Diary of a Scullery Maid – July

Arianna Diary logo

Written by Sienna James

Imagine my surprise when Laurie perched on the bench next to me in the servants’ hall yesterday and flung a letter on the table.

“For you, Arianna.”

Curiously I picked up the paper and studied the handwriting. It was Mama’s. We used to correspond regularly when I first came to Ickworth. And I had sent her and Mr Fairfax a Christmas card. But we haven’t written at all since then. Does she miss me? Do I miss her? My family is at Ickworth now and I expect she knows that.

I was pretty alarmed at the sight of it I must say. What kind of news could it bring? I slit open the seal and swiftly scanned the letter – it was very short. My heart gave one heavy thud and I couldn’t help a loud gasp. There was no bad news. No, not bad news but shocking news. I had no idea. Of course it makes sense though – mama had always wanted a large family. And two children who now live in Suffolk can’t possibly be enough for her.

The rather blunt letter is pasted below so I do not lose it. I wonder what James thinks about it.

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July 10th, Bakewell, Derbyshire

Dear Arianna

I hope you’re well.

I write to you with exciting news – I dearly hope you will congratulate Mr Fairfax and I. We are expecting a baby, Arianna. Is that not delightful? I hope you and your brother will come to visit us once it is born. It is expected in September.

From,

Mama.

______________________________________

I know little about these kind of events. My time in domestic service might prepare me for cooking for a family but it doesn’t prepare me for having one. But I do know babies take longer than two months to grow and then be born. Nancy, I was sure, would know.

“Eight months. If it’s expected in September…” she counted on her starch covered fingers – she had been peeling hundreds and hundreds of potatoes. “Then the baby would have been conceived in January, I think.”

And mama hadn’t told me all that time. I suppose that is the reason she hadn’t written to me for a while. She and Mr Fairfax are getting ready for a family in their Bakewell cottage.

I did my best to put it from my mind. Luckily Cook kept us all so busy today in the sweltering kitchens. We made delectable jellies and savoury tarts as well as fresh elderflower cordial. Now I have been at Ickworth for so many months, Cook lets me watch her make sauces for the family’s main meal. At least if I do go to Bakewell and visit Mama, I’ll be able to show off all my cooking talent. And meet my new brother or sister.

Goodnight.

The Footman’s Story – Part Two

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Written by Romain Arrayet

 

Earlier today the family enjoyed a summer picnic by the magical Fairy Lake and so the house was hushed without them all. Most of the staff were down there serving and helping with the hampers but I had to stay behind. Laurie was sent with the car to the station to collect Lord Bristol’s London guest and his luggage. I would have liked to go with him and drive out into the town but Mr Prosser kept me extremely busy today. I have been polishing scores of cutlery, moving some of the guests’ portmanteaus and cleaning the lights on the first floor.

I did manage to escape early afternoon. As it is a Sunday I had my half-day off. It gave me the opportunity to send a letter to my Aunt Rose and one to Father. As I strolled out of the servants’ quarters I could feel the sun burning on my back. It shone bright, deep and warm and if I closed my eyes I could imagine I was deep in the lazy French countryside.

Some of us servants took the bus into Bury and went to the Pictures but I must save some money to go down and visit Father and Harry. So instead, I ate a cooling ice-cream with Ava in the Abbey Gardens. The cheery outdoors was a welcome break from the tight, rigid life in the basement.

We just made it back in time for supper, and enjoyed all the leftovers of the family’s picnic. The food really is the highlight of working here!

Well, I’m off to bed now as Lord and Lady Bristol have more guests that arrive arriving in the morning.

Au Revoir for now.

P.S. I have just found this draft of a letter I’d started to write for Aunt Rose, stuffed in a bedroom drawer from a few months past. It is pasted below.

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Dear Aunt Rose,

The London season is now over and I have returned to the big house in Suffolk. I did miss the smells of the grass and the fields around the house – there is definitely a special way the countryside smells after the sun has warmed the meadows.

For the first time it felt like coming home. I remember a time when I always thought of home as your little cottage. Of course I still think of France all the time, but I have settled in here more than I ever thought. Ickworth is now my home.

Do you mind me writing to you in English? I am practising my spelling and pronunciation at the moment as the other footmen still tease me about my accent and the way I muddle words. I hope I’ll soon be able to speak the language as well as the good King himself.

Yesterday we arrived in Bury on the late train and we ate a quick supper when we got back to the House. Over the food we had an hour or so to exchange stories of London life with those who stayed behind over the cooler months. I don’t envy those who had the task of the Spring Clean as all the poor housemaids’ hands are chapped and red raw. Apparently the dust got everywhere and as Ava has an allergy she sneezed one after another for five minutes straight!

We also had some free time to catch up with those who had stayed behind over the winter. Although I am glad to be back in Suffolk I am even more glad I passed the winter months in London. The city is exciting and exotic – I was lucky to have a taste of it.

As for the upstairs family, they return on Sunday and Laurie stayed in the City to accompany them. Mr Fox has informed me that tomorrow will be a very long day and he has already given me a long list of tasks I will have to complete.

Have you heard from Father? I received a letter from Harry last week and he says Father’s cough has gone and he has been out of bed and back on the farm for a few days now. A cough is a nasty thing, and I shall be glad to visit them soon as it will be my half-day off a week on Sunday.

How is life in Amboise? Do you still cook apple tart on every first Sunday of the month? These are the traditions I miss most. In your last letter you said you would love to come and visit one day so I could show you the Fairy Lake and the woods I love so much. Do you think one day you really could?

My lamp is burning low so it’s time for me to say good night. I hope this letter finds you both well – give my best regards to Uncle Henry.

Yours,

Thomas

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