Monday, November 12, 2012

Hilda XI: “Kat”

I wasn’t sure if I would be able to get this post up tonight but after a bit of juggling here we go.
I have continued North from my brother’s farm to my Mum’s place.
In total 17 hours on the road. That takes me to Northern NSW. After travelling north 17 hours and 1,400 km (900 miles) I am still considered to be in the south east corner of Oz.
Oz is a big place! No wonder I normally fly!

Well here is this week’s “Hilda” post. Kat shows Hilda up to her room and begins explaining what a scullery maid does to “earn a crust”.

Hilda followed Kat out the far door into a long, low, dim hallway the only light coming from a few lamps and high set windows right at the far end. Kat began a long narrative as they walked,‘This is the servants’ hall, it runs right under the house from one end to th’ other. There is three servants’ stairs that lead off it and go right up to the attics. Those are for us, there are two main stairs too, but don’t ever be caught on them unless you are sweepin’ them or the like, you’d be in terrible trouble.’
Kat paused, ‘I’s sorry, is I going too fast?’
Hilda nodded, ‘A bit.’
‘I’s like that, Mrs Garraway is always on at me for chattin’ too much. I’s excited to have you.’
She led the way through an arch onto a steep spiral staircase, ‘This is the “Little Stair” it is the quickest one to the staff bedrooms at the top. If you wants to carry anything heavy upstairs you should use the middle stair. Now where was I?’
Hilda, climbed the narrow stair behind Kat, ‘These are not so bad going up, but I’ll be frightened of tumbling going down.’
‘They’s not too bad, not once you’s used to them. Oh, yes I’s very pleased to have you. It’ll be nice to have someone to talk to who’s my age, or near enough. And truth be told, Mrs Smither’s goin’ to make you scullery maid which means I get to move up to a house maid.’
‘Is scullery maid worse?’
‘It’s the most thankless job, an I’s done it two years.’
‘What’s so bad about it?’
‘You has to be up earlier than the whole rest of the house, you have to clean the hearths in the stoves and light the fires to start the water heating. Clean anything that was left out for you when you went to bed. Then you sneak up and clean the hearths and set the fires in the reception rooms. You don’t light them, the house maids or the gentry folk do that later. Then you come back down and help set out the breakfast things for the staff. Then you get’s to have a bite with whoever of the staff is there. Then it’s washing up the staff breakfast things. After that you sneaks upstairs to whichever of the gentry folks rooms that’s empty and clean those hearths and set those fires. Bear in mind you’s never meant to be seen by the gentry ‘cause you’s not in uniform. Then it’s back downstairs to wash up the gentry’s breakfast things, and that’s all before you stop for a cup of tea. Then you help with cutting up or whatever else the kitchen staff want you to do, and washing and cleaning as they use things through the day. Then’s dinner with the staff before the washing that up and what ever the gentry’s used for their lunch. Then cleaning what ever the kitchen staff use preparin’ the gentry’s dinner in the evening. Finally it’s washin’ up the night meal stuff. Mrs Garraway’s usually pretty good and lets you to bed around nine or so when that is runnin’ late. Then it is up again at three in the morning to start all over.’
Hilda’s head spun, ‘Is that every day?’
‘Yep, ‘cept for your afternoon off. You’ll be very tired for the first few weeks, but it gets easier as you gets used to it, and,’ She smiled warmly, ‘I’ll give you a hand when I has a moment. Now this is the womens’ quarters.’
Kat led the way into a hall that clearly ran under the slates of the roof. ‘This glass door is locked at night.’
Along the passage Kat turned into a doorway, ‘This is the room you and me’ll share.’
It was not a large room, but pleasant enough, a view over the park from a dormer window. A narrow brass bed on either side and a wardrobe by the door. Kat opened the wardrobe door. ‘You can have these two shelves, and these coat hooks. You’ll have to keep your case under your bed. This is your one, I’s made it up for you.’
‘Thank you.’ Hilda set her case on her bed.
She was glad she was not on her own, glad she had not had a moment to dwell on what might have been.
‘Well if you get your apron on I’ll make a start showing you the ropes.’
Hilda snapped open the clasps on her case, her apron was on the top of her neatly folded clothes, she guessed she might need it this morning. Kat was still talking non-stop, ‘I s’pose you and I will get on, we had better. Otherwise, you and I will be up in this room havin’ a “Kat and Duck” fight!’
Hilda did her best to smile, Kat would be easy to get on with, she was doing her best to settle the new girl. ‘Excepting we should call you “Rabbit”’
‘Why Rabbit?’, Kat paused, then laughed, ‘Oh, o’ course, on account of me rabbiting on!’

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