Thursday, January 16, 2014

The Heroine of Havisham Hall - Part 7

Relieved that Miss Havisham had eventually recognized him despite his housemaid's uniform, Jack hurried back to the kitchen to prepare Madam's cocoa and biscuits.   Although he now realized that she was pleased to see him again, he was nevertheless concerned that Madam now saw him simply as someone who performed well as a female maidservant and that she might expect him to remain in that role.   Perhaps this wasn't very surprising, Jack thought, given that he was himself now increasingly accepting this very submissive and feminine role with every moment that passed.

By the time he reached the kitchen, it seemed that most of the other staff had retired to bed.   Only Annabelle and Linda were still there to chat to as he set about boiling the milk for Madam's cocoa and arranging a tray with a plate of biscuits.  As they helped Jack to find what was needed, Annabelle asked him whether he'd been given anywhere to sleep the night?   It was only now that Jack  realized he had neither a bed to sleep in, nor any night clothes.   There had also been no mention yet of where his suitcase now was, and he made a mental note to ask Madam about this when he took her the cocoa.

"You'd better share my room for tonight" offered Annabelle as Jack was contemplating the situation. "We can't have you sleeping down here" she added, to which Jack responded "Oh that's very kind of you Annabelle and I'm afraid I haven't got any nightwear either" only to receive from Annabelle a further kind offer to lend him one of her nighties until his suitcase could be found.

Jack wondered for a moment what it would be like to wear one of Annabelle's nighties, then saw her grinning at him out of the corner of his eye.  They both had a little giggle and Jack immediately felt at ease again.   Annabelle was the one person who had really made him feel welcome at Havisham Hall.   He wondered how she would feel if she discovered his "little secret" and realized he would need to take great care not to give away his true gender, even to her.

As he prepared to take Madam's tray to the drawing-room Jack glanced in the kitchen mirror and Annabelle noticed him trying to tidy his hair.   Turning to Linda, she said "Poor Betsy hasn't had a chance to get her hair styled recently and I've told her that you're the expert stylist here, could you possibly help her?"

Linda seemed delighted.  "Sure, that's no problem -  Betsy I'm always happy to help you, or any of the girls with their hair, nothing I enjoy more.   As soon as you've finished serving Madam her cocoa, I'll put some rollers in for tonight, and then if you can be down here by 6 o'clock tomorrow we can brush it all out, perhaps give you a little bit of a trim and you'll be all ready to serve breakfast.  I'm thinking, from a quick look at you, that something similar to Annabelle's style would suit you - just keeping it about shoulder length with some nice curls once we've brushed it out, maybe a little colouring to bring out the natural blonde in you..."

Jack was quite taken aback by Linda's enthusiasm.   She certainly seemed to know what she was talking about and, judging by the look of Annabelle's own hair, she was obviously quite an expert stylist.  He'd been admiring Annabelle's hairstyle ever since he arrived, but how would he feel to look like that himself?  The thought roused his little secret once more.   But there was no time to linger - he had the tray in his hands and it was high time he took it through to Madam...

                                               *             *           *            *

Jack knocked on the drawing-room door, while carefully carrying Madam's cocoa tray in his other hand.   There was no sound from inside.   He waited for about thirty seconds, wondering when it would be correct to knock again.   If he was to continue in this role, perhaps he should enquire as to the correct etiquette in these matters.   He didn't want to get on the wrong side of Madam by sounding rude and impatient, but nor did he want to be criticized for not knocking again if she hadn't heard him first time.   Just as he was about to try another gentle knock, he heard a rather sleepy voice calling "Oh, yes, enter!"    As Jack carried the tray in to the room he was greeted with "Oh Elizabeth, I'm so tired, this is just what I was wanting.   Please pour the cocoa for me, there's a good girl.   Thank you dear."

Jack leaned over, placed the tray on Miss Havisham's little coffee table, and carefully poured the cocoa for her.   He placed the plate of biscuits beside the cocoa, stepped back and curtseyed to his mistress.

"Oh you are so good to me Elizabeth" exclaimed Miss Havisham, looking up at him.  "Now then, I think you could do with a tidier uniform from tomorrow, and perhaps something doing to your hair, but yes, I think you'll do very nicely.   Tell me dear, do you like it here?"

Poor Jack could not think how to respond.  Everything had all happened so suddenly, what was he to say?   On the one hand he was completely lost in this strange house and felt utterly humiliated by Miss Craftey and the way he was being made to work as the junior housemaid.   On the other hand he was clearly now being appreciated by Miss Havisham who seemed to be wanting him to serve her personally.  As the lady of the house, surely she would make sure he was well treated.

"Yes Madam" he eventually replied.  "It's very good of you to have me here while my mother is away, thank you Madam."

