Though Louisa had seen the new taxicabs about she had never used one before. As Starr said they were noisy, but at least you did not have to haggle over the fare like you did with a hansom cab. In her younger days she would have made this journey by horse omnibus, but it would never do for 'a lady' to mix with the 'common people'. She supressed a laugh, only eight years earlier she had been one of the 'common people'. She had been in domestic service since she left school at 12, working her way up from scullery maid to cook. Only by a series of fortunate circumstances had she found herself part of society. Today she was going back to her roots.
The cab driver wound the starting handle, the cab shook from side to side as the engine took hold, he took her instructions and pressed down the 'For Hire' flag on the taximeter, resetting it for the journey. As they drove out of the city centre into the East End the roads became rougher as did the neighbourhood. The cabbie had wanted to know if he would be required to wait for her. He would be unlikely to pick up a fare from where they were heading. She promised him a good tip, off the meter, for waiting.
Soon she was in streets familiar from her childhood. There was the occasional face she recognised too, but she doubted if they would recognise her, dressed as she was and in a cab too, that would be the last place they would expect to see her. Rather than going to her childhood home, where she might meet her mother, she guided the cabbie to the shop she had purchased for her father. In proud gold lettering across the frontage it stated Geo. Leyton, Clockmaker and Repairer - by Royal Appt. Well he had mended one of the Prince's clocks, once, and even if he did not have the official papers nobody was going to ask which royal family. Louisa was glad she had bought this place for her father, not only had it increased his business but it also gave him somewhere he could get away from his wife's constant nagging and criticism.
The cabbie came round to the side of the car and held the door open for her. "I'm not sure how long I will be." Louisa told him, "Please wait for me." Stepping onto the pavement, Louisa noticed a young man with a camera and tripod across the street he seemed to be setting up to take a picture of the shops. He raised his hat to her and smiled. "Cheeky young blighter." Louisa thought. However she could not resist giving him a smile in return.
Opening the shop door Louisa took a few moments to look round before approaching the young girl at the counter. "Is Mr Leyton here?" she asked. The girl stammered in reply, "Erm, no Miss, erm Ma'am. That is, not at the moment he ain't. He's out, over at Spitalfields, regulating the church clock. Miss, erm. Ma'am.". Louisa looked the girl up and down. "New here are you?" Louisa queried. "Well, yes Miss, erm Ma'am. I only started here last week Ma'am, erm Miss." the girl replied.
This was just like her dear father, to take on a girl who did not know how to speak to customers. "Well young lady, I am Mrs Louisa Trotter and Mr Leyton is my father. To save any further confusion you can call me Mrs Trotter but I suggest that in future you start off calling any ladies that come into the shop Miss. If they are unmarried, you will be right and if you are not they will correct you and be flattered as being taken as young.", Louisa paused for breath. "And what is your name Miss?" The girl blushed and replied, "I'm Dollie, Miss, erm Ma'am, erm Mrs Trotter, though properly I'm Dorothy, but everyone calls me Dollie, except my Mum who calls me Dotty 'cause she says I am.". Louisa laughed, "Your mother might be right."
After some more general chit chat the girl was more relaxed and Louisa had heard most of her life history. All in all she would make a good assistant for her father, once she had a few rough edges rounded off her. Louisa asked her for pen and paper so she could write a note for her father. As she was writing the shop bell rang and the young photographer came in through the door. He doffed his hat to the ladies and smiled. "Dollie, I have taken some shots of the front of the shop, I will let Mr Leyton have a print of it soon, then he can have an engraving made of it for the newspaper advertisment. Though I'll have to keep this quiet from my father, I can't have him thinking I'm aiding the competition. While I'm here I could take a pictute of you too Dollie, if this kind lady would not mind."
Louisa smiled, this young man was a real charmer, "I'm sure Mr Leyton would not mind you taking a photograph of his daughter and his shop assistant, as long as you make sure both he and I get a print for our albums. You set up your tripod and Dollie and I will stand very still for you." ....