I have had the most enjoyable day. I walked to the Press to meet Boo and Mrs Doughty – Boo had her boy with her so I had plenty of cuddles – and we took tea in an office just like business folk!
Mrs Doughty said the girls were working well – hard at it throughout the day and much of the night, she said – but the funds were disappointingly low due to overseas export prices, or something. I tried my best but I could not really grasp the financial situation fully. She had presented us with a very impressive sheet of paper full of numbers and lists – my head was spinning just looking at it – but I understood the main issue was that a further amount of money was required to purchase materials. I was more than happy to access ‘my’ account at Papa’s bank, so that problem was dealt with straight away. Boo reported that two of the girls had recently left the Press for domestic reasons, I suppose they were needed back at home to nurse ailing relatives or something of the like. But she had immediately found replacements and the work had not suffered at all. I asked how she recruited suitable staff so quickly – she is a marvel, what with having a child to care for as well – and she said girls were so keen to work there she could almost pick them from the street. What high regard we must be held in to have staff so eager to be in our employ!
After we had concluded our business I wanted to spend a while with the girls and introduce my self-improvement programme to them. I have long harboured a wish to educate the disadvantaged and the Press seems to present the perfect opportunity to realise my vision. Mrs Doughty said she would ask a couple of girls to meet me but said she could not spare more and that I really should not walk on the shop floor – for reasons to do with my own safety, I think. I suppose printing machinery is a little frightening at close quarters – it is certainly very loud. The whole time I was there I could hear banging and clattering and the occasional screechings of the workers. In truth, I was not sorry to miss out on that part of my visit.
The employees I met came to the office together, giggling like schoolgirls and fiddling incessantly with their hair. I expect they were nervous to meet a proper Lady. They had a high colour in their cheeks, the pair of them and appeared to have spent time preparing their appearance with perfumes and powdering – which I thought flattering but unnecessary. They showed some interest in my plans for workforce education but when I suggested that they still had much to learn of the world they behaved very oddly. I had heard that it is possible to dissolve into laughter but have never witnessed such a thing until today. The girls clearly have no experience of schooling – it is a wonder they can construct a printer’s block at all – and they do not seem to feel themselves worthy of it. I am even more determined to educate them now!
When I came back, Josiah met me on the steps with the news that Villiers has been taken ill. He is in bed under strict orders from a doctor not to leave the house until his fever subsides. He has something mild but contagious, apparently, I did not catch the name of it. The Old Girl is taking charge of his care and she tells me that he is most put out at having his night time walks curtailed. I passed her on the stairs as she was on her way to treat him with a poultice – she was positively revelling in her new authority over him! I am sure that as soon as he is fit and well we shall not see him for a week.
So now I am ready to retire and am feeling quite pleased with myself – Josiah is already planning a new business venture, the Press is thriving, I am being treated with respect as a professional investor and I have had the warmth and eagerness of a small child on my lap. It has quite given me the taste for motherhood – I am surely grown up enough now!