How is Your Mother Simon Brett - chapter 1
Humphrey Partridge stood by the open door of the second bedroom. There was a smile on his lips as he looked at the empty bed.
‘It’s all right, Mother. Just the post,’ Humphrey Partridge called from the bottom of the stairs, as he opened the door to the village postman.
‘There’s a package for you, Mr Partridge,’ said Reg Carter, putting his hand on the door. ‘From a garden centre, it says on it. Roses, I think.’
‘Yes,’ said Partridge, trying to close the door.
‘It’s the right time of year for planting roses, is it? November?’
‘How’s your mother?’ Reg went on. He was in no hurry to leave.
‘Not so bad.’
‘She never seems to get any letters, does she?’
‘No. Well, when you reach that age, most of your friends are dead.’
‘How old is she now?’
‘She was eighty-six last July.’
‘That’s a good age. She doesn’t go out much, does she?’
‘No, not at all. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to leave to catch my train to work.’
Partridge closed the door and called up the stairs, ‘Goodbye, Mother. I’m off to work.’
On his way to the station he stopped at the village shop to get his newspaper.
‘Good morning,’ said Mr Denton, the shopkeeper. ‘How’s the old lady?’
‘Oh, not too bad, thank you – for her age, that is.’
‘Oh, Mr Partridge,’ said Mrs Denton, ‘there’s going to be a meeting in the village hall on Sunday, about-‘
‘I’m sorry, Mrs Denton, I don’t like to leave my mother at weekends. I’m at work all week, you see.’ He hurried away.
‘He lives for his old mother,’ said Mr Denton.
‘Well,’ said his wife, ‘she probably won’t live much longer. She’s been in bed ever since they moved here. And how long ago was that? Three years?’
‘Three or four.’
‘I don’t know what he’ll do when she dies.’
‘Someone told me that he was talking about going to live in Canada.’
‘Well, I expect she’ll leave him some money.’
When Mrs Denton expected something, everyone in the village soon heard about it.
In his office that afternoon, Partridge was getting ready to go home when the telephone rang. Mr Brownlow wanted to see him. He hurried to his employer’s office.
‘Humphrey! Come in and sit down.’
Partridge sat on the edge of a chair. He was going to miss his train. Mr Brownlow said, ‘You know I intended to go to Antwerp next week, for the meeting?’
‘Well, I’ve just heard that I must go to Rome tomorrow. Parsons is ill and I’m taking his place. So I’d like you to go to Antwerp on Monday.’
‘Me? But what about Mr Potter? He has a more responsible position in the company…’
He’s too busy. It will be good experience for you. So I’ll ask my secretary to change the tickets-‘
‘No, Mr Brownlow. You see, it’s rather difficult.’
‘What’s the problem?’
‘It’s my mother. She’s very old and I look after her.’
‘Oh, it’s only for three days, Humphrey. And this is important.’
‘I’m sorry, it’s not possible. My mother…’
There was a pause. Mr Brownlow was looking annoyed.
All right, then. You can go now, or you’ll be late for your train.’
Partridge looked at his watch. ‘I think I can just catch it if I hurry.’
‘Oh, that’s great!’ His employer gave a cold smile.
‘Mother, I’m home. It’s exactly 6.35. I had to run for the train, but I caught it.’
Humphrey Partridge hurried up the stairs, went past his own bedroom and stood by the open door of the second bedroom. There was a smile on his lips as he looked at the empty bed.
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