Mrs. & Mr. Hardcastle were perplexed and frustrated in equal measures. It was already dark outside, and they could not carry on this process for too long. They HAD to arrive upon a decision, and soon.
When they had advertised for the post of a Governess for their five year old son Timothy, they had no idea what the search would entail. This was the third full day that they had been taking interviews, but had yet to find what they were looking for- a Governess straight out of Mary Poppins or The Sound of Music, one who would be gentle yet firm, and look after the kid like her own. “Please send the last one in, maybe she will break the jinx,” Mr. Hardcastle told his Secretary Ms. Lambeth, his voice clearly betraying his own lack of belief in that statement.
And it was then that she entered. “Mrs. Wheaton at your service Ma’am, Sir,” the 35-year old lady who had just entered introduced herself. She was dressed in a white top and long black skirt, with a scarf covering her head smartly. They looked at her and their faces lit up. She was grace and poise personified, just like the one they were looking for.
With renewed hope in their hearts, they started the interview. Mrs. Wheaton had an answer for their every question, and even for those that they had not thought to ask. Plus she had come with excellent references, from People Like Us, as Mrs. Hardcastle told her husband later that night. Everything was more than satisfactory, so they now asked her their final question.
“Our son Timothy, ” said Mrs. Hardcastle hesitatingly, “is a bit headstrong and stubborn. If he sets his mind on something, he does not listen to even us. But we are strictly against corporal punishment of any kind, as he is our only child. How will you ensure that he listens to you?”
Mrs. Wheaton smiled gently and asked, “How old is young Timothy exactly?” “Five years,” replied the parents in unison. “Aah, so the same age as my Andy,” remarked Mrs.Wheaton, “Do not worry Mrs. & Mr. Hardcastle, I have raised my Andy to this age without touching him even once, except to feed him or pet him of course. And he’s grown to become so mild-mannered and gentle. Your Timothy will learn to do things that are good for him, and I promise you that I will not touch him or punish him in any manner.”
Mrs. & Mr. Hardcastle looked at each other and beamed, they had finally found THE ONE.
The next morning, Mrs. Wheaton arrived with a smart leather bag slung on one shoulder, looking more like a Page-3 socialite than a mere Governess. Seeing her like this further reaffirmed the Hardcastle’s belief that their decision had been correct. They explained the workings of the house to her, and then left for work, leaving Timothy in her seemingly capable hands.
But while the parents had accepted the Governess wholeheartedly, the ward, Timothy, had something else on his mind. His tantrums started right from the time he woke up, and continued till he took a bath and sat down for breakfast. Mrs. Wheaton kept putting up with everything in her usual calm and composed manner, and not for a moment did she allow his to fluster her unflappable demeanour.
Timothy was ready for school now, looking very cute in his white school uniform, sitting on the dining table like a little gentleman. However, his expression and actions were anything but gentlemanly. Mrs. Wheaton kept bringing him things to eat, and he kept pushing them away. Finally, she brought a tall glass of milk, kept it in front of him, and said, “Drink.”
“I won’t,” cried out Timothy.
“Drink,” Mrs. Wheaton repeated, as if she hadn’t heard Timothy’s refusal, “or Andy will come and drink it and you will have to go hungry.”
Timothy scoffed at her and said, “Ha! You really think I’m afraid of you or your five-year-old boy?”
Mrs. Wheaton kept looking at him for a few seconds, and then, looking towards the kitchen, shouted, “ANDY, there’s a glass of milk for you on the table. Come and have it.”
A whole minute passed, but there was no sign of anyone. Timothy started laughing then, and extended his hand to push the glass of milk away, when he suddenly felt something tickle his right leg. He looked down…..and froze with terror.
For slithering up his leg was a large King Cobra.
As Timothy watched in stupefied horror, the snake continued moving up, reaching his stomach, and then his extended arm which was in the process of pushing away the glass of milk, before finally landing with a soft thump on the dining table.
“Good boy Andy,” said Mrs. Wheaton, “Now drink the entire glass, how will you become big and strong otherwise?” And in front of Timothy’s wide-as-a-50-inch-TV eyes, Andy calmly proceeded to drink the glass of milk, slurping loudly till the last drop had been polished off. Then, without much further ado, he took the same route for going back as the one he had used to come, and calmly lay down in Mrs. Wheaton’s smart leather bag for a post-breakfast siesta.
Just then, the doorbell rang. Mrs. Wheaton opened the door to find that Timothy’s mother had returned to surprise her, and see for herself if the new Governess was taking good care of her son. She entered the dining room, and stood transfixed, staring at the dining table in utter fascination.
For little Timothy was sitting on the dining table, wordlessly sipping on a glass of milk. And what’s more, this seemed to be his second glass, as an empty glass of milk was kept in front of him already.
And on her way back to work, Mrs. Hardcastle called up Mr. Hardcastle and said excitedly, “I checked on the Governess at home just now, she is definitely THE ONE. I’m sure our Timothy will soon become as obedient and sincere as her Andy.”