The Mystery of Markson Manor
“Well, as school terms go, that had to be one of the quietest we have had for a while.”
“Oh I agree,” Bobby said to me as we sat in the back of the car, “and I’m really looking forward to the summer holiday now.”
School had broken up for us the previous Wednesday, and now we were heading to a family dinner at the manor house with Grandma and Granddad. We’d even dressed up a little for the occasion – I was wearing a sky blue dress with capped sleeves, and small heels, while Mum had on a grey silk dress. Bobby and Dad were wearing suits and ties, and even Lucy had got dressed up, in a white dress with a yellow sash around her waist.
She was giggling happily in the front seat, looking back at the three of us as we made our way down the road and then up the driveway to Holderness Manor. As Dad parked outside the house, Mister Bridges came out, wearing his formal attire – the stuff he usually only wears for these occasions.
“Good evening, Master Alexander,” he said as we got out of the car, “Lord and Lady Holderness are waiting in the library.”
“Are they here yet,” Mum said as we walked through the front door.
“Not yet, no,” Mister Bridges said as he opened the door, and we walked in to find Grandpa in his favourite chair, Grandma standing by the fire. They were also dressed for dinner – Grandma in a cream coloured dress, Grandpa in a suit, shirt and tie.
“Ah good,” Grandma said, “Can I get you a sherry, Alexander, Susan?”
“A small one please,” Mum said as Bobby put Lucy on the floor, Grandpa leaning over and talking to her as she waved her arms.
“So did they enjoy helping out,” Mum said as she stood with Grandma.
“I think so yes – it was good of the school to allow Alicia to use this as further work experience, and it kept Angela occupied after she finished her first year, but you can ask them yourself when they get here.”
That was the reason we were gathering here tonight – well, that’s not quite true, I guess. We get together regularly anyway, but none of us has really seen either Alicia or Angela since before the half term holidays for any length of time.
Apparently, Granddad had been approached by one of his old friends, to help back a film that his son was making set in the Victorian era. It’s not something Red Line would normally get involved in, according to Dad, but Granddad had agreed, and in return not only would he get an acknowledgement in the film, but Angela and Alicia were offered parts in the cast. Alicia had finished her exams, and Grandma talked to Alicia’s school, so they were able to go and take part in the filming.
Why didn’t I go? Well, for one thing I could not get the time off school. For another, Mum and Dad told me it wasn’t that glamorous, and I spent those weekends hanging out with Cassie and Lisa, as well as the others. Still – the idea of being in a real film...
“There you are!”
I looked round to see Alicia come in with her mother, Andrew holding his mum’s hand as he looked round. He had on a waistcoat over his shirt and tie, while Aunt Anne was wearing a yellow sundress. Alicia was wearing a short sleeved blouse and knee length skirt.
“Hello Grandma,” she said as she came forward and hugged her, “Angela is just coming with Eddie.”
“Excellent – how are you my dear?”
“Excited – I still can’t believe we had the opportunity to take part in the film, even if we were only extras.”
“Well, it was an insight, that’s true,” Angela said as she came in with Eddie. Our oldest cousin was wearing a black evening dress with high heels, and looked like a million dollars – if that’s the right phrase.
“Congratulations on passing your first year,” Grandpa said as she stood up and hugged Angela. “It must be a relief.”
“In a way – but I had fun for the last few weeks as well,” Angela said with a smile.
“Dinner is ready when you are, Your Lordship,” Mister Bridges said as he appeared at the door.
“Excellent – shall we,” Grandma said as Alicia lifted Lucy from her chair, and we all walked into the dining room.
“I guess the best words are organised chaos,” Angela said as Mrs Bridges cleared the plates from our starter away, “a lot of people rushing around and a lot of standing around while things get sorted out.”
“They were a good group to stand around with though,” Alicia said, “and the ballroom scene...”
“What were you wearing for that,” Bobby asked as Mrs Bridges brought through the vegetables.
“Evening gowns – real old fashioned ones, like those they were at Debs balls now,” Angela said, “complete with the evening gloves and the sparkle.”
“It’s an amazing room as well at Markson Manor that they used,” Alicia said, “Bigger than the one here – no offence.”
“None taken,” Grandpa said with a smile, “Geoff has an amazing place there.”
“Sorry Suzanne,” Grandma said, “Geoffrey, Viscount Markson. Your father and I have known him for many, many years.”
“How many years?”
“Since my schooldays, if truth be told,” Grandpa said as he thanked Mrs Bridges for the plate she put in front of him. “But we really got to know him when he worked alongside your grandmother and I, as well as David Craig.”
Many years ago – or at least it seems that way the way Dad talks about it – my grandparents and Cassie’s late grandfather served in a forces unit together. They don’t talk a lot about it, but I know it was the same unit Cassie Craig Senior served in before she became a teacher.
“So did you recognise any of the actors on the film,” I asked as I looked at Alicia.
“Well – there was Tom Holland, he played the young male lead. They also had... What’s the name of the actress who was playing the lead, Angela?”
“You mean Georgie Henley? Yeah – they also had Keira Knightley...”
I was totally lost by now in their description of the clothes they had to wear, and the work they did. It was like a totally different world to me...
“So when do we get to see this masterpiece,” Bobby said as he put some of his meal into his mouth.
“Well, the premiere is on Sunday,” Grandma said as she looked at Grandpa, “but – well, you tell them Desmond.”
“As I said, Geoff is a very old and dear friend, so when his son Alun approached me to back this film I was more than pleased to do so. The Markson family have roots almost as deep as ours, but – well, they don’t have quite the financial reserves we do.”
“You mean they are poor,” I said as I looked at Grandma.
“Oh no, hardly that – but Markson Manor is a much older and larger place than the manor house here, and costs much more to maintain, so they rent it out for functions and also as settings for films such as this one.”
“Where is Markson Manor anyway,” Bobby asked.
“Near Exeter,” Grandpa said, “the village of Markson is a good half hour’s drive away, and Geoff works both as the director of the trust that maintains the village, and as a financial officer for a London firm in his own right.”
“So he lives in Markson Manor?”
“With his wife Audrey, yes. They have two children – Alun is in his late twenties, while Geraldine is the same age as Angela.”
“I met Gerry during the filming,” Angela said, “she’s a nice girl.”
“Anyway,” Grandpa said, “as I said, the premiere is in London on Sunday, and Geraldine and Alun will be attending. Geoff, however, has some meeting she cannot get out of, so he and Geraldine will be at the Manor – and, as a further thank you for supporting Alun, he had invited your grandmother and I to come and view the film.”
“Unfortunately,” Grandma said, “we also have other commitments, although we will attend the premiere on Sunday night.”
“So,” Grandpa said, “he has instead invited you, Suzanne, as well and Alicia and Angela to spend the weekend, along with a number of your friends.”
“What – see where a real film was made?”
“As well as the film – I understand you are unable to do a visit this weekend, Robert?”
“Yeah – weekend camp,” Bobby said with a sigh.
I contained my joy at the idea as much as possible as Alicia said “how many friends can we take?”
“Well, it will only be Geoff, Geraldine and their housekeeper, Mrs Danvers,” Grandma said. “Mister Danvers is acting as chauffer for Audrey next weekend at their London apartment. So he suggests a maximum of four.”
“Well, I think only Jenny is free this weekend,” Alicia said, “so I can ask her – and I would imagine you want to ask Cassie as well, Suzie?”
I nodded before saying “I will need to ask if anyone else is free. Can I call you tomorrow with the other names, Grandpa?”
“Of course you may,” Grandma said, “we will inform him tomorrow night once you have made your decision.”
“You’ll love it,” Alicia said as she looked at me, “Viscount Markson and Geraldine are very nice.”
“So how close were you, Grandfather,” Bobby said.
“As close as you can be – we saved each other’s lives at least once.”
We looked at Grandpa before he said “this is an exceptionally good piece of pork, Mrs Bridges...”
“Wow – this sounds like an amazing place,” Cassie said as we sat on her bed. I’d been taken round with Bobby to ask if she wanted to come along. “About the only thing that could spoil it is having the Tornado Twins along.”
“I know – but Hazel, Claire and Pippa are all busy. Put it this way – they will be on their very best behaviour.”
“I suppose so,” I said as I smiled, “but think about it – Alicia said they still have a lot of the costumes from the film there, and we might be able to try some of them on.”
“Sounds like it’s going to be a real adventure,” Cassie said as she crossed her legs. “Do you think we’d get any time to play any games?”
“I have no idea,” I said quietly, “although if we did, it would have to be on the QT.”
“I know – and a whole new house to explore. You said your grandparents and Viscount Markson go way back?”
“Way way back – I googled them before coming over this morning. The name goes right back to Norman times like our family.”
“So we stay over at the Manor on Thursday night?”
“That’s right – Mister Bridges will drive us up on the Friday, and come to pick us up lunchtime on Monday.”
“Devon – that’s one heck of a drive away.”
“Agreed – so we leave early on Friday. Maybe we should pack some supplies – if only to make the long car journey a little more bearable...”
“Actually – I wonder if the girls would be up for a little challenge for the journey – break the monotony a little bit?”
“Well, we could always ask them...”
I slowly opened my eyes, wondering why it was still dark outside in the summertime, and then I remembered – we had a long drive and an early start ahead of us. I looked over at Cassie who was still sleeping, and then at Angela as she stood over me.
“I guess you want that taken off, don’t you?”
I nodded slowly as she leaned over and gently removed the strip of tape that was covering my mouth. We had all arrived at the manor house last night, so that we could get up and set off in time, and then – well, you probably know what happened when we went to bed.
Cassie and I were wearing shorts and vest tops, with our wrists tied in front of us, our ankles and knees bound, and the afore mentioned tape gag over our mouths. As Angela started to untie me, Cassie opened her eyes, looked over and said “Mrnggszeee.”
“Yeah it is,” Angela said as I sat up and stated to untie my legs, while she released and ungagged my friend. “Get up, washed and dressed – the others are getting ready, and Mr Bridges is putting your bags for the trip in the SUV.”
I nodded and went to the toilet, Cassie untying herself as we left.
When we went down for breakfast, I had put on a short sleeved blue dress, with a knee length skirt, while Cassie was wearing a white polo shirt and a grey gypsy style skirt that went over her knees.
Now, the obvious question is why these outfits, given we would be in a car most of the day. Well, firstly we already knew we were having a slightly more formal dinner when we arrived.
The other reason – well, that might have to do with the bet the six of us had made the night before, to have our knees tied for the entire journey. As we came in, we saw that Patty and Rachel were already eating, Patty in a yellow sundress, and Rachel wearing a patterned t-shirt with a long white skirt.
“You’d better eat up,” Alicia said as she helped herself to some cereal, “we’re stopping for lunch, but not before.” She had put on a green sleeveless coat dress, with a black belt around her waist, while Jenny was wearing a knee length floral print skirt with a short sleeved jumper.
Angela also came in, having changed into a dark blue dress with a white belt. We had all decided to wear proper shoes, to save changing when we got there.
“Okay, eat up,” Angela said as she sat down, and Mrs Bridges started to serve up scrambled eggs.
“I envy you girls,” she said as she handed Alicia, Jenny and Angela some coffee, “I’ve seen pictures of Markson Manor, but never actually visited it.”
“We’ll tell you all about it when we get back, Mrs Bridges,” Angela said with a smile.
The sun had just started to appear on the horizon as we slowly walked out to the SUV, Mr Bridges holding the door open as I climbed in with Cassie, Patty and Rachel.
“Are you sure you four want to do this,” Angela said as she climbed in after us.
“Yeah – we do want to do it,” Rachel said with a smile.
“Okay then – crossed wrists in front of you, please.”
I watched as one by one Angela made sure our wrists were tied tightly together in front of us, and then the rope taken down and used to tie our ankles together. Once we were all simple bound, she made sure out seat belts were on as Jenny and Angela came out.
“I might have known,” Jenny said as she shook her head, “still, at least they’ll be quiet.”
Cassie stuck her tongue out at her sister, before Angela smoothed a length of white tape over it. All four of us soon had the gag, before Angela got in the front beside Mr Bridges. The big car we were in had tinted windows, as we started off down the driveway, Mrs Bridges waving us off.
As we turned on to the road, I saw the red glow of the sun as it started to appear above the trees, and then my eyes slowly started to close...
“Do you want to buy a gigantic yacht?”
I wondered what that had to do with my dream of Brian, but then opened my eyes to see Angela looking at me.
“Just after twelve – we’re going to stop here for lunch,” she said as she untied me, and I saw Jenny helping Cassie to get free. “Wake the tornado twins up, and untie them for us please? We need to take a comfort break.”
I nodded as Angela followed Alicia, Jenny going as well, before we untied Patty and Rachel and got out, making sure our skirts kept our legs covered as Mr Bridges locked the car. We were at a service area, but we also had a picnic basket, so we made our way over to a picnic area and sat down.
We had chicken legs, sandwiches, and – no not lashings of ginger beer, before you think I’ve gone all Enid Blyton on you. But we had enough to eat and drink, before we had a somewhat constrained walk round and stretched our legs as much as we could.
It was closer to two when we got back into the car, the older girls replacing our ropes and tape gags as Mr Bridges put the basket away. As we set off, Angela said “if you can manage to stay awake, I’ll put a DVD on for you to watch and sing along to.”
We all nodded as Angela turned on the small screen in the back, and we watched this new musical they had bought. It was set in Scotland, and Angela put on the subtitles so we could all sing along – the film opened with two soldiers walking along before they started to sing, and we joined in.
Mnmwe frmmseeerethepeinstde (uh-huh,
uh-huh, uh-huh, uh-huh)
Mnmwe frmmseeerethepeinstde (uh-huh, uh-huh, uh-huh, uh-huh)
It was great fun, singing along to a new film, even Patty and Rachel joining in as Alicia and Jenny talked quietly. Once that was done, Angela put on a cartoon collection, as we headed down the motorway.
It was just after five when Mr Bridges stopped and said “we’re nearly there, Miss Angela.”
“You’d better make them decent,” Angela said, Alicia and Jenny nodding as they untied us, removed the tape gags, and put everything into a bag as we wiped our wrists and mouths with baby wipes.
Setting off again, Mr Bridges drove for a few minutes, and then turned into a gate in a high wall. We drove up a long tree lined road, and then came out onto the largest private lawn I had ever seen, the three storey Markson Manor appearing before us.
“Wow,” Patty said as she looked out of the window, “this looks amazing, Angela.”
“It’s a sight, isn’t it,” Angela said with a smile as Mr Bridges pulled up at the bottom of a long, large set of stone steps. Getting out, Angela also got out as a girl about the same age as her came out of the house, wearing a cream dress with a white belt and shoes.
“Angie – I’m so glad you could come this weekend,” she said as the two of them hugged, while I got out.”
“Thanks for inviting us Gerri,” Angela said with a smile. “You remember Alicia of course?”
“Good to see you again Gerri,” Alicia said as she helped us out, “this is my good friend Jenny Craig and her younger sister Cassie. The redhead is my cousin Suzanne Holderness, but she prefers Suzie.”
“A real pleasure to meet you, Lady Markson,” I said with a little blush.
“Now, none of that this weekend – it’s Gerri. And the last two?”
“Patricia Pickering,” Patty said as she made a little curtsey, “and this is my friend Rachel Rigg.”
“Thank you for inviting us,” Rachel said as she looked at the large house.
“Come away in – Dad’s in the library,” Gerri said as we waked up the staircase, Mr Bridges bringing our bags up.
As we walked into a library the size of Grandma’s drawing room, we saw Viscount Markson sitting reading a book. He was certainly about the same age as Grandpa, and as thin, but as he stood up he smiled and said “Well, well – welcome back, you two.”
“Thank you, sir,” Angela said. “This is my cousin Suzie, my friends Jenny and Cassie Craig, Patty Pickering and Rachel Rigg.”
“So you’re David’s grandchildren,” he said as he looked at us. “I can certainly see your grandfather in you. How is your father?”
“He’s well,” Jenny said, “and when Aunt Cassie heard we were coming here, she said to say hello from Craig and Frost.”
He smiled as he said “well, I am glad they sent that message. I am really glad you got the chance to visit and watch the film with us. Geraldine, why don’t you show them round before dinner?”
“Of course,” Gerri said with a smile. As we left the library, she said “why don’t you grab your bags and come upstairs with my first, I’ll show you the rooms you will be sleeping in, and then we can do the mini grand tour.”
Once we had put our bags into the huge rooms we were sleeping in, we came back down and out of the front door, as Mr Bridges went off with a middle aged woman who wore a blue dress with white trim.
“That’s Mrs Danvers our housekeeper,” Gerri said, “let’s go for a walk round the back first.”
I thought they had a large lawn at the front, but as we walked round I saw this huge garden stretch off to the horizon, with a small pond that was fed by a fountain.
“Was the house built in Tudor times,” Jenny said as she looked up.
“Very good Jenny – the main part of the house dates back to Henry the Eighth, but the wings were built during Georgian times.”
“This is an amazing garden,” Cassie said as she looked down.
“We used this for the garden party scene in the film,” Angela said, “and for the grand ball arrival.”
