Mrs. Beetroot’s book of household mismanagement 13. Carpetsocks.

A revolutionary improvement in the disposition of the appurtenances in this household has occurred by the most fortuitous and accidental occurrences of a simultaneity in nature that was not only unlooked for but appeared, initially, to be disadvantageous.

I can only conclude that the very heavens above are rewarding me for my compassion, the kindness I display to what are, after all, only servants and mostly, I modestly am forced to conclude, for the greatness of my intellect and my skill in discerning the motivations of others by my uncanny knack of virtual thought-reading.

Initially the incidents commenced with a difficulty with postal ordering of goods.  Under normal circumstances I would not have undertaken such a venture, preferring, whenever possible, to go to the emporium in person for purchases of any importance, which the servants can not be trusted to acquire under instruction.  I find that shop assistants, however humble, can be expected to produce the required goods in quite short order, if a commanding voice is sufficiently raised, for long enough.  In some establishments that I patronise, the less senior assistants do not even wait for me to be seated but fetch floor supervisors upon my entrance to the shop building, regardless of the floor upon which I intend to shop.  I find this most gratifying.

However, upon the occasion in question I was kept waiting three days in a row for the arrival of the chimney sweep.  This rendered the purchase of replacement hosiery for the upper servants of some urgency, as the butler had attended upon Lady Moffat, (who was taking tea with my humble self,) with a clearly visible hole in the ankle of his in-shoe hosiery.  Subsequent investigations led to a good deal of cheek from the cook who declared herself unable to mend the darns of previous darnings, no matter how good the darning wool.  She said she would try if pressed but could not be expected to make meals while performing miracles and was most adamant on the matter.  As she produces a rhubarb crumble to which Lord Moffat once announced himself somewhat partial, I was obliged to promise new socks for the butler, and, subsequently, upon further blackmail in the matter of her three tier Charlotte Russe, which caused such a stir last Easter, new socks for all the servants.  I confess myself grateful she did not bring up the matter of her champagne fountain, famous in three counties, or yet her Christmas Cockatrice which has caused a stir, in  previous years, almost as far as Worthing.

The necessity for remaining in the house to upbraid the sweep, upon his expected arrival, meant that an expedition to the emporium at which the servants’ clothing is obtained, was out of the question.  However, when I triumphantly acquainted the cook with this fact, she threatened to resign unless I shopped postally, subsequently producing a newspaper cutting with a printed advertisement for hosiery from an establishment at some distance.  The prices, I confess, were advantageous, therefore, being informed by the cook in the manner of conducting business from afar, I lost no time in writing to the establishment to order the goods.  Lacking a more obvious means of emphasis for the undoubtedly doltish minion dealing with the postal orders, and being, in a letter, unable to raise my voice, I merely contented myself with repetition of the instruction, thus:  a dozen, 12, black, dark, boxed, container, of servant’s socks, butler’s large black socks.

The following morning, what should arrive at the door but a procession of delivery boys bearing a dozen large boxes each containing a dozen dark brown boxes of size 12 men’s black socks.

A gross of size 12 socks!

I sent the boy round with a note immediately, but as the emporium is some distance away and the cook had neglected to furnish him with omnibus fare, it was Wednesday before he appeared to deliver a letter in reply of such withering scorn I was obliged to burn it at once, even before sending for the footman to remove the boy, who had fainted without permission on the threshold, inconveniently blocking ingress to the parlour.

I solved the problem of the sock boxes forthwith by having the footman take them upstairs to the  tweeny and parlour maid’s sleeping cupboard, the relevant servants being instructed to sleep upright in the pantry for the present.

The following day, my very dear acquaintance, The Honourable Mary Fortescue and I were partaking of a crumpet, toasted by myself, delivered by the butler with bare feet.  My dear acquaintance, although privately educated by a governess who once spent a week with the Duchess of Leamington Spa, was constrained to remark upon the feet, an unnecessarily pointed comment, one felt.  However the butler assured her that the cook, who should have been laying the foundation of her famous Charlotte Russe was instead attempting to take his new socks in, so that they would fit in his shoes, which she had in the kitchen for the purpose. I bade him leave as I found his toes offensive and he duly departed wiggling his pedal digits in a most insubordinate fashion.

