True to her word, Aunt Helen allowed me to be alone for the rest of the afternoon.
She had said that dinner would be served at six-thirty prompt, in the dining room but until then I was free to do as I pleased. I could rest or use the time to explore the house and grounds.
She 'advised' most strongly, however, not to venture into the main part of the house. The soldiers there were very seriously wounded and she did not think it appropriate for me to be wandering about and getting in the way of the medical staff without any instruction.
I understood this and promised her I would keep away from the house.
I was exhausted from my journey by now and decided that the best thing would be to retire to my room, Melissa had already informed me that my trunk had been placed there, and sort out my possessions, such as they were, maybe snatch a couple of hours rest.
So, once I had finished my afternoon tea, I climbed the stairs and walked the long landing to my room.
Melissa was right, the trunk had been placed at the end of my bed but I didn't go to it. The bed itself looked so inviting I decided to lay upon it for a while and just relax, allow my food to digest for a while.
It was indeed as soft and comfortable as it appeared. Climbing onto it I lay back on top of the covers and closed my eyes. I felt as though I was sinking into it.
What seemed like minutes later I heard a voice.
“Yes, she is young, and very pretty, as I told you.”
Melissa? I opened my eyes to see Melissa and a much younger servant standing beside my bed.
“Is something wrong?” I asked but either they could not hear me or were totally ignoring me.
“Do you think she would?” the younger one asked.
“Maggie, you do have a short memory!” Melissa said, sharply. “She is a virgin and also a very naive and prudish young woman. We will have to be careful and steer her around to getting used to our ways.”
“What do you mean, your ways?” I all but shouted.
They both looked down at me and I lay still. It was as though I wasn't there and yet they were looking at me and talking about me.
Suddenly, I felt that strange feeling building inside me again, like when I was in the bath. I felt warm deep inside and my heart had begun to beat more strongly. I felt as though I were afraid, and yet... no, that wasn't it. It wasn't fear.
So what then? What was this odd feeling?
The young maid, Maggie, sat on the edge of the bed alongside my feet and gently touched my ankle. Moving slowly up my shin and beneath my skirt, she looked up at Melissa.
“Her skin is very soft, Mel. Beautiful legs.”
I didn't move a muscle but I was tense and felt incredibly shaky inside, as if every part of my body was electrically charged.
Maggie's hands were soft against my flesh and I was surprised that a housemaid would have such soft hands but when she reached my knee I was kind of paralysed. I could have moved, stopped her, and yet my inner self was holding me down, wanting to experience this, wanting to see what would happen.
Her hand moved slowly up my inner thigh, beneath my petticoat. I was shaking uncontrollably now, my muscles so tense they were vibrating and I gasped as her fingertips came into contact with my most private place.
I had never been touched in this way before and the sensations were out of this world.
I felt hot and my heart felt as though it would stop. The muscles between my legs were in spasm and my breathing was almost impossible.
As the young maid's fingers stroked gently up and down the soft satin fabric of my knickers, pressing it gently into the folds, Melissa sat on the mattress the other side.
She bent towards me and her lips hovered briefly above my own. I closed my eyes, waiting for the contact. her breath upon my lips, fresh and warm, her scent was intoxicating.
I heard a sound, like a low moaning. What on earth was it? Then I realised, it was coming from my throat, I could feel the vibration at the base of my neck and it was getting louder, rising in intensity, in sympathy with the cramping of my muscles inside and the beating of my heart.
I sat bolt upright and looked about me. I was alone!
"Miss Victoria!" the voice called again, this time with some urgency.
"One moment, please," I called back, a little shakily.
As I gathered my senses I realized my dress had been pulled up and my knickers were exposed and there was a small wet patch on them.
I understood, then, that I must have been dreaming, a dream the like of which I had never experienced before but, what was worse, I seemed to have passed water and wet myself.
I quickly covered myself and, swallowing, called out:
The door opened swiftly and Melissa entered the room.
