It was exactly one week before Cecily's wedding. Her excitement was dangerously evident to everyone in the manor. However what she refused to make apparent was foreboding fear of everything that succeeded the beauty of the ceremony. These thoughts often left her brooding in her chambers in the early hours of the morning.
Her kindly yet perpetually distrait governess Miss Prism had even begun to observe the bottled tension beneath the flighty exterior of her charge. It was as if she had reverted back to the duckling mentality of her childhood. For the past three days wherever Miss Prism was Cecily lingered at a respectful distance. If she was gussying herself for an afternoon in town she would turn and notice one blue eye peeking over the threshold of her bedroom door. If she decided to pleasure herself with the trivialities of the daily news in the parlor, she would be interrupted by the anxious pitter patter of pacing boots beyond the door. This new ora of fear that Cecily carried came most apparent in the evenings, where she would often ask Miss Prism to be sent up for a chat before bed. She would then follow her like she did when she was young, into her bedroom and draw back her covers. And finally, when Miss Prism would say that she must retire, Cecily's embrace would cling for a little too long as it did when Miss Prism brought her to socialize in the park with the other girls when she was little. At last she would kiss her governess on the cheek in a daughterly manner, moving apprehensively out the doorway, with her head turned in curiosity.
On this day in particular Miss Prism was sitting on a swing that hung from the oak tree in the garden enjoying a book. It was on this swing that many long talks and outdoor lessons had occurred
Cecily had gone out she did most afternoons to admire the flowers. But rather than directing her attention to the flora she kept a steady askance gaze towards her oblivious governess. Occasionally, Cecily would remember herself and glance shamefully at her empty hands.
Alas Miss Prism Had grown accustomed to Cecily's mannerisms and knew something was amiss. She could practically feel Cecily's internal vacillations from behind her book. She opened her mouth to speak but was halted by the sound of tentative footsteps approaching her.
She lowered her book found Cecily in front of her.
"Good afternoon Cecily." She said happily
"Good afternoon Miss Prism."
Cecily looked behind her for a moment then back again at her caretaker, her breathing hitched.
"May I sit with you?" Her voice was barely audible
Her politeness seemed almost frightening. For if Cecily had been content there would've been no inquiry. She would have just plopped herself beside her bombarding her with fantasies of the dashing Ernest, and a never ending request to transfer from German to a far
more romantic language like Spanish.
" Certainly my pet I do love our talks."
She scooted to the other side of the swing and patted the spot next to her with a warm smile.
"Go on and tell me all of your troubles."
"Troubles?" Cecily began quickly " I have no troubles."
She stood abruptly " Well think I had better go ask Merriman what sort of tea cakes he wants to serve at the reception. Good day to you-"
" Cecily" Miss. Prism gave her arm a gentle tug
" We don't serve tea cakes at weddings." She smiled knowingly.
" It is my wedding and I will have it as I'd like." Cecily snapped
Any other day the governess would have chided her her for behaving with so little cooth but she had never witnessed such raw fear present in the young girl in all her life.
" Go ahead Cecily tell me what's wrong."
" Nothing's wrong."
" My dear you have been following me about for three days straight like a hungry stray. There must be something you want to ask me."
Cecily looked about worriedly.
" Are we alone?"
" Yes child. There's nothing on this earth you could tell me that I'm unequipped to face. I have guided you through the tribulations of womanhood, I have shared in your sorrows and celebrated your joys. You've laughed and cried in my bosom. It matters not if you are a married women, as long as I'm alive you will have me to navigate the rough seas of life."
" I suppose I should just come right out with it." Cecily decided.
Miss Prism squeezed her hands encouragingly
" What happens after the reception?"
Miss Prism brushed it off with chuckle.
"Well, the two of of you shall a grand wedding tour and then a honeymoon. Of course your Uncle Jack and I will help you get settled into your new home and-"
" No!" Cecily raised a cautious hand
" Well then what more could you possibly be asking?"
Cecily Inhaled one last quaking breath, desperately scrounging for her last shards of courage.
" What I mean is… what is to ensue once we go to bed that night?"
The familiarity of her question washed over Miss Prism in a sudden rush of scarlet hue. She could barely summon the nerve to look back into Cecily's pleading eyes.
" Well…..um naturally….darling you will eventually giveaway your virtue to Ernest." She squirmed awkwardly.
" I really thought I had explained this to you quite a while ago."
" Yes I know… I understand the "scientific" aspects of it but… I was wondering… how am I supposed to… behave?"
