Home > Welcome to Rosie Hopkins' Sweet Shop of Dreams (Rosie Hopkins' Sweet Shop #1)(11)

Welcome to Rosie Hopkins' Sweet Shop of Dreams (Rosie Hopkins' Sweet Shop #1)(11)
Jenny Colgan

Something came out of Lilian’s mouth that might have been a thank you, or just a sigh of relief, but the comfort and happiness of lying down in her own bed for the first time in weeks was simply too much: Lilian was overtaken, almost immediately, by the first good sleep she’d had in a long time.

Rosie came back to the sitting room and looked around, counting the doors, and wondered where she was to go. Surely she wasn’t going to have to sleep in front of the fire in that tiny sitting room? Suddenly, even with the kettle cheerily whistling in the kitchen, she felt mind-achingly tired. She checked her phone; there was almost no signal here, and she had no messages. She texted Gerard quickly to say good night, but the message took a long time to get through and he didn’t reply. He was probably at the pub with his mates. She would have liked to say good night to him.

Opening random cupboard doors, she found, finally, a pull-out wooden ladder, fixed to a trapdoor above. Was there something else up there? Surely Lilian would have mentioned it if she didn’t have a spare bed?

The fire was dying down behind her and the dim lights made it hard to see her way. Rosie gave up looking for a light switch and tentatively felt her way up the ladder. At the top, the trapdoor opened into a space so dark she couldn’t see a thing, except a dormer window with a clear view of a starry, starry night, and the omnipresent dark shadows of the hills beyond.

Gradually, as her eyes adjusted, she made out the shape of a double bed, just under the lowered eaves. Her whole body relaxed. Sleeping on a sofa would have been a bit much. Nipping down, she extinguished the lights, popped into the loo and hauled her case upstairs, punting it on her shoulders. Unable to find her pyjamas, Rosie just slipped off her trousers and top, snuck under the heavy counterpane and thick, crisp cotton sheets that were, as in Lilian’s room, so tightly tucked in she couldn’t move any more than a swaddled baby, glanced briefly at the moon through the open curtains and, just as she thought she must get up to close those curtains, fell into a deep, deep sleep.

Chapter Four

Nobody is saying there is anything wrong with a Crunchie. The Crunchie is a fine, fine feat of well-balanced confectioner’s engineering and has been for nearly 100 years. Malt balls are another matter, best left between you and the forty-five minutes it will take to scrape the clag off your mouth after you finish a packet, this calorific expenditure presumably leading to their advertising slogan as being slightly less heavy than other brands.

But honeycomb: pure, eaten by itself, that delicate, friable, crumbling pop of sharp yellow sweetness that cuts in the mouth then vanishes, as if by magic, to nothing; the satisfying tearing of the granules without the softness of chocolate getting in the way; an excellent solo honeycomb bar can make you feel like you are eating your way through the rocks of Elysium. And it truly is the lighter way to enjoy … itself.


You could hear the screaming all the way down the street. It sounded like one of Caffrin Stirling’s pigs being slaughtered, but grew nearer all the time. Lilian, in the middle of stocktaking – it was market day in Ashby-de-la-Zouch and that meant early closing for them – scrambled down the steps wiping dust from her forehead, and charged out into the road.

She was met by a very strange sight: Henry Carr, white as a sheet and with a look of holy terror on his face, was carrying a small girl, who was kicking and screaming as if the devils were after her. Lilian recognised her as little Henrietta, only daughter of the manor house, and breathed in sharply. Everyone else on the road on that quiet Wednesday afternoon, mostly the elderly, stood and stared, but Lilian didn’t think twice.

‘What on earth have you done now, Henry Carr?’ she cried, taking the young girl from his arms.

‘Hush, hush there,’ she said, as the little girl continued to screech and twist her body furiously.

‘There’s no one at that damn doctor’s,’ said Henry, his voice trembling. ‘They’ve all gone to market. She just wandered into my yard, I was working down the end.’

Lilian looked the child over. From her foot protruded the head of a snub-nosed nail. She winced and looked at Henry. They both knew what that meant.

‘Come in, come in,’ she said, and led him through to the back of the shop, where a tiny area had a tap with running water and OMO under the sink.

‘Where was Gerda Skitcherd?’ Lilian asked in a fury. Gerda was the child’s nanny. ‘She’s only a mite.’

‘She was there,’ said Henry, looking shifty all of a sudden. ‘She’s run up to the house to fetch Charlie.’

Lilian ran the tap.

‘Is there a girl in this town that can keep her eyes off you then?’

Without waiting for an answer, she turned to Hetty.

‘Now, little miss,’ she said, trying to sound strong and practical, even though she felt anything but. ‘We have to do something very important. Something you’re going to have to be big and brave for.’

The little girl’s screaming, which had quietened down at the sound of Lilian’s voice, transformed into nervous jerky breaths. Lilian looked at Henry.

‘Can you take her arms?’

Henry looked as though he’d rather cut off one of his own, but he came forward. The little girl flinched as he held her, then, as quickly as she could, Lilian took out the nail and washed the wound out with diluted bleach. The little girl screamed the place down, but Lilian was relentless. Lockjaw haunted the countryside. And neither of them felt like explaining it to the manor.

Finally, the wound glistening red raw, Lilian reckoned they’d done enough, and bound up the foot in a freshly laundered handkerchief. The little girl’s sobs started to lessen and Lilian held her close, arms clasped around her neck. Lilian rather enjoyed the little clawed-monkey hold, the fresh scent of the child’s hair.

‘Are you feeling better?’ she asked gently. She glanced upwards to find Henry, the colour returning to his cheeks, once again looking at her in that peculiar way, and instantly she started to blush too.

‘BETTAH LILYIN,’ said the mite, already perking up enough to eye up the rows and rows of sweetie jars around the walls. From the young lady of the manor to the lowest back-row urchin, there wasn’t a child in town who didn’t know Lilian and Mr Hopkins. Lilian smiled.

‘Would you like to choose a sweetie for being such a brave girl?’

Hetty nodded enthusiastically.

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