Welcome to our board! Log In Create A New Profile
Use mobile view


Jane and the Hidden Hoard 4-6

June 18, 2015 08:49AM
Chapter 4

Caleb’s interview with Mostyn was less satisfactory. Caleb greeted the man pleasantly and was received curtly.
Caleb frowned.
“I understand you have been fulfilling the duties of butler while the household has been without one,” he said levelly. “Perhaps you can let me know how the household runs and whether I need to know any particular foibles of any of its members.”
Mostyn shrugged.
“That’s what you get paid to do,” he said. “You are so high and bloody mighty to come in over me as butler, you ought to bloody know.”
“Mostyn,” said Caleb, “Are you asking me to take you out behind the stables and mill you down? I can, you know. And however well I may know the job of butler, I didn’t ask you that. I asked about the foibles of the family. However, I shan’t press you for an answer; you’re plainly stupid and childish enough to furnish me with lies to get me into trouble, not realising that it will only get you fired, because I’d rat you up. You are doubtless a fine footman, but you’re a lousy butler. The sink isn’t clean, and the silverware is dull, and the other two footmen go around looking nervous. I suggest if you want to rise, you should consider that loyalty from your underlings is earned, not demanded, and that they will only work as hard as you do. I’m going to inspect them now, and if you have a single speck on your livery, you may expect me to mention it. Because you were supposed to be setting an example.”
“Fustian, there ain’t nothing to a butler’s job!” said Mostyn.
“Well, if you think that, it will be why you have been failing at it,” said Caleb. “And tomorrow I shall be taking an inventory of the wine cellar, and if there is a discrepancy between the accounting and the amounts in the cellar, you will find it better to have taken yourself off to seek other service by the morning, because I will hold you accountable.”
Mostyn looked frightened.
“Here, Mr. Armitage, every butler helps himself a bit,” he said.
“Every good butler finishes up what is in a decanter when it is running low, so it may be fresh,” said Caleb. “That’s his perquisite. Opening new bottles now, that isn’t perquisite. Come clean, now, my lad, and I’ll find a way to get you out of a mess.”
Mostyn looked at him warily.
“Truly?” he asked.
Caleb nodded.
“Truly. You had a bad example in the previous butler, who was, as I understand it, turned off for thieving, and a bad butler makes bad footmen. You can make a fresh start, and if need be, I’ll blame the peculation on the previous man, if you swear to me you’ll make a fresh start, and keep your actions honest.”
Mostyn looked relieved.
“It ain’t so easy being a butler,” he blurted out. “The others won’t do as they’re told, and it ain’t easy keeping up the standards, and I don’t quite know how much I drank, but it was enough to go to sleep with.”
“That’s probably quite a lot,” said Caleb. “You can assist me with the inventory, then, and we’ll find out together, and it will be a secret I will keep for you, whilst you are honest. That’s why a footman is called a footman; he’s supposed to pace while the butler worries.”
The weak sally wrung a smile from Mostyn.
“Thank you, Mr. Armitage!” he said.
“Well, lad, if you watch me make inventory, you’ll have another bit of training towards being a butler one day, when you are ready,” said Caleb.
This one had always going to be the one who might have made life difficult. And in showing him the ropes, Caleb might also perform a thorough search of the butler’s domain, in the wine cellars, as well as when polishing all the silver, and in checking the napery for the tables, lest any jewellery be hidden deep within the napery press. It was not something he might rule out.

