She slipped out the side door of the private wing and crossed Mrs Brewster’s personal garden.
At this time of day, the Brewster family were fully occupied with their duties in the inn. No one was present to see their maid — their now former maid –unlock the private gate to the lane with the keys she had lifted from their hook in Mr Brewster’s office.
She would leave them in the lock. By the time they were discovered, she would be far from here, on her way to a position far, far away.
Freddie was waiting in the lane with his family’s gig and pony. It wasn’t elegant, but it would get them to the nearest coaching inn on the highway, 20 miles away inland.
His eyes widened as he took in the picture she made in her new gown and bonnet. One of the outfits she’d acquired for her new life. As she approached the gig, she saw that he’d found the bag and trunk she’d hidden in the stables last night. She hoped no one saw him take them away. Almost, she asked him, but, no, she mustn’t give him any reason to think she doubted him.
She let him lift her up into the gig, and hurry around to the other side.
“You look right pretty today, Miss Alice,” he said, as he took off the brake and gave the reins a shake. “Walk on, gray mare.”
Alice kept scanning the surroundings, to make sure no one saw them leaving. Not that they could stop her. She was the Brewster’s employee, not their slave. Had been the Brewster’s employee. Her resignation letter was hidden in the clutter of papers on Mr Brewster’s desk. He would find it about the time she was due back at work after her day off.
No, they couldn’t stop her, but if they knew what she had been doing and where she was going, they might make her departure difficult. Certainly, Freddie would not be allowed to transport her.
She smiled at him, and tucked her hand into his arm. Dear Freddie. He was a kind soul, and she felt just a little guilty for using him in this way, but needs must. She wasn’t going to settle for a fisherman’s son and spend the rest of her life in Fenwick.
She had new clothes, a job waiting for her, and money jingling in her reticule. She would say goodbye to Freddie at the coaching inn. Perhaps she would even give him a peck on the cheek — some sort of recompense for the trouble he was going to be in when he got back to Fenwick on Sea.
Freddie was chattering away about the men who had arrived at the inn to question all the servants about the source of the reports that had been published in the Teatime Tattler.
Alice smirked. Miss Abney always said that education gave you opportunities. Alice had found an opportunity. She had always been good at listening to people, putting two and two together, telling stories. Writing them was not much different. Sending them to Mr Clemens had been a clever idea, if she did say so herself.
And Miss Abney was right. The first opportunity had given her another. “I can use someone like you,” the letter from Mr Clemens had said. “Someone with the skills to work within a household and the brains to collect the stories I need.”
Alice was off to London to take up a permanent job as a reporter with The Teatime Tattler.
Alice is a character in the stories of Storm & Shelter. See the link for novella blurbs and buy links, and the collection for some of Alice’s Teatime Tattler reports.
And congratulations to our prizewinners, who read the book, correctly named the reporter, and had their names drawn in the prize draw.