Section Summary: Anything, anything, touches a Hale or what is a Hale's, and I'll make sure that it, and all its friends, know how terrible a mistake that was. I will make them know, and never forget, and never, ever, trespass on a Hale again. Ever.
WARNING! Contains Rosalie's unbridled cruelty that some readers have found disturbing. Contains repeated and emphatic use of profanity.
Rochester, April, 1933 — Hale household:
I couldn't help it.
In the days that followed Mother's not-birds-and-bees talk, I kept looking at the servants that had, up to this point in my life, been invisible. Certainly they represented the Hale family well. They were attractive, but not excessively so.
They looked disinterested as always, but they didn't fool me. They knew.
They had heard every word Mother had said to me. There are no secrets from the family's servants.
Which one was it? Which one was Father fucking? Not one of them gave me any indication. Not one of them betrayed a hint of anything under my constant scrutiny that day.
The next morning my maid was brushing my hair, as she always did. I looked at her through the looking glass. She had been my maid for over ten years. I had always thought of her as old, but she was less than ten years my senior. That put her in her mid-twenties. She wasn't beautiful, but she was pretty.
"What is your name?" I asked her. In all her years of service, I had never known her name. I didn't even know that she existed; I didn't even know of her presence ... until now. She had always been just one of the servants.
"My name is Carol, Miss Hale," she responded, continuing to brush my hair. She didn't return my look, concentrating on her work.
It was her!
"Are you ..." I started, but then I didn't finish my thought: Are you fucking my father? I just looked at her reflexion.
"Yes, miss?" she asked, all innocence. Too innocent.
No, she wasn't innocent. She was fucking MY FATHER!
Of course she was. She followed me wherever I went, tending to my every need, at table, in the drawing room, preparing me for my social outings. Always the good little servant. In short, she was always by me, ... or always in Father's view.
O! I was going to get her! I was going to get her but good! Fuck my father, will you?
As the day progressed, I watched everything. I watched her, and then, when Father returned home, I watched him. He didn't look at her at all. It was if he was embarrassed. He knew I knew!
I made my plan. At supper, I excused myself at the first course, complaining of lightheadedness. I got looks from my parents, but I still made my escape.
Not upstairs. Downstairs.
"Mrs. Wilson," I addressed the housekeeper. I had caught all the servants at their supper unawares, they all hastily arose, not looking at me.
"Miss Hale, do you require anything? Is something the matter with supper?" Mrs. Wilson was eternally calm. I wondered if she was the old fuck.
"Supper is well enough, I suppose ..." I heard Cook's strangled cry from across the hall. She and her helpers had been putting away the cooking things when I arrived. They had to stop work at my presence, of course. She did not yet know it, but this was going to be the start of a very long night, indeed.
I was going to get them all.
"... but I came down because I wasn't feeling particularly well. I was wondering if Carol ..." I looked at the girl in question. Her back was toward me, and I saw it stiffen. Good. "... would accompany me on a ride around the block in the carriage. Some fresh air and company will do me some good, I think."
"Yes, of course, Miss Hale, right away." Mrs. Wilson looked to Mr. Jones, the head butler. He nodded.
Servants started flying everywhere. Four went to prepare the carriage, two more left with Carol to prepare her for the cold, cold ride in the carriage. That left Mrs. Wilson and Mr. Jones, hovering by me, waiting to release them to supervise the other servants.
"Is there anything else you require, Miss Hale?" Mrs. Wilson asked.
"Yes," I smiled, loving this destruction I had wrought; loving the destruction I was about to visit upon them. Fuck my father, will you? I'll show you!
"It's cold outside, so a thermos of Cook's chicken broth will keep me warm during the journey. If it's not too much trouble ..." It was. Tonight the soup was a cod chowder. Cook and her staff started scrambling, unpacking everything they had just washed, counted and packed.
"No trouble at all, Miss Hale," Mrs. Wilson answered calmly, but I heard rather loud grumbling from the kitchen. Cook wasn't particularly known for her discipline.
So I went over there, and stood right in front of her.
"What," I enunciated each word, "was that you said, Cook?"
