"You have a letter, dear," Alma Hartley said excitedly, as she came into the parlor.
Setting aside the book she was reading, Lady Sarah accepted the letter Mrs. Hartley handed her.
"Do you think it might be good news?" Sarah asked hopefully.
"Well, we won't know until you open it . . . oh, do hurry ! " Mrs. Hartley prompted while anxiously praying it was good news. After watching Lady Sarah mail out so many inquiries for employment, she hoped the poor girl would not be disappointed again by another rejection. With a sigh, she pushed back a wisp of grey hair off her forehead, and settled her rounded figure onto her favorite chair.
Sarah quickly broke the seal and opened the letter. Reading it, she smiled with relief.
"At last, I have found work! At a place in London," she said as she handed the letter to Mrs. Hartley.
Sarah had lived with the Vicar Hartley, and his wife, for the past eight months. During that time, She had been answering advertisements requiring someone with experience in managing financial accounts, but it seemed no one would hire a woman.
Mrs. Hartley, adjusted her glasses, and perused the letter.
Cher Monsieur Prescott,"Oh! What a wonderful opportunity, you will even have a place to stay . . . and you will be in London!" said Mrs. Hartley, overjoyed for her young friend's good fortune.
Thank you for responding to the advertisement regarding my accounts. As your qualifications comply with my requirements, you have been accepted for employment. You will receive an annual stipend of one hundred guineas, paid quarterly. In addition, room and board will be provided at my establishment. Let me know when to expect you.
Madame L. Monainge
She thought of the hard times the poor child has had, with losing her parents, and then losing the estate to her Cousin's family. She was delighted to give her a home at the Vicarage until she could find something suitable, although Sarah disagreed with what she thought was 'suitable'. Mrs. Hartley would have liked to see the girl working for a genteel household as a governess or lady's companion, but Sarah found that too constricting, desiring a place to work where it would allow her a little more freedom to come and go as she pleased. Rereading the letter, Mrs. Hartley looked at Sarah curiously.
"I do not understand French very well, but is this not addressed to you as 'Dear Mister' Prescott?"asked Mrs. Hartley, pointing to the salutation on the letter.
"I suppose it does, but even so, the letter states I meet the qualifications, and have been hired. I cannot see what difference it makes if I'm a male or female," Sarah said stubbornly. She was tired of all the refusals over such a silly reason for not hiring someone.
"But . . . but how could they possibly mistake Sarah for a man?" inquired Mrs. Hartley, looking at the letter again.
"Well, I did not actually use the name Sarah Jordan Prescott . . . instead, I signed as S. Jordan Prescott on the letter. Since I had so many refusals to my queries, I decided to be judged strictly on my qualifications this time."
"Oh my! You cannot accept this position without letting them know you are a woman, my dear . . . it would be untruthful," Mrs. Hartley said anxiously.
"Why ever not? I did not lie in my letter . . . perhaps deceive a tiny bit . . . but I was truthful," seeing Mrs. Hartley's distress, Sarah added, "Do not worry, I will explain the mistake . . . and also, that I can do the job as well as any man!"
"I do hope so," Mrs. Hartley murmured, straightening the material of her skirt nervously.
"Please remember," Sarah said gently, reaching out to still her friends nervous gesture, "with the Peninsular war over and Napoleon exiled to Elba, our British soldiers have been returning home and looking for work. It is even harder for me to compete in a man's world. I have to do whatever I can, to at least be given the opportunity."
"Yes, my dear, I do understand, but it just worries me so that you will get into trouble over not being truthful. What if you are turned down after traveling all the way to London? Not only will you be out of a job you will not have a place to stay! Then what will become of you? Promise me if anything goes wrong you will immediately come back to us," Mrs. Hartley pleaded.
"You know I will!" Sarah said getting up and giving the older woman a warm embrace, then leaning back she chided, "Now, please, do not be concerned, it will all turn out perfectly fine."
Heaving a sigh, Mrs. Hartley nodded. There was nothing else to do with this strong-headed girl. She just prayed everything would turn out right for her.
"I will have to send a reply . . . what time is the mail picked up at the Knight's Shield Inn? Do you think I have time to make it today?" Sarah said, dashing to the desk to write out her acceptance.
"Oh, I'm sure you do, my dear. When do you plan on leaving?" asked Mrs. Hartley, resigning herself to the inevitable.
