Saturday, April 23, 2016
An Obvious Solution
I haven’t contributed anything to this blog for a long time probably because I’ve become even more obsessed than usual with the past but mainly as I’m not sure this type of material is to most readers taste. I’ve posted it only on my own blog (some readers may have read this there so unfortunately there is nothing new for you with this offering).
However as Rosie contributed a really innovative futuristic piece I thought this short story based in the Victorian age may act as a counterpoint to that one. I also think Bea would have been pissed off with me for not posting something and I don't want him coming round.
As usual there is no – as Bea would put it- raunchy bits here so if that’s what you’re into don’t read any further. Boring I know..... but what can I say?
An Obvious Solution.
A tale of a kind hearted Victorian stepmother.
In the few years since his father had died Claude had successfully managed to avoid spending much of his summer vacations from school with his stepmother at their country estate. He preferred instead to spend this time with some understanding school friends and their families. It was not that he disliked his stepmother if fact it was quite the opposite as she had always been friendly and warm to him from the moment they met, the reason for this aversion was that the house always seemed full of women, her sisters, female friends, there was not even a male member of the domestic staff. An entire house of women and it was a stifling atmosphere for a young man. When he did stay it was only for a few days at a time and even then he spent most of his time horse riding, shooting and fishing or any activity that would keep him far from the suffocating and genteel feminine embrace of the residence. It didn’t make any difference where he tried to hide in the house’s many rooms he was always found by a maidservant or Miss Prism his stepmother’s new housekeeper. Once his hiding place was discovered he was then gently but firmly encouraged to partake in some all-female gathering. These generally consisted of an incredibly boring afternoon tea, a tedious bridge party or some other dull gathering where middle-aged matrons and their daughters spoke incessantly about the latest fashions. However worse of all as his stepmother was a dedicated follower of fashion he was expected to wear clothes invariably chosen for him by his stepmother or Miss Prism.
These were usually ghastly items of the most unmanly materials, silken velvet, very soft linen or in one horrible instance a particularly delicate cashmere. And the colours! What dreadful hues they chose for him and invariably these were always in soft pastels, lavender, lilac, delicate pinks- they were truly awful. He was fond of his stepmother and only wore these hideous garments to prevent her from becoming extremely emotional as ladies often do when refused a simple favour from a male. Despite his embarrassment and for the sake of a harmonious relationship he agreed to wear them for her various afternoon teas and occasional soirées, on these occasions he was greatly relieved that he was the only male present. He dreaded these afternoons and evenings as he was paraded like his stepmother’s prize pet poodle and as the sole male he was always the centre of attention.
So, dear reader, as you can imagine it was with trepidation that he arrived back to his home for his summer vacation as this particular year all his friends were vacationing abroad. On this visit things went badly from the very beginning as his luggage went missing from the train and from his previous experience he knew it would take days to locate and return it assuming it was found at all. He feared there would be a disagreement after dinner and this proved correct.
“Out of the question Claude.” his stepmother said gathering her voluminous skirts about her as they made her way upstairs to retire for the night. “it is most inappropriate for a young gentleman to sleep …..I can barely bring myself to say it……..” and in a hushed voice she whispered ….naked! Whatever would the servants think?”
“Well my nightshirts are probably in Scotland by now.” Claude replied “what do you suggest?”
The instant the words left his mouth he knew he had made a mistake.
“Run along and brush your teeth, I shall be with you momentarily.” she said as she called out to her maid who was who was standing at the door to her bedroom awaiting her mistress.
“Martha.” his stepmother called to her lady’s maid “Fetch me one of my nightgowns, perhaps the coffee coloured one.”
“Yes Madam.” the maid replied in her monotone voice.
Claude was grateful that the maid was dismissed before his stepmother turned down the bedclothes and plumped his pillows.
“I think you will find this will suit you quite well.” she said holding up a satin coffee coloured nightgown with a chocolate brown pattern around the bust area and the hem.
“Please Honora ……”he said “this is really quite unnecessary. This is one of your nightgowns.”
“Yes I know dear.” she said laying the garment on the bed as she gently reprimanded him “and I thought we had agreed about the correct form of address you should use.”
“I think I’m a little old to use that Honora.” he said and he immediately saw that she was genuinely hurt by his remark and he thought he saw her eyes well up. He hated ladies crying and would do anything to prevent it.
“Please don’t cry Hon…..Mummy.” he blurted cringing at the girlish form of address.
She dabbed her eyes with her lace handkerchief and gave him a smile of gratitude.
“You were always such a sensitive boy.” she said as she embraced him and kissed him tenderly. He could feel her breasts contained by her heavy corset press into his chest as she began unbuttoning his dress shirt.
“Now please …..for me?” she said holding up the satin garment once more and with one elegant movement she swept her skirts behind her and crossed the room and placed the nightgown on the top of the dressing screen.