Miss Prism took a moment to consider her words.
" Are you ashamed of my prying?"
" Absolutely not. What is a child without curiosity, however improper it may be."
" May I ask something else?"
Cecily spoke hurriedly, as if to dull the stigma of her words.
" Have you ever laid with a man?"
Miss Prism blinked rapidly at Cecily's bluntness. Her eyes darted upward, she ran a trembling hand down the back of her burning neck. Finally, she cleared her throat,
She could not look at Cecily, " You address me as Miss Prism do you not?"
" Yes of course." Her face dropped a little. " There was just a part of me that hoped
maybe you had some sort of bedfellow or a previous marriage, with which you could draw from to then share wisdom with me."
Miss Prism remembered her prudishness.
" Cecily do you think anyone in all of England would hire a woman with a bedfellow for a governess?"
" I should think not."
"What about that handsome Vincent fellow Who went off to war?"
" Vincent and I were in fact betrothed before he died. We were set to be married the week after he got home. Alas the telegram came just in time. We had only ever exchanged kisses."
" I'm so sorry Miss Prism." Cecily's voice was meek now.
Miss Prism waved her hand, " Oh don't burden yourself about it, it's been decades now. Besides I have Dr. Chasuble to keep me company. "
The mention of her unofficial beau caused a smile to play on her lips.
Cecily's restraint was beginning to falter. She cocked an eyebrow.
" What about you and him?
Miss Prism turned crimson yet again. She looked to the sky and crossed herself frantically.
"N-n-o." She stuttered…." He's an esteemed rector. It simply could not be. Both of us are much too far gone for those actions anyway." She narrowed her eyes at Cecily " And as I've told you on numerous occasions, such practices are forbidden until marriage. I am not yet married."
Cecily nodded seriously.
" Alright." Miss Prism heaved a sigh. Cecily felt the discomfort vacate their bodies. For the first time in three days she felt as though she could properly look her governess in the eye devoid of embarrassment. In Miss Prism's watery blue eyes she could see a semblance of the youth that once was. And born from it an unmistakable motherly twinkle that she had only seen on the rarest of occasions.
She took Cecily's hands in hers squeezing her palms lovingly.
She spoke with with an impossible ease, that seemed out of place amongst her ironclad world of simultaneous flustered order.
" I may not have had personal experience with matters such as these, but I have plenty of bosom school friends, with whom we all shared our darkest endeavors and desires. Believe it or not Cecily I was young once as well. And… A time or two I may have peaked at few books I shouldn't have. So I suppose I will just …. draw from there."
" I don't know how much wisdom I can offer on the subject, but here I go….."
" Thank you Miss Prism." Cecily said sincerely
She gave her a wry smile," My job is to educate you isn't it?"
The two women laughed together at the sheer disgrace of it all. The last of their apprehensions disappearing into the summer air.
" First of all," Miss Prism began. " You should always make sure your body is relaxed before you reach the pinnacle. Fortunately most of this relaxation is achieved through natural kissing and caressing. I've been told it's vital that you a allot time for both physical and mental flatteries before hand. Obviously, ensure both of you are well bathed and in a pleasant mood. This is the ultimate expression of affection don't squander it on anger. Hopefully you will pick up on the whims of one another together, never proceed with something that doesn't make you feel closer to him. If he is not tender with you so help me God I will-."
Cecily grabbed her hand, " I would not go forth with this marriage if I did not know it instinctively. That is the one thing I know for certain about all of this. He will be the most gentle man in all the world. Now please tell me,... how am I supposed to contribute to this?
" Again Cecily my knowledge primitive. But many of my closest friends have told me that typically the man is leader of the encounter, guiding the woman to the end result. The best thing for you to do is lie back and cherish it. Of course if you are truly uncomfortable any respectable man should adapt himself to his wife. Which brings me to the less romantic side of the whole ordeal…. There will be pain."
Cecily blanched, "W-w-hat when? All of the time?"
" No not all the time. From what I've read it should only occur the first time. When you finally reach the pinnacle, it should start out in discomfort but then things will gradually improve. Many a lady has told me that it is best to start slowly."
" These women are very wise."
" Indeed." Miss Prism flushed
" Oh and one more thing Cecily."
For the first time since their egregious earthly conversation commenced, the frightfully straight-laced Miss Prism produced a genuine smile. They sat in perfect silence for a moment, paying homage to their impenetrable, powerful makeshift bond as mother and daughter.
