Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Chapter 3: “You are like a Japanese woodcut come to life!”

King Street

When journalist Edmund Molloy's intended, Agnes, breaks off their brief relationship, his friend, William Britten, takes him to the Babylon Exploration Society in King Street.  A place where gentlemen, and some ladies, pay to be entertained by a selection of lovely foreign girls he, against his better judgement, agrees to a liaison with Hoshimi, a beautiful Japanese. Having finished supper, there is a knock on the door of their dining room.

“Come in!” called Britten. The door opened and Madame Nathalie swept into the room, a rather roguish grin, if you can say such a thing about so elegant a lady, on her lovely face.

“Gentlemen, it is time for you to move upstairs, if you should so wish.” Britten shot straight up from his chair and while I did the same I also eyed the half-finished bottle of claret in the decanter. “We will leave zis for you for later and per'aps arrange a little Stilton!” said Madame, not quite laughing. “A gentleman who appreciates a fine Bordeaux as much as ze prospect of a lovely, passionate girl wrizing beneath 'im deserves to be properly accommodated! Jasmine will tidy up.” We had made something of a mess of the tablecloth as Britten had dropped a sausage coated in mustard on it and there were a lot of crumbs from the bread and pie crust.

Would Hoshimi writhe beneath me? Is that what girls did? I rather thought they lay their inanimate, like lovely pillows while the man thrust into them. I confess that lately I had been ravishing my pillow at night whilst imagining that it was Agnes. Even in my dreams I hadn’t imagined any writhing, just her smiling and saying that is was ‘rather enjoyable’ as I spent into my pillowcase once more, embarrassingly.

As I followed Madame and Britten towards the doorway I happened to glance at one of the oriental prints on the wall. It showed, in graphic detail, an oriental man copulating with a woman, in a formal garden. Their private parts were unnaturally enlarged and she had white liquid apparently dripping from her feminine parts. Is that what they really looked like, like the petals of some tropical flower? I had never seen such a thing. “Good heavens, they’re actually…” I stopped, aware of the lady present.

“Fucking, is your delightful English word for it,” said Madame Nathalie, shockingly. “Zey are eighteenth century from Japan. Such images were produced for newly-wed couples to stimulate zeir imaginations and ensure a good start to married life. The Orientals ‘ave a far ‘ealthier view of sexual relations compared wiz us!”

I wanted to look at the other pictures but we were ushered upstairs by Madame Nathalie. We stood in another long hallway with paintings of nude women adorning the red and cream striped wallpaper. These were not as you would see in the National Gallery, as all the women were clearly displaying hair between their legs. Some even had suggestions of pink parts emerging from their fur. I started to realise how little I knew of the female anatomy. I had, if I thought about it, imagined a hole, not unlike the back passage, tucked inside a neat slit but these lewd images suggested something else. I wondered, at this point, as a journalist, whether now was when I should make my excuses and leave. I thought I heard some sounds of what I took to be passion from further down the corridor. However, that investigative part of my mind wanted to explore. I realised that the club’s appellation as an exploration society was a humourous one.

Britten went down the corridor and disappeared around the corner with the Swedish blonde, Anna, who was waiting for him there. “Enjoy yourself, old chap!” he said, giving me a cheery wave. I suddenly felt very nervous and alone.

“Nervous, Mr Edmund? Do not be! Nothing but ‘appiness awaits you! If I may ask, have you ever...” she began.

“No never!” I replied, rather too quickly. “I thought I would have to wait until marriage and that prospect now looks rather more distant than I had thought this morning!”

“Ah, I see! A disappointment in love, per’aps. Sometimes we women can be cruel!”

“That is true!” I said, resignedly.

“’ave you ever been intimate wiz a women in any way? There is no shame in saying no...”

“Well. Not the whole thing. But a woman has done intimate things to me!” An image of Agnes' bobbing head came into my mind.  It seemed so long ago but was only a few hours.

“I see! And did you enjoy zat?”

“It was just wonderful but...”

“Shh!” she said and put her soft fingertip on my lips. I found the contact quite thrilling. “Zere is no past ‘ere! Just an exciting future!”

 “Well, that would be nice...” I said, rather lamely. Madame Nathalie took me along the corridor, in the other direction from where Britten had gone and opened a door for me. I stepped into a dimly lit room and my levels of excitement and anxiety leapt up. I could actually feel my heart pounding. There were other things in the room of course. Later I noticed a rose coloured chaise longue, a dressing table and chair, paintings of naked women in gold frames on the dark green wallpaper. However, at that moment all I saw was an enormous bed with an ornate brass bedstead. There were pillows but no bedclothes other than a white linen sheet. This was not a bed for sleeping in.

“And here is ze lovely ‘oshimi!” said Madame Nathalie. I was so intent on looking at the bed that I had almost missed the vision of oriental loveliness before me, now dressed in an oyster coloured silk negligee. Her nipples were patently erect beneath the fabric and I realised that she must be naked underneath. “Oh!” I said, dumbfounded. I stood and looked at the girl. Could I really go through with this? It must be an awful life for her, intimately servicing an endless stream of anonymous men. Afterwards, would all the girls congregate and discuss how awful their men had been, while the men all told their friends how grateful the girls had been.

“‘oshimi is quite shy but she has told me how pleased she is that you picked her,” said Madame Nathalie “She says you are a very attractive young man and I must say I have to agree with her. Most of our members are rather older than you, Mr Edmund, so for us to attend to a young man in his prime is a particular treat indeed!” Hoshimi stood with her head bowed and gave a little giggle, her fingers covering her lips. “Now, Mr Edmund, we ‘ave run a nice warm bath for you and ‘oshimi and I will wash you!” I saw that an old fashioned hip-bath was sat on the wooden floor where a rug had been rolled back to accommodate it.

