28. What to do about Mrs Thrower?

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Mrs Thrower curtsied again, then glanced from Agatha to me, unsure of what she should do next. Agatha was clearly waiting for me to say something and take charge of the situation. 

I stared at both of them.  

I didn't want to be rude to the woman, but was terribly disappointed she wasn't Charlotte. The brief elation I had felt melted quickly away, leaving me in more of a foul temper than I'd been in before.  

With Elizabeth's bunch I'd possibly be taking on more than I could handle in the next several days . Being confronted out of the blue with another stray, pulling at my skirt, asking for me to do something to help her, was not what I needed at that moment.  

I ran a business to reintegrate veterans into society; I wasn't a government social welfare office. 

Mrs Thrower, late 30s with a fleshy maternal face and muscular arms that pulled a bit at the sleeves of her dress, clearly felt the chilly atmosphere in my silence.

"I. . . if you'll pardon me, Ma'am. . . I'd have written me inquiry to the butler of the house, but not knowing his name or indeed the name of any person of staff, I took the liberty of --"

I nodded. I was too nettled to simply turn about face and march out of the room, as I probably should have done. Instead I snapped, "Your letter arrived last week and I sent a reply. Did you not receive it before you left?"

"Tea, Miss Altringham?" Agatha picked up the tea pot and began to pour. "There are also refreshments, if you would be so kind."

That was a subtle hint for me to reign myself in and deal with the woman properly. I didn't think that was a terribly grand idea as all I really wanted to do was retreat back to the Hutch office to disappear under a stack of work. I had more pressing things to take care of than this. 

After pouring my tea and topping up Mrs Thrower's, Agatha rose and left the room, leaving me to it. That was correct procedure, but I couldn't help but be irritated with her that she hadn't explained the situation and trundled the woman off to a guest room already.  

Why did I have to manage everything?

"No, Ma'am, I didn't receive your letter," Mrs Thrower began again after taking a few deep breaths. "I left Lady Bucking-Coombs' house several days ago. I was given me reference and asked to go." She picked up a piece of stationery resting next to her tea cup and held it out to me. She'd clearly already shown it to Agatha.

I should have taken her paper, even if just to calm the woman, but I was not in the correct frame of mind to read another dismissive letter from a woman like Elizabeth. Showers of hot and cold anger were still running under my fingertips and I thought I just might have exploded if the colour of ink Lady Bucking-Coombs had used didn't agree with me. 

Mrs Thrower quickly saw I wasn't going to take her paper and put it down. 

"It. . .it was all very sudden, Ma'am, begging your pardon, and I thought I could stay with relatives for a while. But that turned out to be no good, so I decided to come straight here. I'm not sure which way to turn now, Mrs Altringham, but the moment I saw this grand estate with all the land and this beautiful house, I said to meself, Amelia, that Mrs Altringham you've heard such wonderful words about will certainly have a small corner for you." 

She beamed at me.  "I'm a good worker, clean, not a complainer, me. I've been --"

I held up my hand to stop her before she launched into a roll call of her virtues as a house servant. 

"I'm sure are. Forgive me my bluntness, but the plain fact is that I can't afford to pay you. This beautiful house and all of this land is being taxed into the ground by the current government to get England back on its feet. We are being bled dry, Mrs Thrower. There's no more money for anything but the absolute necessities." 

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