Hired as a nanny for her cousin’s children, Anne Tearle finds security and a loving family. The children are a dream, but London society is a world of its own, one where a displaced farm girl has no business being. But, wealthy rake, Gavin MacKay, helps her to see associating with the upper class might not be as horrid as she first assumed.
Like all things worthwhile, love comes at a price, and the cost soon bestows more anguish than joy. Lost, but not undone, Anne must find the courage to begin life anew, or succumb to sorrow's unrelenting waves of grief.
All three women filed out the door, leaving me alone to bathe. I swiped tears from my cheeks and stripped off my dress and dirty undergarments. Tossing them into a heap by the tub gave me a bit of pleasure, but not a second passed before the guilt of disregarding the clothing Aunt Martha provided overwhelmed me. She never would have approved of my frivolous behaviour, or me putting on airs by donning a lady’s frock.
The memory of her scowl crossed my mind and I kicked the pile of clothes as far away from me as possible.
I stepped into the bath, thankful beyond words for its size and warmth. A smile spread its way across my lips as I lay back, the rose-scented liquid engulfing my body. For once in my life, I stretched out comfortably in warmth to bathe. I decided right then, should Joanna’s bath be offered for future bathing, I would never again sit in a small barrel full of freezing water as I always had before.
My smile still lingered when ten minutes later, Helen returned with a blue flowered dress. My gaze honed in on the new fabric—the lacy frills. Such a lavish frock. How could I possibly put on boring, black livery afterward?
“I can wash your hair if you’d like,” Helen said while laying the dress out on the bed.
“Oh, would you?” I sat forward, thrilled to have another servant offer assistance with my mass of mousy-brown tresses. “I can’t remember the last time I scrubbed my head. I’m afraid it’s full of tangles.”
“No worries. Miss Johanna’s is much the same.”
Doubtful, I wanted to say. My cousin smelled divine and her hair shone like a raven’s wing.
Helen handled my cumbersome mane with apparent ease, and I commented she did a wonderful job of massaging my scalp.
“Beyond my light duties around the house, I also serve as Miss Johanna’s personal maid,” Helen said, a shy smile on her lips.
A personal maid? Were real ladies that helpless and lazy they couldn’t care for themselves? I shook my head in wonder.
My luxurious bathing unfortunately over, I opened the wardrobe to discover its contents. Chemises, stiff undergarments, and laced pantaloons piled up in abundance, dropping my jaw. What in God’s name would I ever do with so much clothing?
I pulled out a corset—an article of dress I had seen, but never worn. It did not look comfortable, and I couldn’t fathom why I might ever need one beneath my work garments. Perhaps, Johanna’s day dress required I wear one.
I sat on the edge of the bed and giggled while pulling on silky pantaloons. Helen picked up the corset and I soon realised why ladies needed a personal maid. If not for Helen, I never would have been able to lace up the strings to their proper tightness. I thought it a bit too tight and thoroughly disagreeable, but held my tongue so as not to seem ungrateful.
She showed me a silly-looking cage—the secret to the bell-shaped skirts.
“It’s a cage crinoline,” Helen said while tying the bands around my waist. “All fashionable ladies wear them. Could you imagine a maid scrubbing floors in such a contraption?”
I choked back a laugh at the picture in my mind. It would be nearly impossible. Thankfully, I wouldn’t need to bear such discomfort after our outing. Aunt Martha and Mary hadn’t ever worn one that I could recall. As for Mrs. Littleton, she was a real lady and must have donned a crinoline on occasion, but I never saw her in wide skirts.
“I feel like a naughty little girl secretly playing princess,” I said to Helen after she lowered Joanna’s dress over my head.
“You’ll become accustomed to it.” She tied a blue sash around my waist.
“Why?” I raised my arms out of her way as she circled before me, the silky material knotting with ease beneath her fingers. “Do governesses always dress this way?”
“I suppose.” Helen tilted her head and glanced at me, a puzzled look filling her eyes. “Why do you ask?”
Could it be I wouldn’t be wearing livery? I doubted Helen knew of my cousin’s plans, but thrilled and nervous, I couldn’t help saying, “I expected to wear servant attire like the rest of you.”
Helen stepped back, her gaze roaming me. “I’m unsure of the Telfords’ intentions, but the finery they provided wouldn’t be appropriate for wearing beneath livery.”
A nod jerked my head up and down, although confusion lingered.
Terri started writing stories in the 8th grade, when a little gnome whispered in her brain. Gundi’s Great Adventure never hit the best seller list, but it started a long love affair with storytelling.
Today she enjoys an escape to Middle Earth during the rare ‘me’ moments her three young children allow. When not playing toys, picking them back up, or kissing boo-boos, she can be found sprawled on the couch with a book or pencil in hand, and toothpicks propping her eyelids open.
Ms. Rochenski’s Links:
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