Edith's New Governess

By HandPrince

Chapter 8.  Flora Receives a Parcel

   Who could that be? wondered Flora at the knock on her apartment door.

   She and Edith had had their tea in the schoolroom and Edith’s lessons had concluded for the day.  What a blessing to stretch out on her cot, dozing to the drumming of rain on her windowpanes from now until the dressing gong.  Mildly vexed at this interruption of her repose, Flora arose from her bed and opened the door.  There stood Ruth, youngest and most junior of the under house parlour maids - a callow girl of 14, her spotty visage crowned by a mane of red hair.  “There’s a parcel addressed to you on the table in the vest’bule by the main servants’ entrance,” she intoned, sullenly.  “Been a-sittin’ there sev’ral days now a-takin’ up space an’ causing an inconven'ence.”

   Flora’s heart leapt.  She anticipated no other parcel except from the cobbler.  Inwardly she chided herself for failing to realise that Lily’s shoes, addressed to herself, would arrive at the servants’ entrance rather than the main upstairs hall.  “Would you be so kind as to bring me the parcel, Ruth?”

   With a look of contempt so vehement that Flora half expected her to spit on the floorboards, Ruth replied, “Ye can bloody well fetch’em yourself! I ain’t at yer beck and call.” She turned and began to walk away.

   “Swearing does not become you, you ill-reared, insolent cub!” scolded Flora sharply to her receding back.

   “I’ll bloody well swear all I bloody well like to the like’s ‘o you, ye bleedin’ toff!” she snapped, over her shoulder before disappearing around the corner in the direction of the kitchen and servants’ dining hall.

   Closing the door and seating herself on her bedside, Flora strove to master her emotions.  If that girl were but a few years younger, Flora could have yanked her into Flora’s room and given her a right thrashing she wouldn’t soon forget.  At Ruth's current age and stature, a mere smack bottom wouldn't do, of course. The young governess consoled herself by picturing the impudent Ruth bent over the back of Flora’s chair, skirts raised and bloomers lowered, as Flora slowly administered six sharp cuts with her junior cane to the howling girl’s unclad posteriors.  Alas, Flora lacked authority to decree such a disciplinary procedure for a servant of Ruth’s years, richly though the young harpy deserved it.  And at length Flora’s thoughts returned to her task at hand.

   Her dread of traversing the kitchen and dining hall, especially now as below-stairs folk gathered for the servants’ tea, muted her delight at the likely arrival of Lily’s shoes.  She considered exiting by the back stairs, walking all the way around the east wing from the outside, retrieving the parcel, and returning by the same route.  The roaring cacophony of raindrops against her windowpanes appeared to swell in intensity as she weighed this course.

   Her boots would become dreadfully muddy and her cloak likely soaked through by the time she’d made that journey, Flora thought.  And the bell on the outside servants’ doorway would clang upon her entrance, likely drawing the notice of one or more below-stairs denizens.  The tale of ‘high and mighty’ milksop Miss Field popping into their door, furtively snatching up her parcel and retreating back into the downpour, would surely make an amusing addition to that day’s gossip.  Flora’s cowardice would be self-evident to any witness and soon known to all.

   The route to the servants’ entrance was far shorter when taken indoors than out, and on that afternoon, far, far drier as well.  With a dull sense of worriment, Flora began preparation for this latter passage.  The simple black skirt she wore would suffice, but she shed her full-sleeved lace-trimmed blouse and scoured her wardrobe for the simplest, plainest-looking replacement she could find.  Donning it and regarding herself in her mirror, she realised with a start that she had quite forgotten the silver necklace she had on and removed it forthwith, along with her bracelet and rings.  It wouldn’t do to appear any posher than she could avoid.

   Resting her hand on her doorknob, Flora took several deep breaths in a vain endeavour to subdue her trepidation, then opened and began to walk.  She proceeded down the hallways of the maidservants’ quarters, into the common hallway, and then past the dining hall on her left, with its broad opening into the kitchen area on her right.  She’d resolved not to walk too slowly lest she appear to creep from fear, but not too quickly either, lest she appear to hurry from fright. 

