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Chapter Twenty-Eight: Lodgings

Chap28-01

As soon as I stepped inside the heat hit me like a fog. Petty led us behind the front counter and to a small sewing station at the back.

Chap28-02

On our right we passed rows of stoves and coppers steaming like anything.

Chap28-03

“Well me gel.” Petty said to me. “Lets see if you can do a stitch as fine as your friend here sez you can do. Take the chair, there you go.”

Chap28-04

I sat down and the flatlands girl handed me the shawl and needle and thread. Doing a rolled hem isn’t hard, Jo always told me, you just have to have the patience to put the needle where it’s supposed to go and work on keeping your stitches neat and even. The hem will work out all on its own if you make the stitches right. As I was hemming I used my lower stitches to catch the lace and attach that at the same time.

“Well.” Petty said when I was finished. “Have a look with your young eyes Yasmin and tell me what you think of that.”

Chap28-05

“Ohh,finer than Mira could ever do it even!” the flatlands girl, Yasmin, said. “Where did you learn lass?”

“From a young lady.” I said, quite truthfully.

“You been in service then?”

“Yes.” I hoped she didn’t ask any more questions.

Chap28-06

“Yes, well, you can all get to find out more about each other later.” Petty said.

“Later?” Frankie beamed.

Chap28-07

“Oh trial only, mind!” Petty said wagging her finger. “You young gels come in here and expect me to ask no questions, well, bless me kind heart but that I won’t, but there’s be an eye with you, two if I can spare them. You gel, what are we calling you?”

“Frances.” Frankie answered. “Yes, well, you can help Yasmin and Cora in the laundry and you,” She turned to me, “Will need to help them also unless there’s stitchin’ needing those fingers of yours. You’ll start tomorrow. Now, if you don’t want that old Beats to be rentin’ your lodgings to someone else ye better git goin’ to secure them. Just you tell her old Petty has a place for you here and the work is nice an’ steady an’ if your mind forgets to mention it’s jut trial only then  I’ll not say nothin’.”

“Oh, thank you!” Frankie said.

“Yes well. Now before you git goin’ you just see Yasmin and she’ll help you, you might both look smart but there’ll be some old clothes in the cupboard you can wear, look less like where you’ve come from and more like where yer goin’.”

We thanked Petty and followed Yasmin.

Chap28-08

“You lasses got yourselves into a spot of bother then?” She said. “Well, Petty won’t ask many questions and she’s a good soul really. You’re safe with her.”

Chap28-09

“We’re very thankful.” Frankie said.

“Lets find you something to wear.”

Chap28-10

The clothes were mostly old and worn but at least they were clean. Apparently as well as cleaning and mending clothes they bought up old clothes, fixed them up then sold them to those who couldn’t afford new clothes. I felt funny wearing someone else’s old things but Petty was right, we did look like girls straight from service. Even the girl selling flowers could see it. We changed into our ‘new’ things and Yasmin helped us to tie our old clothing up in our bundles to take back with us. Then, after saying goodbye to Yasmin and Petty until tomorrow, we headed off.

Chap28-11

“Well, that’s the hard part done.” I said.

Chap28-12

“Mrs Beats has to let us a room first.” Frankie said. “I’m not sure she’ll be as understanding as Petty.”

“I like Petty.” I said. “She’s a little strange, but I think I like her.”

Chap28-13

“Hello!” We’d reached the corner and the young flower girl came running up to us. “Looks like you had some luck.”

“Ye, we did.” Frankie said. “Thanks to you.”

“Petty is good like that.” The girl said.

“If you know she’s caled Petty, why did you tell us Mrs Tomson?” I asked.

Chap28-14

“Oh, she wouldn’t have liked strangers calling her Petty. She won’t have anyone calling her Mrs Tomson but she has to ask you to call her Petty. She’s a bit funny about that.”

Chap28-15

“Speaking of names, we were never introduced before.” Frankie said. “I’m Frances, and this is Bella.”

Chap28-16

“I’m Eliza.” The girl said. “And over there is my sister Clara. I should get back to helping her now, but it was nice to meet you properly.”

Chap28-17

“Same!” Frankie said. “And we need to be seeing Mrs Beats.”

“Oh, are you staying there?”

“Well, we know she has a room free. Unless you know somewhere else we can try?”

Chap28-18

“I don’t, sorry. Make sure you mind Mrs Beats, she’s a grumpy old crown but a stickler for good manners in everyone else. Good luck!”

