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[personal profile] bronzechimera
Edith Hargrove was born in the winter of 1872.  Her parents, Frank and Daisy Hargrove, were factory workers.  The Hargrove family lived in a shoddy tenement with four other families, an unrewarding life.  They paid rent on their overpriced room to an ungrateful landlord; they worked sixteen-hour shifts in the factory; and on top of this, were attempting to raise a child they did not intend to have.

Despite the challenges of factory life in Winchester, the city where the Hargroves lived, the family found comfort in each other.  Daisy was a hard worker who was quickly rehired after her pregnancy.  Frank was a noble man, kind to his wife and daughter.  From the moment Edith was born, Frank made it his mission to keep her out of the factory - forever.

Poverty in 1870s Winchester was grinding.  Sometimes, without Edith earning wages, it was very difficult for the Hargroves to scrape by.  Frank, however, was especially determined.  He sent Edith to school and kept her working in the garden behind their building with the elderly tenant, Mrs. Jackson.  Edith wasn't fond of gardening, but Mrs. Jackson was very good at keeping her company.  Mrs. Jackson told stores about ladies and grand balls that captivated Edith's imagination.

It was at this time in her life that Edith resolved to become a lady.  Of course, social elevation was very difficult in the society Edith belonged to.  However, Mrs. Jackson's tales of grandeur were so fanciful that Edith was willing to face any and all of the difficulties that stood in her way.

Frank Hargrove firmly believed that the most important thing a person could do with their life was to learn to be content with what they were.  One evening, Frank sat Edith on his knee and told her: "The situation you occupy is not important as long as you can look in the mirror and tell yourself, 'I love myself'."

"But Papa," Edith protested, "I've never seen myself in a mirror."

"If your will is iron, I'm sure someday you will have a room filled with them."  Then he kissed Edith on the top of the head and sent her to bed.

Edith, however, had grown tired of her parents' content to live an ordinary life.  She wanted the fancy bustle gowns, the curls, the delicate feathered hats.  One of Edith's favorite daydreams was of herself riding a jeweled carriage across the bridge to Cliffside, a fancy area of town, where she would live happily ever after with the richest man in Winchester.

When Daisy Hargrove was killed while working in the factory, it seemed that Edith's dreams of becoming a lady were crushed.  Daisy had been her daughter's biggest source of inspiration concerning Edith's "new life", and Edith had promised to care for her mother exquisitely when she became rich.

The following winter was a difficult one.  Frank Hargrove sunk into deep depression, having lost his beloved wife.  The fruits and vegetables grown in the Hargrove's garden froze and died.  Their neighbors were in similar situations, and food was very expensive.  Frank and Edith often went hungry, particularly without Daisy's wages.  It became clear to Frank that Edith could no longer stay in school.  She was withdrawn from school and arrangements were made for Edith to live with her aunt, Daisy's sister Violet.

Frank Hargrove died the day before Edith was scheduled to depart for Raleigh manor, the house where Violet Jennings lived and worked.  The Raleigh family paid for Violet's cab.  When she arrived in town to retrieve Edith, the little girl of seven was malnourished, frightened, and deeply mourning her father's death.

Vilet, of course, mourned for her lost sister Daisy.  The pair bonded in grief.  Frank's body was buried in the poor cemetery the afternoon of Edith's departure, next to his wife's.  Edith and her aunt paid their final respects to Mr. and Mrs. Hargrove, then boarded a cab headed for Cliffside.  Edith did not imagine that she would come to life in Cliffside in such a way, but concerning social elevation, a job as a lady's maid paid better than one in the factory.


 The Raleighs were generally kind employers.  Master John Raleigh was the patriarch of the family.  His wife Ellie was timid and girlish.  She enjoyed fine things with a passion similar to Edith's but had the means to afford them.  Her daughters, twins Beatrice and Catherine, were always immaculately dressed.  They were girlish and silly like their mother, all with fair curls; and they dressed similarly, with the girls being miniature versions of their mother.

Edith found John Raleigh particularly interesting because he was intellectually stimulating.  Among Edith's duties as a maid were attending the girls' wardrobes and sitting in during their lessons (both of which she enjoyed equally).  However, Edith found Beatrice and Catherine too vapid to more than admire their clothes.  Edith's favorite pastime lay in the rare discussion with her employer, whom she increasingly came to admire as she grew older.

While Violet and Edith remained close, they had several fundamental differences that kept them from being real friends.  Of course, Violet was Edith's authority figure.  Being in charge of the other servants in the Raleigh's home, Violet was strict but fair.  With Edith, who was very well-behaved, she was only firm.  Violet was more outspoken and Edith like to keep to herself except while chatting with her aunt or Master Raleigh after dinner.

Many years passed, and Edith grew to become a beautiful young woman, though she convinced herself that her dark hair and strong nose were unsightly, and that she would be prettier if she were timid and fair looking like the Raleigh girls (who, ironically, were very jealous of Edith's looks).  Violet took great pride in Edith because of her beauty, intelligence, and ambition.

Master John Raleigh died in the winter of 1889, and after his death the class distinction between the Raleighs and their servants was reinforced.  Edith and her aunt had been servants to the Raleighs, but in Master Raleigh's heart they were dependable, clever people.  The fact that they would never truly be people to the Raleighs again, or to another family, was too much for Edith to bear.

Edith had just turned seventeen, and although she was young, she knew in her heart that she would be miserable if she remained someone's subordinate.  Master John was kind, and believed them equals, and it was at his urging that his wife and children treated Edith and her aunt so.  But with him gone, the timid society girls would undoubtedly take advice from social norms.

December progressed, bitterly cold, and when the sun dawned on January 1890, Edith was gone.

November 2012


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