CHRISTOPHER SARSFIELD:Age 16.Helen's twin.Fair with close cropped hair-his
one and only ambition to list as a soldier and not to have to wait years for
DOLORES MERRIMAN:Age 16.A divine epicurean princess, in the worshipping eyes
of Christopher, the most ravishing creature ever to have attended first,
second or even third mass in the lovely old church of Athlone.
HERBERT HUME:Age 26.A handsome, thin-boned individual with a shock of red
hair, the life and soul of the Sunday evening confraternity meetings.As a
student of Shakespeare was once a real wizard at producing and putting on
plays.A kingpin in James Connolly's Irish Socialist Republican Party is
committed to a free Ireland.
AMY SARSFIELD:Age 15.Younger sister of Helen.Dark complexioned, her hair a
mass of black curls.A reluctant schoolgirl, eager to leave home.
ARTHUR MORRISON:Age 34.Groomsman.Lover of horses and the great outdoors.A
tall rugged individual of easy going manner and a pleasant
disposition.Conscientious and well liked, he had shown no particular
interest in the opposite sex until he met the much-younger Helen.
SENORA FELIZ:Age 76.A frail old lady languishing in the throes of feeble
reminiscence, struggling to recall all that a time-worn memory would
permit - her tired physiognomy intermittently allowing the ghost of a smile
to linger over an amusing recollection.But was she really as fragile as she
seemed or was it part of a very clever act ?
STEPHEN:Age 45, multi-millionaire on the Costa del Sol - his mysterious
comings and goings a constant source of interest to the elderly senora.
SPAIN 1995 Senora Feliz allowed herself a faint smile of smug satisfaction
as her alert eyes meandered the magnificent vista before her - the sun was
approaching its zenith and from the senora's vantage point in the hills
above Marbella,the Mediterranean beckoned with a thousand sun-kissed ripples
to come on in for a leisurely sail or swim and relax in the placid waters.
For a moment she was tempted to take the Alfa Romeo and drive to Puerto
Banus to go aboard Stephen's luxury yacht,but she had promised to visit
Ronda with Isabel who was travelling down from Granada and already one hour
YORKSHIRE 1899 The pony and trap turned in at the gates and set off along
the two- mile avenue to Lord and Lady Blanchford-Carter's Stockswell
Hall.The driver,silver- haired Harry Hobson,a rotund,red-faced individual,
turned to his only passenger and struggling with a speech impediment
stammered, 'His lo-lordship's estate,Nell.Not fffar to go,nnow.'
Helen,a delightful girl of sixteen with jade-green eyes and hair of luminous
gold, smiled in reply and looked ahead anxiously .She was on her way to
Stockswell to begin work as a scullery maid, and wondered what sort of
reception awaited her there. And if at that moment approaching high-noon
with the wind rising and rustling the trees, she could have foreseen even
the tiniest blip of the future awaiting within those walls, she would have
run from that place as if possessed and not have so easily dismissed the
ghostly shivers traversing her spine. But there was neither palmist, nor
gypsy, nor diviner to warn her, only the unfathomable voice of the angry
gusts, which if listened to, might possibly be screaming across the cobbles,
Understandably, her concerns just then were centred on her imminent arrival
and of how she would be received, not so much by Lord Edward and Lady
Cynthia but by the servants themselves, having been warned that there was
far more class distinction and terrorizing below stairs than ever existed
above. Then as Stockswell came into view, she straightened a fold in her
freshly-laundered dress which though patched and well-worn was still very
presentable and as Hobson had observed earlier, accentuated admirably her
'That be Mr H-H-Hawkins at dddoor,yonder. Servants' entrance, th'a knows,
Nell. An' a rrreet taskmaster he be too, b' all accounts.'
Harry's stammer brought Helen's deliberations to an abrupt end and as they
approached the rear of the great house, she looked in the direction
indicated to discover herself under the fierce scrutiny of a gigantic
gentleman with a dour face and the blackest eyes in creation. As house
steward at Stockswell, James Edgar Hawkins's priority was to ensure the
smooth operation of the entire household, for the greater well-being of his
lord and the lesser displeasure of his lady in whose excesses he was
sometimes expected to participate...
STOCKSWELL HALL built in 1892 for Lord and Lady Blanchford-Carter was really
two individual mansions that came into being through the inability of their
lordships to agree on the composition of a single dwelling acceptable to
them both. Whereas her ladyship craved a showpiece mansion with busts of
kings and emperors gazing down from arched niches, his lordship favoured a
much less ostentatious display, wishing only a habitable abode planned along
lines of Elizabethan symmetry. The architect, astutely recognising a golden
opportunity to indulge his many fantasies at once, seized the moment and
sold them on the notion of building, not one manor, but two - the ideal
solution, he assured them, of catering for their numerous and multifarious
specifications. So it came about that Stockswell Hall was composed of two
huge houses, one known as the Edifice, the other known as the Habitat - all
her extravagances built into the Edifice and the sum of his lesser
indulgences contained in the Habitat.
