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Miss Garner’s Institute for Ladies of Leisure was housed in a smart brick house situated in the suburb of Attenborough some two miles from the centre of the city of Nottingham. The establishment was not a large one, Anne was the eighth student to arrive and there was room for but two more, both of whom arrived within the following week. What the Institute lacked in size however, it more than made up for in quality which is how Miss Garner preferred things. Garner’s was one of the premier establishments in the kingdom for future Ladies of Leisure and she was booked up years in advance despite her astronomical fees. Lord Curzon had had to pull a few strings to get Anne in, but he knew that it was worth it. Garner’s got results in the marriage market and that was what he needed for without the best education imaginable, Anne, with her shady Russian past and questionable parentage, could never hope to find a decent husband, despite the £5 million dowry that came with her.
“So Miss Curzon, welcome to Garner’s Institute for Ladies of Leisure. I trust that your journey has been a pleasant one?”
Anne eyed the headmistress up and down. She was a thin woman with the standard compressed waist of an English lady. Her eyes though betrayed a streak of kindness that gave Anne cause for hope. “Oh, yes, ma’am, quite pleasant,” she lied, (for her corset and boots had irritated her for the entire trip).
“A correct answer if not an honest one, girl. I doubt that any lady could actual enjoy travelling, her costume does not permit it, but she should always appear to enjoy it. Now, to business. Do you know why you have been sent here, Anne?”
“To be educated ma’am.”
“Educated for what purpose?”
“To be a lady, ma’am.”
“Incorrect I am afraid. You have been sent here to be educated as a Lady of Leisure and the difference between the two is quite significant. Do you know what the difference is, Miss?”
“Well, I shall explain, because from now on being a Lady of Leisure is to be your prime concern in life and so it is essential that we start by establishing what one is. It all started approximately two hundred years ago in the latter years of the eighteenth century. During that period costumes, particularly for females, were most extravagant and sumptuous. During that period ladies laced down to fifteen inches or less, wore panniers that stuck out for several feet on either side of them and had hairstyles that took six hours to create and could not be dismantled easily. It was an era of opulence when one displayed one’s wealth in one’s dress. However, this opulence also started a strange trend. You see, wearing these costumes was most limiting; with panniers six foot across there are a lot of things that a lady cannot do whilst with hairstyles two feet high she can hardly turn her head. Ladies began to be more like mannequins for their clothes rather than functioning human beings and to be honest both females and males liked this. The females because it showed the distinction between those who had to work and those who didn’t more clearly and the males because, well… let me say there is something about the helpless female that has always appealed to the male. Then, matters were taken a step forward by the leader of fashion at that time, the Duchess of Hamilton. She arrived one evening at a royal ball in honour of the queen’s birthday in a dress no less than ten feet across, with a hairstyle three feet high but most outrageously, with her arms encased, palm to palm, in a sleeve behind her back. Anyhow she entered the ballroom, causing an almighty stir and accompanied by a maid on either side. “Seat me!” she commanded, and lo they did so. “I desire wine!” she commanded and lo they brought a glass to her and fed her. She was you see, completely helpless, the ultimate expression of wealth and refinement; a lady who need not work and who can afford others to do everything for her. Well, unsurprisingly it started a craze and very soon all ladies of quality were doing it, although a variety of fashions evolved. None had use of their arms and all were extremely rich and as the years passed they began to be known as Ladies of Leisure. Now fashions are different; arms are rarely placed behind our backs palm-to-palm as the Duchess once did, but the principle remains; total wealth, femininity and helplessness. That is the aim of a Lady of Leisure and from now on Anne, that is your aim.”
“So I am to be… helpless?”
“But what if I don’t want to be? I mean, I don’t wish to be rude, but it sounds rather scary…”
“Anne, I can understand that; a lot of girls find it difficult at first, particularly if they have had upbringings with a lot of freedom such as you have had. However, you must work hard and try to accept it. It will not be easy at first I am sure, but given time I belief that you may actually come to love it. Being a Lady of Leisure after all, is the easiest life that one can lead, not something to be scared of. Anne, if you try, I am positive that you will love your time here at school and your married life afterwards. Unlike other educational establishments you see, we don’t believe in making our pupils’ lives a misery; we wish you to enjoy yourself here and feel yourself part of a happy family. We have rules which you shall keep to, but they are not overly harsh and within their boundaries, you shall be happy. Do you understand, Anne?”
