by Jackie J
Having resolved to undergo the maid supervisory course to comply with Mrs Stephenson’s conditions to employ one of her maids, Rosemary became even more hesitant to tidy and clean the house. Picking up the mail Rosemary recognised the distinctive handwriting of her friend Caroline. Discarding the other mail she tore open the envelope, withdrew a perfumed letter, and began to read.
Rosemary had planned to visit Westbury Manor to discuss the supervisory maid training with her friend after seeing how effective the maid at Westbury manor was. Rosemary, having noted no time scale was highlighted in the contracts, was anxious to know how long Caroline’s maid supervisory course had taken to complete,
It appeared that Caroline would not be at Westbury Manor for some time. The letter explained that following Rosemary’s recent visit Caroline had decided to take an extended trip to see the European capitals like Rosemary had recently done. Rosemary was happy for her friend and pleased that her account of her own travels, in some part, had convinced her to go. It was sudden but her friend had always been impetuous.
Of course Caroline would not be taking any such extended trip. Miss Symonds, the new Mistress at Westbury Manor, had her maid pen the letter under her supervision concocting the trip. Miss Stephenson did not want Rosemary visiting Westbury Manor with the possibility of being made aware that her friend, Caroline Longmire, under the ruse of supervisory maid training, was now Carrie, the obedient, well-trained, prim and proper housemaid to Miss Symonds in what was her own home.
Work on the maid’s quarters at Malangton Hall progressed quickly and soon all was ready. The bars to the narrow window and stout locks on the heavy oak door puzzled Rosemary but the tradesman explained that maids are sometimes prone to nocturnal adventures and to protect them from themselves such security was wise.
That seemed plausible enough to Rosemary and surveying her kitchen she chuckled to herself thinking of having a maid to do all the cooking and cleaning. All she needed to do was qualify the conditions set down by Miss Stephenson. Setting the documents down that Miss Stephenson had left on the desk in the study she read through them once again.
First the training contract.
Mrs Worthington, under the supervision of Miss Nightingale, to become conversant and proficient in all aspects of maid’s work so she will be able to fully understand and respect the relationship between a Mistress and a maid to such a degree that a Stephenson maid can be engaged at Malangton Hall.
Underneath the main text was a detailed an extensive list of duties and requirements that Rosemary skipped through and then signed and dated the contract.
Then the engagement of a Stephenson maid for Malangton Hall.
Following the program of supervisory maid training at Malangton Hall and in agreement with Miss Nightingale, Miss Stephenson will select the most suitable maid to fulfil the duties of house maid at Malangton Hall. Miss Stephenson’s selection will be binding for all parties for a minimum term of three years, with extension clauses to be agreed at the discretion of Miss Stephenson.
A number of sub clauses covering hours of work, remuneration, accommodation, terms of address between Mistress and maid, uniform, a financial bond whilst in the service of Malangton Hall. All very formal but Rosemary trusted the conditions in the contract to be in line with a normal maid’s service.
Lastly, there was a list of all Rosemary’s relatives and close friends. This was requested under the pretext of not inadvertently selecting a Stephenson’s maid for Malangton Hall who is known to Rosemary. This seemed odd and rather thorough to Rosemary and took some time to complete but it had been explained that employing a maid with any connection, however remote, could prove embarrassing. This was not the real reason as Rosemary will later become aware.
The contracts signed, Rosemary placed them into the addressed envelope ready for the post the following morning.
A week after she had posted the contracts it was a beautiful summer morning and looking out through the window Rosemary watched a carriage work its way along the lane and through the gates into the grounds of Malangton Hall. Rosemary was excited; once the supervisory training was completed she would have a maid at Malangton Hall which would sparkle just like her friend’s residence at Westbury Manor.
Miss Nightingale alighted the carriage and the footman removed a large trunk from the rear, then followed Miss Nightingale to the door. Rosemary was waiting on the steps and welcomed Miss Nightingale.
Miss Nightingale asked the footman to take the trunk through to the maid’s quarters which he did under the direction of Rosemary. Rosemary had prepared one of the guest rooms for Miss Nightingale but accepted that she may wish to stay in the maid’s quarters given she had asked for her trunk to be taken there. Rosemary, quite understandingly, believed the trunk contained Miss Nightingale’s belongings for her stay.
Taken through into the parlour Miss Nightingale asked for the package that had been posted to her by Miss Stephenson, Rosemary handed her the large envelope and took a seat.
