Belle glided up the steps, pretending to be rich and grand, like Diana or Marryane Le Testhmus.
She got up the the floor of Diana’s living quarters, and waited outside the door of her room. She knew that Diana would go straight to her room after visitors left, because it gave her time to relax and change into appropriate home attire. Belle knew Diana’s corset was ever so stiff and clinching. She was lucky that her own was only a cheap one, and not a tight, expensive one like Diana’s, which was decorated with intricate flowers which, according to Diana, were really itchy. Belle had never believed in looking good. If people wanted to look good, then they needed a lot of money, first. If you had a lot of money then no-one would make fun of you for trying to look good. Belle knew plenty of servants who wanted to look good, just like the rich, but had failed terribly. She started chuckling in her mind at the thought, then stopped herself. Servants didn’t chuckle.
Soon enough, Diana swept up the staircase (though perhaps not as gracefully as she hoped) and greeted Belle politely.
Hello, Belle, old friend. How’s it going in your trade? Diana wrote, acting as if Belle were some rich land owner or businessman.
Very well, thank-you, Diana. How’s it going with your trade? Belle replied equally politely.
Well. Would you care to sit down, madame? Belle flicked a glance at Diana, who smiled back at her.
Very well, madame Testhmus.
Diana swiftly turned the brass doorknob of her door and entered her room. Belle quickly followed. She loved seeing Diana’s room. It was so perfect, so beautiful, so delicate. Every bit of it screamed Don’t you dare touch my delicacy! You might break me!
Diana closed the curtains, so they might not be seen, and lit a candle, so they had light to see by. Belle was enraptured by an ornament by Diana’s bed, but quickly retracted the reaching hand when Diana turned around.
Don’t do that, dear Belle. You know you can touch it. It’s a locket, given to me by ... I can’t remember, now! How funny!
Belle tentatively reached out a hand to touch it, and shivered slightly at its cool touch and smooth surface.
The carvings say “May peace lie with you forever”, though I doubt you have learnt Latin yet.
Belle nodded. A few words, yes. Though I surely do not know as much of it as you do.
Diana blushed under her rogue and powder, then rose to go to her dressing table. I hate this itchy powder. It makes me look like a doll.
You think everything is itchy, Diana.
So they are!
Belle shook her head, smiling. Would you like me to wipe off your rogue for you?
People don’t do it in layers, Belle! They just frantically wipe it off, splashing their clothes while they are at it. I think I shall change first, before I get this heavy dress soiled.
Belle hung her head at the mention of getting dresses dirty. You know what I did?
Of course I do! I saw you! And I must say, my grand aunt was overreacting a bit. Don’t worry about her and her no-good fussy ness. You are good just the way you are, soiled dress or not.
Belle blushed, but didn’t say anything. Instead, she went to Diana’s dress room to fetch a dress for her. Halfway down the stairs, Belle encountered Marryanne Le Testhmus, who gave her a glare.
“Why aren’t you cleaning up the mess, young lady?”
It has been cleaned already. Belle prayed that Cecil had finished cleaning it.
“Very well. Get one of the other servants to check it for me. I expect a report.”
Belle ducked her head politely as Marryanne Le Testhmus swept past her, going noiselessly up the steps to her bedroom. Belle grinned behind her back. How easy it would be to get Cecil to do a report for her.
Belle quickly found Cecil, who was lying out on the cool grass outside, gazing up at the blue sky and clouds.
“I don’t like being cooped up in here. I know I get to go outside, but it’s only out to the backyard, and no more. I am a nature person, Belle. I need nature. I connect with nature. It inspires me.” Cecil turned her head to look at Belle. “Do you understand, Belle? I can’t just be a servant my whole life.”
But that’s what you are, isn’t it?
“Yes, but I can always change my fate. Perhaps I should start early?” she gave the thought a curious look. “Perhaps...”
But what of the escape? Surely you are not going to abandon us?