Upon his departure and following a crumpet, the Honourable Mary vouchsafed some interesting information and an offer.

At first the information was a matter for some concern.

The Honourable Mary had had, she said, a Turkish Uncle.

Imagine my consternation!

I had believed the Honourable Fortescues to be nothing other than solidly English.  Now the possibility of foreign nationality, to the extent of genuine duskiness of the skin and features in a most un-English and thoroughly unnatural manner assailed my delicate senses.  I could not withdraw from the conversation, indeed, as I was in my own parlour, was constrained to remain, even if it be in the company of a person with a relative of the tinted persuasion.  Further reflection assuaged my most natural concerns, recalling that none less than royalty must have been involved in the ennobling of those I had been pleased to call close acquaintances.  I could not conceive of the possibility of royalty being in any way involved with unsuitable people and was thus sufficiently calmed to be able to listen to the remainder of the Honourable Mary’s utterances.

The Turkish Uncle had, she said, married her aunt upon the death of her uncle, a sad occurrence in a foreign Bazar as he attempted to eat a ninth camel’s eye for a bet.  The Turkish uncle, speedily acquired for his knowledge of the way to the coast, proved to be something of an asset after all, owning a Turkish rug manufactory, employing numerous native labourers.  The labourers, calling upon the ancient skills of those in foreign parts, made rugs from goats, not as one might imagine, by driving over them with large wheeled carts and drying the result, but by combing the hair of the beasts and spinning it as any Christian would with wool from a proper sheep.  The rugs are of such excellence that one in earlier times had been furnished to Queen Victoria.

I was, as you may judge, fascinated.

My Honourable companion had only met her Turkish uncle once but he had taken such a liking for her that upon his own demise he had bequeathed her a large collection of room sized rugs.

I expressed vicarious joy for my companion, who I was beginning to look upon as a friend, now that her connection to such high places had become clear, albeit through the means of a dusky uncle by marriage, some native workers and a brace of goats.

Not so, declared my new friend!  The inherited carpets had proved to be less of an asset and more of a hindrance to the running of the household.  My Honourable friend had rooms befitting her station, all of which were, necessarily, very much larger in size than the average Turkish tent, room or bath.  The extraordinary value of the carpets meant that the servants, in their common or garden working boots could in no wise be permitted to walk upon them and thus were reduced to creeping round the edges, behind the furniture, proffering cake plates and brandy glasses to the family balanced upon lengthy wooden bread shovels, borrowed from the local baker for the purpose.  Now, said my close friend, the local baker wanted his shovels returned and the servants were refusing to work under the conditions she demanded, namely upon their knees with their feet in the air.  The Rugs of Difficulty must perforce be parted with!

Judge my amazement when my best friend suggested that she donate bequeath and give unto me the rugs, which she said, would fit my rooms much better than hers, as my house is a lot smaller.  (This is her perception, though not, of course, mine.)

I naturally politely enquired if there was anything I could do for her in return.  Yes, she replied.  I could give her my cook.

It was but the thought of an hour, or ten well toasted crumpets, that led me to agree to the exchange.  That and being struck by an idea of complete genius.

And so it is that today I am the proud possessor of carpets identical to those possessed by genuine Royalty!  I confess they are not as well designed, coloured or sized as I expected.  They are small, flat and brown and there are only four in total.  Nevertheless, as they are those experienced by persons of exalted station, I am bearing the loss of a cook with fortitude and becoming highly skilled with a toasting fork.  Moreover I now have the quietest servants in town, as they are all wearing size twelve black socks over their boots and polishing the wooden hall floors to a nicety, every time they proceed to their duties, indeed I can now hear the butler with a tray of what sounds to have been glassware, sliding down the first floor stairs at some speed.

No!  I hear him paused upon the landing, regaining his feet and setting off to the ground floor.

I shall have to ask the parlour maid to slip into the hall and see if he is quite all right and, on the way chastise the boy who  has been loudly cruising up and down the hall at some velocity all morning, pushed to and fro by the parlourmaid and the tweeny, with cries of ‘Here’s another mail order delivery!’ and the like since breakfast.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ – the nob’s snob.


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