Edith's New Governess

By HandPrince

Chapter 3.   Edith Writes A Letter

    After a fruitless search of the ground floor, Edith discovered her mother resting upstairs in the master bedroom.  There, she lost no time regaling mama with her tale of woe: how cruel, awful Miss Field beat her piteously without cause, when poor Edith had done no more than to innocently wish that Miss Field be the last governess Edith would ever need to have. And how wicked, horrid Miss Field forced her to take a dreadful cold bath upon pain of a second beating.  And that Edith feared she might catch her death from consumption as a consequence.  To Edith's disquiet, mama displayed neither the shock and nor the condemnation the child anticipated; indeed she seemed strangely composed.  Remembering how Nanny had said "my poor lamb" upon viewing Edith's flushed fundaments, the little girl played her trump card.  Hiking up her skirts in a twinkling, she unfastened her bloomers, allowing them to fall to her ankles, then turned, bent over and presented her naked backside to Mama.  But the gasp of horror Edith expected failed to follow.

    Mama took a deep breath. "Yes dear.  Miss Field gave you a right proper smacking, and left your hindquarters salubriously blushed in consequence.  Please restore your knickers, that's a good girl." Edith obeyed, and turned to face her mother again, with mounting bewilderment.  None of this resembled the wished-for scenario she had relished while confined to the schoolroom corner.  "My nanny spanked me just as soundly at your age," her mother continued,  "and I daresay it did me a world of good, although I also daresay I didn't appreciate it in the moment.  Should you wish to avoid a repeat of that correction Miss Field gave you, darling, you need only mind
your governess henceforth and behave yourself."

    Bursting into tears, Edith fled the room, ran to the night nursery all the way in the east wing of the house, flung herself onto her feather bed, and cried and cried into one of her goose down pillows. How could dear, dear Mama betray her so?? How could Mama take beastly Miss Field's part and not Edith's??

    Once her tears had abated, Edith settled upon her next course of action.  Resolved to dwell not one day longer than necessary under the tyranny of Miss Field's punishing palm, she arose from her bed, positioned herself before her desk, procured pen, ink, and paper, and began to write.


    In the schoolroom earlier, Flora had sighed with satisfaction as her little pupil's bootsteps receded into silence.  Neither she nor Edith had derived the least pleasure from that interaction.  But she recalled how her own governess used bid her recite Hebrews 12:11 while little Flora sat teary eyed and chastened on her knee after yet another soundly-administered correction. "Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby."  Flora would discipline her little charge diligently, as her own governess had once done, in the sure and certain expectation that Flora's labours should, in the fullness of time, yield peaceable fruits of righteousness in young Edith.

    Across the fields the church clock chimed the half-hour.  Flora returned to her room by means of the back stairs leading to the maidservants' quarters, thus enabling her to avoid common areas and minimise her chance of encountering other members of staff.

    Flora hadn't yet unpacked her trunk containing the second-hand gowns her benefactress had bestowed upon her. She now opened it and began laying each on her bed, overlapping one another like a hand of cards, intent upon choosing the optimum dress to wear for dinner with Mrs. Fogarty and Edith.

    "Miss Field?!" came an astonished little voice at her doorway.  There stood Lily, holding a large earthenware jar in both her arms, which appeared to be full of something heavy.  "What're you doin' 'ere?!" 

"Miss Field?!" came an astonished little voice at her doorway.  "What're you doin' 'ere?!"

    "I live here, Lily," declared Flora, smiling at the sooty but comely little urchin.  "This is my apartment."

    With a little gasp of alarm, Lily awkwardly set down the jar and dropped a respectful curtsy.  "Please Miss, I meant no disrespect just now. I's just so surprised is all."

