Mrs. Mulligan of Pudding Lane came to our offices this very morning with a most intriguing document. Knowing our readers’ avid interest in the activities of the Grenford family, we agreed to her rather ambitious price to obtain the missive. We hereby print the document in its entirety (with some discrete corrections to spelling and grammar, which were greatly needed) and sincerely hope Miss Maud Mulligan, upstairs maid for the Duchess of Haverford at Hollystone Hall, doesn’t find her career as a servant cut short by her willingness to report on the doings her betters, at least until another such missive may come into our possession.
You said as how you wanted to know how I got on in this big house and what the toffs and their ladies get up to for three weeks running. It would take more time than that the Stanley woman might give me and more paper than I can afford to tell you all I’ve seen and heard. Most of my stories will have to wait until I see you, if I’m ever free to visit.
Right off I was assigned as maid to Miss Dinah Baumann, a spinster lady of some years. I worried, me not knowing anything about hair and clothes and such, but turns out the lady mostly kept to her bed and had me fetching and carrying for her and the little grey kitten that wiggled its way into her bed one afternoon.
Besides getting up early, starting the fire, fetching the lady’s chocolate, and general cleaning, I go up and down the servants’ stairs once or twice an hour, between Miss Baumann’s demands, the cat making disagreeable messes, and Mrs. Stanley sending me off on one errand and another every time she claps eyes on me, there being so many guests and so few maids. The house fairly buzzes with stories, I can tell you.
Miss Baumann—Miss Esther, the young one, not the old lady—is ever so kind. She brought her own maid and told Reba—that’s the maid—to look after me a bit so I don’t get behind. I wouldn’t say an unkind word about the Misses Baumann for all some in this house, ignorant all, think a Jewish Banker’s daughter ought not to be here. A perfect lady is Miss Esther Baumann, dressed as smart as they come and refined as need be. I won’t hear a word against her and so I said over servants’ tea to the ruffian who tends the spit. Young is no excuse for stupid. That’s what Mr. Fournier, (he be the French cook) said. No excuse for stupid. I know better. Remember Mr. Cohn the baker? Most honest baker in the city and his cakes are heavenly.
I was ever so surprised though when that gentleman of Miss Esther arrived with no invitation and still dirty from the road on Christmas morning. Some said as how it showed disrespect, but the duchess didn’t mind. I heard she welcomed him like a long lost friend. When I helped fetch hot water up to the room he shared with Lord Elfingham—beggars not being choosers—he seemed gentleman enough to me. He put me in mind of Mr. Cohn’s son Havel.
I should say I believe Mr. Halevy is Miss Esther’s gentlemen, but I’m not sure. She certainly follows him with her eyes when he’s around, or, so a footman told me, but she told her aunt that she never wanted to talk to him. Ever.
But that isn’t the end of it. This is why I took pen to paper tonight. The servant’s hall went all abuzz when the duchess asked Miss Esther and Mr. Halevy to say their Sabbath blessings with the company. I know I shouldn’t have, but I slipped upstairs and into the room where they had set up the table. No one saw me back by the draperies, but I watched it all. I heard that crab, Lady Stanton whisper some horrid things, but most of them looked so interested I think they prayed along. The look on Mr. Halevy’s face when he said the last blessing and she said “Amen,” would have melted any woman’s heart. Maybe the rumor I heard later about Miss Esther going out to the barn with Lord Jonathon Grenford wasn’t true.
Oh my! I’ve gone on too long. The house is in an uproar about the costume ball, and I should be working. Maybe costumes and candlelight and such will make magic for Miss Esther and her gent. I hope so.
PS When you go for bread, tell Havel Cohn I asked after him.
An Open Heart, by Caroline Warfield
Esther Baumann longs for a loving husband who will help her create a home where they will teach their children to value the traditions of their people, but she wants a man who is also open to new ideas and happy to make friends outside their narrow circle. Is it so unreasonable to ask for toe curling passion as well?
Adam Halevy prospered under the tutelage of his distant cousin, powerful banker Nathaniel Baumann. He’s ready to find a suitable wife, someone who understands a woman’s role, and will make a traditional home. Why is Baumann’s outspoken, independent daughter the one woman who haunts his nights?
You’ll find it in Holly and Hopeful Hearts, the 2106 Bluestocking Belles’ holiday anthology, available now for pre-order. 25% of all proceeds will go to the Malala Fund. The education of women and girls is the favorite charity of the Duchess of Haverford and the Bluestocking Belles. Scroll to the bottom for links.
Her restless gaze found Adam standing with the Belvoir ladies and their brother. He smiled down at Felicity Belvoir, who looked utterly rapt.
Esther knew she should move. All afternoon she had avoided him, but at that moment, she could not make her feet move. What has Felicity so fascinated? Is he telling her about Spain? Did he actually meet Wellington? What of his perilous journey? Longing to know kept her fixed in place even as her stubbornness urged her to move away before someone noticed she stared. Too late! Hythe glanced up, saw her, and smiled.
Hythe bowed over her hand and said, “Your friend has had quite an epic adventure.”
“Is that what he’s telling Felicity?” she asked with a haughty shake of her head.
Hythe’s lips twitched, and she felt her cheeks heat. When he offered his arm, panic set in. Does he mean to walk me back to his sisters? Adam is there, the wretch!
Hythe followed the direction of her eyes. “Shall we take a turn about the room, Miss Baumann?” he asked. When she laid a shaking hand on his and nodded, he patted her it with his gloved one, changed the topic of conversation to riding mishaps at the hunt, and soon had her laughing.
An hour later, Esther, relieved to have passed the afternoon without being cornered, she felt composed and less shaken. If Mr. Halevy wishes to speak with me, I’ll permit it. It is foolish to allow him to discomfort me. I’ll be all that is cool and in control.
When she spied him across the room speaking with one of the Duke of Ashbury’s daughters, he looked at her across the expanse of room and smiled with such sweetness that her heart skipped two beats.
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