Of course, her station didn't allow her to address me. She stared at me, wide-eyed. She had never been directly reprimanded before by one of the family.
So Mrs. Wilson rescued her: "Sorry, Miss Hale, Cook was just making sure your broth would be prepared correctly."
Preparing chicken broth. Hard, wasn't it, for someone who had been making soups for more than nineteen years for our family alone? I let it pass.
"Yes, well, about that," I gave Cook one more hard glare before I returned my attention to Mrs. Wilson, "last time I got a thermos of soup some fool didn't put the cap on tightly enough, and the stuff was so tepid that it was undrinkable. I'd hate to have food prepared for a Hale so poorly represented. Cap on tightly this time, Mrs. Wilson, could you pass that on so we don't have another mess like before?"
I had started by addressed Mrs. Wilson, but then I turned and said most of it staring at Cook, daring her even to twitch. Cook stood frozen and then quickly dropped her eyes. I had cowed a woman easily thirty years my senior. Good.
"Oh, one more thing." Cook really shouldn't have grumbled like she had, if she knew her place. I guess she didn't. I guess I'd have to help her learn it. "I'm sure I'll be hungry after my ride. Supper tonight was all well and good, I suppose, but I'd like a light meal sent to my room after my return. Something good. An omelet, perhaps? You know my preferences, right, Cook: crab, shallots, garlic — not too salty this time, please — and hollandaise sauce, yes? And freshly squeezed orange juice. And some chocolate served hot? What was dessert tonight? Banana pudding? Too heavy and too plain. How about a slice of lemon meringue pie? No, a chocolate mousse, to go with my drink. That would be nice." Yes, nice, and not something we had had in weeks.
And I would eat not a bite of any of it. Well, maybe a bite or two of the omelet. Cook did a really good job with all the food, really, when she wasn't fucking MY FATHER!
Cook and her staff would have a very, very late night, cleaning up after all the additional cooking, and a very, very early morning. As always. Cook and her staff were always the first ones up. The cooking fires didn't start themselves, you know.
"Yes, of course, Miss Hale. Anything else you require?" Mrs. Wilson would never be shaken tonight, but that was fine. There was more than a week of nights left before the wedding.
"Yes, the fresh air will help clear my head, I'm sure Carol's ready to prepare me for the ride by now, right? Cook, remember, tight cap on the thermos." And I glided back up the stairs.
As Carol and I rode in the carriage, I kept staring at her. How to fire the opening salvo? I just didn't know how. Something like the following: So, do you wiggle your ass against my father when he's fucking you during your period? Mother had said those words so casually, but I couldn't even imagine saying them out loud without flinching inside.
So I just glared at her.
"Pleasant weather today, Carol, wasn't it?" I asked sweetly. It was pleasant today, that is, if you wished to make popsicles out of your fingers ... that were mittened. I saw my breath as I spoke, and Carol was shivering.
I wasn't. I was on fire, as I was staring at the girl who was fucking my FATHER.
"Yes, Miss Hale," she agreed meekly.
"Hm. I think I need to drink some soup." I suggested.
"Yes, Miss Hale," Carol answered. She attempted to open the thermos.
She had very strong hands, thanks to her years of service.
Cook's hands were much, much stronger. She could not get the cap to turn no matter how hard she tried.
So we had to stop the carriage, and she had to trudge through the snow in her formal shoes, slipping twice, and have the driver open the thermos — it took him more than a minute as she stood out in the cold, suffering as the snow snuck into her shoes — for me to get my cup full of soup. The carriage started up again as I took miserly sips of hot broth, staring at Carol shivering through the curtain of steam rising from my cup, warming my face.
"Oh, you poor thing! You must be so cold, Carol." Her lips were blue. "Here, have some of my soup." I extended my arm, offering the cup in a friendly fashion.
"Th-th-that's-t's-t's qu-qu-ite al-ll-ll right, Miss-ss-ss." Carol looked overcome.
Carol didn't look anything like the girl in my arms, but those two moment married themselves in my mind: my absolute cruelty to Carol and my even worse cruelty to this girl. After all, Carol is still alive, and would be much longer than the little thing in my arms. Carol eventually escaped me.
