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)


Anonymous said...

Another lovely episode in this great saga. Can just picture the ladies in all their finery enjoying their dinner while Jack waits upon them as a waitress. He seems to be paying quite a price for being caught by Rose abusing himself a few months ago. Please keep this great story running, there seems to be so many possibilities as to what will happen next. This and the earlier strands of Jack and Rose, and Amongst Women, are adding up to a great series.

Anonymous said...

Fantastic story, loving it all,
Maid Madeleine xx

sissy said...

I love this story! It would be fun to have the two "mean girls" get their just rewards. I can't wait for the next installment!
sissy jennifer

Anonymous said...

Me too, a great story, please keep going with this theme, it gets better and better with each installment.
Maid marcia x

L.G. said...

Thank you for all your comments. Don't worry, Madeleine and Jennifer, and Marcia, you won't have to wait too long for the next instalment!
Keep smiling!

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