The Under-footmen of Harvey Hall
This story is written by David, please send comments and appreciation to email@example.com
The Under-footmen of Harvey Hall.
David Donaldson was eighteen years old today. But there wouldn't be much in the way of happy returns.
There would be no gift-wrapped presents, for David. There would be no birthday cake, adorned with eighteen candles. No birthday card, with flourishingly penned sentiments of congratulation from family and friends. Not even a coming-of-age celebratory tankard of the rough, farthing-a-pint cider in the bawdy local tavern, with his two brothers and his dad, would wet his lips.
In the Donaldson household, where there was never enough food on the table, there was simply no money to spare for such frivolities.
David, along with his two, older brothers: Simon, twenty, and Martin, twenty-one, were of the fourth generation of dirt-poor, tied-cottage dwelling bondsmen attached to the privileged, filthy rich, mansion housed Harvey family.
At the head of the Wessex County branch of the Harvey family, was the 'dashing' Jonas Harvey, MP.
Jonas had been happily married for twenty-five years now to his heartstoppingly beautiful Italian Countess wife, Sophia.
The outstandingly attractive couple's eldest offspring, and heir, twenty-four-year-old Maximillian, had also recently become a member of parliament.
Inheriting his parents' good looks, Maximillian (no one called him Max) was being described in Westminster circles as 'The darling of Parliament', and political commentators were already tipping him as a future Prime Minister.
Jonas was further blessed, with three extraordinarily beautiful daughters: Marisa, eighteen; Francesca, twenty; and Louisa, twenty-one.
The apples of his eye, not only had Jonas's daughters all inherited from their hot-blooded, Neapolitan mother her olive-complexioned, smouldering Latin looks, but also her fiery temper.
And now, just like his brothers before him, David Donaldson, son of Donald Donaldson, had reached the age at which he also must now fulfil the most dreaded of the obligated conditions of his family's bonded, passed down ties: Serve the female members of the Harvey family, as an Under-footman.
* * *
The day had dawned freezing-cold, in Wessex County, south-west England, on 15 February 1832.
In the icy grip of that winter's morning, such was the meagre and ineffectual heating of the Donaldson family's tied cottage that even after breakfast time the insides of the living room's small square windowpanes were still skimmed with fantastically patterned ice.
David Donaldson stared at the frosted marvels in awed wonder. Amazed at their individuality, he could almost appreciate Mother Nature's artistic hand as he admired her crystallised creations; each one of them a unique, glass-canvassed masterpiece. For a few distracted moments, David didn't notice his exhalations vapourising in the parlour's frigid air.
David's father claimed the temperature inside their austere dwelling, with its bare stone floor and walls absorbing the intense cold, was even lower than outside. And no one gave him an argument.
David, having finished his bowl of thin and unsatisfying porridge on the morning of this, his eighteenth birthday, rubbed the pads of his fingers against the ice crystals on one of the small glass panes, clearing a blurry peep-through.
Outside in the farmyard, the frozen mud would be treacherous underfoot, thought David. And even from here, he could see that the thick layer of ice on the big water trough the farm animals drank from was going to take some breaking today.
"While it's your birthday, David," said his mum Eileen, joining him at the window, "you can scrape the porridge pan."
David wasn't too old to hug his mum and kiss her on the cheek. "Thanks, Mum," he said affectionately.
Neither David's mum or his dad, his older brothers Simon and Martin, or his younger sister Maureen (who served up at 'The House' as a maid), alluded to the inception of David's new, coming-of-age duties, as an Under-footman.
The sound of the horses' hooves was loud on the frozen ground, and the four male members of the Donaldson family, just out from breakfast, paused in their farmyard chores to watch the approach of the four returning horsewomen: Countess Sophia, accompanied by her three daughters, Marisa, Francesca and Louisa.
The four magnificent horses soon thundered to a stop, great plumes of vapour billowing from their flared nostrils as they stared down disapprovingly at the frozen-over water trough. Even more disapproving, were their four magnificent female riders.
The youngest of the three Harvey sisters, eighteen-year-old Marisa, stared down imperiously from her mount at the youngest of Donald Donaldson's three sons, eighteen-year-old David. "So now, at last, you are of age, David! And this evening you will serve me, as an Under-footman."
David said nothing in reply, just stared respectfully down at his new personal Mistress's scuffed muddy riding boots in their stirrups; boots that, as one of his routine chores, he would soon be cleaning and polishing, along with the three other Harvey women's riding boots.
Miss Marisa Harvey was positively gloating.
It was David's birthday, but Marisa was the one receiving the present: him.
David knew that Marisa had long looked forward to this day: the day of his 'coming of age'. And now that day was here, she couldn't keep the smug, gleeful, proprietary smile off her face.
As it happened, the ages of the three Harvey sisters mirrored the ages of the three Donaldson brothers. David's two older brothers, Simon and Martin, served as Under-footmen to Francesca and Louisa, respectively, who were the same age as themselves.