"Melissa. is something wrong?"
"Miss Victoria, Lady Helen sent me to find out where you were. She said she would overlook it this once, but that I should remind you of the importance of good manners."
"Good manners?" I queried, "Why Melissa, what have I done?"
I looked at the small timepiece on my left wrist and gasped. It read ten minutes to Seven!
"Oh my Lord!" I exclaimed, "I slept so long!"
"So it would seem, Miss," she replied, "Would you care to freshen up before you come down? You must hurry of course."
"Yes, yes I would," I stammered, remembering the patch of fluid between my legs.
Melissa walked quickly towards the bathroom and I stopped her.
"I will see to it, Melissa, please?" I said, almost apologetic. I couldn't let her know I had disgraced myself as I slept.
"As you wish, Miss Victoria." she replied with more than a hint of resignation in her voice, "I will find you a suitable dress."
I walked quickly, almost ran into the bathroom and removed my knickers once the door was closed.
That was strange, the wet patch was sticky. It didn't feel or smell like urine... then what...?
I didn't have time to ponder the conundrum so I quickly cleaned the patch and wiped myself with my cloth, reasoning that clean water would soon dry and there would be no aroma.
I stepped back into them and pulled them up then returned to my bed chamber where Melissa helped me to change into a deep blue velvet dress which fastened at the back then, very quickly, gave my hair a brush.
"Do I look presentable Melissa?" I asked.
"Oh yes, Miss Victoria. Very presentable."
I followed the housekeeper along the landing and down the stairs to the dining room I had been in earlier.
Opening the door and stepping inside, Melissa addressed the assembled dinner guests.
"Miss Victoria Harcourt," she announced.
I blushed deep red with embarrassment as she stepped back to allow me to enter the room. Each place at the large table was occupied, bar one, my own, at the head of the table the opposite end to Aunt Helen!
There were eight guests in total, four either side of the table. Four men and four women. Two of the men were clearly army officers and two of the women were nursing yeomanry.
The other four guests appeared to be couples.
"I... I'm so sorry to keep you all waiting." I stammered, remembering the words of my former headmistress about what I had learned at the school, "I am afraid I fell asleep."
The four men had risen to their feet as I entered and so not to keep them waiting I went straight to the vacant chair at the end of the table where one of the housemaids pushed in my chair as I sat.
I was a little surprised that there were no male servants, but I reasoned they had all gone to fight in the trenches.
Lady Helen did not look at all pleased and spoke quietly with Melissa and then smiled.
"I can see that I shall have to provide young Victoria with an alarm clock!" she said for the benefit of her guests.
A small ripple of laughter followed the comment and my face must have glowed crimson red.
“ No, I am sorry, Victoria, I should not embarrass you so.” Lady Helen smiled benignly before addressing her guests, “I am afraid young Victoria has had a bit of a rough time lately. Her parents went down with the Lusitania on the Seventh and she has just arrived here after a long overnight journey from her boarding school in the highlands.”
The guests nodded sympathetically and muttered small sounds of understanding.
“Now, Victoria,” she continued, “Allow me to introduce you to my guests.”
She indicated the elderly, grey haired officer immediately to her left.
“This is Major-General Sir Michael Pilkington-Smythe. He is Commander-in-Chief of the Royal Army Medical Corps.”
Sir Michael stood and bowed.
“Charmed, Miss Harcourt. Lady Helen said you were pretty but she understated the fact.”
“Thank you, Sir Michael,” I replied with a smile, thinking 'you old charmer!'
Turning, then, to the mature lady to her right in the grey and white uniform of the nursing yeomanry, whom I guessed to be in her early to mid sixties.
Major Elizabeth Middleton. She is head of the nursing staff here.”
“Hello, Victoria. I am sorry we couldn't meet in more pleasant circumstances but welcome.”
“Thank you, Major.” I tried to remember whether this was the correct way to address her but, in all honesty, I had no idea about military etiquette whatsoever.
