said, with tears in her eyes, “From me to you with love. I hope you will be as happy as George and I.” Ada was touched by her generosity. Alas the years hadn’t been kind to her. Ada recalled their wedding-day some thirteen years before and remembered how stunning Nelly had looked, with her auburn hair piled high and secured by a tortoiseshell comb. She had carried off the family crinoline and veil to perfection. The ravages of time were incidental. It was Nelly whom Ada had sought on her return from Burley-on-the-Hill. It had been Nelly who had listened and gently talked her back to normality.
Ada patted the shawl as it lay on the leather seat. The weather wasn't so cold that she couldn't walk along the path to the church door without it. Ada and her older brother made their way along the cobbles, passing between endless rows of headstones, standing like sentries on either side of the path. The church-yard smelled of God's damp earth
Hannah stood waiting in the porch, her face full of smiles. “Aunt Ada, you look lovely. You are so slim”
Ada took George's arm and together they negotiated the worn stone steps. The church smelled of Christmas. Holly and ivy were draped around the stone columns and filled every window sill. Raucous sounds from people coughing disturbed the peace and faint whiffs of eucalyptus oil lingered on the air. Ada inhaled the infusion of fragrances and relished the moment. She was to make a grand entrance in her new clothes. There was one resident Ada needed to impress above all others. That person should really have been Ernest, of course, but there was one other in particular who could either make her life agreeable or become a constant irritation; Ada didn't have the patience to deal with constant irritation.
They had a clear view of Miss Johnson, bending low over the organ with spectacles balancing on the end of her nose. She smiled. Ada noted she had a few more gaps where yellowed teeth had been removed. Miss Johnson nodded to young George Pluckrose sitting on a low stool, nervous and uncomfortable. He began to pump for all he was worth. The sound of huffing and puffing from the bellows invaded the spaces between the silent parishioners as air was forced into the pipes.
A smiling Reverend Townend approached with a flourish, the cloth of gold of his brocaded cope, picking up the light. "Good morning," he greeted George. "You have delivered her on time. Well done, young man." He turned to the bride, "God has seen fit to provide a mild, dry day for your wedding, Ada."
He raised his arm in signal to the organist, who plunged her fingers onto the ivory keys of the pipe-organ. The Wedding March filled the ancient building, prompting members of the congregation to rise to their feet. Ada waited for the Rector to take his place at the chancel steps before following in his wake. Ada’s feet trod the ancient flag-stones and she inhaled smells of weddings past, of Sunday school and choir practice, her eyes taking in the faces of family and friends. She glanced up at the brass incense-burners suspended on chains from the ceiling; empty now, but always kept polished. Their patina reflected the flickering light from candles burning in the chandeliers and on the high altar beyond.
This was the moment Ada had dreamed of and she endeavoured to capture it and hold it in her heart for ever. George led her sedately towards the chancel steps to where Ernest was standing; her bridegroom turned towards her and their eyes met. At that moment, Ada was confident Father had been wrong. There in those cornflower-blue eyes she saw nothing but love.
Ada woke first and gently turned towards Ernest, careful not to waken him. He was sleeping peacefully, and she nestled into his warmth. They had been married for one week and almost a day.
It seemed a lifetime away since, as a girl of fourteen, she had left The Late Elephant to train as a cook. The time spent with the Ludlam family at Glenfield Mill had been agreeable and rewarding and Ada had looked upon it as her second home, and it had been peaceful. The last seven years spent at Burley-on-the-Hill however, had been anything but peaceful. It was strange how things had worked out. She had returned home in August with a heavy heart, full of despair and confusion. Yet here she was with a smile on her face, which, as Father would have said, reached from one side of her face to the other and half way down her back.
It was Sunday morning and Ada was looking forward to having Ernest to herself, at least until her younger brother Jarvis put in an appearance, and that wasn't usually until he smelled the dinner cooking. She wondered how many older women had spotted her condition. She was now over two months without her woman's days, but at her age she didn't need to delay having babies. It didn't matter what people thought. There was no doubt in her mind that Ernest loved her and he had asked her to marry him before they had lain together.
She smiled, stifling a sigh on recalling his arm around her when they had danced at their wedding. It had been a most beautiful moment when he told her how splendid she looked and how proud he was to have her as his wife. "If we live and have good luck, Ada," he had whispered, "we’ll be the happiest couple alive."
The wedding breakfast at the school-room had been a great success. Ernest's mother, it appeared, had been suitably impressed and had behaved with decorum; most of the time. Later, when she had imbibed just a little too much, and began to warn of Hellfire and damnation if they sinned, Mr Forrester had persuaded her to go home. The celebrations had taken place in the school, and as the Forrester family lived in School Cottages, directly opposite, they hadn't far to go.
