Cowardice and a Cup of Tea

Summer Short Story #3

(Prompt: Write with the following 4th grade spelling list words included: raise, mayor, airplane, remain, blame, state, frame, holiday, relay, waist, pail, gain. Include “cowardice” per the WordPress daily prompt.)


“I daresay, Captain Windigo would have a conniption if she heard you refer to her vessel as an airplane. Clearly, it is not.”

The Doctor had to correct the roving journalist. To see the Hermes correctly portrayed was but a small kindness he could do for the now, temporarily, land-bound lady. Such a grievous state of affairs, this more recent episode of events weighed heavily on the Doctor’s narrow frame.

“The HMA Hermes is a Haroeris B-221 airship of the Osprey class. Now you’ve all the facts. Off with you. Relay the particulars for your editor. I have an appointment to keep and must be on my way.”

The reporter was in the midst of replying or retorting, hand raised to pad at the ready for another bit of information. The good Doctor wasn’t certain; neither was he particularly interested, however. It was near time for high tea, and if he were to remain a minute longer, his housekeeper—the formidable Mrs. Cooper—would blame him for the tea gone cold. And all deities forbid, tea going cold… She’d likely threaten to leave for an extended holiday, and if anyone was deserving of a holiday, it was he and poor Rosamond.

Dear Rosamond… He mused as he strode away, his cane hitting cobblestone with consideration. The poor girl was a having a rough time of it, and his invitation for Mr. Stockholm’s visit helped little.

“If you don’t stop pestering the poor girl, your supper will be a lamentable affair, Mr. Stockholm—just you see.”

Mrs. Cooper was in the middle of a matronly tirade when the Doctor arrived.

“My dear, what is this about?”

“Don’t bother with Mrs. Cooper! She’s no sense at all. You, though! Hear me out… Your little maid has been in the tomb—the tomb—the one everyone said was found and cursed to oblivion, unopened,” Mr. Stockholm carried on with fervor.

“You gain nothing by insulting my housekeeper, John. If you keep at it, she’ll throw your supper in the waste pail later, and then where would you be?”

“With a trimmer waist. The fit of my coat could use my slimming down. Besides, I came here seeking adventure… and here, it’s come to me!”

“Mr. Stockholm! Rosamond’s life is not your adventure to pursue!” Mrs. Cooper would not be subdued and railed further, “You are a beast for even suggesting going back there where all her woes began.”

The trio of voices persisted in civil argument until Rosamond stepped forward from the receiving table where she’d been standing silent for some time.

“Doctor?” She had a letter in hand, poised to raise it higher. “There’s a letter for you Doctor, a letter from the Mayor.”

“The Mayor? Now that’s a welcome surprise. Let’s see what it says.”

Taking the letter in hand, he paused briefly at what he saw between the folds, and then quickly read it aloud.

Turning to his housekeeper, “Well, Mrs. Cooper, it means you won’t have to fuss with the lot of us tomorrow.”

“The tea! Oh, Doctor, how could you let it grow cold?”

“Oh, no. No, no, no, my dear, Mrs. Cooper. That blame falls squarely on Mr. Stockholm, I do believe.”

“Doctor, you devil. How do you come by that conclusion? Mrs. Cooper has been a right banshee. Blame her.”

Mrs. Cooper could not bear the outrage and let loose a torrent of unpleasant suggestions before whirling away, leaving the tea service to the object of her ire. He, rather dejected by the whole business, took to the library–brandy being better than tea at any hour in his mind—leaving Rosamond and the Doctor looking at one another in a now more spacious room.

“Rosamond, fancy tea down the street at the corner?”

Less a maid and more a companion now in the very best sense of the word, Rosamond nodded her head.

“Yes, please.”

They would need to talk. The Mayor asking them to tea, just as he’d invited her father to tea what seemed a lifetime ago… it was about the tomb. Of course it was. Clarice had called earlier saying there were strange whispers on the winds. Having more time upon her hands than usual with the Hermes being in land-dock for repairs, she’d done her customary rounds at the pubs, and the men had enjoyed talking with the lady captain around.

“I know what you’re thinking, dear girl.”

She should hope not, turning guardedly to the Doctor, after they’d left his house.

“You are thinking that Mr. Stockholm is a sorry bother and in many ways, you are correct.” Looking at Rosamond a little more fully now, “However, he’s a good man to have near in a pinch. You’ll see. He really can be a good friend. Just as you took it upon yourself to act the role of my hero, so has he.”

Rosamond looked surprised as the Doctor continued, “Indeed! Don’t look so stupefied. Looks can be deceiving. Clearly, we’d underestimated your blood thirst and facility with firearms. Now don’t glare at me like that, my dear. I mean it in the fondest of ways.”

She didn’t understand how his observation equated fondness, but he didn’t give her the chance to question.

“I would not be here before you without the man, as I would not without you. So there. You two are dear to me.”

“Then I am grateful to Mr. Stockholm, but I think—perhaps–you should remind Mrs. Cooper, as well. I, truly, didn’t get a word in edgewise. You heard the conversation much as it was without your presence.”

“Duly noted. We shall have our tea, and we shall talk. I think there is much to discuss. I was partially jesting earlier. I, indeed, know what you are about to say… and it will be alright, my dear.” And with that pronouncement, they stopped at the practical and well-visited tea house down the street.

“Ah, and so we find ourselves at our destination. Find a table for us outside. The day isn’t so dreary that we need to remain indoors. What I must say needs no ears beyond your own, I think.”

The two shared their tea and their troubles, more related than any would guess, but passersby would only see a silver-haired man and a dark-haired girl in focused conversation—a grandfatherly vignette–if only they knew. Within the Doctor’s hand, lay a single white feather, a silent condemnation he’d found between the folds of the Mayor’s invitation.

“Clearly, the Mayor does not know you well,” Rosamond very seriously surmised.

“No. I think he rather does. Sometimes, the bravest course of action is to run. Who you take hands with to pull along… now that speaks to your character.”

“Will we be running, Sir?”

“You, me and the entire world…” He paused in recollection, not a very nice one, and said, “I do think I’ll be pulling this entire planet along with me this time.”

Rosalind was too much in her mind to reply.

“We best be getting you better shoes before long.” Startled, she looked up, and he admonished, “Drink up, drink up—don’t want your tea growing cold.”

And so they finished their tea.



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