But not from this memory. Not that night.
"No, Carol, I absolutely insist!" And, as I extended my arm toward her, and as her shaking hands reached out to the cup, reached out to me, in supplication, I let the cup go the instant before her hands could grasp it.
It was helpful that we had also hit a bump just then; it completely covered my gesture. ... Of course, we hit a bump every three seconds, so the "accident" wasn't entirely unplanned.
"Oops! Clumsy me!" I cried as hot soup splattered all over her blouse and petticoat.
No, she didn't get hurt. No, she didn't get burned. Oh, well.
But guess who would be up all night tonight washing, and rewashing, the stink of chicken broth out of her clothes?
I lent her my hanky as she obligingly and continuously apologized. More things for her to wash. But she didn't get any soup at all from the emptied cup.
I'm actually glad she didn't die of hypothermia as we returned to the house. She had a big day ahead of her tomorrow, and the next day, ... and the next. And I would play the leading rôle in those big days of hers.
The next morning a bleary-eyed Carol brushed my hair as I glared at her in the mirror. She brushed it so gently, almost adoringly. I gloated, looking at her reflexion, but then, I couldn't stand the touch of her hands on me any more.
"You know, Carol," I said, savoring the name on my tongue, "I'll just wear my hair down today."
"... yes, Miss Hale," she undid the pins, and started brushing my hair down. I stopped her, grabbing her hand.
"I'll do that, Carol, why don't you take care of the flowers now?" New ones were always replacing old ones. Royce was very diligent in this regard.
"Yes, Miss Hale," Carol responded dully. I saw her fighting not to sway in place.
I left supper again early, and snuck downstairs.
They were all standing already. They must have posted a look-out.
I looked over toward Carol. She was swaying. This was going to be so much fun!
"You know, Mrs. Wilson, ..." I began, but people were already in motion, so I raised my voice: "What's going on?"
"We're preparing the carriage for you, Miss Hale," was Mr. Jones' calm response.
"What in Heaven's name for?" I asked with an unaffected shocked tone, stopping the frantic movement in its tracks.
Well, stopping this frantic movement. The servants stood in place, expectant and confused.
"I'm sorry, Miss Hale, my error." Mr. Jones took this blow of mine well. I gave him a cross look anyway, loving this moment of power over them all. Loving the chaos and tumult soon to come.
"Yes, well, I came down to say that I wasn't particularly pleased with supper tonight either ..." and waited for Cook's response. It didn't come. O! If only I could have been present at the talking-to she must have received for my sake! "... but that's not important right now. My wedding is upon me, and I find I need help to memorize a lied I need to sing to my husband at the reception. If I could borrow Carol again to read out the German to me, it would be a great help ..." I looked at Mrs. Wilson expectantly.
But the answer didn't come from her. "But, Miss Hale, I don't even know German ..." Poor Carol! Speaking out of turn? She must have had a difficult night last night.
That was nothing to what she'd be facing today.
Carol stopped herself as all eyes, except mine, looked to her. I was staring right at Mrs. Wilson.
"I'm sorry," I laughed easily, but the menace was plain in the laughter, "did I just hear someone deny my request? I really must get my hearing checked by that new Dr. Callin or Cullum or whatever his name is. Two times in two days, is it, Mrs. Wilson, that servants are speaking out of turn? Please tell me I'm wrong, for no representative of the Hale family would ever show us in a bad light, isn't that right?"
I had just put Mrs. Wilson in an impossible situation: she would either tell me I was wrong, or tell me the servants, and by extension, she, herself, were a discredit, and by my implication tell me the Hale family was a discredit. She could say nothing right here. Mrs. Wilson remained silent for a second, but then took the blame.
"No, Miss Hale, you are right: this is entirely my fault in mismanaging the ..."
"Oh, no! Mrs. Wilson, perish the thought!" I exclaimed, seeing an even better scenario. "What we have here is a real opportunity! The staff needs a forum to voice their complaints and concerns to their employers. We could have you organize. That way, on a weekly basis, your union representative would talk with Mother and present your latest demands. It's all the rage these days! I'll tell Mother at breakfast tomorrow morning."
