Helen's First Week at Pemberley
I hope I can last out the week without being sacked.
My first week at Pemberley is nerve-wracking. It's always like such at a new household. The housekeeper, Mrs. Reynolds, has given me strict orders on where not to go, what not to touch, and what not to do. This place is so much bigger and grander than any place I worked before. And there's a new mistress here, so I had best be on my toes.
Oh, I know all about new mistresses. The new mistress at my last place let go a whole lot of us right away, including me. My best friend Sarah too, and now the poor dear will have to move in again with her mother. I happened to find this situation at Pemberley only because my aunt is old friends with Mrs. Reynolds.
And then my own mum took ill. It was hard saying good-bye to her and leaving her all alone with Mrs. Jones, who already has three young ones of her own to look after.
Mrs. Reynolds speaks of the new mistress in the highest way, but she can hardly speak ill of Mrs. Darcy to the likes of me. With any good luck I'll never even meet the mistress. I know I'll be the first to go if anything goes wrong, being a brand new girl.
Mrs. Reynolds has given me some of the second-floor parlours to dust and tidy up. I clean this particular parlour every day. I like it. Bright and cheery, filled with nice paintings and porcelains. Sometimes I sit for a minute or two in the big comfortable chair in the corner and think about mum.
But today I'm standing here dusting the far corner of the room, trying to make out the flowers on this vase, and I hear a noise behind me. I turn around and see a strange young woman standing by the window. Another maid? This is my room to dust.
But Lord have mercy on me, I turn around so fast that the vase I'm dusting falls to the ground and explodes. That young woman rushes over to me and stands there inspecting the mess on the floor. I can hear her shouting for Mrs. Reynolds to come and sack me.
Well, wouldn't you know it, but who walks into the room at that very instant but Mrs. Reynolds herself. She comes over and looks at me and then at the pieces on the floor. I can't even breathe. I can hardly even see for the tears in my eyes.
"My goodness, dear. What happened?" she says.
But that strange young woman speaks up. "It was my fault entirely, Mrs. Reynolds. I startled Helen while she was dusting this vase. I do hope it wasn't too valuable."
Good lord, what's going on? How does she know my name? I still can't breathe. And I can't blink my eyes without letting go my tears.
Now Mrs. Reynolds smiles at the young woman the way my mother smiles at me. "No trouble, Mrs. Darcy. It's easily replaced." And then she leaves the room.
My cheeks are now dripping wet. Oh god, she's the new mistress herself, and I've smashed her vase. Probably her favourite one. And I'm still trying to breathe.
Now the mistress is dabbing at my cheek with her handkerchief. She looks at me and says, "Well, Helen, I'm new here as well, and it'll take both of us some time to get accustomed to life at Pemberley."
I can't speak.
"Mrs. Reynolds has told me about your mother. How is she feeling?"
And then the dam bursts.
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