I suppose I ought to just call her Lotti, if only because that was the name she ‘worked’ under and inadvertently ended up with. I’m trying to be tactful here because I always liked Lotti, but it has to be admitted that her occupation was perhaps not the one her mother would have hoped she’d have gone into. There again as Lotti never knew her mother, we cannot be sure of that.
Lotti was a foundling and was raised in one of the foundling hospitals. No need to mention which one. They were good with her, taught her to read and write and trained her to be a lady’s maid.
Hence at the age of fourteen she went out into the world set on a new career. But alas it did not go well. There are houses to which you would send a fourteen year old girl, and there are houses you wouldn’t. And frankly there are houses where you would only burn them down when you could
guarantee you’d got the entire family and all the staff trapped inside. I will say no more.
Lotti left that house and desperately tried to make a living. Eventually, after trying any number of things, most of which didn’t last long, with employers who were more or less sordid but none who were what you might call decent, she decided she would have to take charge of her destiny.
Feeling that fate seemed to demand that she provide what we might call ‘erotic services’, she’d make damned sure she was properly paid for them.
Her knowledge of the houses of the apparently respectable had given her an insight into a market which she felt she could fulfil. Thus she set out her stall as ‘the naughty maid.’
Men of a certain age would hire her and send her as a birthday present to a friend, ensuring that his wife and family were out. ‘Gentlemen’ would even hire her themselves. She demanded payment in advance, cash only, and it was tucked away in an account with her usurer before she would ever cross her client’s threshold. Some looked down on her for it, but as she pointed out, how many innocent maids were left alone because she was there to provide the service?
The reason I knew her was that the foundling hospital had somehow instilled in her a genuine love of poetry. In her late teens she had many of the poems of the masters off by heart and she would occasionally come to the barge bringing a bottle of wine, a ham, or the makings of a meal. She’d dine with Shena and I and we’d talk poetry and the art of versifying.
Who knows how long she would have lived this existence, but then she made an error. She would get the client’s address and the money and she’d just knock on the door and be shown inside. Except on this occasion the address was slightly wrong. Obviously I’m not going to tell you what the address was, but they’d got the numbers the wrong way round. So Lotti knocked on the door of the wrong house, if memory serves it was number fourteen rather than forty-one.
What made things more interesting was that in this house they’d just hired a new maid from an agency and were expecting her. When Lotti turned up wearing a perfectly respectable maid’s outfit (we shall not mention the somewhat ‘unusual’ underwear), they just assumed she was the new girl. As an aside I’ve often wondered what happened to the girl who was supposed to turn up, did she make the opposite mistake and arrive by accident in the house where they were expecting Lotti? Frankly I don’t know and I long ago decided not to find out.
So when Lotti arrived, she was welcomed by the housekeeper, which was unusual, introduced to other staff, which came as something of a surprise to her, and was then introduced to the Mistress herself. This had never happened before. Lotti inquired, cautiously, about the master of the house, but the Mistress informed her, somewhat sadly, that she was a widow. She welcomed Lotti to her household, hoped she’d be very happy, and the housekeeper then showed Lotti her room and instructed her in her duties.
That night, in her solitary bed in a small room she had to herself, Lotti lay there and pondered the situation. She had been trained to be a lady’s maid, so she could do the job. She pondered her previous employment but eventually decided that she would try this new life.
Over the next few weeks she got to know the others in the household and they got to know her. Both the Mistress and her housekeeper were impressed; Lotti threw herself into the job. Yes there were areas where she was rusty, but when a maid moves from one household to another, there is always a period of transition when she learns the new way of doing things.
On top of that Lotti is, in reality, a nice person with a captivating smile and a genuine willingness to help. Her past had made her wary, but it had not yet made her bitter. As they got to know her, they made use of her strengths.
We’re still on tour, so to read the rest of this story click on the link below
Tallis Steelyard Book Tour… Something of the Night by Jim Webster @JimWebster6