The next morning, Bebe took a long breath before she entered her new mistress's chambers at daybreak to tend to the fire, making sure it was built up and chasing the chill away as dawn shone on the horizon beyond the locked windows. Glancing at the small figure in the large bed, she couldn't help her curiosity though, having heard from one of the other chambermaids that the master had been seen departing this very room late last night. Just what had he been up to? Bebe could only speculate, but she couldn't help being excited by such a delicious scandal - just who was this dark-haired stranger?
After the fire was built, Bebe quietly stole from the room to retrieve Stan's breakfast tray from the kitchen, the plump cook, Henrietta, bustling about and slaving over a hot stove. The ovens were pouring their heat into the room, and the smells of baking bread wafted throughout the mansion. Eyeing the contents of the tray, Bebe felt her own stomach growl, having taken her usual morning fare: a thin gruel, black coffee, and one hot cross bun. The mistress had much more luxurious food to indulge in: a medley of fresh fruit, poached eggs, thick slices of bacon, and a sumptuous looking scone with raspberry preserves and clotted cream. A pot of tea steamed fragrantly beside the loaded plate.
Hefting it up to the room, she quietly set it on the table set up before the fire before she finally went to the mistress and gently shook her, hoping that she wasn't disagreeable first thing in the morning.
"Miss? Miss, you need to wake up; your breakfast is waiting for you and the master was strict about you taking your vitamins." She shook her again with a little more force. "Come, now. It's a beautiful day and the sun is shining...don't be a slugabed. What will the master think?"
Stan had been sleeping soundly until Bebe came to wake him up. He was so exhausted after the events of the other day he wanted to sleep for a week straight! He groaned a little, wishing he could sleep more, his head still hurt.
He slowly opened his big blue eyes and took in the heavenly smell of the food.
"Good morning..." He said softly, stretching a little. "Did you bring all this food just for me?" Stan asked, watching as Bebe prepared his vitamins for him. "I couldn't possibly eat all of this, would you please join me Bebe?" He asked with a small smile.
"Oh, I could never do that, miss; it would be unheard of," Bebe laughed, carefully measuring out Stan's vitamins from various vials the master had marked. "You just enjoy yourself and don't worry about me; I'm well enough with what I can scrounge from Henrietta. She isn't too stingy as long as you can get on her good side."
Coming over, she lifted the first spoon of her master's concoctions.
"Are you ready? I'm to dose you and then help you into your garments and fix your hair. We've a lot of work ahead of us, I'm afraid."
"I suppose so..." Stan said, eyeing the liquid in a suspicious fashion before opening his mouth and taking the spoon in. He grimaced a bit at the bitter taste and quickly took a sip of tea to get the taste out of his mouth.
Stan sighed a little. "Hair, garments, what exactly am I getting all dressed up for, am I doing something today?" He asked, moving to take a bite of a scone. "Also, I insist you join me, I can't possibly eat all of this, and, if you're my servant don't you have to do what I say?" He asked, a small smile on his lips. "I can hear your stomach growling, please have some." He said, putting some food on a plate and pushing it towards Bebe. "And sit down, I have two chairs." He said, pointing at the other chair that was next to the small table.
"I'm sure Craig has something planned for me today... I don't know if I want to know what it is, but, is he even going to come check on me this morning?" Stan decided to ask. After what happened last night he was surprised Craig hadn't stayed the entire night. Part of him hated that he enjoyed having him. The man had held him all night long, and, Stan found a strange comfort in those arms. He didn't realize it, but, thanks to his neck being shown off in his nightgown, some love nips Craig had left behind were showing. He was half asleep when the older man had kissed and gently bit at his neck. He would attribute that to not fighting him off. He couldn't have possibly...liked it...
"As far as I know, you're going to be meeting your tutor today," Bebe said, reluctantly taking a seat and picking up a scone; nibbling on the corner. If the master saw what she was doing he'd be livid, but Craig kept strange hours so she didn't expect him to stop in anytime soon. "She's going to teach you about manners, decorum, conducting yourself like a lady in society, as well as your schooling." She smiled and took another bite of scone. "A true lady is a learned lady, after all."
