Author’s Note: And here she is! Frankie! Remember her? You’ve heard of her, haven’t you? Who is she?
Mrs Hilton has written some letters to Bobbie, shouldn’t she have recieved at least one of them by now?
What’s up with the dumb picture? More to the point, what’s up with the creepy sci-fi guy?
Does Chapter Ten answer any of these questions?
Well, take a read and find out!
The sounds of the curtains opening woke me up. Saturday. My heart did a little skip before it sank again. No nature walk for me today. But at least I had Jo to keep me company. Saturday also meant no classes and I’d been looking forward to it all week. I sat up in bed and looked to Gladys clearing out the grate from last night’s fire. Only it wasn’t Gladys.
“Hello.” I sad.
“Oh!” The figure jumped and span around, startled. “I didn’t mean to wake you. I’m sorry.”
“Don’t mind that, I don’t! I think I’m meant to pretend to be asleep until you leave the room anyway, like Jo does—”
“I’m not pretending! It’s too early!” Jo protested sleepily.
“Are you the new housemaid? Gladys said that one had been asked for.”
“I’m not sure. I’m new, but not a housemaid as such.”
“Miss.” Jo said sleepily without opening her eyes. “You’re supposed to call her Miss when you speak to her.”
“Oh, uh—” the girl looked from Jo to me then back again. “I’m sorry— Miss.”
“Better.” Jo sat up and rubbed her eyes. “Lady D’Winter’s always taking on girls new to service, you need to learn fast or there’ll be trouble for you. Oh, you’re young! Too young to be a housemaid.”
“I know, but— I mean, I know Miss, but— I’m sorry, is that right?”
“Yes.” Jo said.
“Thank you Miss.” Jo corrected.
“Thank you Miss.” The girl repeated. “I was told I was to do anything that needed doing. Gladys has the toothache something terrible this morning so I’m to do her work while she lies in the kitchen with a compress on her face to ease the pain.”
“What’s your name?” I ask, not wanting to hear the details of Gladys’ toothache.
“Frankie.” She answered.
“Frankie, Miss.” Jo flopped back down on her pillows. “It’s too early!”
“Well, I better go, I’ve got stacks more rooms to do—”
“Please excuse me Miss, but I have the other young misses to see to.” Jo said without lifting her head from her pillow.
“Um, yes, that, Miss, um, thank you Miss!” the girl hurried from the room.
“You shouldn’t pick on her so!” I scolded as soon as she was gone. “She’s just learning.”
“Pick on her? I was helping her. She’ll get in trouble if she doesn’t learn fast. Think what would happen if she had to speak to Mariah? Or worse, Miss Jane or Lady D’Winter herself.”
“Well, they should be understanding. Lady D’Winter told me herself that she trains up young girls to give them a good start in life and that we have to excuse—”
“Ha! Don’t tell me you believed that?”
“Yes… doesn’t she?”
“She buys cheap labour where she can is a more accurate way to put it.”
“It is the truth, and I swear to it! Oh, no expense spared where it shows to persons of greater importance and influence than us, but mark my words, she got Frankie because she was cheap. And she left the mail all the way over on our desk, be a peach and fetch it, would you Bobbie darling!”
“Fetch it yourself lazy! It will be for you anyway!” The bitterness in my words came from the fact that in the almost two weeks since I’d been here I was yet to receive a letter. True, it took two weeks for a letter to get to Fraitessa from the highlands but it had been four since I’d left home.
“Actually, there is one for you!” Jo said as she looked at the letters.
“Really?” I scooted to the end of my bed. “Pass it here, who’s it from? Is it from Miss Brown? I’m expecting one from her with her new address, she has a new position—”
“A Miss Gr— not sure. Must have been raining somewhere, the ink has run.” She passed it over.
“It has been through the wars.” I said as I tore it open. “Oh, it’s from Elen!”
“Well, that’s nice!”
I prepared to enjoy a good read, but Elen’s letter was disappointingly short.
“She’s writing from her mother’s house.” I told Jo. “Her mother has been poorly so she’s gone home to care for her a bit… oh bother!”
“She hasn’t written her mother’s address except on the envelope and that’s so badly run that I can’t read it.”
“Oh well, I’m sure she’ll write again.” Jo said. “Or you can send your reply home and they’ll know where to forward it too. But listen to what my brother says—”
“Oh goodness, I better not!” I said. “That’s the next bell and we’re not even begun dressing yet, we’ll be late!”
We left our letters and helped each other to turn our mattresses, as rules dictated must be done every Saturday, and I prayed that Miss Jane wouldn’t choose this morning to inspect our beds because the corners on my sheets had looked better.
We scrambled into our clothes and rushed out when we heard the breakfast bell, Jo still buttoning her belt and me fastening my collar.
After checking the coast was clear we dashed out and ran across the landing, breaking one of the many school rules about proper behavior in hallways.
