The Numbers Must Match

Another story from the Mistress’s Child series.

The entire household at the rented house was caught unprepared by the arrival of an unexpected visitor – the Brother. Alfred, the oldest, most dignified, and calmest person amidst the household, was the one who welcomed him, quickly giving instructions to get Little Mistress over. The Mistress was still sick in bed, and it would not be good for her to have her sickness aggravated by a meeting with Young Master.

The Mistress’s Child rushed over from the factory, where she had been supervising the workers. What business has her elder brother in her house, she wondered. He had vowed never to recognise the legitimacy of the place, as part of the family, and refused to even acknowledge the presence of the place within the family. Why was he there?

“Let’s make it quick. I’m a busy man, and my father has a meeting with me later.”

She could feel the edge as he placed extra stress on the phrase “my father”.

“Due to the economic conditions, we have decided to streamline labour costs by the size of the household. Your house should only require 3 servants, and I must say that you are already overstaffed. You will have to remove half of your staff. Please let my secretary know who they are, and we will handle the compensation.”

The Mistress’s Child was shocked, and Alfred could feel again her rage, as tears began to well up in her eyes. He stood between Young Master and her, and said, “Young Master, with all due respect, it is difficult, if not impossible, to run the household properly without a minimum number of staff. What you have just proposed will mean that I will possibly have to be the gardener as well. Not only that, but the cleaning lady will have to handle maintenance, something she is totally not trained for.”

Young Master glared at Alfred, “Alfred, if you do not mind, I am the Young Master of the family, and the true heir to the business of my father.”

Everyone could feel the sneer behind his words as he said “true heir” and “my father”.

“If not for the fact that you took the assasin’s knife, meant for my father, you will not even have this post as Butler. We know you are an uneducated old man, and not very capable as well. Be glad that you are keeping your Butler’s position. Father claims that he has given his best to this family-breaking woman, and to this illegitimate girl. I can assure you, Alfred, that once my father passes away, that I will give you a good immediate retirement, after serving another family on behalf of my father.”

Alfred had to quickly catch the eye of Young Master’s secretary, as he moved even nearer to Little Mistress. If she were to strike Young Master, she would be in big trouble. It was a good thing he had maintained good relationships with many in the business empire, relationships he had cultivated over the years. The secretary moved nearer to Young Master.

“Sir, it is raining and the horses may get a thrown shoe if the mud gets worse. May I prepare them for your journey back home, where Old Master awaits you for a meeting?”

Young Master nodded and prepared to leave. As he left, the entire household could hear his words, “I am not interested in how you will be affected or how you are going to do it. Keep to the allocated number of servants, and not a single more.”

The Mistress’s Child burst into tears as the doors closed. Alfred came to her, as she threw herself into his arms, sobbing uncontrollably.

“Oh Alfred, I’m so sorry I cannot give you more. I’m so sorry…”

Alfred kept quiet as the Mistress’s Child sobbed away. It sure looked like, besides handling the duties of a Butler, and the unofficial job of Bailiff (since Old Master has indicated the house is too small to have a Bailiff), he really had to handle the gardening as well. He looked at the pale faces about him. The harder part would come, for all these were loyal servants, who had given their all to maintain this old broken-down house. It was difficult when one insisted on keeping the numbers rather than looking at the requirements of the situation.

It sure looked like retirement would come sooner than he thought.

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