by Jackie J
Everything prepared for Miss Stephenson’s dinner party the first carriage drew to a halt at the entrance of Malangton Hall. Out stepped the reverend Jacob Jackaby, the vicar of the parish and his companion for the evening the church organist Miss Rothermere. Reverend Jackaby had never particularly liked Mrs Worthington’s lifestyle believing that a widow should not be so overtly happy and travel unaccompanied but, with a restrained tolerance, had always been grateful of her generous offerings at Sunday services.
In view of his already ingrained prejudice toward the merry widow the reverend needed little convincing by Miss Stephenson of Mrs Worthington’s financial demise when they met earlier in the week. Gratefully accepting the invitation of Miss Nightingale, the new Mistress of Malangton hall, to dinner, he was anxious to see how the vivacious Mrs Worthington was coping in her new position of housemaid. The spinster Miss Rothermere did not just dislike Mrs Worthington she actually despised her for her wealth and good looks and could not wait to see her having been reduced to the lowly status of housemaid.
Rosemary, having changed into a clean pristine uniform answered the door when the large bell rang. Expecting the first arrival to be Miss Stephenson Rosemary stood back a little shocked seeing the village vicar and his organist stood on the threshold?
Her hesitation was met with a grumbled sigh by Miss Rothermere who was not going to hold back with her disdain thrusting her gloves into the hands of Rosemary. She could hardly contain herself seeing the normally impeccably dressed Mrs Worthington submissively stooped her luscious locks of flowing blonde hair shorn to a neat black bob bedecked in her maid’s uniform, she was going to enjoy this.
“Good grief girl make way let us in we are here on the invitation of your Mistress Miss Nightingale.”
Rosemary wanted to slap the self righteous cow how dare she talk to her like that! Rosemary bit her lip before she spoke another of Miss Stephenson’s ploys no doubt?
Rosemary dropped a humble curtsy before them.
“Sorry Miss, Sir, I was just a little surprised to see you.”
The Reverend Jackaby was above all a religious man and he would never celebrate the demise of another, no matter how he had been convinced that she deserved it. He had however been specifically asked by Miss Stephenson not to make a fuss about Mrs Worthington being just the maid in what was her own home. He was to call her Rose and treat her like any other housemaid in the parish.
With less enthusiasm than his companion with her coat the vicar removed his cloak and handed it to an attentive maid and smiled.
Having hung the clothing on the rack and rail Rosemary bobbed another curtsy for good measure.
“This way Miss Nightingale is awaiting your arrival in the reception room.”
A Curtsy and Rosemary introduced the first guests.
“The reverend Jackaby and Miss Rothermere Mistress.”
Dismissed Rosemary returned to the kitchen fussing with the Hors d’oeuvre for the meal, eel and oysters with tripe buttons.
Miss Nightingale welcomed her guests with a schooner of sherry, Miss Rothermere wasting no time in complementing Miss Nightingale on her beautiful dress and Jewellery knowing full well their origin.
Miss Nightingale spread out the flowing chiffon skirts of her dress and smiled.
“Why thank you, it came with the hall along with everything else including the ex owner who you see is now my maid. Of course you will have known Rose for quite some time I am guessing?”
Reverend Jackaby sipped on his sherry admiring how spick and span the room was compared to his previous visits.
“Yes for many years I have known Mrs... Sorry, your maid Rose, for many years before she was widowed and she became so reckless. When I heard about her merry widow friend Mrs Longmire’s problems I just knew she would share the same fate. But better being a maid than tossed out onto the streets.”
Miss Nightingale continued.
“And you Miss Rothermere a friend of Rose’s?”
Miss Rothermere almost choked on her drink. A month ago, even though she despised the woman she would have been grateful to have been called a friend of the wealthy Mrs Worthington. But, knowing she is now nothing more than a lowly housemaid, a friend of a housemaid? Goodness gracious no, that would never do for the pious Miss Rothermere.
“No, I hardly know her at all I have seen her in church of course but that is all and I doubt we'll be seeing much of her there now.”
The bell by the door rang and a fleeting glimpse of Rosemary scurrying by the doorway made heads turn.
