(This and the following parts under the same name represent a block of chapters from my novel "The Slaves of the Amethyst" which I am posting here as a mini-series in the hope that Xhamster readers will enjoy them. Although there is a strong erotic theme throughout I feel obliged to warn readers that not all of the series is erotic in content for which I apologise. Also one of the chapters has been previously posted on here and I apologise for the repetition. There will be I think about fifteen chapters in this series representing about one tenth of the overall body of the novel. I hope you en... Continue»
(See part one for preamble to this series)
Chapter Sixty Two.
Daniel moved slowly down the riverbank toward the hidden pool parting the undergrowth as he went. He was clutching a fly rod. It was an expensive modern rod but not, he realised, as expensive as the old fashioned, hand crafted split cane rod that Robin was using further along the river. Daniel didn’t mind that. Robin’s rod was a museum piece better suited to hanging on the wall of a fishing den than actually to be used on the river. Daniel was more than content with the lightweight high technology instrument Robin had leant him. It had been years since Daniel had wielded a fly rod but it had come back to him quickly and his casting, although rusty, had improved throughout the morning. They’d been at the water since dawn leaving a note saying “Gone Fishing” where the sl**ping girls in the Starlight Suite would find it. It was best to present the female of the race with a fait accompli when it came to sneaking out for a spot of fishing. Already by now they’d taken half a dozen takeable trout between them, which was pretty fair for the time of year. Now however Daniel had greater ambitions in mind.
He’d sighted the big shadow lurking near a patch of collected flotsam underneath the over-hanging undergrowth from the bridge below the hidden pool and for the last twenty minutes he’d been carefully stalking his way into position to cast to it. His excitement was mounting as the shadowy form moved to intercept a fly on the surface with a delicate ripple. Even the vaguest glimpse that could be discerned through the polarising sunglasses showed it to be a very special fish indeed. Finally Daniel reached a point where a clever cast could put a fly over that big shape. He paused, waiting patiently although his mouth was dry with tension. The merest sudden movement or unguarded footfall could bolt that fish in an instance. It could never have grown to that size without the facilities of extreme caution! There was another little plop and a ring of ripples on the surface. The fish was still rising! The question was what was it rising to? Daniel knew that trout could become very fixated on a single available source of food and it was no earthly use on occasion to present them with an alternative. Part of the art of fly-fishing therefore was to be able to identify the type of flies that your particular target was feeding on. An insect settled on Daniel’s jacket. He recognised it immediately. It was a sedge fly, the adult version of those curious caddis grubs that built little cases around themselves out of twigs and pebbles and suchlike. It was early in the day for sedge flies. They normally began to show in the late afternoon and evening but Daniel recalled reading that some species were active throughout the day. Whatever the case it seemed likely that Daniel had found a clue to this fish’s menu for the day.
Unhurriedly he opened the box of flies that Robin had given him hoping to find some sedge imitations. It didn’t have to be that exact. Sedge flies all looked more or less the same to Daniel anyway. They were all nondescript brown things with long delicate wings. As long as he could match the colour and size reasonably well he stood a chance. He didn’t expect his quarry to conduct a detailed entomological study of his lure. He just needed it to mistake it for the flies it was feeding on. There was a fly pattern that seemed just perfect. With trembling fingers he tied it to his leader and sprayed it with a light oil to make it float. That was problem one. The next was how to present this imitation over the nose of that fish. It was by no means easy. The overgrown banks and bushes precluded the normal back cast of a fly fisherman. You needed open space behind you for that. It was likely that this trout had grown so big largely because its chosen lair was so invulnerable to conventional casting techniques. There was only one way Daniel could think of doing it and that was to let a bow of fly line form behind his rod and then flick it forward in a roll cast. The trouble was that that was a fiendishly difficult cast to get right and he was only likely to get one chance at it. Any sloppy slapping of the line on the water would spook that fish for sure.