“Good. Now that was the first thing that I had to say to you, and that is what I say to all my students here. However, as you can no doubt appreciate, your particular case is somewhat special and so you shall require a different regime to the other girls here at the school. Therefore, whilst you make up lost ground in terms of body training, you shall also be subjected to a strict regime of pronunciation lessons. Your English is good, but not your diction and this must be worked on for you to be accepted as a Lady of Leisure. You shall therefore be under the tutelage of Miss Simpson, but do not worry, you shan’t be alone as we have another overseas pupil, Miss Kusturica, from the Kingdom of Serbia, who will share your diction classes. Now, please get along as it is time for you to be fitted with an outfit suitable to your new role in life as a Lady of Leisure so that you may join your fellow scholars for dinner and then a session of reading.”
Anne’s new bedroom was small but homely. Flowery sheets covered the bed and a thick carpet lay on the floor. The only ominous item was the trapeze for lacing corsets but by now she knew to expect such things as standard. In her room Perkins was waiting and informed her that she too would be staying in the school with her mistress. This pleased Anne as Perkins was a pleasant, polite girl who did her job well. Methodically she undressed her lady and then led her to the bathroom, (which was en suite), where she bathed her and oiled her body. Then she was ready to be dressed.
At first dressing for school was much the same as dressing at home. There were the stockings, the shift, the damnable corset, the numerous petticoats and the gloves. These items fitted she was let down off the trapeze. Then however, things changed a little.
The first change was a mini-corset that Perkins produced and proceeded to fit around her charge’s neck. She laced it until Anne’s breath was short and then tied it off. It forced her to keep her head erect at all times and prevented any downward movement. In the mirror it looked regal and graceful, but it was a most disagreeable nuisance.
Then came the bit that Anne had feared, the bit that made her helpless like a Lady of Leisure should be. Perkins took her arms and folded them, so that the hand touched the shoulder and then using a leather pouch fastened them in that position. Then, to Anne’s surprise, a pair of wooden arms were produced and cleverly fitted over the pouch, so that it appeared that they were her real arms. Of course this did not look real though, as her folded arms had a much greater bulk than normal. But then when the dress, a beautiful creation in green silk was produced, she realised the true genius of the fashion of the gigot sleeves, for the folded arms were completely hidden in those balloons of silk and to all intents and purposes the wooden replicas, (which were now gloved as her real arms were), look like the genuine articles. It was then that Anne realised why her mother had never taken her by the hand or held her in her arms. Had she not been wearing a dress with enormous gigot sleeves? Had not Lord Robert described her too as a ‘Lady of Leisure’. She too had evidently been disabled in this way! At once Anne felt a warm feeling of affinity for her mother and relief that the lack of contact between them had not meant a lack of love.
New boots were then fitted to her feet with higher heels than Anne had ever seen before. The heels were so high in fact that they forced her feet into a vertical position so that she was perched on her toes like one of the dancers that she had seen when she visited the Bolshoi. “These are called ‘en-pointe’ boots Miss,” Perkins explained, “and all fine ladies wear them. They will be difficult to walk in at first – your sisters were most unsteady when they started – but don’t worry, I’ll steady you and you’ll be fine. Now, to help you with your step, I’m just going to attach this chain between them so that you can only take smaller steps. Again, this is normal for fine ladies such as you.”
Anne remembered the plastic daisy chain and realised that short strides must be something that ladies are expected to take.
Her dressing completed, Perkins helped her up, (for she could no longer do this by herself). Standing there, her dress filling half the room, barely able to balance let alone walk, her arms folded uselessly in her sleeves so that she couldn’t even use them to balance, she realised just how different her life would be from now on. She was now completely dependent on Perkins for everything, from feeding to walking, dressing to bathing. That feeling was a strange one, particularly since she had been largely independent since age nine or ten, but she knew that strange or otherwise, she would have to get to used to it.