    Flora smiled to indicate that Lily wasn't in trouble, then invited her to come in and help Flora choose a dress to wear to dinner with the Missus.  Lily stepped in, clad in the same faded frock and stained pinafore she had worn yesterday, leaving her jar in the hallway. But she glanced back uneasily over her shoulder. "I mustn't stay long, Miss Field. Cook sent me on an errand, she did," she nodded in the direction of her jar, and with an anxious expression, "she gets powerful cross wi' me when I'm slow at me errands."

    "I shall make my apologies to Cook if need be, and tell her I detained you," replied Flora, enjoying the child's company.  "Mrs. Fogarty has invited me to dine with her and Miss Edith tonight.  Which of these gowns ought I to wear?"

    Lily turned her gaze to the bed and gasped, "Oh Miss Fieeeld!  They... they're all so beautiful! Surely any one'll do!"

    "But which do you prefer above the others?"  Lily gravely turned her gaze from gown to gown for several moments, then began bouncing excitedly on her bare tiptoes, pointing animatedly at one with yellow and orange patterns and leaf designs embroidered onto its bodice with coppery thread.  This dress had autumn colours, she reasoned, so Miss Field ought to wear it in honour of the season.  Flora concurred with Lily's choice. 

    Closing her door, Flora then shed her blouse and skirt, tightened her corset with Lily's "help," and donned the gown forthwith. Lily obligingly stood on a chair and reached up to fasten Flora's topmost button at the back of her neck when she saw it giving Flora difficulty, prattling happily that she felt like she was helping Cinderella dress for the ball. As Flora faced her mirror and applied a cosmetic touch up, Lily looked on in delighted awe, enthusing about how perfectly splendid Flora looked.

    The child's guileless charm had begun to steal Flora's heart.   Flora's notion of perhaps someday using her knowledge of Lily's excursion above stairs to compel Lily to do Flora some onerous service receded in her mind somewhat, without vanishing entirely.

    "Thank you, Lily.  You were truly helpful."  Flora donned her shawl and opened her door.  "You may come visit me again if you like."  When Lily spotted the earthenware jar where she had set it in the hallway, she cried out in alarm, having forgotten about her errand for Cook.  She scampered into the hallway, and stooped to pick up the jar, when a voice thundered, "There ye' be ye' little idler! I been a-waitin' on ye since a quarter past!  I'll fix you!"

    Lily knelt by the jar, cowering in fear as she watched the speaker storm towards her down the hallway. Flora stepped between Lily and Cook, the latter of whom brandished a wooden spoon, and with her most gracious tone, stated, "Please forgive Lily for her tardiness, Cook.  The fault is entirely mine.  I detained her on an errand of my own.  The child is quite innocent."

   But rather than the concord Flora anticipated, Cook instead surveyed Flora's gown for a moment and declared, "Well if t' ain't Miss High and Mighty all a-thinkin' 'erself so grand and above 'er station!" Cook then made a mocking, grotesque parody of something rather like a bow and curtsy at once. "A-puttin' on airs an' a-putting on that posh gown like ye's gentlefolk when ye's a-drawin yer wages same as the lot o' us!"

Cook then made a mocking grotesque parody of something rather like a bow and curtsy at once.

    Struggling to maintain her composure, Flora replied. "Yes, I too am a member of staff. And you," she smiled, "are by all reports a culinary mistress of rare skill, widely sought after for your services.  And the Fogartys are fortunate to have you in their employ.  I don't consider you beneath me.  I-"

    'Shut yer festerin' gob ye tart! Out o' me way!" Cook shoved her ample body past Flora, her greater weight nearly knocking Flora off her feet, She seized the whimpering Lily under her left arm, and strode off towards the kitchen as Flora regained her balance. A small crowd of maidservants who had begun to gather at the turn of the hallway, drawn by the commotion, parted to let her pass, then followed. 

   Flora attempted to hurry after, but the group of maidservants gave no notice of her presence, and made no move to allow her passage through their midst.  So Flora followed the group around the corner and down a narrow hall flanked by apartment doors, then around a second corner and down another such hallway.  Eventually the group stepped down one riser and after a few more strides began to pass beyond the doorway of the maidservants' quarters into the broader common hallway. 