Taking a deep breath he raised his rod slowly aiming for a position well upstream of the target. Then he let the cast go. To his amazement it was very nearly perfect. The artificial fly landed on the water with the merest kiss a yard in front of the fish’s station and there were sufficient coils in his line to prevent the fly being dragged unnaturally out of position by the current. Daniel held his breath as the imitation bobbed along the surface towards his quarry. It was a foot away, then six inches and then nearly on top. For a heart-stopping moment he thought it had passed over the fish and then it was gone. The rise was quite unlike the splashy affairs of the smaller fish Daniel had already taken that day. It was almost finicky in its delicacy, the tiniest protrusion of a brown snout plucking his fly from the surface with the air of a duchess sipping her afternoon tea. Daniel was so shocked that for a moment he forgot to strike but then he whipped his rod up and tightened on to the fish.
It was like sticking the end of his line in a power socket. There was a moment of heavy vibration and then the fish exploded into action, rushing downstream. All the loose line in Daniel’s hand was stripped away in an instance and the ratchet on his reel screamed in protest. It was unstoppable that power run. Perhaps on one of his barbel rods or one of his light carp rods Daniel might have thought about trying to halt that fish but on the fairy wand of a fly rod, bending double as it was, there was simply no alternative but to let the fish run. And there all Daniel’s carefully laid plans came unstuck. The truth was that having so meticulously planned his approach to luring that fish into the indiscretion of taking his fly he had completely overlooked what to do once it had done so. The little bridge was the problem. Effortlessly the fish dashed under the bridge and into the dreadful pool below with its compliment of half sunken bushes leaving Daniel in one pool and the fish in another and separated by a low bridge. In the pool below Daniel heard a splash like somebody throwing a brick into the water and knew his fish had jumped in its fury. He was now in an awful predicament. He couldn’t even see what the fish was doing. It was time to call in reinf***ements.
“ROBIN! HELP!” he shouted at the top of his lungs. Within seconds Robin was dashing through the undergrowth his eyes frantic thinking that Daniel must be drowning or something.
“What the hell’s up?”
“Ah’ve got a bleedin’ belter on Robin an’ e’ gone down under that bridge inter t’ next pool an’ I think me line’s caught on a bush or summat.”
“Hold on! I’ll go look.” From below the bridge Robin called out “Your lines tangled on a bush but the fish is still there. Goddess it’s huge! I’ll have to get into the water to free your line. Can you wade under the bridge? It’s not deep.”
“Oh ell!” Neither Daniel nor Robin had thought to bring waders out with them. “Alright I’m coming!” Daniel plunged into the water. It felt icy cold and it was up to his waist as he negotiated his way under the bridge. Emerging below the bridge he found Robin nearly up to his chest disengaging his line from a wicked looking bush.
“Ok! You’re free now tighten up on him!” The fish tore off in another reel shrieking run and launched itself clear of the water. Daniel gasped. It was the biggest brown trout he had ever seen. “Goddess don’t lose this one Danny! He must be five pounds if he’s an ounce!” Fortunately, once below the bushes the fish was in clear water and Daniel was able to give it its head. He staggered to some shallower water by the bank side and began to play the fish with caution, aware that he had only a two-pound breaking strain leader on. Gradually he began to hope. The fish’s mad runs were becoming fewer and less hectic. Robin was excitedly working his way into position with the landing net. It was definitely tiring now and Daniel was restricting it to a short line just short of the net. There was another worry though. Robin saw it. “Be bl**dy careful Danny. That hook hold looks very tenuous. Don’t bully him! It could go in a second!” The thought of this fish slipping the hook at the eleventh hour was almost more than Daniel could bear and he played the fish as if walking on glass. Then it was at the lip of the net and he held his breath. In a single fluid motion Robin scooped the fish up at almost the exact second that the hook gave way. But it was too late! The great trout was flapping furiously in the folds of the landing net and Robin was floundering ashore with it, whooping in triumph as Daniel yelled exultantly and punched the air in glee. They dashed up the bank with their prize. “Look at the size of the bastard!” cried Robin “Five, five and a half pounds easy. A two pound fish is good out of this river. I’ve never seen one this big before.”
