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through every kind of weather; and neither climate nor clergyman made church-the immensely cold, dismal, drawling, formal church of the epoch-impossible to her. She was a very plain little girl, but her unlovely face served her well. When the capricious local Lady Bountiful gave all the attractive dame scholars an outfit for service, Charlotte, now fourteen years old, had to save and sew at home to produce a trousseau, of the harshest material and remarkable for its stern absence of bow or trimming -learning thereby invaluable lessons of thrift, self-denial, and industry.
In her first, small, decent place, she was nursemaid, and set up, be sure, for her infant charges a standard of conduct and neatness wholesomely and impossibly high.
Then, walking one day beneath two ladders, on which stood a couple of house-painters painting a house, one dropped on the Child family Dunstable straw bonnet-Dunstable straw bonnets were costly, and Charlotte had inherited her mother's by right of primogeniture-a large spot of white paint, which the second house-painter suggested could be removed by turpentine.
It would not, perhaps, have been impossible that Charlotte should have fallen in love with the careless idiot who dropped the paint, but, given her character, it would have been of all things the most unlikely, while the suggestion of turpentine in itself paved a way to her heart. She walked out, soberly, discreetly, and in the fear of God, with Painter No. 2 for a respectable period; and then, aged eightcen, became formally engaged, receiving from him as a token an immense oval brooch, about the size of a duck's egg, having on the front the faces of two (unspecified) Roman emperors, and on the back a picture of Vesuvius in full eruption and a good deal of the rest of Italy as well.
Then, since means were too small to think of marriage, Charlotte, having given up her first place, answered an advertisement in the Times-one of those stately, condescending advertisements in which a Young Married Lady at Brixton expressed herself Willing (but not in the least anxious, understood) to take a thoroughly Respectable and well-recommended Young Woman into her service as Housemaid proposing to give her in exchange for her dutiful service Eight Pounds a year, the young woman to find her own Tea and Sugar.
The worried employers who may now be seen kneeling in rows, as it were, in the columns of the daily papers, imploring the
service of female servants on their own terms, have absolutely nothing in common with that perfectly independent and entirely serene little lady who became Charlotte's mistress. She had been a certain Betty Dale, of Fowkes Buildings, Great Tower Street, in the City of London, daughter to a wine merchant, and now the very new wife of a Mr. James Barlow, a thoroughly worthy, respectable, affluent young man (young men were affluent in those days much sooner than they are now) given to blue swallow-tail coats and already to a little stoutness, and having a large, sober, comfortable house, filled with the richest mahogany furniture, in the (then) not wholly undesirable neighbourhood of Brixton.
Perhaps Charlotte, curtseying in that pompous dining-room (with a very small hair-cord box, which contained absolutely the whole sum of her worldly possessions, waiting for her in the passage outside), loved that very pretty, brisk, practical, and severely plain-spoken little mistress from the first. It is quite certain, at least, that her own devotedly diligent and dutiful nature soon learnt to profoundly respect and appreciate an employer who never accepted less than one's best work, to whom rust on the intricate steel fenders was as a sin and a sorrow, and the fine polish on the piano-a young Broadwood-was a glory and a joy.
Little Charlotte was just twenty-a couple of years younger than her mistress-and both had still some of the housewifely arts to learn, and learnt them together. The homely head of the maid and the pretty head of the mistress, put together, evolved one day the loveliest patent furniture polish, the recipe whereof is still to be seen in Madam Betty's book and fine handwriting, next to directions for making the Night Cap-a very powerful nightcap composed of a terrifying mixture of wines and spirits, of milk and lemon-of which Charlotte nightly administered a large glassful to her master after Family Prayers; and to her mistress a minute quantity, for company's sake.
It was in these early days, too, that Madam Betty began a war, which she was still waging indefatigably seventy years later at her death, on Charlotte's misuse of the aspirate. Poor Charlotte's intense conscientiousness and heroic efforts of memory never enabled her to overcome a habit of alluding to one of the guest chambers as the Harch-room, or to a minor prophet as Abbakuk.
Soon, as she did much fine needlework for her mistress, she had a little sitting-room reserved for her especial use; and there
sometimes, but not very often, she wrote a long, neat letter to the painter-lover, in which she faithfully described the ingredients of the patent furniture polish rather than the feelings of her heart; and dreamt a little over her sewing, all the same, of that small home she would keep for him, which, severely plain indeed, should yet have about it the fragrant peace that lay upon Madam Betty's.
Then, one dark day there came the news that the lover was injured-it might be mortally injured-by a fall from a ladder. Little Charlotte went, trembling and stricken, to her mistress: and Betty, whose sympathy was always perfectly practical, herself packed the maid's few possessions in the hair-cord trunk, wrapped her in a stout, warm shawl of plaid, and sent her off at once, in charge of a mentally and physically robust cook, to be placed in the next stage-coach starting for the West. All her life Charlotte remembered that cold, bewildered journey; and her strange sensation of unreality-of being, in some sort, a numb spectator of her own sorrows. She arrived too late. Fate and the cruel surgery of that day had done their worst. She stayed in her home six weeks, and then, bidden by her good little mistress, came back to Brixton, in a decent black shawl pinned with the Romanemperor brooch He had given her, and in the family bonnet sadly dyed black, and took up her duties once more.