Caleb discussed his inventory with Jane, after she had had a chance to meet the other female servants under her purview. She nodded.
“It’s a brilliant idea, Caleb, and no reason I shouldn’t take an inventory too, it is not unreasonable that I should wish to know the extent of all the bedlinen, curtains and hangings, as well as the contents of the various food stores,” said she. “There are so many places that jewellery might be hidden, thrust deep into jars of lye in the laundry, buried in straw and loose ice in the ice house, and any stray gleam put down to ice at that, in presses and cupboards. And actually, I believe it is worth while taking the inventory a stage further and spring cleaning. And that will give an excuse to take down every chandelier and wash it, in case jewels might be hidden amongst cut glass.”
“A massive undertaking, Jane-girl,” said Caleb. “This pile is a sight bigger than anywhere you’ve spring-cleaned before.”
“But the method is the same, and I have four maids to help make light work of it. And I am sure that Catherine Phipps will think it valuable for Amy to be involved, so that she knows the task in order to supervise her own household.”
Caleb laughed.
“You are as thick as thieves with Miss Phipps already, I declare!” he said.
“We have similar backgrounds and interests,” said Jane. “And I fancy she would like that child given some practical training as well as filling her head with the sort of nonsense I fear that Mrs. Whitby tries to do. As she can’t understand anything as simple as household accounts, or understand the reason for inventories, I understand from the maids that she declares these things beneath the notice of a lady.”
“Gossiped about her, did they?” said Caleb.
“Let us just say that they were hoping I would be as easy-going and lax as Mrs. Ebden was, since the mistress of the house did not oversee her; and though they resent Miss Phipps for being eagle-eyed about skimped chores, they respect her for it, and Matty informed me that Miss Phipps was more of a lady than Mrs. Whitby, and if the Master had any sense he’d marry her. I reproved her, of course, for public speculation about such things, but he could go further and do worse, especially when Amy is old enough to come out, and Miss Phipps will no longer be required as a governess.”
“You’re as bad as Ella,” said Caleb. “Managing both a disapproving tone about gossip and relating it gleefully.”
Jane laughed.
“Oh, but neither Ella nor I gossip for the sake of it,” she said. “Matty is the clever one, and I thought I might train her on towards being a housekeeper one day while we are here. Martha likes to think she’s clever as she reads fluently, and reads bits of the newspaper out when the menfolk discard it, for those less able or literate.”
“But I wager she goes straight to the fashion report and the social gossip,” said Caleb.
“Undoubtedly; but then, even if her own tastes are more serious, she would get less of an admiring audience if she read such matters as would be likely to bore those listening for a lack of understanding,” said Jane. “The doings of Lord Liverpool’s government may be of vital importance to some of the relatives of the maidservants, but if the girls cannot understand the dry language of governmental reports, and they probably cannot, then the implications will mean nothing to them.”
“I hadn’t considered that,” said Caleb. “Being literate, and suspicious of any man in power, I made an effort to understand what was what. This recent repeal of Habeas Corpus ought to gladden the heart of a law officer, but I have to say it fills me with foreboding at the erosion of the rights of a man to be considered innocent until proven guilty.”