“Oh yes,” Alicia said, “they were fun days – and dry thank goodness.”
“Tell me about it,” Gerri said with a smile, “let’s take a walk round.”
As we went round, I was amazed – this place made Holderness Manor look like Wissenden Hall, but they weren’t as well off as Grandma and Grandpa? But it was an older house, so I imagined it cost a lot more to look after.
Eventually, we walked back round the front, only to see Mr Bridges had left.
“Don’t worry – he’s going to stop overnight locally, and then come back for you on Monday,” Gerri said as we went back in. “Why don’t you get washed up and then we can go in for dinner?”
We went to the toilet, making sure we untied the ropes from our knees, and then came back out as Gerri said “All done? This way...”
As we walked along the long corridor, I was amazed at the whole look and feel of the place. I mean, when we visit Holderness Manor you can see how old it is, but we don’t have real suits of armour standing there, with the swords. I kept wondering if we were in an old movie or an episode of Scooby Doo, and the armour would start to move...
Yes, I jumped and then stared at Cassie, who was giggling like mad as we walked further down, and past large portraits. Some of them did look like Gerri, so this was obviously the family history, but when we passed the picture in Tudor costume I realised just how old this family was.
In fact, the strange thing was the lamps. Gerri smiled as she said “Because a lot of films have hired the Manor, we can easily hide things like the lights to make it truly authentic.”
“Ah there you are,” Viscount Markson said as we entered the large dining room, “please, sit – Mrs Danvers, can you start to serve please?”
“So how well did you know our grandparents,” Alicia said as we were eating the main course.
Viscount Markson smiled as he said “Well now – how much do you know of what your grandparents did before he became Lord Holderness?”
“Not a lot – in fact, all we really know is they worked for the government.”
“And what about your grandfather, Jenny?”
I could see Jenny and Cassie exchange a look – they have this thing in their family called the Craig Compact, where they don’t talk about certain things.
“All I can say for certain,” Jenny eventually said, “was that it was dangerous, and our Aunt Cassie did the same thing.”
“Mostly true,” Viscount Markson said, “we helped out with a few things here and there.”
“Is it true you saved our grandfather’s life,” I asked, not sure if it was the right thing to do. He looked at me, then at Alicia and Angela, before he said “yes” and put some more food into his mouth.
“What happened,” Alicia asked as he put his knife and fork down, and wiped his mouth.
“Okay,” he eventually said, “how much do you know about what was going on in Africa in the 1970’s?”
We all looked to Angela, who said “A lot of revolutions and upheavals, the last real vestiges of the colonies becoming their own masters I guess.”
“Fair enough – well, towards the end of that decade your grandfather and I were based in one of the friendlier of those countries, when we had word that another colleague was in some difficulties in Uganda. The sort of difficulties which meant getting him out of them had to be done – shall we say, quietly?
“So your grandfather and I had to travel across country to where this colleague was, slipping unnoticed across the border. It was very important nobody knew we were there, or that this other colleague as there. We travelled at night, and slept during the day, so it took at least two days to get to the rendezvous.
“When we got there, we met the friend, and we were about to set off back when, quite by chance, two army soldiers on patrol came by. We ducked down to hide, but as we did so I managed stupidly to step on some branches – however, by the time the patrol had found your grandfather and our friend, I had managed to slip away under cover of the dark and the bush.
“He could speak a little of the language, so they both stood with their arms raised and he started to try to talk to them. The capacity for talking to an obvious European, however, was a little low, so they shouted something and then aimed their guns at the other two. I think they both had the same thought at that time, but something else happened instead?”
“What,” I heard myself say excitedly.
“Me – I had made my way behind the two soldiers, and managed to subdue both before they could carry out their threat, and we escaped back over the border.” Looking over at Cassie and Jenny, he then said “your grandmother was very pleased to see him back as well, I can tell you.”
“Wow,” I said as Patty looked at Viscount Markson. “So did you know James Bond as well?”
“No,” he laughed as dessert was served, “but I did meet Ian Fleming once.”
He then told us a few more stories, each one stranger than the first, before he said “why don’t you take the girls into the drawing room, Geraldine – I have something I want to show them.”
As we walked along, we heard Alicia say “this is where we had to stand for the reception line of the grand ball – was all the film made here, Gerri?”
“A lot of the location scenes yes – and a lot at Pinewood. Actually, we still have quite a lot of the costumes here in storage.”
“Wow,” Rachel said, “I’d love to try them on, if that was possible?”
Gerri looked at all of us as we sat down, and then said “Well, we could have you all dressed up to watch the film tomorrow, if you want, but it could be a little uncomfortable...”
“If Alicia can do it, so can I,” I said firmly, my two cousins shaking their heads as Gerri said “All right, all right – I’ll sort something out.”
“Now then,” Viscount Markson said as he came in, carrying an old brown leather briefcase, “have a look at these.”
He sat down and opened the case, before he passed round a series of photos.
“Oh my,” Alicia said, “is that really our grandparents?”
“It most certainly is,” he said as I saw the picture of a young man and woman, the man in an officer’s uniform, the woman wearing a brown dress with gloves and a hat. I could certainly recognise my grandparents, and the second woman in the photo looked like Miranda Craig.
“So that’s our grandfather,” Cassie said as she looked at it with Jenny.
“Yeah – that’s how I remember him,” Jenny said with a smile as we next saw a photo of Grandpa, Cassie’s grandfather and Viscount Markson together.
“And this,” he said as he passed round a letter in a clear plastic folder, “is the letter of commendation I got for the rescue I told you about.”
Yes, I admit it, I gawped at the letter, just as Jenny and Cassie stared at another one he handed to them. And then I couldn’t stop myself from yawning.
Gerri could see what I was doing, as she said “let me see if your rooms are ready yet,” and stood up, walking out of the drawing room for a minute.
“Would you excuse me if I went to bed, your Lordship,” I said as I looked at him.
“Of course not – you must all be very tired,” he said as Gerri came back. “I will see you all tomorrow morning.”
When I got to the room I was sleeping in, I saw something laid out on the bed, with a note pinned to it. It was from Mrs Danvers, who said that as we would spend the day in Victorian clothes, we should sleep in the same costumes the girls wore in the film as well.
I looked at the long white nightdress, and then stripped and put it on. It came to the floor, and had long sleeves with lace cuffs. It also had a top that was designed to mimic a shawl, with a gathered part under my chest.
It felt very comfortable actually, and I was very tired – very very tired, as I lay down and my eyes closed almost instantly....
“Good Morning, Miss Suzanne.”
I slowly opened my eyes to find Mrs Danvers at the side of the bed, placing a glass of milk at the side of the bed on a small table.
“What time is it,” I asked as I sat up and rubbed my eyes.
“Just after six – Miss Geraldine and Miss Angela would like you to shower, and then start to don your costume before they come in.”
“All right then,” I said as I sat on the edge of the bed and drank the milk, “thank you Mrs Danvers.”
“Miss,” she said as she turned and left the room. She was wearing a white blouse and a knee length grey skirt with shoes, so I knew she probably would not be dressing up. I finished my milk, grabbed my wash bag and a towel, and then went into the shower.
When I came back, there was what looked like a short sleeved white nightdress on the bed, as well as a pair of white stockings and brown ankle boots that laced up the front. Now, normally boots or trainers or whatever I had on my feet would be the last thing I would put on – but these had to have been placed there for a reason, so I put on some clean underwear, and then the nightdress. It had short puffed sleeves, and certainly was comfortable – as were the stockings.
“Morning Suzie – I need you to put the boots on as well now – you’ll understand why in a few minutes.”
I looked at the door as both Angela and Gerri came in, accompanied by Mrs Danvers – but my oldest cousin and her friend looked very different. Angela was wearing what appeared to be an off white blouse, buttoned up the front, and a very large grey silk skirt that really did flow out from her waist to the floor. She also looked thinner somehow, with a black sash round her waist, and a funny looking jacket the same colour and material as the skirt, with sleeves that were open below the elbow. Her blonde hair was covered by a peach coloured bonnet which was loosely tied under her chin.
Gerri was wearing a tartan patterned dress, which flowed just like Angela’s, and had a black sash round the waist, as well as a dark chocolate brown jacket. A bonnet of the same colour was tied over her hair, while she also wore a pair of off white lace gloves.
“Well, I’m glad the chemise fits at any rate,” Gerri said as the three of them put some things on the bed. “I shall wake Miss Patricia now, and make sure Miss Cassandra will be ready for you,” Mrs Danvers said as she left the room.
“We decided we should really go for it today,” Angela said, “so we’ll all be wearing the full outfits, just as Ali and I did. Now what you have on is the first layer.”
“So what comes next,” I said as I put on the boots and laced them tightly.
“Well, these,” Gerri said as she held up what looked like a pair of Capri pants – except they were white, baggy, had a gathered cuff, and appeared to be crotchless.
“They’re called drawers,” Alicia said as she helped me to put them on, and tucked the chemise into them.
“But they’re missing something...”
“Again, little cus, trust me,” Angela said as Gerri held up a white – well, it looked like a white flexible board, buttons in the middle and laces at the sides.
“What is that?”
“Oh this – this is what makes your waist thinner,” Gerri said, “a corset.
I nodded as Alicia took the corset, and positioned it so that the buttoned front was against my stomach. As she wrapped it round me, I wondered what was going to happen – and then my breath was literally taken away as she began to lace it at the back, pulling tight as I felt my stomach being pulled in.
“You need to keep breathing slowly and regularly,” Gerri said as Alicia pulled it as tight as she could, and I felt not only my waist move in, but my chest move up as well.
“There,” Alicia said as she tied the final knot, “what waist are you normally Suzie.”
“Twenty four I think – why?”
“Well,” Angela said as she took a tape measure round, “you’re now nineteen inches. Ready to continue?”
I nodded, still trying to catch my breath and get used to the way it felt, as Gerri laid on the floor something that looked like a Frisbee, with rings of steel linked by bands of some sort of cloth.
“This, believe it or not, is what was originally called crinoline,” Angela said, “but it’s easier to think of it as a cage. Try bending forward.”
I tried to, but as I did so I found I couldn’t breathe!
“That’s why we had you put your shoes on first,” Gerri said as she pulled the rings up, forming a type of cone from my waist down as she secured it round my waist.
“Without this,” Gerri said with a smile, “you’d have to wear about six or seven of these to get the effect this provides. Now we out this on.”
She passed a plain white petticoat over my head and sat it over the cage, and followed that with a second one which was embroidered at the edge.
“That’s something already,” I said, and then I saw the brown silk dress Angela was holding. It was full length, with some ornate embroidery on the cuffs of the sleeves and the front, as well as a white lace collar.
“There,” Alicia said as she fastened the dress on me, “now we do your hair and add the last touch.” They put my hair into ringlets, and then a brown bonnet on my head, taking the ribbon lightly round my neck, and then gave me white gloves to wear.
“There – the perfect young Victorian Lady,” Angela said with a smile. “You head downstairs, and the others will join you shortly.”
I nodded as I started to walk, very slowly at first as I got used to the way the dress moved, and how tight my waist felt, Mrs Danvers following me as I walked down the stairs, and along the corridor.
“If you will wait in here, Miss Suzanne,” she said as she pulled a chair back from the table, “the others will join us shortly.”
As I watched her walk out, I tried to relax but when I did, it got very uncomfortable and I found it very hard to breathe. So I sat properly, straight back and hands on my lap, as Grandma had tried to get me to do countless times before – and what do you know? I found I was much more comfortable if I did that.
I could hear footsteps after that, and looking to the door I saw Cassie come in. “Well, now I know why I got woken up so early,” she said as Mrs Danvers helped her into a seat next to me.
Cassie was wearing a long blue dress with light grey stripes, and darker grey bands on the sleeves and collar. She also had a white lace collar and cuffs, as well as a matching bonnet and white gloves.
“Can you believe they had to wear this all the time?”
“Yeah,” Cassie said in reply, “but as a slimming aid?”
“Tell me about it – you?”
“Snap,” I said as Alicia came in, smiling as she sat down. Angela’s sister had on a pale cream dress, with a small collar, and wore a wide straw bonnet with a black ribbon tied under her chin.
“Good morning,” she said as she sat down, “A perfectly pleasant day, is it not?”
We both looked at her as she laughed and said “sorry – getting used to how this feels takes some time.”
Jenny was next, wearing an ivory grey silk dress with black trim and a white blouse or dress underneath. She also had white gloves on, and a matching bonnet, as she sat down and smiled at us.
“Well, this is going to be a very interesting day,” Jenny said as she looked at the three of us. “What do you think Patty and Rachel are going to look like?”
“Well, if it is anything like us...”
“So what do you think, older relatives?”
Patty came in, wearing a purple dress with a tiered skirt and a dark grey shawl wrapped round her shoulders. We could see her ankle boots, as well as the straw hat on her head, and the big smile as she looked at us through her modern glasses.
“Can’t do a thing about them,” Patty said with a smile, before Rachel came in. She had on a grey dress with a lace pattern on the skirt and front, with a bonnet on her patterned hair.
“Well now,” Angela said as she and Gerri took their seats, “time for breakfast. Mrs Danvers?”
“We will serve kedgeree shortly, but first some porridge,” Mrs Danvers said as she brought through bowls of the food.
“Is this what they would have eaten this for breakfast?”
“Indeed – if we are spending the day dressed as Victorians, we will eat as Victorians,” Gerri said as Viscount Markson came in.
“Well now, had I known I was to have so many important guests, I would have dress more formally,” he said as he sat down. He was actually very smartly dressed, in a tailored suit, blue shirt and dark tie.
“My father had business in town today,” Gerri said with a smile as we all removed our bonnets and gloves.
“So did you wear clothes like this during the film,” Rachel said as she slowly ate.
“Indeed – and yes, it took a while for us to get used to them as well,” Angela said. “As we told all of you when we helped you dress, you do get used to how to breath under all this.”
As the bowls were taken away, and we were given plates of cooked rice with smoked fish, eggs and peas.
“Well, this is a breakfast to start anyone off well,” Viscount Markson said with a smile. “May I compliment you all on your dress today? Hopefully, my daughter will keep you all amused while I conduct my business elsewhere.”
“Oh I am sure we will find something to keep them amused Pater,” Gerri said with a smile as we kept eating.
“I need to collect some things from my office before I head off,” Viscount Markson eventually said as he stood up. “Geraldine?”
“Well, given we are in costume, why don’t we watch the film this morning,” Gerri said, “and then I can give you a full tour of the manor house.”
“Fantastic,” I said as I replaced my bonnet and gloves, “where shall we go?”
“The television room I think,” Gerri said as we all dressed, and then walked down the corridor, our skirts rustling as we went in single file.
We then went into a room that had a huge television screen hanging on the wall, ad some comfortable looking couches arranged in front of it.
“This really does feel funny,” Cassie said as she and I walked to the window, while the older girls talked in a group. Patty and Rachel were slowly walking round the room, looking at everything.
“I have to admit, I do feel more lady like in this,” Cassie said quietly, “but the effort it takes to put all this on...”
“I guess they had servants to do it for them – completely different from pulling on jeans and a blouse, isn’t it?”
I laughed as Gerri said “well, I guess there is no time like the present, so if you would like...”
The door opening made her look round, and then all of us look round, as a group of people came in. All of them were dressed in black, and had balaclavas covering their heads, and while some of them were carrying large bags, others were pointing guns at us.
It took me a few minutes to realise one of them was a woman – and then one of them stepped forward, looking at all of us as Gerri said in a quiet voice “oh my god – who are you?”
“Forgive my manners, dear lady,” he said in a very familiar Geordie accent, “my name is Jay Edwards – but then, your friends here know that now, don’t you?”
“Suzie,” Angela said quietly as she walked forward and put her hand on Gerri’s shoulder, “is that?”
“Oh yes,” I said quietly as the fear I had felt just melted away, “this is Jay Edwards.”
“We really do have to stop meeting like this,” Jay said as he looked at us, and then at Angela and Gerri. “I will presume,” he said as he looked at Angela, “that you are this young lady’s older sister?”
Angela and Alicia exchanged glances before I said “that’s right – this is my oldest cousin Alicia.”
“Which makes you,” Jay said as we saw Mrs Danvers with two of the men, “Lady Geraldine Markson. A pleasure to make your acquaintance.”
“Oh my god,” Gerri said quietly as she started shaking. I was going to say something, but Angela said “Gerri, I know you’re scared – we all are – but although I’ve never met this man, the rest of them have.”
“Several times,” Patty said with a grin, which disappeared when Cassie and Jenny looked at her.
“From all they’ve told me, so long as we do what they say, we’re going to be fine, isn’t that right Mr Edwards?”
Jay smiled as Angela stared at him, before he said “you are quite correct, lass. Everyone breathe in – well, as much as these costumes will allow you – and stay calm.”
That was when I realised why I was feeling a bit faint, despite the fact I knew we would be all right. The corset I had on meant I couldn’t move my stomach, so it was the upper part of my chest that was moving.
I also knew something else – today was going to be a very quiet day.
“Geraldine my dear, I’m just going...”
Viscount Markson had just come into the room from another door, to be confronted by the scene that was unfolding.
“What the... Who are you and what are you doing in my house?”
