The Ladies of Hetherington Hall
Copyright © 2018, Dave Potter
This story was written by me, Dave Potter, but thanks must go to Cafter Homme for the editing and corrections which have made it a better tale than it was originally.
Lucy couldn’t believe how well things were going. Of course, she’d long looked forward to the day when she would go to uni to study history, her main passion in life, but even so, she had never believed it would be so much fun! She loved the parties and the nightlife, the new friends she had made. Why, she even liked the lectures! And it was about to get a whole lot better. Her new friend Jane whom she had met during Freshers’ Week (and whom, she struggled to admit, even to herself, she found rather cute) had just made her an incredible offer. “Why not spend the summer holidays with me?”
Why not indeed. Ever since her parents had died in a tragic motor accident two years’ before, Lucy had hated going home for those occasions which the world deems as “family”. She was an only child and her grandma was in a home, what was the point anymore? Before the accident things had been so very different. She recalled the love and the warmth, the days out and holidays at the beach. But after the initial rush of relatives surrounding the funeral, she was left alone and, essentially, uncared for. She was surplus to requirements, a reminder to aunts and uncles of just what they had lost. And that house, those relatives, merely brought that emptiness back to her. That was why she had leapt into uni life with such eagerness. There she was a new person, a blank canvas without teenage trauma and dark memories. She could now live! And how lucky she had been; she loved the campus and the vibrancy of life there. But most of all, she could not believe how fortunate she had been in meeting Jane Unsworth.
It had happened in her very first week of lectures. This strange girl had come into the lecture theatre a few minutes late and so slipped onto the back row. “Is this seat free?” she had whispered. And that was how it had started. They had gelled immediately and were soon meeting up every other day, then more often than not. Jane wasn’t in halls but instead had a room in a private rented house on her own. It was hard to believe that she was a first-year too, for she seemed so independent in her lifestyle and attitude. Although they were both nineteen, she felt almost like a big sister. A rather sexy big sister too; all the boys liked her and when they went out clubbing guys were always hitting on her, but she brushed them all away and instead stuck with her friend. At the weekends they would go out to cool places together and Jane would encourage her to try new experiences, some of which Lucy would never have dared to go through on her own. Her heart missed a beat when she remembered whizzing down that zipline in a quarry in Wales and then she blushed when she recalled the day they both went to get their nipples pierced. She fondled the little stud in her left nipple through her blouse and smiled. Yes, Jane had definitely changed her life.
And so, although many of their friends were thinking of backpacking in South-East Asia, and although Aunt Sarah had offered for her to stay at their place in Bournemouth, neither appealed. Indeed, only one destination did appeal to her, so when her cool new friend offered for Lucy to join in on her family’s festivities deep in the countryside, she couldn’t say no. It didn’t hurt that Jane was loaded. Lucy usually didn’t think much about such things but Jane had an unconscious flashiness that gave her the feeling those stories of a 17th century mansion all to herself wasn’t a fantasy story. She had heard so much about the old house, so full of character and history, that she simply couldn’t wait to see it, and besides hoping for more with her new schoolmate, it was an opportunity Lucy just couldn’t pass up!
On the final day of the academic year, with many of their friends off on travel experiences or doing some work experience to prepare them for the harsh realities of life after study, the two girls packed up their bags and then made their way to the train. It took two changes before the local stopping service arrived at the isolated halt of Hetherington, where Jane assured Lucy there would be a car waiting. Which indeed there was, but what her friend had not warned her of was just what kind of car it would be. A 1960s Silver Shadow! Wow! She had never known such luxury! A uniformed chauffeur got out, bowed to Jane and said, “Welcome home Miss Unsworth, and to you as well, Miss. Please get in.”
They drove for several miles through beautiful yet isolated countryside before turning down a long gravel drive bound by woodland on either side. The car tyres crunched as they rolled along and then the trees opened up and the house came into view. Lucy gasped. “Welcome to Hetherington Hall,” said Jane. And it truly was a hall, like something out of a BBC costume drama… well, without the costumes of course.
They came to a halt at the front door and the chauffeur opened the car door for them. Jane jumped out and threw herself into the arms of the man waiting at the door. “Papa, I’m home!” she cried. The man, who looked to be in his fifties and very well-dressed, greeted his daughter warmly and then turned to the newcomer. “This is my friend Lucy Parkinson whom I told you so much about,” said Jane. The man eyed her up and down and then smiled. “Miss Parkinson, I am charmed,” he said. “I hope you will enjoy your stay here at Hetherington Hall.”
