Short Story set in 1890 about a young girl leaving home to work in the ‘big house’
Jenny would miss them all. She felt very apprehensive waiting for her lift.
Earlier she’d said goodbye to Father and her elder brother when they’d left for work at the Blacksmiths in the village. Now it was her turn to start work.
Mother came into the kitchen.‘I knew I ‘ad it somewhere.’ she said coming over to her daughter Placing the bonnet on Jenny’s head she tied the ribbon and gave Jenny a warm, loving kiss.
‘See matches your dress nice.’
‘Oh Mum you shouldn’t ‘ave. it’s yours’.
‘Darlin’ it was mine, but now yours.’
Mother felt proud of her eldest daughter. Ready to face the big world outside.
Dressed in her Sunday best, the clothes made out of the material scraps saved from her dress-making.
Jenny had been given a couple of choice positions. A privilege not many girls of poor background were given.
One post had arisen at the local village school for someone to help with the little ones. This would mean still living at home.
The second of being a ‘Tweenie’ up at the big house, a living in position.
Jenny had decided on the latter. It would give the opportunity to go up the scale in Domestic Service.
Jenny and her Mother had attended the interview two weeks ago in front of the Cook. Duties were explained how Jenny would be helping the Parlour-maid upstairs and Cook below stairs. She would have one Sunday off a month and be paid a small sum. The attic, right at the top of the house, would be her sleeping quarters, sharing with another servant. On the way home Jenny told her Mother how exciting it would be to have a bed all to herself. Back at home the double bed had the 6 children sleeping, three at the top and three at the bottom.
Jenny looked at the clock on the mantelpiece.
‘Mum. Ten more minutes before me lift gets ‘ere. Can I go out in the garden?’
‘Course you can I’ll keep the others indoors.’ Mother guessed Jenny wanted time on her own.
Outside Jenny went to sit on the bench her Father had made. Tabby (the cat) jumped up on to her lap.
‘Oh Tabby, I ‘aint ‘arf ‘ gonna miss you.’ She stoked the soft fur and began to think of the sacrifices she’d made.
Who would see to Tabby when she had her kittens?
Who would help on Monday wash days? To stand on the wooden stool, stir the washing round the tub, getting soap bubbles everywhere.
Who would dress the little ones, play with them, keep them amused and stop them getting under Mother’ feet as she did her sewing?
Most of all she would miss SUNDAYS’ – family days.
Everyone dressed in their Sunday best. Mother would put the beef into the oven in the range before the family set off. The half hour walk took the family across the open fields to church. Birds would sing and the church bells rang.
On the way back, five minutes from the cottage, the smell of roast beef filled the air.
The children spent time with their Father while Mother finished preparing the dinner. Depending on the weather and time of year Father and his brood would either sit outside under the apple tree or indoors in the front parlour. The fire giving out heat from the burning logs and fir-cones gathered from the nearby copse.
A passage from the Bible was read followed by Father lapsing into telling stories of his childhood.
Everyone helped to lay the table in the parlour. Mothers’ patchwork table cloth and the best cutlery and china were used. Father sat at the head of the table. Each side the children. Mother placed the beef in front of Father and took her place at the opposite end of the table. Grace said and while Father carved the joint Jenny went to fetch the tureens with the vegetables and potatoes. All home grown and freshly harvested the day before.
Dinner over and the dishes were cleared away by the children, even the littlest one had a task to do. The parents rested.
By mid-afternoon it was time to take the walk over to visit grandparents for afternoon tea. With two sets they were visited on alternate Sundays.
In the summer the grandparents would meet them in Firs Copse and all would enjoy a picnic. The children climbed trees, gathered fir-cones and played hide and seek.
‘Jenny,’ thoughts were interrupted. She placed tabby on the ground and walked back into the cottage. Giving her sisters and Mother a final big hug she picked up the tapestry bag that held her few personal possessions. Time to go. Billy the odd job man from the big house was waiting with the horse and cart out in the lane.
Turning at the gate Jenny waved to her family standing in the porch-way.
Her new life, at the tender age of 14, about to begin.
© miss mary