Next was a youngish officer, around thirty perhaps. He was introduced as Captain Simon Philpott, Officer-in-Charge of Administration and discipline.
“Good evening, Sir,” I said and he looked at me with the most charming smile.
“Simon, please, Miss Harcourt. You are not one of my men after all.”
I smiled back. “Simon,” I replied, noticing for the first time, his twinkling blue eyes and thin black moustache.
The final uniform was Sister Philomena Watson. She was a Red Cross nurse who was the Staff nurse in charge of the day to day medical care.
I was a little surprised that Sister Watson seemed so young for such a responsible position. She appeared much younger than Captain Philpott but surely she couldn't be... could she?
“ Good Evening, Sister.” I politely replied to her greeting, noticing that her eyes sparkled in the electric light which complemented the fading light coming through the high windows in the wall opposite her.
Lady Helen then indicated the smartly dressed gentleman and the pretty, middle aged lady beside him.
“ Doctor-Surgeon William Harris and his wife Christine,” she smiled.
The surgeon smiled warmly.
“Pleased to meet you, Miss Harcourt.” he said, standing. “Lady Helen told us earlier that you will be residing with her for the foreseeable future.”
“That is correct, Doctor. I really do not know how long that will be.”
“Well, I am sure we will see much more of each other. I am also lady Helen's Doctor and, I would imagine therefore, yours also.”
“I would hope that I will not have need of your professional services, Doctor Harris, but I am pleased to make your acquaintance nevertheless.” I answered politely but something about him made me uneasy. I felt that there was something untoward about him.
His wife smiled slightly and I felt she was forcing it for the sake of etiquette but her deep brown eyes did not smile. They seemed wary, as if she distrusted me, although for what reason I could not imagine.
The final couple were introduced as the Reverend Francis Wallace and his wife, Marjory.
The reverend was also middle aged, around forty with slick black hair shining with pomade.
Marjory Wallace appeared younger, around thirty I guessed. She was slim and appeared very shy, looking down at the table, cheeks rosy red as Lady Helen spoke her name.
Reverend Wallace stood, as had all the others men before him and welcomed her to Suffolk.
“Thank you, Reverend,” I responded brightly and then added, “Mrs. Wallace.”
“You are welcome, Miss Harcourt, but please, call me Marjory should you wish,” She almost whispered, her face growing even darker red.
“Well, Thank you... Marjory,” I tried to make her feel relaxed, “and Victoria will be fine for me too if you wish,”
She smiled as if afraid to say more and, as though to conclude the niceties, my aunt rang the little hand bell.
A moment later, the doors from the adjacent kitchen opened and a young maid entered carrying a large tray with empty dishes.
Beginning with Major Middleton, a second maid placed one of the warm plates in front of each guest the final ones being placed in front of myself and, finally, my aunt.
Closely behind, another maid followed with a selection of roasted meats on a silver tray. She went to each guest in turn, following the same order and placed slices of the chosen meats onto each plate using silver tongs.
As she continued, the maid who had delivered the plates went to a long sideboard at the side of the room and collected terrines of vegetables from a heated stone placed thereon.
These she placed, one by one, in the centre of the dining table for the guests to help themselves with the silver serving spoons which had been placed into each one.
Finally, the two original maids passed down each side of the table with boats of gravy.
As the gravy was offered to Mrs. Wallace the maid suddenly jumped and the thin gravy spilled from the spout of the boat due to the sudden movement and splashed into her lap and down the front of her blouse.
Marjory Wallace gasped and jumped backwards as the hot liquid soaked through the thin fabric and onto her thighs.
The maid was mortified!
“Oh, Madam!” she blurted, “I... I'm so sorry! I.. he...!” stammering and stumbling over the words, looking first at Reverend Wallace then at me, her eyes pleading as if fearful of the consequences. She stood as though rooted whilst Marjory dabbed at her blouse and skirt with the napkin from in front of her.
