Edith's New Governess

By HandPrince

Chapter 2.   Edith Takes A Bath

    Edith heaved a sigh of relief at the peal of Miss Field's hand bell.  Her corner time had passed at last.  Turning to her governess, "Please Miss Field, may I-" she swallowed, "May I rub my- may I rub the back of my frock now?"  Flora nodded assent.

   Both palms across the satin seat of her dress, Edith pressed inward
through layers of ample petticoats, striving to cup a well-smacked little buttock in each hand and knead it soothingly.  Actually, a greater portion of their soreness had faded.  But still, an uncomfortable heat remained, along with an occasional smarting twinge, and a stubborn itchiness - all of which her rubbing ministrations reduced, but failed to banish in their entirety.

   To Edith's surprise, Miss Field announced that Edith would adjourn to the nursery for a bath.  "Why must I have a bath in the middle of the morning?" sputtered the bewildered child. 

    "Because your governess has determined that you shall!  Let us hear no more of your cheek!  Come with me."

    Edith hadn't thought herself at all cheeky, merely having asked a question. But in the nick of time, she stifled her impulse to express that view indignantly and aloud.  Instead she chose to quietly accompany her new governess out of the classroom rather than risk an utterance Miss Field might deem "more cheek."

    Flora's mastery of the 108-room manor's floor plan, far from complete, found her uncertain of the way to the nursery. She carefully shadowed Edith's steps as the child made her way through two turnings down richly carpeted corridors; Edith never realised that she led her governess rather than the reverse. Flora thought it best that Edith never fancied herself possessed of any knowledge her governess lacked.

    Turning yet another corner, Flora recognised this corridor as one she had traversed the previous day with Mrs. Fogarty en route to her introductions to the downstairs staff.  The door to the kitchen stairway stood slightly ajar. The corridor opened onto the entrance hall farther down, and she remembered that the grand staircase lay around its far corner to the right.  Oddly, a little girl slightly younger than Edith, barefoot and in a stained pinafore and kitchen maids cap, had pressed herself against the right-hand wall.  She peeped around that corner and up at the grand staircase, with its bass relief marble walls inlaid with gold leaf, looming paintings of Fogarty ancestors, and the family coat of arms.  With her back turned, the child didn't hear the two approach until they were almost upon her and Edith imperiously demanded, "Who are you?!"

   With a gasp, a brown-eyed coppery-haired little girl spun about at Edith's words, her face pale with fright.  Beneath her dirty pinafore, she wore a threadbare grey frock which wanted washing, with every appearance of having nothing else on underneath. She dropped two hurried but deep curtsies, first to Flora, then to Edith, stammering,  "Begging your pardons, Misses, I-I must about me work!" She attempted to scurry in the direction of the kitchen stair doorway, but Flora checked the child with a steady grasp of her slender shoulder as she attempted to pass.  Steering the little girl to face them again, Flora introduced herself and Edith, and then gently chided her for failing to answer Mistress Fogarty's query.  "I'm s-sorry Miss," she stammered to Edith,  "I-I am Lily...  Lily Reid.  Me mum is the new scullery maid."

   Flora now recollected the gamin from the previous day's introductions below stairs, although barely.  The housekeeper and head butler had displayed courtesy towards Flora but with an unmistakable aloofness. Several of the other servants had scarcely disguised their contempt, while others' faces Flora found unreadable.  And one of the young footmen made no attempt to conceal his leering appraisal of her womanly form, assessing her from boot tips to head in a manner Flora found most disquieting.  She'd had her breakfast brought to the classroom that morning, on the pretext of busyness with preparations - but in truth, to forestall having to take that meal downstairs. Luncheon, too, could be brought up to the schoolroom, and tea as well.  But come evening, thought Flora with a dull edge of anxiety, dinner in the downstairs dining hall appeared unavoidable.

    "My papa," boasted Edith, "is in Parliament! He is a very important man!"   Lily nodded respectfully. "My governess," continued Edith, with a glance up at Flora and back at Lily, "says I must have a bath now.  But I daresay," she crinkled her nose in distaste, "you need one more than I!"

   "Yes Miss," whispered Lily, eyes downcast, "I'm sorry, Miss."

   "You shall address me as 'Miss Edith!'"

   "Yes Miss Edith."