Chap28-19

“Thank you!”

Chap28-20

“You’re welcome!”

Eliza ran off to rejoin her sister.

Chap28-21

“Well, nothin’ to do but to do it!” Frankie said. We approached the house and it looked even more forbearing than it did before. We stood at the base of the steps, held hands and walked up together.

It was cooler in between the buildings and I felt a shiver run up my spine.

Chap28-22

“She’s only a cranky old boarding house woman.” Frankie said, I think more to herself than to me.

Chap28-23

“Well, then come on.” A bit of highland courage was what was needed, so I walked straight up to the door and knocked on it.

Chap28-24

“Well?” Mrs Beats said the moment she opened the door, a scowl on her face. “What do you pesterin’ kids want? Don’t come round botherin’ me, whatever yer sellin’ I’m not byin’!”

Chap28-25

“Oh, if you please Madam.” Frankie said. “We were lookin’ for lodgings and we was told to come and see Mrs Beats because she is a good moral woman of good standin’ and would make sure a respectable place was found for us.” I’d never heard Frankie sound so humble before, but it did the trick.

Chap28-26

“Oh, well, now that’s a different story, ain’t it. Why didn’t yer say so at once?”

“Well—”

“And how are yer to be payin’ fer a room?”

Chap28-27

“We have places with Petty.” Frankie said.

Chap28-28

“Oh, yer are are ye? Two kids all on their own? What are ye doin’ here?”

“I– our friend set us up with Petty, Madam, but she can’t offer us any place to stay. She did say if we we were good girls and well behaved then you might have a place for us here” It was almost true. We’d only just met Eliza but she had been a friend to us in this place.

“Hmm. Well, there’s always clothes to be mended an’ washed. There’s always work tgheir. I’ll be speakin’ to Petty mind!”

Mrs Beats invited us inside and we found ourselves in a dark and bare hallway.

Chap28-29

“Ye’ll be wantin’ to see the room.” Mrs Beats said before leading up a staircase just just as long and narrow as the hall.

Chap28-30

We went up several flights of stairs and Mrs Beats stopped when we reached the top landing.

“This is the free room.” She said before opening the door and leading us in.

Chap28-31

We followed her into the room. It was larger than our little attic room at Lady D’Winter’s and there were windows but they let little light in.

Chap28-32

We had a double bed, that was something, and a bit more furniture including a proper table and chairs. I shook my head. How feelings changed over such a short time that I was grateful for a roughly made table and chairs.

Chap28-33

I let Frankie talk the financials with Mrs Beats though I listened closely. We had to pay most of our small savings upfront but we had a small amount left over.

Chap28-34

Then Mrs Beats went through the rules.

She had quite a list but most of them were things I’d never have imagined doing anyway. Finally she left us to settle in.

Chap28-35

“Well, it’s better than it could be.” Frankie said. “Lets get some light in here and set our things about.”

Chap28-36

We set about lighting lamps and candles and the room soon brightened.

“I’m starving.” I said, suddenly realising it was true. And I was exhausted. We’d eaten some food during our walk but had barley dozed since… since the night before last.

Chap28-37

We pulled out the last of our bread from our supplies and sat down at our table to eat it.

Chap28-38

I could hardly keep my eyes open but forced myself to stay up and finish my food. It was like now that we had a safe space the highlander blood that had been pushing me all this time was saying “safe, sleep now.”

Frankie helped me into my nightdress and if you can fall asleep before your head touches your pillow, I did just that.

Chap28-39

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Posted by on 24th April, 2013 in Future's Present

 

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Chapter Twenty-Six: A New Dawn; a New Life

Elen often said to me “Go to bed and sleep it out. It’ll all look different in the morning.”

She was right, it always did.

There’s an old Highlander saying, a new dawn is a new day. When the sun rises it shines light on hidden places and causes new shadows on others. At the moment the sun peaks over the horizon the day is a new beginning with no mistakes yet made. In our case a new dawn was more than a new day, our new beginning was a new life. This is how I knew we’d done the right thing in running away, because with this new day and this new life we hadn’t made any mistakes yet. The slate was clear.

Chap26-01

We walked a long time, through the local village and on further. It was in the predawn light that a distant clip clop vanquished the silence before even the birds dared sing.

Chap26-02

We looked back and saw a shape on the road in the far distance, because sound travels very far when it it not quite yet day. Frankie spun around.

Chap26-03

“This way.” She said and started walking towards the source of the noise.