Miss Nightingale opened the envelope and smiled, thumbing through the enclosed documents, then returned them into the envelope.
“Well, Mrs Worthington, I guess you will be eager to start, the sooner our work is completed the sooner a Stephenson maid can be employed here at Malangton Hall!”
Rosemary nodded enthusiastically.
“Yes, yes of course what comes first?”
Miss Nightingale sat back, smoothing out her skirts.
“Miss Stephenson is meticulous in her methods and we have had problems in the past, a complete misunderstanding of course but something she would not wish to repeat. A Lady wrongfully accused one of my colleagues of misappropriating an expensive item of jewellery, it was later found to have been just misplaced but it created a situation. Miss Stephenson now insists that it is better that all items, of significant value, are placed into the safe before a training program commences to prevent any similar misunderstandings.”
“So Mrs Worthington before we start, I need to unpack my trunks and whilst I do this I ask if you could gather such items together and lock them into your safe. Money, jewellery, documents anything that you attach significant value to.”
Rosemary looked a little puzzled but understood the logic and agreed.
Miss Nightingale headed to the maid’s quarters and Rosemary set about organising her valuables into the safe.
Having placed all the items she could find into the safe Rosemary stood in the kitchen preparing a pot of tea for Miss Nightingale and herself when the door to the maid’s quarters opened and Miss Nightingale emerged holding a sizable bag and closed the door behind her.
“Tea! Mrs Worthington, how nice. I will go through to the study.”
“Oh, Miss Nightingale, I know you have put your things in the maid’s quarters but I prepared a guest room for you which I am sure you will find more comfortable?”
Miss Nightingale looked at Mrs Worthington and smiled, knowing she had not prepared the maid’s quarters for her and without a word headed to the study.
Rosemary brought the tea to the study to find Miss Nightingale sat at Rosemary’s desk with some papers set out before her. Rosemary accepted that Miss Nightingale needed the desk and sat the tray down on the edge of the desk before pouring two cups and sitting facing Miss Nightingale.
Miss Nightingale looked up and closed the file she had been studying.
“So, Mrs Worthington, how to supervise a maid, not just any maid, but a Stephenson’s maid. When you have finished your training you will realise just how special a Stephenson maid actually is. They are always immaculately attired in the Stephenson maid’s uniform, obey their Mistress without question and carry out their domestic duties to the highest standards. They live only to serve and obey.
Only with continued strict supervision by a knowledgeable Mistress can this level of obedience and dedication be maintained. A Mistress who knows when to chastise and when to compliment her maid, when to employ “encouragements” and how would a Mistress know when and how to do this?
A Mistress would need to know every aspect of the maid’s duties to make sure they were completed to the highest standards and to know what these high standards are. To appreciate the restrictions faced by a maid in carrying out her duties, have a degree of empathy for the emotions she would feel when encouragements are required. So are you ready Mrs Worthington to place yourself in my hands without reservation, has the contract states, to learn of all these matters? “
Rosemary felt a little intimidated but the wheels were in motion and, the thoughts of having a maid at Malangton Hall to maintain her household like her friend at Westbury Manor, suppressed any reservations she held.
“Yes Miss Nightingale I am in your hands, without reservation.”
Miss Nightingale smiled.
Rosemary had one question she had been anxious to ask.
“Miss Nightingale, I have seen no mention in the documentation I signed of how long the training program is for.”
Miss Nightingale sat back and smiled.
“Well, that will very much depend on you, Mrs Worthington, you have run your own home but I know that you will accept, looking around the place, not to the high standards we have discussed. Once you become fully aware of what is required of a Stephenson maid and how such a maid is to be supervised by her Mistress, which I am here to do, Miss Stephenson will be in a position to make her selection of a Stephenson maid for Malangton Hall.”
Although no actual timescale had been given by Miss Nightingale, Rosemary smiled.
“Yes, of course I understand. Well, perhaps we should get started then.”
With Rosemary keen to proceed, Miss Nightingale stood from the desk and walked beside Rosemary.
“Well much of the training will involve role play, Mrs Worthington. I will assume the role of a Mistress and you will adopt the role of maid. This way we have found you will gain a fuller appreciation of the relationship that needs to be adopted. I am assuming you will be comfortable with this?”
Rosemary, whilst a little unsure, trusted that Miss Nightingale knew her business and nodded her agreement.
“Yes, that sounds fine I suppose.”
Miss Nightingale smiled.