   But just as Flora had nearly reached the doorway, a young man whom Flora recognised as one of the footmen who had leered at her yesterday, emerged from the hallway side to place himself between Flora and the hall.  

   "Is she bothering you?" he loudly asked Cook, ignoring Flora.  He carefully kept both his feet in the common hallway, since placing a single foot over the threshold to the maidservants' quarters would have brought immediate dismissal. 

   "She's been a-botherin' me ere sin' she set foot under this roof yestereen," bellowed Cook, who then knelt on the hardwood floor on her right knee and deposited the whimpering Lily face down across her left.  The child burst into frightened tears at once, imploring Cook not to whip her and whimpering that she was ever ever so sorry.

    "Cook!  Please!" cried Flora over the footman's shoulder in dismay, "the child is guiltless! Vent your animosity upon me if you must!  But spare her!  She has committed no fault!"

    Flora's plea only further kindled Cook's wrath.  "An' now ye' be about a-givin' me orders an' a-tellin' me what'n I oughta and what'n I noughta! Like yer me better!"  Cook swept up the skirt of Lily's threadbare grey frock, confirming Flora's suspicion that the child possessed no undergarments.  "I'll tetch ye to slack off ye little truant!" bellowed Cook at Lily across her knee, and then began swatting the child's buttocks swiftly and forcefully with her wooden spoon.

    "Cook! For Mercy's sakes! Stop!" Flora nearly screamed.  Lily wailed with pain but made no attempt to escape from Cook's grasp.  Flora tried to step around the footman, but he shifted position to prevent her.  He smirked as his eyes fixed upon the small hint of cleavage revealed by the bodice of Flora's gown, and positioned his cupped hands such that her any attempt to push past him would press both her breasts into his waiting palms.

    Lily's broken, sorrowful cries, to Flora's professional ear, were those of a child whose chastisement needed to end at once, even if such child had earlier been wilfully naughty, which Lily had not.  Noticing Flora's dismay, Cooked locked eyes with a grin of triumph. Pink crescent-moon and oval welts from the spoon had begun to blush across the pale flesh of Lily's bottom.   She then gave Lily's backside several more especially hard swats without averting her eyes from Flora's, then paused and to Flora, roared, "how diya like THAT, eh'," clearly doing it to vex Flora, as she waved the spoon in Flora's direction. She then resumed swatting bawling Lily's little buttocks, still staring directly into Flora's eye.  "How diya like THAT, Miss a-putin' on airs?"

    All at once, Cook's efforts at vexation met with success as Flora's tenuous hold upon her ladylike composure gave way. "How DARE you strike an innocent child to spite ME!" shouted the enraged Flora,  "You... you... base!... ignoble!... hardhearted!... CRONE!"

    Turning to prevent the gathered staff from seeing her tears, Flora walked swiftly to the back towards her apartment.  But as she stepped upon the riser, she trod on the hem of her gown, it being a trifle long for her and needing taking in.  She fell ignominiously to the floor as peals of laughter rang in her ears.  Gathering herself up, she lifted the front of her skirt a bit higher, fled all the way back past her apartment door, up the steep narrow back stairs, and out of the building.

    In tears, Flora strode out into the parkland, paying little heed to her surroundings, only wishing herself quit of that house.  She'd gone a good ways before she spied a carven marble bench, lay down upon it, and wept. 

    Her tears exhausted themselves a
fter several minutes.  Flora felt sad, but herself again.  She wondered, for the first time, if Cook had ceased whipping Lily upon Flora's departure. How could Flora abide under the same roof with that execrable virago?  But Flora needed her governess position.  She couldn't endure the shame of returning to Miss Windgate's in failure and without a reference.  She must somehow manage to cope.