His lordship's greatest worry was the colossal expense of maintaining two
mansions, but as things worked out he had indeed worried needlessly because
while he idled his hours away in the Habitat, her ladyship, free as a bird
in the Edifice, had taken to entertaining sundry gentlemen - some young and
some not so young - and events at Stockswell changed forever when Lord
Edward unexpectedly entered his wife's boudoir to discover her exhibiting a
total wantoness of animal passion and screaming with uninhibited bliss,
clutched in the ape-like arms of their indomitable house steward. Edward had
entered quietly thinking his beloved Cynthia might be sleeping; consequently
neither she nor Hawkins noticed him as he stood in a state of shock watching
their disgusting cavortings. The purple and rose gaudy decor of the room
;the arrangement of cheval glass, console and wall mirrors - their frames
richly carved with scenes inspired by ancient Rome, laurel wreaths,
palmettes, cornucopias, scantily-clad females - the mirrors specially set at
angles to focus on the bedstead; the actual performance on the bed itself,
all helped to convey to his shaken- from-complacency mind a scene
reminiscent of a house of ill-repute he had once visited in London...
OCTOBER 12TH 1899.DECLARATION OF WAR AGAINST GREAT BRITAIN BY THE SOUTH
AFRICAN REPUBLIC AND THE ORANGE FREE STATE. The First Battalion of the
Connaught Rangers, part of the 5th Infantry Brigade, had completed a
musketry course at The Curragh, Co. Kildare, and was assembling at Athlone
under mobilization orders following the declaration of war. They were to be
honoured by a visit of Field-Marshall Lord Roberts V.C. who was coming to
inspect the battalion and the men were well drilled and under orders to be
on their very best behaviour.
Thoughts of the impending African adventure thrilled and delighted
Sergeant-Major Barney Merriman and his eyes skimmed the faces of the men
drawn up before him and skipped and hopped till they came to rest on young
Sarsfield Christopher. Sufferin' Mother o' Jaysus, he thought, Is that what
I've got to fight the Boers with? Must be all o' sixteen! How did he ever
manage to get past the Recruitin' Officer? Christopher grew uneasy under the
sergeant-major's scrutiny and for a few heart- stopping moments agonized
with the conviction that the big nco was a mind-reader, fully capable of
discerning the young soldier's deepest thoughts and fantasies, and God help
him, especially his most secret imaginings concerning the sergeant-major's
beautiful daughter, Dolores, who in Christopher's worshipping eyes was a
divine epicurean princess - the most ravishing creature ever to have
attended first, second or even third mass in the lovely old church of
Athlone. That was where he had first laid eyes on her - all of seven Sundays
ago - and so badly was he smitten that whichever way he looked in the
church - forwards, backwards, sidewards, downwards - eyes open or closed,
her delightful vision was everywhere at once. She hovered over the aisles;
roamed in and out of the pews; adorned the narthex; graced the nave;
emblazoned the chancel and even appeared on the high altar itself where she
adopted the several roles of Server, Deacon and Celebrant. She blessed the
congregation with incense; read from the pages of the Missal; rang the
Sanctus bell; sang in Latin - pax Domini sit semper vobiscum - there she was
everywhere at once - now kneeling at the Communion Rails, attired in the
whitest silk and smiling at Christopher coquettishly.
SOUTH AFRICA 1899
Advance in column of route, Dublin Fusiliers leading, by the left, quick
march. Left, right, left, right - the British Army ,with great pomp and
ceremony, marching across Africa, as if on parade at Aldershot or The
Curragh - regular columns of impeccable parade-ground alignment crossing
badly reconnoitred terrain where, with indecent promptitude, the invisible
Boers shot them down at will.
'I declart t'Jaysus, all feckin' officers are parade-ground lunatics.' Sean
Healy, an old soldier from Ballyfin in the Queen's County, was furious,
'They'd rather have us jilty on parade than knockin' th'shite out
'Shu' yer mouth.' Corporal Powell silenced him. 'All we're up ag'in is a few
lousy farmers wi' rifles. No artillery whatsoever. An' anyway, it's the Dubs
up front that's coppin' it, not us.'
Barely had he finished speaking when the first of the Boer shells fell among
them. 'Holy Mother of Divine God! 'Murphy ,terrified, crossed himself in
haste, 'I thought yo' said they had no artillery - yo' fuckin' eejit!'
