Letters To Mrs. Reynolds
Mrs. Reynolds was pleased to see a post from Mrs. Harris and hurried to her quarters to read it, thinking as she went that it should be a most enjoyable missive with much news of the newlyweds, it read;
Dear Mrs. Reynolds
They have been here for a week now and I fear that the master has made a most unsuitable marriage.
The first three days they did not leave the bedchamber until almost noon, even taking their breakfast there. Even after they came down she would not let him out of her sight but kept him beside her, walking the grounds and the house or reading in the library. She even plays chess with him, besting him at times. Can you think of anything more unsuitable, a woman playing chess, (but she hardly more than a girl not yet one and twenty), this has always been a man's game. Lady Anne would certainly not take up such a pastime.
Mrs. Reynolds smiled as she thought, from what I saw of the master's reaction to seeing the young lady at Pemberley that day when he arrived early, and the way he watched her the evening that she and her relations spent with him and Miss Georgiana and the other guests, I would imagine that it is he who wants to keep her at his side at all times.
She read on.
After that the master had business to attend to and so went out, leaving her here to get acquainted with the house and staff. The staff seems to think she has saved the master in some way, but I reserve judgment.
I was deeply shocked when the master returned to see her rush to him and fling herself into his arms kissing him right there in the hall three days running. The Master was much taken aback at this display and hurried her into the yellow room, where I was sure he would explain to her that such overt displays of affection were not to be endured, but she continued until the fourth day, when she was in the library reading when he returned home.
For some unknown reason he seemed to almost panic at not finding her there and asked immediately where his wife was. When I told him she was in the library, he dropped every thing right there and rushed to find her.
I was so taken aback by this that I forgot that I had to talk to him and followed him in time to see him lift her from the chair in which she was sitting and sit himself in the same spot while placing her on his lap and kissing her ardently.
Lady Debourgh is quite right, she has already started to corrupt him. Fitzwilliam Darcy, the most dignified and proper man I have ever met, sitting there in broad daylight making such a display of sentiment. I was so shocked I went out into the foyer to sit down for a minute to collect myself. Would you believe that when I went to talk to him, the door was locked.
When I told Mr. James about this untoward behavior, he merely smiled a tight little smile and gave me a strange look, while informing me that they are newly wed after all, and wasn't it nice to see the master so very happy.
I cannot believe that he is not as shocked as I am, and when I said to him that the Lady Anne DeBourgh certainly would not act in such a manner, he replied that indeed she would not, but the master would not be so happy either, if he had been forced to marry that sickly little thing. He say's that I had better get used to laughter and happiness in this house and prepare for a houseful of children.
I fear that Lady Catherine is correct, the halls of the Darcy estates are being polluted even as I speak. I don't know if I can endure working here with her as Mistress but we shall see.
I shall write more later, she has told me that tomorrow she want's to go over the accounts with me. This is most unseemly; no one has ever gone over my accounts, but have paid without question. I fear that if she is too aggressive with me, I shall have to complain to the master.
Well, thought Mrs. Reynolds, the little country girl is ready to take charge of her household, and you are, I fear, prepared to fight her all the way, but I believe she is a match for anyone, even Mrs. Harris. They will soon be coming to Pemberley though, where she will be most welcome by one and all.
She has questioned my expenditures, I have never been so insulted. She tells me of ways I can economize as if the Darcys have need to pinch pennies.
I have taken the matter up with the Master and he promises to speak to her.
He must have confronted her as there were loud voices coming from the breakfast room. It would seem that she has a temper too. I am sure that Mr. Darcy knew none of this before the marriage. He must be wishing that he had married his cousin. Lady Anne DeBourgh would never raise her voice in such a manner. I am sure that he will tell her, her place and she will no longer question my authority.
She seems to have learned nothing from the conversation with her husband. When I approached her with the information that I had found her FRENCH maid and one of the footmen in what I considered a compromising situation, and that they must both be dismissed, she informed me that there are two sides to everything and she would discuss it with the two of them before making any decisions. When I told her that I had already dismissed her maid, she rudely informed me that it was not my place to dismiss anyone without first consulting her, and that her maid was in her employ and not mine.
I found the maid on a chair in the closet with the footman holding her up, this is most improper is it not.
She has dismissed neither of them, instead she has given them the same day off so that they can keep each other's company outside the house. Have you ever heard of such a thing. Lady Catherine would have dismissed both of them at once and sent them on their way.
What more can you expect from someone who would hire a FRENCH maid, and she has yet to use her room. The bed has not even been turned down since her arrival. That should tell you what kind she is.