“But why? I asked her, jogging a little to catch up. “Why are we going back?”

Chap26-04

“We’re not. But what if they’re looking for us? Two little girls out at this time so far from the last village, what else could we be but runaways? Now when we get in hearing range I want you to argue that we should go back, that you’re tired and your feet are sore, but when he gets closer I’ll do most of the talkin’”

Chap26-05

So when the milk cart, for that was what approached, was closer I did just that. Frankie hushed me as the milk cart pulled up beside us.

Chap26-06

“What are you two young ones doin’ out so early on the road?” he asked.

“Nothin’!” Frankie answered a little too quickly. The man narrowed his eyes at us and after a moment’s hesitation she gave in.

Chap26-07

“We-ell.. Freddy Parkins next door has a cousin what runned away to the big city and he wrote a letter back sayin’ how wonderful it was so we thought we’d a-go and join him but someone—” Her she glared at me “Is gettin’ tired feet already!” I could tell Frankie was exaggerating her accent to make her seem more common and naive than she actually was. I looked down at my shoes remembering all the times she’d laughed at my “posh” accent below stairs. I couldn’t do a passable job on an accent in close quarters so I kept my mouth shut.

“So, runnin’ away was a great idea, was it” The man asked.

“Well…” Frankie screwed up her face.

“If yer caught missin’ at dawn your mistress will have the constable after ye! An’ the furst person they’ll ask is yours truly.”

“Oh, you wouldn’t tell?” Frankie asked. “Only even if we turn back now we’ll be too late, we’ve been walkin’ ages!”

“Git yerselves up on back an’ I’ll give ye a lift back and they’ll be none the wiser an’ we won’t have another word said.” The man said to us.

Chap26-08 Chap26-09

So Frankie and I did as we were told.

Chap26-10

It wasn’t the most comfortable ride, on an old cart amongst the milk but at least it was better than walking!

Chap26-11

“He delivers the milk.” Frankie whispered to me, letting the noise of the cart mask her voice from the man. “Then the local milkmen will collect it and take it round. The men who deliver the milk always see anyone on the roads just before dawn so they’re often asked about all sorts of runaways. This way he thinks he’s takin’ us home!”

Chap26-12

“I’d never have thought of that!” I whispered back.

Chap26-13

“Well, don’t congratulate me yet, we’ve only gotten away, we haven’t found a safe place to bide our time yet!”

We arrived at our location just as the sun was rising. Our driver left us at the main street after a promise from us to return to our mistress then he went to offload his milk.

Chap26-14

I looked around. The main street was waking up already. People were outside their shops setting out their wares and a few early customers were hurrying about their wares.

“Is this a good place to stay?” I asked. “Far enough away but close enough to go back?”

“I think so.” Frankie said.

“Then we need to find a place to stay.” I said. “And then some work… how does one go about finding work?”

Frankie sighed. “No, we can’t find lodgings until we have work. An’ don’t mention it being only temporary . A good lodger is a reliable one, one who makes little fuss, earns an honest and regular wage and will pay it week after week.”

“Well, lets find honest work then. How does one go about it? What do we need to do?”

“Find someone with work that needs doin’. They’ll also want someone who ain’t about to skip town—”

“So don’t go telling them it’s only temporary either?”

“No, we don’t. Even if their work is only for a few days they’d rather that be on their terms so best make them think we’re here to stay a while.”

“What’s the best way to do that?”

“Well, to have an address for a start.”

“But you said—”

“I know what I said! Now lets take a look around, eyes and ears open.”

Chap26-15

We walked down the main street, past a servant talking to the butcher past the grocer and the grocer’s boy. Past the two street urchins whose game had been put on pause while they helped a third boy catch a chicken. There was a lady outside the drapers who frowned at us and a man setting out books outside a small, dark store.

Chap26-16

“What do ye think yers doin’?” We spun at the cross voice but it wasn’t addressed to us but rather at a young man and woman who’d been enjoying each other’s company just outside the local on the corner.

“Oh, hello Mrs B.” The man said. “Top o’ the mornin’ an’ all tha’”

“Yer jist shut yer blitherin’” She said, pulling the man away from the girl.

“Mornin’ Mrs Beats.”  The young woman said.

Chap26-17

“An don’t yer mornin’ me either. Dallyin’ on the street wi’ some boy washed in on the last tide?”

“Oh Mrs B. I’m more than tha’!” The young man protested. “Sides, she’s my sweet girl, Molly ain’t she!”

