Wednesday, 10 May 2017

Chapter 13 “Good to see you in a place like this!”

Ferreira 1863 port

While preparing for an expedition to South America to look for dinosaurs, expedition leader's wife, Edith Challenor, who is having an affair with journalist Edmund Molloy, has announced her intention to seduce the new expedition clerk Daisy Thompson

“She said what?” aked Britten later that evening, as we sat in the salon of the Babylon Exploration Society. Edith had returned to Professor Challenor and I was finding that my increasing fame (due in good part to my photograph now appearing next to my byline in each one of my expedition articles) had made having quiet conversations in the Reform Club rather less easy. Of course the members acted as diffident towards visitors as usual but I was still regularly accosted there, especially by guests and even some of the staff. Everyone, it seemed, was fascinated by dinosaurs. 

 “She said she intended to have sexual relations with Daisy while I watch!” I repeated. 

“Good Lord! Well, that should be very exciting! Do you think she would mind if I came along too?”

“It’s not the Babylon Exploration Society. Just a couple of bare rooms in the Euston Hotel!” I replied. 

“I’d sit on the floor! Quite happily!” 

 “I suspect that Edith’s success in seducing me may have given her ideas beyond her capabilities,” I said. 

 “A woman seducing a man is a much easier proposition, you mean?” said Britten. I nodded. 

 “When Edith invited me to join her in the bath I did not think of Agnes or poor Professor Challenor. I hardly hesitated. I just jumped right in, given such an opportunity!” 

“Quite right! We just give in and morals be damned!” Britten said. “But, as I well know, a man seducing a woman is much more difficult, as they are so solicitous of their precious virtue.” 

“Quite! A woman seducing another woman would be very much more difficult than that!  I have heard that they have such women in Paris but in London? I do not think so!” I said. 

“Well they have some here!” he said. 

“Really? Well they are all foreign!” I replied 

“Mr Edmund!” came a familiar voice. It was Lord Hoxton, who approached our table by the fire.

“Lord James!” I replied standing up to shake his hand. “This is my particular friend Mr William!” 

“Yes, of course.  We have seen each other here before. Seen you with old Crozier,  May I join you, gentlemen?” 

“Please, sit down Lord James!” said Britten. 

“Good to see you in a place like this,” Hoxton said, indicating the salon, which was the busiest I had seen it tonight, my third visit. There were around a dozen girls in attendance, dressed in their underthings or long sheer negligees. One or two were just wearing stcockings and short camisoles; occasionally flashing glimpses of their posteriors or even their soft moss, as they moved about the room. It created a delightful atmosphere, I have to say. “Can’t abide men who aren’t interested in increasing their sexual tally at every opportunity, what?” 

“We were discussing a related issue just now,” said Britten, watching a blonde beauty’s behind as she walked past our table. 

“Were you now? Do carry on!” He waved at Jacob who approached the table. “Jacob, can you get us a bottle of the Ferreira sixty-three?” Jacob withdrew. “One the last great  pre-phylloxera ports in the cellar!” Hoxton observed.  I had no idea what phylloxera was and imagined that, perhaps, it was some armed insurrection in Portugal, as they had only recently removed their king. I only later discovered it was a vine root eating beetle. “So what was the nature of your discussion? I may have some pertinent observations based on my own experience.” Britten looked at me. 

“If I may elucidate, on behalf of Mr Edmund?” I nodded but indicated with my eyes that he should be careful. Britten explained about Agnes. 

“Ah, the lovely girl at the British Museum!” said Hoxton. “I thought you said she was just a friend!” 

“Well, now she is that. At most!” I said. I did not like speaking about her, now. Britten explained that, in order to overcome my disappointment and frustration, he had brought me to the Babylon Exploration Society. 

“Best place to get over perfidious and ungrateful women!” said Hoxton, sympathetically. “A nice, hot, wet cunny eases all the stresses of life!” Britten continued my story. 

 “Now Mr Edmund has got involved with an older woman. An older married woman, who recently seduced him by inviting him to share a bath with her.” 

 “Might that be Mrs George Challenor?” ventured Hoxton, winking at Britten. 

“Well, I ah...” I started to blush furiously. 

“Anything that is said within the confines of the Babylon Exploration Society remains private. Nothing is said outside. My discretion is assured!” said Hoxton. 

“I cannot tell a lie...” I began, sounding like a former President of the United States, “especially to you, Lord James.” 

“Well done, Molloy. Need to know we can trust each other when we are in a tight spot. No secrets from expedition members, eh?” 

“Unless you are Professor Challenor!” said Britten. I glared at him. I apologised to Hoxton for misleading him but confessed that I was having a physical only (I emphasised, as if that somehow made it more acceptable) relationship (he seemed to think that was the only relationship worth having anyway) with Mrs Challenor.

“Well done Molloy! Edith Challenor, eh? Splendid titties I would imagine!” he chortled. "Unfashionably voluptuous, thank God!"

“She is a very handsome woman!” I said. 

“So that picture of the lady with the wonderful arse was her?” he continued. 

“Indeed,” I agreed, already desperately hoping that this confession would not return to bite me in the future. 

“She’s a tasty bint with a lovely bottom but a tad petite for my tastes! Like a girl to be a bit more strapping!” he said. “Tall. Have a bit more meat on her. Something to get hold of! Long legs and a big arse, in particular!   Like lady Caroline!”  The port arrived and we paused to take our first appreciative sips of this superb vintage, although Jacob fussed that it had not been decanted for nearly long enough. "Bought the whole lot from the Society so they keep it here just for me," explained Hoxton.  "Don't want that cheeky fellah Crozier ordering any!"  Britten then explained how Edith wanted to introduce another party into the relationship. 

“Does she now?” said Hoxton. “Not the Professor? Although that might not be too bad. Depends on the chap, of course. I was in Singapore a few years ago and was underneath a splendid married lady. Wife of a major. She was on top, grinding away like a Turkish dancer, hair unbound and hanging down all over the place.  Unfortunately, her husband returned to the house early. Thing was, I didn’t see or hear him.  Couldn't see past the bint's hair all over me face!  I saw her look round behind her, smile and look back at me. It was only when I felt a strange pressure on me todger that I thought something odd was happening. Nearly got the shock of me life when his head appeared over her shoulder! He’d come up behind her and taken her up the arse while she carried on riding me. I could feel his todger pressing on mine through the wall of her shit tunnel. It was actually rather pleasant and all three of us pretty much came together! Nothing like being one of two chaps as you take on the same woman. Finest feeling on earth! Apart from nailing your first stag on the Scottish moors!”

“Good Lord!” said William, looking shocked. 

 “That sort of situation involving Professor Challenor would soon have me losing any wherewithal to procede,” I said. Hoxton laughed. 

“No, my lady wants to introduce another lady into the equation!” I said. 

“Excellent! Then Christmas has come early for you! There is always the slight danger with gels that they find they prefer the sexual company of each other and may edge you out, as I have found once or twice, but much fun can be had along the way!” said Hoxton, leaning back in his chair. 

“To be honest I am not entirely sure what two women together might involve...” I said. 

“That’s easily dealt with! I am sure Caroline’s daughters would give you a splendid demonstration but why wait, eh?” said Hoxton and waved at a dark haired, Mediterranean looking girl. “Gina, me lovely, do you think you can locate Madame Nathalie. We would like an entertainment arranged!” A few minutes later, after I had spent some time trying to avoid answering very intimate questions about Edith’s anatomy and sexual preferences from Hoxton, Madame Nathalie, resplendent in a tight royal blue evening dress, appeared before us accompanied by Jacob. We stood up. “Ah, Nat! Me new young friend Mr Edmund here, was pondering on the subject of tribadic activity. He has no experience of gel to gel passion and is fascinated by the subject. Wondered if you might be able to arrange a little demonstration for us! On my account of course.” 

“Please sit down gentlemen,” said Madame Nathalie. We did so. “I ‘ave recent experience of Mr Edmund ‘oo is a gentleman wiz a great natural..." she looked at my groin, "curiosity, I sink!  If only I 'ad know your interest then 'oshimi and I could have been more demonstrative towards each ozzere!” She smiled at me, sat down on Hoxton’s lap and looked very comfortable doing so. Hoxton put his arm around her waist. I began to get erect, inconveniently, remembering her and Hoshimi's attentions upon my body previously. “Luckily, ze two ideal candidates are free. Jacob, get Lord James and ‘is party some more port while I organise things!” She smiled at me, hopped off Hoxton’s lap and undulated off.

“Splendid!” said Hoxton. “Nothing like your first experience of watching two gels together. Finest feeling on Earth. Except for reeling in a Blue Marlin off the California coast!” 

Some time, and quite a lot of port, later, Hoxton, Britten and I were collected by Jacob who took us up three floors to what was, I later found out, the top storey of the building. This was Madame Nathalie’s private apartment and was decorated in a very different, delicate, flora style to the rest of the club. It was just as full, however, of erotic works of art and I was rather surprised to see a collection of representations of the erect male member lined up on one lacquered cabinet like so many artillery shells. I stared at them in fascination. “Perhaps I should ‘ave a plaster cast made of yours, Mr Edmund. It would enhance my collection considerably!” she said, picking uo a black representation of a male member and stroking it delicately. 

“Gosh are these all copies of...?” I began. One or two of them were over a foot long and had the girth of a large cucumber. 

“None of zem are modelled on reality,” she laughed. “Zey are all fantasy!” She carefully replaced the phallus on the black lacqured surface. “Yours would ‘old its big ‘ead ‘igh in such company, Mr Edmund!” I blushed as Hoxton looked at me in amusement and Britten frowned. “But enough of cock! We are ‘ear to celebrate cunt! I do apologise zat we cannot find you a normal room tonight but we are particularly busy! I also apologise zat I cannot stay wiz you but zere are many members to attend to.” She laughed. “So to speak! I ‘ope to see you soon!” 

Madame Nathalie indicated that we should sit in the three large armchairs which were facing a chaise longue, opposite. They had obviously been positioned especially for us, as they did not fit with the layout of the room. She took her leave of us and Britten poured us each a glass of port which had been placed on the small marble topped table in front of our chairs. 

