The Consensus

Another story from the Mistress’s Child series.

It was another of those long banquets that her father liked to invite prominent people to. The Mistress’s Child had never liked them, preferring to spend the time with her ailing mother. She never felt like she was part of the family, though she sat at the family table. All around, the talk was on the family business, on the happenings within her father’s family, of the successes of her brother. Nobody talked about her mother, not even her father. Nobody talked about the small textile factory she had been assigned to manage by her father.

And so she was caught by surprise when the Businessman came by and asked her what she thought about the family business. The table suddenly became quiet. Mistress’s Child had learnt by then to be very careful with her words. She still remembered the slap she got from her father.

“As usual, father, I will listen to my brother, and follow his wishes in the family business.”

What the Businessman said shocked everyone at the table.

“Girl! You are part of the family! We want to hear what you have to say. We go by consensus here in the family. I do not want to hear any such nonsense about you listening to your brother and following his wishes in future. Am I clear on this?”

All eyes were on her as she nodded. She decided that more talk would simply alienate her further from the other members of the family.

============

It was another of those long business meetings that Mistress’s Child wished she need not attend. Again, the meeting was all about the big money-spinners of the business empire, and how her brother had managed to acquire more properties. As the meeting drew to a close, her father called for Any Other Business, the last part of the agenda.

She hesitated, wondering if she should speak up. She decided to.

“Father, Alfred has been working very, very hard, on his own, since our number of servants has been cut to a third. Some of my servants have to cover two jobs, and Alfred himself has to cover for some servants when they fall sick. May I ask for, perhaps, one or two servants from the Mansion to come by, just once or twice a week, to help out?”

Before her father could speak, her brother chipped in, “Dad, I believe we have spoken of how the numbers must match. Look, Alfred is already an old man, and he is really not doing his job well. On the same proportion of servants to the size of the property, my estate manager is able to do so much more than him. Maybe we really should consider axing him, and getting another person to replace him.”

Mistress’ Child was in tears as she tried to control her emotions, tried not to appear weak in front of her brother, “Look! You have economy of scale in managing your mansion! Look at the number of servants that can be deployed, against the jobs they must do! The size of my property is smaller, but the number of jobs remain the same! And Alfred! He has given so many years of his life to the family, his youth, his prime! He may be old, but he is wise, and loyal to the family! Please – ”

She was cut off by the wave of his father’s impatient hand.

“Girl, listen to your brother. He graduated from the best universities, and has been making lots of money for the family with his many deals. I will deal with Alfred as I see fit, but for now he keeps his job. He will have to prove that he is worth his job though – I heard that he is quite weak at managing the servants, and spends his time chitchatting with the servants from the Mansion instead.

Now if there is nothing else, consider the meeting dismissed.”

Mistress’ Child did not bother to look back as she headed to her carriage. She did not want the family to see her tears and gloat at her. “Consensus” was just a nice-sounding word. There had never been, and would never be a consensus as long as her brother was the heir, and the star of the family in the eyes of her father.

She clutched at her heart as the carriage went over a bump. This slap was at her heart this time. She would never trust her father again.

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