Characters in Depth:
Cosima Schmidt

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

Favourites Writers
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Lorraine Stanton
Vicki Wootton
Shalanna Collins

Cosima Schmidt was the eldest daughter of Helmuth Schmidt, the Schönwald stableman, and Emma Schmidt the Schönwald household cook.  Even as a small child, Cosima was acutely aware that she was born rather too quickly after her parents’ marriage for propriety.  She didn’t find this out from her parents.  Emma and Helmuth were each embarrassed by their indiscretion and never spoke of it.  They certainly didn’t say a word to any of the children.  Cosima heard about her “unsavory” beginnings repeatedly and cruelly from the household staff at Schönwald.

This had two effects on Cosima.  One was to make her hate the elderly household staff, who were cruel to her mother and cruel to her younger sister and herself as the children of Emma.  The other was to make her feel that she was a bastard.  Even though she knew her parents were married, she felt the stain that they had sinned, and she was the result of that sin.

Unfortunately, Cosima was very tall, heavy in a chunky kind of way, ungainly and clumsy.  She felt stupid and ugly.  She believed that if she’d been pretty or graceful or tiny or smart that no one would have minded that she was born too soon.  If she’d been a small baby, people might even have believed she was premature and not a bastard at all.

Cosima’s unhappiness gave her a sullen expression and a lurching flat footed walk, which did nothing to help her overcome her feelings of ugliness and uselessness.  The scoldings, her bad temper, stomping, and door slamming earned her only served to convince her that no-one loved her or wanted her.

The heiress, Luise von Goff, was three years younger than Cosima, who was seven when Luise started sneaking down to the kitchen by herself.  At first Cosima was jealous of the attention her mother gave Luise, but she quickly came to pity her when she saw the nanny, Frau Blücher, catch her in the kitchen one day and haul her off back upstairs, and saw the sympathy the kitchen staff had for anyone who had to live with Frau Blücher.  As sorry as Cosima felt for herself, at least she didn't have to live with Frau Blücher.  Even if Cosima felt that Emma didn’t understand her and scolded her more than she deserved, Cosima wasn't ignored by her mother the way Luise was ignored by her mother, Hildegard, and Cosima didn't have to live with Frau Blücher, who Cosima cordially loathed.  She didn’t envy Luise’s position because when she compared Luise’s life to her own, she thought she was better off than Luise was.

Over time Cosima came to have a strong affection for Luise, enjoying her company, and looking forward to having her spirits lifted by Luise's openhearted delight in every day things that Cosima took for granted, such as toast.  Cosima saw that Luise was lonelier than she was.  At least Cosima had a sister, even if she didn’t get along with her, and three older half-brothers, even if Markus was slow and she didn’t like Wolfgang.  She adored her half-brother Kurt, and pitied Luise being all alone all the time with no brother like Kurt, and no mother-love.

Cosima admired her mother tremendously, and felt inadequate in comparison.  After all she’d been through, Emma was still even tempered, good hearted, and cheerful without a hint of bitterness about her.  Cosima wished she could be like her mother.

It was deeply humiliating to the Schmidt children that Helmuth was married to the household cook instead of to the stable cook.  It wasn’t right for the stableman to eat in the big house, any more than it was right for the household cook to sleep in the stable quarters.  That Emma and Helmuth went back and forth between the two worlds was wrong in the eyes of their children, and served to illustrate that something untoward had gone on between the two, for them to have married at all.  It was that wrongness that the senior household staff fastened on in their relentless campaign against Emma and her children.

Cosima spent her first twelve years in her mother's kitchen, and seemed destined to be a kitchen servant, or to work in the stables.  She had thought that she would be the stable cook, so she spent some time in the stable kitchens helping her father's sister.  Then an order came down that the master of the estate, Otto von Goff, wished to have Cosima serve at the dinner table.  Previous to that Hildegard's mother, Clothild, had hired a series of well trained serving girls who had been so mistreated by Hildegard and the senior household staff, that none of them had stayed on.  Fed up with the constant departures of anyone new to Schönwald, Otto ordered that someone who lived there and could not quit should serve him.

At first Cosima was humiliated and appalled to be called back into the house and sent above stairs.  She had no idea what was expected of her, except that she was sure she’d mess it up.  She knew that Hildegard loathed her, and felt as if Otto was using her to get back at his wife.  She was in the room when Hildegard and Clothild both scolded Otto for interfering in the running of the house, and she could see how it amused Otto when her clumsiness drove his wife and mother-in-law mad.  However, it soon became clear to Cosima that the von Puttkamer staff were outraged that she was serving at the table, and if there was anything that Cosima enjoyed, it was upsetting them.  She became grimly determined to continue to serve at the table.

Clothild intended to hire more serving girls, but when she died suddenly no one followed through on her plans, which meant Cosima continued to serve Otto.  After a while Otto’s kindness to her created a spark of hopefulness in her, and a desire to do better.  Not only that, but serving at the master’s table included serving him at breakfast, at which Otto was never joined by Clothild or Hildegard.  Otto liked to have breakfast with Luise each morning.  Cosima found herself drawn into their sense of fun, and realised that they not only didn’t despise her, they actually liked her.

Cosima formed a plan to do something for herself, the way Emma did something for herself.  Her increased exposure to Luise gave her the feeling that she could count on Luise, and that Luise wouldn’t be above breaking a few rules.  She eventually plucked up the courage to ask Luise to teach her to read.  Luise was blind-sided by the request, but was intrigued by the idea, and agreed.

As they spend time together on Cosima’s reading lessons, the two girls came to trust and like each other, so that Luise felt she could depend on Cosima to help her when she got herself into a jam, and Cosima felt that she could depend on Luise to keep her secrets.

When Cosima formed her big plan to “be somebody,” Luise was the only person she confided it to.  Although Luise didn’t understand Cosima’s need, and they fought about it, she never broke Cosima’s confidence.  As Cosima became more purposeful, she became less sullen and clumsy, earning praise from Otto, and earning Emma’s approval.  That was enough to steel her in her resolve, despite the sneering from her little sister, and the lack of acceptance from her father and Hildegard.


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