“She’s on the war path, again. I went into her room with the morning tea, knocked properly, waited for her gracious permission to enter, and all the rest of it. She still bit my head off. Tell the truth, Sylvia, I’ve had about enough of it.” Ivy took off her cap and pulled her hair back off her face, replacing the hairpins with a stabbing movement.
It was only in the safety of the kitchen when they were on their own that Ivy would refer to Sylvia by her first name. In front of the Turner family, she referred to the cook as Mrs. Casey.
Sylvia shook her head, her forehead wrinkled beneath her pinned back, greying hair. “I know. She’s getting worse. I can understand why young Beryl left, though how she could face going back to her mother and a houseful of brothers and sisters with no job, I’m sure I don’t know.”
Ivy, the parlour maid, now doing the work of the departed housemaid, Beryl, on top of her own tasks, took the opportunity to sit down for a minute. She’d been up since half-past five, and her feet were on fire.
“You did your best. I hope I did my best too, but Sylvia… imagine it, fifteen years of age and stuck out here in the middle of nowhere in what must have seemed like a madhouse. Can you blame the kid for hightailing it back to her family? For two pins, I’d go myself…”
“Don’t you dare, Ivy Moss. Look, Miss Hester will sort them out. You’ll see, things will get better, now she’s here.”
Ivy slipped off her shoes and stretched out her legs, in their sensible lisle stockings. She flexed her feet, sighing.
“I hope you’re right, but I have my doubts. It’s gone beyond that, I’m afraid. After Miss Elizabeth had accused me of coming across the corridor like an elephant,” Ivy glanced down at her eight-stone frame, “she started on with her usual nonsense.”
“Saying that you’d moved things around?”
“Worse than that. She said I’d been taking things out of her room and selling them. Ornaments, figurines…stuff that’s impossible to prove was never there in the first place. She’s clever despite it all. That’s the frightening thing.”
“Oh, Ivy. Look, no-one is going to believe her, not in a million years. Everyone knows she’s as mad as a March hare.”
A moment’s silence fell where the only sound came from the big grandfather clock. Ivy put her shoes back on and went across to the window, looking out at the back of the house. Rain pattered on the window and rustled on the ivy-clad walls. The trees were barely coming into leaf, and she could just glimpse the soft-hued stone walls of the kitchen garden. She thought she saw a glimmer of colour, then shook her head. It was nothing.
“A miserable day…outside as well as in.” She smiled at her own words. “Will we have a quick cuppa, Sylvia? Maybe turn the wireless on too? The work will be still there waiting for us when we’ve finished.”
Her friend crossed to the stove and moved the big kettle onto the hob. “Too right, girl. We ‘as to make our own fun, where we can, in this place.”