Miss Henderson sat opposite a rather severe looking middle aged woman wearing a dour frumpy dress. The woman’s hair was in a tight bun and not a single strand dared escape. She treated Miss Henderson to something she probably thought was a smile.
“So Miss Anderson,” she said. “I understand you would like to apply for a job as a maid at Cawdor House? I am Mrs Cartwright, the housekeeper here.”
“Very pleased to meet you Mrs Cartwright. I am indeed hoping for such a role,” said Miss Henderson, sounding nervous. “I have some letters of condemnation.”
Mrs Cartwright looked confused as Miss Henderson handed over the letters.
“Oh I see, recommendation,” Mrs Cartwright said. “Well your timing is most fortuitous as we have very recently and unexpectedly had a maid quit on us with no notice. In the middle of a meal, in fact.”
“Oh how unprofessional,” said Miss Henderson. “I could never leave an employer in the lunch.”
“You worked for a family in London, the Hennings at Northampton Row?” said Mrs Cartwright. “They seem very pleased with you from this letter. What size was the household?”
“Well,” said Miss Henderson, “I am a little under 6 feet…”
“I meant, how many serving staff,” said Mrs Cartwright.
“Oh there was only me,” said Miss Henderson. “Mr… Hennings was very interested in scientific things and he had a number of very reliable mechanical devices in the house. They helped save time in the chores. Which reminds me, there was also a part time mechanic for when the reliable mechanical devices broke down.”
A flicker of amusement shot across Mrs Cartwright’s face.
“You may find yourself at home here then. Viscount Vernal has a similar interest. But, we have much more staff here, it will be a very different experience,” she said.
“Oh good,” said Miss Henderson, “I have so longed to work within a larger house, to be a part of something as grand as this magnificent building with its historic impediments and flying butt rests..”
“Tell me girl,” said Mrs Cartwright, “you’re a long way from your last job up here. Why did you come so far? Is there a man perhaps? Do you have an understanding with someone who lives here?”
“There was a gentleman friend,” said Miss Henderson. “And I hoped one day he might be more. But he wished to remain in London so I doubt we will ever be understood. I am here to help my sister, she’s expecting her third any day.”
“Child?” asked Mrs Cartwright.
“Husband,” said Miss Henderson. “He’s due back any day and will be discharged from the Navy. He’s developed a gammy heart and a dicky leg. Or is it the other way around? Anyway she’ll need some help with looking after him as well as all the little ones. She’s been better blessed with children than luck.”
“I see,” said Mrs Cartwright. “Well, your references are excellent, your manner is good and frankly we are desperate. We shall give you a month’s trial, starting tomorrow if you are available.”
“I shall see you first thing,” said Miss Henderson. “Thank you, I shan’t disappoint you!”