Archive for October, 2022

Gray Lace, part 48


Chaos reigns in the butler’s pantry and Catherine has been sent to assist during the formal dinner with the Pettigrews and Trevor as guests. She gathered the scene together long enough to create its failure.

“Ah, here you are, Miss Catherine.” Raycroft rubbed the sweat from his eyes. “Please pour out the white and two more requested champagnes. Mrs. Stafford’s glaring at our slow deliveries.” A small bell rang softly from the ceiling corner. “Oh drat, I’ve no one … would you … no, she’ll not approve.”

Catherine held her breath, praying he wouldn’t ask, while she poured the golden liquid and uncorked new bottles.

“But I need …” he had balanced a large tray full of platters for the next course with one hand, but he started leaning into the pantry countertop. The tray titled several serving dishes of lobster tails toward their escape onto the floor. Catherine rescued the red shells and gathered his elbow into her side.


The bell sounded again.

“Good God, my side hurts!” He handed off the rest of the tray’s weight, pushed her aside and vomited into the small sink.

As gracefully as possible, Catherine twirled her tray through the swinging door and into the den of heroes and predators. She had depended on the edit of the rich: ignore the invisible servants.

“Oh really, Aunt Edith, a woman is serving the fish course.” Young Myra turned to Trevor and reminded him that her family did know better. “She should be downstairs!” Placing her hand on her cleavage, she added, “I do apologize for our manners.”

Trevor swung his gaze back to the center flower display.

At that moment, through the heat of embarrassment and fear of disclosure, Catherine would later acknowledge an understanding and empathy for Joann, Jacob, and anyone else trying to survive discrimination. She now knew what the bottom of society’s ladder felt like and she hated it.

She clutched the tray. She didn’t dare to look at Trevor. She stole a quick glance at one of the nervous footmen and turned to face away from the table. He opened the pantry door for her and her lobsters. He followed her and whispered, “I’ll serve these. When I get back hand me the salad plates, two at a time, as I come back with the empty appetizer dishes.”

“Thank you!” Maybe, just maybe she hadn’t been recognized.

When the door swung open a few moments later she heard Jared Pettigrew question his father, “Wasn’t that Catherine?”

The next two salad plates shook in her hands. From behind, Willa timidly informed her that she would remove the dirty plates and that Mr. Raycroft was resting downstairs in his quarters.

“Thank you, Willa.”

The third dish removal came through the swinging doors and Catherine heard Trevor saving her day once again. “Mr. Pettigrew, are Americans using first names of their servants? Do you refer to all of your servants informally or just the forgetful ones?” He took a sip of his wine and smiled, “I’m sure all of us can appreciate how very busy and hardworking Mrs. Stafford’s household servants are tonight. By using their first names are we slipping in our own social ethics, are we not?”

The senior Pettigrew responded, “Of course not, Lord Coffman, and I am sure my son misidentified her, and I’m quite sure she’ll learn not to enter the room again. Possibly you’re right about the amount of excitement downstairs.” He leaned in and rested on his elbows. His own manners slipping. “Maybe it’s you. They’re excited about your lordship’s visit.”

His wife, Cybthia Pettigrew, quietly turned the color of the lobster. “Oh dear, please excuse me.” She pushed back her chair and rushed from the room. Mrs. Stafford stood and started to follow her.

“There’s no need, Mrs. Stafford. I’ll look after my wife. She does have occasional shellfish allergies.” John Pettigrew slowly stood and placed his diner napkin on his chair. “I’ll be just a moment. Please continue with your conversation.”

The others started to enjoy using the silver crackers on the hard shells, but above the crackling sounds they couldn’t ignore the raised voices wafting into the dining room from the main entrance hall.

“Good God, John, it was her!”

“Shut up! Lower your voice, woman!”

Trevor looked around the table and took a moment to observe their shock before he dove into his own panic. He searched for a strategy, a plan, … an anything.

Enough! Until later ; )

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Gray Lace, Part 47


Catherine quickly and sincerely apologized. The apology’s acceptance swiftly arrived, and Mrs. Stafford returned to her entertainment worries. “I know nothing of this second young man other than he lives with his parents next door and he’s of the right age.”

Catherine stepped back. “I’m finished, Mrs. Stafford. Will there be anything else?”

“Yes, please inform Cook that you’ll be available to help her and her staff. Raycroft might need you, although, I doubt you’ll be used in the dining room.” Lowering her voice, she said, “Those girls are more trouble than a double hurricane.”

