by Jackie J
It was a fog-filled evening that was beginning to cloak the empty streets of Mayfair. It was shortly after six in the evening on the twelfth of November eighteen eighty seven and the hustle and bustle of London was easing to a slow trickle of pedestrians making their way to their apartments. There was nothing significant to catch the eye, nothing at all remarkable about the shawl-clad girl scurrying on her way, a laden basket with a bouquet of flowers hanging like jewels over its edge that swung from her arm. Three years previously this particular nondescript girl would not have been seen out on the streets and walking. Never.
A crest-emblazoned carriage would have heralded her passing and all would have known the carriage contained the valuable cargo of Lady Isabella Devonshire. The daughter of Earl Devonshire and sole heir to the Devonshire fortune, it had been a classic riches to rags story and the only person who could have prevented such a demise was Lady Devonshire herself. Why she chose the path she did can be traced back to her first chance meeting, or so she thought, with the vivacious Caroline Armstrong-Jones. Caroline, in her late thirties, a sophisticated lady about town had acquired not inconsiderable wealth although few knew from where.
Yet another party was in full swing and Lady Devonshire took refuge from London’s cream of society on the balcony of Devonshire house overlooking the river Thames. She sighed, knowing she would soon have to return to the throng and be the perfect hostess. Isabella, at the age of twenty six, had found no suitor and was weary of the endless attempts being made to find one for her coupled with the constant round of social engagements. She had confided the same to her small circle of friends, how Caroline Armstrong-Jones had come by this information is unknown, but she had and ensured she had obtained an invite to this particular gathering. Caroline, seeing Lady Devonshire exit onto the balcony chose her moment and with two flutes of champagne in hand sidled out into the warm spring evening.
“Lady Devonshire, what a lovely view you have from your balcony.”
Isabella turned with a fixed smile that she had cultivated over the many years of entertaining.
“Yes, it is, the river Thames carrying the woes of the world silently in its silver Ribbon.”
Caroline introduced herself and offered Lady Devonshire one of the flutes which she gratefully accepted.
“Thank you, I sometimes think it is only the champagne that keeps me sane.”
Caroline feigned ignorance to Lady Devonshire’s frustration with her cosseted life.
“Sane? Whatever do you mean, you have everything: wealth, position, servants at your beck and call, you want for nothing surely that cannot be so bad?
Lady Devonshire sipped her Champagne and sighed.
“It is all so tiresome, it really is, but what alternative do I have? I feel I am on public display every waking minute. I sometimes wish I could just break away from it all.”
“Anyway I must get back inside, sorry to burden you with my troubles, nice to meet you er....erm, Caroline wasn’t it, yes nice to meet you, Caroline.”
It was a week later that Caroline contrived to meet with Lady Devonshire once again.
Faber’s Dress shop, just off Piccadilly, a favourite with Lady Devonshire and her socialite friends would provide the opportunity for their second encounter. When Lady Devonshire was leaving to mount her carriage Caroline stood on the pavement looking a little distressed. Lady Devonshire smiled.
“Caroline, Caroline Armstrong-Jones?”
A flustered looking Caroline turned as if surprised at their meeting.
“Lady Devonshire? What a surprise.”
Caroline spilled out some tale of her own carriage being nowhere in sight and that she desperately needed to return to one of her properties in Sloane square.
Lady Devonshire had no timetable or agenda and opened up her carriage door.
“Please, come, my driver can take you, it is of little inconvenience.”
Caroline accepted, of course she did, she had planned the very same.
Caroline settled her bellowing skirts and sat back in the comfort of the carriage with Lady Devonshire opposite.
“Thank you, Lady Devonshire.”
“Isabella, please Caroline that title hangs over me like a tonne weight it really does.”
Caroline offered a feigned look of concern to what she already knew.
“Don’t tell me you are weary of your title like your lifestyle?”
Lady Devonshire shrugged her shoulders and sighed.
The carriage rattled through the crowded streets of London and Lady Devonshire whinged and moaned about how perfect her life appeared to be but sought something else. The two chatted about nothing of significance during the short journey, or so Lady Devonshire thought, but in fact she had confirmed with her musings that she was frustrated and vulnerable just as Caroline had suspected, another potential trophy.
When Caroline dismounted from the carriage she turned to Lady Devonshire and giggled.
“The something else you are seeking, if I think of anything I will contact you.”
Lady Devonshire giggled with her.
“Yes you must.”
Lady Devonshire was intrigued when she received a letter from Ms Caroline Armstrong Jones in the afternoon post; it had been a month since they had met outside of Faber’s dress shop.
The note was simple and short.
I think I may have found “The something else” you were looking for?
If you are still looking come to my home in Chiswick on Wednesday morning
Isabella chuckled to herself folding away the letter, whatever could she have in mind she thought?
Wednesday soon came around and Isabella, dressed to the nines, stepped into her somewhat ostentatious livered carriage and after the hour's journey arrived at Ms Caroline’s home.
The house large and set in its own grounds with neatly manicured gardens was a picture. The horse drawn carriage swept into the driveway and having despatched its passenger rumbled to the rear of the house. The footman lay back on the seats and the horses grazed on oats awaiting Lady Devonshire’s return.
Lady Devonshire hitched the hems of her skirts from the gravel pathway and at the door pressed the bell.
A perfectly attired maid appeared, curtsied and beckoned Lady Devonshire inside.
“Please Miss if you will wait in the drawing room my Mistress will join you directly, she is currently indisposed, but is expecting you Lady Devonshire.
Isabella took a second look at the maid when she left the room her voice, tone and vocabulary, educated not the usual for a maid, not usual at all?
The maid returned with a flute of champagne delivered on an elegant silver tray curtsied and offered the drink to Lady Devonshire.
“A good vintage, Miss.”
Lady Devonshire took the glass and smiled thinking how the maid would possibly know that?
The maid curtsied and left and Caroline entered the room.
