Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Chapter 5: “All out for the morning!”

Bloomsbury Square 

Edmund Molloy, a journalist, was assigned by his newspaper, The Daily Courier, to interview the notorious Professor Challenor, who was due to give a lecture on the discovery of prehistoric creatures in the jungles of Amazonia.  Molloy was charmed by the Professor's flirtatious wife, Edith, who he had eavesdropped upon while she engaged in a bout of passion with her husband at their home in Bloomsbury Square. 

“Honestly, Molloy, you have gone from being a complete dunce around women to having married ladies behaving towards you in the most familiar way. Sexual confidence breeds general confidence which breeds admiration which breeds more opportunity!” said Britten, as we had dinner in the splendid dining room of the Ritz Hotel. “I take some credit for your transformation, along with the ladies from the Babylon Exploration Society, of course. Although, perhaps, we should give most of the credit to the very forward Agnes!” 

“Currently I do not feel like giving Agnes credit for anything! Well, I suppose all of those influences may have had some effect. Certainly Mrs Challenor seemed very taken with me!” 

“Well if her husband is as simian as your description indicates then perhaps she is just looking for a well formed man. Intimate congress with an ape must be quite revolting!” He sipped some of his Chateau La Tour Blanche. 

 “She appeared to be enjoying it greatly, from what I could hear through the professor’s study door!” I said, cutting into my fois gras. 

“Indeed! Now continue with your account of your visit!” said Britten. 

I told him the amazing story of how Blanc and his small expedition had, based on local stories, found their way to a cave at the foot of the plateau’s escarpment. This they had entered and discovered a series of caves leading up into the interior of the mount. Cutting torches, Blanc and his daughter ascended the passage. Their few remaining Indian porters had refused to follow them, quoting the story of Puripuri, some sort of winged demon. Blanc had put their stories down to fears of large bats which they certainly found in the cave. Eventually, they reached daylight and realised that they were on the top of the plateau. Their exit was blocked by stones and logs but after several hours they could clear enough of a hole to crawl out onto the top of the mount. 

“Fully half of the journal tells of the wonders they found there," I said. "It seems, according to Professor Challenor, that this plateau has been cut off from the world for tens of millions of years and is filled with plants and creatures that have long since died out on earth!” 

“What?” asked Britten drinking some more Sauternes. I had thought it odd to have a Sauternes with the fois gras but it complimented it perfectly. There was even more to learn about wine than women, it seemed. “What do you mean?” 

“Dinosaurs, old chap! Living breathing dinosaurs!” I said, finishing my glass. 

“Poppycock! On what basis does Challenor make such an absurd assertion?” said Britten. 

“Well, the drawings in the journal and there was even a cracked glass plate photograph of a flying reptile. A photograph of a prehistoric pterodactyl!” I said. “The Indians Puripuri is actually a flying reptile thought to be long extinct!” 

“Honestly, it sounds like Madam Challenor’s musky charms have gone to your head, old chap!” said Britten, waving for the sommelier to bring over our bottle of Latour '99. “Anyone can knock together a series of drawings of dinosaurs! Just get yourself down to Crystal Place or visit the Natural History Museum and sketch away! I am certain you can! Anna is delighted with that sketch you did of her last night, by the way. I think she wants to give you a special reward, if you take my meaning!” I blushed. After I had shot my seed over Hoshimi’s flat belly, having withdrawn just before the critical moment, we had washed each other and then dressed to return to the Oriental Room downstairs, where some Port and Stilton had been laid out. Britten and Anna, displaying a lot of leg from under her peignoir as she sat on his lap, were already tucking in, Britten, annoyingly, having finished the claret. The Scandinavian had looked so pretty I whipped out my reporter’s notebook and pencil and did a quick sketch of her. I then had to do one of Hoshimi too, of course. 

 “Yes, but...” I began. 

“And as for photographs, well they are very easy to fake. It would be just as easy to present photographs of fairies looking as real as any dinosaur, I am sure, with a little photographic trickery!” said Britten. 

“But Challenor explained that the depiction of the dinosaurs, particularly of Iguanodon, is completely different from those in Crystal Palace and even the more modern reconstructions of today. This Iguanodon in the journal has its tail held out horizontally behind. It is not dragging on the ground and is in a much less upright posture than is depicted now! You could not invent such a pose unless you had witnessed it!” 

“Can’t say I would know an Iguanodon if it roamed down Piccadilly tonight!” said Britten as the decanter of wine arrived. “But what happened to the girl who drew the pictures?” 

“Well, something terrible happened. The journal entries, which had been detailed and scientific suddenly stopped. “My God, I have lost her!” were the final words in the journal, written in a shaky hand. After that, nothing. The account ends there!” I said, still thinking about the haunting face of the girl and wondering what terrible fate had befallen her. 

“Well, it is certainly a good tale. You have been looking for a subject for your adventure novel and there you have it. Jungles, cannibal Indians, monsters and some lost world in the clouds! Classic stuff! I am sure that twelve year old boys will lap it up!” 

“I have to say, that was my initial thought too but Challenor was convincing. He also said that there was a piece of physical evidence that would lend veracity to the tale! Anyway, McCandless said it was worth me attending the lecture and that he would even go too. He said at best we could be in on the story of the century and at worst we could reveal a crank and a charlatan. Both would shift more copies, anyway. Especially as none of the other newspapers seem to have picked up on Challenor’s lecture, our discrete enquiries have informed us.” 

“Perhaps because they, at least, can recognise pure bunkum!” said Britten. “Well, I am certainly intrigued to see the monkey professor’s reputation blasted into tatters, especially if the disappointed wife is looking for comfort and somewhere private to bathe naked in the sun. I have a very secluded terrace at the rear of my house! I will attend Challenor’s lecture myself and you will introduce me to his wife! After all you cannot be pursuing two women romantically at the same time, it isn’t fair!” 

“In that case you cannot pursue Mrs Challenor and Virginia. That also is not fair! In any fact, I am not pursuing Mrs Challenor, romantically or in any other way!” I said. I had enjoyed Mrs Challenor’s flirtatious ways but she was a happily married lady who was slightly older than me mammy! 

“Anyway, I thought Challenor hated journalists! Didn’t he attack a couple of your chaps not long ago?” asked Britten, dropping, I was glad to hear, the subject of Mrs Challenor. 

“Yes, well, now there is a curious thing. At no point did Challenor twig that I was a journalist. I think I convinced him that I knew something about prehistory but mainly I focused on things like whether he would require a magic lantern, a blackboard and such like. He said that he thought that had all been dealt with but he reiterated everything, anyway. I left his house about three and rushed straight to the British Museum. There I told them that I was a reporter, just come from Professor Challenor’s house and was checking on the arrangements for the following day. Fortunately, they did not know that he now required a large table so I was able to add veracity to my tale! Anyway, I secured a good place for myself at what is, it seems, a sold out event!” 

“Until he discovers that you are a reporter tomorrow and throws you out of the lecture hall! I hope it’s not upstairs!” 

“No, no. We are in the Reptile Gallery, on the ground floor. I have seen it. The Museum’s famous dinosaur skeleton dominates it somewhat, though. Now, when I got back to the office at about six I found a letter waiting for me!” I continued. “I had discussed the matter with McCandless and we had agreed that an early piece on tomorrow’s lecture was not appropriate and having delivered my updated obituary on Lord James Hoxton, that was him last night, wasn’t it?” Britten shrugged, “I went home to write up my meeting with Challenor.” 

“And the letter? It can’t have been Challenor, he didn’t know you were a reporter!” 

“Indeed, no! It was from Mrs Challenor. She had been suspicious about the nature of my questioning and had telephoned the Natural History Museum. They informed her that they had no Edmund Molloy on the staff but confirmed that the nice reporter from The Daily Courier of that name had informed them of the new arrangements for the stage tomorrow and all would be arranged. Well, she penned a letter and took herself off to Fleet Street immediately to deliver it personally to the Courier’s offices. 

“What did it say?” asked Britten nodding for the claret to be poured. 

“I have it here. ‘Dear Edmund,’” I began. 

“A familiar opening, at least!” said Britten sniffing his wine. 