Ada had been surprised, even a little shocked when Ernest asked Jarvis to be his best-man. He explained that he couldn’t chose between his five brothers and was worried that his mother might interfere and take it upon herself to select one of her sons. Arthur had never been asked and it was on Ernest’s mind to invite him, but as it was obvious he was not his mother’s favourite, it would cause too much fuss. Ernest had taken the easy way out and had chosen Jarvis. Ada liked the idea of having younger people to witness the nuptials, but as she didn’t have younger sisters, Ada invited her eldest niece, Hannah, to be her bridesmaid. She was a lovely girl; twenty-two years old, gentle and willing. She had been thrilled to accept.
Ada clasped her pillow and touched the gold ring on her finger. She had chosen to wear her mother's wedding band. She had worn it during her years at Burley-on-the-Hill. No self-respecting woman in service as Head Cook was allowed to be addressed as "Miss"; it wasn't considered seemly. Ada had become accustomed to fondling the ring and thinking of her mother. It made her feel safe.
The bedroom had turned out well. She had taken Mrs Scarlett's advice and applied lime-wash. She had watched the builders at Burley-on-the-Hill, and mixed a little ground coffee into the mixture before leaving it to sit overnight. She was pleased at how light and fresh it looked with the beams and door all the same pale, creamy colour as the walls. The smell of dried and crushed pyrethrum flowers mixed with cloves, lingered. A certain amount having, no doubt, slipped between the wooden boards. Once the floors had been swept and polished, Ada had placed two new rugs, one either side of the bed.
The gold curtains which Nelly had made hung well and blended with the beautiful patchwork quilt from the second-hand stall in Ashby market. It was like new, showing no signs of wear. All in all, with varying shades of blue and gold, and the brass-knobs of the bedstead now gleaming, the room looked quite different and Ada no longer regarded it as her parents'g bed-chamber. Finally, with both the chest of drawers and the wash-stand having been polished to a shine, Ada had been satisfied with the result. In fact, she experienced a sudden feeling of fulfilment and contentment. Never before had she been in charge of her home. Here for the first time in her life she was able to please herself within the boundaries of her means. The closet housed her new clothes. The feather bed, which she had aired outside on the clothes-line, was bliss.
Not only had Ada spent a great deal of money on the cottage but also on the reception, not wanting to disappoint Ernest's mother, who had great expectations from all of her family; in particular (if village gossip was accurate), from her daughters-in-law. She had, apparently, been telling everyone how posh the wedding would be and that no cost had been spared. Ada's first reaction was to cut everything to a minimum and be married at eight o’clock in the morning, when the village women would be busy with washday and the farmers milking their cows, but on Mrs Scarlett's intervention, Ada had rethought the situation. As the lady had put it, "Sarah Forrester makes a better friend than an enemy," but if the truth were known, there was precious little difference between the two. There had been just short of two hundred pounds in the silk purse, when Ada had first returned from Burley-on-the-Hill. Ada hardly dare to count it now. Following the criticisms of her father, Ada had thought twice about having her photograph taken in her wedding clothes, but there, on the chest of draws, next to the alarm clock and Ernest, sat a small portrait in a frame. How slim she looked, with the wide belt around her waist.
Ada rubbed her belly and wondered how big the child was. She was certain it would be a boy and imagined him nestling inside her, curled up and asleep. He would be Christened Ernest; Ernie for short. She didn't want him called little Ernest, or for that matter, young Ernest. His middle name would be William, after both their fathers. Yes, Ernest William Forrester; it sounded good, not that she dared to utter it, not just yet. She would tell her husband in a few weeks' time. Ada could imagine his face on hearing he was to be a father. He would be thrilled and impatient to tell the world, but Ada wasn't quite ready to face the knowing looks or the nudges; in particular, the nudges.
Ernest woke and reached for her, the usual sleepy smile on his lips. He tasted of last night’s beer. Jarvis had gone out to play dominoes and partake of the usual faggotts and mash supper. They were to be alone, so Ada had cooked 'boeuf en croûte' as a special celebration on the anniversary of their first week of marriage. Ernest had relished each and every mouthful, said he had never tasted anything like it before. Ada had laughed, "I shouldn't think so, undercut is the most expensive part of the beast," but she hadn't laboured the point. Giving him pleasure was all part of being wed.
"Excuse me a moment," he said, as he swung his legs out of the bed to reach for the pot. She ran a finger down his back, admiring his lithe physique; lean and healthy. He was tall and handsome, with hair inclined towards auburn. He stood up and Ada waited patiently for him to come back to her, anticipating their pleasure, but Ernest jumped, almost dropping the chamber pot, as a deluge of stones hit the window. "Oh no," he uttered.