“Lady Devonshire, sorry Isabella, you despise the title don’t you, so glad you could come although I suspected you would.”
Caroline was dressed expensively but quite austere; a well tailored straight black skirt the obviousness of a tight corset nipping her waspish waist beneath a generous pristine white high collared silk blouse. She looked a little taller than Isabella recalled but when she sat, seeing the spike heeled boots she was wearing, realised why.
A glass of champagne in her own hand Caroline took a sip and smiled
“Welcome to my home just far enough from the centre of London to remain convenient but also offering the degree of privacy I desire.”
Caroline asked about the journey, complimented the clothes Lady Caroline was wearing, the weather, her gardens anything but the reason she had asked Lady Devonshire to visit. Eventually Lady Devonshire could contain her curiosity no longer.
“Caroline you said in your note that....”
Lady Devonshire paused, and Caroline smiled finishing what she was about to ask.
“The something else?”
Lady Devonshire leaned forward in her chair.
“Yes that’s right the something else I am intrigued to know.”
Caroline sat back and casually drew her skirts above the ankles of her boots with a flurry of lace petticoat and smiled seeing Lady Devonshire’s eyes focus on the same.
“Well you told me that you were weary of being waited on hand and foot in your gilded existence, that your title was burdensome. At your party you said that you would like to just break away from it all?”
“Is that how you still feel?”
Seeing that Lady Devonshire’s flute was drained Caroline picked up a small bell and shook out a shrill ring summoning the maid who quickly appeared and curtsied in front of her Mistress.
Caroline smiled seeing Lady Devonshire focus on the pretty maid who soon returned with two fresh flutes of champagne.
A curtsy and the maid was gone.
“So where were we? O yes, is that how you still feel?”
Lady Devonshire sat a little taller in her chair and took a healthy sip of her champagne.
“Well yes, depending on what the alternative is of course.”
Caroline stood from her chair
“Well I have a proposal for you; no one else would know of course this would be between you and me.”
Caroline took a large envelope from the table at the side of the room addressed to Lady Isabella Devonshire and handed it to Isabella.
“Don’t open it, not yet, not here, when you return to London, to Devonshire house.”
Isabella took the large envelope from Caroline and agreed it would not be opened until she arrived back at her home.
Isabella looked at Caroline, she had to ask.
“Your maid, not what I would have expected, she sounds well educated, my own maids can hardly string a sentence together, and she is quite articulate?”
“Yes, Annie, well Annabelle is her real name, Annabelle Fitzsimons; she has become the consummate maid, the perfect domestic servant,
Caroline said little of the proposal contained within the large envelope that Lady Devonshire was holding but the two talked of general chit chat, the London society scene, how everyone seemed to want to see Lady Devonshire married off.
It was late and Lady Devonshire declined supper and the offer of overnight hospitality. Following a bumpy journey she was back in the luxury of Devonshire house and hurried to her apartments to unveil the mysterious proposition alluded to by Caroline.
Lady Devonshire opened the envelope and was astonished with what she read? Could this woman really expect her to comply with the contents of the proposal, so skilfully and professionally presented within it’s text. She would have me a maid like that girl Annabelle?
Lady Devonshire was about to destroy the envelope and it’s contents, which perhaps would have been wise, but restrained herself and placed it inside her diary.
Lady Devonshire bathed then dressed for dinner.
Following another tedious evening she returned to her apartments and read again the proposal and associated documents before retiring.
Whilst Lady Devonshire knew little about the staff employed at Devonshire house she made inquiries with her head of Household Miss Bingham. She learned little but the fact that the staff worked hard, were taken care of, fed, clothed and given accommodation along with a small allowance and had little to worry about. Given they carried out their duties satisfactorily they had a simple life without care.
During the coming weeks Lady Devonshire watched her maid’s at work, all seemed happy and carefree going about their domestic duties. Of course Miss Bingham had not disclosed everything about a maid’s lot and the broad leather strap that hung in the scullery, which, whilst only on seldom occasions, was vigorously used should it be required to discipline poor performance.
It was almost a month since Lady Devonshire’s visit to the home of Caroline Armstrong Jones and sat in her private study she perused the contents of the envelope once again.
She smiled and began her letter of application seeking an interview for a position at the residence of Miss Caroline Armstrong Jones. The letter of application had to include personal information age, height, weight, waist, hip and bust measurements along with full name and home address details. The second part of the application had to explain why she was applying for a position within the household. Lady Devonshire hesitated but then wrote quite candidly explaining that she was weary of her life at Devonshire house, her life of privilege and wanted to seek a change. She acknowledged and understood the terms of appointment should she be successful in her application.
The letter signed and placed in the return envelope the letter was collected early the following morning by the post and Lady Devonshire awaited her reply.
Lady Devonshire returned from the Henley Regatta and sat in her study contemplating what to wear for Ascot races the coming week. Thumbing through her post, mainly invitations to various balls, a distinctive envelope stuck out from the collection. It had been weeks and she had almost given up on the idea but there was no mistaking the envelope it was from her, Miss Caroline Armstrong-Jones. Nervously opening the envelope and unfolding the letter within Lady Devonshire read the short, curt, matter of fact text.
You will attend for your interview on Friday the seventh of this month at six o’clock prompt at the address below, do not be late, your Mistress does not tolerate tardiness.
Lady Devonshire sat back staring at the note and laughed, Mistress?
Lady Devonshire slept little on the eve of the planned meeting and four thirty soon came around.
What to wear? Isabella chose something smart and formal tastefully accessorised in fact she looked stunning, she always did.
Her carriage awaited and through the early mists of that summer morning made steady progress out to Chiswick.
Arriving at Caroline Armstrong Jones’s house Lady Devonshire, alighted the carriage and raising the hems of her skirts from the ground made her way to the doorway. The same pretty maid Isabella had been intrigued by on her previous visit answering the door curtsied and smiled.