Miss Prism's fond gaze touched Cecily's core. A sob of gratitude swelled just beneath the surface.
" What have you to tell me?" Cecily asked seconds away from unraveling.
Miss Prism reached out and caressed her cheek taking one golden lock and tucking it behind her little seashell ear. Their fingers were intertwined. The governess lowered her voice to a sacred whisper.
" Immense pleasure follows pain my dear. I promise you that."
There was something in the tenderness of the older woman's stare. She certainly loved Cecily with all her heart, but there was a distant nuance about it. It seemed almost reminiscent.
Cecily took Miss Prism's face in her hands and examined her carefully. Her eyes remained unchanging. She noticed a brialed glisten that she couldn't quite place.
" Yes my darling?"
Cecily kissed her forehead.
" Thank you mother for all you're knowledge. I love you with all my heart and soul."
" And I you. But please do not give me such an honorable title."
" But I must, for that is what you have been and what you always will be."
"As you wish daughter dear."
Cecily embraced her tightly, bidding her goodbye she rose from the swing and headed slowly towards the garden gate.
Cecily wandered the gardens once again pondering her most recent conversation. The more she thought about it the more her mind kept drifting back to the stark sincerity of Miss Prism's voice. Something in her tone seemed much to sentimental for such obscene information to come solely from rumor and speculation. After all this was coming from the very same woman who always told that her a lady who is excessive in her emotions makes up for it with an equal lack of education. Cecily could not recall the last time she had seen Miss Prism with her heart in her hand.
" Impossible." Cecily thought. " She's the very picture of propriety."
Before she could take a moment to shake the notion out of her head, Cecily found herself sprinting down the path towards the manor house.
She appeared at the doorway. Grateful to find the butler Merriman away from this post, she proceeded quickly up the long winding wooden banister. The authenticity with which her governess spoke was practically yanking her up stairwell. She had always had a glimmer of hope that maybe there was more to Miss Prism than German books and stern looks. She had always longed to make acquaintance with the starry-eyed young woman that lay well cloistered beneath tight stays, a clenched mouth, and a rigid life philosophy. But now today in this moment, that same glimmer had manifested itself into a blazing inferno of curiosity that could not be extinguished.
Cecily had just turned the corner into the corridor of master bedrooms. She had only made eye contact with Miss Prism's door handle when her uncle Jack appeared in the hallway.
"Cecily I'm surprised to see you up here so early in the day." her guardian said with a hint of suspicion."
"Oh good afternoon dear Uncle Jack l was just um…...trying to…. decide what kind flowers I want to adorn my bedroom door on my wedding day."
He raised an eyebrow.
"Shouldn't you be outside for that?"
" Yes but I want make sure that they blend with the paint before I make a solid choice." Her smile was wavering."
There was a dangerous thoughtfulness to his voice.
" That's all well and good but your bedroom is on the right side of the hallway, you are veering left towards Miss Prism's room."
She laughed anxiously, " Oh yes Uncle Jack, I want to decorate her door too. After all she is the maid of honor."
" That's very sweet of you Cecily, but did you ask her permission? You know as well as I do that she is very particular about the cleanliness of her quarters."
" Yes I did ask her permission."
This was indeed not a fabrication. After one rare diligent day in her German studies and of course a tad of girlish begging, Miss Prism begrudgingly granted the request.
" It does my heart good to see you too getting so close lately."
" Oh yes Uncle Jack it's just grand."
Stupidly, with her being overcome with curiosity she hastened her steps toward the door.
Her Uncle Jack was tapping his foot.
"Cecily." He narrowed his eyes. " This activity does not require entrance into her room. Something in your hurry implies that you are planning to rifle through her things. You know that neither Miss Prism or I will tolerate any of that. Also you understand that she is a quiet reserved woman, who gave up more than a decade of her life to bring you up as a proper young lady. I would hope I have taught you to show her due respect."
" Uncle Jack I would never do anything to intentionally disrespect her. When she saw me coming into the house she had asked me to fetch her a sunhat."
" Which one?."
Cecily looked him straight in the eye,
"The white one she likes, with the blue ribbon in the front. I really must get on with it you know how the sun exhaust her.
His mouth was pressed into thin line.
" Cecily Aurora Elizabeth Cardew if I find out that you've been poking around in Miss Prism's business I will be beyond furious. Do you understand me?"
" Yes I promise. In hat out."