   "Edith," admonished Flora, "It is rude to tell someone they need a bath."

   "Yes Miss Field. But," Edith continued, confidently believing herself in the right, "She is a servant!"

    Before Flora could formulate a response, Edith turned to the girl. Pointing downward, she scolded, "Your dirty feet shall soil our nice clean carpet.  Why do you not wear your shoes?"

    "I 'ave no shoes, Miss Edith," replied the waif sadly.

    Turning her gaze from Edith to the urchin, Flora chided, with a note of sternness, "Miss Lily Reid, I deem it highly improbable that you are permitted upstairs."

    On the verge of tears, Lily blurted, "I'm sorry Miss Field truly I am.  I only wanted to see!  I shan't come upstairs ever again I swear on it.  Please don't tell me mum.  I shall surely be whipped! Please oh please don't tell 'er!"

    Before that morning Edith would have dismissed with scorn a craven child so frightened by the prospect of nought but a mere whipping.  But Edith newly comprehended that some whippings quite rightly inspired fear.  She surmised that Lily's mum's chastisements likely resembled Miss Field's, more so than Nanny's. An up-welling of sympathy arose in Edith's bosom for what poor Lily would surely soon experience.

    Flora regarded Lily for several seconds, as the child anxiously awaited her response.  "A little girl who wilfully disobeys her mother rightfully earns herself a whipping," Flora declared, with seeming finality.  Lily hung her head miserably, her hands shifting, perhaps unconsciously, from her sides to her backside. Her lips trembled. First one tear, then a second, tumbled down Lily's cheeks as Flora allowed her portentous words to impress themselves for a few moments upon the child's heart.  "However, Lily," she continued at last, "I believe you have learned your lesson.  I shan't notify your mother of your transgression on this occasion.  But see to it you never again repeat this fault of yours." Then, with a dismissive wave, "Off you go then."

    Scarcely able to comprehend her good fortune, Lily dropped a rushed curtsy, stammered "Yes'm" and hurriedly disappeared down the kitchen stairway, closing its door behind her.

    Flora now knew her way without Edith's aid, and as she began to climb the stairway with her pupil, she thought with satisfaction that now she had at least one ally among the downstairs servants.  In any downstairs intrigues within which Flora might find herself entangled, Lily, who now owed her a large favour, could perhaps provide certain intelligences and perhaps perform certain needful errands as well.  And should the child balk, the governess mused, Flora still possessed the threat of informing her mother of Lily's trespass, providing Flora with a power to compel the child's co-operation if need be. 

    Meanwhile, as Edith mounted the grand staircase at Miss Field's side, her intimation of an injustice done continued to grow. Once they had gained the upper floor, traversing the hallway towards the nursery, Edith looked askance at her governess and said, "That dirty girl was naughty, but you wouldn't see her whipped. Yet you gave me no second chance!"

    "She was disobedient indeed," mused Flora, "but only from childish curiosity overcoming her better judgement. Her manners? Exemplary.  And her contrition? Genuine.  Had she addressed us with rudeness and insolence," Flora gave Edith a sharp sidelong glance which the child carefully avoided meeting, "I should have ensured that her mother apprehend the full measure of her malefactions and deal with her accordingly."

    Edith said no more, as they passed through the green baize door to the nursery.  Mrs. Henrietta Brown, Edith's aged, arthritic nanny, looked up from her book in surprise as they entered, and immediately began the laborious process of lifting herself from her armchair, wincing visibly from discomfort. Upon learning that Flora wished for Edith to have a bath, she promised to put a pot of water on the fire to boil straightaway.  But Flora instructed her not to bother with that chore, as Edith was to have a cold bath today.

    The little girl wheeled upon her governess.  "A cold bath!  With no hot water at all?? I shall surely freeze and take ill!  I shan't climb into the tub with nought there but cold water!"

    "Mind your tone, my girl!" scolded Flora severely,  "You shall choose obedience to your elders, or you shall choose another smack bottom this very instant.  Is that understood?"

    Stunned, Edith nodded in silence, not quite prepared to believe Miss Field capable of making her bathe in cold water, but in no doubt regarding her governess's capability of administering a bottom smacking.

