I'm so enjoying your stories that if you don't mind I have also attempted a little version of my own ... just for fun!
The wrong gift
"Bonjour les filles" said Mademoiselle Richelieu as she bustled into the grey classroom, the girls turned around to their desks and sat down quietly. "Your attention please. As you know we have the governors of the school visiting today, and we want to make the very best impression. They will be here this afternoon, most likely during your embroidery lesson. Each one of you must be sure to have their hair straight, and clean hands while doing the needlework. The Head Governess is called Madame Marie Bonpoint. Should she speak to any one of you then stand up, curtsey slightly and answer clearly. Don't forget to say Bonjour Madame"
Antoinette and Justine sighed at the back of the class. So that was why they had had to do this embroidery project. Normally the sewing lesson was considered as time out, they just sat in small groups chatting, with the same sampler in their hands since the beginning of the year. This had been different. The whole class of ten girls had had to sew and embroider rather old fashioned nightdresses that were far too big for the girls themselves. Then they all had to embroider them with the same initials. MB.
"Oh non" gasped Justine. "Did you just hear what the head governess' name is?"
"Oui, enfin non," replied Antoinette. " I wasn't really paying attention"
"Her name's Marie Bonpoint, get it ? M B !!"
"Oh non, c'est pas vrai, it's for her we're doing all this sewing, my sore fingers just for her!"
A slight figure appeared in front of their desks. "C'est vrai Justine " said Mademoiselle Richelieu. "I know this sewing project hasn't been to everyone's taste, but you have to understand how important it is that we stay in our governors' favour. A young ladies' boarding school like this is an expensive place to run. Were it not for the generosity of Madame Bonpoint, it is not sure that we could stay open, and then where would you all be?"
The girls glanced at each other. They knew this was no joke. In between wars, times were hard and a good education was a luxury that not everyone was lucky enough to enjoy.
"Alors, as I was about to say before Justine felt compelled to speak. These chemises that you have been sewing with such care, if not enthusiasm, are destined to be a gift from this class to Madame Bonpoint"
"Oh la la! she must be enormous, look at the size of this chemise!" Antoinette held up the linen nightshirt she was working on, all the girls laughed.
"Du calme les filles!" Mademoiselle Richelieu clapped her hands loudly. "I haven't seen Madame Bonpoint for several years but I remember her as being a little 'ronde', and I know that she enjoys the services of an excellent cook, so I preferred to cut the chemises slightly larger, for fear of vexing her with garments she could not possibly fit in to. I also happen to know that since her parents passed away she lives a simple life alone, and does not care for fancy clothing. Now if you have all finished your embroidery, let us make her a beautiful gift package to open when she arrives."
Although they had nothing but plain brown paper and string, the class buzzed happily as they prepared the parcel. Just as they finished there was a knock at the door.
The headmistress walked in "Mademoiselle Richelieu, I hope your class is ready to receive our guest. You mentioned a gift, is it here?"
"Oh oui Madame," beamed the teacher, "all wrapped and ready. We are so looking forward to her opening it"
The headmistress lowered her voice and confided to the teacher, " I think you may find it hard to recognise Madame Bonpoint. She has changed a great deal. She is accompanied by her fiancé, a fine man somewhat younger than herself. I do believe this younger company has done her the world of good, she is magnifique!".
Poor Mademoiselle Richelieu just had time to start to say "Changed, b-but in what way .... ?" when in to the class swept a vision of elegance. The girls gasped, the teacher paled a little.
"Bonjour les enfants," the beautiful woman smiled at the children. There was silence, the girls looked confused. Madame Bonpoint was slim, with long chestnut hair pile up in an elegant braid to the back of her head. She wore an exquisite dress of deep blue satin. From her cuffs and collar protruded rich lace trimmings. Madamoiselle Richelieu's jaw dropped. She glanced at the gift wrapped packet, heavy, square and cumbersome and she became paler still.
"Mais alors les filles, on vous a dit bonjour!" shrilled the headmistress. Her sharp voice brought the girls back down to ground "Bonjour Madame", they chanted in unison.
The headmistress and the head governess turned towards the teacher, an air of expectancy on their faces. Poor Mademoiselle Richelieu appeared to have turned to stone. The headmistress coughed discreetly, "Mademoiselle" a pause " you have something for our guest I believe"
"Do I?" the teacher resembled a frightened rabbit caught in a bright spotlight, too scared to move.
With a discreet jerk of her chin the headmistress pointed to the packet. The teacher looked ill. "Ah non, enfin, je ne suis pas sur ...."
Before she had time to remove the packet or explain the contents, Madame Bonpoint lifted it from the table turned first to the girls "Vous êtes trop gentilles, merci beaucoup" and then to her fiancé, inviting him to help her open the paper wrapping.
The young man deftly snapped the string tie and with a grand gesture revealed the contents.
There was an instant and stunned silence. Madame Bonpoint glanced at her young man and quickly hid the plain undergarments from his view. She turned on her heels, threw a withering look at the teacher and exited the classroom with a stammering headmistress close behind her. The fiancé followed, a bemused look on his young face.
The last that was seen of Madame Bonpoint were the heels of her shiny leather shoes as she strutted out of the school gate .
That same school gate closed for ever a short while afterwards. The girls sent home to their respective families bearing a note explaining that due to lack of financial support the establishment had no choice but to close.
In a dark cupboard at the back of a shuttered classroom lay hidden a pile of ten monogrammed chemises, never to be worn.