‘You are a very brave man insinuating yourself into my husband’s house without confessing that you are a reporter, as I have subsequently discovered.’ She then goes on to detail how she found me out. ‘When, not if, my husband discovers your subterfuge I suggest that you ensure that you are accompanied by two burly policemen, as even your undoubted physical fitness will give you not the slightest chance when faced with the wrath of the Professor! You really are a very naughty young man and if you were here I would put you over my knee! Affectionately, Mrs George Challenor.’” 

“Oh dear. It sounds like you are in for trouble at every point!” said Britten, looking delighted. 

“There is a post scriptum. ‘My husband, still unaware of your true role, has suggested that you collect the magic lantern slides he is currently preparing, tomorrow morning and take them to the museum. He will be out from ten until four so I suggest you come at this time in order to avoid the possibility of unpleasantness!’” 

“So are you going?” asked Britten. 

“I think I have to!” I said. 

“Good luck! If I do not see you at the lecture tomorrow I will assume the Professor has caught you molesting his wife! I will check all the hospitals! Now would you like to join me at the Babylon Exploration Society tonight or is your mind full of the mature charms of Mrs Challenor? Madame Nathalie seemed very taken with your charms last night, she told me, before you came down. Perhaps you have been unsuccessfully focussing on young women when you should have been pursuing ladies of a certain age!” 

“I am becoming appealing to all sorts, I hope!” I laughed. “Your offer of a visit to the Babylon is very kind but I need to finish my account of my visit to Professor Challenor’s. I have to write two versions: One based on the fact that what he says is true and one lambasting him for being a fool and a charlatan. At present I am finding the latter account somewhat challenging!” 

“Ah, the good Professor has obviously gained a convert!” 

"Perhaps!  I am intrigued at the very least!" I said,

"Intrigued by Mrs Challenor!"

"Certainly by her!" I laughed.  I retired to my flat and worked on the second version of the interview with Challenor that McCandless wanted. I managed to incorporate much of Britten’s scepticism and finished the piece quite quickly. I then completed the account of my visit to the Babylon Exploration Society for my personal journal. At around one in the morning, I climbed into bed and wondered what the reaction to Challenor’s claims would be on the morrow. I did find myself looking forward to seeing Mrs Challenor again and as I thought about her sat on the footstool, sans drawers, a familiar flush of blood engorged me. I clasped my fingers around my manhood and realised, afterwards, that all thoughts of an erotically writhing Agnes had been replaced in my mind with images of Edith Challenor, 

The next morning was dark and rolling clouds threatened rain.  I entered Bloomsbury Square, walked around to the far side of the square from Challenor’s house and tried to make myself look inconspicuous. I was not surprised to see Challenor emerging from his house at precisely 10.00 am. Nevertheless, I waited another ten minutes before proceeding to the front door and rapping firmly on the knocker. I was surprised when Mrs Challenor answered the door herself. 

“Good morning, Mr Molloy. My, you do look very fine today!” She stepped back from the door and bid me into the hallway. 

“So do you madam. Where is Mason?” I asked. 

“On his way to Tunbridge Wells, much to his disgust. Some family crisis involving his sister, I believe. I think, to use the vernacular, she is in the pudding club without a husband. He will be away several days. So far, I am realising how very little he does around the house! I really cannot think why we employ the ghastly fellow! He is the only man who puts up with George, I suppose! Now, my friend Mabel has a very nice young man as butler. A pleasing fellow in every regard! Ah well! Pass me your hat and I will hang it up for you!”  She was wearing a long sleeved ivory coloured silk peignoir with ruffles at the cuffs and down the front. I glanced down and saw that she was, surprisingly, barefoot. “Ah,” she said spotting my downward gaze. “I was not expecting you quite so promptly and was about to take a bath. You really do find me completely naked, underneath, this morning!” She hung my hat on the hat stand next to the front door. I glanced appreciatively at her silk covered behind. I swallowed. 

“I am s-sorry!” I stammered, trying not to think on it and failing. “Perhaps I will take the magic lantern slides now and leave you in peace!”  

“Oh dear, I am afraid that I have not yet packed them up. George asked me to do that but I thought I would have time to take my bath first! You will have to wait, I am afraid. I do detest a cold bath and if I stop now to pack slides that is how it will be. Come upstairs and we can chat while I bathe!” She started towards the stairs. 

“Chat?” I asked, stupidly. 

“Yes! While I bathe. No doubt you have seen a naked woman before. The sight will not cause you any deep psychological problems, I am sure. You may even enjoy it!” 

“I do enjoy a naked woman, I admit. I drew a number of ladies at art school before I became a reporter.” I said, recovering my composure somewhat, while already wondering what terrible fate would befall me if Professor Challenor returned home early. “Although I was not expecting such an experience so very soon after meeting you, Mrs Challenor!” 

“But you were obviously contemplating it at some juncture, perhaps?” she said. I could see the outline of her nipples beneath the thin silk. They were very prominent. “How very forward of you! Meeting a married woman for the first time and already thinking about her in her natural state. And how did I look, in your fevered imagination?” she continued. 

“No! No! It was not like that at all. I...” I paused, uncharacteristically unable to think of anything to say. 

 “What was it like, pray? Was it the revelation yesterday that I was sans culottes, so to speak?” she grinned. “I am sorry to tease you. Of course I am flattered if you thought about me in an inappropriate way. Sometimes appropriate behaviour just needs to be discarded like a pair of drawers!” 

“I suppose so,” I ventured guardedly. 

“Anyway, while we discuss the level of your arousal, engendered by my nakedness, my bath is getting cold. Do come along!” 

“But what about the staff?” I asked. 

“All out for the morning! Cook and the scullery maid have gone shopping and I have given them the money to have lunch out. Mason is on his way to Kent. Emily the chambermaid is in Clapham for her mother’s birthday. I enjoy having time to myself. I am quite alone here. You could ravish me and no one would be here to stop you!”  She looked at me and raised an eyebrow.

“I cannot see the point in taking a woman against her will. Where is the happily shared intimacy in such a situation?” 

“Why, Mr Molloy, what an unusually sensitive young man you are! Now come upstairs at once!” I followed her up the stairs, unable to take my eyes off her undulating posterior under its thin, clinging, covering of silk. She led me into a large bathroom, which was surprisingly modern, given the decor elsewhere. It had a hot water boiler and was warm. She put her hand into the water. 

“Perfect!” She turned back to face me. “There is a chair in the bedroom next door!” she said indicating a different door from the one through which we had entered the room. I opened the door and found a pretty, floral and very feminine bedroom decorated in pinks and pale greens. This did not look like an environment that Professor Challenor would be at home with so I surmised that the couple had separate bedrooms. Not unusual in itself, although if I was married to Edith Challenor I would want her in the same bed as myself for as much time as possible. I picked up a wooden chair and carried it into the bathroom. “Place it there, next to the foot of the bath!” she said. I did so and was about to say something to her when she undid the tie at her waist, slipped her peignoir from her shoulders and dropped it onto a wicker linen basket. I confess that I actually audibly gasped. Her petite body seemed to me to be perfectly formed. She had wide hips, a slightly rounded belly with a thick floss of light brown curly hair beneath it and slim, well toned legs. Her breasts thrust forward from her narrow chest and were tipped by two pale pink nipples with large, erect teats like thimbles. 

“Goodness me, Mrs Challenor, what a very fine frame you possess, if I may be so bold. I would, one day, like the opportunity to draw you in your natural state!” 

“What a delightfully forward young man you are! I would very much like to be drawn by you! So what made you become a reporter rather than an artist? You were quite convincing yesterday, I must say!” she said, bending over the bath and sloshing the water around with her hand. The sight of that soft-looking posterior had me at the edge of tumescence but for some reason I mentally fought against it, feeling it would be most inappropriate. I looked away from her as she continued. “It was just the very structured nature of your questioning that made me suspicious. Reporter or detective, I thought. That and the fact that that I had already made all possible arrangements with the museum myself as regards today’s lecture!” 

“I assume you have told the Professor,” I said. 

