Mr. Winters’ booming voice was the first to be heard over the noise of gossiping maids. Chatter rose and fell, as though the room dared to breathe, filled to burst with the bodies that crammed themselves wherever they could. The ladies (and whom the room was mostly comprised of) were talking nineteen to the dozen, and Mr. Winters, no matter how loud he forced himself to be, was just one man, one voice attempting to separate the wave of many.
“I asked for quiet!” he boomed again, and this time received the desired effect. He gestured for those at the door to move in further, continued his words as he did so. Without staff helping, there was turmoil.
“Gather round, gather round, that’s it, make room for everyone, please,” his voice called over the hubbub and staff babble. The Winters’ meeting room was alive with the many of people who had never even been above the first floor. Now, here in a room of the second, they had been gathered together specifically for a staff-related incidence. The entire kitchen staff, along with Cook, Alexandra and Christophe, were filling up the empty space of the room at a fast rate. Mrs. Winters stood by her husband, proud to lift her head and call her family name again. Daphne, however, was not amongst the gathered, but that was not a surprise to anybody present.
“Well, as you know…” Mr. Winters attempted to quieten the eager servants, who gradually began to settle the noise to an easy hum.
“As you know, the position of chief housemaid has been unfilled for over a month now, which I must say is not good progress, and we have not found any other ladies from exterior sources suitable for the tasks and the places necessary in this house. So it has come to be that Annabelle and I have made a decision concerning who it should be that receives the post from our vault of existing servants. I have judged fairly, based on your skills and your past work as part of the staff of this household.
“So please give a round of fair applause to the Winters’ new housemaid: Alexandra.”
Alexandra gasped as Mr. Winters called out her name, clasping her hands together at her bosom and giggling with delight as she stepped up to her master, who shook her hand. There was nothing more to give a housemaid that she didn’t already have. Work would be given later. So much more work, yet Alexandra was proud of it, looking forward to the extra labour and the extra gratification.
To think, housemaid at seventeen! It took her mother to get to the age of twenty-two before she became housemaid, and that had been after she had married and born a child.
Mrs. Winters smiled sadly at the Alexandra and patted her shoulder absentmindedly. She hadn’t been the same since she learnt, the previous week, of the dreadful news in which her daughter was so terribly involved. The Winters had bailed Daphne out with the remainder of their money, though Alexandra saw it as a silly decision that encouraged more crime, but she lived in shame now. Daphne had not been bailed out by their love, and she had been banished from their estate permanently; where she had gone after that, Alexandra did not know. Perhaps she had moved onto the streets of London Town for ‘work’ and to begin another band of criminal injustices.
The Foresmyths and Cynthia Glass’ family had been warned of Joshua’s behaviour, for even though he was locked away, there was no certainty that his ‘henchmen’, his ever-growing, ever-scheming group of pawns, would not find a way to break him out. Cynthia, although not entirely blameless, had escaped severe punishment by her words incriminating Joshua. However, she, along with the eldest Foresmyth daughter, had most lightly been punished by their parents for dealing with that rogue crowd; there would be no more social occasions for the two miscreants. Alexandra knew it was harsh, but it was necessary.
Alexandra took one more thankful look at Mrs. Winters, for since Daphne had gone, the lady seemed to have transferred her mothering to the nearest girl to her daughter’s age: the maid, Alexandra. It would have, then, been Mrs. Winters who suggested Alexandra for the position of housemaid. Then she took a step back into the crowd of envious scullery maids and the one furious Cook.
The butler embraced the new housemaid.
“Well done, my dear,” Christophe said, before placing his soft lips gently onto hers for a few seconds amid the cheers of Alexandra’s former kitchen colleagues.
Alexandra’s smile was as wide as the sky.
“This is my reward, don’t you think?” she whispered, triumphant at last. “This is what you get when you play with danger.”
Angel Sumner, c. 2010-2011