Daniel looked at the big beautiful fish in wonderment. It had the lovely golden brown flanks flecked with black and red spots of the brown trout almost as if touched by the sun. It lacked the flamboyant colouring of the rainbow trout perhaps but there was something deeply satisfying aesthetically about the big golden brown fish glistening in the sunlight, with the pugnacious hooked jaw that proclaimed it to be a male. “bl**dy ‘ell Robin! It’s a beauty!” said Daniel and he wasn’t just talking about its bulk and weight. The actual beauty of the wild fish genuinely stunned him.
“Wait till your Alice sees this one!”
But that was something Daniel could not contemplate. It was unthinkable for him to kill this magnificent creature. He cleared his throat. “Nay Robin we’ve got enough for the pan. Let’s let ‘im go!”
Robin nodded “I agree Danny. He’s too lovely to end his days on a plate. You’re a real fisherman Danny! It takes somebody who really loves fish to know when to let them go.”
Daniel looked sheepish “Oh sod that Rob! Ah just want to come back in a year an’ catch ‘im when ‘e’s even bigger!”
Robin laughed and fumbled in his breast pocket. “Well that doesn’t stop us photographing him anyway. I hope to hell my camera didn’t get wet!” When they’d snapped Daniel holding his catch proudly they eased the big trout back into the river holding him gently with his nose upstream until he recovered and slipped out of Daniel’s hands making his way back to the lair beyond the bridge. The two men watched him go in profound satisfaction. Robin slapped Daniel on the back “Come on this calls for a celebration! Grab your gear and we’ll go back to where I’ve left my bag. I’ve a flask of good Scotch in it!
Back at Robin’s bag Daniel moaned “I’m bl**dy soaking now! We’re going to look a right pair o’ pillocks walking back into t’ All drippin’ watter all ovver t’ polished floors aren’t we?”
“Well strip out of your wet things then and we can hang them up on those bushes. The sun’s getting hot. They’ll soon dry.” Robin was already divesting himself of his wet clothes, stripping down to his underwear. Somewhat sheepishly Daniel followed his example. They sat down on the grass in their underpants and Robin groped inside his bag to produce a flask and two little silver quaitches. Carefully he poured out two measures of whisky and handed one to Daniel. “Here’s to your success Danny!”
“Ah couldn’t ‘ave landed that fish without your ‘elp Rob so I think we’ll go shares on that one! ‘Ere’s to our fish!” They laughed and tapped drinks together. The whisky was smoky and pungent and Daniel spluttered on it.
“Sixteen year old Lagavulin Danny! Right off the Isle of Islay! One of the oldest distilleries in Scotland, you can taste the peat and seaweed in it! Petri Heil!”
“Its German Danny, Petri Heil. Hail Peter. St Peter is the patron saint of fishermen and in Germany fishermen greet each other by saying Petri Heil. It’s a bit like us saying “tight lines”. It’s supposed to bring luck. When somebody says Petri Heil to you, you reply Petri Dank, or thanks Peter.”
“Right then Petri Dank!” They finished off their little bowls of whisky and Robin refilled them.
“Really though Danny you’re a terrific fisherman. There’s not many people could have extracted that beauty from that pool or even known there was one in it.” Robin was being serious. He was a very good angler himself and he recognised a kindred spirit when he saw one. Daniel he saw was a natural. It wasn’t just technical expertise that separated Daniel from the ordinary run of fishermen either. Daniel possessed that instinctive sixth sense that characterised all great fishermen, the ability to “read” a water. It was an uncanny sense nearly impossible to explain to somebody not possessing it but Daniel was one of those anglers who could look at a stretch of river or an expanse of still water and be able to tell you to the foot where the fish would be. It was almost as if he could put himself inside a fish’s mind and ask himself where he would take up position. A river was not just a body of flowing water to him it was thousand different eddies, glides, rippled gravel beds, flowing streamer weeds and creases in the water each of them telling their own story about the life within them. It was a multitude of lairs, a living habitat with every nuance of it as clearly marked out as reference points on a map. Genius manifests itself in many ways. In Daniel’s case it was expressed through a fishing rod.
