I must say, Cecil, that I am a tad bit nervous about meeting someone new. What will they think of me; a mute little girl? In their eyes, I must be useless beyond compare, Diana wrote as they walked three doors down.
“Pah, don’t believe that, Diana. If you were useless you would have never gotten us out of that house. Anyway, you did well enough before, with that butler.”
I suppose I did. But I’m still not fully convinced.
“Then you must be very silly, if you pardon me.” They had stopped outside the third door down, now, and were standing there, outside the door.
Do you think they are all in the same room?
It was possible: they heard muted muttering coming from behind the door.
“We will find out, won’t we?”
With that, Cecil knocked on the door without further hesitation. Diana looked as if she were about to faint with terror.
“Come in!” someone shouted from behind the door.
Cecil pushed open the door, revealing a tight circle of women all huddled together, whispering.
One of them looked up upon hearing the door open.
“You’re not another one of us! What are you doing here?”
“We are, I swear!” Cecil said. “We are the new scullery maids!”
“There was only meant to be one,” said the maid again, suspiciously. “Why are there two?”
“The butler said he would give us a chance.”
“He isn’t one to give out chances,” the maid said. “I know him.”
“If you don’t believe me, think: how else could someone get into the estate, and furthermore, into the servants’ quarters?”
“Why isn’t the other one talking?”
“She’s mute,” Cecil said, taking a deep breath in. Everything was silenced. All eyes turned their way.
“She’s mute?” one asked incredulously.
“Why would anyone want to employ her? Furthermore, why would Butler employ her? He isn’t one soft of heart.”
“We never told him, and I don’t intend to,” Cecil said firmly.
“We won’t tell,” another maid said, putting her finger to her lips.
“Why ever not?” the maid beside her asked, smacking her neighbor with the back of her hand.
“Because, can’t you see? This is a valuable addition to our little group. They can be our eyes and ears, do you see? They can tell us anything and everything that our Master says, because they are inconspicuous. They are but mere girls.”
“Group? What are you saying? You want us to be spies?” Cecil asked a little incredulously.
“Something like that,” one of the women said. “You see, the master we work for is a horrible man. I don’t even see why you’d want to work for him, the brute that he is. We thought it would be a good advantage to see what he’s doing next, so we can prepare.”
“Prepare what?” Cecil asked.
“Prepare to brace for the impact of whatever he’s going to do. He might decide to make the women’s dormitories closer to the kitchen, so we’d have to wrap the precious possessions that we own in some thin paper to that the oil drifting in the air from the kitchen won’t coat everything.”
Diana raised her eyebrow. Is this true, Cecil? Does the oil from cooking stain things a few rooms away?
“Ah, so this one writes, does she?” one of the women said.
“Well, she’s mute, what do you think she’d do?” Cecil retorted.
“Most people don’t get the chance to learn how to write, insolent one,” one woman said. “They’d usually just use sign language.”
Diana realized how privileged she actually was.
Tell them I’m sorry. I didn’t know.
“She’s sorry,” Cecil said. “She didn’t know, coming from a wealthy household.”
“Wealthy household?” one of the women said. “So this ‘un’s a richie, is she?”
“She’d rather not be called that,” Cecil said tightly.
“Imagine that! A richie not wanting to admit they are rich! Hah, if I were a rich ‘un like you, I’d be flaunting my wealth in front of those poor servant people like we are now.” The woman chuckled, shaking her head at the very thought of it. “But that would be some sort of rebellion, that would, because people who are born into servantry aren’t rich. Only the lords and ladies born into their title are rich.”
It was then and at that very moment that Diana realised how corrupted the system was, and how much had been kept for her.
So that means that if Belle were to try and become rich ... she wouldn’t get there?
Cecil bit her lip. “Not necessarily. She might, you never know. There’s always those lucky ones...”
Belle’s never been a lucky one, you know that, Cecil. From losing her parents to being mute, and now being fired! You know that Belle’s never had a good lot in life.
Cecil nodded, and sighed a deep sigh. “If only Belle could have a chance at being rich.”
“Who’re you talking to, girl? Yourself? And who’s this Belle person you speak of? You seem to be mighty worried for her,” one of the women commented. There were five of them altogether, two sitting on the bed and the others kneeling in a tight circle around them. The one with the yellow apron seemed to do the most talking.
“I’m talking to Diana. She’s my friend standing next to me. I’m Cecil, by the way, and Belle’s another friend of ours.”
“Even her name sounds so posh!” Yellow Smock snorted. “All these rich people spending all this money and calling their children ridiculous names ... I wonder what it will all come to one day.”
“I’d rather not wonder,” a woman with bad teeth said. “I mean, it wouldn’t turn out good, that’s for sure. Lots of deaths and gore.”
Diana swallowed. Could it be true? that all the rich died?
Cecil scoffed nervously. “I don’t think so. Don’t worry yourself too much over it, Diana. It’ll be fine, I promise you. Anyway, they have no reason to execute the rich.” Realising what she had just said, Cecil tried to change it. “I didn’t mean execute, I ... my mind, the stupid thing ... it -- it jumped to the wrong conclusion. You -- I mean, the rich won’t be executed.”
By this point Diana had buried her face in her hands. She was feeling faint and dizzy. What would they do to them? What would they do to her, someone who didn’t even want to be rich in the first place?
“You’ve gone and upset the dainty thing,” Yellow Smock commented.
“She’s not dainty,” Cecil said, sending Yellow Smock a glare, before hugging Diana tightly and murmuring comforting words in her ear. “Diana, come on, we both know that it’s highly unlikely that the rich would be killed. Maybe by a natural occurrence, yes, but then everyone else would be dead too. And how likely is that? It isn’t like nature seeks people out.”
Diana breathed slowly out and raised her head. You’re right. I mustn’t get myself worried over something like this.
Cecil looked at Diana for a moment, before addressing everyone else.
“We’ve had a long day.”
“Yes, you two go and rest. Think about what it entails to be an observer,” Yellow Smock replied.
“Spy, you mean.” Cecil still hadn’t come to terms with the fact that she might become a spy. A spy! Only mysterious people in stories became spies, not normal maids like her.
“Spy, if you must put it that way,” Yellow Smock said. “Now, go. Have a rest before the Butler calls on you.”
Cecil shuddered at the thought of the skinny, unhappy man called the Butler.
Cecil nodded, and together, she and Diana walked out of the room into the musty corridor.