A SAMPLE OF THE STORY.
When she was sent to Sister Agnes’ office that afternoon, Victoria had been certain it was because of the mess she’d made at breakfast. She had her tale of the events committed to memory: she’d barely gotten any sleep the night before, because around nine Annie had begun crying over an earache, and then Billy had escaped from the boys’ room, and she’d had to chase him down the hall where he’d contorted himself inside a bookshelf and she’d had to tug him out. Then, when she’d finally settled into her bed, the moon was shining much too brightly and no matter how hard she tried to fall asleep she just couldn’t, though she was so tired her eyes burned. Therefore, she’d spent the entire night with her eyes shut tight, tossing in a state of half-consciousness until Sister Elizabeth had roused her by ringing a brass bell directly beside Victoria’s ear (which she was wont to do when Victoria didn’t wake on time).
She’d trudged to the breakfast table, slunk into an empty chair, and the milk jug was passed her way. Clumsy with drowsiness, she’d knocked it down like a ninepin and it went running all the way down the table. The smaller children shrieked and laughed; the older ones groaned in annoyance. She promised to clean it up herself—and she did—but not before Sister Prudence gave her a good scolding in front of everybody, because, according to her, Victoria was “much too old to be causing such juvenile accidents.”
“That’s unfair,” Victoria had protested. “Someone’s age hardly has to do with spilling things. I’m tired, and when people are tired, they cause accidents.”
This rebuttal hadn’t sat well with Sister Prudence. Before Victoria had a moment to regret not biting her tongue, the woman had begun a tirade against Victoria’s so-called insolence.
Presently, in the spotlight of sun pooling in from the window and with the statue of the Blessed Mother on the desk tilted toward her, Victoria squirmed. “I barely got any sleep last night, because…Annie and Billy were—”
“Victoria,” Sister Agnes interjected, gently. “Please. I know about what happened at the table, and this isn’t about that.”
“Oh. Why am I here then?”
Sister Agnes gave her a small smile. “I’m glad you asked. I want to let you know that there’s been a job opening nearby that I believe you might be well-suited for.”
“Oh.” Victoria slackened. Though relieved to receive this news instead of a reprimand or criticism of her earlier behavior, she wasn’t entirely consoled, considering that she’d been employed twice previously, and neither experience had proved advantageous.
Two years prior, it had been a tutoring job in which she was driven to a stately home in the heart of Philadelphia twice a week to assist a young girl named Sally Worthing in grammar, spelling, and reading. Sally, however, was more interested in whining than practicing her adverbs, and had a tiny dog that constantly nibbled at Victoria’s shoes under the table. The dog wasn’t the only one fond of nipping; Sally’s mother enjoyed interrupting Victoria’s lessons to make suggestions on how to properly interact with her daughter (“You needn’t be so harsh, Victoria, she’s simply a little sleepy,” “Tell Sally to sit up straighter, Victoria; I don’t like to see her slouched over the table like her father after too many drinks”).
Victoria taught Sally until her school’s term ended in Spring and was never asked to return—although that Christmas she did receive a card from Mrs. Worthing which read, “Thank you for your service. It’s a relief, at least, to know that Sally won’t end up a bluestocking.”
Last year, Victoria had been hired as a full-time nanny for the Nolan family of New York state. Theirs was a large home, brown brick and ancestral. The two children, aged six and eight, were as dull and somber as the pastoral scene on the wall of their underused playroom. The days stretched on at the Nolan’s, each one clouded over with chores performed in isolation and one-sided conversations with the members of the household, mostly Mrs. Nolan (who had an awful habit of turning all conversations into discussions of her various ailments) and the housekeeper, whose favorite word was, “fine.” Nearly five months into her stay, Victoria, in desperation, penned a letter to Sister Agnes, begging to return. She left the Nolan estate two weeks later, the Nolan children hardly teary-eyed over her exit, and her own spirits a little lighter.
