Encounter in the Bradington Tea Room
By Sally Madison
Sarah was sitting in the Bradington Tea Room when her sister, Mary, rushed in to join her. The
posh establishment was said to have the best tea, and was patronized by only the highest class of
society. Sitting at nearby table, within earshot, was a man wearing a common brown suit,
sketching the beautiful woman, Sarah.
After the waiter had received Mary’s order, Sarah asked him “Do you know who that man is?”
The waiter whispered, “I have never seen him here before, but he appears to be drawing your
likeness.” Sarah nodded to the gentleman sketching, then turned to show her best profile and her
“Sorry to keep you waiting, Sarah,” Mary apologized, “I just picked up the juiciest book from
Harper Brother’s Publishing called The Scarlet Letter. It’s supposed to be most scandalous. The
girls at the Literary Club will blusher, and the Garden Club will be just as heated about it. After
we are done, we’ll donate it to the library, if they’ll take it. Here is a copy of the new Harper’s
Magazine. It’s just been published with great articles.”
Sarah scanned it briefly, and proclaimed indignantly, “it has the same articles I read in the
magazines in London,” handing it back to Mary.
“Tell me more about London,” Mary pleaded. “Your letters cannot have done it justice. Was it
thrilling? Did you go dancing? Did you meet the queen?”
With nose in the air, Sarah told more details of her recent trip. She met many of the most
prominent women of the wealthiest families in all of Europe: Brown, Wilson, Peterson,
Robertson, Morgan, Smith, Stewart, Reid, MacDugal. Of course she had a special invitation from
Mrs. Sheifield to tea. Sarah, continued, “She’s the one who said that she had jewelry to sell. She
was hoping that I would buy some for the America market. She didn’t want anyone in her circle
of friends to know that she was looking for cash.”
Just then, Mrs. Calhoun entered and sat at a table with a direct view of Sarah. Mrs. Calhoun
nodded to Sarah, returned the nod. Sarah responded, pointing to necklace with her folded fan,
tapping her collarbone three times.
Mary and Sarah continued to speak until Mrs. Calhoun, passing by their table, stopped to chat.
“Oh, Sarah dear, I see you’re back from abroad,” she began, while studying Sarah’s necklace
carefully. “I presume it was a successful trip. I was hoping that you would join me for tea this
With the most delightful smile, Sarah, agreed, but Mary did not. “I am so sorry I will not be able
to attend. I need to return to Alexandria on Saturday. I still have appointments to make for my
late husband’s affairs.”
The man in the brown suit was watching intently. He slipped the waiter a dime to tell him who
were the ladies with Sarah Morgan, noting the names on the sketch he had drawn of Sarah, Mary,
Mrs. Calhoun and the necklace.