Indeed it does, thought Mrs. Reynolds, the kind that has a very happy and satisfied husband, who is not likely to go looking for a Mistress to satisfy him.
When I took the matter to the Master, he simply told me that I must settle household matters with his wife, that he was no longer going to interfere with her judgment. When I told him she was undermining my authority, he simply told me again to discuss it with her.
He has taken my cause up though, as I again heard angry voices and her telling him that, since I have had complete authority here for the past five years, I was not going to welcome anyone into the house who had any idea of giving any kind of orders, because I was not the type of woman who would listen to another, but stubbornly go about having my own way.
This is intolerable, we shall have it settled tomorrow, and if she does not see it my way, I shall tell her that I intend to tender my resignation. We shall see who is in charge, when she is faced with this large house to run and no housekeeper.
I gave her my ultimatum, but she simply sat there quietly looking at me saying nothing, and I could see that she was not a woman to yield. It suddenly occurred to me that they will be going to Pemberley in less than a fortnight, and then things can get back to the way they have been for five years here. I made believe that she had won this round and told her that I would try to be more compromising. She seemed to relax, but little does she know that when they come back for the season, she will find that I am not to be compromised so lightly.
Do you think you have won Agnes? I think not, thought Mrs. Reynolds, I think that you will find that, though she is very young, Mrs. Elizabeth Darcy is up to any challenge, she won our master, did she not? and with most every single woman hard at his heels hoping to land such a man and their mama's right there with them.
I was so happy to find out that he was to wed this beautiful young woman, whom he so loved. I was beginning to fear that he might marry his ailing cousin out of sheer boredom with the fawning females, and we would be burdened with her overbearing mother forever. Even worse, he might have married the odious, rude and haughty Miss Bingley.
If Mrs. Harris's letter is correct, we shall soon have our newlyweds in residence, so I had best get busy and make sure that the house is in order.
I do not understand the members of the ton, or Mr. Darcy's family. I would have thought that they would shun this upstart who has wed the Master, instead they seem to vie for her favors.
Miss Georgiana, who is with us now, seems to genuinely love her new sister, and Lady Matlock, who I was certain would condemn the marriage, actually dotes on the young woman, having her to tea three times last week, and they are to attend another dinner party there Friday night.
Lady Fanny and Lady Sophia too seem to welcome her presence at dinner and tea and calling on her at least once a week, and having her to tea at their homes.
Miss Bingley though has better taste and has not set foot in the house since she entered. I am sure she does it to show her support of Lady DeBourgh, while Lady Matlock, I suspect, likes her more because Lady Catherine disapproves. There has always been a great deal of bad feeling between them and she seems to delight in vexing her sister in law.
Ha, snorted Mrs. Reynolds, Miss Bingley does not call because she was so certain that she would be Mistress Darcy and cannot abide the woman who shattered all her dreams and pretensions.
They would dine out every evening if they accepted all the invitations that come each day, but they seem to prefer staying at home to read or play chess and accept only a choice few of the invitations. As I said before she prefers to keep him to herself. Since Miss Georgiana has come to stay, though, they spend a great many evenings in the music room where the ladies play the pianoforte and Mrs. Darcy sings. These evenings seem to be a favorite with the Master and he seems content to stay home at least for the present.
Her sister and Mr. Bingley have arrived in town and they spend a great deal of time together. The sisters visit the Aunt and Uncle in Cheapside while the men go to their club. They spend too much time with the Gardiners in my estimation, after all the man is in trade. I cannot understand why Mr. Darcy seems to enjoy the company of such a common man so much. The Earl and Lady Matlock too seem to find time spent with the Gardiners pleasing. This is quite unbelievable to me, but never the less it would seem to be true, as they are included in the invitations by her ladyship. I must admit that they seem to be a very genteel and fashionable couple, but they are still common.
Tonight they are having their second dinner party with the cream of the ton attending, and we are all hurrying about to prepare.
She is a tolerable hostess I suppose, at least Mr. Darcy seems to take a great deal of pride in her abilities. She does, I have to admit seem to be most charming to her guests and is becoming known as an intelligent and witty hostess and guest. Mr. James has told me that even His Majesty seemed to prefer her company when they were requested at Court.
I myself fail to see what all the praises are about.
They leave two days hence, and you are most welcome to her at Pemberley, while I shall have some peace and quiet until they return for the season, if they do, since they both seem to enjoy quiet and solitude, and I suspect would prefer to stay in Derbyshire, as I myself would prefer they do.