“No, no, nothing of the sort. Just wait and see, Belle. My destiny will be much flashier than Marryanne Le Testhmus’.” Cecil grinned delightedly at the thought. “What do you say, Belle? Me being more higher ranking than my mistress!”
Do not think of such things, Cecil! Walls have ears!
“I’m sure they have no eyes, though. Who are walls to know who is speaking?”
Belle shook away whatever she was thinking. Don’t be silly, Cecil. I need you to give a report to Marryanne Le Testhmus. Can you say that I have cleaned up the mess I made earlier? That would be terribly nice of you.
Cecil tapped the side of her nose cheerfully. “It would. That’s cheating, Belle, but I’ll do it anyway.” She laughed. “After all, how else would we common servants get around the obstacles of life?”
Not very well, I suppose. Cecil laughed again at this.
“Very true. Anyway, let us get going to see our mistress, hey?” Cecil got up, blinking her eyes slightly. “Sun does no good to peoples’ eyes,” she muttered.
Belle shook her head at Cecil’s first remark. I need to go get a dress for Diana. She’s probably wondering where I went.
“Alright. But hurry up, will you? I need our planner to get ready as soon as possible.”
So do I.
Belle quickly ran to get Diana’s dress. It had to be plain enough to get dirty.
Belle rifled through the stacks of dresses that Diana had, and found not one that was a plain as hers. Even Diana’s plainest dress -- which Belle had just pulled out -- was prettier than Belle’s new servant dress. It was a white dress, with puffed sleeves and an open sleeve from which hung huge billowing semi-transparent sleeves made of beautiful patterned material. There was a blue pleat down one side, opening up into a huge expanse of blue billowing material, which was also transparent.
Belle sighed at the beauty of it. If only she had such a beautiful dress. If she had, though, she knew she’d cry and never wear it, in fear of wrecking its beauty.
Belle quickly checked all the other dresses just to make sure the one she was holding was truly the plainest. The others all had complicated patterns and ruffles, so Belle dared not touch those.
Belle quickly made her way up the stairs, quickly reaching Diana’s room. When Diana looked at her from the dressing table’s mirror, Belle shrugged apologetically.
Sorry, just had trouble finding the perfect dress.
Diana smiled at this. Just take any dress, as long as it isn’t from my rack of ballroom ones, or the court dresses with a sash across them.
I tried finding the plainest one, so that if the situation calls for it, you may at least get it a tad bit dirty.
I am sure the situation will never call for that, Diana wrote, then quickly finished taking off her make-up.
What else would we need for an escape? Belle wrote.
Nothing that I haven’t already packed. But ah, yes, there’s one thing I haven’t mentioned: a rendezvous. We have to find a place where we can meet up if we are separated. We also need somewhere to go once we escape.
I can help you with that one, Diana. I was a street urchin, remember? I know most of the streets off by heart. At least there was one thing a street urchin was useful for, Belle thought.
That’s very convenient for us. You see, I’ve hardly been out of the house due to my muteness, which saddens Great Aunt so, and I think it plain embarrasses her and leaves her dignity in tatters. And Cecil ... well, Cecil has a very harsh background. You see, her parents were both servants, and they were servants for this very house, the both of them, even though there were strict rules against fraternizing. When they had a little baby girl, there was nothing they could do for her but leave her here, in the very same house that they had worked in, in hope that Great Aunt would treat her well. Unfortunately, Great Aunt looked upon the baby in disdain, for she already had one to look after, namely, me. So Great Aunt made that little baby girl into a servant. Diana had to constantly stop and rub out her slate, for it was getting rather full. I am pretty sure Cecil hasn’t ever ventured out of this house’s grounds. Not even for shopping, for before you came here, Mrs Anderty always sent the stable boy to do it.
Why would Mrs Anderty do that? Belle asked quizzically. Diana shrugged.
At that moment, Cecil came rushing into the room, panic on her face. “Belle! Madame Testhmus wants to see you!”