Mabelle and Curtis returned back to the mansion, but the moment they were on the grounds, Mabelle practically leapt off the horse and gathered the rice, curry powder, fish, and eggs. She glanced at Curtis saying, “Thank you for your assistance today, but I have to rush this to Farrow, so can you be so kind to bring the other items to their rightful place?” Curtis nodded.
Mabelle then rushed into the mansion in a quick haste. She practically slid on the floor before she reached the cooking quarters where Farrow was baking bread.
“I have returned Farrow,” announced Mabelle and added, “I have also bought the ingredients for the Kedgeree.”
Farrow immediately lowered the baked bread to greet Mabelle and then took the ingredients from her hands.
“I will make the best Kedgeree, so please wait patiently, Mabelle.”
Mabelle nodded, but then began to head to the door saying, “I have to change clothes and deliver the leftover shillings to the Master first.” Farrow nodded with a smile knowing that Mabelle did have to make herself presentable before the master and the madam when working in the mansion.
Mabelle returned to her work in a quick haste and began to change into her maid outfit. She adjusted her maid cap on her head, while also pushing strands of hair behind her ear. She was so absorbed in her personal grooming that she almost failed to notice the knock on her door. She did one final touchup to her hair before facing the door and saying, “Who is it?”
Phillip entered Mabelle’s room and asked, “Are you presentable?” Mabelle nodded with a smile and a cute tilt of her head.
Phillip approached Mabelle and stated, “I heard that you headed to the market with the Master’s permission.”
“That is correct.”
“I wish you told me, so I could have asked you to get some shoe shine.”
Mabelle placed the tip of her fingers to her lips with a look of regret.
“I do apologize. I was so focused on the ingredients that I forgot to ask if you needed anything.”
“That is quite all right, but I was wondering if I could return any shillings you have left to the master, so I can ask his permission to go to the market tomorrow?”
“That would actually help me a lot, Phillip,” stated Mabelle as she placed the still filled pouch in Phillip’s opened hand and added, “Please thank the master in my place.”
Phillip nodded and left the room to let Mabelle finish any remaining grooming she had left.
After a few moments, Mabelle left her room to return to the kitchen. She could already smell the delightful scent of the fish and rice of the Kedgeree as she descended down the stairs. If the Madam refused this meal then Mabelle would be happy to eat it in her place.
Mabelle entered the kitchen in time to see Farrow plating the Kedgeree with a glass of water on the side.
“The Madam’s meal is ready.”
Mabelle thanked Farrow with a half bow and then picked up the tray with the meal hoping for the Madam to eat the meal.
Mabelle headed up the stairs briskly not noticing that Curtis had entered the mansion to see if she had finished her errand, but when he noticed the tray in her hands, he realized it wasn’t the best time to talk and just hoped that he would have the chance to speak with her again the following day.
Meanwhile, Phillip had arrived at Frederick’s study and knocked on the door. After announcing his presence and with Frederick’s permission, he entered.
“What brings you here, Phillip?” asked Frederick as he wrote onto a piece of paper with a feathered pen. Phillip bowed before placing the pouch on Frederick’s desk and said, in a respectful manner, “Mabelle returned from the market and asked me to return your pouch, while she serves the Madam her meal.” Frederick placed the feather pen back into the ink fountain as he used his other hand to grab the pouch. He placed it back into a drawer of his desk not looking up at Phillip.
“Thank you for returning the money in her stead, you are dismissed, Phillip.”
“I don’t mean to be rude, but I also came here to ask for your permission to go to the market tomorrow to buy some needed objects for the estate, master.”
“It is fine,” Frederick snapped to the surprise of Phillip. Frederick shook his head with a hand to his forehead.
“Forgive me, I am just stressed.”
“I understand, master. I will leave you to your thoughts,” replied Phillip with a respectful bow, before taking his leave.
The moment the door closed, Frederick sighed wondering why he felt so disappointed when Phillip returned the pouch and not Mabelle.
On the other hand, Mabelle had finally entered the room of Ema with a tray of food.
“Madam, I am here with your meal,” announced Mabelle as she closed the door with her foot and then made her way to the bed side.
Ema still lay on the bed looking pale and weak. It seemed like she was ready to go to the other side. She seemed to struggle to look at Mabelle.
“I don’t want the meal.”