“Yes, and such would pass by the silly girls I have under my care,” sighed Jane. “If they even knew that Habeus Corpus meant ‘present or have the body’, then Julia would make a coarse joke about whose body one might have, and laugh; she has the loudest, most vulgar laugh I have ever heard. And Susan would blush, and fail to listen to any serious explanation, Martha would be full of how she knew it was Latin, and Matty might make the connection, but I doubt it. I do not think she is aware that the body involved means the body of evidence to be produced as a reason to hold a man, not an actual body. Minney, Sarah and Charlotte, the kitchen maids and tween maid, would goggle with slack-jawed incomprehension, I fear. ”
“And with the shadow of thievery overhanging this household, it could even apply to any of them, if we fail and some less imaginative officer decides to take all the servants into custody, I fear,” said Caleb, grimly.
“It could,” said Jane, “but we are not going to fail. It is not a word in my lexicon.”
“That’s my Jane-girl,” said Caleb.
There was something of a disturbance, and Simon crashed into the room with a sulky-looking Gregory Whitby.
“Ma will mend your clothes so nobody will even know they were torn,” said Simon, with blind faith in Jane’s ability.
“Dear me, Mr. Gregory, what is the problem?” asked Jane.
He looked at her sullenly.
“I suppose you’ll split on me,” he said.
“You suppose wrong, Mr. Gregory, unless you were doing something wrong, and I doubt my son would champion your cause and bring you to me if you were,” said Jane. “By the amount of dampness to your boots and stockings – and take them off right now so I can get them dry – and your dishevelled appearance, and the fishing fly in your lapel, I assume you have been fishing. Were you supposed to have been doing something else?” she asked, firmly helping him remove the torn jacket.
“Yes, Euclid,” said Gregory.
“On a fine early spring day, geometry seems to be cruel and unusual punishment,” said Jane.
Gregory gave her a look bordering on respect.
“You know what Euclid is?”
“I chose not to be a governess,” said Jane.
“And you don’t disapprove of a fellow taking the odd day off?” he asked, flicking an eye at Caleb.
“We’ve all played truant in our time, lad,” said Caleb. “It’s not a good habit to make, mind you, but I’ve seen your tutor so I don’t blame you.”
Gregory laughed, and his whole face was transformed.
“I’d rather he beat me, you know,” he said. “His pi-jaws go on forever.”
“Aye, I heard tell he wanted to be a parson because he likes the sound of his own voice and the Almighty not usually inclined to tell people to stow their whids,” said Caleb.
Gregory laughed again.
“He can’t get a living because he’d drive everyone out of church,” he opined. “The only thing he makes me want to pray for is a rich benefactor for him who can get him a living somewhere a long way away.”
“Amen,” said Caleb, with a wink.
“Well, as you can see, my parents are no idiots,” said Simon. “I have to dash, Ma, Pa, Roger and me are covering for Mr. Gregory so that Mr. Granger won’t find out.”
He ran out again.
“He appears to be getting on well enough with Joe Ferrers’ lad,” said Caleb, half to himself.
“Roger is a good lad,” said Gregory. “He and your, er, Simon, smuggled me past Sour Milk – Larson, that is, my mother’s maid, who was out for a constitutional, she said, but I wager she was up for getting me into trouble with mama or Mr. Granger. She don’t like boys,” he added. “And she’s not keen on girls who are nearly as good as boys, “ he added.
“Your sister?” asked Jane.
“Yes, she’s no ninny,” said Gregory, “But it ain’t fair she has to be a girl.”
“The lot of women is not fair,” said Jane.
“Amy says so,” said Gregory. “I wouldn’t like to be a girl.”
“There are certain disadvantages,” said Jane. “But I should not like to be a man. Amy should read the works of Mary Wollstoncraft.”