“Good, very good, so some ground rules before we start, now I cannot be calling you Mrs Worthington can I if you are going to be playing the role of a maid and Rosemary doesn’t sound much like a maid does it? Perhaps whilst we are carrying out the training I could call you Rose, unless you prefer another name, something different? ”
Rosemary looked at Miss Nightingale, it made sense in the way it had been explained and Rosemary agreed.
“Yes if you think that is best, Rose is fine.”
“Rose the maid, who would have thought?”
Miss Nightingale giggled with her.
“Then Rose it is.”
“And we won’t use Miss Nightingale, you will address me as Mistress. It will be shorter and easier for you. You won’t mind that, will you Rose? Calling me your Mistress in your own home?”
Rosemary giggled again. “Well if that is what you are to be, calling you Mistress is right I suppose.”
Miss Nightingale smiled.
“Good, now dressed as you are, it will be difficult for both of us to maintain our roles, why the clothes you are wearing are of a much higher quality than those your Mistress is wearing? But not to worry, Rose, I have brought with me Stephenson’s maid uniforms for you to wear. And of course whilst you are familiarising yourself with the domestic tasks about the house you will not need to change in and out of your old clothes. The maid uniforms are practical of course for the tasks ahead. You won’t mind wearing a maid’s uniform for your Mistress, will you Rose?”
Rosemary could see that a maid dressed better than her Mistress would be a problem and Miss Nightingale was right she would only have to change into her old clothing anyway.
“That’s fine. If you have brought the uniforms anyway I may as well make use of them, Miss Nightingale.”
Miss Nightingale spoke in a jocular manner but her expression was more serious.
“Now, now Rose, Mistress, not Miss Nightingale remember. Let me hear you say it.”
“Sorry, Mistress, wearing a maid’s uniform will be fine.”
Miss Nightingale pointed to the door.
“That’s better, you will soon get used to calling me your mistress, Rose. Now let’s get you into your uniform then, shall we?”
Rosemary felt a little awkward but played along.
Entering the maid’s quarters Miss Nightingale opened the closet to display a row of smart but heavy woollen black dresses, and then moving across the cramped room to a set of drawers opened each drawer in turn and, speaking in an authoritative tone, identified aprons, caps, underwear and hosiery. Two pairs of highly polished low-heeled boots stood by the drawers.
Miss Nightingale could see a level of concern etched across Rosemary’s face and lightened the mood speaking half jokingly.
“Oh, Rose, I wager you would look good in rags and everything here is new made especially for your training. Miss Stephenson thought you would be really pleased seeing how much attention to detail we give with our supervisory training. And of course how are you going to know how a maid feels working in her full uniform if you have never worn one? The uniform can be a little restrictive in some ways and to supervise a maid it is good to understand this.”
Rosemary ran her fingers over the fabric of the dresses and stared at the plain cotton underwear, heavy boots and thick hosiery, then turned to Miss Nightingale.
“Well you certainly have prepared things, I didn’t realise, underwear as well and the boots. Is this all really necessary?”
Miss Nightingale continued to make light of Rosemary’s concerns and threw in a Machiavellian twist.
“They are only clothes after all and they are to help you with our training. If it’s a big problem, perhaps I can pack the things away and you can look for a maid elsewhere?”
Rosemary looked again at the uniforms and, whilst uncomfortable, relented, what harm can it do wearing the maid’s uniform for the training and the dresses and underwear were obviously very well made and of high quality. Plus Rosemary had her heart set on having a maid at Malangton Hall, a Stephenson maid, and did not want to jeopardise that.
“Sorry, Miss Nightingale.”
“Sorry, I mean sorry, Mistress, it’s not a problem of course I will wear the uniform. It’s all part of the training I understand that, I was just being silly, of course they are just clothes.”
Miss Nightingale hid her satisfaction knowing that once into her maid’s uniform Mrs Worthington’s, Rosemary’s, Rose’s fate will be sealed. There will be no way back.
“Good, Rose, I am glad that is sorted, I will leave you to dress, join me in the study when you are ready.”
Rosemary left alone sighed and began removing her lovely dress, one she had picked out especially for the day wanting to impress Miss Nightingale. Then with her fine silk underwear removed she stared into the drawer containing the plain cotton undergarments.
Rosemary noticed that there were no corsets save for a cheap shoulder strapped bodice corset, a garment she had heard of but never worn something strictly for the less well off.
