Chapter Thirty-Eight: Part 2

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"We shall have a Christmas house party and a Twelfth Night ball to introduce the new viscountess to Society," Grandmama announced, a few days after the Chirburys finally tore themselves away from their new grandson. 

"I am content to live quietly," Diana said, but Grandmama was adamant.

"You may if you wish, Diana. But it shall be your choice. If my family and I accept you, Society will follow our lead. And our support shall ensure you are able to go into Society if you wish, and your child too."

"But a house party and ball will be a great deal of work," Sally protested.

Grandmama smiled, her eyes twinkling. "Yes, it will. And you shall do it most of it, Sally. It shall be good practice for you. And Sophia shall be hostess. I fancy she and Winshire will choose to announce their son's betrothal at the ball. Most of Society knows that Sutton and Henrietta will make a match of it, but it has not yet been officially announced. It cannot be thought exceptional for Henrietta to dance at her own betrothal ball."

And having arranged everything to her own satisfaction, Grandmama set Sally to work.

Sally had acted as aid to both Mama and more recently Grandmama. She had organised a number of social affairs and even a short house party, and thought she knew what to expect. But putting on a house party and ball as aide to the Dowager Duchess of Winshire was in a completely different class, she discovered.

Grandmama had clearly decided to use this to finish Sally training as a hostess.

"We need a guest list. See to it, Sally, will you?"

"You and the housekeeper will need to review the linen, Sally."

"Talk to the butler and housekeeper about staffing, my dear."

After each command, Grandmama was there with advice and suggestions, but it was Sally who did the work, who made the decisions, who managed the many separate activities that soon took over the house (family and servants) and the nearby village.

Even the stories with which she peppered the day took on a didactic purpose. At breakfast one day she explained how she had caused two extra kitchens to be built for occasions when the house was full. "Presenting dinners that did not disgrace us stretched cook and her staff and used the full space of the existing kitchen, Sally. So I extended the room around the bakers' ovens to create a separate space for making bread and cakes and pastries and other such baked goods, and I had a complete new kitchen built in an unused part of the cellars."

Sally pulled out the notebook she had taken to carrying everywhere with her, and under 'Tell cook to hire more staff' wrote 'staff two more kitchens, one for backed goods and one for all other food for all meals and refreshments except dinner'.

How did one go about hiring staff in such large numbers? The duchess would say only, 'Talk to the housekeeper, dear."

"Mrs Finch," Sally said, when the housekeeper came at her summons to the small sitting room where Sally kept her growing collection of lists, "I find that we need to hire cooks, assistants, and servants for two more kitchens, and I have not the least idea where to start. Will you help me? And will you look at my list of things to do and tell me what I am completely failing to plan for?"

It was the right note. Mrs Finch advised on the agency to contact and promised to hire girls from the village to clean and prepare the extra rooms and accommodation for those who would staff them.

Sally, who had not thought of beds for all these extra people, gave a sigh of relief.

"Someone will need to talk to Mrs Marsh, Lady Sarah," Mrs Finch cautioned. "She will not like admitting that she cannot manage it all on her own."

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