Gregory grinned like a cheeky stable boy, before flushing, and remembering to smile with a closed mouth as befitted a gentleman.
“She does,” he said. “My, Mrs. Armitage, you sew a fine seam, I can hardly see where the tear is!”
“That was the general idea,” said Jane. “With luck, nobody will see the tear, so that at least will be one less thing to receive a lecture about. Your stockings are muddy, and so is your neckcloth; I shall slip up to your room to fetch clean ones, and I will take the soiled linen to launder. Does one ask how your neckcloth came to be muddy?”
“I must have wiped my hands on it,” said Gregory. “I forgot to take a handkerchief.”
“Then I suggest if you do not want your mischief to be found out, you should not forget in the future,” said Jane.
“No, ma’am,” said Gregory, automatically assigning the honorific to Jane. She smiled her little smile at him and bustled off to collect clean linen for him, for nobody would question the housekeeper being above stairs in any room.
On returning, Jane thrust the clean linen beneath her apron as she heard the whining tones of a stranger in the butler’s pantry. She tripped in lightly to discover the tutor haranguing Caleb.
“One of the maids saw your boy with Master Whitby; and I demand to know where they have gone.”
“Mr. Granger, my son had better be in the stables or either Joe Ferrers or Sam Sparrow will doubtless tan his jacket,” said Caleb, “but he is the responsibility of the chief coachman and groom during his working hours, not mine. As you can see, I am not hiding Mr. Whitby in the napery press, as you seem to be implying by your demands. Why should I want to? And may I say I take it amiss that you barge into my room without a by-your-leave. I may not have your education, sir, but I am not a skivvy that you can browbeat, and my position in the household is only nominally below that of a tutor.”
Mr. Granger went red and then white.
“You are insolent; and you are not even an old family retainer!” he cried.
“You are the insolent one, accusing me of I’m not quite sure what, kidnap? That’s taking away my character that is,” said Caleb. “And without any more so-called evidence than that a serving wench saw, or thought she saw, the young master talking to my son. Maybe he was. Maybe he wanted a stable lad to saddle a horse for him. But you can see for yourself, the lad is nowhere in sight. If you can’t do your job and keep control of one adolescent boy, perhaps you are not suitable for it. Now get out of my pantry, Mr. Granger, and stay out.”
Granger left in high dudgeon and Caleb went to the door to see he went right away.
“Very well, where is he?” asked Jane.
“You can come down now, lad,” said Caleb.
Gregory, laughing, emerged from behind the carved frontage of the silver cabinet, behind which he had laid concealed, together with his shoes and stockings.
“Oh, Mr. Armitage, you are a marvel!” he said. “I shall catch it later but at least if I manage to stay out of sight until dinner, he can scarcely keep me long after that jawing me, since it will be my bedtime. And Mrs. Armitage, thank you!”
“I don’t like that fellow,” said Caleb. “Looks as though he is smelling a Jericho that’s not been dug out since Hector was a pup.”
Gregory laughed.
“I am in your debt,” he said. “And I say, if you like it here and stay, perhaps when my uncle thinks I’m old enough, Simon might like to be my man.”
“That’s certainly something to consider,” said Caleb.
Gregory swiftly replaced his stockings and neckcloth, and Caleb tutted and adjusted it with skilful fingers.
Gregory glanced in the mirror.
“I say, Mr. Armitage, I’ve never seen it look so well, I wish you will show me how to do it,” he said.
“Certainly,” said Caleb, “another time when you’re less deep in the mire of trouble you now are! Now cut along and don’t get caught.”
“Thanks, sir; I shan’t,” said Gregory.