“Of course not! There are many things that he does not have to know. Like our current situation, of course! Here, hang this up for me!” she said handing me her robe. I looked around and saw that one of the doors had a hook on it so carefully hung it there. As I turned back she was climbing into the bath. “How adventurous are you, Mr Molloy?” she asked. 

“Not adventurous enough, according to my former sweetheart, Agnes. She has recently broken off our relationship because I lack an intrepid spirit, she told me. I am seeking an exciting assignment from my newspaper, in order to improve her view of me! Currently, I am confined to writing obituaries!” 

“Deadly dull, no doubt!” She smiled, fetchingly. “Well a woman who breaks a relationship off just because of a perceived lack of an adventurous spirit is not worth pursuing, I would suggest.” 

“Oh I have an adventurous spirit, Mrs Challenor; just a lack of opportunity to display it!” I said. 

“I see! And how adventurous are you feeling today? Quite adventurous, I would think, if you are willing to follow a married woman you hardly know into her bathroom and look at her naked body with barely a hint of surprise, protest or embarrassment. Unusually adventurous for a man your age!” She smiled and picked up a sponge which she dunked into the water and then squeezed, distractingly, over her bosom. 

“There is something about you, Mrs Challenor, I do admit, which I find very attractive. Not just your undoubted good looks and, er, abundant charms but more to do with your personality which is slightly wicked, humorous, flirtatious but independent, open, friendly and also comforting.” I was starting to gabble, in my nervous state. 

“You make me sound like a particularly cherished Labrador!” she laughed. A bright, high young person’s laugh. Just as her body did not look like one a person of her age would possess. The bodies of the middle aged women who had served as life models at art school were sad, drooping things and nothing like Mrs Challenor’s fine form. I confess to having dug out Challenor’s draft obituary file in the office, from which I learned that she was forty-one; much younger than the professor’s fifty-six years but older than I had guessed when I first met her. Only the slight creases around her eyes and on her forehead betrayed this. Her body was smooth and pliant. 

“No, No! Far from a dog!” I said, laughing. She gave a little bark. 

“So, I say again, how adventurous are you feeling today, Mr Molloy? Will you display your unappreciated adventurous spirit for me?” 

 “In what manner?” I asked nervously. I both hoped and feared that this conversation might head in but one direction. 

“Look, I love my husband very much, even though he treats me quite appallingly in some ways. He has other redeeming features, although I have to say that physical attractiveness is not one of them!” I declined to comment on this statement on account of the fact that I could not think of anything convincing or polite to say. “Now, as you may gather I am a very sensual woman. More sensual than dear George can cope with, alas. You caught us yesterday in the throes of a very rare bout of passion. But I had to go in there, pull my drawers down, flip my skirts up over my bottom, lean across a chair and beg him, beg him, to perform his connubial duties. He did so quite efficiently but without any real passion, as ever. I felt that I was just something of a break for him from his work, as he finished his notes for today. Rather like having a nice pot of tea and a fancy biscuit. ‘Shall I have tea or shall I roger my wife?’ Do I shock you, Mr Molloy?” 

“Surprise me, perhaps, given our brief acquaintance, although even our short meeting yesterday gave me some prescience as to that wicked side of your nature!” I said carefully. 

“Wicked? I like to think of myself as saucy, perhaps. There is no malice in my activities, although others may not see it in the same way, I suspect! So, I repeat, how adventurous and, indeed, saucy, do you feel at this particular moment, Mr Molloy?” I suspected a trap but if that trap involved a naked Mrs Challenor for an extended period I quickly decided to succumb. 

 “I am feeling very adventurous this morning, Mrs Challenor. In fact I have quite decided to grasp every adventurous opportunity with which I am presented with both hands!” I could not help but look at her deliciously thrusting breasts. She gave me a smile. 

“Saucy indeed, Mr Molloy! In that case I suggest you remove all your clothes and climb into this really quite large bathtub with me!” 

“Oh!” I said, rather stupidly. “I thought I was going to sit on this chair!” 

“The chair is for your clothes, Mr Molloy!” The thought of being naked when Challenor burst into the room, like the Minotaur, added, however, a large element of risk over and above the situation I already found myself in. 

“But if your husband...” I began. 

“George is a creature of habit and exact time keeping. If he says he will return at four o’clock then four o’clock it will be! Now, be brave! Take your clothes off or I will be forced to remove them for you and then they will get quite wet!” I hesitated but Agnes’ goading about my lack of adventurous spirit made me abandon any reservations I might have had. I decided to throw caution to the winds. How could Challenor treat this marvellous woman so badly? He had also forcibly ejected me from his house and hit me with an umbrella. If his poor wife wanted some male companionship then if it wasn’t me she would no doubt soon find another to satisfy her desires. I started to undo my waistcoat. Mrs Challenor lay back in the bath and watched my every move as I removed my garments and placed them neatly over the back of the chair. I was soon down to my drawers. My mind flashed back to the night before and the expectant faces of Hoshimi and Madame Nathalie. 

“Are you quite sure about this, Mrs Challenor?” I asked hoping that she would say no but equally hoping she would say yes. 

“Of course! Do not be shy!” I pushed my combinations over my hips. Fortunately, my dark thoughts as regards being imminently assaulted by the furious Professor kept me in a flaccid state. 

 “There!” I said and stood before her on the tiled floor of the bathroom, totally exposed. 

“Goodness me, Mr Molloy. What a very fine physical specimen you are. So fit. So...manly. Now get in the bath and let us talk about drawing!”I climbed into the bath and stood there unable to work out where to sit without coming into contact with her body. 

“Where shall I sit, Mrs Challenor?” 

“Facing me of course! Oh I see! Do not concern yourself about physical contact with my person, Mr Molloy. It is inevitable!” I sat, my feet placed outside her haunches. She assumed the same position but not before slipping her foot between my legs and, shockingly, tickling my ballocks with her wriggling toes in greeting. Given this intimate situation I did not know what I was expecting to happen next but a long discussion about my family background, my artistic studies and my moving to London was not it. I realised that I was becoming used to sitting in the bath with a naked Mrs Challenor, as if it was a perfectly normal thing to do. She was just telling me of her fears that Challenor would finally ruin his career through his theories tonight when she began to soap her breasts. It was all done rather matter of factly. There was no sensual teasing, as I had experienced with Hoshimi the previous night. She washed under her arms which caused her breasts to jiggle enticingly and her forearms to brush her nipples. It was inevitable really. I placed my hands over my groin, not so much to cover my increasing excitement, as I could not do that completely, but, at least to prevent my organ breaking the surface of the bathwater like a broaching whale. She leant forward and slipped her hand under the water to clasp my shaft. 

“I...I am so sorry Mrs Challenor, I am just...” I mumbled, nevertheless thoroughly enjoying her soft grip. 

“You are just sitting here in my bath with a very large erect phallus!” she smiled. 

“I am mortified!” I said. “It is just that you are so...” 

“Well, I am so flattered, that is what I am, Mr Molloy. That such a desirable young man as you would find me exciting and become so...aroused! Goodness me, so very aroused indeed! Now move your hands! I did not invite you into my bath so that you would cover yourself!” I did so and I sprung upwards, my bulb popping up above the surface of the water. “Really, what a lovely one!” she said, gently massaging me with her small, soft hand. “Such an elegant, upwards curve! Such a very big glans!” 

“Mrs Challenor, if you keep doing that I cannot answer for my self control I may actually...” 

“Spill your seed? I would like to see that very much! In fact I insist on it! There really are very few things I enjoy more than the sight of an erect penis pumping forth! Let us wash and retire to my bedroom! You can spill your seed for my entertainment!” I stayed fully tumescent during this process, not surprisingly. She soaped my manhood with evident enjoyment although not, I suspect, to the level of enjoyment I was experiencing. I did not touch her body, other than inadvertently, during the process. There seemed to be some unspoken rule that she might touch me but I should not touch her. I fancied that she saw me as some sort of plaything rather than a man. When we had stepped out of the bath and dried ourselves, Mrs Challenor took hold of my manhood and led me into the bedroom, like a faithful dog or a lamb to slaughter. She pulled the blankets down and lay on the white linen sheets. “As I said, Edmund, I love my husband so do not hold thoughts of an emotional relationship or diverting me from George. Some intimate activity, to whatever level I choose, is offered to you if you accept! However, at this point I would be grateful if you could continue, as I notice that you have been doing, in refraining from caressing me.” 

