For reference, I imagine that the Cullen manor looks like Chatsworth House. You can do a google image search for it or find the link here:
jane austen in vermont. 2011/ 09/ pemberley- photo. jpg
Rolling hills and verdant greenery passed before Bella's eyes as she rode along in the open faced carriage. It was her first time riding in a carriage, and she had never moved at such a great speed. Bella did her best to look interested as Jessica debriefed on the various duties she would be carrying out.
"We rotate the dinner service, some nights you will be serving the family and some nights you will be assisting Angela in the kitchen. I don't care about preference, everyone has to do equal time in both positions, so don't come to me complaining because I won't hear it."
Bella nodded, amused that Jessica seemed to be anticipating her doing a poor job. She sensed that Jessica looked down on her, and Bella understood why. She was a maid in the Wellington household, which was a well-off merchant family. But Jessica served the Cullens, a powerful family renowned for their noble bloodline and overwhelming wealth. Apparently each generation of Cullen men had been more successful in business than the last, and their nobility dated back hundreds of years. Some said that the Cullens were the wealthiest family in England, and they certainly were titans in the eyes of Forks residents.
When the Cullen's carriage had pulled up outside the Wellington house, Mrs. Wellington had nearly dropped her embroidery with excitement. Even though it was only carrying Jessica, the head maid, Mrs. Wellington had eagerly rushed to hear what merited such a visit.
Jessica had informed them that one of the Cullen's maids had run off with a footman. The Cullen's were short staffed, and they needed another one immediately. Jessica had stopped at the closest house of merit, which just so happened to be the Wellingtons.
Despite the fact that the Cullens had apparently approached the Wellingtons out of necessity and convenience, and not out of affection of friendliness, Mrs. Wellington still took it as a great compliment and quickly lined up their servants to select which one she would send.
The Wellingtons were a relatively nouveau-riche merchant family. Well to do to be sure, but not extremely wealthy. They were also lacking in noble connections, and thrilled whenever they were included in the social events of Forks's upper class. But as much as Mrs. Wellington wanted to keep up with the ladies of leisure, they couldn't afford too large a household. As such, they only employed six servants: two footmen, three maids, and a cook.
The other maids were much older than Bella. Laura was approaching sixty, and Albina was in her late forties. Both of them did a fine job, much better than Bella at times. But their old age made them look somewhat decrepit, and Bella knew that Mrs. Wellington would want to make the very best impression on the Duchess of Cullen.
Of course, when she went down the line, she easily selected Bella. Bella suspected that Mrs. Wellington had only lined them up for show, to prove to Jessica that she could indeed afford more than one servant.
But truth be told, Bella was excited to be leaving. She had worked for the Wellingtons since she was a child. Her mother had been a maid for them, and her father was a footman, which was how they met. Rather than have two of their servants run away to be together, the Wellingtons had informed her parents that they could stay at the residence so long as they continued their duties. And when Bella's mother had gotten pregnant, they had welcomed her as a playmate for their three daughters.
But Bella's mother had run away when she was seven, and her father was the unaffectionate sort. She saw him a couple times a day, but it was always rather formal between them. Charlie wasn't a very demonstrative or warm person- though she knew he loved her, their relationship wasn't close enough to warrant her staying behind for his sake.
Bella had previously thought that she would spend her whole life working for the Wellingtons, in their nice but unspectacular home. Maybe, if she was lucky, a footman would be employed that was her own age, and they could marry. Or she might meet a fellow servant in the marketplace and they could run off together. But to be honest, the odds of that were fairly low. She rarely was sent to leave the house, and she doubted that the Wellingtons would need a new footman for many years. So she had resigned herself that serving in the Wellington household was to be her life's task.
As they bumped along, Bella did her best to contain her excitement and look serious about Jessica's directions. The truth was, she already knew what to expect as a maid, and she suspected that the Cullen household wouldn't be too different.
