God's Country Chapter Two

God's Country Chapter Two God's Country Chapter Two

Status: Finished

Genre: Literary Fiction

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Status: Finished

Genre: Literary Fiction

Summary

The second part...

Summary

The second part...

Chapter1 (v.1) - God's Country Chapter Two

Author Chapter Note

The second part...

Chapter Content - ver.1

Submitted: September 26, 2014

Reads: 421

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Chapter Content - ver.1

Submitted: September 26, 2014

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~~ “Only takes about an hour or so...and whilst I am moulding everything in this machine, my hygienist will give those pretty teeth a nice clean for you, Miss Buckingham.” Meadvale’s dentist, Dr Donovan, smiled warmly as he took the key from Miss Scott and inserted it into Elizabeth’s muzzle. It was an entirely surreal experience. Henrietta and Georgina had been left in the waiting room, sitting side by side, still dressed in their cloaks and bonnets, but Miss Scott had attached another mantle for each of them, something she casually called a blinding mantle. Having already taken their speech, and denied them both the use of their hands, she removed their sight and left them to pray to themselves, earning God’s love whilst Miss Scott looked after their honoured guest elsewhere. Beth’s cloak, bonnet and veils were gently removed and she was helped to settle in the dentist’s chair. And she needed help, because it was not easy to sit in her gown, hampered by her tight corset and the shaping cage. But Miss Scott knew exactly what to do and the electric chair was soon reclining so that Dr Donovan could work on her, starting with the removal of her borrowed muzzle.
“Elizabeth dear, it really is very important that you do not try to speak at all...unless you are asked a direct question of course...once Dr Donovan has removed your muzzle. Remember your Timothy...his first gospel...‘In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array; But which becometh women professing godliness with good works. Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.’ Respectful maidens always keep silent in company outside of the house; modesty must be your watchword whilst you are in Meadvale. People will expect it of you whilst you are staying with the Harrington’s and I really do need you to behave.”
“She seems like a good girl, Miss Scott...and I am quite sure she is benefitting from your attentions.” Dr Donovan commented as he gently removed the muzzle. “Quite an impressive obeisance...for her first day in the village...I am sure we will see rapid progress whilst she is with us and in your care...perhaps you could give her a drink before I start to take some impressions, please?”
“Of course Sir...and yes, she certainly is a very good girl...and her father is an honoured guest...but she is still earning God’s love now and she must always show her obedience to Him...and to me.” Miss Scott grinned at Beth as she held a plastic cup of scented water to her dry lips, as her charge was still wearing her mittens. She seemed patient and was certainly gentle, but there was something in her expression that made Beth think that she would be in big trouble if she ever crossed the guardian, a thought that sent a cold shiver running down her spine. So, she swallowed her water, and then spat some more into the bowl Miss Scott held for her, before the guardian stepped back to let the dentist do his job. But she was right there. Beth could always see her out of the corner of her eye and Miss Scott never took her eyes of her charge. Not even once. Beth had half prepared herself for her visit, as much as anyone could relying on the internet, but the realities of Reformism had still taken her by surprise. She had learnt a lot since first meeting Miss Scott, but she did not really understand any of it to any great extent, although that did not seem to bother anyone else. She was just expected to behave. Even her father expected that of her, and she knew the consequences with him if she did not do so, of course. So, as the genial dentist pressed what felt like warm clay into her mouth, she shut her eyes and told herself to buck up as it was only a few short weeks. She thought of herself as an accidental tourist, because no one had planned for her to be there, and her father was just taking advantage of his employer’s hospitality, in unforeseen circumstances, probably knowing full well that it would shock his only daughter. He was a widower and he could not, would not, leave her at home in London, because although she was sixteen and old enough to work, marry and do all sorts of adult things, he still considered her a child, and treated her as such, and of course her troubles at school had hardly served to emphasise her burgeoning maturity. He really had to have known quite a lot more about the Harrington’s than he had told her, and although calling them fanatics could have been a joke on his part, she suspected that he was sending her some sort of message.