“Lady Devonshire, please come though Mistress is expecting you, first door on the right, let me show you”
Entering the room it was all quite formal, Caroline sat behind a desk papers spread across it and a chair, a chair set a little lower than Caroline’s awaited an increasingly nervous Lady Devonshire, was she really going through with this?
Isabella sat and Caroline smiled and broke the ice.
“So tell me again why you want to do this.”
Lady Devonshire was already thinking that she had made a huge mistake in coming here but continued, she was here after all she may as well go through with the interview.
“Like I wrote, I wanted to get away from the claustrophobic life I have been living, I thought the proposal you made would be a way to do that.
Caroline detected some back tracking.
“You wanted, you thought so you no longer want and think?”
“If I have been wasting my time, preparing all this for you we may as well stop now, is that what you want to remain in your claustrophobic life?”
Lady Devonshire could see that Caroline had gone to a lot of trouble for her and whilst unsure wanted to continue.
“No, sorry, please Caroline I am just nervous, of course I wish to continue.
Caroline pushed back her luscious locks of black hair and opened up the folder containing Isabella’s application, which she had written in her own hand and signed, and rang the small bell sat on the desk.
The pretty maid entered, curtsied and smiled.
Caroline told her to serve tea, another bobbed curtsy dropped
Isabella watched the maid leave her uniform - a long, black, lace-collared, sleeved dress, plain, but of quality, a pristine brilliant white full-length starched bibbed apron, without a crease, a neat lace cap perched on her short dark bob-styled hair.
Isabella felt a not unpleasant shiver run through her when Caroline spoke.
“Lovely isn’t she Annie, it took time, but now she is my personal maid. She was a little like yourself, outwardly successful but weary of her responsibilities, a doctor, a very successful doctor, Annabelle Fitzsimons. We met by chance and she accepted my proposal, such a charming girl, just twenty seven, so sweet don’t you think?
Isabella stammered a little.
“Er, erm yes, yes she is, would, would I, I......”
Caroline leaned forward and continued what Isabella was hesitant to say.
“Would you be like Annie? Wear a pretty uniform like hers? Well that would be up to you, wouldn’t it?”
Isabella spoke questioningly.
“And is she happy?”
Annie returned with a tray containing the tea, curtsied and placed the tray on the desk then stood back and dropped another curtsy a fixed smile never leaving her face.
Caroline swivelled in her chair to face her pretty maid.
“Annie, Lady Devonshire wishes to know if you are happy to be my maid?”
Annie, a soft coy blush rising on her face looked at Lady Devonshire then back at her Mistress and spoke with genuine and obvious conviction.
“Yes, Mistress, very happy, Mistress.”
Caroline looking into the convinced eyes of Lady Devonshire and smiled.
“Thank you, Annie, that will be all.”
Annie left and a more relaxed Isabella sat back in her chair.
Pouring the tea from the pot into delicate china cups Caroline sought to seek the appetite of Lady Devonshire for her own demise.
“So what shall it be, your name Lizzie? Bella? Izzi? You can choose of course.”
Lady Devonshire dropped a sugar cube into her tea and slowly stirred.
It was all that Caroline needed to hear when Lady Devonshire spoke.
“Izzi, Lizzie, no I think it would have to be Bella.”
“Then Bella it is I will write that on your forms, your contract.”
Isabella squirmed in her chair was she really going to do this?
Caroline scribbled on her notes.
“Then I shall call you Bella from now on are you comfortable with that Bella?
Isabella a little, but not unduly embarrassed looked up her voice somewhat meeker.
“Yes, yes, Bella.”
“And like Annie you will address me as?”
Isabelle, being drawn deeper into Caroline’s crafted web responded
Caroline hid her delight at Lady Devonshire’s questioning but yet subservient response.
“That’s right, Bella, Bella the maid and Miss Caroline Armstrong-Jones your Mistress.”
“But first we will need to complete your contract with your Mistress, Bella.”
“Your contract will be for a minimum twelve months and during this time you will put beyond use all of your wealth.”
“When you return to Devonshire house you will inform your staff you will be travelling abroad, the details of your trip are written on this paper, take it with you, and organise a power of attorney for myself, so I may take care of your affairs whilst you are away.”
“When this is done you will write to me enclosing your signed contract and deed of attorney informing me you are ready to begin your service here at Mannigham Hall. I will then send for you, Bella”
Lady Devonshire picked up the maid's contract offered by Caroline, the name of the maid at the head of the contract - Bella.
Caroline stood and smiled at Lady Devonshire watching her reading through the contract.
“No rush, when you are ready let me know.”
Caroline rang the bell on the desk.
Maid Annie appeared and curtsied.
Lady Devonshire is leaving now; please show her to her carriage.
A bobbed curtsy and Annie opened the door for Lady Devonshire to leave.
Lady Devonshire slowly stood with her contract in hand and looked at Caroline whose piercing green eyes held her gaze. Why she did what she did? Perhaps caught up in the moment, perhaps the look in Caroline’s eyes? Who knows why, but what she did left Caroline struggling to hide her excitement of what was surely now to become of the aristocrat who curtsied before her.
Lady Devonshire remained held in Caroline’s gaze rising from her curtsy and spoke in the softest of tones.
Shown through the door and out to her awaiting carriage by Annie, Lady Devonshire, on the return journey to Devonshire house, read the contract she had been given over and over.
The trip overseas was credible enough but a power of attorney? Lady Devonshire mulled over this aspect. She would be away and her affairs would need supervision, given she would be with Caroline, she guessed it made sense and if she could not trust Caroline, who could she trust, she was about to place her life in her hands after all?
Back in the security of her apartments Isabella blushed just thinking about what she was contemplating then giggled when she recalled how she felt dropping a curtsy in front of Caroline and then calling her mistress?
Having bathed and dressed for dinner that evening Lady Devonshire watched her maids serve and side with more attention than normal, how they seemed to glide in and out of the room their only sound the rustle of their coarse calico petticoats.
Was she really willing to become such a creature, could she become such a creature, a pretty maid like Annie? Caroline obviously thought so.
