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Room vacant. (standard:mystery, 1073 words)
Author: Bryn PearsonAdded: May 07 2001Views/Reads: 1256/750Story vote: 0.00 (0 votes)
When Will and Beatrice find they cannot pay the bills, they advertsie for a lodger. The year is 1911, and life will never be the same again.
 



Room Vacant. 

By Bryn Pearson 

His coming was a Godsend that winter: Keeping a house was more expensive
than we had thought and without his rent each week, we could never have 
afforded to buy coal. He simply replied to our advert by appearing one 
Monday evening wit a large suitcase. 

“I’ve come for the room, if you still have it?” he said. 

His voice was educated and his clothes looked quite dapper to me. I
couldn’t imagine what he could want with out small back bedroom, but I 
didn’t argue. 

In the first week, he never went out and we only saw him at meal times.
While I was ironing or making bread during the day, I would hear him 
softly pattering about the room in his socks. He told me he spent his 
days reading, on one of those rare occasions when he spoke. For extra 
money, I washed his clothes, which were much better than anything we 
had. That he had money was very clear. 

At first Will was none too happy leaving me alone in the house with our
guest, Mr Angarth. I could see it in the slow clenching of his fists 
during meal times and hear it in the silences where before we would 
have been talking. But Mr Angarth meant no harm and bit by bit he 
started talking himself. His tales were strange and didn’t make too 
much sense. They were fragments of a life lived all over the place, 
lived with more money and enthusiasm than we were used to. It was easy 
to be enchanted and to feel quite whisked away, but I never let it show 
too much because out of the corner of my eye I could see Will’s white, 
clenched fists hovering above his lap. 

Will had come from Bristol looking for work. He’d found a job in the
factory, he’d harassed me into walking out with him and then we were 
wed and that was that. Neither of us had tales about parties in London 
or exotic travels in foreign parts. It had never mattered before, and I 
thought it shouldn’t matter at all, but sometimes it did. It mattered 
to Will that he couldn’t keep both of us on his wages and that this 
wealthy, worldly stranger was flirting with his wife. 

I never encouraged him. I never stepped out of line, but none the less
he would keep flattering me. I was never pretty, but he talked about me 
as though I was some sort of beauty. He said he would get me a seal 
skin and have a coat made, but I never really believed him. It was him 
that introduced me to poetry.  Of course I’d read the odd bit at 
school, but had forgotten all about that. He gave me a slim little 
volume of Tennyson. I read it through and read it over until I knew 
every word. I fell in love with ‘The May Queen” and it delighted him, 
as though I was a child who had taken to a new toy. 

It was a cold winter that year and the snow drifts were deep for several
weeks. Mr Angarth kept us in coal and never complained once about the 
cold, although he clearly wasn’t used to it. Then early in the New 
Year, even before the snowdrops had come, he said he was leaving. 

“I shall have to procure that seal for you.” He announced, “to make a
coat fit for a goddess.” 

I laughed at him - there was nothing else I could do. When he left, I
missed him, missed the quiet patter of his socked feet and the fabulous 
tales. The year was 1911 and I had a child on the way. I had no idea 
how we would find the money. 

In May, a letter came from North Africa; just a few lines from Mr
Angarth to say that he had not forgotten about the seal coat. I held 
the paper in my hands, thinking about how far it had travelled to reach 
me. 

In August I had a son, and there was no time for thinking about anything
else. The letter from Africa lay hidden in the bottom drawer and I 
stopped dreaming about distant places. Enough happened to fill a book, 
but that’s not want I want to set down. 

In 1912, a little parcel came. A card to say that Mr Angarth was in


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