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By Leslie Whitaker
Trafford PublishingCopyright © 2014 Leslie Whitaker
All rights reserved.
"There you are, God's blessing be upon you. Come in and have a seat, Paddi, my housekeeper will be serving tea shortly, just the way you like it. I have been waiting for you for such a long time. I have a story to tell. There have been many in my life that is worthy of your attention, but this one is by far my favorite. An old Irish tale, they are the best kind, don't you think? For they have many a magic in them. You do believe in magic, do you not? If so, that will do. I am what you call a gentlemen's gentleman. Where are my manners? My name is Jeffrey Flanagan. My résumé is one to be desired by many, if I do say so myself. Let's see, my job description is as follows:
1. In charge of said employer
A. Keeping employer immaculate.
B. At all times.
C. Schedules are promptly on time as scheduled.
D. House in running order.
E. In charge of said household employees.
"In other words, I see to my employer's every need.
F. Top priority, taking care of Ms. Megan O'Shey. Daughter of said employer, Mr. Donavan O'Shey."
From the kitchen walked a little woman round as she could be. She was carrying a silver tray with steam coming from the tea pitcher and a plate of crumpets. Her hair tied up in a bun covered in a gathered cotton cap. She was wearing a white crisp, starched apron to cover her floor-length gray work dress.
"Ah! There you are, Paddi. As you can see, we have houseguests. Please set the tray down, and join us if you would like."
"There will be none of that, sir. You know there are too many things to be done around here. Some of us have to work to do," Paddi told him.
"It is nice to meet you, but forgive me, duty calls."
"If you will forgive Paddi, she is a lively one, she is. She has been around almost as long as I have."
Now to begin, I came to work for my employer, Mr. Donavan O'Shey. A fine man, if there was one, he is a graduate of Harvard University. Has his master's and doctorate degrees in rare books and antiquities. In laymen terms, Donavan, as we are to call him, looks over books, to see their authenticity, mostly rare books. Some for auctions, some for buyers for investment purposes. He also does editing for new books for authors. He believes a lot in writers who are adamant in their work. His office is downtown, a good ride from here.
I am also in charge of his daughter, Megan, a most beautiful child, if ever there was one. She is the age of thirteen years.
While Donavan was in college, he met a young woman, a Ms. Katherine Gallagher. She was very bright and was after her doctorate for literature. She was fascinated with books, the second thing that caught his eye. The first was how beautiful she was. Her laughter was contagious. She had beautiful emerald-green eyes. Curly auburn-red hair passed her shoulders. And an Irish temper that would curl your toes. This didn't stop Mr. O'Shey; he fell in love almost immediately. After their graduation, he courted her, which was the proper thing to do. After proper time were married. Donavan had saved his money to start his business. It started small, as most businesses go. He was working night and day to make a go of it. Katherine worked side by side with him. Until the day they found out they were to be parents. Donavan would not hear of his wife working in her condition. He doted on her hand and foot, and it drove her crazy. Katherine loved to work around the house, and getting ready for the baby was a joy to her. The baby's room was decorated in blues and pinks, lacy bassinette, layettes, blankets. They couldn't spend a lot, but there was nothing he wouldn't do for his family. The day came when the baby was born. She was a beautiful baby girl. Dark ringlets hung around her face. She was perfect in every way. Katherine was not as lucky, after the birth. She had a long and hard delivery. She was hemorrhaging, and the doctor told him she was weak and unable to regain her strength from the loss of blood. The doctor and the midwife prepared Donavan as best they could. But there was no preparing him for the loss of his beloved Katherine. Not long after the death of his wife, Donavan was also told by the doctor that he would be in need of a wet nurse. This was for the feeding and care of his daughter. Donavan learned quickly he would be in need of a few people for help. He would need help with his home and business. He missed Katherine very much. It would seem he was treating his home and his business with neglect. He couldn't think, and he could not eat. The baby was taking up most of his time. The rest of his time, he lived in a fog. His days blended. He followed the doctor's instructions and put an ad in the New York Herald. The day after the ad came out, there was a knock on his door. This is where I came into the life of one Mr. Donavan O'Shey.
As I stood waiting at the door, I noticed how beautiful the home was, though it needed tending. A long circle driveway, gardens, fountains, birdbaths, a gazebo covered in roses. The home was of stone bricks, wraparound porch, chairs, with rugs scattered about. Four stone pillars to hold the frame of the house as well as the two floors above. Two smoke chimneys, from the fireplaces. As the door opened, there stood a gentleman, and from the looks of him, he needed attention. His shirt was not tucked in at the waist; his hair was standing on end. He looked like he was at the end of his rope.
"Am I in the presence of a Mr. O'Shey?"