"The day after tomorrow. That will give me time to pack, and Madame Monainge to receive my letter," Sarah answered as she finished writing her note and sealing it.
"It is time you were out of mourning for your father, Lady Sarah," she said, looking at the somber black dress Sarah wore. Even with her auburn curls and ivory complexion, the black gave her an appearance of a woman much older than two and twenty years of age. "Wear something with a little color, if you want to make a good impression on your new employer."
"Yes, you are right, of course. My father would have understood since it is only a matter of two months, before the year of mourning is over. I'm glad I had packed a few of my dresses when I left the estate. They are a little out of fashion, as I have not invested in clothes since my mother died, but these will serve nicely as working clothes. I do have a grey traveling suit I could wear on the trip," she answered.
"It is best to have someone travel with you on the coach, and if I'm not mistaken, Mrs. Farley is going to London to take care of her grandchildren while her son and daughter-in-law are on a tour. I will walk with you to the inn to post your letter, and we can stop on the way back at Mrs. Farley's cottage."
Two days later, after a tearful goodbye to the Hartleys, Lady Sarah boarded the coach to London. The ride went well, with one stop at a posting station. She and Mrs. Farley had comfortable seating, until the posts stop where the coach filled to capacity. Sarah was then squeezed between the plump Mrs. Farley, and a portly middle-aged man smelling of tobacco and spirits. The window had been opened partially for air, but instead, the coach became dusty, and then nearing London, the noise and the rancid smells of the city drifted in upon them forcing Sarah to cover her nose with a lace, lavender-scented handkerchief.
They arrived late afternoon, pulling into the White Horse Inn courtyard. Mrs. Farley's son met them, and after helping his mother into his carriage, offered Sarah a ride to her destination. Seeing the size of the tilbury, already loaded with Mrs. Farley and her luggage, Sarah said she would get a hackney, if he would please flag one down for her.
The hackney driver asked for the directions, and she gave him the address. Surprised, he looked at the green-eyed young girl, with her auburn curls framed around her pretty, virtuous face. She did not look the type, he thought. The chit looked more like one of those nobs in Mayfair.
"Ye mean ta work at tha place?" he asked suspiciously.
"Yes sir, I have been accepted for a position," Sarah answered proudly, as she climbed into the hackney. He shook his head, and muttered, "Position she calls it. Silly chit. Wot with 'er looks, she'll be seein' plenty of 'em . . . flat on 'er backside."
The hackney pulled up in front of a four-story building on Jermyn Street. Sarah paid the driver, smoothed out her grey merino traveling outfit, walked up the steps, and lifted the heavy knocker on the door. Above the knocker was a gold-plated plaque written in French:
Jardin de PlaisirSarah pondered the words while waiting, and with a limited knowledge of French, presumed Jardin was the term for garden. A garden . . . of . . . what? Flowers? No . . . that's not right.
Sarah was still studying the plaque as the door opened, and a very tall, burly man in his fifties, stared down at her. Sarah's eye-level was even with the massive chest and she had to tilt her head to see his face. His features were formidable, and his head was shaved of all hair.
"Yes, Miss? What can I do for you?" Karl demanded, presuming she had the wrong place, or trying to locate her straying husband. She was not a do-gooder for she'd have others with her to force her will upon Miss Lilly.
"I, uh, have an appointment to see Madame Monainge. She is expecting me," Sarah said, handing him her calling card with a trembling hand.
Taking the card, Karl glanced at it, then looked back at her in amazement.
"You are the person answering the advertisement?" he asked reading the name on the card.
"Yes sir," Sarah said, waiting for him to invite her inside.
Staring at her for another moment, Karl then stepped aside allowing her to enter. Sarah stepped into the entry and was immediately confronted by an array of potted palms on both sides and in an alcove stood a large, ornate birdcage containing two colorful parrots.
"If you will come with me, Miss, I will inform the Madame," he said, as he led her to a door past the alcove.
Opening the door, he asked her to wait inside while he informed Madame Monainge, then he left, closing the door behind him.
Sarah looked around at her surroundings. The room was lavishly decorated in shades of rose, pale green and deep blue. Huge foliage plants and delicate Chinese vases on pedestals were scattered around the outer edges of the room and next to the bookshelves. A marble fireplace dominated one wall, with two comfortable chairs facing it, and near the window stood an ornately carved teakwood desk, with a chair upholstered in light green, butter-soft leather. A beautiful oriental carpet in the colors of the room covered the floor.
