Sunday, December 4, 2016

Story: Her Most Remarkable Performance. Chapter 4.

by Camille Langtry

Chapter 4

A young maidservant, dressed in a black long-sleeved dress with white cuffs and a collar, a large apron tied around her waist, entered the room. It took Evelyn a few seconds to realize that the servant girl in front of her was Lady Georgina Ashburton. The contrast with the rich heiress that she just spoke to a few minutes ago was too great! The only giveaway was Georgina’s hairdo, which was far too elaborate for a simple maid, but her head was now partially covered by a snowy cap, contributing to her overall appearance as a humble servant, awaiting her demanding mistress’s orders.

Georgina made a step forward and curtseyed, looking at Evelyn expectantly.

”Did Madame ring?” she said, her voice trembling just a bit.

Evelyn moved toward Georgina –  the irony of the fact that a combination of her natural tallness and the high heels she was now wearing forced her to look down on her “maid” did not escape her –  and slowly walked around her, examining the black-and-white uniform. Did she have it made for herself or just took it from one of the maids that quit, she wondered. Most certainly the latter. Either way, she could now completely understand why Sarah found it so difficult not to chuckle when playing this game –  the maid’s dress was clearly made for a much bigger girl and Lady Georgina looked quite comical in it, especially considering her somewhat scared facial expression.  

“You would need a better uniform. This one would do for now, but if you want to continue serving me in this house, you should consider getting the one that fits you well. I will not tolerate untidy appearance,’’ Evelyn said matter-of-factly, as if lecturing Georgina on how she should be dressed was the most natural thing in the world. “I know a good store just off Bond Street. They sell the most exquisite maid’s dresses, caps and aprons. They are not cheap, but you’d thank me later –  they are top quality and would last for 10 years.”

“Thank you, Miss”, said Georgina, who wasn’t expecting her guest to take on the role of a demanding and contentious mistress so quickly. Clearly, Evelyn did not really expect her to get a new uniform and that was just part of the game?

“That’s settled then, I will book you for a fitting. All will be deducted from your pay, of course. Now, draw a bath for me,” said Evelyn, turned her back to Georgina, sat down by the vanity and began studying her flawless expression with great interest.

Georgina wanted to protest –  obviously she was not planning to go to a shop to try on maid uniforms and Evelyn was clearly overplaying her strict mistress act –  but she had to admire her guest’s apparent skill as an actress as well as her ingenuity. Truth be told, the maid’s dress she had on was well-worn and totally out of size, but she always thought it was more than adequate for the purposes of the game. There was nothing in the script about a new uniform so Evelyn came up with the idea herself!  And, unlike Sarah, she sounded so natural, just like an upper class mistress issuing orders to her maid. Georgina decided to play along, she could always stop the game if it went too far. But for now Evelyn was merely doing her best to portray the character she was commissioned to play.

“Yes, Miss, at once,’’ said Georgina and went to the adjoining room to fill the bath.  She returned a few minutes later and, with a slight curtsеy, inquired: “Will there be anything else, Miss?”

Evelyn raised her eyebrow and looked at Georgina as if she just asked the most stupid question in the world.

“Surely, you can’t expect me to undress myself. Or did you think I would bath in my street clothing?” Evelyn rolled her eyes and sighed a deep sigh of a woman who is unbelievably tired of repeating the same thing over and over again to incompetent people who just won’t listen. “Or do I need to tell you exactly what you need to do every single time?”

“Sorry, Miss, I didn’t think...”

“I can see that you did not. Save me from you redundant explanations and just do the job I pay you for,” Evelyn interrupted her hapless maid.

Georgina helped Evelyn take off her clothes, struggling longer than necessary –  to the impatient groans of her fastidious mistress –  with the laces of the corset and the garters holding the stockings in place. In a few minutes the young woman stood by the bed in just her chemise. Evelyn grabbed a silken lace dressing gown she set aside earlier and, before locking the bathroom door,  gave Georgina more instructions, this time in a friendlier tone as if apologizing for being abrupt earlier: “Please set aside the sage-green brocade dress. The one with a striped skirt. And find a nice underskirt, I don’t think mine would do for that style.”

