Friday, April 25, 2014

The Heroine of Havisham Hall - Part 20

Jack's momentous sixteenth birthday was eventually to culminate in his first truly intimate encounter with Gloria Havisham.   After he had finished serving the hot chocolate to his mother, and thanked her for her "very pretty card", he and Miss Havisham had left his mother's bedroom and retired to their own quarters.  For Jack this now meant entering Miss Havisham's room - in order to reach his own - and, once they were in her "boudoir", Madam informed him that she was now going to start presenting him with his birthday presents.

The first of these turned out to be his own key to their shared suite.  "So, my darling" Miss Havisham said to him "you may now enter and leave this room as you please".  "But it is still my room, of course" she added "and you will always be my maid, so you sleep in the little maid's room behind mine.  But first things first."  And with that, Gloria took Jack by the hand and led him over to her king-size bed, chuckling to herself as she did so.   "That uniform must be getting awfully uncomfortable now" she said, looking Jack in the eye.  "Let me show you something much more comfortable, which I'd like you to wear tonight."   And she handed Jack a small, very light package, beautifully wrapped with a little pink bow.  "I can't wait to see you in this my darling" she said as he started to unwrap it.  "And then our life together can really begin" she added with a little wink.

Jack carefully opened the delicate wrapping paper and there, in his hands, was the softest, lightest, dreamiest nightie he had ever felt or seen - a beautiful, petal pink, diaphanous gown with its own matching chiffon peignoir.   Jack was ecstatic.   "Oh Madam, it's lovely" he said as he felt the softness of the material - and, at the same time, a corresponding hardness to his own little secret...

"Well, hurry up and put it on, birthday boy" said Madam "we haven't got all night!  Shall I help you out of your uniform?"   And, as his employer, mistress and now lover helped Jack out of his parlourmaid's dress, his petticoat, his corset, his suspender belt, his bra, his panties and finally his gaff, she added with another little chuckle "well, it looks like someone's raring to go, that's for sure!  Now careful, you're going to have to put all these things back on in the morning to serve us our breakfasts before we go riding.  You've got to look the picture of femininity again then, to serve us all in our riding jackets and jodhpurs!   By the way, Elizabeth, I think we should leave your little plug where it is for now, it's so nice seeing you wiggle your way around the dining-room carrying a tray in your tight skirt and high heels!    I think we'll just take it out when my little Percy is ready for some action...."

Jack didn't quite understand what Madam meant by her "little Percy" but his mind was soon taken up with the thrill of his new nightwear, for moments later he was slipping the gorgeous nightdress over his head and experiencing the sensation of it as it fell down over his slim and increasingly feminine frame.   "Let's pop the peignoir on you as well" said Gloria "and these pink fluffy heeled slippers - oh, and a little spray of my Chanel no 5, I think - and then I'd like you to pop downstairs and get another bottle of that lovely bubbly.  I believe I left a bottle and some glasses in the drawing-room."

Yes Madam, of course Mad..., My Lady" responded Jack, as Gloria smiled lovingly at him and, once she had sprayed him with some more of the perfume, and refreshed his nice bright lipstick, she tied the neat little bow of Jack's peignoir under his chin.   Jack curtsied low to his beloved mistress and set off to fetch the champagne as instructed.

                                               *                    *                   *                  *

As Jack crept downstairs he felt extremely self-conscious in his new nightwear.  True, he had worn nothing but female attire for several weeks, but none of it had been quite so soft and ultra-feminine as what he wore now.   He was also very conscious of the strong and very feminine aroma which was now following him around.   He dreaded bumping into anybody who might still be up and about.   But all seemed quiet as he made his way, increasingly confidently, in the direction of the drawing-room.  As he approached the door he noticed a crack of light from inside the room, but still no noise from within, as far as he could make out.  Whoever had forgotten to turn the lights off, he made a mental note to make sure he switched them off after collecting the champagne - Madam might be exceedingly wealthy but it was still important to save electricity whenever one could.

Jack entered the drawing-room and looked around the huge room for the champagne, totally unaware of two people who were fast asleep in each other's arms in a sofa facing away from him on the other side of the room.   He searched in vain for the champagne, looking at each of the several side-tables around the room, and particularly at the drinks cabinet in the corner of the room.  He cursed himself for not having asked Madam exactly where, in this great big room, she thought the champagne would be - he could be hunting for it for ages without knowing where to look.

Suddenly one of the people on the sofa stirred and Jack jumped out of his skin as he heard her scream "Who's there?" in a shrill voice.   It was Pamela!   "I beg your pardon, Miss Pamela" Jack managed to say, as he recovered from the shock of finding somebody else in the room.

"I should think you do, you stupid girl" said Pamela.  "Mel, wake up Mel, we have company.  Little Jackie has come in here snooping, he's come to join us, and he's not even in his uniform.  Oh, I do like your nightie though, Jackie, and your lovely flowing peignoir.  Is that what you like wearing when you're off duty these days?   Oh, and what lovely perfume!   Oh, it does suit you!   It really does suit you!   And it's very kind of you to come down specially to attend to us, just when we're ready for something more to drink."

