Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The Heroine of Havisham Hall - Part 3

Jack stood shivering outside the back entrance to Havisham Hall.  His thin, flimsy blouse and taffeta pleated skirt were no protection against the cold evening air.  He noticed how the wind had got up when he had to hurriedly use his hands to stop his skirt billowing up and revealing his satin slip.  Not that there was anyone around to notice if it did.

He waited for an answer to the bell, then pressed the button for a second time.  He could see lights on in a room on the second floor, but could hear no sound of anyone coming to the door.  As he stood alone outside this strange place, in his delicate, extremely feminine clothing and without the suitcase which he had carelessly left in Miss Havisham's limousine, he felt more vulnerable than ever.

He began to wonder what he would do if there was still no respone to the door-bell, as he pressed it for a third time.  All that he had with him was the pretty, peach purse which Miss Strang had chosen for him, and as he glanced down at it he noticed how well it matched his blouse and his Alice band.  At least the Alice band was now keeping his rather long hair in place, as he stood in the corner of the porch trying to keep out of the wind.   He realised that he had no money in his purse - just his make-up, nail varnish, lipsticks, some hankies, a spare pair of nylons and the bottle of vitamin pills which Rose told him his mother insisted he keep taking every day.

Jack was starting to become very fearful of being stranded here all evening and impatiently pushed the bell button a fourth time.   After a further delay, he at last saw the hall light come on, heard some footsteps and, to his relief, the door opened to reveal a perfectly attired parlourmaid.  Jack thought immediately that she was one of the most beautiful girls he had ever seen.

"Hello" she said, smiling at Jack and admiring how well he was dressed.  "Can I help you Miss?"
"Oh hello" replied an astonished Jack.  "Er, I'm Elizabeth Swanson.  I believe Madam is expecting me". 
"Ah yes" replied the maid.  "You're Mrs Quinn's friend, is that right?  Madam mentioned that we were to expect you.   Had you been waiting long Miss?   It's just that we don't normally expect Madam's guests to come to the staff entrance..."
Jack was unsure how to reply and the maid continued "I'm afraid you've just missed Madam, she's just left for her regular bridge evening.  But do come in, if you don't mind coming in through the staff quarters Miss.   By the way, I'm Annabelle, I'm one of the parlourmaids here.  Please follow me."

Jack stepped inside, relieved to be in out of the cold and to receive such a friendly and respectful welcome.   He watched as Annabelle locked and bolted the door behind them.  "We can't be too careful with the security here" she was saying.  "Some while ago I'm told there was a burglary and the thieves stole some of Madam's most valuable jewellery.  We're constantly being reminded by Miss Craftey that our first duty as maids is always to make sure every door is secure."
"Miss Craftey?  Who is she?" enquired Jack.  "Oh, she's the housekeeper here, Miss" came Annabelle's response.  Then, relaxing her formal manner, she added with a grin, "We call her Crafty behind her back, Miss - you know, Crafty by name, crafty by nature!"

Jack relaxed and smiled for the first time for ages.   He liked this spirited girl and, he thought to himself, he'd be happy to spend more time with her, if that was possible.  But Annabelle continued
"I'm sorry Miss, you don't want to hear all this servant gossip.  I'd better take you upstairs and see if we can find you somewhere comfortable to spend the evening until Madam returns.  I expect you'll be wanting a drink and something to eat as well, Miss?"
Jack nodded as he followed Annabelle up a wide, spiral staircase and into a huge long corridor.  As they walked side by side down the corridor, he turned and smiled at Annabelle.  Despite his own expensive clothing and her black and white parlourmaid uniform, he felt at ease with her - more comfortable than he had been for ages, he thought.   "She must be abouut my age" he thought to himself.

Annabelle smiled at Jack again as she knocked on a large oak door.  "Enter" came the sound of a loud, rather deep woman's voice.   Annabelle stepped forward into the room, beckoning to Jack to follow.  "Miss Elizabeth Swanson is here, Miss Craftey" she stated, dropping a curtsey to this fierce looking woman as she spoke.   Jack, without thinking, immediately dropped a similar curtsey himself, mumbling a hurried "Hello Mam" as he did so.  

Miss Craftey smiled, looked penetratingly at Jack for a moment, and then turned to Annabelle. "Yes Annabelle, I can see that she is here.  What did you want to say girl?"
"Well, Miss Craftey, Madam told me to look out for Miss Swanson when she went out and to bring her to you until she gets back.   Shall I take her through to Madam's drawing-room?"
"No Annabelle, I don't think that is appropriate until Madam returns" retorted Miss Craftey, then, turning to Jack, asked "So, you're Elizabeth are you?  Are we to presume that you're the latest apple in Madam's eye, young lady?"
Poor Jack was completely taken aback by this latest exchange.  "I don't know, Madam" he responded, unable to avoid bobbing a little curtsey once more.
"Well, at least you show proper respect to your elders" said Miss Craftey, "in fact you curtsey very nicely indeed.   I think you will be very welcome in this household."   She paused for a moment, before adding "In fact, perhaps you'd like to make yourself useful this evening?"   She stared straight at Jack, waiting for him to respond.