Dinner that evening was a memorable yet surreal experience. Getting to it took an age as she was most unsteady on the en pointe boots and would have fallen at every step had it not been for Perkins holding her. At dinner she was sat at the table by her maid and then greeted the other diners who were the other pupils at Miss Garner’s Institute for Ladies of Leisure. All were clad similarly to her with bound arms and miniscule waists, hers in fact being by far the largest in that department with several of the girls having middles that defied the laws of anatomy. The girl on her left, a stunning blonde of about sixteen introduced herself as Clare Hawkins, the daughter of a Manchester textile merchant, whilst on the right was her co-student in diction, Miss Kusturica, a fiery looking Serb of great elegance and minute waist. Both greeted her heartily and welcomed her to the school, but all conversation was then stopped by the introduction of the meal – tiny servings of roast beef – which was then fed to the girls in silence by their maids using silver spoons. As Anne watched Perkins cut the meat into tiny chunks and put it into her mouth, she was reminded of a baby being fed and inside she felt quite ashamed.
Despite the portions being small, all girls were very soon full up due to their tight corsets. Then their mouths were washed out with red wine and to Anne’s dismay, fleurs de bouche produced. Perkins popped Anne’s in and then led her from the table to a sitting room where she was lowered on a straight-backed chair. Then a strange frame of wire was brought out and fitted onto her front. Anne wondered as to what its purpose could be but all was revealed when Perkins picked a book off the shelf and placed it in the frame. “Blink twice when you wish me to turn the page, Miss,” she instructed and so, having no choice in the matter, Anne did, immersing herself in the History of Western Art until a bell rang, the books were packed away, the reading frames removed, and the Ladies of Leisure led off to their beds.
Life at Miss Garner’s Institute as a Lady of Leisure took quite some getting used to for Anne. Can you imagine living a life where you are totally dependent upon someone else all of the time for absolutely everything? I certainly can’t and before she entered that esteemed educational institution, nor could Anne. Not even the corset, high heels and costumes that she’d worn in London and Kedleston prepared her and she soon understood fully why many young ladies who had received the proper preparatory education struggled at first to adjust. She also learnt why her step-father had decided upon Miss Garner’s for her schooling since it soon became clear that whilst it was all extremely difficult, without the tutelage that she received there, it would be far more so.
Her days started with her waking up in her bed. Generally, due to her restrictive night time attire, particularly a sleeping corset that was now mandatory attire, her sleep was troubled and she woke before Perkins came in to wake her. When she woke she had no choice but to lie there for she was now unable to move by herself. This was largely because her arms were now fastened in a single sleeve in front of her, (to prevent ‘nocturnal fiddling’ – whatever that meant!) and so were rendered as useless as they were during the day, but also since she was now required to wear a pair of sleeping boots, (which like her day boots forced her feet into a straight line, but these had no heels so one couldn’t walk in them), and also a padded face mask that was porcelain on the outside, (and painted to look like a china doll), but inside the padding filled with a sweet-smelling cream that kept her complexion soft, silky and pale. The only problem was that this left her with only two pin holes to see through and so all she could do was lie and contemplate the white expanse of her bedroom ceiling.
What followed this however, was far worse and indeed made Anne feel quite terrible for the first few months of her stay. After a long night in bed, one’s bowels need emptying and so she was escorted to the toilet by Perkins where she did her business in the presence of the maid who then wiped her bottom clean. The humiliation of this was unbearable and Anne would have protested had not Perkins placed a fleur de bouche in her mouth beforehand, (perhaps foreseeing her charge’s wishes to comment on what should not be commented upon?). Never in her life had Anne felt so stupid, so pathetic, so absolutely helpless as she did then. It was humiliation in the extreme and worse still, it took place thrice daily.
Following toilet and bathing, (in which Anne was naked save for her chastity belt and arm sleeve), she was dressed and then escorted down to breakfast with the other girls. Then, it was lessons, save on Sundays when there was church which was attended wearing a fleur de bouche and enormous walking bonnet complete with a veil so thick that naught of her surroundings could be made out. As the parish church was only a couple of hundred metres away, each of the girls walked there, led by their maids, an unnerving experience when you are practically blind, have your arms bound up and are forced to balance on points the size of ha’penny coins.
Anne’s lessons revolved around two subjects for the first two months, both of which she spent with Miss Simpson, a spinster of around thirty with blonde hair and thin eyes and Miss Oksana Kusturica, the Serbian student.