Fortunately, the noise was too intense for the corporal to hear him.
'Lord God deliver us from...'prayed Horan, the rest of his supplication
lost in the pandemonium of shell after shell exploding, blowing horses and
men to smithereens, the invisible Boers having enticed the brigade to within
murderous range. Guts were hurled into Horan's face and the flaccid flesh of
a Fusilier's torso's fell at O'Neill's feet. And then a deluge! Fragments of
horseflesh and human flotsam sullied the field and floated among the blood
and the mud and the stench and the noise and Christmas only ten days off.
Christopher fell to the ground and lay amid mangled and blood-spattered
bodies mixed with blown-apart carcasses. Bits and pieces of limbs - hands,
hoofs, heads, entrails littered the land - here a forearm and there what
remained of a leg, and with eyes shut forever, the horror-struck face of
Frank Hanlon from Navan, whose rifle had fallen the day the battalion was
honoured by the Field-Marshall - it had fallen once more today but now no
amount of shouting could ever make him pick it up again.
STOCKSWELL HALL 1900
Elizabeth arrived late that evening, laden down with an enormous brown-paper
parcel. 'Just a few little luxuries, luv, keep us from freezin' in yon cold
bed,' she explained as she struggled to untie the string, taking great
delight in watching an enthralled Helen on tenterhooks to discover the
parcel contents. 'Some o' these were given me b' Agnes,' her slow progress
in undoing the string was considerably adding to Helen's mounting
anticipation, 'others I got from Evelyn - stuck-up bitch she were wi' nowt
t'be stuck up about, if th'a knows what I mean. She were scullery maid
here, same as thee, Nell. Got herse'n in Mr Hawkins good books - th'a knows,
house steward, like - let 'im 'ave his way wi' her, she did - never looked
back after that, didn't lass. In no time at all she were transferred to
Edifice - th'a knows - yonder side o' courtyard.' She giggled and gave Helen
a friendly dig,
'Imagine goings on over there. All that gallivantin' - sumit shockin', i'n't
it, luv? Idle rich an' such like - bigwigs carryin' on wi' lasses - Agnes,
Evelyn, Lilian an' t'others. An' money they make, eee...
But Helen was only half listening and eased forward to get a better view as
the parcel was finally opened and a veritable treasure of silken foundation
garments emptied on to the bed. Basques, bustles, chemises, petticoats,
camisoles, corsets, pantaloons and pantalettes, all complete with showy
ornamentation and finely tailored to thrill or shock or both.
LATER AT STOCKSWELL
He towered above her, barring her way to the door. She avoided meeting his
eyes, which was a pity, because the look of naked longing therein would have
given ample warning of the ordeal before her.
'You'll be promoted to her ladyship's Edifice,' he said, 'where you will
occupy your own sumptuous rooms and be showered with satins and sables and
pearls and a salary of at least ten times your present wages. You'll receive
lessons in etiquette, protocol, how to deal with and entertain the upper
echelons of society,' he took her hand and led her to the settee - she still
did not meet his gaze, her mind busy remembering the opulent underwear given
to Elizabeth by her friends, and calculating ten times her present wages.
'And what would be expected of me in return?' she asked.
'You would have to attend lessons - learn the various forms of ceremony
and...precedence. As practiced by politicians, officers of the crown, heads
of church and state...' he decided to keep talking and hold her attention
while, at the same time, keeping rein on his hungry hands. 'You will be
taught much about the social conventions...be given every help to live the
life of a lady...good bearing, speech therapy, voice modulation, even
dancing lessons, believe me nothing gets overlooked.' Helen listened,
wanting to believe what she was hearing: live the life of a lady; satins,
sables and pearls; dancing lessons; speech therapy; ten times her present
wages...her mind was in a whirl as she considered the promises that poured
from his lips like doves from a magician's hat...then she observed his
tobacco-stained fingers alighting on her breast and her trembling heart
perished inside her.
The fire in Riordan's inner bar blazed brightly and danced a merry jig in
the landlord's spectacles as he leaned forward to place the two drinks on
the snug table. 'Cead mile failte, Mr Hulme. You're welcome back, so y'ar.
Ain't yo' after doin' a grand job in Dublin. We heard all abou' it.'
'Ah, the hard Paddy. 'Tis fit an' well you're lookin'. Yo' were busy servin'
as we come in - didn't want t'disturb yo' - we come on in here out o' th'
'I understand perfectly. Yo' don't have t' explain at all. An importan' man
like yerself, sure don't yo' have t'be movin' in crowds all th' time.' He
leaned towards the corner where Dolores was sitting well back in the
shadows. 'Ain't I right, ma'am,' he asked and would willingly have stood the
price of the drinks to discover who she was. Herbert was quick off the mark
to intercept him, took the small port from the tray and putting it in front
of Dolores ,said, 'Now Paddy, she's had a long day. We had to leave Dublin
early this mornin', so if yo' don't mind...'
