Chapter 1- A Day’s Work
“Servant!” Mistress Cathliene hollered from upstairs. “There is someone at the door. Answer it!”
“Right away, Ma’am.” the young man responded as he hurried quickly towards it. Unfortunately he wasn’t quick enough for the person on the other side because, sure as the sky was blue, they knocked again and alerted his mistress.
“Must you do everything slowly, you useless pathetic servant?” He imagined rolling his eyes at her, as he opened the door before a third knock sounded.
“May I help you sir?” he asked the visitor with as much authority as a butler could muster.
“His Royal Highness, King Edward of Alminia, extends an invitation to Lord Montego and family for the Masquerade Ball to be held at the palace on the eighteenth of August, in celebration of his daughter, the Crowned Princess, Alexandria Maxine Georgiana Bell’s year of eligibility.” The Royal Steward completed his announcement with a grand bow, followed by a slight gasp for air.
“So how many times have you had to say that, Jim?” The butler asked relaxing his stance, and handing the man a shilling for his troubles.
The Royal Steward chuckled, and also relaxed his posture. “Would you believe me if I told you that they made me repeat it to them fifty times before I was allowed to leave the castle?” Jim sighed as he handed the butler Lord Montego’s invitations. “You’re the first to show any respect to me, today. No matter how excited Society Members are for something, they always seem to treat the help like used bath water. They can not wait to get rid of us.”
The young Butler placed the invitations on Lady Cathliene’s breakfast tray and looked back towards Jim. “If we are unable show each other respect where else will we receive it from?”
Jim shrugged in response.
“Do you have a moment?” the Butler asked changing the subject,” I’m sure that Cook and the girls would love to see you.”
“Not today,” Jim said sadly, “I’m on a tight schedule.”
“She’s not going to be happy with you.” He warned, “coming all this way without even a hello.”
“Well, my sister will just have to get over it.” Jim chuckled and rolled his eyes before remembering his schedule, “I must get going, give everyone my regrets.”
“I will.” The Butler smiled.
“Be seeing you, Noah!” Jim called as he rode away towards the next Nobleman’s house.
Noah lifted his free hand to wave goodbye “May there be good weather on your journey.” He called.
“Servant!” The harsh voice of Lady Cathliene screeched the moment he shut the door. The grin that had worked its way on his face during Jim’s visitation vanished.
He responded urgently. “Coming Ma’am,” before heading up the stairs
When he entered she was staring out the window with apparent boredom. “Servant?” she asked in a sickeningly sweet voice “Have I not recently been married?”
Noah deflated. The woman before him seemed keen on acting like she hadn’t dragged her staff to her new home on Durseman Peak, after the marriage. He clenched his teeth and faked his decorum. “You have, ma’am.”
Lady Cathliene let out a sharp hiss as if she had been burned by his words. “Did I not marry Lord Louis Montego?” She asked harshly.
“You have, ma’am.” He repeated.
“Am I then, not a Lady?” she asked coyly.
Noah rolled his eyes to her back. She would never be a Lady. “You are, ma’am,” he replied once more.
She spun around suddenly shocking him, “Then why?” She yelled to his face, “do you not address me as such?”
“A simple slip of the tongue, Madam,” he stammered, “it will not happen again,” Noah noticed her stare harden and quickly added, “My Lady.”
Lady Cathliene smiled and headed to her breakfast table where her food and the mail from the Royal Steward awaited her. She was obviously enjoying her new title, and the power that came with it.
“I could have kicked you out when poor Nanna died,” Noah flinched at the harsh mention of his mother’s name. Lady Cathliene pick up her butter knife a smug smile pulling at the corners of her lips, “but luckily for you I have such a gracious heart, and my sons still need a caretaker. However, if these little slips of the tongue continue, I will not hesitate to toss you out in the street. Have I made myself clear, you ungrateful servant?”
Noah clenched and unclenched his hands, forcing himself to stay calm and swallowed his pride, just as he had done every time prior to today. Over the years he learned to accept the life that he’d been given. So he plastered a smile on his face and responded, “You are absolutely right, Lady Montego. I shall remember the generosity that you have so graciously awarded me over the years.”