   The staff had mostly gathered at the three long tables in preparation for their tea.  Some conversations hushed as Flora walked past, doing her utmost to behave as if traversing this area were for her the most routine of errands.  Others’ conversations further away continued unabated.  Through the far doorway and with a left turn into an unlit narrow hall, Flora, relieved, left that crowded room behind her.  Her passage eventually opened onto a broader brighter hallway, at the end of which lay the main servants’ entrance. 

   The parcel indeed bore the village cobbler’s return address, and a quick shake brought forth the unmistakable clatter of a pair of small newly-made boots therein.  Flora had attained the mid-point of her mission.  Now her return journey lay ahead.  She took the parcel under her right arm and made her way back up the hallway, in happy anticipation of presenting its contents to Lily during the child’s nightly visit that evening.  But as she turned into the dark narrower hallway leading to the dining area she almost collided with a looming figure standing in the midst of the passage.

   “Oh!” cried Flora, “I’m dreadfully sorry. I daresay you gave me a fright!”  Then as her eyes adjusted to the dimness she recognised Randy, the footman who had prevented her from rescuing Lily from Cook’s wooden spoon the week previous, and who had then taken an indecent liberty with Flora at dinner.

   “Well well well,” drawled the young man with a sneer, “Ain’t ye the jammiest bit o' jam!”

   “I shall thank you to keep your uncouth comments to yourself sir,” snapped Flora coldly.  “Now kindly stand aside and allow me to pass.”

   “You acts like you doesn’t want it but we knows ye do.  C’mere luv, give us a kiss!”

   “I shall give you a good smack if you don’t stand aside at once!”

   “You’ll like it you will,” he chuckled as he abruptly grabbed Flora tight around her waist with his right hand, pinning her left arm to her side and pressing her hard against the wall.  He forced his left thigh between hers and pressed, to Flora’s consternation, against her mound of Venus.

   “Unhand me you brute!” seethed Flora, dropping her package and attempting to slap his face with her right hand.  But Randy, already anticipating this response, had grabbed her right wrist tightly, his grip frightfully strong.

   Flora flung her face first to one side then the other to avoid his questing lips meeting hers.  She wondered if perhaps she should scream, unladylike though that would be.  But would anyone come to her aid?  Or would they all just gather to enjoy the show, as they had done the evening when Randy had prevented Flora from intervening in Lily’s whipping from Cook?  Summoning all her strength, Flora squirmed to free herself, but to no avail. She heaved up her left knee hoping her left foot might find purchase somewhere on his right leg, allowing her to push him off balance by that means.  But to her surprise, he abruptly let her go, staggered back against the opposite wall, clutched his groin with both hands and groaned with pain. “You damned bloody bitch I’ll kill you for that I will!” he gasped after a few moments as his capacity for speech returned, but he remained doubled over, still clutching his privvy stones.

   Breathing hard, Flora replied, “If I am truly to perish at your hand, sir, then I had best attend to this without delay!”  With her left hand, she grabbed a handful of his hair to steady his head, and with her right, took careful aim and slapped his left cheek just as painfully as Flora’s years of experience in the administration of slaps across bare cheeks of the nether variety could accomplish.  He let out a fresh yowl of distress as Flora gathered up her parcel and hurried down the hallway and into the dining hall. 

   All eyes fixed on Flora as she rushed in, face blushed and blouse askew, and slammed her parcel upon the nearest table.   The commotion in the passageway had doubtless been audible to all.  Wheeling to face the doorway from whence she’d entered, sure enough there came Randy.  He walked with some difficulty but no longer clutched his manly pudenda, instead rubbing the rapidly reddening hand print across his left cheek. 

   “Did that slap I gave you hurt, pray tell!” Flora loudly inquired, with an unmistakable tone of mockery, determined that everyone’s first inkling of the events in the hallway should be hers, “I most assuredly hope so!  And I shall give you far worse should you ever lay your hands on me again you uncouth, worthless cad!”

   At the periphery of Flora’s awareness came several female shouts of ‘Hear, hear!’ But her attention remained upon Randy, advancing towards her, his face a twisted mask of fury.  “I’ll gi’ ye a right beltin’ I will,” he roared, balling his hands into fists.  Flora stood her ground, partly frozen in fear of her much-larger foe; but also determined that should he prove so ungentlemanly as to strike her, let him thereby disgrace himself in full view of the entire below-stairs staff.

