The Lady Grey Tea Drinker

The Texas Boarding House Journal
Date: November 1912
Room Number:  5
Guests: Mr. and Mrs. J. Buckner

I have to tell someone.  do you have a few minutes?  I have no one I can tell whose life would not be forever changed if they knew the truth.  Please, if you could spare a dying woman a bit of your time, I assure you my story will not weight heavy on your mind as it is only relevant to the unburdening of my soul.

That was several months ago at the end of a long hot summer.  So hot, that freshly pumped well water from deep within the cool Comanche Springs, was warm enough for a cup of tea without striking a match to the teapot.  I remember that because she asked if she could trouble me for a cup of hot tea when they first arrived.  It was no trouble, although, I thought at the time, an unusual request as most folks were thirsting for a cool drink after traveling in the heat of the day.  At that time of day nearly everyone in town was taking a siesta.  I remember that too, since young Pedro was sound asleep under the shade of a mesquite tree and missed his chance for a boarder at the Livery Stable.
She made her way up the steps and into the parlor where she removed her wide brimmed hat and dusted off her dark foulard traveling suit before gratefully being assisted onto the Cameo Settee by her attentive husband.  My daughter Sarah, welcomed our guests then quickly went to the kitchen to prepare the tea while the gentleman made the room arrangements and signed the register. 

My wife is quite ill and we are here to see Doc Powers. We've been on the road since early this morning. I'd be mighty appreciative if you could see her settled in the room while I see to our horse and buggy.

I gave him directions to the Livery and assured him we would see to his wife's comfort, and if he would leave their bags on the porch, they too, would be taken to room number five.

Thank-you kindly for the tea, Sarah, mmmm...Lady Grey, my favorite.  Sarah covered the teapot and offered her a freshly baked muffin and said, "if there is anything you need at anytime, please do not hesitate to use the 'Bell Pull'.  Enjoy your Lady Grey."  As Sarah softly closed the door behind her, The Lady Grey Tea Drinker bowed her head.  Your daughter reminds me of my own daughter, God rest her soul. There was a tremor in her hand and the delicate rose tea cup rattled ever so slightly. Her eyes filled with tears. Please forgive me, it seems the pain and sorrow of losing one's child is not eased with the passing of time. A knock at the door and then her husband was there to comfort her. I bid them good evening.

The following morning the couple joined the other boarders and overnight guests for breakfast.  The husband seated his wife and introduced  themselves as John and Olivia Buckner.  He took the chair beside his wife and shook hands with the Sheriff...now seated to his left.  As steaming hot biscuits were passed around the table and cream gravy with sausage was generously ladled on the plates, the conversation turned to what the Wichita Times was calling the Mexican Uprising.

All eyes were on the Sheriff who before he could recount the events of the night before, caught my raised eyebrow and the look that every husband recognizes as, 'Not fit conversation at My breakfast table.' As coffee cups were refilled and Sarah poured Mrs. Buckners second cup of Lady Grey, the Sheriff  matter of factly informed the guests not to worry.  The streets were safe for citizens to go about their business as usual.

After draining his coffee cup, he rose from the table, lifted his black stetson from the peg and said, "Thanks for the fine breakfast, Emma.  You can plan on setting two more plates for supper.  They should be here by then."  I had just finished the round of refills and was mentally figuring where two more would fit around the table when I heard Sarah say, "Who's they, Pa?"

The Sheriff, in one practiced fluid movement, reached in his vest pocket, pulled out his Star, polished it with his sleeve, pinned it on his vest, tipped his hat to Mrs. Buckner and strode to the door.  As he opened the door he hesitated and turned back to the breakfast table where everyone was waiting to hear the answer to Sarah's question.

Two men were shot dead last night.  They...are The Texas Rangers.
...to be continued...

Authored by Sandra Sue Pittman
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