“Good morning, Your Lordship. My name is Jay Edwards – Please, excuse the unscheduled visit, but, well, we tend not to let people know in advance we are calling.”
“I’m sorry, your Lordship,” Mrs Danvers said, “they just burst in when I opened the door...”
“It’s all right Mrs Danvers,” he said calmly, “I understand you could not have stopped them. I have heard of you, and know your reputation – I’m not sure if I should be flattered or terrified.”
“A common reaction, I assure you,” Jay said, “May I present my close associate, Mrs McPhee? She will be ensuring your daughter and your guests remain comfortable and safe during our visit.”
Now I knew we were going to be tied up all day, and as I looked at the others I could see they were thinking the same thing.
“Now,” Jay continued, “I know you are a busy man, so I shall be brief. We have no interest in your personal finances, but those you control in your positions of authority are of interest to us. Two of my associates are going to accompany you to your meeting this morning, to ensure you tell nobody of what is happening here today. From there, they will direct you to certain other locations, and tell you what you need to do there.
“While you are doing this, we will ensure everyone else here at Markson Manor is taken care of and not harmed – so long as you do not try and do anything to raise the alarm, or do not follow my associates’ requests. I trust I make myself very clear?”
“Very clear,” Viscount Markson said as he looked at us. “Geraldine, Mrs Danvers, I want you to do whatever they tell you to do, and to cooperate fully. I do not want you to get hurt.”
“What about Mother and Alun?”
“They were not due to call today anyway, and no visitors are due, so hopefully nobody else will get pulled into this. When do you wish to start?”
“Immediately – I know you have the public meeting this morning, so if you will leave with these two gentlemen?”
As he walked out, Gerri said “Please, Daddy, don’t do anything stupid.”
“Don’t worry,” he said as he looked at her and smiled, “I wouldn’t put any of you in danger.”
Jay went out of the room for a few minutes, before he came back in and said “Now then – it seems we have a few more young people to look after than I anticipated. Like I said, we have to stop meeting like this – but regretfully, I am also aware of your abilities, young ladies. So, here’s what’s going to happen. We will need to make sure you cannot raise the alarm, so you will all be bound and under guard at all times. While you, Lady Markson, and your housekeeper will only be secured enough for today, these young ladies are all known to me – so I regret to say you will be fully secured and silenced.”
He then looked at Angela and said “You as well, Miss Bowden – if you are related to young Suzie and Alicia, then I have no doubt you are as skilled.”
“Dinnae worry, lass,” Mrs McPhee said as she walked over to Gerri and took her arm, “it’s not as bad as it sounds. Come with me – I need ye to find a few things for me...”
“Now then,” Jay said as the door closed, two of his men still holding Mrs McPhee, “which of you young ladies would like to tell me why you are all dressed in such Victorian finery?”
“Well,” Cassie said, “we were invited here for the weekend by Viscount Markson to see a film that was made here – Alicia and Angela were extras, and Lord Holderness was one of the financial backers.”
“Is that right,” Jay said as he looked at Angela and Alicia.
“That’s right – it has its premiere this weekend in London,” Angela said.
“Okay – so the dressing up?”
“A lot of the costumes were kept here,” Cassie said as I watched, “so we asked last night if we could try them on. Well, this morning when we woke up, we were all dressed like this – and then...”
“And then we arrive,” Jay said with a smile. “It’s not the first time I have interrupted you when you played dress up, is it?”
“No,” I said, “and that led to my new home, but...”
“Ah – thank you Mrs McPhee,” Jay said quietly as Gerri came back in, “just what we need. Please place those socks on the seat there, Your Ladyship.”
We all watched as Gerri put several pairs of white socks down, and then sat on a two seat couch as Mrs Danvers was sat next to her. Mrs McPhee took two lengths of cord and tied their wrists together in front of them as Jay said “Well, we must begin. May I have two volunteers?”
I wasn’t surprised when Patty and Rachel stepped forward – although Gerri did raise an eyebrow.
“Very well – ladies, pleas be seated until it is your turn.”
We all sat down carefully as Jay opened a bag and took out some sponges, which he gave the Tornado Twins to hold in their gloved hands. Two of the associates then took rolls of silver tape and wrapped their fists into silver balls. Mrs McPhee then took two pairs of socks and handed them to the associates, who pulled them up their arms and then taped them in place.
“Oh my god – are we all going to be like that,” Gerri said as she watched Mrs McPhee take Patty’s hands behind her back, and start to tie her wrists together.
“We are,” Angela said as she held Gerri’s hands, “but I don’t think you are, not yet anyway, so just stay calm Gerri, and do what they say. All the times the other girls have met him, they were not harmed.”
“How... How many times have you met him?”
“A few,” I said as Mrs McPhee tied Rachel’s wrists together, and then started to wrap the rope around their arms and upper body, “the longest was a weekend they kidnapped all of us except Angela, and we spent it tied and gagged in Fifties outfits.”
“She’s right,” Jenny said, “but the key is to stay calm and not panic.”
By this time, both Patty and Rachel had their arms bound, with shorter lengths tightening the bands between their arms and bodies. Mrs McPhee removed their bonnets and handed them to the associates to hold, before she said “Open wide lassies.”
“Talk to you later,” Patty said as she opened her mouth and let Mrs McPhee push a folded cloth into her mouth, and use a knotted towel strip to keep it in place.
“Much later,” Rachel said as she was gagged in the same way, before Gerri watched as the special white tape was wound tightly round their heads to keep that in place. As Mrs McPhee picked up the duct tape, Patty looked at it and said “thtttpls?”
“You want me to add a band of this,” Mrs McPhee said as she smiled. Patty and Rachel looked at each other, and nodded a a band was wrapped round their heads, Mrs McPhee taking care that she kept it over the white tape.
“Why on earth did they ask for that,” I said to myself as strips of cloth, in the same colour as their dresses, were wrapped around their heads as well. When she had finished, they looked as if they were Victorian children taken hostage in a movie, as their bonnets were tied back into place.
“Now then,” she said as she stepped back, “you two take a seat – Miss Cassie, Miss Suzie, come over here please.”
“Our turn,” Suzie said as we walked up.
“Looks like it,” I said in reply as we were handed the sponges to hold, and the two associates started to cover our hands.
“While we’re doing this,” Jay said to the other two men, “disconnect the phone lines, and make sure any internet connection is terminated for the time being.”
“Here we go again,” I whispered to Cassie as Mrs McPhee took my hands behind my back and started to bind my sock covered wrists together. I felt the rope firmly passed round and between my arms, and then taken around my waist to lock them in place.
“How on earth can you all remain so calm,” I heard Gerri say to Angela, but she just smiled and said “I’ll explain later – this isn’t the time.”
“Honestly, Gerri, it’s not as bad as it looks,” Cassie said as Mrs McPhee started to tie my arms to my sides. “I mean, the first time Jenny and I met Jay Edwards, we were just as scared as you were, especially when he tied us up and gagged us like this, as well as our mum. But – well, if you treat it like a big game, it’s not so bad.”
Having said that... As Mrs McPhee used the rope to force my arms against my sides, something felt different this time. I mean, my arms were just as tightly held in place as all the previous times, and as she tightened them by taking small lengths of rope under my arms and between my arms and body I could feel the upper band pressing on my chest, but that was the only one I could feel.
It took me a few minutes, by which time Mrs McPhee was tying the knotted strip of towel into my mouth, to realise it was the corset that was different. I didn’t have a bra on, and that was supporting my chest instead – but I couldn’t feel the rope because it was so stiff.
“I will say this – you’re all much braver than I am,” Gerri said as our gags were completed in the same way as Patty and Rachel, before our bonnets were replace and I watched Alicia and Jenny stand up. Mrs McPhee walked us over and helped us to sit down, making sure our skirts kept our modesty, while the associates started to prepare their hands.
I had to admit, the extra layer of silver tape was keeping us quieter, so all we could do was sit and watch as Alicia and Jenny were bound and gagged like us. Patty was wriggling round a little, her shawl just as tightly held in place as her arms, as a few minutes later only Angela was left free.
I did wonder why they had not tied our legs yet, but didn’t make a scene of it as all of us watched Angela had her upper body bound. As Mrs McPhee removed her bonnet, Angela said “I need to tell the girls something while I can.”
“Of course,” Mrs McPhee said as she handed the bonnet over, and folded a cloth.
“Girls – because of the corset you’re all wearing, you’ll have noticed your breathing is different. Well, given we’re all going to be very effectively gagged, do NOT do anything that will make you try to breathe harder. Take it easy, relax, and no jumping around this time, all right?”
“Ysslshhhe,” we all said as we rolled our eyes, and five minutes later Angela was sitting next to Jenny and Alicia, all of us trussed and gagged as Mrs Danvers and Gerri looked at us.
“Good advice, girls,” Mrs McPhee said as she turned to Jay and the other associates. “All right you lot – turn around for ae few minutes, and no peeking!”
Jay smiled as they did just that, while Mrs McPhee knelt in front of Patty, and moved her skirt, petticoats and hoop up a bit before she bound her ankles and her legs below her knees, making sure she cinched both bands.
“You’ve worn clothes like this before, haven’t you,” Gerri said as she moved down the line.
“Nae comment,” Mrs McPhee said, “but I know decorum meant the men of Victorian times should not see the ankles, never mind the legs, so we’re going to do the same here.”
Once she had finished, she looked at us and said “All right, ye can turn round now.”
“Thank you Mrs McPhee,” Jay said with a smile. “Well, a film premiere is a very important event, so I see no reason why it should not take place. Mrs McPhee, would you please take Lady Markham to fetch the film for viewing.”
“Of course,” the masked woman said as we saw her walk out with Gerri, and Jay looked at Mrs Danvers. “With regret, dear lady, I need to make sure you are slightly more secure. Please sit forward.”
We watched as he tied her arms to her sides, the rope going above and below her chest, and then knelt down and bound her ankles together, as well as her legs above her knees. Once he had her wrists tied down to her knees, he looked at her and said “now, I need you to be quiet, so purse your lips please.”
As she nodded, Jay stuck a single strip of the white tape down over her lips, as Gerri came back in with Mrs McPhee.
“Excellent,” Jay said as he stood behind us, “Please, introduce the movie Lady Markson.”
We all looked at Gerri as she slowly put the DVD into the machine, and then stood by the side of the screen, holding the controller as Jay, Mrs McPhee, and some of the other associates sat down.
“Well,” she eventually said as she took a deep breath, “the film is called The Awakening, and it’s loosely based on a story from our family history. A hundred and fifty years ago, the oldest daughter of the then Viscount Markson met and fell deeply in love with a young officer in the British Army. The story goes that they were engaged to be married when he was ordered to South Africa, to fight in the Boer War.
“Alun has always been fascinated by our family history, so the film covers their courtship, and how Amelia, the daughter, coped when he returned injured from that war. We open in the year 1863, and I really hope you enjoy it.”
We all nodded as she started the film, and we saw the opening credits. The first thing I noticed was that Desmond Holderness was listed as a producer of the film, which I felt was a really nice thing for Alun to do.
As the film went on, we all lost ourselves in the story of Amelia and Gerald, but when a scene set in a large garden party started, we recognised the outside of Markson Manor from yesterday. Gerri nodded as she said “Quite a few of the big set pieces were shot around or in the manor house – in fact...”
She stopped the film for a minute, as we saw a young woman in a green dress, with black trim and white collar and cuffs, in the centre of the screen.
We all turned to look at Alicia, who was blushing deep red, and then we looked back at the screen.
“Stthuullssheee,” I mumbled, and as she nodded I had never felt so proud of her! We then saw a little more of the scene, before Gerri stopped again and pointed out two women talking in the background. It took us a moment to recognise her, in a red silk gown with a white blouse and gloves, and Angela in a pale blue dress of the same design.
“What we are wearing in this scene, as well as the costumes you all have on now,” Gerri said as she restarted the film, “are actually normal everyday clothes for the upper and middle classes of the era – to protect the modesty, and suitable for things like travelling, walking around, garden parties and so on.”
As the film went on, we all sighed in a very ladylike manner as Amelia met her beau. Glancing over, pi noticed that Mrs McPhee was also watching intently, and she seemed to be enjoying it as much as we were. She then saw me put of the corner of her eye, and actually winked before a grand ball scene began.
“As you can see,” Gerri said, “ball gowns were much more daring for the time, often with bare shoulders and arms, but always with gloves. Here are a couple of examples.”
She stopped the film again as we recognised Alicia in a white ball gown, with black and red trim on the skirt and top, white gloves and a floral tiara. We could also see Angela in a gold silk dress, and white gloves, with white flowers in her hair.
Finally we saw Gerri, in a pale pink dress with a skirt that –well, it ballooned out behind her, but it looked fantastic.
We watched the grand ball scene, and the announcement of the engagement. We even started to cry a little as her beau went off to war, and then came back blinded, but gave muffled cheers at the big wedding scene at the end, as well as the way they rode off together in the carriage.
“That, ma dear, was a truly beautiful film,” Mrs McPhee said as the end credits rolled, “Truly beautiful.”
“Thanks, I guess,” Gerri said with a little smile, “but really it was Alun’s film. I just helped out.”
“Well,” Jay said as he stood up, “Thank you for that, but what I would like for you to do now is to give our party and the girls a tour of the Manor House, if you would be so kind. It will help pass the time, and I think proved educational at the same time.”
“Well – I do guided tours for select groups on occasion, and I guess it will take your minds off the situation,” Gerri said. “And I did promise to show you the rest of the building, if you are still interested?”
I joined the others in nodding our agreement, as Mrs McPhee whispered into Jay’s ear.
“Of course – gentlemen, allow them some privacy,” he said as he and the other associates stood facing the wall, while Mrs McPhee untied our ankles and knees and helped us to stand up.
“I know you gals like to jump around when tied as a rule, from past experience,” Mrs McPhee said, “but with the costumes on, you would soon be breathless, and that’s not a guid idea just now. So you will walk – like ladies.”
We all nodded as one of the associates untied Mrs Danvers from the chair, and led her out of the room.
“Well, we may as well start in here,” Gerri said as she raised her bound hands. “this is, as you know, now a television room, but originally it was designed to be the morning room for the ladies of the house. The windows look out onto the east lawn, to capture the morning sunshine...”
For the next hour or so, we walked round the house, as Gerri became a very good guide, talking about the history of the manor house, the uses of some of the rooms, and so on. The only really boring bit, to tell the truth, was when we had to go to the first floor. Because of our costumes, one by one we were helped by Mrs McPhee to walk up the stairs, with her holding our skirts to make sure we did not step on them.
I couldn’t help noticing as well that Mrs McPhee was listening as attentively as the rest of us as Gerri showed us round the upstairs landing, talking about some of the ancestors of the house. She really was enjoying it – and so was Jay, who was listening very carefully. I guess I never thought of them as history loves – not in this way anyway.
Eventually, however, we made our way into the dining room, where we saw Mrs Danvers secured again to one of the dining chairs. Mrs McPhee helped us to sit in the chairs, making sure our skirts did not fly up, and then we had a length of rope tied round us to secure us to the chair. It wasn’t as tight as we knew Jay would normally do it, but it was tied out of reach of us, behind and under the chair seat.
Once we were all seated, Mrs McPhee helped Gerri to sit down, while one of the other men untied Mrs Danvers and removed her tape gag. Gerri’s wrists were untied before her arms were taken round the chair back, and her wrists tied together, and then her waist tied to the chair. Finally, Mrs McPhee pressed a strip of white tape over her mouth, before saying “Now just sit nicely, and Mrs Danvers and I will sort out lunch. Keep an eye on them, boys.”
Two of the masked men stayed to watch us as Mrs McPhee and Mrs Danvers went towards the kitchen – but one question was coming up in my mind as we sat there.
Where had Jay Edwards got to?
“Do either of you know where Jay went?”
The two masked men nodded as she and Mrs Danvers put plates of food in front of each of us, before she looked round.
“All right,” she said as another masked man put drinks in front of us, “make sure they’re all secured before you untie and ungag them. Ah’ll look for him and be back in a short while.”
“Yes, Mrs McPhee,” they said as they helped Mrs Danvers to sit in the spare chair, and then tied her upper body tightly to the chair back, the rope fed around and through the back of the chair, and also over her lap. Her ankles were then secured to the front legs, before her chair was pushed in.
The three men then worked their way round the table, first untying our upper bodies and then uncovering our hands, before we were told to remove our bonnets and gloves. The gags were then removed, while Gerri had her wrists untied and the tape taken away from her mouth.
“Well,” she said as she rubbed her wrists, “I suppose we should eat. I am rather hungry – thank you for preparing lunch, Mrs Danvers.”
“That lady – Mrs McPhee – helped as well,” the housekeeper said as we looked at each other, and started to eat.
“So how uncomfortable did you find it the first time you wore these clothes,” I asked as I looked at my cousins.
“It was – different,” Alicia said with a smile, “and yeah, a little uncomfortable at first, but as you get used to it, it gets easier. Of course, we were able to breathe unhindered...”
“That aside,” Angela said, “Gerri had some useful tips – things like walk slowly at first – and once you get used to the feeling, it’s not that uncomfortable if truth be told.”