In a further coincidence, Donald Donaldson was the same age as the lady of the house, Sophia Harvey, to whom he also served, as Under-footman.
"In fact, the timing of your eighteenth birthday couldn't have been better," Marisa informed David.
"Miss Marisa," said David respectfully.
"My cousin Isabella is arriving from Italy today with her parents. She's never been to England before, and she's staying with us for a week or so while her parents conduct some boring old business in London. And, my goodness, I can't wait to see the look on her face, when she finds out about our Under-footmen! Especially you, David Donaldson, who have just today, come of age.
"During Isabella's stay with us, naturally I shall have you serve her, too, as an Under-footman. During tonight's banquet, Isabella and I may very well take turns with you.
"And I am warning you now, David: if you give Isabella the slightest cause for complaint, I'll have you taken outside and stripped, and we shall both horsewhip you. Do you hear me?"
"Yes, Miss Marisa," said David respectfully.
"Oh, and talking of riding equipment: I want you to polish up one of the spare saddles. Mother tells me that Isabella is a keen rider too. It's a lot colder here than she's accustomed to, living in Naples. But she'll still probably wish to accompany my sisters and me on our morning rides."
"Yes, Miss Marisa," said David respectfully. "I'll do it as soon as I've finished cleaning and polishing your riding boots, Miss Marisa."
"No! I want you to polish up the saddle first, and the tackle to go with it. Perhaps Isabella may want to go riding today. I can put up with dirty riding boots for once if it comes to it."
"Yes, Miss Marisa," said David respectfully.
"Donaldson!" shouted Countess Sophia, at Donald Donaldson, who, standing at one end of the big water trough, was ineffectually chipping away at the thick layer of ice. "The horses must drink! What in the name of the Madonna are you doing, you foolish man?"
"Forgive me, Your Ladyship," said Donald Donaldson, turning around and standing erect, to respectfully address the lady of the house. "But the ice is very thick today, and ..."
Countess Sophia murmured something to her horse, and obediently it ambled up to the abjectly apologetic, cap-in-hands respectful Donald. The lady of the house then removed her right foot from its stirrup, and she slammed the sole of her riding-booted foot into Donald's chest.
To his helpless, horrorstruck despair, David watched, as the backs of his father's helplessly backpedalling legs came up against the water trough; his dad's momentum tipping his body, full length onto the thick layer of ice behind him.
The sound of the thick layer of ice breaking was like the sound of a pistol shot in the cold still air.
The distressed David immediately rushed to help his semi-submerged father. "Dad! Dad!" shouted David, pulling at his father's pants braces in trying to haul him out of the water trough's freezing-cold embrace.
The cold still air was then rent with another pistol-shot-like sound, and David's right hand went to his right cheek. "Aaah!" he cried out in shock and pain.
And then with another cry of pain, David's left hand went to his left cheek, upon Marisa Harvey striking that side of his face too, with her riding crop. "Get out of the way, cretin!" Marisa told David. "The horses must drink!"
David could have sworn he could see his father's face turning blue right in front of him.
But there was nothing David could do, to help his now violently shivering father until the four horses, indifferent to his father's plight, had duly drunk their fill, and slaked the thirsts brought on by their hard-riding Mistresses.
Nothing he could do, as he watched the four horses' long pink tongues thirstily lapping up the refreshing ice-cold water; the thick layer of ice, now just so many mini bobbing icebergs for them to easily avoid.
Nothing he could do, as with her eyes Miss Marisa Harvey dared him; just dared him, to intervene on behalf of his freezing father again, without her or her sisters' or her mother's expressed permission.
"This will teach you to be so remiss, Donaldson. So neglectful of your duties," Countess Sophia admonished David's stone-cold father, sitting and shivering in his ice-cold bath.
After what seemed like hours to David, the four horses were finally satisfied, and they moved away from the water trough.
Countess Sophia said: "Simon and Martin. Get your father out of there, before he gets pneumonia. I don't want him further neglecting his work; especially his daily duties to me, as Under-footman. Take him up to the house to dry off and get warmed up. Take some dry clothes with you. And tell Cook, I said to give him a bowl of yesterday's leftover beef broth."
"Yes, Your Ladyship," said Simon and Martin together. "Thank you, Your Ladyship."
Wheeling her horse around, like the skilful young horsewoman she undoubtedly was, heading over towards the stables Miss Marisa Harvey's parting shot was: "And unless Isabella and I go riding this afternoon, I'll see you this evening ... Under-footman David!"
Later, that afternoon over a cup of unsugared black tea at the rough wooden table in the barely thawed out kitchen of the Donaldson family's tied cottage, David said plaintively, "Dad, I don't want to be Miss Marisa's Under-footman!"
"Son," said Donald Donaldson exasperatedly, "do you think I want to be Countess Sophia's Under-footman? Do you think Simon and Martin want to be Miss Francesa and Miss Louisa's Under-footmen? No, we don't. But, thanks to your great-grandfather, it's our bounden duty!"