Reverend Jackaby chuckled at the flurry of skirts breezing past the door to the hallway
“I must say Miss Nightingale you have certainly got that maid of yours well trained and I must say I have never seen the hall looking so clean and tidy, the place is spotless.”
Miss Nightingale smirked
“Yes they say ex Mistresses make for the best maid’s don’t they and it would seem that Rose proves the theory. “
Miss Rothermere chuckled under her breath
“Yes Rose appears to have become a perfect housemaid for you Miss Nightingale quite a transformation from a month ago when I saw her last being driven in her own carriage. Who would have thought then that the Mistress of Malangton hall dressed in her finery was about to become a maid in what was her home.”
Miss Nightingale smoothed her hand over her generous flowing skirts when she took a seat and smiled. Rose’s first impressions on the guests having confirmed her status of housemaid.
Rosemary, answering the door with a curtsy, greeted Miss Stephenson and her two gentleman friends and took their hats coats and gloves placing them on the stand and rail before leading them into the reception room and curtsied.
“Miss Stephenson and her guests Mistress.”
Miss Rothermere sneered at the once vivacious Mrs Worthington now dressed in her prim yet plain maid’s uniform submissive and subservient in her role of housemaid curtsying to her Mistress.
She was relishing being able to lord over the new maid of Malangton Hall and could not resist goading her holding out her drained glass, her expression full of disdain for the attentive maid.
“Well girl don’t just stand there take my glass you can see its empty can’t you?”
Rosemary thinking this was all part of her test responded like the good maid she was.
Offering a silver tray to receive the glass Rosemary bobbed curtsy.
“Thank you Miss.”
Having watched Rose serve sherry to the newly arrived guests Miss Nightingale dismissed her maid to prepare and serve dinner. Miss Nightingale then introduced the two gentlemen to the vicar and Miss Rothermere.
Mr Drake Peterson and Mr William Longfellow both being unaware of who the busy maid that greeted them so courteously truly was. They were at Malangton hall at the invitation of Miss Stephenson to view the hall with regards to signing accommodation contracts for their clients. Westbury Manor had been a success for them and they were anxious to conclude another profitable relationship with Miss Stephenson.
The Reverend Jackaby commended the two gentlemen on what they had achieved at Westbury Manor. How it had benefited the local businesses and wished them every success with Malangton hall assuring them that the church would be very supportive of their endeavours.
The service for dinner provided by the efficient Rose was exemplary the training given to her by Miss Nightingale displayed Rose to be an accomplished maid. Even Miss Rothermere had to admit to herself that, if she had not known that Rose was in fact Mrs Worthington, she would never have guessed that the discrete well trained maid was once the wealthy Mistress of Malangton hall.
The reverend Jackaby had suspected a degree of coercion when he was told that Mrs Worthington was the maid in what was her own home. His suspicions had been ill founded at Westbury Manor with Mrs Longmire and the same was true here at Malangton hall. Having witnessed how Rose went happily about her tasks and the way she looked at her Mistress convinced him that Rose was sincerely grateful to be given the opportunity to stay on at Malangton hall, albeit in the role of housemaid.
With the last course served and Rosemary in the kitchen cleaning the extensive stack of pots pans crockery and cutlery Miss Stephenson took her gentlemen guests on a tour of the hall.
The tour progressed and both complemented Miss Stephenson on the level of cleanliness and how well kept the whole hall was. Miss Stephenson confirming that a maid, under the strict direction of her Mistress, would ensure that the high standards would be maintained for their guests when they arrived.
The final part of the tour was the kitchen finding Rosemary hanging the last of the gleaming pans on the rail ready to mop the floor.
Rosemary instinctively dropped curtsy.
Miss Stephenson smiled seeing how efficient Rosemary had been in washing and clearing all the debris from the dinner.
“These gentlemen have been complimenting your work in keeping the hall in such a clean and tidy condition Rose”
Rosemary blushed at the compliment and wiped her hands awkwardly in her apron.
“Thank you Sir”
Mr Peterson stepped forward toward Rosemary and smiled.
“I must say Rose you are the perfect maid and I understand from your Mistress, whilst speaking with her during dinner, that you are seeking a diploma to become a certified Stephenson maid.”
