Prunella's Quest: A Tongue-in-Cheek Saga (Part Two of Three)
Mrs. Brimley drew the lorgnette to her right eye and surveyed the result of the maid's ministrations. A disdainful expression seemed to spread like a malady across the woman's face.
From the degree of the woman's repose, Prunella could only surmise that all beautification attempts had been less than successful. Yet, in spite of the woman's disdain, Prunella's thoughts turned to more pressing matters, namely the pain emmanating from her feet. She shifted from foot to foot, uncomfortable in the stiff leather shoes Santa Maria had insisted she wear.
"Dear me. Dear me." Mrs. Brimley lowered her arm. The lorgnette at rest on her lap, she took in a deep breath. "Tsk. Tsk. Tsk."
Prunella stood as stalwart as an oak, allowing only her eyes to follow the events of the day unfold.
The maids shared worried glances, their failure, a fait accompli. Word of this shortcoming would soon spread, rendering a fatal blow to opportunities for future employment.
"Madame, we--we've done all that could be done." Nina explained. "With great vigor and enthusiasm did we follow your instructions. Yet. . ."
Santa Maria added her sister's complaint drawing from her own absolute conviction of a battle lost. "It's no use Madame." Hands on her hips, she even dared to glance backward, offering an espression of repugnant disapproval at her charge.
"Ye cannot make bricks without straw, and Heaven's our witness, this young miss is but a sow's ear. No, this be the realm, the will of God. Our attempts to change her reflection could only come to naught."
Prunella took note of the woman's insulence. Be she endowed with beauty or not, Prunella's very rank in society was deserving the maid's humble deference. And Mrs. Brimley did not come to her defense.
Mrs. Brimley expression descended "Is there no hope?"
Pinta took a step forward, swishing her skirts as she did.
A bemused smile flushed across Prunella's face.
"Madame, if you would indulge me for but a moment?" She shared a disapproving glance at her siblings. "I am afraid I must disagree with the assessment offered by my sisters as to the likelihood of improving Mistress Busby's appearance."
"What's this?" Nina's eyes grew wide as tea cakes.
"Oh?" Her interest clearly piqued, she raised the lorgnette to her eye once again.
"Unlike my sisters, I do not view our ministrations to Mistrees Prunella as without merit. Nay! Do linger in your survey of her appearance. Why, she has improved tenfold. Her complexion is smoother. Her eyes brighter. Nails trim and dainty."
The maid drew near to Prunella, offering a a clever wink, concealed from the viewpoint of the other women. She curtseyed before her. "Mistress."
"Mrs. Brimley, have you considered the sheen of Mistress Busby's hair? Well-oiled, it is. And perfumed as well. She pointed to Prunella's chin. "And have you taken note of what is absent?"
The older woman squinted. "Missing?"
"The hairs on her face are no longer present. Have you not noticed? This is a significant improvement. Is her appearance not more agreeable?"
She approached Mrs. Brimley. "Do you not see that the woman now before your eyes is a clear improvement to the woman you sent to us some time past?"
"My, my, I do believe there is a ring of truth to what you say, my dear." Black feathers on Mrs. Brimley's hair blew straight up with every breath of her words, wafting back into place at a more sedate pace. "Of course, she's still quite the Amazon. I've never before seen a young woman of such height."
Pinta dared touch the older woman's shoulder. "Ah, but imagine for a moment, a man who might view such a woman as a prize. Nay, more than a prize. A treasure."
"Would such a man exist? I do not know of such a man and I know of all the eligible men in our realm. Truth be told, most men would consider her mortal coil, her framework to be indelicate and undesirable."
"Ah, but there is such a man."
"Then speak. Without delay, I pray thee!" Mrs. Brimley straightened, then planted her feet to the ground.
Pinta flounced her skirts and walked a few steps away. "What, pray tell, would such knowledge be worth?"
Understanding clouded the older woman's already clouded eyes. She reached into her bosom and pulled forth a small pouch of coins. "Perhaps these coins will afford an answer to your query." With a deft movement, she flicked the purse through the air.
Pinta caught the purse with her left hand and dropped it into a seamed pocket in her skirt. "There is a young man of comparable age who arrived last night.
"Pinta!" Santa Maria shook her head.
Undaunted, Mrs. Brimley asked, "Of what house is he associated?"
A silence fell over the room but for two gasps from Nina and Santa Maria.
"The House of Dromedary."