by Jackie J
The docks at Dover were busy when Rosemary Worthington disembarked from the cutter, John Dalton. It would be a full day’s travel back to Malangton Hall. The train would have been a speedier option but Rosemary had opted for the more traditional horse-drawn carriage. Her trunks loaded onto the coach, the horses whinnied and trotted out through the dock gates and onto the rutted track. She was not looking forward to the last leg of her journey home from her continental trip.
Rosemary had been away for two months visiting the capitals of Europe and was excited to tell her close friend Caroline Longmire of her adventures. Caroline should have taken the trip with her but, feeling a little unwell the week before they were due to depart, decided against it.
The coach rattled along making steady progress and with night drawing in eventually arrived at Malangton Hall and came to a halt at the entrance.
It was a weary Rosemary who entered the Hall followed by her luggage brought for her by the footman of the coach.
Lamps lit Rosemary surveyed the dust sheets covering the furniture and sighed resolving that their removal could wait until the morning.
Rosemary and Caroline had been friends for many years; both had married well and benefited from the wealth generated by their husbands who were the founding partners in the Longmire & Worthington shipping line. A tragic shipwreck in 1890, in which both husbands perished, left both women widowed but financially secure. That was two years ago and both Rosemary and Caroline had come to terms with their loss. Still in their mid-thirties, both were socially active and enjoyed their rank and privilege in society. Money was never an issue and the exclusive dress shops of London benefited from their patronage.
Malangton Hall and Westbury Manor, the residence of Caroline Longmire, were both similar properties located some five miles from each other. Both houses benefited from the latest domestic advances. A gas supply afforded lighting, heating and hot water to the residences, which was quite uncommon for the day. Since their husbands’ demise, the young widows had paid little attention to the upkeep of their residences, as a busy social calendar or foreign excursions kept both of them busy elsewhere.
The morning after Rosemary’s return she set about restoring a degree of normality to the hall by removing the dust sheet from the furniture. Sat in the drawing room, Rosemary sipped on a cup of tea opening and reading the stack of mail that had been delivered during her time away.
With nothing of consequence in the mail, Rosemary dressed and, as she waited for her carriage to arrive, preened herself in the hallway mirror ready to visit her friend at Westbury.
A lovely spring morning Rosemary settled her bulbous skirts in the seat of the coach and reflected on how lucky she and her friend were, her mind already contemplating a return trip to the continent.
The coach pulled to the rear of Westbury Manor to await Rosemary’s return trip and she made her way up the steps to the entrance.
The door opened, she embraced Caroline and then stood back.
“Oh dear, what have you done to your hair?”
Caroline looked a little coy, then forced a smile, running her fingers up into her short bob, and spoke somewhat unconvincingly.
“Ohh, I,.. er,.. I decided on a change, it was too fussy before. It’s better like this.”
Into the hallway Rosemary stopped and stared, everything was gleaming, no clutter, fresh flowers in a vase sat on a highly polished table. Even the floor tiles glistened.
“Caroline, what have you done to the place? Someone has been busy!”
Through into the parlour and again Rosemary just stood and stared. The room sparkled. Not a thing was out of place.
“Well, I must say this is a transformation, Caroline. It makes my home look positively shabby in comparison.”
An unfamiliar voice called from the hallway and a smartly dressed and statuesque woman strode into the parlour.
“Carrie, dear, tell your friend that Westbury has a maid now to keep the manor in pristine condition.”
Rosemary had never heard Caroline referred to as Carrie before but let that pass.
Rosemary looked at the woman and smiled - she obviously wasn’t the maid - then turned back to Caroline.
Caroline looked a little sheepish and confirmed the news.
“Yes, Westbury now has a full-time Stephenson’s maid. This is Miss Symonds. She trains and supervises the maid.”
Rosemary turned to Miss Symonds.
“Well, I must say that you, and of course the maid, whoever she may be, have transformed the place. You are to be congratulated.”
“I don’t want to be rude, Caroline, but the manor was a bit of a mess and I know I am just as bad, perhaps I should have a maid like this over at Malangton!”