Before too long she'd had her fill and the guilt drove her to stand, hurriedly going to the wardrobe and withdrawing the lovely gown that the master had had custom made for the mistress; a tight bodice and long skirt, the area around the neck ruffled and delicate. It was made of deep blue material, soft as velveteen. The back gathered into a bow that flowed down the back, nearly trailing over the floor. She studied it, knowing that it would look perfect on the mistress, but also jealous that she'd probably never get to wear something like it.
"We need to attend to your underthings before we can even start on all this," she commented, gesturing to the gown. "And we need to make haste, because your tutor is notorious about punctuality. I'm sure she'll complain to the master if I don't have you ready in time...and I imagine Craig will want to check on you himself to make sure you're decent before an outsider is allowed into your chambers."
"Did you get enough to eat?" Stan asked, putting his tea cup down before standing up so Bebe could dress him. He didn't exactly want to wear the ornate gown, but, he didn't want the girl to get in any trouble... He sighed a little, taking in the blue garment. It looked so expensive... He wondered how much Craig had to pay to have that made... He put a hand to his neck and slowly nodded his head.
"Okay, I suppose we should start getting me ready...whatever that means..." He said, going over to where the tryptic of floor length mirrors stood. He had to wonder if Craig had told the girl that he wasn't...a girl... He blushed a little. A girl was going to be looking at his cock, that was...embarrassing. He remembered flashing a few girls when he was a kid and thinking it was funny as hell...
He groaned a little.
"I also don't really see why I need a tutor." He said simply enough. "What do I really need to learn to do? It doesn't seem like Craig even wants me to go outside." He said, starting to strip out of the nightgown, throwing it on the ground and revealing a flat chest and a waist that was cinched with a white corset.
"Eventually, you'll be expected to make your debut in society, so you'll need to know how to conduct yourself and make conversation. You have to be soft-spoken but interesting, but you can't be more interesting than the man you're speaking with. Also, the master's always been strangely progressive about the rights of women, to a certain extent, of course. I wouldn't be surprised if he wanted you to learn to read and write...he may even want you to learn an artistic skill, like painting; it would please him. The better you look, the better he looks by extension."
Quickly, Bebe slipped Stan's nightgown from his body and blushed to see that he was wearing nothing beneath aside from the corset, leaving his lower half completely bare. What she saw almost made her take a step back, and she tried not to stare, but she couldn't help it. True, she'd taken more than one tumble with Christophe in the past so she knew what a man's equipment entailed, but she'd never expected all of this so suddenly.
Clearing her throat, she decided to maintain her composure as she slipped a fresh pair of stockings, drawers, and a clean chemise on Stan.
"Are you ready for your corset?" She asked, holding it up.
"That sounds like a lot... And a debut? What does that even mean?" He said with a sigh. "Why can't you just talk to someone, who cares if you're interesting or not." He asked, starting to go bright red when he saw Bebe taken back by his male anatomy. He coughed a bit and tried to hide how truly embarrassed he was. God, he felt so bad for both of them..
"Um...Craig mentioned my hair? What are we suppose to do with it?" He asked, running his fingers through his short raven locks as Bebe started to dress him the various layers. He was not looking forward to that corset.
"And maybe we can...forget the corset?" He asked in a hopeful tone.
"You know better than that," Bebe replied, slipping the corset over Stan's head and leading him toward the bedpost. "Hold on, miss. The master told me he purposely had the bodice made smaller than usual to encourage you to keep up with your waist training."
Taking a hold of the stays, Bebe pulled with all her might as she watched Stan's waist shrink.
"As for your other questions, a debut is when you're presented to society...typically it would involve a girl being eligible to have suitors ask about her hand, but in your case," she trailed off, unsure what to say. "Well, we'll just have to wait to see what the master says about that, I suppose." Tying the corset as tightly as possibly, she sighed. "There, look at your lovely figure," she breathed, settling a hand on the curve of Stan's waist. "You should be proud."
"Also, for your hair, I have postiches we can use until your hair grows out the way the master wants." He held up a cluster of hair that matched Stan's shade almost perfectly. "We'll just use bobby pins and no one will ever know you didn't grow this," she added, smiling. "The master likes girls with long hair...nearly down to the backs of their knees. It's his weakness, I think." Idly, she patted her large, blonde bun.