Evelyn locked the door behind her and removed the chemise. She stood for a minute naked in front of the large wall mirror, admiring her impeccable slender figure of a young Grecian goddess. She lifted her delicate alabaster arms and removed the pins from her luscious raven hair, allowing it to fall over her shoulders all the way to her waist, and stepped into the hot water. Evelyn slowly lowered her body into the deep bathtub. The feeling of warmth and relaxation overwhelmed her. Agreeing to Georgina’s strange proposal was worth it only to enjoy this unparalleled luxury, that only the most privileged had access to! What a contrast to her own small tin bath she washed herself in standing up!

She smiled to herself as she remembered the confused expression on Lady Georgina’s face. She hoped she didn’t push it too far with the arrogant mistress act –  the girl was clearly not expecting her to become so forceful right away even though that was what she ultimately wanted. And she couldn’t help, but be utterly amazed by her host’s absolute gullibility. She was lucky indeed that Evelyn was an honest girl –  there was little doubt in her mind that some of her girlfriends from the theatre wouldn’t miss a chance to snag a thing or two from an almost empty rich house such as this.

Thirty minutes later Evelyn, smelling of Lady Olivia’s favorite bathing oil and wearing her dressing gown, re-entered the dressing room.  She hasn’t felt so relaxed in weeks. Georgina was standing by the door in attendance and greeted her mistress with a small bow. She pulled a visiting dress that Evelyn requested from the wardrobe and laid it across the bed next to other items she’d prepared for Evelyn –  an elaborate bustle to give her gown the fashionable silhouette dictated by London’s best dressmakers, voluminous petticoats, silk stockings, an embroidered corset and gloves.  

Evelyn walked to the vanity and set down, looking at her reflection in the mirror, her face still a bit red from the bath. This time Georgina didn’t need any instructions –  it was pretty clear what her mistress expected from her.

“Would you like me to do your hair, Miss?” she inquired.

Evelyn, seemingly too preoccupied with studying her faultless face in the mirror, didn’t say a word and just nodded slightly. Georgina stood behind her mistress’s chair and began stroking her long tresses, careful not to pull them too strongly. Evelyn remained silent throughout the process, only finally commenting after Georgina –  rather clumsily –  gathered the hair in a bun, approximating the simple style that the actress wore before taking a bath.

“This simply won’t do. Don’t you see it’s tilting to the right?” Evelyn looked at herself in the mirror disapprovingly. “Have you done anybody else’s hair before?”

“No, Miss. Just Sarah’s. And I only did brushing,” was Georgina’s reply.

“A lady’s maid who can’t do hair. How peculiar,’’ said Evelyn mockingly and lifted her hands, quickly and confidently fixing her coiffure with just a few expert moves. “I think we’ll have to remedy that somehow, don’t you agree?”

“Remedy how, Miss?” said Georgina, her nervousness returning as Evelyn was once again overstepping her pre-defined authority. There was nothing in the script about that. It was supposed to be her game by her rules, but the actress was changing it all on the go. She’ll have to explain to her how it should be done after their session is over.

“We’ll see. I don’t have an answer just yet. I would need to think about that. Oh, one last thing,” said Evelyn and looked at Georgina. “How do you want me to call you?”

“I don’t know, Miss,’’ was Georgina’s somewhat surprised reply.

“Well, I surely can’t call you Georgina. It’s not a maid’s name. Have you ever met a servant with this name? That would be most improper. Even scandalous,’’ explained Evelyn. “What is your middle name?”

“It’s Augusta, Miss,’’ replied Georgina, her eyes downcast. “Georgina Augusta Louise.”

“Augusta? Georgina Augusta Louise Ashburton?” said the actress, barely containing a chuckle. “Augusta’s not very maid-like either. Neither is Louise. Couldn’t your parents give you a name matching your new occupation, girl?”

Lady Georgina did not know what to answer to that and just stood in front of Evelyn, her arms crossed on the white apron. She caught her own reflection in the vanity - dressed in a black uniform of a maidservant she was the epitome of submissiveness and servitude.

“I will call you Susan,’’ said Evelyn and smiled at her own ingenuity. It was not uncommon for noble ladies, who could not be bothered to memorize real names of their servants, to re-Christen their new maids. So a succession of female domestics working for the same house could be all called Mary or Betty or some other common name. Evelyn’s Irish cleaner was called Susan, so it made all the sense in the world to call her new servant Susan as well. What the girl serving her was really called should be no concern of hers as a mistress.


