Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The Heroine of Havisham Hall - Part 16

After the drama of Miss Craftey's sudden dismissal, Havisham Hall's orderly regime was restored remarkably quickly.   As far as the staff were concerned, the shock of what had happened was tempered by what was, for most of them, the sense of relief that from now on they would be spared the severity of such a fearsome disciplinarian.   None of them, apart from Cook, whose memory had been failing fast for some while, could remember a time when Havisham had not been ruled over by the austere, uncompromising Nora Craftey.    Now, perhaps, there was at last the prospect of a more liberal, relaxed and altogether happier atmosphere and whoever it was who had brought about this dramatic turn of events was undoubtedly something of a hero, or heroine, as the case may be...


It was the senior maid, Agnes, who calmly took charge straightaway, in place of Miss Craftey.  Having explained to the guests that Miss Havisham was resting for the afternoon in readiness for the evening's activities, Agnes invited those who had just arrived to join Miss Burgess and Miss Hughes and make themselves comfortable in the drawing-room, where Karen was serving tea and coffee, or, if they preferred, in their rooms from where they were welcome to ring for service if required.  She also arranged for Linda to welcome the visiting ladies' maids at the staff entrance, whilst she asked Maria Rodriguez to escort the disgruntled and thoroughly shaken Miss Craftey off the premises.  Miss Craftey was duly driven away to the nearest railway station, with two hurriedly packed suitcases containing all her essential belongings.   Was this really the last they would ever see of "Crafty", some of the staff were already wondering?


Agnes had earlier warned Karen, when the two of them were sent out for more coffee, against mentioning to any of the other staff the embarrassing accusation which they, and of course Betsy, had heard in the drawing-room.  She knew how reliable Karen would be in a matter of this importance.  So, for the time being, Miss Burgess's suggestion and Jack's little secret were not generally known to the staff.  But the mystery of exactly why Miss Craftey had left so suddenly was certainly now exercising the minds of most of the staff as they gathered in the servants hall to welcome the visitors' maids.


Jack, meanwhile, was glad of the opportunity to make himself useful tending to his mistress's needs as he accompanied her upstairs to her bedroom.   Miss Havisham kept insisting that she was feeling fine, but she was very grateful for his attention and readily agreed that she now needed a restful afternoon before receiving her remaining guests and hosting dinner that evening.  Once they reached the sanctuary of Madam's bedroom Jack was in no doubt that Madam was now fully recovered.  "We're going to have to move you, Elizabeth" she began by saying. "We can't have you sharing a bedroom with Annabelle now that half the house knows you're a boy.  Well, you were a boy, perhaps I should say."


Jack blushed at this last remark for he was becoming increasingly conscious of his pert little breasts, which he now realized must be due to the so-called "vitamin pills" he had been told to take when leaving home some weeks earlier.  "Yes Madam, I'm a boy" he replied, but at the same time noticed to his embarrassment how high-pitched his voice seemed to have become.  Was that something to do with the pills as well, or the result of having to pretend he was a girl all this time, he wondered to himself.


"Let me show you where I'm going to put you" Madam was saying to him.  "Look dear, there's a nice single room here with a connecting door with my own room.  It hasn't been used as a bedroom for very many years, but I remember when I was a small child my Grandmama's maid Daisy used to sleep in here.  She sometimes invited me in to play with her, when Granny wasn't around.  I've used it very occasionally as a dressing room but it's been a bit neglected since Granny and then my parents all passed away." 


Jack detected a sad, faraway look on Madam's face and felt he should say something to cheer her up.  "Oh yes Madam, I should love to sleep here" he said as they walked through into the small room with one another.   "Well, it would be so much more convenient for me to have my ladies maid close by from now on" Miss Havisham responded.  "Now let me show you what's in this wardrobe.  Look dear, isn't this the most beautiful ladies' maid uniform.   Just feel the softness of the fabric and the delicate lace collar and cuffs.  Isn't it just adorable, my sweet?   I'm sure you'd just love to wear this wouldn't you. my dearest?  Now look... yes that's right, hold it against yourself, oh yes, that will suit you perfectly.  I'll get Miss Bracegirdle to tidy it up a little and adjust it slightly to fit your size.   Oh I'm so thrilled, you could become my official ladies' maid by next week, complete with the proper traditional Havisham Hall lady's maid uniform.  What do you think, Elizabeth?"