"Yes, that is my name. Who, may I ask, is calling?"
"My name is Mr. Jeffrey Flanagan. I am answering your advertisement in the paper. I have my credentials that you requested."
"Yes, please come in. Excuse my mess please. I am without help at the moment."
"That is quite all right, sir, I understand."
"If you will follow me to my office, we can start. Could I get you something to drink? I have some very good Irish tea."
"No, thank you, sir, that won't be necessary."
"All right then, may I have your papers?"
As Donavan looked over Jeffrey's papers, Jeffrey looked around at all the find books on the shelves, getting a good idea who Mr. O'Shey was.
"You seem to be very educated, fine schools in Ireland, in business, finance. How are you at taking directions at a moment's notice?"
"I do very well, sir, as you can see from my references, I have worked as a gentlemen's gentleman for the finest families in Ireland."
"My what?" asked Donavan.
"Your gentlemen's gentleman. It is what we refer in Ireland a fancy way of saying a man who is employed by another man."
"I see, very interesting, Mr. Flanagan. Nice to learn something new."
"Please call me Jeffrey, that is what I prefer, if it is all right with you, sir?"
"I will, if you will do the same and call me Donavan.
"I have never had a gentlemen's gentleman, as you call it. I have only one thing that I am adamant about, and that is my daughter. I will say I know not a thing about babies. Her name is Megan, and she is the love of my life, she comes before anything. She is but a year old. I am looking for a nanny to watch over her needs, and you will be in charge of whoever I hire in my home."
"I assure you, sir, you won't be disappointed," said Jeffrey, pleased.
The road leading to the entrance to Mr. O'Shey's property was lined with very old magnolia trees. Standing alongside one of the trees was a lady looking at the main entrance, dressed in working-class attire, her long peppered-gray hair wrapped up in a bun, on top of her head. The lady was maybe five two, round as she was tall. She was in 'Awe' of how grand the home was. She noticed there was a lot of work to be done to the outside. It would take a lot of work, but Mrs. Kilpatrick would have everything under control. She proceeded to walk through the ornate rod iron gates. She walked slowly up the dirt road. Paddi, as she liked to be called, could see many ladies waiting at the front entrance. Her guess was they were waiting to see Mr. O'Shey for the same position she was applying for, a governess position. As Paddi got close, she could see they came in all shapes and sizes. There were ladies wearing their finest attire, and some not so fine. A few ladies with proper English, and others you thought would start your ears to burn. The word got around that there was a single widower looking for a governess, and they all came calling. Mr. O'Shey had been inside, interviewing all morning, looking for the right lady for the position to fill, but at the rate it was going, he was doubtful.
"You say you don't have previous papers of employment, Mrs. Myers."
"Oh! Go on with ya, you can call me Bobby, all the men do. If the truth be known, I don't need any papers, they just get in the way."
While Mrs. Myers was talking, she quietly walked up to Mr. O'Shey as close as she could possibly get.
"You can ask anyone I am good at what I do."
Mrs. Myers bumped into him, not apologizing and looking him straight in the eyes, waiting for an answer that would never come. As he was flustered, he didn't have time for such nonsense. He rushed the lady who smelled like an old rag, and he politely escorted her out the door as she was talking with a lot of explicit vocabulary coming from her mouth. Grabbing a handkerchief to wipe his brow, he glanced out and saw the amazing long line he had yet to interview. He decided he was done for the day. He called for Jeffrey.
"Jeffrey, if you don't mind, I am at my wits' end this morning. Could you please interview the ladies, and I trust you to hire someone who has the qualifications to take care of my daughter. Some of these ladies, and I say that mildly, are not fit to be around animals. While you do this, I am going to the office and take care of some work."
"Yes, sir. If I were you, sir, I would go out the side door to avoid the mob out front," he said with a snicker.
"Very funny, Jeffrey, I think I will take your advice."
As Donavan proceeded to walk out the side door, not paying attention, he opened the door, running over Paddi. "Oh my word. Please forgive me," he said, as he grabbed Paddi's arm to keep her from falling into the bushes. "What are you doing at my side door?" he yelled in great surprise.
"It is where you are, sir," said Paddi, with a smile on her face. "I am here for my interview."
"I am sorry, miss, but you will have to go around front with the other ladies and wait your turn in the morning."
"What ladies, sir?"
"All the ladies are waiting in the front entrance."
"Sir, there are no ladies in the front entrance."
"My goodness, woman, there are at least thirty women waiting at my front door to be interviewed."
"My apologies, sir, but there are no ladies waiting at the front entrance," said Paddi.
"If you would care to follow me, I will show you that you are very mistaken."
