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) 


Anonymous said...

A beautiful story. Do please keep it going, we are loving it.

Anonymous said...

I just love this story. I have read each chapter twice over and it is wonderful, with fantastic characters. Please keep the story running.
N.D. x

Carrie P said...

Another great episode seems like all the major players are now in situ, glad to see Georgina has made an appearance I’d almost forgotten about her.
So his secret is out and if that wasn’t enough to contend with he now discovers there’s talk of surgery and worryingly he’s been told his future lies in Havisham Hall.
How will the poor boy cope?

Anonymous said...

Thank you for seeing this through to the end. I have really enjoyed the journey.

Anonymous said...

A beautiful,lovely story. Is this how it ends? I hope not, I am so enjoying it.
Maid Marcia xx

Anonymous said...

We are really enjoying this story and love reading each instalment together. It's wonderful how all the characters have developed in their own different ways. Hope we haven't seen the last of Miss Crafty though.
Looking forward to the next instalment.

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