    Mrs. Brown led them into a side room opening off of the far side of the nursery, illuminated by a small high window. It contained a galvanised steel boat tub on its far wall, a water closet in the corner, and shelves along the near wall containing tins of soap powder, diverse dentifrices, brushes, sponges, and stacks of carefully folded clean washcloths and towels.  When her nanny turned on the faucet and the tub began to fill, Edith could contain herself no longer.  Taking care to adopt what she hoped was her least-cheeky demeanour, Edith asked, "Please Miss Field, why must I have my bath in cold water?  Mayn't I please have some hot water put in as well?"

    "Your elders know best, my girl," replied Flora, "and your part is to obey us, even when you don't wish to, and even when such obedience brings you discomfort.  And indeed, you are not necessarily entitled to explanations, although you may ask, respectfully, as you did just now.  Cold baths have an altogether salubrious effect upon a child's constitution, and a wholesome influence upon her character as well."  And, Flora added to herself, this cold bath will diminish the redness of your bottom, lest you attempt to use its appearance to win your mother's sympathy and turn her against me.  Flora knew her position as governess might prove precarious at first, and she resolved to take every precaution.

    Edith had seated herself on the edge of the tub, and placed her right boot upon a stool, imperiously waiting as Mrs. Brown laboriously knelt and began unlacing it, with obvious arthritic difficulty.

    "Please leave off, Mrs. Brown," directed Flora.  "Edith isn't an infant and she can jolly well divest herself of her boots and stockings without assistance."

    "Unlace my boots? myself?" blurted the indignant Edith, "That is servants' work!"

    "Edith Anne Fogarty!" fumed Flora, "Consider yourself twice cautioned for taking an impudent tone to your governess.  You shall not receive such caution thrice.  Should you persist in your impertinence, I shall march you to the nursery couch where you shall receive another smack bottom.  Is that understood?"

    "Yes Miss Field," Edith mumbled, scarcely able to stifle outward evidence of her fury and frustration.  Her gaze turned to a cloud drifting past the small high window as the little girl longingly wished herself elsewhere.  Suddenly Miss Field's hand gripped her lower jaw and turned Edith's face to her own. Miss Field's countenance dismayed Edith, clearly she daren't make her governess any crosser than she already was.

    "You are sailing near the wind, my girl!" Edith had never heard that phrase, but had little doubt of its meaning.  When Miss Field released Edith from her grasp, Edith, despite her distaste for 'servants work,' removed her boots and stockings.  Then, while she held her arms aloft, Nanny removed first Edith's frock, then her chemise and soft corset.  Edith wrapped her arms about her chest as cool air of the unheated chamber met her bare skin.  Next went each of her petticoats, followed at last by her knickers. 

    "Oh, my poor little lamb," cooed Nanny sympathetically, as she viewed the evidence of Miss Field's chastisement.  But unbeknownst to Edith, Mrs. Brown also met Flora's eye for a moment and smiled, indicating that her sympathy for Edith's discomfort implied neither disapproval of the method employed to produce it, nor of the hand which had administered it.

    Deeming the tub sufficiently full, Mrs. Brown turned off the faucet and bade Edith climb in.  The little girl tentatively extended her left foot, immersing it partway for a brief moment, then withdrew with a shriek of alarm, declaring the bath water "perfectly dreadful!"

    Flora stepped forward and took a firm hold of Edith's upper arm.  "I've had quite enough, young lady. It's time I turned you over my-
    To Flora's surprise, Mrs. Brown, who had not until this point demonstrated any capacity for self assertion, placed her withered hand decisively over Flora's and silenced her with a sharp look and a frown - such a frown as had doubtlessly served to check misbehaviour in numerous Fogarty children over the years.

    Turning to Edith, in a gentle tone, Mrs. Brown explained that she'd had cold baths regularly as a little girl, since those were the only kind available.  She had gotten used to them and she had every confidence a brave little girl such as Edith could do likewise.  She asked the child if she should wish to learn the secret of entering a cold bath, to which Edith emphatically nodded her assent.  The secret, the old woman confided, was to enter the water all at once rather than slowly.  The shock would last less than a minute, she assured her, and as her skin numbed, the cold wouldn't feel quite so dreadful.  Would she try Nanny's secret method now?  Teary eyed, Edith nodded Yes, and after a couple deep breaths, mustered her courage and scrambled into the tub, quickly lying down so the water covered all of her except her head and neck.  She let out a cry of dismay, followed by "Nanny!  OH! It's so FRIGHTFULLY cold!" then fell silent, eyes tightly shut, breathing hard and rapidly.