"Good Lord!" exclaimed Ada, "What on earth was that?"
The voice was unmistakably that of his mother. "Ernest Forrester, get up! Do you hear? Get up and open this window! Your idle brat. What time do you call this?"
Ada jumped out of bed and grabbed her clothes. Ernest pulled on a shirt and trousers, leaving his combinations still hanging over the back of the chair. He didn't open the window, instead he bolted down the stairs as if the devil himself was after him and Ada heard him unlock the front door. She could hear raised voices but couldn't distinguish the words. Mother Forrester sounded angry.
Ada had heard the village gossip about Sarah Forrester. Indeed, Ada’s father had described all manner of oddities concerning the lady. He and Mr Thomas had repeatedly told about her having purchased cabbages from the market in Ashby, when they already had a garden full of them, to spending money like water on new clothes, fans, and all things fashionable and then repeatedly paying to have her photograph taken. The only early memory Ada had of her, was once seeing her chasing one of the boys through the hedge and into the field behind the school. She had been brandishing a rolling pin at the time. That was years ago and Ada hadn’t given it much thought. The only other contact Ada had with her was in Church. It had been on Ada's mind to invite the family round to tea, but their son Alfred and his wife Emily, who lived with them, together with their daughter Beatrice and son Percy, had been dealing with a complicated confinement. Emily, who did the majority of the housework had been laid up in bed for weeks until the complicated delivery of the baby had begun. She finally gave birth to a baby boy, Charles. It turned out to be an incredibly painful forcept delivery and she had been ailing ever since.
Ada had called round at the Forrester household a few times, mostly to deliver cakes and pies which Ada had baked to try to help the situation. There had never been enough time to spare to interact with Sarah, so Ada's attempts to find out exactly what she was about had been thwarted.
Mother-in-law had looked positively elegant at the wedding. She had worn a pale grey velvet jacket and matching skirt and with a full fox fur draped around her shoulders. The hat was the same pale grey with ribbons and a voluminous ostrich feather which moved tantalisingly, echoing the warm rusty colour of the fox. She had used a walking cane to enhance her gait which gave her extra elegance, and carried a small reticule containing a lace handkerchief and a bottle of smelling salts which she had, from time to time, wafted beneath her nose. She would have been at home in any country house.
Sarah Forrester held herself well; head high and shoulders straight. She was tall and slim, almost willowy, carrying no extra weight. She stood a few inches taller than Mr Forrester. He was inclined towards rotund, with a jovial face, sporting masses of auburn hair, including the fashionable mutton chop whiskers. The effect was quite dramatic. Looking at the couple they appeared as almost total opposites, as indeed they were, in both stature and temperament.
Ada was beginning to feel the cold. She pulled her shawl tighter, not quite knowing what to do. In the end, as her teeth were chattering, she decided to go downstairs. After all, this was her house. She was the one who paid the rent. Ada's savings, carefully enclosed in an old silk purse and secreted behind a loose brick in the clothes closet, had diminished at a frightening rate. She had willingly paid for the wedding and the new bits and pieces in the house, but had expected they would add to her caché from Ernest's wages. Surely, he was drawing a fair sum from the colliery. He had given her two shillings towards the rent and two shillings for food. He hadn't sen fit to consult her on the subject so Ada assumed he had liassd with Jarvis, but as yet Ada hadn't seen a wage packet. She knew he had been working overtime but wasn't sure exactly how much he earned.
Ada walked somewhat heavily down the stairs, allowing her heels to announce her arrival. Sarah Forrester was seated in the rocking chair beside the fireplace. She barely nodded her head; her face as black as thunder and her lips set in a tight line.
"Good morning," said Ada.
Sarah glared, first at her and then at Ernest, who somewhat sheepishly shook his head; his eyes remaining glued to his mother's face. Ada sat down at the table.
"Do you know what day it is?" The words spat from Sarah's lips.
Slowly and deliberately, keeping her voice quiet and subdued, Ada replied, "Yes, of course. It's Sunday."
Ada's mother-in-law yelled. "It is the Sabbath!"
"It is indeed."
"Then why aren’t you both in church?"
Ada felt her cheeks begin to burn. She looked across at Ernest, who simply continued to stare at his mother.
"As a matter of fact, we agreed to attend evensong. That way we could worship together with you and your family."
The older woman opened her mouth and her eyes in astonishment. Ada thought for one moment she had won the argument. It wasn't every day that someone living and breathing found the nerve to stand their ground against Sarah Forrester.
"You missed Holy Communion!"
