Published in Six Common Things, November 1893
(First read 06/10/2014)
In this little sketchy-storyish thing EFB makes one of his exceedingly rare forays into that Other World of servants. Still, he doesn't go too far beyond the green baize door ~ the eponymous 'heroine' is a governess ~ and he certainly doesn't commit the folly of trying to inhabit her head. Instead he paints his portrait through the eyes of a young(?) gent staying at the house where Miss H has just started work. And, if truth be told, his tale is as much about his and another guest's treatment of her than about the governess herself. When Miss Huntingford accidentally breaks a wine glass at lunch, our Unnamed Narrator gallantly takes the flak for her by saying that he did it. This is spotted by his vis-à-vis who just happens to be Society Cat No. 1¹, a certain Miss Grantham²:
She had a morbid craving for small scenes, which made other people rather uncomfortable. [... She spoke] with an infernal sweetness of manner, unable to deny herself the pleasure of making a scene even at the expense of a governess.So this proto-hag, whose type we'll meet countless more times in the Benson œuvre over the next four and a half decades, gets her petty, pointless rapier thrusts in at both Miss H and our gent, mainly the latter. But have no fear, Unnamed Narrator gets his revenge ~ and the beauty of it is that he ~ literally ~ doesn't lift a finger to do so.
A tiny gem in the rough. It's available online here.
For the return of Miss Grantham (now de-clawed) go to The Defeat of Lady Grantham.
¹ I mean 'Society Cat No. 1 after Dodo'.
² No relation, one hopes.