Daniel blushed under Robin’s praise especially since he was coming to admire his handsome, intelligent new friend. Daniel was essentially a shy, reserved young man that didn’t make friends easily. To him Robin was the epitome of easy charm and educated sophistication. If somebody had told him a fortnight ago that he’d be sat in his underwear, on the banks of an exclusive trout stream, sharing a flask of whisky with the Lord of the Manor he’d have thought they were suffering a serious marble deficiency. Yet there was an easy comradeship that was deeply gratifying. Robin was becoming a mentor to Daniel, a man he could look up to, an elder b*****r with whom such a sharing fellowship was a natural consequence. They even shared their womenfolk between them, and something else besides. Daniel looked covertly at the tall nearly naked man beside him with his hairless well-formed body rippling with firm muscles. Something was bothering Daniel.
“Er Robin… er about …well you know… about last night.”
“What about it Danny?”
“Well you know… ah mean wot ‘appened.”
“Lots of things happened last night Danny.”
“Aye… true enough but… I mean…well yer know. I mean what ‘appened wi you an’ me.”
Robin smiled ruefully remembering the scenes in the Starlight Suite. It had all been Rebecca’s fault. Who else?! The evening had progressed easily into a four way party and, in the fantastic bedchamber of the Starlight Suite, the girls had swapped between their two men with alacrity. Daniel had revelled in the opportunity to enjoy the beautiful Rebecca at his leisure whilst casting glances aside to admire his wife’s ecstatic contortions as Robin took her. It had been wildly exciting, an erotic dream where anything was permissible. In the heady thick atmosphere of sexuality, when the two men were desirous of a pause for breath they’d tried to persuade the two girls to give them a repeat performance of their show on the beach at Bolswick Bay. Rebecca had whispered in Alice’s ear and then declared “Ok! We’ll do it! But we shall want a favour afterwards!”
“What sort of favour?” had asked Robin guardedly, all too aware of Rebecca’s infinite capacity for mischievousness.
“Just agree now or we won’t do it!” The men had agreed albeit with great misgivings and then sat back to enjoy the sight of Rebecca and Alice making love. It had been even wilder than the shocking display at Bolswick Bay and Daniel had watched mesmerised as Rebecca had buried her face in Alice’s sex and licked her to one orgasm after another until he hardly recognised the wailing a****l on the receiving end of Rebecca’s administrations as his wife. Alice had repaid Rebecca for Bolswick Bay by spanking her hard whilst Rebecca fingered herself to orgasm and finally the two of them had collapsed among the duvets on the great round bed that took up all the space under the glass vault of the bedchamber gasping and pent. The menfolk had been delighted. They’d been less delighted shortly after however.
“Ok” Rebecca had breathed “Your turn now boys!”
“Eh? What?” Daniel had spluttered.
“You heard me Danny. Alice and I have just put on a performance for you two and now it’s time for you to reciprocate the favour.”
“Aye!” Alice had giggled “It’s only fair. Me an’ Becky ‘ave an ‘ankerin’ to watch two fellahs doin’ it. So let’s be avin’ yer!”
“Ere ‘ang about! Ah don’t know about this!” Daniel had protested.
“You don’t honestly want me and Danny to… well…?” Robin had looked horrified.
“Indeed we do! You agreed to grant us a favour and this is the favour we’re asking.”
“I don’t know if I can!” Robin had blurted appalled.
“Oh I see!” This had been from Rebecca “Its one thing for us girls to make love for your entertainment and quite another when you’re called upon to do the same is it? Come along now boys! Don’t be shy! You can do it if you try! You might even enjoy it I hope.”
“Oh ‘ell!” Daniel had been almost comical in his pitiable embarrassment.