Mrs. Wilson's usually stoic face drained of color. "Miss Hale, ..." she began imploringly.
"No, it's all settled now, Mrs. Wilson. Mr. Jones, are Tuesday afternoons good for you? I'll have Mother mark it on her calendar. This is so wonderful: the Hale house always prides itself on progress. We must keep that great wheel turning, mustn't we, now?" Mrs. Wilson and Mr. Jones exchanged a look, and I smiled at them warmly.
"Now," I continued, "as for tonight. I will now retire to my room, and I need Carol there with me." I looked over at her as I said this. "Do you hear me, Carol?"
"Yes, Miss Hale," she whispered, barely able to stand.
"Oh, Carol! Look at you! Are you not well?" I asked, my voice filled with sincerity that I didn't really have.
"I am well, Miss Hale," Carol responded, looking down at her food. I wondered if she stood there long enough would she fall face first into that soup or that stew or whatever it was the servants were eating.
"Mrs. Wilson, I am so concerned for Carol. Look at her! She obviously hasn't been eating enough," ... because of me, "so a slight change in plans is in order. Carol is not to leave this table until she has two full servings of ... what is that, Cook?"
Mr. Jones responded. Meals for the family and the servants were his responsibility, of course. "That is beef barley soup with black bread, Miss Hale."
"Oh, Cook!" I cried. "You have been holding out on us! We get nothing like this upstairs! Beef barley soup? That is my favorite!"
'My favorite' food that I had never in my life tasted. Common food for commoners!
"I tell you what, Cook, have a small bowl of that brought up to my room tonight," it did smell really good, "... with a French baguette instead, if you please," because I surely would not have my lips touch black bread, the staple of those socialists in Soviet Russia, "and please make sure Carol finishes her two helpings before she comes up. Please don't rush, Carol, I don't wish to have your belching interrupting the reading, so unseemly! ... I'll only be waiting in my room until you arrive, so, please, don't hurry on my account." Nothing like leaving conflicting instructions for the underlings. No matter what she did, she could not escape my ire.
"And," I added, "Mr. Jones, what is for lunch tomorrow?"
Mr. Jones responded instantly, "Miss Hale, for lunch tomorrow, you will be having the foie gras as an ..."
"Nonono, Mr. Jones, forget all that. Tomorrow for lunch we will be having this," I said waving toward the servants' table.
"Miss Hale?" Mr. Jones asked, befuddled.
"What's the problem?" Besides Mother going on an absolute rampage. Besides Cook having to undo all the preparations she's done already for tomorrow's lunch. "The twins will love it! And it's so ... authentic! bucolic! It'll be a hit, and such a wonderful surprise for the family!" Well, 'surprise', yes, but 'wonderful' may not be the word Mother would use tomorrow.
Mr. Jones didn't have a response.
"Good, now that's settled, I'm going to need a love seat brought to my room for Carol to sit in as she reads to me. Right now. Oh! I'm supposed to leave for Vera's before lunch tomorrow, but I do so wish to stay for lunch here. Mr. Jones I need two servants to go to Vera's house right now to request that my visit with her be pushed back into the afternoon, this is much too important a message to be transmitted so impersonally by shouting over the telephone, yes?"
Mr. Jones nodded his head, and the room cleared again to do my bidding. Carol, Mr. Jones and Mrs. Wilson were all that was left. And Cook and her staff in the kitchen.
"Now," I said, looking over to Cook, "look at Carol! She is going to need some help, I think. Carol, before you come up to my room, please change into your sleep wear. I know it's informal, but I wish to have an informal setting for the reading. You'll need help doing this, won't you, Carol?" It wasn't really a question. I pointed at a girl with my chin in Cook's staff who was probably fourteen or so. "You." I said, imperiously. The girl shrank behind Cook. "You will assist Carol tonight. Make sure she's dressed and awake and alert in my room when I arrive to receive her ... if that's okay, Mrs. Wilson?"
"Of course, Miss Hale." Mrs. Wilson acquiesced.