    Banishing dull care from her mind as best she could, Flora turned her eyes about for the first time.  To her wonderment, she found herself in a topiary garden and rose to explore.  Hedges meticulously fashioned to desired shapes abounded - there an elephant, and there a bear, and there a rabbit, and so forth.  Wandering further she discovered taller hedges trimmed to form a modest sized labyrinth, and briefly lost herself before finding her way back out again.

    All at once the wind rose, scattering fallen leaves as trees swayed gently, sighing in the cool gusts.  Dark clouds had begun to roll in with surprising swiftness, and occasional drops of rain began to strike her.  Flora wrapped her shawl tighter about herself, glad she had thought to bring it. Concerned that she not appear at Mrs. Fogarty's table bedraggled, or late, (both seemed equally reprehensible), Flora lifted her slightly-too-long skirt sufficiently to run for the east wing, the nearest portion of the manor.  Upon reaching its wall, she discovered no ground level doorway nearby. But up a flight of wrought iron steps, a fire door opened into the upper storey.  Ascending those steps in haste, Flora beseeched Providence for an unlocked door, as fresh drops peppered her with increasing frequency.  With relief, she found her prayer answered, and entered just as a crack of thunder resounded and rain commenced in earnest.

    Faced with a choice of turning either left or right, Flora chose the former and began to notice that rooms she passed all had their furniture and paintings covered with sheets, and appeared a wee bit dusty.  Eventually concluding that her way to the dining room likely didn't lead through a closed up portion of the manor, Flora retraced her steps and took the rightward passage.  Her steps quickened at the peal of the dinner bell.  Rounding a corner, to her relief, she found herself in the hallway onto which the nursery opened.  She knew her way from here.  Abruptly, a small, beribboned figure clad in a red and white candy-cane frock and lace pinafore dashed from the nursery door and down the hallway in the direction Flora was walking.  Edith plainly hadn't seen Flora, and had hence committed no fault for failing to curtsy.  Flora wondered if perhaps Mrs. Brown were in the nursery and she stepped in to see if Flora could be of any assistance.

    Mrs. Brown was nowhere in sight, but glancing at herself in a mirror in passing, she realised with alarm that she looked a fright.  She doused her face in chilly water multiple times, to clear away tear-streaked rouge and evidence of her earlier tears.  She slapped both her cheeks smartly several times to bring out her colour in lieu of rouge, dried herself and turned to go.  But a sheet of paper on Edith's otherwise spotless little writing desk drew her attention as she passed.  There, in her pupil's childish hand, lay the following missive:

[it ran]
Dearest Papa,

     I miss you teribly and I think of you every singel day and I send you my love every singel day.  I pray that you shall come home very very very soon.  Please tell mama to dismis my new governes Miss Field. She beets me horibly and made me take a dredfull cold ba

    There the letter ended, in all likelihood interrupted a minute earlier by the dinner bell.  Flora froze.  Had she obeyed her first impulse, she would have tossed it onto the fire.  Checking herself, she set the letter back in its place.  Edith would surely compose a second missive of like content should this one vanish.   But what if Mr. Fogarty wrote back in response, ordering Edith's mama to give Flora the sack, as papa's pouting puss in pinafores prescribed?

   Flora walked quickly in the direction of the dining room fearing herself already a bit late.  She wished she could have some quiet time for a walk, or better yet a sleep, to consider her predicament.  But she mustn't keep Mrs. Fogarty waiting!

    As she gained the ground floor and approached to the dining room, Flora paused, breathed deeply, and strove to compose herself.  Then she entered, made her courtesy to Mrs. Fogarty at the table's head, acknowledged Edith directly across from herself, and took her seat. Apologising for her lateness, she explained that she'd taken a turn in the gardens, lost herself in the labyrinth for a spell, had entered the manor from an unfamiliar doorway only to become lost anew.   "Are you unwell, Miss Field?" inquired Mrs. Fogarty, "you look rather pale.  And I daresay your eyes are most uncommonly red."  Flora felt thoroughly unwell, but not in the manner her employer imagined. She replied that she was in good health, but that she'd just had an upsetting experience.

