for writers and readers….
Mrs Finnegan, housekeeper at The Regency Town House, is APPROACHED by university students. She acknowledges that in between darning, sweeping, stewing, boiling, polishing and ALL her other DUTIES, she does indulge in a little philosophising as a HOBBY.
Dear Mrs Finnegan
MYSELF AND MY FELLOW STUDENTS at Varsity have studied the major philosophers of the world – Plato, Socrates, Diogenes, Epicurus and so on and so forth – until it is likely we will expire from tedium.
We are avid followers of your chronicles and it our ambition to one day live in Brunswick Square, but first we must persuade our professors that they really ought to teach Finneganism philiosophy
To that end, we would be most grateful if you could supply a list of your core principles and the reasoning behind each one.
Do tell, Mrs Finnegan! You owe it to the younger generation.
Tarquin, Cecil, Booty and Sludge-Face
Sirs, it is is hard enough to remember my OPINIONS, without also remembering my reasons for them, but as you have done me the courtesy of writing I shall fling a few down for your perusal.
I wish you well in your studies.
Dear Sludge-Face Esq
You are clearly an amiable young man with an admirable TOLERANCE towards your fellow students. While this is All VERY praiseworthy, nicknames have a way of following you throughout life whether you want them to or not like a watery-eyed old hound who has lost its ball and is convinced that you have it in your pocket and some time soon you will want to play.
Have A WORD with Master Tarquin, I suspect he is the ring leader. Indeed you should have a STIFF word and if that doesn’t work remind him that I KNOW where he lives. I am quite prepared to surprise the young scholar with a short but HIGHLY embarrassing visit.
The story of Susan continues…and I must bring you up to date.
Last week I told you she revealed that her mother had been a slave on the Hankey plantation and her father – it makes me shudder to think of it – is the Master, Thomas senior.
None of us left the hallway. Mrs Hankey leant against the wall and looked as though her bones had MELTED away. I feared she was in danger of slipping down to the floor and pooling at our feet, rather like a jellyfish I once saw on Brighton beach.
“What are you doing here?” she croaked which was another way of asking what did Susan WANT from them. My thoughts exactly but, in truth, I wasn’t sure if Susan had that much to bargain with. I daresay some kind of settlement would be negotiated but it would be as SMALL as they could make it and ONCE it was known she was an unmarried mother (and the daughter of a slave to boot) many respectable households would close their DOORS against her and it would be hard to find another job. And she’s only capable of being a lady’s maid. She could NOT handle any kind of rough work.
Susan THEN did the MOST hurtful thing she could do in the circumstances. She said NOTHING.
We were left staring after her as she climbed the stairs to the first floor as calm as a curate on a Monday morning.
I could hear her above us going about her ordinary everyday tasks as if a canon ball hadn’t just landed in our laps. Take heed, dear reader, silence is a powerful weapon.
This carried on for days. Miss Martha was away visiting friends so it was only the Master & Mistress rattling around in the house. He was morose and moonstruck, getting to his feet whenever Susan entered the room. The Mistress was a cauldron of emotion, seething with suppressed rage one minute and giddy with uncertainty the next.
Susan knocked on my door last night and settled herself down by my fire. It was some minutes before she said anything and then finally she pulled a small leather bound volumne from her pocket.
“I thought you should know that we have the same taste in litrature.”
Mrs Hankey’s diary!
That’s why it went missing for long periods – Susan was reading it too. More than that, she was copying hold sections. She read the latest extracts to me.
…Le Comte du Pleuponcon suddenly returned to France after that terrible Revolution leaving me without a roof over my head, a penny in my purse or even a goodbye kiss. I had been living in the country with him for two years. Oh, what a glorious, mad time that was. I was young and foolish and he was so good looking, so attentive, so gentle … I remember his touch even today. It quite makes me shiver, but I must stop.
Susan glanced up. Our eyes met. This could destroy the mistress. Susan read on
I was barely sixteen when we met, shy and vulnerable and madly in love. How could he leave me bereft and heartbroken? I tried to return to my parents once I realised he wasn’t coming back, but they wanted nothing to do with me. A maiden aunt took pity on me and allowed me one season in which to launch myself. She made it clear that she would wash her hands of me after that.
Susan paused again. I realised I was holding my breath
It was a soft June night when I was introduced to Thomson Hankey at a ball organised by Lady C in St James’s. He had the money, if not the class I craved, and I had the looks and ambition. He was captivated and I was clever. I had learnt my lesson.
This time I did not submit to flattery or rely on promises. I held my ground, sometimes warm and sometimes cool, but always with a hint of something more.
I remember allowing him a glimpse of a well turned ankle from time to time. At the right moment I would shoot him shy glances from the other side of the ballroom and when we danced oh dear! I got out of breath so quicky. I panted becomingly. There were roses in my cheeks and I made sure that my heaving bosom was always on the point of emerging from the confines of my bodice, but never quite making it.
You know what this means, don’t you? I asked Susan.
‘Oh yes,’ she said, leaning back in the chair. ‘I can ruin both of them.’