But it wasn't okay. The girl was probably the scullery maid, which meant a more senior member of cook's staff would be doing her arduous chores, passing on her work to other members. Cook would probably be mopping the floors tonight.
"Good," I responded. "I must talk with Mother about the wedding. Carol," I also pointed my chin at the girl whose name I didn't know, whose name I didn't care to know, "I'm expecting you two in my room when I do go up to retire." I smiled. "Ta-ta." I sang as I glided back upstairs.
When I did arrive in my room Carol and the girl were standing by my desk in a very intimate embrace. The girl was whispering something to Carol whose shoulders were shaking. What? I cleared my throat. They leapt apart, and the girl pressed something in Carol's hands.
It was a hanky. Carol had been crying. Serves her right; fucking MY FATHER!
"Hm." I said, "who in the world put the love seat so far from my bed? I need Carol right beside me as she's reading to me. You." I turned on the girl who took a step back. No Cook to hide behind this time. "Get some help up here to move the loveseat. Also, did you have any coffee, Carol?"
"No, Miss Hale," Carol spoke to the floor.
"Bring up two cups of coffee for me and Carol, too, girl. Okay, off you go, now, don't just stand there gaping!" The girl scurried off, giving me a curtsy and a wide berth.
Mother came up with the servants.
"Rosalie Hale! What on Earth is going on here?" She wanted to give me trouble? We'll see about that.
"Mother, the wedding, remember? Days away? No time to waste!"
Mother looked at me, the servants moving the love seat to my bed, and to Carol in her night clothes.
"What does your maid so dressed have anything to do with your wedding?" Mother demanded.
I looked at Mother. I looked back to Carol. Mother was looking at Carol and me ... jealously.
MOTHER was fucking Carol!
Well, not tonight, Mother dear!
"Mother, do you wish me to flub Goethe's HeidenRöslein during the reception? Do you wish me to look the fool in front of all those guests and my new husband? How do you expect an heir if all he does is laugh at me during the honeymoon?"
Mother looked nonplussed.
"I've work to do tonight, Mother, so out-out-out," I commanded breezily as I waved her away.
Mother stood still for three seconds, fuming, but then she turned on her heel and exited my room, slamming the door behind her.
"Bridget!" I heard her shout for her own maid. Hm. Maybe she likes them old and frumpy?
I turned to Carol who looked at me astounded. "Miss Hale, I have never seen anyone ..."
"You're not going to say anything untoward about Mother, are you?" I cut her off curtly.
"No, Miss Hale, it's just that I've never seen anyone stand up to ..."
She must be really, really tired to have missed the hint.
"You're saying you've never seen anyone be determined, be courageous, be forceful, ... in short, be a Hale?" I asked.
Carol swallowed. The servants filed out having completed their task, having seen me trump Mother and having heard me give my little speech. Word didn't even need to circulate as it had just hit about half the household already.
It was okay: they'd see more of me tomorrow night!
The girl returned with the coffee.
"Okay, let's get started!" I took a sip of the coffee. Excellent, as always. Rich, thick, dark, full-bodied ... almost syrupy. I hopped into bed, sitting up and took a couple of spoonfuls of the soup.
Delicious! Those commoners sure knew how to eat! It was a thick soup. I was surprised Carol could even stand there with two bowls of it in her stomach.
"Carol," I motioned to her, "come sit on the love seat."
The girl started to back out of the room.
"Stay," I dripped menace into each the words, "here, girl." She whimpered and shook in place. I glared at her. I wondered if she even saw it, because she dropped her eyes so quickly.
"Now, Carol," I began to my droopy-eyed maid when a quiet knock sounded on my door.
"What is it now, for goodness sake!" I motioned to the girl who ran to the door and opened it.
One of the man servants was panting outside my door. He had just returned from Vera's with the news that the afternoon would be fine. I knew it would be fine, already: Vera didn't stand on formality. She had married very far down, after all. Good thing she didn't fall for one of our servants ... that would be awkward. I dismissed the messenger with a wave, making sure the girl stayed in my room. I felt warm from the soup and from the image of Cook mopping the floor. Grumble at me!
