Edith's New Governess

By HandPrince

Chapter 10.   Lily Gets Dressed

    "Oh fittums!"

    Lily, amidst eruptions of delight, turned first this way then that before Flora's full length mirror, admiring herself in her new frock from every possible angle.

    Flora, sighed with pleasure, gratified to see the child every bit as enchanted with her new dress as Flora had anticipated she'd be.  "Mrs. Harrow already had your measurements from making your uniform.  I thought it would make a lovely surprise for you."

    "Oh yes Miss Field!  So very lovely it is!  And ever so grateful I am!  I can't wait to show me mum!"

    "While you are waiting, Lily," said Flora with a smile, "let's get you into your new pinafore as well."

    "My new...?"

    Flora took the little garment off its hanger from whence she'd hidden it between two much larger gowns of her own and bade Lily lift her arms and permit Flora to slip it on.  As Flora tied its sash prettily in back, Lily gasped in awe as she examined the intricate lace, edged with silvery thread, which daintily encircled her upper breast area and shoulders. "I looks like a princess, I do! Why... I even look pretty as... as Miss Edith 'erself!"

   Lily's sash tied, Flora seated herself on her bedside as the little girl again surveyed her reflection in the mirror from every angle, and silently permitted herself to bask in Lily's exclamations of gratitude and joy.

   When the girl finally tired of her reflection, she bounced over to the bedside, sat herself on Flora's knee and flung her arms around her benefactress.  "Oh Miss Field!  So powerful kind to me you are.  I don't know 'ow I can ever repay you!

    Flora placed her arms around the child and held her close to her bosom.  An aching pang of love welled up in Flora's breast.  Perhaps this, in small measure, is how a mother feels, thought Flora, as she gently rocked the child fore and aft, neither woman nor girl in any rush to end their embrace.

   After several breaths, Flora remarked, "There is one thing you can do to repay me, Lily."  At once, the little girl straightened, herself drew back, and regarded Flora expectantly.  "You can just keep on being you!" proclaimed Flora, as she wiggled the end of Lily's nose with the tip of her forefinger eliciting a squeal of laughter from the child.

   Lily sprang up and resumed her self-appraisal in Flora's mirror.  "I can't wait to wear me new gear to school come Monday!" 

    "Your mother has the final say in how you dress, of course.  But I shall convey to her that it is my hope that your new pinafore shall be reserved exclusively for church and special occasions."  Lily nodded acceptance, but looked slightly disappointed.

    "Just me frock then!" concluded the child, turning again to her reflection.  "Them other girls as ragged on me 'bout me old dress 'll be so jealous now!"

    "It is also my wish that you forego wearing your new frock to school until after the Missus' charity bring-and-buy has passed.  Until then, I hope your mummy will hang it in your wardrobe so it shall remain brand spanking new."

    "But why, Miss Field?"

    "Never you mind.  I have a plan which I may or may not be able to put into action.  You shall learn of it soon enough, but until then I prefer not to risk your disappointment lest it fail to come true."  Lily frowned to herself with puzzlement but pressed no further with questions.  "In the meantime, I trust you shall keep your new garments as clean as can be, your pinafore especially."

     "Yes Miss Field," came the reply.  With a mischievous gleam in her eyes, Lily declared, "Oh dear! I gots to blow me nose I do!"  She then raised the apron of her pinafore to her nose, and with her mouth, made her best imitation of a nose blowing sound, her merry eyes fixed on Flora's all the while.

    "You naughty, naughty girl!" laughed Flora, joining in the charade, "why I have half a mind to give you a good smack bottom!"

    "Oh don't ye' be about smackin' me Miss Field," Lily pretended to plead.  Seating herself next to Flora on the bed, "'ere!  Make it up to you I will!  'ere be a  mud pie 'specially for you!"  Watching Flora's face, with a twinkle in her eye, Lily pantomimed having a load of mud in her lap, shaping it with her hands for a moment, dropping it into Flora's lap, then quickly wiping her hands free of imaginary mud upon the lacy bodice of her pinafore.

    Shaking her forefinger with exaggerated mock severity, Flora scolded, "my goodness gracious, look at you!  Your brand new pinafore ruined with all that mud!  I'm afraid you leave me with no alternative my girl."  Flora took the unresisting Lily under each arm, shifted her face down across Flora's lap, and quickly turned up her skirts, accompanied by a playful little shriek from the child.  "There can be only one punishment for a naughty girl who ruins her new pinafore with make-believe mud... and that is a make-believe smack bottom!"