Rosemary’s blush fading she wanted to tell the handsome gent complimenting her, for being the perfect maid, that it was all a ruse, that she wasn’t really a maid, but of course she didn’t.
Mr Peterson continued.
“And is that what you really want Rose to become a Certified Stephenson’s maid?”
Rosemary glanced across the kitchen to a smiling Miss Stephenson then lowered her gaze and replied.
“Yes Sir that is what I am looking to achieve the status of certified Stephenson’s maid.”
Mr Peterson placed his hand under Rosemary’s chin gently raising her gaze to face him then turned to Miss Stephenson.
“Not only do you train the perfect maids Miss Stephenson your elocution lessons have them speaking like ladies, remarkable.”
The only person in the kitchen not laughing at Mr Peterson’s comment was Rosemary who weakly smiled. Rosemary realising she had nearly revealed the pretence with her articulate reply!
Miss Stephenson led her guests from the kitchen back to the parlour leaving Malangton hall’s maid to finish mopping the kitchen floor.
Her work done Rosemary sat with a mug of tea relived her ordeal was almost at an end or so she thought?
With the guests having departed Miss Nightingale summoned her maid to the study with a shake of her bell.
Sat behind the desk Miss Stephenson and Miss Nightingale smiled when Rosemary entered and curtsied.
Miss Stephenson opened up a file on the desk.
“Well Rose I doubted that you would do it could do it, but you have. Miss Nightingale is obviously a good tutor you have become an exceptional maid and I am pleased to say a Stephenson’s maid.”
Miss Stephenson removed an impressive looking document from her file and turned it to face Rosemary. A Stephenson’s maid Diploma, the illuminated lettering confirming that maid Rose of Malangton hall was worthy to join the exclusive ranks of the Stephenson’s maids. From this day forward accepting to honour the long held traditions of service, obedience and servility synonymous with a Stephenson’s maid.
Miss Nightingale clapped and smiled.
“Congratulations Rose I knew you could do it, here let me sign.”
Miss Nightingale turned the document to face her and with a flourish of the pen signed her name under the Stephenson’s seal then offered the Diploma back to her maid.
Rosemary looked at the Diploma and with pen in hand hesitated looking at Miss Stephenson questioningly.
“Two signatures? One of Mrs Rosemary Worthington and the second under the name of Maid Rose?”
Miss Stephenson smiled making light of Rosemary’s comment.
“That’s right you have to endorse maid Rose’s signature don’t you? Rose is the Stephenson’s maid not Mrs Worthington. If Rose was just a maid here at Malangton Hall Mrs Worthington would have to agree for maid Rose to become a Stephenson’s maid wouldn’t she?”
Rosemary shrugged her shoulders in acceptance and signed the diploma under the two names with a gush of excitement she had passed, it was official!
Miss Stephenson stood and walked from behind the desk producing an ornate yet sturdy looking necklace and stood by the side of Rosemary.
“Now you are officially a Stephenson’s maid something all Stephenson’s maids are presented with when they receive their Diploma let me fix that for you.”
Smiling Rosemary lifted her head in anticipation to receive her reward.
Miss Stephenson sliding the golden band around Rosemary’s neck closed the locked clasp and lay the attached golden S to the outside of her lace frilled high collar.
Rosemary instinctively ran her finger between the gold band and her neck for comfort then thumbed the dangling S symbol.
“This is quite tight and the symbol rather clumsy quite uncomfortable and you say all Stephenson’s maid’s wear these?”
Miss Stephenson laughed.
“O Yes Rose they wear them all the time how else would people know who owned them?”
Miss Stephenson returned to her seat leaving Rosemary fiddling with her Stephenson’s maid’s collar
“Now Rose you wanted a Stephenson’s maid at Malangton hall when you first came to see me, like the maid at Westbury Manor that’s right isn’t it? Well you will be pleased to know that with all the training you have committed too I am pleased to tell you that a Stephenson’s maid will start work here at Malangton hall tomorrow morning.
“That’s wonderful news; all that I have been through will be worth it now a Stephenson’s maid is to be engaged at Malangton hall.”
Miss Stephenson opened her file and laid out a series of documents that Rosemary had signed and selecting one particular document pushed it across the desk to Rosemary. The document titled
“The engagement of a Stephenson maid for Malangton Hall.”