"So, Carol, read to me the first verse of the HeidenRöslein," I passed her the closed book of Schubert lieder and snuggled into my bed, closing my eyes.
"Miss Hale, I don't know which one it ..." was Carol's plaintive response.
I sighed. "The help these days ..." I grumbled as I opened my eyes and stuck out my hand for the book. She passed it back to me timidly, and I flipped it to the piece, pointing at the first verse.
She took it and started reading: "Sa in nab in rozelean stayin?"
"Carol! Carol, stop!" She did. I didn't know she could torture me like that. "Okay, that was a ... good start, but I need to see you eye to eye when you're reading to me, and I'll read the words out first to you and then you repeat them to me, okay?"
Carol looked at me. I sighed.
"Girl, come here. Give Carol a pillow and then you may go." The girl looked like I had just released her from prison. "Tell Mrs. Wilson that I'll require Carol's help all tonight, so she be here for the roll, okay?"
The girl complied and exited quickly and quietly, looking at Carol. I wonder if she was afraid if I was going to eat Carol, or something.
A few days later, that would have been an entirely justified fear.
Carol was now lying on the pillow, her eyes still open but clouded and unfocused.
"Okay, Carol, are you listening?" I didn't wait for an answer as I began:
Sah ein Knab' ein Röslein stehn,
Röslein auf der Heiden,
War so jung und morgenschön,
Lief er schnell es nah zu sehn,
Sah's mit vielen Freuden.
Röslein, Röslein, Röslein rot,
Röslein auf der Heiden.
I looked to Carol. Her mouth was slightly parted and her eyes were closed.
"Carol?" I called quietly. She gave no response.
Change in plans! I thought gleefully. I was going to keep her up all night, but I needed to sleep, too. I shifted my blanket so that it covered her.
I am a very light sleeper. If Carol or anybody else moved that blanket, I would feel it. Neither parent of mine would have Carol tonight.
"Carol?" I whispered. Carol stirred.
"Carol, wake up, it's getting past breakfast time." Her eyes flew open, and she blushed as she took in her surroundings.
She flew out of the love seat, words of apology tripping over themselves to get out of her mouth. I waved her to silence and had her make me presentable before I dismissed her.
"Mother," I said, earning a glare from her as I sat down, very late, to breakfast, "I think one of the servants left this in my room last night."
I held out a pamphlet of a translation of Marx and Engels' Manifest der Kommunistischen Partei. Mother's condescending look turned instantly to one of shocked fury.
"Mr. JONES!" she screeched, jumping up from the table.
This was turning out to be a very good day. I was glad I had kept that pamphlet pressed into my hands from a striking worker near the bank a few weeks ago. It turned out to be more useful than I had thought it would be.
Lunch time was even better. Mother had run off at breakfast and had went downstairs for more than an hour raking each servant over the coals. When the black bread and barley soup arrived, the twins did start digging into it hungrily, but Mother again was out of her chair and down the hall, on the warpath. I headed off on foot to Vera's house by myself. The exercise felt very good after the warm glow of leaving the house in that uproar.
I couldn't wait to see what schemes would arrive for me to plague the servants tonight.
... but it turned out the servants were up all night anyway, but not because of me. Or, more correctly, they were up all night because of me, but not because of anything I had planned. I had other things on my mind.
I was busy
consumed by venom
that night ...
... so I was otherwise engaged.
A/N: A translation (mine) of the first verse of Goethe's HeidenRöslein ("Heather Rose") is as follows:
A boy saw a rose,
a rose in the heather,
a young and beautiful morning rose,
he ran quickly to see it more closely,
and saw it with many joys.
Rose, Rose, Rose Red,
Rose in the heather.
Appropriate, isn't it, for Rosalie's wedding? Too bad her wedding, or, more precisely, her bridegroom wasn't appropriate for her. You can't win them all, I guess. That is, unless you do. Maybe Rosalie's 'life' will have a better turn someday?
Art note: WillowRaven on twitter kindly welcomed me to add her art of a nice Wintery carriage ride to this chapter. Thank you, WillowRaven!