Authors: Reba White Williams
Bloody Royal Prints
is dedicated to Dave: Without his patient assistance, it never would have been completed.
April, New York
Dinah was certain Jonathan would forbid her to accept the Samuel Palmer Fellowship in London. She was determined to stand up to him. She must. It was a great honor, and it would be a great adventure. She couldn't let it go.
She chose her moment carefully, on a Saturday afternoon. They had enjoyed a delicious lunch at Orso, where they broke all their diet rules and stuffed themselves with pizza bread and roast pork. Jonathan had followed lunch with a nap, and after his wake-up shower, settled down in the living room with
. She approached her husband before he began to read.
“Jonathan, the most wonderful thing has happened,” she said.
He looked up from his magazine and smiled. “Tell me about it.”
She forgot her prepared speech and handed him the letter from the Art Museum of Great Britain. She couldn't wait for him to finish reading it. She began to babble, explaining how prestigious the award was, and what a wonderful time they would have, if he would take the time to go with her to England. He didn't comment, but put the letter aside and seemed to be listening.
She talked about getting to know London and taking trips to the country to visit Bath and Oxford and gardens and castles all over England. When she had said everything she could think of that might persuade him, she braced herself for a tantrum.
“That is wonderful news. Congratulations!” Jonathan said. “It fits in perfectly with something I want to do. I'd like to open an office in London. I haven't mentioned it to you because I didn't think you'd want to leave the gallery, and your friends here, especially Coleman. I need a few months over there for leasing and setting up an office, recruiting staff, and, most of all, signing up a few new clients by convincing them I can raise capital not just in the United States, but worldwide. Your letter says your appointment is for four months, and that amount of time is right for me, too. How soon can you be ready to go?”
Dinah was astonished by his reaction. “Bethany can take care of the gallery,” she said. “Coleman and I can e-mail, text, and phone. We'll be fine. I can go as soon as you're ready.”
For the next two hours, Dinah and Jonathan made plans for the move to London. Jonathan would contact realtors to find office space and a place to live. They argued about what their London home would be like. Dinah wanted an apartment with a weekly cleaning service; Jonathan wanted a large house fully staffedâbutler, cook, housekeeper, the works.
“We'll need a big house and servants for entertaining,” he said. “It's important for my business. And you can't run a house that size on your own; you'll be far too busy at the museum.”
“You may be right,” Dinah said. “I'll be at the museum all week. I don't much like the idea of a house full of servants, but they might make it easier to adjust to living in a new city, a new country.” She began to think about closing the house on Cornelia Street, turning over the gallery to Bethany, telling Coleman . . .
“Clothes!” she said. “I don't know what I have that will be suitable for London. I'll have to go through my closet.”
He laughed. “Buy a whole new wardrobe,” he said.
“Maybe I will,” she said. “But first I'll call Coleman and Bethany.”
By the time she talked to them, Dinah was more than resigned to having servants to wait on her. She envisioned coffee and a croissant in bed every morning before going downstairs for a healthy breakfast someone else had prepared. Every day she'd spend a little time in the kitchen with the cook, planning the meals, and making out a grocery list, but someone else could do the shopping.
She'd come home in the evening after work to find an exquisitely prepared mealâsometimes just for her and Jonathan, other nights for guests. She'd go up to her room, shower, and change into something glamorous, and enjoy being served. She could hardly wait.
Monday, late April, London
Dinah was dreaming that she was snug in her New York bed in the Cornelia Street house. Her alarm, set to wake her while not disturbing Jonathan, buzzed. She reached over to shut it off and was startled by the frigid air on her bare arm. Instantly awake, she remembered she was in London, in the house from hell. She had been in London for nearly a month. She missed her home in Greenwich Village every day.
She slipped out of bed, put on her blue cashmere robe and furry slippersâboth bought at huge expense from Harrods because the house was so coldâand set about her morning tasks.
Fortunately, the master bedroom suite had large bath- and dressing rooms on either side of the bedroom. She had converted her dressing room to a mini-kitchen. She could still use the bathroom for showers and baths and the like, but a coffeemaker and an electric juicer had replaced toiletries on the countertops, and a small refrigerator occupied a third of the floor space.
The coffeemaker was on a timer, and the coffee was nearly ready when she entered her make-do kitchen. She washed her face, and brushed her teeth and hair: Jonathan did not like seeing her untidy. When she was presentable, she unlocked the door to the refrigerator. Like the coffeemaker and the juicer, the refrigeratorâand the padlock she had bought to go with itâhad been among her first London purchases.
She set the breakfast tray on the counter, put Jonathan's mug on the tray, ready for his coffee, and took the glass of orange juice she'd prepared the night before out of the refrigerator.
She glanced at her watch. Not quite time. Jonathan's loud alarm, the signal that she should take him his tray, would go off any minute.