“I know,” Patty said, “I felt really comfy sitting there today, although the ropes felt a little different from every other time...”
“That Jay Edwards has held us hostage,” Cassie quickly said.
“I have to agree,” I said as I cut a piece of sliced chicken and put it in my mouth, “it was funny at first, but I have got used to it. So long as you don’t slouch, it’s fine.”
The other girls nodded as I looked at the band of rope around my waist and lap. It certainly was looser than every other time, but there was no way I could bend at the waist, and the knot was well out of my reach.
And I had to admit, the different feeling of the ropes was unusual. I mean they still rubbed on my chest as I moved, but it felt nicer somehow. And with all the stuff I was wearing, I really felt cocooned...
“I’m glad you’re all getting used to the outfits – even if you are more restricted than usual,” Gerri said with a little smile. “Believe it or not, the corsets you are all wearing act as a load bearer for the cage and all the petticoats. I once tried to wear this outfit without the corset, and – well, let’s just say it was incredibly uncomfortable.”
“In what way,” Rachel asked as she looked over the table.
“Well, the string of the cage would cut into my waist, and I could not stand for too long under the weight of the skirts. With the corset taking that weight, you can stand for some considerable time.
“It’s also more practical – without the cage, you have to wear twice as many petticoats to get the same shape of the skirt, and believe me, that gets very hot and uncomfortable. It also makes it far more difficult to walk – whereas I’m sure you will all agree, it’s easy to walk with the cage.”
As we nodded, Gerri then turned to Angela and said “How can they remain so calm? We’re been kept hostage at gunpoint, by masked men, my father’s gone only they know where...”
“I’ll explain later – let’s just say for now this is something of an occupational hazard where this lot are concerned,” Angela said as the door to the room opened, and we saw both Jay Edwards and Mrs McPhee coming in – but Mrs McPhee looked very different. She was wearing a long dark blue checked dress similar to ours, with a thin brown belt and little bow at the white collar, and a blue bonnet – as well as the black balaclava mask.
“I hope you don’t mind, Lady Markson,” she said as she looked at Gerri, “but I really felt this would make you all more comfortable.”
“Well,” Gerri said as she looked at Mrs McPhee, “I have to say you do wear it well.”
“Why thank you,” she said as she and Jay took a plate of food and a drink, and disappeared again for a few minutes into another room.
“This,” Gerri said, “has got to be one of the most surreal days of my life.”
“Oh trust me,” Jenny said as she sipped her drink, and placed her glass down, “the day is still young.”
Eventually, Mrs McPhee came back and untied both Gerri and Patty, escorting her out of the room as two of the associates brought plates of food through, and sat at the table, watching us as they started to eat.
“Don’t worry,” Jay said with a smile, “each of you will get to go in turn.”
As Patty came back, Mrs McPhee untied Rachel, while Jay started to cover Patty’s hands. She turned and winked at me and Jenny before it was my turn, and I was released from the chair.
As we walked to the toilet, however, I had a question that needed to be asked...
“Yes, Suzie,” Mrs McPhee said as we stopped outside the toilet.
“Could you possibly help me to strip off – I mean I need to go, but...”
I watched as Gerri and Mrs McPhee looked at each other, before Gerri said “Do you remember this morning, Suzie, when you asked about the drawers we asked you to put on?”
“Yeah – I said they were...”
“Exactly,” Gerri said, “they were made that way precisely for this purpose. If you had to strip off in this outfit every time you wanted to go to the toilet, what would it be like?”
“Oh – OH,” I said quietly, “so literally...”
“Exactly,” Gerri said, Mrs McPhee nodding in agreement. So I went in, I gathered my skirts, and – well, I found out just how much more convenient it was when I was that way.
When I came back to the dining room, Cassie was allowed to go, while I could see both Patty and Rachel being bound as tightly as before. One of the masked men then gave me the sponges to hold in my gloved hands, and I watched as my hands disappeared in the silver and white, as well as behind my back as the ropes went tightly round my body again.
I now realised that because the corset was there, I couldn’t feel the ropes at my waist and stomach, but they were there all right – the fact I could not move my arms at all told me all I needed to know of that, and then the way the ropes rubbed on my chest was so different...
As Cassie came back and was bound next to me, I could see she was thinking the same thing – but by that point Patty and Rachel had their bonnets back on, and I was been steadily made more and more silent as the gag was built up around my head.
Eventually, all seven of us were back to how we were before dinner began, while Mrs McPhee was binding Gerri’s wrists together in front of her, and two of the masked men took Mrs Danvers back to the kitchen.
“Now then,” Jay said as he looked at us, “shall we continue our tour?”
“I wonder if I can ask a question before we go on,” Mrs McPhee said, “who is the most famous person you have shown round here?”
Gerri was slightly taken aback at the question, before she composed herself and said “well, personally, I would say the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, but the Queen once stayed here before I was born, and indeed every monarch since Henry VIII has stayed her at some time.
“In fact, the ball scene you saw in the film earlier is based around the story of when Victoria stayed here and a grand ball was held in her honour, with the Prime Minister and court in full attendance.”
“Really Angie,” Gerri said with a smile. “So why don’t we take a look at some of the family line.”
We walked out of the room and stopped in front of a suit of armour. “Now this,” Gerri said, “was worn by the then Viscount Markson when he fought in the Battle of Hastings. There has been a fine tradition of Markson support for the defence of our country in all arenas?”
“So I heard,” Mrs McPhee said, “I can forgive his involvement with the Duke of Cumbernauld, but is it true a Markson was an honoured combatant at Boswell Hill.”
“That’s right – you are very well read for a masked and armed robber,” Gerri said as she looked at Mrs McPhee, “the Roundheads offered an escort when his body was taken off the field, and ensured the family did not suffer unduly during the Parliamentary years. That caused a little trouble when the Monarchy was restored, but that was soon passed over.”
We walked further down the corridor, stopping at a portrait of a man and woman in full Elizabethan regalia.
“Now this particular Viscount Markson was something of a black sheep in the family, although I suspect you, Mr Edwards, and you Mrs McPhee would appreciate him more than some people did.”
“Oh,” Jay said quietly in that lovely accent of his, “and why is that?”
Gerri turned and smiled sweetly at both of them, before she said “he was a privateer, sailing under orders from Queen Elizabeth the First and her court to steal treasure and add it to her coffers. This was his wife, whom he married on his return – as I say, I think you will appreciate that.”
“Why thank you, we do,” Mrs McPhee said with a smile as we moved on.
“This is the Viscount Markson who was honoured by the Roundheads,” she said, “and this is my great great great grandfather, who served under the Governor of New South Wales when it was still a penal colony. He made a small fortune in the gold mines there, as did my great grandfather in the diamond mines in South Africa.
“Much of that treasure is lost or was used to get us through some of the more difficult times, including keeping this place maintained,” Gerri said as we walked along, “although renting it for events and films does provide sufficient income now.”
“So what other films or television series have used Markson Manor,” Jay asked – it was amazing they had all the questions we wanted to ask, if it wasn't for the cloth, two layers of tape, the knotted cleave gag and the sponge...
“Well, when they filmed Cromwell with Richard Harris, they used the manor house... The BBC used it in Pride and Prejudice and some other programs... Merchant Ivory employed it for some scenes in their films...”
I’d never heard of many of these things, but it was obvious Mrs McPhee and her group had. I was just amazed at this whole sense of living history we were in.
Eventually, however, we got back to the television room, and I saw it was after five o’clock. “Sit down girls,” Mrs McPhee said, and as the men turned round we all had our ankles and legs tied again – even Gerri this time, who also had a length of rope tied round her waist to keep her wrists down.
We were all ramrod straight, and looked at each other as Mrs McPhee said “now then – would any of you like to hop around.”
“Angela did indeed say you might get tired and short of breath,” Mrs McPhee said, “But most of your girls I have met before, and I know you like to do so. What you cannot do is go full pelt, if you like, but go slowly. And I will be with you every step of the way – my friends here will keep an eye on the rest of you. So – who’s game?”
Patty nodded as she started to try and push herself up, as Mrs McPhee went over and helped her to stand. She took a moment, and then took several big jumps, before she stopped to catch her breath.
“Let me hold you,” Mrs McPhee said as Patty nodded, and then she took short, slow jumps, looking straight ahead before she jumped forward while staying straight, and out of the room.
“Will she be all right,” Gerri said as she looked at Angela, who rolled her eyes and nodded as we watched Patty jump back in, and then take her seat, her chest rising and falling as she closed her eyes.
Rachel was next, and then Cassie, each of them getting used to the way they had to jump before they were taken out of the room and jumped back again.
“Here we go,” Mrs McPhee then said as she helped me to stand up, and put one hand against my bound wrists and the other on my flat stomach. “Take a hop.”
I nodded and jumped forward, landing as I had to catch my breath and almost fell over. I was breathless after one jump – me, who was a champion jumper! I looked at Mrs McPhee, who smiled and said “I told you so, dear, small and short hops, all right?”
So I took her advice, and started to get used to the idea of jumping less high and not so far. I soon found it wasn’t that much more difficult if I watched what I was doing, and did not try to bend over. I had to trust that the rustling sound from my skirts and the hoop weren’t exposing anything, but the way Mrs McPhee encouraged me told me she was used to these costumes as well, so I hopped out of the door, along the corridor a bit and back again.
As I did so, I realised I was breathing harder and harder, and my upper chest was moving more and more between the bands of rope – and that just seemed to add to the excitement as the others cheered me back in. I now realised if I was careful, and not too fast, I could do almost anything in these clothes – except bend.
Eventually, however, my time was up and I sat down, closing my eyes and controlling my breathing as Alicia was helped up. I was exhausted, and ecstatic, and – oh I don’t know what...
Once Angela had sat back down, Mrs Danvers appeared with the man who had gone with her, and told us that supper would soon be ready. Patty then stood up and looked at Rachel, before she started to take short jumps towards the door.
As Rachel followed, Mrs McPhee looked at all of us and said “Well?”
We watched the skirts and hoops jumping up and down as the two girls left the room, then at each other, before we all got up and jumped after them, the masked men going before us as Mrs McPhee untied Gerri’s legs and allowed her to walk behind all of us.
When we entered the dining room, Mrs McPhee said “Why don’t we untie their arms and hands here, and keep the ropes safe for later. Then they can take a seat at the table.”
We all stood and waited for our arms to be untied, and then our hands uncovered, Mrs McPhee warning us not to remove our gags until we were told to do so, and then we jumped over to the chairs. With our arms free, it was a little easier, but we still went slowly, as I reached my chair first and jumped into the seat.
This was, of course, not the right thing to do as my skirts and hoop flew up and covered my face, revealing my drawers to all and sundry! I could feel myself getting redder and redder as the others laughed – and then redder still as I remembered what I was wearing underneath.
“Ach we warned you,” Mrs McPhee said as she helped me to stand up, and then sit again, adjusting my hoops and skirts this time so that I was properly demure as the others watched. They then all took their seats, before we were tied to the chair as before, loosely and yet so that we could not get free, before our chairs were pushed in.
“You may now remover your gags and hand them to my friends,” Mrs McPhee said as she and Mrs Danvers left with one of the men, all of us reaching up and removing our bonnets, and then untying the cloths over our mouths, before starting to unwind the tape.
“I’m sorry Suzie,” Cassie said as soon as she was able to speak, “it was just so funny when that happened to you.”
“IT could have happened to any of us though,” Gerri said, “and perhaps we should not have laughed.”
“Oh it’s all right,” I said as I looked round, “so long as...”
“All we saw was white,” Patty said, “honestly.”
As the gagging material was cleared away, the food was carried in, plates of fish with vegetables put in front of us as Jay Edwards came back in – I hadn’t even realised he had slipped out until then.
“Allow me to pour you all a drink,” he said as he poured us all some water, and then left the room with a plate of food, Mrs McPhee joining him as we all started to eat.
As we ate , Gerri answered all the questions we still had about the house and her family, as we also had fruit salad and cream for dessert. Eventually, however, the time came when we had finished, and Mrs McPhee came back in, untying us each from the chair one at a time and taking us to the toilet, only to have our hands covered and our upper body bound when we returned.
“We’re not going to be gagged this time,” I said as the last rope was tied above my chest.
“Not for this part,” Mrs McPhee said, “I think you should have the opportunity to talk to each other, and discuss how you all feel right now.”
I nodded at that – it certainly sounder like a good idea, as finally Gerri had her wrists tied together behind her back and then rope tied round her waist, but no more than that. We were then led back to the room where we met Viscount Markson the day before – only all the furniture had been moved to the side, leaving the thick red carpet clear in the centre of the room.
One by one, we were helped to sit on the floor, as Mrs McPhee spread our skirts around each of us before lifting them again, and securing our ankles and knees one more time. Even Gerri had her legs tied this time, before we found ourselves sitting in a circle, facing each other, our skirts covering our legs and yet not touching each other, our upper bodies rising from the cloths.
“Watch them,” Jay said to one of the men as the others left, and we looked at each other.
As the door closed, Gerri said “Well, this was not exactly how I saw today going.”
“I can imagine,” Alicia said as she looked at Angela. “So – your impressions?”
“Oh I see how he made an impression on all of you,” Angela said, “and given certain – other people I have met, he’s actually quite nice.
“For an armed home invader.”
“So were all these costumes made especially for the film,” Rachel said as she looked over at Gerri.
“Hmm? Most were, but one or two are actually family heirlooms – such as the dress I’m wearing now.”
“Yes it is Alicia – it dates back to the period of the film.”
“So what got you interested in this area,” Jenny asked.
“Well, I found the collection of costumes when I was about the same age as you, Patty. I loved the look of them, and really made it my hobby to learn as much as I could about the period and what they wore. In fact, Alun insisted I was hired as the lead consultant for the movie.”
“Wow,” I said as I wriggled, my skirts rustling as I did so.
“That’s right,” Angela said, “actually, I overheard one conversation between Alun and the costume designer in the early days that Gerri had the deciding voice on design issues for the women.”
Gerri blushed and nodded as she said “sometimes I think I was born a century and a half too late. I’m so used to wearing the corset and hoop now, both to show guests round and also just for fun, I barely notice it when I put them on now.”
“I noticed,” I said, “you hardly seemed to breathe any differently when we were walking round.”
“Well, like I said, I’ve done this since I was sixteen,” Gerri said, “and talking of staying calm – just how many times have you been held hostage in this way?”
“By Jay Edwards or by others?”
Gerri stared at us as Alicia said “too many times is the obvious answer – but as far as Jay and his friends goes, I guess that weekend we all spent in fifties clothes, bound, gagged, and held hostage in this way.”
“Yeah – it was great fun,” Patty said as she looked at all of us.
“There have been less pleasant occasions,” Alicia said as she looked at Jenny and Angela. I wondered what they were talking about, but Cassie just nodded as she said “yeah – but we’ve had guardian angels when that has happened, isn’t that right Jenny?”
“That’s right – I wish we could tell you of some of them, Gerri, but we can’t. What I can say is if we were in real danger, there are others who would step in to protect us.”
“Angie told me about one of them – this legend of the Holderness Shadow?”
“Oh the Shadow is real,” Alicia said, “we’ve seen him ourselves on occasions, but there are others – we have a friend of the families who would come if we were in real danger.”
“Your aunt, Jenny?”
“So Jay Edwards – what normally happens?”
“Well, if it’s like every other time,” Cassie said, “we’ll be allowed to get ready for bed, and then tied just as tightly as we are now, and gagged just as strictly, before we go to sleep.”
“All of us? Including me?”
“Including you and Mrs Danvers, Gerri,” Alicia said, “and I am truly sorry, but with luck they will be gone by the morning.”
“It’s all right Gerri,” Angela said quietly, “we’ll all be fine. You saw how we all coped with the way we were today – it’ll be easier in just a nightdress. You just have to stay calm, and breathe in and out through your nose.”
“Also, sleep on your side or on your stomach,” Rachel said. “If you sleep on your back, it can hurt or at least be uncomfortable.”
“Once you get off, you may even find it relaxing and a good sleep,” I heard myself say.
“I don’t know – the thought of being unable to move, to talk...”
“I promise you, it will be all right,” Angela said as she looked at her friend, “after all...”
“Well, I think it’s time we started to prepare you all for bed,” Jay Edwards said as he came in with Mrs McPhee, “we’ll start with you, Lady Markson, and you young Rachel.”
We watched as Mrs McPhee untied the ankles and legs of both of them, and then helped them to walk out of the room. A few minutes later she returned and untied Patty’s legs, this time going out with Jay and one of the other masked men as the rest watched us.
Cassie was next, winking at me as she went out, and then a few minutes later it was my turn.
“See you all upstairs,” I said as Mrs McPhee took me by the arm and then helped me to walk up the stairs, holding my skirts up as I climbed the stairs and then walked to my room.
When I went in, I saw Mrs Danvers and one of the masked men waiting there. As I came in, the masked man stepped outside as Mrs McPhee started to untie my upper body, eventually uncovering my hands and allowing me to rub my wrists.