    Flora gave the waist of Edith's hand-me-down bloomers a crisp upward tug, pulling the thin linen fabric snugly against the two little cheeks of Lily's petite posterior as Lily looked back over her right shoulder, enjoying the game.  Flora, far too amused to prevent herself from smiling, nevertheless knit her brows as if displeased, and with the gravest tone she could muster under the circumstances, declared, "let this be a lesson to you!"  She then began briskly and painlessly patting Lily's bottom, which sent the little girl into paroxysms of giggles.

    Three knocks came at the door - Helen's usual number and cadence.  Lily hopped off of Flora's lap in a flash and hurried to the door as Flora followed.  But as she reached the door, she looked back at Flora and, with new plan in mind, scurried behind Flora to conceal herself from her mother's sight.  Flora opened, greeted, and invited Lily's mother in.  Springing from behind Flora's ample skirts into her mother's full view, Lily spun herself around crying, "Mummy! Mummy! Look at me!"

   "What's all this then!" exclaimed Helen, in vexed consternation.  Lily froze in place, mouth agape,and regarded Helen, quite unprepared for her mother's stern reaction.  "I gave ye' a right tanning when Miss Edith give ye' 'er shoes.  And now ye' be a-lettin' 'er give ye' 'er frocks now are you?"

   "No mummy no!" stammered Lily glancing at Flora and then quickly back to Helen, "Miss Field had it made for me special!"

   Frowning and turning to Flora, the woman declared, "I can't say as I never accept charity.  I let 'er 'ave them underthings Miss Edith 'anded down.  And I let ye' give 'er them boots on account of 'er needin' 'em so bad like.  And besides I couldn't very well tell ye' to send 'em back wi' the below stairs folk all applaudin' and 'appy for 'er, now could I?  But still gots me pride, I do.  I'll be a payin' ye' back for every farthing ye spent on me sprog I will, 'owever long it takes and there's an end of it.  I'll take no more charity from you, Miss Field, that I won't!"

   "Charity??" scoffed Flora with unfeigned indignation.  "A special gift from myself to a special little girl of whom I've grown fond? Charity?!  What utter nonsense!"  

   Gripping her mothers' forearm with both hands and bouncing up and down rapidly on her tiptoes, Lily blurted, "Please mummy please mummy please let Miss Field give me-"

    "I'll give ye' something ye' won't like one bit if ye' don't button yer lip while yer mum and Miss Field are a-talkin'," warned Helen sternly, and added, "yer te' be seen an' not 'eard!"  Lily's face fell, and she appeared close to tears from her mother's rebuke.  She lowered her head, hunched her shoulders, and placed her hands back across the seat of her dress, much as she had done the day when Flora first met her and reprimanded her for trespassing above stairs.  But her eyes remained elevated, regarding each woman in turn.

    "That be my final decision says I" declared Helen, looking Flora square in the eye.

    "My dear Mrs. Reid," said Flora, "suppose today were Lily's birthday and this," she gestured at Lily's outfit, "were my gift to her?  Would you still insist on reimbursing every farthing I paid?"

     "Well today ain't 'er birthday now id'n it!" snapped Helen, "I can't allow ye' for to be a-givin' us none o' yer charity on account o' 'er birthday as 'appened  'afore you ever laid eyes on the both o' us!"

     Flora turned to Lily, knelt, placed her hands tenderly on the child's shoulders, and said, "Merry Christmas, you darling girl!  Our Savior's birth is still a weeks away, but I determined that you had immediate need of my gift, so I have presented you with your Christmas frock and Christmas pinafore today.  May you have a blessed Holiday and a joyful New Year!"

     Flora rose, met Helen's gaze, and in a tone of utmost gravity, declared, "as you well know, Helen, it is customary for the price of a Christmas gift to remain unknown.  And, I daresay, it is also the height of rudeness to inquire of the giver in that regard, and ruder still to insist upon repaying said giver.  I trust you shall not commit any such breaches of etiquette, Mrs. Reid.  Should you do so, I can assure you I will be most offended!"

    Lily squirmed at Flora's side, plainly wishing to blurt out something to her mother.  Flora stooped and quickly placed her finger on the child's lips, just as she had done earlier to bid Edith hush.  Flora preferred that Helen have no distractions as she weighed the inescapable corner into which Flora deemed herself to have placed the young mother; especially not the distraction of punishing her child when Helen's dander was up and she hence might deal with the dear little one with unnecessary severity for a trifling fault.