    As Edith strove to endure the terrible chill - colder than she had ever experienced in her brief, cosseted life - it dawned upon her that the nagging discomfort in her hindparts had vanished.  And a minute's passage vindicated Nanny's words. Truly, her bath still felt very cold, but not frightfully so.    

    "There there, my lamb," murmured Mrs. Brown, taking her hand tenderly, "that's my brave girl. That's my brave little Edith."

    Rooted to her spot Flora stood, her mind a welter of emotions.  She abhorred being thwarted, and her authority compromised, especially by another servant whom Flora deemed her inferior, and especially in front of Edith.  Complicating the picture, though, Mrs. Brown's method had succeeded where Flora's had not. 

    Mrs. Brown, over her shoulder, explained that Edith's frock had become wrinkled, and needed pressing.  Would Flora be so kind as to pick a fresh one from the child's wardrobe?  Flora happily complied, glad, for the moment, to be quit of that room and its current inhabitants.

    Flora, after flipping through an abundance of splendid little dresses, found a sturdy, well crafted, but unassuming cream-coloured muslin, and set it aside.  Searching past Edith's voluminous collection of lacy pinafores took a while longer, but at length she discovered a long-sleeved paint-stained garment of the type she sought.  Setting the artwork smock on the back of a chair, Flora returned to the bathroom with Edith's frock draped over one arm.  Mrs. Brown and Edith scarcely noticed her return, so intent were they both in finishing the child's ablutions.

    "Nanny?" inquired Edith, "why has Lily no shoes?"

    "Who?" asked Mrs. Brown, pausing from her labours.

    "Lily, the little girl below stairs."

    "Ah," sighed Mrs. Brown, resuming sponging Edith's back, "she'd be the new scullery maid's imp.  When your mama hired her, she promised your mum that she'd have four hands for the wages of two.  That child works terribly hard, poor little mite.  The previous scullery maid were dismissed without reference just this past Saturday evening, she was." In a lower, conspiratorial tone, turning towards Flora, Mrs. Brown continued, "The Missus saw the lass spooning in the garden with a young follower.  Dismissed her that very hour, she did!"  Flora nodded, relieved at the conversation moving beyond Lily, agreed that no proper house could countenance kitchen maids having followers, and pronounced the entire affair "shocking."  An innocent remark of Edith's might have revealed the little maid's presence upstairs. Might Mrs. Brown feel duty-bound to report that infraction?  Then Lily would receive the whipping she'd feared, and Flora would lose the use of her knowledge of Lily's trespass as a means of compelling the child's co-operation, should Flora ever have need of it.

    Edith took careful note of her elders' discussion of the dismissed servant. She had little idea what they meant by a "follower," and found herself quite baffled as to how a spoon might lead to a servant losing her position.  "Nanny? What is 'spooning?'"

    "It is something for little girls to ask questions about," replied Nanny with a chuckle and a surprise tweak to Edith's nose, eliciting a playful squeal from the shivering child.

    Nanny then pronounced Edith "brand spanking clean," gave her leave to step from the tub onto a towel laid on the floor, and quickly blotted her dry with another.  Edith regarded with wonder how pleasantly warm the room now felt, although it had earlier felt disagreeably cool while equally unclothed.  How very like magic in books!

    Watching as closely yet as unobtrusively as she could manage, Flora caught a fleeting glimpse of Edith's posteriors, pleased to note that each remained merely a solid, well-spanked pink, their earlier angry redness having largely vanished.

    Once dressed and shod, Edith asked Flora if she might go out and play now.  At first crestfallen when told No, the child brightened when Flora took up the art smock and declared that Edith shall have a painting lesson now. "Oh shall I?!" Her spirits lifted, and after bidding her nanny adieu, she spoke with animation to Miss Field concerning how she simply adored to paint, as the two of them made their way back to the class room.

    Flora selected a print of a pastoral scene, and after getting Edith smocked and set up before her little easel, bade the girl render the scene in watercolours as closely as she could manage, with Flora promising to return anon and check on her progress.