Jack thought of his mother's words as they parted, only an hour or so earlier.  He must be as helpful as he could whilst he was at Havisham.   "Yes of course Madam" he replied to Miss Craftey and then, noticing that she was still staring at him, dropped another curtsey.
"Splendid" said the fearsome housekeeper, knowing now that she had this Elizabeth girl exactly where she wanted.   "Well now, we've still got work to do getting the guest wing ready for Madam's next weekend party, haven't we Annabelle.    Elizabeth, no sorry I can't be calling you all by such long names, let me see...  I know, 'Betsy' - that will do won't it? - Annabelle, I suggest you take Betsy somewhere to change into some working clothes and then I'll meet you in the guest wing and you can make yourselves useful."   Now off you go, both of you.  

Jack wondered whether they should curtsey once more to Miss Craftey.   He looked at Annabelle, who was in no doubt.   They both mumbled a "yes, Miss Craftey", dropped simultaneous curtseys and turned to leave the room.   "Now, don't take too long, I'll expect you in the guest wing in twenty minutes" Miss Craftey called out to them as they closed the door behind them.

Annabelle looked at Jack with a mixture of pity and apology.   I am sorry about this.  I'm afraid that's Crafty for you.   Now where's your luggage?    You're going to have to change into something more suitable for housework I'm afraid."
"Oh I'm sorry, I never told you.   My suitcase got left in the back of the car" explained Jack.
"Oh I see" said Annabelle.  "Well, don't worry, we're about the same size, I'll find you one of my uniforms.  Now we'd better get a move on..."

(to be continued)


Anonymous said...

This is shaping up to be quite a story. Please keep going with this "upstairs downstairs" kind of theme, we both love it!

Anonymous said...

Wonderful story! I like it! Thank you very much!

Deep curtsey.


rocketdave said...

Yes, there are far too many cumbersome syllables in Elizabeth. Truthfully, I don't mind the shortening of the the name, and in fact welcome it. For personal reasons, I don't especially like Jack being called Elizabeth. I can't be the only one who's read a story and been put off because a character happens to have been given a name that has unfortunate associations for the reader- such as the name of a family member. Of course, with internet fiction, that's often easily remedied by saving the story as a Word document and using the find/change feature.

Speaking of names, Miss Craftey makes me think of James Craft, an author of TG fiction with whom I've worked a handful of times, though I'm assuming that's completely coincidental.

Anonymous said...

I agree with you, Rocketdave - I know several women whose name is Elizabeth but they are all known as Liz or Lizzie or Beth or some other shorter version. Anyhow, Betsy seems a good name for Jack if he is now being reduced to servant status. I just hope for his sake that he doesn't have any more name changes - he's already had to answer to Jackie and Elizabeth and now the poor lad is Betsy! Anyhow like others I'm enjoying this Havisham Hall series, look forward to seeing what happens next.
Maid Marcia x

sissy said...

I think Betsy will be in for some wonderful humiliation-giggle! More please and thank you for the continuation of the story!
sissy jennifer

Anonymous said...

I hope Betsy becomes so used to being a sissy maid that all she can do at the end of her two weeks is to beg Miss Craftey to let her stay on and serve her for ever. otherwise she could have to go back to the Quinns house and be maid to Mrs Quinn or Pamela. A nice choice!

L.G. said...

It's good to know this Havisham Hall series is being enjoyed by a few readers. I'm very new to this kind of writing so not sure how far to take things, hopefully the tensions between the various characters will develop as the story continues. Still a few twists and turns to come over the remaining episodes... L.G.

Anonymous said...

Have just read these stories which are brilliant. I wanted to mark them as "interesting" however there seems to be a fault as our clicks are not registering. A shame the technology is not up to the same standard as the stories.

Anonymous said...

Quite a come-down for poor Jack - I do hope he is able to escape servitude somehow.

Anonymous said...

Wonderful story, I don't envy Jack now he's under the spell of Miss Craftey! Can't wait for the next chapter to see what happens next.
Maid Marcia x

Anonymous said...

We're loving this story, things seem to be getting worse and worse for Jack. But perhaps he'll find he enjoys being a downtrodden maid after a while! I know I would!!
Look forward to the next episode soon please.
Sent by order of my Mistress,

L.G. said...

Thanks for the further comments, Marcia and the other anonymous readers. The next episode is due later this week - probably the last before Christmas now I'm afraid. L.G.

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