Mrs Brandy

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Mrs Brandy is a respectable woman in the grocery trade who keeps a shop in St James's-street. A widow, she clearly harbours a tendresse for Sir Walter Pole's butler, Stephen Black, but with commendable modesty does not at first declare her affections openly. Nevertheless she constantly seeks by various little feminine arts to give him a hint as to the state of her true feelings; these overtures, however, because of his labouring under an enchantment of the gentleman with the thistle-down hair, he is slow to understand. His failure to respond to her delicate advances costs Mrs Brandy much heart-ache. When Stephen eventually passes from England into Faerie to become ruler of Lost-hope he apparently leaves Mrs Brandy behind forever: or at least, we are not told otherwise.

Early life

When first we meet her Mrs Brandy is already a widow. We learn her late husband was a man advanced in years and of a rather mercenary temper ( we are told he was "beside himself with rage" when Sir William Pole, who owed him a considerable sum for goods bought on credit, died without settling the debt - and that he himself died shortly after, possibly from sheer vexation). Mrs Brandy however is a person much different from her husband - a young woman, with a charming appearance and a sweet disposition. When after twelve years of marriage Mr. Brandy dies she inherits both his business and his money, and finding herself now at liberty to arrange matters more to her own taste she immediately moves out of the rooms over the shop and buys a house in the fashionable suburbs (Islington). She also acquires no fewer than three maids (Sukey, Dafney and Delphina), and in addition to employing domestics she has two assistants to take care of the shop, John Upchurch and Toby Smith[17].

Involvement with Stephen Black

Shortly after her circumstances change Mrs Brandy first makes the acquaintance of Stephen Black, who as confidential servant to Sir Walter Pole is naturally entrusted with the household finances. He often attempts to pay off some of the debt Sir Walter's grandfather owed to Brandy's; Mrs Brandy, however, equally as often finds ways to put off payment until the following week. By these means she promotes more visits from Black, and moreover in the course of them will often flatteringly ask his judgment on the quality of the merchandise in her shop, enquire after his health, on occasion invite him to share her supper and always enjoin him to return next week to see her again. In short, she does everything a modest woman might do to encourage him, but to no avail[17].

On one startling occasion in 1808 Mrs Brandy is alerted by her assistants to the mysterious appearance of twenty-five guineas in the shop's cash-box. This is an enormous sum, and one they are all at a loss to explain - certainly the day's business cannot account for it. Mrs Brandy seizes eagerly upon Toby Smith's suggestion that they lay the matter before Mr. Black and ask his advice on how to proceed. Stephen, however, when he arrives, declares he has no explanation to offer, and instead merely counsels a course of action which will protect Mrs Brandy from any imputation of dishonestly acquiring the money. Then, complaining of a general sense of wretchedness, he reluctantly leaves her[17]. In fact he soon suspects that the money in the cash-box has been magically conveyed there by the gentleman with the thistle-down hair, who later admits as much, saying that he passed the guineas to Mrs Brandy so that she might keep it in trust for Stephen - for during the same conversation the gentleman seems confident that Stephen and Mrs Brandy will one day marry, though he does not say how he knows this[19]. Thereafter the gentleman often uses Mrs Brandy as a conduit for passing more treasure to Stephen, including on one occasion a silver diadem[26].

Eventually the enchantment the gentleman has imposed on Stephen, which beside its main purpose has the accidental effect of separating him from all that is natural, sociable and humane, causes a cooling of relations between himself and Mrs Brandy. Stephen begins to neglect to visit her, and when he does call she sees that his behaviour towards her is very altered. Quite unable to divine its true source, she attributes the change to his dissatisfaction with her and with life in London generally, and supposes he is about to leave for Africa. Bound to a miserable silence by the conditions of his enchantment, Stephen is unable to enlighten her, even though she declares openly that "I would go anywhere for your sake"[26].

Sadly, our author does not tell us whether this unhappy predicament is ever overcome, or whether the gentleman's prediction about their future marriage ever comes true. (One may hope though that it does. Kingship is notoriously a lonely occupation, and the comfortable society of a human helpmeet would surely benefit Stephen in his new life.)