Constance Wynne Hare exhaled noisily. “This is most inconvenient, Miss Emery. I can’t believe you would be so inconsiderate!”
Miss Emery remained unmoved. “I’m afraid I cannot in good conscience continue in your employment.” Her lips pursed thinly. The expression made them entirely unattractive.
“But I am lunching with Mr. Wood in less than an hour,” Constance explained with what she thought certain must be admirable restraint. “It is imperative that I be on time and presentable. Whatever should he think of me if I turn up late—or like this?” she added, gesturing wildly at her reflection, which repeated her movements agreeably. Both were a shambles. The late night, and even later morning, had left the young woman looking in need of another week’s rest at least.
“It is immaterial to me, miss,” Emery continued, unruffled. “I am leaving at once. You may forward my final wages to the agency.” Without further ado, Emery picked up her dowdy bag and stalked down the hallway. In a moment, Constance heard the front door close forcefully behind a very vexing lady’s maid.
Constance stared at herself in the mirror for a moment, noting the distressed look upon her face and the horror of her hair. This would not do. “I must cancel lunch,” she said, although there was no longer anyone to hear the words. Wrapping her marabou-trimmed satin robe more tightly around her shoulders, Constance rose and crossed to the telephone desk. She picked up the receiver, then paused.
Whom should she call?
Sighing, Constance picked up the dialer and, with deliberate slowness, twirled the digits to obtain her mother’s exchange.
“Yes, hello. Matthison, is my mother at liberty for a call?”
While she waited, Constance heaved another sigh. It was quite a thing to be brought down to the level of phoning her mother for rescue.
“Constance, I am preparing a luncheon, you could not have called at a more inconvenient time.”
“Mother, I’m desperate!” Constance wailed. “Miss Emery has bolted.”
“Oh, Constance, not again.” Her mother’s disapproval seemed to snake right through the telephone cord to admonish her. “Why can you not keep servants?”
“I have had the cook for three months now,” Constance said with some tartness.
“Only because you never eat at home,” Mrs. Wynne Hare countered, successfully silencing Constance for the moment. “Whatever shall you do now?”
Constance pouted. “I rather hoped that you would have some motherly advice.”
“You know what my advice will be, Constance. Stop behaving like a raving lunatic and be a sensible girl. Marry a nice young banker and settle down in the country.”
Constance winced. It wasn’t so much that she didn’t anticipate the use of the phrase. This phrase formed the foundation of Mother’s perennial advice, after all. But the words had been delivered with such a ringing attitude of certainty that her own will wavered if but for a moment.
An ordinary girl would have quailed before the commanding maternal tone. Constance, however, was no ordinary girl. What a robust constitution and plenty of parental latitude in the past had not provided, a generous trust fund account finished off. This proved a freedom one would not easily relinquish.
She tried another tack. “How on earth could I snag a banker if I don’t even have a lady’s maid to call my own?” Check, Constance added silently.
Her mother’s sigh sounded suspiciously like defeat to Constance’s ears. “Well, I suppose that is true enough,” her mother said.
“Of course it is! Now whatever shall I do? I don’t think the agency will give me another so soon.”
“You appear to have been born most undeservedly under a lucky star,” Mrs. Wynne Hare said after a minute pause. “Miss Vanbrugh’s lady’s maid has recently left her employment.”
“You mean Mrs. Baird’s employment.” Constance corrected her mother.
“Indeed,” Mrs. Wynne Hare’s tone indicated clearly she did not appreciate the correction. Constance winced. She would pay for the slip later. “In fact, her marriage rendered the position no longer suitable, it seems. Collier has an abhorrence of working for married ladies.”
“Collier?” Constance tried to conjure an image of the person in question and found herself unable to recall a thing about Miss Vanbrugh’s lady’s maid, which spoke well on her behalf. The ones you noticed often provided unpleasant shocks. A good lady’s maid should be as flattering as a well cut chemise and just as unobtrusive.
“Yes, Collier. I must say it seems the height of irony that all of her charges seem to end up married rather sooner than expected.”
Constance could not help but notice how the glow had returned to her mother’s tone. Check for the other player this time. This peculiarity of habit or luck on the part of the lady’s maid did not bode well for the acquisition, but Constance was in a bind. “Well then, can you phone and have her sent around? Things are a shambles here and I am meant to be lunching with Mr. Wood in less than an hour!”
“I do not approve of that young man,” Mrs. Wynne Hare sniffed. “He is decidedly louche.”
“I know, Mother, but until I can snag a suitable banker, I do enjoy amusing myself with the likes of Mr. Wood.”
“Your inability to ‘snag a banker’, as you vulgarly put it, may be due entirely to the amount of time you are seen gallivanting around town with the likes of Mr. Wood.”
“I need the strong guidance of a good lady’s maid,” Constance countered with surprising smoothness, which impressed and cheered her no end. “Do please ring Collier and send her around, there’s a dear, Mother.”
“Well, all right.” Her mother sighed with the requisite weariness.
“Heavens, I am going to be most horribly late for lunch.”
“Oh, Constance, when is that not the case?”
“But what should I do to occupy myself while I’m waiting?”
“Can you not read a book or something?”
“Mother, be serious,” Constance said, her eyes wide with shock.
“For heaven’s sake! Take a bath, Constance.”