My name is Jenny Forester. I was christened Jennifer but after my mother died, it was always just Jenny. Jenny do the washing. Jenny scrub the floor. Jenny, make your sister stop crying.
It’s no excuse, but it's why I ran away to work in the dance halls the day I turned sixteen.
You’d never know to see me now, but for ten months I performed in the Tivoli Music Hall wearing a borrowed ballet costume. I even danced outside in the back where I could get a little crowd to pay.
Once a toff had me join a tableau vivant at the Palace Theater. I and the other girls wore a nude body stocking and it would have been a shock to my dead mother, I can tell you. When the proprietary of the Tivoli found out, he fired me.
I guess it was a mixed blessing when I got a job as a maid for the Worcesters on Plum Lane. It's a big house set back from the road and beyond the sound of passing carriages. I got the job on a faked reference but nobody seemed to care. I suspect a lot of girls didn’t like to work for the Madam because she has a bad temper. I always allow for her moods because she is plagued with sick headaches.
I have to send for the doctor and he gives her laudanum, and she is good as gold after that, poor madam. So I work from sun to sun, as they say, but I have my Sundays off and usually I visit Eaglesfield Park and sit on this bench, and take along some knitting for my sister’s baby or a book of poems. Madam doesn’t like me reading in the house, not even by candlelight after dinner. But I can sneak a book from the library sometimes, as Armstrong the butler doesn’t mind and will cover for me. I sneak him the best bits from the kitchen and we have our little chats about books. He fancies himself a writer.
My baby sister is married now and a mother of a baby of her own. Her husband Jimmy is high up and a proper merchant with a tobacco shop in the Strand. Very high up. I can’t step foot in the door. I have to use the back entrance, but that’s not because I’m a maid. It’s what I did before.
My nephew is such a dear boy, and deserves the sweater I’m knitting him in the warmest shade of gold to match his curls. I’ve never married, sad to say.
I sometimes wonder what happened to the toff who pulled me into the Palace. He was a handsome devil named Hawks. I’m very respectable now with my hair up in braids and a dress up to my neckline. I dream he may see me on a Sunday and think me much changed.