She then unfastened and removed my dress and petticoats, handing them to Mrs Danvers as she folded and placed them on a chest, and then she unlaced the corset and removed it. That was probably the best feeling of all, as I found myself able to breathe reasonably normally again.
“You may remove the rest of your garments yourself,” Mrs McPhee said, “and then put on the nightdress. When you are ready, come outside with your toothbrush and anything else you need, and do as you are told.”
I nodded as she took Mrs Danvers out, and the man closed the door. Sighing, I then removed the rest of my garments, and then out on some panties as well as the long nightdress that were on the bed. Collecting my washbag and towel, I opened the door and stepped out to see one of the masked men waiting.
“This way,” he said as he took me to the bathroom, and waited outside while I washed and brushed my teeth, and then walked me not back to my room, but to a larger sitting room upstairs. As we walked in, I saw Jay and another man waiting, as well as Rachel, Patty and Cassie, all of them in the same style of nightdress as me.
“Hsszee,” Rachel said as she looked at me, already tightly bound and gagged with a white cloth around her head. Patty already had white socks over her hands, with her wrists tied tightly together behind her back, and rope around her waist and stomach. The white tape was already wrapped around her head, and Cassie was wrapping the silver tape round over that.
“Hey Suzie – feeling more relaxed,” Cassie said as she folded the white cloth and tied it around Patty’s head, covering her gag and securing the ends at the base of her neck before she took more ropes, and started to tie it round her body, pulling her arms into her sides above and below her chest.
“Yeah – ready for another night like this you two?”
Patty and Rachel nodded, and then Patty squirmed round a little as Cassie tied the ropes off, and then used shorter lengths to tighten them between her arms and body. I could see the look in her eyes as she grunted, and realised she was feeling something of what I felt when that was done to me.
“Excellent,” Jay said as Cassie tied the last knot. “Patty, you go and stand with Rachel. Suzie, you will now bind Cassie.”
“Here we go again,” Cassie said as I picked up two sponge balls and some silver tape, as well as a pair of white socks, and came back over.
“Tell me about it,” I said as I gave Cassie the sponges to hold, and then wrapped the silver tape around her fists before covering her hands with the socks and taping them to her arms.
As I guided her wrists behind her back, and started to bind them tightly together, she whispered “so, corset or no corset?”
“I’m not sure – it just felt so different, especially...”
“Yeah – I get the feeling we’ll still feel that tonight as well,” Cassie said as I tied the rope around her waist, and then her stomach, before I picked up a cloth and folded it.
“Talk to you tomorrow?”
“Count on it,” Cassie said with a smile as she opened her mouth and let me push the cloth in, and then tied the knotted strip of towel around her head, the knot sitting between her teeth. Once I had that tied off, I wrapped the white tape tightly round her head, and then peeled the end of the silver tape free and started to add that layer.
Once I had the tape smoothed down, and the white cloth tied tightly over all that, I then tied the ropes around her body, above and below her chest, and then noted how much she squirmed as I cinched those bands.
As I tied that rope off, Jenny came in while Cassie walked over to join the other two.
“Your turn – Jenny, take care of Suzie please,” Jay said, and I went through the motions. The feeling in my fingers as I gripped the sponge balls, and then the tape as it covered them... The socks pulled up and covering my hands... The way the rope felt around my wrists as Jenny crossed and bound them tightly together... The rope belt around my waist and stomach, which was so snug and felt not just tight, but almost welcome... The taste of the clean cloth on my tongue as it filled my mouth... The soft band around my head, and then the white tape as it peeled from the roll and stuck to my skin as well as over my mouth... that extra band of silver tape... the white cloth over that...
And finally the extra ropes over my upper body and arms, above and below my chest, which felt so annoyingly nice on me. When Jenny tightened them with the short lengths under my arms, however, it just felt very strange in that nice annoying way I hadn’t felt all day. I giggled into the gaga and walked over, getting used to the feeling as Gerri walked in wearing a white nightdress.
“It’s your turn Lady Markson – Jenny, please do the honours.”
“Must you – I’m not going to raise the alarm,” Gerri said as she looked at the four of us.
“It’s all right Gerri – we’re all in the same boat,” Jenny said as she picked up two fresh sponges and the ball of silver tape. “I’ll talk you through it. First thing we need t do is make sure you can’t use your hands, so take these and make two fists with your hands.”
As she did this, Gerri watched while Jenny wrapped the silver tape around her hands, and then pulled white socks over her hands ad up her arms, taping them to the gown with the silver tape.
“Okay – I see I won’t be able to use my hands,” Gerri said quietly as Jenny guided them behind her back, crossing them before she took some rope and started to bind them tightly together, making sure the rope went around and between her arms.
“Did you learn from them,” Gerri said as she looked at Jay.
“I think we learned from each other,” Jay said as Jenny tied the rope round Gerri’s waist, holding her crossed wrists against her back as she passed the rope between her back and arms. She then tied rope around her lower arms and stomach, making sure her arms were held into place before she said “so far, so good?”
“I guess so,” Gerri said as she tried to move her arms. “Now what?”
“Now I have to make sure you stay quiet. First bit – open your mouth as wide as you can.”
Gerri nodded as she opened her mouth and allowed Jenny to put the cloth in. As she closed her mouth, getting used to the feeling, Jenny tied a knot in a strip of towelling and said “Open your mouth again please Gerri.”
Nodding, Gerri allowed Jenny to tie the cleave gag, and then stood still as she wrapped the white tape round her head. I saw her eyes shot up as the silver band went round, but Jenny said “nearly done” as she tore the tape from the roll and smoothed it down, before tying a folded white cloth over the whole gag, the ends lying down the back of Gerri’s neck.
“Mssddfrnt,” Gerri mumbled as she watched Jenny take more rope, and then tie her upper arms to her side, taking the rope above and below her chest. “Htbbtsdnfrs?”
“She will be allowed to change and then secured in the same way,” Jay said as Jenny tied the rope off, and then fed a small length around the bands under her left arm. As she pulled it tight, Gerri almost screamed into her gag as she wriggled round and I heard her say “Hmgddthss...”
“I know,” Jenny said quietly as she tied the rope to cinch the bands on the other side. “Stand still for a moment, get used to how it feels. You are going to be like this until the morning, so you need to relax and adapt – like us all wearing the corsets today.”
Gerri nodded and then slowly walked over to join us, as Angela came in and started to bind Jenny. She then secured Alicia, before Mrs McPhee returned and bound Angela.
“Now, come with me Rachel,” Mrs McPhee said as she led Rachel out, Jay following a few minutes later as Patty was escorted out. Cassie was next, and then I went into my room with Mrs McPhee.
“Sit on the bed, dear,” she said as she pulled the covers back, and then crossed and tied my ankles tightly together, before she folded the skirt of my nightdress back and tied my legs together below my knees. I lay down and got as comfortable as I could as she tied my ankles to the foot of the bed, and then put the covers over me, tucking me in as Jay came in.
“I need to say how truly sorry I am about this, Suzie,” Jay said in his lovely soft accent. “If I had known you and the girls would be here, I would have changed my plans and picked another date.”
“Sllrrtt,” I mumbled.
“Still – I swore we would not meet again, and here we are. I wish there had been some other way...”
I could tell he meant it, but how would he have known we would be here? So I nodded and tried to say something, that something not coming out in any real way as Mrs McPhee put a pillow under my head. At least when I woke up, this would be over, and we could spend the next day talking about it.
As Jay went out, Mrs McPhee sat in a chair and stroked my head, softly singing
Hush little baby, don’t say a word,
Mama’s going to buy you a mocking bird
And if that mocking bird won’t sing,
Mama’s going to buy you a diamond ring...
My eyes slowly stated to close as I lay on my side, wondering how long it would be before we were discovered and freed...
I was walking along the side of the lake at Holderness Manor, wondering what I was going to do given I was free all day, when I heard a voice calling out “Suzie? Suzie?”
“Yeah, what is it,” I turned to say – but what I heard was “Yhhwwhhtsstt?”
“Suzie, time to wake up.”
As I slowly opened my eyes, I hoped to see a policeman or woman standing there, and Viscount Markson hugging Gerri. Well, I was a bit right – Gerri was there, but so was Mrs McPhee, as Gerri said “I’m sorry Suzie – it’s time to get up.”
“Hgrrtt,” I mumbled as she helped me to sit up, and started to untie my arms. She was already dressed, in a long sleeved dress made of cream silk and with a brown floral pattern on it, with a straw boater tied on her head. The boater had a brown ribbon around the crown, with a matching belt around Gerri’s waist.
As for Mrs McPhee, she still had the balaclava mask on, but today she was wearing a striped dress with a three tier skirt and a jacket effect on the top. The strips were grey, black and blue silk, with a grey border on the edge of each layer of the skirt, and the sleeves opened from the top of the arm to show white sleeves underneath. She also had a matching bonnet tied over her hair.
“When Lady Markson has untied you,” Mrs McPhee said in her soft Scottish voice as I held my hands out for Gerri to uncover, “I want you to go to the bathroom, shower and do what you must, and then come back here. You will be wearing the costumes again all day, but a different one.”
I nodded as Gerri untied my legs, and whispered “I’m sorry,” as she helped me to stand up. I removed my gag, and said “it’s all right, Gerri – I know how this can feel.”
“Go and get washed,” Mrs McPhee said as they left me alone, and I stripped off, putting on a dressing gown and taking my wash bag as I stepped out. The masked man was there, watching as I went into the bathroom and then stood under the shower.
“Suzanne Holderness, how the hell do you keep ending up in these scrapes,” I said to myself as the water washed over me, and then I started to think about the stories Gerri’s dad had told us on the Friday night. “If they can be brave, so can I,” I said to myself as I turned the water off, towelled myself off, and went back to the room.
Looking at the clock, I saw it was twenty past six, but the only thing on the bed was another chemise. Shaking my head, I slipped it over my head, and then looked round.
“Sorry about that, lassie,” Mrs McPhee said as she came in with Gerri and one of the men, placing a pile of white clothes and a dress on the bed, “wait outside please.”
“All right Suzie,” Gerri said with a smile, “I want you to dress yourself as much as possible today. Just do what you did yesterday.”
Nodding, I started by putting on the stockings, and then the drawers before I sat on the bed. I had a pair of white ankle boots to wear today, which I put on and laced up before standing up.
“Now then,” Mrs McPhee said as she handed me the corset, “why don’t you put this on and fasten it at the front, and then Lady Markson here will tighten it for you.”
I nodded as I fastened the hooks at the front, and then took a deep breath as Gerri tightened the laces at the back. It wasn’t as much as a surprise as yesterday, and I had learned how to control my breathing by this point.
“Now then,” Gerri said as she laid the cage on the floor, “I want you to stand in the middle Suzie, bend your knees and pick up the edge, then pull it up to your waist.”
I nodded and did as she asked, realising how much my chest was moving as I breathed. I slowly squatted down, looking to see I had the waist of the cage, and then slowly straightened up, the cage opening around my legs as I did so. I tied the band around my waist, and looked at Gerri.
“Excellent,” she said as she clapped and smiled, “we’ll make a Victorian lady of you yet, Suzie. Now out the first petticoat on over your head.”
She handed me a white lace petticoat, which I put over my head and pulled down, placing it over the cage as best I could, smoothing it down as Mrs McPhee helped behind me. I then put on the second petticoat, which was also white but had a lace trim, while Gerri held the dress up for me to have a look at.
It was made of pink coloured silk, and had buttons running from neck to edge of skirt down the front, as well as pink bows on the skirt. There were also bows at the elbows, where they flared out to reveal white lace sleeves. There was also a lace collar.
I slipped it over my head, and put my arms in the sleeves, while both Gerri and Mrs McPhee made sure the skirt and top were sitting properly. I then put on a pair of white gloves before Gerri handed me a pink bonnet, which I put on before tying the ribbons under my chin.
“Please take Suzie to the dining room,” Mrs McPhee said as she opened the door, “and make sure she is comfortable.”
The masked man nodded as he walked behind me, allowing me to raise my skirts as I walked down the stairs, and then into the dining room. I could hear and smell something in the kitchen, as the man pulled a chair out and waited as I sat properly down, before he tied some rope round my waist to hold me to the chair.
A few moments later, I was surprised to see Angela come in before the others. She was wearing a pale blue dress with white polka dots, and I could see the skirts going under the edge of the cage. She had a black girdle tied round her waist, and a grey bonnet tied on her head with black ribbons under her chin.
“Good morning Suzie,” she said as she sat down and allowed the masked man to tie her waist to the chair, “did you manage to get some sleep?”
“Yeah – a little anyway. Gerri and Mrs McPhee allowed me to dress myself today as much as possible – you?”
Angela nodded as she said “Is it wrong of me to say I actually quite like her?”
“I know – Jay’s nice, but the two of them together I feel much less afraid than I should.”
“Good morning, both of you.”
I smiled as Cassie came in, wearing a white dress with black designs on the border and front, black gloves and a white bonnet. “I guess we’re in for another quiet day,” she said as she sat down and waited for her waist to be tied to the back of the chair.
“Looks that way,” Angela said, “but I wonder how Gerri really feels.”
“Was last night...”
“The first time she has really been tied up and gagged – I think so, yes,” Angela said as Jenny joined us. She had been given a red and brown tartan dress to wear, with a white blouse front and sleeves, and a matching bonnet to wear. As he was tied to the chair, Alicia walked in, wearing a pink dress with a floral print and a pink sash tied in a large bow behind her back.
“So, last night,” Alicia said as she was tied to the chair, “did you all feel...”
“Yes we did,” Cassie said, “which makes me wonder how the Tornadoes feel today...”
“Oh that is unfair!”
We all looked round to see Patty standing in the doorway, a blue hat tied on her head. She was wearing a blue dress with white lace trim, and a bow tied to one side at the front of her waist. The skirt was a little shorter, allowing us to see the bottom of her drawers, and her blue shoes.
“What’s unfair,” I said as she sat down and was tied to the chair.
“You can see my drawers and stockings – why can’t I wear the same sort of dresses as you?”
“Oh wonderful – are we the babies AGAIN?”
We all had to laugh as Rachel came in, wearing a brown dress with white polka dots. She had short puffed sleeves and a layered skirt, with a brown sash and a white hat with a brown ribbon, but the skirt came down below her knees, as she sat down and was tied in place.
“Look at us – you can see our drawers! Why can’t we be dressed like you?”
“Look on the bright side,” I said to them, “at least you don’t have to lift your skirts to climb the stairs.”
“But we’re not babies anymore!”
“No – no you’re not,” Mrs McPhee said as she came in with Gerri, allowing her to take her seat before she tied her waist to the chair, “but you are the youngest.”
“Listen,” Angela said, “when this is over, we’ll find some more adult clothes for you to wear – you’re the same size as some of the adult extras anyway.”
“Ah good,” Jay said as he came in with Mrs Danvers and two of the associates, carrying plates of bacon and eggs and toast in baskets, “”I’m sure you’re all ready for something to eat, so tuck in.” Mrs Danvers was wearing a black knee length dress, but I could see the redness in her eyes as she helped to serve the breakfast.
“How do you feel this morning Gerri,” Angela said as we were pushed into the table, and she started to eat.
“I don’t really know,” Gerri said quietly, “to spend the night unable to move or talk, and...”
“Let me guess,” Angela said quietly, “the ropes around your chest?”
Gerri nodded as we looked at each other – even Patty and Rachel. I guess I had forgotten they were growing up as well, and they must be experiencing the same confusion I felt when they were used on me that weekend.
“I know,” Alicia said, “it’s true for all of us. And we get just as confused as well.”
”Talking of confused,” Jenny said as she looked at the younger girls, “that extra band of silver tape – where did you get that idea from?”
“Err – when we went for the sleepover with Louise that was used on us during a game. We – well, we liked it.”
“I couldn’t believe how quiet it made us,” Gerri said, “but I managed to get a little sleep anyway. So what is going to happen today?”
“I think we’re going to be still and quiet,” Alicia said as she rolled her eyes, and we started to eat our breakfast.
As we were untied from the chairs, Jay said “Follow me girls,” as he led us in a line back to the television room. As we walked in, Gerri groaned as she saw the piles of ropes, tapes and other items.
“All right girls,” Mrs McPhee said, “Jenny and Cassie, I want you to tie Patty and Rachel up and gag them.”
We watched, Gerri especially as both Patty and Rachel allowed Patty’s cousins to cover their hands, bind their wrists together behind their back, and then tie the ropes around their waist and stomach. The gags were then applied, once their bonnet and hat was removed, and then the headgear replaced once matching coloured cloths were tied over their mouths.
“Do we have to have those extra ropes,” Gerri said quietly as both Patty and Rachel had the double chest ropes tied on and cinched.
“It’s not as bad when we’re dressed like this,” I whispered as Mrs McPhee helped Patty and Rachel to sit down, while Alicia and Angela were ordered to bind and gag Cassie and Jenny.
Once they were tied and sitting down, Mrs McPhee and Jay bound and gagged my cousins, leaving me and Gerri.
“I regret to say that today, Lady Markson, you must be as well secured as the others,” Jay said as he looked at me. “Suzie, you will do the honours.”
“All right,” I said to Gerri as I picked up two sponges and handed them to her, “it’s just like last night, so stay calm, keep breathing and adjust as much as you can.”
