A Perfect Gentleman
“A rose for my rose from The Rose.” That was what he would say. Every time. And then hand her a daisy. It was both dull and infuriating. And he would say it as if it were a witty remark. A bon mot.
Tess was heartily tired of it. She had been a barmaid at the Rose Inn for half a year, and during that time had heeded her mother’s careful advice to beware the advances of the young men. Mr Moss had been different, and she had warmed to him. He had been polite, courtly even, and taken very little in the way of liberties.
They met on Wednesdays, when he delivered the malt. Regular as clockwork, was Mr Moss, walking quietly into the kitchen with his proffered flower. It was a shame, Tess thought, that such a good-looking young fellow should be so deadly dull.
How exciting it would be to have a pirate for a lover! Or a highwayman! Just imagine… a young man who would bring her jewels, or shells from the South Seas, orchids, peacock feathers, exotic things. A man whose flashing eyes and unpredictable arrivals would be nothing but thrilling. Anything but someone who turned up every Wednesday with a daisy.
Even Tess’s mother approved of Mr Moss. Now there you have a good, steady young fellow. Reliable. Doesn’t get drunk, doesn’t ogle the other barmaids. Get him to the altar, if you can, my girl, and keep him. He’s a diamond in the rough. As she waited for him to turn up, Tess still thought he would be improved for being a little more piratical.
Half a mile down the road, Mr Moss himself was trundling along with the malt cart, his usual predictable self, encouraging his usual piebald horse with a touch of the whip in his usual way.
As the cart ran down into a secluded hollow, a man stepped out of the woodland and grasped the horse’s bridle. Mr Moss nodded imperceptibly, said nothing, and chose to look the other way while a second man came out of the woods and unloaded half a dozen brandy kegs concealed under sacking at the back of the cart. A purse was silently handed over, the bridle released, and Mr Moss flicked the whip and drove on. He weighed the purse in his hand, and tucked it away. Very profitable, this smuggling lark. And delivering the malt was a perfect cover.
On arrival at the Rose Inn he paused to pick a daisy for that dozy barmaid, as usual.
This story was first published in my short fiction collection Mr Muggington’s Discovery and Other Stories. Paperback copies are available from Amazon at £4.95, but the e-book is free. If you’d like one, leave me a message on the Contact page of this site and I’ll email a copy to you.