In her eyes, he had set her a challenge, part as punishment and part as a test, and she fully intended to meet it and beat it, to show him that she was not his little girl anymore. Lying in the dentist’s chair, her eyes closed, she found herself thinking about the bible quote Miss Scott had recited to her. In Meadvale, as a Reformist, women were supposedly subordinate to men, and she was expected to be modest and silent in their august presence. She got the message. Most religions shared the same basic inference, she thought, remembering years of religious education lessons at Deepdene. Or rather the people who followed those religions interpreted their holy texts in that sexist way. Some Muslims covered their women too and, to Beth’s eyes, treated them appallingly at times, but more moderate Islamic scholars insisted that there was no suggestion that the Quran required it of anyone. So the Reformists were just Christian extremists and her father had dumped her in the middle of it for a few weeks. It might not be a pleasant sojourn for her, but if it got her out of a return to Deepdene she did not really care. She was that determined to get away from there.
“Good...that seems to fit rather well, even if I say so myself.” Dr Donovan smiled as he tightened the results of his labours, carefully checking the fit around Beth’s gums. “She may feel a little discomfort at first, some slight chaffing of the gums...and her jaw might ache until it becomes properly accustomed to being held slightly open simply to accommodate the feeding tube. It also has a slightly wider base plate than you may be used to Miss Scott...you will pinch her tongue if it is not in the correct position, but this new design does prevent her making any involuntary noises. Obviously her tongue will get dry so regular drinks are best but I find this model is much more suited to prolonged wear...my dental nurse wears hers from eight in the morning until she gets home to her mother at six in the evening on a working day without any issues, and my wife and daughters are very pleased with theirs, I must say.”
“Of course Dr Donovan, and my girls are always given more than enough to drink.”
“I am sure they are, Miss Scott...and voila, Miss Buckingham...welcome to your dutiful world of comfortable, unobtrusive and effective silence...and I hope you enjoy your time at Broomwaters. I am sure we will see you in the Cathedral in due course, but as long as Miss Scott brushes these pearly whites twice daily I see no real reason for you to visit me professionally for six months at least.”
Beth smiled respectfully but hoped that she would never see the stupid man again, unless he was planning on setting up in practise in Islington, or somewhere near. In six months she would be living at home, attending a day school and living a normal life. Meadvale would just be a distant, unpleasant memory, which she might think of as an acceptable means to an end if she got her own way about everything.
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“She is here?” Pastor Michael Winstanley sounded surprised, but not disappointed, running his hand through a shock of grey hair. It was not necessarily a bad thing in the long run, but it was an added complication, he supposed, thinking it through.
“She was suspended from school and he had nowhere else to leave her,” David Harrington explained with a shrug of his shoulders. “Charles just handed her over to Miss Scott...I think he was embarrassed more than anything else.”
“I do like his commitment I must say...thus far.”
“I am not sure it can be described as that, as yet...he is in a bad place Michael...losing his seat seems to have hurt him deeply and he is still not over losing his wife of course. Backing Boris Johnson in the leadership election was perhaps his final mistake.”
“One never gets over losing a loved one...only God’s love can ease the pain...so we have brought him to the right place.” Winstanley said with his customary certainty. “Hopefully at the right time.”
“He is here to give us an honest assessment of the document, Michael...a professional eye. I am not sure we can expect anything more at this stage. Having his daughter here doesn’t change anything...yet.”
“Sometimes I wonder if you have any faith at all David...this is the moment, and if we have done our homework, this is the man.” Winstanley grinned, reaching for more coffee. “I have prayed and I am sure of it...we just have to believe.”
“I have endless faith in God, Michael...politics is another matter.”
