Dumb Waiter

Shutterstock © Waitress carrying a steaming dish Illustration: Shutterstock


For Lizzie, a new waitressing job meant a secret admirer with a rather unconventional approach to dating…

Lizzie jumped as a strange rattling sound filled the air. It was Monday morning, the first day of her new job as a waitress in Eagle Hall, and she was already nervous.

“Oh, don’t mind that, it’s just the dumb waiter,” said Mary, the supervisor.

“Dumb what?”

Mary laughed and explained that many years ago, before the house had been acquired by a conservation society and opened to visitors, the café used to be the family’s dining room. The kitchen was immediately under the room.

“Haven’t you seen one of those before? It comes up from the kitchen, so the servants didn’t have to rush up and down stairs carrying all the food. It’s a clever idea!”

Lizzie peered inside. There were several plates, some glasses and two cottage pies. She took them out carefully and put them on a table. All day long plates of food came up from the kitchen. When the visitors had finished their meals, Lizzie loaded the dirty dishes into the dumb waiter and sent it back down. Someone must be busy loading the dishwasher, she thought.

When the last customers had left the café, Lizzie was taken down to meet the kitchen staff.

“This is Margaret,” the manager said, introducing her to a jolly-looking woman covered in flour. “She bakes all the pies.”

Lizzie tried not to laugh and managed a polite, “How do you do?”

“This is Dave, the assistant chef, and Rob, who’s just here for the season before he goes back to university. We’ve also got two lads who only work mornings.”

Dave nodded at her over the top of a pan and Rob mumbled an inaudible greeting while staring at his shoes. Lizzie was then taken to meet the other staff in the Hall.

Two days later, a single red rose arrived in the dumb waiter with two baked potatoes. Lizzie stared at it, puzzled.

“Should I get a vase and put this on the table with the food?” she asked Mary.

“No, we have a policy of not putting flowers out because we get complaints from visitors who suffer from hayfever! Where did you get it?”

“It came up in the dumb waiter.”

“How strange.” Mary looked puzzled.

Perhaps you’ve got an admirer!

On Friday, another rose appeared, with a note: 8pm. Tomorrow. The Rialto.

Lizzie’s eyebrows shot up. She showed the note to Mary, who laughed. “It looks like you’ve got a date. That new comedy film’s showing at the Rialto tomorrow. You’ll enjoy it!”

“But it doesn’t say who it’s from,” Lizzie pointed out. “Anyone might have sent it!”

“Rubbish! We know it could only have come from the kitchen. It’s your secret admirer!”

Lizzie tossed and turned in bed that night. Who could the note have been from? It can’t have been from Dave or Margaret, and she hadn’t met any of the other staff apart from Rob. It must have been from him!

She may as well go to the cinema, otherwise it would be just another boring evening staying in with her parents. She dozed off, dreaming of a dumb waiter crashing through a wall and scattering roses in its wake.

The next night, she arrived early, not quite certain what to expect. It was getting busy, but when a crowd of people moved away from the ticket office, she saw Rob, staring down at his shoes in his usual fashion.

“Hello,” Lizzie said.

He looked up in surprise, as if he hadn’t expected her to be there at all.

“Oh! Hello,” he replied, then there was an awkward silence.

“I’ll, er, go and get tickets,” he mumbled. “What are we watching?”

“There’s only one screen here,” Lizzie pointed out.

“Oh, right, then I’ll er…” he trailed off, looked rather helpless, and then walked over to the ticket office.

A short while later they were sitting side by side, laughing loudly at the new film. They went for a drink afterwards, when Rob seemed to come out of his shell and chatted happily. He arranged to meet Lizzie again in a few days’ time.

Three years later Lizzie and Rob were writing out the last of their wedding invitations.

“All done!” Lizzie said. “Just think, all this happened because you sent me that note up in the dumb waiter.”

“No, I didn’t!” Rob looked up in surprise. “You sent a note down to me!”

They stared at each other in disbelief.

“Then who…?” Lizzie said.

Mary smiled when she opened her invitation. “Another new hat!” she thought happily.

A girl had just started waitressing in the tea rooms and a young man had was helping out in the kitchen. Mary chuckled to herself. There was definitely a chance of some more matchmaking there…

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Allison Hay

I joined the "My Weekly" team thirteen years ago and, more recently, "The People's Friend". I love the variety of topics we cover both online and in the magazines. I manage the digital content for the brands, sharing features and information on the website, social media and in our digital newsletters.