Jonathan had, since he was old enough to make his preferences known, demanded that his parents' servants bring him black coffee and fresh orange juice every morning as soon as he was awake. She had wondered what he had done in his early teens at Deerfield Academy. Prep school room service must have been hard to come by, let alone a tray brought to one's bed. She knew from his friends' jokes that Jonathan had always found someone he could pay to make that tray appearânot only at Deerfield, but at Yale and Harvard Business School. In his New York bachelor apartment, he'd employed a cook and a maid. The maid had brought him his tray, and served the second course of his breakfast in the dining room.
Dinah had been amused by his fixed habits and demands. It had been easy to deliver his wake-up tray in New York. Every evening before she went to bed, she set the coffee timer to begin perking at the same time her alarm sounded, and had used the electric juicer to squeeze the orange juice and put it in a pitcher in the refrigerator. In the morning she poured juice into a glass, put it on the tray with a cup of freshly brewed coffee, and delivered it to Jonathan's bedside. The kitchen and the bedroom in the Cornelia Street house were on the same floor, and were only about fifty feet apart. Everything had been convenient in her New York home.
But the kitchen in the London house was three floors below the bedroom floor, and lacked an elevatorâor “lift,” as they said here. The London house came with a butler, a cook, a housekeeper, and an assistant to the cook, all of whom lived on the fifth floor, and a cleaning woman who, like the chauffeur, came in daily.
Dinah had assumed that one of the servants would appear at the designated time with Jonathan's tray. She'd explained Jonathan's tastes to Mrs. O'Hara, the cook, and prepared a notebook describing his preferences, dislikes, etc., and when meals were to be served. But the morning after their first night in the house, Mrs. O'Hara had appeared with a tray of tepid tea, milk, sugar, and a yellowish chemical-tasting drink that had never been near an orange.
Jonathan, furious, blamed the unacceptable tray on poor directions from Dinah, and after frowning at Dinah, turned to Mrs. O'Hara.
“I'm sure you didn't understand that I drink coffee, not tea, first thing in the morning, and that the juice must be freshly squeezed. I assumed Mrs. Hathaway told you about the oranges? And the coffee?”
Mrs. O'Hara glared at him. “I have always served morning tea to those living at 23 Culrossâthat is the way it's done in England. Coffee is not served until ten or eleven o'clock in the morning, or after dinner at night. The juice is quite freshâin England it is produced at the store. I do not lower myself to squeeze oranges. The juice has been acceptable to all of the previous tenants.”
Dinah was amazed. O'Hara seemed to imply that Jonathanâand Dinahâwere ignorant about the better thingsâEnglish thingsâlike tea and “fresh” orange juice. Dinah expected Jonathan to blow up, but he ignored Mrs. O'Hara's impertinence and held his temper.
“Mrs. Hathaway will explain more carefully what I want, and I expect you to bring me a proper tray tomorrow.”
Mrs. O'Hara glared at him and stalked off. Jonathan showered and dressed and went down to the dining room, where he encountered Mrs. O'Hara's second rebellion. Dinah had explained Jonathan's breakfast likes and dislikes: Above all, he didn't eat fried food or anything fatty. For breakfast he ate one of several special cerealsâunobtainable in London, but his cereals had been imported and stored in cases in one of the kitchen pantries. He liked skim milk and blueberries with his cereal, and a special sweetener, also unobtainable in London, also stored in the pantry with the cereal.
He was horrified when, instead of his usual breakfast, he faced an array of greasy eggs, doughy sausages oozing pork fat, barely cooked fatty bacon, gummy oatmeal, smelly kippers, canned baked beans, fried bread, and black pudding. Mrs. O'Hara stood proudly by the buffet, as if waiting for his thanks.
“Mrs. O'Hara, I cannot eat this food,” Jonathan said.
Mrs. O'Hara announced that she had always served a full English breakfast to the tenants, and had never had complaints. Jonathan again ignored her impertinence.
“Mrs. Hathaway will explain what I want for breakfast, and I expect to see what I want on this table tomorrow morning,” he said. He left for the office breakfast-less, and angry with Dinah.
When on their second morning in the house Mrs. O'Hara appeared at the bedroom door with a tray loaded with a gray beverage she described as coffee, a pitcher of heavy cream, a bowl of sugar cubes, and the same ghastly juice, Dinah knew Mrs. O'Hara had no intention of serving the food and drink ordered by the Hathaways. The woman looked like the agreeable Mrs. Bridges from
, but had the personality of Kreacher, Harry Potter's ill-tempered house elf. Every time she ignored Dinah's instructions about food, Dinah had to listen to another tirade from Jonathan about her inability to manage the servants.
When he went into his dressing room, she ran downstairs to set out his cereal, but the only milk in the refrigerator was creamy, not skim, and there were no blueberries. She loaded the same indigestible English breakfast as yesterday's, laid out on the buffet exactly as it had been the day before, on trays, and took all of it into the kitchen. She had done the best she could.
Mrs. O'Hara, Mrs. Malone (the housekeeper, who reminded her of Mrs. Danvers, the sinister housekeeper in
), and an enormous woman she'd never seen before (could she be the cook's assistant?) grabbed the dishes out of her hands, and settled down at the table like pigs at the trough. They began to cram the food into their mouths, slurping and smacking. Dinah, sickened, could hardly wait to leave the room.