His face finally softened into a fatherly gaze
" That's my sweet girl." He came over and kissed her on the top of the head." Don't dally for too long now, Dr. Chasuble is coming for supper."
He gave her one last smile and turned on his way.
Finally his footsteps faded into memory. Then she open Miss Prism's door and shut it carefully.
The bedroom was immaculate, not a pin out of place. Her vanity was neatly arranged, with the mirror spotlessly clean. Her large closet was clearly separated into two sections, one for home attire, the other for social wear. Below on the wooden floor was a small row of boots or flats to choose from. In the corner of the closet was a small rack of summer hats.
On her bedside table there were two photos. One of a much younger Miss Prism with her arm around military man, and the other a family Christmas portrait. She looked to be about twelve years old her mother and father standing beside her, with four younger boys at the end of the line.
" She has four brothers?" Cecily whispered allowed.
Unfortunately those were the only evidence of youth that she could find in plain sight. Everything else in the room was nothing but books and banality. To top it all off beside her beloved photos was a copy of the holy Bible.
In the last stitch effort to confirm her suspicions, Cecily began to feel around beneath the large four poster bed. Her hand and came upon a smooth wooden box, she it pulled out from the darkness.
On top of the box was a little golden key that made a tiny tinkle when it fell on the floor.
Nervous tremors consumed her body. Clumsily, Cecily put the key in the lock and turned it. The top sprung upwards
In the box she found an old ring, presumably given to her by Vincent. She also found a certificate from Lymington college, indicating that she had earned her bachelor's in education and another stating she had also achieved a degree in the German language. Along with that she found a few more photos of her and Vincent and a picture of her as a little girl grinning as she held one of her brothers as an infant. Finally she found a picture of her with her arms around two other girls standing in front of school building. But underneath all those precious Momentos was the most curious thing of all, an old dusty, leather-back diary.
" She always said diaries were foolish." Cecily mused.
She threw it open to the first page which read,
" My darling Laetitia,
This is my birthday present to you so that you may write down all your perfect little thoughts while I am away. Then when I come home we shall read through them together on our wedding night. If death takes me first, I want you to keep it so that my spirit may look upon it and know what life has dealt you since my leaving. If I come home in a casket this journal is how I intend to keep you safe my love. For it is true what the great Shakespeare said,"I can love thee even without breath." I promise you my sweet, I will do my best to be home in two shakes of a lamb's tail."
All of my tender love and kisses,
" How utterly romantic!" Cecily gushed
She read through a few more mundane entries. Growing weary, she flipped to the very end of the journal to find a most peculiar account.
June 6, 1879
" It is very late in the evening and I should be in bed. But alas I don't believe that I should have any hope of achieving sleep tonight, not after the most glorious evening of my life. It's been five years now since dear Vincent went to join the stars and I think I'm finally ready to confess. I am madly in love again! His charming name is Alexsander. Oh how I like it so well! So boyish don't you think? It all started when I put little Cecily to bed for the evening. I cannot believe that in three years I will go from nursemaid to governess. Anyways, Mr. Worthing was hosting some big party downstairs and insisted I come down for a glass of champagne. Reluctantly, I accepted the invitation and put on an evening gown.
Of course when I got downstairs there was Alexander with a big grin on his face. We have grown so close in the past year that we naturally struck up a conversation as soon as we made eye contact. Of late my cheeks are growing rosy when I'm around him and it is very difficult to hide it. On this particular evening I noticed that his cheeks were flushed in front of me as well. The band started playing a waltz and Alexander practically yanked me onto the floor. Of course a watz is not out of the ordinary for any gentleman or lady of respectability, but my oh my was it better than any other waltz I've ever had in my life. It was as if our bodies were possessed by the music, I felt so relaxed against his chest and yet I knew my heart was about to leap out of my throat. We moved together so gracefully, I never wanted it to end! I haven't felt this way in a very long time. So lost were we in each other's gaze, that we hardly even noticed that we were the only pair on the floor. Everyone else seemed to be standing back in awe. (Especially Mr. Worthing.) Finally the song ended and the room exploded into applause. It's funny though, Vincent would always tease me saying that I wasn't meant to be a dancer. Well, not tonight dear Vinny."
" Who is Alexander?" Cecily wondered.
