The Magnificent Masquerade

The Magnificent Masquerade by Elizabeth Mansfield Page B

Book: The Magnificent Masquerade by Elizabeth Mansfield Read Free Book Online
Authors: Elizabeth Mansfield
snorted in disdain as Kitty crossed the threshold.
"Shame on ye," she said, shaking her head in disapproval.
"Makin' yerself a bad name, and ye ain't been 'ere one day."
    "It ain't her fault," one of the
upstairs maids piped up. Kitty recognized her as the maid who'd been airing
Emily's room earlier that afternoon. "Mr. Naismith 'ad no right to use
"er at table. She's an abigail, ain't she? Not a servin' girl."
    "No one's askin' you, Peg Craigle,"
the cook declared, turning to the fire and rotating a roasting chicken on a
spit. "If Mr. Naismith says she's't' serve, then she's't' serve. That's
all there is to it."
    "And let that be a lesson to ye," Jemmy
said, crossing over to Kitty and tweaking her cheek.
    Kitty slapped his hand in irritation. "Is
this matter everyone's business?"
    "No, o' course it ain't," Peg said,
coming to her side. "What a way for you to start 'ere. Tish-tush, Emily,
don't be lookin' so grim. Makin' a fool o' yersel' upstairs ain't the end o'
the world."
    Kitty met the other girl's eyes and gave a
reluctant laugh. The girl was quite right; the scene in the dining room would
be forgotten by everyone in a short while; there was no need to stew over it.
She looked at Peg's laughing Irish eyes and felt a surge of gratitude. This
girl might turn out to be a veritable friend in need. "Thank you,
Peg," she murmured quietly. Peg shrugged. "Come an' let me make
everyone known't' ye. Over there is Mrs. Duffy, but everyone calls her Cook.
The gennleman readin' the Times is Mr. Dampier, "is lordship's valet. An'
this 'ere's Lily, who always knows everything what goes on. An' here's Bess,
who does all the sewin', an'”
    At that moment, Mrs. Prowne bustled in.
"Come on, everyone, let's sit down," she announced. "They're
still lingerin' over the pastries upstairs, so Mr. Naismith said to start
without 'im."
    As if a bell had rung, people seemed to
materialize from all directions and the table places filled at once. It seemed
to Kitty at first glance that there were dozens of people gathering, but in
reality there were only sixteen. Kitty, hungry as she was, didn't take a seat,
for nobody had told her where she belonged. It was Peg who finally pushed her into
a chair and who introduced her to the personage seated opposite her. "Miss
Leacock, this is Miss Jessup's abigail, Emily Pratt."
      Kitty
examined the other abigail with interest. She was a woman of middle age with a
pointed nose, watery blue eyes, and a head covered with corkscrew curls. The
most interesting thing about her, however, was her way of carrying herself. If
there were a single word with which to describe her, it would be
"ladylike." The way she sat in her chair, the way she looked down her
nose, the way she picked up her knife ... all these suggested the most
exaggerated gentility. In the setting of the servants' hall, it seemed to Kitty
that the woman was, to use an old saying her governess was wont to use,
"putting on airs."
    Miss Leacock acknowledged the introduction with
a mere nod, but before she returned her attention to her soup, she gave Kitty a
look of thorough if disapproving appraisal. That's quite all right, Kitty said
to herself, I feel the same distaste toward you.
    Kitty attacked the soup with more eagerness
than she'd ever shown for food in her life. And never in her life had mere
cabbage soup given her such pleasure. In a moment she forgot the humiliation of
the past hour and surrendered herself to the physical satisfaction that comes
when real hunger is assuaged.
    But she was not to forget for long. Peg, who
was seated just below her on her right, leaned over to her. "It wasn't
right, y'know, no matter what Cook says," she whispered. "What wasn't
right?" Kitty whispered back.
    "An abigail shouldn't be made't' be a
servin' girl. It's ... how shall I say? ... beneath ye."
    "Then why did Mr. Naismith make me do
it?" Kitty asked the maid curiously.
    The girl shrugged. "T' put you in yer
place, I suppose. Everyone's sayin' y're a bit

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