I skidded to a halt at the top of the stairs when I heard footsteps below but it was only Gladys.
We took the risk of running down the stairs and across the entrance hall knowing Miss Jane might appear any moment to catch us doing something so unladylike as running!
Soon we were pushing open the doors to our breakfast room and were relieved to see that while we were the last of our class, we’d at least arrived before Miss Jane.
“Phew!” Jo said. “I can’t believe we beat the dragon, could you imagine Miss Jane if she knew we were late?”
“No need to imagine Miss Cox.” We spun around to see that no other than Miss Jane standing right behind us.
“And your tardy has not gone unnoticed, nor yours Miss Hilton.”
“No miss Jane.” I said.
“Sorry Miss Jane.” Jo said.
“The two of you are to return to your room at once and to remain there for the rest of the day, in which time you shall both meditate upon your behavior. If by tomorrow I do not see two reformed schoolgirls then you will both find yourselves in Lady D’Winters office answering serious questions about your future in this fine establishment. Go.”
“But—” Jo started.
And without another word we both turned and left our class to their breakfast and returned to our room.
“I can’t believe her!” Jo broke out after she slammed our door behind us. “Bobbie, I’m so sorry! Me and my big mouth has us both in trouble.”
“Well, I got you out of the nature walk with my Highland temper so we’ll call it even then.”
“But a whole day trapped in our room! What are we to do?”
“Well, you can start by telling me what your brother wrote. Which one is this from?”
“Is that the one that nursed the foal?”
“No, the one that spent the night in the tree. Listen.”
Jo related the latest gossip from her brothers’ school, which sounded far more interesting than ours, and that cheered us both up.
“I wish we could have adventures like that.” I said. “It sounds much more fun than getting in trouble for slapping someone.”
“Or for being late to breakfast.” Jo said.
“I think it was rather the dragon comment that got her so riled.” I said with a giggle. “But still, I’d rather be facing the music after having a midnight feast or—”
“Ohhhh! Don’t talk about midnight feasts! Now I’ve just remembered how hungry I am! Why did I finish my sweets yesterday? Oh, I’m such a greedy girl.” Jo threw herself on her bed.
“Say, Bobbie, next time I try to finish my sweets do tell me ‘no, Jo, save them for when you need them’ because I’m sure to at some point!”
“I shall die of hunger, I’m sure of it!”
Just then we heard a tap on the door. We looked at each other, were we allowed to have visitors? The door opened a crack and a dark face peered through.
“Can I come in— um, I mean Miss—”
“Is that food?” Jo leaped off her bed. “Oh, come in, do!”
“Oh, keep it down!” Frankie entered and quickly shut the door behind her. “Mrs Roberts sent me up with it, but Miss Jane isn’t to know.
“Put it here on the windowsill.” Jo said. “That way we can brush any tell-tale crumbs outside. Oh thank you thank you, isn’t Mrs Roberts a brick?”
“She said you’d be pleased.” Frankie said as she put our breakfast down. Jo jumped onto my bed and sat down.
“We’ll have plenty of time to remake them later.” Jo said to me.
“Do say thank you to her for us, will you?” I asked Frankie. “And thank you for bringing it. Frankie…?”
The girl didn’t answer me. She was frozen, looking to the corner.
“Where did you get that?” She asked.
“What?” I asked.
“That.” She pointed.
“That’s Bobbie’s.” Jo said. “Some painting from someone-or-other and you need to learn to mind your manners or Miss Jane will lock you in your room without breakfast if you’re not careful!”
“Bobbie?” Frankie asked.
“That’s me.” I sad as Jo investigated the contents of the tray.
“And Miss Roberta to you.” Jo remembered to remind the girl.
“But how did you get it?”
“Why? What’s it to you?” Jo asked.
“My old employers had that exact same painting.” Frankie said.
“Couldn’t have.” I said. “That’s a gift from friends of the family, I’ve had it as long as I can remember and you don’t look any older than I am!”
“He did so! Mr Cooper had that—”
“Mr Cooper?” You were employed by the Coopers?”
“Yes, you know them?”
“Rather! Well, they’re family friends. I mean, I’ve never met them because of their daughter, they can’t travel, but my parents know them.”
“Yes, she’s poorly. That’s why they live out at Braklesie, because of the fair weather, for her health. It was the Braklesie Coopers you were with, wasn’t it?”
“Yes, but they don’t have a daughter. Only sons.”
“No, they have a daughter, you must know her. Her name’s Francesca. She’s almost my age.”
“No, I— what did you say her name was?”
“Francesca.” I said frowning. The Coopers weren’t a big family and they only kept open one house, it must have been the same ones.
“But that’s m—”
“Frankie?” Dorcus’ voice rang out from the hallway. “Where are you girl? You’re needed in the kitchen.”
“I— I better go!” and before I could say another word Frankie turned on her heel and ran from our room.