And Jack, determined to remain loyal and close to Madam, the one person who still seemed to care for him, heard himself respond excitedly as he stood holding the dress and white apron, "Oh yes Madam, it's absolutely lovely.  Didn't they make such beautiful, elegant outfits in those days Madam.  I'm sure I'll love....."


Jack broke off as they heard someone knocking to enter Madam's bedroom and suddenly there was Agnes who, as promised, had hurried upstairs to check how Miss Havisham was feeling.  "Oh I'm sorry to interrupt Madam but I don't think you heard my knocking.  Is everything all right for you Madam?"


"Oh yes Agnes" replied Miss Havisham "that's very kind of you.  Yes, everything is just fine thank you, Elizabeth here is showing me what a wonderful ladies maid she is going to be...."






                                        *                      *                        *                     *


Downstairs in the drawing-room most of the guests had decided to accept the offer of tea or coffee and were politely introducing themselves to one another, or renewing acquaintance, as the case may be.  One face which was new to many of them was that of Mrs Georgina Davies, Emily Quinn's very wealthy elder sister, who had recently married her long-standing companion much to many people's astonishment.  "I know this is a ladies only weekend" Emily was saying as she introduced Georgina to Janet Strang "but it's a shame you couldn't have brought Gwyn with you."  And Georgina, a confident well-built lady if ever there was one, replied to the effect that "Gwen" would be well occupied at home catching up with the mending and ironing.  "I've told him there'll be hell to pay if he hasn't attended to my lingerie and a couple of my blouses by the time I get back" she added with a grin.


Both the titled guests, Lady Lavinia Lovelace and Dame Olivia Laurence, had mixed in with the other guests very easily, thanks to Cecily Burgess who had known Lady Lavinia for some years.  Having such distinguished ladies to serve was, however, proving somewhat confusing for Karen and Annabelle, both of whom were struggling to remember that Lady Lavinia had to be addressed as "My Lady" whilst the other guests were simply "Madam".  Shortly after Jack returned to the room, having been told by Agnes to leave Miss Havisham to sleep for a while, he heard Lady Lavinia saying in quite a loud voice "We can't have this nonsense, I shall tell Gloria we should all be treated the same.  If you're all agreed I will ask her to instruct the staff to address you all as "My Lady" throughout the weekend.   And to Jack's dismay, all the guests - including, he noticed, both Miss Pamela and Miss Melissa - signified their agreement.  "Equal rights!" Miss Burgess was heard to call out, to much amusement among all the guests, "I'm sure Gloria will be entirely happy with that."


Jack's worst fears concerning the reactions of his former classmate and her new friend to this exalted status were realized only an hour or so later.  He had just started to pack his possessions ready to move bedrooms, having apologetically explained to Annabelle that Madam had asked him to move to a room close to hers, when the bell from Miss Quinn and Miss Franklin's room rang loud and long.  The girls obviously found it fun to keep their hand on the bell, so they could irritate their maid to the maximum.  Of course they already knew exactly who that maid was going to be and, when Jack duly knocked on their door a short while later, they remained totally silent.  Jack knocked again and there was still no response.  He was just beginning to wonder whether he had gone to the wrong room in his anxiety to show how quickly he could respond, when he detected a stifled laugh from behind the door, followed eventually by a giggling "Enter, maid!"


Jack had no option but to curtsey low to both the girls as he entered the room, uttering the totally humiliating "Good evening, My Lady" to each in turn.  This reduced the girls to further laughter, until Miss Pamela eventually pulled herself together and asked Jack if he was the girl who was to be her ladies maid for the weekend.  "Yes, My Lady" came Jack's reply, through gritted teeth, but for once he quite forgot to curtsey.  "Well, maid, how long have you been a maid in this house, may I ask?" said Miss Pamela, while Miss Franklin looked on with a smirk.  "Just a few weeks, My Lady" Jack replied.  "Well, you may only have been here a few weeks but I would have thought by now you would know that when you are speaking to a lady, you always curtsey to her.  I will have to report you to the other guests later, if only to warn them that standards in this house are not what one would normally expect." 