Sooner than she expected, Catherine heard Raycroft bellowing his butler commands, “Serve the white wine now, not the red.” The screeching traveled down the back stairs from his pantry next to the dining room through the staff hallways to the stuffy dish washing room.

“Oh dear,” Cook bounced her roundness around the warm kitchen, “He’ll be ready for the fish course now. Are the lobster tails out of the warmer? Salads ready? What about the roasted almonds for the French green beans?”

Catherine lowered her head over the deep porcelain sink. She hid in the shadows and stayed out of the way as best she could while the chatty kitchen maid entertained her.

“It’s very kind of you to help me wash all these dishes tonight, Miss Catherine. I’d have never finished scrubbing those pots even into next week. There’s too many. There’re too many frigging courses tonight for all that blooming royalty.”

“Language, Willa,” Cook disciplined as she hurried by them.

Willa lowered her voice and continued her vent, “Cook could hear a fish fork drop on a plush carpet upstairs, all the way from the third floor.” Louder, she conveyed her apology to the entire kitchen staff, especially to her immediate boss, “Sorry! I’ll not do it again,” returning to her silent but temporary assistant she gushed, “I’d give anything to see the fancy folk upstairs.”

“Maybe you will,” Catherine dried her hands as a hassled footman appeared from around the corner, “Mr. Raycroft, he needs you, Miss Catherine.” Responding to her astonishment, he went on, “He sent me to tell you he needs you to pour the wine.”

He backed up a few steps as Willa prepared to attack, “She’s helping me! What happened to your own two left hands? Why can’t you do it?”

The young man turned red, threw up his hands in surrender, and marched out of the increasingly warm and moist room.

Catherine gently smiled at the younger girl, “It’s all right. We’re finished here until the next course. I’ll come back down and check on you when I’ve seen to this newest crisis.”

She started out when she heard Willa’s plea, “Don’t you ever get hassled, lose your temper?” She took in a breath and her eyes widened, “Wait, I know what it is? I know why you don’t mind helping upstairs. It’s that royalty! Well, at least come back and let us know if he’s a good looker.”

Catherine surprised them both when she wheeled around and deposited a quick hug on Willa. “I’ll do just that!”

Enough! Until next time.

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Gray Lace, Part 46


A block east of Trevor’s hotel, Catherine carefully shut the ornately carved wardrobe door, so Mrs. Stafford wouldn’t be startled out of the middle of her informative monologue. Her value increased. “So, you see, my dear, tonight’s dinner is important to Mr. Stafford, because he hopes to entice Mr. Pettigrew, our neighbor, into investing in his textile mill.”

“Yes, ma’am. Have you invited the entire Pettigrew family for dinner? Your Kitchen staff, especially Cook, seem exceptionally busy and excited today.” She gathered the discarded undergarments and carefully hung the gowns and picked up the ivory handled brush and began to arrange the lady’s hair for the formal dinner.

“It’s strange you should ask. As you probably already know our nieces from Savannah arrived yesterday. It was truly a surprise. Please don’t misunderstand, we do love them.” She reached for her long white gloves and stretched them in frustration. “Mr. Stafford and I are not used to playing cupid. Are all children like this?”


“Nowadays, do all young ladies expect their relatives to, oh how did Miss Sally word it? Oh yes, ‘arrange things?’ We are childless and we were not expecting this storm of youthful energy and silliness interrupting our plans.”

“I really wouldn’t know. If you do not mind, would you please turn to your left? I need to arrange the style you requested.”

“Of course,” Mrs. Stafford primly turned on the hand embroidered stool, taking the gloves with her. “Suddenly, we need two more men to even the table.” She slapped her gloves against her lap. “Quite frankly, I think Miss Sally and Miss Myra worked their scheme through their father and their uncle.”

Catherine slid a hairpin into the growing mountainous creation. “What do you mean. Mrs. Stafford?” She mumbled through the remaining pin she held between her lips. She removed the pin and began applying some hair cream she intended to never allow near her own head.

Her employer glare down at her gloves and Catherine was unprepared for her answer. “The newest Charleston sensation, The Earl of Warrenwood, Lord Trevor Coffman! Our nieces demanded that we invite him to dinner.” The snap of the gloves brought Catherine back to focus on the slime in her hands, which she had nearly slapped onto her mistress’s neck instead of her hair. “Naturally, we had to invite an additional male and we thought of Mr. Pettigrew’s son, Jared.””

Then her hands did indeed slip.

Enough! Until later

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