"Well, let's get down to the nitty gritty, love," she said, holding up the gown. She helped Stan into it, smiling at the way the bodice hugged her waist almost perfectly. Standing behind her, she tied the sash into a lovely bow that flowed down the back, almost like ostentatious butterfly wings.
"Don't you look lovely?" She asked, pointing Stan toward the mirror.
When he felt Bebe tighten the small corset as tight as it would go, he felt as though he was going to pass out. He started to gasp a bit for air and had to have the blond girl hold onto him so he wouldn't just collapse. He coughed and tried to keep his breathing steady, how did anyone wear these awful things!? And from the sounds of it, Craig wanted his waist to be even smaller!? How was that even possible!?
"T-This...is...not...comfortable..." He managed to say, watching as Bebe took a fake piece of hair. "R-Rich people...can have...fake hair!?" He cried out, sounding absolutely blown away with the mere idea. The wealthy truly were very different then everyone else...
As soon as the gown was on and his hair was all done he looked in the mirrors and felt his eyes go wide. God, he...looked like a girl...a pretty girl... This was so strange... His hips weren't as round as a woman's and his face, though some what feminine, wasn't as soft as Bebe's, he did look like a lovely, upper class, girl.
"I-Is...Craig going to see me...like this?" Stan asked, wondering if the man was going to take him to this tutor he apparently had lined up for him. If Craig didn't like how he looked he was afraid he was going to be beaten with that belt again... "Do you...think he will like this?" He decided to ask, running fingers through his fake long locks that Bebe was working on styling before Craig came to fetch him. "And...how am I suppose to even wear hair this long?"
"Of course he's going to see you like this," Bebe replied, fixing Stan's hair into an elaborate up-do: loops of hair fashioned into a loose bun piled atop his head, his bangs swept off to the side. "He'd never let you receive a stranger until he'd given his approval." Coming around, she studied Stan's hair, nodding slightly. Picking up a compact on the vanity, she opened it before brushing some powder on the apples of his cheeks.
"Only a little," she commented as she worked, "and I have some clip-on earbobs you can wear, but the master will probably want me to pierce your lobes." She picked up another bottle from the table and opened it, shaking some into her hands before she dabbed it behind Stan's ears. "Lilac toilet water," she said, showing Stan. "It's light so you won't smell like a bordello worker. The master can't stand heavily painted, overly-perfumed women. He thinks they're crass and common."
Studying her work, she rubbed some clear salve onto Stan's lips, making them shine as the sunshine struck them. Plucking up some little pearls, she clipped them onto Stan's ears.
"There, I think you're just about ready," she murmured, fussing with Stan's gown, a knock suddenly coming at the door. "And that'll be the master, right on time." She rolled her eyes before she smiled encouragingly at him. "You'll be just fine. Really, you look very lovely."
Going to the door, she opened it and Craig strode in, his gaze immediately leaping to Stan, his expression one of extreme pleasure as he looked him up and down.
"Nice, very nice," he said, walking around him and appraising Stan from every angle. He flicked one of the earbobs while speaking over his shoulder to Bebe. "You'll be piercing her ears, correct?"
"Wonderful. And I see you were able to lace her tightly enough so that her pretty new gown fits her like a glove." He patted Stan's waist. "You should be excited, dear. You're going to have another gown fitting this afternoon after you've met with your tutor."
"Another gown fitting? But...I have this one...how many gowns do I need?" He asked, still trying to breathe as he was currently confined to the awful corset. He was use to having on set of clothing. Why did people need more then one set?
"And tutor? I don't really think I need a tutor, I doubt she will be able to teach me anything. Besides, she will think I look foolish dressed like a girl..." He said, trying to avoid the large mirror. He couldn't make a pretty girl, he couldn't be convincing. People had to look at him and think he was a deviant dressed like this!
"I won't listen to that talk anymore, so stop it now," Craig replied, becoming stern. "You are going to be introduced as Leia, and as far as she knows, you want to live your life as a woman. If you tell her otherwise, you will not like the outcome. I promise you."