“What now?” I asked, excited and anxious at the same time. No sooner had I uttered the words than the door opened and the Swedish girl, Anna and the German girl I recognised as Bettina, entered the room. We all stood, of course, but the two blondes waved us to sit. Both were dressed, if I can even use the term, in a short chemise that left their shoulders, arms and legs enticingly bare. 

“I think we are now about to be presented with the entertainment!” said Britten. And so it proved because the two ladies sat at either end of the chaise longue and began to kiss each other, fully on the lips. You may be surprised to hear this (although my publisher adds that you almost certainly will not!) but they disported for us just like a pair of male and female lovers might. I confess to finding their kisses alone, tender at first and then increasingly passionate, to be most arousing. Then Anna pulled the shoulder strap of Bettina’s chemise down and gave us a look at her fine breast, which was full but with a slightly upturned tip and topped by the palest of pink nipples. Anna proceeded to kiss it, lick it and even catch it between her teeth; tugging on the teat.  Bettina was not idle during the process but caressed the other blonde’s thigh, pushing the hem of her chemise up so that her naked hip and pale haunch were revealed to our rapt gaze. The publisher has asked that I describe their disporting in detail but the truth is, that unlike most of my accounts here, which I recorded almost contemporaneously, the scenes that took place before us in the Babylon Exploration Society that night have blurred into a series of impressions rather than any coherent recollection. In my memory it is rather like what happens if you are observing a scene through an out of focus telescope where, as someone else turns the focus ring, you get brief views of perfect clarity before the blurred vision returns. Of course, the fact that we had consumed large amounts of Champagne and port contributed to my lack of recollection, no doubt! I do not feel, able, therefore, to provide the sort of blow by blow description one of my sports desk colleagues might of a boxing match. I found it easier to remember the gist of conversation for some reason but I have always had a retentive memory for quotations. 

A number of things are burned into my memory, however. The moment Anna knelt up on the chaise longue and gently removed Bettina’s chemise, leaving her completely naked before us. I do remember wondering how any object could contain quite so many outrageous curves. Watching Anna squeeze and knead Bettina’s breasts and how pliant the flesh was and how long her teats were. Watching Bettina caressing Anna’s golden thatched mound and then slipping no less than three fingers inside her as the Swedish girl writhed in ecstasy. The two of them lying together fingering each other as they kissed and squirmed. The unforgettable sight of Anna putting her face between Bettina’s thighs and the wet lapping sounds as she applied her tongue to Bettina’s parts, as she kissed and licked her sex. They changed position many times and I particularly enjoyed watching them sit, legs akimbo, facing us, as their fingers delved deeply into each other’s cunnies. At the end of their exhibition, the two women were lying on the chaise longue, head to sex, as they licked and kissed each other’s intimate parts in what Edith had called soixante-neuf. 

 “Now do you see why some women visit here?” asked Britten, as the two women, who appeared to have reached a sexual climax with each other, lay together tenderly kissing each other’s pale skin. 

“I have never imagined such a thing!” I said. “It was not only arousing but really rather beautiful and tender!” 

“I am glad zat you enjoyed it!” came a voice behind us. We turned to see that Madam Nathalie had slipped into the room, dressed in an ornate cream silk and lace peignoir. We stood once more but I was very conscious of my erection. I deliberately resisted looking down at Britten or Hoxton’s groins. “Anna and Bettina 'ave a genuine love for each ozzere which makes their performance so much more ausentic. Would you like to take them? I think we are all now very aroused!” 

“Do you know, I would not want to spoil it for them. They looked so enraptured with each other I feel we should leave them to it!” I said. Partly, I admit, I was saying this because deep down I felt guilty and not a little ashamed of myself for visiting what was, after all, a house of ill-repute, albeit a very luxurious one. I had upon me a sense of moral superiority which I wished to display to my companions. Having found a woman who wanted to engage with me physically, of her own accord, I could not help but think that the purchasing of pleasure was rather tawdry. I could understand it for men who could not attract women, perhaps, or who had shrewish and unresponsive wives. 

“How soughtful, Mr Edmund. But I can assure you zat zey would be delighted to be taken zis very minute. Wouldn’t you girls?” Madame Nathalie went over to the chaise longue and caressed them both. She kissed them both on the lips and stroked their cheeks. They sat up and then approached us. Bettina kneeling before me, having carefully moved the marble table a few inches and Anna before Britten. Madame Nathalie knelt before Lord Hoxton, who sat between us. 

“What?” I said, as Bettina began to undo my fly buttons. I was not about to expose myself in front of my friends! I gently pushed her hands away but they fluttered back like darting birds. “William?” I said, looking towards him and then wished I hadn’t. I was presented with the sight of Anna just placing her mouth over his knob. I had never seen another man’s erect manhood before and I found it quite disturbing. However, it was too late to argue as Madame Nathalie had slipped out of her peignoir, so she was as naked as the other two and was already caressing Hoxton’s rod which, unlike mine was dead straight, very long but tapered to a comparatively small tip, rather like a particularly large white asparagus spear.  In fact. it rather reminded me of the tapering neck of the port bottle which sat on the table, although it was much, much longer. I had to take my eyes off it with some effort as I experienced a mixture of horror and fascination as my two companions were being gamahuched. Betina was now fumbling inside my trousers and I felt her fingers curl around my manhood. 

“I’m sorry Bettina but I already have a lady.” I said. 

“How nice!” she said pulling me out of my trousers.  "Oh!  How very nice indeed!"  She started to lick my length. 

“But you mustn’t!” I said. 

“What’s the problem, Mr Edmund?” asked Hoxton, looking at my manhood as Bettina continued to lick it like a Christmas candy cane. 

“Well, Edith...” I began, gently trying to push Bettina’s head away. 

“You are worried about being unfaithful to a woman who is being unfaithful to her husband with you?” asked Britten, also looking over at me, to my chagrin. 

“That is a point,” I admitted, as Bettina’s soft mouth enveloped my knob. “What happens with the ladies in here does not count in your life outside,” said Hoxton. 

“Well, perhaps,” I said, already retreating from my moral stance due to the gentle ministrations of Bettina who now had her fingers around my shaft. 

“She is very good at this!” I admitted, Bettina looked up at me, her eyes smiling. All thoughts of pushing her away left me, despite my discomfort with the overall situation. 

“Can’t beat a good sucking off!” observed Hoxton. “Finest feeling on Earth! Other than getting your falcon to take down its first pigeon! Splendid curve on yours, Mr Edmund!” said Hoxton.

“Would you chaps stop looking at me!” I said, trying to cover my erection with my hands causing Bettina to pull off me. 

“You should never be ashamed of a splendid todger!” said Hoxton. “Be proud of it! Flaunt it! The women will come begging!” 

 “It is quite impressive, old chap!” said Britten. “You recent success with women is now explained!” I blushed as Bettina had resumed gently stroking it, keeping it, stiff. 

“Even so. It feels jolly odd to be displaying my privates in front of my friends!” I said. 

“Something you need to get over!  Indeed you seem to have done so already!” said Hoxton as Bettina resumed slowly gamahuching me. “You’ve both passed me little test! I now feel that I can happily invite you to me birthday party the weekend after next!” 

“Your birthday party?” I asked, struggling with holding a conversation with someone while we were both been attended to intimately by lovely women.  “A test?” 

“Yes. Me birthday party! Fifty people or more all writhing around naked together for two days. Such fun! Any reservations about the naked form disappears within an hour, I find. Concern over other embarrassment soon follows suit. Everywhere one looks are cocks, balls, arses, tittiies and quims. People fucking, sucking, licking, buggering, moaning and cursing. Spunk flying. People pissing on each other. It’s a riot! Crates of Champagne help, of course! We have it down at me place in Hampshire! You must both come!  A suitable send off for us before we are eaten by dinosaurs!” 

Bettina and Anna had swapped places and now the Swedish girl was gently pumping my manhood as Britten, disconcertingly watched us. 

“Thank you, Lord James. Sounds very educational!” said Britten.  “Don’t worry old chap,” Britten added to me. “You can imagine how I felt when my father got his out in a Parisian bordello in front of me! And then made me do the same.” said Britten. “Haven’t seen one since then, though, I should add!” 

It says much for the lascivious atmosphere in that room (as well as the effects of the port and Champagne) that I watched with detached interest as Madame Nathalie undressed Hoxton who then took her from behind on the the chaise longue. Neither showed any embarrassment at performing in front of us. It was my first experience of observing others copulate. I was fascinated by the action as Hoxton slid in and out of Madame’s thick black bush, his member glistening with her juices. I could also see Britten’s bouncing rear between Bettina’s thighs as they rutted on the rug. Given her earlier oral ministrations I felt a pang of jealousy. Unlike the other two men I was still dressed but Anna had turned her back on me and then sat down on my lap guiding me into her wetness before starting to thrust her bottom against me. I only pushed her off some minutes later, just as I was about to spend and spattered my essence all over her back. which was covered I noticed, with enticing, pale gold hairs. 

“Thank you!” she whispered and smiled. I looked up, just as Hoxton stiffened and stopped moving, apparently spending, inside Madame Nathalie, to my surprise. He looked at me and winked. Britten grunted on the floor but had also withdrawn to empty his balls over Bettina’s belly. I watched, now no longer embarrassed, as his tip emitted copious amounts of ejaculate. Bettina rubbed it into her skin. As I watched him, Anna undressed me, although I remember thinking it was rather late in the proceedings. Still, I did not resist but meekly submitted to her touch. 

 “I can see that both you chaps will be great additions to me birthday party!” said Hoxton, his arm around Madame Nathalie’s waist as he sat on the chaise longue next to her, some time later. We were all now quite naked, except Madame who had dressed in her peignoir, although she kept it enticingly undone at the front.  Anna and Bettina lay naked together, curled up in front of the fire like two cats, kissing and stroking each other tenderly. “How many girls will you be able to bring this year, Nat?” 

