BRIDGET WHELAN writer

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What is this Husband Doing Once a month? Brighton’s Regency Housekeeper BELIEVES she has the answer…

Mrs Finnegan IS BACK doing what she does best: guiding the giddy, aiding the apprehensive and directing the desolate. HER letterbox is always OPEN. She also keeps The Regency Town House ship shape.

I DON’T KNOW what to think.
Once a month my husband Gerald goes to the theatre. He says that it is a men-only event otherwise he would be happy for me to accompany him. But what can be going on that the theatre is only allowing men to attend?
I have discussed it with my women friends and they say men will be men and I shouldn’t ask questions, but I must find out what Gerald is up to.
Worried Wife of Wadhust

Mrs Finnegan replies

You already know enough.

Men are SIMPLE creatures and there are only two possibilities:
He has joined a secret society with rituals and passwords and all the other pastimes he REMEMBERS from his playground days.
OR
This is NOT a male-only event. It is a male-only AUDIENCE and women are performing.

If he swaggers when he comes home, looks PLEASED with himself and is more self-important then usual then you CAN be sure it is the former.
If he is sheepish when he returns, pays you a compliment or PERFORMS some small service then it is the latter.

Judge him by his behaviour not by what he SAYS.
He will either be feeling guilty or superior. In my experience the instinct to show off LASTS longer than the CAPACITY for regret.

What you DO with this knowledge is, of course, up to you.

I CAN’T CONCENTRATE on anything.
I’m a teacher in a village school and I have met the most wonderful man. He’s tall, has the finest of features and is most polite. However, I don’t think he even notices me. After all, I am just a lowly young woman of poor birth who has somehow managed to secure a job (a job I should add that is not well regarded by many local ladies who feel it is unbecoming for a woman).
Anyway, Lord Prestingham is so constantly in my thoughts I am not giving the children even a modicum of my attention.
What shall I do?
Tortured Teacher from Telscombe

Mrs Finnegan replies

I don’t GIVE a bruised apple for what the matrons of your VILLAGE think about women teachers and nor should you.

What you do today will have an enduring effect on the next generation. How many can MAKE that claim? NEVER forget that what YOU DO matters.

Picture one of your charges – a rosy cheeked little girl perhaps – pointing out your headstone in the churchyard to HER grandchildren at some DISTANT time in the future. Will she say I owe all I am to this fine woman or grumble that she was bored to tears in your classroom?
I can ASSURE you she WILL NOT say There lies Lady Prestingham.

His Lordship might be admirable in all sorts of ways but he DOES NOT love you. He does not think about you. He is BARELY aware you exist
WHAT’S MORE you don’t love him either.
What you are FEELING is practice for the real thing so when you do meet a suitable young man you will know HOW to love and be loved.

It is rather like one of your children COPYING out a poem and then writing it again for BEST without the ink blots and the crossings out.

TRUE LOVE will come your way but in the meantime do YOUR best work in the classroom.

Yours sincerely
Mrs Finnegan

PS

This last week I’ve been in Mrs Hankey’s room as often as I can. Spring cleaning I say, but diary hunting is nearer to the truth.

She puts it in some very odd places. The fichu drawer last week. A hat box this…
Her son is on his way home from the family’s plantations. She longs for his arrival. She dreads it.

I love my dear son inordinately and he stands on the brink of a wonderful career in government.  He will be powerful and influential.  Surely he cannot be undone for some minor indiscretions in the West Indies? But yet, I know he could.   
Oh, what a horror!

This all about Susan, our lady’s maid. I haven’t been officially informed that Thomson Hankey Junior is on his way (and the Mistress is cutting it fine. There’s a heap of work in preparing a suitable bedroom). Should I tell Susan the little I know?
Will it CAUSE distress?
Will it look as though I am prying?
To tell or not to tell.
I am still undecided when, sitting by the fire after supper darning stockings, I hear footsteps coming down the passageway toward MY ROOM. Sissy who is half asleep over her primer – she’s doing very well with her reading – stirs herself. She recognises that thread as well as I do.

All done up in her finery and going out to SOCIETY, Mrs Hankey walks with a lisp. I can describe it in no other way, but in her own house with NO ONE to impress she stomps on flagstones with the flat-footed grace of a fishwife who sees a boat on the horizon.

