It has to be said that as a gentleman who works with many ladies of mature
years, I have discovered more than I really want to know about the
relationship a woman has with her mother. Some of these relationships are
good. As daughter grows older she comes to recognise the mother for the wise
lady she is, and as the mother grows older she recognises the sensible woman
her daughter has become.
Some are not so good, but few have been as troublesome as the relationship
Madam Rosamie had with her mother, known universally as the Dowager. For
some reason it appears that the Dowager held her daughter in supreme
contempt and made no secret of the fact. What made things difficult for
Madam Rosamie was that the Dowager was always so nice to everybody else.
Now I’m not sure at what age a girl will start buying her own underclothes.
Such matters are not ones that I’ve ever thought to ask about. But even into
her fifties Madam Rosamie would receive from her mother a large parcel of
nether garments. These were always for a lady two or three sizes larger,
made of a cheap scratchy material, and were in the sort of colours one would
only wear under three layers of black. Rosamie was left in a quandary, she
was not somebody who would wish to casually ‘throw something out’, but these
were garments she wouldn’t have inflicted upon a scullery maid. (Even if she
had one of the appropriate size.) The drawers she finally sent to a local
stable where they used them as hay nets for their horses. The brassieres she
gave to a local greengrocer who used them when he wished to put on a novelty
display of melons.
Now Madam Rosamie was a respectable widow with children of her own who were
old enough to have left home. She maintained quite a large household because
she enjoyed entertaining. So she had more kitchen maids and downstairs maids
than you might normally expect to find.
Not only that but because there was no gentleman of the house who might be
tempted into philandering, Madam Rosamie could hire pretty maids without any
fear of the consequences. Indeed the situation worked to her advantage as
pretty girls, realising the nature of the house, would often apply for jobs
Obviously it was something soon noticed, and at her soirees one would find
bemused ladies who were accompanied by sons and nephews, all of whom had
suddenly developed a passionate interest in the poetic art. As an aside I
might mention that several girls did make good and happy marriages.
Yet the Dowager stalked into the house, glanced round, and came to the
conclusion her daughter was running a bordello! Now I suppose people are
entitled to their own opinions. This is fair enough. But I feel that they
are not entitled to vent their opinions to the Watch. (Running an unlicensed
bordello is an offence)
Obviously the Watch had to get involved, and whilst courteous, they were
firm and needed to be convinced. The question has to be asked, whilst it is
doubtless easy enough to prove an establishment is a bordello, how exactly
does one prove it isn’t? Providing evidence that something isn’t happening
can be tricky.
Eventually the Watch realised the difficulty they had put Madam Rosamie
under and so they agreed that one of their officers, posing as an odd job
man, would live in for a period. This seemed fair to Madam, and Watchman
Pilkin moved in to a small box room. He turned out to be a real treasure. He
was a man who could fix virtually anything, and at the end of the fortnight,
Madam Rosamie insisted on paying him for the work he’d done, even though he
was also drawing his Watch pay. The maids were so sad to see him go they had
Cook bake a cake and there was something of a small leaving party for him on
his last day.
A week later he had to move back in. The Dowager, realising her strumpet of
a daughter had cozened the Watch, proceeded to advertise her daughter’s
putative establishment with discreet advertisements in appropriate
newssheets. Eventually she even had somebody walking ‘round the city with a
sandwich board. He would give passers-by handbills with graphic
illustrations for the illiterate.
Pilkin, now in full uniform, dealt with the situation. Initially he
courteously clarified the situation for the potential client.
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