You will wash me, Madame?” I asked. I was still very much on the verge of making a run for it. I smiled to myself. The last time I had run from anyone French was in our London Irish game against Havre in France the previous year.

“Indeed. I will assist ‘oshimi. Zis is a very exclusive society Mr Edmund. We ‘ave a limited number of select members ‘oo may introduce one guest a year for a visit, as Mr William ‘as done for you zis evening. Many such guests go on to join ze society!”

“I think your membership fee may be too rich for my pocket!” I ventured. She shrugged in that peculiarly French way.

“Zat is a discussion for anozzere time. Today, Mr William ‘as organised everysing for you and you are our ‘onoured guest.”

“I am very grateful!” I said.

“Now, as it is your first visit I am ‘ere to reassure you about ze cleanliness and ‘ealth of our girls. We ‘ave weekly medical inspections, in ze Parisian manner, of course. I can reassure you that we have never, ever ‘ad a case of any unpleasant...incident... in this society!” she said.

 At this point Hoshimi undid the tie at her waist and shrugged out of her silk negligee. I was presented with my first sight of a naked adult woman outside of the life class at art school. And what a sight Hoshimi was! She had pale skin but dark nipples with erect teats like thimbles. I looked at her flat stomach and prominent hip bones and then glanced down at the exiguous covering of black, straight hairs at her groin. My eyes drifted down her slender thighs and shins to her dainty feet. I swallowed. My heart rate must have increased by fifty per cent. “Goodness me, what a beauty you are Hoshimi!” I murmured at last, having taken in her charms. She beamed. “You are like a Japanese woodcut come to life!” I recalled the ones I had glimpsed briefly downstairs and some less explicit ones of Japanese beauties I had seen in a gallery in Mayfair the previous year.

“Mr Edmund, I can see that you will be very welcome in zis society! Now, as our girls are so clean we insist on our members being equally clean, ‘ence ze bath! I do not ‘abitually involve myself in such activity but in your case I am making an exception. Quite selfishly on my part!” she smiled. My nervousness returned. To be naked in front of one woman was one thing but in front of two? I was instantly concerned about becoming aroused. This I realised, was nonsensical with Hoshimi but I had only met Madame Nathalie socially, fully dressed. However, it was too late to do anything as the ladies began to remove my clothes with despatch. Madame efficiently removed my jacket, shirt and undershirt while Hoshimi removed my shoes, socks and then my trousers. I felt like a little boy with two nursemaids.  Except one of my nursemaids was naked. Soon I was standing there in just my drawers. Hoshimi and Madame looked at each other and grinned. They squatted down, either side of me, grasped the waist band of my drawers and pulled down simultaneously. Now, I am not a particularly boastful chap, which you may be surprised at, given the reputation of those in my profession but I have seen plenty of naked male bodies in the changing rooms and knew that I was far from deficient as regards my male equipment. Certainly, I could not compete with “Jumbo” Hogan but then any man who could must be part horse.

“Is rubbery!” said Hoshimi. Fortunately, I had managed to retain my composure and did so as I was guided to stand in the (rather small) bath.

“I would imagine some of your members might struggle to sit in such a vessel!” I joked, wondering whether I myself should sit.

“We do not ‘ave many large gentlemen as members. It is unfair on ze girls and offends my aesthetic sensibilities!” said Madame. “We prefer fit gentlemen, such as yourself. Now while anonymity is important ‘ere, I do sink I ‘ave seen you running down the wing at Rosslyn Park, Mr Edmund!” said Madame.

“That is very likely, Madame!” I replied, pleased with the way I was coping with a quite extraordinary, at least to me, situation.

“I do enjoy a good game of rugby. I am originally from Bordeaux where it is, as I am sure you know, very popular! Now, ‘oshimi, ‘elp me undress!” I watched as the Japanese assisted in disrobing her mistress. My composure was sorely tested by this process, especially given Madame Nathalie’s silk and lace underwear. She was wearing a red and black striped covered corset which Hoshimi unlaced with some despatch.. Eventually she stood before me in just her black stockings which were held up by scarlet garters. “Zere! I did not want to get soapy water on my silk clothes!”

“Quite right! Might leave a nasty mark!” I said. I was desperately thinking about unappealing things as I tried to distance myself from the enticing tableau before me and prevent any embarrassing tumescence.. Thinking about good old McAndless’s face assisted here, I can tell you. As did the thought of the boiled cabbage we were served at school, which was quite the most disgusting thing I had ever experienced in my life! Madame Nathalie’s body was a cornucopia of outrageous curves. In contrast to Hoshimi's slim frame, Madame Nathalie was just incredibly ripe. Her narrow waist flared to a pair of broad hips above long, full thighs. Her breasts were very large and as she knelt next to the bath to pick up a bar of soap they hung from her chest like delicious-looking , pendulous fruit. Her nipples had large areolae, perhaps two inches in diameter. Unlike Hoshimi, her intimate hair was thick and curly and, like the hair on her head, a mahogany brown. Only my previous experience of life classes enabled me to remain flaccid. That and the wine and Champagne I had consumed, I thought.

