Charlotte and Jane sat beside the glowing log fire adding the finishing touches to the presents around the Christmas tree. ‘Do you think he will appreciate it?’ asked Jane. ‘I doubt it,’ giggled Charlotte, ‘but I am looking forward to seeing his reaction.’ The sisters paused from their task to chink glasses. What a year it had been…
This time last year the family firm was heading for disaster under the mismanagement of their younger brother, Leslie. Goodness knows what their late father had been thinking leaving the business in his hands. He was far too young and immature to bear such a responsibility. In a short space of time the ‘Little Dictator’ as he was known, had upset the entire workforce. In fact they had come to the conclusion that it was his lack of stature, he was only just over five-foot tall, which had contributed to his unreasonable behaviour. The company was on the brink of bankruptcy; something definitely had to be done.
Being somewhat older than Leslie they had seen his peculiar behaviour as a child and had Nanny’s confirmation of their suspicions. They knew about his little predilection.
His treatment of Nanny had been the final straw. Perhaps it was because of what she knew that Leslie had ordered her out of the grace-and-favour rooms Father had allocated her, in gratitude for years of loyal service, first as housekeeper, then as Leslie’s Nanny.
It had not been too difficult getting Nanny to let them utilise the photographs she had in her possession. Leslie was ‘persuaded’ to re-consider his position at the firm. Charlotte and Jane refilled their glasses and raised them once again.
Upstairs, Nanny was busy. ‘Come along pet lamb, it’s time for your bath, I want you to be in beddy-byes before Santa comes’ She lifted up Leslie’s arms and removed the velvet, short-sleeved lemon dress. It was one of Nanny’s favourites; trimmed with white eyelet trim, it had a neat, high neck ruffled collar, and ties in the back. Next she removed the soft chiffon ruffled slip, took the lemon ribbon hair bow out of Leslie’s hair, and slipped off the white eyelet-trimmed socks.
‘Didn’t you look pretty today, Nanny's little baby lamb?’ she cooed as she gently helped Leslie into the bath. Leslie stared back at her with rather empty, emotionless eyes but nevertheless replied in the manner Nanny required: ‘Yes, I was ever so pwetty Nanny.’
Nanny took her time bathing Leslie, not least because she knew how much her little charge hated the humiliation of being bathed by her. She smothered Leslie in the scented suds, and ensured that his smooth hairless body was scrubbed thoroughly clean.
In the nursery, Nanny's rule was absolute; woe betides Leslie if there was the slightest sign of misbehaviour or disobedience. Nanny began to towel Leslie dry.
‘Ouch you're hurting.’ Leslie flashed a worried glance at Nanny. The words had just slipped out. Nanny paused for a second. ‘Now - time for Baby Leslie to put a cosy nightie on,’ she said, wagging her finger at him.
Leslie looked even more flustered; being called 'Baby Leslie' by Nanny was worrying, what could she mean? Nanny slipped the nightdress over Leslie’s head. Leslie quite liked the sensation of the soft winceyette material next to his freshly bathed skin, but the little pink rosebud flowers that adorned the nightie were a different matter.
Leslie used to enjoy dressing up in pretty dresses for a few hours a week, but he had never wanted his ‘hobby’ to become permanent. He hated having to wear girlish nighties and pyjamas and being put to bed ridiculously early, as if he were a real little girl.
Nanny buttoned up the nightie, and smoothed down the Peter Pan collar. ‘Pretty as a picture my pet lamb. Lets get your hair brushed now.’ Leslie enjoyed the feeling of Nanny’s hand following each stroke of the brush, and wished it would never end, but Nanny stopped abruptly, and turned Leslie to face her.
‘Did you think I had forgotten your little outburst? Nanny’s got just the punishment for little babies like you.’ Leslie’s face flushed as Nanny lifted the nightdress and smacked the back of Leslie’s legs.
‘Come along now little lamb, it's nappy time for you, Babykins.’ Leslie was horrified as Nanny pinned on thick, white fluffy nappies and pulled on pink plastic baby pants that rustled noisily as Nanny positioned them snugly on top of Leslie’s nappies. Nanny stood a tearful Leslie up, and the nightie cascaded to the floor in a cloud of winceyette.