She nodded and watched as she made fists with her hands, and I covered her fist with tape, before pulling the socks over and taping them to her sleeves. I then crossed her wrists behind her back, and tied them tightly together, before tying the rope around her waist to keep her wrists against her back, and then around her lower arms and stomach.
“Remember – do not exert yourself more than you have to,” she said before I pushed the folded cloth into her mouth, and added layer upon layer to the gag. Once I had tied the cream cloth over her mouth, I tied the chest ropes in place, both above and below.
“I’m sorry, but I have to,” I whispered as I picked up the final two shorter lengths, Gerri nodding and then gasping as I tightened the bands, and then sitting down as Mrs McPhee took two sponges and handed them to me.
A few minutes later, I joined the circle facing the television as Mrs McPhee looked at the others and said “Well?” I giggled as I heard them turn round, and she started to bind our ankles and knees together, lifting and replacing our skirts one at a time.
As she finished with me, she stood up, replacing my skirts before saying “all right, Jay – you may pick the channel.”
“Well, it is Sunday morning, correct,” Jay said as he looked at us. “I am not about to upset your parents even more by having you miss your services, so let us see where we can go today.”
We all looked at each other, Gerri raising another eyebrow as Jay found a channel that was showing a church service. We tuned in just as it was starting, as we looked at each other, and then started to sing along with the first hymn.
“Sssthssrllhpng,” Gerri mumbled as she looked at Angela. She nodded, and they both started to join in as well, our chests rising and falling as we sang along. They had found an Anglican service, but Rachel was quite happy joining in with the rest of us.
Jay and Mrs McPhee, along with some of the masked men, stayed with us as well – and even Mrs Danvers was eventually brought in. She had her upper body tied as tightly as the rest of us, but she simply had tape over her mouth, with something obviously inside under the white layer.
As the service progressed, I realized something, and looking at Cassie I saw she had realised it too. We were actually watching the same channel, and even the same church, as we had when we spent the weekend held hostage before.
The service was based around a passage from Paul’s letters, about how he tried to be all things to all men, which seemed somewhat appropriate, given our particular situation. After all, we were dressed as Victorian girls and women – and we were certainly all the same, all held hostage, all unable to do more than mumble something as we tried to sing along.
The one big blessing was that I could see Gerri relaxing a bit as we sang and prayed. I guess she needed to get used to this just as we all did...
Finally the last song began, and we all sang along.
As the priest gave the blessing, we all turned and said it to each other, both clearly and mumbled, before the congregation were shown coming out of the church.
“Well, that was an interesting service,” Jay said as he stood up. “Now, would you kindly take Mrs Danvers back to the kitchen to prepare lunch?”
The two men with the housekeeper nodded as they helped her to stand up and walk out, while Jay turned and looked at us. “Now, we have a few things to sort out, so you will all stay here for the moment. I’m sure we can find something to amuse you.”
Taking the remote control, he flipped through various channels, before he said “Well now – I think this is entirely appropriate,” and he looked at us. I looked round, Gerri and Angela nodding as they looked back at us.
So as we were left with one of the masked men, we all settled back and watched as the Hooded Claw managed to snare Penelope Pitstop in yet another death trap...
We actually got to watch about half a dozen episodes, cheering when the Ant Hill Mob came along to save the day, booing the despicable villains, and I guess in the case of Rachel and Patty wishing they were Penelope Pitstop herself.
Eventually, however, the door opened, and we turned our heads to see Mrs McPhee come in.
“Well now lassies,” she said as she looked at us, “it’s lunch time. Do ye want to talk or jump?”
Looking at each other, Angela was about to say something when Patty and Rachel shuffled forward, stood up and started to take short hops to the door.
“I think that answers my question,” Mrs McPhee said as she held the door open. One good thing about the way we were dressed and tied was that standing up was easier, and so long as we all took shorter hops and took our time we managed to do this. It wasn’t even as bad with the chest ropes – I mean the top one still rubbed on me, but it was different.
As we came into the room, we stood in a line and waited as our arms were released, and our hands were uncovered. “You may not remove the covering on your mouths until we say so,” Mrs McPhee said, “but take your seats please.”
We looked at each other and then jumped over carefully – very carefully in my case, because I had absolutely no wish to repeat last night as I positioned myself in front of the chair, and made sure my skirts did not fly up this time as I sat down and moved back.
We all waited as we were tied to the chairs again, before Mrs McPhee left and Jay came in. We looked at each other before Mrs Danvers, Mrs McPhee and a masked man brought in the plates and laid them in front of us, and Jay made sure we all had a drink.
Once we all had a plate, Mrs McPhee said “very well, you may remove the mouth coverings.” I reached under my chin, untied my bonnet, and then started to ungag myself. As we removed each layer, Jay and Mrs McPhee collected the materials, putting the cloths to one side and the other material into bags as we slowly managed to allow ourselves to speak again.
“Enjoy your lunch,” she then said as she and Jay took a plate each into the other room, and we all looked at each other.
“How are you coping Gerri,” Angela said as she looked at the older girl.
“I’m coping,” Gerri said quietly as she rubbed her wrists, “mainly because I guess I’m the one learning today. How on earth did you learn how to cope like that?”
“Practice,” Cassie said as she started to eat. “Lots of practice.”
“We’re more used to it,” Alicia said as Jenny nodded, “but we were really worried about you. How are you feeling?”
“Not nearly as scared as I was last night, if truth be told,” Gerri said as she smiled. “I mean, it’s still a bit scary, but I got used to the fact I wasn’t able to move – and once I got used to the fact I couldn’t even talk legibly, I realised it could even be...”
“Well, if it was different – as in we weren’t the hostages of armed robbers – I suppose it would be fun. It certainly was interesting singing along and not understanding a word any of us were saying.”
“Occupational hazard,” Alicia said, “you should have been there the first time it happened to me and Suzie.”
“Oh – what happened that time?”
Alicia held her hand up as she took a drink, and then said “have you ever heard of the Gentlemen Robbers?”
“I’ve read of them,” Gerri said, “did they rob your house?”
“No – the Manor house, but a group of us were there as well – Suzie, Cassie, Jenny and an American friend of mine called Heidi. Well, they didn’t want to do it, but...”
“I cannot tell a lie,” Cassie said as she blushed, “I kinda persuaded one of them – Mister Small – to bind and gag all of us.”
“Weren’t you scared?”
“I was petrified,” Alicia said, “and I blamed Cassie and Jenny for all that. We worked it out in the end, though.”
“With a little help from our grandmothers,” Jenny added with a smile. “Playing tie-up games is something of a family tradition for us, and I guess Alicia and the others as well, even if it was something new to them.”
“Which explains how you all got involved. So the hopping around, the singing?”
“It just happened over time – although if you want the honest truth,” I said, “much of it is down to that weekend Jay held us all hostage.”
“Always a pleasure to spend time with you girls,” Jay said as he and Mrs McPhee came in. “Now then, you will know the drill by now, so finish up, and then I want Patty and Rachel to go to the toilet first.”
“How much longer are you going to be here,” Gerri said as the Tornado Twins had their legs untied, and they were released from the chairs.
“As long as it takes, Lady Markson,” Jay said as Patty and Rachel left with Mrs McPhee. When they came back, I was untied and taken to do what I needed to do, but when I was brought back in, and Cassie was untied, I joined the others in staring at amazement at Rachel, as she was tying the knotted towelling strip into Patty’s mouth.
“There now Lassie,” she said in a fairly good Scottish accent,” now we’ll just cover your head with this tape, and you willnae be scared, will you?”
Patty giggled and shook her head as Rachel wound the tape round, and then the silver tape, before she covered Patty’s mouth with the blue cloth. Mrs McPhee just shook her head as she escorted Cassie out, and Rachel bound Patty’s arms with the double chest ropes.
“What on earth were you doing that for,” I said as I started to cover Rachel’s hands.
“I don’t know – it just came to me to do that,” she said with a little smile as I pulled the socks up over her hands, and then taped them in place, before I started to tie her wrists together.
“Don’t worry no offence was taken,” Jay said with a smile, “but if you don’t mind, I’ll make sure she cannot do the impressions for a little while...”
Once again, we all went through the now familiar routine, as we were all bound and gagged so that all we could do was mumble and nod at each other, our bonnets and caps tied over our heads. Certainly in my case, the ribbons tied tightly under my chin just added to the gag, as if a headscarf had been tied over my head and knotted under my chin.
We walked back through to the television room, waiting as Mrs McPhee bound our ankles and legs, and then watched as Jay Edwards stood in front of us, smiling.
“Now then girls,” he said in that lovely soft voice, “I think you need to do a little exploring this afternoon, so I’m allowing you – with Lady Markson’s permission – to explore the house at your leisure. One of my friends will accompany you at all times, and you can into any room except the private rooms of the family and the housekeeper. If the door is closed, then my friend will open it for you. We’ll give you some time on this floor first, and then we’ll come and help you to go to the first floor.”
Gerri mumbled something like “sffwcldbjkt” and nodded as we all stood up and looked at each other. Gerri indicated with her head one door, and said “thssww.” Alicia, Angela and Jenny all nodded and started to jump after her, while I said “lllgthssww” and started to jump to the door we came in on, followed by Cassie, Patty and Rachel.
It was still the strangest feeling – the ropes rubbing on my upper chest were both nice and irritating as hell, as I had to breathe in and out and my chest moved with each hop, but I also knew how much more difficult it would be without the corset providing some relief underneath.
As we hopped down the corridor, I took the time to look again at some of the paintings hanging on the wall. They seemed to be watching us as we went along, and jumped into what turned out to be the library. Gerri had pointed it out the day before, but we had not had the chance yet to go in and look properly.
I thought the one at my grandparent’s place was big, but this was huge, with three of the four walls lined from floor to ceiling with shelves. There was a smell of old leather, not just from the armchairs but also from the books, as Patty and Rachel jumped around and looked at some of them. Cassie and I made our way over to the large windows that looked out onto the grounds.
I nodded to show I agreed – it was a lovely sunny day, but we were stuck inside, and no way would Jay or Mrs McPhee allow us to go out. I did look at a large aerial photograph hanging on the wall, of the manor house and the grounds, and wondered what some of the other buildings we saw were.
We then went along the corridor, looking into some of the other rooms, but they all seemed fairly ordinary – until the masked man with us opened a door at the end of the corridor, and we all looked in, our eyes opening in amazement.
“Llthcstmsss,” Patty mumbled, as we looked at the racks of costumes in all colours and styles. We hopped along, looking at all of them and wishing, at least in my case, we could touch the fabric, feel the silk and satin.
I looked at one costume in particular – a grey dress with a three tiered skirt and a buttoned front – and wondered how I would look in it...
“Wsshwwrthmm,” I heard Rachel say, and I nodded in agreement as we made our way back out. There, we found Mrs McPhee waiting, as she said “would you like to go upstairs now?”
We all nodded and jumped to the stairs, stopping for a moment and catching our breath while Mrs McPhee untied our ankles. Although we all still had our knees tied, we were practised enough now that, with little steps and Mrs McPhee holding our skirts, we were able to climb the stairs and wait on the top floor with our masked watcher.
We were then shown into a bedroom, where the other four were already waiting. We all sat on the bed as Mrs McPhee re-secured our ankles, and the knees of the older girls, before we split off again, them going right, while we went left.
The rooms went all the way along before the corridor turned, so this time we all took the opportunity to look in each other’s rooms, and see where we had been forced to spend the night in a way we didn’t really mind. We also went into some of the other guest rooms – the one that amazed me the most was furnished in a Tudor style, based on what I had learned in history. There was a genuine four poster bed, with curtains drawn back on the four corners, and an ornately embroidered cover on it. Around the walls were tapestries depicting life at some point, what looked like farming and other things. I made a mental note to ask Gerri about that one before we moved on.
We also went into a room that was like the playroom at Holderness – but this was obviously more of a nursery. The walls were pale blue and pink, and there was a rocking horse as well as some cots and other baby things.
“Wndrrfjrry usdthsrmm,” Cassie said as she looked at me. I was wondering the same thing, as Patty and Rachel used their covered hands to start the rocking horse moving to and fro.
We both then looked at Rachel as she glared at Patty, who was trying to jump away as quickly as she could. Rachel then looked at us, as both Cassie and I said “Hhhhnnn....”
And so began the strangest game of tag I have ever played, as we tried to jump out of each other’s way without running out of breath, even as we had to stop from time to time to steady ourselves. We all had to be it a couple of times, until we realised the other four were watching us from the doorway.
“Dssthlwsshpn,” Gerri said as she looked at Angela.
“Smsmst – spshllewfthm,” she replied as she nodded at Patty and Rachel, and then indicated with her head we were to follow them.
We made our way slowly back to the room by the stairs, and sat down, panting as Mrs McPhee untied our ankles and knees, and we made our way up to the top floor, waiting in what actually looked like a reading room, each of us in chairs as we were re-tied. This time, when we went out, the older girls went left while we went right.
The top floor seemed to have rooms used for a specific purpose – and by the looks of things the private apartments of Mister and Mrs Danvers, because the masked man shook his head when we indicated one door. One was a photographic studio – I guessed Alun used that for some of his work. We didn’t go in there, for fear of disturbing the bottles of chemicals, but the room two doors down we did go into.
It had a large set of windows in the ceiling, but that wasn’t the main thing of interest. That was the large telescope that sat in the middle of the room, a small seat beside it and next to a table with notes scribbled on pieces of paper. I leaned over and looked into the eye piece, but it was too light to see anything.
There was one other room that we went into – an empty room with a music player to one side, and some mats on the floor.
“Cldbb,” I mumbled before we left the room and jumped back. I didn’t realise how much time we had spent just looking round, until I glanced at a clock in the reading room and saw it was nearly six o’clock.
“Time for supper soon I think,” Jay said as he came in, “we’ll untie your ankles and legs, and leave them that way for the meal tonight, so long as you all behave. All right?”
We looked at each other and nodded as we sat down, the men looking elsewhere as our ankles and knees were released, and then we went in single file to the stairs, masked men on each landing as one by one we walked down. We took our time, partly because we were exhausted, but also to make sure we did not stand on the skirts or miss a step, and then waited at the hallway on the ground floor for the others to join us.
We then walked into the dining room, waiting once more as our arms were untied and our hands uncovered, and then taking our seats. By now it was becoming like second nature – we sat down, taking care to make sure our skirts did not reveal anything, save for the drawers and stockings of Patty and Rachel, and then felt the rope as it was tied round our waists, while we sat prim and proper with straight backs.
We all watched as Mrs Danvers and Mrs McPhee brought a trolley in, and placed serving dishes on the table as well as a joint of beef. They then went out and brought out a trolley with sweets on it, before placing plates by the joint and cutlery in front of us.
“Shall I play father,” Jay said with a smile as he carved the joint, Mrs Danvers and Mrs McPhee taking the plates and putting them in front of us as the aroma of the meat filled my nostrils, making me feel really hungry.
“You may remove your bonnets and gags,” Jay said, walking round with the two women and collecting the tape and cloths as we removed them. As we looked at each other, taking a moment to catch our breath, Mrs McPhee said “Would you say Grace please, Angela?”
Angie nodded as we all closed our eyes, and she said “thank you Lord, for this weekend, for being with us all, and providing all we need. Amen.”
We all said “amen” as the vegetables were passed round, Mrs Danvers taking a seat and joining us. As we watched, Jay and Mrs McPhee also put some food on a plate, but as they were about to leave Jenny poured some gravy, put the boat down and looked at them.
“May I ask a question before you go?”
“Of course, Jenny, what is your question?”
“Will you be here when we wake up tomorrow morning?”
They looked at each other, before Jay said “No – this will be the last day of our visit here.”
“Oh thank God.”
I looked over at Gerri, her chest moving as she sighed, and then she said “let’s eat.”
I got stuck in – if you will forgive the phrase – as we all ate the delicious roast dinner. After a few minutes, Gerri said “so how does this end?”
“Well, assuming it is the same as the other times,” Cassie said, “we’ll change for bed, and end up as we did last night. Then, at some point in the night, they’ll just – go.”
“Go. Almost every other time, we’ve woken up in the morning when the police have come in, this time I presume with your father Gerri.”
“So we’ll be tied to the bed, unable to move, unable to speak, until they arrive?”
“I’m afraid so,” Angela said, “like last night – just with a different wake up call.”
She looked round, and said “in the grand scheme of things, it could have been much worse I suppose.”
We all nodded in agreement as we finished the meal, and then Mrs Danvers gave us all some Pavlova with cream, followed by coffee and cakes. I had to admit, I was really full by the end of the meal, as our lead captors came back in.
As we sat and led our food start to digest, Patty went to the toilet first, followed by Rachel, who then had to wait as Jay covered her hands before Patty tied her upper body and gagged her. She then had to allow Jay to cover her hands as Cassie came back in, and as I went out I saw her start to tie Patty up.
And so it went on, until Angela tied Gerri’s arms off to her sides, and we all heard her grunt as the ropes were tightened under her arms. As this was going on, however, there was some light relief, as Patty and Rachel decided to have an impromptu fast walk around the dining table.
