Monday, February 3, 2014

The Heroine of Havisham Hall - Part 9

"Do take a seat" said Gloria Havisham to Marjorie and Melissa Franklin as Jack curtsied again to the guests and awaited his instructions.  And with the ladies all comfortably seated in their armchairs, Miss Havisham duly turned to Jack. "Betsy will bring coffee now, won't you Betsy?"

Jack, relieved at the opportunity to escape the Franklins' attention for a short while, curtsied once more and took his leave, retiring to the kitchen to prepare the coffee as instructed - together with Madam's favourite biscuits, of course.   By the time he returned, carrying a silver tray laden with a Royal Derby coffee pot with matching cups, saucers, sugar basin, the plates of biscuits and a small jug of milk, the conversation between Madam and her guests was in full flow.

"So do all your staff come to you by personal recommendation?" Mrs Franklin was enquiring.  "You must have an excellent reputation as an employer.   I know I would find it very difficult to get staff without advertising in the local newspaper - certainly not staff of the quality that you seem to attract."

"Thank you Marjorie, that's very kind" replied Miss Havisham.  "Yes, I am indeed fortunate.  Take this young girl for example.   Betsy, you came here on a personal referral from Mrs Quinn, didn't you?  A very special referral in fact."   And Jack, whose concentration until then had been fully taken up with serving the ladies their coffee without any spillages or other mishaps, suddenly realized that a question had been put direct to him by Madam.

"Yes Madam, I did Madam" replied Jack, bobbing the little curtsey which was required of him whenever he responded to his mistress.  But he wondered to himself where this conversation was now going to lead.  How well did the Franklins know the Quinns, and how much would they know about his past experiences at the hands of that family?   There would be hell to pay in this household if his "little secret" became common knowledge...

But Miss Havisham was enjoying the compliment of being an exemplary employer.  "You see, Marjorie, Betsy is actually the daughter of a mutual acquaintance of Emily Quinn's and mine.  She has undertaken to serve three months in each of our households so as to gain the best possible experience of life in service prior to embarking upon a stage career.   You see, provided she proves herself to be an impeccable maid, Betsy has been promised a role as the ladies maid in a major production for the new Stuyvesant Drama Academy which I have agreed to sponsor.  She is indeed fortunate, aren't you Betsy?"

And poor Jack, who was in the process of offering milk and sugar to each of the ladies including a grinning Melissa Franklin whose mouth was now wide open in amazement, was now faced with this latest direct question from Madam, which of course he was obliged to answer politely.  "Yes, of course Madam, I'm very fortunate Madam" he replied, with a further elegant curtsey as he privately bit his lip.  What was all this about three months with both Miss Havisham and then with Mrs Quinn, he wondered?  This was the first he had heard of this.

Panic-stricken, but anxious to avoid the conversation going any further down this direction, Jack took it upon himself to try and change the subject.   As he replaced the sugar basin and milk jug, he politely turned to Miss Havisham, bobbing another pretty little curtsey and asking "Would you like me to open the French window now, Madam?"

"Oh yes, Betsy, what an excellent idea!   In fact, Marjorie, and Melissa, let's take our coffees out on to the patio.  Betsy, when you've opened the windows, would you mind taking our coffee cups outside please."

"Of course, Madam" Jack responded.  And the distraction did seem to have the desired effect of steering the conversation away from his training as a ladies maid, which had come as a complete shock to him.  Indeed, the ladies spent most of the remainder of the morning admiring Madam's beautiful garden.   As Madam took her guests off to see her prize-winning roses, Jack was dismissed back to the kitchen, only to find himself confronted again by Miss Craftey, the fearsome housekeeper who seemed increasingly hostile to him now that he was spending so much of his time with Madam.

"Ah, so Little Miss Favourite is available for work for a few moments is she?" said Miss Craftey in her most sarcastic tone.  And Jack, instinctively submissive to his tormentor, surrendered once again to her domination, responding with a curtsey "I'm sorry Madam, I mean Miss Craftey, I was required to attend to Madam and her guests."   To which Miss Craftey, with a deep laugh, added "Yes, you were weren't you.   Well, at least you're acknowledging your new title now, ha ha ha."

For a few minutes Jack was put to work scrubbing the kitchen floor, until the drawing-room bell rang to signal his attendance was required once more.   Quickly replacing his now somewhat grubby apron with one of the crisp white parlourmaid pinafores, Jack checked his appearance in the mirror and straightened a wisp of his blonde hair.  "There she goes, pretty little Miss Favourite" he heard Miss Craftey utter as he hurried to attend upon Madam and the Franklins.

Jack returned to the drawing-room to find the ladies standing, looking out across the garden and discussing how the recent improvement in the weather had brought the roses out into their full bloom. "Oh, there you are Betsy.  Mrs Franklin and Miss Melissa are leaving now, will you help them with their coats."   And Jack was left to fetch the coats and help both ladies into them, in Melissa's case a simple anorak which she could perfectly easily have slipped into but which she rejoiced in making Jack hold out for her, before watching him carefully to make sure he followed up with the obligatory curtsey.  

Jack escorted the two visitors back to their car.   He opened the rear door and, as they entered the vehicle, he was dismayed to hear Melissa saying to her mother "oh I do hope he's on duty when we come for the party.  It's all going to be such fun..."

(to be continued)


sissy said...

I can't wait for our intrepid Betsy to get in even deeper! I love it so far- thank you!
sissy jennifer

Anonymous said...

Fantastic! This gets better and better. I pity poor Jack once the party weekend is in full swing!
Lovely story xx

Anonymous said...

We are really loving this story, we cant wait to see how Jack (Betsy) copes when the big party weekend arrives. He's done quiet well so far.
J & R

Anonymous said...

Love this story, cant wait for next episodes xx

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