“Now, ‘oshimi, you sponge some water over Mr Edmund and I will soap him!” Hoshimi dunked the sponge in the water and promptly squeezed it over my head and shoulders, much to my surprise. I spluttered, much to the ladies’ amusement. I was then treated to the most sensual bath as four, delicate, feminine hands ran over my body. I realised that I was losing my mental battle with my manhood, as Madame soaped my thighs and cooed about my musculature. “Quelle cuisses!” she murmured. Nonetheless it was a shock when her fingers inadvertently brushed my swelling manhood. “Ah ‘ere you are, Mister Edmund! We must get to ze point!” she said. Embarrassed though I was, I reasoned that both she and Hoshimi would have seen many men in a tumescent state, so there was little point in being coy. I stood in the hip bath and my manhood continued to rise as I looked down at the two lovelies kneeling either side of me.

“Ladies I am sorry!” I mumbled. “The experience is all just too...”

“Mr Edmund! Do not apologise! What a very fine display! Such a strong upwards srust! And zat lovely curve! We will wash it!” Smilingly, Hoshimi sponged my now completely erect member and then, thrillingly, Madame pulled back my foreskin and after rubbing soap into her hands firmly lathered it into my erection. She later told me that they were, in fact, looking for traces of disease on my manhood. Hoshimi joined in and I suddenly realised that they were the second and third women to caress me intimately that day. My initial nervousness was now past and I enjoyed the sensation of having my genitals, for Hoshimi had started on my ballocks, washed by these exquisite ladies, although I have to admit being surprised when I felt a fingertip soap my back passage and slip a half inch inside. “Zere!” said Madame after she had rinsed me off. She leant forward and kissed the folds below my knob. Hoshimi towelled me dry with a soft bath sheet. “Now, Mr Edmund, at zis point I would usually wizdraw and leave you to ze tender touch of Hoshimi,” said Madame. “owever I find myself wiz an unexpectedly free ‘our tonight. Now that you are nice and clean why don’t you get onto the bed and we will caress each ozzere!”

And that is precisely what happened, although to describe the somewhat athletic contortions that we adopted as we licked, kissed and stroked each other would take rather more pages and greater recollection than I have available. Very many memorable tableaux spring from the warm dark parts of my memory of that night, however, popping into my consciousness like a naughty French magic lantern show. Madame thrusting her large breasts into my face and rubbing them against my cheeks. Madame fellating me in such a way that I realised what a rank amateur Agnes had been. Kneading and squeezing Hoshimi’s bottom. Hoshimi straddling my thigh, rubbing her sex against my skin and the surprising heat emanating from her intimate area. Most shocking, perhaps, was finding that both enthusiastically kissed me on the lips, something, I had been led to believe, that professional ladies such as these did not do.

 Well, I have to confess that the attention of two, beautiful, naked women attending to my person was, perhaps, rather too exciting. As Madame knelt between my thighs, caressing my testicular sack and Hoshimi massaged my member with her slim hand, much to my mortification I found myself spending into the air. Even more embarrassingly, my emissions comprehensively spattered both Madame Nathalie and Hoshimi. They both laughed, fortunately. “Ladies, I am so sorry!” I said blushing furiously.

“Mr Edmund ‘as it not occurred to you zat ze precise purpose of zis establishment is to ‘elp men spill zeir seed in as entertaining a fashion as we can contrive!” said Madam Nathalie, rubbing some of my emissions into her bosom.

“Oh! I suppose when you put it like that!” I said,still rather shamefaced about having committed such an intimate bodily function in front of two ladies.

“What a splendid pressure you are able to generate Mr Edmund,” said Madame Nathalie, “I do believe you may ‘ave achieved a full metre in altitude! Like the jet’deau in Genève!  'ave you seen it?"

"I have not travelled beyond Havre on the Continent," I admitted.

"It is a most impressive sight shooting into ze air!  I find it an arousing sight, indeed!"  Hoshimi was licking drops of my essence off my stomach and thighs so I stroked her head, tenderly. “Well that was a very nice hors d’ouevres!” said Madame, crawling up the bed as Hoshimi ensured that she had lapped up every drop of my essence. “Now what would you like to do, Mr Edmund? I am sure that you will recover quite quickly!”

“Well, I really don’t know. I am finding the unpredictability of this adventure particularly exciting!” I replied smiling at Hoshimi, who was kneeling next to my hips, her face glistening with my liquefying spunk.

 “One of ze giuding principles for membership of zis society is zat it is for gentlemen who regard women as more than receptacles for base lust,” said Madame Nathalie as we lay companionably upon the crisp, linen sheet. She lay on her stomach, one lower leg waving girlishly in the air, her large bosom lodged softly between her arms and resting on the sheet, distractingly.  “Men who just want to stick their thing in somesing wet and ‘ot for a few minutes are not welcome ‘ere. Zere are plenty of women along Piccadilly or the ‘aymarket who can help them with zeir needs. Not zat I do not acknowledge zat men have such needs. Far from it. Yet, ‘ere we like to entertain those gentlemen, and a few select ladies, ‘oo worship and appreciate ze female form.” She knelt up and leant across me, her large breasts hanging over my chest. She began to caress Hoshimi’s torso. The Japanese girl squirmed in pleasure. “Zese are ze lands which we explore ‘ere; the soft ‘ills, valleys and peaks. Ze fragrant forests...” She waved her hand at Hoshimi’s pale form. “Per’aps, now you might wish to explore Hoshimi’s body further, wiz your tongue and lips? Kiss ‘er! Lick ‘er! Taste ‘er!”

"I really think I will!" I said. I wasn’t about to object to such an appealing offer and thoroughly enjoyed myself as I kissed, stroked and licked the Japanese girl’s satin-soft skin. I hesitated as my mouth approached one small breast but she guided my head towards a splendid erect nipple and soon I was licking and suckling upon it like the happiest babe in arms. Madame lay next to us observing our antics with interest and an amused smile on her face. At first I found it very curious being watched by another but I soon became, not just used to it, but positively excited by it. I had always assumed that all sexual activity I might indulge in would be between just two people in private but this early experience saw me in good stead for the future.