Consequently, Victoria remained firmly at Our Lady of Second Chances Foundling Hospital, a lingering ex-foundling herself, grown up with nowhere to go.
“Please don’t tell me it’s a governess job,” cried Victoria. “I would absolutely hate to be a governess.”
Sister Agnes’ left eye twitched. “No, Victoria, it’s not a governess job. You’ve been reading those British novels again. It’s a maid-of-all-work position. I see that look—before you get upset, the employers had a special note that the position would also be a sort of…lady’s maid to their daughter, who’s around your age.”
“A lady’s maid?” Victoria’s mind reeled. It sounded old-fashioned—and intriguing.
“Don’t go getting any ideas, Victoria.” Sister Agnes lifted a finger. “The Blaylocks—that’s the name of the family—will still need you to be a willing hand around the house, as they’ve recently lost a member of their staff—that is to say, she had to be…let go.”
“Let go? What did she do?”
“Well, I don’t know, Victoria,” sighed Sister Agnes, shaking her head. “And it’s not your business to know, either. Now, I recommend you apply sooner than later.” She slid a paper across the desk to Victoria. “You’ll need to write to Mrs. Beatrice Putnam—she’s the household manager. I’m going to write to her myself to put in a good word for you.”
Victoria leaned over the desk to read the address scrawled on the paper. She’d been imagining someplace magnificent, but the paper said Cape May, New Jersey.
“New Jersey? Oh, no.”
“Now, Victoria, that’s not fair.” Sister Agnes frowned. “New Jersey is a perfectly fine place.”
“For some people, maybe.”
“Cape May is a very beautiful town,” Sister Agnes insisted.
“Have you ever been there?”
“No,” admitted Sister Agnes. “But it’s by the ocean, and I hear the houses are very pretty. You might like it.”
New Jersey wasn’t ideal, Victoria thought. But the beach sounded nice.
The foundling children were all very excited for Victoria’s big departure, probably more so than Victoria herself; and every one of them had questions, most of which Victoria couldn’t answer.
“What does the house look like, Victoria?”
“I don’t know, Abigail, I’ve never been there. I’ll write you a letter when I see it.”
“How many people live there? Are there many children?”
“No children at all, actually.”
“Is New Jersey terribly far away? How far away is it? Will you have to take a boat?”
“It’s not very far, I—”
“Are you ever coming back?”
“I’m sure she’ll come back for a visit someday,” announced Sister Therese. “Now hush, all of you, and let the poor girl alone to finish her packing.”
The Blaylock’s housekeeper Mrs. Putnam had promptly responded to Victoria and Sister Agnes’ letters, and with an encouraging message: Victoria was to come to the Blaylock residence as soon as she could for an interview with Mr. and Mrs. Blaylock, and she should bring a valise too; because if she was a good fit—and Mrs. Putnam mentioned that she was the “most suitable candidate, by far”—Victoria was to take up her position immediately.
Victoria didn’t have a great number of items to pack. Her possessions were plain and few: her clothing all folded neatly into a small valise; her toiletries and sentimental items—a Bible and a pocket book of modern poetry—nestled inside of a carpetbag with room to spare. Her only other belonging was a little stuffed dog that she’d received as a child from a visitor to the foundling hospital. Victoria had named him Milton after the poet of whom, at eight years old, she’d never read a single word but had always admired his portrait on the cover of his collected works that sat on the bookshelf in the front hall. With his matted felt fur and faded ribbon collar from which hung a long-dead bell, Milton had been a constant in Victoria’s life up until now, even accompanying her to the Nolan’s—but she felt now that she had finally outgrown him.
Louise was a little girl in whom Victoria saw a bit of herself. She hadn’t been amongst the group that had bombarded Victoria with questions—she’d waited until everyone else had gone away, and then asked, very seriously, “Will you be back ever, Victoria?”
Victoria gathered Louise aside and then presented her with Milton.
