The maid, Nellie Barrow, found being a titled lady an extremely queer experience. She wasn’t entirely certain whether it was a pleasant one or not but one thing she did know was that it was very different from her normal life.
If she had remained in her own body then she would have been working solidly since daybreak doing backbreaking chores around Griply Hall. She would have been ordered about by all and sundry. Worse, she was the newest servant at the hall and as such she was still unsure of her duties and inevitably did things wrong. That meant she got shouted at.
But not today.
Today she had slept well, had a hearty breakfast, relaxed round the house then attended a lavish picnic beside a lake (that she normally would have been serving at). She had relaxed again all afternoon, exploring the house, and then attended a splendid banquet.
Wearing Lady Harriet’s clothes had initially made her feel uncomfortable and unwieldy but now that she was used to them the experience was growing on her. It made her feel grand and beautiful to move about the manor dressed like an elegant lady. The clothes were a constant reminder of the higher status she was enjoying, always there in her peripheral vision. As if she needed a reminder! She didn’t have to work! She was sitting on sofas designated only for family members and attending family meals.
So far she hadn’t interacted much with the other family members and she was still nervous to. She knew her accent would give her away. Mostly she had kept quiet and tried to look interested, absorbing as much detail as possible. She knew this was a short term deal but it was important to her to do it well. She didn’t want to let the Earl – Lady Harriet – down.
Nellie climbed the stairs to the first floor and made her way back to Lady Harriet’s bedroom – her bedroom for now. Once she got inside she felt safer. There she wouldn’t be disturbed. She didn’t have to feel under scrutiny.
She went to the mirror and gazed in wonder at her striking reflection. Her face; Lady Harriet’s face; was so beautiful. Her features were so fine and pretty. Her skin was flawless. Her hair was glossy. She looked at her slender neck, chest and round shoulders, shaking her head with incredulity.
It made her think again about the real Lady Harriet. It was hard to think of her by that name though. Lady Harriet had become the Earl and her affectation of her ways was amazingly complete. She looked and sounded just like him. What had been strange was that she kept that up when there was nobody else to listen in but Nellie had never understood the upper classes.
She didn’t really understand why Lady Harriet was doing this. It was obvious she wanted to get back at her parents but surely becoming an old man herself to achieve that wasn’t worth it.
“Why would anyone ever give up being this beautiful if they had a choice?” she asked her mirror image and was pleasantly surprised by the neutrality of her accent. It wasn’t pitch perfect quality but neither was there much trace of Yorkshire clodhopper.
Nevertheless, the change back was inevitable and Nellie quivered to think of how angry the Earl would be when he was restored to his original form. She had no idea how Lady Harriet planned to avoid that wrath. He might be powerless now that he was a maid but that wouldn’t last forever.
When he returned to his body he would want to know exactly who was responsible and surely the truth would come out about the complicated series of swaps that his daughter had perpetrated. It would become known that she was involved.
The thought of that chilled her terribly.
She looked at her beautiful face again in the mirror.
When his wrath descended, she would be a pitiful servant again. She had heard about his punishment in the cellar. Something like that might only come to her if she was lucky. Surely the reality was she would lose her job. She might be whipped or gaoled. Anything could happen to her.
Nellie wrung her hands, fretting. The inevitability of that seemed inescapable.
Suddenly the experience of being a magnificent lady paled. The horror of her imminent penalty was far too monstrous to find any pleasure in what she was doing.
Even looking on her new beauty didn’t make her happy. It was only a temporary boon. It was all going to go away and leave her in a far worse position.
“Oh dear Lord. Why did I agree to this?” she murmured.
It had all but been a command from Lady Harriet but the Earl wouldn’t care about that when he got his real body back.
Unless he didn’t get his body back.
Nellie thought about that for a moment.
If the Earl didn’t get his body back then he wouldn’t be in a position to seek retribution. He would remain a humble maid with no power at all.
Her heart thudded and then the thudding quietened.
Would that really solve the matter?
Yes. Surely it would. All that was required was that he remain that way.
Was it possible that…?
Was it possible that she could somehow make that come to pass?
She stared into her reflection’s eyes, lost in trying to understand the implications of that.
Because for the Earl to remain a maid it would require Lady Harriet to remain the Earl. Of course the Countess would have to remain as little Reggie too or she might equally cause trouble.
And it would mean that she, Nellie, had to spend the rest of her days as Lady Harriet.
“Good Lord,” she whispered, covering her mouth with her fingertips.
She was terrified of the scope of what she was contemplating.
Could that really happen?
Could she somehow make it happen?
She had no idea. But she realised that her only choice now was to try to work it out. She had to find a way to protect herself because the alternative was too terrible to contemplate.
She had to find a way to keep everybody in the bodies that they were.