“Mr Edmund, there is one part of ‘oshimi you have not attended to with your mouth!” said Madame.

“Is there?” I asked, puzzled. I had after all gently flipped her over and kissed her back, legs and bottom.

“There is prace you miss!” said Hoshimi. I frowned. I thought that I had covered pretty much every inch of her lovely skin.

“If it is not a forward question, Mr Edmund, what is your experience of cunt?” asked Madame, kneeling up, her breasts swaying distractingly as she did so.

“C-c-c-?” I stammered.

“Cunt, Mr Edmund. ‘ot, dripping, delicious cunt! Ze source of salty, liquid pleasure and, indeed, life itself.”

“Ah well, to be honest, until now, I have only experienced activity where the lady was fully dressed!” I admitted.

“Ah! Zen what pleasures are in store for you! ‘ave you seen one? At a close distance?” I shook my head, feeling inadequate.

“Now, kneel at the foot of the bed!” said Madame. I did so and both women sat up on the bed and spread their legs giving me my first sight of a woman’s sex. “Goodness!” I said, my eyes shifting between the two.

“Full of goodness!” said Madame. “Now you believe, no doubt, as a man, that sex is all about thrust, thrust, thrust! I can tell you, ‘owever, that for most women ze skilful application of fingers and tongue can be just as satisfying, if not more so!”

 “Oh!” I said. Something more to learn, I thought.

“I will demonstrate all the parts of a woman’s sex for you!” said Madame. I expected her to demonstrate on herself but instead she leant across and parted Hoshimi’s pink petals. She showed and named for me all the constituent parts of a woman’s sex all of which were new to me. It was all much more complex than I had imagined. .“And ‘ere... ‘ere is the entrance itself. See’ow pink and wet ‘oshimi is for you! Now I think you should touch one for yourself, Mr Edmund!” said Madame.

“Whose,” I asked.

“Bofe!” said Hoshimi.

Gingerly, I extended both of my forefingers and gently ran them up the women’s folds. I was surprised how wet they were. They looked, I realised, opened and exposed as they were, like oysters. Hoshimi had hardly any hair on her pubis; just a light covering of straight hairs, slightly thicker in the centre. Madame, however, had a thick bush which extended down the inside of her thighs and had a trail of fine hairs running up to her belly button. Her parts were larger than Hoshimi’s but were nestled deeply in her thick, brown curly hair. I gingerly penetrated both women simultaneously as they gave me encouraging smiles. This really was the best way to learn about sexual activity, I mused; having two lovely experts guiding you. No embarrassing fumbling with a woman who was probably your bride or, at least, bride to be. When I had proved myself to Agnes I would be able to satisfy, what were to me, previously unknown feminine needs. Madame constantly described those parts of a woman’s anatomy that could give her pleasure. How much better, to have an aroused and willing partner than to just slake one’s own personal lust on a diffident and uninvolved woman, she maintained. The logic seemed sound even though it went against what most of the chaps at the rugby club said.

 “And now! It is time to taste!” said Madame.

“T-t-taste?” I said, unable to take my eyes of Hoshimi’s glistening folds.

“’ave a good lick!” said Madame.

“Rick!” encouraged Hoshimi, spreading her legs even wider and thrusting her mound up, lasciviously. I leant forward until my face was just a few inches from my target. The musky scent coming from the Japanese girl’s sex was very strong. I gingerly extended my tongue and touched it against the pink parts. I started to become erect again as I began to gently caress her parts with the tip of my tongue. Hoshimi put her hands on my head and pulled me closer in. I started to taste her juices and understood Agnes’ comments about her parts getting moist. Hoshimi was rather more than moist, however. I was just flicking my tongue across the shaft of Hoshimi’s clitoris (I hoped I could remember the name!) at Madame’s suggestion and making her sigh and gasp when the ornate clock over the chimneypiece struck eleven.

“Mon Dieu! I must prepare myself for my guest as ‘e will be arriving soon!” said Madame, jumping up from the bed. “Or like Cendrillon I will find myself in trouble!” I pulled my face from Hoshimi’s groin and knelt up, conscious of her juices on my chin. “Now, Mister Edmund I see that you have now recovered yourself completely!” Madame Nathalie was looking at my groin. “So why don’t you now put it where it is designed to go?” Hoshimi raised her knees at this point. I gulped, nervously. Madame directed my position so that I was lying between Hoshimi’s thighs, my weight supported on my forearms which were next to her shoulders. She was so tiny I worried that I might crush her. “Just wriggle up a little,” advised Madame Nathalie. I did so and felt her hand on my shaft once more. “I will guide you!” I felt my tip placed against Hoshimi’s wetness. “Now, Mr Edmund! Srust!” I did so and slid up inside the Japanese beauty in one smooth motion. There was no resistance, as I thought there might be, just heat and a delightful sopping softness. Readers who are more experienced in carnal pleasures than I was may smile at my naivety but I had been anticipating this moment for many years without having any idea as to how it would feel. I had imagined some sort of tight dryness, like placing a finger in a soft kid glove, not this liquid warmth. I pulled out slightly. I pushed in again. I was doing it! It, it, it! It was marvellous!  I looked at Hoshimi's face and saw she had a big smile on her face.  She did not look unhappy. I pulled in and out of her once more.

