The House On Cromwell Street
Victoria prided herself on being a good wife. She could make the best bread pudding in all of London and would set the table every evening, for her husband, Tom. Victoria knew how hard her husband worked at the butcher shop. She always soaked his blood-spattered aprons in borax to keep them pure white. Tom was still proud of her lovely wife. Victoria kept an hourglass figure, despite her love of sugary tea and butter tarts. Tom entered the tiny London row house, bringing in a cold rush of winter air. Victoria smiled and handed her husband a cup of black tea. Tom scratched his head; the tea tasted very bitter and left a weird feeling in the back of his throat.
Tom twisted his face. “Darling, did you buy this tea from Harris?” Tom asked as he tried to choke down his drink.
Victoria frowned and shook her head. “I got it from a street vendor. It was only five shillings; the tea at Harris’s is ten shillings.”
“The tea at Harris’s shop is much nicer,” Tom said through twisted lips.
Victoria gave an apologetical smile as she poured some tea into a cup. Her face twisted as she stared at the tiny black particles floating around in the drink.
“Darling, are you alright?” Tom asked in concern.
“I read in the paper,” she said, “about black tea, being mixed with coal. Don’t drink this!”
Tom dropped the teacup to the floor and watched it shatter into pieces.
“This will cheer you up, darling,” Tom said, his voice as excited as a kid on Christmas day. “I spoke with a customer today, who is a designer. If we supply him with enough cured beef to see his family to the end of winter, he can wallpaper the whole flat.” He smiled. “And maybe we can get the place ready for the little one,” he said and rubbed his wife’s belly.
Tom pulled the wallpaper sample book from his satchel and handed it to his wife.
Victoria leafed through the book. “Look at all of those beautiful, bright colors! The paper is treated with something called arsenic to make it eye-catching.”
Tom’s smile widened. “Yes, he says you can have any patterns you like. We should have the cow shortly.”