“I’m sure I will, sir,” she replied, still wide-eyed, struggling to take it all in.
The girls went inside, through a huge hallway and up a grand staircase to the bedrooms. Jane’s room was huge and Lucy was to occupy a smaller one next to it, though even that one was occupied by a four-poster bed. They showered and changed out of their traveling clothes, and then went down for dinner. Lucy found Mr. Unsworth polite and friendly, if not a trifle reserved. She also noticed how he stared at her when he thought she wasn’t looking, which Lucy found slightly disconcerting but she brushed it to the back of her mind as nothing to worry about. He was her friend’s dad after all.
Following dinner the girls went upstairs together. They sat in Jane’s room in front of a roaring log fire and hugged each other tight. After a moment in the embrace, Lucy felt warm, and not just from the burning wood. She moved closer to her friend and put her head on her lap. Jane bent down and kissed her on the lips. Lucy wondered if more would follow but then the other girl withdrew and smiled. “So, how do you like Hetherington Hall?” she asked.
“It is truly marvellous, I cannot believe it. I keep thinking of all the people who must have lived here in the past and find myself imagining what it would have been like, living as a fine lady in that era with a beautiful gown, perhaps waiting for my Mr. D’Arcy to call.”
“You imagine such things?”
“I know it’s silly, but it’s hard not to in such a place.”
“No, it is not so silly at all. I do the same. Would you like to have lived back then?”
“I don’t know if I would full-time, but some aspects, yes. I’d love to wear one of those wide dresses, you know the type, a bit like Belle in Beauty and the Beast, and go to a ball with the local nobility.”
“But why imagine when it can be real?”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, I never told you before, but I… well, Papa and I, have a little hobby. We have a passion for history as do you, but we especially like period dress. In fact we regularly have events where we don costumes from the Victorian Era – that is our favourite, particularly the 1850s and 60s – and pretend that we are here over a century before. There is no event planned this summer, but if you’d like to, I can arrange for us to dress as Victorian maidens tomorrow.”
“Could you really?”
“If you’d like it.”
“I’d love it.”
“Then we’ll do it.” And with those words she gave her friend another light kiss on the lips.
The following morning Lucy awoke, swaddled in the huge four-poster bed she had been granted at Hetherington Hall. She smiled at the realisation that this was not a dream, that she was actually staying in a place that was both old and big enough to star in one of those television adaptations of a Dickens or Austen novel. She drank it in happily as she considered what her friend had said the night before. Not only would Lucy be staying in a costume drama house, but she was also going to be wearing one of the costumes! She imagined herself striding down the wide corridors in a huge, flouncy gown and felt excited all over. Then she thought of her friend Jane dressed in a similar fashion and, without her realising it, her hand strayed down below.
Lucy was not a lesbian. Or at least, she had never thought of herself that way before. But there was something about Jane that she found unbelievably sexy. She was a pretty girl of course, with her shining hazel eyes and gorgeous long chestnut hair, but it was more than that. She was sassy, cool and wonderfully eccentric. She would’ve made a good lead for a Disney film and she was already in the correct setting. Jane looked great now, but in a huge Victorian gown she would look amazing, like a real-life princess or something.
Before she knew it, her fiddling was not so absent-minded, and Lucy had reached a shattering climax.
At breakfast Jane spoke to her father. “Pappa, Lucy and I were speaking last night and I told her all about our hobby. She wants to give it a go.”
Mr. Parkinson smiled and looked across at Lucy. “You would like to dress up in period costume, Miss Parkinson?” he asked.
“Well, if it’s not too much trouble, sir.”
“It’s no trouble at all and, please, call me John. We’re closely acquainted now so we don’t need the formality.”
She smiled. She was warming to this man whom she had found slightly creepy the day before.
“We do have a number of outfits that I believe may fit you. Our family have been costume aficionados for many years now and, I am afraid to say, we have spent a considerable amount of money on having some accurate reproductions of period dress items made by expert dressmakers, milliners, corsetieres and the like. Jane here has been donning costumes from a very early age and she loves it, don’t you, Dear? However Lucy, I must warn you: wearing Victorian costume is not easy. We do not just throw things on here, we do it properly as they would have done and dressing in those times, particularly for a lady, was a time-consuming and sometimes difficult process. However, if you’re up for it.”
“I’m sure it won’t be too arduous… John, and besides, when in Rome.”