She read on,
" We were so embarrassed by our display that we decided to slip away from the calamity of the party and out into the summer night. The moon was radiant, kindly lighting our way down the garden path. We were walking and talking about nonsense for a while, when suddenly a great thundercloud roared in the sky and a merciless rain came down upon us both. We both stood soaking in it for a moment, laughing like children on Christmas. Then lightning flashed and Alexander seized my hand. There we were at 36 years of age darting towards the summer house giggling like mad people. Finally we reached the refuge of the quaint cabin and our laughter subsided. In the cabin resides one bed, we sat on it panting. Then after a while he turned to me and said, " Laetitia Prism…. I think I love you." Oh the music of those words. I of course told him that I loved him straight away. We embraced for a while. Then with the most tender eyes you've ever seen he asked, " May I kiss you?" Only the moonlight was there to illuminate my nervous nod. That is when our lips met. It was a perfect long warm kiss. It's affect spreading rapidly through my body. We regretfully pulled apart. He stared at me for a moment, love radiating from his gaze. Then with a silent involuntary approval from my body, he proceeded to kiss my neck and collarbone. Before I could even blink, I found myself lying on the bed kissing a man. Oh forgive me Vinny! My hands were buried in his soft dark hair. (I just adore the way it curls ever so slightly.) The next thing I knew, our thin underclothes were the only thing that separated the two of us from sin. Soon we were both bare and I shall never forget the look in his eyes. It was not a stare of lust alone, but rather sheer delight at the idea that God had decided to bestow all of the enchantments of the female form on to me, someone he genuinely loved. He admired every last inch of me with his eyes, lips, hands, and mouth. He caressed me ever so lovingly. Nothing could compare to the warmth of his fingers against my skin. Finally he took me in his arms and laid me on the bed, placing a pillow under my head. I tell you, I have never felt sensations so wonderfully heinous as these. He gave me one last passionate kiss and declared softly, " l have dreamed of doing this with you for many months Laetitia, but if you deny me I completely understand, I shall wait for you until the oceans run dry." I smirked at him and replied, " As sweet as that is Alexander, your flattries have made me far too impatient. I simply cannot wait any longer. You may continue forward my darling." So I allowed him to pursue his purpose. At first there was an intense stabbing pain, not a moment later I was surprised by sudden wave of ecstasy that stifled all previous agonies. I draped my arms around his back, closed my eyes and hugged him closer to me and oh… the tempo of it! Together our bodies produced a most blissful rhythm, until we finally collapsed exhausted in an embrace. Oh how I trembled. We murmured sweet nothings and kissed for a long while afterwards, naturally I drifted off after all of the excitement. I have now only awoken barely an hour later in my own bed, equipped with a clean nightdress. The darling boy must've put me to bed. Oh this proves that he is more than just your average eager cad. I will never forget this enrapturing romantic night for his long as I live. Unfortunately the treachery of my actions has not yet settled upon my mind, but rather my body. At present I'm smarting dreadfully in all corners. Perhaps It is God's way of preparing me for the far greater sufferance of the internal scorn that I shall feel tomorrow morning and for the rest of my days. Who is to say for sure? A few days ago, Mr. Worthing had arranged for Alexander to come to supper tomorrow evening. What a horrible trick of time! I don't know how I am going to bear looking at him across the table. I wonder if through his tizzy, he's thinking the exact same thoughts as I? But I do know one thing to be certain, my reproach for my actions is growing by the second, but not for a moment shall I live in regret of who I washed in sin with. Now I truly understand the meaning of temptation of the flesh. We shall see how dinner unfolds. I am finally growing weary and I must retire. Maybe tomorrow I will write about whether not I should risk the chance of going to confession. I'm blowing out the candle now wondering if Alexander regrets what he did, but will forever cherish who he did it with. I know I certainly will."
Sadly, that was the last entry. It was as if the last of Miss Prism's youth was snapped shut in that diary.
For the first time in her life Cecily Cardew was truly and utterly stunned. She sat on the wooden floor on her knees, her jaw slack, unblinking. Sure she had hoped to find something incriminating, but not nearly anything like this. She thought she knew that discovering accounts like this in her governesses room would only be possible within the fantastic capacity of her girlish whims.
Very slowly she packed up the box just as it was, taking a moment to relish what it was like to only know her governess as stauncy and strict.
She locked the box and put the key back on top, carefully pushing the last of Miss Prism's innocence back underneath the bed.
After another few moments of pensive silence Cecily arose from the floor. It took a minute or two for the blood to circulate back into her limbs, she was quaking as she walked. Then once the tremendous shock of the scenario had worn off, Cecily had reverted back to her old self and nearly squealed with joy.
