you startled me.” Her gaze fell on Stanley, and Gertie almost laughed at the look of horror that spread across the housekeeper’s chubby face.
“Good God Almighty,” Mrs. Chubb cried, holding up her hands in dismay. “Whatever has he gone and done now?”
Stanley, who up until that moment had not uttered one sound, said succinctly and very clearly, “She pushed me into the pond.”
Gertie glared down at his dripping head, fighting the urge to slap him one up the side of the ear. “I bloody did not, and you know it. You bleeding fell in.”
Stanley’s response was to promptly burst into loud and heart-wrenching sobs.
Mrs. Chubb clicked her tongue and bustled over to him. “There, there, ducks, don’t cry. We’ll soon have you dry. Go and stand by the stove, and I’ll make you a nice fat ham sandwich. Would you like that, luv?”
Stanley nodded, his sobs subsiding into a disgusting spate of snorting sniffs. Obediently he slopped over to the stove, leaving a trail of muddy water all across the floor.
Mrs. Chubb folded her arms and fixed Gertie with a baleful stare.
“I didn’t do it, honest I didn’t,” Gertie began. “He was kneeling by the bloody pond—”
“Haven’t I already told you a thousand times not to use those repulsive words in front of the child? It’s bad enough that
have to put up with it, but I will not allow innocent ears to be abused by that dreadful language.”
“You ought to hear what he says sometimes,” Gertie said hotly. “Bloody hell make your hair stand on end, it would.”
Gertie recognized that tone of voice only too well. She sent a glare at Stanley, who stood with his back to the stove, watching the proceedings with great interest.
Secure in the knowledge that the housekeeper couldn’t see him, he lifted his fingers to his nose and waggled them at Gertie.
“As for letting him fall in the pond,” Mrs. Chubb went on relentlessly, “it is your fault for not taking better care of him. What madam would say if she saw him, heaven only knows. God help you when you get a child of your own, Gertie Brown. You’ll have to have your wits about you then, that’s for sure.”
Behind her, Stanley was pulling the most horrible faces Gertie had ever seen. She looked over at Arthur for support, but he was watching the little bugger with a huge grin spread all over his face.
Gertie’s resentment ignited into a hot fire of outrage. She compressed her lips and threw her shoulders back while Mrs. Chubb went on ranting and raging for several more seconds. Then, as if remembering whose almighty presence sat at her kitchen table, the housekeeper turned off the torrent of rebuke and lowered her voice.
“Well, the harm’s been done, so it’s too late to say anything now. Just get a mop and a bucket and clean this mess up. I suppose it’s all the way across the foyer, too?”
Gertie nodded defiantly, her heart filling with revenge.
“I expect it to be spotless when I come and inspect it later,” Mrs. Chubb snapped. Then she turned her back on Gertie and in a completely different voice said to the still-grinning doorman, “I’m so sorry, Arthur. Sometimes these girls are enough to try a saint, so help me. Please get on with your porridge before it gets cold, and I’ll make you a nice cup of tea.”
Released from her torment, Gertie stomped across the kitchen to the scullery to get a mop and bucket.
I’ll make you a nice cup of tea,
she mimicked in her mind.
What about poor Gertie? she thought, slapping the mop inside the bucket with such force it threatened to put a hole in it. She didn’t get no bleeding tea. No, what she got was a bloody tongue-lashing and most likely a backache from mopping the bleeding floor, that’s what.
And it was all thanks to that flipping kid. Well, she was going to get even with that rotten, horrible Stanley if it was the last bleeding thing she did.
Conjuring up all kinds of torture in her mind, she trudged off to