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The New Housemaid (Secret Santa for starpollen!)


randomguy

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Hello, @starpollen! I'm your Secret Santa! Of course, I have to begin my story with a major apology, being that part 1 is nearly a month late. The style of this story is different than my usual, and I'm afraid I was struck with crippling writer's block shortly after beginning. All the same, I really hope you enjoy this first part of the story, inexcusably late though it may be. Now, it's time to hole myself and write part 2!

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Mrs. Beaumont’s lips were pressed tightly together, giving her mouth the appearance of a grim slash set into her face under her cold brown eyes. Mabel bit her lip and shifted in the chair as she cast her eyes downward, but a harsh and suggestive cough from the housekeeper quickly prompted her to look back up into that withering glare once again. Mabel tried to keep her breath from quickening as yet another moment of disturbing silence passed between them.

Then, at last, Mrs. Beaumont broke eye contact and began skimming through Mabel’s references. She cleared her throat before speaking.

“Mrs. Fisher-”

“Oh, M-Mabel will do fine, ma’am.”

The housekeeper’s fiery eyes briefly flashed upward once again, and Mabel recoiled inwardly.

“Do not take me for a dolt, Mrs. Fisher. Of course I shall refer to you as Mabel, and you shall call me Mrs. Beaumont. That arrangement begins in the morning, along with your duties.”

Mrs. Beaumont set the references aside and looked back at Mabel, who began to wish she could shrink further back into her chair.

“For now, Mrs. Fisher,” the housekeeper hissed, “I simply wish to make a few points clear. The first of these is that you are here upon the recommendation of the Viscountess, who feels you are needed here at Holbrook Hall. Is that understood?”

Mabel nodded curtly, not quite trusting herself to speak.

“Well, Mrs. Fisher,” continued the housekeeper, “you may have Her Ladyship’s trust, but you certainly do not have mine. I did not ask for your presence here, nor do I see what need Holbrook Hall has of another housemaid. If you are to stay on here at Holbrook Hall, you must find your way into my good graces through hard work and competency. Is that understood?”

Mabel nodded again, willing her cheeks not to redden.

 

“Good. You shall serve as second housemaid, Mrs. Fisher. You begin at 6:30 sharp. You shall report to Mrs. Graham, the head housemaid, who shall inform you of your duties. But you are still under my purview, Mrs. Fisher, and I shall be watching you closely until you prove yourself. Do you have any questions before I show you to your quarters?”

Mabel shook her delicately. “I only want to give my deepest thanks for this opportunity, Mrs. Beaumont. I will not disappoint you, I promise.”

Mrs. Beaumont looked her up and down with skepticism. “See that you don’t. Now come along. You are to have your affects in your room before dark.”

********************

Mabel lay back in her new bed and smiled up at the ceiling, her things in a neat pile at the foot of her bed. Having moved in fully before dark, all that was left now was to meet her roommate. That and, of course, to luxuriate in the feel of feather-stuffed mattress she’d been assigned. She stretched herself out and settled further in. One of the many perks of serving nobility.

Kind though her previous family may have been, there was no denying that the straw mattress she’d slept on had been one of the reasons she’d been happy to leave. Even thinking about that itchy straw with its strong, floral smell made her want to… to…

“hhhhh… huh… huuuuuh-isssssshew! Hhhh-iiiikssssssh!

“God bless you,” came a voice from the doorway. Mabel shot bolt upright with a yelp of surprise, startling the slim, brown-haired woman that now stood in the doorway.

“Didn’t mean to frighten you, Miss…”

“M-Mabel. Mabel Fisher.” Mabel attempted a smile, and the brown-haired woman took a step forward.

“It’s good to meet you, Mabel! I’m Jane Graham. I’m the-”

“M-M-Ms. Graham!” Mabel shot to her feet, trying to keep her face from turning bright red. “I’m… I’m terribly sorry! You’re the… the…”

“The head housemaid, yes. I take it you’re my new second housemaid? The one so highly spoken of by the viscountess?”

“Y-y-yes, ma’am. I’m terribly sorry to have… t-to… hhhhha… o-oh dear…”

Mabel scrunched and wiggled her nose, but there was no denying that the tickle from before hadn’t completely gone.

“S-s-so very s-sorry, Miss… M-Mihhhh… hih… hih-isssshooo! esssshew!!!! Heh… hih… ihhhhh… iiiiiktscheeeeew!”

Mabel straightened again and sniffled as quietly as she could, now utterly unable to keep the blush from creeping over her cheeks.

“God bless you again, Mabel,” Jane said with a half-smile. “Have you got allergies, dear?”

Mabel nodded her head timidly. “Yes ma’am, a bit. And a sensitive nose, at times. B-b-but I promise, I will not let them interfere with my duties! You’ll find me a capable-”

Jane stepped closer and laid her hand on Mabel’s shoulder. “No explanations needed, love. Any recommendation by her ladyship is enough for me. Though I will try to have you tend the garden as little as possible, if I can.”

Mabel smiled shyly and gave a curt nod. She would have spoken her thanks as well, but there was a firm knock on the door at that moment.

When Jane cracked the door open, Mabel found herself stiffening to see the imposing figure of Mrs. Beaumont at the threshold. Though she looked only at Jane, Mabel could somehow feel the housekeeper’s withering gaze upon her all the same.

Mrs. Beaumont and Mrs. Graham spoke in hushed tones for a bit. That is to say, they started out as hushed. Mabel began to squirm a bit in the uncomfortableness of the situation as the  whispers took on a more urgent, anxious tone, and she couldn’t help but wonder what the women were talking about.

After a time, the voices grew loud enough that Mabel could begin to make them out.

“But Mrs. Beaumont, surely there must be-”

“Jane,” spat Mrs. Beaumont venomously, “It. Is. Final.”

“But if we only-”

“FINAL, Jane. All the other duties are spoken for. There is to be no more discussion. Goodnight.”

With those words, Mrs. Beaumont rounded on her heel and strode off down the hallway, leaving Jane to slowly close the door behind her.

“It… it seems the duties for tomorrow have been assigned.” Jane bit her lip nervously.

“I see. Am… I to tend the garden?” Mabel managed a smile, though only a slight one. “Perfectly alright, Ms. Graham, if only I can-”

“No,” Jane interrupted, “not the garden. Not tomorrow.”

Mabel smiled in relief, but Jane’s eyes only grew more worried.

“Mabel, you… tomorrow, you are… to…” Jane’s gaze dropped to the floor as she spoke these last words. “to… clean the soot from the fireplace.”

Edited by randomguy
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Oh wow, I like this a lot :) The cleaning maid/aristocratic household scenario is one of my favorites to both read and write in sneezefics. I look forwards to reading more :D  

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