Riordan got the message immediately and placing the pint of stout in front
of Herbert, gave him a knowledgeable wink, saying, 'Not another word, sir.
L'ave it t'me entirely. I'll make sure you're not disturbed,' and patting
his watch chain reflectively, he headed back to the bar, closing the snug
door tightly behind him.
Must be a nationalist of some importance, he thought, honouring his
establishment with her presence, for who else would be travelling with
Herbert Hume one of the main kingpins in James Connolly's Irish Socialist
Republican Party? 'What did he mean, you did a grand job in Dublin?'
Dolores, ever inquisitive, was careful to stay in the shadows.
'Ah,that'd be the meetin' we held on the first o' last month. Some big names
on the platform, I can tell you.' Herbert was enthusiastic in his reply,
pleased with the opportunity to tell her of events in Dublin.' John O'Leary,
Michael Davitt, Maud Gonne. Passed a resolution supportin' the Boers and we
condemned the enlistment of Irishmen in the British Army. Maud told a
cheering crowd of several thousand that it was a terrible humiliation for
all of us to think that regiments with Irish names had gone to fight in the
She hoped the Irish soldiers would change sides and asked Irish people to do
everything possible to put a stop to British recruitin' in Ireland.' Herbert
paused to take a sip of his stout before continuing, 'And now that an Irish
Brigade has been formed to fight alongside the Boers, the last thing we want
is for Irishmen to be fighting each other.'
'They're all ridiculous, that's what they are. Formin' brigades at this late
stage! Accordin' to me da it'll all be over in a couple o' weeks. The
Connaught Rangers 'll soon put manners on a few farmers, struttin' about
with bandoliers over their smocks. Sure they're not soldiers at all, so
they're not.' Dolores was quite emphatic, obviously quoting what she had
heard her sergeant-major father say.
Although the story opens and closes in present-day Spain, the real
beginnings are set in the early 1900s when:
In England, Lord and Lady Blanchford-Carter, at a time when England's wealth
was passing from the nobility in the countryside to the professional classes
in the towns, decided to augment their dwindling finances by transforming
part of their stately mansion into a high class brothel for the upper
echelons of society.Their action would not only inaugurate profound changes
for their lordships but would also have far- reaching consequences for the
young servant girls tricked into becoming painted and powdered playthings,
specially trained to adorn the leisures hours of men.
Into this debauched household came the young and innocent Helen Sarsfield,
to work as a scullerymaid, completely unaware that her heretofore humdrum
life was about to be catapulted into a bizarre existence that at times would
border on the fanciful, the exotic, the grotesque - influenced not only by
wierd happenings within the manor but by the tragic events occurring in both
Africa and Ireland.
In Africa, the well equipped army of the British Empire was being humbled by
a few Boer farmers whose only uniform was a slouch hat and a bandolier over
everyday work clothes.
In Ireland, James Connolly was reminding people of Daniel O'Connell's maxim
that England's difficulty was Ireland's opportunity.The masthead of the
Workers Republic newspaper,written by Connolly,declared in Irish;
IS DOIGH LINN GUR MOR IAD NA DAOINE MORA MAR ATAIMID FÉIN AR ÁR NGLÚINE.
EIRIMIS! (The great appear great to us because we are on our knees - Let Us
Simultaneously, the ladies of the Transvaal Committee demonstrated against
Queen Victoria's visit to Dublin, referring to her as Evictoria, because of
the numerous evictions in Ireland during her reign.The committee also
condemned the sending of Irish Regiments to fight the Boers, called upon
Irishmen not to enlist in the British Army, and welcomed the formation of an
Irish Brigade to fight alongside the Boers.
In Athlone, where the First Battalion, The Connaught Rangers was assembling,
under mobilization orders following the declaration of war against Great
Britain by the South African Republic and the Orange Free State, Herbert
Hume, a kingpin in Connolly's Irish Socialist Republican Party, had failed
in his attempt to persuade battalion members not to go to South Africa.
Ordered back to Dublin, he implored his new girlfriend, Dolores, to
accompany him. 'We've places to go,' he told her, 'and people to see -
important places and important people - we'll witness history being made at
first hand.' As she hesitated, he kissed her, 'My own sweet Dol,' he
whispered, 'I can promise you sun-soaked days of tender romance and moonlit
nights of love.
'The Diary of a Scullery Maid' by Joe Rogers
299 pages over 29 chapters..
Published by PublishAmerica, price...$19.95