By now Melissa Franklin was also wide awake and she added her words of welcome to poor Jack.  "Yes, it's very thoughtful of you, very thoughtful indeed.  I don't know about you, Pam, but I could do with someone to pour me shum more of that lovely bubbly.  What have you done with the bottle, maid?"

Jack glanced down at the coffee table in front of the two drunken girls.  On it were two empty champagne glasses and, next to them, an almost empty bottle of Madam's best champagne, no doubt the very bottle that he was supposed to be fetching.   The sooner he left the room the better, he decided - these two beastly girls were bad enough when sober, who knows what they might do to him in the state they were now in?

"I'm so sorry to have disturbed you, My Ladies" he said, dropping a respectful curtsey, which felt very strange in his luxurious night-robes, and then he turned to leave the room.   But it was too late.

"Oh no maid, you don't leave now" said Miss Quinn, warming to the opportunity which now presented itself.   "Which of us gave you permission to leave the room?   You don't escape that easily, dear Jackie.   Does she, Mel?"

By this time Melissa Franklin was on her feet and had pulled out a small digital camera from her purse.  Making her way across the room towards the door, she blocked off Jack's escape route altogether.   "I think one or two nice pictures would be useful, don't you Pam?   I'm sure they will go down well when we're back in school."

So, for the next few minutes, Jack's two tormentors forced him to parade in front of them in his gorgeous pink chiffon nightwear, and compelled him to smile as though he was enjoying every moment, standing beside Gloria Havisham's finest flower arrangements and, of course, curtseying low.   Melissa was just checking the fine selection of images which she had captured, when the door opened and who should enter the room now but Miss Rose Wilson...

                                             *                    *                   *                   *

"What on earth is going on in here?" said the tall, imposing Rose, although it was immediately obvious to her exactly what was happening.   Jack was still standing beside the flower arrangement, displaying the full breadth and glory of his peignoir, while Pamela was peering at the images on Melissa's camera and grinning to herself.  

"Girls - and, er, boy, I think - Miss Strang sent me down here to find out exactly who was making all this noise.  You may not appreciate it, but there happens to be a bedroom immediately above this room, and we were both hoping for a good night's sleep after such a lively evening.   Now I suggest all three of you go straight to bed before you get into any more trouble.   In the meantime I shall inform Miss Strang that it was three of her Stuyvesant pupils - past, present and future, I believe - who were creating such a commotion and I expect she will have words with each one of you before any of you return to school.   If, indeed, you are ever fit to return to school."

"But, Miss Rose..."  Jack started to try and explain that he'd been sent downstairs to fetch something for Miss Havisham.

"No 'buts', Jackie" said Rose "and, by the way, have you forgotten how to address me these days, just because you're in your night clothes?"

"I'm sorry, My Lady, I beg your pardon My Lady" replied Jack, curtseying elegantly to his mother's former maid in his expensive pink nightwear, while Miss Quinn and Miss Franklin watched in silence, no doubt perfectly content to see some of the blame being deflected on to Jack.

"That's better, Jackie" replied Rose, still addressing herself to Jack.  "You'd best remember that in future, if you value your future, that is.   I haven't told any of you yet, but Miss Havisham mentioned to me earlier this evening that she has a vacancy for the post of Housekeeper here - and the salary is a great deal more than I could ever receive as a school maid at Stuyvesant..."

                                            *                      *                     *                     *

Jack made his way back upstairs to Miss Havisham's bedroom, in total shock at the prospect of Miss Rose taking over as the new Miss Craftey, as well as alarmed at what would now happen to the photographs of him.   He was wondering where to start as he faced Madam, having apparently spent all this time searching for the champagne and now returning empty-handed.

"I'm really sorry My Lady" he said as he entered the room.   "The champagne had all been drunk by the time I reached the drawing-room and they've taken some photos of me, Madam, and I can't bear the thought of them being passed round school and I also can't face the idea of Miss Rose being the housekeeper here, Madam, and...."

"Elizabeth, my precious, my darling" interrupted Miss Havisham.  "Come and sit here, on my bed, my love.  And let's take things slowly, and one at a time, shall we?   First of all we don't need any more champagne tonight, not now, that was silly of me to even think of, after all we've had this evening.   And if anybody's taken any photos in this house, I will most certainly claim them for myself.   No guests have any right to take photos in this private home of mine."

Miss Havisham paused for a moment.  "And what was the other thing you said?   Oh yes, Rose.  Now, do you know, Janet Strang said to me this evening that Rose is proving to be a very accomplished housekeeper since she's been promoted at Stuyvesant.  But she's wanting quite a lot more money than the school says it can afford, so I've offered to take her on in Miss Craftey's place!   Now isn't that wonderful?   Oh, don't look so miserable darling - what are you so miserable about?  She's a fine lady and yes, she will be treated as family rather than as a servant, I've promised her that, so she won't be in uniform like the rest of you.  But I'm going to ask her to treat you kindly because you're being groomed to become my ladies' maid, aren't you sweetheart?"