“It’s not proper!” The old woman scolded. “I run a reputable establishment, I should ‘ave known ye was no a no good gel when I took you in, no better than ye should be if you ask me! I won’t ‘ae people says I tooks in harlots ff the streets. Ye can be findin’ another place to sleep me girly because there won’t be a room in my house fur ye tonight!”

“Who wants to stay in your old boardin’ ‘ouse anyway?” The young woman yelled back. “There’s rats, an’ those that run on four legs as well! There’s room in the pub for me, until Jim finds a place, that is! He’s my young man!”

“Well I won’t ‘ave that behaviour under my roof so yer better clear out your things before tonight! I won’t ‘ave it that I won’t!” The grumpy old woman stormed off leaving the young lovers giggling.

Chap26-18

“Well!” I said.

“They’re often like that.” Frankie said. “It’s cos they can be held responsible for the immorality of their lodgers, if they’re young. But youknow what this means?”

“What?” I asked.

Chap26-19

“Lodgings that want fillin’”

“Lodgings first then?”

“No, but we could have an address to give to an employer, come on!”

Chap26-20

We followed the woman across the street and watched to see what house she entered.

Chap26-21

It was a small, dark house with the entrance set back from the rest of the row making it seem all the more dismal.

Chap26-22

 

“Well, it’s as good as can be expected.” Frankie said. “Come on, lets see if we can find work.”

We turned and continued our way down the street.

Only temporary. I told myself. Only temporary. Soon Jo and Henri could help us and in the meantime I just had to keep on going.

 

 
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Posted by on 10th April, 2013 in Future's Present

 

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A Report to a supervisor

Interview request approved. Proprietress unavailable but 2IC willing to meet at 1500 tomorrow.

 
4 Comments

Posted by on 22nd March, 2013 in Future's Present Extras!

 

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Chapter Twenty-Three: Francesca Cooper

Author’s Note: Please excuse the random costume change near the end of this chapter. I had to use reset sim and didn’t notice it changed her clothing until a few days ago!

Chap23-01

I soon begun to understand the natural order of things downstairs. We all had our set jobs, but if you were busy you’d pass some work, naturally your most disliked chores, down to the next person beneath you in the hierarchy.

Of course, Frankie and I were right at the bottom.

Chap23-02

We washed plates, we scrubbed pots, we polished floors, we kept the fires in the kitchen going and a hundred things besides.

Chap23-03 Chap23-03a Chap23-03b

The work soon reinforced what I’d learned the day I’d cleaned the art room with Jo, Henri and Marjorie in what seemed to be another life; cleaning wasn’t hard, but it was hard work. Frankie sometimes helped with the rooms upstairs, but I never ventured into what I now had to call “a young lady’s room”. I think this was partly because they didn’t want me talking to my old friends and partly because I was far too low down now to be considered suitable for a “young lady’s room.” Even Frankie was only considered fit for the younger girl’s rooms and only when absolutely necessary.

Chap23-04

We didn’t even take our meals in the kitchen with the other servants. We, the lowest of the low, ate on a little table in the scullery.

Chap23-05

There was a lot to learn, and not just about the work. I had to lean new ways of behaving and speaking to people. To eat fast when we had our paltry meals rather than to take dainty bites in between conversation. I even had to look at people different. I saw almost nothing if my classmates at first and never got the chance to speak to any of them. I began to understand how Frankie, having spent most of her life in the scullery, didn’t know how to speak to us “young ladies” when she first came. Frankie tried to be as patient as she could in teaching me everything but I earned more than one cuff about the ear from Mrs Roberts. That was another thing new to me.

Within a week my dress was no longer tight. The hard work aside, I wasn’t eating half what I used to. If we were late for meals, even if it was because our work had kept us, then we didn’t eat and there was no kind servant to sneak you up a feast to your bedroom.

Chap23-06

One day Frankie and I were almost finished the entrance hall floor when Mariah and Valerie happened to walk by. It was the first time I’d seen either of them since… since my world had turned upside down and inside out.

Chap23-07

“I don’t know what’s happened to the standard of domestic help.” Mariah said in a voice that carried to us. “It’s dropped dramatically of late.” I ducked my head so she couldn’t see my face reddening.

Chap23-08

“Just ignore her.” Frankie muttered out of the corner of her mouth.

“Trying too.” I muttered back.

Chap23-09

“I say, you two missed a spot all the way over here. Come clean it at once.” Mariah demanded.