At the same time, maybe it would be. Going to work for the Cullens was like going to work for the king, at least in Forks. Forks was a mid-sized village, with a handful of noble families. But to have the wealthiest family in the country choose to live there was a point of pride to Forks residents. No matter the fact that the Cullens had laid down roots there long ago, and hadn't exactly chosen to live in Forks of their own volition. Almost all the land around Forks was owned by the Cullens, and all the major buildings and streets were named after them.
Bella imagined what they would look like. She had heard that the two daughters, Rosalie and Alice, were beautiful. Alice in particular was said to be very kind and sweet- Rosalie a bit more imposing. And the brother, Edward, was said to be quite the rake. All the ladies in town were in love with him. Bella pictured that he would be incredibly polite and gentle to have all the women swooning over him. It was almost all the Wellington girls could talk about: what Edward was doing and what he had said at the ball and whether this gown would catch his eye.
Bella forced herself to focus back on Jessica.
"Of course, washing days usually last all day or all morning, and I will personally inspect the garments to make sure they are fully clean. At least at first. We can't be sure what you have been taught at the Wellington household."
The way Jessica said the "Wellington" name revealed that she looked down on them. Bella though that was funny, considering the Wellingtons were a wealthy family and Jessica only a servant. But she supposed that with all the grandiosity and awe directed at the Cullens, even the servants were able to absorb some of it. She knew that it was a big deal to be able to work for such a well-known family, and Bella vowed to herself that she was going to do an excellent job.
The carriage had been passing through woods, and they broke through the tree line and into an open area. Sunlight beamed down into the carriage, and Bella finally saw the Cullen manor of which she had heard so much.
Bella's jaw dropped as she took in the huge marble edifice, which looked almost pinkish in the sunlight.
Jessica rolled her eyes, and Bella quickly closed her mouth. Jessica had made it clear that she viewed Bella as an incompetent rube, and she feared her awestruck reaction had just confirmed Jessica's suspicions.
The Cullen's mansion looked almost like a palace. As the carriage drove closer, Bella was able to appreciate the fineness of the construction. The way the marble had been carved so perfectly, and so symmetrically. In front of the house was a huge pond, squarely shaped and dotted with swans.
Trees bordered the lake and the house, and perfectly manicured lawns ran out on either side. The estate had a feeling of privacy, as well as cultured wealth and elegance. Bella found herself wondering what it would be like to live in such a beautiful place everyday, even in the servants quarters.
The carriage made it's way to the side of the house, and stopped at a large door which Bella assumed was the servants' entrance. Jessica stepped out and headed inside, Bella following behind her.
As they walked along, Bella was struck by the immense grandeur of everything. Even though this was the servants hallway, the wood was laid perfectly and the walls were spotlessly clean. They passed various storage areas and a large laundry room before arriving at the kitchen.
It was late afternoon, and the kitchen was in a rush preparing for the nightly dinner.
Jessica had explained to her that she would serving that night. Even though it was her first night at the manor, they were short staffed. And since Bella didn't know any of the cooks or the layout of the kitchen, she might prove a nuisance.
At least that's what Jessica said. Bella suspected that perhaps her real reason for having Bella serve the family was that she hoped Bella would fall flat on her face, and that Jessica could hire another maid. Bella suspected that for some reason Jessica didn't like her, and hoped she wouldn't be able to rise to the occasion.
Bella grinned as Jessica went through the rules for serving dinner. No matter what Jessica had planned, Bella had seen the grandeur of the Cullen manor, and she would do whatever it took to stay.
Bella clutched her plate nervously. Each of the servants was lined up at the stairs, preparing to exit the downstairs kitchen area and make their way to the dining room. Bella looked down at the mass of endive and lettuce, sprinkled with various vegetables, in front of her. Her palms were so sweaty that she was afraid the plate would slip from her fingers.
"Relax," Bella heard from behind her. "You'll be fine."
Bella turned and gave Mike, the manservant in line behind her, a smile. "Fingers crossed."