“He seems a pleasant lad,” said Jane, to Caleb. “Of course he is learning to be sly and evasive because of that Granger fellow, but it seems hard to think of him having anything to do with the theft.”
“Not knowingly, anyway,” said Caleb. “What he might be involved in unbeknownst to himself is another matter.”

Chapter 5

Caleb began his inventory the next day with Mostyn in the cellar; and Jane spoke to Catherine Phipps at breakfast regarding involving Amy.
“It sounds like a good idea, Jane, and one which will also make her see some point to being able to keep her handwriting neat,” said Catherine. “I should like her to do an hour’s formal lessons first; might we join you after the glass of milk she usually has at eleven?”
“That sounds excellent,” said Jane, who had already ordered the day’s meals and would have nothing to interrupt her. This had necessitated some tact, as the cook, Gaston Lefevre, had put his arm about her waist and declared,
Nom d’un nom! Never have I been blessed to work with such a beautiful housekeeper, you will inspire me, but inspire me!”
Jane smiled a prim smile, and moved out of the embrace.
“So long as it inspires you in a gastronomic sense, M. Lefevre, my husband will not take exception to it,” she said, in her faultless French.
“He is a big English ape, all brawn and no brain, you could have done better,” declared the cook.
“On the contrary, he is a man who has worked hard to better himself, and has the ability to let you know his disapproval without resorting to violence if he does not have to,” said Jane. “I am in love with my husband, and I pray that a man from romantic France will comprehend that.”
Sacre bleu! You are of an unusualness that I have not before encountered! It is delightful, but you will permit me to worship your beauty from afar?”
“I permit that,” said Jane. He would probably run a mile if any woman took him at face value on his heavy and dubious Gallic gallantry. Gaston liked to flirt, it seemed, and Jane could handle that. She had already encountered James Summerby, the valet to Mr. Richard Neville, who had tried to buss her. Jane had showed him a hairpin, and asked him if he felt lucky.
He had leaped away with alacrity.
Jane had pondered hard over which of the maids to involve as an assistant. By rights, perhaps, it should be Martha, for being literate; but Matty’s quick mind would be more helpful. She summoned Matty to her room.
“Matty, do you read, write and figure at all?” she asked.
Matty flushed.
“Not so good, ma’am,” she said. “Not like Martha; she’s a marvel!”
“Martha certainly reads fluently, but I wager you understand more of what she reads out than she does,” said Jane. “You are a clever girl, Matty, and I would like you to come to my room for an hour every evening, and give up some of your free time, to learn to read more fluently, and to keep accounts. I shall want an assistant housekeeper, and if you do well, you will be able to take a job as housekeeper on your own account.”
Matty blushed.
“Do you think I could do that?” she asked.
“I do. You ask questions and display a natural curiosity in the world,” said Jane.
“That usually get me into trouble, though,” said Matty.
“It is the price one pays for being cleverer than most, that those less clever, especially in a position over one, take offence at ones’s cleverness,” said Jane.
“Oh ma’am! Has it happened to you?”
“Frequently,” said Jane. “One learns to hide it to some extent! But I want to train you up because it’s a waste of your good brain not to do so, and as a housekeeper needs a degree of curiosity, or even nosiness, to check that the house is running smoothly, that becomes an asset, not a handicap. Because you will want to know, in a new position, how much spare bedlinen there is, and if it is in good repair, and whether the previous housekeeper kept it in good repair or if the master is miserly, and how often one can afford to strip and wash the beds.”
“Well, I can tell you some of that,” said Matty. “Mrs. Ebden weren’t much of a housekeeper, and she mended when she had to, though she did have an early spring clean right afore she were arrested, which was a bit more energetic than usual! But there’s enough linen for the master is generous, and if she telled him it needed replacing he’d allow to budget for it. And that’s almost theft,” she added.
“It’s certainly a thought feckless,” said Jane. “And that tells me that you have the start of the idea of what it takes to be a housekeeper. Good; will you take the extra lessons?”
“Oh yes, thank you, Ma’am, I should like to read as well as Martha so I can read news as well as the fashion she reads out in the paper! And then she cannot crow over me.”
“Excellent,” said Jane, reflecting that a desire to prevent Martha being able to look down on her was as valid a motive as any. Matty was a clever enough girl too, to understand the advantages, and she was looking flushed and pleased at being picked to learn more. “We shall start with the inventory today, and you may help me by describing every piece of linen we inventory, so that I may keep a true record of its condition. I have drawn out a chart here: can you read the columns I have set on it?”
“I … I think so. Item; con … condition; needs; notes.”