Ada was about to answer in the affirmative, when her mother-in-law stood up and walked towards her, pointing a long, scrawny finger. It was as if all hell had broken loose inside her. Her body shook with rage. She positioned her face close to Ada's. "What do you think people will say? You missed Church altogether last week, and this week you can't prise yourselves out of bed in order to do Gods will?" There was a short uncomfortable pause while she took breath. Her hair was fast escaping from the combs; it gave her a wild look. Ada remained very still; just for a fleeting moment, she felt frightened. Sarah Forrester's voice rose to a shriek. "They will draw unholy conclusions about what you are doing, lying in bed together with your curtains still closed while God-fearing folk walk past to take the blood and body of Christ and give homage to God."
"Mother!" Ernest sprang to his feet, his face ashen. He grabbed hold of his mother's shoulders, half turning her round. Without disconnecting her eyes from Ada, Sarah Forrester backed away and returned to her seat. Ernest too sat, sheepishly put his head down and continued to stare at the pegged-rug in front of the fireplace. Ada was furious. She didn't know whether to laugh or cry. The dreadful behaviour of this woman was one thing but Ernest's reaction was something else. How could he sit there and not defend her? He was afraid of his own Mother! It was intolerable! A cold sensation settled into Ada's heart. She kept her voice low. However, despite her determination to stay in control, Ada’s voice began to tremble. "It is no-one else's business what we do on Sunday mornings or any other morning, come to that. We were married in front of God and with his blessing. Surely you can't have forgotten that marriage was made for the procreation of children? You didn't get your brood by sitting in Church, now did you Mother-in-law?" Ada looked her full in the face and raised an eyebrow. It had occurred to Ada she may have gone a tad too far, considering her own condition, and was aware that it was only a matter of weeks or so at most, that the speculation would begin. However, Ada Elverson would never have let that moment pass without taking a stand, and Ada Forrester had even more right to stick up for herself, since it was obvious that her husband wasn't going to.
Almost as if he had read her mind, Ernest jumped to his feet. "That's enough. I'm going to put on my coat Mother and I'm taking you home."
There was a sudden and unexpected squeak from the hinges of the staircase door. All heads turned. Jarvis’ face could just be seen, tentatively peeping through the gap which was slowly widening. He looked terrified. "Please, excuse me. I need the lavatory." He sped through the living room, into the scullery and out of the back-door like shot out of a twelve-bore. Ada wondered if it was through a natural need for the lavvy or for fear of being shouted at. She was most pleasantly surprised to see he had taken the trouble to dress properly for visitors, complete with collar and tie and his best jacket. At least Ernest's mother wouldn't be able to find fault with him.
"Have they gone?"
In spite of everything Ada giggled, "You cannot imagine how I blessed you for opening the door. Your timing was impeccable. Come, you can sit in here now without fear or danger." Ada pulled out a chair.
"What happened?" asked a red-faced Jarvis. "I thought she was going to kill somebody. I could hear her down here, going at it hammer and tongs, but I was dying for the lavvy, and I couldn't wait any longer. It was mostly her. I didn't hear Ernest saying much. Then I heard you come down and I thought she would stop.
Ada riddled the ashes from the fire and flung a handful of kindling onto the few remaining hot coals. A few puffs from the bellows and the welcome sight of a tiny flame sprang into life. Ada began to prepare breakfast. It was an excellent therapy to calm the conflicting emotions running through her head. However, by the time the fire was properly alight there would only be time to make porridge. Ada preferred Sunday mornings to be special, with bacon and eggs. She had even purchased black pudding from Mrs Hodgett. How dare Ernest's mother behave in that fashion? Had it been any member of Ada’s family they would have been told in no uncertain terms to mind their manners and it was doubly frustrating that, because Ernest hadn't intervened, Ada could hardly tell his mother what to do.
"I can't believe it's happened." Ada shook her head, heaping small pieces of coal onto the burning sticks. "I knew she was a strange woman but fancy making an exhibition of herself like that. Half of Victoria Cottages must have heard her and goodness only knows what the neighbours next door must have thought." She couldn't help laughing, despite anticipating the embarrassment she would feel when next walking down the hill and into the village.
"What did you make of it?" She asked Jarvis.
Jarvis shrugged and turned away, but not before Ada spotted him looking somewhat furtive and blushing.
"What is it you’re not telling me? Go on, what do you know? "
"They have been talking about her in the pit. They were placing bets as to how long it would take before she fell out with you."
"Jarvis, you should have told me!"
"I certainly should not! No-one can predict how another person will behave. I have been keeping my fingers crossed the two of you will get on." He put his arm around his sister's shoulders. "Problem now is how you’re to deal with it!"