Oksana Kusturica was a strange girl indeed, or at least, that is how she seemed in Anne’s eyes. She hailed from a small village in the Kingdom of Serbia, brought up in a household of peasants. Then, aged sixteen she had gone to stay with her aunt in the capital city of Beograd where she had met an English Lord, Hugh Belmont, the Earl of Worcester1 who was travelling around the Balkans with a companion following the completion of his Bachelor’s degree at Cambridge. The two fell in love at first site, (or at least, Belmont fell in love with Oksana; she on the other hand, fell more in love with the idea of marrying an extremely rich gentleman and being able to live a life of luxury), and within a week he had proposed and she accepted. However, he being an English peer, things were not as simple as all that and his family, whilst grudgingly accepting the idea that he marry a Serb of low stock, (his father after all, a famous rake, had wed one of his laundry maids), would not allow the wedding to take place before Miss Kusturica was properly prepared, and so it was that she had been sent to Miss Garner’s.
Unlike Anne however, she had arrived their entirely voluntarily.
“I suppose you didn’t realise what you were letting yourself in for when you came here?” Anne had asked her one morning during Diction.
“Oh no, not at all. When I met Hughie and he proposed to me, he explained all about how English ladies lived and what would be expected of me.”
“And yet you still accepted him?!”
“Of course! Between you and me, I knew it all anyway. At school we’d done all about the English class system and how women live in the United Kingdom and I remembered thinking at the time, oh how I’d like that! I mean, in Serbia I would be required to work and the clothes there, well, like in the Soviet Union, they’re so plain and boring. One can’t be a real lady in the East these days, but here, well… it’s just heaven! Hughie loves me so much, I can get him to buy me whatever dresses I want and the rumour is that crinolines are coming back and I shall wear the biggest possible. I just adore being laced in so tight – I’m aiming for thirteen inches you know and Hughie says that he’ll buy me a fleur de bouche of solid gold if I manage it! I love being so constricted, it gets me excited… down below I mean. The only problem with this place is all the virginity crap, I so need some sex it’s killing me! I’m not a virgin of course, me and Hughie were doing it day and night in Beograd, but still, not long to go now; the wedding is set for next June. Of course the only problem with that is that I’m not allowed to go to the Easter Ball which is so annoying as I’d love to glide around the floor in my finest peach ballgown, but still, when we’re married Hughie and I’ll be at balls all the time I suppose…”
Anne had heard the Easter Ball mentioned several times already and wondered why it was so important and why Oksana was prevented from attending it. She asked her fellow-student.
“Don’t you know?! Why, because at the Easter Ball, that’s where you find your fiancé! Two months before all the eligible bachelors submit their attendance applications and then a month after that the best are chosen – it’s always oversubscribed – and the guides are send out. By reading the guides – colour booklets that contain pictures and information about all the ladies ‘on offer’ – the men can decide whom they might be interested in and submit applications to dance with those ladies. Depending upon popularity, they either get their choice or not, but we ladies never know, since it is stipulated that all the ladies dance cards must be full and that the gentlemen must not give away whom their first choices were. Anyhow, then comes the ball at which the ladies dress in the finest gowns imaginable – oh how I wish I were attending! – and with the use of their arms, (as this makes the dancing easier and provides greater intimacy), and they dance and chatter with the men and it is all so romantic and glorious!”
“It sounds more like a market of flesh to me!”
“Oh Anne, you have not romance in your bones. Do you know what, my Hughie was booked into the Easter Ball this year and if he hadn’t met me, he’d have gone off with one of the other girls here. Oh, imagine him with Sarah Hawkins or Arabella de Villiers; it’s frightful!”
“But all of that doesn’t explain how husbands are chosen.”