The front of the line began to move and there was no more time to contemplate the rules dinner. Bella was going to have to trust that she would remember the multitudinous regulations of a Cullen dinner service.
As they entered the dining room, each servant lined up against the wall. They all paused, salad plates in hand. Jessica rang a small bell, and each servant stepped forward at the same time and deposited the plate to the table from the right of the appointed family member. Bella had been assigned to serve Rosalie, who she had heard could be quite exacting. She placed the food gently down without spilling, then managed to gracefully take three steps back until her back pressed against the wall.
Breathing out a big sigh, Bella realized the first course had been a success. Despite her sweaty hands, she had managed not to drop anything. Bella now attempted to stare at the wall in front of her, as was the proper protocol. Bella was not supposed to call attention to herself in any way, yet the servants were expected to stay in the room in case anyone dropped a napkin or needed anything.
Bella's attempts to keep a straight face and fade into the wallpaper were thwarted by Mike's presence directly across from her. He caught her eye and nodded with a slight smile, as if to wish her a job well done. Bella glanced briefly around and seeing the other servants not looking, gave Mike a small smile back. The servants were not supposed to distract or draw attention to themselves in any way, but Bella felt it would have been rude to ignore Mike outright. Mike had been so friendly and kind to her since she had begun work, and she valued his friendship. The presence of Mike and of Angela, her roommate, had made the time here so much more valuable. Both of them would tell her not to mind Jessica's harshness, and would tell her entertaining anecdotes about each member of the Cullen family.
Bella quickly looked around to see no one else had seen their little exchange. At that moment she realized someone much worse had observed her smile towards Mike. She had to guess that this was Edward, this brown haired young man sitting across the table. And he was staring right at her.
Bella darted her eyes away and stared at the opposite wall for as long as she could manage. After about two minutes, she was sure that he could not be paying any more attention to her. Stealing a quick glance to make sure, she looked over and saw him raise a forkful of lettuce to his mouth, all the while staring intently at her. Bella found this extremely unnerving.
Shit shit shit. Immediately Bella began mentally panicking. Clearly Edward had seen the exchange between her and Mike and did not approve of it. Bella knew that procedure and proper behavior were of the utmost importance in the Cullen household, and she had heard that Edward was extremely exacting and demanding, but she couldn't help but feel that this was a small infraction, unworthy of such extreme attention. Certainly it couldn't be a fireable offense?
In Bella's mind she heard Jessica's voice. Mess up at all and you'll be out before dessert. Bella gulped. As hard as it might seem, this could be the reason why she was dismissed.
There was nothing for it to be done but to be on her very best behavior. Bella endeavored to look only at the wall the entire time, and completely avoided Mike's smiles despite his attempts to catch her eye.
At times Bella would try to convince herself that Edward had forgotten about it, and would steal a quick glance to check. Every time he would be either already staring, or his eyes would immediately dart up towards her as though he was aware of her focus. Bella found herself slightly scared by the imminent intentionality behind his green eyes, both of which seemed to sear into hers.
He almost looked angry, so intense was his gaze. Bella was sure that he was going to have her fired immediately after the meal, and was honestly baffled as to why he had not done so already. By the dessert course she had resolved not to catch his eye again, and could only hope that all would be forgotten by tomorrow.
Finally, after dessert and coffee, each of the guests pushed back their chairs and began to leave. As Edward stood up to leave, Bella stole one more quick glance. She saw him look up immediately, straight into her eyes, before turning and leaving.
Once the family was gone, Bella felt as though she could finally breathe. Who knew that Edward would not have her fired before morning? Bella felt it was almost as though he was trying to send a message to her, and the only one she could guess was that he was aware of her slight mistake and would make her pay. But then again, the whole thing was so odd. The only thing Bella could be sure of at this point was that if she stayed on at the Duke's house, she was going to have to keep a sharp eye on Edward Cullen.