Miss Symonds smiled and stepped forward, offering Rosemary her card.
“I am sure that we could accommodate that if you wish. Here is my card, feel free to call. My partner, Miss Stephenson, is always looking to place new maids.”
Miss Symonds looked at Caroline quite intently and then smiled and faced Rosemary.
“I will take my leave. I am sure you have much to discuss. I understand you have just returned from an extended trip across Europe. That must have been fascinating.”
With more of a smirk than a smile Miss Symonds turned back to Caroline.
“I will be in the next room, Oh, would you like me to serve tea Carrie?”
Caroline stood up quickly.
“No, No I will do that.”
Rosemary was quite surprised at Caroline’s reaction but let it pass noting that the woman had again referred to her friend as Carrie. Caroline had never welcomed the shortening of her name.
Rosemary took a seat on the large leather sofa and looked again around the room. It was indeed remarkable. The sunlight bursting through the windows revealed not a streak or smear, each item of furniture was polished to a radiant sheen and the carpets and rugs looked like new. Rosemary looked at the card the woman had given her and popped it into her purse, resolved to get in touch to organise a similar maid for Malangton Hall.
Caroline appeared after a short while, carrying a silver tray, best china cups, cream, sugar and a pot of tea. Placing the tray down on the low table by the sofa Caroline appeared to stumble slightly and Rosemary looked at her concerned.
“Are you alright, Caroline?”
Caroline quickly gathered herself.
“Yes, sorry M... I mean yes I am fine.”
Rosemary could not have known the real reason why she had stumbled or why she almost called her Miss? How could she?
Caroline sat in the large chair opposite the sofa and poured the tea.
Rosemary commented on Caroline’s dress, which was rather plain, ill-fitting and quite cheap-looking. That was not her usual style at all.
“Where did you get that dress Caroline, it is all right for around the house but I suggest you give that away to the church, dear, before someone sees you wearing it.”
Caroline could not tell her friend that Miss Symonds now had possession of all her fine clothes and everything else at Westbury Manor. The shabby dress was now the only dress she actually owned!
Rosemary then started to tell Caroline about her travels, hardly pausing for breath, Caroline listened and nodded politely but with an unnoticed distant look in her eyes. Two hours quickly passed as Rosemary enthusiastically extolled the virtues of all the cities she had visited.
It was just after four in the afternoon when Caroline waved goodbye to her old friend. As Rosemary’s carriage rumbled down the driveway, she turned back into the hallway to see Miss Symonds, arms folded across her chest, standing there and smiling.
“Very good, Carrie. Now back into your uniform, girl. You can start preparations for my dinner this evening.”
Caroline dropped a curtsy and lowered her gaze.
On the return journey from Westbury to Malangton, Rosemary withdrew the card given to her by Miss Symonds from her purse and smiled. A maid? Well, Westbury put her own home to shame and she couldn’t tolerate that, could she? A lady from the village came and did some basic cleaning once a week and took away the laundry but a full time maid would be different and make the Hall gleam like Westbury Manor.
On her return to Malangton Rosemary penned a letter to Miss Stephenson inquiring about maid services.
A week after her visit to see her friend Caroline Longmire at Westbury Manor, Rosemary had taken the short journey to the nearby town of Hawksmere and rang the bell at the address on the card.
A pretty young maid opened the door and curtsied.
Rosemary admired the pristine uniform of the young woman and smiled, would her maid look like this she pondered?
“Rosemary Worthington. I have an appointment to see Miss Stephenson.”
The girl beckoned Rosemary inside.
Ushered through into a lavish reception room Rosemary was met by a smiling Miss Stephenson who, having introduced herself, returned to sit at her large desk. Rosemary, making herself comfortable in a chair, sat facing her.
“So, Mrs. Worthington, you wish to have a maid at your residence, Malangton Hall?”
Rosemary explained her visit to her friend’s home, how well it was kept and her meeting with Miss Symonds, who had given her the card.
Miss Stephenson sat back and smiled.