“Yes, but I don’t know when,” Victoria told her. She brandished the toy in her open palms. “I’m moving up in the world, Lou. And as much as I love him, I think Milton needs to stay behind. This place is practically all he’s known. Do you think you can keep him company for me?”
Louise’s eyes shone as she accepted Victoria’s offering, and she hugged the little dog to her chest. “Yes, I can.”
“Good. I knew you were the one,” Victoria declared with a nod of approval.
In the morning, Sister Elizabeth woke Victoria—blessedly not with a bell, but with a harsh, whispered warning that if Victoria didn’t get up now, she’d miss her train.
Still not quite awake, Victoria boarded the South Jersey Railroad. The Sisters who had traveled to the station with her bid her their goodbyes and well-wishes, handkerchiefs waving and rosaries dangling. Victoria didn’t feel as sad as she thought she’d be, nor did she feel excited or anxious. A surprising calm washed over her mind; she was finally on her own.
She was asleep before the engines rumbled to life.
A pleading voice, followed by a gentle shake of her shoulders, stirred Victoria. She blinked up to an attendant who gripped her bags in one hand. He glanced around to the empty cabin and then resumed his wide-eyed stare.
“You’re in the Cape, Miss.”
“Ah, yes, thank you,” said Victoria, standing a little too quickly; she teetered, caught her balance on the wall, then set herself upright again.
“Are you…alright, Miss?”
“Oh yes, now I am, thank you,” Victoria declared. “I’m just where I need to be.”
The attendant didn’t seem to know what to think of that. He simply nodded and led her out to the tiny platform, where she accepted her luggage with a final thanks and then wandered to the front of the depot, where she began her wait. Mrs. Putnam had said in her letter that the driver would arrive at the station around ten o’clock; Victoria had stolen a look at the clock inside the station, and it had been nine forty-eight then.
“Would you like to sit down, Miss?” implored a man sitting on a bench behind her.
Victoria turned and smiled. “No, thank you. I was just sitting for hours. I’d prefer to stand.”
But the truth was that her legs were shaking, partly from the cold but mostly from a sudden, encompassing nervousness. She regretted turning down the offer of the bench but now felt too proud to rescind it. She waited, trembling, for what might have been ten or fifteen minutes until she heard a terrible rumbling sound and spotted a funny little machine prowling towards her.
It came to a sputtering standstill at the curb, and the driver leaned over and shouted,“Are you Miss Victoria?”
“Yes!” Victoria exclaimed, stepping toward the vehicle.
The driver hopped out, tugged Victoria’s bag from her grip, and opened the door. She thanked him as she slid inside; the door was promptly shut and latched, her bags were tossed with a thump into the tiny storage in the back, and off they went.
She wondered, as they rambled down the street, where the beach was. She had a fleeting panic that Sister Agnes had lied to her about the ocean to convince her to take the job.
“Excuse me,” Victoria called to the driver, “do you know where the beach is?”
He didn’t give any indication that he’d heard her.
Resigned, Victoria studied the passing scenery. She had never seen so much color in her life: the houses looked like cakes, with artificial icing and lace-like piping drizzled round the edges and corners. She hadn’t had an idea of what Cape May was going to look like, but she hadn’t thought it would look like this.
“I feel like I could eat one of these,” Victoria shouted jokingly, leaning forward in her seat this time. “Like Hansel and Gretel with the witches’ house!”
“Huh?” The driver yelled back, glimpsing for a moment over his shoulder. “Hansingretel? Where’s that?”
“Never mind!” responded Victoria, dropping back into her seat.
She made it a private game to guess which one of the magnificent houses was the Blaylock home. With every single pause—an avoidance of a bump in the road, a glitch in the automobile’s mysterious machinery—Victoria eagerly eyed all the houses in their vicinity and imagined which one would be the best to live in. Every time she got her hopes up and the engine jerked to life again, she consoled herself with finding affinity with another. At last, they came to a complete stop (after the vehicle lurched forward a few times in quick succession and the driver gave an accompanying curse for each one).
