The Village Show (Tales from Turnham Malpas)

The Village Show (Tales from Turnham Malpas) by Rebecca Shaw Read Free Book Online

Book: The Village Show (Tales from Turnham Malpas) by Rebecca Shaw Read Free Book Online
Authors: Rebecca Shaw
to Ralph’s suggestion and thanked him for his offer. Ralph went to the food hatch and placed their orders.
    They chatted about village affairs and the Show and the annual Stocks Day and how nice it was having somewhere decent in the village to eat lunch. When Ralph returned to his seat, Ron mentioned the houses Ralph was having built. ‘So glad you got permission for them. The price of houses around here is astronomical. Renting out your properties will inject new life into the place – encourage families and such. This snow has held things up though, hasn’t it?’
    ‘Unfortunately it has, but with luck they’ll all be completed by the middle of the summer.’
    ‘Have you got any tenants yet?’
    Muriel eagerly explained the situation. ‘Alan here,’ she nodded her head in the direction of the barman, ‘and Linda are having one, though it won’t be ready in time for their wedding, and three of the others are already promised. So that leaves us with four tenants to find, but we’ve had lots of enquiries, haven’t we, Ralph?’
    ‘Yes, we have. I’m being a bit particular about the tenants. I don’t want the houses being rented by people who don’t actually need housing in the village. None of this business of using them as weekend hideaways. The houses must serve a definite purpose. I haven’t, or rather we haven’t had them built just to make money.’
    Sheila, impressed by Ralph’s good intentions, said, ‘Well, I think it’s wonderful. The village needs those houses – we’re losing so many young people because they can’t afford to buy. I hear Mr Fitch is trying to snap up anycottages going spare. He’s bought Pat’s and he’s put in a bid for one of the weekenders’ cottages, but I don’t suppose he’ll be as high-minded as you are, Sir Ralph.’
    Just as Ralph was about to thank Sheila for her compliment, the dining-room door burst open and Louise stood on the threshold looking around. She spotted Sheila and Ron, smiled sweetly when she saw with whom they were dining and went to join them. Ralph stood up, and belatedly Ron did too after another dig from Sheila’s sharp fingernail.
    As Sheila moved her chair closer to Ralph’s to make room for Louise, she asked, ‘Why aren’t you having lunch at the rectory? You said you were.’
    Teetering between tears of disappointment and an outburst of temper, Louise said between gritted teeth: ‘They’re going to Harriet’s straight after lunch for the afternoon. Sylvia arranged it. I’ll go and order my food.’ She pushed her chair back so roughly that it almost fell over, but Ron caught it adroitly and stood it up for her.
    ‘Well, really! She does seem annoyed,’ Sheila whispered. ‘I wonder what made Sylvia decide to do that? It seems awfully rude.’
    Trying to pour oil on troubled waters, Muriel suggested that maybe Sylvia had got her plans confused. ‘She must have so much to do with Caroline being away and the telephone to answer and things, I expect she’s got mixed up. And the children will be missing their mother, so I suppose they’ll be more difficult than usual, which won’t help. They are such dear little things but so … inventive!’
    Ralph wholeheartedly agreed with Muriel, and Ron said, ‘Yes, I expect so. One at a time was enough for us. Two must be murder!’
    ‘Looks to me as if our Louise could commit murder. ThatSylvia is getting too big for her boots, you know. But still, Louise loves working for Peter and he’s so appreciative of what she does. She’s completely reorganising the quarterly magazine, and of course you’ll have got your copy of the parish telephone directory?’
    Muriel nodded her agreement. ‘Oh yes, we have. A very good idea, that. I didn’t realise we had so many people connected with the church. I just wish they all …’
    Louise returned, and as she sat down again she said, ‘I’ve been told I’m to keep to the secretarial side and have nothing to do with the children or the

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