"How lovely! The owner of this establishment must be very successful," murmured Sarah, appreciatively.
Lilly Monainge came gliding down the stair in a hurry to get to the Gaming Room. She wanted to make sure the new faro table had been delivered, before they open this evening.
"Pardon me, Miss Lilly, but . . . uh . . . the Prescott person has arrived," Karl said, as he intercepted her at the entrance to the Gaming Room.
"Merveilleuse! I have been dreading working on those ledgers since our Armand had left, and I'm getting so far behind in entering the figures. It will be good to have someone take that load off of my shoulders," Lilly said, as she turned toward Karl who was standing with the card in his hand. Plucking it from his fingers, she continued on toward the office.
"Is he waiting in my office?" she asked as she headed for the door.
"Yes . . . but Miss Lilly, I think you should . . ." his voice trailed off as he watched her walk into the room.
Lilly opened the door, and entered in a swirl of champagne silk covering her voluptuous figure. Her black hair pulled high on her head with a few long curls pulled loose that fell around dainty ears adorned with sparkling, teardrop diamond earrings. She looked much younger than her thirty-six years. Lilly stopped, surveyed the room, then her eyes fastened on the genteel young lady standing by the fireplace.
"Oh! I'm sorry, I was expecting someone else," Lilly said flustered. The only time a woman of her breeding stopped by was to find her husband, and she hated having to deal with them.
Sarah looked at the beautiful woman dressed formally for evening, and thought she had come at a bad time when the lady was surely going out.
"I apologize for arriving so late, but my coach was delayed. I'm Miss Prescott. You were expecting me," Sarah said with a smile.
Lilly looked at her in astonishment. "You are the one I accepted for the position?" then glanced at the card she held, "Mais non! It is impossible! You're supposed to be a man!" Lilly cried dismayed.
Sarah's hopes began to fade as she realized she should have notified her of the error as Mrs. Hartley suggested.
"I am Sarah Jordan Prescott, Madame Monainge, and I'm an excellent accounts manager. I have managed a large estate for almost four years, as I wrote in my letter to you."
"An estate . . . yes. Yes, I remember . . . you did mention that. But you are a lady, and I was expecting a man, you see," Lilly said gently, recovering from the shock, for the poor girl looked like she was going to cry.
"Oh please Madame, you cannot hold it against me because I'm a female. Why, you are a female, and an owner of a business! Won't you give me a chance? I will prove to you that I'm worthy of the position," Sarah pleaded, hoping she would not be kicked out onto the London streets.
"Miss Prescott, I don't think you understand. Do you know the kind of business I run? Did you not read the plaque outside on the door?" she asked.
"Well, yes, I did see a sign, but it was written in French, and I have only a slight knowledge of the French language. Nevertheless, I'm still good at financial affairs," Sarah said, nervously clutching her reticule.
Smiling at the girl and trying to ease her anxiety, Lilly took her by the hand. "Come, sit down, and we will discuss this calmly. Let me give you a drink to steady your nerves. I believe we both need a glass" she sighed.
After getting Sarah settled with a glass of sherry, and taking her seat behind the desk, Lilly studied the lovely young lady. She liked her, and did not want to disappoint the poor girl.
"You did not use your Christian name in your letter. Where did you get the name Jordan? It is certainly unusual. I would have thought it belonged to a man . . . perhaps that is what you had intended?" Lilly mused.
"I'm truly sorry about misleading you, but I wanted to be hired for my qualifications. I used the initial S, instead of Sarah, because it is so hard to find employment when everyone makes the same comment: Sorry, we do not hire women."
"I just wanted to be hired on my ability, and not whether I'm male or female. As for the name Jordan, it was my mother's maiden name. Of course it should have been a son's name, but my mother was told that she could not have another child after my birth, and she promised her father that she would carry his family name onto a grandchild," she answered.
"Well, Miss Prescott, I must say, this is a bit awkward. You see, I never dreamed that a woman would answer the advertisement to handle my accounts. I'm sure you are in a desperate situation, having come all this way . . . but my dear, you do not realize what type of business this is. The name of the establishment, Jardin de Plaisir which is French and the translation is Garden of Enjoyment."
Sarah smiled, glad that part of her translation was correct. "I noticed the beautiful plants here, and in the entry. Are you in the gardening business?"
