Written and Illustrated By Stephanie Mesler
Published September 28, 2014 (c) Stephanie Mesler
It was a Wednesday when Agatha’s Kitchen reopened, bigger and better than ever. Of course, take-out service continued as it always had, only now Nancy Carvewhinkle oversaw that operation while Agatha tended to bigger matters. In addition to her duties as guardian of the door, Mrs. Carvewhinkle was responsible for counting the money when the counter closed each day and for addressing customer complaints, not that there ever were any other than there not being enough food to feed the entire population of Whitby. As before, those who failed to take their place in line early went home empty-handed.
Often, little Jems was riding on his “Auntie” Nancy’s hip whilst she greeted customers at the door to Agatha’s Kitchen. He became a favorite child of almost everyone who passed through the shop doors. Because Agatha herself was now busy running two businesses and Nancy Carvewhinkle was busy manning the take-out door, a young woman with what might be called a “colorful” past was hired to actually pack and distribute the take-out orders. Her name was Cecily and she had no last name although she did have a young son of her own, a son who had not burdened his mother with a husband and father. That boy was known as Roderick Noname. He was not so handsome as little Jemmy Jones but was every bit as cheerful. He and young Master Jones passed many an hour cooing contentedly together in a playpen set up just outside the shop doors where everyone who passed could stop to discuss current events with the two young lads who clearly agreed with whatever the wise people of Whitby told them.
Not surprisingly, Mr. Carvewhinkle’s business grew as a result of his association with Agatha’s Kitchen. He provided meat for her take-out meals and, now, for the cafe as well. What he had not anticipated was the uptick in sales to people who came too late to buy Agatha’s ready-made suppers. These people often purchased from Nimrod Carvewhinkle the makings for meals they would prepare for themselves. It didn't take long for Mr. Carvewhinkle to see a potential market expanding. After some intense negotiations with Gwendlyn Seedsmith, the vegetable woman, Carvewhinkle’s Butchery merged with Seedsmith Produce, creating the first supermarket in Whitby. The store was known as Carvewhinkle and Co., Inc. The new business did so well that Nimrod was able to hire two new butchers and give himself over to the management side of the business. He burned all his blood stained aprons and began to dress like a merchant of means.
The new cafe was called Agatha’s Table. From the beginning, it was popular with the fashion forward men and women of Whitby, the ones who went places to be seen. It quickly became a favorite among the village’s artistic types for Agatha’s was known to be a place where form mattered as much as function and presentation was given as much attention as content. It wasn’t long before Agatha’s Table was known throughout Yorkshire for its singularly excellent meals and casually elegant atmosphere. Agatha knew how to make her guests feel at home while also making them feel special.
Just as Whiny Whybrew had predicted, Agatha’s turned Whitby into a tourist destination that could rival any on the shores of the North Sea. As a result of all this traffic to Whitby, both the seaport and coach service expanded. Several new inns were opened and a couple of old ones were restored to their original glory. The old, decrepit Whitby Abby became a tourist attraction with the town itself collecting admission fees. A museum of art was opened as was a lending library.
The restaurant, the take-out and the grocery all grew to be amazing successes in a short period of time. Carvewhinkle and Co. soon became Whitby’s second largest employer, surpassed in employee numbers only by the Great North Fisheries and Marina. Eventually, Carvewhinkle’s opened stores in Scarbourough, Richmond and Leeds as well.
One year after opening Agatha’s Table, the cafe grew again and began offering a mid-day meal and afternoon tea in addition to the evening supper it always had. On nights when the Whitby players performed in the town square, Agatha’s stayed open into the wee hours of the morning to serve those who took their meals late as well as people who wanted to order a decadent dessert and a glass of fine Yorkshire wine or ale.
By the time Jemmy Jones was five years old, his mother was the wealthiest woman in Whitby. This resulted in a constant stream of well-dressed gentlemen knocking on the door of the Jones home wanting to court the boy’s mother. By the time the boy was walking and talking he was used to hearing his mother rebuff unwanted advances and it was obvious to anyone who knew Agatha that all advances were unwanted. Agatha Jones was devoted to her son’s dead father and, by the time the boy was 7, he could recite his mother’s speech for unwanted suitors for her.
“Yes, Sir, my mother is Agatha Jones and she is indeed at home. I can take you to her now if you like or I can spare you the anguish and save you the time-- my mother is quite happy on her own. She has no need of financial support or burden provided by a husband. She enjoys reading in her bed at night above all other activities, and is perfectly comfortable attending social events unaccompanied. In short, Sir, my mother appreciates your attention and interest, but courting her would be a waste of her time as well your own.”
Most gentlemen callers took the child at his word and went away to find more willing fish. Once in a while there was one who thought the boy overstepped his bounds and could not possibly know his mother’s mind on the subjects of courtship and marriage. These men would attempt to argue with young Jems.
“See here, young man, I understand you might want to have your mother all to yourself a while longer and that you might have some fantasy that your father will return from the dead to fill the void at the head of your table…”
“No, sir, My mother sits at the head of our table,” the boy would say. “that is precisely how she wants it.”
These men would insist on meeting Agatha face to face, at which time she would repeat precisely what her son had told them. Most gave up in the face of such consistency, but a stalwart few believed they knew Agatha’s mind better than Agatha herself. These unfortunate souls invested time and money in romantic campaigns that could not be won. Eventually, they would give up but not until they’d made themselves look very foolish. Then, they’d skulk out of town to seek solace in the arms of some other rich woman more willing to hear their suits.