An extract from ‘Jottings’ by EHL Reeve written in 1881 and now available in a booklet entitled ‘After Dinner Anecdotes’.
When my father [Revd. Edward James Reeve (1821-1893)] first came to Stondon Massey as Rector [for 44 years from 1849 to 1893], Captain [Edward] Reeve [(1785 – 1867)] lived at the Rectory House at Stondon with him, with my grandmother [Anna Reeve, nee Stutter (1791 – 1862)] and Aunt Mary [Mary Wheatley Reeve (1823 – 1916)].
They had lately become possessed of a young donkey which Miss Mary Reeve used to drive about. One day the animal was not forthcoming, and Captain Reeve with characteristic activity put an advertisement in the paper offering 1£ reward for its safe restoration. Three or four days passed, and the beast did not appear; at last the coachman had occasion to go to an old cowshed where the main supply of hay was kept, and there to his astonishment was the truant donkey. Evidently it had got in when the man last went to the shed in the evening, and the key had been turned on it. The donkey had enough to eat, but his good fortune had been somewhat tempered, for he had nothing to drink, and when the door was opened he made immediately for the pond, and began to drink with an energy which bade fair to prove fatal. Captn. Reeve, though glad to recover his lost property, was still annoyed to think of the disturbance which his advertisement had created, and the more so that friends would from time to time gently chaff him upon the subject.
Mrs Edward Reeve [the Captain’s wife] was the eldest daughter of Mr James Stutter of Higham Hall [Suffolk]. She was a great invalid in her later years, and during her residence at Stondon seldom was seen outside the house. The Captn. would vainly try to entice her out declaring that the sun was shining brightly, but even if he elicited a promise from her to try its charms he would return a few moments later only to find her putting on her boots – the lacing of which was a work of time. When a new domestic was wanted, great troops of applicants would appear at the window to be called in one by one, and the Capt. would be outside and wink significantly if he saw one approaching whom he thought would suit! On one occasion Mrs Reeve in questioning one more likely than the rest, asked her if she had been confirmed, and received a somewhat amusing reply, that she “had not yet, but that she was good at her needle”.
Mrs Reeve was of silent habits, and particularly reticent at meals, when, if she chanced to make a remark which caused merriment to the party, she would merely smile and say “I am glad you are amused”.
If the said party assembled grumbled at the fare provided for them, but the good lady afterwards found devouring the same, and even applying for a second helping, she would sarcastically say, “You seem to eat it, though”.