Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The Heroine of Havisham Hall - Part 4

"I've got several different uniforms" Annabelle told Jack as they made their way to her room to change.  "I think the grey ones will be what Crafty is expecting us to wear and I've got two of those - they're smart enough if we're called to answer the front door and they don't show the dust too badly.  We always get a bit dirty working in those guest rooms - they're so rarely used these days I'm afraid."

Jack considered his plight as he listened to Annabelle explaining what they should both wear for the chores they were about to be given.  Half an hour earlier he had been greeted by Annabelle as one of Miss Havisham's personal guests and now he was having to put on one of the housemaid's uniforms and report to Miss Craftey for cleaning duties.   As they entered Annabelle's room he noticed there were two single beds and wondered who else slept here.  Casually he enquired of Annabelle who she shared the room with?

"Nobody at present Miss" replied Annabelle.  "These rooms all have two beds and us maids are expected to double up if necessary.  We're a bit short staffed at the moment so the second bed isn't needed..."   She nearly added that "Betsy" might now be told to share with her but then stopped short, remembering that this new visitor was still supposed to be Madam's personal guest.  Instead she added "I expect you'll be sleeping in one of the spare rooms at the front of the house Miss - they've all got beautiful views of the gardens and the deer park.  Now we'd better hurry and get changed or we'll be late for Crafty."

Annabelle pulled two grey dresses out of the wardrobe and started to take off her parlourmaid's uniform.  Jack realised he had to change too, quickly unbuttoning and removing his blouse and skirt and stepping into the maid's dress before Annabelle suspected anything less than feminine about his figure.  He soon had the dress on and was relieved to find it fitted him perfectly.  "That looks fine on you Miss" said Annabelle, admiring the way Jack carried himself in the pretty maid's uniform with its short sleeves and neat white collar and cuffs.  "I told you we were about the same size.  Now here's your apron Miss" she added, handing Jack a plain white pinafore-style garment which Jack, to Annabelle's surprise, tied himself into quite easily.  Maybe Miss Elizabeth Swanson did her fair share of housework at home, she thought to herself.

Very soon Annabelle had also changed into her grey uniform and apron.  To save time they were both still wearing the same bra, panties and girdles, although it had not escaped Annabelle's notice that Elizabeth (or "Betsy" as she felt she ought now to be addressing Jack) was wearing rather expensive lingerie for performing housemaid's cleaning duties.   "Right, nearly ready" she said, picking two little frilly items out of a drawer.  Just our little caps to go on now Betsy - by the way I think I'd better call you Betsy while you're dressed like this don't you Miss?"

Annabelle looked at Jack for approval and Jack simply nodded at her.  He was thinking more about his hair which, now that his Alice band was removed, he decided looked very scraggy.  "I can't do anything with my hair at the moment" he said, to which Annabelle answered "Well we can't be worrying about that now Betsy, I'll get Linda to have a look at you tomorrow - she does our hair for all of us and she'll soon have you sorted out.   Now come on, please stand still while I fix your cap - ah, there, that looks fine now.  We're always told we're not properly dressed without our caps, so make sure you keep it in place.   Have a look at yourself in the mirror now Betsy..."

Annabelle smiled at Jack as the two maids briefly stood side by side, checking their appearance in the full-length mirror.  Jack turned half sideways and was amazed at how convincing he looked as a maid.  Even this grey working uniform seemed more elegant and feminine than the one he had worn at Mrs Quinn's.  He wondered how he would look in a parlourmaid's dress like the one Annabelle had been wearing.   The thought stirred his "less than feminine" member for a moment and he wondered what Miss Havisham - or indeed Mrs Quinn or his mother - would say if they saw him now.   Was this what they had planned all along, he wondered?   He couldn't bear to think that this was what they all wanted for him - the sheer humiliation of it was terrifying, as well as exciting... No doubt Miss Pamela and Rose would find it all very satisfying, he mused.

"Come on Betsy, we'd better get going - we've only got two minutes to get back to Crafty or there will be hell to pay.  Leave your other clothes here, we'll pick them up later.  Come along, hurry..."
Jack was struggling to keep up with Annabelle as they made their way down to the guest wing to report to Miss Craftey.  He was now wearing Annabelle's spare house shoes, which were a size too small for him.  The only alternative would have been some four-inch heels which they both agreed would not be suitable for cleaning duties.   "Crafty would throw a fit if she saw you doing the bedrooms in heels" warned Annabelle.  