"But why?" cried David, his eyes glistening. Glistening, at the thought of what lay in store for him that evening.
"It goes all the way back to the tied cottage's original tenant: your great-grandfather, Maurice Donaldson. He agreed to become, with immediate effect, the Harvey family's first ever Under-footman.
"It was something your great-grandfather had to agree to, and enshrined in law, if he was to take on the cottage's tenancy: that upon their eighteenth birthday, every male member of his, and the following generations of Donaldson families would serve the female members of the Harvey family, as Under-footmen."
"Don't think too ill of your great-grandfather Maurice, David," said David's mum Eileen. "Things were bleak, back then."
"No, he didn't have much choice," agreed Donald Donaldson. "It was either that or the workhouse, up in London. In Maurice's place, even though I know exactly how he must have felt when his sons reached their eighteenth, coming-of-age birthdays, I would probably have done the same."
David's brother Simon said, "And make sure you harken to Miss Marisa's warning, our Davie: Don't give her cousin Isabella any cause for complaint."
"Yes, our Davie," agreed David's other older brother Martin. "Not only will Miss Marisa horsewhip you, but you'll just make things worse for the rest of us, as well."
"You'll soon get used to it, David," soothed David's mum Eileen. "Serving as an Under-footman to the Harvey ladies will soon become just another part of your daily routine, like cleaning and polishing their riding boots. And at least, it's warm, up at the house. And sometimes Cook, who's a kind woman, will sneak you a nice bit of something to eat."
"But I don't want to be an Under-footman!" wailed David. "I don't want to!"
"But you have to!" said Simon sternly. "You heard what Dad said!"
"Yes, our Davie!" said Martin. "Now let that be an end to it!"
"Well, I'm certainly glad that I don't have to do it!" said David's younger sister Maureen, unhelpfully.
"What if I refused?" said David, pouting sullenly. "What if I just left, or ran away from home?"
Donald Donaldson put his tea mug down on the rough wooden kitchen table, and he regarded his youngest son somberly. "Son ... we would lose the tenancy."
* * *
"We have to go in through the back entrance, our Davie, through the kitchen," Martin Donaldson told his youngest, still reluctant but now resigned brother as the three bonded brothers and their bonded father walked up the gravelled driveway to Harvey Hall.
Donald Donaldson and his three sons had to stand aside, for a third time now as another two-horse carriage's almost head-high spoked wheels threw gravel up at the Under-footmen as it sped by.
"There'll be a lot of guests in attendance tonight, with Countess Sophia's sister Luciana's party in residence," said Donald Donaldson as the four of them resumed the driveway to Harvey Hall.
"Luciana?" said David, staring ahead at the looming edifice that was home to the Harvey family, with local dignitary Jonas Harvey MP, at its head. "Have you met Countess Sophia's sister before, then, Dad?"
"Well, I don't think that 'met' is quite the right word, son. But yes: I've served Countess Luciana on numerous occasions, as Under-footman."
"Dinner always starts at seven o'clock, Davie. And we are usually dismissed by nine o'clock; sometimes as early as eight o'clock," David's eldest brother Martin informed him.
"Well, that doesn't sound too bad, I suppose," said David grumpily.
"But tonight," Martin went on, "there'll be a banquet in Countess Luciana's honour. And, like Dad said, a lot of rich, and important people, will be invited: nobles, gentry, and other, well-to-do ladies and gentlemen. There'll be entertainment, going on for hours; probably until well after midnight. All kinds of revelry: jesters, music, singing, dancing, drinking ..."
"Come on, Davie ... through here," said David's other older brother Simon, having now reached the back entrance door through which menials such as himself must enter.
After the bitterly cold, and already fast-plummeting evening temperature outside, the sudden enfolding warmth of the kitchen was most welcome, to say the least.
"Young Davie!" exclaimed Cook, taking his cheeks between her thumbs and forefingers and pinching them affectionately.
"Aaah!" cried David.
"Whatever's the matter, Davie?" said Cook, all concern now.
"I'm sorry, Cook. But my face is still sore, after Miss Marisa taking her riding crop to me this morning."
"Tut tut, first your dad, frozen solid, and now you, young Davie ... what am I going to do with you?"
"I don't know, Cook," said the despondent David, who, not used to such kindness, looked on the point of bursting into tears. But that would be too unseemly, and he'd never hear the last of it, from his brothers and his dad.
"So, Davie ... today's your big, coming-of-age day, heh heh heh," chuckled Cook, not unkindly.
"Yes, Cook," said the downcast David: Now, Under-footman David.
"Well, never mind. Here's a nice piece of venison pie. I'll leave it here for you, shall I, Davie?" she said, putting the greaseproof paper wrapped treat on the countertop. "Don't forget to take it home with you."
"Thank you, Cook," said David. "You are very kind."
"Happy birthday, Davie."