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Miss Scott took Elizabeth back into the waiting room, where she put her cloak, bonnet and veils back on, before removing the blinding mantles from Henrietta and Georgina, who curtseyed to their guardian as soon as they were helped to their feet and ready to leave. In a matter of moments, the four veiled women were walking back through the centre of the village, and Beth was starting to take more of an interest in her surroundings. She thought of Meadvale as a very twee place. Beth was quite used to the idea, look and feel of an English country village, because Deepdene was set just outside one, although she had always been a London girl, but Meadvale was different from Deepdene. On the days when the Deepdene girls could go down into the village, usually Saturdays as long as they had not earned any demerits, they used to walk straight through the village to the retail park near the busy main road, where there were bigger retails outlets, fast food restaurants and lots of traffic buzzing past. Meadvale had nothing like that as far as she could see. It was like one of the lids of the biscuit tins her late grandmother used to buy, all sweet little cottages half hidden by ancient trees, and small shops, mostly old-fashioned, just like Mrs Harper’s haberdashery; a family butcher, a cramped newsagent cum mini-supermarket, a pub that promised home-cooked food all day till nine, a hairdressers, the dentist and finally a doctor’s surgery and a small cafe. There were no cars. Beth realised that she had not seen even a single one since they left Broomwaters; with the sun breaking through the clouds it looked peaceful and certainly idyllic. Heathens, a description she had already heard several times from Miss Scott and the girls, used to signify anyone who was not a fully-fledged member of the Church of Christian Reform, clearly lived and worked there too, people like Mrs Harper, for instance, but even they did not really look like people from anywhere else. Beth’s home was a basement flat in Islington, and she was used to the diversity of the big city, but there were only white faces in Meadvale, when there were any faces to be seen at all, of course. It was getting late in the afternoon, and there were two buses parked outside the butchers as Beth followed Miss Scott down the High Street, although it was the only road running through the village. Both were school buses, delivering the children of the people of Meadvale home, and there was a small crowd of parents waiting for their little dears to disembark. Most, about three quarters of the women Beth guessed, were heathens from the look of them, but still modestly dressed in colourful summer frocks, whilst the rest looked like her, covered from head to foot, although no one else was wearing velvet, she noted, although they were obviously Reformists. There was even another woman dressed like Miss Scott, in plain grey, wearing gloves, who stepped forward to claim two girls as soon as they stepped off the second bus. Beth realised that Miss Scott was wearing a uniform, and that the other woman in grey had to be a guardian too, but the two girls she soon had by the hand were wearing normal school uniform, like all the other children.
Even so, Beth immediately noticed that all the children were very smart, with even the very little ones, primary school children, wearing blazers. All the boys wore ties and all the girls were wearing summer dresses, and they all looked perfect, not a single crooked tie, untucked shirt or even a hair out of place. Perfection was the word that stuck in her mind, because they were all almost too perfect for children on their way home. It was as if each one, right down to the youngest little boy, had been trained to take extreme care of their appearance. Beth had never seen anything like it in her life.
No one took any notice of the four heavily veiled women walking past them and as they headed away from the shops and into a residential area, they passed another guardian and her two charges. It really was a uniform, Beth decided, as the other guardian looked identical to Miss Scott. Both guardians greeted each other, and Beth copied Henrietta and Georgina again as they all made another obeisance, mirrored by other the two blobs, this time also covered in velvet from head to toe. It all happened several times more as Miss Scott took them down to the river, telling Beth that she wanted her to see the village, pointing out the sights as they floated along. Beth found herself panting with the sheer effort of walking in her preposterous costume, her corset digging into her side and her gums rubbing painfully on her muzzle, but she could not complain and she simply had to follow, doing her best to show her respects to everyone Miss Scott stopped to speak too. Several times, Miss Scott stopped to chat, and each time Elizabeth was introduced as the Harrington’s guest for the summer, along with her very important father, and she was called a dutiful maiden and a Daughter of Eve, and always but always complemented on her efforts.