“Oh, I sink at least fifteen. Perhaps more! I will ‘ope ze Turkish twins will have arrived by zen. The problems in ze Balkans ‘ave meant zat zey ‘ave ‘ad to travel by sea. Anna and Bettina 'ave also volunteered” The two blondes turned and smiled at me. “Hoshimi too, you may be pleased to know, Mr Edmund!” She stood up and crossed the floor to offer me some more port. I shook my head and put my hand over my glass.  I could smell her musky scent as she stood next to my chair.  Britten and Hoxton both took some more port. 

“I was wondering if she might be here this evening,” I said. 

“She is, but is entertaining a lady member zis evening!” said Madame. “Otherwise I would 'ave asked 'er to join us!” 

 Oddly, I soon became used to sitting around with a group of naked people and I mentioned the new fashion in Germany for ordinary people to be naked with each other.

 “Sound people, the Germans!” said Hoxton. We chatted about the forthcoming expedition and both Anna and Bettina were anxious that I didn't get eaten by a dinosaur.  I assured them that Lord Hoxton's rifle would protect me. 

"Don't let dinosaurs eat him, Lord James," said Anna in her sing-song Swedish accent.

"He is delicious, though!" laughed Bettina.  I blushed again.

Hoxton's forthcoming party was the next topic of discussion and the others worked their way through a magnum of Pol Roger. Much to my surprise. I learned that the girls attending from the Babylon Exploration Society would not be the only women at Hoxton’s party. Hoxton explained that there would be a number of society ladies there as well, including Lady Caroline and, for the first time, apparently, her daughters. He had not been able to have a celebration the previous years as he was in Brazil and the girls were too young for the event two years ago ('only just' he maintained, to my shock, as they would have been just thirteen and fifteen at the time)) which had seen Lady Caroline's first attendance.

“Gives you another chance at Caroline's girls, eh?” Hoxton said, winking. "Mr Edmund turned 'em down the other week in favour of the undeniable charms of Mrs Challenor," he said to Britten.  "Such faithfulness.  Can't understand it all!"

"Oh, I think I would have succumbed!" said Britten.  "Such lovely girls!"

"Well I must make sure that they both attend to you next weekend!" said Hoxton, to Britten's visible delight.  “Now, Mr Edmund, why don’t you bring the lovely Edith?” 

“Yes do,” said Britten. I could have thumped him. 

“Have you met her?” Hoxton asked him. “Seen the drawing of her arse?” 

 “Oh yes. She is a modern woman but I do not think she would participate in such an event. She would want to keep her identity secret for one!” he said. “And I think she would only want to be intimate with Mr Edmund, here!”

“Well everyone agrees in writing to never mention who else they see there. We have many married ladies without their husbands. Married men without their wives. Some husbands and wives too! Quite a few chaps from the House of Lords, a Bishop, one crown prince from Europe. Well known men and women from all over. Judges, MP’s, surgeons. We have a very eminent gynaecologist who is particularly popular with the ladies. No hint of anything has ever leaked out. Although the same cannot be said of all the orifices!” He laughed. “I know that you are a journalist but we all leave our professions at the gate!” 

 “It does sound intriguing!” I said. 

 “You simply must come!” said Madame Nathalie. “And bring your lady! You could do some drawings if you are uncomfortable in participating, the two of you!” 

“Yes! Drawings! Splendid idea!” said Hoxton. “Usual rate, eh, Mr Edmund? We do get some couples, usually, who just want to watch but I can tell you that they all join in, in the end! Without exception! Now, I need to piss, Nat!” He stood up and left the room. Madame Nathalie followed him. 

 “I need to go too!” I said to Britten, who was sat in one of the armchairs with Anna on his lap. He was stroking the side of her splendid breast. I felt another twinge of jealousy. “Where is it?” 

 “Don’t know, old chap. Never been up here before. Rarified territory; the top floor!  A mysterious plateau full of unexplored delights!”   I laughed.

I pulled on my trousers and shirt and went downstairs from Madame Nathalie’s apartment to a water closet I knew was two floors below. I emptied my bladder with relief as I looked at a photograph in front of me of a young lady going in a chamber pot. What sort of woman would pose for such a lewd photograph, I wondered?  A professional one, I supposed.  I started to feel guilty and wondered how I would face Edith when I next saw her.  When I returned upstairs Madame Nathalie and Lord Hoxton had returned and were sat on the chaise longue watching Bettina piss into the Champagne bucket. Madame Nathalie nodded at me as I entered the room. 

“Lord James. Ready for action again I see!” said Madame Nathalie, massaging Hoxton’s length. 

“Always gets me. A pissing popsy!” he grinned.

"On all fours, dear," said Madame to Bettina, handing her a paper tissue.  "And don't drip on my rug!"  Bettina wiped herself and went on all fours as Hoxton stood up, his long member sticking out horizontally like a naval gun. 

The door opened behind me and I turned to see Hoshimi enter the room, She was dressed in just a pair of black stockings with pale blue garters. She smiled at me. I took in her delicate, naked body. 

“Looks like it's exotic oriental women that do if for young Mr Ednund!” laughed Hoxton as he knelt behind Bettina's round bottom.

“Good Lord, old chap! There is no stopping you. either!” laughed Britten. I looked down at the burgeoning erection in my trousers and had to agree. Hoshimi approached me, her hand outstretched.

Chapter notes on this episode can be found here.

Monday, 10 April 2017

Chapter 12: “Your mind is not engaged on the task in hand!”

The Palm Court at the Carlton Hotel, London

Journalist Edmund Molloy is embarking on an expedition to a lost world in South America, looking for dinosaurs, in the footsteps of Canadian explorer Waring Blanc.  Part of the expedition is being funded by Blanc's niece Marguerite, who recently met expedition leader Professor Challenor's wife, at a planning session.

“Were you close to your uncle, Waring?” I asked Marguerite. We were in the Palm Court of the Carlton Hotel on Pall Mall, where Marguerite was staying.  We were sat right under one of the palms. 'An early taste of the jungle!' as Marguerite had put it, smiling at me beguilingly.  Or. at least, I was beguiled by her smile.

“Not close, as such," answered Marguerite, toying with a bourbon biscuit.  "He lived in Panama City for much of the last fifteen years and I have been living in New York for some time but we enjoyed writing to each other on geological subjects.  An interest of mine."  An odd interest for a beautiful woman, I thought.  But Marguerite gave the impression of being somewhat unconventional.   She was not married, for example, which was curious given her beauty and age.

“It seems we are all travelling half way around the world looking for a plateau on the basis of your uncle's journal alone!” I said.  "Was he a reliable fellow?  Not prone to flights of fancy...?"

“Ah, but there you are wrong, Mr Molloy!” said Marguerite. “It is not just my uncle's account. As I said, I am a geologist and I have heard stories of such a plateau before!”  I noted this distinction of describing herself as a 'geologist' as opposed to simply being 'interested in geology' but I did not want to interrupt her conversational flow, especially as a revelation seemed possible.

"Really?" I asked.

"Indeed.  I have conducted my own research on the stories from the region." she continued and crunched her biscuit, scattering brown crumbs on to the tablecloth.

"I did not know that!  Have you some corroboration for your uncle's tale then? Have you told Professor Challenor?" This was an exciting new development. 

“Although I have never been to the region I have been corresponding with a number of geologists in Brazil, although the country has yet to found a proper university. Through them, I heard stories of a Spanish conquistador, in the early seventeenth centur,y who reported a plateau deep in the jungle protected by flocks of gigantic predatory birds. Anyone who tried to approach was attached by these creatures, which he described as having a twenty foot wingspan. The man, Don Diego Mendoza, later made a drawing of the plateau which I tracked down in the University of Salamanca. I have not yet shown the copy I had made to the Professors but I am convinced that it is the same plateau!”

“Well, that is a surprise,” I said. “Did you tell your uncle or was this after he had left?”

“A good point, Mr Molloy. In fact I was the cause of his expedition. I wanted to accompany him but I was unable to do so at the time he chose for...personal reasons. He would not wait and set off with young Véronique in tow, against my advice, I should add. He had a lot of experience in the jungles of Central America and had worked on the Panama Canal, as he was an engineer. Véronique was actually born in Panama City but her mother died of fever when she was small. Waring just brought her up as if she was a clever boy. She was a strong, intelligent and self-sufficient young girl when I met her, for the only time, four years ago.  I suppose I saw something of myself as a youngster in her.   For sure, I was a tomboy, much to my parents distress."  She smiled to herself.

“How old would she be now?” I asked.

“Let me see. Sixteen or seventeen, I reckon.  I fear she is dead but I feel that I should make some attempt to find out what happened to her, for the sake of the rest of the family.”

“So you think that there is little chance of us finding Véronique on the plateau?” I asked.

 “Alive?  I very much doubt it, sadly," she replied giving me a wan smile. She really was a beauty and  has, as readers will be aware, something of the dark, luminosity of the actress Ethel Warwick about her. "The vicissitudes of jungle life for a young girl without access to modern medicine would likely have done for the poor creature on their own. It sounds too, from my uncle’s account in Professor Challenor’s possession, that she suffered some terrible accident."

"Attacked by a creature, perhaps?" I asked, realising as soon as I said it that it was a rather insensitive thing to say. 

"I do wish to know the fate of my niece and see what my uncle Waring discovered but I am less convinced of the possibilities of creatures from prehistory.  However, I am prepared to believe that there may, indeed, be some other sort of undiscovered animals or, more likely, giant birds on the plateau.  Some sort of large condor, perhaps."

"It does sound more likely than dinosaurs, I suppose," I said.  I didn't think that Lord Ventnor and McAndless would be too impressed with a colony of condors, however giant.