C'est ça! Exactement, Mr Edmund! You ‘ave it precisely! Now. alzough, of course sometimes a gentleman loses ‘imself inside ze girl it is easier for all if you would endeavour to release outside her. Zere are prophylactics in ze dressing table if you prefer but given it is your first time I suspect you will want nothing to come between you. Just ze pure contact of cock in cunt!” She then said something to Hoshimi in what I presumed was Japanese. Hoshimi smiled and said something back. “I shall bid you adieu!” Madame leant down and kissed my posterior, patted Hoshimi on the thigh, affectionately, and disappeared through an adjoining door with her clothes draped across one arm. She waved as she closed the door behind her and I turned all my attention to the Japanese girl. “Fastah!” said Hoshimi, clamping her legs around my back. “Hahdah!” I complied, delightedly.

Notes on this chapter can be found here.

Wednesday, 4 May 2016

Chapter 2: “This is, I take it, some kind of private club.”

The Reform Club, Pall Mall

A journalist for the Daily Courier in London, Edmund Molloy was delighted to meet a beautiful girl, Agnes Cardwell, at an art exhibition.  He was even more delighted, after a rapid courtship, to have her perform an intimate act upon him. Deciding they were destined for a life together he attempted to propose, only to have Agnes declare that their brief relationship was over as she sought a more adventurous man.  Bitterly disappointed but determined to show her how adventurous he could be, he set off to see his best friend William Britten at the Reform Club on Pall Mall.

 I was ensconced in the Reform, at Britten’s favourite table, relating my sorry tale. He expressed great surprise over Agnes’ forward behaviour and I detected a slight sense of envy. “Well, I was rather surprised myself,” I told him. “Wasn’t expecting that level of, er, intimacy at all. I was just going to propose and…”

“Did you?” asked Britten.

“Did I what?”

“Did you propose!”

“Oh yes! Well I started to. Down on one knee and everything!” I replied. “Just after the, well, you know!”

“Oh dear!” said Britten. “Afterwards? Had you discussed it before?”

“What? The proposal?” Had I done something terribly wrong in proposing, I started to wonder?

“Well I didn’t mean the bagpiping!” he said.

“Bagpiping? Oh! I see! No. No. Not discussed any future plans of marriage. It just came over me!”

“I thought she swallowed it!” he joked. I glared at him.  This was no time for levity!

“What? Have I made some terrible faux pas?” I asked.

“Well, if we look at it from her point of view…” he said.

“Why should we?” I replied, baffled.

William sighed. “Well, if we did. You had not discussed any prospect of a future married life with Agnes at any point since you first met her?”


“You had not sought her father’s permission?” he added.

“No. She is over twenty-one!” Britten raised an eyebrow. “Oh. I should have, anyway, eh?”

“And after she performs an act of such intimacy upon you that many married women would demur at performing upon their husbands, you ask her to marry you. Might this not be interpreted by her that you have decided that she is such an abandoned trollop you better snap her up quickly, so she can provide a life of companionable debauchery on demand?”

“But, but, I didn’t demand! She volunteered! She made all the running! I was seduced, not her!” I went on to relate our painful discussion after The Act, as Britten insisted on calling it.

“Well this does put a slightly different complexion on the whole affair. In which case her declaration that The Act was by way of a goodbye gift may well hold true. You have been thrown over, Edmund. Entertainingly, no doubt but the effect is the same!”

I sat there in silence and swirled my cognac disconsolately around my glass. “But she intimated that if I performed a valiant act of adventure she might reconsider!” Although in retrospect I realised that she had done no such thing. It was just me raising my own hopes that such an act would lead to a reconciliation.

“The age of chivalry is obviously not dead. Perhaps she would like you to confront a few dragons!” said William, getting up and waving at the waiter to sign his chit.

“Oh! Do we have to leave? I do not have a shift tonight! I fancy a late supper! And quite a lot of drink!” I said, disappointed. I hoped that a solid meal and a couple of bottles of claret would settle the horrible gnawing feeling I had in the pit of my stomach.

“We certainly are leaving but I too have a day off from work tomorrow, as I worked over the weekend and I have been given a day in lieu. I will take you somewhere where we can get some excellent claret, a fine cold collation and other entertainment as well. You, my friend, need a night for yourself and I am paying for it!”

“There is really no need!” I said but I was grateful, of course. The salary of a junior journalist was meagre to say the least. Britten had plenty of money and was generous with it, without ever giving the impression he was paying for the poor friend out of pity.

We left the Reform and crossed Pall Mall into St James Square and then proceeded to a large white town house in King Street, close by the St James’s Theatre. It had a small brass sign next to the door which read ‘Babylon Imports’. “You are not, I hope, going to conduct some business involving the import of rubber at this hour?” I asked. He shook his head and pressed the doorbell but I did not hear any sound. Britten smiled at me and we waited for around half a minute. Eventually, the black painted door was opened and a gentleman, who had the appearance of someone who exactly fitted what you might imagine a clerk at an import business might look like, appeared before us. Grey, thinning hair, wire glasses, black jacket, striped trousers, a large nose, furrowed forehead and a somewhat confused looking expression.

“Ah, good evening, sir! How nice to see you again. Is this gentleman your associate?”

“More than that Mr Oliver, he is my very best friend!” said Britten.

“Excellent! Well you must both come up!” We stepped into the building and to the right, through a glass door bearing the words 'Babylon Imports', I noticed a normal office, as you might expect, with a large map of the world visible on the far wall. However, we were led straight up the stairs and were shown to the only door on the first floor landing. The landing was completely lacking in any noteworthy items at all. Not a table, not a lamp not a painting. Just a rather worn blue carpet.  As we approached the door it was opened from inside by a large negro, dressed, rather surprisingly, in the eighteenth century manner, complete with powdered wig, silver embroidered black tailcoat and white breeches.

