She might have had a name. It is hard to say, no one ever asked her if she did. From the moment she started working there, she was known as the maid. The maid was a beautiful uneducated waif when she arrived at the manor. Throughout the years, as expected, she lost her youth and vigor through incessant sweeping and dusting of a house she never owned. The house owned her. She may not have looked like a maid once. Now, in her elderly age, she did.
She became the position she was dealt with like some god-like hand on fortune’s wheel. Dust formed in the wrinkles of her skin, not unlike the dust in between floorboards. Her hair was white snow with cooled coals from the fire resting on her head.
She only saw her employer once or twice a month. He never acknowledged her. One would never acknowledge a statue after passing it by time and time again. He never knew her name and never bothered to wonder if she had a name or a story. If he did think of her, he would think of her work. Never in praise, mind you. He was always condescending in manner.
“Ah, she is old”, he said the other day to himself. “The floors do not shine as they used to. The mantelpiece is not the same color as five years ago.” Then he took this thought from his mind. There were pressing matters at hand and he was an important figure in society.
The maid scrubbed on. Every day, continuing the same work as she had done before. One might wonder if she had stopped thinking at all. Did the hum drum of work and lack of education stilled her brain into nothingness? Or was there conscious thought of merit to begin with? Not even the keenest of minds bothered to understand the workings of her mind. They bothered themselves with the minds of scientists and lunatics.
One day, not unlike any other day at the manor, the maid was scrubbing the floor. She had reached the end of her chores for the day. In a few more moments, she would return to her little hovel of a cottage by the bay.
A pain hit her in the chest. She collapsed. Her eyes rolled into the back of her head. It did not take long for her to die.
Mrs. Illingworth was going out with her husband in a carriage ride. She had her best fur coat and pearl earrings. Upon descending the stairs, she saw the maid on the floor and shrieked.
Her husband fanned her face and brought her gently upstairs. Ringing for a servant he proceeded down the stairs to see what all the fuss was about.
“Dead sir,” the servant muttered. “No breath of life in her.”
“Good god,” he murmured. “God rest her soul.” A few seconds later he stood up and swished his hand around as a motion to the other servants to deal with the maid. He supposed internally that she was one of their kind, and should be taken care of by them. He had no more business with her.
Mrs. Illingworth watched the whole procession in silence. Tears ran down her face as she was obligated to do so. As a woman, her duty was to supply the tears.
When the stretcher had at last taken the maid away, Mr. Illingworth gave a sign to the whole ordeal. He turned promptly to his wife, in tears and grief stricken.
“At least,” said he indifferently, “she left a clean house behind her as a legacy. Could we say the same for other servants?” There was no answer.
The master never remembered the name of his faithful servant. She became like so many others before her, a part of the manor. She was in the upswept cracks of the floor, and the specks of dust behind the bookshelves. Another maid replaced her. She too grew old eventually. Cycle after cycle, the uniform would be mended, passed on and worn down. Facelessly, every maid left a clean house in their wake, only to be soiled by the masters they waited upon.