Diana ran after Cecil, running through the twisting streets and narrow walkways. Finally, they stopped, panting, by a small bar.
Diana immediately held herself up highly, and tried to stop panting, for respectable ladies were not meant to pant. It was hard, though, for she had never really run before, or participated in much physical exercise at all.
“I’m sorry, Diana, for running. But as soon as we left the gates of that horrid house, I was arrested by the urge to run, run as far as I could, away from my prison.” Cecil laughed out loud; a pretty, ringing sound rarely heard in the Testhmus house. “Now I’m free!”
Joy overcame Diana, too, and she nearly leapt up out of sheer happiness, but being a respectable young lady brought up by strict teachings, she didn’t.
After they had calmed down a bit, Diana got down to the most important matters at hand: food, and shelter.
I know a place where we might be able to get employ, Diana wrote. She remembered the time when the newspaper had been left on the table, and she had read it by accident. She had been kept from the goings-on of the outside world whenever possible, so the newspaper was forbidden to her. It had been so tempting, seeing it lying there, open on the table, and she couldn’t resist but just to read one section. She had ended up reading the jobs section, a thing she’d never regret, she knew, for when she escaped, it would be a very valuable piece of information.
“Where is it?” Cecil asked, eager and impatient to get moving.
At the house of Arthur Pendlwick. He’s been looking for a scullery maid for a long time, the newspaper said. Perhaps he might accept two.
“Perhaps,” Cecil said, thinking of what Marryanne Le Testhmus had said about having to waste money on mute maids. Diana might think that money was endless, but even Cecil knew that rich people had to save up at least some money, and they didn’t want to waste it on things that they looked upon as unnecessary. Like an extra scullery maid, for example.
“Do you know where his house is?” Cecil asked.
On Brunswich Court. I packed a map to help find it.
“I’ll go see where we are now,” Cecil said, and ran off to find the nearest street sign. She came back almost as soon as she left. “We are near Elders Street.”
Diana unfolded her map and tried to find Elders Street. When she found it, she set off, towards Brunswich Court. It wasn’t too far away, in the sense of on the other side of town. It was only about twenty blocks away, near the row of shops that were so popular for rich people to go to. Diana vaguely remembered going there when she was small, accompanied by her great aunt and a footman, for carrying bags.
It is near the Shopping Avenue, Diana explained to Cecil.
“That place? Where all the rich people go? You must know where to go, then,” Cecil remarked without thinking. The comment made Diana cringe slightly.
I didn’t ask to be rich, she wrote. She continued. To be pampered, to be kept in a luxurious prison.
“I’m sorry, Diana, I wasn’t thinking. Forgive me.”
Diana said nothing. The silence that followed was a time for her to forgive everyone she ever hated. That included her great aunt. As much as she wanted to condemn that ungrateful woman in a spiked prison with no windows for keeping her from the outside world, she knew that the woman genuinely cared for her, else she would have treated her like a common servant.
They got to the Shopping Avenue in due time, and continued on to arrive at the imposing gates of the Pendlwick house.
There were two lions on marble posts by the gate opening, their teeth bared. Cecil couldn’t help but shiver; this place seemed so unfriendly, so foreboding. She couldn’t imagine anyone ever wanting to live in a place like this.
Diana rang the bell, and they waited for someone to come. After a while, they heard the clacking of sharp heels on the stone driveway of the house.
A figure emerged. A sharp, thin figure clothed in black clothing. The face was thin and gaunt, cheekbones protruding like they were trying to get out.
“What do you want?” was the first thing the thin man said.
Cecil glanced quickly at Diana before answering. “We’re the new scullery maids.”
“There are two of you.” The old man still hadn’t bothered to open the gates for them. It was rather rude, for he talked to them with metal bars between them.
“Yes, we were wondering whether Mister Pendlwick would need any extra help,” Cecil answered, swallowing. She hoped he would buy this.
“Sir Pendlwick to one of you, Master Pendlwick to the other. We cannot be employing more than what we need.”
“Please, just give us a chance. We will prove to you that we are a worthy investment,” Cecil pleaded.
The man ignored her plea. “Which one of you wants to work? Why isn’t the other girl talking? The one in the fancy dress?”
