I put together my cookies this morning. I was going to start posting them next Tuesday but I had an extra, so here you go! Thought I’d start with this one since I was getting emotional about Phoebe’s sister Helen last night. Featuring a cameo of the new Mrs. Gilchrist, and the promise of a makeover!
Sukey walked up Cross Street, passing the Honey Moon’s delicious smell of brandy and ginger without going in, and waited nervously in the Gilchrists’ kitchen while the maid-of-all-work went to inform her mistress of Sukey’s visit.
That poor girl must be worked to the bone, Sukey thought, for the kitchen was neat as a pin. Mrs. Gilchrist was the finickiest soul she’d ever had the misfortune to meet.
“Sukey? Happy Christmas. Is everything well with you?”
Sukey recognized Mrs. Gilchrist’s rose gown (which must have been let out at the bodice, for the girl’s graceful bust had never been so large before), but the great gold shawl wrapped about it with such aplomb looked brand new. So did the snowy linen at her neck and wrists and the frothy cap atop her dark hair. Dashing young matron was a style that suited her.
Sukey bobbed a quick curtsey and held out the hairpin, feeling awkward. “You left this at Mrs. Pengilly’s, ma’am.”
Mrs. Gilchrist’s perfectly arched brows went up, and her lips twitched. “And you finally decided to return it?”
Sukey’s awkwardness faded into annoyance. “I’m sorry, ma’am. It slipped my mind.”
Mrs. Gilchrist looked at the hairpin. “You keep it. I probably wouldn’t wear it again anyway.”
Sukey’s jaw dropped. “I don’t have lice.”
“I’m sure you don’t,” Mrs. Gilchrist said hastily. “I didn’t mean to suggest any such thing.”
“Of course you didn’t.” No, she hadn’t meant to suggest it, but she’d been thinking it. Probably wouldn’t borrow a hairpin from her own sister, that’s how particular she was.
The girl waited with an air of faint puzzlement as to why Sukey was still there.
Sukey shifted nervesomely. “Could I ask you for some advice? About clothes?”
Mrs. Gilchrist’s face lit up. “Please do!” Something about her big dark eyes and the shape of her mouth made her forever look as if she might start crying. But if she cried about fashion, they’d be tears of joy.
“I got married.”
“Oh, yes, I heard the banns. I wish you joy! You married Mr. Dymond’s valet, didn’t you? Who hates puns on his name and is very good with stains?”
Sukey smiled fondly. “That’s him.”
“It’s splendid being married, isn’t it?”
“Yes, ma’am,” Sukey said at once, determined Mrs. Gilchrist should have no inkling of her doubts on the subject. “And there’s to be a servants’ ball for the New Year. I want to look my best. I have a few crowns, and I hoped maybe you’d seen something, at the pawnshop or somewhere.” She took off her pelisse. “Something to spruce up this old gown a bit.”
Mrs. Gilchrist looked critically at the plain serge. It wasn’t even clean, not really. Sukey hoped very much that no coal dust was actually visible. Then she looked at Sukey’s face. “You’re very pretty. I’ve always thought so.”
That was a pleasant surprise. “Thank you, ma’am.”
“We’re about of a size. Well, you’re a little taller, but that’s all right. I’ll dress you if you like.”
Sukey’s jaw dropped. She was sorry for every uncharitable thought she’d ever had about Mrs. Gilchrist. “Would you really?”
The girl smiled broadly, just such zeal in her eye as Bonaparte must have when he looked at the map of Europe: You won’t even recognize yourself by the time I’m through. “Come upstairs and let me see what I have in my workbox.”