Ascot was next on Lady Devonshire’s calendar and along with a group of her socialite friends attended the meeting. Jasper and Conrad made an exhibition of themselves in Lady Devonshire’s box enjoying the free champagne. Lady Devonshire seeing the spectacle and tired of the meaningless babble of conversation from her girlfriends reconciled that she would sign up to Caroline’s proposal. On the last day of Ascot she announced to her party that she would be leaving for the Americas for an extended tour.
Lady Devonshire’s preparation was meticulous everything had to be right if she was going to be away from Devonshire house for twelve months. The subterfuge, outlined by Caroline, regarding her overseas trip was complete, trunks of her finest clothing ready for forwarding to a shipper, an address given to her by Caroline, and receipts of voyage to the America’s obtained. The power of attorney was not straightforward, but with some arm twisting and pouting Lady Devonshire got her way.
Lady Devonshire, nervous with a degree of trepidation, pressed down the maid’s contract onto her writing desk and, hesitating briefly, her signature was upon it. Neatly folding both the power of attorney and the contract she slid them into an envelope and wrote out Caroline’s address ready for the post the next day, there could be no turning back now.
Three days later the distinctive envelope of Caroline Armstrong-Jones was in Lady Devonshire’s trembling hand. She resisted opening the correspondence, this was it, the time had come her escape from her cosseted, but weary life, her life of opulence and leisure was to be put behind her.
The letter inside was brief and addressed to Bella!
You will be collected by carriage at eight thirty on Thursday morning to be brought to begin your service at Manningham Hall.
The letter signed, Your Mistress, Caroline Armstrong-Jones.
Miss Bingham, head of Household at Devonshire House, had seen Lady Devonshire leave for extended periods before, but twelve months and overseas this was different. Instructions had been given that whilst she was away Miss Caroline Armstrong-Jones would be keeping an eye on matters and that Miss Bingham would report to her until she returned.
When the carriage arrived to collect Lady Devonshire, Miss Bingham fussed around her, telling her to keep safe and to look after herself. Lady Devonshire’s jewellery would travel with her and Miss Bingham handed her the locked case and smiled.
With Lady Devonshire inside the carriage, a crack of the whip, a whinny from the horses and the carriage rolled out of sight. Not to the docks to meet a ship sailing for the Americas like Miss Bingham and Lady Devonshire’s circle of friends had been led to believe. The carriage made good progress to Manningham Hall, just north of Chiswick, not thirty miles from her comfortable home at Devonshire House.
Arriving at Mannigham Hall Lady Devonshire stepped from the carriage and took a deep breath. Her jewellery case in hand she rang the bell.
Annie the pretty maid answered the door and giggled. No curtsy on this occasion?
“Follow me, BELLA.”
Lady Devonshire was quite taken aback by the maid’s somewhat discourteous manner and calling her Bella. Surely that was between Caroline and herself, wasn’t it?
Inside the hallway the door slammed closed and Caroline was stood at the entrance to a side room.
“This way, Bella.”
Entering the room the first thing that Caroline did was take the jewellery case from her soon to be maid and handed it to Annie.
“Take this to my study by the safe, Annie.”
Annie curtsied and smiled at a confused looking Lady Devonshire.
Caroline smiled at Lady Devonshire dressed in her finery.
“So, Bella, you are my property now for the foreseeable future so let’s get rid of those fancy clothes shall we, your uniform is here on the rail.”
Lady Devonshire looked around the room.
“Where shall I change, Caroline?”
Caroline’s eyes tightened.
“Caroline? Caroline, who is Caroline? Remember your place, girl, you will address me properly. MISTRESS at all times.”
“You will strip here in front of your Mistress.”
Lady Devonshire had a dresser who attended her at Devonshire house, here the first taste of the reality of new life.
Lady Devonshire had asked for this, signed up for this and meekly looked at who was her friend now her Mistress.
The beautiful silk dress removed her fine cotton petticoats followed. Annie had returned to the room and unlaced Lady Devonshire’s corset then stood back whilst her silk ribbon trimmed chemise and bloomers joined the pile of clothing on the floor. Caroline motioned for Lady Devonshire to remove her soft leather shoes, which she did and now stood naked in front of her Mistress.
Annie scooped up all the clothing and left the room.
A cold shiver ran across Lady Devonshire’s milky white skin causing her to fold her arms across her exposed pert breasts.
Caroline smiled at the naked aristocrat having willingly peeled away the vestiges of her rank her long blonde tresses hanging on her shoulders. Caroline ran her fingers through the luscious locks catching the nape of Lady Devonshire neck making her shiver. Such nice hair but not the length or style for a mere maid, is it?
Lady Devonshire retracted defensively.
“What do you mean?”
Caroline’s demeanour and tone sharpened.
“Don’t question me, girl, you asked for this, agreed to this, you will do well to remember the terms of your contract and conditions of your service here at Manningham Hall.” “To refresh your memory, you will speak when spoken to, you will never question your Mistress or head of household, you have no free will here and will do as you are told without question.”
“If I say your hair will be cut to a style of my choosing then it will be.”
Caroline stared at a very apprehensive and intimidated Lady Devonshire.
“Well, Bella? What do you say?”
Lady Devonshire the reality of her situation stark and clear lowered her gaze recalling another condition of her service, never to look her mistress in the eye.
Caroline hid her pleasure at witnessing yet another high-born meekly accepting her new status, that of a common maid, having been snared in her carefully crafted scheme.
Having Lady Devonshire strip naked in front of her, peeling away her dignity and self worth, all part of a process that would continue until her indoctrination into her new life, the life of a common maid, was complete and of course, unbeknown to Lady Devonshire, permanent.
“That’s better, Bella.”
Seeing Lady Devonshire’s skin starting to turn a light shade of blue and her nipples firm and hard Caroline pointed to the clothing hanging on the rail
Now get dressed girl before you catch a cold.”