This time, his bottom lip trembling uncontrollably, David would have given way to his emotions, had not the Head Footman chosen that very moment to pop his head in the door and say: "Come through now, Under-footmen!"
Father and sons, the four Donaldson's followed the bewigged figure of the Head Footman along the service corridor from the kitchen.
David had never set eyes on the Head Footman before.
Observing the senior position lackey's splendid uniform: black, silver-buckled shoes; gold-braided red trousers and coat; and powdered wig -- despite himself the new Under-footman was suddenly awed by the occasion of his initiation. The same, bonded-tie initiation, that his older brothers Simon and Martin, his father Donald, and the other, earlier generations of male Donaldson's, going as far back as his great-grandfather, Maurice Donaldson, had duly all undergone before him.
The Head Footman led the way through another service door, and then suddenly and for the very first time David beheld the chandeliered grandeur of Harvey Hall's sumptuously appointed dining hall.
David Donaldson had never imagined such splendour. Had never conceived, of such opulence. Even his two brothers' and his father's most marvellous of descriptions, he now saw for himself, had not been the extravagant exaggerations that he'd always supposed them to be.
All set up for tonight's banquet, in honour of Countess Sophia's sister, was a very long, white linen covered table, with sparkling crystal glassware and polished silver cutlery at each place.
There looked to be about fifty places on either side of the table, thought David, and there were two places at each end. Along the two sides of the very long table, the ladies and gentlemen were attired in such finery as he'd never before seen.
Seated in the two places at one end of the very long table, oozing self-confidence, and resplendently dressed for the occasion were Jonas Harvey MP, and his son and heir, Maximillian.
Seated in the two places at the other end of the table, were Countess Sophia, and her youngest daughter, Marisa. In the nearest two seats along to them, sat Countess Sophia's daughters Francesca and Louisa.
David had never seen the four Harvey women so glamorously dressed, or looking so radiantly beautiful. Especially Marisa.
Standing to attention, David saw, were an abundance of Footmen.
They were all dressed like the Head Footman, but without his distinguishing powdered wig, gold braid, and silver shoe buckles.
The Footmen (David counted twenty of them) were all just silently standing there, looking straight ahead. Waiting to be told what to do.
A movement off to his left caught David's eye.
Now descending a broad, elegant stairway were a party of three gorgeously attired, olive-complexioned people. Instantly captivated, by the three extraordinarily attractive and charismatic people, David thought there was an almost halo-like aura of presence, about them.
Upon seeing them himself, the Head Footman inhaled a great, chest-expanding breath. He then boomed, announcing grandiloquently: "My lords, ladies, and gentlemen: Count Antonio, Countess Luciana, and Isabella di Napoli!"
Upon their now seeing the most august, Neapolitan nobles, the hundred-plus banquet attending, dressed-to-the-nines ladies and gentlemen promptly stood and, as one, they made their courteous bows. Upon which, the Italian trio gave gracious acknowledgement, and then descended the remainder of the elegant broad stairway, to the grand dining hall.
Puffed up with importance, the Head Footman personally escorted the three honoured guests to their seats.
David watched, as the Head Footman drew back three seats: the two seats nearest Jonas Harvey MP, and then the seat nearest Maximillian.
With the greatest of decorum, the Head Footman seated Countess Luciana and Count Antonio, respectively, in the two seats nearest to Jonas Harvey MP. The Head Footman then seated Isabella: on the other side of the table, opposite her mother, and in the seat nearest to Maximillian.
The Head Footman now made his way to the opposite end of the long table, to where David, his father, and his two older brothers Simon and Martin were all standing, and sticking out like sore thumbs in albeit their best and cleanest of workaday clothes.
Brusquely addressing four of the Footmen, the Head Footman said: "Footmen George, Albert, Edward and William: prepare to position the four Under-footmen!"
The four Footmen bowed in acknowledgement of their superior's order, and dutifully they reverently attended the seated positions of Countess Sophia and her three daughters.
On station, the four attending Footmen stood silently and stared straight ahead. Waiting to be told what to do.
A moment or two later, upon a signal from Countess Sophia, the four Footmen drew back the four Harvey females' seats, so as to facilitate the ladies' easeful extrication from the table.
Overseen by the Head Footman, the four Footmen issued David, his father and his two older brothers their instructions.
To David, Footman George said: "Under-footman David. Lie down on the floor here, on your back. Lie with your arms by your sides, along the length of the hemp mat, so that your head is in position under the table."
Footmen Albert, Edward and William gave similar instructions to his father, and to his two brothers Simon and Martin.
Of course, such instruction to them was wholly unnecessary. His father and his two older brothers already knew what to do. The four Footmen were merely observing strict protocol, as they at all times must.
David looked at Countess Sophia's youngest, and, David thought, most beautiful daughter, eighteen-year-old Marisa. And he felt his bottom lip wobbling uncontrollably, for such were his feelings of unspeakable humiliation, at seeing the superior, smug, and triumphant expression that lit up her face.