Chap23-10

“Just do as she says and don’t argue back.” Frankie whispered to me as we stood. “She’ll tire of it eventually.”

So she did. Unfortunately for us she tired of it after we’d redone almost the entire hall.

Naturally we were late to our lunch and had to set about our afternoon chores with grumbling stomachs.

Some days there was a lot of work to be done in the afternoons. Other days there was more, and this was one of those other days. The range wasn’t drawing well and and it was all hands to the pump getting the evening meals out on time meaning our usual miserable supper took the form of a few hurried mouthfuls of hard bread and cheese.

Chap23-11

We climbed the stairs that evening, long after every one else was abed. My back ached, my knees were rough and sore, my hands were red and blistered and felt like they’d never be soft again.

Chap23-12

“Tell me it gets better.” I said as Frankie and I wound up the rickety stairs to our little attic room.”

“I could.” She said. “But…”

She didn’t need to finish. It didn’t get better. Was this my life now? How had it come to this? I thought of every time I’d turned my nose up at food. The scone that had broken, the slightly mushy berries, the fatty bit of the meat and a million other times besides. The times where I could have, should have been in bed but laid awake or lit my lamp to get an extra half-hours reading. Oh, what wouldn’t I do for an extra half hour sleep a night, a broken scone, some mushy berries and the fatty bit of the meat.

Frankie had some salt and grains squirreled away in our room for emergencies. If we were very, very hungry, we could cook little hard, flat, tasteless biscuits on the hearthstones. We didn’t want to do this too often as we could only take supplies, including firewood, up in small amounts when it wouldn’t be noticed and Frankie wanted to stockpile a good supply for winter.

Chap23-13

We reached our room and I collapsed on our bed.

“I’m too hungry to sleep and I’m too sleepy to try cooking something.” I said. Our fire was, of course, unlit and after lighting it we’d have to wait for it to be hot enough to cook anything.

Chap23-14

“Well, you can start by changing into your night dress. That dress will be fit for nothing in the mornin’ if you sleep in it!”

Chap23-15

I sighed and sat up. She was right of course, and we still had to clean our aprons and collars. We had two apiece but if we were to venture out of the scullery then clean ones had to be donned. This meant that any dirt had to be cleaned off at night and left to dry for the next day.

Chap23-16

We changed into our nightdresses and I set to work washing our collars and spot cleaning our aprons and Frankie worked on the fire.

We were both too exhausted to talk so when the stairs beneath us creaked under a footstep we both heard it clearly.

“What was that?” Frankie whispered. Was someone coming to check on us? Would we get in trouble for our fire? Would our pilfered food be found?

Chap23-17

I made my way to the edge of the stairwell and looked down. Four points of white light looked up at me.

“Bobbie, is that you?”

“Jo!”

Chap23-18 Chap23-19

It was! She reached the top of the stairs and I threw my arms around her. Henri too.

“You have no idea how happy I am to see you two!” I said.

Chap23-20

“I’ve been wanting to come up every night.” Jo said. “We only worked up the courage tonight, but look, we’ve come bearing gifts!” Jo opened a large handkerchief with a selection of goodies inside. Biscuits, fruit and a tin of sweets. “The sweets are from Henri.” Jo said. “But I promise the next I get I’ll save for you!”

Frankie and I saved our grains and feasted on fruit and biscuits. Jo and Henri waited until we’d finished eating before they talked.

“I thought you might be hungry.” Jo said. “I can’t imagine you get as good dinners below stairs as we do upstairs.”

“You have no idea.” I said.

Chap23-21

“But now the important news.” Henri said. “I’ve written to my brother, I don’t know where to reach my parents right now. I’ve told him everything about it and I know he’s far away at the moment but he knows people, so he might be able to help.”

Chap23-22

“And I’ve written to Michael, the very night everything happened, in my bed by the light of a candle. I put blankets against the door so the light didn’t show underneath it because Miss Jane was prowling like anything! I didn’t even wait to put it in the school post at breakfast, I got up early and placed it in Glady’s hand when she came in the morning and she made sure it made the first post. I’ve had a reply already. He says that our home is out of quarantine, has been for almost a week, can you fancy that? Nobody ever told me, I should think they would have! I’ve written home today and between Mother and Father and Henri’s brother and her parents, when we reach them, we’ll sort something out. Things are not right and we’ll fix them, for you too Frankie.”

Chap23-23

“What can you fix for me?” Frankie asked. “Do you know of another position?”