I had the distinct feeling, given they seemed to be breathing normally, that given half a chance and nobody watching them they would have run round the table, but – well, we were all watching, as a distraction to what was happening while Mrs McPhee bound and gagged Angela.
“Shall we,” Jay said as we made our way to the large room we had sat in the night before, Mrs McPhee helping us all to sit on the floor facing one of the walls before the men left, and she once more tied our ankles and our legs below our knees, arranging our skirts so that they covered our legs.
Or in the case of the Tornado Twins, covered them as much as possible. I hadn’t noticed the previous night, but now we were all facing the same wall I saw there was another television screen on there – not as big as the one we watched the film or the service on, but big enough.
We all looked at each other as we sat there, separate but facing the same direction, before I heard Angela moan “Hmgddufnddtt.” I turned to look at my oldest cousin, who was bright red – at least in as much as I could see of her face, with the cloth gag and bonnet applied.
“Mrs McPhee found this in Angela’s room last night,” Jay said as he stood in front of us, “while she was securing her for sleep. She showed me it, and I thought it might prove educational for some of you.
He held it up, Patty and Rachel looking through their glasses and then giggling, as I read the hand written cover.
How to bind and gag properly – a tutorial by Angela Bowden.
“Mrs McPhee,” Jay said with a smile, “found this by Angela’s bed while she was been made comfortable last night. I have no idea why she had brought it, but I think it may prove interesting to watch.”
“Especially for you Lady Markson,” Mrs McPhee said as she looked at Gerri. “Of all the girls here, you are the novice, and I wonder if ye might like to see how they do what they do?”
I watched as Gerri nodded as soon as she was asked, and then blushed as she had realised what she had done. We all giggled as Mrs McPhee said “Girls? Some decorum please. Do you have any objections Angela?”
“Nnn,” I heard Angela grunt as I thought about our situation for the moment. Sitting on a carpeted floor, too tightly bound to move, backs straight, and what were we going to watch?
“Good,” she said as she put the DVD in, and we saw Angela, a younger Angela, in a blue skirt and blouse as she looked at the camera.
“Hi there – I’ve been asked a few times now if I can teach some of you how to tie someone up properly, and honestly – I’m getting a little tired of repeating the same thing over and over again. So I’m shooting this film now, to show you both the right way and the wrong way to make sure someone cannot get away. I have three volunteers here to be the first to be bound – Alicia, Jenny and Cassie, say hi to everyone.”
As the camera showed the three of them, we all blushed and shook our heads – as did Patty, Rachel and I as we saw ourselves in our skirts and tops.
“And watching, to see what they should do, are Pippa, Hazel and Claire, as well as Tommy and Brian Hampton, Colin’s cousin.”
“Frndsfurss,” Gerri said as she looked round, the rest of us nodding as I saw two blushes.
Gerri watched, wide eyed as Patty, Rachel and I bound the wrists of Cassie, Alicia and Jenny, with their hands uncovered, and Angela explained why we tied the rope around the waist, and then the ropes around their arms and tummies.
Gerri looked down at herself, especially the extra two bands, but as Angela said “It is possible to add more ropes, but we will discuss that later. For now, I will ask the three volunteers to sit down on the couch here,” she nodded and watched again as the three ‘volunteers’ had their ankles and legs tied.
We all started sniggering at this point, because we knew what was coming, but Gerri was just staring at the screen as Cassie, Jenny and Alicia had their legs secured under Angela’s direction.
“Sthttsswhtslkthsss,” Gerri mumbled as he watched the three girls have their mouths stuffed and covered in sticking plaster.
“Angela is quite right,” Mrs McPhee said, “that covers the three basic principles, but the more layers you add, and the tighter you make them, the quieter you become.”
Angela raised an eyebrow and nodded, while on the screen she said “Now, I need to tell all of you a big secret – move forward a little.” We watched the three captives as Angela said “The thing is, when you have a willing victim like this, bound so that it is difficult to move and unable to speak clearly, it makes one thing a lot easier.”
“Hgddd,” Alicia said, shaking her head as Bobby, Martin and Colin jumped up, blindfolded the three girls and then carried them out of shot of the camera.
“I’m going to presume they are your boyfriends,” Jay said as he looked at them, all three nodding as Gerri laughed under her gag.
The video went on to show Angela’s lessons on the does and don’ts of tying someone’s hands, and gagging them, showing why what they do in films and on television isn’t enough in a very practical way. I have to admit, we all laughed as the young generation – including me, were progressively silenced more and more.
The film then showed Alicia and Jenny with Mary and Cathy, Ali and Jen wearing pinafore dresses over jumpers, the other two in leggings and dungarees.
“I presume they are friends of yours,” Jay said as he looked at Jenny, who nodded as Angela said “Now then, we left this at the reasons for proper gags. Now let’s look at proper use of ropes – the do’s and don’ts, starting with the hands behind the back. Boys, take care of our volunteers.”
“Hehhtthrhbfrdnsbk,” Patty started singing as we watched Bobby, Colin and Martin bind their wrists only, Gerri nodding and then laughing again as they untied each other.
“There you go, now let’s see how to prevent any of that happening...”
“Hhhnwegtttt,” Gerri said as I looked over and saw her trying to move her hands, as the girls on the screen had them secured in the same way, and then bound.
“Good advice,” Mrs McPhee said as Angela explained about the extra bands of ropes, and the business of asking permission. I felt the rope on my own chest, sighing a little as we watched. Gerri was nodding, obviously taking all this in as the video continued.
We all watched as Alicia and Jenny ended up hogtied on the floor, ad caught a glimpse of them been tickled before the camera followed Mary and Cathy, and showed how to go up and down stairs.
“Mstrttht,” Gerri mumbled to herself, and then blushed as she looked round.
As the film ended, Jay smiled and said “well, it has been a long day, and you need to get ready for bed now. As before, one at a time you will go upstairs. Rachel, we start with you.”
We all watched as Rachel had her legs untied and was taken upstairs by Mrs McPhee, followed by Patty, and then Cassie. Eventually, she returned and untied my legs, helping me to walk up the stairs and into my room.
As I went in, I saw Mrs Danvers there, as well as one of the masked men outside the door. She took me into the room, and started to untie me as she said “I think you girls have all been incredibly brave this weekend, and I’ll be sure to tell his Lordship that.”
I nodded as my hands were uncovered, and I removed my dress, handing it to Mrs Danvers as she placed it on the bed. I did the same with the two petticoats, and then unfastened the cage, letting it fall to the floor before I stepped out.
I stood still as Mrs Danvers slackened the laces on the corset, before Mrs McPhee said “you may unfasten and remove the corset now.” As it came off, I took a deep breath through my nose before I handed it over.
“Now then,” Mrs McPhee said, “you may remove the gag, and the rest of your clothing, and prepare for bed. When you are ready, bring your wash bag and your towel to the bathroom, and you will be told what to do.”
I nodded as they left, and I untied the cloth over my mouth, peeling away and removing the layers until I was able to work my mouth and breathe in through it again. I then removed the rest of my clothing, and put on my panties and nightshirt, before I got my toothbrush and towel and left the room.
Two of the masked men were standing by the bathroom door, one of them nodding as he opened the door and let me in. I looked at myself in the mirror, and then started to brush my teeth and wash my face. Was it wrong of me to feel excited about the fact this would soon all be over?
Drying my face, I then stepped out of the room, as one of the men indicated with his head I should follow him. As he walked ahead, I did just that, but instead of my room I was taken into Cassie’s room. She wasn’t there, but I could see the ropes, sponges, tapes and cloths waiting.
I walked over to the window and looked out over the lawn, wishing I had had a chance to explore them more over the weekend, before I heard Cassie say “hey.”
“Hey,” I said as I turned to see her in an identical nightgown to me, Mrs McPhee standing behind her, “what’s going on?”
“Well,” Cassie said as she came in, “I’ve just tied up Patty and gagged her, and now you have to tie me up – full job, full gag, just like last night.”
“Makes sense, I suppose,” I said as Mrs McPhee nodded. Handing Cassie two sponges, I covered her hands and then crossed her wrists behind her back, making sure they were well secured before I took the rope around her waist.
“Yeah, as I was tying Patty up, she told me she had already bound and gagged Rachel. I suppose whoever is waiting in your room will do you, and so on down the line.”
“Probably finishing with Angela,” I said with a shrug as I tied the rope around her lower arms and stomach.
“I’d imagine so,” Cassie said as she twisted round. “I wonder if we’re going to bump into them again?”
“Jay Edwards and Mrs McPhee?”
“Personally, I hope not,” I said quietly as I folded a cloth. “Ready?”
“As I’ll ever be,” Cassie said as I started the process of gagging her, and then picked up the longer lengths of rope, tying them around her arms above and below her chest. As I cinched them with the short lengths under her arms, I noticed her grunting and squirming a bit more than usual, as I said “no offence Mrs McPhee.”
“None taken dear – now Cassie, sit on the bed while Suzie secures your legs.”
I helped Cassie to sit on the bed, crossing and tying her ankles together, as well as her legs below her knees, lifting the skirt of her nightdress back and then replacing it once I had tied the ropes off. I then secured her ankles to the foot of the bed, and helped her to lie down, her head resting on the pillows as I covered her body.
“Would you be so good as to close the curtains, Suzie?”
I walked to the windows and looked out over the sun kissed lawns – it could not be much past eight, and we were going to bed? Anyway, I pulled the curtains over, plunging the room into a gloomy darkness lit only by the light through the door.
“Time to sleep Cassie Craig,” Mrs McPhee whispered quietly as she brushed Cassie’s hair from her face, “when you wake up, this will all be over. Goodnight.”
As she left the room, I said “Good night Cassie,” my friend nodding as I closed the door behind myself.
“We’re going to go to your room now,” Mrs McPhee said to me, “and you will tell the person waiting in there to bind and gag you fully as well.”
I nodded as we went into my room, Jenny standing there in a larger, but identical nightshirt as she said “Suzie – have you seen any of the others?”
“I’ve just been with Cassie,” I said quietly, “she’s fine, but I had to bind and gag her as much as possible. You need to do the same to me now.”
“I figured as much,” Jenny said with a little smile as she picked up two sponges, and handed them to me. “Well, shall we get started?”
“I think they’re making us all take turns,” I said as Jenny covered my hands, and then started it tie my crossed wrists together behind my back. “Cassie told me that she had tied and gagged Patty, and Patty did the same to Rachel.”
“Which means someone will do it to me – Angela or Alicia probably,” Jenny said as she passed the rope around my waist, and locked my wrists against my back, before tying the next band around my stomach. “Still, all things been equal, this is the last night.”
I nodded as she picked up the cloth, folded it and said “We’ll talk in the morning, all right?”
“Yeah, we will,” I said with a smile, before she pushed the cloth in and then added layer after layer of the gag, finishing with a strip of white cloth over my double taped lips.
As she tied the double bands of rope around my chest, I felt them rubbing underneath again, and didn’t know whether to laugh or cry at that feeling. As Jenny tied the ropes under my arms though, and the bands tightened, I gasped and squirmed round again.
“Yeah, I know,” Jenny whispered into my ear, “I’m going to feel the same way.”
“On the bed with you, Suzie,” Mrs McPhee said, so I walked over and sat down, watching as Jenny tied my ankles and legs together, and then secured my ankles to the foot of the bed, before Mrs McPhee put a pillow under my head and then put the cover over me as Jenny closed the curtains. The room was plunged into near darkness as she tucked me in, and it almost felt as if I was safe at home again.
“Now then,” she said in her soft Scottish voice, “this will all be over when you wake up, so be brave, and get as much sleep as you can.”
I nodded as Jenny looked at me, and said “Good night Suzie – I’ll let Alicia or Angela know you’re safe,” before she left the room with Mrs McPhee, the door closing and leaving the room dark. I wriggled around, trying to get comfortable at the same time as those frustrating chest ropes kept rubbing at me, and wondering how I could sleep when it was far too early.
It was the sound of footsteps that woke me up – a lot of footsteps, running up the stairs and along the corridor outside by the sound of things. For a moment, I wondered if I was still dreaming, but then I heard the sound of Viscount Markson calling out “GERALDINE!! MY GOD!!!”
“Check the other bedrooms,” another voice said, and as the bedroom door opened I saw a uniformed policeman staring at me.
“Hllpmmm,” I mumbled as he came forward, pulling the covers back as I heard Gerri say “Hello dad – are you all right?”
“Am I all right? Are you? Are the girls?”
“I think so – but is it over?”
“It’s over,” the officer with me said as he helped me to sit up and started to remove the gag, “we’ll soon have you free and able to talk again.”
Well, I knew it would take a while, but I knew what he meant.
As soon as I had my mouth free, I said “have you found the others?”
“Don’t worry,” the policeman said as he started to untie my arms, “all of your friends are being released now. We’ll get someone to check you over, and ask you a couple of questions, but we really need your parents here.”
“Tricky,” I said as I rubbed my wrists, “we live in Holderness, up north of London. We can tell you what we can, but the DS of the local police station is a family friend.”
“Okay – I’ll tell the sarge downstairs. Right now, go to the toilet and get dressed – we’re bringing everyone down to the morning room.”
I nodded as I ran to the toilet, grabbing first a pair of shorts and a t-shirt, and change in there. When I came out, the policeman took me down to what was actually the TV room, Cassie coming over and hugging me as Jenny and Alicia sat in a chair.
“Angie is helping with Rachel and Patty,” Alicia said in answer to my unasked question, while the door opened and Gerri came in with her father. He was still wearing the clothes he had left in – minus the jacket and tie – while Gerri was wearing a pair of grey leggings and a blue top.
“Gerri has told me something of what happened this weekend,” he said as he looked at us, and Gerri sat down. “Allow me to say that your grandfathers will be, or would be, very proud of you.”
“Hey,” Patty said as she and Rachel came in with Angela, “are we all here?” She then looked over and went very quiet as she said “Sorry, Your Lordship...”
“You know what? Given the circumstances, call me Uncle Geoff,” he said with a smile. “After all, we’ve been through this together, haven’t we? Now, Gerri has told me...”
“Forgive me, your lordship,” the police officer said as he came in, “but we need to speak to the girls.”
“May I sit with these two,” Angela said as she looked at Patty and Rachel, “I can act as the responsible adult.”
The officer nodded as Angela took their hands, and Mrs Danvers came in, wearing a polo shirt and leggings.
“Oh thank the lord you’re all right,” she said as she came over and hugged both of them. “When did they go?”
“We don’t know – I was left alone at just after midnight, and managed to raise the alarm at about three this morning,” Uncle Geoff said. “As soon as the police came to me, they brought me here, and we found you.”
“That’s how they work,” Jenny said, “disappear in the middle of the night, once they have what they want.”
“But they didn’t hurt you?”
“Well, apart from the fact we were all tied up and gagged most of yesterday and Saturday – no, not really,” Gerri said quietly. I could see something was bothering her, but decided this wasn’t the moment to say anything.
“Miss Alicia, they left your mobile phones in my room, but I was never able to retrieve them.” Mrs Danvers handed Alicia her phone, and as she looked at it she said “Your Lor... Sorry, Uncle Geoff, Grandfather was trying to contact me. Apparently Mister Bridges cannot get here until later tonight. Would it be possible for him and us to stay tonight and leave early tomorrow morning?”
“I think so,” he said with a smile, “we have a few things to talk about. I’ll call him later – do you want me to tell him what happened?”
“No – I don’t want him to be worried. We’ll tell him when we see him. Chances are the papers will have the story by then anyway.”
It took a while for the police to talk to all of us, so Mrs Danvers prepared a late breakfast and we all sat together to eat it. I had to say, it felt really strange after the previous two days to just be sitting in the chair, eating, drinking, and breathing normally.
“Once again, girls, I have to apologize for what happened,” Uncle Geoff said as he drank some coffee. “The one thought all the time I was away was that you had to be kept safe, so I had to go along with what they told me. At least today I can do something to make up for it.”
“IT’s all right, sir,” Angela said, “the girls have all met him at least once before, and somehow – we knew we would be safe with him and the others.”
“Especially that Mrs McPhee,” Patty said, “she could make anyone sleep with that voice of hers...”
“Honestly,” Alicia said, “you have nothing to apologise for. It was a different weekend, true, but we saw the finished film and really liked it.”
“Yes – I need to call Alun and your mother Geraldine,” Uncle Geoff said as he wiped his chin, “and let them know what has happened. They should be back in time for dinner tonight...”
As I looked at Gerri, I could see she was staring straight ahead, and not eating or drinking. I could see Angela looking at her as well, as she nodded and said “Gerri – remember yesterday, we promised if there was a chance we’d let Patty and Rachel wear some of the adult costumes?”
“Hmmm – yes, yes we did,” Gerri said as she looked over.
“Well, if your father has no objections, why don’t we all dress up again today?”
“Sounds like a plan – I’ll see you later,” Uncle Geoff said as he left the room. As the door closed, Gerri said “why don’t we – in fact, we could even see if...”
“Yes,” Cassie said with a smile.
“Well, we could use some of the ropes, see if it feels any different when it is for fun?”
“We can talk about that later,” Angela said as she looked at us. “Have any of you had a shower yet?”