“Good evening Mr William. How nice to see you again!” he rumbled in his basso profondo.

“Good evening, Jacob. This is my particular friend Mr Edmund! He is my guest tonight.”

“Welcome, Mr Edmund” said the imposing fellow. “Will you be dining tonight? He asked Britten.

“We are absolutely famished!” said Britten. “And passing thirsty too!”

We were shown into a large, sumptuously appointed salon with dark panelled walls and rich, red leather upholstered furniture. Small palms in brass planters were scattered about the room, breaking it up into smaller areas. One wall was almost entirely made up of bookshelves holding a myriad of gold embossed volumes. An old style globe sat in one corner. There was a large tiger skin rug on the floor and, indeed, I noticed a number of interesting decorative items from foreign parts: an ancient Greek statue, an oriental warrior’s helmet, some spears and other weapons which had an African look about them and some primitive tribal masks. Paintings on the walls were of jungles, waterfalls, tropical islands and mountain ranges. A splendid roaring fire was a pleasant antidote to the chill March air outside. Above the chimneypiece was a large painting of bare breasted native girls of the South Seas. This was not done in the modern style of Gaugin but more in the traditional and realistic manner of someone such as JW Godward. Agnes’s father possessed several charming pictures by that artist.

“It’s like the Royal Geographical Society!” I observed. “Although rather smarter. This is, I take it, some kind of private club?”

“It is the Babylon Exploration Society,” said William. “Members explore the geography of many foreign parts! It was founded by the directors of Babylon Imports below; a company associated with my own.”

“I suppose you are a member because of your trips to Brazil and Malaya,” I said.

“Indeed, it was through our Chairman, Sir Gerald Crozier, that I was put forward as a member of the Society!” he said, as we were shown to a pair of comfortable armchairs near the fire with an unusual, intricately tiled hexagonal table between them. It was very ornate and I looked at it with interest. It had the look of Egypt or the Levant about it

“It is Turkish, sir. Sree ‘undred years old, I am told!” Britten and I stood up at the feminine voice and I was presented with the most elegant lady, dressed in midnight blue evening attire which left her shoulders and collarbones quite bare as well as offering an enticing glimpse of her upper bosom. She was tall, perhaps five foot six, with deep, dark brown eyes, prominent cheekbones, a strong aquiline nose and well formed lips. She smiled and I was quite taken with her.

“Good evening, madam,” I said, entranced by the brunette beauty before me. “My name is Edmund M…”

“Stop zere, Mr Edmund. We ‘ave a tradition ‘ere of using only our Christian names. I myself am Madame Nathalie!”

“I am enchanted!” I said. “Are you, perhaps, from France?” I asked. “Your accent is most mellifluous!”

“Indeed, Mr Edmund. I am lately from Paris, where I run a similar society to zis establishment. I was asked by some visitors from England if I might set up such an organisation in London as well and so, sree years later, ‘ere we are!” she spread her slender, bare arms to encompass the luxurious interior.  She wore, most unusually for a woman, a delicate, gold wristwatch.

“This is a splendid salon, indeed!” I noticed that several other gentlemen had been shown into the room by Jacob and were being seated away from us.

“Well, please enjoy yourselves tonight. I must attend to ze other members!” she smiled and left with a rustle of silk and an enduring cloud of lavender perfume. We sat down again.

“What a striking woman!” I declared, quite overcome. “But how unusual to have a woman presiding over an exploration society. Does she have any history of exploring herself? Like Lady Baker, perhaps?” I had interviewed the redoubtable widow of the explorer at her house in Devon the previous year.

“I believe that she once lived in Indo-China and, indeed speaks several oriental languages,” said Britten, smiling at me.

“Why are you smiling at me in such a fashion?” I asked.

He laughed. “No reason at all. You are priceless! Now how about some supper and, more importantly, some wine!” We were offered some Champagne by Jacob, shortly afterwards.

“Your dinner will be in the oriental room, Mr William,” he said, “whenever you are ready.” We soon finished our Champagne and stood up to cross the salon. Britten led me through a door and we found ourselves in a corridor with a number of doors off it. The building seemed much larger on the inside than it did from the outside. Who would have thought it? Each door had a small brass plate upon it, engraved with a map of a geographical region.  Northern Europe, The Mediterranean, North America, South America, North Africa, The Levant and Arabia and so on. We stopped outside a door with a map of Japan, China and Indo-China on it.

“This is a novel idea but how apposite for an exploration society!” I said. We entered the room and there was a medium sized dining table set for dinner with two Chinese Chippendale chairs arranged opposite each other. The walls were hung with jade green silk, appropriately, and there were a large number of small oriental paintings and prints on the walls although I could not see them in detail as the room was rather dimly lit but to cozy effect. A large oriental style bronze of a lion sat in one corner and even the lamp shades were of oriental design. “How splendid!” I said, as indeed it was. “Can’t think why you bother with the stuffy old Reform when this is so much smarter!”

“They offer different environments, indeed,” said William. “Now, the food here is good but it is all cold at present. They are having the kitchen remodelled and there is no choice here so we will be presented with a cold collation, if that is acceptable?”

“Acceptable? It sounds ideal!” I replied. It was now gone nine o’clock, according to the clock upon the mantelpiece. The clock itself was of a bronze elephant on an ornate stand upon which the clock rested. Atop the clock was a Chinese-looking male figure. It looked expensive and I wondered what the membership fee was of the society. More than I could afford, I knew.