Victoria pushed herself as close to the vehicle’s tiny window as she could to drink in her surroundings. The Blaylock residence was pale pink, trimmed in white, and turreted. Two flags of equal size fluttered above the front door: American stars and stripes, and a Union Jack. Next door on one side was a blue house with tiers of balconies, and on the other, a house of grey that seemed to Victoria to be abandoned with its dirty windows, peeling paint, and a yard cluttered with overgrown grass and weeds; it was a shocking presence in a neighborhood seemingly teeming with life.
The driver said nothing as he hopped down from his perch and went straight to retrieving her bag—which seemed to have gotten stuck, as the entire apparatus jostled and teetered with the redistribution of weight. Meanwhile, Victoria was eager to escape the cramped little container she was in, though her door was latched shut.
Figuring it couldn’t be that difficult, Victoria wriggled her way to the front seat, which she managed almost without a hitch, except for a few dreadful moments when her left leg got snagged. She’d fortunately contorted her body into a proper upright position by the time the driver stepped to the side of the vehicle to see what in the world was going on inside.
“I, uh”—Victoria was a bit breathless—"you forgot to let me out.”
The driver blinked a few times, as if he was still attempting to understand what had just occurred. “Sorry.”
“It’s alright. I guess I’m just a little impatient.”
“Sure,” said the driver and, with Victoria’s bag in tow, he turned and marched toward the Blaylock home. Victoria bustled after him.
Following a few short raps on the front door, it opened to a neat brunette woman with a perfectly courteous smile. “Welcome, Victoria. I’m so glad you arrived on time.”
Victoria didn’t know what to say, so she made an agreeable sound while nodding her head.
“Thank you, Henry. I’ll take her bag,” the woman said, and she accepted Victoria’s baggage with both arms, a look of surprise sweeping her expression at the lightness of it.
Henry tipped his hat and ran off to his automobile. The woman ushered Victoria inside as the ugly growling of the engine began.
The foyer in which they stood was bright and clean, with a black-and-white tiled floor and a lofty ceiling from which hung a gilt chandelier. To their right, a twisting staircase; a petite divan rested against the wall beside it, alongside a marble-topped table and glass lamp. Framed under glass on another wall was a print in muted color of a boy standing defiantly atop a waterfall, a pair of binoculars clasped to his face and an arm akimbo, VALIANCE A BOY’S ADVENTURE MAGAZINE declared above his head.
“Lena?” the woman beckoned, and a slim woman—thirty-something, from Victoria’s estimate—dressed in servant’s attire ran in from somewhere down the hall. “Take this to your room, please.”
Lena received Victoria’s belongings wordlessly, flashing a quick but thorough once-over at Victoria before flying up the spiraling stairs.
“I’m Mrs. Blaylock, by the way.” Victoria’s host smiled again in her genteel way. “Come along with me; my husband is waiting for us in the drawing room.”
The drawing room was immediately to the left, behind a sliding divider. It was a homey space: two sofas facing each other before a crackling fireplace, a large bookshelf, rolltop desk, and a tall window at the very end with curtains half-drawn. The presumed Mr. Blaylock was seated on one of the sofas, where Mrs. Blaylock joined him presently; following her cue, Victoria wandered to the other.
On the low table between them lay fanned several copies of VALIANCE, each with a different illustration, but all featuring some version of a boy in the midst of some grand, adventurous scene.
“I’m in publishing. That’s my magazine.” Mr. Blaylock beamed. Victoria was a bit taken aback by his English accent. “Are you familiar with it?”
"At Our Lady of Second Chances we didn’t have many books or things published after the eighties,” said Victoria, with utmost seriousness.
“Ah. Well, it’s just your typical magazine—stories and outdoor tips and the like. Our circulation is highest in the East Coast, but we have subscribers nationally—and, well, I won’t bore you with more details.”
“Oh, I don’t mind at all,” Victoria enthused. “I’ve never met anyone in publishing before, and it sounds like an awfully interesting way to make a living.”