Another maid took the gravy from her whilst a third help repair the damage with a damp cloth.
“Bethany!” Aunt Helen spoke at last and with some severity. “Go to the kitchen! I will deal with you later!”
Bethany looked at me, almost begging my help.
“Miss, please, It wasn't, my fault.”
I tried to smile, to calm her in the only way I knew but as I was new here I really didn't know what to do.
“Bethany!” Lady Helen almost barked her name.
The maid turned and ran towards the kitchen, her eyes brimming with tears.
I look around the guests. Most just accepted that an accident had occurred and other than a few words of sympathy for Marjory Wallace, treated the incident with indifference.
Reverend Wallace, however, appeared almost smug. Yes, he fussed over his wife but there was an tiny smile playing on his lips, as if there was something else on his mind, as if he was satisfied about something but, for the life of me I could not think what.
At the far end of the table I saw Aunt Helen whispering with the housekeeper, Melissa, who was nodding as if accepting an instruction or agreeing about something.
Although I was young and fresh from boarding school, I understood that such an occurrence was a huge affront to the aristocracy but the young girl seemed petrified, as though she had committed a criminal offence.
My mind was spinning. I was in a far different world to that in which I had been raised.
Through the myriad of thoughts I began to hear my name being called.
“Oh, I am sorry, Aunt Helen, I was miles away,” I apologized.
“Sir Michael was addressing you.” she continued with a hint of annoyance in her voice.
“Sir Michael, please accept my sincere apologies. I was engrossed.”
The elderly officer chuckled.
“Oh, don't you worry about that, young lady. I am sure this is all a little overwhelming for you.”
“It is an awful lot to take in,” I agreed. “I have also had a very long day so please forgive me if I seem a little distant. What was it you were asking?”
“Oh, nothing important,” he went on, “But if you don't mind me saying, your parents and school have done an excellent job in raising you. Your manners are impeccable.”
I smiled and saw that Lady Helen was also smiling. She seemed pleased at this remark.
“Thank you, Sir Michael, that is very kind of you to say so. I try my best.”
“Are you a church goer, Miss Harcourt?” Reverend Wallace enquired.
“Yes, Reverend, I am. A Methodist.” I paused, then, with a wry smile, asked, “and yourself?”
“Well, yes, of course I am.” Francis Wallace answered with more than a hint of irritability.
“I am sorry,” I flashed the sweetest smile I could muster, “I didn't mean are you a church goer, I was referring to which religion.” I had worded the original question intentionally ambiguous. There was something about the Reverend Francis Wallace I did not trust but at this time I didn't know why.
“Ah, ahem. yes, of course,” he blustered. I guessed he was not used to being talked to in such a way by a woman, especially one who was not yet officially old enough to be considered an adult! “I am a Church of England minister.”
Again, I glanced to the opposite end of the table and saw that my aunt was watching me. She seemed pleased about something. Maybe that I was showing a little spirit?
Marjory Wallace said nothing. She sat silently but seemed to be listening intently to every word.
“I imagine you are also kept very busy with you husband being such a prominent member of the community, Marjory?”
“Yes, quite busy, Victoria.” She smiled and I was sure she was about to say more but she caught sight of her husband, frowning beside her and stopped, returning her gaze to the plate in front of her.
The rest of the evening continued pleasantly enough. The meal was finished and much wine was enjoyed although I noticed that my aunt, like myself, had not touched a drop. The only other guest who had not imbibed was Marjory Wallace who had remained demur throughout the evening.
As the party drew to a close and the guests were preparing to leave, I joined Aunt Helen in the hallway to wish them a good night.
Major Middleton came directly to me.
“I have been discussing you with your aunt, Miss Harcourt, with reference to the hospital here. We agreed that you would be far better served in your time here with a little basic instruction in the condition of the soldiers who are being tended to.”
“Ah, yes. Thank you, Major. Aunt Helen did mention that briefly when I arrived.”
I wondered what would be coming next.