The door opened and, much to my surprise, two oriental beauties entered the room, holding red leather portfolios. They were dressed in  brightly coloured oriental silk gowns.  I was surprised to find more women on the staff. “Good evening, sirs!” said the first girl who was dressed in a scarlet gown embroidered with gold chrysanthemums.  She had loose, waist-length black hair.

“Good evening Jasmine!” said William. “This is my best friend, Mr Edmund. It is his first visit this evening!”

“Welcome to Babyron Explolation Society!” she said, struggling with the longer word, somewhat. “May I plesent wine rist?” she said, passing the red folder to Britten.

“Excellent! What shall we have? Why don’t we have some more Champagne? To celebrate your freedom from the tedious Agnes and all the opportunities you can now pursue instead!”

“I don’t feel like celebrating. I feel completely rejected,” I said.

“Nonsense. You have escaped, not been rejected. And at least you have an entertaining memory to console you! A bottle of the Pol Roger, I think. Jasmine!” She bowed and left the room leaving the other girl, who was dressed in one of the brightly coloured Japanese kimonos which had been so fashionable a few years earlier. She stood just inside the door clutching another red leather folder. She smiled at me. Her face, while also oriental, was of a different aspect from the first girl’s and her hair was pinned up on top of her head. “This is Hoshimi. All the staff come from foreign countries!”

“Where does Jacob come from? Africa or the West Indies?” I asked.

“He is from Bermondsey, I believe," said Britten.  "But south of the river is almost overseas, don’t you think?”

Jasmine returned, accompanied by Jacob who opened the Champagne for us and poured it, holding the bottle carefully in his white gloves. They both left and Hoshimi stepped forward presenting me with the leather folder.

“This evening’s menu, sir!” she said, giving me that dazzling smile again. I have always responded to a beautiful smile on a girl more than any other attribute, I do confess. It was Agnes’ smile that had first attracted me to her, across the crowded Sackville Gallery. I took the leather folder from her and looked at William.

“I thought they did not have a choice of food at present?”

“Not really,” he said. I opened the leather binder and there on the first page, instead of the expected list of dishes, were two photographs, each about the size of a postcard and mounted on cream card, of a blonde woman. The first was a portrait of a smiling, fresh face with curly fair hair, not dissimilar to Agnes. Her lips were rather fuller and her cheeks had a softer, almost cherubic aspect. The photograph below showed her reclining completely naked on a chaise longue, her soft round breasts and fleece of pale hair at the apex of her thighs completely revealed. Underneath the photographs was written, in neat copperplate: ‘Anna. Sweden. Nineteen. Five foot four inches.'  Realisation dawned on me as I turned the page. A dark haired lovely gazed out at me in her portrait and underneath there she was, standing naked, apart from black stockings, with her hands behind her bottom leaning against a brass bedstead. Her fleece was black and she had small well shaped breasts with dark nipples. ‘Béatrice. France. Seventeen. Five foot three inches’. There were about twenty five pages in all. I had a thought and flicked past the charms of Claudia from Italy, Elvira from Spain and Gretchen from Germany. Helpfully, arranged in alphabetical order, I soon found ‘Hoshimi. Japan. Twenty-one. Five foot two inches’.

"But this is a…a…” I stammered.

“It is a private society for the entertainment of gentlemen and, actually, a number of ladies. They have their own salon. Madame Nathalie is a very modern woman.” said Britten, sipping his Champagne.

I flipped through the rest of the ‘menu’, puzzled about the activities of the lady members. I was very taken by the curvaceous charms of ‘Mette, Denmark. Twenty. Five foot five inches.’  “Do you mean there are men here who…who…” I said.

“No, all are women,” he answered.

“But why would a woman want to lay with another...? Oh! Really?” My sexual knowledge was increasing at an extraordinary rate that day. “But what do they do? I mean, without a…?” I stopped, realising that I was making myself seem like a simple, unsophisticated Irishman; which is exactly what I was, in this new secret realm of sexual interaction.

“Well, another time we can perhaps arrange a demonstration for you!”  He nodded at Hoshimi. “Anna for me, if she is available.” Hoshimi nodded and smiled.

“You have made choice, Mr Edmund?” she asked me, giving me that lovely smile. How could I even be thinking about employing the services of a prostitute at this point, however beautiful and poised? What a betrayal to Agnes! To my intended! The woman to whom I was going to prove myself with an act of derring-do! I stopped that train of thought and frowned. The woman who had just completely and heartlessly rejected me as I presented and exposed my whole being to her for her approval! On my knees! An adventurer. That was what she wanted! Not a storyteller. The way she had used the word made me sound like someone who wrote juvenile books for children. The Golden Fairy, by Edmund Molloy. A fairy who turned out to be a witch!  It was at this precise moment that I decided to record my erotic adventure that night. I would be a storyteller, yes, but a teller of tales for adults. Hoshimi coughed, quietly. I realised I had been staring into space.

“Do you know, Hoshimi, you are not only the most beautiful girl in this, er, menu but you are quite the most beautiful I have ever seen! So my choice is for you, if you accept me.” Her smile lit up the room and she bowed to me and left us alone.

“I didn’t know your taste ran to such exotica, Edmund. I was sure that you would select a blonde!” said Britten. “Perhaps the Dane, Mette.”

“Neither did I!” In fact although I did find Hoshimi beautiful and enticing I really wanted someone who looked as different from Agnes as possible. “What happens now? When do I, well…? I have never been in such a place!” A thought suddenly occurred to me. “Hoshimi. You haven’t, er…have you?”