Lady Devonshire fingered the coarse fabric of the bloomers and chemise, the petticoats, like the rest of the underwear, plain and untrimmed also from coarse cotton tiered and heavy, not a bow or ribbon to be seen. Working along the rail she could find no corset, there was no corset or support.
Dressed in the restrictive cumbersome underwear Lady Devonshire looked forlornly at Caroline who handed her plain grey smock, nothing like the smart pristine uniform of the pretty house maid Annie.
The bulbous unflattering dress about her new maid Caroline offered her the badge of her rank, a bibbed apron, not starched and brilliant white like Lady Devonshire had she had seen sweet Annie wearing, no, this was not for show; this was a working apron and already bore stains of such toil. Tugging on her heavy boots and lacing them tight above her ankles her petticoats, dress and apron swished down about her feet and her uniform was almost but not quite complete.
Caroline halted in front of Lady Devonshire with an unflattering mop cap in hand.
“Now this hair of yours looks ridiculous for your station, you will share the same style worn by Annie a dark bob practical and neat understand?”
Lady Devonshire was already morphing into maid Bella, not only outwardly, but in body and mind a process that would continue until she actually was Bella the maid, and dropped a feeble curtsy.
“Good, now let me introduce you to my head of household Miss Rutherford; you will do well to keep on her right side.”
Leaving the ante room and shuffling down a long corridor a large, red faced, women stood at the entrance to what was the kitchens.
The women curtsied.
“This is the new maid I told you about she is to be trained in all aspects of domestic service, her name is Bella, before you show her to her quarters I want that ridiculous hair of hers cropped and dyed black.”
Caroline turned to a nervous Lady Devonshire a wicked smile on her face.
“You will report to Miss Rutherford and follow her instructions and if you are wondering why you are wearing the uniform you are, and not the pretty uniform that Annie wears, which I think you are.”
“A trainee maid is often clumsy spilling and getting her uniform stained especially a maid working back of house, when you are trained you too will wear the pretty uniform, something for you to aspire too.”
“I will leave you in the capable hands of Miss Rutherford Bella, welcome to Manningham Hall.”
With that Caroline waited for the summary curtsies and the chirped response of Mistress then turned and was gone.
Miss Rutherford took Bella’s arm.
“Let’s get that hair sorted shall we.”
Following the ignominy of having her beautiful long blonde hair cropped, with not the neatest of cuts, and dyed black, Miss Rutherford combed it through and placed Bella’s mop cap on her head.
Taken to the cramped quarters, that would now be her home, Bella looked out through the barred windows at the obscured view of a blank wall. Her mind drifting to the expanse of the River Thames she could see from her balcony at Devonshire house.
Having been left to hang her maids clothing on the rails in her squalid room Lady Devonshire flopped down on the small bunk style bed in tears. What had she done?!
There was little time for tears over the coming weeks which turned into months. Bella saw little of Mistress Caroline being worked hard from dawn until dusk each day by the demanding Miss Rutherford. Laundry, washing, pressing, cooking, cleaning, mopping, scrubbing, tidying, making beds, changing linen, each day new tasks and new skills to be learnt by the trainee maid and when night came Bella slept well. Bullied and berated for the smallest of misdemeanour, the confident self-assured Lady Devonshire was slowly but surely becoming a nervous timid and unsure shadow of herself. She was becoming Bella.
Bella, restricted to back of house in her bulbous drab uniform had quickly become accustomed to her new hair style, in truth it was practical, she reconciled it was a sacrifice that had to be made. She had seen Maid Annie on numerous occasions, dressed in her pretty uniform and was already beginning to covet her position at front of house. She wanted to be a front of house Maid and to wear that uniform. Caroline knew this would be the case, it had been the same for others including Annie, all part of the skilled and manipulative subjugation of her pretty maids. When the time comes it is surprising what a back of house maid will do for promotion and Lady Devonshire would be no different.
Under the draconian supervision of Miss Rutherford Bella learned quickly to carry out her work thoroughly or face the wrath and belittling humiliation of Miss Rutherford’s punishments. Made to wear signs around her neck, Stupid maid, clumsy maid, Dunce, all designed to sap away any self confidence that remained. She had not been strapped although warned it would be a consequence especially with the scorching of one of Miss Caroline’s silk blouses, a blouse she thought she recognised like a number of other items of clothing passing through the laundry.
She should of course recognise them they had been taken from her trunks when Miss Caroline selected the garments she wanted before selling off the rest of Lady Devonshire’s wardrobe.
Four months had passed since she took that first step in her heavy boots and demeaning regalia of Miss Caroline’s maid. Bella, unrecognisable now from anything other than the maid she had become was scrubbing the front steps of Mannigham Hall when Miss Caroline and a group of her friends approached from the gardens in their beautiful dresses. They passed by without a word and Bella caught the scent of their perfume invoking what were increasingly becoming distant memories of better times. The ladies over the threshold turned and looked back and down at the scrubbing maid and giggled. Bella did not recognise them but they were aware of who she was, who she used to be.
When a silk nightdress was indelibly stained during a cycle of the laundry Bella hid the garment behind the wooden wash tub and washboard. Two days later an angry faced Mrs Rutherford was on her trail and tacked Bella down who was preparing fires in the back kitchen.
The ruined garment thrown into Bella’s face the yelps and screams could be heard throughout the rear of the house as the leather strap slapped hard and stinging against Bella’s exposed and reddening behind.
Six months and many spankings behind her Bella had become withdrawn and subservient but obedient and attentive, a perfect maid.
What finally broke any remaining spirit within what remained of Lady Devonshire took place on a cold November night following a severe dose of the strap at the hands of Miss Rutherford.
Having made a futile attempt to escape the walls of Mannigham Hall, a foolish thing to do, she was found by a local Constable cowering in some bushes.
Shining his torch into her frightened face she crawled out looking bedraggled in her maid’s uniform instantly recognisable to be the livery of a local hall.
“Hello, Hello, Hello, and what do we have here then, Miss?”