Jack swallowed hard as he tried to take all this in.  The former Stuyvesant maid, who had been responsible for starting him on his descent from schoolboy to maidservant, was now to become the permanent housekeeper here at Havisham Hall, the one and only place where he felt he could now happily live his life.   "Yes Madam, of course Madam, thank you Madam" was all he could bring himself to say, as he sat next to his mistress on her bed.

"Good, now I'm glad that's settled.   You'll both be very good for one another, I know that, and I know I couldn't manage without a competent housekeeper.   Now, come along darling, I still haven't given you your real birthday present.   Here he is, this will be your first time with Percy, won't it?  I know he's a bit on the small side, but before long I'll introduce you to Magnus, who really is full size!  Of course we'll have to remove your plug, while we put Percy to work, but we'll pop it back in again afterwards - it will help you progress towards being able to take Magnus."

As Gloria Havisham spoke, she had picked out the smaller of two strap-on dildoes which she kept in her bedside cabinet, and was now tying it firmly around herself, all ready to initiate "Elizabeth" fully into her new role as ladies' maid...


Six weeks later, Miss Rose Wilson was fully installed as the housekeeper of Havisham Hall, having been personally introduced by Gloria Havisham to all the servants - including Jack - at what Miss Havisham described as a "friendly little welcoming party" in the drawing-room.   The maids were of course all wearing their best uniforms, in Jack's case this being Miss Bracegirdle's newly-created version of the Edwardian ladies' maid uniform worn by Daisy, Gloria's grandmother's maid many years ago.   Gloria was very excited to be able to present Jack in this uniform, although Jack was hardly happy himself, and indeed was most unhappy being so conspicuously dressed.  But Madam had insisted that he was "very special" to her and she did not want him to be treated as "just another of the ordinary maids".

Since his unforgettable sixteenth birthday, Jack had been doted on almost continuously by Gloria Havisham.  She insisted on making love to him at least twice a day, now using "Magnus" nearly every time rather than the much smaller "Percy" for which Jack had previously expressed his preference.   "You'll grow used to Magnus - he's the real deal" was invariably Madam's response when he protested, but he was powerless to object - after all he was still only Madam's servant, and anyway, he was beginning to rather enjoy the feeling, he now privately admitted to himself...

Jack had long since accepted his fate.  It suited him much better to remain at Havisham than the alternative of returning to his mother - she gave him very little genuine love these days, she was so absorbed with the drama school, and in any event if he did return to her she would make him attend school, which he really could not face alongside Pamela Quinn and Mel Franklin and their friends.  And it was definitely also preferable to being passed to Mrs Quinn as was originally envisaged - anyhow, he had learned from Gloria, much to her amusement but not to his, that Mrs Quinn had said to her that she "was welcome to that mixed-up little boy-girl" and if he was that important to her, she could have the keys to Jack's neck-chain and bracelet.   So Gloria now proudly possessed these symbols of Jack's ownership.

One of Rose's first decisions as housekeeper was to recommend some redundancies to Miss Havisham.   Jack, incidentally, was now mortified to find Rose addressing Miss Havisham as "Gloria" to her face all the time, while he was still being required to call her "Madam" or "My Lady", even when they were in bed together.   He was changing in the little bedroom off Madam's own room, when he heard Miss Rose tell Miss Havisham that the staff numbers could easily be halved, now that the new, modern electrical appliances were making housework so much less time-consuming.   "Gloria, I really mean it" he heard Miss Rose say. "Agnes, Edna, Karen and two or three others could be given their notice now - honestly Gloria, it will save you a great deal of money."

Jack braced himself for confirmation of the redundancies and, sure enough, within a couple of days, action had been taken exactly in line with Miss Rose's recommendation - or rather, Miss Rose's decision, as Jack knew it to be.  Jack was, however, relieved to hear that Annabelle, who remained his best friend in the whole household, and Linda the hairdresser were to be retained.  He was also pleased to learn that the outdoor staff, who everybody in this all-female household still always referred to as "the men" would all be staying - Jack didn't fancy being asked to do any gardening, or other outdoor work, now that he'd got his hands and nails looking so nice...

Late one evening, when Jack was alone in the kitchen preparing Madam's hot chocolate, he noticed a half-open envelope lying on a shelf.   It was addressed to "The new housekeeper, Havisham Hall".  Jack felt sure he recognized the handwriting.  Cheekily, he peeped inside the envelope and there he found a long letter of advice in the same handwriting.   He now knew for sure that it was from Miss Craftey and he could not resist reading the letter.   It began by graciously wishing her successor every happiness and success in what Miss Craftey assured the reader was "the best job in the world" and it went on to give all sorts of advice about the management of the Havisham Hall household.  So Miss Craftey was not bitter about leaving in the way she had.  His opinion of her rose immediately.  But then he spotted a short paragraph towards the end of the letter.  It read:-

"I'm afraid Gloria does have one dreadful weakness and you will soon discover it - her obsession with pretty, effeminate boys.  My advice, having known Gloria since she was a child, is to tolerate each one of these boys while they last - none of them lasts long.   Make absolutely sure they are treated, and dressed, as girls all the time that they are at Havisham.  But watch out for the current pretty boy, Elizabeth (or as I preferred to call him, Betsy) because he just might stay longer than you think. And he'll try to threaten your authority.  Just make sure you keep him/her under your thumb."