"I am prepared to bet that whatever my poor niece's fate was, she was not eaten by dinosaurs!  Although some cities in Brazil are as civilised as Europe or North America as soon as you leave that civilisation the perils increase exponentially. There is some, hope I suppose. Perhaps a miracle...”  She sipped her coffee and looked wistful. She looked utterly beautiful this afternoon, the day after our meeting at Professor Challenor’s house. She was dressed in dark green and wore a rakish hat topped with an aquamarine feather which gave the impression of a pirate, perhaps. I wondered what she would look like in the trousers and boots she had ordered that morning, as she had told me.  The trousers all clinging to her legs,  The gaberdine crotch pressing against her feminine mound and tight over her posterior.

“Edmund? Are you still with me?” she smiled.

“Sorry. My mind was miles away!” I said.

 “In the jungle?” she asked.

“Indeed!” I said. Wondering what her intimate hair was like.

“You are very brave, undertaking this expedition with no experience!” she said.

“Oh, no more so than you!” I said.

“In fact, I have experience of hunting, safari, camping, geological expeditions across the Americas and even the jungles of Central America. Both Professors are the same and as for Lord Hoxton...  No, you are the one stepping into the unknown!” she smiled at me but I was not reassured. I had been thinking much upon this very subject, of late.  "Like a virgin," she added and raised an eyebrow as she held her coffee cup to those big, sensuous lips,

“Well, I am happy to have such experienced adventurers as my companions!” I said, somewhat flustered by her enticing femininity.  “So, can you give me an adventurous story for my article on you?”

“If you like!"  She paused and frowned slightly.  Thinking.   "I was travelling in New Mexico about five years ago...” she began.

“Where is New Mexico? What is it like?” I asked.

“The South West of the United States. Desert. Hot. Rocky. Cactii.”

“Cactii?” I asked.

“Plural of cactus,” she said, smiling.

“Oh! Of course. How stupid of me.  My friend William has one in a pot on his windowsill.”

“These would not fit in a pot. These would not fit in his room!”

 “Sorry. Do continue!”

“Although it is hot during the day it can be cold at night so my companion and I were lying close in our tent one night...”

“Your companion?”

“It is foolish to travel into the desert alone, Edmund,” she said.

“Of course. And what was her name, your companion? I asked.

“His. What was his name?” she replied.

“His? In a tent? Together?”

“Do not come the puritanical Irishman with me, Edmund. I am in my thirties. I have not refrained from...encounters...just because I am unmarried.”

“Oh! I never meant to imply...” I said, blushing.

“You can imply what you like. I met him in San Francisco. Before the earthquake of oh six.”

“Is he still your, er, companion?” I asked. I was disappointed that Marguerite seemed to have a man in her life, although not surprised. I supposed. “I wish to write about those who are left behind because of the expedition.” I began.

“Well you will not be writing about him. He is in my past, joining some others, I should add.”   She looked at me evenly.  "I am not currently looking for a replacement!"

“Of course not!"  I said; even more disappointed.  "Courageous Miss Blanc heads into jungle to forget lost love,” I said. I looked up at Marguerite, smiling but the expression on her face wiped my smile away in short order.

“The less detail about my personal life the better," Mr Molloy.  "I am happy to speak of my relationship with my uncle Waring and his experiences and this one story about my encounter with a cougar in the desert but that is it!”

“Of course! Of course!” I did not want to upset someone with whom I would be spending months of my life. Particularly one so beautiful. She told me her tale of the cougar sniffing around outside the tent. Her companion had gone outside to investigate and was attacked, which she admitted was a rare occurrence. Still, Marguerite had shot the creature with a rifle. Old McCandless would be delighted with the story.

"We were both quite naked at the time of course!" she added.  I spluttered into my tea and she grinned.   "That is a piece of information that is not destined for your readers!"

"I, ah, well...of course!" I manged, thinking about Marguerite standing naked, with  a rifle to her shoulder.

"You are thinking about me naked again, are you not?" she asked.

"Well, I..."

"Do you think about my naked form a lot, Mr Molloy?  Do you find me attractive?  Sexually attractive?"

"No.  Well, sometimes.  Of course!  Not like that. Gosh.  I mean..." I was totally flustered by now.  Not least because of her amused smile and piercing gaze.

"I appreciate I am some years older than you..." she ventured.

"Age is not important.  Passion is important!" I said, thinking of Edith.

"Indeed!  How interesting."

 "For the article,"  I said, desperately trying to change the subject, "would you pose for a photograph holding a rifle?"

"Naked?" she asked.

"No, no, no.  Of course not.  Photographers don't take pictures of women naked!" I said, then remembered the ones from the Babylon Exploration Society 'menu'.

"I can assure you they do," she answered.  "I have seen photographs in Paris that would shock your Irish sensibilities to the core, Mr Molloy!"

"Really?  Naked?"  I imagined Marguerite draped along a chaise longue.  Perhaps just wearing her hat.  "That is Paris.  London is different!" I maintained.  "I was, of course, suggesting one of you quite dressed.  In your boots and trousers.”

“No thank you. I find those sorts of photographs rather ridiculous. I will consent to a head and shoulders portrait.”

"I will arrange it!"  I would get The Courier's main photographer, Smaile, to take the photograph.

“So what about our new warehouse for all our equipment?” she said, changing the subject, thankfully.

“It’s not really a warehouse.  Just a couple of hotel rooms. Edith, I mean, Mrs Challenor. has organised it."

“Is there anything you want to tell me about yourself and Mrs Challenor?” she asked. I could feel my face burning.

“Nothing,” I muttered.

“I see,” she said.

 “Well, thank you for coffee, I would appreciate you not mentioning my additional research on the plateau until I have discussed it with the Professors.  I do not wish for them to learn of this development from the pages of your newspaper.  I would also suggest that you create an additional tent for my cougar story, Mr Molloy."

"Of course.  Of course!  Two tents!  As is proper!" I said.

"Are you calling me improper, Mr Molloy?"  she said.

"No!  No!  Of course not!  You are a very proper and respectable lady!" I said.

"In fact, I am neither!" she laughed.  "Now, I need to get to the bank. This expedition surely isn’t coming cheap!  Give my regards to Mrs Challenor.”

“Indeed I will!” I said, realising too late that I had revealed that I was, indeed, planning to see her.   Marguerite gave a little smile of triumph.

I kissed Edith softly on the lips having spent deep inside her once more. Our sexual desperation had been such, that morning, that we had not even removed our clothes. She was without drawers again and I had swiftly unbuttoned my trousers and freed myself. I had pushed her onto her back on the polished wooden floor and slid inside her wet and welcoming core. She pulled her knees up; her skirt and petticoat around her hips and I hammered into her as she pushed back against my every thrust. I slipped my forefinger into her tight and slimy anus for the first time and she gasped as I postillioned her with it.  I spent early but kept thrusting and, much to my surprise, I maintained my erection and was able to continue to roger her. I felt her insides grip my manhood as she reached her peak but we were both so desperate for each other that we continued to rut violently on the bare floorboards as if we might continue indefinitely. She crossed her ankles over my back and although now I could feel myself losing my tumescence slightly I carried on thrusting deep inside her and added a second finger to violate her back passage.

“Christ!” she cried and a flood of wetness indicated that she had spent again. My ballocks convulsed once more, although I suspect that there was not much left to ejaculate. We continued to move, slowly, until like clockwork toys, we gradually became inert and motionless. We lay together, both perspiring heavily in our clothes, until our breathing and heartbeats returned to normal.

We were lying on the floor of an empty suite at the Euston Hotel, the day after I had interviewed Marguerite. All furniture had been removed apart from a desk and two chairs. It was Somersby who suggested that we take rooms at an hotel next to Euston station, so that it would be easy to load everything onto the Liverpool train. The Euston Hotel had offered the suite at a substantial discount, in exchange for being able to claim that they were 'the first step in the Challenor Expedition'. In one corner of the room were the Gabardine tents that made up the first part of our supplies; Hoxton having been overruled as to the necessity for them.  I stood up and put myself back inside my trousers, buttoning myself back up. I looked down at Edith, her legs still spread wantonly, white liquid running from her pink entrance over her perineum and anus. I resisted an urge to smell the fingers I had just extracted from it.

“Are you alright, Edith?” She looked somewhat dazed, as if she had drunk too much absinthe.

“That, Edmund Molloy, was a proper fuck and no mistake!” she said, standing up as well. She slipped her pocket handkerchief between her legs before letting her skirts drop back down. She smoothed the wrinkled fabric over her thighs. “Bloody hell! I feel properly ravished! There is something delightfully debauched about doing it on the floor, do you not agree?”

“It was very special. I have missed our intimacies these past few days!” I said. Since the meeting at the Challenor’s house we had all been busy undertaking our various tasks. Edith had arranged the hotel suite and then the furniture had to be taken out to make room for the first of the supplies. There was a knock on the door. “Come in!” I called. A hotel porter appeared with some ground sheets for the tents.

“Just put them next to the tents,” said Edith, indicating the corner of the room, as we heard a train whistle in the adjacent station. Our room looked out onto the courtyard towards the imposing Euston Arch, which served as the gateway to the station itself.

“We have some boxes of tinned food coming up,” said the porter, smiling, as I gave him sixpence from McCandless’s expenses fund.

“Put those in here too!” said Edith. “Clothes and items that obviously relate to individuals should go into the bedroom through there, where we will sort them.” Edith had already written five labels on pieces of paper which she had placed on the floor with the expedition member’s names on. Each expedition member had provided trunks (I had had to purchase mine) to be filled with expedition clothes and equipment. Personal items would be packed separately. In the corner was a pile of army canteens.  The day before we had all visited Burberry’s and been fitted for our expedition trousers and jackets. They promised to have them ready in three days.

“Yes, ma’am!” said the porter, dropping the large stack of groundsheets onto the floor. “Good luck lugging these around the jungle, sir!” he said. “If one of them dinosaurs starts after you I’d drop everything and run like hell, beg pardon ma’am.”

“Wise advice, young man!” said Edith. “We will be going downstairs for luncheon shortly but you have your own key, do you not?” she asked.

“Of course, ma’am. We will always knock first, of course!” he said, looking at me knowingly.  There was something of a musky scent in the room, I had to admit.

“Thank you! Preparing all these lists and monitoring what has arrived and what is due does involve some concentration sometimes. I do not, for example, want to be interrupted mid-count!” she said.