They just managed to make it down to the guest wing in time to join Miss Craftey, who was waiting for them with an eye on her watch.  "Right, let's have a look at you both" she said.  "Yes Annabelle, you're fine.  Now Betsy, I appreciate you may not be used to this yet, but it will stand you in good stead in this household if you shape up well as the junior maid.   We all have to start at the bottom, you see.  The cap suits you nicely Betsy, doesn't it Annabelle?"
"Yes, Miss Craftey" replied Annabelle with a little curtsey.  "It suits her very well Miss."
"Right girls, you've passed inspection for now.   Betsy, for your future reference I expect all maids to report to me for inspection whenever you are coming on duty or whenever you have had to change your uniform.  Is that understood?"
"Yes Madam" said Jack, dismayed to hear confirmation that Miss Craftey was expecting him to continue in his new role.  In his confusion he almost forgot to curtsey but one glance at Miss Craftey's steely look and he soon corrected himself.  "Sorry Madam" he added.
Ignoring Jack's belated curtsey, Miss Craftey proceeded to explain to the two maids exactly what she now required them to do.   In each of the eight guest bedrooms on this corridor, they were to dust and scrub all the furniture, brush the carpets, replace the sheets and towels, dust and polish all the picture frames and ornaments, wash the windows, check the bedside lamps and ensure that the bell-pulls were in good order in case the guests required room service during their stay.  "We have some of the most important members of society to stay at Havisham Hall, not very often these days but it's important that they receive the very best service when they do come to stay" she added proudly.

And so Jack, accompanied by Annabelle and in due course two of the other maids, Karen and Linda, were kept hard at work for the next hour or so, until they were finally called down to the kitchen for the servants' supper.  Jack, by now both hungry and thirsty, was only too pleased to join them and took his place behind the line of maids as they approached the kitchen table.  Miss Craftey called for silence and they all stood still while she intoned a solemn Grace.  She then instructed all the other staff to take their seats and informed Jack that, as the most junior member of staff, it was his duty to serve all meals.  "Betsy will show us what a splendid addition she is to our household, won't you Betsy?"

More embarrassed in front of all these servants than he had ever felt in his life, Jack gaped at Miss Craftey, who was giving him another of her piercing stares.  As he curtsied low to this formidable woman, a subdued "Yes Madam" emerged from his lips.  He was left to bring the first course round the table, serving each of the other servants individually.  From some he received a polite "thank you Betsy", from others "thanks darling" and from some there was no acknowledgment at all.  He was beginning to learn that he was now of no importance to anyone, just the latest junior maidservant who was learning exactly where she stood in the Havisham Hall pecking order.

How he longed for Miss Havisham to return from her evening's bridge.  Surely she would rescue him straightaway from this nightmare - he was sure she had intended him all along to join her as a personal companion.  That was socially a much more acceptable position for a girl like him...

(to be continued)

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

I love this story! It's brilliant the way Jack has gradually been reduced to being a skivvy to the skivvies! With each chapter he seems to sink lower and lower down the pecking order. Look forward to seeing where this story goes next.
A Humble Maid xx

Carrie P said...

Hi LG
From the frying pan into the fire. Bad enough as his situation was the poor boy now finds he has further humiliations to endure, barely in the door and he’s been reduced to a mere servant girl once again. Having to change into a grey uniform for housework is an authentic touch as most of us familiar with domestic service protocol will know. Miss Crafty appears to be a housekeeper of the old school and like her mistress no doubt demands proper standards of her girls.
Wonderful continuation and unlike Jack you deserve a rest from your endeavours. Look forward to seeing the next chapter in Jan.
Merry Christmas to all.
Carrie

Anonymous said...

Great story! Hope we don't have to wait too long for next chapter as I think it's getting better with each instalment, Merry Christmas to all xxx

L.G. said...

My thanks to the "Humble Maid", to Carrie P and the anonymous contributor for your very kind comments. It's good to know that this kind of humiliation - a loss of status as well as masculinity - is not too depressing for people to enjoy. I hope (though I cannot promise!) that Jack will eventually emerge with his pride and dignity intact. We shall see!

Yes, Carrie, I am trying to remain faithful to the story you told so beautifully in your "Jack and Rose" and "Amongst Women" strands, building upon the events and characters you have created. I am also keen to preserve the indeterminate period in which the story is set (although readers may like to imagine for themselves approximately when such events might have occurred). I hope this adds to people's enjoyment - which is the whole purpose of writing it.

And yes, Carrie, I am now taking a break during the forthcoming festive season before returning with further chapters early in the New Year. Until then, my best wishes to all for a very Merry Christmas and a healthy and peaceful New Year. L.G.

Anonymous said...

Love this story, Jack is now experiencing the ultimate humiliation being servant to the servants, and in a very feminine uniform. Surely things can only get better for him from now on? Can't wait to see what happens after Christmas. Happy Holidays to all.
Maid Marcia x

Anonymous said...

Cant wait for the next episode of this lovely story, when will you be giving us the Part 5 ?

L.G. said...

Apologies for the longer than normal interval between chapters but as I did indicate before Christmas, I do not have much opportunity to write during the holiday season. However for those waiting for Part 5 of the Havisham Hall saga, I promise you will see this very early in 2014.

In the meanwhile, my best Scottish greetings to you all for the Hogmanay celebrations and a Guid New Year to All!!

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