“Well we are not just a common maid service. Our maids are all exceptional and of course well-trained. We only place our maids into households where we know they will be well supervised with strong discipline. That depends greatly on the Mistress of the household, of course.”
Rosemary nodded and Miss Stephenson continued.
“So have you had use of a full time maid previously, Mrs. Worthington?”
“No, no, not really, I have never thought the need. A lady from my local village does some cleaning and the laundry but it was only after seeing what a remarkable transformation had taken place within my friend's home that I considered this option.”
Miss Stephenson frowned and made a note in an opened file on her desk.
“Oh dear, well I am afraid that perhaps a Stephenson maid would not be suitable for your needs.”
“You see, if you have no experience of employing a maid, how could you supervise her properly, to our high standards?”
“It looks like you have had a wasted journey, Mrs Worthington, but perhaps some tea before you leave?”
Miss Stephenson raised a small bell from the desk and its tinkle heralded the pretty maid who had welcomed Rosemary at the door.
The maid entered, curtsied and lowered her gaze.
Miss Stephenson watched Rosemary’s reaction and smiled.
Molly curtsied again before turning to leave.
Rosemary had her heart set on having a maid and her disappointment showed.
“Miss Stephenson, I know my friend had never had a maid previously yet there is a maid at Westbury, how is that?”
Miss Stephenson pulled out a file from the drawer and spread it out on the desk thumbing through the pages.
“Mrs Caroline Longmire, Westbury Manor, now let me see.”
“Yes I thought so; she took our maid supervisor course.”
Miss Stephenson snapped and closed the file just as Molly entered carrying a silver tray, best china cups, cream sugar and a pot of tea. Molly set down the tray and curtsied.
Another bobbed curtsy and Molly was gone.
Miss Stephenson poured the tea.
Rosemary broke the awkward silence that had developed.
“Supervisory course you say? And would that be available to me?”
Miss Stephenson smiled, offering the charged cup to Rosemary before opening a large diary.
“Mmm, who, who, yes, yes. Miss Nightingale. She would be perfect.”
Miss Stephenson closed the diary and sipped on her tea, looking at Rosemary.
“I do have someone who would be suitable for the training should you wish to go down that avenue.”
“The training is not for everybody, you would have to be sure before you commit to it.”
“However, upon completion of the training I will guarantee that it will result in a maid for Malangton Hall. We have never failed in this regard, we are very thorough in our methods as I am sure your friend Carrie would testify.”
Rosemary listened intently whilst Miss Stephenson continued to elaborate.
“You see, it is important not only to fully understand the duties required of a maid but also the psychology of the maid, how she feels about serving her mistress. Only fully understanding this can one be expected to supervise her correctly, you see this, don’t you?”
“Yes, I think I do.”
Miss Stephenson smiled, seeing Rosemary hanging on her every word and drained her cup.
“So, is that how you would like to proceed, to take our maid’s supervisory course?”
Rosemary placed her cup down on the desk and smiled.
“Well, yes, if that will get me a maid like the one at Westbury Manor.”
Miss Stephenson edged her own cup and saucer to the edge of the desk and opened the file marked Malangton Hall.
“Oh yes, Mrs Worthington, of that you can be assured, we will ensure that the maid at Malangton Hall will be just like the one at Westbury Manor”.
“Not having employed a maid previously I take it you do not have maid’s quarters? They would need to be prepared; we recommend these be on the ground floor, ideally adjacent to the kitchens, sparsely furnished of course. We can look into this matter during my visit to Malangton Hall.”
“Well if all is decided I will visit Malangton Hall later this week, would Thursday be convenient for you, Mrs Worthington?”
Rosemary hid her excitement, having had her initial inquiry rebuffed. She was going to have a maid after all.
“Yes, that will be fine I look forward to seeing you on Thursday, Miss Stephenson.”
Standing from her desk and closing the file Miss Stephenson’s eyes tightened on her prey.
“Yes I look forward to that, Molly will show you to the door.”