“Of course, ma’am. I’ll make sure there are no interruptions!” said the porter, winking at me. “Mid-count or otherwise!”

“How thoughtful,” I said, giving him two half crowns.

 “You will let your colleagues know?” He nodded.

 “No interruptions! No comments!” he said, winking again. “You should know, Mr Molloy, that there is a young lady down in the lobby asking after you. We are getting quite a few dinosaur enthusiasts, for want of a better term, visiting the hotel hoping for a glimpse of an expedition member, just to warn you.”

“What was her name?” I asked, hoping it might be Agnes.

“I don’t know, I am afraid. Five foot four, stylishly dressed. Very, very pretty. Your sweetheart perhaps?” He looked at Mrs Challenor in a sort of ‘now you are for it’ way.

“She says she knows you but she may be fibbing!” I frowned.

“I will go and see! Excuse me Mrs Challenor!” I said and headed for the door as two more porters arrived with several boxes. We would have to have two porters just to lug those around the jungle, I reasoned.

 “Oh and perhaps you could provide a nightstand in the bedroom so we may wash our hands and such like,” said Edith to the porter. “Much of this material is quite grubby!”

“Of course, ma’am!” he left with me and as we were only on the first floor we descended the stairs together. “I’ll make sure it is fully equipped sir! I always need to go afterwards!” I turned to glare at him but he had already slipped away from me at the bottom of the stairs.

“Mr Molloy!” I turned towards the feminine voice. It wasn’t Agnes, I realised, disappointed. I looked and saw a girl waving at me. It was the girl I had met at the Great Northern Hotel who had asked me to sign her newspaper. “I don’t suppose you remember me!” she said as I crossed the busy lobby to greet her.

“Of course I do! Who could forget one so lovely?” I said. “Daisy, isn’t it?” I recalled her card. “Daisy Thompson. Of Pimlico.”

“How clever of you to remember!” She stood on tiptoe and kissed my cheek, rather to my surprise.

“Not really, Miss Thompson. I am a journalist. I have a good memory for people!” I smiled. She really was very pretty indeed. She was wearing a dark purple skirt and jacket, white blouse with fob watch and a straw boater with a purple and white striped ribbon. She looked very stylish.

“Do you spend much time in railway hotel lobbies?”

“Oh! Yes! No! How funny! You must think that I lurk in such places like a high class...well you know. One of those girls!” she sniggered. “I wonder if there are any here?” she looked around. “What about that lady! She looks likely!”  The woman she indicated was dressed in a rather daring black and pale blue stripe.

“I do not think so,” I said. “I suspect she may just be French rather than a....”

“Isn’t it the same thing, though, really? My friend Alice says all the best professional women of easy virtue in London are French! What do you think? Do you know any such women?” Of course, I thought of Madame Nathalie and blushed at the same time.

“You do! How naughty! Is she French? Have you enjoyed her services?”  What a bold girl!

“I, ah, well... I met her through a friend. French, yes.” I stammered.

“Lucky girl!” said Daisy. She had slightly buck teeth which meant that her full lips were always just parted, giving her the look of someone who just needed to be kissed. “I am not, however, a high class, oh dear, what is a polite word for it? Or should I use an impolite one?”

“Perhaps there isn’t one,” I ventured. “I have heard the word ‘toffer’ used for a high class one, on account of her clients!”

“A toffer! Goodness me! Yes! I’m not a toffer but perhaps I might be good at it!” she chuckled, rather dirtily. I must have looked shocked as she winked at me and grinned.

“So, what are you doing here in the Euston, if not looking for high class clients?” I joked, wondering, as I said it, if I might have gone too far.

“Well, I came to see you, actually. I have always been an avid Courier reader and I gather that this hotel is now your London base of operations. I just wanted to meet you again, I suppose. Oh dear, that sounds rather silly and desperate doesn’t it?” She looked crestfallen.

“Not at all. I am flattered. Would you like a coffee or tea?” I asked.

“Really? Oh that would be just terrific!” she said. We sat in the hotel cafe and both took tea. “I just can’t abide coffee, Mr Molloy.”

“Edmund,” I said. “Professor Challenor’s wife is the same!”

“Edmund!” she giggled. “I always think that coffee tastes like burnt mud. Perhaps I have a very unsophisticated palate!” I smiled.

“I can’t think any part of you is unsophisticated, Miss Thompson. You seem like a very smart lady about town!”

“Thank you! How perfectly sweet of you! I have come far! I was not always But please call me Daisy! I hope we will become friends!” she reached across and squeezed my fingers in her white-gloved hand. “Oh!” she said looking at her glove. She took them off and squeezed my hand again. “There! Bare skin against bare skin is so much nicer, Edmund, don’t you think?”

“Indeed!” I agreed. “The more bare skin the better!”

“Edmund! How outrageous!” she laughed. “And how much of my bare skin could you cope with, do you think! If I was a toffer I would need to negotiate a price! How much do you think I might be worth?”

“Well...” I looked up and down at her, taking in her sparkling green eyes, full lips, delicate chin and round cheeks. She had something of a cute little rodent about her. I looked down at her chest and saw a surprisingly large swelling which I had not noticed under her coat when I had met her previously.

“Goodness, Edmund! You are bold aren’t you?” she said, leaning forward and actually resting her bosom on the table, provocatively. Presenting it for my appreciation. I swallowed.

“So are you, Daisy!”

“Bolder by the minute!” she answered. I grinned. “I am not, for example, wearing a corset today!” I had surmised as such from the way she had rested her upper body on the table, although now she sat back in the chair thrusting her chest upwards towards me. I was in danger of becoming mesmerised by it. Like a cobra with a mongoose, I thought, recalling Lord Hoxton’s taxidermy display.

“If you are without a corset you must have a very trim waist!” I observed.

“I think I have a pleasing body. One a gentleman would appreciate!” she said, looking at me boldly. I remembered Edith’s comments about her when we had first met.

“Well, this gentleman is very appreciative, at this moment!” I said. She parted her lips and my own tingled.

“Do you believe in love at first sight, Edmund?” she asked.

“I, ah...well, I didn’t!” I said, overwhelmed by her vivacity, cheekiness and beauty.

That is an excellent answer!” she said."Although I suppose it is second sight!" She laughed.

“Ah there you are!” said Edith. I looked up, saw her approaching the table and stood up. “And what are you two talking about so intently, Miss...?”

“Thompson. Daisy Thompson.” She stood up and smiled at Edith. “We met before!”

“Ah, Mr Molloy’s avid follower! Good afternoon to you. Let me introduce myself properly. I am Edith Challenor!” Daisy took the proffered hand.

“Goodness! Of course. Professor Challenor’s wife! I read the interview you gave to Edmund. He is a little in love with you I think!”

“Edmund’s eyes are on rather younger ladies than myself, Miss Thompson. He has recently been disappointed in love and I have been urging him to get back in the saddle, as it were. I am very glad to see him talking to such a lovely young thing as yourself!”

“Thank you, Mrs Challenor! We were, in fact, discussing love at first sight!” said Daisy as she and Edith sat down. I followed them.

“Were you now! Well, when I first met my husband we had a similar epiphany and despite our little frictions over the years I am still very much in love with him!” said Edith.

“That is lovely to hear!” said Daisy.

“Mrs Challenor is the expedition manager,” I said, inventing a title for her. I was not at all certain about Daisy and Edith conversing in this manner.

“I see. There must be a lot to organise!” said Daisy. “I was an office manager myself recently, until the company I worked at closed because the owner passed away. Poor Mr Brown!  He was so kind to me!  Now I am looking for work. Hence my many train trips. It is not easy for a girl to find work. Respectable work, that is.” She winked at me again.

“Really?” said Edith.  “Now I was just looking for Edmund so that we could have lunch. Why don’t you join us? I may be able to offer you a few days paid work!”

“Really?” asked Daisy.

“Really?” I asked.

Over lunch Edith spoke mainly to Daisy rather than myself; about herself, about her job and about the expedition. I drank half a bottle of Beaujolais and attacked some rather disappointing lamb cutlets.

“So you see, Daisy, if I may be so familiar, I could really do with an assistant. Our equipment and clothing has to be assembled and some will need to be chased up from suppliers who seem to have little sense of urgency. Bills of lading will need to be prepared and material sent to Liverpool for storage before being loaded on board the ship. The men gaily order things but with little sense of timetable, follow on or administrative organisation!” said Edith.

“Oh! Really?” she asked again, all eager, like a little Guinea pig.

“Really?” I asked again.

“Really! I can offer you an initial four days work at one pound ten shillings a day. Then we shall see if we need you for any longer. Do not worry if you have to attend interviews for more permanent positions, although I may well be able to extend your employment if I find you suitable!”

“Gosh that would be really nice of you! I am a little short for paying my rent!”

“Give the lady five pounds, Edmund!” I pulled one of McCandless’ notes from my wallet.

“Oh, Mrs Challenor and Mr Malone I could kiss you both! My rent is due tomorrow and all I have is a three-penny bit to my name!”

“You poor girl! In that case I can tell you that I am looking for someone to manage the affairs of my house. A housekeeper. Deal with the bills and such like. I have been doing it myself but do not see why I should for much longer. I recently inherited some money from my great uncle and so now have some funds of my own for once; given my parsimonious husband refuses to employ anyone for such a role. I myself have been in similar straits to you in the past, so well appreciate your situation,” continued Edith.

Daisy was a lovely girl but I was not sure why Edith was so keen to engage her. I hoped she would not be based upstairs in the hotel room. Surely Edith wouldn’t want that?

“Oh thank you! Both of you!” said Daisy and actually started to cry.

“There there!” I said, stroking her arm.

“There, there!” said Edith, stroking her back. “Now let us have a look at what they have as a sweet! Something with chocolate would be good!” said Edith.

After lunch we all went up to the room where a pile of clothes had arrived from the Army & Navy. Daisy set too, sorting them by size and putting them next to our names. She was laying out drawers next to my name.