As she understood it, every female member of the Church of Christian Reform was a Daughter of Eve, endeavouring to overcome her natural inclination to sin by striving to earn God’s love. But you could be a maiden and a Daughter of Eve, of course. Maiden was a term used to describe a girl who had started to menstruate and was therefore no long a child in the eyes of God, but who was not yet considered an adult, or of age as Miss Scott had put it when Beth had finally plucked up the courage to ask the night before. It seemed to be a status in Meadvale. The girls were referred to as maidens with respect, and one thing Beth noticed by the time they had reached the huge church, or Cathedral as Miss Scott called it, was that Miss Scott only ever stopped to chat to other guardians like herself. She always said a polite good afternoon to everyone they passed, but she only stopped for people similar to her, and her charges.
But she had no more time to think, because they met another group of ladies coming out of the churchyard, and Miss Scott greeted them much more warmly than she had greeted anyone else. The other guardian was called Miss Ellis, and Elizabeth was soon formally introduced to her, Mrs Craig and her two daughters, Madeleine and Alice, all of whom were clearly veiled and presumably muzzled, just like Beth and her knew friends. Everyone curtseyed, including Mrs Craig, who reacted exactly like her daughters to Miss Ellis, and then the two guardians agreed to have afternoon tea together, with Miss Ellis offering her employer’s home as it was apparently closer than the Harrington’s massive house. So they all walked off together, seven small, graceful mountains of velvet, and in ten more breathless minutes, Beth found herself in the hall of a house every bit as impressive as Broomwaters, as she waited to be divested of her cloak and bonnet once more.
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Colin Hughes was not really a spy. He thought of himself as a researcher, and sometimes a forensic accountant, but occasionally his clients required a more hands-on approach, and he was perfectly willing to operate out in the field if he needed to. Not that he really needed to employ any meaningful espionage techniques to investigate Meadvale. The village was a minor tourist attraction with its massive Cathedral, the epicentre of the burgeoning Church of Christian Reform, a statue dedicated to the village’s most famous resident, an Oscar-winning actor of ancient repute, and the most unspoiled village green left in the whole county of Surrey according to the Surrey tourist information website. So he had spent the day walking around in the open, his camera slung around his neck, taking a guided tour of the Cathedral which cost him two pounds, having a pint and a rather good rare steak in the little pub on the green, and generally having a good look around the place without ever once arousing any noticeable suspicion from anyone. He was only after background information, of course. He did not expect to find out anything new about David Harrington or Paul Craig in the village cafe. But he wanted to see Meadvale for himself and to try to understand what was going on there.
He knew us much as anyone could find out about Reformism online. Not just the results of the sort of simple search a teenage girl might attempt just using Google, but detailed financial records, planning applications, membership lists and even a reasonable explanation of their rather strange doctrine, outlined in a lengthy speech given by the leading Pastor, Michael Winstanley, to a Baptist convention in Florida the previous September. But he still found it hard to believe what he was seeing as he ambled around the village. He had several innocent conversations, one with the landlord of the pub and one with a waitress in the cafe when he stopped for an afternoon coffee. It was all just perfectly normal to them, it seemed, and the Reformists were described by both as good people. No one in Meadvale would say a word against them, not to a tourist at any rate, and there was not one single aspect of village life that had not been enhanced by a donation from their friends. Not that Hughes had anything against religion, even in its most extreme forms. He had a Muslim friend who helped him with corporate investigations, a real whizz with a balance sheet, and Imran was a good man who loved his cricket, read every single crime thriller on the bookshelves and admitted to an unrequited love affair with Katie Perry if pressed, but his wife and daughter wore a burqa if they ever left the house and it was best not to discuss Israel, Russia or the Americans in his presence.
But then things got rather more interesting purely by chance. Hughes had taken a walk past the Cathedral and then along the river, on a path that led behind Harrington’s Broomwaters and Craig’s Lake House, the closest he could get to the two huge properties without actually trespassing. He did not expect to see much, but it was all good background information, and it was a pretty little walk on a sunny afternoon, so he indulged himself, snapping shots of a moorhen to give himself a reason to point his lens at the back of the two large mansions one hundred yards beyond the water. And as he adjusted the focus, he got a very clear picture of the honourable Charles Buckingham MP, or rather former MP, drinking pimms with David Harrington, Paul Craig and Michael Winstanley on the sun terrace behind Broomwaters.