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The Heroine of Havisham Hall - Part 19

Still looking a picture of loveliness in his immaculate waitress uniform, Jack watched with interest as his two persistent tormentors, Miss Pamela Quinn and Miss Melissa Franklin, stared grimly at one another across the dinner table.   For several seconds the whole room fell silent while the two teenagers, neither of whom wanted to be seen playing the maid's role in the little play which they had agreed to perform, struggled to find an answer to their hostess's simple question.  Which of them was to be the mistress, and which the maid, in this long-awaited production?

It was Emily Quinn who eventually broke the silence, addressing her sister Georgina Davies across the table.  "George, I seem to remember we agreed on your suggestion earlier, that Dame Olivia be invited to toss a coin to settle this important matter."

"You're quite right Emily, that was exactly what was agreed" came Mrs Davies' reply.   "Girls, I trust you've fulfilled your side of the agreement and that you've each rehearsed the parts of both mistress and maid?   We don't want any embarrassment, now that you're about to treat us to your special performance."

There was silence once again as both Pamela and Melissa clearly remembered the conversation in the Rolls Royce that afternoon.   Perhaps, they now realized, all the time which they had wasted that evening teasing poor Jack in their bedroom might have been better employed helping one another to memorize the words of their little play.   After all, it was only supposed to be a five minute play, so it wouldn't have taken them very long.

Aunt Georgina continued to take charge of the situation.  "Well, Pamela, at least you should know both parts very well by now - after all, your mother told me the other day that you've been working on it for months.   Emily, didn't you say she's been speaking of nothing else since you first went shopping with Gail Swanson's poor lad?   I remember hearing then all about Pamela's idea for a short play."

Pamela Quinn blushed at the memory of how she had created the idea of "The Mistress and the Maid".   It was true, she had to admit.   And then, later on, she'd decided it would be even more fun if it became "The Princess and the Very Obedient Maid".   The only problem was that she hadn't ever bothered to sit down and write the damned play.   Her long-awaited play had a title - indeed it had two titles - but still no lines!   And all this in front of Lady Lavinia and Dame Olivia, who had been specially invited, along with everybody else, to come to Havisham Hall and watch it performed!

"May I make a suggestion?" Miss Havisham called out from the head of the table, still suffering somewhat from the effects of the champagne.   "What I sushpect, hic - shorry, hic - what I suggesht, I mean, is that Elizabeth and I perform thish play.  I will be the Mishtresh, and you Elizabeth, can be the maid.  Come on over here darling..."   She was now leading Jack in the direction of the little recess by the French window.  And then she whispered to him "All you need to do, shweetheart, is say 'Yes My Lady, of course My Lady" and do whatever I tell you, with a little curtshey her and there...   We'll get along fine won't we?"

And for the next few minutes, a rather tipsy Miss Havisham, adlibbing to her heart's content and still resplendent in her gold mermaid dress, and Jack in his neat waitress uniform, performed to a very appreciative audience.   As they completed their impromptu show, to tumultuous applause and cries of "Bravo", Miss Gloria Havisham and Mr Jack Swanson curtsied, side by side, to their audience before returning to their respective places - Gloria to her seat at the head of the table and Jack, hands folded in front of his apron, standing to the side of the room.

"Well, well, well" exclaimed Dame Olivia, "what an excellent little play that was.  Well done, both of you.  And well done Pamela, for writing that little cameo.   Your mother and aunt are so right, you do indeed have a great talent as a writer, and as a coach too I might add.  When did you find the time to coach the young maid?"

"Oh that's something we're quite good at, Dame Olivia" replied Pamela, as her mother and aunt looked on aghast at her brazen cheek.  "Melissa and I did all the coaching of the maid earlier this evening.  Young Elizabeth here is so new to being a maid she didn't have any idea how to respond, or perform a curtsey or anything.  It took us quite a while, didn't it Mel, but we managed to drum it all into her in the end..."

                                         *                        *                         *                        *

Just as Gloria Havisham and her guests were rising from the table, full of compliments on the excellence of the meal, senior maid Agnes entered the room and whispered to Miss Havisham the news that the weekend's two remaining guests had now arrived, somewhat earlier than had been expected.   Margaret Savage, social science teacher at Stuyvesant Academy, and Gail Swanson, the drama teacher, had not been due to arrive until tomorrow, but Gail's flight from New York had been rescheduled to avoid later weather warnings and Margaret had been able to meet her at the airport and bring her straight to Havisham that evening.