Donavan took Paddi by the arm and guided her through the house, to the front door, and proceeded to open it. Upon his surprise as he looked out, there was not a soul in sight. He stepped on the front porch and looked both ways. He stopped off the porch and walked all around, but there was no one. Donavan put his hand to his head; he could feel a headache coming on. He most assuredly needed some time away from the house, believing he had been working too hard.
"Please forgive me, miss, but it has been a very trying day." Looking at her with suspiciously, he said, "What is your name?"
"My name is Ms. Kilpatrick, but everyone calls me Paddi. If you would like to see my credentials, sir, I have them here," said Paddi, with a pixie smile.
"Yes, that would be very good. Please follow me to my study, Ms. Kilpatrick, or Paddi, as you preferred, and we can work there," said Donavan, a little confused. Paddi gave him all her papers with names to verify her qualifications, along with her history of employment.
"It seems you have a very good history of caring for families, you are good with children?"
"Yes, sir, I have had experience with all ages of children. They are a wonder to me. Besides taking care of the house, you can put your mind to rest, sir. My main concern would be the children."
"I have but one daughter, Megan, she is asleep at the moment."
As Donavan looked over Paddi's papers, he was pleased.
Thinking to himself, he wanted more than anything for his daughter to be brought up as a lady, like her mother. With manners and etiquette. To grow up in the social circles, with fancy parties, social events, wearing beautiful gowns, and he would see to it that she have the best education. He hired Paddi right then.
They had several years together. Donavan's business thrived. And Megan grew to be a young girl.
Megan went into the kitchen with a frown on her face.
"Child, why do you look so sad?"
"All my friends at school are talking about their parties and how they dress up in their fine dresses. I have not given a party yet."
Paddi was realizing that Ms. Megan was growing up, a new chapter in her young life.
"Well, we will have to do something about that, won't we?" Paddi told her.
"You mean I can have a party."
"Not just any party. But one fit for a young lady. Why don't we have a tea party? We could go shopping for a new dress. Of course we would have to get your hat and gloves to match, along with your beaded purse, and to top it off, a lace parasol. How would you like to have it in the garden?"
"Oh, Paddi, that is a wonderful idea. I can't wait."
"I will inform your father."
Paddi waited till after supper and in his study.
Paddi knocked lightly.
"Yes, come in."
Paddi noticed Donavan hunched over his desk at papers. "Mr. O'Shey?"
"I know when you start with 'Mr. O'Shey,' something is up."
"Now why would you say something like that to an old woman?" Paddi snickered.
"Because I have known you for several years now." He was looking from the top of his spectacles at her.
"I would like to have an afternoon tea for ladies for all Megan's friends. I will ask Ms. Megan's help. If you would permit me, we could have it out in your garden."
"I have not been in the garden for a while."
"Not to worry, sir, leave it to me," Paddi said, with a twinkle in her eye.
"Paddi! Anything I can help you with?"
"Yes, sir, protocol states you can escort Ms. Megan to the garden to meet her guest. That would mean you would have to have a new suit."
"And what is wrong with the one I have?"
"Exactly, the one and only suit you have. This will be a special occasion for Ms. Megan to remember."
"Since you put it like that, I think it can be arranged."
"Thank you again, sir," said Paddi.
There was a slight knock on the door as Megan stepped in her father's study.
Donavan looked at his daughter, realizing she was growing up. "I understand there is to be a party, here in the garden. Who will be putting this together?"
"I will, Father."
"And I also understand that you will be needing an escort to the garden."
"Yes, that is what Paddi suggested."
"That means I will have to buy a new suit."
"You would look very handsome in a new suit."
Donavan looked at his daughter sheepishly. "I guess I know when I have been had."
Megan ran and put her arms around her father.
The next morning found Megan and Paddi outside in the garden, throwing weeds in the wagon. They were pruning bushes, trimming trees, cleaning out ponds and fountains. Jeffrey was laying fresh gravel on the walkways of the garden and lining the edge of the walkway with small shrubs. All three had been cleaning the garden all morning and into the afternoon. While Megan was gathering her cuttings that fell on the ground, she caught something in the corner of her eye. But when she looked up, there was nothing there. Megan couldn't see anything. She brushed it off as nothing. She went back to digging in the rich soil with her trowel. As she was digging, she knew she saw something in the corner of her eye again. She raised her head ever so slowly, looking at the end of the gravel row. On each side of the row stood tall bushes. At the end of the row stood a boy. He had soft curly ringlets over his eyes and too his shoulders. He had to be around thirteen years old. He stood straight with his hands in his pockets of his overalls. Megan noticed this young boy was not wearing any shoes.
Excerpted from Ancient Families by Leslie Whitaker. Copyright © 2014 Leslie Whitaker. Excerpted by permission of Trafford Publishing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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