Hughes recognised the face. He was paid to recognise faces, and although he could not claim to know all six hundred and fifty members of parliament, Buckingham had been a new face in David Cameron’s last reshuffle, before losing the recent election to Ed Milliband, the leader of the Labour party. Colin Hughes stalked the moorhen for several minutes, taking dozens of pictures, before he had to move on.
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Beth had assumed that Miss Scott would remove her mittens and muzzle as well as her cloak and bonnet when they all arrived at Lake House, but she did not, and in fact, the only person who was set remotely free was Mrs Craig by her guardian Miss Ellis, who thanked her stern protector profusely before politely asking her permission to retire to her drawing room as she had a letter to write. It was duly given and the four girls were shown through into what Miss Ellis called the orangery at the back of the house, where the guardians helped them all sit down on the wicker furniture. Not that Beth thought of it as sitting of course. She could not sit back, because her corset held her spine straight and would have dug into her lower back if she tried to push it too far, so like the others, she ended up perching on the edge of her seat, looking elegant no doubt, but not exactly comfortable. Each guardian spent an age fussing over their charges skirts, arranging each fold with consummate care, before finally going off together to fetch refreshments. Beth sat there in amazement, with the four other girls smiling at her, their mittened hands clasped together in their laps, all of them looking serene. It was all they could do, without the use of their hands or their voices, and Beth could not believe that she was really there. It was just too bizarre. But the four others did not seem to mind at all, their smiles never even wavering as they waited patiently for their guardians to return.
Beth realised that they all looked remarkably similar. All of them wore sumptuous velvet gowns, and their long hair was tied up in elaborate buns, presumably for convenience when worn with their bonnets. It reminded Beth of a scene from Gone with the Wind, a film one of the girls her Dad had employed as a housekeeper and babysitter during her school holidays over the years convinced her to watch one Christmas. It was the scene where Scarlett O’Hara was sitting in one of those grand southern mansions with her friends, waiting for news of the war, the only difference being she could not be bored stupid by her friend’s idle chatter as Scarlett had been in the story, since none of them could make even the slightest noise. She made a face trying to express her disbelief, but Georgina just smiled even more, leaving Beth marvelling at the fact that she had still been at Deepdene twenty four hours before. In fact, at roughly the same time the previous afternoon, she had been standing in front of her evil headmistress’s desk, enduring yet another lecture, resplendent in her yellow summer dress and grey blazer, well aware that her father would be there any minute. She had argued a little with Miss Towner, not that it did her much good, but at least she had the ability to stand up for herself. In Meadvale, right then and there, she could not even scratch her own nose.
“Suck slowly...please, Elizabeth dear...it is more ladylike...and you will not choke.” Miss Scott commanded, ten minutes later, after she had attached a tube to Beth’s muzzle, the other end attached to a plastic bottle of brown liquid resting on the low coffee table just in front of her. “Some iced tea will be most welcome I am sure, but maidens do not guzzle dear.”
“She will soon learn, Miss Scott...and she is such a pretty little thing isn’t she?” Miss Ellis suggested, looking up as she attached a similar tube to Madeleine’s muzzle.
“She certainly is...and it really is so kind of you to invite us, Mrs Craig.” Miss Scott replied, turning to Mrs Craig who had joined the girls again when the guardians returned with their drinks. She had a glass, not a bottle.
“Oh Paul told us that you had a little guest, Miss Scott...and my girls were so eager to meet her. I had asked Miss Ellis to arrange something as soon as she could, but meeting you this afternoon was too good a chance to miss.” Mrs Craig replied, smiling sweetly at all of the four girls. “She has been away at school, I believe?”