Jack then heard Agnes informing Miss Havisham that, unfortunately, both the ladies had arrived very tired and had asked to be taken straight to their rooms for the night.   "Of course" replied Madam "Gail must be feeling particularly weary after her long flight.  "Elizabeth, I wonder if you could go and enquire whether Mrs Swanson would like a hot drink and serve it to her in her room.  And Agnes, perhaps you could arrange the same for Miss Savage."

Jack was not surprised to hear Madam refer to his mother as "Mrs Swanson".  He had grown used to the fact that, in his role here at Havisham Hall, he was no longer Jack Swanson.   Instead, he was now Elizabeth, or Betsy, and his mother was just one of the many important ladies being entertained at the Hall this weekend.   However he secretly hoped that the opportunity which Madam had given him to offer his mother a hot drink might at least provide her with a chance to acknowledge that it was her own son who was waiting upon her.   Not that he looked anything like a son now, of course...

                                         *                         *                           *                          *

Jack knocked on the door of the room which had been allocated to his mother and waited for a response.   After a few seconds the door opened and a very smart, well-dressed lady stood in front of him, with no apparent sign that she recognized the maid who was attending upon her.  Jack, on the other hand, of course knew exactly who the lady was - although, he had to admit, he had never before seen his mother looking so smart.

"Good evening, My Lady" said Jack, addressing the latest guest just as he had been instructed.  "I've been sent to ask whether you would like any drinks brought to your room?  A hot chocolate perhaps, My Lady, or a coffee or tea?"

There was still no semblance of any recognition on his mother's face - even after hearing him speak!  Of course, he realized that his voice was now much higher than it had been when his mother last saw him.   But she knew he was living here now!   And that it was his birthday!   Surely she must realize that he was her Jack?   Apparently not, Jack reluctantly concluded.

"Oh yes, a hot chocolate would be lovely, that's very kind" came his mother's response.  "What is your name?   You're one of Gloria's maids, are you?"

"Yes, My Lady, my name is Elizabeth..."   But Jack could contain himself no longer.   He hated to show his mother what a demure, submissive housemaid he had now become, but he could hide the truth no longer.   "I'm your daughter, and I'm really your s...." but Jack could not quite bring himself to say he was her son.   Not now, not dressed and behaving, and speaking, as he now did. 

"Oh my goodness, but so you are" exclaimed his mother.   "But wait now, you call yourself my daughter... but aren't you still my son?   You haven't had your surgery yet, have you?   Don't tell me they've done that already.   You do look very, very pretty, and very feminine."

Jack had no answer to what his mother was now saying, but he was still on duty as a maid and soon turned his attention to what he had been sent to say to the newly-arrived guest.   "Yes, My Lady, some hot chocolate right away, My Lady" he replied, and, bobbing a quick curtsey, turned on his five-inch heels and went to fetch his mother's chocolate.   As he made his way down to the kitchen, he wondered exactly what she had meant about him having surgery.   Surely they hadn't planned to remove his manhood altogether?

                                         *                       *                         *                         *

As Jack stood by the stove waiting for the milk to warm for his mother's drink, one of the visiting ladies' maids came into the kitchen and introduced herself to him.   "Hi, my name's Maisie, and I'm Lady Lavinia's maid.   It's awfully nice here - you're all so lucky to have such a beautiful home to work in.   By the way, what's your name?"

"Oh hello Maisie, I'm Elizabeth, but the others call me Betsy most of the time" replied Jack.   He realized now how natural it had become for him to introduce himself in his female persona.  "Would you like some of this hot chocolate?   I'm making a whole jug, because I know Madam - that's Miss Havisham - will be wanting some very shortly, as well as my mo...."

Jack stopped himself, just in time, from revealing that the latest guest to arrive was his own mother.  What would Maisie have made of that, he thought hurriedly to himself?   Instead he added "I've only been working here for a short while, but yes, it is a lovely place isn't it?"

"Yes it sure is, but no, I'll just have a glass of water, thanks Betsy" came Maisie's response.  "By the way, is it really true that some of the maids here are actually boys?   That's what somebody was saying, but I can't say I've seen any maids who look remotely like they could ever be boys..."

At the end of his very, very long day - and his birthday as well, of course - Jack was caught completely unawares by this innocent, inquisitive question.   This was all too much for him.  He felt himself blush all over his face, and then his hand shook as he tried to pour the boiling milk into the chocolate jug.   He stuttered a brief "S-sorry, I'd better attend to Madame" and hurried out of the kitchen with the tray.

When he reached his mother's room, Jack was in for a further surprise.   For she was no longer alone.  Miss Havisham had now joined her and the two ladies had obviously been chatting together for a few minutes.   "Ah, Elizabeth, my darling.  Or should I say Jack?" Miss Havisham chuckled as she greeted her prospective new ladies' maid.   "I see you've made enough chocolate for me to have my usual night-cap as well.   You are so thoughtful.    Gail, you really could never have produced a more wonderful actress - and, at the same time, such a perfect ladies' maid.  But I'm sorry, there's no way I'm going to let her go back to school now.  Not even our new Drama School.  She really is the treasure I need, aren't you my love?"