Well, they will be most welcome here and we would prefer that they stay here also, thought Mrs. Reynolds smiling as she went down the hall to inform the staff of the impending arrival of the Darcys at Pemberley.
The Darcys returned to London for the first time since their departure for Pemberley six weeks after their marriage. They had missed the last season because Mrs. Darcy wanted her child to be born at Pemberley, where she was most happy and comfortable. Now they are in town for the season, bringing with them their son and heir.
Upon their arrival John, the footman informed Mrs. Darcy's maid Annette the that the housekeeper planned a confrontation with the lady of the house, who she felt undermined her authority, and that she had bullied the cook, upstairs maid and the downstairs maid as well as two of the footmen into siding with her when she informed Mrs. Darcy that unless her authority was complete, they would all hand her their resignations. She planned to do so a fortnight before the large party that was planned to celebrate the birth of young Will, the heir to the Darcy estate. In doing so, she was certain that she would have no more trouble with that woman, as she called her. What could she do but capitulate, when confronted with such short notice and no time to hire another staff before the celebration.
Elizabeth knew that she must handle this herself, or she would be forever under Mrs. Harris's thumb, and have no control over her own household, so she said nothing to Darcy of her troubles.
On the second day after Annette related to her the circumstances, she received an invitation to have tea with Lady Matlock and went, happily hoping that Aunt Rebecca could be of some help to her in the impending crisis.
When she arrived she found Lady Sophia there also, newly home from her honeymoon with her new husband his grace the Duke of Aston. The two, widowed for two years had found happiness in each other's company and decided to make it permanent.
Elizabeth was shocked indeed when Lady Sophia exclaimed, "Oh capital, capital this is the answer to my prayers." Seeing the look on her dear Elizabeth's face, she explained that her new husband wished to keep his servants and that she had been trying to decide how to take care of her wonderful housekeeper, Mrs. Harker, and her cook, Mrs. Carter, who was know far and wide for her abilities. As she said, this would also give her a place for whatever of her other servants that Elizabeth would need. Both ladies expressed their desires to be a little mouse in the corner when the battle of wills started and see the expression on Mrs. Harris' face when she found that she had lost not only the battle but the war.
"Poor Catherine, she will be most vexed at this," chortled Lady Matlock.
The next morning Elizabeth was ready when Mrs. Harris informed her that they must get things settled between them before she would discuss any details of the day.
When Elizabeth agreed to hear her out, she presented her demands smugly, thinking to shock the Mistress into capitulating at once and begging her forgiveness, but she herself was in for a shock as Elizabeth asked quietly to have the others who sided with her brought before her to make sure of what Mrs. Harris was telling her. "I can assure you that they all agree with me without bringing them here," said Mrs. Harris.
"Never the less, I wish to hear it from them directly," answered Elizabeth and sent for the malcontents.
"Are you certain that this is what you wish," she asked each of them, and was assured by one and all that they were behind Mrs. Harris completely.
"Very well, please put your resignations in writing and bring them to me before tea time," she said quietly, "now be about your duties until such time as your resignations are in effect."
Elizabeth took a deep breath and exhaled in relief. She thought that she had handled the situation very well and sat down to write a note to Lady Sophia asking her to send Mrs. Carter and Mrs. Harker to her the next day, so that they could begin to get some idea of what they would need to know if they were to work here. Sending the letter along with John, she went for a long walk taking her son in his pram so that he might enjoy the beautiful day.
Mrs. Harris meanwhile sat down to pen her letter to Mrs. Reynolds relating to her all the details of the confrontation. She thinks she has called my bluff, but she will soon find out that I am most sincere and will be begging me to reconsider, she wrote. Now I must reassure the others that she is hoping to make us give in, and that they must prepare their written resignations, and I will present them to her. We shall see who capitulates. Who will she find on such short notice to prepare her grand party, if she has few senior servants. I had hoped that John would join us, but he says that we are fools and deserve whatever we get. He seems to think he owes a great loyalty to the Darcys, but he shall see what happens when my demands are met.
Oh dear, thought Mrs. Reynolds, you do not know Mistress Darcy as I do, you will soon be looking for employment, for she will brook no rebellion in her household. Well, I shall eagerly look forward to your next letter. I fear you will find out the Lady of the house is made of steel.
Mrs. Reynolds hurried to her quarters to read the letter from Mrs. Harris she was eager to find out what was going on in the war over command of the town house.
Dear Mrs. Reynolds,
I do not understand all your praise of Mrs. Darcy, she has caused such chaos below stairs.