“I enjoy your company very much, madam,” I replied, looking down at her pliant body. “And understand perfectly well that in your situation you must be the ultimate arbiter of events! I am, of course flattered by your attentions and gladly accept, in a spirit of adventure, your enticing offer!” 

“Excellent!” said Mrs Challenor.   "As an initial encounter I thought it might be entertaining to watch each other stimulate ourselves until we spend!” 

“Stimulate ourselves?” I asked, not believing what I had just heard. 

“Yes, of course. Frig! I am very aroused, as are you, patently! We should stimulate ourselves until climax! I take it you do stimulate yourself regularly? If you deny it I shall not believe you, although I suppose that you are a Catholic and I know that the Roman Church is particularly negative, even more than the Church of England, on the subject of self abuse, as they mistakenly call it. Personally, if I possessed a penis I would stroke and pump it constantly! As it is, I caress myself almost every day; particularly when reading in bed, which I find very comforting.” 

“I had not been previously aware that there was a female equivalent.” I ventured. 

“How typically male, that you only contemplate sexual pleasure through stimulation for men alone! Women have just as much desire for sexual gratification as men. It is just that society forces them to suppress it!. A suppression which I reject completely, Mr Molloy!” All during this exchange Mrs Challenor was caressing her body with her hands, much to my surprise and delight. She stroked her own thighs, hips, belly and breasts; whose nipples she squeezed, pulled and tweaked. She smiled at me throughout the process; daring me with her eyes. Enticing me. Conquering me. 

“It is a fine thing to enjoy your own body, Mrs Challenor. Although quite understandable, given yours is so very splendid!” I said, determined not to look foolish and inexperienced before this very brazen woman. 

“Why thank you, Mr Molloy. Your own form is very fine indeed too. You have an unusually well defined musculature which is a very pleasing sight and without wanting to contribute to any vanity on your part, your erect phallus is quite the most beautiful I have ever seen!” 

“Er, thank you!” I glanced down at it, still almost painfully rampant, and wondered how many others she had seen. I began to suspect that I was not the first man she had entertained in this manner. 

“Now come and kneel between my thighs!” she said, spreading her legs and cupping her sex. I climbed onto the bed and hopped over one slim leg. I could smell her arousal now. I looked down in excited fascination as Mrs Challenor began to stroke her sex, two fingers of her right hand gently rotating over it. It was pink and swollen and there was evidence of lubrication. “Come along, Edmund! Don’t be shy! Massage yourself for me!” 

 “Very well, Mrs Challenor!” I said, nervously. I took myself in hand and rubbed my erection a couple of times, looking intently at my manhood as I did so. It felt most odd in several ways. I had only ever performed this act lying down, not kneeling up and also, even while enjoying myself previously, I felt some lingering guilt about the process. To perform this intimate, forbidden act before someone else, someone I barely knew, felt uncomfortable. But then, was not that what I sought to do? To challenge myself? To be adventurous? Should not sexual adventures be as valid a challenge  as any other journey to a far flug part of the world?  Only by acts of derring do could I change my life! I looked up at Mrs Challenor and she smiled. encouragingly. 

“Come along Edmund! It is beautiful! Pump it for me!” she said. It was enough to give me confidence, if not entirely to remove my awareness of the situation completely. The very first time I had drunk beer, as an eleven year old at a family wedding in Donegal, I had become inebriated and felt so light headed and disembodied that I almost felt that I was looking down on myself from a point several feet above my head. I felt exactly the same that morning as Mrs Challenor rubbed her parts with increasing vigour and I worked myself too, as I knelt between her slim thighs. In Ireland self abuse was, of course, strongly denounced but in London I had started to enjoy taking pleasure in my manhood with rather less guilt than at home, as if the general wickedness of the capital somehow obscured God’s omniscience. Or perhaps it was just the fog. Anyway, who would not want to excite themselves at the sight of Mrs Challenor, lost in her own intimate passions? Her breasts bounced as she lay there, two fingers of her left hand rubbing quickly across the shaft of her clitoris (I was becoming an expert on the nomenclature of women’s parts) while one finger of her other hand rapidly penetrated her opening, making rhythmic, wet, lapping sounds like the tongue of a kitten in a bowl of cream. Indeed, cream was now pouring from her sex as she continued and her thrusting finger was glistening with it. She was rotating her hips slowly, like a dancer from Constantinople. I looked back up at her face and our eyes met. She smiled as we continued to perform what would normally be the most private of intimate actions in front of each other. I could see from her face, as much as her rapid breathing, her rising excitement. She spread her thighs even wider, pulled her knees back and I was shocked by the sight of her anus and its prominent ring of muscle. I was even more shocked when she inserted a finger into her back passage so that she was penetrating both her holes. She was gasping now, her breath coming in short staccato puffs. “Huh!” she gasped at last and lifted her hips so her bottom rose up off the bed and her thighs closed on her hands. She held this pose for a few seconds before dropping back onto the sheets once more, sighing and then gently extracted her digits from her parts. She let her thighs flop apart. I had slowed myself down because, to be frank, I was enjoying the sight and sounds so much but now she had reached her climax I increased my speed briefly and shot with such force that my spunk spurted right up the length of her torso, splashing her breasts, belly and intimate hair as I gave forth five times. She looked at me and grinned. I grinned back. 

 “That, Edmund, was just excellent!” 

“I am glad you enjoyed it, Mrs Challenor!” I replied. 

“I do think, Edmund, that as you have just ejaculated a copious quantity of your semen over much of my naked body, that you might call me Edith!  Now come and lie next to me!” I did so but after only a few minutes my thoughts turned to the Professor. I looked towards the door out to the landing and then Mrs Challenor’s bedroom window and had a vision of myself being thrown through it, to land bleeding and broken onto the pavement below. 

 “Well, Edmund,” said Mrs Challenor after a minute or so, “I have to admit that I had a little wager with myself that you would not, in fact, succumb to my charms!” 

“Why did you think that?” I asked. “Your charms are irresistible!” 

“When I pressed myself against you in George’s study yesterday you pulled away from me. I was most disappointed. I was in a state of extreme arousal, engendered by your presence. I was very wet!” 

“Wet? Oh I see!” I said, still not comfortable talking about such matters. I blushed. 

“So aroused, that after you had gone I went upstairs, pulled up my skirts and frigged myself on this very bed!” 

“I am flattered. I suppose!” I said. 

“You should be, Edmund! I am still a very desirable woman and am much admired. There is no point assuming false modesty about it!” 

“Indeed, not!” I agreed. She placed her fingers around my limp member and rubbed it a little. 

“What, if I may be so bold as to ask...” she began. 

“Be as bold as you like, Edith!” I interrupted. She continued to massage me and I thought, to my amazement, that perhaps a little response was evident. 

“Oh I intend to be, Edmund! Now, what is your experience of intimate activity?” 

“Intimate activity?” I asked, as she pulled my foreskin down and started stroking my knob with her thumb. 

“Yes! The act of love. With a woman, Not by yourself!” she laughed. “Sexual intercourse!” My mind raced. What should I answer? Should I pretend to be a naive virgin? If I admitted experience would she be put off? 

“Well, Edith, I have a few, a very few, experiences. Well, just one of actually, you know...” 

“Doing it!” she said. 

“But some other intimate experiences. All, I should say, very recent!” 

 “Have you had cause to ejaculate during them?” she asked, now tickling my ballocks. “I would think that you must have been making such a large amount of semen for some time!” She rubbed her damp chest with her other hand. 

“It’s best, I think, not to talk of others. I would not ask you, for example!” I said, attempting to stop the direction of the conversation. 

“That is a very wise thing to say, Edmund!” she said. She turned her face to me and kissed me on the lips; the only time that she had done so that morning. 

“Perhaps we should get up!” I suggested. 

“Well, perhaps we should, sadly, although I would like to continue enjoying your body but while some risk is exciting we do not want to push our luck today, I think! Cook may return shortly!” 

