Sunday, September 6, 2009

Poor Girl by Elizabeth Taylor

 'Miss Chasty's first pupil was a flirtatious little boy'. Florence Chasty is a young governess, employed by Mr and Mrs Wilson to instruct their seven year-old son, Hilary. She is pleased at how easily he learns but is uneasy with his precociousness. He makes bold statements and will lean towards Miss Chasty, close enough that his breath moves tendrils of her hair about her face. One late afternoon, Miss Chasty enters the schoolroom to discover Hilary sitting at the window-seat, staring out over the park. There is a heavy fragrance floating in the air and no explanation as to where it came from. Tea is poured as Mrs Wilson comes into the schoolroom to observe lessons. The governess is startled by the sudden appearance of a red stain on her teacup where her lips had been and in shame, Miss Chasty turns the cup so it is hidden. The scene has not gone unnoticed by the lady of the house. In disgust, Mrs Wilson seeks out her husband. But how to explain her unease with this woman without arousing her husband's interest in the governess? There has been indiscretions with female staff in the past. A discussion takes place and it's decided that Mr Wilson will observe the situation for himself and most assuredly it will all come to nothing. Hilary is not at all pleased at having to share his dear girl, Florence as the impertinent lad calls her. You know where this is heading... 'She felt in herself a sense of burning impatience and anticipation and watching the door opening found herself thinking: 'If it is not he, I cannot bear it.' Now this is where I found things to get a bit icky... 'When he kissed her, she felt an enormous sense of disappointment, almost as if he were the wrong person embracing her in the dark. His arch masterfulness merely bored her. 'A long wait for so little, ' she thought. When Florence Chasty is alone in her room, she is mystified and anguished by her own behaviour. Lately, when she is in the schoolroom it's like she becomes another person. After an unsettling event, the governess is sent packing but as she passes the schoolroom in the hallway she experiences a ghostly glimpse into the future. Miss Chasty slowly comes to a realization that there are things beyond her power at work in this house. She can now feel at peace.

9 comments:

  1. Creepy children and governesses... very Turn of the Screw! Sounds intriguing.

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  2. This is reminiscent of Turn of the Screw! Very strange indeed...

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  3. I am always on the lookout for short stories...I will have to check this one out.

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  4. Strange and creepy...as everyone else has said, very Turn of the Screw! I shall have to seek this one out!

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  5. Now that sounds wonderful. I am now inspired to go up into the loft to dig out my Virago ghost story anthologies!

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  6. Paperback Reader, Exceedingly creepy...shivers!

    JoAnn, I've seen the DVD but never read the book. Perhaps I should!

    Book Psmith, This whole collection was a great buy. I have a new found love for short stories.

    Rachel, I'd like to keep my eye out for a collection of Elizabeth Taylor's short stories. She's wonderful!

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  7. fleurfisher, Tis the season! I'd also really like a peek if you decided to post about it at some point.

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  8. As everyone else has mentioned--very Turn of the Screw! Why are ghost stories involving children even so creepy? I wonder if this story is in one of my collections I have by ET--must check it out!

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  9. Danielle, If you do end up owning it and reading it at some point, I'd be interested to know your take on Miss Chasty's relationship with her charge, Hilary.

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