“Good, good,” She said brightly. “I will arrange with Sister Watson here,” she indicated the much younger Nurse beside her, “for you to come along and meet some of the staff.”
I smiled at Sister Watson. A little uncertainty must have shown on my face.
“Don't worry, Victoria,” she said smiling warmly, “We are not going to teach you to be a nurse or induct you into the army. Just a few lessons to help you understand and deal with the traumas the men have experienced for both your own and their safety.”
I was relieved and thanked them both very much for their pleasant company and looked forwards to seeing them again.
Doctor Harris and his wife, whom , I had discovered during the course of the evening, was also a doctor, a Psychiatrist, both thanked me for a very pleasant evening and said how pleased they had been to meet me.
“I am sure we will see much more of each other, my dear,” his wife said, taking my hand.
“I do hope so, Doctor Harris,” I said politely.
“Oh please, Victoria, call me Christine,” she insisted and again she had a look that didn't seem to match the tone in her voice.
“Christine,” I repeated, smiling but wary.
Captain Philpott accepted his cap and cane from the maid then turned to me.
“A pleasant evening, Miss Harcourt, Lady Helen,” he turned to my aunt as he spoke.
“One of many more I hope?”
“Thank you, Captain Philpott,” my aunt replied. "I am sure that will be so.”
Finally, Reverend Wallace, his wife following dutifully behind, almost like a pet rather than a wife. She seemed out of place, somehow, amongst the other guests who were very outgoing, confident people. Marjory was completely the opposite.
I offered my hand to the Reverend, who took it and held it for rather longer than would be considered polite and I was obliged to discretely withdraw.
After a short time in which he seemed to examine me in minute detail he spoke.
“Very nice to have met you, Victoria. I hope we shall see considerably more of you in the future... at church?” he added as if an afterthought.
“I am sure you shall Reverend, if you frequent the Methodist Chapel,” I replied with more than a hint of rebuke.
That didn't go unnoticed by his wife who looked at me warily. She seemed afraid of what his response might be and looked at him in alarm then back at me.
I smiled at her as her husband coughed a little.
“Ah yes, of course, I had forgotten,” he replied simply.
“Goodnight Marjory,” I said gently. “I am sorry about the mishap at dinner.”
She smiled, warmly now.
“That is all right , Victoria,” she said, “No harm done. I hope we meet again soon.”
“I am sure we will,” I replied, fully determined that we would and away from her wearisome husband. I wanted to know so much about them and I was sure that as long as he was about, Marjory Wallace would remain tight lipped and silent.
As the maid closed the front door behind them, Melissa appeared.
“Ah, Melissa,” My aunt addressed her, “about that incident.”
“Yes, My Lady, Bethany is awaiting you in the kitchen, and I have warned her to expect a severe punishment.”
I looked at Lady Helen aghast.
“Punishment!?” I exclaimed, “Surely it was an accident. Wouldn't a talking to be sufficient?”
“Victoria.” My aunt sighed, stopping in her tracks and turning to me. “You have been the centre of attention tonight. That is fine but please remember, this is my house and my staff. I will deal with 'accidents' in the way I deem fit and neither you nor anyone else will have a say in the matter!”
I was shocked at her sudden change in demeanour.
“I, I'm sorry, I didn't mean to interfere, Aunt Helen, it was just that...” I stopped.
“Just what?” she glared at me.
“Oh, nothing,” I replied, feeling it was more prudent not to continue.
“As you have decided that you have some kind of an interest in the discipline of this household,” she continued, “You may witness the punishment I administer to this clumsy young urchin!”
Chastened, I followed her and the housekeeper to the kitchen, and what I saw on entry made me stop dead!
Nothing I had heard about or dreamed about could ever have prepared me for what I was about to witness!
To be continued...
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with this note attached, it has been posted without my permission.
<a href="https://www.lushstories.com/stories/first-time/my-aunt-chapter-3.aspx">My Aunt Chapter 3</a>