    "Whatever could have upset you so?" inquired Mrs. Fogarty, regarding Flora with concern.

    "I was dressing for dinner, Madam, and Cook had sent the new scullery maid's little daughter on an errand, and she-"

    Mrs. Fogarty silenced Flora in mid-sentence with a decisive swish of her hand.  "My dear Miss Field!  Surely you aren't preparing to trouble me with tales of quarrels among the servants? and at dinner no less?" She concluded her rhetorical question with a haughty movement of her head precisely like Edith's when the child had first entered the schoolroom that morning.  Flora coloured, murmured an apology and promised that such an error on her part would never be repeated. 

    "Mama?" asked Edith, who had sat at attention in her chair immediately upon hearing Flora's earlier reference to Lily.  Once in receipt of permission to speak, Edith mentioned that she'd seen that little servant girl that morning and she had no shoes.  Mayn't Edith have permission to give the little girl one of Edith's own pairs?

     Mrs. Fogarty dismissed this notion with another wave of her hand, "A servant girl's big feet would never fit into your dainty shoes, dear.  Besides, our kitchen is warm.  She shan't have need of shoes there."

     "Oh Mama!" cried Edith in frustration, "Please?! Mayn't we just TRY and see if my shoes do fit her?  I have ever so many shoes, and she has none!"

    "Edith!  That is not the proper tone to use while addressing your mother!" Flora warned, frowning across the table at her young charge, who feigned deafness while continuing to gaze imploringly at her Mama.

    "No dear, you shall not give that dirty little urchin your shoes or anything else of yours.  When you are older you will understand - such things aren't done.  Today we give a servant something of ours, and then all the rest of them become jealous and want something too, and then they all want more and more."  After a moment's reflection, she added, "And proper young ladies oughtn't to fraternise with lowborn servants, dear.  Heaven knows what manner of wicked pastimes, unwholesome habits, and reprehensible opinions you might absorb from keeping company with the likes of her.  No, dear, mama forbids you from associating with that girl."

    "MAMA!" protested Edith, angrily, "that isn't FAIR! Mayn't I at least TALK to her??"

    "You will NOT address your mother in that tone, young lady!" Flora scolded. Edith's eyes met Flora's briefly, her expression a sad pout.  Flora glanced at Mrs. Fogarty to ensure she had Edith's Mama's support.  She had.   Flora yearned at that moment to put in a word on behalf of Lily's character, but thought better of it.  Flora had already once, at that table, forgotten her place.  And she dared not risk a second such fault lest she further damage her new employer's evolving impression of herself.

    After a moment's silence, Mrs. Fogarty continued, "Indeed you may not.  Mama forbids you to speak to that little girl again."

    "But Mama-" Edith began, in an anguished voice, then checked herself with a glance in Flora's direction, unsure how to continue without risk of again taking what Miss Field might deem the "wrong tone," and of the painful consequence which might result therefrom.

    "That will be quite enough, Edith," her mother declared.  "We shall hear no more on the matter.  And if I receive reports that you have disobeyed me and fraternised with that girl?"  She paused, glancing with a half smile at Flora, then returning her gaze to her daughter, "I shall send for Miss Field to give you a right proper smack bottom, just as she did this morning!"

    Crushed, defeated, eyes moistening, the little girl fell silent.

    The hors d'oeuvres came and went, followed by a course of asparagus spears in a delicate hollandaise sauce.  Next came a course of some sort of fish, prepared to perfection with lemon slices and minced garlic, and after that, veal cutlets thinly sliced with mushrooms and herbs.  Flora, enthralled by Cook's culinary prowess, stifled her impulse to praise the food aloud, not wishing to appear common.  A delicious roast pigeon followed, and Flora found herself wishing she and Lily hadn't tied her corset quite so tight earlier.