The two maids are in hysterics, cook bangs her pans and asks me what we are to do now. I am not so smart as I thought, and have led them into the streets, she screams. The two footmen curse me and plead with me to go to the Mistress to beg her pardon and tell her that it has all been a dreadful joke that got out of hand and we never really meant to resign.
You would not believe what she has done now. The morning after I took the signed letters to her, she showed up below stairs with Lady Sophia Aston's housekeeper Mrs. Harker and cook Mrs. Carter along with maids and footmen. It would seem that her Ladyship's new husband wishes to keep his own staff and therefore she must find places for her own before she takes up residence at Hartley Manor. Mrs. Darcy somehow how got wind of what we had planned and made arrangements to take on as many of her staff as would be needed here when we left.
She informed us that she expected full cooperation from all of us in aquainting them with the house before we departed, if we expected any recommendations from her for new employment if she should give any at all.
I blame John and that FRENCH maid for this, he must have informed on us and she in turn told her mistress, so that she was laying in wait for us.
Mary and Agatha have both tried to rescind their letters, but she says that she cannot have any servants who she cannot trust or who are so easily led into what they know in their hearts is wrong.
She has also asked for my books, so that she can review them with Mrs. Harker.
Cook begs me to go to the Master, but I know he will not interfere. He has told me that I must settle my differences with his wife from now on and not to approach him with any troubles again.
She thinks that she has won, but I have a trump card and have written to my noble patroness to ask her to talk to the master on our behalf. She has always been able to make him do as she wishes, so Mrs. Darcy had better watch her own step, as she will find out when the lady comes to set this right.
I shall let you know what happens.
She has caused chaos below stairs, thought Mrs. Reynolds it seems to me that you are the one responsible for your own troubles.
She has told all to the Master.
Cook went to him against my orders, but he told her that it must be settled with Mrs. Darcy. He told her that after more than 14 years in service in the home of the Darcys, he was most surprised and disappointed that she would allow herself to be drawn into a revolt against the Mistress. She arrived back in the kitchen in tears and is now helping Mrs. Carter to become acquainted with the kitchen.
Mrs. Harker is also becoming acquainted with the house, she says that it is an elegant home and the mistress is most amiable, she looks forward to working here. She has long admired the Darcys and can see for herself why his intimates were so pleased with his choice of wife.
Well, she will soon find out, when my patroness appears, all will be changed and she will be looking for a position elsewhere along with the rest of them.
What a great day. Lady DeBourgh has arrived and asks me to accompany her to the Master study.
Now we shall see.
Lady DeBourgh asked James where the Master is, and before he could announce her she pushed him aside declaring that she will announce herself, what a state she is in, I have never seen her so angry.
She charged into the master's study with me behind, when he asked what she was doing here, she informed him that she is here to see that justice is done, and that the servants who his wife so summarily dismissed are reinstated.
The master sent James for Mrs. Darcy and informed his Aunt that what goes on in his house is of no concern to her. He asked how she knew what had happened here, since she seldom left Kent and had forbidden his name or his wife's to be mentioned in her presence.
She informed him that I kept her abreast of what goes on here.
The master became very angry and asked me why I should betray them in such a way.
Before I could answer, Lady DeBourgh announced that since she had trained me and sent me to this house, that it is my duty to keep her informed of the business in this house, and told him that as long as she is his mother's only sister, it is her duty to keep abreast of this fiasco of a marriage and she is most sure that his mother would be most displeased at what she would find here now.
The Master replied that indeed she would, when she found out about her sister's duplicity and her planting her spy in his own home.
This is not going at all as I anticipated.
The mistress arrived in time to hear her ladyship's statement and asked what was going on, as she could hear the shouting a long way down the hall.
Lady DeBourgh informed the master that he must send his wife away, as her business was with him and she did not care to speak with that woman present.
The master replied that this was his wife's business, and that she was in charge of the household staff, and he refused to interfere.
Turning to Mrs. Darcy he said to her that he was sorry that he had ever brought me into this house, and that he understood now what she had suffered. He said that he should have known that the only reason his aunt had sent me to him, when his former housekeeper retired, was so that she could have someone to spy on him and keep her informed of his every movement. That he should not have believed that she would do anything out of kindness, but only to try to control what went on in his life. He declared that he could not believe that he could be so stupid, and he wished to tell her how sorry he was to have subjected her to trying to accommodate a woman who was in cahoots with his aunt to drive her from his house.
When the mistress asked what he meant by that, he told her that I was no more than a spy for his aunt.
I, of course, denied this, citing my years of faithful service, which he dismissed with a wave of his hand, telling me that though he paid my wages, he now knew that I was working for Lady DeBourgh all the time.