“I have guessed that these are yours, Mr Molloy!” she said folding them precisely.

“You show no embarrassment at handling men’s underthings Daisy!” observed Edith.

“My previous job was for a company that imported such garments for men and ladies from the Continent. They are, when it comes down to it, just clothes, albeit that some of the ladies ones were particularly lovely. Old Mr Brown, who ran the business, would often get me to model them for the catalogue and for advertisements in the ladies magazines. I would dress in them and a lady illustrator would make pen and ink drawings. Mr Brown seemed to enjoy watching me be drawn!”

“I am sure he did!” I said.

“Mr Molloy is an accomplished artist. I am sure he would enjoy drawing you too!” said Edith.

“To be sure!” I replied. I wasn’t certain what game Edith was playing but she was playing something.

“What game are you playing, Edith?” I asked her, after Daisy had gone for the day. “It is, of course, up to you what you do with your money afterwards but I thought that, for the present, this room offered us some opportunities to be together without interruption!”

“As it still does, as you will find momentarily, if you remove your clothes,” she said, unbuttoning her skirt. She undid the buttons on her blouse as I undressed too.

“You will lie on your back and I will straddle you,” she said, as I pulled down my drawers. “I do not see why it should be just I who risks splinters in the posterior! I think, perhaps, we need them to bring back the rug!”

 I lay down but was still worried about the Daisy development, as I now thought of it. Fortunately, my manhood was less concerned and responded to Edith’s touch once more. She held me upright and settled down upon me, enveloping me with her wetness. She bounced up and down on me but stopped after a few minutes. “Edmund! Your mind is not engaged on the task in hand! You should be caressing my breasts and fingering my arsehole!”

“I’m sorry. I am just surprised at the addition of a third party to our little administrative centre here!  Disappointed!”  She leant forward and kissed me.

 “Ah, you nearly have it! A third party indeed! Do you find her attractive?” Edith started to grind her hips again.

 “Daisy?” I asked, placing my hands on Edith’s thighs but thinking about Daisy’s bust.

“Yes, of course!   Perhaps George is right and you really are a slow Irishman!”

“Yes, she is very pretty. Like a little Guinea pig. But less furry!”

“Well, I intend to find out how furry she is! I intend to explore every part of this little Guinea pig and you will help me!”

“What? What do you mean, precisely?” Although I already had an inkling.

“Do you remember how I said I would like to ravish a pretty young girl?”

“Yes. It was an enticing image!” I replied and unconsciously thrust up against her hips.

“And do you remember me saying how I would like to watch you take another woman?”

“Indeed. An arousing thought!”

“There you have it! An added excitement in our games! I intend, before you leave for Brazil and with your assistance, to seduce Miss Daisy Thompson and have intimate relations with her while you watch us. You will then take her while I watch you and frig myself!” I gasped and ejaculated at the same time.

Chapter notes on this episode can be found here.

Friday, 17 February 2017

Chapter 11 “The more I think about it, the more nonsensical it seems!”

The Strand

Edmund Molloy, a journalist with the Daily Courier, has committed the newspaper to back an expedition to South America to look for dinosaurs on a lost plateau.  Having had an artistic encounter with three lady friends of fellow expedition member Lord James Hoxton, he has returned to the wife of the expedition leader, Professor Challenor, with whom he is having a torrid affair in a hotel in King's Cross.

“Of course the Amazon is a perilous region,” said Edith, an hour and a half later, as we lay naked on top of the sheets, warmed from our hot bath. The maid had lit the fire while we were having dinner. “But at least George has been to the region and has cognisance of where most of the perils lurk!” 

“And we will have Lord Hoxton with us, who is also familiar with the the place and brings great expertise at dealing with dangerous animals!” We were lying head to tail. I was on my back and she was lying next to me on her side, her head level with my hip. She was gently massaging my erect member as we conversed. We had already performed soixante-neuf upon each other, after our bath and now she was using her skillful fingers to revive my interest once more. 

“You obviously believe in George’s dinosaur story!” she said, pulling my foreskin over my knob again. 

“Do you not?” I asked, stroking her thigh. The golden hairs on it were catching the light from the fire; the only illumination we had in the room. 

 “I know that George believes and his Glossopteris sample is real. It is unknown today and may well be a relative of an extinct species but the survival of a plant in a remote place and the survival of prehistoric creatures are two very different things!” 

“Well, we will find out!” I said, stroking her bottom. She wriggled, invitingly. I could smell her musky scent. It was a scent I wished I could bottle. I had told her as much. ‘Eau de Cunt, Edmund?’ She had asked, laughing, in her delightfully dirty way. As I went about my business in London I had taken to wondering how other resepctable looking ladies consucted themselves when in private. Did they also delight in torrid sexual activity and swear, unapologetically, like East End dockers? Or was Edith unique in her uninhibited behaviour? But then there was Agnes, lasciviously gamahuching me and swallowing my essence like a music hall trollop. Even Mrs Somersby was happy to speak of the most intimate activities. And as for Lady Caroline and her daughters. Well, really! I turned my head and kissed Edith’s soft fluff. Her smell was almost overpowering. 

“I am just worried that if George is proved wrong he will be a total laughing stock and his career will be over!” said Edith, stroking my ballocks. 

“Surely, if he just proves the Glosso-what-is-it is real then that will be enough?” I said. 

“Perhaps if it had been the quiet, scientific expedition he had envisaged originally. Now, however, I am afraid that your newspaper’s involvement will mean that it is dinosaurs or nothing. The more I think about it the more nonsensical it seems. Without George here, bouncing around enthusiastically it all seems completely unlikely. Reality sets in, Edmund!” I was personally very glad that the Professor was not bouncing around there or I would have been bounced out of the window in very short order. 

“Professor Challenor, may be an arrogant, pompous, insensitive, self-centred, insufferable bully,” I said, carefully, “but he is not an idiot. He must well know that his reputation rests on this expedition. He has undoubtedly studied the issue extremely carefully!” 

“You are right, of course. He has been researching this for nearly a year! Thank you, Edmund! I feel better! Now let us perform soixante-neuf once more. This time I will go underneath!” This presented a rather different experience than when I was the lower partner. The angle at which I gamahuched Edith was different with me paying more attention to her swollen bud, rather than her entrance. I was also, given the gentle guidance of Edith’s hands on my bottom, more active in thrusting into her mouth. She massaged my anus with one finger and caressed my ballocks with her other hand as I gently thrust in and out of her mouth. I was careful, as I did not want to choke her. She was very mobile beneath me and I had to keep her thighs forcefully parted with my hands, resting my chest on her belly. I think that I preferred the other variation where the woman is on top. Still, it was an interesting experiment. Neither of us spent in that position and instead Edith wriggled out from beneath me and pushed me onto my back so she could straddle me once more. This time she did not sit upon me like a horse but lay full length atop me, her soft breasts pressing delightfully on my chest and causing me to spend by the gyrations of her active hips alone, as I lay there, almost inert. Her toy. Her plaything. Her instrument of pleasure. I wondered how long it would be until she tired of me and moved on to another. Perhaps Britten. Would we have any more opportunities anyway before the expedition left for Brazil? For now, I was happy with thecurrent state of affairs, as I lay in post coital companionship, the covers pulled up over us. My now soft manhood was still retained in her velvet sheath as she kissed my collarbone. I started to feel drowsy and soon fell asleep, still lodged inside her. 

The next morning Edith was in an athletic mood; knees up to her shoulders, hands gripping the brass bedstead over her head and hips thrusting back against me, enthusiastically, as I pounded into her. 

“Fucking! Fucking!” she cried as she reached her climax, just after I had pumped my essence inside her once more. She held her position and then gradually relaxed; placing her legs back flat on the bed and releasing her grip on the bedstead rails. She kissed me. “I really do think it is my new favourite word. If Lady Caroline can use it, so can I!” 

“Perhaps you should try it on the Professor. It may invigorate him!” I laughed, still shocked, but rather excited, to hear it being uttered by such a woman. 

“Dear George and how was Liverpool? I am quite desperate for you to give me a good fucking! Yes! I will try it!” she laughed. “You are pleasingly realistic about our situation. No petty jealousies are evident!” 

“You are the Professor’s,” I said. “I am only here to provide services he is unable or unwilling to undertake. Rather in the manner of a dance instructor, perhaps!” 

“A precise analogy, Edmund," she said patting my bottom. "Now roll off me as I need to piss!”  I got dressed, paid the hotel bill and left Edith to have breakfast alone. We had had one last passionate kiss before I left the room. “Back to best behaviour for a while, sadly!” she said, stroking my behind. I left, burdened with my overnight bag, gun case and portfolio and decided I had best drop them off at home. I deceided to spend some of the Courier’s money on a taxicab. As I placed my portfolio on the back seat, next to me, I realised that I had not taken any payment for the drawings I had done for Hoxton. However, that session had been so enjoyably bizarre I did not regret it. Well, perhaps the money would have been nice. I did have the three ‘cunt portraits’, as Lady Caroline called them. Well, in fact there were four, as Emily insisted on me doing another of her where she had three fingers inserted into her livid, red entrance. 

 Today was the day of the meeting of all the members to discuss the expedition but first I had to type up my account of my interview with Edna Somersby and deliver it to the Courier. After going home for a wash and a change of clothes I headed off to Fleet Street and the office and set to on the typewriter. McCandless was not there this morning but a telegram awaited me from Challenor in Liverpool. ‘Meeting today. My house. 7.00pm.’ I worked in the office all day and wrote up a few minor (very minor) news items for the next day’s edition. I also added some pages to my private journal, while the memories were as fresh in my mind as Edith’s intimate scent was to my nose. My real work would come this evening, when I returned to the Challenor’s house and what a strange experience that would be, if Edith was in evidence.  I headed out into the bustle of Fleet Street and the Strand decided to walk to the Challenor's house.  How would I react to Edith;s presence if she was there this evening.  I knew that I must not react at all or disaster could ensue.  My place on the expedition, my job and my teeth, all at risk.  I strode towards the Strand my stomach in knots.

