for writers and readers….
Mrs Finnegan, the hardworking housekeeper at THE REGENCY TOWN HOUSE, was looking FORWARD to an uneventful year in leafy Brunswick Square until yesterday evening. A loud rat-a-tat on her door changed everything.
But first a letter from an anxious reader….
PLEASE HELP, dear Mrs Finnegan. I am struggling to master my fan. Twice I have poked myself in the eye and recently I nearly disabled the most attentive of young men. He claims his nose will never be the same again.
My mother is too interested in her own circle to pay me much attention and when I ask about the special langugae I must learn she just says Fiddlesticks! and stomps off.
Can you teach me the finer points?
Clumsy Cate from Cuckfield
I’m with your mother.
There is no secret code to learn, no FAN language that will REVEAL your intentions across a crowded ballroom. It’s all an ADVERTSING ploy to boost sales. Take a look at this list and ask yourself ONE important question.
What man would BOTHER to learn such a code? (What man would remember it?)
The REAL purpose of a fan (other than keep you cool in an overcrowded room) is to give you something to do with your hands. You are clearly doing TOO much.
All that is required is to FLUTTER your fan whenever someone looks in your general direction. This involves light, quick movements that go NOWHERE near anyone’s elses face. Study other young ladies and copy them.
While you’re at it, master fluttering your eyelashes AS WELL (they don’t have to synchronise with your fan). You will do less damage.
You are NO DOUBT aware that we are fast approaching The Eve of St Agnes on January 20th and WE all KNOW what you will do on that night.
‘Agnes sweet and Agnes fair,
Hither, hither, now repair;
Bonny Agnes, let me see
The lad who is to marry me.’
But be careful!
REGULAR readers may recall that I WROTE about Dumb Cake at Halloween (although a certain person STOPPED me from making one) and I have ABSOLUTELY nothing against this charming tradition. But having read this NEWSPAPER article with ALARM I must beg you beware what you PUT in THE CAKE.
These three tender girls stirred mistletoe juice into the mix, no doubt because of its ROMANTIC associations. They ate a portion of the cake and slid some under their pillow. Did they dream of their FUTURE husband?
Two of the girls WRITHED in the UTMOST extremes of agony but managed to cling onto life with medcial assistance. The third – alas! – expired, never to know TRUE love.
Remember this story and take NO RISKS with your own health.
I have embarked on a MOST COMPREHENSIVE spring cleaning campaign starting with the Mistress’ bedroom and working my way down the house. There is no sign of her diary ANYWHERE. I cannot think where she keeps it. Perhaps she no longer feels the need to write and is relishing the delights of a peaceful home life as I am.
Still, I would feel a little happier in my OWN mind if I knew what was in Mrs Hankey’s.
Have I ever mentioned the BENEFITS of the goose wing before? I think NOT yet they are without doubt the single MOST useful WEAPON in a housekeeper’s arsenal. Strong, flexible and able to reach into all MANNER of nooks and crannys, it is her flintlock pistol in the fight against spider’s webs, soot and dust.
Where can that diary be?
If it were no longer required surely I would have found it carelessly discarded under a pile of corsets or kicked under the bed. Mrs H. is a great kicker….
One bit of news I have for you comes via the LOCAL NEWSPAPER.
Mrs Pole – that great swindling she-monster of a cook – absconded from custody after her trial while on her way to a stinking HULK before being transported to Van Dieman’s Land.
Mrs Hankey was most put out as several inches of newsprint were DEVOTED to her dinner party where the woman was arrested. It gave our address as well as the menu. Mrs Pole is thought to be now in hiding SOMEWHERE on the South Downs.
The same article also mentioned IN PASSING my own small part in the proceedings. I was described as being a well known local character.
I have cut it out for my special scrap book, but I DON’T let things like that go to my head. Sissy was pleased as she WAS here on the day. Her reading is coming on and she is ALSO learning to sew.
Mrs Hankey can’t be secreting her diary about her PERSON, can she? Surely I would have DISCOVERED it by now…
There was a LOUD rat-a-tat-tat at my door last night, MUCH LATER than I like to see visitors. It was such an authoritative thump that if I didn’t know better I would have thought it was Mrs Hankey HERSELF. Sissy was running down the hall BEFORE I could stop her. I heard voices and she came back looking delighted, bewildered AND scared at the same time as if she had just encountered a fairy carrying a LOADED musket.
‘There’s a man and he says he’s…’ she stammered. ‘But I don’t know if that can be so. He says…’ Her EYES widened in alarm. My boots were beating a rhythm on the flagstones before she could FINISH the sentence.
Who had the GALL to call when all decent people were HANGING UP their chemises and saying their prayers?
If he was a nightbour I’d PRETEND not to recognise him.
If it was a tradesman he would be doing NO MORE trade here.
If he was lost I’d send him on his way with the WRONG directions and a thick ear.
I stood in the hall and peered into the gloom. At first I could see NOTHING.
I called out. I could hear nothing.
I stood very still and on the other side of the door came HEAVY breathing. Laboured. Wheezy. I called again, ‘What is your business here?’
Still no answer. I opened the door and held up my candle.
‘Yes?’ says I, pulling myself up to my full five feet.
‘Do you not recognise me, Mrs Finnegan?’
I held my candlestick higher. ‘I do NOT.’ Although I sounded firm, I admit that perhaps there was something familiar about the set of his shoulders and the way he held himself, but even so I could not put a name to the man who stood in front of me.
The man nodded sadly as if he expected as much. ‘I suppose I am much changed since…’
‘The morning you and I walked to the church to get wed.’
I stepped back. ‘What do you mean? Mr Finnegan was drowned. Mr Finnegan was burried. I can assure you Mr Finnengan is VERY MUCH dead.’
‘Did you see the body?’
‘He fell into a well head first and it was some days before he was found. Not a pleasant sight, his friends said.’ I took a deep breath. ‘I saw the coffin though and wept over it.’
‘Thank you. That was perhaps more than I deserved.’ He took the candlestick from my shaking hand and held it up to illuminate his face. ‘Here I am returned to you. Your lawfully wedded husband.’
Is MRS FINNEGAN a widow no more?
Could the man at the door be a ghost?
Will she find Mrs Hankey’s diary?
The Chronicles of Mrs Finnegan are a regular feature written by Bridget Whelan working with a host of volunteers at The Regency Town House. This week a special thank you to Jill Vigus and Paul Couchman.
Click HERE for the next THRILLING episode!
And if you click HERE Mrs Finnegan will send you a note every TUESDAY to let you know when the ink is dry and her chronicle is ready to be read. That’s one less thing to worry about…
This service is provided ENTIRELY FREE of charges, taxes and tips.