What have you got in all these satchels, Em?” Will asked, helping her up and into the trap. “It can’t all be scraps for Twinkle!”
Emily smiled into his warm brown eyes. She’d been given an extra day off, and for such a festive occasion! Riding in the trap next to Will only doubled her happiness.
“Lady Farrington has kindly sent some clothes for Beth and Jenny, and some fruit from the hothouse for the wedding! This one’s for Twinkle.” She held up an old sack. “I just hope Beth isn’t getting too attached.”
“There’ll be a new dilling after the farrowing come autumn, and she’ll forget all about that runt.”
“I hope so, but our Beth doesn’t like change, even with the tiniest piglet. Everything will feel so different after Sarah’s moved in.”
Leaving her little sister crying inconsolably had been the most painful part of going into service last autumn. Then, at Christmas, Emily had been granted a precious few hours at the cottage. But Lady Florence had needed her back, and Emily’s first duty was no longer to her family.
“Sarah’s a good woman,” Will said. “Your dad’s done well.”
“So has she!”
“Oh, Em, I didn’t mean . . .”
“I know.” Emily smiled. She knew that Will had always liked her father, though being a farmer wouldn’t have ever been enough for him. And Joseph Callow wasn’t exactly “a catch”. But he was kind and honest, and no-one worked harder.
“Jenny hasn’t found it easy without me all these months, and it’ll be a relief for her to be able to share the work with Sarah.”
“You always seemed to manage so well.”
He looked at her with a mixture of admiration and sadness, as he remembered the little girl who had once played and laughed with such simple happiness. She’d grown up overnight when her ma had died, becoming mother and housekeeper while quietly accepting her own grief.
“Sometimes I’m not sure whether looking after the family was harder than being in service, or the other way round.”
She looked back at Farrington House, its stone glowing golden in the morning sun.
“Will, don’t you sometimes feel you’re in a dream when you stand in those beautiful rooms? And mending Lady Florence’s gowns never feels like work – not like patching Johnny’s trousers!”
“I guess I’m too busy to notice much. Lord Witney is as demanding as his sister. He did tell me that she’s devoted to you and the marchioness congratulates herself on having made such an excellent decision.”
“Some of the servants don’t think so.” Emily sighed. “Especially Hester.”
The marchioness’s lady’s maid resented “that freckle-faced upstart”.
“Well, I don’t think you do yourself any favours by not taking the privileges that go with your position, Em. The last lady’s maid took pudding with Mr Runciman and Mrs Wiggan in the Steward’s Room. And you’re meant to let the housemaids bring you tea in the morning, and clean your room.”
“But I’m miserable in the Steward’s Room, with Hester and the others. Alice is my only friend, apart from you. I can’t let her wait on me, especially knowing she’s sharing a bed with Ruby up in the freezing attic, while I have my own room.”
When Emily had first been shown her bedroom, it had looked so luxurious!
“I’d feel better if I could lay my own fire, and take out the ashes, too.”
“Well, don’t try it, or Mr Runciman will surely catch you. There’s a system here, Em, and a good one, too. We all know where we are.”
“That’s the problem, I don’t know where I am. I feel grateful and guilty at the same time.”
Her thoughts drifted to the upper servants’ bathroom, with its supply of hot water piped up from the kitchen range. A daily bath was one privilege she’d been unable to resist.
“I think you deserve the privileges, Em. Lady Florence is a handful.”
“I know! Even Beth’s more grown-up than she is, in lots of ways. For all her living like a princess, she seems miserable most of the time. Of course, Lady Farrington is desperate that she make a match, and has high hopes for the Season. I’ll have my work cut out for me, handling her moods and wardrobe at the same time.”
“The Earl takes out his bad moods on me. Especially when he falls off his horse. But . . .” Will stopped.
“I’ll tell you later. Why should Lady Florence be unhappy?” he said quickly. “Imagine, all that fine food, and no work to do. If I were as rich as the marquess, I’d get myself a motor car!”