Mason the butler let me into the Challenor’s residence with an inevitable sneer and showed me into a room I had not previously entered, which was obviously the dining room. The mahogany table was covered in maps, schedules and other bits of paper. On the far wall was a large painting of a pair of those ridiculous looking birds I was to become so familiar with in the coming months; toucans.  Lord Hoxton and Professor Somersby were already there, discussing tents. 

“What ho, Molloy!” said Hoxton. “Enjoyable evening, yesterday?” 

“Very much, thank you!” I said. 

“Got that stuff I promised you! Forgot yesterday!” he said patting his breast pocket where he kept his wallet. 

 “Oh, thank you!” I said. It should be eighty guineas; over three months salary! 

“Miss Blanc is here!” announced Mason, holding the door open for the lady as she swept into the dining room. 

“Good evening, gentlemen,” she said, shaking hands with us all in a very masculine way. She was from North America, I supposed. She was dressed in a simple moss green, buttoned short-sleeved dress over a white blouse. She looked business like rather than glamorous, as she had at the museum. She removed her gloves and matching green hat and Mason took them from her. She sat on one of the Hepplewhite chairs around the table, which I pulled out for her. “Thank you, Mr Molloy. And where have we got to?” 

“All the travel arrangements have been made, Miss Blanc,” said Challenor. “We leave on the Booth line ship SS Hildebrand from Liverpool to Manaós two weeks today! There is a question as to first or second class accommodation.” 

 “I don’t travel, second class, Professor Challenor,” she said. My first thought was how this would impact on the Courier’s proportion of the expenses. 

 “I was going to go first class myself anyway,” said Hoxton. “It’s a long voyage and the Hildebrand is a fabulous vessel. We don’t just have to cross the Atlantic we travel a thousand miles up the Amazon itself on top!” 

 “On the liner itself?” I asked. “Can the ship negotiate the river that far upstream?” I tried to imagine a liner in the Thames. 

“The Amazon is a vast river, Mr Molloy,” said Hoxton. “However, up near Manaós sometimes the banks are only fifty yards from the ship, although we will be there in the rainy season so the river will be wider. Still it is impressive being up on deck so close to the jungle!” 

“First class it is then!" said Challenor.  "Edith!” he cried at the top of his voice, making Professor Somersby visibly jump. “Edith!” he shouted again. The door opened and Mrs Challenor entered. 

“Good evening, everyone,” she said. “I am so sorry for the pounding your eardrums have just taken. I actually have very good hearing, which is something George does not seem to appreciate at all!” 

“Mrs Challenor, good evening. We have not been properly introduced. I am Lord James Hoxton.” She offered her hand and Hoxton leant down and kissed it, which was a bit familiar, I thought. She greeted Marguerite Blanc with a rather continental kiss on the cheek. 

“You are a very brave woman, Mademoiselle Blanc!” 

“Oh I don’t think the Amazon will be so bad!” she said, smiling. “And it’s Marguerite.” 

“The Amazon, no, but months on end with my husband? That is an altogether different and more alarming prospect!” Somersby laughed and Challenor glared at him. 

“Hello again Leon,” Edith said, giving him a kiss too. “Give my regards to Edna and the children!” 

“I will indeed,” said Somersby, clasping her hand. 

“Mr Molloy!" she nodded at me but did not approach me, I was glad to see.  "I hope you are recovered from your fall down our steps!” she said. 

“I am perfectly fit, thank you, Mrs Challenor!” I replied, desperately trying not to blush or react in way that might raise the suspicions of her terrifying husband. 

 “He deserved it. Coming into this house under false pretences like a wolf in sheep’s clothing!” said Challenor. 

“Now now, George! You are all in this together. Like a team."  Challenor harrumphed. "Now why did you bellow for me just now? Mason is bringing some cold meats and pie and a bottle or two of Burgundy...” 

“It’s not the damn food, woman. I need someone to take notes!” said Challenor. 

“Professor Challenor,” said Marguerite. “I appreciate that I am a guest in your house but I would prefer to hear you speak rather more civilly and respectfully to your lovely and charming wife!” 

“What?” said Challenor. “Why?” He looked genuinely baffled. 

“Miss Blanc,” said Somersby. “I think that you will soon learn that Professor Challenor finds it quite impossible to address anyone in a civil and respectful way! It would be like asking a lion to refrain from eating meat!” 

“I’m happy to take notes!” I said. “I can do Pitman’s.” 

“You are a man, Mr Molloy, albeit the lowest sort, being both Irish and a journalist,” said Challenor. “Note taking is a woman’s job! Thinking is a man’s job!” 

Marguerite stood up at this point with a dangerous looking flash in her eyes. “Professor Challenor, I have never heard such nonsense! For someone who is so dismissive of the ability of women you seem quite happy to take a woman’s money for your expedition. Perhaps this woman has now decided that it should not go to support such an intolerable man, with apologies to you, Mrs Challenor!” 

“Indeed, we all wonder how poor Edith puts up with the fellow,” said Somersby. “She must be a perfect saint!” 

“Thank you for your intervention, Marguerite,” said Edith. “However, if George does make unreasonable demands on me I jolly well tell him! Just because he tries to bully me doesn’t mean that I am bullied! I am very happy to take notes.” 

“Right! Good! Far too many damn suffragettes these days!” grumbled Challenor. “Fetch some paper!” he said to Edith. 

Please, Edith, can you fetch some paper,” said Marguerite. 

“You, madam, are going to be more annoying than the riverine insects!” said Challenor. 

“I do hope so!” said Marguerite. Edith found some blank paper on the table and sat, pencil poised. 

“Point of action number one,” barked Challenor. 

“George, we are all sat around quite a small table,” said Somersby. “It really isn’t necessary to roar at the top of your voice!” 

“Humph! Point one. Immediately book first class tickets for all expedition members on Booth lines SS Hildebrand,” said Challenor. “Point two! Book a hotel in Liverpool for myself for the five nights before our departure so that I can supervise loading and also avoid the damned fuss that will no doubt be stirred up by your newspaper in London, Molloy! Unfortunately, the Midland Adelphi has been demolished, Edith, as I discovered, having foolishly not booked, and its replacement is not complete, so I will have to stay at the North Western again!” 

“It’s not exactly a flea pit, Challenor!” said Hoxton. "Stayed there meself.  Very attentive maids!" Marguerite shook her head.

 “Would that be a room for two, George?” asked Edith. 

 “No, of course not! Why on earth should it be?” replied Challenor, scowling. “Oh! I see! Do not think that you will accompany me, Edith. You are to stay here and organise things from London!” 

“Of course, George,” she nodded and glanced at me. 

As the evening continued, we put together a long list of items we would need. Hoxton had, much to my surprise, as he always seemed so indolent, already listed much of what we should need. He had said that the expedition was so well known suppliers were even offering large discounts in exchange for being mentioned in the Courier’s articles. I noted down the key names. Mason brought in supper and the wine and I noticed that Marguerite ate heartily and drank heavily with seemingly no deleterious effect on her whatsoever. 

“How many local porters will we need?” asked Marguerite. 

 “The trick in Amazonia is to have as few people in your party as possible. How many did you have Challenor?” asked Hoxton. 

“Just myself, my guide Bumbo, who I have written to so I may avail myself of his excellent services once more, and a couple of local bearers!” replied Challenor, helping himself to a thick slice of ham. 

“Exactly. When I went I had one guide, a gun bearer and four porters. The smaller the group the less likely you are to attract the attention of hostile Indians. A great group of people will cause a right hullaballoo!” said Hoxton. “So we travel light! Hunt and fish for food. No large tents, just a few light canopies to help keep the rain off. It will rain. Constantly. Every day! We would be better travelling in September!” 

 “How ghastly! It sounds like Lancashire!” said Somersby. 

 “Or Ireland!” laughed Challenor. 

“I don’t think my newspaper would be in favour of waiting until September!” I said. 

“Well really!” boomed Challenor. “We simply must ensure that the newspaper’s editor’s views are paramount. Forget everyone else! But I cannot wait! The cat is out of the bag, ladies and gentlemen and others may try to race us to our objective. Undesirables! Americans, I am afraid to say, Miss Blanc. The French, God help us! Or Germans, even worse!” 

“I am Canadian, Professor, not American,” said Marguerite, patiently, as Hoxton poured her another glass of Macon and winked at her. 

 “Of course, although, practically, there is no difference!” he said. 

“There sure is but I have to say that I completely agree with Professor Challenor. We need to be on our way as quickly as possible!” she said. Challenor nodded at her. 

“Thank you Miss Blanc. It will take us at least three weeks journey from the main river to reach the village where I met your uncle!” said Challenor. “And the plateau is some way beyond that. Perhaps another two weeks! The terrain is difficult. We will need machetes!” 

“Well that is good, the rainy season should be ending by the time we get to the plateau,” said Hoxton. 

“And where exactly is the plateau?” asked Somersby, spreading a large map of South America upon the table. 

“Ah, I am afraid that for the reasons I mentioned I am not willing to say, precisely, at this point!” said Challenor. “Germans!” 

“This is ridiculous, George! Are you one of these people who thinks that the Germans are our enemies! What if we were to run into trouble? How can we be rescued if no one knows where we are?” asked Somersby. 

“Perhaps you would rather stay at home, Leon?” replied Challenor, smiling, which was never an agreeable sight. 

“Our exact location does not matter. As soon as you enter the deep, dark jungles of Amazonia you are lost to the world!” said Hoxton. “Have you been to the maze at Hampton Court, Professor Somersby?” Somersby nodded. “The Amazon rainforest is a maze the size of Europe with no clear entrance, exit or simple solution! You can get quite lost moving twenty feet from your camp! It is full of poisonous insects and snakes, electric eels which can knock you unconscious, piranha fish which can strip the flesh from your bones, jaguars and cannibals! Even the plant life is a trial, with thorns that can penetrate even the thickest conventional clothes. I have arranged lightweight gabardine clothing by Burberry, which will give us some protection. You, Miss Blanc, will have to consent to wearing trousers tucked into boots, rather than skirts. You will be surprised at the nasty creatures trying to get underneath your skirts.” 