“No.” Henri said.  “But I wrote to my brother when the mailboat strike ended and I had a reply the other day. I mentioned you—”

“But why?”

Chap23-24

“Because you’re not registered with the agency and you should be as they protect you and make sure you receive proper wages and days off and get treated right. Don’t worry, he won’t say anything about you to anyone, but he says to hold tight for now and he asked me a few questions which I answered in my last letter—”

“Including what your name could be.” Jo cut in.

Chap23-25

“My name…?”

“Yes.”

Chap23-26

“Really?” I sat forward.

“My name’s Frankie!” Frankie said. “Short for Francesca.”

Chap23-27

“But you don’t know your last name.” Henri said.

“Don’t have one.”

“Yes you do. Everyone does. My brother said a baby born on a big estate to unknown parent will be given the name of the estate or sometimes the family that own it instead of the name of he father. Sort of like you belong to the state.”

“So you are either Francesca Cooper or Francesca Braklesie. Probably.”

“Francesca Cooper.” Frankie said. “You thought she was the daughter of the Coopers’. I thought she didn’t exist. Is it me, and if so, how and why?”

“Maybe.” Henri said. “Maybe you’re Francesca Braklesie-”

Chap23-28

But Frankie was shaking her head. “I’m older than Braklesie estate. When the Coopers moved there it was just the Coopers’ winter house. It didn’t have a name until they decided to stay there.”

Chap23-29

“Francesca Cooper.”  Said. “I like thinking you have a real name.”

Chap23-30

“Yes, well, my brother says don’t do or say anything, just sit tight and he’ll investigate what he can without making too much noise and I think Bobbie will have to do the same. Lady D’Winter hasn’t registered you, has she?” She asked me.

“I don’t know.”

“Well, then, I think you’d know if she had. We’ll see what my brother says, we shouldn’t cause any trouble because we don’t want things getting worse for you.”

“I don’t know that they could.” I said. “But tonight they’ve sure got better!”

Chap23-31

“Well, that’s something. Now Jo and I should get back to bed, I don’t know what will happen if we’re caught up here!”

Chap23-32

“We’ll keep you posted.” Jo said. “We’re doing everything we can and you just need to keep strong.” She threw her arms about me.

“Thank you.” I said. “We need to get to bed too, we wake up even earlier than you do!”

“Goodness, do you really?” Jo said.

“Who do you think brings the wood in in the morning?” I asked. “Tomas chops it but I have to carry it into the house.”

Chap23-33

“Well I never.” Jo said. “That just won’t do at all. No wonder you were so hungry! I imagine carrying wood is hungry work!”

Chap23-34

“Jo, lets go!” Henri said and Frankie and  I watched as the two wound their way back down the stairs.

Chap23-35

“Oh! I forgot” Jo ran back up. “I know how much you like reading, so I brought you this!” She thrust a book into my hands then caught up with Henri waiting for her at the bottom of the stairs. Soon I heard the sound of the door below softly close.

Chap23-36

I looked down at the book in my hands. It was a poetry book. One of mine, but not one I’ve read much I opened it randomly and read.

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

— Dylan Thomas

I didn’t recognise the poet’s name.

I flipped to the front page and saw the inscription.

To Darling Roberta, many wishes on her second birthday. With lots of love from the entire Cooper family.

Of course, another present from the Coopers. Strange thing to give a toddler a book of poetry. I closed the book and put it beside our bed.

Chap23-37

I thought I’d never sleep that night, but as soon as my head touched the (rather lumpy) pillow my exhaustion took over.

 
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Posted by on 20th March, 2013 in Future's Present

 

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A Report to a supervisor

Extra training on dress, customs and manners have been successful in assimilating to the local culture. Have requested interview with the proprietress of the suspected local and am awaiting confirmation. Have purchased clothing so to blend in better than when in clothing issued by HQ. Shirts, vest, ties and the various trinkets necessary were easy to obtain. A suit is made for each man on request and there is a whole profession devoted to this task! This requires leaving an identity, location and other personal data which is not possible. I have purchased a suit from a shop which sells those once worn by others to avoid this issue. I include the invoice

 
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Posted by on 16th March, 2013 in Future's Present Extras!

 

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Chapter Twenty-Two: A New Dawn

Author’s Note: Yay! It’s here! Part two at last! Thank you all for your patience. I hope it’s worth the wait!

I was given a day’s grace.

But I don’t remember it.