“That’s the spirit. I shall arrange for Meakes to attend to you this morning in order that you may be ready for lunch. Jane, would you like to dress-up as well?”
“Of course, pappa!”
“Then it shall be arranged. Off you two go and enjoy the grounds while the costumes are sorted and be back in your rooms for, shall we say ten, to get ready.”
At ten the girls did return to their chambers. Jane went to her own, of course, and so Lucy was left alone with Meakes who turned out to be a maid dressed in a small black and white period uniform. Sizing her up, Lucy reckoned that if she ended up looking half as good, it would be worth it.
“Right Miss Parkinson,” said Meakes, “let’s get you ready. To start with you need to strip completely, even your underwear. I believe that Mr. Unsworth has informed you that we do things properly here at Hetherington Hall and back in them days there were no bras and panties.”
A trifle embarrassed, Lucy did as she was bid until she was standing naked in the middle of the floor. Then Meakes produced a white cotton shift which she lowered over the girl’s head which at least reinstated her modesty. Then she picked up a garment which was most unexpected.
“This is a corset, miss. Have you ever worn one before?”
“Err, no, I haven’t.” And it was true. Lucy knew all about corsets of course, as a student of history, they were mentioned as being de rigueur for ladies back in Victorian times, but she had never thought about wearing one even though some of her friends occasionally donned one for a night out clubbing.
The corset was fitted around her middle. It was a beautiful creation made of white silk and strengthened with metal. It sat on her hips, diving down in a V shape towards her private parts, whilst it stretched up to cover her breasts, ending with trimming of fine lace and a pretty ribbon. Meakes did it up using a series of clasps at the front and then ordered Lucy to turn around in order that it could be laced.
And that was when things began to get difficult. At first it was all fine, but then the laces started to squeeze and restrict her to a degree that felt uncomfortable. She began to worry about getting her breath and so said, “Please, stop, that is enough. I shall suffocate if you lace me any further.”
The response from the maid though, was not what she had anticipated. “I’m sorry Miss, but I cannot. As it is, none of the dresses will fit as your waist is too broad. And besides, we wouldn’t let you suffocate. You can be laced down a couple of inches more and be fine.”
And so she suffered a few more tugs but then, her breathing very short indeed, she spoke again: “Please, stop now! This is ridiculous! It is killing me!”
Meakes however, merely replied sternly, “Then we may as well take it off and tell Mr. Unsworth that, after requesting to wear Victorian costume and putting us all to the trouble of getting them out and preparing them, you have now changed your mind. As it is, the dress will not fit and you were warned that dressing was not an easy process back then!”
Lucy felt chastised and silly, so she meekly replied, “Please, continue, I’m sorry.” Meakes went on pulling and, when Lucy was genuinely beginning to feel faint, the maid tied off the laces and got out a tape measure. “Twenty-three inches. That will suffice for the broadest dresses although, to wear the nicer ones, you’ll need to reduce significantly. Now for the rest; please sit down on the bed.”
Glad that she ordeal was over but panting at the restriction, her breasts heaving up and down just below her eye line, she made her way over to the bed. There though, she found a new problem. Sitting made her waist want to expand which increased the pressure even more. Worse than that though, the corset seriously affected how she could bend and so she found herself lowering down rigidly towards the sheets.
Once she had sat down, Meakes brought out the next items: a pair of fine white silk stockings that were drawn onto her legs and held in place by tight garters which cut into her thighs. After this came a pair of boots. These were in white leather and reached up to her ankles. What was disconcerting though, was that they had heels of several centimetres. Lucy never wore heels, being a bit of a gym bunny who liked shoes that enhanced her physical performance and she felt unsteady on these. “Do you not have anything lower?” she asked. Meakes looked surprised at the question. “Miss, these are the lowest available!” she replied sternly.
Then came a series of petticoats, five in all, which caused the volume and weight of her outfit to increase considerably. And after this was a pretty white corset cover, then a blouse and then another unexpected item.
It looked like a cage, a series of hoops linked by ribbons. It went around her waist where it was tied tightly. Meakes explained it was called a crinoline and necessary to give the skirt its shape. Lucy now realised how those costumes were so big.
Then came the dress itself, a gorgeous creation in pink satin line with black geometric designs along the hem and at the sleeves and with black buttons up the front.