 “You will need another wash,” I said, looking at my essence drying on her ivory skin. I was worried about how my semen had spattered her sex and wondered if she could get pregnant that way. That would be difficult to explain, if she gave birth to an auburn haired baby! However, she later reassured me that she was barren, so the Challenors had no children. 

“I will not wash. I will wear your copious emissions as a perfume for the rest of the day. I did so enjoy the sight of you spurting forth like a fountain. The vigour of youth is its own pleasure. Appreciate it while it lasts, Edmund!” 

“I intend to enjoy my vigour greatly, Edith!” I replied pulling my combinations on. 

“We must do this again, very soon, Edmund, provided my husband hasn’t hospitalised you by then, on discovering your subterfuge regarding your profession. If he does, be sure that I will visit you at your bedside and will massage your organ for you as it may be impossible for you to do so with broken arms!” I looked at her wondering to what extent this was a joke or a prediction. She saw me looking anxious, laughed and patted my behind affectionately. 

Within ten minutes we were dressed and downstairs in Professor Challenor’s study, both still flushed with excitement. Edith carefully wrapped each glass magic lantern slide in tissue paper and placed them in a cedar wood box. Before she opened the front door she kissed me on the lips once more, placing her hands on my behind as she did so. “Good afternoon, Mr Molloy. I look forward to seeing you this evening in Kensington.” 

“Indeed, Mrs Challenor. The feeling is mutual!” I said, returning to our earlier formality. She opened the door and I stepped out into the street with the box of slides under my arm, all the time expecting the impact of a furious Professor Challenor hitting me like a Harlequins forward. She gave me a friendly wave and closed the door. The morning had been like a dream. I shook my head, took a deep breath and headed off to the Natural History Museum in Kensington.

Notes on this chapter can be found here.

Wednesday, 1 June 2016

Chapter 4: “Every circus lion has a tamer!”

British Museum Underground Station

Edmund Molloy, a journalist at the Daily Courier longs for more interesting assignments than the obituaries he seems condemned to writing.  Having been thrown over by his intended, Agnes, despite her performing an intimate act upon him, he is taken by his friend, William Britten, to the Babylon Exploration Society, a high class bordello run by Madame Nathalie, where he loses his virginity to a beautiful Japanese girl, Hoshimi.

“I wish you would wipe that self-satisfied grin off your face, Molloy, you are making me feel quite sick!” said old McCandless, in the office, the following morning. I had not expected McCandless to be in The Courier's offices in Fleet Street at all; it was far too early. Did he, as some of the others joked, live upstairs in a secret flat equipped with listening apparatus so that he knew everything we said about him? “I much prefer your usual vague look of bafflement at the world around you.” McCandless, with his Scottish burr, always managed to get four syllables into the word ‘world’. “Good grief, man, you look like you are actually thinking about something other than trashy novels. I suppose it’s a wee lassie!” I know that I blushed. 

“Well, uh, you see...” I stammered, my face burning.  Ever since I was a young boy I have been plagued by the fact that I blush far too easily. My pale complexion just serves to emphasise the florid colour my face turns when embarrassed or otherwise caught out. I could feel myself colouring then, as some of the sub-editors looked on in amusement.

“Well, as you have been haranguing me about better assignments I now have one for ye! Not that you deserve it, mind! The famous naturalist Professor Challenor is making a speech at the Museum of Natural History tomorrow evening. He claims he is going to make some startling announcement about ancient reptiles. My information is that most of the scientific community in London think the man is deluded, if not a little touched in the head. You see, I dinnae want to hold a half page for nothing but nor do I want to miss a genuine story, in the remote possibility that there is one. I want you to go and see him before his lecture to get an idea of what he is going to say. Here is his address.” He handed me a scrap of paper with an address in Bloomsbury upon it.

“Thank you sir! Thank you so much!” I said. Proper journalism at last!

“Oh, and he canna bear journalists and will not see you if you introduce yourself as such, you ken?” McCandless continued. “I dinnae care how you do it but get to him and let me know if we need to reserve some space in the audience. Tickets have almost sold out. And Molloy, I suggest you go home, wash, shave and change before you visit the Professor’s house. You look and smell like a tramp. Someone might think that you had been up all night doing what we won’t go into, although from your jovial demeanour I can guess. Run along now and for pity’s sake stop smiling!” He stomped back into his glass walled office.

“First time, eh Molloy?” asked the odious Pitts. “Did she have very thick spectacles? Was she plain, dumpy and a desperate thirty years old? Or perhaps you had to pay? Spending the imagined money from your imagined novel, already!”

“I did not have to pay!” I replied truthfully. “Surely it wasn’t the saintly Agnes?” chipped in Jones. “The blonde Angel. I can’t imagine her getting up to anything sordid. Well, I can, actually. Oh yes! Splendid!”

“Oh, oh, oh Edmund! Oh! Have you finished so soon?” said Pitts.

“Shut up Cess,” I said using his hated nickname. “I had a wonderful night last night and you can sneer all you like!” I said.

“Stop gabbing and get back to work!” shouted McCandless from inside his office. I scuttled off gratefully.

Back in my flat in Shepherd’s Bush I was excited by the prospect of my first proper job at the newspaper for months. I only got assignments like this if someone was ill or otherwise engaged. I quickly stripped and ran a bath. Perhaps someone had turned this job down. Well, I didn’t care! It was better than writing obituaries of the not yet deceased. As I looked down at my body an image of Madame Nathalie applying her mouth to my manhood came into my mind. Then one of Agnes and then Hoshimi. I was instantly erect. I took hold of myself and gave myself a couple of gentle strokes. I cupped my ballocks. Women had made them spill their seed three times yesterday. What a day it had been! I wondered about continuing until I spent but that would be odd so early in the day. Last thing at night, as an aid to sleep, was one thing. I stood up and looked at the reflection of myself and my tumescent member in the large mirror opposite the bath, over my wash hand basin. Yesterday, my manhood had been inside the mouths of three women and inside the private parts of one of them. I would never have dreamed of such events. My reflection caressed himself once more. I shook myself out of my erotic stupor and prepared to shave.

I made myself some tea and had some toast and marmalade as a late breakfast and got dressed. First thing, the amount of alcohol I had consumed last night had left me with something of a hangover, although I have always been able to handle drink well. My father always told me that the trick was to eschew coffee and drink lots of water. When we left the Babylon Exploration Society early that morning, Britten had kindly booked us a couple of rooms at the Ritz, although he said he would pick up the cost of both of our three guinea rooms, thank goodness. I drank most of the jug of drinking water on the bedside table before sleeping, perforce naked, given I had no pyjamas and, as a result, did not feel too bad in the morning. There had been no sign of Britten and when I checked at reception I was told I didn’t need to make any payment, much to my relief. I assumed he would appear later and had set off to the Courier’s offices in Fleet Street.

I sat for half an hour and started jotting down my recollections of my erotic adventures. I had bought a dozen blank journals about six months ago with plans to start working on my novel. Now, I sat and wrote about things which I thought could never be published although I did think that Britten might enjoy them at some point. Perhaps not now, as he seemed rather put out at my adventures the previous day. I must try to be sensitive and not look, as McCandless had suggested, so pleased with myself.

I set off to Earl’s Court station to take the Underground to British Museum station, which was close to the Challenor’s house in Bloomsbury Square. As we rattled along I pondered how I was going to actually gain entrance to his house, my mind full of the remonstrations I had received when trying to enter Mr Cardwell’s residence. There would be no Agnes to intercede on my behalf here. As I walked up Southampton Place towards Bloomsbury Square my adventures of the previous night flooded back to me once more but superimposed on them was a vivid, imagined, mental picture of a naked Agnes, spreading her thighs for me as I prepared to plunge into her dripping depths. I now knew exactly what it felt like. My fantasy of it with Agnes was now embellished with elements of heat and wetness I had not included before in my imaginings.

I wished I had spilled my seed that morning, now, because by the time I reached the black door of Challenor’s imposing house I was uncomfortably erect again. I stood before the steps up to his door, gazing at the white stone arched surround of the dwelling’s entrance and tried to calm myself down. My general level of fearful anticipation helped in this. Robinson, from Sports, who I had met as I left the office that morning, had delightedly informed me that Challenor had actually physically assaulted two journalists who had tried to waylay him outside his house over some comment he had made about the French, which had upset the country’s ambassador in London. The police were called and he was lucky not to have been charged.