Chap22-01

The first think I remember after tumbling into the small bed I shared with Frankie that fateful night was her shaking me awake.

“It’s too early.” I moaned.

“Come on Bobbie, you can’t be still tired.”

“What time is it?”

“Just gone half four but there’s plenty to be done.”

Half past four! What sort of an hour was that?

Chap22-02

“Still tired.”

“Oh but you can’t be! You slept all last night and all yesterday and all the night before.

“It’s not tomorrow?”

“It’s the day after tomorrow, you didn’t have to work yesterday but there will be no excuses today. You’re over rested, that’s what it is.”

Chap22-03

“What’s over rested?” I sat up slowly and rubbed my eyes.

“It’s when you get so much sleep it makes you even tireder. The only thing to do then is to set about being busy and that will wake you up. Being busy works for grief too, that’s what Mrs Roberts says. Nothin’ like hard work to take the troubles off our mind. Come on, here’s some water, wash quickly then dress and I’ll show you about your work.”

Chap22-04

I padded over to the bowl of water and had flung a good amount over my face before I registered it was cold. I let out an involuntary shriek.

“Whatever is the matter?” Frankie asked.

Chap22-05

“It’s cold!” I said.

Chap22-06

“Well, of course it is, we don’t have time to warm it, unless you want to get up even earlier tomorrow. Come on!”

I hurried myself and was soon dressed.

Frankie showed me down to the cellar where the coal was kept. She showed me the coal hole it came through when the coal man came. She showed me the copper and the range. She even tried to be patient with me. Even in summer there were fires to be lit and things to be warmed up.

Chap22-07

Frankie left me with the fires in the scullery while she ran up to rouse Gladys and Dorcus— it was only a quarter past five but it seemed we were running late already! Though the fires in the bedrooms weren’t routinely lit in summer we were still required to supply each with fresh wood and kindling. The older girls were especially fond of brewing tea or cocoa in their rooms. It was usually Gladys’ job to take it into the rooms but not her job to bring it into the house, so I was sent out for it.

Chap22-08

I found Tomas at the woodshed already.

Chap22-09

“Mornin’ Miss. First day at work then?”

“Yes. I’ve been sent out for wood.”

Chap22-10

“Right you are. Now I’m not supposed to go traipsing into the house but I can help ye as far as the door, what do you say to that?”

Chap22-11

“Thank you.” I said, because what else was there to say?

Chap22-12 Chap22-13

Tomas helped me to the door and I hauled the wood inside on my own and stacked it up ready for Gladys to take upstairs.

Chap22-14

Frankie and I then went into the scullery where we began laying things out for the breakfast preparation. The growling in my stomach reminded me I hadn’t eaten yet. When did we get to eat? Surely even servants had to eat sometime.

Chap22-15

“Now who hasn’t put the water on yet?” I lifted my at the unfamiliar voice.

Chap22-16

“Sorry Mrs Roberts.” Frankie said, rushing to fill a large kettle.

Chap22-17

“And who might you be?” Mrs Roberts asked me.

“Bobbie.” I answered.

Chap22-18

“Bobbie, Mrs Roberts.” She corrected me. “And who said you’re to be called Bobbie? What’s it’s all coming to I don’t know.”

I didn’t know either but I refrained from asking what was it all and just answered.

Chap22-19

“Yes Mrs Roberts. I— no one said, it’s just what I’m called. Short for Roberta—”

Chap22-20

“We had a Bobbie below stairs once. A boy. It doesn’t suit. You’ll be known as Bertha below stairs. Are all the preserves laid out? Have they all their spoons? Yes, then best take them up.”

“I’ll show you where to go.” Frankie offered while I just gaped. Who was she to call me Bertha? “She doesn’t know yet, Mrs Roberts.”

“I daresay she doesn’t.”

I’m Bobbie!” I said as we made our way through the servant’s hallway with the jams and honey and all manner of yummy things.

“You don’t alway get called your name below stairs.”

“Really? How horrid!”

“Didn’t you ever wonder why you never get a servant named something fancy?”

“Well, no, but… Bertha!”

Chap22-21

“You best mind Mrs R.” Frankie said “Hand in hand with her ladyship she is.”

“She made shortbread for me my first day here.”

“And any day since?”

“Well, no…”

“There you go then. I’ll wager it was just to impress your parents.”

Chap22-22

My stomach dropped. My parents. I hadn’t spared them a thought all morning. They’d just been torn from my life, would I forget them so soon?