    As their meal proceeded, and rain beat upon the windowpanes, the two women conversed, in both English and French, and discovered ever more areas of common interest in the realms of literature, art and music. 
Flora's erudition and amiability charmed Mrs. Fogarty, as Flora intended they should. Carefully noting her employer's countenance, Flora took care to declare herself entirely in concord with Mrs. Fogarty's every opinion - from the praiseworthy virtues of Baudelaire and Brahms to the unpardonable flaws of Swinburne and Wagner.  By all appearance, Mrs. Fogarty steadily warmed towards Flora, the governess's earlier faux pas forgotten.  She grew more animated as well, especially after her second glass of claret.  (Flora imbibed only a fraction of her own glass, wishing to have her full wits about her.)

     Out of the corner of her eye, Flora noticed Edith alternatively poking at her food, and regarding Flora coolly.  The child's appetite appeared to have deserted her.

    When the dessert course arrived, a chocolate pudding topped with sliced strawberries and crushed hazelnuts, the footman behind Flora - whom she had scarcely noticed, having given Mrs. Fogarty her undivided attention - brushed against her while setting down her cup.  "Dreadful sorry M'lady," he drawled insincerely, with a faint note of sarcasm.  Flora froze.  He had moved his forearm first down then up, along the side of her right breast, quite purposefully, as if assessing its resiliency.  Mrs. Fogarty seated to Flora's left couldn't have noticed, and likely neither had Edith.  Turning in her seat, Flora recognised him as the young man who had earlier blocked her passage while Cook administered Lily's whipping.  Flora's lips pursed and jaw tightened at her surging impulse to scream with indignation, or better yet, slap the face of that young cad with all the skill of one long-practised in the art of laying painful slaps upon bare flesh.  But of course, she did neither.  How could she inform Mrs. Fogarty of what had just transpired, without being vulgar herself in the process?  And how could Flora broach so indelicate a matter in Edith's presence?

    And when Mrs. Fogarty chose that moment to declare that Flora should consider herself welcome to dine with them every night henceforth. Flora's private rage now paired with astonishment and delight.  She needn't have dinner in the servants' hall at all!  Edith straightened in her chair at once, her mouth agape.  "But Mama!" the child nearly shouted, "she's a SERVANT!!"

    "Hush, dear," scolded Mrs. Fogarty, "you know better than to speak at dinner without first seeking Mama's permission.  It is decided. Miss Field shall dine with us nightly."

    With an audible sob Edith sprang from her chair upsetting it with a clatter and fled the room.

    Flora took a deep breath, and with all the calmness she could muster, observed, "Mrs. Fogarty, your child addressed you in an impertinent tone and disobeyed your rule about speaking at table without permission. Also, do you permit her to leave your table without first asking to be excused?"  When the woman shook her head No, Flora continued, "Edith has just disobeyed two of your rules in under half a minute's passage.  May I have your leave to discipline her?"

    "Oh she didn't mean anything by it," responded Mrs. Fogarty languidly, "she was merely upset and forgot herself.  Besides," she indicated Edith's uneaten pudding, "she has already chosen to go without dessert. I believe that will do."

    Eating her pudding slowly, Flora scarcely tasted it, utilising this lull in conversation to reign in her emotions and gather her thoughts.  Once the two women had finished their dessert, Flora launched into a soliloquy in praise of the beauty of the Wippingham manor and grounds, praise of Edith's promising artistic skill, and how privileged she felt at being governess in such a splendid venue to such a worthy family.  Flora concluded with a wish to mail Miss Windgate a letter overflowing with comparable effusions.  She then inquired, as if the thought had just entered her mind, how does one post a letter here?

    Mrs. Fogarty explained that one need only place one's missive in the sterling tray by the main entryway where one of the servants will secure it promptly at 11 each morning and ride it into town.

    And upon hearing those words, the tempest in Flora's mind subsided. 

    She now had a plan.

<--- Chapter 2             Chapter 4 --->

(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