A ringing of the bell in, say, the kitchen might be caused by the mistress calling for service from upstairs, but it might also caused by someone pulling the wire in an intervening room.

What do pulling the wire and intervening room mean in that sentence?

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    Do you understand how the bell system worked in those old houses? – Jim May 28 '18 at 14:37
  • No I do not.... – Hsn May 28 '18 at 14:49
  • The wire runs from the ground floor, or basement, where the servants work. The wire runs up through the upper floors. If the bell on the end of the wire rings in the servant's quarters it is not clear (in the system described) whether the person requiring attention (and pulling the wire) is the 'mistress' on the higher floor or someone less important attracting attention on an intermediate floor. Sounds like a pretty inefficient system to me, designed to torment the servants. – Nigel J May 28 '18 at 15:08
  • In old houses, bells in the kitchen or servants' quarters were connected by wires through passages in the walls to bell pulls in the "upstairs" rooms. If the lady of the house in the library wanted a cup of tea, she would pull the bell pull, and the bell marked "Library" would ring in the servants' room to summon a maid. It would have been possible to reach and pull the connecting wire in an intervening room's wall, thereby summoning the servant to, say, an empty Library. (Later, bells were connected electrically, and the mistress of the house would press a button to summon the maid.) – tautophile May 28 '18 at 15:22

Before the age of electricity and intercoms, communication in a large house was facilitated by a system of cords and bells. The kitchen was usually the center of activity for domestic servants and where they could be signaled. A particular bell might have a specific origin so that a servant would know where to go. But it might also be connected to another pull cord in an intervening room of the house. So for instance if a bedroom was located directly above the library, they might share a common cord to the kitchen. The servant would then have to check more than one location to find where their services were required.

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  • Ironically, some modern buses still use a "pull cord" system to ring a bell that signals drivers to stop. – Jason Bassford May 28 '18 at 17:36
  • @JasonBassford - How is that ironic? – Hot Licks May 28 '18 at 20:11

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