“Well, after the ball, the gentlemen send in proposals of marriage to the girls that they desire, around three generally and then the negotiations begin. The ladies don’t have any part to play in all of that; their father’s talk to the prospective candidates and decide but then, when a decision is reached, then the courting starts. This means that the gentleman visits the school about once a month and woos the lady. Of course, those visits are supervised closely; she wears a fleur de bouche at all times as one might expect, and they generally just sit together or he walks her around the garden, the biggest intimacy allowed being a peck on the cheek, but whatever. Anyway, when that has gone on for a few months, then an engagement is arranged. For most aristocratic girls that takes place in her home but here Miss Garner likes it done at school as it enhances her reputation. There the gentleman presents the obligatory gifts and demands and the date is set. And that is how a husband is found in England, Anne Curzon, not that I will have to got through all that rigmarole of course although I do so wish I could be at the ball…”
The lessons that Anne shared with this passionate Serb were Diction and Deportment. Diction consisted of hours of learning how to pronounce all the words that she’d thought previously she could pronounce, properly. It was dull, but necessary and slowly as the months passed her ‘ye’s became ‘e’s and her ‘th’s evolved from ‘t’s into what they should be, whilst all the whilst both she and Oksana struggled to converted their ‘meettons’ into ‘mittons’ and ‘oombrellars’ into ‘umbrellas’.
Deportment was equally tedious and necessary. Ane discovered that simply balancing on her boots and walking in her extravagant costumes was not enough for a Lady of Leisure and instead she must learn to do so elegantly and with an expression on her face that hid how difficult it all was and gave the impression that a walk in the park was, well… just that. As the months rolled by she improved; her stagger became a glide and her grimaces smiles, and once all that was mastered then she was taught how to express with her eyes so that emotions could still be conveyed even when wearing a fleur de bouche. Work too was also done on how to address and speak to servants and other members of the lower classes before then moving on to how to chatter and flatter husbands.
It was during this subject that Anne began to realise that things in aristocratic English life were not always as they appeared to be. To the uninitiated the life of a Lady of Lesiure and her man might seem to be one of unbridled prudity and sexual innocence, yet in her classes she learnt how to flatter him and how to use sexual innuendo, (something which Oksana took to like a duck to water). Confused, Anne questioned Miss Simpson who simply smiled and ordered her to go to the Headmistress and ask the same question there.
In Miss Garner’s office, Anne was sat down and then asked why she should be taught such things. Miss Garner stood up, smiled and said, “Today Anne, I am going to let you into the great secret of English life. Some schools never officially let their girls know it and would have you beaten for asking questions such as the one that you put to Miss Simpson today, but I have a different ethos, and whenever a girl asks such a question of her own free will then the teacher is under instructions to send her to me. Now, do you know what this is?”
The Headmistress, (whose arms were not bound), was holding in her hand a small wooden box. “No ma’am, I do not.”
“This Anne, is the engagement gift of the Earl of Jersey to Clara Russell, a girl in the year above you. Open it and find out.”
“Perkins!” said Anne sharply. The Headmistress smiled, pleased at both the command and tone. The maid opened it and revealed an ivory cylinder, some ten centimetres in length carved – and this was what caused Anne to gasp – in the shape of a male penis!
“I can see that it shocks you and well it should, yet what may shock even more is if I tell you that an ivory replica of the fiancé’s member is the standard engagement present to his fiancée. This is the Earl of Jersey’s; an average specimen I would say. However, what is perhaps most shocking of all, is why such a thing is given. Can you guess as to why?”
“Well ma’am, I would have said so that the lady could… practice with it, get used to her husband’s… member… before marriage, but if she is to stay a virgin and she wears a chastity belt, then it can’t be that so I don’t know.”
“Anne, you have a sharp mind. You are right about the virginity issue yet right too about the importance of practice. A female however, does not have one hole but three, all of which it is her husband’s sacred right to demand use of. What makes the wedding night so special is that that is the first time when her reproductive hole may be used, but he will desire the use of the others too and to use the anus, then training is definitely required otherwise it would be too small to fit his member. And so, on the engagement night she inserts this replica in her rear and trains her anus for her husband. That is the primary purpose, but the secondary is that it provides her with some joy, an intimation of the intimacy and pleasure that will come after marriage. The replica helps make the engagement night one to remember as well.”
“But that is so… so crude!”
“Perhaps so, but that is England and I show it to you so that you know what to expect from your life. On the outside we ladies are innocent, pure and chaste yet inside we know it all, we have lusts and wants as well, and your schooling will help you achieve in both worlds. Embrace it Anne, physically and mentally and you shall do well. There is much to enjoy about your time here.”
1 Interestingly, in our world, the lineage of the Earldom of Worcester ceased in 1145, the family holding the rank being the de Bellomonts. Evidently, in Anne’s world, the line continued somehow and the family name was corrupted to Belmont over the years.