Lady Devonshire half coherently blurted out her plea for help
“Oh thank you Constable, you have to help me, I am Lady Isabella Devonshire I have been taken to be a maid by Miss Caroline Armstrong Jones she lives just there at Manningham Hall.
The policemen surveyed a wretched looking maid and smiled.
“Well we better go and get this sorted out then, Miss, come let’s get you back shall we?”
Lady Devonshire resisted.
“No, No please don’t take me back there please.”
The constable in a condescending tone sought to calm a fraught Lady Devonshire.
“Now don’t you worry yourself, Missy, I am with you, you will be alright.”
Lady Devonshire reluctantly accompanied the constable back the short distance to Mannigham Hall.
The door to Mannigham Hall was opened by Miss Rutherford who smiled seeing Herbert the local bobby with her runaway.
“There you are, Bella, wherever have you been.”
Miss Rutherford grabbed Bella’s arm and squeezed it tightly making her whimper.
“Herbert, thank you I will take her downstairs and get her cleaned up. Poor thing.”
Miss Caroline was soon in the hallway to see Bella being dragged away squealing.
With Lady Devonshire having been herded away and locked in her room Miss Caroline thanked the constable. The policeman laughed with Miss Caroline when he explained that her maid had come out with some preposterous story that she was Lady Isabella Devonshire. The stupid girl had picked the wrong name out of the hat, it was common knowledge that Lady Devonshire was overseas and that she had long blonde not black and working girls cut.
Miss Caroline smiled.
“Good gracious the little minx, wherever did she pick that name from? I can’t say I have ever heard of a Lady Devonshire.”
A glass of sherry taken in the parlour, the constable was assured by Miss Caroline that there would be no more problems explaining that that her maid had obviously become a little emotional and delusional.
Kept naked Bella was locked away in her room for two weeks existing on a diet of only bread and water and it was a reticent contrite, repentant and remorseful maid that emerged beyond this incarceration.
There would be no more attempts to break free from the shackles of her subjugation and Lady Isabella Devonshire was now ready for her final and complete transformation into maid Bella.
Caroline Armstrong-Jones was not idle during the six months that had passed since she had enticed Lady Devonshire into her life of servitude. Every other week Caroline visited Devonshire house and slowly and surely ingratiated herself with Miss Bingham the head of household at Devonshire house.
Happily sharing bogus correspondence from Lady Devonshire, that had been expertly forged, it was manifest that Lady Devonshire was enjoying her travels and in more recent writing had intimated a relationship was developing. Caroline had also made good use of the power of attorney, not plundering the wealth of Lady Devonshire, but through skilful investment, had indeed added to it.
Over the period Caroline had increased Miss Bingham’s allowance and when it was suggested that, with Lady Devonshire’s extended absence, the staff surplus to requirements be released, it was seen as prudent leaving Miss Bingham to maintain the essentials of the property.
It came as no surprise later, when a letter arrived announcing that Lady Devonshire had fallen madly in love with an Indian prince and returned to his country to marry. Marriages across racial and religious divides were of course frowned upon across all social classes and, in the higher echelons of society, an absolute Taboo. The correspondence, in view of the scandal the wedding would cause, asked that Caroline simply explain that she would be extending her travelling indefinitely and to continue to manage her affairs. To keep Miss Bingham on side a special note to her was included.
Caroline comforted Miss Bingham consoling her that if Lady Devonshire was happy they should accept her actions. With Lady Devonshire leaving the property vacant Caroline discussed with Miss Bingham the opportunity to seek tenants to keep the place alive rather than for such a wonderful mansion to stand empty. Whilst Miss Bingham had little say in matters the conniving Caroline made it appear she did bolstering her ego and a tenancy agreement was drafted and there was no shortage of applicants.
Miss Bingham started to prepare the house for the arrival of a Major Bromington-Causewell and his young wife Emily in a month’s time. It was apparent she would need to recruit a maid and Caroline informed her that she would organise a housemaid for her.
Thursday evening and Bella was summoned to Miss Caroline’s Parlour. She entered curtsied and stood her hands folded across her apron her gaze lowered.
“You sent for me, Mistress.”
Caroline smiled, Lady Devonshire the confident socialite who had everything stood meekly in front of her, oblivious to the extent of her demise which would soon be sealed.
“Yes, I did Bella, Annie does not know yet, but she will be leaving soon. Her time here is over and that creates a position for my personal maid. I know you have wanted to wear the pretty uniform that my personal maid wears and of course, enjoy the more lavish accommodation and lighter duties.”
It was true Lady Devonshire had coveted the pretty uniform, rank and position of Annie since the very early days of her arrival at Manningham Hall and those feeling had remained with her. Bella the maid was now totally competent in the duties of domestic service, Miss Rutherford had seen to that, now would be the final part of her training, the training to be a lady's maid.
Lady Devonshire used to have a lady's maid, a confidant to service her personal needs, organise her wardrobe help her bathe and dress. Bella however could never have imagined just how personal her service to Miss Caroline Armstrong Jones would be.
Bella dead eyed, her spark and zest for life, that burned so bright, when, dressed in the height of exclusive fashion, she partied until dawn in the midst of London’s social elite, snuffed and extinguished leaving but a timid and withdrawn plain Jane of a girl that now stood meekly before her Mistress.
Miss Caroline raised her pen.
“Well, Bella, shall we sign your acceptance to be a lady's maid, my lady's maid?”
Bella curtsied and stepped forward.
“Yes, Mistress, thank you, Mistress.”
The contract signed Caroline looked at the signature and smirked with satisfaction, scrawled by her own signature the name of Bella, Lady Devonshire instinctively signing not in the name of Lady Isabella Devonshire but in her maid’s name, in the name of Bella, seven months of torment and the girl was truly broken.
