BRIDGET WHELAN writer

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Mind Your Language if You Want to Keep Your Job, says Brighton’s Regency Housekeeper

It would be wrong to say Mrs Finnegan is back to normal. How could she be when her ENTIRE future still hangs in the balance?
However, she is bolstered by the SUPPORT of her friends and continues to THROW herself into her work at The Regency Town House. She also gains a quiet satisfaction (and no monetary reward whatsoever) from SOLVING the problems of readers

IN IDLE MOMENTS the butler and I sit by the window and gaze up at the multitude of feet and legs that pass the house.
We try to guess who they belong to and have a good laugh when we identify some particularly lumpy and misshapen specimens.
Where’s the harm?
But now someone has snitched to Madam that this is how we spend our leisure time and she is on the warpath aiming to do who knows what when she returns from Paris.
Horribly Harrased Housekeeper from Houndsditch

Mrs Finnegan replies

Someone in your household is spreading MALICIOUS TRUTHS (the very worst kind of gossip) and I suspect a footman WITH ambition or a scheming COOK who desires to be in charge of the House AND the Kitchen.
Be respectful when the Mistress returns, be concerned for her WELFARE and upset that she has to worry about SUCH a trifling matter, but do not be CONTRITE. You have done nothing WRONG.
But please, please, please be CAREFUL about your language.
A housekeeper has NO idle moments or “leisure” time. Nor does the butler. BANISH these phrases from your Vocabulary.
You and he exercise CONSTANT vigilance while awake and sleep the LIGHTEST of sleeps in the few hours given over to repose.
Yes, while preparing accounts, checking tradesmen’s bills, polishing silver, darning linen and eating a modest meal your glance MAY fall upward but not for your OWN amusement. Never that.
It is YOUR duty to observe not only those who arrive and depart from the HOUSE, but also those who MERELY pass by.
Just think, if a burglary is reported in the neighbourhood you may be able to give USEFUL information by noting that an unfamilar pair of galoshes hurried past the VERY hour the heinous crime was committed.
LIKEWISE a housekeeper and butler never have a good laugh, not even at Christmas. They smile, nod their heads in appreciation and – very occasionally – CHUCKLE. Once a year the butler may indulge in a quick chortle and the housekeeper an equally brief titter (with her hand covering her mouth).
THAT is all. Let no one say otherwise.
If you BOTH watch what you say you should be all right.
But you also need to WATCH your backs. Someone is after your jobs.

I HAVE BEEN INVITED to a party.
How marvelous you say. And yes, it does sound so tempting. However there is a problem.
I have heard descriptions of riotous and unseemly behaviour at the last party this gentleman threw. Men and women pressed closely together barely able to breathe.
I know you will advise me not to go and yet…it sounds wonderful.
I long to drink wine and dance with a dozen different men until the early hours.
Should I ?
My best friend Milly is going and has told her Mama it is an evening soiree with some elderly ladies.
Shall I do the same?
Giddy Griselda from Guidea Park

Mrs Finnegan replies

I shall not DISAPPOINT, Griselda.
Of course, you can’t go.
(But if you do, STAY with Milly and come home together. Although how you two are going to account for an ELDERLY ladies’ soiree lasting into the early hours I do not know. It seems to me neither of you are cut out to be liars.)

PS

Continued from last week…
ANOTHER knock on my door.
How I have come to hate the sound of knuckle on wood.
I expected to find yet again the man CLAIMING to be my late husband “Mister Finnegan” who drowned in a WELL two years after our wedding day. Or who – according to him – manufactured his own death to ESCAPE the ties of matrimony AND the inconvenience of numerous debts.

One THING is for certain and that this man is no GHOST. I am afraid he is all TOO real.

But he was not standing in the basement area demanding to be admitted, instead I was greeted by a much more welcome countenance.

Owen Merryweather Talbot, shopkeeper and butler-for-hire, known as Merry to his special friends, stood in front of me with solicitude and WORRIMENT as BOLD upon his face as if it had been written there with a sharp quill in a NEAT copperplate hand.

“You are in trouble,” he said. “Susan told me everything. I came as soon as I could.”
I was about to welcome him when I realised that another man was lurking in the darkness. I held my breath, grabbed Merry’s arm and pointed a shaking finger into the shadows. Slowly a figure emerged.

At first all I could see was a fine top hat and a well-cut frock coat, but as I held my candle higher a familiar face appeared.