Lily choked back her laughter, "Ah, not quite as you think . . . this is an elite establishment where our express purpose is to bring pleasure to wealthy gentlemen."
There was an audible gasp from Sarah. Lilly watched the girl face turn almost the shade of her pretty auburn curls.
"I see you finally understand what I'm trying to tell you. This is a gaming house, where only gentlemen are admitted, and there is the addition of . . . uh . . . other entertainment by our ladies. If I do say so myself, this will soon be the finest club in all of London. Business has been exceptionally good since opening my place four months ago . . . which is one of the reasons I need someone experienced in record keeping. Your qualifications are good, my dear, but as you can see, it would not do for a young genteel lady to ruin her reputation by being associated with this type of establishment," she said gently.
Sarah's mind was quickly analyzing all that was said, and had come to only one conclusion. She needed the job.
"Madame Monainge, you just said my qualifications are good. Actually they really are exceptional. Let me show you what I can do. I know I can have your accounts organized within a week so you will know what your profits are at a mere glance. I do not care what the business is . . . well, yes I do care, but as long as it is not theft or murder . . . it is still a business. And for that matter, this sort of business has been going on long before Christianity, and I doubt if it will ever cease to exist. Please do not be concerned about my reputation, for my parents are dead, and most of my closer relation, at least none left that would be interested in my circumstances.
No one in London would recognize me. I have never been here before, having lived all my life in the country, so what is there to gossip about? I need this job. I have no where else to go, and as long as I do not have to . . . uh . . . do what your other ladies do . . . and can be only your accounts manager, I would truly love to work for you," Sarah said, looking with pleading green eyes into the warm brown eyes of Lilly Monainge.
Lilly had always had a soft heart, along with being a good business woman. She had inherited two hundred thousand pounds and this old hotel, transferring it into a first-rate establishment with almost all of her money. Her husband had owned a gaming house in France, but he and their twelve-year-old son had died in a carriage accident just before they were to migrate to England. Her husband's uncle, a British citizen, saw to it she was provided for, and eventually he passed away, leaving her this inheritance. She felt she could be as successful as her husband, since she had helped him start his gaming business. Everyone liked and respected her for her fairness to her employees, as well as to her customers satisfaction. That is why this establishment was destined to be the best in London. Now her good business sense was telling her that this young woman would certainly put her accounts in proper order.
Leaning back in her chair, Lilly appraised Sarah once more before making her decision.
"If you feel you will not be shocked by the activity around here, and will not look down your nose at any of my employees, or make my ladies feel guilty at what their doing, then I will hire you on a trial basis for one month. That should give both of us time to make our minds up about each other. Do you agree?" Lilly said, all business now.
"Oh yes, Madame!" Sarah said eagerly. "I have never been one to judge what others do, and I certainly do not intend to start now. I will devote my time to being your accounts manager, and not interfere in anything else, I promise," she said seriously, with her hand over her heart.
At that Lilly laughed. "Let me show you to your room . . ," she paused thoughtfully, "No, that won't do. I had a room on the fourth floor ready for you, but that was with the men . . . there is no room on the second floor . . . where of course you cannot be, that is the floor where the ladies conduct business . . ." looking at Sarah's dismay, she smiled. "I will put you in the spare room on the third floor with me. In fact, there are two rooms connected, and one of them you can use as your office. Mais oui, that would be perfect! That way, I will not worry about your being in contact with the customers . . . or business activities.
"Speaking of business, we our opening from seven in the evening until seven in the morning, and sundays we are closed . . . that gives everyone a day off, also it is a good day to be closed, as our type of business has never been good on a Sunday.
"The employees usually sleep most of the day, after working twelve hours. So if you will stay on the third floor during the business hours, we shouldn't have any problems," Lilly said. Satisfied with her arrangement, she rose from her chair, and motioned Sarah to follow.
"Come I will show you around before we open in an hour. That way, you will be able to familiarize yourself with our operation, and give you a chance to work on the accounts tomorrow while we are all sleeping."
Sarah was only too happy to follow her. She was relieved that she was hired. Now, she had to work harder than she had ever before, to make sure she kept the job past the thirty days.
Lilly asked the astonished Karl to take Sarah's portmanteau to the third floor and put it in the spare room on the left.
"....and, Karl, now that we are not using the vacant room on the men's floor, get in touch with Jason, the one that was here last night inquiring about working the gaming area. Tell him to come in and he can start this evening. Also tell him he can use the vacant room on the fourth floor," Karl nodded in agreement and headed for the stairs with Sarah's portmanteau.