Lady DeBourgh shouted for silence while she made her feelings and opinions known.
Turning to Mrs. Darcy (whose eyes had that dangerous gleam in them), she informed her that she demanded that she reinstate all the servants she had dismissed and send her graces servants back to her post haste.
Mrs. Darcy I must admit showed great courage in light of such an opponent, as she informed her Ladyship that she would do no such thing, that the servants had put their resignations in writing and her presence here was an affirmation that she had done right, that she must have servants who know that their loyalty is to the house of Darcy and not to Rosings.
I was frightened for a moment that her ladyship would have a seizure; so angry did she get that she turned red then blue.
Turning to Mr. Darcy she said, "So this is the kind of respect that your country wife show's to her betters. I see that she is still not with child, well it is God's punishment on you for marrying so far below your station."
Mr. and Mrs. Darcy exchanged puzzled glances, and I was frightened for a moment that he might inform her ladyship that they do indeed have a son and heir, but he did not, I know not why.
Standing up, he told his aunt to leave his house and take me with her. He said that they would send my things to Rosings as soon as they could have them packed.
I cannot believe her ladyship replied that she had no use for any servant that showed that she would sell her services, and showed no regrets about betraying her employer, since she has been most generous with me through these seven years.
With that she stormed out of the house, declaring that she would never set foot here or in Pemberley again and never wanted the name Darcy mentioned in her presence again.
Mr. Darcy turned to me saying, "you have been most remiss Mrs. Harris in not telling her Ladyship that we have a son. She would be most angry if she were to find out."
I could not answer him and tell him that I feared Lady DeBourg'hs wrath, if she knew that Mrs. Darcy had presented him with a son. She had declared that they would be cursed for marrying and never have a child.
I don't know what we are to do now. I had not thought that Mrs. Darcy would stand up to Lady DeBourgh, but was sure that she would relent and give us all our positions back, but she is made of sterner stuff than I thought.
It is five weeks now since we left Darcy Manor.
Cook however is back in the kitchen. Mrs. Darcy relented and let her stay as assistant to Mrs. Carter. In view of her many years with the family she did not think that her one lapse should be punished to such an extreme. She is very happy in this position, as she says she has the joy of being in the kitchen without the worry and responsibility of being in charge of everything.
She said that she heard the master and mistress talking about what a success the party was to introduce the heir to their friends, and that Mrs. Darcy had never looked so beautiful as she did that night, her happiness made her whole being glow.
She said that the master laughed when he related to Mrs. Darcy that when he complimented the cook on the repast she had prepared, she giggled and laughed and her plump body shook all over like a bowl of jelly. She insisted that he could not have done it without the help of her assistant and her sent his good wishes to her too.
Mrs. Darcy is much more generous than most I have found, she placed the upstairs maid and one of the footman with her aunt in Cheapside, as the lady was in need of more servants. It seems that their home is much finer and larger that I had expected.
The downstairs maid went to her sister Mrs. Bingley, and the second footman to Lady Matlock, after they all assured her that they had learned a hard lesson.
I, I fear have not fared so well. My other books were found when cook told them that I was in an agreement with the tradesmen to bill for goods never delivered when they were away, and split the profits with the butcher and the greengrocer for seven years. I regret most that Miss Georgiana was to find out about my duplicity and was very hurt by the information as she and I had formed a close relationship.
Mrs. Darcy told me to keep the money, even though I offered to pay back what I could, as she said I would need it, as she could not in good conscience give me a recommendation.
She was quite right, but I now have a position in a home in Cheapside that needs a great deal of organizing.
Dear Mrs. Reynolds
I have gone from position to position for the last four years only to be dismissed for being too overbearing with the rest of the staff, my last lady informed me.
I am most happy to see that the Darcys are so happy and have two more children. I wonder if Lady DeBourgh knows of this. I have been informed that she never leaves Kent anymore.
I could not believe it when I made a visit to see cook at Darcy Manor, and was told that the lady of the house wished to see me after we had had our tea.
She asked if I was now working, and when I told her I was not, she gave me a letter to give to an elderly gentleman she was acquainted with, telling me that he was recently widowed and that his housekeeper had gone to care for her sister after his wife's death and he was in need of a housekeeper immediately. She talked to me at length, telling me that I could secure my position if I treated the others on the staff with the same courtesy and respect that I demanded for myself.
Her generosity moved me to tears in view of all I did when I was in her house. I believe she is right and I shall conduct myself as she suggested.
Well thought Mrs. Reynolds, after all these years your eyes are finally open to what a fine choice the Master made in a wife.
© 1998 Copyright held by author