“Good girl. In the first column I shall note what it is, say a bedsheet; in the next whether it is new, in good repair, in poor repair, torn, or whatever; the third will be things like ‘needs a patch’ or ‘should be sides to middles’, and the final is for anything else. For example, a sheet which was in fair condition I might also be writing ‘has already been turned sides to middle’ showing that the sides are worn, having been the middle already, so it cannot be turned again, and it therefore is an item that might need to be replaced soon.”
“I see! Mrs. Ebden didn’t sides to middle sheets when the middles got thin, she threw them away.”
Jane gasped.
“But how profligate!” she said.
“I took them out of the rubbish and took them home on my day off for my Ma to do,” said Matty. “I got six little brothers and five little sisters, and we can’t afford waste.”
“No, I should imagine not,” said Jane. “I’m afraid there will be no more perquisites like that with me in charge, as part of a housekeeper’s duties are to save her master money; but if you learn well, you will be able to earn more as a housekeeper, to help out more. And I will see if there are any perquisites that can help, as I will if any of the servants who are under me need help.”
“Susan needs help,” blurted out Matty. “She’s not well!”
“Oh dear,” said Jane. “What is wrong with her, do you know?”
“Well, I ain’t sure,” said Matty. “Only she keep fainting, and she ain’t eating enough.”
“I will watch her,” said Jane. “Perhaps she needs a chalybeate tonic; I do not know whether Mr. Neville will call out a doctor for his servants.”
“I shouldn’t think so,” said Matty.
“Then we must use the country method, to see if it helps her, of placing old nails in water, and for her to drink the water daily,” said Jane. “I know it is supposed to help lethargy and fainting.”
“I’ll see to getting some nails soaking in water, ma’am, and make sure she drinks it,” said Matty. “And I won’t tell her what it is, neither.”
“Oh dear, is she likely to cavil?” said Jane.
“She’d likely take against it, if that’s what you mean,” said Matty.
“It was. Perhaps if you could organise it, and see it put into a bottle, I can tell her I have a tonic and persuade her to drink it, she might question why you have a tonic for her,” said Jane.
Matty beamed.
“You are clever, ma’am,” she said.
“Experience tells,” said Jane. “Well, I believe we should get along; the other girls can come and start helping me to turn out the napery press in the Butler’s pantry and the linen presses that serve the bedrooms. We can move from linen to stored curtains and hangings.”
“Yes, ma’am,” said Matty.
Jane soon had the other maids bustling about, emptying the linen presses drawer by drawer, as she made notes on what was within each. It needed doing in any case, and it eliminated one place to search. None of the girls seemed to be in any way dishonest, so Jane had no qualms that any of them would hide any jewellery she found, if jewellery there was to be found. It was interesting that Mrs. Ebden had done some unwonted spring cleaning, since it suggested that she had used this as a means of covering up hiding the jewels. Where they might be hidden, of course, was anyone’s guess, as it gave a lot of scope for speculation. All one might do was to inventory and carry out a full spring clean, in the hopes of covering the same ground as the former housekeeper and probably more thoroughly at that.
Jane had no very great opinion of Mrs. Ebden even without taking her larcenous instincts into account, since the maids had been horrified to find that Jane did things like reach up to run her finger across the top of the doors to find out if the dusting had been thorough; and they had looked at her blankly when she had asked where used tea leaves were stored, with which to clean the carpets. Seemingly the maids knew that carpets should not be swept more than once a week with a hard broom, to prevent wear, but had forgotten that they should be done daily with a soft hair broom, after sprinkling tea leaves all over to lift the dirt. As for the fire-irons, they were a disgrace, and were plainly never cleaned at all, and Jane had told the maids that they could either work a little harder each day to make sure the work was caught up with, or she would have their days off rescinded until the grate and fire irons sparkled appropriately, and the carpets were clean. That there was an inventory on top of this left some of the maids, notably Julia, a trifle shrilly resentful.
“You’d be turned off for less, in a household with a less tolerant master,” said Jane. “And I have no intention of showing myself to be as incapable as the previous wretched creature! Julia, you have said you want to work in the city, and if you cannot manage what is the work of a housemaid, you would not last in a fashionable household for a week.”
Julia stared in shock.
“We ain’t never cleaned the fire-irons,” she said.
“Well, you will start now,” said Jane. “Once they are clean, they need no more than a wipe with a leather. The grate, I grant you, takes a little more work in needing to be rubbed with emery. There are enough of you to divide the chores up, however. And when we spring clean, all the windowsills must be washed, and the windows cleaned off with vinegar, both of which should be done weekly.”
Julia was horrified, and the others hardly less so. Matty set her jaw, and nodded. If she hoped to learn to be a housekeeper some day, she must know what was expected of the maids in the household!
The inventory, meanwhile, yielded nothing but a lot of mending that needed doing; and Jane went to speak to Mrs. Whitby, as nominal lady of the house. She hoped to make a request before Amy Whitby joined her.