Lilly proceeded to show Sarah the main floor which consisted of a large ballroom size area, with six crystal chandeliers illuminating the room and the green baize tables. As Lilly walked passed the tables, she clarified the various type of games that were played. "These tables are for faro, hazard, roulette . . ."
Touching the roulette table, Sarah asked, "Is this like our English game called E-O?"
"Yes, and we did have E-O when we opened, except it was not as popular as the French game of roulette," Lilly said, as she moved on. "Then we have chemin de fer, macao, quinze, and vingt-et-un," pausing, Lilly said, "Vingt-et-un, which is French for twenty-one, was Napoleon's favorite game, he would come to our gaming house in France quite often before we closed. Strange how men will fight over principles, but both sides still want to gamble, so neither faction bothered us. Sometimes you would find them playing at the same table. As a matter of fact, we have had your English Duke of Wellington at our tables playing quinze. Although I do believe he enjoyed my ladies more than the gambling," She laughed with a shake of her head at the memory.
"My husband and I had remained neutral, keeping our business open to all nationalities, as long as possible."
Turning and indicating an area set aside, Lilly continued, "Those smaller tables with four to six chairs around each, are for private games of chance."
Sarah looked around at the rest of the room. A long bar ran nearly the length of the one wall, with groups of small round tables at each end. The walls were decorated with tapestries of gambling scenes from past eras, with a candle sconce between each. At the other end of the room they continued through an archway leading to another area. This section was set up with a buffet-style long table, several round tables with chairs, and a fireplace on one wall with two sofas facing each other in front of it.
Across the hall from this room was a parlor that you would find in any home. The parlor was decorated and furnished to represent a warm cozy atmosphere that included a pianoforte. On one side of the room, a narrow staircase led up to the second floor.
"This room is mainly for my ladies to meet with the gentlemen, although they will circulate throughout the gaming area offering to get drinks for the customers, and acting as hostess in the buffet area," Lilly explained to Sarah, then added, "I think you should know that these girls are more or less independent. I do not force them into anything.
"The ladies are free to choose when and how often they care to . . . uh . . . entertain a customer in their room. I pay them a regular salary as I do you, with their room and board, just to have them available and act as hostesses.
"Some of the ambitious girls earn more as a bonus for bringing in new gaming customers they have met while out during the day shopping on Bond Street, or walking in Hyde Park . . . also for being an exceptional hostess . . . for example, a customer requests a particular girl when he arrives. If she is unavailable at the time, then he is content to gamble while waiting for her availability . . . gambling he may not have had on his mind or would have indulged in, if it wasn't for the girl that had enticed him into our establishment. "The ladies keep any money the gentlemen give them directly. They are to maintain their rooms, as to cleanliness as well as themselves. I do not allow them to cheat the customer, nor do I allow any mistreatment of the girls from the customers, which is one rule Karl enforces. "The ladies are here on the premises, and if they care to, are available to provide that extra entertainment that most gentlemen expect when they come to a place of this caliber.
"All of the girls have come to me because they had either been abused by someone, or been ruined by a boyfriend. When that happens, this is about all that is left for them, and living conditions are better here than at most brothels, where they do not have a choice as to whom they accept as a bed partner." Lilly glanced at Sarah's blushing face, and continued, "I'm afraid you will have to accept that in life, there is not always a happy ending."
"I understand what your telling me, and your right, I had never given it much thought before as to what could happen to the women who had been mistreated. I guess I have been very lucky in my life and had never appreciated it before," Sarah answered, looking up at the stairs leading to the second floor, thinking of the close call she had with Bertie.
"The ladies are getting ready now, so we won't disturb them, but I will introduce you to everyone tomorrow afternoon," Lilly said as she continued on to the back of the first floor.
"This is the kitchen area, and the room at the end of the hallway is the housekeeper's bedroom. I have servants who come in during the day to clean but do not live on the premises. In the basement is the Janitor's room. He takes care of the maintenance and keeps the fireplaces lit throughout the evening. Karl's room is the one next to my office, where he is easily accessible to keep a watch over everything."
After completing the first floor tour, Lilly ushered Sarah up the stairs in the back of the building, which led to the third and fourth floors.