And both Madam, and Jack's mother, turned their eyes on poor Jack, who, totally overcome by such a rollercoaster of emotions, finally burst into tears.   His mistress and his mother both put an arm around him and all he could hear, from the only two people who he felt had ever shown him love, was "There, there, sweetheart, you're going to be fine here, we know this is the life you really want..."

(to be concluded) 

Thursday, April 10, 2014

The Heroine of Havisham Hall - Part 18

Jack stood still and silent against the wall, immaculate in his brand new black and white waitress uniform, while Madam said a solemn, formal Grace and then invited the twelve ladies to take their seats.  Once these formalities were over, it was all systems go for Jack and Annabelle, as the two maids who Miss Havisham had specially selected to serve dinner in order to make the best possible impression on her guests.

But, attractive as they both were, they had not been selected purely to serve as adornments in the way that Jack had been earlier in the afternoon.  Far from merely "standing still and looking pretty" the two waitresses now had to move quickly, gracefully and carefully around the table serving each of the guests their first course, before retiring to the side of the room to await Madam's next signal.   This might be to serve more wine, or the next course, and then perhaps to serve the vegetables individually to each of the guests.  As Jack approached each of the ladies, all decked out in their luxurious gowns and priceless jewellery, he had to concentrate carefully on balancing the dishes he was carrying, especially as he was of course still tottering around in five inch heels.

So Jack was caught slightly unawares when one of the guests, Miss Rose Wilson, looked him in the eye while he helped her, with some difficulty, to carrots and broccoli from the vegetable dish.  As he did so, she congratulated Jack on his appearance.   "You look absolutely beautiful tonight, Master Jackie" was not exactly what he had expected to be told at this moment.  And, as he finished ladelling the correct number of carrots on to Miss Rose's plate, carefully placing them beside the finely carved venison with which she had already been served, she continued: "I bet you never expected to end up waiting upon me like this, did you?   Didn't I train you well?"

Jack was able to escape at this point with the requisite little bob curtsey and a mumbled "Yes, My Lady" before moving on to serve the next lady.   But oh, no!   This was Miss Quinn.   As Jack struggled with the serving forks and an obstinate stick of broccoli, Pamela whispered to him "So where were you when Miss Franklin and I needed you to help us dress for dinner?   We'll catch up with you later, you cheeky disobedient maid!"   And a humiliated "Yes, My Lady" was again all that Jack could say before once again he bobbed and moved on.

And so it went on.  Mrs Quinn also had a word with him, reminding him that she still held the keys to his neck chain and bracelet.  This was something which had been really worrying Jack - did she really mean to retain her hold on him, as Miss Rose had implied after that infernal tea party at the Quinns?  Surely, Jack felt, and hoped, he now belonged completely and permanently to Miss Havisham?

At least Lady Lavinia and Dame Olivia both treated him kindly.  And they were obviously in on his secret, it seemed, for Lady Lavinia whispered to him "Well, I see now what they mean - you really are rather a good actor, aren't you?"   Jack didn't know how to respond to this, and nearly dropped the vegetable dish altogether before quietly replying "Yes, My Lady, of course My Lady".  He was now rather grateful for this phrase, which he had been forced to repeat over and over by Miss Quinn and Miss Franklin - he didn't like to admit it, but it now seemed that this aspect of their training was actually proving rather helpful to him.

                                             *                         *                       *                         *

By the time they had reached the dessert course, the guests were all immersed in an animated discussion over the plans for the remainder of the weekend.   "I thought some of you might like to go riding in the morning - and work up an appetite for lunch?" suggested Miss Havisham.  "I've got some spare jodhpurs for any of you who haven't brought your riding breeches.  Of course, now that Crafty's left, there's nobody to stop us wearing trousers - hee, hee, hee!" she added with a chuckle.

Jack decided, as he stood quietly in the corner of the room, that he had never seen Madam so happy and relaxed.   Was she really now rather relieved to have said good-bye to Miss Craftey?  Perhaps she would be able to cope without the old battle-axe after all, thought Jack.  Or would she?   From what he'd seen these past few weeks, Jack wasn't quite so sure.  In fact, now he thought about it, he didn't think it would be long before somebody would have to be appointed in Crafty's place...

Suddenly Jack's mind was brought back to the present with a jolt.   "Ladies, can I have your attention please" Madam was saying as she tinkled her wine glass with a silver fork.  "I hope you all have your glasses charged, for I wish to propose a toast.   Ladies, today is somebody's birthday.   Somebody very special to me, and that person is present here this evening."   Gloria Havisham paused for a moment and the ladies all looked at one another.   None of them seemed to be aware whose birthday it was.   Meanwhile Jack, suddenly feeling very vulnerable, froze solid in his high-heeled shoes.   Surely Madam was not about to propose a toast to him - a mere waitress and humble serving maid?

