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The Forest of Dean by H. G. Nicholls

Vergo sat at the head of the table


In

Ballard's 'Ladies,' first printed in 1752, and on her monument in Westminster Abbey and in Flaxley Church, her more public virtues are displayed; but the value of her home life, which many of the poor Foresters had experienced in her bounties, is best related in the words of her faithful attendant, Mrs. Rachel Vergo, "who always waited particularly on her mistress, and was the only servant who sat up, as she spent an hour or two every night in her closet. She did the same in the morning, and was a very early riser. Mrs. Vergo had the care of the family under Mrs. Mary Pope, a relation of Mrs. Bovey, who came for a visit of a month, and stayed nearly forty years. The regularity and economy in the family was great. The maids were kept to work till eight o'clock at night, and the rest was their own time. Mrs. Bovey frequently called for her charity account book to see if it kept pace with her expenses in dress, which was always very handsome. Mrs. Vergo was often sent to Ross and Mitcheldean to buy materials to make garments for the poor. The old table-linen and sheets were made into childbed linen, which, together with shirts and shifts of all sizes, were kept in a closet. It was Mrs. Vergo's business to give them out as her lady ordered. Two ladies came to visit Mrs. Pope at the time the epidemic fever raged in Gloucestershire in 1719. One of them, Mrs. Cowling, died of it at the Abbey. The other, Mrs. Grace Butler, agreed with Mrs. Bovey and Mrs. Pope all to lie in
the same vault with the deceased. The vault was built accordingly in Flaxley churchyard. Mrs. Bovey died first at the Abbey, and was laid by her friend. Mrs. Pope was brought from Twickenham in Surrey, and Mrs. Grace Butler twenty years afterwards from Worminghurst in Sussex. Every afternoon during her lady's life Mrs. Vergo was ordered to wear a silk gown. Six of the poor children who were kept at school at Flaxley dined by turns regularly every Sunday at the Abbey, when Mrs. Bovey heard them say their Catechism. She was very often in the habit of lending money to poor clergymen, which was frequently repaid to her in small sums, but more often given to them. She did the same, too, by other distressed people whom she believed to be honest and industrious. During the Christmas holidays before Mrs. Bovey died she had the thirty children who were taught at her expense, to dine at the Abbey upon beef and pudding. Mrs. Vergo sat at the head of the table, and two of the housemaids waited upon them. After dinner Mrs. Bovey had them all into the parlour, where she was sitting dressed in white and silver. She showed them her clothes and her jewels, talked pleasantly and with great good nature to them, and having given to each of them sixpence she dismissed them. When they left her they had a harp and fiddle playing in the great hall, where they danced two hours and went away in good time. When Mrs. Bovey was dressing before dinner she said to Mrs. Vergo, 'Rachel, you will be surprised that I put such fine clothes on to-day; but I think that these poor children will remember me the longer for it.'


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