"The second floor is only accessible by the stairs in the parlor. That's to prevent any trouble from an uninvited guest to the ladies' bedrooms," she said, passing a locked door to that floor. "In case of fire, there is an axe in a cabinet by the door on the ladies' side, to break the lock. Karl and I have the only keys to this door," Lilly explained, as she and Sarah continued up the stairs.
They entered the third floor through the rear entrance and Sarah could see the main staircase directly opposite at the other end.
"The floor above is for the male employees, and has ten bedrooms, as does the second floor. The men use this back staircase rather than the main one. You, I, or Karl, will be the only ones using the main staircase. You will need to use it for easy access to the office as I do. I will have Karl bring up the account record books this evening, and have them put in the room you will use as an office. Guiding her toward the room, Lilly explained the procedures that Sarah would be expected to follow.
"Tomorrow morning the employees will put the previous night's intake receipts and a copy of the credit markers, on the desk in my office downstairs, where you can retrieve them. Each table has a brass plaque with a number, and the receipts from each table will be indicated with the corresponding number. The dealers are each given a `bank' to start off in the evening. It is in chips instead of cash. When the customers buy the chips from them, the dealer inserts the money through a slit in the face of the table under which is a cash box. We subtract the bank from how much cash and chips have been taken in to know the profits from each table. Also, we collect an entrance fee . . . that was also stated on the door plaque . . . therefore, the customer understands what is required before entering the premises. This fee is quite expensive, but it helps to maintain a high standard of the clientele. After you go over the accounts tonight, you will better understand the entire process."
"What are the markers? I mean, so I will know when I review the ledgers," Sarah asked. She knew about cash receipts and billings but this was something new to her.
"A marker or sometimes it is called a voucher is a paper that the customer will sign when he borrows money from us while he is gambling. When a gentleman is sitting at one of the tables, and has lost all the money that he had on him, he may still want to keep playing hoping that his luck will change enough to gain back some of his money. The dealer would signal for me, or Karl, to come to his table and approve the credit. The customer would then sign for the amount he wishes to borrow, and we would initial it, approving the credit. The dealer would then count out the appropriate number of chips that the customer signed for on the marker, and give them to the gentleman. The next morning, you will get only a copy of this marker for the original, with the gentleman's signature, is locked in the safe. It is the only proof we have that he owes the money. When you get this copy, it is put in the ledgers with your other figures to balance. If the gentleman wins that same evening he will pay back what he borrowed, if he loses we have the marker to remind him of his debt. You will find that a gentleman will always pay his gambling debts before he pays any other debts he may owe to merchants or on his mortgage. For some unknown reason, it is a code of honor among the gentlemen that gambling debts are always paid," Lilly said.
"In other words, his personal gambling debts are more important than the debts that reflect on his family?" Sarah asked, bewildered at the way men judged their honor.
"Yes, I'm sorry to say that is true," Lilly answered.
"If I might ask, when did your previous accounts manager leave?" Sarah inquired.
Lilly sighed, "Armand left two weeks ago. He was not intending to stay, for he had a position at the bank. He is a friend of mine I had known in France, and he had offered to help me get started in setting up my accounts. I'm afraid that I did not do much with the ledgers after he left, for mathematics was not one of my favorite interests," Lilly said, as they entered the room Sarah would occupy.
Sarah was amazed at the size of the rooms that were connected by a sliding door. One room had a four-poster oak bed, covered in a dark green and gold quilted comforter. The drapes were a pale green, tied back with thick gold chords, and the carpet in shades of green, gold and rich brown. An oak dresser, sat against one wall with an ornate framed mirror above it. Next to the wardrobe closet was an oak stand with a water pitcher and bowl. There was a small fireplace with two comfortable chairs in front of it. The connecting room was designed as a parlor, with a desk, chairs, and a sofa by that fireplace, all in the same green and gold.
"Oh! Madame! This is . . . so beautiful! Are you sure you wish me to have this?" Sarah said in awe. She had never expected anything but a small room with a bed and dresser.
Lilly laughed, "Mais certainement! This will be perfect for you. These rooms have been vacant since I had opened my establishment. I had them added just in case I should ever need them. And well, I guess they will be put to use after all," Lilly looked at the sweet innocent young girl, and thought I could never feel easy unless I knew she would be safe where I'll be able to keep an eye on her.
"I will let you get settled in, and then I will have the housekeeper bring you a tray. I'm afraid you will be forced to have dinner in your room in the evenings. I hope you won't mind," Lilly said.
