Prepare for the Arrival

The next day, Isabel woke up to the entire household going into chaos, as well as Grace shaking her shoulder.

"Isabel! Isabel! Wake up!"

"Grace?" Isabel murmured. "What time is it?"

"It's nearly nine in the morning, now get up! We have a lot to do in a short time. Now, Lydia and Jocelyn will help you to get ready-" Grace looked up to see Ellen dash by with something in her arms.

"What will you be doing?" Isabel asked, curious about how Grace managed to run this household.

"I must see to the preparations. Come down and eat as soon as you are ready. You will help me when we are done. Jocelyn, take great care that not a curl of hair is out of place. Lydia, remember all of your training. I will not have her humiliate my husband today."

"Yes, Ma'am!" Jocelyn and Lydia said, jumping to work.

When maids where around their employers, Isabel had come to realize, they had two modes: Standby Mode and Have At It Mode. When in Standby, they awaited orders or just did things in the background. In Have At It Mode, they had to do whatever they did with a fervor that made Isabel tired just from watching.

It was very interesting.

While an elaborate hairdo was done for her by Jocelyn, Lydia maneuvored to put the cross around Isabel's neck.  "I know you won't fail to impress, miss." she whispered.

Before Isabel could say thank you, the two maid stepped back. Involuntarily, Isabel stood and turned. "Are you finished?" she asked.

"Lydia?" Jocelyn nodded to Isabel. "What do you think?"

"I think she's perfect, Jocie. Is there anything we've missed that you can see?"

"Well, not that I know of. . ."

"Besides footwear?" Isabel asked drily, causing the two maids to scramble for the shoes which had been laid out the night before. They must be nervous about Lady Harrows, too. Is she really that bad?

Once the shoes were on, the two maids decided that their young mistress was ready.

Isabel looked in a mirror on the way out of her room, and gasped in surprise. She would never get used to the clothes, ever. Although she didn't like the bustle on the back of the dress very much, the front was stunning. Pale pink, with short sleeves. And her waist! The corset might have made it harder to breathe, but it did wonders to improve her figure.

Isabel went downstairs, thankful that she didn't get lost. This house was so huge.

"Good morning." she said as she entered.

"Hm? Ah! Good morning, Isabel. You look lovely." Saint-Claire seemed to jolt back to reality, having been engrossed in a letter.

Isabel sat down, almost afraid to eat. Everything was so elegant here.

"Did you sleep well?"

"Yes, thank you." she said, trying not to grin as Lydia caught her eye. "I slept quite well."

"Good. You'll need your wits about you when Lady Hallows comes." Saint-Claire grinned at his wife.

Hallows as in deathly hallows? Isabel tried not to smirk. It was kind of funny the way James made fun of his mother-in-law.

"Darling. . ." Grace warned. "If you speak in such a horrid manner now, I'll be obliged to lock you in your room until my mother leaves."

"I'm only teasing, Grace. I promise I won't speak like that when she's here, I promise."

Once breakfast had been eaten, Saint-Claire asked Grace to quickly brief her. "I'll scare her if I speak on the subject. Besides, you know your own mother better than I do." was his reason for asking.

"Certainly." Grace said. Once Saint-Claire had left, Grace bid Isabel to sit down on a couch just outside the dining room.

"My mother is a. . .very particular character. She can be a bit. . .fussy, and doesn't take impertinence very well. However, she does have some good qualities. She is always doing her best to improve the work of our servants-"

Lydia's statement from the night before came to mind.

"-and she is always sure of her opinion. She is of the highest status, and thus deserves a great deal of respect."

Isabel nodded, trying not to let her imagination run wild. "I'll keep that in mind. Is there anything I should take care to watch for when I am with her? Something she will expect of me?"

Grace shook her head. "Just remember who you are now, and do your best to become someone worthy of your name."

"Mrs. Saint-Claire! Ma'am, it's a calamity!" Ellen came dashing into the room.

"What?" Grace demanded. "What's happened? Is my mother early?"

"Oh, no, nothing like that! It's Mrs. Parks! She's fallen, and now we can't wake her!"

"What?" Grace jumped up off the couch. Isabel rose as well.

Mrs. Parks was the head of the servants, the housekeeper, the nurse for the ill who kept the house running behind the scenes for Grace. She was one of the keys to keeping this place in order, and everyone knew it.

Jocelyn and Lydia had made it clear that Mrs. Parks had given up many a night of sleep taking care of her of behalf of the St. Claires. Isabel rushed to follow Grace and the others downstairs to the servants' quarters to see what had happened.

The End

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