"Yes dear, your mother did seem very grateful when I offered to have you.   She would have sent you to her friend Emily Quinn's but I understand she's gone to the Paris Fashions with her daughter.   They're going to be back just in time for our big weekend so you'll see them then - no doubt wearing the latest Spring fashions if I'm not much mistaken.   And it's so good that you're happy working as a maid, you're so good at it and, my goodness, we're going to need you here - especially over these next few weeks and for that weekend."

Jack's heart sank.   Did this mean he would be expected to remain here, as a maid?  And not just for the next few weeks?  Acting as a maid at the garden party and dinner party which he'd heard were planned for the special weekend?   And if Mrs Quinn and Pamela would be coming, all dolled up in the latest fashions, would he be serving them as a humble maid - expected to keep running hither and thither, and curtseying to everybody, even to Pamela!!   He couldn't bear the thought of Pamela seeing him so set in this role and knowing he couldn't do anything about it.   As for the "dress rehearsal for a one-act play", would this be her "Mistress and Maid" play, or whatever she was calling it now?   Was he supposed to be one of the "two promising young drama students" he'd heard referred to earlier?   He would be so envious if someone else was given the chance to perform "his" role...

These thoughts were all racing through Jack's head as he stood back and thought about what Madam had just said.   Miss Havisham paused for a moment longer, sipped her cocoa, and then changed the subject.   "Oh, and by the way, Maria my driver found a suitcase in the car which I believe belongs to you.   She's given it to Miss Craftey and I expect she'll let you have it in the morning.   Do you have any overnight clothes?   I expect you'll be needing a nightie won't you, and some clean underwear for tomorrow."

"Thank you Madam, but I believe Annabelle is going to lend me things for now.  And she's kindly letting me share her room Madam."

"Aha!  Annabelle, eh?!   Oh, won't that be fun for you Elizabeth... or should I say Jack?   You and Annabelle sharing a room eh?    Well, all I ask is that you take care, my dear - if Nora Craftey gets wind of anything remotely male under this roof, well, I wouldn't care to think what might happen..." 

Gloria Havisham paused again and then made Jack an offer.  "I don't know whether it would help, but just to be on the safe side, I do have what we call a little gaff upstairs, it would just help to hide anything which shouldn't be there - you know what I mean?   I got it for someone else who worked here a little while ago and was going to wear it...   A nice young boy who thought he wanted to train as my ladies maid and then changed his mind.   Oh dear, I do hope you won't do that to me...   He left all of a sudden, which was such a nuisance...    Anyhow she, I mean he, never wore it, so you could borrow it - what do you think Elizabeth?   It would be so embarrassing for us all if anyone saw anything they shouldn't, don't you think?"

Poor Jack, still standing to attention while Madam enjoyed her cocoa, blushed to hear his mistress speaking so directly to him on such a delicate matter.  It was true that he could not risk revealing his true gender but he was taken completely by surprise at Miss Havisham's suggestion of him wearing a gaff.   However he sensed that it would be rude to refuse Madam's offer.

"Thank you Madam" he replied, bobbing a little curtsey, "I'm not sure that I'll need that but thank you Madam.  And thank you for what you said about a tidier uniform and about my hair Madam.  I'll ask Annabelle and Linda about that right away Madam."   Jack paused for a moment like the dutiful maid he had become, then added, with a further curtsey, "Will that be all now, Madam?"

"Yes of course dear" responded Miss Havisham, eyeing him keenly over her spectacles.  "I mustn't keep you here all night... well certainly not tonight...  You go and sort yourself out and we'll continue our little chat tomorrow shall we?   In fact, Elizabeth - sorry, I must start calling you Betsy, Miss Craftey told me to call you that now - I'd like you to serve my bedtime cocoa every night from now on.  Would you do that for me please, Betsy?   At ten o'clock every evening, without fail?   I usually have it in my bedroom, of course...."

(to be continued)



Anonymous said...

Great story, we are loving it, please keep going. J & R

Anonymous said...

This is a lovely story, I love the way Betsy is slowly becoming Miss Havisham's special pet. I guess he'll be fetching plenty of cocoa for her from now on.
Anon xx

L.G. said...

Thank you, J & R, and Anon, for your comments. Don't worry, this story has a lot further to run! I can assure you that Betsy (aka Jack, or Jackie, or Elizabeth) has only just begun life in service to Miss Havisham.

As someone who is new to the experience of writing a serial, I find it fascinating how new ideas can sometimes spring to mind between publishing one episode and starting to write the next one. I imaging it's quite different from the way authors plan a story when they write continuously, eg with a novel.

Anyhow, I hope you, and the other readers who have found the story interesting and asked for more, will enjoy the remainder of "The Heroine". After all, none of you have discovered yet what makes "her" so "heroic". Watch this space!

Happy Reading!

Anonymous said...

Our hero Jack seems to be fast becoming Miss Havisham's personal property, will be hard for him to escape her attentions now. It will be interesting to see what happens next.
Maid Marcia xx

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