“See that you do!” She spat, picking up her morning tea. “Now, go and attend to my sons’ baths. They should be up soon and besides,” She said noticing the invitations on her breakfast tray, “we have a lot to prepare for.”
As he left the room, Noah tried to figure out why Lady Cathliene’s twin sons needed to be looked after so closely. They had turned twenty-three a few months ago and still had no individual source of income. Johnathon and Ronald were tanned skin, brown haired, brown eyed, overconfident, egotistical pains in Noah’s backside.
He hated them with every fiber of his being, and if Nanna Jenkins hadn’t raised him the way she had, then he would have several ungentlemanly things to say to them on a daily bias. Even though he was just a servant, his mother, a governess, gave him the same lessons that she given the twins each morning. She insisted that he learn his letters and numbers, and she forced him to read all of the history books that she could get her hands on.
He smiled at the memory of his mother and hurried to get the hot water for the twins’ baths. He knew what would happen to him if he got caught dawdling, again.
~~~ A short time later
“The slow servant shows himself at last,” Johnathon called out as Noah poured the last bucket of steaming water into the second over sized copper tub. Why did those two have to show up just before he finished.
“It would seem, dear brother that being on time is just too hard for him” Ronald interjected.
Johnathon laughed at his brother’s statement and draped his nightgown on a near by chair. “I hope he isn’t this slow when we leave tomorrow morning.”
“I know what you mean brother.” Ronald responded, “Servant, if you moved any slower we might not make it to the camp this year before the season ends.”
They both released a laugh at their apparent humor.
They were too caught up to notice that Noah had finished adding in the bath salts and oils and was trying to leave the room.
“Kind Lords,” he interjected, remembering Lady Cathliene’s threat from earlier, “please enjoy your baths. I shall have your luggage packed and loaded onto the carriage prior to your departure.”
“Be sure to pack my favorite riding trousers.” Ronald interjected, pulling the pair off of his body, after having slept in them again, and throwing them at Noah, “And, get that mud stain out of the hem as well.”
Noah nodded, bowed as respectfully as possible and left the two brothers behind him.
Johnathon and Ronald appeared to be in, what Noah could only describe as, a pleasant mood. Noah couldn’t help but be thankful for the rare occurrence. He couldn’t be certain of the reason, but he had a strong suspicion that it was all due to the Royal Masque Invitations.
~~~ Later that day
Noah’s head turned and he saw Cook, her actual name, motioning him into the kitchen. It was common for most servants to be addressed by the title of their occupation rather than by their given name. Travis, the stable master was known as Horse, Olivia, the new gardener was often called Lily, and Noah, well he was simply Servant. The family dubbed that the most convenient name for Noah, given the plethora of chores he handled on any given day.
Noah hurried after Cook, curious about her actions.
“Noah dear,” She rambled quickly, “Lord Montego has recently arrived back form his business in Town Central City, as you know, and well, you see he’s... It appears that... What I mean to say is...”
“He’s demanding that supper be ready early again?” Noah guessed from her flustered appearance and the state of the kitchen.
“Well yes, as usual,” She stammered, “but he has... He wants me to... people are...”
“Will the Montego’s be having company tonight?” Noah asked. It was the only reason for her nervous stuttering. Cook rarely became flustered. Normally her and her two daughters could easily manage the whole kitchen; however, guests tended to make her feel nervous.
Cook took a deep breath, sighed, and then said, “Nobleman Grainger from across the river is coming with his family, and you know that he shall be demanding the egg soup tonight. Ginger and Rosemary still can’t seem to get it right. I’ve got a table to set, a goose to prepare, and they’ll be here in an hour-and-a-half. We are running out of time,” the old woman paniced in desperation before asking, “Would you be a dear and save the day, again?”
Noah never liked Nobleman Grainger, or his obnoxious children, or Lord Montego’s unannounced dinners. So, he’d gladly aside twenty minutes to help Cook and her daughters.
“Yes Cook, I shall be happy to help. I should have a bit of time before the twin’s call me for anything. If you focus on that goose, and the girls grab the silverware, I’ll prepare the everything for that soup, so that it will be ready in time for dinner.”
Cook’s contagious smile lighted up the room.
“Oh and Cook,” Noah said, a smile reaching his lips as he washed his hands in a nearby pail, “try not to worry. We have survived worse situations than this.”