Thursday’s 300: Doing the Accounts

Welcome back to Thursday’s 300!

I’m between re-edits of books, because I put the next one into Kindle Unlimited and can’t post it here while it’s in there, so for the next three months, I’ll be writing vignettes and short stories for your enjoyment.

Today’s story was inspired by bill-paying day at Burton Cottage, which by the time this posts, will have already happened for the month of September.  Bill-paying day is something I dread. LOL

Also, there have been dozens of times I’ve been doing something … working with a spreadsheet or making a book cover or formatting a book interior … when I’ve made a mistake and could not figure out how to fix it. Quite often, walking away and getting something to eat has made all the difference.

I hope you enjoy my story!

Doing the Accounts

Elizabeth Darcy sat down behind the beautiful desk in the mistress’ study and sighed. Before her was a pile of account books; today was the day she must go over them and make sure everything in the household at Pemberley was as it should be.

She pulled the top book toward her and opened it to the page marked by a ribbon. Glancing at the amounts spent, she shivered. The numbers were huge! After a year of marriage, she still could not get over the wealth of her husband. She shook her head and set to work tallying up the columns.

Though she dreaded the exercise, reviewing the household accounts was not an onerous task. It was simply a daunting one. There were multiple books to go over: one for the kitchen containing the items purchased for use by the cook; one for the housekeeper listing all the candles and other items needed to keep the house clean, lit, and, in the winter, heated; and one for the house steward containing items such as new window glazing, retiling of the roof, and other items specific to keeping the ancient mansion upright and free from leaks and drafts. Each account could take an hour or more to go through due to the number of items purchased.

Elizabeth was thankful that her husband reviewed the books for the rest of the estate. She could only imagine what that involved, as he was also responsible for paying everyone they employed, from the lowliest scullery maid to the stable master and housekeeper.

After a long three-quarters of an hour, she closed the first account book and set it aside with a big sigh of relief. The kitchen seemed to be running as it should with no unnecessary expenditures and within budget. She pulled the next book forward.

This account was the house steward’s and the entries within were blessedly brief. She was able to swiftly get through it and set it aside. Nothing was amiss with that one, either.

Finally, she reached the book kept by Mrs. Reynolds. She pulled it toward her, but then stood and stretched. She was feeling a bit tired, but she had been up since dawn. Darcy had given her a riding lesson early this morning and then she had taken a long walk around the gardens. She yawned as she sat back down but suddenly stood up once more. She walked to the fireplace and rang the bell. She would order a tea tray. She was feeling a bit hungry and a good cup of tea and a sandwich might do her some good. Seated behind her desk once more, she waited patiently until a maid entered the room. Elizabeth relayed her request, and once the girl had curtseyed and hurried off to do her bidding, turned to the book before her and began to tally the long lines of numbers.

When the tea arrived, she asked the maid to lay it out on the table by the window but did not stop working. The girl did as requested, then silently curtseyed and went back to her work.

Elizabeth came to the bottom of a column and stopped in horror. The amount she came up with did not match what Mrs. Reynolds had written at the bottom. Her heart racing, she went back to the top and tried again. The result was the same and Elizabeth panicked. She tried a third time but became hopelessly muddled.

This sort of a discrepancy had never happened before and she did not know what to do about it. Clearly, there is a mistake in here somewhere, she thought. She went over the lines again, this time getting a completely different answer than she had the first two times.

“Oh my goodness!” Elizabeth cried aloud. “What is going on here?” She rose and paced back and forth, trying to calm her racing heart. She feared doing more damage to the page than she already had with her crossing out of things and inserting others. “What do I do?”

Her stomach in knots and her heart in her throat, she turned toward the window and noticed the tea tray. “Tea!” she cried. “Tea fixes everything.” Her stomach rumbled. “And food … yes, something to eat will surely help.” With that, she settled herself down at the table and poured herself out a cup of the fragrant brew. She took a couple sips and then began eating the sandwiches on the tray. By the time she was done, she was feeling more relaxed, but also more alert and capable. She wiped her mouth, set her napkin on the tray with the remains of her meal, and went back to her desk.

Immediately upon taking up her work again, Elizabeth found her mistake. Suddenly, the entire column added up as it should. She sat back with a sigh of relief. “Thank You, Lord,” she prayed quietly.

Just as she finished the last page, the housekeeper knocked on the door.

“Come in.” Elizabeth smiled. “The books are in order,” she said as she handed them over to Mrs. Reynolds. “I expected no less.”

“Thank you, ma’am.” The housekeeper smiled. She tipped her head toward the table. “I see you enjoyed your tea.”

Elizabeth chuckled. “I did, and I think it saved me from embarrassment today, though not completely.” At Mrs. Reynolds’ confused look, she explained what she meant. “I thought I found mistakes in your ledger, but when I added them a second and third time, I came up with different numbers. I was very upset about it. It was only after I ate that I realized that you had not made mistakes, I had. I am afraid I have messed up your tidy columns with my scribbling out and crossing off of things.”

“Oh, Mrs. Darcy; all is well. I cannot tell you how many times I have done the same thing. It is amazing how a cup of tea and a bite to eat can improve one’s performance in the simplest of tasks.”

Elizabeth laughed. “I agree; it is quite amazing.”

With that, Elizabeth dismissed her housekeeper and went in search of her husband. He would find her dilemma this morning amusing, she knew.

The End

Have you ever been in that situation? I’d love to hear about it if you have! I’ll not feel so alone. LOL  


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