Miss Havisham glanced for a moment in Jack's direction out of the corner of her eye, then continued:
"Ladies, in the past few hours I have lost one old treasure - someone who I knew would have to go one day, and I think had actually reached the time when she knew it too.   But in the past few weeks, I have also gained another, much younger and much more charming treasure.  Her name is Elizabeth, or perhaps Betsy, or perhaps Jackie to some of you...   Or even Jack.   I think you all know now who I am referring to, and she herself...."    Miss Havisham paused again at this point and sipped a little of her wine, before continuing "Or perhaps I should say, he himshelf...  knows that it is his birthday.   Don't you, my dearest, darling Elizabeth?"   And now there was a further pause - which seemed to Jack to be a much longer pause - while he realized that Madam, his wonderful kind Madam, was inviting him to join the conversation for a moment.

Jack steadied himself, performed one of his immaculate curtseys, and replied "Yes My Lady, of course My Lady."   There was a further short silence, one or two little gasps from around the table, a giggle from Pamela Quinn and Melissa Franklin, even a quiet but audible gasp from Annabelle.  And then, to Jack's relief and delight, a tinkling of glasses as each and every lady around the table followed Gloria Havisham's invitation and joined in the birthday toast.

For the second time in what seemed to Jack to be the most eventful birthday anyone could ever have, he listened, blushing, to the singing of "Happy Birthday".   But this time, instead of the "Happy Birthday dear Betsy" to which he had been treated in the servants' hall that morning, most of the ladies were singing "Happy Birthday, dear Elizabeth".   Except, Jack thought he detected, those few who he felt sure were uttering the words "Happy Birthday, dear Jackie".   He knew who they were and now wished he could forget altogether the time when he was Jackie - perhaps even forget being Jack.  For he had never been so happy - nor so secure - as he was now, as Elizabeth, the newly-appointed lady's maid and property of Miss Gloria Havisham.

As the singing came to an end, he curtsied low and replied "Thank you Madam, I mean thank you My Lady" while Annabelle, now smiling broadly, came round the table refilling the ladies' champagne glasses.  Meanwhile a very happy and increasingly inebriated Miss Havisham, glass still in hand, was saying "Pam...ela,  Mel...itha, what about showing us your little play?  Now, wish one of you is the mishtress...  and, hic, wish of you the... er... maid?"

(to be continued)

Thursday, April 3, 2014

The Heroine of Havisham Hall - Part 17

For the next hour Jack was subjected to gentle but relentless humiliation at the hands of both Pamela Quinn and Melissa Franklin.   First he was required to run a bath for Miss Quinn, then to carry her washing-bag into the bathroom for her, then to lay out a bath mat, and then to start warming one of the fluffy towels on the radiator ready for her use.  Pamela had insisted that, to each instruction, Jack must reply "Yes, My Lady, of course My Lady" with a respectful curtsey before obeying her command.  Poor Jack found himself nipping backwards and forwards between the bedroom and the en suite bathroom, not only performing the endless little tasks but also having to utter this infernal phrase every time.

When Pamela Quinn was finished in the bathroom, Jack thought this ordeal might be over, but no, it began all over again with Melissa Franklin.  If anything this was even worse for Jack, for Melissa decided to provide added amusement by conducting a constant teasing dialogue.  While she lay relaxing in the bath, she asked him the most embarrassing questions she could think of.

"So, Betsy" Miss Franklin would ask, "what's it like for a boy like you to become a sweet little maid?  Was this the job you were hoping for, when I first met you in the street with your auntie?  Are you enjoying the work?   You are very good at it, and very pretty, don't you think?" 

On and on she went, and Jack was obliged to respond "Yes My Lady, of course My Lady" to every question and to keep curtseying all the time.   He then had to help Miss Franklin out of the bath, dab her dry with another warm fluffy towel, hand her bath robe to her, and curtsey once more as she solemnly announced that she was now going to rest on her bed for a while so that she would have the energy to dress for dinner.

At this point, to Jack's great relief, Miss Quinn - now seated at the dressing-table where she was admiring herself in the mirror - glanced over her shoulder and casually dismissed Jack:  "Maid, either Miss Franklin or I will send for you when we require you next.  I think we'll need some help with our new gowns in a little while, won't we Mel?"   And Melissa Franklin yawned and replied "Yes, I certainly will, I'm beginning to think it will take me all evening to get into this Dior creation...."

But Jack didn't wait to hear any more.  Seizing upon Miss Quinn's invitation to escape, he had already curtseyed and, with a prompt but courteous "Very well, My Lady" was straight out the door.