     Several moments passed as Helen, regarding first one then the other figure standing before her, heaved several sighs of displeasure, tightened her lips, untightened them, knit her brows then relaxed them. 

    "Well then Miss Field," she said at last, in a tone of weary acquiescence, "I can see as I ain't no match for yer fancy education and yer book learnin' an' all yer lah-ti-dah ways.  Yer cleverer than me by 'alf and no mistake.  Very well, then, 'er Christmas present it be.  But," her tone hardened, "I won't 'ave ye a-pilin' more gifts on 'er come Christmas Day.  This be 'er present from ye and that's the whole o' it.  And don't ye be about spendin' any more o' yer coin on 'er from now onward 'less'n ye gets permission from me first.  Are we square on that subject Miss Field?"

    "Quite right!" declared Flora politely, equanimous in victory.  "Henceforth I shall not gift your child with so much as a farthing's purchase of peanut brittle from the Fair without first obtaining leave from yourself.  You have my word."  She added, "And if I may beg of you just one indulgence, pray do give this little one next to me permission to speak before she bursts, the poor little dear."

    Helen nodded permission to Lily, who blurted, "Mummy are y' still cross with me?"  Helen knelt and extended her arms to Lily who scampered over and sat herself on her mother's knee.

   "No, me little poppet," replied the woman, tenderly, her eyes filling, "not cross w' ye' in the least am I." She gave her daughter a long embrace, which Lily returned, then said, "Up you go then an' let's 'ave a look at ye'."  Lily stood, took a step back, and hurriedly smoothed her skirt and pinafore apron into optimum presentability, filled with pride in her new outfit, and plainly eager to receive at last the kind of maternal approbation she had anticipated.  Helen gazed for several moments at her child, then over at Flora, moist-eyed and smiling.  "I never 'ave seen me sprog quite so pretty as a-standin' 'ere just now, an' no mistake."  Then to Lily, "well off t' bed w' ye' then."  And when the child began to scamper off, Helen added, "and mind you 'ang them new clothes 'o yor'n up proper-like!  If I find you've left'em a-lyin' on the floor mummy'll be tuckin' ye' in tonight wi' a tanned bottom that she will!"

   "Yes mummy!" chirped Lily happily as she disappeared into the hall, clearly having had not the remotest intention of doing any such thing with her treasured new outfit.

   Turning to the child's mother, "Naturally, Helen, how and when you dress your child is entirely your prerogative. And I shouldn't ever presume to usurp your authority in that regard.  But if possible, I should hope that after permitting her to wear her new outfit to church tomorrow, as she will doubtlessly yearn to do, I might persuade you to keep her new clothes hung up and out of harm's way until Mrs. Fogarty's bring-and-buy charity event of a fortnight from the morrow." 

   After Helen agreed, then inquired as to the reason, Flora continued, "if you don't object, I would like to take Lily upstairs for half an hour or so during the event.  She won't seem a bit out of place dressed as she is just now, and shall attract no undue attention."  Helen frowned with concern, and appeared about to speak, but Flora continued, "she shall hold my hand the entire time, and I have every confidence she shall be on her best behavior and shall speak to no one and touch nothing without my leave."

   Helen regarded Flora skeptically, "Gotten the Missus' permission, 'ave ye'?"

   Flora took a deep breath and chose her words carefully. "Mrs. Fogarty becomes vexed if I approach her with matters involving the servants.  I believe it wisest not to ask.  However, should she have an objection to Lily's presence, I shall take full responsibility."

   "If the Missus asks, will ye' tell 'er as you did it all behind me back wi'out me knowledge?  I can't be a-riskin' me position!"

   "I shall leave you out of the matter entirely," replied Flora, not quite having answered Helen's question.  But Helen seemed satisfied.

   "T'will be a treat for me sprog, a-minglin' amongst them high-born folk and seein' that grand 'ouse w' all them paintings an' statues an' such."

   After cautioning that this might or might not happen, and requesting that Helen tell Lily nothing of Flora's plan lest the child suffer disappointment should unforeseen complications arise, Flora bade the woman good night.  With an immense feeling of satisfaction at a good day which had ended well, Flora washed, undressed and stretched out under her covers with a contented sigh.  Tomorrow, she mused, she would have plenty of energy to explore the unused portion of the east wing in the hope of locating a stairway to the roof, since Flora would have no duties on the Sabbath.  As she drifted off into slumber, her thoughts full of Lily and of Flora's plans for her, not for one moment did Edith enter her mind.

<---Chapter 9           Chapter 11--->


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

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