Ancient reptiles, McCandless had said. I suspected that he was talking of dinosaurs, a subject about which I knew very little. Recently, however, I had taken Agnes to Crystal Palace one crisp afternoon and we had looked at the monstrous sculptures in the park there. The sight of these prehistoric creatures in a natural environment had made a great impression on me but really I was focussed rather more on the close presence of Agnes who had taken my arm as we walked. No sign then of her forthcoming, perfidious rejection of me. She was all smiles and physical closeness. What a turncoat!

I took a deep breath, my person now having returned to its normal proportions, climbed the three white steps and knocked boldly on the large brass doorknocker. There was no response. I counted to ten and tried again. Still no response. I counted to twenty and tried once more. This time I could just hear something inside. I waited, holding my breath and then the door opened slowly and a lugubrious looking butler stood before me, his drooping jowls and large baggy eyes giving him the appearance of a tired old hound.

“Yes?” he drawled.

“I have come to see Professor Challenor!” I announced.

“Yes? And who might you be? Do you have an appointment?” he looked at me in a way that indicated he knew full well that I didn’t have an appointment.

“No.” I began but he was already closing the door. “Wait!” I cried, an inspiration striking me. “Wait! I am from the Natural History Museum in Kensington!” I said. “I have come about Professor Challenor’s lecture tomorrow evening. There are administrative arrangements to be finalised!

“Administrative?” asked the butler.

“Arrangements!” I confirmed. He stood there for fully fifteen seconds, looking down his nose at me. He sighed.

 “I suppose you had better enter!” he said. “However, Professor Challenor is currently engaged and may be some time!”

“I am happy to wait!” I declared, as he reluctantly held the door open for me. I stepped into a large square hallway, some twenty five feet on a side, decorated with paintings of exotic wildlife and several mounted heads of antelope and jungle cats. A large aspidistra sat in a brass planter at the bottom of the stairs which led up to an open landing. There were some small tables around the edges of the room on which sat a number of ethnic looking objects which reminded me of the Babylon Exploration Society. Oh dear, I thought, I must control myself.

“The professor is in his study!” he nodded towards a door on the left at the rear of the hallway, as he took my hat and coat. “You may wait here until he is free!” I nodded gratefully and looked for a chair but there wasn’t one. “Do I detect an Irish accent?”

“Yes, indeed. Molloy. Edmund Molloy!” I held out my hand. The Butler curled his lip and pointedly did not take it.

“I know the exact position of every object in this entrance hall, Mr Molloy. Just remember that!” he intoned.

“To be sure, sor, I will try to control me natural thievin’ instincts in such a place!” I joked. Did he think I might try and stuff an ibex head into my pocket? He sneered and withdrew into a side door and I was left standing alone in the hall. I occupied myself for a few minutes looking at the paintings, the elephant’s foot umbrella stand, which was full of broken umbrellas, and the other objects in the hall. I looked at my pocket watch and realised I had only been there five minutes. It seemed like an eternity. Glancing around, in case I incurred the wrath of the bloodhound like butler, I edged to the rear of the hallway, under the stairs, where I spied a display case, as you find in museums. As I approached it I realised I could hear sounds emanating from the Professor’s study to my immediate left. Gasping, moaning and grunting. Until last night I would not have been entirely sure what they were but now I knew them to be the sounds of passion.

Hoshimi had been rather quiet as I took her the previous night; her passion being indicated by her rapid breathing alone. Britten had later told me that the Orientals were rather more restrained in their behaviour, which is why he preferred the girls from Northern Europe. “That Anna. She barks like a dog when you get her going!” he had said as we walked to the Ritz at about one thirty in the morning. I had heard plenty of sounds of passion from behind closed doors in the Babylon Exploration Society as the members explored foreign parts. I smiled at the memory. At one point, as I took a break from Hoshimi’s charms to find a water closet, I am sure that I spied Lord James Hoxton stalking down the corridor. Surely a man of his reputation would not need to pay for his female companionship? He was a notorious lothario, after all; cutting a swathe through London’s beauties as if they were the helpless targets of his hunting rifle. When I quizzed Britten he refused to discuss the subject; maintaining it was a Society rule not to discuss other members.

Whoever was inside with Professor Challenor, if it was indeed him and not some wayward footmen with the parlour maid, was giving good voice.“Oh George! That’s it! That’s it!” cried a woman. I could now, as I crept up to the door, discern a rhythmic slapping sound as well. Challenor, for it must be he, as he was certainly called George, responded by grunting like a pig. I looked down at the keyhole. I bit my lip and looked back into the main hall. There was no one in sight. I squatted down quickly and peered through the keyhole but it was blocked, obviously by the key inserted from the other side. I stood up and took a step back as ‘George’ started a low growling that increased in noise and pitch into a terrifying crescendo like the arrival of an express train. The woman shrieked and there was silence. After a brief pause there was the sound of a kiss and the female voice said: “That was quite excellent, George. Shall I arrange for some tea?”

Worried about whoever the woman was, emerging from the room, I carefully and silently crossed the entrance hall and stood looking out of the window onto Bloomsbury Square, with as much of an air of innocence as I could conjure up. A very pretty young woman was walking past with a white poodle on a lead. She caught me looking at her and smiled, her dark eyes peering from beneath the brim of her chestnut coloured hat. I smiled back and she nodded before leading her poodle out of sight, although not before I had registered the enticing sway of her hips. Suddenly, women seemed to be noticing me. Could they tell that I was now a man not a boy? Surely not. However, I decided that the pursuit of beautiful women was to be my new calling in life.

I heard a key turning in the lock and spun around to see the door of the study opening and a delicate woman emerging dressed in a simple white blouse with watch fob and dark blue skirt. She was in her late thirties or early forties, I supposed, with light brown hair tied loosely on top of her head. She was a striking looking woman with large well defined lips, a fine, delicate nose and flashing hazel eyes. She was petite, not much more than five feet two inches tall, but possessing beguiling curves, particularly in her upper body. Her shape was quite different from that of Hoshimi even though, I supposed, their height was similar. I thought that she might not be wearing a corset. A modern woman, then. She was patently not a servant despite her plain dress.

“Good afternoon, young man? Have you come to see George?” She gave me a lovely smile and I smiled back.

“Edmund Molloy, ma’am!” I said, taking a step towards her. “Natural History Museum.”

“Ah! Really? Oh, well, you must be here to talk about my husband’s lecture tomorrow, I suppose. I am Edith Challenor.” She extended her hand and I took it and squeezed gently.

“Delighted!” I said. A strong reek of what I now recognised as intimate female odour wafted into my nostrils. I tried not to react but I must have as she grinned at me and winked.

 “Now I was just going to arrange for some tea. I always like a cup of tea afterwards. Would you...?” she began but was interrupted by Professor Challenor erupting from his study like a gorilla from the depths of the African jungle.

“And who the devil are you?" he roared.  "And why are you inside my house? And why are you speaking to my wife?”  One thing I was to learn about Professor Challenor was that he had quite the loudest voice I have ever experienced.

“I, er...” I began but was interrupted by him stomping across the tiles, grabbing the back of the waistband of my trousers and bundling me towards the door.

“Out! Out! Out!” he cried. “Mason!” he roared. The lugubrious butler immediately appeared through the door at the side of the hall. “This man is just leaving! Door!” Mason scooted in front of me and opened the front door, literally tossing my hat and coat at me, which I grabbed out of the air employing the skills I had developed upon the rugby field.

“But Professor Challenor, I am here from the...argh!” I cried, as he had grabbed one of the broken umbrellas from the elephant’s foot and started beating me about the head. Then he shoved me in the back so forcefully that I was propelled through the front door and tripped and tumbled down the steps onto the pavement. I landed clumsily on my behind and thought that I might have turned an ankle in the process.

“Now then, now then,” said a voice and I looked up at a pair of midnight blue clad legs to see a police constable standing over me. “What’s goin’...?”

