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A Slipper Bath Love Story

By Susan Maxwell Stewart

 
I saw him across the water.  His eyes were the bluest of blue i had ever seen.  The colour of the sky is the only thing i can compare them to.  He smiled at me and I felt myself go all shivery and i still managed to smile back.  Then my sister Elizabeth called me over and i had to tear myself away from him.  The expression "near but yet so far" is apt for this occasion.  He reminded me of a debonair Calvary soldier who would come and rescue a damsel in distress anytime in need.  Well Elizabeth needed me so i had to go and see what the problem was... the story of my life I seem to have missed another opportunity.

 My name is Victoria, I am 14 years old and am from a family of 8 children.  We were more, but 3 of my siblings died at birth.  I live in a house near to the top of the hill in Brighton.  Its got a great view if you go to the Lady Tarner's house and sneak into the grounds.  You can sometimes see an island called the Isle of Wight on the horizon.  There are times where the purple, green, grey mists mingle together like a blanket and covers up the view.  Then you can see nothing.  Our houses are close together a proper community we are!  this has advantages and disadvantages.

 My mother takes washing in from the local rich people and launders and irons them so they look crisp with a bluish tinge it must be the soap in the washing that does that.  Mondays is not a good day for my mother as she is so busy with the washing.  So i take all the children to the Slipper bath after school Its psychological really if mum makes the washing clean why cant I make my brothers and sisters clean too.  Its really expensive sometimes Lady Tarner gives us a penny each so we can go and get on with our lessons.  Lady Tarner is kind.  She believes in children going to school and getting an education.  She said to my mother once that she thinks I ought to finish school and go to college.  I am worried as my dad is not with us , my mum said he died of consumption.  Mrs Jones said it was because we have to share the water from a well and she things it is contaminated, and that my dad died because of it.  I wish that we were rich and I could help my mother as she struggles, although the neighbours around here are really lovely.  

 I remember when my mother was having her last baby soon after father died, and Mrs Jones were up all night with her, and dressed us all for school so my mother could rest.  There was another time when I went outside to take out the rubbish and a rat jumped out at me.  i screamed and was in deep shock and started shaking uncontrollably. Well Mrs Jones heard the commotiion and came straight out and shouted over the fence was I alright, I could not speak, just stare at the beast that was slowely cowering and backing off but still staring at me, its hairy nose twitching.  I was petrified.  Mrs Jones told me after that i probably saved myself from being able to move and that rat bites are really very serious.  I was off to the Slipper baths again, with my brothers and sister Elizabeth and just as we got there I took a great big look at the Slipper shaped building and started dreaming of Cinderella and how the slipper fitted her and her prince scooped her off to the castle to get married and live happily ever after.  I went into the baths with my family and notices straight away there was a really strong smell of gas but the childrern were keen to get into the baths.  While we were there we were having such a great time it came as a surprise to find that a siren type of alarm went off and we were all told to get straight out and not even collect our towels or anything and go outside.  Shaking and shivering in our bare feet we hurried out into the darkness of the hallway.  There we were ushered into the courtyard and then I saw him again i tried to cover up but there was nothing to put over me.  I went as red as a beetroot.  Then I was told to go into the building and they gave me a blanket I did not see him after that at the Slipper Baths.

 Now I am a Lady's maid and am 18 years old and going into service with a new family in Brighton who have moved away from London to take the spa waters.  Mrs Cowley needs to take the spa and has a daily dip in the sea.  She goes out with a lady called Martha Gunn who is strong and big with a round turned up nose and chubby cheeks.  She has a lovely kind smile and as Mrs Cowley puts it " Dips you in gusto!"  Brrr!   I love sitting by the sea and watching the endless oceans and fluffy cotton wool clouds and I even get paid for it.  Its great and exciting this new job and tonight I shall meet my new family beside Mrs Cowley I am so excited!

 You know when you get the feeling that something life changing will happen to you soon.  I had goose pimples all over my body as i checked whether my hair was in place and my apron crisp and starchy like it should be.  Looking at my reflexion in the mirror I wonder about all those years ago and my siblings.  Out of my brothers who are left Peter seemed to be doing well.  After school he started as a butler in a private household but they soon discovered how educated he was and made him a tutor to their children.  We really are going up in the world.  Here is the moment I have been looking forward to , my heart beating as i slowly walk down the stairs with Lady Cowley.  I pass through the drawing room and there in front of me across the room was the same boy with his dream blue eyes!  Everything else melted and all i could hear was the sweet soft music sounding like gentle ripples in water and the rhythm of my beating heart.

 

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This page was amended on 09/04/2014
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