David looked to his father.
And Donald Donaldson, his anxiety overriding his paternal feelings for his youngest son's imminent, unspeakably belittling ordeal, nodded, and with his worried eyes he urged David to comply with Footman George's instructions without demur: the very tenancy of their tied cottage was at stake.
Avoiding Marisa Harvey's gloating eyes, David followed his father's and his two brothers' examples and compliantly lay down on the hard stone floor: on his back, with his arms by his sides, along the body-length hemp mat that was there for the purpose.
Staring up at the underside of the wooden table, David felt Footman George pin him in place with Marisa Harvey's seat: the seat's front legs squeezing his shoulders, the back legs pinning his arms to his sides at his wrists.
Looking to his right, David saw his father being similarly immobilised, by one of the other Footmen. David's father did not return his youngest son's look; the veteran Under-footman just stared up at the bottom of the wooden table, in long-accustomed resignation.
David then felt Marisa Harvey sit down on her seat.
Craning his neck, he saw that Marisa was sitting sideways. And Footman George, in reverent attendance, was kneeling down on his left knee, and he was dutifully undoing the silver buckles of her black leather, block-heeled dancing shoes.
The silver buckles unfastened, and the shoes loosened, Footman George carefully pulled Marisa Harvey's dancing shoes from her feet: first her left shoe, then her right shoe, and he placed them beneath her seat.
Countess Sophia's youngest daughter promptly swung her legs around to the front. And then David watched, in horrified acceptance, as the soles of Marisa Harvey's white stocking clad feet made straight for his face.
And now, as his new Mistress, Miss Marisa Harvey, settled the soles of her white stocking clad feet upon his, her own personal Under-footman's face, on this, the day of his eighteenth, 'coming-of-age' birthday, David Donaldson's humiliation was complete. His worst, most dreaded, and inescapable fear, at last, was realised.
Immediately, the soles of Marisa Harvey's white stocking clad feet began their long-anticipated exploration of the strange contours of the Harvey family's newest Under-footman.
Of course, on countless occasions before, Countess Sophia's youngest daughter had enjoyed the use of her mother's and her two sisters' Under-footmen: David Donaldson's father, Donald, and his two older brothers, Simon and Martin. But that was only when they weren't using them themselves.
But now, on the day of his eighteenth, 'coming-of-age' birthday, Marisa Harvey finally had her own, dedicated Under-footman: David himself, whom she had taunted deliciously for years, about his upcoming Under-footmanship.
Enjoying their antics, and laughing while she watched what those foolish jesters were getting up to, the exploring soles of Marisa Harvey's white stocking clad feet were getting up to all kinds of tricks of their own, on David's under-the-table face.
Now, David Donaldson was finally experiencing just what he had been dreading, for so long. And his under-the-table subjugation was more humbling, more humiliating, and more soul-crushing than he'd ever imagined it would be.
His face was Marisa Harvey's footrest. But the soles of her soft-fabric white stocking clad feet seemed ever active: pressing, rubbing, roaming; and the undersides of her toes, cupping his nostrils for long moments.
Whether Marisa's frequent and prolonged nostril-cupping was just a symptom of absentmindedness, as she watched the jesters' foolery, or whether she was doing it deliberately, David couldn't be sure. But he strongly suspected the latter.
David didn't know how much time had elapsed -- perhaps ten, or fifteen minutes -- when loud and lively dancing music suddenly started up, when the musicians took over from the jesters.
The appreciative laughter of the banqueters died away, and David heard lots of scraping noises as dozens of ladies and gentlemen vacated their seats to make for the large wooden dance floor.
Abruptly, David found Marisa Harvey's feet removed from his face, as she lifted her feet and slid around on her seat to sit sideways. "Come, Mother! Come, Francesca and Louisa! Let's dance!" Marisa urged her mother and her two sisters. "I'll go and get cousin Isabella!"
Craning his neck, David could see that Footman George was again in reverent attendance. He was once again kneeling down on his left knee, and he was putting Marisa's dancing shoes back on for her.
Looking about him, David could also see that Footmen Albert, Edward and William were similarly back in reverent attendance too, at Countess Sophia's and Francesca and Louisa's seats: kneeling down on their left knee, as they put their dancing shoes back on for them.
David could also see the silver-buckled black shoes and the gold-braided lower trouser legs of the Head Footman. Under that gentleman's beady-eyed, all-seeing supervision, the attending Footmen would be sure to observe strict protocol.
As soon as the four Harvey females had vacated their seats and were heading for the dance floor, David turned his head to his father, and said plaintively, "Dad, how long is this going to go--"
Immediately, David was looking at the powdered-wigged head of the Head Footman peering beneath the table, his cheeks freshly done up with more rouge. "No talking, Under-footman David!"
David heard his two older brothers Simon and Martin chuckling. He certainly didn't know what they had to laugh about!
David didn't know how much time had elapsed -- perhaps another ten or fifteen minutes -- when the four Harvey females returned from their dance, and once again he felt Marisa Havey sitting down sideways on her well-cushioned seat.