“Nothing! Nothing at all, constable!” I said standing up quickly, to demonstrate that I was not injured, even though I thought I probably was, as my ankle twinged.

“Constable this man is an intruder and I suggest you arrest him immediately!” said Challenor from his front door step.

“And he is Irish!” added Mason, looking at me triumphantly. “Perhaps he should be searched!”

“Now, now, Professor Challenor, I do hope that I won’t have to report another altercation with an innocent member of the public. You cannot go about throwing people down your steps like bags of coal!” said the policeman.

“It’s quite alright, constable,” I said, quickly. “We were merely acting out a potential problem regarding the stage that Professor Challenor is speaking from at the Natural History Museum tomorrow. I was demonstrating how he might inadvertently tumble off the stage if he was not careful. Unfortunately, I slipped myself, as you saw. Molloy. Edmund Molloy. Natural History Museum, Kensington.” I held out my hand, which the constable took and shook firmly.

“See, everything is quite alright! Edmund was just about to take tea with us. Please see to it, Mason!” said Mrs Challenor.

“Of course, ma’am,” said Mason, glaring at me.

 “Do come back inside, Edmund. Come along George. Thank you, constable!” She hustled Professor Challenor and myself inside and closed the door, as the constable continued on his beat. She leant back against the inside of the front door and took a deep breath and let it out slowly. “You are lucky, George! Very lucky, that this nice young man covered for you just then. There are laws about assaulting people and I do not want to see you in prison. After all what would I then do about...? Well, you know!” She glanced at me and smiled and this time I did manage to keep a stony face. She really was a very attractive woman and I wondered what she saw in Challenor. It must be something from this secret sexual world, I reasoned. “Now this man is from the Natural History Museum and is here to discuss arrangements regarding your lecture tomorrow. Do not upset him further! Just remember the difficulty we had in getting any institution to host you. The Royal Zoological Society would not have you, don’t forget, because of your reputation for causing trouble and general uproar. The Royal Society was the same. And as for the Royal Geographical Society! Well! Their comments were most disrespectful! We will soon be reduced to you giving your lectures at Covent Garden Market, with all the vegetables!”

“Most of those at my lectures might as well be vegetables for all the sense they have! Why at my talk on elasmosaurs two months ago that dolt Somersby said...”

“That is enough, George! Now let this young man into your study and stop barking at him!” Grudgingly, Challenor showed me towards his study. I glanced at the display case on the way in and saw that it was full of fossils.

“You can name them, of course!” he growled.

“Ah, well!” I stammered. “Not really my field but some nice ammonites, from Lyme Regis, perhaps. A trilobite. The famous Dudley bug!” I said referring to the town in the West Midland where many such fossils have been found. “And surely that is a tooth of an Iguanodon?” I said, indicating the large triangular fossil in the corner of the cabinet and remembering the names of some of the creatures depicted at Crystal Palace. I later discovered that it was nothing of the sort but was the tooth of a giant extinct shark named Carcharodon something.

“Hmm!” said Challenor, but let me enter his study, which was quite the most untidy room I had ever seen in my life. The walls were all book shelves but not with the volumes all nicely arrayed but with random piles of books piled vertically and horizontally and sometimes both in the same untidy stack. Every surface, including the floor, was covered in piles of more books, boxes, sheets of paper, bones, fossils, tools, shoes, microscopes, bottles, glasses, plates covered with half eaten food and small skeletons of birds in glass cases. Challenor sat down in a large, worn leather chair next to the fire, which was unlit, and stared at me. There was another chair opposite. There was a strong musky smell in the room which I recognised from the person of Mrs Challenor. “Well don’t just stand there like the idiot you undoubtedly are! Sit down, you fool!” I looked at the chair and attempted to pick up the pile of books and papers strewn across the seat in one go. Halfway to placing them on the floor the pile collapsed in my hands and tumbled onto the worn Persian carpet like a pack of cards. “Oh good grief! How difficult is it to pick something up without dropping it! Even my wife can do that!”

“I... I’m so sorry!” I said trying to reassemble the pile on the floor, to no avail.

“Leave, leave them, you buffoon!” barked Challenor. “Sit and tell me why you are here! Then depart!” I sat in the leather chair and looked at Challenor properly. He had a large head with a protruding brow ridge and thick bushy black eyebrows. He had rather longer hair than was fashionable and a huge bushy black beard that spread over his chest. His torso was massive and compared with his rather short legs, appeared to have come from another body entirely, rather in the manner of Frankenstein’s creature. Although his legs were short his thighs were huge and stretched his grey tweed trouser legs to their full circumference. His eyes were coal black and were fixing me with a most aggressive stare. I looked down at the floor in consternation and immediately saw a pair of woman’s drawers on the rug, partly under the chair on which Challenor was sitting. Was that where they had just been...?” I looked back up at him. Fortunately, he seemed to be unaware of his wife’s underthings on his floor. “Well come on! Come on! Spit it out! I haven’t got all day!”

“Ah, well, professor, the Museum would like to know the key points of your lecture in advance, you see. So we can ensure that we get the right people invited...”

“What?” he roared. “The day before my lecture and you have yet to invite anyone! I told your Professor George that...” It was my turn to interrupt him.

“No of course we have already invited many distinguished people. It is a sell out, in fact. But for you to make the maximum impact we need to brief the press tonight to make sure that they send reporters...”

“Reporters? Reporters?” He stood up from his chair and I contemplated making a dash for the door. “What use will they be? You might as well get some drooling cretins from Bedlam to attend. Their level of comprehension will be just as acute!” The door opened and Mrs Challenor entered, followed by Mason with the tea. I was relieved to say the least. “Edith, this idiot has just suggested that I invite reporters to my lecture! Reporters! Scribbling away with their blunt pencils and blunt minds!

“Well, I think that is a very good idea, George. What you are about to announce is so important it deserves the widest audience, not just a few academics and students...” Mrs Challenor pushed some more papers unceremoniously off a footstool and perched on it daintily.

“Good grief, woman, don’t push my papers about like autumn leaves in the park! Those were all carefully sorted documents which I was going to...”

“They are nothing of the kind, George. We both know full well that they are mostly bills from bookshops which you have not settled. I will deal with them in due course! Ah, thank you, Mason.” She took a cup of tea from the butler, who served Challenor next and myself last. He jogged the cup and saucer as he presented it to me, so that hot tea spilled onto my trousers. I winced but stifled an inappropriate exclamation.

“So sorry, sir,” he whispered. I tried not to scowl at him but refrained from saying anything, even though there was some pain.

“Oh poor Mr Molloy!” said Edith putting her cup and saucer on the rug and stepping across to brush the wet patch of my trousers. “Do you need a towel, perhaps?” She kept brushing my thigh, rather enjoyably.

“For God’s sake stop fussing woman! It’s tea not sulphuric acid!” roared the Professor. She sat down and smiled at me.

“It was hot tea, George! Not pleasant!” she glared at the back of the retreating Mason.

“Edith, why do you remain in my study?” barked Challenor.

“Well, I want to hear your story again, as it is so exciting! I also want to protect Mr Molloy. I don’t want to see him emerging with boxed ears like that poor man from The Times!"

"Hmm!” grunted Challenor but it was interesting to observe how he acceded to her wishes. Every circus lion has a tamer. I smiled and looked down at the floor so that Challenor wouldn’t see my reaction but ended up staring at the lady’s drawers half tucked under the chair again. I immediately looked up but caught Mrs Challenor’s eye as I did so. She winked at me again.

“Ah, I wondered where my drawers were! They are right under your chair, George!”

“What?” roared Challenor. “For heaven’s sake, woman, we have a guest, albeit an unwelcome one!”

“Shall I put them on again, George?   Mr Molloy would have to avert his eyes while I did so.  Or not, depending upon his inclination.  Perhaps it is best if I leave them off and remain naked underneath my skirts.”

“Edith!” said Challenor, reprovingly.

“It is quite alright, ma’am,” I said. “We are all naked underneath our clothes, as me Nanna used to say!”