Chapter 6

Mrs. Whitby received Jane in her own boudoir, where she lounged on a day bed. A pretty spinet stood against the wall and Jane wondered whether the lady herself played, or whether others were supposed to entertain her.
“What is it that you wanted, Ebden?” she asked.
“It’s Armitage, Madam,” said Jane, who also seethed at the lack of the honorific ‘Mrs’ that should be accorded to a housekeeper.
“Oh, yes, but it’s all one to me,” said Mrs. Whitby. Jane managed to suppress the urge to say that it would not be the same to her had it been her jewellery stolen. She smiled, brightly, in the brittle way Caleb would have recognised as a cover for most uncharitable thoughts.
“I have been performing an inventory of the linen, Madam,” said Jane.
“Yes, and what of it? Come to the point, Armchair,” said Mrs Whitby. Jane shot her a look to see whether she did it on purpose to annoy, but could see nothing but boredom and discontent on the superficially attractive face.
“Some of the linen will need replacing, but much can be mended,” said Jane.
“Well, mend it then. Why bother me?” demanded Mrs Whitby.
“Because, Madam, it would be more economical in the long run to employ a seamstress to help with the mending, and I can hardly take it on myself to engage one without your permission,” said Jane, managing not to grind her pearly teeth.
“Oh, very well, do as you see fit, but don’t trouble me with such trivialities,” said Mrs. Whitby.
“As you wish, Madam,” said Jane, retiring noiselessly.
“Stop!” Mrs. Whitby. “My brother says you can play the piano. Show me how good you are on my spinet.”
“As you wish, Madam, though I have duties elsewhere,” said Jane.
Mrs. Whitby made a moue.
“They can’t be as important as entertaining me,” she said.
Jane had a moment’s sympathy for the murderous companion, Florence Asquith, who had killed Maria Steggall. Asquith however had killed for monetary gain, not merely because an exacting employer drove her half insane. But perhaps there was some excuse to escape an intolerable situation with some gain for one’s trouble.
She sat down at the spinet, which was a delightful antique, probably by Silbermann, veneered with what looked like cherry, and a scene of nymphs and shepherds painted inside the lid. She ran her fingers over the keys in a series of scales, to get the feel of the instrument.
“Play a tune, I don’t want to hear you practising,” said Mrs. Whitby.
“I needed to check if the instrument was in tune, and what the tone was, in order to consider what to play,” said Jane. So much for this woman being musical as claimed! She liked to listen to music, but she plainly had very little idea. The instrument was ideally suited to Bach, but somehow Jane doubted that Mrs. Whitby was as suited to that composer, who would be wasted on her. She began with ‘Greensleeves’, no longer something that she associated with the dead Frank Churchill, and ran through a series of what she would describe as ‘pretty airs’. It seemed to please Mrs. Whitby.
“You are certainly moderately accomplished,” she said, grudgingly. “Very well, Armstrong, you may play to me for one hour in the afternoon each day when I take my rest. You need not play this afternoon as you have entertained me up to luncheon.”
“Yes, Madam,” said Jane, colourlessly. It would cut into her time both working as a housekeeper and searching, and she now doubted her insouciant statement that Mrs. Whitby might know more than she realised. Somehow Jane fancied that Mrs. Whitby knew no more about life in general than was actually likely to impact on her, and was too stupid to realise that a theft of jewellery from her brother’s safe might impact upon her to the extent of leaving her homeless and penniless.
Jane left the boudoir with a face like thunder.
“Mrs. Armitage! Pippy says you will let me help with inventories!” said Amy Whitby, who was hanging over the stairs to the upper storey, her governess behind her.
“I heard the spinet being played better than I knew it was possible, Mrs. Armitage, so I told Amy she must wait,” said Catherine Phipps. “But then the music stopped and you have come out.” She named Jane formally in front of her charge.
“Mrs. Whitby will be pleased for me to play for her for an hour every afternoon,” said Jane, neutrally.
Catherine pulled a face over the top of Amy’s head. It spoke volumes.
“You don’t like my Mama, do you?” said Amy.
“It is not my place to like or dislike my employers,” said Jane.
“Oh, fustian! Pippy doesn’t like her either, though she says the same as you,” said Amy. “It’s not a problem; I don’t really know her well enough to take umbrage if you don’t like her.”
“Well, Miss Amy, I could find other, more important, things to do with an hour in the afternoons, like doing some of the mending that is needed on the neglected linens,” said Jane. “Even with a seamstress employed, which your mother has given me permission to do, there is a lot of sewing.”
“Famous! May I help with that instead of doing boring old tapestry work?” asked Amy.
“You might find darning and hemming more boring yet,” said Jane.
“Well, it cannot be much worse, and at least there would be a point to it,” said Amy.
“You have a point; but it is up to Miss Phipps,” said Jane.
“Do say yes, Pippy!” cried Amy.
“I think good plain sewing will be more use to you, my dear, but I do not know what your mother will think,” said Catherine. “Sir Colin would probably approve,” she added.
“We do not have to tell her,” said Amy. “As I’m always having to take out bits of that horrid embroidery, it never grows much, and she doesn’t really want to see what I have been doing anyway, she only likes to have me look pretty and show me off and what I’ve been doing to visitors.”
Jane met Catherine’s eyes in a shared look of sympathy for this poor unloved child.
“As I am not to play this afternoon, I shall ask the maids who live locally if they know of a seamstress, and then you may help me to inventory the attics and see if there is anything there that might be used in repairs; and I shall teach you how to patch, and darn, and refurbish as appropriate,” said Jane.
“Famous!” cried Amy, again. It appeared to be her favourite word at the moment.

