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Iris and Peter Get Married (Eventually) [pt 5]

Chapter Five.
(From the frying pan to the fire, Mrs Cambridge to the rescue, The threat of diaries, and A miserable night’s sleep)

Her master caught her up as she was running for the sanctuary of the kitchen and the servant's quarters in the cellar. He lifted her off her feet, causing her to scream at the top of her lungs and fight with all the strength she had.

Elbows, knees, nails, feet, and even teeth came into play. All the while making as much ruckus as she was capable.

Mrs Cambridge came to her rescue. Demanding, "What the blue blazes do you think you are doing to her?"

The Admiral dropped Iris as if she were a hot iron. She immediately took her opportunity to flee directly into the safety of Mrs Cambridge's arms and sobbed like a child into the larger woman's pinafore.

"How dare you, sir," menaced Mrs Cambridge. "And on her first day."

"I wasn't doing anything," the Admiral rumbled. "Wanted to congratulate her on some capital play, there. Caught his eye and made him think himself a hero on her first day! Bloody brilliant, crying and fainting. Not a man alive as can miss that." He muttered a few curses. "Puts up too much of a dirty fight. Little Paddy hellcat... Need to fix that in a jiffy."

"Considering your evening speech, sir," iced Mrs Cambridge. "What was she meant to assume when you grappled her so roughly?"

"Grappled? Me? I was embracing her in congratulations! Stupid little brood mare should learn the difference!"

"No!" Mrs Cambridge roared. "You need to learn how to comport yourself as the gentleman you claim to be! You were always a despicable man since the day I was hired and you never improved with age. You can't threaten your way through this world and expect any in it to stay by you. You'll die alone in your own feculence and you'll bloody deserve it. You want any of these maids to stay beyond a week? You will keep your greasy, grimy, groping hands off of them or I will serve my notice and take my diaries and all the staff straight to the authorities!"

Iris peeked. The Admiral had backed into a corner and actually looked embarrassed with himself.

"Wasn't going to do anything to her," he pouted.

"See that you never do," menaced Mrs Cambridge. She hustled Iris away into the kitchen, where clusters of maids wept into kerchiefs or clung to each other.

Iris fell to gasping trembles in Mrs Cambridge's embrace.

"Did he grab another one?" murmured Tom.

"Said he meant to congratulate her," said Mrs Cambridge. "He could have done better than catching her up and trying to still her."

And suddenly, Iris felt herself wrapped up in a crowd of consolations from fellow maids. All reassuring her that she was safe, now. That they would all ensure that she would never be alone with the Admiral ever again. They sat her down and wrapped her up in a blanket kept near the stove for just such a purpose, and plied her with hot, sweet tea until the shivers and the tears had quite stopped.

Mrs Cambridge regaled them all with how Miss Iris had put up a solid fight, and a true dirty fight it was, too. Nearly hit him squarely in the fork, fair a dozen times!

This was something of a badge of honour amongst the other girls, and the conversation fell to war stories. All about how the Admiral had got them alone and tried something with them. If it hadn't been for Mrs Cambridge...

"I keeps my eye on him, me. I know his ways of old. I writes it all down in my diaries. The day I fail to keep any of you girls safe is the day I go to the police and the press and he knows it."

Iris still shook, all the way through her own dinner. All the way to her closet, where she moved the bed so it blocked the door against invaders. Where she heard other beds scraping against the floor in a similar way. Where she knelt on her bed to change into her shift and quickly whispered her prayers before hiding under her linens from the world.

She was not the only one who cried her way to sleep.


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