She was now twirling about the room. " I knew it I knew it!" She exclaimed in between giggles. " I always thought she wasn't as indifferent to me as she would've liked me to believe. It's such a shame it is so hard for her to admit that she was once young lady who wanted to be kissed and romanced just as I do! Yet she always tells me how despicable it is to rebel against your pillars of character, but what on earth did she do on that lovely June night! " Cecily laughed in gracious mockery of it all. " She preaches to me every day how true love can only be accomplished once you pass the altar, but this same dear woman is proof that the intoxicating influence of true love simply cannot be suppressed by any consideration of refinement or virtute." She took a breath and then decided, " I must find out who this Alexander fellow is straight away! I finally see now that Miss Prism and I have always been birds of a feather! I always felt deep in my heart!"
Running down the stairs in pure glee, Cecily flew back out into the front of the garden to find Miss Prism enjoying a cup of tea with her guardian.
She threw her arms around her governess and shouted, " My dearest darling Miss Prism!" Cecily was kissing her wildly about her head and cheeks.
The older woman was laughing with surprise, " Goodness gracious dear child!" She declared, " One would think you haven't seen me in a century."
" Oh my sweet Miss Prism. She grinned, " I have known you for many a decade, you just don't know it yet."
" What on earth do you mean?"
Cecily ignored her governess and turned to her guardian. Smiling sweetly, she said,
" Uncle Jack if you could leave us for a moment so that we may peck and talk as ladies do, that would be much appreciated. I would just hate to bore you with our sentiments."
Jack rose with a chuckle, " Oh alright I suppose I'll take my leave. You two go right on ahead with your pecking and twittering. But do be aware that you should come and wash up for supper soon." He tossed a smug smile toward Miss Prism, " Dr. Chasuble should be here in a little while."
" Mr Worthing please…." She blushed.
Cecily turned and watched as the garden gate clanged shut.
" Oh Miss Prism I have so much to discuss with you." Cecily said eagerly
" My dear didn't we already have a discussion?"
" Yes but this one is so much more important. Now tell me… Who is this Alexander?"
" Cecily I really don't know anyone by that name."
She smirked at her, " Oh come now Miss Prism, don't you dare be so coy."
" You have my word Cecily. I have never acquainted myself with a man named Alexander. I would never deceive you my dear."
Cecily's eyes gleamed with mischief.
" Really?" She raised her eyebrows. " Then I guess the date of June 6th 1874 has no significance to you either?." She said this all with mocking disappointment."
Miss Prism paled in reminiscence and her eyes grew immediately dark.
" H-how do you know that date?"
Cecily ignored her question, "Miss Prism," she began dramatically, " For as long as I can remember I always felt there was more to you than meets the eye. So today I decided to put my Inklings to bed once and for all. I stole away into your bedroom and under your bed found a diary with the most romantic and tender detail of-"
" Oh God." Miss Prism whispered.
" You read my diary." Her voice was trembling
"Yes isn't it wonderful! Now I know you understand my desire for romance, as well as that horrible aching in your soul when you love someone so much you could burst. I always thought those were foreign topics to you but no, you are just as I am. Now we can share in all the things that make the world beautiful."
" Come Cecily, we must wash up for supper. Our guest will be due anytime now." Her tone was frigid.
She stood from the table and began to walk furiously toward the manor house. Cecily was at her heels.
" But we can't wash up now I have too many inquiries." She persisted, " How did you two meet? Did he work at the house?Why didn't the two of you-"
Cecily's tactless jovial babbling only prodded at the seething anger and great shame that lay deep within Miss Prism. Before she knew what happened, a terrible cracking sound penetrated the air.
She had slapped Cecily.
Never in her life had she laid an unkind hand on that child. She could not bear to face Cecily's reaction and bolted towards the house.
Cecily wanted to cry, she really did. But she knew that this was her doing and all of Miss Prism's emotions however cruelly expressed, were justified.
Cecily ran after her. By the time she reached the entrance to the house, she could already hear Miss Prism frantically washing her hands and face in the laboratory. She saw her uncle Jack, his face lined with worry. Then Miss Prism rushed out of room and stormed up the stairs. A moment later, a thunderous door slam rattled the house.
Jack glared at Cecily.
" What is the meaning of this!" He boomed, " Why is Miss Prism in such a state?!"
" Well I-"
" Out with it!"
" I may have snuck into her bedroom and….read an old diary of hers."