    Flora made her way to the kitchen, and requested that Cook, a sour-faced corpulent woman in her late 40's, arrange for luncheon now on trays in the classroom for herself and Edith, and also tea at quarter past three.  Cook nodded, but Flora's several attempts at light conversation yielded only terse single word responses, until Flora abandoned her efforts. Two of the parlour maids seated at the servants' dining table stared at her as she passed en route to the stairs, but made no move to greet or otherwise acknowledge her. They exchanged whispers, continuing to regard her all the while. Flora couldn't discern their words and preferred not to.  Miss Windgate had warned Flora that a governess oftentimes finds herself resented by the other staff as too posh and educated, and hence not truly one of them, while the upstairs family regard her as just another one of the servants.

    Flora closed the kitchen stair door behind her, with a sigh of relief at her withdrawal from hostile territory. She chanced to wander into the drawing room and finding it unoccupied, took the liberty of seating herself upon a comfortable chair near the fire as her thoughts continued to churn.  Mrs. Brown had usurped Flora's authority, in Edith's full view no less.  And that didn't sit well.  But how could Flora argue with the old woman's success in getting Edith to co-operate with her bath?  Flora had suffered a trying day - a day not yet half over. The hearth's warmth soothed her though, and before long, she nodded off.

    "Miss Field?" came a familiar voice. Flora nearly leapt from her seat, hastily curtsying to Mrs. Fogarty, dismayed at the prospect of her employer fancying Flora a slothful layabout governess slacking off on her job.  "Begging your pardon, Madam.  Your daughter is at work on a painting and I promised I should give her some time alone before I came and checked on her progress.  I never intended to doze off.  I'm truly sorry.  Please forgive me.  I shall go at once."

    But before Flora could take a step, Mrs. Fogarty motioned for her to resume her seat, then settled herself adjacent.  To Flora's relief Mrs. Fogarty didn't appear cross with her, and seemed in a mood for conversation. After an exchange of pleasantries regarding the weather's prospects, and the condition of the roads, Edith's mother asked for an account of her daughter's progress thus far.

    Flora provided Mrs. Fogarty with a more-or-less accurate account, beginning with Edith wishing Flora and every other governess gone forever, and addressing her as "you old witch."  Mrs. Fogarty's countenance saddened at this report, but she evinced no surprise, knowing her daughter all too well.  Flora, while acknowledging that Edith had earned herself a smacked bottom in consequence, de-emphasised its duration and severity, describing it merely as "a sound one." Mrs. Fogarty gravely nodded her approval, Miss Field's extensive experience as a disciplinarian of little girls having been an essential element in Mrs. Fogarty's choice to employ her.

    Flora assured the woman that Edith's correction had borne fruit, stressing the improvement in Edith's tone and deportment following her chastisement. Nonetheless, Flora added, the child would doubtless require subsequent corrections betimes, and acknowledged that at present, Edith's improvement remained far from complete.

    Mrs. Fogarty straightened in her seat and evinced greater concern when Flora mentioned Edith's cold bath.  "Mightn't that be shock to her system?  What if she were to catch cold?"

    Flora assured Mrs. Fogarty that eminent physicians no less than Dr. Hunter and Dr. Cullen themselves prescribed such ablutions, and added that Mrs. Brown had grown up taking her baths that way.  Edith's nanny appeared nowhere else in Flora's account to Mrs. Field.  If Mrs. Fogarty came away with the impression that Flora lay behind every success with Edith that afternoon, while sparing Flora from expressly affirming such a falsehood, Flora felt content to allow that impression to endure.

    Flora rose again to take her leave, explaining that she must check on Edith's work, and that she'd never meant to leave the child so long unattended.  But before she could quit the room, Mrs. Fogarty asked if Flora might do her the honour of dining with herself and Edith that evening.  Flora curtsied with unfeigned gratitude, assuring her employer that the honour was entirely Flora's, while inwardly exulting at having secured yet another reprieve, albeit temporary, from having to take her meal in the downstairs servants' hall.

    Back in the classroom, Flora found Edith so absorbed in her work that she didn't notice her governess quietly enter and stand behind her.  The quality of Edith's work took Flora aback.  It surpassed what she herself had accomplished at Edith's age, although she had no intention of informing the child of that fact.