Mr. Blaylock chuckled. Victoria shrank back a little in the cushion.
“He travels to the city twice a week to go to the main offices,” chimed in Mrs. Blaylock. “The city being New York, of course.”
“Of course,” blurted Victoria.
“Anyway,” sighed Mrs. Blaylock. “Let’s discuss your employment. I’m sure you’re aware of the position as it was advertised, but I’d like to clarify some things. You’ll be taking on the role of a maid-of-all-work, like Lena. You’ll be doing work all around the house, including helping in the kitchen. But we’d also like you to pay special attention to our daughter. She spends far too much time alone, you understand, and we believe she’ll benefit from having a…youthful presence around the house.”
Victoria nodded. “You want me to be her friend.”
“Heavens, no,” Mrs. Blaylock quipped, narrowing her eyes at Victoria. “That’s not it, no; we just need you to assist her, is all.”
“Oh, okay. I understand,” said Victoria, though she didn’t, really.
“Victoria,” Mr. Blaylock spoke, suddenly serious. His accent, Victoria thought, seemed to give anything he said a higher sense of importance. She sat up attentively. “I expect you will follow all of the household rules dutifully, yes?”
“Yes, sir,” answered Victoria.
"Good,” Mr. Blaylock said, seemingly satisfied enough.
Mrs. Blaylock stood. “Come with me, Victoria. I’d like to give you a little overview of the house.”
Victoria scurried after Mrs. Blaylock—who peered over her shoulder, once, to check if Victoria hadn’t stayed—through the foyer and down a short hall where, on the far end, beside a wall telephone and corresponding table was a brown door, partly open.
“This is the kitchen,” announced Mrs. Blaylock as they approached and, as if cued, a woman marched to the door and swung it wide. The two of them walked into the neat kitchen, with its large wooden table in the center, surrounded by the most appliances Victoria had ever seen collected in one space. The woman who had opened the door for them shut it just as rapidly and then turned to face Mrs. Blaylock. She was a rather stout older woman with a stern face. She had on a stainless starched apron over a worn (but impeccably clean) blue striped housedress, which she brushed her hands down upon as if it bore minuscule remnants of dirt to be rid of.
“Victoria, this is Mrs. Putnam. She’s the housekeeper.”
Mrs. Putnam scrutinized Victoria with narrowed eyes. She stepped to Victoria, craning her neck to get a better view. Victoria was small, and Mrs. Putnam was barely any taller.
“You will report to her every morning for your daily tasks,” Mrs. Blaylock continued.
Without warning, Mrs. Putnam lurched forward and pinched both of Victoria’s cheeks, tugging them with such force that it pulled Victoria to her toes.
“My goodness!” Victoria yelped and stumbled away, having bitten back some stronger declarations. She caressed her sore face. “What did you do that for?”
“It was very unnecessary, Beatrice,” mumbled Mrs. Blaylock.
“A little color in the face,” Mrs. Putnam said with triumph, lifting her chin. She spoke in an English accent much like Mr. Blaylock’s, but brusquer. “She is far too pale. A maid never wants to appear sickly for work, and a sick maid is of no use at all.”
“I’m not sick,” insisted Victoria, but no one acknowledged her.
“Where is Cook?” asked Mrs. Blaylock, walking further into the room and inspecting the cupboards as if a full-grown person might be hiding inside.
“She’s in the pantry, gathering some things for dinner.” Mrs. Putnam nodded to the right where, from behind a door there was a muffled shout and some rustling, and a woman emerged, her hair mussed, her face red, and her arms full of potatoes. She stomped to the table and relinquished the vegetables to the countertop, where they tumbled in all directions. One rolled onto the floor, but she didn’t attempt to retrieve it.
“Ah, Cook,” Mrs. Blaylock said. “I’d like you to meet Victoria, the new hired girl.”
The woman called Cook blinked at Victoria.
"Her name is Cook? That’s funny,” said Victoria. “That’d be like if my name was ‘orphan.’”