Jane and Caleb met for luncheon, eating, like the other servants, less attractive trimmings from cold meat, the misshapen loaf, and such pickles as had been returned from the breakfast table.
“It is a revelation, to spend time as a servant, even such exalted positions as butler and housekeeper,” said Jane. “We must make sure our own servants do not feel abused.”
“I doubt they are anything but indulged,” said Caleb. “I swear I work harder than Fowler ever has!”
“That is because there is much here to put right, with a lackadaisical pair of servants who have let matters slide,” said Jane.
“That’s God’s own truth,” said Caleb. “The cellar was filthy! I swear, if anyone had hidden jewels down there, one could have traced their passage by the gaps in the dirt and cobwebs, as I could trace Mostyn’s passage to the wine he had been stealing. I’ve managed to make that all right; in the end I took him to Sir Colin to confess, explaining that the lad had been under too much strain since the job was too much for him. Sir Colin was very generous. He agreed to write off the losses providing Mostyn swore he would never steal like that again, since he understood that Mostyn had not realised it was stealing, and on the understanding that if anything of the like did happen again, Mostyn would be out on his ear. And then he praised him for having the courage to come to him, which gave the lad a chance to regain some self-respect. He’ll never have Sir Colin’s full trust, though; we do need a butler, if Fowler trains him, do you think he might do for us? We know he needs to learn a lot.”
“Funnily enough, I was considering poaching Matty as a housekeeper,” said Jane. “She has a bright and enquiring mind, and asked me if I thought Mrs. Ebden might have hidden any of the jewels she stole when she did a spring clean. I said it would not surprise me, and that I hoped if anyone turned up any such thing, that they would report it, not keep it. She was most put out, and even defended the honesty of Julia and Martha, neither of whom she likes. And I fancy I know exactly what is making Susan ill; she goes white when she bends over, and she was queasy half the morning.”
“Oh dear,” said Caleb. “That, I fancy, is one thing Sir Colin will not condone.”
“So too I feared,” said Jane. “I fancy we may have another housemaid.”
Caleb groaned.
“Tell me she is not too useless,” he said.
“Oh, she is a good, willing girl, in need of some training, but quite capable when not unwell, I fancy,” said Jane. “Of course if the culprit is willing to marry her, it might put a different complexion on it for Sir Colin.”
“Most nobs don’t like their maids to have followers, and few like them to be married,” said Caleb. “It’s not like having a clerk, who comes in to work leaving his family at home. Servants live in, and their offspring perforce do so too, and a female servant will put her children before the family she works for, as is only right and proper, but not what makes swell coves and swell morts very happy.”
Jane sighed.
“It seems wrong that the pursuit of happiness and marital bliss should be denied to those who are in service,” she said. “Well, I need to get on, I have a lot to do! I have agreed to let Miss Amy help me inventory in the attic this afternoon; and I will give an hour this evening to teaching Matty, and I need to ask about a seamstress, and I also need to see Susan in private and find out who has got her into trouble. Depending on who it is really depends on what may be done about it. But I shall assure her that if Sir Colin turns her off, that I have a friend called Ella who will put in a good word for her in another big house. And I cannot really sit about over luncheon,” she added with a sigh, rising.
“And I thought I was busy!” chuckled Caleb.

Jane and the Hidden Hoard 4-6

Sarah WaldockJune 18, 2015 08:49AM

Re: Jane and the Hidden Hoard 4-6

ShannaGJune 18, 2015 05:37PM

Re: Jane and the Hidden Hoard 4-6

Maria VJune 18, 2015 11:56AM


Your Email:


Spam prevention:
Please, solve the mathematical question and enter the answer in the input field below. This is for blocking bots that try to post this form automatically.
Question: how much is 19 plus 15?