Craning his neck, he saw that Footman George was once again in immediate, reverent attendance at Marisa's seat, and, kneeling down on his left knee, he was carefully unbuckling and removing her dancing shoes for her again.
David knew what was coming next, as Marisa Harvey slid around on her seat to face front, and promptly returned the soles of her white stocking clad feet to his conveniently positioned, under-the-table face.
Immediately post-dance, and freshly removed from her sturdy, tight-fitting, block-heeled dancing shoes, not only were the soles of Marisa Harvey's white stockings no longer pristine white, but her feet were rather warm now, and just a little bit sweaty.
"Marisa dear," David heard Countess Sophia say, "did you offer the use of Under-footman David to your cousin Isabella?"
"Yes, Mother, of course. But she's too engrossed in conversation with Father and Maximillian. Isabella wants to know all about Westminster, and the Houses of Parliament -- all of that boring old flannel. And of course, Daddy and Maximillian are only too happy to indulge her curiosities."
"So, she said ...?" prompted Countess Sophia.
"Isabella said it can wait until tomorrow. Ha! Just like that: 'It can wait until tomorrow'. But I know she's ever so excited about it, Mother, even though she is trying to make out that she's taking it all in her stride. I can tell: Isabella just can't believe, Mother, for all of her apparent nonchalance, that we have Under-footmen!"
David didn't know how much time elapsed -- perhaps it was another ten or fifteen minutes; or even more: it was impossible to keep track of time -- when the loud and lively dance music struck up again.
"Oh! This is one of my favourite jigs!" cried Marisa Harvey delightedly. "Come, Mother! Come, Francesca and Louisa! Let's dance! We'll make up a foursome!"
And once again, Footmen George, Albert, Edward and William were in prompt, reverent attendance: under the beady, watchful eye of the powdered-wigged, rouged Head Footman, kneeling down on their left knee, very carefully they put the sturdy, tight-fitting, block-heeled dancing shoes back on the Harvey females' feet.
Lying down on his back, on the hard stone floor under the banqueting table, and remaining silent lest the Head Footman should reprimand him again, David could hear the sounds of revelry picking up as the banqueters continued to pour Jonas Harvey MP's top quality claret down their appreciative throats.
The sounds of the revellers' hard-soled shoes on the wooden dancing floor as they danced the lively jig in foursomes, was thunderous.
But as loud as the noise was, the uninhibited, inebriated laughter and the saucy banter of the letting-their-hair-down nobles and gentry and the other well-to-do ladies and gentlemen banqueters still carried to David's ears.
When Marisa Harvey returned to her seat, this time, and promptly returned her post-dance, freshly unshod, white stocking clad soles to his conveniently positioned, under-the-table face, David found her feet to have gotten considerably warmer now, and rather more sweaty too.
And, as Marisa had lowered the soles of her feet to his face, he couldn't help but notice that there were now some light grey patches: on the bottoms of her heels, at the balls of her feet, and under her toes.
"My word!" David heard Countess Sophia exclaim, rather breathlessly. "I'm certainly glad to get my feet out of these dancing shoes!" she said, promptly returning her post-dance, freshly unshod, soft fabric white stocking clad feet under the table, where David saw them lowered straight onto his father's acquiescent face, and begin doing all kinds of things to it.
"Me too!" responded Countess Sophia's three daughters together, who wasted no time in following their mother's example, and making similar use of David and his two older brothers Simon and Martin's under-the-table, conveniently positioned faces.
"Doesn't your cousin Isabella dance well!"Countess Sophia said brightly to her three, now also slightly out of breath daughters.
Marisa Harvey's now warm and sweaty, white stocking clad soles once again doing all kinds of things to his face, David heard Marisa reply, "Oh, yes, Mother! Ever so well! I was ever so impressed!"
But by now, though, David Donaldson's feelings were being utterly transformed.
David was undergoing the upheaval of a fundamental, radical change in himself.
His ... awakening.
Now, David was beginning to wonder why he'd been living in such trepidation, for all of these years.
Why he'd been living in fear, of his eighteenth, 'coming-of-age' birthday.
Living in dread, of his upcoming Under-footmanship.
Because David was now wondering why he'd ever made such a big, song-and-dance commotion about it, at all.
Wondering, why on earth he'd ever threatened to refuse his inherited, bonded-tied incumbency as an Under-footman to the females of the Harvey family, or to run away from home -- either course of action, thereby effectively annulling the very tenancy of his family's tied cottage.
Because the feel of Marisa Harvey's white stocking clad soles on his face, was, to his stunned amazement, actually rather pleasant.
The fabric of Marisa's stockings was almost velvet-soft, and the feel of the warmth of her soles enclosed within, as they almost incessantly roamed over and toyed with his face, was somehow soothing.