Walking around Stan again, he tightened his sash and patted his bustle, liking the effect it had on his already plump and pleasing backside.
"Hopefully, you won't have trouble sitting down today after our little talk last night," he added, coming into Stan's line of sight again and giving him a cheeky nod. "As for your fitting, yes, of course you'll need another gown. You can't just traipse around in the same frock every single day. What do you think we are, commoners?"
He turned to Bebe and nodded.
"I'm pleased thus far," he said, noticing her cheeks flushing pink at his praise. "The tutor, Miss Heidi, is down in the parlor. You may show her up now that Leia has passed inspection."
"At once, sir," she replied, rushing from the room.
"You'll like her," Craig promised, stroking Stan's cheek. "She's strict but she's fair, and she'll whip you into shape in no time."
Soon enough, the door was opening after Bebe afforded them a courtesy knock, and a solemn-faced woman in a black gown entered, her light brown hair up in a simpler bun than Stan's; her dress made of shiny poplin with tight-fitting sleeves and an even tighter bodice. She nodded to Bebe before striding over, a basket on one arm.
"Dr. Tucker," she said, extending a hand that he took, bowing to her slightly. "It's so nice to see you again." She flitted her eyes to Stan; they narrowed. "And this is Leia?"
"Yes, and she's very eager to start her lessons," Craig replied, pushing Stan forward gently. "Aren't you, Leia?"
Stan felt himself break into a cold sweat when Craig threatened to do a repeat of last night if he argued about being called Leia or being referred to as a girl. He bit his lower lip and nodded, his body trembling a bit. He was still in so much pain from the beating to his behind, it was hard to sit. He let out a gasp when he felt his sash tightened even more. He could barely breathe as it was! Why did Craig want his waist to be so small!?
"I-I'm just not use to having so many garments..." The brunette stammered out, moving to lace his fingers together as he watched as Bebe went to go fetch this so called tutor he was being forced to meet with.
The woman, the tutor, she looked...stern, cold, someone he wouldn't willingly want to speak to. He was already buckling under her intense gaze.
"N-Nice to meet you, Heidi..." Stan said softly, looking back at Craig to make sure he was doing this right, he really didn't want to be beaten again... It had hurt so bad!
"Miss Heidi," she chastised him immediately, her eyes meeting Craig's. He shook his head.
"You'll have to have a mountain's worth of patience with her, I dare say," he said, already beginning to retreat from the room. "If you see fit to punish her, do so; it'll only help her learn."
"It's always helped my pupils in the past," Heidi replied before taking a seat on a small couch situated next to the windows, her back ramrod straight. She began pulling things from her basket and laying them aside: a slate and slate pencil, several small books, a ruler.
"Well, I'll leave you to it," Craig said, slipping out of the door and shutting it softly.
"Sit," Heidi said, glancing at Stan and pointing to a hard wooden chair adjacent to her. "And we'll begin."
Stan watched as Craig left and honestly he didn't know if he felt relieved the man was gone, or, that he had been left alone with Miss Heidi...
When Heidi pointed to a wooden chair Stan nodded his head and moved to gently sit down, wincing a little in pain. The hard wooden seat was murder on his behind. He looked down at his lap, unsure or what to do. He had never gone to school, he had never met a teacher, hell, he couldn't even read or write. Honestly, he was curious what the woman was going to teach him...
"Um...Miss Heidi...what will you be teaching me?" He decided to ask, moving to play with a strand of hair that was falling in his face.
"I'll ask the questions," Heidi replied brusquely, frowning at Stan's atrocious posture. Standing, she began to correct him. "Sit up straight, stop slouching, and you're to keep your legs close together, ankles crossed. Fold your hands in your lap, like that." Stepping back, she eyed him. "I suppose you'll have to do for now, but really, you could never attend a formal luncheon and sit like that. It just isn't done."
She went and sat back down, sighing a little.
"Why the doctor thinks you'll be ready for your debut in a few weeks' time is beyond my understanding, but I suppose I'll just have to work around the impossible task he's given me." She gave Stan a thoughtful look before she spoke again. "I suppose we can simplify matters if you'll tell me what you do know. Can you read or write? Do you possess any artistic skills? Clearly you've had no lessons in deportment, but perhaps you know something that can aid in this endeavor."