" What!" He was red in the face now, " Cecily! I have asked you specifically not to enter her room without permission. The fact that you blatantly-"
" She's a tainted woman Uncle Jack." Her whisper seemed to breakthrough his rage
"Yes, I wanted to understand more about who she was before she knew me, so I pried and that's what I found out. after night of dancing, on June 6th 1874 she lost herself to man by the name of Alexander, right in our little summer house across the way. She was 34, I was hardly two."
" Oh." He took of his cap and crossed himself.
" Alexander who?"
"I don't rightly know."
Before Jack could reprimand her any further, Dr. Chasuble came through the door.
" Hello everybody." He said joyfully, " Thank you very much for the invitation. I am quite famished." He clasped his hands together and looked about happily.
" I say Cecily where is that beautiful governess of yours."
At this point in time there was no use in concealing their fondness for one another.
" Oh good a rector, just what we need." Jack muttered.
" Well dear doctor," Cecily began "Miss Prism is….. unfit for visitors at the moment."
Concern washed over the preacher.
" What's happened? Is she ill? Hurt?
" Well no she-"
Just then, the jarring sound of wood breaking on the floor could be heard upstairs, followed by sobs of anguish.
Before anyone could stop him, Dr. Chasuble dashed up the stairs. No one else dared to follow behind.
Jack and Cecily listened intently from below.
" Easy darling it's just me." They heard him say.
"FOR CHRIST SAKE FREDRICK GET OUT!" Miss Prism shrieked. The demented pitch pierced them all.
Soon she ran back down the stairs with the vicar close behind, diary in hand.
She glowered in the direction of Jack.
" I presume that ungrateful little orphan told you everything!" She spat.
" Oh splendid!" She was laughing with hysterical lividness.
She turned sharply to Cecily.
" Why did you betray me!"
" Well I wanted so badly to know you as a young lady. I wanted to know that you too were a child who had aspirations and longed for romance. I thought you would be happy. I thought this would bring us closer together. I always knew that your whole life didn't always revolve around your intellectual cultivation."
"You." Miss Prism pointed and accusing finger at Cecily. " You selfish little minx! Just because you get to walk this earth your whole life freedom of burden and guilt, doesn't give you any right to jeer at the transgressions of the ones you love."
" But I wasn't-"
" Shut up!"
Here she was, the embodiment of respectability dissolving into the frenzy of an animal.
Miss Prism whipped open the diary and began frantically tearing out the pages.
" Congratulations Cecily!" She said through ripping, " You've done it!" She was shouting now.
"Now everyone knows that I am nothing but an uncivilized animal who feeds off impulse and gluttony!"
She stormed over to the dead fireplace and tossed the tattered papers in with the kindling.
She released a wavering breath and spoke calmly again, " Mr. Worthing, please fetch me the matches."
" But Miss Prism-"
She raised a finger. " The matches please Mr. Worthing."
With painful slowness Jack sought the matchbox. With mournful eyes and shaking hands, they were transferred into her grasp.
The only sound in the room was that of wood against wood and the soft flicker of a new flame.
Then with one swift movement, Miss Prism unceremoniously set the last of her youth ablaze.
She dusted off her hands and scowled at Cecily, " Well, now no one ever has to see that again."
Miss Prism watched in horror as the pages burned. The rest of them looked on as her body was gradually overtaken by sobs once again. Slowly she sank to her knees, with her hands over her eyes.
Dr. Chasuble rushed over and knelt down beside her.
"Laetitia look at me." He put his hand on the small of her back.
She shook her head.
He tried again, this time in a soft voice.
" Come now dearest, look me in the eye."
Reluctantly, she pulled her hands away from her face.
" Letty." He breathed, " Whatever this is, i'm sure you're making it out to be much more deplorable than it actually is."
" That's impossible Frederick, I have committed the ultimate sin." Her words were hardly even an utterance.
" Come," He offered her his hand, " Why don't we have a walk outside and you can explain it to me."
She took his hand and stood.
" Alright fine, but this is the last time I shall ever explain it." Miss Prism said
The clergyman nodded and led her carefully out the door.
After a fresh angry bout of admonishments from the head of the house, Jack and Cecily in stood silence for several minutes.
Finally, Miss Prism and Dr. Chasuble returned.
The governess turned to Jack, " , if you would like me to leave this household I completely understand. What I've done is unforgivable. I can easily make arrangements to have my things sent back to Wellington."
Jack's face softened, " Nonsense Miss Prism. Your actions, though immoral are minuscule compared to all the good you have brought into our lives. You are our saving grace, the mother Cecily never had. We can always ask to be delivered from evil, doesn't mean request can always be granted."