‘Nanny hasn’t finished yet Babykins, now open wide.’ Nanny popped the pink dummy into the mouth of the astonished Leslie. ‘If that comes out without my permission it’s a spanking for you Babykins,’ she warned. ‘And this is the finishing touch.’ Nanny deftly placed a flounced, be-ribboned mop-sleeping cap on Leslie’s head; being made from the same floral winceyette, it matched Leslie’s nightie perfectly.
Nanny stood Leslie in front of the mirror. ‘See what you’ve become Leslie, a little baby in nappies and a nightie, sucking on its dum-dum, and wearing a bedtime nightcap. Nanny is the one in charge now, so you had better learn to behave and do as Nanny says, understand Babykins?’ Tears rolled down an already tear-stained cheek as Leslie slowly realised what Nanny was telling him.
‘Yes that’s right Leslie, my Christmas gift to you is a return to your babyhood. From now on I will treat you as Nanny’s baby girl, you will wear nappies and baby pants at all times, suck on your dummy and be put to bed at five o’clock each evening. From tomorrow you will wear short baby dresses. This is the one you will wear for Christmas lunch tomorrow.’
Nanny held up the red velvet, long-sleeved baby dress made especially for Leslie. Generously trimmed on the hem and cuffs with white lace, the large white collar was embroidered with the words, 'Merry Christmas Babykins'. When Nanny showed him the matching pantaloons, holding them up by the elasticised waist, she pronounced that Leslie would be, ‘Nanny’s Babykins princess tomorrow,’ and she gave him a little kiss on his furiously blushing cheek. Leslie sucked hard on his dummy, distraught at the thought of wearing such a babyish outfit.
Downstairs Charlotte and Jane talked, as the weak afternoon sun gave way to the early dusk of winter. It had been a simple matter to legally take over the firm thanks to Nanny; the two new cars parked on the drive bore witness to their immediate success in restoring the company’s competitiveness. But how would they deal with Leslie? He was too much of a loose cannon to be left to his own devices, and any role in the company could be ruled out.
It had been Nanny who suggested she should return to, ‘look after their brother’ and, to use her own words, ‘make sure he doesn’t cause any more mischief.’ Confronted with Nanny’s photographs and the threat of a tabloid exposure, Leslie had meekly acquiesced in relinquishing control of the firm. As far as the world was concerned Leslie had crumbled under the pressure of work and had sought refuge in warmer climes; Australia it was rumoured. Just another victim of work related stress.
Nanny held Leslie’s hand as they descended the wide, richly carpeted staircase. The sisters ended their conversation and watched as the two figures approached. One figure immaculately turned out in full nanny's uniform, the pristine, starched white apron in stark contrast to the black austere dress that juxtaposed so neatly behind it. The other, a picture of bewilderment, clutching reluctantly at Nanny’s hand, in the other arm hugging a fluffy white teddy bear, and sucking very self-consciously on a pink baby’s dummy.
‘Leslie, how adorable you look, and all ready for beddy-byes too, I see. What a very pretty nightie you’re wearing, I bet that keeps you lovely and warm - and such a sweet little nightcap!’ Charlotte took her brother onto her lap and heard the telltale rustle of baby pants. Lifting up Leslie’s nightie, she exposed his nappies and plastic pants.
‘I see you have begun to put into practice what we discussed Nanny; we are so looking forward to seeing him in his pretty baby outfits. Will he be dressed accordingly for Christmas lunch tomorrow?’
‘Indeed Miss Charlotte,’ Nanny replied, ‘Baby Leslie is very excited about his new clothes aren’t you my sweet?’
Nanny gave the humiliated Leslie a stern look of warning as his hand ventured momentarily toward his dummy, his hope of rescue from his baby plight by his sisters dashed. His sisters knew Nanny had planned his return to babyhood. He slumped back in despair into the comforting bosom of his eldest sister.
‘Nanny, we are not keeping Leslie up too late are we?’ asked Jane, who was watching Leslie’s eyes start to droop as Charlotte nursed him. He had grown accustomed to being put to bed early, and infuriatingly for him he struggled to stay awake at times.
‘I really should take the little sleepyhead up to his beddy-byes shortly,’ Nanny mused.
‘We will give him his present, then you can take him up the wooden hill to Bedfordshire,’ Jane said, taking the drowsy Leslie by the hand and leading him toward the Christmas tree.
‘Now Baby Leslie, I know you have seen our new shiny cars and how much you used to like having one of your own, so we have decided to let you have this special present early.’