“Please Madam,” stated Mabelle as she sat in a chair next to the bed, “At least have a bite. It is delicious. I assure you.” Ema glanced at the plated food and frowned.
“What is this? It looks horrid.”
“Don’t judge the dish by its looks. It’s very tasty.”
“Tasty? Who would eat something like this?”
Mabelle sighed placing the tray to the side table.
“Actually, I know of a person who ate this very dish and found happiness.”
“Happiness, what do you mean?” Ema asked with a raised eyebrow. Mabelle smiled and leaned forward asking, “Are you curious?”
“Just spit it out.”
Mabelle giggled and placed her hands to the sheets of the bed.
“This is a story of a maid just like me and of her sick master…”
The Perfect Meal
Such a lovely day to walk through the market. The fish there looks so fresh and the vegetables in that stand are in season. I am definitely in heaven.
Oh, pardon me; I guess I should introduce myself. My name is Cecilia. I don’t have a family name, since I was born an orphan, but don’t worry, my orphan status is not a sad one. Actually, because of my orphan status and my love for cooking, I have been hired as the cook for the master. Who is my master? Well, his name is Udolf Warren, an oil tycoon of my century.
Master Warren is very kind and loves his work, but recently, he has been confined in his bed from a sickness. The doctors don’t know the cause, but ever since he fell ill, he has been distant. So distant that the mistress has already left his side…since the day the mistress left, he has been very sullen.
Well, it is my job to bring back his spirit with the power of cooking, so let’s buy some of these vegetables, a little bit of fruit. Oh the milk looks very tasty…goat milk? I bet it is delicious. Just looking at these wonderful ingredients makes me so blissful.
I know I was not mainly hired because of my love of cooking. I was hired because, as I mentioned before, I am an orphan. My master does not want his employees to have any family connections, so we can be dedicated to our work, but I don’t mind this. I see master as my savior. I hope my cooking can bring him happiness.
After shopping to my heart’s content with the salary master gave me, I headed back to my mansion. Before I could even enter, I saw a maid walk pass me with her luggage in hand. I guess she resigned like many of the other servants that were not happy with the master’s changed health. I was never close to this maid, so I am not sad to see her leave, but now the helpers in the mansion has greatly dwindled.
No point in worrying about the decrease in help. I have to make master his meal. I enter the kitchen and see my good friend Mary already laying out the spices on the table.
By the way, Mary is also a maid of the mansion. Master hired her after he fell ill and she is quite the hard worker and very sweet. We became fast friends. When the others were leaving she remained in the mansion.
“Cecilia, I see that you bought more ingredients.”
“Of course. I also bought goat milk. It should be quite delightful for the master to taste.”
“Goat milk. I remember tasting it once as a dip.”
“It’s like a cream with spice and you use it to flavor hardened bread.”
“So like butter? That sounds wonderful. Let me try creating that for master.”
“Save some for me.”
“Of course, now watch me make some magic.”
With those words, I began to create the dip, while I allowed Mary to slice the bread.
Let’s see: soften the goat cheese a bit to give it a creamy texture. Add some lemon juice and these spices will be quite delightful in this. Now to toast this bread to a hard state. I’ll add some butter to the toast to add a bit more flavor.
All right, the dip and bread is done, but a meat dish is still needed. I managed to get some tuna, so baked tuna will be good. Cook, cook, cook, until the food is done.
Success, the meal is complete: toast bread with goat cheese dip and baked tuna with a spicy sauce. Master would definitely eat this.
“I hope master will eat it this time.”
I nodded at Mary and began to head out of the kitchen. You are probably wondering about Mary’s words “this time.” Well, ever since his illness he has eaten less, but ever since the mistress left he has stopped eating altogether. It has come to the point that his bones can be seen. Master has to eat, so I try to make my dishes tastier every time I cook, but he refuses to touch them. Hopefully, he will eat it this time.
I enter the master’s room announcing my presence and as usual the master remains silent just looking out the window with a solemn look on his face. I want to see him smile like he used to.
“Master, I have your meal for today.”
“Take it away.”
“But you haven’t even looked at it…”
“JUST TAKE IT AWAY!”
My master slapped the tray of food right out of my hand. Once again, my food has touched the floor without master tasting it. I bowed my head removing the scraps from the floor. I then exited the room with my heart feeling down.