Cecil daren’t not tell the man that Diana was mute. If she did, then the chances of him employing her were basically zero. “She is too scared to, Sir.”
“If she is scared of me, then she won’t be getting very far in this house.”
“I’m sure she won’t be forever scared, sir,” Cecil said desperately. “It’s just the initial shock. It’ll wear off, I’m sure of it.”
“We can’t be having a maid going into shock like this whenever she’s scared of anything.”
“Give her a chance, sir. One chance.”
“Very well. If she fails, you are both out. And make sure you don’t let Master Pendlwick find out that I’m giving her a chance.” The man opened the rusty gates with a clang, and Cecil and Diana scurried through, afraid that it would close on them.
The old man started walking, leaving Cecil and Diana to hurry after him.
“I am now your master. The only person’s orders who overrides mine is Master Pendlwick himself. Do you hear me?”
“Yes,” Cecil said, and Diana nodded.
“You are to refer to me as Master, or Butler. I am also Master Pendlwick’s steward.”
They kept up a fast pace; the driveway was actually quite long, and Diana reckoned that the butler wanted to get rid of the two of them as soon as he could.
Diana asked Cecil a question. When will we go and find Belle? Surely she has gotten to the edge of the city by now?
Cecil shook her head; ask me later. The butler led them to the back door.
“Servants enter through this door, never the front door, do you understand?” the butler announced strictly.
Diana nodded again.
“If that rule is ever violated, then you will both be punished. Severely.”
The butler led them through a series of corridors, and finally they came to a stop, at what seemed like a long row of rooms.
“Your quarters are here. Find a spare room and you will be called to work in five minutes. You will both have to share a room.”
Then he left, the cold, sharp, shadow leaving with him. The melancholy feeling left them, now, and Cecil smiled at Diana.
“We are now under employ,” she whispered excitedly. Diana bit her lip nervously.
Yes, we are. I don’t know a fig about how to wash things though.
“We’ll think about that when it comes to it. For now, we need to find a spare room.”
They walked down the long corridor, and opened door after door. Each one looked as if it were accommodated. Except one. The room at the very end of the corridor was musty and dirty. The sound of scuttling rats could be heard, and the bed was filled with straw.
“I suppose we’ll just have to share a bed,” Cecil said cheerfully. Diana put her bag on the bed, then looked around.
All that was in the room was an old bed. There wasn’t even a wardrobe or a window.
“Your great aunt treats her servants better than this,” Cecil reassured Diana. “We each get beds which don’t look as if they are about to fall apart at any given moment, and even have a wardrobe.”
Diana smiled a bitter smile. Shall we go and see the other servants?
“Why would we want to do that?” Cecil asked, confused.
So that we can ask them about what life is usually like at this household, and hopefully get a grip on it before that horrid butler comes back.
“Well, I’m not entirely sure any servants would like to talk to us, Diana. After all, we are newcomers.”
People always seemed to want to talk to me before.
“Yes, but you must understand; this world is different from the one you knew. The servants probably wouldn’t want anything to do with newcomers; they know how newcomers can easily get into trouble, and they don’t want to be blamed in helping them to cause trouble.”
Can we at least try?
Cecil sighed. “Very well. After all, you are leader of this whole operation. You must at least have a say in what we do. Lead the way, if you must.”
I must. Then Diana walked to the nearest door and rapped hard on it. Cecil, would you please be kind enough to call out and tell them who we are?
Cecil swallowed nervously, but nevertheless did what she was asked to. “Hello, there. I am Cecil and this is Diana. We are the new scullery maids.”
“Newcomers, eh?” a voice answered from within the room. It sounded like the voice of a young man. “Please, don’t bother me. I don’t want anything to do with you. Yet.”
There was a chuckling from behind the door. “Go bother some of the other maids, why don’t you? They are just three doors down.”
“How horrid that the mens’ quarters are just opposite from the women’s!” Cecil said, utterly shocked. “How do they treat their servants? No wonder they find it hard to employ a scullery maid -- no one wants to work for them! Oh, we are so stupid for doing this!”
Money is money, Cecil, Diana said, using the same expression that the highwayman had said to Belle only moments before. We need it, too, for my savings cannot last forever.
“I’m sorry, Diana. Let us find the other women. Three doors down, I think.”