Leslie’s eyes were suddenly wide-awake as he thought for a moment his nightmare was ending. Then he saw it. In front of him was a toy pedal car. Moulded out of pink plastic it was the ultimate humiliation.
‘Look,’ gloated Jane, ‘it even has a personalised number plate.’ Leslie just had time to see the inscription, ‘BABY LESLEY 1’ before he was pushed into the toy. ‘Let us see you drive your new car, baby brother,’ urged his sister, as he reluctantly began to pedal the demeaning gift.
‘Well done Babykins!’ she clapped her hands with delight at the sight of her brother pedalling the babyish toy.
Much to Charlotte’s dismay Nanny spoke: ‘Well, I think that’s enough excitement for one little babykins, time for bye-byes, sugar plum.’ Charlotte enjoyed seeing Leslie so firmly under Nanny’s control, and she was delighted that her brother was confined in nappies and nighties.
Nanny removed Leslie’s dummy. ‘Say goodnight to your sisters Baby Leslie, and say thank you for your lovely present.’ she prompted. Leslie pinched the seams of his nightie and gave a neat little curtsey as Nanny had taught, ‘Night-night, and thank you for my lovely prethent,’ he lisped and gave each sister a kiss on their proffered cheeks.
Charlotte and Jane could only admire Nanny’s disciplinary methods, and they watched, half in disbelief, as their brother toddled unsteadily up to bed clutching Nanny’s hand.
Nanny ushered Leslie into the nursery. He was looking forward to climbing into his lovely bed, made up with frilled pink pillowcases and matching sheets.
What a shock he got. His bed was gone and in its place was a baby’s cot. Pink painted rails and bunny rabbit motifs decorated the infantile sleeping place. Nanny lay Leslie down onto the pink flannelette sheet that covered the mattress. ‘Babies don’t have pillows and this fleecy baby blanket should be enough for you, with that cosy nightie on,’ Nanny said sternly as Leslie squirmed in the unfamiliar surroundings. ‘Baby will soon get used to his new cot, after all you will be spending a lot of time here what with your naps and early bed times.’
Nanny drew on a cord sewn into the hem of Leslie’s nightie and he found himself encased in a snuggle bag of thick winceyette. ‘Baby can’t climb out of its cot now, can she? She mocked with a wink, as Leslie kicked his legs helplessly in a futile attempt to escape his winceyette prison, ‘and if Baby tries, she is going to get a smacked bottom.’ Leslie was totally bewildered by this change in his circumstance and started to cry.
Nanny was unsympathetic. She pulled up the cot rail.
‘You treated me most unfairly and unkindly when you evicted me from my home, Leslie. Now I can have you as my own sweet Babykins – what do you think of that, my little lamb? You sisters approve of my action so you can forget about ever returning to your former life. You will become my baby girl, using a potty and gurgling like a real baby. The fact that you hate wearing nappies and baby clothes matters not at all to me, you are mine to dress and treat as I like.’
Nanny tweaked Leslie’s ear to make sure he was listening to her. She wanted him to be very certain of what his life would be like from now on.
‘Oo Nanny that hurt.’
‘That’s just the start pet lamb,’
Nanny continued, ‘you will follow a strict routine. Naptime in the morning will be at ten until ten-thirty; in the afternoon I will change you into your soft baby nightie and put you down for the night at four o’clock at the latest seven days a week. If you misbehave in any way you will be spanked and put to bed immediately. When I take you out visiting you will always be dressed ready for beddy-byes encased in your pretty nightie’s and sucking your dummy so my friends can enjoy your humiliation. You will only be able to crawl around our feet gurgling sweetly like the baby you are.’
Leslie stared up at Nanny from his cot in fear and disbelief.
‘Nanny please don’t do this I beg….’
Nanny didn’t even wait to hear his pathetic pleadings; she thrust his dummy into his mouth.
‘That’s the last time I expect to hear grown up talk from you babykins,’ she scolded, ‘it’s lisping baby girl talk from now or nothing. I can quite easily tie that dummy in place all day if need be. If you disobey you will find yourself over my knee.’
Nanny had finally gotten it off her chest, the anger and sense of injustice she had felt had disappeared, now she could concentrate on ensuring Leslie became a doting, dependent baby who would need to have his big fleecy nappies changed, and be cared for by Nanny, for a long, long time to come.