“Oh, I’m sorry Bobbie— I mean Bertha, but we have to keep moving. Keeping busy will be good for you too!”

“Can’t you call me Bobbie?” I asked as we hurried back to the kitchen. “At least when no one else is around to hear.”

“Well, if it helps. Just when no one else is around, mind!”

Chap22-23

We reached the kitchen at the same time as Gladys.

“Is the water boiling yet? I need to make some tea.”

“Oh I’d love a cup ducky.” Mrs Roberts said.

“Not for you, for Miss Jane and her Ladyship!”

“Gladys always wakes them up with a cup of tea.” Frankie explained to me.

“When do we get breakfast?” I asked Frankie, but it was Mrs Roberts that answered.

Chap22-24

“When you get it is if you’re lucky.” She said. “But if you make me a cuppa then you can have one yourself.

Unfortunatly Gladys was already on her way out with her tea and I’d missed seeing her make it. I looked at Frankie.

“Oh Bo— Bertha, tell me you at least know how to make tea!”

Chap22-25

“I know how to pour it!” I said.

Chap22-26

It turned out that making tea was easy so it didn’t take Frankie long to show me.

“I thought it was more complicated than that!” I wined as she laughed at me.

“Is that tea ready yet?” Mrs Roberts asked.

“Yes Mrs Roberts.” I answered.

Chap22-27

Mrs Roberts took her tea with lemon so I had mine black, not daring to ask for milk as there wasn’t any on the kitchen table.

There was a knock at the kitchen door.

“Frankie, that will be the baker with the bread, would you see to him?”

“But it’s Saturday Mrs Roberts, you’ll need to fix up the bill.”

“Blast, and so I will!” Mrs Roberts sighed as she made her way to see to the baker.

“Mrs Roberts bakes the bread in the cooler months.” Frankie explained to me. “But she says it’s a waste of coal to bake it when it’s warmer.”

Gladys came rushing into the kitchen.

Chap22-28

“Oh that Dorcus Dun!” she said, wiping her brow. “Frankie, can you lay out the napery and crockery for breakfast? You best take Bobbi with you, it goes faster with two.” She patted some creases out of her apron. “Oh blast!” Her hand dove into her pocket. “I’ll be back.” She said. “I forgot to take this to Miss Jane!”

“What is it?” Mrs Roberts asked.

“That gentleman’s card, the one wanted interview with her ladyship, she said to pass it onto Miss Jane as she didn’t have time. I were meant to leave it with her tea this mornin’!” Gladys shook her head then she was off again.

“Come on.” Frankie said.

“But I haven’t finished my tea yet!”

“Then drink faster!”

“But it’s hot.” With no milk to cool it, it was still very hot.

“Then pour it into your saucer.”

“I beg your pardon?”

Frankie showed me how to pour my tea into my saucer to cool and I giggled as I slurped it down. Then we were off once more. Laying a tablecloth is a bit like putting a sheet on a bed, only it’s a lot longer. We each took and end and shook it out and soon got it in place. Then the napkins the cutlery. The preserves We’d taken up before sat waiting on the sideboard and we added a stack of plates beside them.

Chap22-29

Back to the kitchen and it was all a bother and a hurry with eggs to be cooked, bacon to be fried and bread to be toasted.

Chap22-30 Chap22-31

I had spoons thrust into my hands with an order to “stir that” and taken out just as abruptly with a “oh, it’ll be quicker to do it meself”.

After the breakfast went up we had to clean up the mess we made, by which time the dishes upstairs were ready to come back to the kitchen and the tables needed to be cleared. The good part about having to bring the dishes downstairs is what wouldn’t be kept for later, we could eat. I had a breakfast of cold toast and eggs and it was the best breakfast I’d ever had in my life.

Chap22-32 Chap22-33

After breakfast, the work started again. There was the rest of the dishes to be washed.

Chap22-34

There were floors to be scrubbed and banisters to be polished and all manner of things to be dusted.

Chap22-35

By night time we trudged up the stairs and through the corridors to our little attic room and fell into our small bed exhausted.

Chap22-36

And thus followed every morning and so continued every day.

 
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Posted by on 13th March, 2013 in Future's Present

 

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Part two– Less than 24 Hours Away!

That’s right folks, part two is less than 24 hours away.  I’m working on chapter 26 at the moment so I’m where I want to be schedule-wise. I wonder if the next four chapters will take you where you think they’re going!

Screenshot-150

 

Screenshot-214

 
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Posted by on 13th March, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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