The next morning, Camellia was surprised how refreshed she felt. Along with the tea, Maria had given her sandwiches and cake and fruit and had helped her find her night-dress and had supplied her with a warm towel and a tooth mug. Then she'd come back with a hot water bottle. She'd even turned off the bedside light. When Hugh peeped in, half an hour later, Camellia was already asleep. Without Maria, she wouldn't have slept at all.
“Don’t you ever go home?” Camellia asked brightly, looking at her now over her reading spectacles. It was eight o'clock, the sun was shining through a crack in the curtains and she was sitting up in bed with a 'Who Dunnit' and feeling happier and more rested than she remembered feeling in years. Maria put a cup of tea on the little table beside her.
“I’ve been at home most of the night,” she said, smiling.
"I'm usually up too by now," said Camellia, feeling guilty because Maria was working and she wasn't.
"We've got animals." She knew the maid was busy and didn't want to stop but she was keen to let her know she wasn't lazy. It was awkward, sitting up in bed like this while someone else brought things. "Cows and sheep - and we used to have hens. Then there's wood to be chopped and scones to be baked."
"Breakfast is at nine," said Maria, beginning to move towards her trolley.
"Oh," said Camellia. "Have you seen my husband?"
"He was here last night. He sat with you for a bit, then I suggested he got an early night himself. You were both tired after your journey."
"We were," said Camellia, feeling she'd missed out on something. "Will I be seeing more of you, through the day?"
"Oh yes! Lots. I start with tea and end with cocoa."
"Twelve hours," said Maria, grimacing. "Cocoa's at seven, then I go."
“I’m sorry.” When she apologised, she wrinkled her nose. “But I need to get round everyone before the night staff come in. They wash up the mugs for me, then they doze in front of the telly most of the night. They've nearly all got day-jobs . . . they’re only here for emergencies - or a fire. So . . . ”
Maria moved further towards the door.
“Well!” said Camellia, in a huff, not sure whether she was more cross that she'd have to drink her cocoa at seven or that the night-staff spent their time watching television.
Maria looked at her thoughtfully.
"They don’t get paid enough you know."
"I'll get a kettle," said Camellia. "That way, they can watch television without worrying about us and Hugh and I will make tea for ourselves when we want it. I'm not going to bed at seven."
Maria leant on the trolley and shook her head.
“You might scald yourself.”
“Well!” Camellia exclaimed crossly. But she knew it wasn't Maria's fault and she didn't want to say anything too angry or hurtful. "I told Mrs Bendicks I was Lady Hamilton.”
"Did you?" Maria nodded. "I expect that'll do. See you later." She shut the door and set off down the corridor with the trolley, tea cups clinking against saucers. Camellia heard cheerful 'Good Morning!'s and fragments of indistinct conversation as the bedroom doors opened and Maria went in to visit each resident in turn.
To continue - Thirty-Nine
For the Post Before This - Thirty-Seven