"Not at all! That will be fine, and I will be able to work on the books while I'm eating," Sarah answered, eager to get started with her work.
"Then I will leave you for this evening, and I will see you tomorrow afternoon," Lilly said smiling.
"Good night Madame, and thank you so much for giving me this chance," Sarah said earnestly.
After washing and changing out of her traveling dress, Sarah unpacked her portmanteau and then went into her office area to tackle the accounting ledgers. She was not a bit tired after the long journey. She was anxious to get started on her new job, and worked for two hours, before the housekeeper knocked on her door.
"Come in," Sarah called, and looked up expectantly.
An elderly, stout woman, with grey hair, entered carrying a tray. She gave Sarah a wide grin, and put the tray on the table next to the chair by the fireplace.
"Good evenin', Miss. Would ye be wanting yer tray by yer desk?" she asked eyeing Sarah with a curious look.
"That will be fine right where it is. I think I need to get away from this for a few minutes," Sarah sighed.
The housekeeper uncovered the food and poured tea into a cup, before stepping back from the table.
"My name is Missus Gladys Kirby. Ye may ring me whenever ye be needing anything. Miss Lilly explained ye won't be coming below in the evening," Mrs. Kirby said shyly, as she pointed to the bell chord by the fireplace.
"Thank you, Mrs. Kirby, you are most kind. My name is Sarah," Sarah said, as she sat down in the chair by the table, then after a moment's thought, added, "Do you think I might be able to get hot water for a bath tomorrow morning? I feel as if I really need one after that long trip today."
"Aye, Miss, I will tell Charlie, 'e be the janitor ye know. When 'e makes 'is rounds of the fireplaces' in the morning, I'll tell 'im to bring up some water fer ye," Mrs. Kirby said, as she started toward the door. "I'll be back later t'pick up the tray, Miss," she said. Closing the door behind her, she smiled as she contemplated the thought of having a refined young miss living upstairs of a gaming house.
Hungrily, Sarah looked at the savory slices of beef and vegetables, the large chunks of freshly baked bread with melting butter. Picking up her fork, she thought about her new life. She loved her room and Madame Monainge had been so nice that Sarah did not want to think about the type of business that was carried on in the establishment. Her main concern was being able to do her best at this new job, for if she did not succeed . . .
"Well, I will not even think about that!" Sarah muttered, jabbing the fork into a slice of beef.
Lilly gathered all her employees together minutes before opening, to make the announcement of the new addition of her accounts manager. She explained this person was not a man as expected, but a young lady who has the qualifications she needed, and she would appreciate it, if everyone would treat her well.
"...her name is Sarah Prescott. She will be working during the day while you are sleeping, and you probably will not see much of her, as I've requested she remain on the third floor during working hours," she concluded.
"Are you saying she's too good for us, Miss Lilly?" Spencer, one of the Games dealers, asked with a frown.
"Mais non! It is only that she is from the country, not having been to London before, and is totally unaware of our lifestyle," Lilly answered.
"You mean we might shock her," Sally laughed.
"No . . . I explained your duties in the establishment."
"All of our duties!" Gayle exclaimed with a blush.
"I explained that you are independent workers who get a salary. Sarah is smart enough to know what you do, and she has assured me that she has never been one to judge others, and did not intend to start now. So I believe that would sum up her feelings," Lilly said smiling.
"How does she look?" Marcus, the bartender, queried.
"Yes, is she pretty?" Lance, a dealer, asked.
"Never mind what she looks like, if I catch that underlying interest of yours! She is a nice girl, and I do not want to see or hear of any of you flirting with her. Is that clear?" Lilly looked at all the men, as they nodded with their boyish grins, and she realized how good looking they all were. She chose them for their skills, and personalities, but now with Sarah here, she will have to keep an eye on all of them. Why, she thought, it is liking keeping a daughter out of the hands of the rogues!
"Probably bran-faced with a squint . . . considering she's one of those bluestocking chits" Lance grumbled.
"A bluestocking?" Gayle asked.
"You know, one of those intelligent gels that believes she knows more than a man!" Spencer sneered.
"Well, she won't have much trouble proving that here," Sally chuckled.
"Now, now be nice! I will introduce her to you tomorrow afternoon.
Let us get started now. Karl unlock the door. We're open for business,"
Lilly said as she walked toward her office.
* * * *
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