Stan blushed a little, feeling embarrassed. "Um...I don't know how to read or write I ain't never gone to school, I worked with my father until he passed away, then, I worked to help around my older sister's home." He said, before managing to look up and meet Heidi's eyes. "I'm really good at fixing things, I helped my father build a lot of stuff. Besides that, I taught myself how to play the piano." The brunette said, biting the inside of his cheek in a nervous fashion.
"And, Craig wants me to debut in a few weeks? That seems very soon... I don't even know what a debut really is."
"You will be presented to society," Heidi explained, taking in what Stan had told her and trying to process it. There was just so much to correct. "And it will judge you, harshly, so you'd better be ready. Now," she said, rubbing her forehead, "first of all, strike the word 'ain't' from your lexicon, and if you can avoid it, don't say 'stuff.' There are so many better words you can use, but we'll learn that as we go along."
Taking up the slate, she began to write out a few letters: L-E-I-A.
"I'm honestly not surprised you haven't learned to read and write," she commented. "And a lady has no need of fixing things, so forget all that nonsense. I am, however, pleased that you've managed to teach yourself a serviceable skill. Playing the piano is very becoming, so I suggest you brush up on your skills. You may be called to play during a party or gathering." She tapped the slate with the pencil, thinking a moment. "In fact, I know of a very accomplished gentleman who taught himself to play the piano, too; Dr. Kyle Broflovski? I've sat in on some of his recitals and he's just wonderful, but I'm getting off topic."
She held up the slate.
"We'll start with the basics. This is your name," she pointed to each of the letters in turn, naming them aloud. She handed Stan the slate and pencil. "Now, copy what I've written."
"Miss Heidi, what does lexicon mean?" He decided to asked as she told him to stop saying ain't and stuff. It felt like he was going to have to unlearn everything he had ever learned and start all over again. He remembered how proud his father had been the first time he had helped him build a shed...it was kind of sad that it wasn't important to anyone... He sighed, looking down at his hands, seeing the callouses from chopping wood, they certainly didn't look like a dainty ladies hands.
When Heidi mentioned the other doctor, he wondered if Craig knew him, and, if he was as...strange as Craig was.
"I'll try." Stan said, taking the pencil and trying to figure out how to hold it
He slowly tried to copy what Heidi had wrote down, but, of course they were sloppy and unrefined. As he was writing, the pencil slipped from his grip and caused the lead to scratch against the tablet.
"Awful," Heidi said, picking up the ruler and smacking the backs of Stan's hands. "Do it again, and don't stop until I say you can. Also, lexicon is just another word for vocabulary, the wealth of words at one's disposal."
She quietly watched as Stan struggled over the simple letters, until a knock came at the door.
"Really, we shouldn't be disturbed at a time like this," Heidi said before rising. She gave Stan a stern look. "Keep writing while I handle this."
Going to the door, she opened it and there stood McCormick, a toolbox in his hands. When he saw her, he seemed to freeze, his good eye widening.
"I, uh, that is, I," he stammered, trying to collect himself. He'd known that Stan was going to have a tutor, but he didn't know she'd be so comely. Gruffly, he cleared his throat. "I'm here to attend to the windows, miss -"
"Heidi," she cut him off, moving out of the way. She supposed he was handsome in a rough way, his blonde hair neat and his skin nicely tanned. He had a rugged build, clearly muscular, but his introduction had been decidedly uncouth. "Well, are you going to come in or not?"
"Yes, of course," he replied, skirting around her and going to set down the toolbox, fumbling with it and cursing himself inside of his head. He was not given to clumsiness like this; what the hell was wrong with him?!
"Do try to keep the noise to a minimum," Heidi said, taking her seat again and glancing at Stan's slate. She frowned at the awkward, childish penmanship. She slapped him smartly on the backs of his hands again. "Do it again."
McCormick had to cover his mouth when he wanted to smile, his respect for the women growing exponentially when he saw how no-nonsense she was with Stan. He started to work as quietly as he could, adding locks to the windows as the master had ordered.
