for writers and readers….
Another week, another bulging mail bag for Mrs Finnegan, housekeeper at The Regency Town House. ALL enquiries, observations and ANGUISHED APPEALS for help get an answer. It may not be the answer you want, it may not be the RIGHT answer, but it is an answer…
The woman who I thought was my closest, dearest friend, my boon companion, has betrayed me. I have just discovered she has revealed my secret to another.
When I confided in her I made it plan she must never tell.
What would you do?
Horatia of Hollingbury
You COULDN’T keep the secret why do you expect her to do ANY better?
I’m not ENTIRELY sure you should be praised.
Some might say that maintaining VIRTUE without the opportunity to do anything else is naught but laziness. I have it on good AUTHORITY that when a horse loses a shoe in your village it is talked about for a month.
Try a real challenge and reside in Brighton for a sennight and then see how you fare.
Yes, certainly you MAY.
Don’t be put off by carping gossips. And your husband too, as he seems a JOVIAL SORT
I am prepared to ACCEPT that love at first sight exists – especially if the SIGHT is of a bank balance or house to be INHERITED.
Across a crowded ballroom, not SO much
(I hope you are as diligent over your school books as you are at reading my Chronicles. Neglect neither.)
Head LICE are tiresome.
Have you tried DROWNING them with seawater? Suffocating them with OIL or fat? (I’ve heard coconut oil is very good but beef SUET may have to suffice) Combing them out with a COARSE comb?
TRY not to scratch in church.
All I can say is that I advise girls of a marriage-able age to BEWARE men who count out their lives in cheese RINE and candle ends.
Do you REMEMBER how I encountered Susan, the lady’s maid, coming out of a house in North Laine? And how she pretended to be a STRANGER there?
I have been back once already to find out more. No answer.
You surely know by now that Mrs Finnegan is INDEFATIGABLE
I returned yesterday morning.
It was a pleasant walk among the TURNIP fields and apple trees. The sun was shining, birds were singing and when outside the HOUSE in question I heard…a baby crying. A knock on the door brought forth a pleasant woman with a dimpled, kindly face.
What could I do, DEAR reader, but lie?
With a brazen smile on my lips and a timorous heart BEATING under my fichu, I said I came with a message from Susan and the door opened wide.
I feared what I MIGHT find. A hub of Brighton thieves and Patcham cut throats perhaps or a bawdy house smelling of BARGAIN perfume and unwashed petticoats? The plain door might hide a TREASURY of stolen silver, or a baby farm where young lives are held cheap and a DROP of nourishing milk held very dear. (Sometimes a VIVID imagination is a curse.)
What I saw was…
Two BONNY children, a comfortable home and baking bread.
Oh the relief!
The woman looked at me enquiringly. The message?
My mind was blank which was a STRANGE sensation as I usually have UPWARD of half dozen ideas circulating and at least three recipes.
I was passing, I said fishing out my purse. (Yes, another lie. I’m keeping count of them too.) And wanted to treat dear Susan’s…I started to MUMBLE at this point, hoping that the woman would fill in the gaps of my knowledge.
Mrs Susan’s babe, said the woman holding the CHILD up to be kissed. I made a fumbling attempt and was attacked by sticky fingers and a gurgling mouth. (I prefer children after the FLOPPY, gooey stage when they can hold a reasonable conversation.)
I handled the charming BUNDLE back still unsure what it is. It’s so hard to tell when girls and boys are dressed the same until the breeches party. Looking at the BLUNT nose and strong thighs, I surmised a boy.
‘Little Theodora will get a lovely sugary treat,’ I was told.
My glance fell on the hopeful face of the bigger girl and the pennies fell BACK into my purse. ‘Oh no, I insist. There must be a treat for both.’ I presented the mother with a silver SHILLING. I’m a fool to myself, but I was rewarded with sunny smiles from mother and daughter.
Well, I have THE STORY now, but I think I need the hear the prologue. Miss Susan and I shall sit down and talk tomorrow.
Meanwhile, the Mistress is not a pleasant sight as this extract from her diary reveals.
I seem to have developed a rash.
To be perfectly truthful, my temper has become a sort of niggling pet. At inconvenient and unexpected times I can feel it rising through my body and erupt in little red spots.
If only I had a REMEDY for an irritable disposition.
I find myself out of sorts with everything. Nothing is going the way I want it to go, with the possible exception of Mrs Pole’s cooking, but now I find myself to be eating too much since it is, of course, incumbent on me to try everything.
The dressmaker may need to take OUT a few seams on Mrs H’s day clothes – I wish someone would do it for me. Mention of the new cook reminds me that Mrs Pole’s shopping still LEAVES me perplexed. The fishmonger’s bill was VERY HIGH this week. Apparently a turbot was bought and cooked on my half day off. And there were NO left overs.
If only people would not vex me so! I instructed Mrs Finnegan to make a Camomile lotion, but she is exceedingly slow about it.
I have only just LOCATED a source of flowers.
I have found a new dressmaker who is appropriately humble. I trust she will not be quick in offering opinions or deserting me for another. This rash becomes even more inflamed whenever I think of Mrs Guppy.
It DOES seem to be getting worse
After much deliberation, I have settled on red velvet for a head piece. I am thinking of a glorious turban to make all heads turn. The final dress fitting is next week.
How CLEVER! The exact same shade as the rash.
Where is that Finnegan woman? Where is that camomile lotion?
I have only just got back from HARVESTING the flowers. I may need to dry them and seep them in almond oil….Perhaps I won’t tell her it probably won’t be ready until this time next week.
Looking through MY OWN papers I see it is almost EXACTLY a year since Miss Martha and myself made the acquaintance of our neighbours at number 60. That very ODD couple. Mother and Son. Trouble AND Misery.
And at Number 61.
Dear, DEAR Master Peregrine Ludlow Hilderbrace (Riding Master, retired)
I shall quote myself:
Standing a good six foot in his well-polished boots, he gulped down Brunswick Town air as if it were strong beer. Smacking his lip, he announced to the clouds that he was well pleased with the day.
It’s RATHER good, isn’t it?
If you’re ALSO feeling nostalgic (for a fine prose style) you can read it again HERE
Mrs Finnegan is the creation of Bridget Whelan and Paul Couchman, The Regency Cook and written with the support of volunteers at The Regency Town House.
A special THANK YOU this week to Catherine Page
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