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Characters in Depth:
Philomele Hübner

First Trilogy
All Manor of Yarns

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 I.

Prussian Yarns

II.

A Stitch in Time

III.

Tinctures & Tantrums

Second Trilogy
The Snow Queen and
The Caterpillar

IV.

There is a Season

V.

 Viennese Yarns

VI.

Orchids

Third Trilogy
Taffeta Tales

VII.

British Yarns

VIII.

Polish Yarns

IX.

Threads of Strife

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Lorraine Stanton
Vicki Wootton
Shalanna Collins
 

Philomele Hübner had been born the sixth daughter to impoverished gentry.  Her parents had a small holding outside of Angermünde on which they had to struggle just to keep a roof over their heads.  Dowries for six daughters was not possible.

The did the best they could for the older girls, but instead of allowing the younger girls to either marry beneath their class, or to remain unmarried as unpaid farm labour, they had put them into service when suitable looking positions came up.  It worked out well for Philomele's sister, who had ended up being a personal maid to royalty, and had made a good match despite her lack of dowry.

At the age of twelve Philomele had been sent off to Schönwald to start her life as the personal maid to the heiress.  Keeping her sister's success in mind, Philomele had been unafraid when she'd set out from home.  She imagined that she would actually be doing less work, and easier work at that, than she had grown up doing on her father's land.

Refined, gentle, and quietly spoken, she was unprepared in any way to deal with the life she walked into at Schönwald.  Instead of a genial life as the helpmate to a gentlewoman, she worked as the harried errand-runner for Hildegard's governess, Frau Klemperer and her old nanny, Frau Blücher.  They were cruel to her, using her as a skivvy, though she was of a much better class than they.  They hit, slapped, and kicked her; shouted at her; called her names; ridiculed, humiliated, and punished her.

Nothing in Philomele's background prepared her to be able to cope.  Her family had been hardworking, but they had been loving and courteous.  She had not a streak of rebelliousness about her.  Her instinctive reaction was to be more and more obedient and docile.  She never told anyone what went on in Hildegard's apartment.  Too ashamed and embarrassed to speak to her parents Philomele kept her misery to herself, believing that the way she was mistreated was somehow all her own fault.

Philomele saw that Hildegard was bullied by Frau Blücher and Frau Klemperer quite as much as she was, but all Philomele was capable of doing for Hildegard was to be as quietly kind to her.  She was Hildegard's first companion, the first person to provide a spark of friendship, the only one who ever actually knew and understood Hildegard's shrivelled, lonely heart.

By the time Frau Klemperer and Frau Blücher retired, Philomele had been so trained to follow Frau Blücher's orders that she was utterly unable to make any decisions on her own.  It was more than thirteen years since she'd come to Schönwald, and all ability to think for herself had been knocked out of her.

Frau Blücher, Frau Klemperer, and Hildegard had told her repeatedly throughout the entire time she'd been at Schönwald how evil and unfeeling Otto was.  With no chance to see or hear any other side, Philomele had accepted what she'd been told unquestioningly.  She distrusted everyone outside of Hildegard's rooms, not only Otto, so she shared nothing with any of them.

Isolated in the three small rooms that Hildegard had decided to occupy since she'd moved out of the rooms she'd shared with Otto, not speaking to anyone else, Philomele didn't think about whether to not the things she'd been told made sense, or whether they agreed with what she saw or not.  It was what she'd been told to think, so that was what she thought.

The entire time Philomele had been at Schönwald Hildegard had needed medication.  The doctor regularly prescribed medicine for her, and she suffered without it.  As far as Philomele knew Hildegard's medicines kept her alive.  As well as the prescribed medicine, Frau Blücher had herbal preparations to help Hildegard.

When Otto ordered Hildegard to open her drapes every day, to get up, to eat, and to leave her rooms, Philomele couldn't see his actions as an attempt to help Hildegard, but only as a cruel attack on her.  His control of the mail between Hildegard and Frau Blücher was likewise seen as a cruelty.  Philomele didn't understand Otto's need to coerce Hildegard to do as he said, and she couldn't accept that the things Frau Blücher wrote to Hildegard could in anyway harm Hildegard.  They were both dependent on Frau Blücher; they both needed her to give them instructions on what to do and when to do it.

Reaching for her life-line, Philomele slipped out of the house and walked to the village to send letters to Frau Blücher that Otto didn't know about, and to get replies from Frau Blücher that Otto couldn't intercept.  In that way Hildegard received her orders to get up, get dressed, and to eat, and Philomele had her daily instructions and could function without the terrifying need to do things without being told what to do.

The only action Otto took which Philomele could accept was hiring girls to help her.  She had no idea how to give instructions, nor even of how to care for the girls and make sure they were fed, but the companionship and soothing ministrations of Katya gave Philomele the first comfort she'd had since she was twelve years old.  Gurda's comings and goings made her nervous, but Katya gave her solace.

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