It was a heavy price to pay to avoid witnessing a tearful and emotional woman.
Anything but tears he thought as he donned the soft garment and he tried to persuade himself that it was not all that different from his regular cotton nightshirts.
“See I told you it would fit you, a few inches short perhaps but an excellent fit nonetheless.” she said as she fussed with the bodice and adjusted the shoulder straps slightly she then took him by the hand and led him to the bed. “you look divine. Now into bed young man.”
He blushed deeply as she arranged the pillows and burgundy satin quilt over him and kissed him gently on the cheeks.
“Thank you for respecting my views on this matter Claude, you are such a dear boy. Now go to sleep. You must be exhausted.” she whispered softly in his ear.
It had been a long day and he was asleep before she closed the door behind her.
“Good morning Master Claude.”
The young man stretched as the voice penetrated his brain and he heard the sound of curtains being drawn. The voice belonged to Miss Prism.
“I trust you slept well.” she said as she tied back the curtains. “It’s well past ten, the mistress asked me to wake you.”
He blinked his eyes sat up in the bed and stretched once more before realising he was wearing his stepmother’s nightwear. He quickly pulled up the sheets to conceal the garment from the housekeeper.
“Quite all right Master Claude.” Miss Prism said as if this was an everyday occurrence “no need to be embarrassed the mistress has told me about your lost luggage. It was the obvious solution.”
She whipped the sheets away from him revealing leaving him exposed in his feminine nightgown.
“Madam would like to see you immediately. There has been an unfortunate mishap.”
Sheepishly he rose from the bed and looked around for his dressing gown before remembering he now did not possess one.
Miss Prism rearranged his rumpled nightgown to her satisfaction before pointing her hand towards the interconnecting door to his mother’s bedroom.
“Ah there you are Claude” his stepmother said as he entered, lying outstretched on the large bed her body enveloped in a blood red silk nightgown and peignoir.
“There has been a slight faux pas by one of the new housemaids.” she continued as Claude stood awkwardly in front of her with Miss Prism by his side. “very early this morning while you were sleeping she collected the clothes you wore last evening and unaware that these were your only clothes she washed them.”
“That’s not a problem.” he said wishing she would get to the point and allow him to go back to his room out of the gaze of Miss Prism and remove his awful satin nightgown. “I will just wait for them to dry.”
“Well you see Claude …that is the problem. The silly girl unfortunately added some additional substance to the water and …..well the truth of the matter is they have shrunk to the size of a ten year old’s clothes. Miss Prism would you be so kind as to show Master Claude the terrible result.”
Miss Prism retrieved a basket from beside the door and held up a pair of trousers that a ten year old would have difficulty in wearing.
“But….but what …. How….”he stammered incoherently as he viewed his miniature sized clothes.
“What…. am I going to wear?” he blurted the panic rising in his voice.
“Unfortunately the local tailor is unwell and even he measured you tomorrow it would take at least two weeks to get you a set of clothes.” his stepmother said as she rose from the bed. “and we can’t have you walking about in nightwear.”
“Miss Prism” his stepmother addressed her housekeeper who moved a dressing frame with a navy dress and jacket from the corner of the room close to the bed. The jacket was plush velvet with a deep satin collar and the dress was an over-elaborate brushed silk confection of ruffles and frills.
“Unfortunately the only clothes we have that will fit you are several dresses and gowns of mine from a year or two ago.”
“But what about those awful clothes I had to wear last year.” he said referring to the dreadful items she had him wear on several occasions.
“Well.. you did complain about them so much I threw them out.” she replied.
“But I can’t wear….a…….. lady’s gown.” he pleaded almost in tears.
“There…there….. my poor darling.” she said embracing him in her arms “You have to wear something, you just cannot remain as you are. Come now… It won’t be as bad as you think.”
“But ….the servants…..they will laugh ……..”he blurted as he watched Miss Prism remove the dress from the form.
“No they will not” his stepmother kissed him on the forehead and consoled him. “The staff are very loyal and discreet and hold you in the highest regard, they are mortified and upset that one of them has made such a dreadful error and put you in this extremely unfortunate position. They will understand perfectly.”
“But….. I….it’s just so…..” he struggled with emotion as he observed Miss Prism removing an ivory coloured long corset and matching silk chemise from a tallboy and laid them on the bed.
“Please….”he sobbed as Miss Prism slipped the straps from his shoulder and let the soft material slip down his body “..please ……”
“It’s all right my dear….Mummy’s here.” she whispered and taking the chemise from Miss Prism she slipped it over his head. He felt the tears well up inside.
“Dear..dear Claude, do not fret everything will be all right.” she whispered softly and nodded to her housekeeper.
“Now breathe in Master Claude” Miss Prism said wrapping the heavy garment around his torso and as she pulled the laces he heard her say “girls always find this a great help when they’re being laced into their corsets.”