Frequently switching from foot to foot, Marisa enclosed David's nostrils in the by now more than slightly sweaty undersides of her soft-fabric, white stocking clad toes. And by now, David was in no doubt at all, that Marisa was not doing it unconsciously, as a symptom of absentmindedness, but very deliberately.
But, to David's further stunned amazement, he was finding this far from objectionable, too. There was something he liked, about the vaguely cheesy smell.
And, to his even further stunned amazement, he realised that he was getting an erection.
David Donaldson's mind was in turmoil.
How could such a thing be happening? How could he possibly like; how could he possibly enjoy, and become so incredibly excited, by such a thing?
But there was just something, about the feel of Marisa Harvey's sweaty, soft-fabric, white stocking clad soles roaming his face almost incessantly, that David liked. Just something, about the aroma of the undersides of her nostril-cupping, cheesy-smelling toes, that excited him.
Now, as his new found pleasure blossomed, and his excitement escalated to incredible, unimagined heights, David Donaldson wondered why he had ever considered running away from home.
Wondered, why he had ever thought of jumping ship, as it were, to avoid becoming Miss Marisa Harvey's dedicated Under-footman, from the day of his eighteenth, 'coming-of-age' birthday.
Wondered, why he had ever lived in dread, of his upcoming Under-footmanship.
David didn't know how much time had elapsed -- perhaps it was a little longer, this time, closer to half an hour -- when the musicians struck up another lively little number.
"Oh! Another of my favourite jigs!" cried Marisa Harvey delightedly. "Come, Mother! Come, Francesca and Louisa! Let's dance!"
Marisa removed her feet from David's face, and once again she slid herself around on her seat, to sit sideways.
Right on cue, Footman George was in reverent attendance. As were Footmen Albert, Edward and William, at the other three Harvey females' seats.
And once again, the four Footmen, under the close supervision of the Head Footman, were all sure to observe proper protocol as they knelt down on their left knee, and very carefully put the four Harvey females' sturdy, tight-fitting, block-heeled dancing shoes back on their feet.
Lying supine on the hard stone floor, as he stared up at the bottom of the banqueting table David Donaldson's heart was beating twenty to the dozen.
He was in such a state of excitement, as he had never known. The turmoil, both in his mind and in his loins, was unprecedented.
Countess Sophia and her three daughters didn't return, after this latest jig. Nor did they return after the next jig. Or the one after that.
Evidently, thought David, the nobles and gentry and the other well-to-do ladies and gentlemen banqueters were still decanting liberal quantities of Jonas Harvey MP's top quality claret down their educated and discerning throats.
Despite the thunderous noise they were making with their hard-soled dancing shoes on the wooden dancing floor as they danced to the lively jigs, the increasingly raucous laughter and drunken ribald asides of the revellers still carried to his ears.
David found it hard to believe that such people could behave this way.
In their cups, the upper echelon, privileged classes, so-called cream of society, were no better than uncouth drunken and debauched sailors on four-hour shore leave.
Finally, Countess Sophia and her three daughters did return to their seats; and, all jigged out, they fairly flopped down on them, sitting sideways.
And once again, under the watchful supervisory gaze of the powdered-wigged, rouged Head Footman, Footmen George, Albert, Edward and William were at the four Harvey females' instant, reverent attendance: kneeling down on their left knee, carefully unbuckling and removing their dancing shoes, and placing them under their seats.
Upon which, sliding around on their seats to face front, the four Harvey females promptly returned the soles of their post-dance, freshly unshod feet to the under-the-table, conveniently positioned faces of their respective Under-footmen.
This time, when Marisa Harvey slid around in her seat to face front, and promptly returned the post-dance, freshly unshod soles of her soft-fabric, white stocking clad feet to his face; her soles now hotter, and much sweatier too, David found his emotions running riot, and his desires running wild.
Something within himself, that had laid dormant and undisturbed, until now, was waking up fast.
David couldn't help noticing, that as Marisa Harvey had once again lowered the soles of her soft-fabric, white stocking clad feet to his face, that the grey patches on the bottoms of her heels, the balls of her feet, and around the undersides of her toes, were all very much darker now.
And now, the vaguely cheesy-smelling odour of Marisa Harvey's feet, particularly under her toes, was much stronger. More pungent, more powerful, and more ... potent.
"My word!" David heard Countess Sophia exclaim breathlessly. "I think I'm getting rather old for this!"
"Nonsense, Mother!" pooh-poohed Francesca. "You are putting us all to shame!"
"Quite right, Francesca," Louisa agreed.
"Mother," rejoined Marisa, "you could dance any one of us right off our feet!"
And as the soles of Marisa Harvey's now hot and sweaty, soft-fabric, white stocking clad feet now returned once more to do all kinds of things to his conveniently positioned, under-the-table face, David was in a state of unadulterated bliss.
In a state of ecstasy, as his heretofore hibernating predilection was inadvertently and unwittingly kindled, by Miss Marisa Harvey, to an inflamed, hot and passionate arousal.
