The House of Elyot

1888 Part 15

Posted on: April 15, 2011

It was not merely the dagger-sharp frost of the night that pierced Jessie’s skin with coldness on the following Wednesday evening.

A chilling anticipation seemed to whiten the air around her in the Swanson’s attic room. She had never met a ‘gentleman caller’ in a bedchamber before, and even before he had arrived, she was sensible of a jarring impropriety. Thus far, she had not had to do much more than share a meal or a box at the theatre, attend a few parties. There had been some optimistic groping hands in carriages, but nothing she could not handle with a tinkling laugh and a swat of her fan.

But he had promised hard cash; a potential income of forty sovereigns a month, over and above her earnings at the Savoy, if she would grant this gentleman her exclusivity. But what would it entail? She was not entirely sure she would be able to give her body for money, for all her brave words. She had quite shocked even her Bohemian companions on the evening she had professed to admire prostitutes for their unabashed rejection of buttoned-up bourgeois morality – but now it came down to it, she realised that she did not understand one tenth of their desperate motivation.

Over and over again, her eye followed the pattern of the wallpaper – a repetitive stripe of forget-me-nots twisted into a heart shape – until it met a round mirror, over-ornately decorated with ugly brass curlicues. She charged herself to remember that Vyvyan lay beyond that offending glass, and he would hear her scream should anything untoward be threatened. Vyvyan loved her. She was loved.

This comforting thought sustained her, until the doorknob began to turn and she found herself breathing sharply in and thrusting out her chin, wrapping her shawl tightly around her. She was not sure whether to remain seated or to stand, but the way the gentleman raised his hand when she moved indicated that she should stay in her armchair.

He was not as old as she had expected, perhaps forty to forty-five. He was tall, angular of feature, with luxuriant hair and whiskers and a waxed moustache. He was wearing an unfamiliar uniform; perhaps some foreign princeling? However, when he spoke his accent was decidedly English; his voice, though quietly pitched and low, did nothing to reassure her.

“Miss Carter? Please remain seated. Let me get a good look at your face to begin with.”

Jessie’s skin crawled as she was subject to an intense and unblinking scrutiny. What had she expected? Hasty words of passion? A polite request for her society? The offer of a drink? Perhaps, but certainly nothing like this….this cold and dispassionate sizing-up. She was well-used to being the object of an artistic gaze, but this was entirely different, as different as the Mona Lisa was from a fish on a slab.

“Yes,” murmured the gentleman, “my man was right. You have that exact Titian shade we require. The eyes and skin are both perfect. He has done well; I shall reward him.”

Jessie cleared her throat. “Ahem, excuse my curiosity, but…what do you want from me?”

The man sat down in a seat opposite and poured himself some whiskey from a decanter, failing to offer Jessie any.

“Miss Carter, I act on behalf of the Archduke Heinz-Werner of Lower Teutonia. I am his envoy and his personal secretary. While he resides in London as the guest of Her Majesty the Queen, he has need of a lady to be an…escort. Not to the great Balls and Society gatherings, you understand, but for less exalted entertainments, such as gaming houses, music halls, low-class dining establishments, he needs a vivacious and beautiful girl to accompany him. His Royal Highness has a somewhat…voracious interest in the, shall we say, underbelly of this great city. Who better than a chorus girl to show him around?”

“You want me to act as…a tour guide?”

“Of sorts.” The man was running one long, pale finger around the rim of his glass, his expression guarded but ruminative.

“And that is all he wants from me? My company?”

“My master’s tastes are unusual. He will probably not require you to share his bed.”

“Oh, is he queer?”

The man glared at her as if she had uttered an obscenity.

“I don’t mean anything disrespectful!” she gibbered fearfully. “It doesn’t bother me in the slightest – why, some of my best friends are…you know, inclined towards the Greek ways…”

“He is not a homosexual,” stated the intimidating man witheringly.

Oh, thought Jessie, then perhaps he is impotent? But she thought better of saying so this time.

“Indeed,” said the man briskly, setting down his glass and rising to his feet so that he towered above Jessie, “he has asked that I make a thorough examination of you, should he be minded to…sample your wares.”

The sneering tone of his last words caused Jessie to bristle. “I am not a low-class whore,” she exclaimed. “I am clean and free of disease. And I doubt that you are a physician!”

“No, that is not what I meant. Stand up, Miss Carter.”

Fighting an absurd urge to refuse, Jessie rose to her feet. Her velvet draperies swished and brushed the floor. The man seemed unimpressed with the loose fit of the sea-green fabric and curled his lip.

“Take off your clothes.”

Jessie caught her breath, widening her eyes in alarm. “You mean…?”

The man made an impatient clicking noise with his tongue. “I was given to understand that you pose naked for all the impecunious art students of the city. Surely you don’t suffer from false modesty?”

Jessie’s cheeks flamed. She could not deny it – she had displayed her gloriously nude form in front of at least a dozen young men. Why did this seem so horribly different?

She cast her eyes around the room for a screen, but there was none. She looked up again at the man, feeling wildly disadvantaged and powerless before him. His face brooked no resistance. And forty pounds a month…

She untied the loose golden cord around her waist and stepped out of the velvet robe, then shucked the underskirts and camisole over her head until she was left in nothing but woollen pantalettes, her upper torso exposed and goose-pimpling in the draught.

“Everything,” prompted the man, and Jessie bent forward to remove the final vestment, shaking her hair forward over her face in an attempt to deflect the hated watchfulness of her client. She spent longer than she needed neatening the clothes at her feet until the man snapped, “Straighten up. Look straight ahead, shoulders back, please. Feet slightly apart.”