Annie was taken to Devonshire House and introduced to a grateful Miss Bingham; Caroline had been true to her word and provided her with a house maid. Miss Bingham being unaware that the pretty house maid to be engaged was in fact, Annabelle Fitzsimons a once famous and successful doctor. Miss Bingham chuckled when Caroline informed her that he pretty maid would be no trouble with the boys or any philandering by the Major and Miss Bingham smiled contently when she was told why.
Annie clung to Caroline like only lovers do when Caroline prepared to leave but Miss Bingham took it to be less, just a nervous girl not wishing her Mistress to leave her. Annie was assured in a whispered covenant between them that she would return on a regular basis, which of course she did, she had the key to her chastity belt after all.
When someone is taken to the depths of despair, any light that shines ahead, however faint however far away, it becomes a beacon of hope, no matter what lays in wait at the end of that tunnel it will be pursued with a blind faith. Such was the enthusiasm that Bella showed in her role of lady's maid to Caroline Armstrong-Jones, once her friend, but now her Mistress.
Bedecked in her pristine new uniform and starched apron Bella fawned over her Mistress going about her duties. Lady Devonshire had been shown little if no affection in the nine months she had been slowly but surely transformed into the obedient maid Bella. She had never been with a man or woman for that matter but all that was about to change.
A month into new position she had prepared a bath for her Mistress, the water to the temperature demanded of her Mistress, towels warmed and laid by the tub, a nightgown and robe hung in waiting. Caroline strolled into the room and smiled seeing everything prepared and a fire roaring in the hearth.
Bella dropped a curtsy and was about to leave her Mistress to her privacy but unlike on previous occasions she was instructed to stay.
Caroline smiled at her somewhat bemused maid.
“Come help me from my clothes, girl.”
Caroline was wearing a liberal application of a strong sweet smelling opiate based perfume and smiled seeing the scent caught in Bella’s senses when she began to unbutton the bodice of her Mistress's dress. A dress once owned by herself though not recognised as such by Bella. Presenting herself provocatively to be peeled naked by her maid Caroline ran her fingers over Bella’s apron ties and pulled the bow loose.
“You will strip too, Bella, before you bathe me.”
This was virgin territory for Bella, but she had to comply to her Mistress's command.
A naked Caroline lustfully watched Bella strip; of course in her mind this was still Lady Isabella Devonshire that was soon down to her plain cotton bloomers and chemise before they too were laid on chair by the fire.
Whilst Caroline stood casual and free of inhibition, Bella sought solace in folding her arm across her pert breasts and holding her open palm to her pubic bone.
Caroline paraded to the tub and stepping in was engulfed by the hot water and scented bubbles.
Caroline pulled the sponge from beneath the suds and smiled.
“Start with my back, Bella.”
Slowly Bella worked the sponge across her Mistress's back, then her neck and arms. Caroline hoisted a leg over the edge of the tub and Bella worked the sponge over her feet, calves, knee and lower thigh. Caroline’s eyes tightened.
“Why have you stopped? Do my legs stop there?”
Taking Bella’s hand still clutching the sponge she worked it down her thigh and between her legs pressing into her crotch. Caroline then hoisted her other leg over the other side of the tub spreading herself, then laid back, releasing Bella’s hand.
“Continue, Bella, this part of my anatomy needs extra special care.”
Bella working carefully and lightly with the sponge, the opiate perfume now infused in the waters of the bath rose in the steam and Bella was becoming heady, no less so than her Mistress. Seeing the change in Bella’s demeanour, Caroline stood from the tub and smiled.
“Get in the tub, Bella.”
Bella stepped slowly into the tub and sunk into the warm water and proceed to bathe herself. A warm towel offered by her still naked Mistress a sweet smelling Bella emerged.
Bella dry went to retrieve her uniform from the chair to dress only to be halted by her Mistress.
“Come, Bella, sit by the fire on the rug”.
Bella joined her Mistress on the sheepskin rug and sat awkward and uneasy with her nakedness. Caroline chuckled and reached to cup one of Bella’s breasts thumbing her nipple sending a noticeable shiver through her.
Caroline’s thumb continued to toy.
“Relax, Bella, does that not feel nice?”
It did feel nice very nice and with a slight blush Bella responded.
Caroline had explored many of the erogenous zones of her maid’s and proceeded to touch and tease about poor Bella’s nakedness until she was wet and in raptures.
“Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmm, that’s nice, isn’t it, Bella, to be touched like this?”
The effect of the opiate and Caroline’s skilled seductive touch Bella was gasping and squirming on the rug and when Caroline’s fingers dallied on her clit and teased into her wetness, she squealed in pleasurable delight. The remainder of that evening Caroline took Bella on a journey of saphonic discovery that left her wistfully staring into the dying embers of the fire lying, naked, limp and fulfilled in the arms of her Mistress. There was no going back for Bella and over the coming weeks like Annie and others before her she became a besotted lesbian love toy of her Mistress.
Bella’s sexual awaking came with price, Caroline was restrictive with her use of Bella which led to increased masturbation by the enchanted maid, which of course was known by Caroline. Needing to keep Bella frustrated and eager to please her Mistress Caroline waited her time, then, entering Bella’s quarters one evening catching her in full flow chastised the startled maid for playing with herself.
Caroline laid out a chastity belt on the bed and smiled.
“Put this on there will be no more messing with yourself girl; you will have no pleasure without my say. Understand?”
Bella worked herself into the belt, tugged the crotch plate tight and closed the lock before handing the key to her mistress.
The belt was removed on a regular basis and sometimes not when Caroline took her maid for her pleasure. Sometimes Caroline taking satisfaction from seeing an unfilled maid wriggling and squirming for her own release whilst she was being probed and teased by Bella’s touch and tongue.
The smile that had been evident on Annie’s face, when Lady Devonshire made her first visit to Manningham Hall, now blossomed on the face of the new pristine house maid Bella. The belt cupping her sex beneath her bloomers, petticoats, dress and starched apron a constant reminder of her pleasures at the hands of her Mistress.
Almost twelve months since Lady Isabelle Devonshire had made the fateful decision to accept a life in servitude and being transformed into an obedient lady's maid and she was fully accepting of her status. She would not be returning to the life she once knew.
