Gisborne . . .

With apologies etc etc etc . . . as before.

Of course, I lost my job and was cast onto the street with no back wages and had only a penny in my pocket.  What does a penny buy these days?  Our world is in a penny-pinching crisis, so precious little I can tell you.

I ran through my talents.  I can work hard, I am able in the house and fields, I can handle dogs and horses, even sheep.  But then men are preferred for such things and women are relegated to the domestic affairs in any house.  I looked down at my hands.  I can embroider as well, but the hands that had once held a needle and dragged gold thread through silk were roughened and red and my clothes gave no inkling that I once followed gentler pursuits.

I did not know this district well and when I came to the first big house, I went to the door in the yard and spoke to the maid who carried slops to the piggery.  ‘Any jobs?’ I asked.

‘Here?’  She looked not unlike a pig herself, turned up nose, bristled hair that curled from an unwieldy knot and a body that indicated the pigs wouldn’t get everything in that bucket.  ‘You’d have to be strong in mind and body to work here.’

I sighed and hooked my hair behind my ears.  ‘I am.’  She needn’t know the truth.

‘See the factor.  He’s in the kitchen.  We need a laundry maid if you’re hands can take it.’

As I left her I thought: ‘They are chafed anyway, what the hell!’

To cut a long story short, I became a laundry maid within minutes.  In a house of pretension (I could see the tapestry hangings and the pewter and silver) whose owner I didn’t know.  My first instruction was to go to the Lord’s chamber and collect his clothes and proceed to wash them and mend anything that needed it forthwith.

I tied my hair in a black leather strip and climbed the stair.   My legs ached as I hadn’t rested since being thrown from my previous work, and I cursed the day that had brought me to this as I knocked on the door of the chamber.

‘Enter,’ a muffled voice called.

I pushed the door ajar and slipped into a curtsy.  ‘Your laundry, sir.  I am to take it.’

‘Well!  It’s the imprudent Prudence.’

I looked up quickly at the sound of that voice which chimed within my memory.  My, my but you should have seen what I saw.

Such a sight . . .

Such a sight!

‘What are you doing in my house, Prudence?  And asking for my laundry?  Oh wait, let me guess.  You lost your place, didn’t you?

Asking me in to collect the silver, they sacked you.’

I walked swiftly around the room, away from his half-naked form, collecting linen and fine cotton this’s and that’s.  ‘Indeed, sir.  And now I am your laundry maid, so if you’ll excuse me . . .’

I was once again diminished by his height, for I am but a short wench and as I pushed past him and left,

Damn him.

I was conscious that he followed me with his eyes.  Damn him.