   “Randy!?” came a stentorian voice, followed by the rumble of chairs against floorboards as the entire assemblage rose to its feet upon seeing Mr. Carlton, the head butler, arise from his.  The footman froze.  “You will not be,” the butler cleared his throat contemptuously then continued in his authoritative baritone, “belting… anyone. You will accompany me to my study at once.” A murmur of low voices swept across the hall. With an evil glance at Flora, Randy obeyed. As soon as Mr. Carlton had followed Randy from the room, the entire staff took their seats once again, leaving only Flora standing, still flushed and disheveled, and in a temper of passionate ferocity the like of which she had seldom experienced in her adult years.

   “Don’t jus’ stan’ there a-gawkin’!” shrieked Cook towards Lily where she stood wide eyed in the entryway to the kitchen to witness events of the past minute.  “Back to scrubbin' that floor afore I bastes yer bums an’ serves ‘em up as cutlets!” she shouted, brandishing her dreaded wooden spoon for emphasis.


   Seizing the moment, Flora interjected, “the child has a package to unwrap, Cook.  I assure you I shall only detain her for a minute’s time.”

   “Oh! A-givin’ me orders again are ye yer ladyship!” sneered Cook loudly, and again performed her grotesque parody of a curtsy, “Miss cock o’ the walk a-comin’ in ‘ere all ‘igh and mi-“

   “Oh! Just! BUGGER OFF you bloated old COW!” screamed Flora as she turned to face Cook.  An icy band of fear tightened around Flora’s bosom. She hadn’t planned upon enunciating, much less shouting, such vulgar epithets.  From her dander, already at a high boil from her encounter with Randy, this rhetorical Vesuvius had erupted of its own accord. All her upbringing had instilled in her that such unbecoming utterances brought swift and severe punishment.  Cook stared at Flora in amazement, open-mouthed. Her jaw moved but no words emerged.  The room had fallen altogether silent.

   Then there came a titter, followed by guffaws, hoots and scattered applause, and it abruptly dawned upon Flora that she was the intended beneficiary of this approbation.  She had just given Cook a telling off, one servant to another, and not at all “high and mighty.”  And it appeared that some members of staff felt most gratified to have seen cantankerous Cook finally put in her place by another member of staff of sufficient rank to accomplish such a feat with relative impunity.

   Sensing her opportunity, Flora stepped over to Lily, snatched up her hand, and bade her follow.  The child stumbled behind reluctantly, with an anxious glance over her shoulder at Cook, as Flora led her to the table where she’d set down the parcel.  Flora held the parcel aloft for all to see, with her back to Cook.  In a clear voice she petitioned the assemblage for a brief silence while ‘Mistress Lillian’ opened her gift.

   "For me, Miss Field?” asked the astonished Lily as Flora set the parcel upon the table in front of her.

   “Yes Lily.  Unwrap and be quick about it now.”  Flora feared that Cook might interfere at any moment.  But Flora resisted her impulse to glance over her shoulder in Cook’s direction, lest such evidence of timorousness on Flora’s part emboldened Cook to act. 

   The child undid the twine knot and opened the box.  But rather than the gasp of delight Flora had anticipated, Lily recoiled with dismay, “I can’t ‘ave Miss Edith’s boots!  I’m not allowed!”

   “These are not Miss Edith’s boots, Lily, they are yours,” declared Flora loudly enough for the entire room to hear.  “I purchased them for you myself, and Mrs. Fogarty has no objection.”  Lily lifted the pair of shoes from the box for a moment, burst into tears, dropped them back into the box and wrapped her arms around Flora’s middle, continuing to cry. 

   The low murmur of voices gave way to a sustained round of applause and a several cheers.  Some members of staff stood to applaud although most remained seated as they did so.  Flora felt an arm encircle her shoulders and turning, saw that Helen, who had removed her apron so as not to risk soiling Flora’s blouse, had embraced her as well, with tears in her eyes.

   Over Helen’s shoulder, Flora spied Cook at the far end of the kitchen area, her back turned, busily feigning important work in an empty sink.

<--- Chapter 7             Chapter 9 (forthcoming) --->

 (c) Copyright 2024 by HandPrince
   This is fiction. Please don't discipline
 your children this way.

    For permission to reprint:
 handprince at hush dot com


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