“Her name isn’t actually ‘Cook,’” spat Mrs. Putnam. “That’s just what we’ve always called her.”
Cook sighed through her nose and crossed her arms. Victoria felt pity for this odd woman; perhaps she didn’t speak English very well or was a mute.
“Can she speak?” asked Victoria in a low voice.
Cook’s face blossomed a deeper shade of red. “Of course I can speak, you little twit.”
She then turned, opened a drawer quite violently, withdrew a paring knife, and began to peel the potatoes with such vigor and efficiency that the skins flew at great heights.
“Oh, dear,” said Mrs. Blaylock. “I’m sure Victoria didn’t mean any offense.”
“Mmph,” said Cook.
“We’ll move on, then,” said Mrs. Blaylock. “Sorry for the disturbance.”
She and Victoria fled the kitchen without another word. They traveled back through the foyer and towards the grand staircase. On their way up, Mrs. Blaylock paused abruptly and ticked a finger at a framed photograph on the wall of a young woman with bright eyes and a cheeky smile.
“My daughter, Margaret—she insists on being called ‘Maggie,’” sighed Mrs. Blaylock. “Think of it—tarnishing a perfectly fine name like Margaret and wishing to be called a pet name fit for a horse.”
They stood there, Mrs. Blaylock two steps ahead, studying her daughter’s portrait wearily for a few moments before Mrs. Blaylock turned and started the rest of the way up.
They arrived at the first door on the left of the upstairs landing, which Mrs. Blaylock promptly opened and walked into, beckoning Victoria to follow. “This is Margaret’s room. Don’t worry about interrupting anything, she’s out to lunch with a friend.”
Victoria stepped inside. The room was white, and very much so: everything from the walls to the curtains to the duvet to the vanity was brandished in tones of bright, clean white, except for the occasional gilt lining and the chestnut armoire. It almost made Victoria sick to look at.
“Lena will train you on the proper cleaning routines for all of the bedrooms,” Mrs. Blaylock said, strolling to the window seat, where she picked up a hoop of a half-finished embroidery. Lips pursed tightly, she lifted it closely to her eyes, then further away, squinting all the while.
She waved it frustratedly. “Do you know what this means?”
Victoria sidled up to Mrs. Blaylock, skimming the words threaded into the fabric in pastel green, above a bed of unfinished flowers: Amat victoria curam.
“It’s Latin,” declared Victoria, with a decisive nod.
Mrs. Blaylock shot her a look of disbelief.
“I think,” added Victoria.
“Well, what does it say?”
“I don’t know, I don’t read Latin; I just know it when I see it.”
“Hm,” sniffed Mrs. Blaylock, setting the hoop back on the seat cushion as if it were a tainted thing. “Margaret is an educated woman, you know.”
“Indeed,” commented Victoria, thinking that it sounded like an appropriate response.
“Yes. She graduated from the New York Young Women’s College—two years ago, almost. Sometimes I think she likes to think of herself as if she were still a schoolgirl.”
Victoria had never heard of such an institution, but the way Mrs. Blaylock spoke of it, it sounded prestigious—and very particular.
“I’d like to show you your room, now,” said Mrs. Blaylock.
Victoria was led down the far end of the upstairs hall and down a set of steps to a little dark corridor.
Mrs. Blaylock pointed to another descending staircase. “That will lead you downstairs right to the kitchen hallway.” She then gestured to the first of two doors. “That is Mrs. Putnam’s room—and this is yours and Lena’s.”
Mrs. Blaylock pushed open the door. Inside was a modest space with two small beds, Victoria’s bag thrown onto the one on the left. A tiny desk sat against the wall between them, and a dresser on the right.
“I’ll let you get settled,” Mrs. Blaylock said. “Maggie should be home any minute now. I’ll anticipate your presence in the drawing room shortly.”
Mrs. Blaylock then bolted away.