One evening Caroline called Bella to the Parlour after supper and it was an expectant maid who appeared and curtsied.
“Mistress, shall I fetch the key?”
“No, Bella, not tonight, I have something I want you to do tomorrow which is very important.”
“I will have a visitor tomorrow a special visitor, a young lady, Miss Priscilla Asquith-Smyth.”
“When she arrives you will show her into the drawing room and inform her that I will join her soon. You will then serve her a flute of champagne on a silver tray and remark that the champagne is of a good vintage. You will make sure you are impeccably dressed not a crease on your apron and smile at all times, Understand?”
“If all goes well, Bella, we will need the key tomorrow evening.”
Bella giggled and curtsied again.
The day began and all was prepared when the doorbell chimed.
Bella opened the door and curtsied
“Please, Miss, if you will wait in the drawing room my Mistress will join you directly, she is currently indisposed, but is expecting you, Miss Asquith-Smyth.”
The young guest looked questioningly at the pretty maid then followed her into the drawing room.
Bella having left the girl seated in the drawing room returned with a flute of champagne on a silver tray and curtsied offering the champagne to her.
“A very good vintage, Miss.”
The girl watched Bella float serenely from the room and Caroline entered.
A short time passed and Bella was summoned back into the drawing room standing in front of her Mistress. She curtsied under the admiring gaze of Caroline’s guest, took her instruction and swiftly returned with two fresh flutes of champagne.
A curtsy and she was gone.
Before the girl left, clutching a large envelope, she questioned Caroline about her maid.
“Your maid, not what I would have expected, she sounds well educated, my own maids are hardly literate, and she is quite articulate!”
“Yes, Bella, well Isabella is her real name, Isabella Devonshire; she has become the consummate maid, the perfect domestic servant.”
That evening the belt was removed and a naked Mistress and maid twisted and squirmed on a fur rug in front of a roaring fire. Caroline excited at the prospect of ensnaring another high-born disillusioned with her life, Bella happy to have pleased her Mistress, which she continued to do well into the night!
It was a week later when the girl returned and Bella greeted her at the door with a curtsy.
“Miss Asquith-Smyth, please come though, Mistress is expecting you, first door on the right, let me show you.”
The girl seemed nervous and entered the room shown to her by Bella.
Bella waited just outside the room and when she heard the tinkle of Mistress's bell entered, curtsied and smiled.
Told to serve tea Bella dropped a curtsy.
The girl watched Bella leave, her uniform a long, black, lace collared, sleeved, dress plain, but of quality, a pristine brilliant white, full length starched bibbed apron, without a crease, a neat lace cap perched on her dark, short bob styled hair.
The girl feeling a not unpleasant shiver run through her when Caroline spoke.
“Lovely isn’t she Bella, it took time, but now she is my personal maid. She was a little like yourself, outwardly successful but weary of her responsibilities hard to believe but she was Lady Isabelle Devonshire. We met by chance and she accepted my proposal, such a charming girl, just twenty eight, so sweet don’t you think?”
Priscilla stammered a little.
“Er, erm yes, yes she is, would, would I, I......”
Caroline leaned forward and continued what her cute guest was hesitant to say.
“Would you be like Bella? Well that would be up to you wouldn’t it?”
Priscilla spoke questioningly.
“And is she happy?”
Bella returned with a tray containing the tea, curtsied and placed the tray on the desk then stood back and dropped another curtsy a fixed smile never leaving her face.
Caroline swivelled in her chair to face her pretty maid.
“Bella, Miss Asquith-Smyth wishes to know if you are happy to be my maid.”
Bella, a soft coy blush rising on her face, her hands folded across her apron and feeling the security of her chastity belt, looked at the girl staring at her then back at her Mistress and spoke with genuine and obvious conviction.
“Yes Mistress, very happy, Mistress.”
Caroline looking into the convinced eyes Priscilla and smiled.
“Thank you Bella that will be all.”
A new maid started at Manningham Hall shortly after reporting to Mrs Rutherford. Bella continued in her duties as Catherine’s personal maid.
Eight Months Later.
Bella was in floods of tears sitting by packed cases at the door of Mannigham Hall. Caroline struggling herself to keep a stiff upper lip, ushered a distraught Bella to her carriage. For all Caroline was a scheming sly individual this was the part of her business she least enjoyed, in fact hated and exposed a sliver of compassion.
Bella was now on her way to be house maid to the Carringtons, the couple who now leased the apartments in Mayfair of one Miss Priscilla Asquith-Jones, who left suddenly leaving her art and collection of rare paintings behind her without a word. Some say to elope to Italy with her lover? Well that was according to Miss Catherine Armstrong-Jones who had been left to look after her affairs!
It was a sad parting with Catherine consoling Bella, telling her that she would visit regularly. Catherine did visit regularly always with key in hand to be greeted by a smiling maid Bella.
Two years later.
Bella proved to be the perfect house maid for the Carringtons, why wouldn’t she? She had been trained thoroughly under the brutal draconian regime of Miss Rutherford and nurtured into the needy obedient lady's maid by her Mistress Miss Caroline Armstrong-Jones. Little could the Carringtons have known that the polite, well-spoken, chaste and obedient maid Bella that served them, was once the wealthy socialite Lady Isabella Devonshire.
The Carringtons were away in the North of England and Bella was giddy with excitement, her Mistress would be calling that evening.
The fog poured into the streets of Mayfair from the swirling Thames and Bella hurried to the flower stall on the corner after collecting food for her Mistresses supper. The flowers a gift for her Mistress, Caroline had left her mark on her Lesbian lover who remained forever loyal to her Mistress.
There was nothing significant to catch the eye, nothing at all remarkable about the shawl-clad girl scurrying on her way, a laden basket, with a bouquet of flowers hanging like jewels over its edge that swung from her arm, why would there be? She was just a house maid, wasn’t she?