It was Mr Peregrine Hilderbrace, riding master (retired), who lives at 61 Brunswick Square. He HAS been a good neighbour and I am ALMOST tempted to say good friend, although that is PERHAPS presuming too much. It is enough to say that he is a gentleman of noble intellect and genial disposition. Miss Martha told him of my distress, but it was a STRANGE coincidence* that brought these two men to my door at the same time.

Unfortunately, they also tried to enter my room at the same time which caused some shoulder-butting along with a good dollop of After-you-sir and No! After-you with a sprinkling of I insist and I beseech you, but finally we were all together.
Merry held out his hand to Master Peregrine.

There was a moment’s hesitation and then they shook.

After I produced tea, sandwiches and CAKE the talk moved from the coldness of winter to my own sorry DILEMMA.

Both men pressed me on the question of “Mr Finnegan’s” identity.
Was I certain he was not my husband?
I was.
Could I prove it? Did my husband have tattoos or scars that were absent from Mr F’s body? (This was Merry’s idea.)

I shuddered at the thought of making an investigation. The late Mr Finnegan had no distinguishing marks. Indeed I could SWEAR an oath that there had been nothing distinguished about him.
What to do?
“The man’s a scoundrel,” said Master Peregrine. “I can send a stiffly worded letter telling him to clear off.”
“The man is indeed a rogue,” agreed Merry. “But I do not think polite words in elegant sentences with commas in the right place will have much effect. Can he even read?”
Alas, I knew only too WELL that he could. He has been reading my Chronicles and using the information AGAINST me.
Both men TUTTED and looked serious.
Master Peregrine offered SOME hope. “The fellow may be put off when he realises that you are not alone. He needs to be aware you have friends who care.”
I was moved to TEARS by his kind words, but Merry leapt up in impatience.
“Action is what is needed,” he declared, his coat tails making a SWISHING sound as he strode up and down the room. “I know some rough fellows – men I would not introduce to you Madam – but who I would like to introduce to the bogus Mr F. He deserves to be run out of town.”
I was shocked and did not KNOW what to say.
Master Peregrine TURNED pale in the candlelight.
A rattling letter box interupted my THOUGHTS and I discovered two FAT envelopes on the hall floor. They were both addressed to me and they BOTH contained bills.

One was for two weeks rent and the OTHER was from a tailor. “Mr Finnegan” had treated himself to a COMPLETE wardrobe of new clothes and I was expected to pay. The total was – brace yourself – £4 4s 6d.
It had BEGUN.

Please note Mr F remains clean shaven

I faced my two friends. SOMETHING has to be done.

oooOOOooo

*There was NO coincidence. I discovered later that because of the WONDEROUS street lighting in Brunswick Square Master Peregrine saw Owen Talbot arrive and hot-footed it across the gardens. I TAKE it as a compliment as Master P doesn’t hot-foot it anywhere as a rule. Indeed, it is very rare that his feet are WARMED by movement.

MRS FINNEGAN is a regular feature written by Bridget Whelan working with a host of volunteers at The Regency Town House, readers and subscribers.
This week a special thank you to Jill Vigus.

READ the NEXT thrilling episode HERE

In addition A SPECIAL MESSENGER SERVICE can INFORM you each and EVERY Tuesday when the latest Finnegan Chronicle is ready to read. (Warning – the ink may still be wet)
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5 comments on “Mind Your Language if You Want to Keep Your Job, says Brighton’s Regency Housekeeper

  1. Sarah Waldock
    February 8, 2022

    these bills are evidence of the man’s fraud, and should be taken to a magistrate post haste, with a deposition that a man claiming to be the late Mr. Finnigan is engaging in a cruel attempt to defraud a poor widow woman. It might also be as well to take out a classified advertisment of the nature; “To whom it may concern; the man representing himself as Mr. Finnigan, husband of Mrs. Finnigan [widow] of Brunswick Square, is hereby avowed to be no such thing, and any bills addressed fraudulently to the said widow will not be honoured.”

  2. Marcia Humphries (spinster of this Parish)
    February 15, 2022

    It has long been a tradition, that spinster ladies, occupying the post of Housekeeper, take unto themselves ‘Mrs’ as a form of address. It is understandable that bludgeoned as you have been by the attentions of an imposter, your powers of explanation temporarily fled. Look to the gentlemen in whom you confided for protection. They will take pride in seeing off the brute.

    • bridget whelan
      February 18, 2022

      A very apposite comment given Mrs F’s recent revelation…

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This entry was posted on February 8, 2022 by in Mrs Ainsley.
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