" Thank you for your generosity sir."
The relief was plain on her face. She looked at Cecily, ghost of a smile on her lips.
" It may take a while for me to regain trust with you Cecily, but regardless of that, I've always been fond of your insatiable appetite for answers. So, if you still want to know more about Alexander I'm ready to tell you." Miss Prism decided.
" Only if you want to." Cecily Said softly.
" I do." The gleam had returned to Miss Prism's eye's
" What would you like to know first?"
" Why didn't you pursue a courtship before going to such great lengths? You two seemed so captivated with each other."
" Well the two of us were never naturally very forthright, so it was difficult for us to confess our feelings."
" How did you meet?"
" Mr. Worthing had kindly allowed him to finish his studies on the estate."
" Why on our estate?"
" So that he could be in close proximity to his eventual place of employment."
Jack wanted to interject but he felt it rude.
"May I ask something improper?"
" Oh don't even start with all of that now, go ahead."
" If the two of you were not forthright in the first place, then why did you even bother doing what you did?"
" Despite our shyness, we both innately knew that we loved one another. It was only brought to light that fateful day, And…. We were in a rather…. desperate situation."
" Because June 6th 1874 was the evening before he would officially dedicate himself to a life of celibacy in the name of the Lord."
Jack interrupted her.
"But Miss Prism, I know no one of the cloth by the name of Alexander?"
Dr. Chasuble spoke up, " I am Alexander.
Jack was evidently confused. He chuckled in frustration, " Doctor please this is no time for fancies. It's simply impossible your name is Frederick."
" Mr. Worthing." The rector started, " If you ever take a moment to look at my birth certificate, you will find that my full and legal name is Frederick George Alexander Chasuble."
Miss Prism looked away, he took her hand and brought her fingers to his lips and said, " I've never regretted it for moment in my life. It was the most tangible form of perfect I've ever experienced. Some might say it was heaven sent." He chuckled
Jack looked down in embarrassment at Cecily's noticeable internal gushings.
" So that is why to have always been so fond of each other." Jack said.
" You could say that." Dr. Chasuble flushed.
Jack turned back to Miss Prism.
" But why did you call him Alexander in that entry?" Jack asked.
" To protect his reputation as a new vicar. On the off chance that somebody found it, they would have to scold me and then search for someone they have no connection to."
Cecily stood from the couch and hugged her governess.
"I'm so sorry Miss Prism for every little insolent stupid thing I've ever done in my life. You have every right to take a rod to me.
" I know you are sorry child, that is why with a little time and a good night's rest this too shall pass. After all it is not entirely on you, I behaved indecently towards you as well. For that I truly apologize." She responded.
Miss Prism kissed Cecily on both cheeks.
It was then the shackles of the day seemed to loosen their grip on everyone in the room.
Miss looked around at the other three people in the front room as the stress washed away from their faces.
She opened her mouth, " Well everybody I think I've learned something horrible today about the world we live in.
" Miss Prism all is forgiven." Jack reminded her.
" I know but there's something important I'd like to say."
" Go right ahead."
Miss Prism ensured that she had my contact from all three parties and then begin to speak again.
" What I've learned is, all of us human beings entertain a cruel and blasphemous condition. Eating bitter leaves for longevity and yet the moment we indulge in the sweetness that life so neatly presents to us, we are forever condemned. Well, perhaps I have learned this about myself. I would rather taste the sugar of human existence and know that I have taken advantage of the beauty that living provides, rather than walk upon eggshells for saintliness, forever wondering if they were worth cracking.
It took a moment to the power of her words to resonate with all of them.
But then Jack smiled and took off his cap.
" No words more true than that have been spoken in this house today." Jack decided.
" Absolutely." Cecily agreed
" Indeed." Said Dr. Chausable.
Cecily who had sat back down on the couch, turned around to see the calendar above her head and she giggled.
" What is it now Cecily?" Jack acquired.
She could barely get out her words through her scoffing.
" Come on now, out with it." Miss Prism demanded.
" Why today is 6th of June." She grinned.
All four of them burst into laughter letting the irony of it all fall freely on to their conscious minds.
They could have laughed for several minutes longer but alas no. For the dinner bell rang and it was time for their evening meal to commence.
They all settled at the dining room table with smiles on their faces. Perfectly content to wind down the day in Heartfordshire as an undeclared family who thanks to Cecily, was now closer than ever before.