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Love and Prudence

Love and Prudence

Prudence Wright folded the last of the pillowcases and placed them on the rails above the great fireplace to air. She loved that fire, summer and winter alike; the huge flames leaping up the fireback, the smell of the seasoned wood and the hissing and bubbling of the juices coming out of the logs. It filled the whole of the back kitchen with marvellous warmth, except she didn’t like it quite so much in the summer and had to beg the lad not to put such huge pieces of trunk on it.
     The back kitchen was her favourite place. Not for her the hustle and bustle of the front kitchen with the cook ever in a rage, and the kitchen maids squabbling and shouting all the time. They worked hard, so did she for that matter, but she worked only with the help of Lily Rose Gotobed and she didn’t argue or question. Come to think of it she didn’t say much at all, but then she was the youngest of a huge family, all of them girls and all of them named after flowers, and Prudence reckoned her mother must have run out of strength when she was carrying her, not surprising. Was it eight or nine in their cottage in Little Derehams no bigger than a pig pen.
     Lady Templeton had taken Lily Rose to live in and that’d been a blessing for Lily Rose who was half the size she should have been for a twelve year old, with arms and legs like sticks. But she’d lived in for two years now and the improvement in her was amazing. When she first came she couldn’t find enough strength to lift a sheet, but now. . . . .well, she had muscles as big as cricket balls.
     The door to the back kitchen was opened gently, so it wasn’t Lily Rose, Prudence turned round to find Lady Templeton coming in with a lacy nightgown on her arm.
     ‘Prudence, my dear.’
     Prudence curtsied.
     ‘Prudence, my dear, this needs washing. I’ve brought it myself because I want to make sure it gets special treatment, it’s new and very delicate and very, very expensive. Miss Clarice doesn’t agree with me buying a folderol like this, she thinks one should buy sensible cotton clothes, but we know better don’t we?’ Lady Templeton laughed and so did Prudence. They both delighted in pretty things and there was nothing Prudence liked better than laundering Lady Templeton’s delicate under things. Lily Rose came in carrying more of the sheets which had been outside in the sun spread out on the hawthorn hedge that grew round the kitchen garden. ‘They’re nearly dry. You got the irons on?’
     ‘Lily! Manners! Beg pardon, your ladyship. She won’t have learned her manners by the time she drops dead.’
     Lily laid the sheets in a huge tangled pile on the big ironing table and dropped a curtsey to Lady Templeton. ‘Sorry, m’lady, sorry.’
     Her ladyship cupped Lily’s cheek with her hand. ‘That’s all right Lily Rose, you’re always so busy, my dear. Don’t forget the nightgown, Prudence. I shall need it for the weekend, we’re going visiting you see.’ She left the back kitchen just as peaceful as she found it, but then that was her ladyship, some laundry maids Prudence knew got cursed and sworn at by their mistresses but she and Lily didn’t. Prudence banged about in her annoyance with that stuck up lady’s maid of a Miss Clarice. ‘That Miss Clarice, who does she think she is?

     'Why is she Miss Clarice?’
     ‘Cos she’s a lady’s maid so they gets called Miss, to make her a bit special I expect. Right old misery she is saying her ladyship shouldn’t have pretty clothes. I would if I had the money.’
     Lily stroked the nightgown where it laid waiting for Prudence to wash it.
     ‘Beautiful lace in’t it. Just lovely. Maybe one day we’ll have nightgowns like this. That calico thing I wear scratches me like hell.’
     ‘Lily! That’s not a nice word for a girl like you to use. I’ll make you wash your mouth out with soap and water.’




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