On the very rare occasions on which she mentioned the subject she owned simply that, though it seemed a little hard to her at the time, Madam Betty's strict insistence that all her work should be done as usual, and all done well, was the truest kindness. Tears made rust-marks on those immaculate fenders, and decidedly hampered her needle as she worked in the afternoons. So she gulped them down with many a choking sigh, until, at last, time had drawn its protecting film over the wound. The lover had been, indeed, the choice of her heart, but not the habit of her life. That life, her care, her interest, her labour, her devotion, were henceforth wholly her mistress's.
It is difficult to remember in these days, when inequality of social conditions is resented even by the people who profit by it, that in those it was as calmly accepted by the losers as the gainers. The night Charlotte returned to Madam Betty's service the two women first kissed each other when they said Good-night, and never omitted that tender little ceremony till Madam's death. But, not at all the less, Charlotte was always absolutely and respectfully convinced that Madam was not only the superior creature
and a different order of being from herself, but, to come at once to a practical application, that Providence itself desired and expected that for master and mistress should be the fine linen and lace of life, the great rooms rich in solid furniture and noiseless carpets, and for herself the bare boards of a small, severe bedroom, scrubbed to a very exquisite whiteness, a night-cap without the very ghost of a frill, and those wages of eight pounds a year, increasing by degrees-they took seventy years to do it-to fiveand-twenty.
At an impossibly early hour in the morning Charlotte began her day by descending to the drawing-room-whose beauties of wool-worked sofa, curtains, cushions, and bell-pulls, of Dresden shepherd and shepherdess bowing to each other over a gilt clock on a white marble mantelpiece, Madam Betty had deeply impressed upon her-to dust and clean. No other hand but Charlotte's careful and reverent one was esteemed worthy to polish the large round table where Books of Beauty, very richly bound, 'Manfred,' which nobody in the house had ever read, and albums wherein Betty and her sisters had pressed flowers and seaweed and written little poems, were arranged in symmetrical patterns. Charlotte alone was entrusted-and deeply and palpitatingly proud to be entrusted-with the keys of the cabinets containing wax roses, china, and Indian ivory fans. Every night she rolled up the curtains-worked in wools by her little mistress in that indefatigable spinsterhood—and, as it were, put them to bed; and every morning she got them up, or, more correctly, let them down.
After breakfast Charlotte headed the line of servants as they came in to prayers, and, with her thin, useful hands clasped on her lap, listened devoutly to master's reading of the Scripturesat the same time managing to have a very keen eye for the shortfrocked kitchen-maid, who had a tendency to giggle.
Then Charlotte pressed and folded her master's Times-the quaint little Times of seventy years ago—and laid out in the hall the coat and the neck-cloth in which, two or three times a week, he went on 'Change to see to the hop trade.
Once, only once, she omitted that important duty, and wept over the omission as she tied herself into that unfrilled night-cap when she went to bed, and lay, worried and awake, thinking of it, half the night. Charlotte was certainly not of that happygo-lucky temperament which, for the possessor's own comfort,
is better worth having than thousands of gold and silver. But, le monde aux inquiets! the happy-go-lucky temperament is not good for domestic service, and the servant possessing it would have stayed but a very short time in Madam Betty's household.
A large part of the mornings little Charlotte spent on a flight of steps, preventing the appearance of dust on the top of the huge baldachinos above the great four-post beds, or on the top of a sternly-scrubbed chair, kept for the purpose, dusting the pictures. Both she and her mistress were more than common small-it was the especial age, surely, of the tiny, quiet, determined, domesticated woman, downwards from that great little Lady who at that very moment was gathering the reins of the government of a mighty nation into her capable hands.
At one o'clock it was Charlotte's duty to bring in the diningroom lunch of cake, wine, and sandwiches; as it was her duty also to bring in the nine o'clock evening tea, with the fat tortoiseshell tea-caddy, the little key whereof was in Madam's keeping, and which was always locked before Charlotte received it back again. It was not certainly that she, personally, was not trusted; her mistress was simply following the universal custom of a day when tea was very little less expensive than wine.
Before Charlotte's six neat side curls-three on each side of the face were tinged with grey, she had become in all household matters a Chief of the Staff, with Madam Betty as Commander of the Forces, and more zealous for her mistress's cause than the mistress herself.
It was among her many proud privileges in that position to act as lady's-maid on the rare occasions when self-helpful Madam Betty required such an adjunct. The large, ugly, comfortable bedroom, with Madam before the great glass-with its mahogany cap-stands on either side-arrayed in her purple dinner silk and her delicate old lace to dine with the Joneses of Clapham, and the homely maid, with her neat, brief skirts, white stockings and flat shoes, and her plain face eager with interest and pleasure, trying first the effect of this cap or ornament and then of that on Madam's charming little person, form a pleasant picture.
Presently James, in a rich, fancy waistcoat, would come in from his dressing-room and make jokes, which always amused him because Betty never saw them and Charlotte plainly, though respectfully, considered them as a sadly frivolous interruption to really serious and important business. It was Charlotte who put