City Of Discoveries — Episode 16

Hetty Wilson tugged on her fur-lined gloves and studied her appearance in the hall mirror.

In January there was little point in aiming for anything other than warmth and dryness from one’s outfits.

No-one could be flattered by the scarf necessary around the neck and chin to avoid being blasted by the wind off the North Sea.

She thought of the recent letter she’d received from Elspeth Cowie, now Sutherland, who was living in Sydney.

Dated two weeks before Christmas, it described how Elspeth rose in the dawn to enjoy coolness before the air warmed up and became unbearable. At present, Hetty thought, she could enjoy a few days of unbearable heat.

“You’re ready for our trip to the Servants’ Registry?” Thomas Webster said from behind her. “I overheard you speaking with Ina.”


It had been another fretful exchange.

“I do not understan’, Miss Hetty, how you can think to ask me to leave your service after all the time I have given to the Wilson family!” Ina had started, as she had for nearly a week now.

“If it was Cook you was thinking to let go then I would be sad, but I’d understand. She gets fair trachled with all the cooked breakfasts for the gentlemen.”

There was no point in prolonging these arguments. Ina was hurt and offended. As she saw it, an injustice was being visited on her.

She had sniffed and taken herself off downstairs to retell the story to Cook, who was no doubt already familiar with the gist of it.

Despite Ina’s verbal sparring, she had been to view the cottage Hetty had managed to rent for her and, Hetty hoped, in the near future, for Cook.

While she might not believe Mrs Marsden was “fair trachled”, she could see that she was having problems with her back when lifting heavy pots from the fire or stove.

“It will be hard for Ina, but no doubt she’ll walk along from Ogilvie’s Pend and sit in the kitchen telling the new maid how it should be done,” Thomas said.

“That is one of my fears. I will be able to engage a new girl, but if I hire an experienced maid I will lose her within days.

“No such person would permit their predecessor commenting on their work.”

Hetty had already determined to ask for a part-trained or untrained maid. She was confident she would be able to show the girl how to go about the necessary duties.

Perhaps, by the time she was fully trained, Ina’s interest would be occupied elsewhere.

They set off along Aberdeen Road and walked in front of the high school and through the town centre until they spotted the Superior Servants’ Registry.

It took up ground-floor premises behind two shop fronts and sported a small noticeboard with cards advertising the type and number of servants looking for employment.

“It’s very grand, as you said. Shall we go in?”

Thomas held the door while Hetty entered the vestibule.

She paused for a moment to check that her hat had not become loose.

Thomas gently pushed her forwards.

“No housekeeper or butler, even if they did work for a duke, could be above you, ma’am.”

Alan Spink

Alan is a member of the “Friend” Fiction Team. He enjoys working closely with writers and being part of the creative process which sees storytelling ideas come to fruition. A keen reader, he also writes fiction and enjoys watching football and movies in his spare time. His one aspiring tip to new writers is to “write from your imagination”.