We all shook our heads as she said “Well, go and shower, and we’ll bring a costume up to your rooms.”
“Mrs Danvers and I will take care of that,” Gerri said with a broad smile, “finish your breakfast and then go up.”
A short while later, I was sitting in my room, wearing a bath robe as I dried my hair, and wondering what costume I would get to wear that day. I was really looking forward to this – even the corset, if only to feel what it was like just to spend the day in such clothes.
“Here you are,” Mrs Danvers said as she and Gerri came in and laid a costume on the bed, as well as the other garments, “I will be along to help in a few minutes.”
As I looked at the dress, a broad grin spread over my face before I took off the bathrobe and pulled the chemise over my head. For a moment, I wondered about putting on my panties as well, in case I flipped over again – but then I remembered the small matter of personal comfort, and skipped that, pulling the drawers on instead, tucking the chemise in. Sitting on the bed, I pulled on the stockings and fastened the grey ankle boots onto my feet.
Which meant it was time for the corset. Picking it up, I put it round myself and fastened it at the front, then decided to try and tighten the laces at the back myself. I tried to reach round, but without the help of a pair of mirrors I soon realised it was next to impossible. So I picked up my mobile phone and played a couple of rounds of Kandy Krush instead.
When Mrs Danvers came in, she said “let me lace the corset for you, Miss Suzanne. I’m taking care of all of you, and it’s taking a little longer than expected.”
“That’s all right,” I said as I stood up, and she started to tighten the corset round me, “how are you feeling, Mrs Danvers?”
“Relieved that it is all over,” she said quietly, “I did not spend all day bound and gagged like the rest of you, but when I was that was bad enough – and I was watched the whole time.”
“I understand – have you spoken yet to Mister Danvers.”
“I have – and I look forward to seeing him,” she said as I caught my breath, and she tied the laces off. “If you will excuse me?”
“Of course,” I said as she went out, and I placed the cage on the floor, standing in the middle and squatting down until I pulled it up and fastened it round my waist. Looking at myself in the mirror, I then grabbed the first petticoat and put it over my head, looking in the mirror and turning round to make sure it was down all round, before the second petticoat went on.
“Well, I get to wear you after all,” I said as I picked up the grey dress and put it over my head, the skirt falling over the petticoats as I pushed my arms into the white sleeves, before fastening the buttons at the front. Turning round again in front of the mirror, I smiled at the way the skirt moved, before putting on the white gloves and tying the grey bonnet over my head.
Walking out of the room, I headed carefully down the stairs and into the morning room, smiling as I saw Cassie and Jenny there. Cassie was wearing a pale lilac dress with big sleeves, the darker lilac underskirt reaching the floor, and a little bow at the front of her waist, as well as a small bonnet on her head.
As for Jenny, she was wearing an off-white dress with horizontal pink candy stripes, a small floral bow at her chest. She was wearing pink gloves and a straw boater with a black band round it.
“Well,” Suzie said as I joined them, “it does feel good to move without the ropes, I will say that.”
“And to be able to talk,” Alicia said as she came in, adjusting her own white gloves. Her dress was made of a deep purple silk, and had a frilled edge to the skirt, while her matching bonnet covered her hair. “In fact, we make quite the sophisticated young Victorian ladies, do we not?”
“We do indeed,” Jenny said with a laugh as we waited to see who would come in next.
“Why Miss Rigg, how perfectly wonderful to see you today.”
“And may I return the compliment, Miss Pickering, you look simply divine today.”
“Guess that answers our question,” Cassie said as Rachel and Patty came in, this time wearing adult clothes that covered their feet. Patty’s dress was a patterned grey material, cut to look like it had a jacket, and a shorter skirt over the full one. There was a green tinge to the hems and cuffs, complimented by the large green ribbon that she used to tie her bonnet to her hair.
As for Rachel, her dress had blue and white vertical stripes, the white containing a rose pattern on them. There was a black lace trim, with a white cuff underneath on the sleeves, and a large bow on the left side of the skirt. A large blue and white ribbon kept her bonnet on her head, while both were wearing white gloves.
“Well, they have grown up haven’t they,” Cassie said.
“Oh – why,” I replied in an innocent tone.
“Because their ankles have finally disappeared,” Cassie laughed, the two younger girls sticking their tongues out as they practised walking round the room.
“All right, stop teasing them,” Angela said as she came in, wearing a grey checked dress with blue cuffs and edging on the skirt. Her straw hat had a black ribbon as well, and there were buttons at the front of the dress. “Well, does everyone feel better now?”
“I have to say, I certainly do,” Gerri said as she came in, tying the purple silk ribbon of her bonnet under her chin. The purple was the same shade as her dress, which had straps at the front and the sleeves, as well as the bottom of the skirt, and white lace cuffs.
“In fact, I would like to propose we do the thing we could not do for the last two days, and I would most love to have done – go for a picnic in the grounds. It is a lovely day, and I think it will be fun.”
“Sounds good to me,” Angela said as she looked at us. “No mobile phones girls – leave them all here.”
“Follow me then,” Gerri said as we went into the kitchen, each of us in turn picking up one of the six picnic baskets while Patty and Rachel got off scott free – again. We then went down the grounds, as Gerri told us more about who had designed the grounds, and when some of the trees had been planted. She certainly seemed a lot happier than earlier, as we listened to her explaining things before we went through a group of trees, and into a clearing.
“Here will do nicely,” she said as she looked round. “Suzie, can you and Alicia put your baskets to one side over there, and we will set out the picnic.”
We looked at each other and shrugged as we did so, while Angela helped Gerri to lay a large blanket on the ground. Alicia and Jenny then helped them to lay the food and drink out from three of the other baskets, as Rachel and Patty walked round the clearing. We then took the plates, cutlery and cups out from the last basket, before we all sat on the grass round the blanket and started to eat.
I have to say, after the excitement of the last two days, it was a pleasure just to be able to sit, and eat, and drink, and just talk about things. I can’t even remember all we did talk about – although Angela and Alicia did talk about the fact they were going to fly over and stay with Sarah and Brian in a few days time.
Eventually, Gerri said “can we clear the rubbish and plates away, and then just enjoy the sun for a short while?”
We all nodded and helped to clear up, as Gerri watched, and then she said something else.
“Can you tie me up?”
“Are you sure,” Angela said as she looked at her young friend, smiling as Gerri nodded and said “yeah – it’s something I need to do.”
“All right then,” Angela said as she took some straws and spilt one, “we’ll draw lots and see who gets the honour. Take a straw, girls.”
We all came over and took one from her gloved hand, Cassie saying “damn” as she saw the split straw in my hand. Smiling, Gerri said “You’ll find what you need in the basket there Suzie.”
Opening the basket, I took out a length of rope and doubled it over, kneeling behind Gerri on the grass as I moved her arms behind her back and crossed her wrists.
“So you’re not going to cover my hands,” Gerri said as I pulled the ropes around her arms and tied her wrists together, making sure I passed the rope around and between her wrists and keeping in neat on the cuffs of her gown.
“No need,” Angela said as she sat next to Gerri. “We cover the hands if there are two or more of us, because then it makes it next to impossible to untie each other. Remember what you saw on the DVD?”
“Oh yeah,” Gerri said, nodding as I tied the wrists rope off, and then passed another length of rope around her waist, making sure her wrists were held firmly against the small of her back and passing the rope between her arms and body as well.
As I tied the next band of rope, around her stomach and lower arms, I said “Is it all right so far Gerri?”
“Yeah – it’s actually a lot nicer than the last couple of days,” Gerri said with a smile, as I made sure the stomach rope was cinched between her arms and body. Looking at Angela, I raised an eyebrow, Angela nodding as she said “Gerri, do you want the other ropes as well?”
“Yes,” Gerri said as I took another length of rope, and started to tie her upper arms to her body below her chest, and then around her shoulders. I heard her gasp as I tied the shorter lengths of rope under her arms.
“Still all right?”
“Yes, thanks you Suzie,” Gerri said, “so have you enjoyed wearing the outfits.”
“I’ve loved it,” I said quietly, “although it does rankle a little that I needed help to get dressed, particularly the corset. I wish there was a way I could do those laces myself...”
“Well, it is possible,” Gerri said as she wriggled round, looking at her body, “but it takes practise. Want to know how I learned?”
“Yeah – how?”
“YouTube – look around and you’ll find some how to tutorials. Just do me a favour? Get your mum or dad to look first –just in case.”
I nodded as I said “do you want your legs tied?”
“No – not yet anyway,” Gerri said, “I’d like to walk round a while, enjoy the afternoon. Can you and Angela help me up?”
We both helped Gerri to stand up as she looked round, and said “well, feel free to run around if you want?”
“Tag – you’re it,” Patty said as she tapped Rachel and ran off, Rachel following as I looked at Cassie.
“Oh well – we haven’t run around that much, have we,” she said as we both picked up our skirts and ran after them, laughing as I did so. It actually felt really good to do that, and it was good to be able to breathe through my mouth as I moved round. Yeah, I wasn’t as fast as I was in everyday clothes or in PE kit, but it was still good.
I could hear the others talking as we ran deeper into the woods, playing tag and taking turns at being it, before we came out into a little clearing in the trees. Looking down, I could see that a bit of the grass was uneven, with a slightly darker edge around it.
“Hey, take a look,” I said as the others came over, “what do you think happened here?”
“Looks like something has been dug over and turfed,” Cassie said as she looked at it, “Mr Danvers must have removed a plant or something?”
“Yeah, I see what you mean,” I said as I looked at it, “Mister Boyle did something similar with our lawn recently.”
“Nah,” Patty said, “there must have been buried treasure here. Maybe some treasure seekers came onto the grounds while we were all locked in the house!”
“Maybe there’s a big dark secret buried under there,” Rachel added with a giggle. We looked at each other, and then burst out laughing as we realised how stupid the idea was.
“Come on,” Cassie said, “if they really had treasure, it would be hidden in a secret room in the manor house, probably in the cellar.”
“But we know there isn’t a treasure – Gerri and her dad told us that,” I said as I wiped a tear away from my eye. “Come on – let’s see what the others are up to.”
When we got back to the picnic site, I saw that Gerri now had a purple silk scarf tied round her head, covering her mouth as she sat on the blanket with her skirt covering her legs. Angela, Alicia and Jenny were sitting round her, and it sounded as if they were telling her about some of the other times we had been held hostage.
“Anyway, we came into the room on the Sunday morning, and – ah there you are girls,” Alicia said as she looked at us, “Want a drink?”
“Please,” I said as we went to the picnic basket and took some cartons of juice, handing them round.
“Hwddulkthgrnds,” Gerri said, and from the look in her eyes, even under her bonnet, I could see she was a lot happier than the last couple of days.
“They’re wonderful,” Cassie said as Patty looked at Gerri.
“Angela,” Patty said quietly, “would it be possible for me to be tied and gagged as well.”
“Sorry,” she said quietly, “Gerri only bought enough material for one person. I’d much rather you had a bit more time to explore the grounds.”
“Was that a not so subtle hint?”
“Why yes, yes it was,” Jenny said, Cassie taking the hint as she said “Come on – let’s see what else we can find in here.”
As we walked round, we found a number of paths through the trees, taking time to look up at all the birds and squirrels that had made their home in the trees. It reminded me a lot of the woods behind Wissenden Hall, although we couldn’t find a lake or a pond. We also had to keep our skirts lifted – not because the ground was damp, but because it was a bit uneven, and we were all afraid if we tripped over, we’d show something else.
Eventually, we made our way back to see Angela removing Gerri’s bonnet, and Alicia untying the purple silk scarf. As it was removed, I don’t think any of us were surprised to see the silver band of tape sitting over the wider white one. Gerri looked at us and nodded as Jenny carefully unwrapped the silver tape, putting it in a bag before she removed the white tape, and we saw the strip of towel between her teeth, tied tightly round her head.
“Bwffuinemnt,” she mumbled as Angela untied the cleave gag, the knot soaking wet as it was eased from her mouth, before she was helped by Alicia to take the folded cloth out of her mouth. “It’s about time we headed back to the manor house,” Gerri said as Jenny folded her skirts back and started to untie her ankles and legs. “I’d appreciate it if this stayed our little secret for now.”
We all nodded as Angela and Alicia untied her arms, and then packed the ropes and other material way as Gerri stood up. Cassie and I picked up the blanket and folded it, putting it away as we all took a basket and started to walk back to the lawns.
As we walked up to the house, we saw Mrs Danvers looking out for us.
“Ah there you are,” she said as we came closer, “Mr Bridges has arrived, and was wondering if he could meet with the girls before they have dinner.”
“Of course – let us put these baskets in the kitchen first, and then they can go and talk to him. Where is he, Mrs Danvers?”
“In the kitchen.”
“Well, deal with two things at once,” Gerri said with a smile as we went in, seeing Mr Bridges as he was sitting at the table drinking some coffee. He looked at us as we came in, raising an eyebrow before he put his mug down and stood up. “My apologies, ladies,” he said with a bow, “my manners were most unbecoming.”
“It’s all right Mister Bridges,” Angela said, “we were just having a fun day.”
“I’ll take this one to my room, Mrs Danvers,” Gerri said as she took one basket and left the kitchen, Mister Bridges saying “My apologies that I could not get here before now, Miss Angela, but a matter arose at the Manor House which I was required to assist with.” Looking at all of us, he said “Have you all enjoyed your stay?”
We looked at each other, as it dawned on us that he didn’t know what had happened over the weekend. “Yes, we did,” Alicia eventually said as she looked at all of us, “we had a great time, but we are looking forward to getting home.”
“Well,” Mr Bridges said as he stood up, “I am sure your parents are looking forward to your return as well.”
“Dinner will be in an hour girls,” Mrs Danvers said as she came back in, “and His Lordship has said you should remain in your outfits until after the meal. You may wish to wash up however.”
“Good idea,” Angela said as she looked at us, “we shall go upstairs and do that right away. Ladies?”
We all nodded as we walked down the hallway and up the stairs to our own bedrooms. As I removed my bonnet and gloves, and placed them on the bed, I wondered just what Mum and Dad would say when I got back – they must know by now.
And Bobby – Oh lord what was he going to say?
“Well, you have an early start tomorrow,” Viscount Markson said as he sat sipping his coffee, “I suggest you all get an early night. Mrs Danvers, will you help them to get ready?”
“Of course, sir – if you girls will wait in your rooms,” she said as she cleared the table, all seven of us standing and giving a little curtsey as we did so, before we went up to our rooms.
As I stood in mine, I took one last look at myself in the mirror. It had been a memorable weekend – even if for the wrong reasons – and I sighed as I unbuttoned the dress and lifted to over my head, laying it down as I took the petticoats off, and then unfastened the cage as it fell to the floor.
“Allow me, Miss Suzanne,” Mrs Danvers said as she came in, and unlaced the corset, waiting as I unfastened the front and let her take it. Taking a deep breath, I said “thank you Mrs Danvers – for everything.”
“No, thank you, Miss Suzanne,” she said with a smile as she closed the door, and I stripped off, putting on for only the second night my pyjamas before I got under the covers.
I must have fallen asleep really quickly, although at one point I thought I heard a woman say “Geoffrey – are you both all right” and footsteps outside.
That could have been a dream, though – the next thing I knew was Mrs Danvers waking me, and saying “It’s time to get up Miss Suzanne – you will be leaving at sunrise, and you need to get ready.”
I nodded and made my way to the shower, coming back and putting on my underwear, a pair of jeans and a blue polo shirt, and some sneakers, before I put my washbag and pyjamas into my case and closed it, before I made my way downstairs and into the main living room.
“Hey,” Cassie said as she looked at me, “how are you this morning?”
“Tell you when I wake up,” I said quietly as one by one the others joined us, Mrs Danvers bringing our bags down and placing them inside as we did so. Patty and Rachel just sat in chairs, trying to stay awake as Mr Bridges came in and started to carry our bags outside.
Looking at my watch, I saw it was about half five, and it was still dark outside, but I guessed the sun would start coming up soon.
As he took the last bags out, Viscount Markson came in, wearing a dressing gown over his pyjamas, and then was joined by Gerri, wearing a blue nightdress that came down to her knees.
“We wanted to make sure you got safely away,” Viscount Markson said as he looked at us, “and I wanted again to apologise for all you went through this weekend. I have told Lucinda and Desmond, and I am sure they will be waiting to greet you with open arms.”
“And I wanted to say thank you for yesterday,” Gerri said, “and the chance to talk things over. It has really helped.”
“We hope to visit Holderness soon,” Viscount Markson said as Mr Bridges came back in, “and we can talk then as well.”
“Forgive me Your Lordship, but...”
“Of course – safe journey girls,” he said as we walked out, Gerri hugging Angela and saying “I’ll call you later,” before we all walked outside and got in the car. Strapping ourselves in, we waited for Mr Bridges to start the car and drive off before we waved at our hosts, the three of them standing outside as we headed down the avenue to the main road.
Looking to the east, I saw a yellow light start to appear, even as I stretched and yawned. I could see Patty and Rachel were already asleep, and as I closed my own eyes I knew I was going to miss Markson Manor, and the fun there...