“Tell me about yourself, Susan. Why did you decide to enter service?” Evelyn addressed her host.

“I… I am not sure I understand.. I...” was Georgina’s confused reply.

“This is a very simple question, don’t you think? As a mistress, I need to know about the girl in my service. Tell me about your family,” said Evelyn in her best strict mistress impersonation.

“Can we go back to the game?” Georgina finally gathered the courage to protest. Evelyn was clearly overstepping the pre-defined rules they agreed on.

“Enough,’’ replied Evelyn and waved her right hand in a grand manner befitting a London high society lady. “Let me guess. You are an orphan. You father was a fishmonger and your mother worked at a match factory. You were very young when they both died and you were sent to an orphanage in East London. You can read and write, but not much more; your education is almost non-existent. With no connections of any kind and no family to support you, this means you are only good for the most basic menial work. You got your first job as maid when you were only 16 and has been working as one ever since at various households until you were lucky to find a place in my house. Isn’t that right, Susan?”

Georgina just stared at the young actress, unsure what to answer. On the one hand, her guest was a lot more forceful than expected, on the other, this assertiveness was precisely why she had decided to hire her. She was good at playing the mistress. Very good.

“Answer me, girl,” Evelyn said impatiently.

“Yes, Miss, this is correct, Miss,’’ Georgina answered meekly.

“Very well, Susan. Now, it’s time for me to get dressed. And this time hurry up, girl, I don’t have all day.”

19 comments:

  1. 'Excellent transition, Camille. I love the chutzpah of Evelyn in adopting the Lady's role and acting quite imperious towards her "new" maid, Georgina, now Susan.
    Perhaps Evelyn, while impersonating the lady of the house, will contract for a seamstress to visit the mansion, and take Susan's measurements, for her custom uniforms -- with Georgina's reluctant but willing compliance for her as Susan "to be in character" of course. And later return with uniforms made, acknowledging that Susan is witnessed as indeed to be Evelyn's maid of the house.
    The expression, "In for a penny; in for a pound" again applies, lol. :) 'Can't wait for the awesome next installment. :D

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    1. Thanks! Wondering if the lady of the house would want to be directly involved with such mandane task in the end. We'll soon find out!

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  2. The maid will obviously require training from an instructor!

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    1. Yes, a lot of training and re- or rather de-education is in order!

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  3. Just fantastic.. can't wait for the next chapter
    maid - mandy x x x

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  4. Dear Camille, I'm not able to say anything but its great stuff you wrote!
    Can't wait to read more.
    Please ASAP!!!

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    1. Thank you very much, doing my best. There will be more, do not worry.

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    2. I like dressing szenes with a very demanding mistress who takes the service of her personal maids for granted. I hope Lady Evelyn lift no finger to dress or bathe herself.

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  5. An Appreciative ReaderDecember 5, 2016 at 12:57 AM

    Yep another great chapter, detail, plot, everything... thank you!

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  6. It`s really great!!!

    Hope that you take your time, Camille.

    There`s no need to hurry or to finish the tale in a few more chapters...

    Manipulation takes time... Same is true for changing identities...

    There would be Georgina`s family as a potential problem as well...

    Oh, that might really get exciting.

    marc

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    1. Thank you for that. There will be a few twists and turns before it is over so it will take time. We are not even half way through yet.

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  7. This was an excellent episode. The contrast between Georgina's not-well-though-out role-play desires, and the skills of an actress, professional at the business of creating and portraying fictitious identities, is very well done. I look forward to further steps in the process of creating Susan, the uneducated, poorly-spoken maid from the East End.

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    1. A wonderful downwards journey. I am glad you are enjoying it.

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  8. Dear Camille, could I possibly speak with you at some time on the subject of possible plots and your thoughts to an idea I have for a story I've long pondered..I hate to ask in a public forum ...my email is mandymaiden@hotmail.co.uk
    Sorry if this is stepping over the mark and will not ask any other favours of you if I have x

    maid-mandy

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    1. Hi, not a problem at all. Just dropped you an e-mail.

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  9. This is a really interesting "journey" Camille.
    Looking forward to your lovely detailed story telling.
    BillA.

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    1. Thanks. Why the ""? It is a journey in more ways than one, including moving from point A to point B.

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