Miss Charlotte Smith's Diary - Part 14
Regular blog readers will know that this is a Regency satire of Helen Fielding's wonderful Bridget Jones's Diary. Parts 1-13 are linked on the sidebar.
Woke before it was light and tried to go back to sleep. Couldn’t. Got up and packed my bag. Went back to bed.
Got up and dressed, then went round to Melissa’s to say goodbye.
‘You’ll come and see me?’ I said.
‘Of course I will. As soon as you’re settled, I’ll be there.’
Have promised to write to Melissa every day. She has promised to do the same.
Said goodbye to Mama and Susan.
‘I give it a week,’ said Mama.
‘I give it two days,’ said Susan.
‘I am never coming back here so long as I live,’ I said.
Climbed into the coach and drove away.
Arrived at Winters Hall. Am cut out to live in Winters Hall. It is very grand and has a park the size of Cornwall, with lots of deer and other animals, also a lot of trees. Was met by the housekeeper, who showed me to my room. It was in the attic.
Ten past three
Unpacked things and went downstairs.
‘My dear, I’m so glad to see you,’ said Lady Florence, rising from her settee. ‘Graham – my son - has been playing havoc with my household. He insisted on me having a new estate manager, just because the estate was losing money, and when I complained and said that Mr Rowling wasn’t just an estate manager but a friend, who joined me for tea and kept me amused, he said I needed a companion. I was horrified. I thought he would find me a dour creature. I never imagined he’d find me a young thing with a taste for romances like you.’
‘How did you know I liked romances?’ I asked her.
‘Because of Lord Ravenskeep. Sit down, and I will ring for tea.’
Housekeeper brought tea and we drank it from china cups. Did not break cup or saucer. Am not a klutz after all, but am a refined lady cut out to take tea with members of the aristocracy.
'But why are you wasting your life being a companion, when you should be out dancing and enjoying life?’ she asked.
Told her all about Susan, Lord Rotherwell, and Mama.
‘Oh, we can do better than Lord Rotherwell. There are lots of eligible men around here. Why, there’s the Duke of Monsring for a start. He’s very handsome and he’s coming to dinner tomorrow.’
Think I am going to like it here.
Dinner was a disaster. The Duke of Monsring is very handsome, but he’s also eighty-two.
‘Perhaps he was a little old for you,’ said Lady Florence. ‘But such a good dancer. Never mind. Let’s have a chapter of The Earl’s Secret. I do so love a nice romance. My nephew sneaks them in to me. Such a dear boy. He’s coming to stay tomorrow.’
Made a note to order jam tarts from the kitchen for Lady Florence’s nephew. They no doubt feed him on slop at Eton, which means he will be starving, and besides, dear boys must be rewarded for bringing their aunties romances.
Lady Florence went upstairs for a rest before lunch. Was just about to go down to the kitchens when the drawing-room door opened and The Rude Man from the Ante Room walked in! Could not believe my eyes.
‘You!’ I said. ‘What are you doing here?’
‘I was just about to ask you the same thing.’
‘I am Lady Florence’s friend and companion,’ I said haughtily. Then a brainwave hit as I realised who he must be. ‘And you are the new estate manager.’
Now I knew why Rude Man had been at Lord Winters’s house. He was having an interview, the same as me.
‘The estate manager,’ he said.
‘I knew it! If you will excuse me, I don’t have time to stand here all day talking to you, I have to go down to the kitchen and ask the cook to bake some jam tarts,’ I said with my nose in the air.
‘For Lady Florence’s nephew. He is a dear boy who keeps his aunt supplied with romances, instead of expecting her to read improving books about kings and queens and other such people, and when he arrives he will find a plate of tarts waiting for him,’ I said.
Was very nice to have put Rude Man in his place. Enjoyed seeing his startled expression. Also enjoyed sweeping magnificently out of room. Or would have done, if I hadn’t tripped over the rug and landed flat on my face at estate manager’s feet.
5 past 12
Picked myself up with as much dignity as I could muster and went down to kitchen.
10 past 12
Instructed cook to make jam tarts.
Cook is in fact a chef with very little English, who has just arrived. Lord Winters did not approve of previous cook as previous cook plied Lady Florence with cooking sherry.
Believe I made myself clear to chef, but had better check the kitchen tomorrow in case Lady Florence’s nephew gets a plate of ham parts.
Went down to kitchen and saw dozens of jam tarts. Hope Lady Florence’s nephew has a hearty appetite.
Heard carriage crunching on gravel and hurried into butler’s pantry.
‘Bring a plate of jam tarts to the drawing-room at once,’ I said.
He looked surprised.
‘They’re for Lady Florence’s nephew,’ I explained.
Butler looked even more surprised, but said, ‘Yes, Miss,’ in the most agreeable way.
Went to dining-room. Lady Florence was sitting there with estate manager. Estate manager always seems to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Tried to indicate by gestures, nods, winks and raised eyebrows that he should leave the room, but he only said, ‘Are you all right?’
‘Yes, quite all right,’ I said.
Was just about to say that Lady Flo’s nephew had arrived when butler entered with plate of jam tarts. Lady Florence looked at him in surprise.
‘Miss asked for them,’ he said. ‘I have strict instruction to give them to your nephew.’
Lady Florence turned to estate manager and said, ‘Do you like jam tarts?’
Began to have uncomfortable feeling in pit of tummy. Saw aged butler walk over to estate manager and offer him plate of tarts. Felt a bigger fool than I have ever felt in my life, which is not easy as I have often felt a gigantic fool. Estate manager was now going to say he was Lady Flo’s nephew and couldn’t stand the sight of jam tarts. He was then going to say I should be dismissed.
Visions of living in Susan’s attic for the next fifty years, wearing the same dress in manner of Miss Havisham, floated before me, then remembered I could not be like Miss Havisham, because thankfully Miss Havisham has not been invented yet.
‘Ah, thank you Dawkins,’ said Rude Man cum Lady Flo’s Nephew.
Watched in amazement as he tucked napkin into neck of shirt and took plate from butler. Lady Florence watched in amazement, too. Dawkins, like all the best butlers, looked as though he had Seen It All Before.
‘Jam tarts,’ said Rude Man cum Lady Flo’s nephew. ‘My favourite.’
He then ate half a dozen tarts, licked fingers, sat back and said, ‘Delicious.’
Half past 5
Am completely bamboozled. Is Estate Manager cum Nephew really Rude Man who thinks I am short and fat, or is he in fact knight in shining armour who has rescued me from a humiliation too terrible to contemplate? Will have to write to Melissa and see what she thinks.