    Edith eagerly absorbed the tips on shading provided by her instructress.  Flora, for the first time since she'd met Edith, found herself teaching an earnest and engaged pupil, and enjoying her time with the child.  A new side of Edith had come to the fore, and it warmed Flora's heart.  In the fullness of time, might she come to love this child?  Such a notion had scarce crossed her mind ere now. 

    But Flora reminded herself that she mustn't permit a misguided softness to hinder her project of curing Edith of her illness - an illness not of flesh but of character.  The disorder of impertinence, disobedience, disrespect, and obstinacy, had taken deep root.  And only a sustained course of treatments in the form of firm, consistent discipline over Flora's knee, whenever such symptoms manifested themselves, could provide the little patient any hope of recovery.  The seedling of Edith's character, destined to become a tree some day, had commenced its growth twisted and misshapen.  But Flora might yet retrain that little stem to rectitude while still green and supple.  As Flora's nanny used to say, "As the twig is bent, so the tree inclines."

    At last, Edith straightened herself in her chair, regarded her work for several moments, and pronounced her painting completed, to which Flora agreed. And she declared Edith's lessons over for the day.  Tearing off her painting smock, the child cheered and scampered out of the classroom.  She had passed the first landing tearing her way up the stair before Flora could gain the hallway, lean against the banister, and angrily summon her back.

    Edith clambered back down the stairs, her face bewildered and worried.  Flora pointed to Edith's smock discarded on the floor.  "In this schoolroom, Edith, we pick up after ourselves," scolded Flora, pointing to a series of hooks on the wall.

    "Oh," scoffed Edith with impatience, "one of the housemaids will do it," and turned to go.

    "Edith!" snapped Flora, her temper rising.  The child returned and faced her governess.  "I told you your lessons were over. But I did not excuse you yet!  First, you shall hang up your smock.  Then, you shall properly put away all of your painting materials and leave this room shipshape and Bristol fashion!"

    "But Miss F-"

    "Hush!  You have received your instructions.  Now you shall carry them out, promptly and without complaint.  And if you continue to play up to me, my girl, I shall treat such misconduct," Flora pointed to the window seat, "as a matter for discipline!" She clapped her hands together to punctuate that last portentous word.  Edith visibly squirmed with unease at this reminder of the sound of Miss Field's palm.  "Do I make myself clear?"

    "Yes Miss Field," came the dejected reply.

    "Begin at once!  Spit spot!"  Flora clapped her hands twice more to punctuate each of her two last words.  Edith quietly did as she was told until the schoolroom stood spotless.

    "Now Edith, you may ask to be excused."  Edith asked. Flora assented.  And the little girl dashed for the doorway.

    "Edith! Anne! Fogarty!" barked Flora, "You come back here this instant!"

    Edith returned, her lower lip trembling to contain words of indignation best left unuttered. "Please Miss Field," she asked plaintively, "Whatever have I done wrong??"

    "I shall overlook, just this once, your failure to curtsy just now when taking your leave of me.  A proper little girl never fails to curtsy to her governess when entering or leaving her schoolroom, and when encountering her in the hallway or elsewhere.  Do I make myself clear?"

    "Yes Miss Field. I'm sorry Miss Field. May I be excused Miss Field?" recited Edith in a monotone, her lower lip hinting at a sullen pout. 

    "You may."

    Edith curtsied, eyes lowered, and walked to the doorway, not once meeting Miss Field's gaze.  At the doorway, she paused, and checked over her shoulder, wary of perhaps breaking yet another of Miss Field's rules. When no admonition came she quit the classroom and hurried up the staircase, relieved at last to find herself at liberty. 

    Edith had reconsidered her initial harsh appraisal of Miss Field while the woman had helped Edith improve her painting technique.  Perhaps she might find having Miss Field as governess less unbearable than she'd imagined?  But in the last few minutes all of Edith's resentment of Miss Field's tyranny had flooded back.  And she knew exactly what she should do next - precisely as she had imagined herself doing during her time in the corner.

<--- Chapter 1             Chapter 3 --->

(c) Copyright 2023 by HandPrince
This is fiction. Please don't discipline
your children this way.

 For permission to reprint:
handprince at hush dot com


Back to
The Handprints Spanking Stories Page