“She has indeed...a Christian school, of course...Mr Harrington has invited Elizabeth to stay whilst Mr Buckingham concludes some sort of business in the village, and it became possible for Elizabeth to join him after finishing her exams.” Miss Scott explained, deftly and quite deliberately sanitising Beth’s abrupt, unexpected appearance in Meadvale. Miss Scott clearly knew the truth, but Beth had been told not to mention her problems at school, and she was quite happy to put it all behind her, even if her father was bound to brood on her failures for some time to come. Especially when he saw her exam results, Beth thought, well aware that neither her revision nor her attitude had really been good enough to expect much in the way of positives. “She has just taken her GCSE’s and as she has been studying so hard, her father wants her to have a complete break, I believe. He has asked me to take good care of her and so far Elizabeth is being so good for me.”
“Such a treat for the dear little thing...I know Madeleine and Alice will want to get to know her properly of course. Miss Ellis, is it possible to arrange one of your slumber parties, if you think the girls deserve a little treat?” Mrs Craig asked, with Beth again noticing that it was certainly much more of a request than an instruction, which seemed rather strange. Miss Ellis worked for Mr and Mrs Craig but Mrs Craig behaved as if she was as much under her control as her daughters obviously were.
“Of course we can, Ma’am...early next week, once Elizabeth has properly settled into things, wouldn’t you say Miss Scott?” Miss Ellis confirmed, turning to her colleague.
“On my day off perhaps, and then I could return the favour for you, Miss Ellis?” Miss Scott proposed, as Georgina’s drink was carefully attached to her feeding tube. “She is obviously inexperienced, and I would not leave her with anyone else but you...she will need a firm hand at times, Miss Ellis.”
“Quite Miss Scott, although all girls of this sort of age need a firm hand at times,” Miss Ellis said, stepping back to watch her charges drink.
“Oh I agree...Henrietta and Georgina both need to up their game at their age, and having Elizabeth will allow me to go back over some things...it will be a good summer for all of them, I am sure.”
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Catherine Henderson used the back door to leave the small rented house. She had told her protection officers that she was staying in for the evening and she knew they would not be watching the rear entrance. It only led to a little back alley, full of dustbins, and she stepped carefully around some pungent detritus, not wanting to ruin her new shoes. She nervously pushed her little black dress down on her thighs, worrying that it was a little too short, but then again, Karl liked her legs. She did not think that she was taking a risk, but there was no way her father would have let her go out with Karl, so she did not have any choice. Phillip Henderson was not even a government minister anymore. She did not see why she needed police protection when he was only a backbencher, even if he was leader of the Conservative Party. It was just another excuse to control her, to stop her having the sort of fun her friends were having at university all the time. Karl understood her. He knew she just wanted to have a good time. Reaching the end of the back lane, she turned right, away from the house she shared with four other girls, looking for the familiar black Mercedes. She was nineteen, not nine. If she wanted to have dinner and go clubbing with a handsome man, who paid for everything as well, she did not see what harm it could do. Then she saw the car. She waved and hurried towards it, not daring to run in her heels.
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Elizabeth Buckingham woke early the next morning in extreme discomfort and seriously considered giving in to her father right then and there. Deepdene seemed a much better option than another single minute in the nursery at Broomwaters. She had spent her first night in a guest room, but the previous day had ended with her being put to bed with Henrietta and Georgina, which was an experience she could still not quite believe. After leaving the Craig’s at about five, they had all returned to Broomwaters, which was basically next door although it involved another fairly lengthy walk covered in her cloak, bonnet and veils, to be dressed for dinner. By then, Beth was already learning that Miss Scott did everything for her charges, and that she was being treated exactly like the Harrington’s girls, but what Miss Scott called her toilette was still a surprise. The three girls were all stripped naked in a large bedroom, and Beth was delighted when her muzzle and mittens were finally removed, but Miss Scott made it clear that she was still not allowed to speak unless she was spoken too. The guardian was really quite brusque with them, and especially with Beth, leading them all into an adjoining bathroom and helping them into a huge bath, all at the same time. It was something Beth remembered enjoying with friends when she was little, but she was embarrassed as a young woman, however Miss Scott and the other girls did not seem to notice, or care. Henrietta and Georgina sat in the hot bubbles, still grinning