"Oh, I am sorry Madam, I mean My Lady, Madam" replied Jack, reduced once more to the nervous wreck he had so often been at the hands of Miss Craftey.  "Well, I shall be gracious this once, but don't forget again" said Miss Pamela, now satisfied that she had poor Jackie - as she had always known him - exactly where she wanted him.  "No, My Lady" replied a relieved Jack "I promise I won't, My Lady" as he gave her a full, perfectly executed curtsey.


(to be continued)



12 comments:

Anonymous said...

This is a fantastic story. Each chapter seems to bring something new in the way of drama and I am loving it. Please keep going, there is so much that could happen to Jack and the other characters, they are all very different personalities which is great.
Please keep going with this story!
Sissy Jennifer x

Sallymaid said...

Wonderful story love it
Sally xxx

Anonymous said...

A very good story indeed. When it is finished, will it be possible to read it all together on this site. I have found it annoying to have to keep hunting for the earlier episodes, including the earlier ones by Carrie P which were equally good.
If it was all put together as a continuous story it would be even more enjoyable to read.
I am looking forward to the remaining episodes.
G.B.

Anonymous said...

Great installment. It seems as if Betsey is slipping too comfortably into the role of full time maid. While it would be nice to have her get there, a little more misgivings and internal struggle might be nice. And perhaps more about Betsey becoming a girl and not just a maid would be nice. A maid has off days and off hours and a personal life too. What are Betsey's like? Thank you!!

L.G. said...

Thank you for all these comments. I'm really glad so many of you are enjoying the story, to me that is the whole point of writing it. I also welcome the constructive suggestions - there are still a few more episodes left for me to write and I'll bear these in mind as I do so.

I'm very conscious that Bea set a particular standard for this site with her amazing talent for story telling, and that Carrie has carried this standard forward with the Rose and Jack and Amongst Women sections. I'm trying to maintain the kind of writing I think they wanted, but then again we all have our own style.

Keep smiling and enjoy the fun!
L.G.

Carrie P said...

Hi LG
A bit late as usual in throwing in my tuppence worth, had a bit of catching up to do but well worth it as always.
You’ve certainly put Jack/Betsy through almost the whole range of maid servant positions, scullery maid, house and parlourmaid and it served well as an apprenticeship for latest role as lady’s maid. No better woman to do this than Miss Crafty who was a quite a taskmistress and despite her nasty side was the ideal Housekeeper, extremely strict at keeping servants properly attired and ever mindful that the key to a well run house is discipline but as the maids observed was this the last they would see of her? The growing relationship between Gloria and Jack brings a another dimension to the story. Will be interesting to see how it develops as well as which of the girls will have to play the maid, my money's on Pamela.
Carrie

Anonymous said...

Lovely story, gets better and better. Thank you xx

Anonymous said...

We are both really loving this story, we spend hours discussing what will happen next, and then both of us are wrong usually!!
Sounds like Pamela and Melissa will be taking over as Jack's chief tormentors now that Miss Crafty has departed the scene. We hope there are still plenty of episodes left to this story, there is so much that could still happen once all the different characters get to work!! A very well written story, J&R

L.G. said...

Dear Carrie, and the anon/J&R contributors. It is so good to know you are all enjoying the story and to get your reactions to the various "twists and turns".
I'm sure some of you will be surprised, perhaps even disappointed, at Miss Craftey's departure but there may yet be further shocks and surprises so look out!
Carrie, I note where you are putting your money as far as the contest to play the maid is concerned - again the die is far from cast at this stage, so don't make too many assumptions.
I'm still working on the crucial next few episodes and I hope you will continue to follow it and give your comments.
Have fun! L.G.

Anonymous said...

A great story, am loving it! xxx

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