We first heard it a fortnight ago when she SUDDENLY APPEARED in my room very vexed about sheets.

I expect she was hoping to CATCH us out, but all was harmonious around the hearth. Fortunately, the PORT WINE could be stored away in a thrice and as it is my HABIT to drink it from an earthenware cup there was no UNSEEMLY kerfuffle…

Mrs Hankey did a lot of PEEPING around, opening drawers and looking at the insides of cupboards as if she were an auctioneer willing to accept a low bid for the contents. I think it was the first TIME she had spent so long DOWNSTAIRS. Now it appears we will have to EXPECT such visits on a regular basis.
Sissy and I leapt to our feet and were full of smiles and demure How do you do, Madam and Can I be of assistance? But her look was fierce. Something like this… (but without so much finery).

On this occasion she sends Sissy to bed and makes sure the door is tight shut before speaking.

You have a job to do, she TELLS me and ADDS that there will be no shirking or making excuses. Her funereal tones make it sound as though I will be expected to hang, draw and quarter most of Brunswick Square and serve up a fillet of stable boy for breakfast.

I realise this task has something to do with Susan and young Master Hankey, but I cannot see what PART I can play in this SAD business. I do my best to look surprised when the Mistress annouces that her BELOVED son is about to arrive.

Before that happens she tells me I MUST interogate Susan about the father of her child and threathen her with INSTANT dismissal if she refuses to reveal the identity. On top of that, I cannot mention Hankey, mother or son, in the conversation.

On the contrary, Susan must be CONVINCED that it is I, Mrs Finnegan, who wants to know and no one else is involved. If she refuses I have to sack her, ruin her reputation by telling the ENTIRE TOWN the reason for her dismissal, dock her wages so she can no longer afford to have her daughter looked after and PREPARE the workhouse for two new entrants.

If I FAIL something nasty will happen to me.

I SNIFF loudly CERTAIN sure Mrs Hankey is BLUFFING. She throws threats around like Rice at a wedding.
Finger out-stretched, she points at a drawer in my bureau. That is where something nasty lives, she says.
I pull it OPEN.

There is my accounts book, invoice LISTS for the linen, glassware and crockery and (having no butler at present) also the paperwork relating to the silver.

Alongside that little lot is a box of receipts; a BOTTLE of black ink; ditto of blue; several CROW flight feathers (for quill making) and a dinner invitation from Master Peregrine dated THIS MONTH last year and which, alas and alack, never took place.

There’s nothing there…

And then I see that she is looking at something wedged at the back. At first I can’t make it out and, in a rattling fit of annoyance, Mrs Hankey pulls the drawer open to its fullest extent. We both STARE at what is revealed. The implications hit me like a hard slap across the face.

I am DOOMED.

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 Catherine Page.

Click HERE  and Mrs Finnegan will send you a note every TUESDAY to let you know when her chronicle is ready to read. It means you won’t miss the NEXT exciting episode …
This service is provided ENTIRELY FREE of charges, taxes and tips.


3 comments on “What is this Husband Doing Once a month? Brighton’s Regency Housekeeper BELIEVES she has the answer…

  1. Sarah Waldock
    March 15, 2022

    we are on the edge of our seats in suspense! oh to be able to lend assistance, but not knowing what to do, must wait to hear what is so terrible!

  2. Sarah Waldock
    March 15, 2022

    I meant to say that I applaud the sound advice to the tortured teacher; she is in the throes of an infatuation, such as often happens to young girls, usually focussing on those who are in some position of authority and seeming exciting figures. she might be cured of this fascination, too, if she writes down the virtues of the lord to see what it is that makes him fascinating. I wager she will find that his virtues run out at ‘tall’ and ‘handsome’ as she cannot know him well enough to know if he has other virtues. And handsome is as handsome does. She should work on overcoming this infatuation by considering whether, in private, he picks his nose, which he would certainly continue to do in front of a wife, or how accommodating he is in the mornings before his third cup of coffee or tea. Perhaps she should ask the servants how he behaves to them. [there is some danger here that he is, indeed, an exemplary master; but I cannot but feel that an exemplary master would have made a visit to the village school to speak a few kind words to the children on the virtues of industry and making the best of their wits, and thanking the teacher for her efforts.]

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This entry was posted on March 15, 2022 by in Mrs Ainsley and tagged , , .

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