“You will remember this document?”
Rosemary read through the text recalling the document she had signed
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.
Rosemary anxious to proceed again gave scant regard to the sub clauses and passed the document back across the desk
“Yes I remember when the training was completed you would pick the most suitable of your maid’s to work at Malangton hall.”
Miss Stephenson smiled.
“Yes we all agreed to that didn’t we?”
Placing the document back in the file Miss Stephenson passed a second document across the desk the Stephenson’s maids diploma application signed by Rose, this quickly followed by the signed diploma confirming maid Rose was a certified Stephenson’s maid the Diploma endorsed and countersigned by herself, Mrs Rosemary Worthington.
Rosemary read the two documents a look of horror grew across her face and colour drained from her cheeks. Feeling faint she stared at the smiling Miss Stephenson returning the documents to the file.
Miss Stephenson leaned forwards.
“So I have made my choice the most suitable of my maid’s for Malangton hall is you Rose!”
Rosemary realising she had been tricked pleaded.
“No, no, please no you can’t, everybody knows who I am you can’t have me to be the maid in my own home, you can’t, you will never get away with it I am the Mistress of Malangton hall.”
Miss Stephenson then pushed a copy of the deed of Attorney Rosemary had signed giving Miss Nightingale charge over the affairs of Malangton Hall and all Rosemary’s financial matters.
Miss Stephenson her tone firm and authoritative confirmed the authenticity of what the foolish Rosemary had signed.
“The original you signed was placed with the Notary Public fully endorsed and legal you are not the Mistress of Malangton Hall any longer Rose, Miss Nightingale is the Mistress here.
“And you say everyone knows you do they, knows you to be the Mistress of Malangton hall? Like the trades people who visited to receive payment for their accounts? The vicar, reverend Jackaby and the village gossip Miss Rothermere? Why I do believe you have already convinced them that you are no longer the Mistress of anything but merely the housemaid at Malangton hall. I doubt that the tongue of Miss Rothermere, after what she witnessed this evening, will stop wagging until she convinces everyone who will listen of your new status in life?
“Yes I have made my choice you are to be the Stephenson’s maid here Rose you have your wish that a Stephenson’s maid will serve at Malangton Hall just like at Westbury Manor. Of course I should have told you before that the maid at Westbury manor is you good friend Caroline Longmire, maid Carrie, she too chose to train to become a Stephenson’s maid.
Rosemary her legs wobbly dropped to her haunches then to her knees in front of the desk realising she had sealed her own fate.
“Please don’t do this to me please.”
Miss Nightingale stood and walked to the side of the kneeling weeping Rosemary Miss Stephenson joining her gripping her hair and pulling back her head.
“Just one last thing until you come to terms with your position here I don’t mind Miss Rothermere wagging her tongue but yours, well that’s a different matter.”
Weak and broken Rosemary offered little resistance, when her chin and cheeks were gripped forcing open her mouth by the two evil bitches, who had tricked her into what will be her life of servitude.
Rosemary’s tear filled eyes watched Miss Nightingale remove the tongue trap from its case and gulped feeling its tension expand at the back of her mouth effectively muting the maid of Malangton hall.
Miss Nightingale laughed dragging the muted Rosemary to her feet and slapped her face.
“We can’t have that sophisticated voice of your betraying your calling can we Rose.”
“You wanted a Stephenson’s maid to serve the mistress of Malangton hall and now that is the case just that it is you who are that maid. Now get to your quarters girl before I take the paddle to you.”
Rosemary whimpered her way to her room and threw herself down on her bunk lifting her head to hear the key turn in the lock of the stout door she would be locked in her room each night from now on.
In the solitude of her quarters Rosemary’s fingers searched in vain to free the tongue trap but it was painful to the touch.
It would be three weeks before the tongue trap was removed by her Mistress and when it was the permanent damage to her vocal chords had been done. Her speech reduced to no more than an embarrassing squeak.
Malangton hall soon filled with guests welcomed by its Mistress Miss Nightingale and served by its obedient maid Rose. The guests could never have suspected for one moment that the unassuming maid going quietly about her tasks in her pristine uniform was once herself the Mistress of Malangton hall.