Mr West’s Visit

 Vicky would never forget the day Mr West came to visit. It was a bitter January afternoon, too icy for school, and she and Mary-Anne were sat by the stove stroking some fluffy brown ducklings that would freeze outside. Ma was upstairs, teaching eight year old Lizzie to darn. Sally the maid was preparing supper. And Pa was in town, they thought. But then the door opened and he was there, stamping snow from his boots and letting in a whirl of coldness. And behind him was another man, a shadowy figure in a dark coat and hat. 

 “Come and warm your hands at the stove, Mr West,” invited Pa. 

 “Thank you,” said the man, shrugging off his coat and scattering icy droplets over the floor in the process. Sally gave them a dirty look. It would be her job to mop them up. 

 “These are two of my daughters, Victoria and Mary-Anne,” continued Pa. 

 “A pleasure,” Mr West bowed. Giggling, the two girls stood and curtsied. 

 “Mind the ducklings,” warned Vicky as he seemed about to step on them. 

 “What an odd thing to have in the house, Mr Bloom!” 

 But Pa only smiled and said “needs must, Mr West.”

 Ma came down at the sound of a strange voice. 

 “Ah, there you are, Harriet,” said Pa. “This is Mr West. He’s in town on business, but they’re all full up at the inn. I said he could stay here for a few days.” There was a mixture of laughter and apprehension in Pa’s eyes, but Ma behaved beautifully.

 “You’re very welcome, sir. Sally, lay another place for supper won’t you? Vicky, can I have a quick word?” 

 Vicky got up and followed Ma out the room. “There’s no time to get the spare room ready,” Ma told her. “He’ll have to sleep in your room and you can go in with Lizzie and Mary-Anne.”

 “But Ma, that’s not fair! Why me? Why can’t Charlie give up his room?”

 “And go where? I’m sorry Vicky but this is the simplest solution. It will only be for a few days.”

 Vicky repeated these words to herself many times that evening. It’s only for a few days, it’s only for a few days…

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