Rosemary was tempted to replace her own silk trimmed corset that she had removed but then remembered Miss Nightingale’s words about being able to relate to how a maid would feel. No she would wear the item. A much easier item to work into than the usual corsets Rosemary adjusted the shoulder straps and was not displeased with the level of support offered to her breasts. Her silk lace trimmed combinations now laying on the bed being quite a contrast to the plain cotton drawers she stepped into and tied the cotton tape around her waist.
The matching cotton chemise at least had some detail to the neckline but simple and discrete in the extreme. Having raised the thick hosiery up her legs to her thighs Rosemary stood taking the layered petticoat. A heavier grade of cotton and quite stiff but an ornate lace trim to the hems, bodice and broad shoulder straps softened the functionality of the garment somewhat. Already aware of the cumbersome nature of her underwear Rosemary lifted the first black dress from the rail of the closet. Rosemary had guessed it to be a weighty garment by the feel of the fabric but only when adorned within the long, black, woollen maids dress was its true restrictive characteristics revealed.
Sleeves to the wrists, stiff lace at the cuffs, a high collar which, when buttoned, pressed the stiff lace trims to her throat, the bodice tight yet generous to the hip and skirt. Rosemary put the stiffness in some part down to the newness of the clothing. Flopping back to sit on the bed Rosemary could not help but chuckle to herself at the cushioning effect of her garb. The boots she was to wear felt heavy in her hands more used to soft leather slippers to her feet. Each boot laced, Rosemary stood and taking a brilliant white starched bib apron from the drawer stood by the full length mirror and with her head through the yolk wrapped the apron and tied the tapes behind her. Rosemary gazed at her reflection and was reminded of the maid she had seen at Miss Stephenson’s offices, that except for her hair which looked a little ridiculous with her long tresses hanging on her shoulders. Even when she tried to place one of the lace caps to her head it just looked wrong.
With her arms filled with the clothes she had removed and her maid’s cap balanced on the pile Rosemary made her way to the study. Whilst the skirt of the dress was of a generous cut the wrapped starched apron restricted her gait somewhat and as she walked the crisp cotton underwear made an unfamiliar rustle about her. Entering the study, Miss Nightingale was sat at the desk and looking up smiled seeing Rosemary dressed in her maid’s regalia.
“Well, Rose, how smart you look in your uniform; tell me how does that feel, a good fit?
Rosemary placed the clothing she was carrying onto a chair and instinctively smoothed down her apron.
“Erm, well, different, Miss Nightingale, very different to what I am used to for sure but yes the fit is fine.”
Rosemary then realising her error corrected herself without a prompt.
“Sorry, Mistress, I feel different, Mistress.”
Miss Nightingale’s smile tightened seeing Rosemary correct herself as she did and stood from the desk.
“Something is just not right though, your hair and no cap. Perhaps we can pin that, although those luscious locks will take some controlling.”
Rosemary ran her fingers through her hair.
“Yes, I have a comb in my bedchamber, not that I have used it for years, it was a gift I will go and do that now shall I?”
Miss Nightingale smiled.
“Yes if you would, Rose, oh and just one other thing. A Stephenson maid will always drop a curtsy when entering a room saying “yes, Mistress” to seek instruction and also when she leaves a room saying “yes, Mistress” to confirm the instruction given to her. This helps both the Mistress and the maid to have clear communication, you understand that don’t you, Rose?”
Rosemary looked at Miss Nightingale with a degree of incredulousness. Was she really asking her to curtsy to her?
“I understand that but do you really want me to curtsy to you?”
Miss Nightingale paused before replying, staring intently at Rosemary; this would be one of the pivotal moments in the entrapment of Mrs Rosemary Worthington into the life of a housemaid.
“Mrs Worthington, this will be the last time I address you as such, but the seriousness of what I am about to say demands it. My task here is to ensure that you become familiar with how a Stephenson’s’ maid is supervised, I am passing on to you my knowledge in this regard. If a Mistress becomes sloppy then so will the maid. Demarcation must be reinforced at all times, the curtsy and the signalling of a maid’s expectant obedience with her mantra of “Yes, Mistress” is the cornerstone of a Mistress and maid relationship.”
“Do I expect you to curtsy to me, your Mistress, yes I do if you are still serious about this supervisory training. If we are to continue and make a success of your training, which will lead to a Stephenson maid being employed here at Malangton Hall, I want you to now confirm to me that there will be no more questioning of my methods. Otherwise I shall call a halt to this. Well, Rose, what is it to be?”