at her, whilst the guardian washed each of them from head to toe. Beth tolerated it, but was still relieved when Miss Scott helped her out of the water and took her across to the toilet. She was bursting to pee by that stage, and hardly thought about the fact that the guardian was standing over her, until she went to reach for a sheet of toilet tissue and had her hand slapped away. Miss Scott really was going to do everything for her. It was ridiculous and even more embarrassing but she had been told not to speak, and she obeyed those instructions, because she was not really sure what she would or could have said to Miss Scott in the circumstances. Henrietta and Georgina were neither surprised nor embarrassed, and Beth was a guest, one who needed to keep her nose clean if she wanted to prove anything to her father.
Beth was dressed first, but thankfully not muzzled or mittened, in a stunning pale pink silk gown, over the inevitable corset, and when the others were finally ready they were all taken downstairs for dinner. Miss Scott again told Beth that she was only to speak if she was spoken to, and as she was not, after the good evenings were said, she said nothing through the whole meal, only exchanging a few hopefully meaningful glances with her father. It was a rather stiff, formal affair, and it did not last too long for the girls. Once they had cleared their plates, Miss Scott bade them curtsey and kiss their parents good night, before taking them back upstairs. It was only nine o’clock but Beth was almost relieved, as it had been a long and distressing day one way or another, and she was looking forward to an unrestricted night in a nice soft bed.
Not that they went straight to bed, of course. First they had to be undressed again, one at a time. Henrietta was dealt with first by Miss Scott, who said Beth could watch and learn so that she would be ready for her turn, so she sat on the bed with Georgina in the nude, like two toddlers waiting for bedtime, watching Miss Scott work. First, Miss Scott took Henrietta to the toilet, and left the door open so that the other two could see. Beth had sort of half expected that after her experiences during the day, but then in horror she watched the guardian clean and floss Henrietta’s teeth, and even wash her hands and face. Henrietta did nothing for herself, absolutely nothing at all as if she really was incapable, but the next part of the nursery routine made Beth forget all about her frustrations about being treated like a baby. Because before Miss Scott brought Henrietta out of the bathroom, she deftly slipped what looked like a disposable nappy around her slender waist and fastened it in place with Velcro strips. No one said a word, but Beth gaped at Georgina, who just nodded and smiled as if to encourage her, reaching out to take her companions hand, because the demonstration was nowhere near over. Miss Scott produced a corset, not the fairly light one Henrietta had been wearing before. It looked longer to Beth, covering Henrietta from shoulder to thigh, and she watched in awe as Miss Scott started to haul on the laces, before gasping in complete amazement when Henrietta let out a pained whimper. Miss Scott reacted instantly, slapping Henrietta hard on her bare thigh, before turning to fetch her muzzle.
“I said silence, you disobedient girl...now open.” Miss Scott barked, and Henrietta instantly obeyed, opening her mouth and tilting her head back so that her muzzle could be pushed into place. In seconds, Henrietta was not capable of whimpering anymore and her obviously furious guardian returned to the lacing of her corset. Beth watched Henrietta’s face, seeing how painful every pull was, seeing the tears streaming down her face. But her ordeal was not over. Once she was finished with the corset, Miss Scott put Henrietta into a nightdress and then took her over to one of the three beds. Henrietta was made to lie down and Miss Scott produced what looked like a sleeping bag to Beth at first. She threaded Henrietta’s feet into it and then started to work her way up her body as Henrietta disappeared into a tight-fitting cocoon, tucking her arms into sleeves when it reached her shoulders. Beth noticed that the sleeves were not open, but instead ended in round shapes, and realised that they were basically mittens, but attached to the sleeves. Miss Scott even tied long laces at Henrietta’s wrists, presumably to ensure that she could not free her own hands. Finally, Beth watched Henrietta’s head disappear too. Miss Scott had zipped the horrendous sleeve right up over her head like a body bag to completely cover Henrietta.
