In the kitchen, Gwyneth lights a gas lamp -- gas lamp! -- and Rose comes in and starts doing dishes. Gwyneth yells at her, just like Rose's last poor friend last week, and Rose tells her, "Don't be daft, Sneed works you to death." Which is funny, because if ever you could take that literally and it still wouldn't be a problem.... Gwyneth assents, and she and Rose work together. It pinged a little last week, this Rose-and-labor shortcut to proving she's a decent fellow, but, like, the poorest, most fucked-up kid in urban London is still better off in almost every way than a nineteenth-century nobleman, you know? So it's more a meeting of mindsets, but that falls apart too, because Rose has not even that in common with any of these people. Nothing makes you quite the snob that time travel does, by simple circumstances, because the future is always, always better. Anyhow, Rose kind of gets smacked for it here, but not enough to take the taste completely out. "Isn't she sweet? She really connects to the common man! Indoor plumbing means we're better people!" Not that I'm taking up the cause of premodern living, because we are better people, and we smell better, and we don't have a whole lot of ghostly issues happening all the time, but still, it's kind of cheap as a shortcut to making Rose more sympathetic, considering that she's pretty bad-ass without having to engage in meaningless conversations about sweet F.A. with whatever house servant they run across.
"How much do you get paid?" asks our kind little Norma Rae, and Gwyneth says, "Eight pound a year," which comes out to...I don't even know. Weren't some of the annuities in E.F. Benson around that? Doesn't that equal like a billion dollars? Rose is like, "Excuse me?" And Gwyneth nods, gratefully: "I know. I would've been happy with six." Maybe this conversation would have more impact on me if I knew what those amounts mean. I mean, I get it, I'm not an idiot, but if they were in America and were talking about eight dollars a year, I would know that these are sub-Tremaine wages for the amount of shit Gwyneth gets done for the old goat. ["All I know is that people in Jane Austen novels -- set, like, fifty years earlier than this -- are always trying to land the girl who has 'ten thousand pounds a year,' and even though they're noblemen, eight pounds a year still doesn't sound like very much." -- Wing Chun] "So, did you go to school or what?" Rose asks. I like the parallels here, because to Rose, being poor and indentured is not unlike working at the butcher's or whatever, and she blames everything on her dropping out. And that makes me sad. "Of course I did," says Gwyneth. "What do you think I am? An urchin?" I would have winked at her: "Nope, just Welsh." (I'm Welsh mostly, if you're wondering, which is why all the Welsh-mentioning.) Gwyneth says she went to school "every Sunday, nice and proper," and Rose's jaw drops for like the hundredth time. Rose! It's 140 years ago! With exponential technical advancement, that's like hundreds of years! School takes second place to stuff like eating! Gwyneth, again thinking Rose's amazement is downward instead of up, nods excitedly and confidingly: "We did sums and everything. To be honest, I hated every second."