"Juliet, don't be a hasty-witted gudgeon! You'll never succeed! You're not meant for that world!"
The moment I stepped into the kitchen as a servant of the Burnham household, I knew Aunt Beth's protesting warnings were going to be more true than I had anticipated. My hands felt clammy inside my gloves, and I could feel my heart pounding in my chest. Nevertheless, I kept my chin up, determined not to allow any trace of nervousness to show.
By my side was Mrs. Wilder, the housekeeper. In front of me it appeared most of the Burnham servants were engaged in their work. All motion had come to a halt as I, the newcomer, became the object of open stares. It was nothing less than what I had been warned to expect, but still, it was unnerving to say the least.
"This is Miss Nelson," Mrs. Wilder announced. Her tone, oddly enough, was one of annoyance. "She's the new lady's maid."
Her words and tone of voice made it sound as though some great mistake had been made and I was at fault. Perhaps she was just trying to discompose me.
Quite honestly, it was working.
Knowing I had to maintain an outward appearance of calm, I met every pair of eyes that openly stared at me. There were two maids, one of whom looked the epitome of shocked. The woman at the oven had her arms crossed and a sullen expression.
In fact, I realized no one in the kitchen seemed at all pleased that I was there. My chin came up ever so slightly before I caught myself. While it wasn't in my job description to make friends with them, I was fairly certain it would make my whole situation slightly more bearable if I were to have at least allies among them.
"I am Wilder, the butler," a tall, thin man said, stepping into my line of sight. Ah, Mrs. Wilder's husband. I nodded in acknowledgement, not trusting myself to say anything at this point that wouldn't offend everyone in the room. He continued, "I trust you will serve the Burnham ladies to the best of your abilities."
For some reason, I had the feeling the words 'or else' were meant to be attached to the end of his sentence. I wonder what the 'or else' would have been if he had seen fit to add it. In any event, I met his gaze, and held myself with as much dignity as I could muster. This was one of the most important things to do at this point. Or so I had been told.
"I shall endeavour not to fall short of the expectations placed on me," I answered evenly. I couldn't show weakness, and I could not let their dislike affect me. I maintained eye contact with him, even though deep down inside I was quaking in my boots. I'd never been on this side of a butler before. I had always been a member of the family, someone to be respected without question or hesitation.
In a completely different life.
It seemed I had passed the butler's inspection, for he turned away to give something else his undivided attention. Or else he had decided I wasn't worth any more of his time. I really couldn't be sure but I imagined I would find out eventually.
The footman—and I only knew his position from the livery he was wearing—kept trying to catch my eye, a wide grin on his face. Him, I decided, I would need to keep my distance with. A flirtation with anyone, let alone a footman who thought too much of himself, was nowhere on my list of objectives. I felt my cheeks flushing red as I thought of it.
Forcing that thought away and barely keeping back a shudder of revulsion, I glanced at the only face that held even a hint of kindness, one that belonged to the kitchen maid. The small frail looking girl with big eyes tilted her head, studying me with open curiosity.
This wasn't the entire staff in the house. I knew the grooms would be out in the stable, though I would hopefully not need to cross paths with any of them. And Mr. Burnham's valet would be...somewhere in the house, going about his duties for his master. Overall, it seemed like an average sized household for a well bred and genteel family like the Burnhams.
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Keeping the PastHistorical Fiction
Book One of The Lady's Maid Trilogy Impelled by a nasty rumor that implicates her late father and brother as traitors to the Crown, Juliet Sinclair embarks on a course to save her family name. Relying on her five year absence from society to keep he...