The Bodice Ripper Chapter 2

The Bodice Ripper

Part I 

Chapter 2

Lady Prudence Pewsy was not as privileged as it would seem from her exulted circumstances. True, she lived in a handsome and comfortable Palladian villa by the sea. True, she had had ponies while growing up and now a beautiful mare named Belle. True, her father was an earl, which really meant something those days. But the Pewsys were Scottish Episcopalians and so had suffered greatly since 1688 when Presbyterianism happened. They would not sign the Covenant; it sucked.
Fortunately the Pewsys were always lucky about money and were, for example, the only honest family in Scotland who made any money from the Darien Scheme. Unfortunately, they always backed the losers in political matters and, with the exception of Prudence, were even now a bit sniffy about the new Dutch and German kings.
The Pewsys had thrown themselves enthusiastically into the '45, and when Bonnie Prince Charlie triumphantly took his throne at the Palace of Holyrood, the Pewsys went to all the dances. In fact Holyrood Palace was where Prudence's grandpapa, the fourth Earl, met her grandmama, the fourth countess, and Prudence's papa had a secret Venetian bank account he had held for his rightful king until that tragic man died. The earl's allegiances were an open secret, so it was a good thing he had too much money to be messed with by politicians, although, as he said, it was a bore having to go to church in Carrubbers Close through a hail of rotted vegetables.
Just like Catholics, only maybe not so bad, the Scottish Episcopalians suffered under penal times and so were also romantic, only not so romantic as to be executed for saying what they fondly believed to be Holy Mass. But happily most restrictions on Episcopalians had ended, leaving only the problem that there were not so many Piskies left in Scotland, and therefore not so many local men for the daughter of the Earl of Grunstane to marry.
Although this circumstance made her loving parents fret, Prudence was blissfully unaware of the Pisky man shortage, and the only thoughts in her beautiful head, as she rushed to her chamber, were of all the young men with access to elephants she would one day meet and dazzle with her new bodice. And there on the bed it lay—shell pink with elbow length sleeves that ended in cascades of lace.
'O, how beautiful,' cried Prudence. 'Reece, have you seen my new bodice?'
Reece was her mother's lady's maid, a kindly old woman of fifty with white hair and a round cheerful face like a pink apple. She came bustling in from Prudence's dressing room.
'Och aye, Lady Prudence, I have at that and how happy I am to see the day you wear your first grown-up party bodice. It will make your waist look even smaller, and your bosom look even bigger, which should be the main concern of Woman, no matter what Her Ladyship your mother says.'
'Is it true, Reece, that this is the principal attraction of women for men,' asked Prudence. 'Mama is so blue-stocking impractical, and she keeps quoting a lady named Mary Wollstonecraft.'
'Your mammy, God bless her,' said Reece, picking up the bodice and giving it a shake, 'goes corseted from morning till night for all her learning and discussing what don't concern her with the gentlemen. She makes sure her bodice is all that it can be, aye. Now take off your gown and come into the dressing room so I can dust you with scented powder.'
There was a knock on the door, and the Countess of Grunstane herself looked in as both Reece and Prudence made her a curtsy. The countess had a plump face with blonde eyelashes around gooseberry green eyes. Her nose was small, broad and squashy, and was her chief woe in life, just as her greatest joy as that Prudence had turned out like her father and not like her. Meanwhile, she was already dressed for dinner in a curly white wig, a great pink skirt and a green bodice that almost cut her in two, so tightly was it laced. Her bosom was like two pink balloons.
'May I come in?' she asked in her gentle, even musical, voice. 'It would give me great happiness to see my daughter be dressed for her first supper party.'
'Of course, Mama. You have seen everything anyway,' said Prudence.
'I am taking her to be dusted,' said Reece.
'Dust away,' said the Countess. 'I will sit on the bed and give motherly advice.'
'Goodness, Mama,' said Prudence. 'How solemn you look.'
'I feel solemn. It is partly from reading Vindications of the Rights of Women, and partly from this great step you are taking.'
'Well,' said Prudence from inside her dressing room, 'after all it is only supper with Uncle Hewbert.'
'Dinnae talk while you're being dusted,' said Reece. 'There is arsenic in this stuff; it could be poisonous.'
'My darling,' said the Countess. 'I am sure your father wishes you to stop calling the Reverend Hewbert Robinson “Uncle Hewbert”. Meanwhile, have you given any thought to what you would like in a husband? And please don't mention the elephant, or I will scream.'
'Well,' said Prudence, 'as I have been made to learn French, German, Latin, Greek, Arithmetic, Calculus, Finite, Divinity, History, Geography, Astronomy, Physics and Chemistry on top of Home Economics, Embroidery, Dancing, Sketching, Singing, Harpsichord and Dressage, I think I should marry a man of sense. But principally he should be young and good-looking.”
'Here is your skirt,' said Reece. 'Dinnae tear it with your diamanté-heeled shoes.'
'When you say “Young”, what do you mean, exactly?'
'I don't know,' said Prudence. “Eighteen? Twenty, tops.”
'Oh dear,' sighed the Countess. 'Well, it's early days yet, but just remember that you can't always get what you want, but if you try sometimes you find you get what you need.'
Prudence coughed.
'Jings crivvens, help ma boab. I told you to keep your mouth closed, Lady Prudence. Now suck your gut in because here comes your bodice.'
'Oooh,' came Prudence's voice. 'Can I really go down to the table showing that much? It seems rude.'
'Your papa was considerably older than twenty when I met him,' said the Countess, 'and even today he is accounted the handsomest man in Edinburgh, so I don't think you should be so close-minded, darling, and anyway the most important thing in marriage is making your parents happy.'
'Of course, Mama,' said Prudence, and she stepped from her dressing room, a vision in pink. Her mother clasped her hands.
'O my darling, how pretty you are!” From her lacy sleeve the Countess took a fine lawn handkerchief and dabbed her eyes with it. 'Don't mind me. Let us join the gentlemen in the drawing room. Your father wishes us to sing.'

©D Cummings McLean 2015

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