“Mr Molloy,” boomed the Professor, “you should know that I am a firm believer in telepathy and I have some ability in this area!” He tapped his temple twice with two sausage-like fingers. I noticed Mrs Challenor pursing her lips and looking doubtful. “If I detect any part of your, no doubt filthy, bog-Irish mind forming thoughts about my wife I will not bother to throw you down the steps, I will pick you up and eject you through the window and glazing be damned!”

“I have no impure thoughts about your wife, sir," I said, lying, "although she is a very handsome women indeed. You are to be congratulated on your excellent taste!” I said, giving it some blarney. Challenor opened his mouth as if to say something but then just exhaled noisily instead, like a cornered bull. He looked at me and then his wife. He closed his mouth.

“Thank you, Mr Molloy. Your gentlemanly compliment is well taken!” said Mrs Challenor. My mind was flooded with images of what was under her skirt. What was her intimate hair like? Straight or curly? Britten and I had had a fascinating discussion about women’s parts the previous night. Did she have protruding lips or a neat little slit? Matters which, twenty four hours previously, I would have had no comprehension of.

 Challenor grunted and stood up, walking over to the large mahogany desk in front of the window. It was equally overburdened with piles of precariously balanced books. He picked up a tatty, hide-covered notebook. I looked at Mrs Challenor who wriggled slightly on her stool and smiled at me again. I could feel the beginnings of tumescence and turned my eyes to Challenor’s unprepossessing face, as an effective antidote to passionate thought.

“I have lately returned from the jungles of Amazonia. You do know where Amazonia is, I suppose? I would assume so but I have learned to never assume anything, particularly as regards the ignorance of the general public!”

“South America, Professor Challenor. I have a friend in the rubber trade and he regularly travels to the region!”

 “Good! Well, I was deep in an uncharted part of the jungle, having travelled up a northern tributary of the great river, when I came across a tribe of Indians...”

“They all walk around quite naked in front of each other, Mr Molloy,” interrupted Mrs Challenor. “All their parts on display! Can you imagine? If we were Indians we would all be sitting here naked as well! What a thought! Perhaps you might have a sheath on your manhood for decoration...”

“Edith! Stop it!” said Challenor sitting back down in his chair. “Are you married, Molloy?” he asked. I shook my head. “Don’t even contemplate it!” he said.

“I am sure Mr Molloy has many young ladies vying for his attention!” said Mrs Challenor. “He has a most handsome face and a very athletic figure!”

“Now is the time, woman, for you to remain silent! If that is even possible! Now where was I?”

“With the Indians, Professor!” I said.

“Indeed! I had come across a group of Indians in a canoe who seemed most anxious to attract my attention. I was with my guide, an excellent negro boy named Bumbo...”

“Such an amusing name!” said Mrs Challenor. Challenor glared at her.

“Bumbo confirmed that these natives were friendly so we joined them in their canoe and paddled to their village, several miles upstream. Once we arrived there, one of them led me to the largest hut; that of the headman of the village. Inside, I was shown, much to my surprise, a white man, obviously stricken with fever. Bumbo knows much about local medicine and inspected the fellow. He looked up at me and shook his head. He had been bitten by a Common Lancehead snake, bothrops atrox, as well as having contracted a fever. I knelt down beside him and saw that the natives had tried to make him as comfortable as possible. Eventually his eyes focussed on me and he mumbled something. I leant down closer to try to make out his almost inaudible words. I soon discerned that he was mumbling “mon journal” and “monde perdu”. Then he lapsed into more incomprehensible French. He waved feebly at a worn leather knapsack by his head. I opened it and extracted the journal you see in my hands now. Look at it Mr Molloy! Look!” I stood up and came to stand behind his chair as he opened the tatty volume which was quite large, about the size of The Illustrated London News, but much thicker. Challenor opened the first page and there was a hand drawn but seemingly accurate map of the top half of South America. “Here we find the poor man’s name, he died just hours after I found him in the hut. He was one Waring Blanc, a professor of engineering from McGill University in Montreal,” he said indicating the inscription.

“A Canadian?” I said.

“Yes, a Canadian, of course, Mr Molloy! Montreal is in Canada. A five year old knows that!  Have you ever been to Canada?”

"Indeed, no, Professor Challenor.  It is a country of trees and beaver and little else.  Wheat too. Don't they produce good flour?  Cook at home swore by it!"

"I absolutely do not need to know that, Mr Molloy, please be silent and listen!" said Challenor

The next few pages included sketches of scenes by a river which I took to be the Amazon.

“The drawing quality is very good,” I ventured, as Challenor turned the pages. “I am something of a draftsman myself and the artist has some real skill!” At this point Mrs Challenor came and stood next to me behind Challenor’s chair. I felt her hip press against my thigh. I edged slightly away from her but she immediately moved back into contact.

“I thought myself that the drawings were rather good,” she said. “But I know nothing of art so am glad to have my views confirmed by an expert!”

“Good grief, woman, it doesn’t take an expert to recognise artistic talent. The accuracy of the illustrations of the river at the beginning of his journey and the drawings of the native peoples make the later entries all the more remarkable!” said Challenor, constantly turning the pages. A neat precise script covered all the pages, interspersed with detailed drawings, executed in pen and ink, of the flora, fauna and peoples of the region. He turned the page and on one side was a full page drawing of several Amazonian Indians, men and women, standing completely naked, apart from certain decorative trinkets and anklets of what looked like feathers. The men’s private parts and the women’s breasts and groins were, as Mrs Challenor had indicated, blatantly displayed.

“What bucolic bliss it must be to disport oneself in one’s natural state all the time!” said Mrs Challenor. “Untrammelled by tiresome clothes and unaffected by the ridiculous dictates of fashion. I get the opportunity myself but rarely on the Isle of Wight, when I sometimes swim and lie naked in the sun along the bottom of the cliffs near Freshwater Bay, while George looks for fossils on the beach. I keep asking George to take me to Germany where communing naked with the elements is becoming a popular pastime. Although how our poor German cousins would react to George’s ape-like body would be interesting! Still, to feel the health giving rays of the sun on every intimate part of one’s skin is...”

“That is enough, Edith! This incessant flirting with Mr Molloy is getting tiresome. I will put you over my knee if you continue!” said Challenor, turning in his seat to look over his shoulder at his wife. I took a quick step away from Edith and hoped he had not noticed my proximity to her.

“I will take my punishment as always,” she said.“Perhaps Mr Molloy might like to witness my chastisement. It may be particularly entertaining for him given my somewhat underdressed state below!”  She looked at me and grinned.

Challenor sighed and turned the page of the journal roughly. “And here is where it begins. This map,” he indicated the detailed drawing on the page, “shows a heretofore unknown sub-tributary. In the next few pages, Blanc gives detailed instructions on how to reach a plateau deep in the interior. A plateau unknown to current geographers! He flicked through a few more pages. “And here it is!” The drawing showed an impressive escarpment raised high over the forest with waterfalls tumbling from the top of sheer cliffs. To one side stood a giant rock pillar which had obviously, in the past, been connected to the plateau.

“Good Lord,” I said. “It is like Table Mountain in the Cape!”

“Yes, but steeper and far larger. Later in his account Blanc estimates it as some twenty five or thirty miles across!”

“Similar to the Isle of Wight!” said Mrs Challenor. “Plenty of room for naked bathing in the sun!” He turned another page and there was an unexpected portrait of a young girl with dark, braided hair. About fourteen or fifteen years old, I would guess.

“But who is this?” I said.

“This is Blanc’s daughter, VĂ©ronique. She accompanied him on his travels. She is the artist behind these drawings, not the professor, it seems. This is a self portrait, perhaps done using a mirror. It is the only representation of her in the journal, although she is mentioned many times!” said Challenor. It was such a pretty, sweet and innocent face but she must be a far tougher individual than she looked to undertake such a gruelling expedition.

“I wonder what her pubescent thoughts were as she drew the naked Indians? Did it create a first few stirrings of feminine...?” began Mrs Challenor.

“Edith! That is enough! Not everything in life revolves around sex, you know!” Challenor, harrumphed and obviously realised he had said too much in front of me as he flicked through more pages, grumbling wordlessly to himself. Mrs Challenor squeezed my behind and nearly made me cry out in surprise.