"I say, what is your name?" The woman suddenly called, startling him.
He turned, surprised that she would want to know anything about him.
"Uh, McCormick, miss. I'm the doctor's butler and bodyguard."
She raised an eyebrow, a look of disbelief sliding across her countenance. She had a light dusting of freckles on the bridge of her nose and high cheekbones. McCormick found himself staring before he quickly looked away.
"McCormick? Is that your first name? It couldn't possibly be."
"Well, my first name is Kenneth, miss, but I'd prefer not to be called that."
"But, why? Kenneth is a perfectly nice name. Much better than McCormick at any rate."
He practically melted, almost wanting to disappear as he felt a blush rising on his cheeks. He kept his face hidden.
"Well, if you like it, miss; I may have to change my mind." Abruptly, he returned to his work.
"He's an odd one, isn't he?" Heidi asked, leaning toward Stan before frowning at his work. Taking up a cloth, she cleared his work completely before slapping his hands with the ruler once more. "Again."
"Ow!" Stan cried out in pain when he was slapped on the hands with the ruler. It hurt! He felt his poor hands aching as he tried to start writing again.
He was brought out of thoughts of his pain when he saw McCormick come in. The man still frightened him to no end, especially after the events of last night. He took in a deep breath and watched as the strange man seemed to buckle a little, almost like he was...shy? That didn't make any sense. The man he had known was stoic, cold, and loyal, but, Stan couldn't help but smile a little when he saw a tinge of pink on his cheeks when he spoke to Heidi.
"I like Kenneth, that's a nice name." Stan decided to say, finding it interesting the man actually had a name other than McCormick.
"Oww!" He cried out again, feeling his hands smacked with the ruler.
He sighed and began to write again...and again...and again...
"Miss Heidi...my hands hurt." He whined, moving to rub his poor red hands after numerous assault via ruler.
"You're not to call me that!" McCormick barked at Stan before returning to his work, annoyed that the doctor's nosy little pet was seeing him act in such a vulnerable way. He moved swiftly, adding locks to the windows but so aware of Heidi's presence that it became overwhelming. Coming closer, he stole tiny glances at her on occasion, thinking himself covert until he tried once more and saw that she was staring at him.
"Ladies don't complain," she said to Stan after he'd complained about his hands. She slapped him again for good measure without unlocking her gaze from McCormick's. "Are you quite alright, Kenneth? You appear peaked all of a sudden."
Having not expected this, he hid his face as he felt sweat standing out on his brow.
"Indigestion, I'm afraid," he muttered.
"Have the maid bring you some peppermint tea," she suggested, pulling out a book and opening it. "It works wonders for that sort of ailment. Leia," she added, turning to her charge. "Your letters aren't completely terrible, so I suppose we can move onto the alphabet. I just wanted you to become acquainted with your name." She pointed to the letter 'A' and sounded it out. "That's an 'A'. Many words start with it, apple, abomination, ablation, among others." She wiped his slate clean. "Write it down, both upper and lowercase."
Slowly, they went through the alphabet, which took up the majority of the morning while McCormick continued to work on the windows. They were nearly halfway through when Bebe appeared at the door and summoned them for lunch.
"Perfect, now I can get an idea of your table manners," Heidi said, rising from her place. "Come along." She stopped and glanced at McCormick before smiling wryly. "How's your indigestion, Kenneth?"
"Not very well, I'm afraid," he replied, adjusting his eye patch.
"Peppermint," she said, ushering Stan out of the room. "Trust me, it works."
Stan tensed up a little when McCormick snapped at him. He was just trying to compliment the man! He sighed, it didn't seem the strange butler was ever going to like him.
He turned his attention back to writing, moving to write down the letter A as instructed. He was still having a hard time handling the pencil, but, it really didn't help his hands were so sore from all the smacks he had received.
When Bebe came in with some tea he stood up in suit with Heidi. Apparently now they had to practice table manners. He didn't understand what was so important about that! You just ate and then went back to work, that was what you did! Why did it have to be so complicated!? Did rich people have nothing better to do with their time!?
Hours later, after Heidi finally announced that the first lesson was over and had gone home, Craig came into the room to check on Stan before his dress fitting.