Lucy thought that she was now dressed but Meakes was adamant that she was not. “Your hair, miss, is unacceptable. As an unmarried lady it should be styled in ringlets but I fear that it is cut too short.” This comment surprised Lucy as she had always worn her hair long, down to the shoulders in fact, but Meakes continued saying that it was the norm in Victorian times for a girl’s hair to reach her bottom. Now it made sense why Jane’s hair was so long. “We shall be able to remedy yours with time, miss, but for now I shall braid it and style it like that of a married lady.”
This took some time as the hair was combed, parted down the middle, carefully braided and then pinned up. At last, Lucy thought she was finished, but there was one final item to add: a pair of white kid leather gloves. Meakes explained that Victorian girls were never ungloved in public. That as may be, but these were exceptionally tight and, when buttoned at the wrist, considerably reduced her motor control. ‘Oh well, one must suffer for fashion,’ she thought to herself in an affected, Elizabeth Bennett type voice.
Leaving the bedroom, she found moving and walking in this costume a whole new experience. The width was the first thing. She had to be careful not to bump into things whilst her high heels made her unsteady. The wide skirts also blocked her vision which presented a real problem when descending stairs, but most of all, the tight corset caused her to be constantly short of breath and her middle to feel quite rigid and inflexible. She moved slowly and in a stately manner which befitted the role she was subconsciously getting into. This would not be for long but she was determined to enjoy it.
Downstairs she found Jane in a dress of similar size but in blue. She noticed that her friend now had her hair in sausage curls which looked cute in a kind of Elegant Gothic Lolita steampunk Victorian way, whilst she also noted that the other girl’s waist was considerably narrower – and sexier – than her own. Jane jumped up to greet her and hugged her warmly. “You look great!” she exclaimed. “Give us a twirl!” Lucy obliged and Jane clapped her gloved hands before taking that of her friend and leading her to a couch with a rigid back. They sat together holding hands and talking whilst Meakes and another maid brought tea and Lucy felt like she truly were in a fairy tale.
They ate lunch with John who was most enthusiastic about the change in Lucy’s attire and encouraged her to try and wear some of the “more elaborate” dresses whilst also commenting that he would “arrange a solution to the hair issue”. Then they returned to the drawing room, but, since the weather was clear (though a trifle chilly) Jane suggested they go for a walk around the grounds. Lucy agreed and so Meakes was summoned. She returned bearing even more clothing, namely a fur-lined cloak in deep royal purple, a matching muff and a poke bonnet. Now even more encumbered, the girls set off and spent a wonderful hour strolling around the gardens, although Lucy found her tight corset kept her continually out of breath and, despite the sedate pace, they had to stop several times to regain their composure. This was a real shock to the system to the girl who was used to running 5km minimum during every gym session.
That night they were stripped of their garments save for the shift and, to Lucy’s surprise, the corset. Jane explained that it was usual for Victorian girls to wear their stays (another name, apparently, for corsets) 23 hours a day as otherwise they could never reduce enough to fit into fashionable dresses. This all sounded rather strange to Lucy but Jane said she understood completely and would provide her with some historical books that explained it all and which would also help with her degree. Since Lucy was studying twentieth century ideology and conflict as her major, she doubted this, but was happy to learn nonetheless and the two girls spent a pleasant evening cuddling on Lucy’s big bed whilst pretending to be real Victorian maidens who were about to marry a handsome lord like Mr. D’Arcy. When she returned to her own room though, Lucy found the corset a real impediment to sleeping and tried to undo it but, wearing the tight gloves (which had been replaced by Meakes after washing and filled with some sort of cream which would be good for the skin) she couldn’t undo the tight knot. Of course, the solution to that would be to remove the gloves, but that too proved impossible because of the tightness of the fastening at the wrists and so, in the end, she fell into an uneasy sleep still corsetted.
And so the days continued. Every morning Lucy awoke in the wonderful bedroom dressed like a girl from over a century ago. She was then prepared by Meakes, had breakfast with her friend, and then spent the day in “feminine pursuits” such as needlework and embroidery (difficult in the tight gloves), “promenades” around the grounds when dry, reading or just drinking tea and chatting. The clothes were difficult to wear. They weighed her down and restricted her and whenever the corset seemed to get a trifle easier to bear, Meakes would promptly tighten it further, but they looked incredible and she loved the fact that she was actually living out history.
And doing so in the presence of Jane.
