In the following months I entertained many guests at Mistress Pickles’ house and my First Lady was a regular visitor. She sometimes liked to take both Maria, to whom I had become exceeding close, and me to her room and we would entertain her together. Mistress Pickles’ salon had become well known amongst ladies of class and, of course, a certain inclination.
One evening we were in the salon, playing charades as I recall, when the Mistress arrived with Jenkins and asked us all to sit and pay attention. I sat with Maria upon a chaise longue and awaited our Mistress’s words.
‘This house has welcomed and entertained many fine ladies during the recent years. Some of those ladies are, as some of you will recognise, born to the greatest of our country’s families. We have been and continue to be most successful and all of you will reap the benefits of your labours if or when you choose to retire. I have had my new secretary,’ (this was Eleanor, who replaced me in that role), ‘prepare for each of you a brief summary of the monies held by me to your accounts. Do not be alarmed, this is not indicating that I wish any of you to leave, quite the contrary. I felt only that you should see for yourselves how your fortunes are building against the day of your retirement.
‘I have to announce this evening that we are honoured to have been asked to fulfill a particularly important function for one rather special family. Since you will all recognise certain members of that family on the day I have been allowed to give you some particulars.
‘On Saturday of next week we are to entertain members of Lady Chatterton’s entourage.’
Here she paused as a murmur went through the assembled ladies. Lady Chatterton was a noted individual of extremely high birth. She was also a thorn in the side of the government, led at that time by Lord North, speaking as she often did about the appalling treatment afforded the poor and, in particular, poor women and children.
‘Her Ladyship, as those of you who read will know, is a bold advocate of improvement in this country of ours but you will not know that she shares our Sapphic interests. In fact I have been led to understand that her household resembles our own in some ways.