“No, my taste does run to blondes. And redheads but my favourite, Bettina, is not available today,” he said, flicking through the menu. “Next time! There are many more girls than appear here. Madame Nathalie brings new ones across from Paris every month or so. I believe that she is setting up another establishment in Berlin too. There is a negro girl from Jamaica whose figure you would not believe! What a marvellous arse she has! The selection changes from day to day. And the rumour is that she has secured a pair of identical twins from Constantinople, who should be arriving soon!”

“Twins?” I said. “I knew a pair of identical twin girls back in Ireland. Moira and Muriel. Flame haired beauties who kept the whole city of Dublin in their thrall. There was something slightly disturbing about them, as if they were communicating wordlessly with each other in your presence. There were many fights caused by those two, I can tell you, as they appeared to enjoy juggling and, it is rumoured, swapping their many suitors!”

“Red headed twins? Superb!” said Britten. “I would imagine the Turkish twins will be dark! Oh well!” Hoshimi and Jasmine appeared once more and laid out a quite splendid cold collation. There were chicken and duck legs, slices of ham and rare roast beef, pork chops, cold sausages and a game pie. There was also a plate of big juicy prawns, smoked mackerel, salmon and trout. Various condiments were placed on the table as well. Britten, patted Jasmine affectionately on the bottom as she placed a silver spoon next to the mustard. She smiled at him. I thought about doing the same to Hoshimi but did not think I could carry off Britten’s insouciance. “Now, you need to finish your Champage, Molloy, as the claret is here!” Jacob had reappeared with a bottle of 1900 Château Pichon Longueville, Comtesse de Lalande, already decanted. As we drank and helped ourselves from the loaded plates I was simultaneously becoming happier and more relaxed while also harbouring an increasing nervousness about what might happen as regards Hoshimi. “Will this be your first time? Or have you had some of those copper thatched beauties out amongst the bogs in Ireland? Some lusty colleen in the potato fields?” said Britten cutting a sausage in two. I winced slightly as my mind was on more carnal pleasures than culinary.

“Have you ever actually been to Ireland? You seem to have a peculiar view of the place!” I said.

 He laughed. “I saw the coast from the liner to Brazil! Very green!” I shook my head. I wondered how far I would have to travel to impress Agnes.

“In answer to your question, no. My experience with Agnes is my sexual frontier to date! I do not have your undoubted experience, old chap!”

“Yes, but I think you score more highly. All of my carnal fun has been with professional ladies such as we find here. My father bought me my first one as a twenty first birthday present. Not here of course. In Paris. Couldn’t understand a word she said and although she was passing pretty with black, curly hair, a nice curvy figure and a round, yielding rump, she wasn’t of the quality you find here. No, Molloy. You have had an experience with an independent, beautiful woman of her own volition. Virginia won’t even let me kiss her. All I am allowed to do is to clasp her hand when we meet and say goodbye!”

“Well, look, perhaps Virginia is not the right girl for you. I cannot imagine that such a lack of interest in physical contact at this stage will magically transform into a burning passion on marriage. How long has it been now? A year? I have known Agnes for just a few weeks and already...”

“Yes, alright, I take your point. But many men have sexless marriages and obtain their fun outside with a mistress or in places such as this!” He was poking the remaining slice of game pie with his knife. Eat it or leave it, I thought, hungrily. When the food had arrived I had thought it enough for four but we had scoffed most of it.

“But shouldn’t the ideal be a woman who is all things? A life companion, a mother to your children and a willing sexual partner?” I asked. “You only get a mistress when your wife is past it, at, say, thirty. Perhaps thirty five, if she maintains her looks!”

“Rare as hen’s teeth!” he mumbled and put his knife down. I reached out and grabbed the last slice of pie. He made a face, picked up his knife again and waved it at me like a rapier.

“You have to grab what you want!” I said.

“Perhaps I could grab Agnes? I’m an adventurous type! Been to Egypt, India, Singapore, Malaya and Brazil!”

“Well apart from the fact that making a grab for Agnes would involve me having to take you to Charing Cross Hospital, on account of your broken nose, I suspect that staying in the Grand Hotel de l'Europe in Singapore would not fulfill her criterion of adventurous,” I said. “The risk of being savaged by a cocktail waiter bearing a Gibson rather pales compared with facing down a tiger, I would have thought!”

“It was a jolly nice hotel!” he said. He had returned from there last month. “I cannot believe that it is you giving me advice on my love life when we are here to advance yours!”

“Well, it is not really love if you have to pay,” I said. I was now not sure if I could go through with what was contemplated. “It is for money not love!”

“Well, all women love for money but most are more indirect about the payment,” maintained Britten. “Dinners out, trips to the theatre, dresses, jewellery, etcetera. Let alone a place to live. Security and comfort for life. All they have to do is pop out a few babies! You jolly well pay for every roll with a wife!” he declared. “One way or another! And the girls here will love you for an hour or two. Genuine, unconditional, passionate love!” I smiled, believing that these women must just be particularly good actresses, which is what old McCandless said once about the high class ones. Toffers, he called them.

I was disappointed in Britten's cynical view of womankind. There must be true romantic love that was not dependent on financial gain, I hoped. Britten was five years older than me, however, so perhaps I was just being naive again. My more immediate issue was whether I could engage physically with a woman I had only just met and with whom I had no emotional bond.  I was starting to doubt it.

There was a gentle tap on the door and I jumped in alarm. My heart began to race.

The next chapter,Chapter 3, is here.

Notes on this chapter can be found here.