I seek a position
All that could be done now was wait. We learned from Mrs. Ashby that Lord William had returned to town and that we would have the opportunity to meet him at the Thursday ball but until then our avenues of inquiry were closed.
I did, however, have an opportunity to meet with a potential employer. I had been remiss in attempting to find employment because of the obligations I felt I owed Miss House and during my illness, but I had recently renewed my efforts and had lately received an answer from a Mrs. Danvers, whom I had written. We were to meet the next day.
‘Who is this Danvers?’ Charlotte asked me during dinner.
‘I thought you should know her, Charlotte,’ I said.
‘I know everyone important.’
‘Yes, well Mrs. Danvers may not be important but her husband is a very successful … ’
‘He’s in trade, then.’
‘He owns a quarry near Bradford.’
‘Yes, Bradford. It is not quite the back side of beyond.’
‘And they have wretched children they want you to teach.’
‘I thought you quite liked children. You treated your little street Arabs very sweetly.’
She gave me the look she uses when she meant to be disagreeable for its own sake. ‘I like to employ them. It does not mean I desire their prolonged company.’
‘What of your own children?’
‘What?’ she said sharply.
‘Had you children of your own,’ I said, somewhat taken aback by her tone.
‘That would be an entirely different matter. Fine, then, see this Danvers woman and mind that you don’t track dust back here.’
I will admit being dismayed by my friend’s lack of encouragement, but I had by now learned to accept her changeable moods. Nevertheless, I looked forward to meeting Mrs. Danvers. The situation she had described sounded well suited to my own accomplishments and her daughter’s age of ten made me think fondly of my own sister at that age. And despite my friend’s generosity, I felt I should make my own way in the world.
The next day, as I was preparing to leave for the short walk to meet Mrs. Danvers at the home of her friend in Bath, Charlotte surprised me.
‘Leaving to meet Mrs. Danvers, I presume?’ she asked.
‘Yes,’ I answered, still irritated at her comments the night before.
‘I feel the need of some fresh air. Might I accompany you? For if you leave, we may not have many more opportunities.’
She said this so wistfully that I could not remain mad at her and begged her company. We walked arm-in-arm, she chatting happily and making the best of the situation, telling me that I should be the best governess imaginable, while I felt miserable that I might soon be leaving her house.
Fifteen minutes found us before the house of Mrs. Danvers’s friend. We stood outside for several minutes while Charlotte gave me instructions on how to comport myself.
‘You should get no less than £20 a year, but try for £25, and no less than a week’s holiday.’
‘Thank you, Charlotte. I will always remember this kindness.’
‘Tut, it is nothing, of course you will get this position. After all, you have the gloves for it.’
We smiled at the thought and I proceeded up the stairs, Charlotte motioning me toward the door as I faltered. I gave her one last look as I raised the knocker and saw her retreating down the street.
The door opened and a footman beckoned me in. I gave my name and he was preparing to announce me when a woman flew down the stairs.
‘You are Miss Woodsen?’ she asked.
‘I am,’ I said. ‘Mrs. Danvers?’
She paused before answering. ‘Yes. It will do you no good. The position is filled. Thank you. James, please show this woman out.’
I stared helplessly at her. The footman’s approach broke my inaction.
‘Please, Mrs. Danvers, I do not understand. How could the position be filled?’
‘James, please show her out.’
‘Please miss,’ the footman said. He led me to the door and I stood without and felt my optimism crumble. It took me a full hour to return to Charlotte’s home.
‘Whatever is the matter?’ Mrs. Fitzhugh asked me after I entered.
I gave a weak smile and explained my trip to her and I confess I cried a little and she put her arms around me and let me put my head on her shoulder.
‘There, there. It was not meant to be this time, that’s all. Obviously the position was filled by another before you arrived.’
‘She gave me a look like I was some … some objectionable thing.’
Charlotte entered the hallway.
‘What is all this?’
‘She did not get the position,’ Mrs. Fitzhugh explained.
‘My dear Jane, I am so sorry. But all this means is that I should not lose your company. And remember, tonight we meet Lord William.’