The Crawford Family Series’, Train Station Bride Book 1 and Contract to Wed Book 2, will be joined this summer by a novella called The Maid’s Quarters. During Contract to Wed, readers are introduced to, Jolene Shelby’s personal maid, Alice Porterman. While Alice appears in quite a few scenes and is mentioned in internal dialogue, we know little about her. Near the end of the book Jolene and her husband, Senator Max Shelby, are grateful for the work and care Alice has provided during an Influenza outbreak at their ranch, and knowing Alice has a sickly brother, release her from her duties with full pay in order that she may tend to her sibling. Alice goes home to Boston and that is where The Maid’s Quarters begins. This novella will be available this summer. A sample is below.
Alice Porterman looked at Mrs. McKinnell. “What do you mean Ma and Jimmy aren’t living here anymore. It is our house!”
“They’re living in the two rooms at the back of the Church, Alice. I would have taken them in here but I have no room, none at all,” Alice’s mother’s closest neighbor said to her. “You better get them, girl. Jimmy wasn’t doing well the last time I stopped by. Your Mam can hardly leave him to get victuals or go to work. I’ve been shopping for her when I can.”
“Thank you Mrs. McKinnell. I’ll go right away.” Alice turned and looked at the narrow two-story home where she had grown up. “I’ll just put my bags in the house,” she said and started down the walk that separated the Porterman and the McKinnell homes as she had just arrived from the train station from Washington D.C.
“Nay, you can’t, girl,” Mrs. McKinnell said. “They’ve changed the locks. Your Mam couldn’t even get back in to get your brother’s medicine. Leave your cases on my porch. I’ll have one of the boys carry them in and we’ll keep them here until you’re settled somewhere.”
“Thank you, Mrs. McKinnell,” Alice said red-faced. “I will get them as soon as I get this straightened out.”
“Don’t worry, Alice. Just get your mother and brother back home where they belong.”
Alice nodded and kissed the plump red-headed woman’s cheek. “Thank the Lord you were here to help Ma.”
“It’s nothing. Neighbors do for neighbors. Your Mam would do the same for me, she would. So, your mother read me the letter she got from you that those rich nobs are paying you without you even working for them. La de! And look at them skirts of yours! That is fine wool, is it not, with them lacy petticoats sticking out? And a pretty little hat to boot!”
“Senator and Mrs. Shelby knew that Jimmy was ill and were very grateful for the help I gave them and their daughter when their ranch was struck with the influenza. They wanted to lighten my worry about Jimmy and Ma and offered me my full salary indefinitely. I will always be eternally grateful.”
“I would say so!” Mrs. McKinnell said and belted out a laugh. She peered through the open door of her house and screamed. “Devon McKinnell! Stop your teasing! I’ll have Mr. McKinnell whoop your hide when he gets home from the mill, I will!” She turned back to Alice. “Go on, now. Get your mother and get poor Jimmy back in his bed.”
Alice waved her goodbyes and turned to climb the hill to the Saint Peter and Paul Catholic Church. How very angry she was! How could her mother have let this happen? Alice sent her the full amount of the rent on their small house every month from her pay as long as she had been employed. Even when she’d just started at Landonmore as an upstairs maid, her salary had been just enough to cover her mother’s rent and pay for some food, although it left only a few pennies for herself. With her help, Alice’s mother had been able to work mornings only at the dressmakers and still scrape by.
Alice let herself in the church gates and circled to the back of the building. She came to the small building and saw smoke coming from the chimney. What would it be costing in coal to heat this shack she wondered? The door opened suddenly and her mother was screaming and dragging Jimmy out into the cold air.
“Breathe, boy!” her mother shouted and plopped down in the dirt beside the steps. “Breathe!”
“Ma!” Alice said as she dropped her purse in the snow and hurried to where her mother was struggling to turn Jimmy onto his stomach.
“Help me, Alice! He’s not breathing!”
Maeve Porterman thumped the back of the thin limp boy lying across her legs as she sat in the mud just outside the door of the building. She hit his back hard with a closed fist and Jimmy’s shoulders began to shake. He sputtered and struggled to breathe and coughed until his eyes watered. Maeve continued to tap his back until he spit and cleared his throat enough to breathe calmly. Alice was kneeling in the mud holding him in place across his mother’s knees lest he roll onto the ground. She chafed his arm through the thin cotton of his shirt and felt him shiver.