"She seemed very pleased with your progress," he said, tucking a long strand of hair behind Stan's ear. "What did you think of it? If you continue to do well, I may let you play my piano. That would please you, wouldn't it?"
"My hands hurt." Stan said, showing Craig his swollen hands. "I tried to write as best as I could, but, it was hard." He said. "And, she said my voice sounds too deep." He added, blushing a little when Craig gently tucked a lock of raven hair behind his ear.
He actually smiled a little when the man mentioned the piano. "I would love to play... I will try my best to keep doing good...oh...I mean doing well."
"See? You're learning already," Craig said, stroking his cheek before taking a look at Stan's hands. He rubbed them gently, and saw that they were very red and puffy. He tsked before kissing one of them gently. "We'll use some Sloan's liniment tonight before you retire. It will help with the pain. For now, you need to get fitted for your wardrobe, as well as the gown you'll be debuting in."
He thought a moment as he studied Stan's face, considering his options.
"In fact, I may want you to play the piano when you're presented at the ball," he suggested. "I'm almost certain everyone will be taken in by your beauty, but when they see how accomplished you are, well, that's all the better, isn't it? As for your voice, Heidi will help you with that, as well as your pronunciation. I wouldn't worry about it."
Glancing around, he nodded his head in approval at the locks on the windows.
"McCormick always works so quickly. That's one of the reasons he's so good at his job."
"Sir," Bebe's voice broke in and he turned to see her standing at the partially-opened door, her sewing kit in her hands. "I'm here for the fitting, but if now isn't a good time -"
"No, come in, come in," Craig replied, waving his hand. He looked at Stan and patted his head. "I think I'll have you play the piano for me this evening, what do you think? I'd like to see for myself just how talented you are."
Stan actually smiled a little. "I would love to play the piano tonight." He said softly. "When Heidi was teaching me, she mentioned another doctor, um...I think she said his name was Kyle? She said he was really talented when it came to playing the piano, that he even gave lessons." He said, watching as Bebe came in with her seamstress equipment in order to outfit him with another new gown. He was glad Craig seemed to care about his puffy aching hands and had something that would help with the pain.
"And...if you want...I can play at the party. I've never played for people before, I hope they won't think I'm bad at it..."
Craig could feel himself tensing up as soon as Kyle was mentioned, the red-headed, aggravating upstart. True, he was a good doctor, but he put on such airs, and the way he walked around with his head in the clouds, always talking about music and nonsense. He should be dedicated to his actual vocation, the one that mattered, instead of being preoccupied with pursuits of entertainment.
"He's a fool, but you'll learn that soon enough," he said, his voice cooling dramatically. They'd been rivals ever since they'd both started practicing, and Kyle had never been shy about questioning some of Craig's methods; the way he liked to experiment on live subjects. "One of these days he'll wake up and learn his place, but no matter."
Bebe was already busily unpacking her supplies while she tried not to listen, but it was so difficult. She'd seen the man the master was talking about and she had to admit that she found him undeniably handsome, with his striking hair and gentle mannerisms. He was so different from Dr. Tucker, soft-spoken and reserved at times, but like her master he was fiercely intelligent and opinionated. The rumor mill was very preoccupied with him as well, and she knew it on good authority that several ladies of high standing in society had tried to entice him to court them, but he'd resisted at every turn.
"Send her to the parlor after she's taken her supper," Craig said as he passed by, whispering in her ear. "I'll be in my study working until then, but I'll be interested to see what my little song bird can do."
"Yes, sir," she replied, unfurling her measuring tape. "If that's what you wish."
It seemed Craig knew Kyle and wasn't fond of the man. He wondered what he meant by the other doctor would learn his place. He had said a similar thing to Stan when he first arrived at the Tucker Estate.
He watched as Bebe finished getting her supplies out and Craig whispered something in her ear before leaving.
As soon as Craig was out of the room he looked over at his maid.