Eight hours later, lying in the darkness with tears still in her eyes, Beth had experienced the full horror of what Miss Scott called a sleeping gown, as well as her night stays. She had tried to argue with Miss Scott, pointing out that she did not want to sleep like that and that her father would not want her to either, but the guardian took no notice. Like Henrietta, she was smacked, an experience she found more shocking than painful at first, and despite struggling she soon found herself helpless and shut away in her dark, airless little world. Miss Scott was so strong and Beth had found it impossible to resist her. She could not remember sleeping much at all, because she was continually gasping for air thanks to the combined effects of her corset and the thick sleeping bag. It was like a nightmare. She was totally helpless and she could not even use her fingers. She had started screaming at one stage, but Dr Donovan’s muzzle was as good as his promise. She did not make even a sound, and she fell silent in the end, conserving her energy for breathing.
Miss Scott released her three charges from their sleeping gowns at eight o’clock, after her standard desirable sleeping time for maidens of ten hours, and sternly informed Henrietta and Elizabeth that they were both going to be punished for their unforgiveable behaviour of the night before. Henrietta immediately burst into tears again, but Beth just stood there, her nightdress hiding the desperate embarrassment of her diaper, waiting to hear what new torture she would have to endure. Rather matter-of-factly, Miss Scott told her that she would be kept muzzled all day and would spend her time studying the bible to reflect on the error of her ways in God’s love. Beth longed to get out of her muzzle, and to see her father, but it seemed that both were going to be denied to her, and she crumpled inside. She did not understand what was happening to her, or how anyone could ever consider any of it normal or right, but Miss Scott did, and she was firmly in charge. Beth could not fight her. She had learned that lesson the previous evening so she had to wait for a chance to talk to her father. She did not care what he was thinking about, because she knew that he had no idea what his weird friend’s employee was doing to her. So she had to earn the right to see him as soon as possible, and the only way to do that was to suffer Miss Scott’s intentions. So she offered no resistance. Henrietta fell to pieces again, earning herself several more smacks as she was dressed, but Beth let Miss Scott take her to the toilet, wash her all over and put her in another diaper, before being laced into her day corset, the same layers of underwear she wore the day before, and a padded jacket designed to protect her gown from rubbing against her stupid stays. Finally, another velvet gown was put on her, shaped by the annoying plastic cage, and she found herself sitting in the Harrington’s family drawing room, next to Henrietta. Miss Scott attached tubes to their muzzles again and told them to suck up their breakfasts, before putting headphones on both girls. Almost at once, Beth heard a soft, insistent voice in her ears, reciting what she thought were passages from the bible. But that was not punishment enough, of course. Miss Scott told them both that they were in disgrace, and that no one wanted to look at two disgraced girls. So she produced two thick blankets and draped them over their heads, covering them as completely as the sleeping gowns had, whilst urging them to concentrate on their studies.
It was a truly astonishing experience. Muzzled, her hands trapped inside her mittens, her corset cutting into her side and dressed in the heavy gown, on top of all the undergarments she was told she had to wear to be decent, Beth could barely move a muscle, let alone think of escape. Miss Scott’s last words had been to tell both girls that if they tried to throw off their blankets they would be punished again, but worse. Beth did not want to think about worse. She tried to think, but the voice in her ears never seemed to stop, and it filled her head like gas. She just sipped at her tube, the sludge of breakfast eventually changing to water, and then back to sludge again, for lunch, and then water once more. Her bladder was full and fit to burst and almost despite herself she began to pray. She could not remember praying since her first term at Deepdene, an obedience she soon realised that she did not have to keep up because no one could make her believe. But lost in her own little world, the bible filling her ears, she prayed for mercy.
Unfortunately her prayers were not answered and she had to surrender to the inevitable eventually. She had not thought that her day could get any worse, but sitting there in her own mess, with God’s words urging her to obey Him, she learned that things could always get a little worse. ‘Now therefore, if you will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then you shall be a peculiar treasure to me above all people: for all the earth is mine.’ Miss Scott had told Elizabeth that a maiden was a treasure, a jewel to polish in God’s love, and the words seemed to fill her mind, driving out everything else. ‘If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land.”
 


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