Jessie had not realised that her thighs had been clamped together for dear life until he gave the command. Reluctantly, she parted them a little and shook the hair out of her face, deliberately blurring her vision so as not to have to see the man’s face.

He walked up to her slowly, his boots jingling a little as they trod the floorboards. Soon he was close enough for her to smell him; starch and coal tar soap and a hint of the whiskey he had just drunk. And metal. Cold steel. Looking swiftly down, she noted with alarm that he carried a sword. How had she not noticed that before? His face and form were so mesmeric taken as a whole that one missed the details.

Now he was circling her, three times, excruciatingly slowly until he halted behind her. She flinched slightly, feeling warm breath on her shoulder, then he had taken a handful of her hair and was running fingers through it as if it were material at the dressmakers. He twisted it and pinned it at the top of her head, one finger returning to trace a slow line down the nape of her neck until it rested between her shoulder blades.

“Now we can see properly,” he breathed, then he was back in front of her and she yelped when he forced her chin up higher. “Look at me,” he hissed. “We aren’t looking for some coy ingenue, Miss Carter. We want a bold girl, a girl who can look us in the eye.”

Jessie was bemused by the plural – was she to be shared? – but the thought flew out of her mind when his other hand descended to her right breast and took a good squeeze.

She gasped. “That….hurts!”

He shook his head, tutting, and took the other, holding them both as if weighing them, then tracing their outline as if he were a corsetière estimating their size. Jessie continued to look up at the fuzzy cornicing, trying her hardest to imagine herself elsewhere, but this was difficult when a strange and frightening man was pinching and flicking at your erect nipples with the tip of a thumbnail.

“Yes,” he said. “Very nice. Good hips too – on the boyish side but none the worse for it. And as for your arse…”

Jessie was scandalised – such language from a gentleman! – and even more so when he returned to her rear and took both bottom cheeks in his hands, kneading them a little before spreading them apart and massaging the inner sides. “A good handful, my dear. Now, for the last part of our inspection, I think it best if you return to your chair.”

He pointed with a finger – a finger that had touched her intimately enough already – and she subsided back into the chintz armchair she had recently vacated. Her nipples were throbbing and her face still flooded with mortification, but she laid her head back on the antimacassar and awaited the next instruction.

“Spread your legs wide apart and place each of your feet on the arms of the chair.”

Jessie bit her lip – this would leave her completely open to his prying eyes, in a position she had never had to adopt for her artist friends. All the same, she swallowed down her shame and fear and lifted both legs until her heels rested either side of her ears.

The man came to stand between them, staring down at the display for eternal seconds, even minutes, without so much as a flicker of animation crossing his countenance. Then he bent towards the stretched lips of her sex and slowly ran a finger around their outer edge. The circuit was langourous and tormenting, even more so when the finger slipped closer to her centre, its touch phantom-light and yet completely unignorable. Jessie squirmed in her seat, suddenly and shockingly aware of arousal. This man was so clinical, so exacting and yet…his touch was exquisite. Was it the control, the discipline that her ardent boyish lovers lacked? He seemed almost unmoved by the contact, and yet it was making her embarrassingly wet.

His close study ended with a faint but devastating brush against her clitoris, and she bucked forward against her will and judgement, as if her body begged for more without the permission of her head.

“Oh?” he near-whispered, placing his head quizzically on one side. She responded with an animal whimper. “I think we shall have some sport with you, Miss Jessie Carter. Of course, you aren’t a virgin.” Without any warning, he thrust two fingers sharply up inside her. She squealed, then remembered Vyvyan next door, and tried her hardest to muffle the sound. “You are terribly wet, Miss Carter,” he informed her. “Do you find this arousing?” He began to work a third finger inside, then he commenced a languid in-and-out movement which Jessie tried her hardest to speed up by pushing her bottom up to meet the intruding digits. “It seems you do.” His other hand returned to her saturated spread, stroking it with more earnest intent this time. “You enjoy being exposed and stripped bare, do you? You like to have your breasts pinched and your arse squeezed and your cunny fingered by a complete stranger, do you? You like the shame, the humiliation of it, do you? Oh, he is going to love you, you filthy little treasure…take it now!” With a final scissoring plunge into her depths, the man’s fingers flung Jessie into howling completion, her head tossing and her bottom rubbing furiously against a rather scratchy cushion.

She was still panting, exhausted and aghast at herself, when Vyvyan bolted into the room, his face pale and agitated. “What is he doing to you….oh.”

He stopped dead and watched the gentleman unhurriedly putting on a pair of white dress gloves.

“And who the devil, may I ask, are you?”

Jessie was shaking her head and grimacing violently, so Vyvyan coughed and apologised. “Sorry…just took the room next door and thought a lady might have been….hurt…”

“You are quite wrong. Now please get out.”

“I’m sorry.” Vyvyan, his eyes troubled, backed away from the scene, banging the door behind him.

“I shall be in touch, Miss Carter. Please do not take any future commissions from anyone other than the Archduke, if you please. Oh, and Miss Carter…”

He paused in adjusting his sword belt and stared fiercely at the dishevelled naked Venus before him.

“Discretion is completely of the essence. You must not divulge the name of your client to any living soul. Do you understand.”

“Yes,” she panted. “I understand.”

The man left the room and Jessie gave herself up to tears of release. She could not account for what had just happened, nor did she know if Vyvyan could forgive or forget what he had seen.

2 Responses to "1888 Part 15"

Help me out. Who is in the room with the medical instruments – is it Jessie or someone we haven’t seen more of yet?

This installment is nicely fraught!

Two different women have been in the room with the medical instruments so far – they haven’t cropped up in the main body of the story yet, but they will…

Thanks for reading! I’m pleased you’re sticking with it :).

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