"What did he say?" Stan asked. "I always just assume he is angry with me... He never seems happy with anything I do." He said with a sigh."I had no idea he didn't like this other doctor... I thought maybe they would be friends since they do the same kind of work." He added, watching as the blond measured him. "I don't understand what Craig wants with me..." He added. "I have been asking him about the debut and he won't answer any of my questions... Heidi said a debut was for when a girl was presented to be courted... Does Craig want someone to court me?"
"These are not questions I'm meant to answer," Bebe replied, carefully measuring Stan and writing down her figures in a little book. "It would be improper for me to speculate about the master's intentions. As for what he said to me, he wants you to come to the parlor after you've had your supper, so you can play the piano for him."
Continuing to measure, she gave Stan a look of thinly-veiled pity.
"I'd suggest not asking too many questions if I were you," she said, allowing a moment of unabashed honesty to creep into her servant's persona. "The master always gets what he wants, and for whatever reason he's chosen you. I don't know what the future holds nor do I understand what he really intends for you, but you've turned his head, and for now your life and fate are in his hands. Accept it, and you'll be a lot more content, I think."
"We're running late," Craig seethed, checking his pocket watch as he paced at the foot of the grand staircase, dressed in his best suit and his hair perfectly coiffed. It was the night of the gala and Stan's debut, and things weren't going according to schedule; a happenstance that left him infuriated. "How can we be running late?! This is unheard of!"
"I can go and check on the waif, sir," McCormick offered, his thoughts reluctantly pulled from the fetching tutor. Ever since she'd started visiting the house weeks before, he'd become more and more preoccupied with her, and less attuned to his master's needs. He knew this was a huge problem, but he wasn't sure how to go about fixing it, not that he really wanted to.
"No, no," Craig waved his hand before adjusting the flower in his lapel. "She's done so well with her lessons so far, I'm sure Heidi has mentioned punctuality at some point."
"I'm sure, sir," McCormick replied, his mind racing through memories of finding any reason to step into Stan's chambers when Miss Heidi was present. He'd seen Stan laboring over his letters and sums, awkwardly sounding out words as he learned to read and correct his horrid pronunciation. He'd even walked in at one point to see Stan being paraded around the room with a book on his head, his tutor barking commands at him as he stumbled around like a new foal.
"You've been rather off lately, haven't you?" Craig suddenly asked, catching McCormick's eye. "Would you like to tell me what's going on?"
"Indigestion, sir," McCormick replied, falling back on an old standby.
"I heard you were asked to assist in one of Leia's lessons recently," he continued, giving the manservant a sly smile.
McCormick looked away, annoyed but secretly elated. He'd just happened to be in the room at one point when Miss Heidi had been attempting to show Stan how to waltz.
"Oh, this will never do," she'd said, rubbing her face. "I can't properly show you how to dance like this. You keep trying to lead and it's all wrong. You need to let the man do the leading!" She'd turned and seen McCormick standing there, her eyes had lit up before she'd waved him over.
"Put your arms around me, Kenneth," she'd instructed, knocking him for a loop.
"Er, I, what," he's replied before he'd shaken his head. Clearly, he was hearing things. "What did you say, miss?"
"You heard me, put your arms around me. We need to show this poor clumsy girl how to dance if she's going to be attending a ball. Don't you agree?"
"Well, of course, but I -"
"Now," she'd commanded, taking a hold of McCormick's hands and placing them in the correct places on her anatomy. He'd almost passed out then and there. "You may start at any time, Kenneth."
"Oh, right." Before too long, they'd been waltzing around the room and she'd seemed impressed at his skills.
"Very nice," she'd murmured before pushing away and glancing at Stan. "Now repeat what you just did with Leia."
He had, but he hadn't enjoyed that turn nearly as much.
"I helped her learn to dance," he replied, ignoring the way his master was clearly trying to bait him. "She's a quick study in that regard, at least."
"Well, good," Craig replied, noticing Bebe coming to the top of the stairs. "She's quite the accomplished pianist too, I've learned, even if she's had no formal training."
"She's ready," Bebe called, excitement lacing her voice. "Shall I send her down?"
"Yes, yes," Craig replied, exasperated. "Get on with it."
All at once, all of the staff were assembled at the bottom of the stairs, ready for their first glimpse of Mistress Leia on the night of her big debut; all of them collectively holding their breath as they waited.