“Thank you, Lord Hoxton but I have a lot of experience of dealing with nasty creatures trying to get underneath my skirts!” she replied, winking at Edith. Edith grinned. 

Having discussed clothing and boots for some time, with Edith adding items to Challenor’s, list of actions, Edith stood up and said: “I think perhaps we need a natural break at this point while Gibson clears the detritus!” She indicated the plates and glasses and rang the bell. 

“Not the glasses!” said Marguerite. 

“Well said, Miss Blanc!” said Hoxton. 

“You can call me Marguerite, James. Although, given your reputation, that familiarity is not an invitation to explore under my skirts!” 

“I had never thought of such a thing!” grinned Hoxton. 

“Lord Hoxton,” replied Marguerite, “when I first met you at Professor Challenor’s lecture I could feel your eyes undressing me, even as you took my hand. By the time you released it you had got me down to my corset and stockings, I would venture!” 

“Perhaps, Lord Hoxton was admiring your lovely dress!” I said. "He appreciates a fashionable woman."

“So I believe. You, Mr Molloy, were even worse!  I could feel you going straight to my birthday suit without any contemplation of my underthings whatsoever!”  Needless to say I blushed. I admit that given my heightened sexual awareness I was imagining what every attractive woman I saw looked like naked. 

 “Mr Molloy was an art student. He has a great deal of experience of naked women. I am sure he just saw you as a potential drawing exercise!” said Edith 

“Yes, I would bet that one works once in a while with some poor girls!” said Marguerite. 

“Perhaps they enjoy having their figures immortalised by Mr Molloy! He has recently completed some drawings of some lady friends of mine and they were delighted with them!” said Hoxton. 

“Oh Lordy! Really? Well, I think I do not want to explore that subject or the circumstances any more, thank you!” said Marguerite.

Fortunately, Mason entered at this point with the maid and they began to clear up, which saw everyone stand up and move into the hall. 

 “Facilities are down the hallway past the stairs, gentlemen!” said Challenor. 

“You can come with me Marguerite, if you need to refresh yourself!” said Edith and the two women disappeared upstairs. Hoxton and I waited in the hallway, looking at Challenor’s fossil display case. 

“About now, perhaps, Marguerite will have her drawers around her ankles. She will be sitting down on the seat. She will push and the force of her stream will force her pink lips apart...” said Hoxton. 

“Don’t!” I said, grinning. “That is a distracting thought. Of course it could be Edi...Mrs Challenor!” 

“Is there something going on between you two?” he whispered. 

“Not at all. We got on quite well during my interview of her. That is all.” I replied wondering if I could control my blush reflex by sheer force of will. 

“It’s just that I keep catching little glances between the two of you. And don’t think I didn’t notice you slipping away together at the Museum, either!” he said. 

“I confess that we have made an arrangement for me to draw her portrait; as a surprise present for her husband!” Britten once told me that a successful lie should always be told with utter conviction and should include as many elements of truth as possible, to give it veracity. 

“What sort of drawing? I keep looking at the back of Mrs Challenor’s head and thinking of that lovely nude you showed me with the superb arsehole! Her hairstyle is very similar as far as I can recall!” said Hoxton, folding his arms and leaning against the wall. 

 “That is another person entirely!” I said thinking that that side of Edith’s personality almost was another person than what we were seeing today. 

“Hmm! If you say so!” he said, looking unconvinced. 

“Well, apart from anything else, she is old enough to be my mother. In fact she is six months older than my mother!” My mother was just sixteen when I was born, which had been something of a family scandal. 

“Doesn’t matter as long as their cunnies are still juicy. Last month in Paris I had a French woman who claimed to be thirty-eight but turned out to be fifty-seven. She looked very good naked and everything was still very much in working order!” said Hoxton. 

“Well, I have little experience,” I said. 

“Lady Caroline, for example, is forty-three. You’ve seen her naked. Would you guess that?” 

“Not from her body, I admit. Maybe a few lines around her eyes give it away a little!” I replied, recalling her superbly lush form. 

“Well I tend to roger them from behind so I don’t see their faces!” laughed Hoxton. 

“Oh, I like to see their faces. I like to watch them as they come!” I said, without thinking, 

“Good for you Molloy!” he said, slapping me on the back with even more force than McCandless employed, “I’ll bet your innocent Irishman guise works wonders on the girls but really you are a proper man beneath it all!” 

“And what are you two gentlemen discussing, hidden under the stairs?” asked Edith, who we had just heard descending above our heads. 

“The beauty and elegance of women of a certain age, Mrs Challenor!” said Hoxton. “That the older woman offers so much more than the inexperience of a girl!” Edith looked at me quizzically and Hoxton said “Hah!” loudly. Fortunately, at that point Somersby reappeared and Hoxton disappeared down towards the ground floor facilities. 

“Were you talking about me?” hissed Edith. 

“Only indirectly. Hoxton suspects something so I told him that we had made a secret arrangement to do a drawing of you as a surprise present for the Professor’s birthday!” I said. “We really do need to be careful!” 

“That was quick thinking! So, George is going to Liverpool for five days before you all leave and I am remaining behind until the last minute. We can have five days and five nights of fucking!” she whispered. 

“Shhh!” I said, glancing around anxiously. “Fucking, sucking, fingering, and licking!” she said and giggled. I heard someone walk across the tiles of the hall and stepped out into the open, fortunately it was Hoxton. 

“Still fascinated by the exhibit under the stairs, eh, Molloy?” he said, as Edith stepped out too. 

“An immediate cessation of speculation as regards perceived but mistaken situations would be appreciated, Lord Hoxton!” said Edith, quietly. 

“The last thing I would want to do, Mrs Challenor, is cause such a beauty any distress or anxiety!” he replied, taking her hand and kissing it. 

“Why are you kissing my wife’s hand again, Hoxton?” asked Challenor, descending the stairs like a tumbling barrel. 

“Because, frankly, I am overcome by her grace and beauty!” he answered grinning. 

“Grace and beauty? What? Edith? What?” He looked genuinely baffled that someone would compliment his wife. 

“Have a mind or someone may steal her away from you, Professor!” said Hoxton. I tried to catch his eye to shut him up. 

“But she is next to useless! Who would want her? She is too old for a man to proudly show off on his arm, she is unable to breed and is far too shrewish! Any man taking her on would have to permanently stuff his ears to stop hearing the incessant, inane chatter! Fortunately, I have learnt to ignore it as I ignore the buzzing of insects or the rumble of traffic. Blank them out, eh, Hoxton? Blank them out!” Challenor strode off, back into the dining room. Edith stood there seething. Hoxton looked at us both and smiled. 

 “All power to you, I say!” he turned and followed the Professor. 

“I so wanted to say something there!” I whispered to Edith. “But I did not want to draw attention to myself!  I am sorry I did not defend you!” 

“You did the right thing! Just when I am proud to be his wife he says something awful about me. That comment about being unable to breed was very cruel! It is something I regret every day of my life!” I looked at her and saw a sparkling tear running down one elegant cheek. 

“I want to embrace you and I cannot!” I hissed. 

“I know you do and knowing that gives me much comfort!” she smiled, wanly. I stood there feeling utterly useless, as I watched Edith struggle to compose herself. 

“Edith you look upset. Has this man upset you?” said Marguerite, descending the stairs. 

“Not Mr Molloy. No. My husband was just... I’m sorry!” More tears came and she pulled a handkerchief from her sleeve and bustled towards the rear of the house. I watched her go and desperately wanted to follow her. 

 “He is a toton, not to appreciate such a woman!” said Marguerite. 

“Perhaps you might see if she is alright?” I suggested. 

“Indeed I will, Mr Molloy. How thoughtful of you!” she patted my upper arm and set off to follow Edith. I returned to the dining room to find the others going through the list once more. 

“Where are the damn women?” asked Challenor. 

“I think you may have upset your wife, Professor,” I said, rather boldly. 

“How? Useless fragile creatures! They are fighting for the vote and yet they don’t have the backbone of a jellyfish. Women will never be equal to men. Their job is to breed and if they cannot even do that what possible use do they have?” he replied. 

“That is very harsh, Professor Challenor. It is not a woman’s fault, if she is unable to have children!” I said. 

“It is not the fault of an artillery shell if it fails to explode but it is just as useless!” he said.

“It takes two to produce children,” said Somerby, unexpectedly joining in. “Have you had yourself checked, George? Perhaps the faulty artillery might be yours, so to speak! Firing blanks, perhaps?” 

“What impertinence!” said Challenor and I was worried he might strike Somersby, so I edged forward slightly. While I was glad of Somersby’s intervention I had a sudden panic that perhaps Edith was not barren after all, in which case... I dare not think about it. 

"Yes, of course I had the test and no I do not fire blanks, as you so crassly put it!” said Challenor.  Really!"  I inwardly relaxed. 

 “Calm down, gentlemen!” interjected Hoxton. “This subject does not advance our preparations one jot and I remind you all that we have less than two weeks until the Hildebrand sails. There is still much to do. Now, what scientific instruments might you need, bearing in mind what I said about keeping things lightweight?” The discussion continued and the ladies rejoined us about a quarter of an hour later. Challenor didn’t acknowledge his wife when they returned but she resumed taking notes. “One thing,” said Hoxton, after a while. “Where should we have everything delivered to? Food, clothing, tents etc. Here?” 

“I do not want the house cluttered any more than it already is,” said Edith. “We have quite enough of George’s rubbish here as it is!” 

“Rubbish, woman?” he barked. 

“Rubbish, George. In every room in the house!” 

“Specimens! Books! Papers! Fossils! Relics! Not rubbish!” he glared at her. 

“Whatever they are, this house is full. I would imagine that you will want your supplies accessible for cataloguing at least. Somewhere else will have to be found!” said Edith. Challenor glared but said nothing.

 “I have an idea,” said Somersby. 

“Perhaps for the first time,” laughed Challenor.

Chapter notes on this episode can be found here.