Another failure. I worked really hard on this dish and I didn’t even get a chance to taste the goat cheese. What does master hate about my food? I won’t give up. I will make the perfect meal for master.
I went to the market once again, but this time with my friend Mary.
“Why did you want me to come along?”
“I am low on income.”
“So you need to use my money to buy ingredients?”
“I wouldn’t dream of using a friend’s money.”
I place my hand on Mary’s shoulder with a smirk on my face.
“You have a gift.”
I nodded and then led my dear friend toward one of the stands selling loaves of bread. I lifted up a loaf of French bread and held it to Mary asking her what she thought of the quality.
“It is very nice, but isn’t it a little out of our budget.”
“I guess that’s true,” I stated and began to lay the bread back down, but the owner of the stand suddenly snatched the bread from my hand and placed it in a basket along with some other bread and stated, looking toward, Mary, “I wouldn’t dream of charging such a lovely girl like you and I’ll throw in some extras, so please enjoy them to your heart’s content.” The MAN handed Mary the bread filled basket giving her a wink. Mary thanked the man and as we walked away from the stand, I also winked at Mary.
“As expected, you have a gift of getting freebies from lovesick men.”
“That’s not a very nice gift.”
I giggled as Mary and I harvested ingredients from the lovesick men.
When we returned, I began to cook another meal for master. As I cooked, Mary began to place her apron on saying, “If the workload is not too much, I don’t mind helping you get groceries.”
“That would be a great help. I have to admit that you are pretty to get great deals.”
“But you’re quite lovely too, Cecilia.”
“I JUST LOVE YOU, MARY!”
Mary giggled and then left the room as my tomato soup was completed. It smells so nice. Master should love it too.
Sadly, master also slapped the soup away and ordered me to leave. I can’t let this get me down. I have to make the perfect meal.
Day after day, I continued to make delicious dishes for Master only for master not to take a single bite. He is also starting to look even worse health wise. I need to make the perfect meal for him…but this perfect meal is starting to seem like nothing, but a dream.
Days pass and now only Mary and I are left as servants for the mansion. It is very disheartening.
“Cecilia, are you going to buy more ingredients?”
I shook my head. I don’t feel like cooking anymore. I want to leave, but I don’t want to abandon master either. Master is my savior. If I can’t save him in return then how could I ever show my gratitude to him?
“Oh my, I wasn’t aware we had curry powder and rice in our pantry.”
I forgot we had that too. I bought all the ingredients, but when the mistress still lived in this household, she bought those ingredients mentioning that it was part of a dish that only she knew how to make. I actually know what dish she made with those ingredients. That’s when it struck me…the perfect meal for master.
I grabbed those two ingredients and grabbed some fish and eggs and began to cook them. I better thank Mary later for reminding me of those ingredients.
I used those ingredients to make kedgeree, a rice dish inspired by India. I don’t have any wine for master to drink, so milk will do. I don’t even bother to put the milk and dish on a tray and just rush to master’s room.
I announce my presence and master once again looks weak as he stares out the window.
“I don’t need your food.”
“I think otherwise Master. Please forgive me for speaking back, but a mummy like you needs to eat.”
Oh dear, Master looks shock. Well this is the first time I insulted him. I place the tray of kedgeree on his lap and stated, “Now eat this. Even if it is just one bite.”
Master looked down at the Kedgeree and I swear I could see a glint in his eyes. He lifted up his hand and instead of swatting the meal to the ground, he grabbed the spoon from the tray and dipped it into the Kedgeree. So far so good.
Master scooped up the food and then placed it into his mouth. Success! He ate my food.
“Why did you make Kedgeree?”
“Well, I remember that mistress used to make this for you and you never left a crumb on the plate, so I thought I should make you one too.”
Master placed his spoon down and stated, “That is true.” Master took a sip from the milk and then looked at me with such solemn eyes.
“Before Cynthia left, she made me this dish, but just like I did with your food, I threw it away. After that, she left me forever.”
Master took another spoonful of the food and then stated, “I regretted doing that and I made a promise not to eat anything, except for her dish as my punishment for driving her away.”
“I made that promise and treated the food you made the same way. The same way that drove Cynthia away. Why do you stay?”
I smiled placing my hand to my chest as if in prayer.
“Because you are my beloved master and I would do anything to make the perfect meal for you.”
