My Dearest Friend,
I’m writing at your bequest to describe a typical day in my life. Why I have no idea but who am I to question such a dear friend’s request? As Sir Arthur was called away suddenly to England, I have taken a new position, as social secretary to Mrs. Charlotte Mayhew. Yes, that Charlotte Mayhew, wife to one of the richest men in America. After the terror of the boat ride from New York, (I’ve vowed to never ride another boat again!) I have settled into Rose Mont, the Mayhew’s Newport summer “cottage” and established a comfortable routine that quite suits me. As you may know, I rarely sleep well, so my day starts well before sunrise. I slip my hand lens over my head, use an extra pin in my hat, shove a few specimen jars in my bag and go hiking. As a private secretary, every other part of my day is occupied by the will and whims of my employer so I relish this time by myself. Of course, you will remind me of those exceptional instances when I found a dead body instead of a new species for my plant collection. I do regret ever having any association with murder. Who would? The images of those bodies still haunt me. Thank goodness I had Walter to turn to. (You will be pleased to know that his affection has not waned during our time apart. He writes every day.)
But now I’m in Newport, the Queen of Resorts as it’s called and I don’t have to time to think about dead bodies. Mrs. Mayhew expects me to attend to her straight after breakfast. As she lounges in her sitting room, petting her cat, Bonaparte, I sort through her correspondences (you’d be astounded by the volume that arrives every day): calling cards from women hoping to rise in society, dozens of invitations to outings such as dinner parties, lawn tennis tournaments, or yachting picnics, and almost as many bills, (you cannot imagine how exorbitant the amounts!), for the latest silk dresses or hats from Paris, for fresh flowers delivered each morning or for any number of daily luxuries. I read them to her and she dictates her response which I write, sign her name to and mail later.
Once we’ve accomplished that, we embark on to the most challenging task of my new position as social secretary- planning parties. And Mrs. Mayhew loves to have parties! I’ve been told by Miss Lucy, (Remember I wrote to you about her and her sister, Miss Lizzie, the dear, elderly ladies I met in Eureka Springs? They happen to summer in Newport, as well.) that Mrs. Mayhew “would dance on the lawn of Beechwood in the nude” if that’s what it took for Mrs. Caroline Astor to accept and attend one of her soirees. Supposedly Mrs. Astor’s calling card is the key to the highest circles in society. (And to think all I want is for Walter’s mother to respect me for the professional I am. Did I tell you she thinks me completely unfit for her son’s attentions?)
First there was a garden party with live peacocks strolling loose about the garden, hundreds of imported cut flowers intricately woven into outdoor walls of color and a famous musician brought in from Europe because her husband admired the man’s work (Her husband stayed in New York to work). And then there is the upcoming ball! I’d never realized how many details must be attended to and how dependent they are on the fluctuations of society- Mrs. Mayhew changes the seating arrangements almost every day! Once dismissed, I spend the rest of the day attending to all the details we discussed in the morning.
So there, dearest friend, is my day. It has varied little except for last night, my first night off. After accompanying some of the maids to festivities at the Forty Steps (Can you believe I saw a man with a pet monkey on his shoulder? Only in Newport!) we were witness to an explosion at one of the banks near the harbor. What a spectacle! And the firemen suspect it wasn’t an accident! Luckily it’s not my place to speculate- I have to address thirty more invitations to the Mayhew ball before I can attempt to sleep.
Ever your friend,
You can read more about Hattie in A Sense of Entitlement, the third book in the “Hattie Davish” mystery series, published by Kensington. The first book in the series is A Lack of Temperance. Books are available at retail and online booksellers.
Meet the author
Anna Loan-Wilsey lives in a Victorian farmhouse in the Iowa countryside with her patient husband, inquisitive daughter and my old yellow dog. She was born and raised in Syracuse, NY but have lived in Finland, Canada and Texas. She has a BA in Biology from Wells College in Aurora, NY and a MLIS from McGill University in Montreal. She’s a biologist, librarian, information specialist and now with the Hattie Davish Mysteries Series, a novelist.
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