POLLY'S MORNING CAPERS.
Polly stomped the stairs; back stairs; servant’s stairs, dark and dingy. The voice of Mrs Gripe still rang in her ears; the stinging flick of Dudman’s hand still clung to her backside. The Master is home later today, Dudman had said. Now she had to get the room prepared and aired. On the go all the time. No rest for the wicked, as Gripe was always saying. Polly stopped dead on the top of the stairs; stared along the passage. She’d seen a mouse here the other day; it nigh made her wet herself. Nothing. Clear. Sighed with relief.
She opened the door of the Master’s bedroom; smelt the stale air. Smiled. He’d had her here some months back. In that bed as well, she mused pushing the door closed behind her with her rump. She drew the dark-blue curtains; let in the morning light. She opened the window; the cool air of day entered in; flapped about her head.
Gazing at the bed she folded her arms and thought of she and Master George laying there. What Dudman or Gripe would have said she didn’t want to think. "Between you and me," George had muttered. “Not a word outside this room." She smiled again. Sighed. She’d have to make up the bed; tidy the room; make it fit for the Prince himself if he came, she mused, tapping the bed with her fingers. She’d rather sleep here with him, than with Susie with her cold feet and hands, she thought, going out the door to get her mop and bucket and the rest of the things she needed. Poor Susie. Cold as ice she’d be.
Returning with what she needed she started to sweep, dust and mop the floor. She made the bed, polished the woodwork; arranged flowers in a vase by the window. Time passed. Silence alone. No Gripe or Dudman to moan or nag.
She sat on the bed; stared at the pillows and thought of Master George. She brushed her left hand on along the bed cover. Leaned forward; kissed the pillow. Sighed deeply.
“Whatcha doing?” Susie said, standing by the doorway.
“None of your business,” Polly said, rising from the bed; glaring at the other maid. “Creeping upon me like that. Enough to give a girl a heart attack.”
Susie grinned. Polly scowled. Polly gathered her things; made for the door.
“Gripe wants yer,” Susie said, standing leaning against the doorframe.
“What’s she want now?” Polly moaned. Heaving a sigh.
“Says you been gone for hours.” Susie pulled a face. Mimicked Gripe.
Polly sniggered. “Give her blooming hours.” Ours of agony if I had my way, she mused, stomping along the landing with mop, bucket and broom. Susie followed. Noisily Polly put the things in the cupboard; closed the door with a heavy thump. She dusted off her hands; wiped them on her uniform. She looked at Susie; stared at the frightened, timid eyes. Thought of her cold fingers around the waist in the night, in their bed in the attic. She shivered at the memory; embraced herself momentarily. Raised her eyebrows; blew Susie a kiss; imagined it was George.
Dudman appeared along the landing. A face of thunder. Hands behind his back as if he were hiding something in a childish game. He walked heavily towards them. Susie shook. Polly unfolded her arms; fiddled with her fingers.
“You are needed,” he bellowed. “No time to linger and waste time. Time and tide,” he began but did not finish. He poked Susie in the breast; thumbed her on her way. Susie scampered off. “Is the room ready?” he barked.
“Cause it is,” Polly said. “Whatcha think I’ve been doing?”
Dudman waved his finger in front of her face. His stern features icy and cold. “Respect girl,” he stated, “remember your place.” I know your place, Polly mused, six feet under and no mistake. “You can always be replaced.” His words lingered like a bed smell; she screwed up her nose. He walked around her as if she were a commodity he thought of purchasing. He paused behind her; eyed her rear. Polly held her breath. Sensed his eyes on her like fingers invading her person. “Lady Elmore will want you, Perkins. Best be on your way,” he said.
“Yes Mr Dudman,” Polly said. She backed away and turned. Bloody fool, she mused, wanting to give him the fingers, but thought it best not to; walked at her pace along the passage, knowing his cold eyes were watching her every move; knew what his hands wanted to do; wished him dead as the dodo; wished him to hell and rotting.
Dudman watched her go; watched the way her hips moved side to side in a soft rhythmic pattern; wondered and wished; sighed into his chest like a bull; slowly followed her along the passage like death on the prowl.