Thursday came around and Rosemary had not bothered to tidy the house much above the basic requirements, Rosemary had also terminated the agreement with the woman from the village informing her that her services would no longer be required. She would soon have a full time maid at Malangton Hall to do all the domestic work.
The rattle of a carriage on the drive and Rosemary checked her appearance in the mirror then opened the door to greet Miss Stephenson who was accompanied by a strong looking woman, both ladies immaculately dressed. Miss Stephenson introduced Miss Nightingale who had spent many years supervising maids and would be “helping” with Rosemary’s supervisory training.
Rosemary gave the visitors a tour of the rambling hall, her six guest rooms upstairs had been rarely used since she was widowed.
After the tour they sat in the parlour. Miss Nightingale complemented Rosemary’s beautiful dress, looking at it with greedy eyes.
“What a beautiful dress! I wager you have an extensive wardrobe?”
Rosemary took this to be a compliment, even as Miss Nightingale’s possessive expression suggested otherwise.
“Thank you, yes I must admit I do have a weakness for wearing fine clothes.”
Both Miss Stephenson and Miss Nightingale smirked discretely.
The subject of the maid’s quarters was raised and Miss Stephenson suggested the small room opposite the kitchen would be suitable and convinced Rosemary to use a tradesman that she recommended. Miss Stephenson then withdrew a file from her leather satchel and removed a number of documents.
“I have here the details of the Supervisory training we briefly discussed during your recent visit, Mrs Worthington. I will run through the program for you. If you have any questions just ask me. Then we can sign the contracts and we will be ready to start once the maid’s quarters have been prepared.”
Rosemary sat passively and listened whilst Miss Stephenson ran through the terms of the training program that would ensure that Rosemary would be in a position to correctly supervise a maid for her household.
The listing of duties expected of a maid was extensive, covering all aspects of maintaining a well-kept household. During the supervisory training each task would be evaluated and at the discretion of Miss Nightingale, each one would be signed off until the full listing was completed at which time the training program would be concluded.
Miss Stephenson smiled.
“So do you have any questions, Mrs Worthington?”
Rosemary, looking a little apprehensive, leaned forward.
“So, if I understand you correctly, during the training I would be expected to carry out the various tasks listed, under the supervision of Miss Nightingale? Miss Nightingale will highlight all the aspects that a Mistress would need to be mindful of to ensure the work is carried out to the highest standard. Miss Nightingale would then sign off each job until the list is completed.”
Miss Stephenson, seeing Rosemary was accepting of the basic terms, smiled.
“Yes, that’s right. Like we discussed in my office all my maids must work within a strict regime and know their place at all times. A poorly supervised maid would quickly become slovenly and of no use to me, she would be ruined. To supervise a maid correctly one must fully understand the standards required and the dynamic of the relationship between a Mistress and a Maid.”
Miss Stephenson sat back and glanced at Miss Nightingale.
“Once the program begins, Miss Nightingale will guide you through every aspect of maid’s duties. You will learn when to reward and, of course, when to punish the maid. We employ a range of “encouragements” to assist a maid in focusing on her duties that I am sure Miss Nightingale will acquaint you with during the training program. It is essential that a Mistress becomes aware of the effectiveness of these “encouragements” to better supervise the maid.”
Miss Stephenson gathered up the forms from the table and handed them to Rosemary.
“These are the contracts that you will be required to sign. Read through them and when the work is completed on the maid’s quarter’s, post them back to me and we can start the process of having a competent maid to take care of the household duties here at Malangton Hall.”
Miss Stephenson and Miss Nightingale stood and prepared to leave. Rosemary smiled and stood with them and walked to the door. The hallway was quite untidy, like most of the residence and Rosemary giggled pushing back the umbrella stand which was covered with her walking coat, muddy boots by its side.
“Sorry about that, ladies, the sooner the maid starts her work the better; I can’t wait to tell my friend that there is to be a maid at Malangton Hall just like the one at Westbury Manor.”
Miss Stephenson smirked.
“Yes, Mrs. Worthington, just like at Westbury Manor.”