David Donaldson's heretofore untapped, deeply shafted wellspring, was being well and truly sprung, by Miss Marisa Harvey.
Miss Marisa Harvey, frequently switching from foot to foot; and her toes, very deliberately enclosing his nostrils for long periods, while with the toes of her other foot she sealed his mouth, ensuring he had no option but to inhale her pungent, vaguely cheesy-smelling, and increasingly potent foot-scent -- Countess Sophia's youngest, and, thought David, most beautiful daughter, was awakening and bringing to vital, vibrant life, something within him that had until now been in slumber, sleeping quietly and undisturbed.
David found himself imagining what it would feel like to have the soles of Marisa's bare feet on his face, come warmer weather -- and such heart-racing thoughts and pulse-raising anticipations were soon threatening to send him right over the edge.
David Donaldson was ecstatic.
Well, this was a turn-up! Whoever would have thought? Certainly not him!
And tomorrow, according to Marisa Harvey, Countess Luciana's stunningly beautiful daughter Isabella would also be availing herself of his Under-footman's services. Just the very thought of it elated him.
And then there was also Countess Sophia, and Francesca and Louisa, who, from time to time, were also sure to avail themselves of his Under-footman's services.
At these contemplations, a warm glow of contentment suffused David Donaldson's very being. He was euphoric.
Never before, had he experienced such overwhelming feelings, such uncontainable emotions -- such exhilaration.
David didn't know how much more time had elapsed -- but it had been much longer, this time, well over an hour, thought David -- when for the final time Miss Marisa Harvey slid around on her seat, to sit sideways. As did her mother Countess Sophia, and her two older sisters Francesca and Louisa.
And for the last time tonight, too, were Footmen George, Albert, Edward and William in instant, reverent attendance at their respective Mistress's seat.
Where, under the ever watchful, supervisory gaze of the powdered-wigged, rouged Head Footman, who ensured the strict observance of proper protocol, the four Footmen knelt down on their left knee, and very carefully they put the sturdy, tight-fitting, block-heeled dancing shoes back on the four Harvey females' feet.
Having done so, the four Footmen, by means of dragging out the body-length hemp mats upon which the four Under-footmen lay supine, extricated them from their head-under-the-table positions.
It was now well after midnight. And after lying supine, on the hard stone floor with their heads under the banqueting table for more than five hours, it was with some difficulty that the four Under-footmen regained their feet.
Looking about him, David now saw that most of the nobles and gentry and the other well-to-do banquetting ladies and gentlemen had gone home.
Still present, though, in silent, ready attendance to the last, were the abundance of Footmen.
Miss Marisa Harvey, her face flushed from a night's energetic dancing, and from rather more of her father's top quality claret than probably was good for her, imperiously addressed David Donaldson: "You are dismissed, Under-footman David."
Miss Marisa Harvey did not, as far as David could tell, have the slightest inkling, as to the almost unbearably ecstatic and exciting feelings she'd been stirring up in him all evening.
Marisa Harvey, it seemed, did not have the slightest inkling, that she had tapped into his heretofore untapped, deeply shafted wellspring, and well and truly sprung it.
Marisa Harvey, it seemed, did not have the slightest inkling, that she had inadvertently and unwittingly triggered in him, his fundamental, radical change.
Marisa Harvey, it seemed, did not have the slightest inkling, that she had occasioned his heretofore, hibernating predilection.
Marisa Harvey, it seemed, did not have the slightest inkling, of his ... awakening.
But then, thought David: Why would she?
"Yes, Miss Marisa," said David respectfully.
Similarly proprietarily dismissed, were David's father, and his two older brothers Simon and Martin, by Countess Sophia, and by Francesca and Louisa, respectively.
Such was David Donaldson's great, urgent hurry to get home to do something about the unrelenting bulge in his pants, as occasioned by his initiation as Miss Marisa Harvey's Under-footman, that as he made his way through the by now long-closed kitchen he clean forgot to retrieve his birthday treat venison pie.
His father and his two older brothers Simon and Martin, whom he accompanied home, talked complainingly and resentfully and disparagingly of their evening's respective, under-the-table experiences.
But David didn't hear a word.
Nor did David even notice the gravel, sprayed up at them by the almost head-high spoked wheels of the two-horse carriages of the final departing nobles and gentry and the other well-to-do ladies and gentlemen banqueters as they sped by them on the driveway from Harvey Hall.
A big, bright moon lit their way. The night was windless, cloudless, and bitterly cold. Frost was already thick on the ground. The ornamental pond was frozen over, and long icicles depended from the water fountain.
But David didn't notice any of that, either.
For years, David Donaldson had been living in trepidation.
Living in fear, of his eighteenth, 'coming-of-age' birthday.
Living in dread, of his upcoming Under-footmanship.
But not anymore.
Because maybe, just maybe, being Miss Marisa's Under-footman, wasn't going to be so bad after all.
This story is written by David, please send comments and appreciation to firstname.lastname@example.org