Some things did change though. On the second day of Victorian wear, she found, to her surprise, that a hairdresser had been summoned to the hall and she was led to her bedroom and her braids undone. Then, the stylist attended to her, adding significant hair extensions so that, like Jane, her hair now reached all the way to her bottom. This meant, of course, that she could also sport elaborate and time-consuming styles involving sausage curls or other ringlets, but the added weight was another trial to bear. With a heavy head, constricted waist, wide and weighty skirts and high heels (these seemed to increase as the waist decreased) she found that she could only move slowly and in a ladylike fashion. Oh well, it was only for a couple of weeks.
On the fourth day though, she found herself again summoned to the bedroom where a number of strangers were waiting. They were revealed to be a dressmaker, a corsetiere and a bootmaker and all were there to measure her for new outfits, in particular for the wedding. Slightly confused, Lucy later talked to Jane about this.
“Well, the clothes that you’re wearing now are mine really, so they don’t quite fit. Victorian maidens of a certain class always wore specially-tailored outfits to match their precise proportions so why not you as well?”
“Yes, but we only have a few weeks and then we have to return to uni!”
“We do but then there will be the Christmas holidays and the Easter break. I’d love it for you to come here again and live as we do now although, of course, if you’re finding it boring…”
“Oh no, not at all. Wearing this stuff is difficult, that I do admit, but it is marvellous too. I really feel transported back in time and I do like being with you as well.” They looked at one another and winked. Most nights now they had enjoyed more than a quick peck on the lips although neither had openly said anything.
“Besides, there is the wedding and you must look your best for that!”
“But what is this wedding that I have heard mentioned several times?”
“Pappa is remarrying. Mamma died years ago and he has been so lonely since. However, he has managed to find a girl who shares the same hobby as we do and so has decided to take the plunge. The wedding is in mid-September and it will be amazing. The gowns that will be on show you cannot believe, as everyone will be dressed in period costume.”
“What is she like, his fiancee?”
“Oh, she’s lovely. I really get on with her and she will be the perfect wife for pappa.”
“I should like to meet her.”
“You shall, do not worry about that.”
As the days passed though, there was one aspect of her new life that Lucy began to feel a little, well, uneasy about. It was the reading material. Jane had promised to educate on how Victorian maidens lived by providing her with suitable reading material on the era and so, every afternoon, an hour or more was dedicated to reading in the drawing room. At first these writings were innocuous, like diaries of young maidens or some romantic novels from the period, but then they began to get a little stranger. The first was a series of accounts from a magazine entitled ‘London Life’ which seemed to be focussed very much on corseting of an extreme nature named “tightlacing” where girls tried to get their waists down to impossible dimensions. This seemed to be connected to a sexual theme with bondage elements like skirts that hobbled them and excessively high collars or tight sleeves. Then came an essay entitled ‘Victorian Yearnings: Enforcement of Disciplined Formality’ which went even further, referring to women repeatedly as “the weaker sex” and recommending spankings for breaches in costume decorum. Finally though, came another essay, ‘Corsets, Collars and Chains: European Practices of Yesteryear’ by one John Francis Trelawney. This was a survey of all the methods used to “enforce discipline” on young ladies in Victorian times, from tightlacing to masks and even pouches that bound their arms. Rather shocked, that evening in bed, Lucy spoke to her friend about it.
“Jane, have you read that ‘Corsets, Collars and Chains’ thing that you gave me?”
“I have. Why do you ask?”
“Well, it’s rather… extreme, don’t you think?”
“It is, but it is also rather exciting, don’t you think?”
“Yes. Imagine being tightlaced like that, or disciplined with spanking or even wearing one of those single glove armbinders like Lady Ardmore?”
Lady Ardmore was discussed in the essay. She sometimes wore an armbinder that kept her arms together behind her back in a single sleeve, palm to palm, elbows touching, tightly.
“I don’t know… maybe.”
Jane snuggled up to her and kissed her on the lips. Her tongue lingered longer than it should and her gloved hand slipped down to stroke her friend’s bottom. “I really like you,” she said.
“And I really like you…”
The stroke became a caress and the hand moved towards a more intimate place. “We’re being a bit naughty…”
“But before we go further, I must tell you something. It’s not just the costume. I have another passion. You mentioned extreme and maybe it is, but I like things that restrain and confine me. Like the corset. I also have a single glove like Lady Ardmore… and other things. If we are to become naughtier together, then I would like to share this passion of mine as well. Are you game?”
With her friend’s gloved hands on her breasts and a hot feeling down below, Lucy did not feel that it was in her power to say no.