As he made his way back to Annabelle's room to complete the packing of his belongings, ready for his move later that evening, Jack wondered to himself how soon those two arrogant girls would ring for him again.   He had visions of them fetching him straight back, and then having him run backwards and forwards between his room and theirs until they were ready to present themselves for dinner.   But a pleasant surprise awaited him when he reached Annabelle's room, for on his bed he found a scribbled note:

"Dear Betsy.  Madam asked me to take all your things to your new room for you, so I've done that. She also asked me to tell you to stop attending upon guests in their rooms now, as she has some jobs she needs you for.  She said they're old enough to dress themselves!!  You lucky thing Betsy, your new bedroom looks a lovely room, and it sounds to me like you'll just be working for Madam from now on!   Good luck!   Must go now, Karen needs me to help lay up the table in the dining-room and it's going to take us ages.  See you later, Love A x"

Jack literally jumped for joy!   He hurriedly wrote a short thank-you to Annabelle, closed the door and skipped along the corridor and up the stairs to his new room.

                                         *                          *                          *                         *

To enter his new bedroom, Jack was required to knock first on Miss Havisham's own bedroom door, wait for Madam to answer it, enter the room, drop the obligatory curtsey and await her invitation to pass through her bedroom into his own.   This, he immediately realized, was going to be a regular ritual from now on.  But he consoled himself with the thought that he would be under Miss Havisham's protection - and hopefully would now enjoy a closer and more intimate relationship with Madam.  The rigmarole required to gain entry to his bedroom was a small price to pay for the safe, secure feeling which this arrangement would give him.  Besides, he was now so relieved to be free, not only from the fierce discipline of Miss Craftey, but also, at least for the time being, from the cruel psychological bullying he was suffering at the hands of Miss Quinn and Miss Franklin.

Jack felt quite suddenly that he had arrived in a sort of haven, some kind of paradise even, compared with where he had been these past few weeks.   As Madam opened her door to let him come through her room, he completely forgot the curtseying and instead fell into her arms, crying as he tried to thank her for what she was now offering him.

"Oh thank you Madam" Jack sobbed. "I'm so pleased to be of service to you.  I hope I'll be allowed to serve you for ever Madam.  Please tell me what you want, Madam, I'll do everything I can for you."

                                        *                         *                            *                             *
For her part Gloria Havisham was thrilled to have finally made the decision to engage "Elizabeth" as her ladies' maid.   She had known all along that this was what she wanted, ever since she first met Jack at Emily Quinn's little tea party, but what particularly thrilled her now was the look of sheer delight apparent behind the tears of pleasure on Jack's face.  Now here he was, this most perfect of little girly boys, throwing his arms around her neck as she welcomed him into her own embrace.

There was a moment or two of further quiet sobbing while they caressed one another, then Miss Havisham spoke gently to her new personal ladies' maid:  "Now now, my little love...   It's your birthday today and I told you there would be a special present for you didn't I?   Well this is it, my beautiful, and I know how much you will enjoy working for me...."    Madam paused again for a moment then went on, slightly hesitantly "You will work for me, for always, I mean?  Not for anyone else, please....   I know you'll be very good indeed as my maid...."    And then, after another brief pause, "Now come along, there's lots to do - and I haven't even dressed for dinner yet.  You're going to have to help me Elizabeth.  Now tell me please, which of these three dresses do you think would be best for tonight...?"

                                          *                            *                        *                            *

Sixty minutes later, thanks to Jack's natural flair as a ladies' maid - not only in helping Madam to select the right dress, but also in constantly reassuring her how wonderful she was looking - Gloria Havisham was in sparkling form downstairs receiving all her guests.  She was so pleased that Elizabeth had encouraged her to go for the gold lame mermaid-style dress, which she felt helped her to stand out as the hostess amongst the stunning array of top designer outfits worn by her guests.   And how sensible to opt for the plain gold necklace and the simple gold and pearl ear-rings, as Elizabeth had suggested.   As she led the party through to the dining-room to take their places for dinner she winked at Jack, who by now was positioned against the wall and responded, as he and Annabelle had both been instructed by Agnes, with a neat little curtsey to Madam and a soft "Good evening, My Lady" to each of the guests.

As the dinner guests passed before him, Jack noticed a variety of expressions on their faces.  Lady Lavinia and Dame Olivia both seemed to be quite impressed and smiled benevolently at him as they passed by.   Several of the other guests, including both Mrs Quinn and her sister Mrs Davies, and also Mrs Franklin, simply ignored him.   Jack had been warned, long ago, that as a humble maid he should not expect to be treated any differently from a piece of furniture.   Nevertheless it was pleasing to have been acknowledged by the more distinguished guests, he thought to himself.   Then in came Miss Quinn and Miss Franklin, the former scowling at him, the latter giggling - they had no doubt been annoyed to find they were no longer receiving room service.  And then, worst of all, came Rose.  Was he really going to have to call her mother's former maid "My Lady" all this weekend?  Rose simply gave him a quick look up and down, as though to tell him he passed inspection for now, but would have a word with him later.   What, Jack wondered, would Rose - er sorry, Miss Wilson - be wanting to say to him....?

(to be continued)