Miss Tillie McDonald had worked for the Larrimer household since she was 14. Back then, of course, she had been a scullery maid and a junior one at that. At 30 Tillie was the housekeeper of Teal End House, with a house and kitchen maid to keep in order.
Old Mr Larrimer had been the master of the house then too. When the consumption had claimed his soul his widowed son Adam returned with his infant child, Albert. Master Adam worked in the city and would often be late home long after the rest of the staff had retired. Tillie always waited up for him to make sure he had something to eat.
Tonight, was no different. After Mrs Craven, Albert’s nanny had retired to her quarters and the rest of the staff were occupied with their supper it was just coming up 6 o’clock so Tillie commenced her routine lighting of the gas lamps in the main entrance and the master’s drawing room. Annie, the housemaid, had lit the fire in the drawing room but Tillie gave it a good stoking with the poker and put on more coal.
She tidied the unopened mail on the table by the master’s chair and polished the crystal brandy glass, so it sparkled with glints of the firelight. She placed the glass by the decanter of French brandy. She bustled back to the kitchen with the petticoats beneath her grey dress rustling.
The new girl, Dora, was washing up the supper dishes. Tillie considered the young girl to be flighty and haphazard but eager to learn. When the girl was done Tillie dismissed her for the night and settled in her chair by the range with a cup of tea. She enjoyed the peace and quiet before the Master arrived. She dozed quietly.
Just after 6, the hotel bar was quiet with a few guests enjoying an early evening drink before dinner. It was Kez’s first night as a waitress in the restaurant and the nerves were getting to her. She dashed into the ladies’ room to compose herself before the restaurant opened. The lights kept going on and off. ‘What the hell! I best report this to Mr Carter.’
‘Oh, that’s just Tillie’ John Carter explained, ‘she comes every night to do the lights.’ He showed Kez the old newspaper cutting that was hung in a frame in his office. The headline ‘Widower Dies in Fire’. Mr Larrimer, of Teal End House, died trying to rescue his child from a blaze. There were no survivors.
‘Wow, she must still be waiting for him to come home then?’
‘Quite possibly’ said Mr Carter, ‘End House Hotel would not be the same without Tillie, that’s for sure. And if you are really lucky you will hear her walk through the restaurant at 7 o’clock.’
©JG Farmer 2018