I saw the tears escape from Master’s eyes as he looked at me with some rice on the side of his lips.
“This is indeed the perfect meal.”
“With that very meal, Cecilia’s master was saved not just from doors of death, but from the sadness that covered his heart. She had created the perfect meal.”
Mabelle breathed out after the story and smiled at Ema stated, “So you see, just a simple meal like this before you helped Cecilia’s master find happiness.”
Ema frowned saying, “It doesn’t change the fact that this looks horrid.”
“I see your point, but know that Farrow put his heart into his cooking just to please you for your meal and you have always turned it away just like how Cecilia’s master turned away her food, but just one bite pleased her. Can’t you do the same for Farrow, Madam?”
Ema was silent and then extended her hand to take the spoon from the plate. She scooped up some of the Kedgeree and then placed the spoonful into her mouth. She chewed slowly with Mabelle watching. She then placed the spoon down saying, “There, I took a bite.”
“I am proud of you Madam,” stated Mabelle and was about to lift the tray away, but Ema immediately said, “I didn’t say I was finished.” Mabelle smiled as she released the tray.
Ema shoveled the meal into her mouth savoring the taste and the next thing she knew the meal was done. Mabelle’s eyes looked proud as she handed Ema a glass of water.
“How was your meal?”
“…It was passable, but the presentation still looked horrid.”
“But it was delicious, correct?”
Ema rolled her eyes and stated, “It was delicious. Please give my compliments to the chef.” Mabelle nodded and began to pick up the tray with the dirty dishes. Mabelle bowed to Ema to excuse herself from the room, but before she could leave Ema stated, “I know I am in no position to eat a large meal, but for tomorrow’s meal, please make a goat cheese dip with buttered bread. I will not turn that away.” Mabelle giggled assuring Ema that she would tell Farrow and then left the room.
When Mabelle returned to the kitchen, she made sure to tell Farrow that the meal was eaten. Just knowing that, Farrow was practically in tears and promised Mabelle to make the meal the Madam asked for the next meal.
After Mabelle helped wash the dishes, she was allowed to return to her room to retire for the night. Mabelle changed into her nightgown and then sat on her bed staring out her window. She thought of the story she told the Madam as a saddened look entered her eyes.
I was not completely honest with that story.
A long time ago, Cecilia, a maid of the Warren Estate, wept over the limp body of Udolf Warren. Udolf was pale and a spoon laid on his limp hand.
“Master…master…I’m so sorry…”
The door to the room suddenly creaked open making Cecilia turn around only to see Mary looking at her with no emotion in her eyes.
“I see you gave master the perfect meal…the perfect last meal.”
“Did you do this, Mary? Did you poison Master’s food?”
Mary nodded and added, “I placed it in the curry powder. I was worried he wouldn’t eat it just like your other meals.”
“Why…Why would you do this?”
“I was hired to kill this man with poison and now his estate is free for the taking…actually my client will get this estate.”
“You’re heartless…I thought you were my friend.”
“…We could never be friends.”
Angry tears ran down Cecilia’s eyes and then grabbed the spoon that still held the poisoned food.
“I would rather be with my master.”
Cecilia placed the tainted food in her mouth and after a few moments fell on top of Udolf’s body as if she were asleep.
Mary stared at the two dead bodies with a small tear escaping her eyes.
Mabelle blinked the tears from her eyes as the memory ran through her mind. That was one of the times she actually shed tears during a mission. She took the name Mary and entered the Warren Estate with the sole purpose of poisoning the master, which was ordered by her client an opposing oil tycoon to get the estate and the rights to the Warren Oils. She just didn’t expect for Udolf to reject all food after his wife left him. She got close to Cecilia to get her to continue to make food for the master and she hoped that Cecilia’s dedication would eventually convince the master to eat the poisoned food. With just a little push, Cecilia finally fed the master and Mabelle completed her mission. She just didn’t expect for Cecilia to commit suicide.
Mabelle wiped the tears from her eyes and remembered Cecilia’s laugh as she shopped for ingredients with her. Mabelle smiled.
I’m sorry, Cecilia. If I wasn’t an assassin then I could have really been your friend. At least the story I told gave a happy ending to you and your master.
Mabelle clutched her hands to her chest.
“Don’t ever forgive, but please find happiness.”
Mabelle closed her eyes remembering the laugh of Cecilia, the maid who loved her master.