Though the room had a window, it offered little light. Victoria began to unpack her things, familiarizing herself with her new lodgings. On the wall above the desk was a Coca-Cola calendar, and on the wall above her bed was a hideous painting of a lone tree in an autumnal field. She was relieved that her roommate appeared to be neat: Lena’s bed was made, the desktop was organized, and none of her personal items were strewn around. When it came to putting away her clothes inside the dresser however, what Victoria discovered was a bit more catastrophic. Lena’s clothing, underthings, and shoes occupied every drawer in jumbled heaps. Victoria reluctantly pushed aside the things in the middle drawer to make room for her humble belongings.
Lena herself walked in just then. She was tearing into a slice of bread, crumbs tumbling to the floor; she crammed the rest of it into her mouth and wiped her hands on her skirt. Her eyes flicked to the open dresser drawer and her clothes moved to one side.
“Alright. I need to get back to the laundry,” Lena said. She leveled her gaze at Victoria. “Don’t touch my things again.”
The very first thing Maggie noticed about the new hired girl was that she looked younger than Maggie had thought she would be. She’d assumed that Beth’s replacement would be like Beth herself: of an indistinguishable age (older than her mother, but younger than Mrs. Putnam), of a natural maternal disposition despite being childless. The young woman standing before the fireplace dressed in grey with a slight, awkward slouch seemed more like a waif out of a serial than a housemaid.
Maggie had just arrived home after lunch at Winnie’s house, shivering and sleepy, and expecting the dog to come running to her the moment she walked in. It had been a fine lunch—a roast, courtesy of the Edwards’ cook, and genial conversation, courtesy of Winnie and her mother—but the bitter January elements had Maggie longing for a nap by the fire with the family pet curled in her lap.
“Mama!” Maggie had shouted.
Mama entered the foyer from the drawing room. “What is it?”
“Where is Algernon?”
“Out in the back, dear.”
Maggie groaned as she kicked off her shoes. “Mama, I told you not to do that. It’s not good to have him outside so long, all alone like that. Especially in the winter.”
“I didn’t do it, Mrs. Putnam did. You know how he gets into things, and we have someone new in the home. And please don’t leave your boots lying on the floor, it’s disgraceful. I really wish you wouldn’t pad around the house in stockings. Now, come into the drawing room so you can meet the new maid.”
Mama was exceptionally pleased about this new addition to their household.
“Her name is Victoria,” she gushed, as if the new girl couldn’t introduce herself. “Like the queen of England.”
“Oh, I’m just Victoria,” Victoria said, with a jovial wave of a hand. “Of Philadelphia.”
Maggie couldn’t help but smile, as did Dad. Mama twitched uncomfortably.
“I think that’s quite enough,” Dad said. “Victoria, you may be excused. See to Mrs. Putnam, she’ll want to show you to the laundry to help Lena.”
“Yes, sir,” Victoria said, and she ran off.
Maggie wanted to run away as well; instead, she stood and walked modestly out of the room, expecting one of her parents to berate her for leaving so abruptly, but neither one of them objected.
As reluctant as she was to head back out into the chill, Maggie was more determined to bring Algernon inside. She ran to the backyard and whistled; the little white dog, attached by his collar to a rope tied to a wooden peg that Mama insisted on keeping him bound to, came half-trotting, half-limping in her direction (he had acquired a rather serious case of canine arthritis in the last year). Maggie untied him, lifted him into her arms and smuggled him inside, racing through the foyer and up the stairs.
“Margaret—are you bringing the dog into your room?” Mama yelled from the bottom of the stairs. “He’s going to get mud all over your bed!”
“Yes!” shouted Maggie, and she shut the door.
Want to read more?
Purchase "The Reign of Victoria: or, the Year That Everything Changed" ebook here!
© 2022 Angeline Walsh
The Reign of Victoria; or the Year That Everything Changed is a work of fiction. Any resemblances to real persons or events is coincidence. Thank you for respecting the original creation of the author by not reproducing or distributing any part of it in any form without permission.