“Come along now boys!” Rebecca had urged, “Your audience is waiting! If you won’t do it then Alice and I will go and sl**p in the other suite for the rest of the night!” After much bullying encouragement the two men had been ushered into each other’s arms.
“’Ere I don’t know if I can do this!” Daniel had said miserably.
“Of course you can Daniel!” Rebecca had told him “Now put on a good show! All the way mind! We want to see you come! Both of you!” And slowly and very reluctantly to begin with they had complied. Arousal had come to their rescue. The two girls had watched them excitedly, masturbating as they did so, and almost without their volition the two men had become erect. It had been strange to feel the hard muscles of a man in one’s arms, strange to be kissed and feel a masculine stubble rough against one’s cheek, strange to feel a man’s hands exploring one’s body, strange to grasp a penis not one’s own in one’s hand and stranger still to become excited in the process, so excited that one willingly bent to take that penis in one’s mouth and taste the hot sperm as it ejaculated into the back of one’s throat. Strangest of all was the aftermath when one even felt a sweetness in the act and a togetherness with one’s lover and kissed him almost tenderly like a woman. The girls had rewarded their men by being extra sweet to them and the four of them had cuddled up close among the bedclothes with the last barriers of reserve discarded.
“Aye that!” said Daniel.
Robin cleared his throat “Well what about it?”
“Ah’ve never done anything like that before Robin.”
“Well neither have I Danny!”
“Your bl**dy Becky don’t ‘alf come up wi some bl**dy ideas don’t she?”
“She certainly does!”
“Well I… er I just wanted ter say well… er its done now an’ er… well… Oh ‘ell I don’t know what I want ter say!”
“If Rebecca has her way it’ll probably happen again Danny!”
“Aye! Ah know!”
“Would you mind? You could always refuse.”
“Aye I suppose so.” Daniel looked worried. “It’s just that…”
“Spit it out Danny! Nobody here but us chickens!”
“I ‘ave a confession ter make Robin.”
“You can tell me Danny. Please trust me.”
“Well it’s like this Rob. I know its ‘orrible an’ yer’ll think t’ worst o’ me but I enjoyed it!”
“This is horrible? This is your terrible confession?”
“Well I just didn’t think I were like that! A pouf I mean. I thought I were just normal! ”
“Danny you’re not a “pouf” whatever that means. You’re a virile perfectly normal man. I’ve seen you in action! Rebecca was like a damp dishrag after you’d finished with her last night! So you made love to another man. Big deal! Lots of people do you know! Rebecca will jump into bed with another girl at the drop of a hat. She doesn’t think she’s a pouf! I remember her saying to me once “I feel sorry for people that are fixated on one sex. That’s half the human race they can never sl**p with.” Rebecca’s as mad as a March hare it’s true but she’s opened my eyes about things like this. Sex is between the people concerned and nobody else’s business what you do. Don’t be putting labels on yourself and doubting your own masculinity just because you got off on sex with another man Danny. Rebecca taught me that sex is one of life’s great gifts and it’s a shame to reject it. Most people, most sensitive people, have some experience with their own sex. There’s nothing at all shameful about it. My room mate at university and I tried once but we were crap at it and went out for a beer instead! Then again we didn’t have Rebecca’s coaching talents at our disposal. Don’t worry about it Danny! I’m glad you enjoyed it!”
“Can I ask yer somethin’ Robin?”
“Did yer… I mean did you…”
“Did I enjoy it?”
Robin looked at Daniel and smiled. Then in a single motion he threw his arms around Daniel and pulled him close, their damp naked bodies pressed against one another. The kiss was long, rough and lingering and Daniel felt the stirring in his groin. At last Robin released him. “Does that answer your question Danny?”
“Aye….aye it does!”
“Do you have any more questions?”
“Aye!” Daniel looked breathless as he nodded toward the flask laying on the grass “Is there any more o’ that whisky left?”
“Yes loads! Pass your cup over!” They finished off the flask between them.
In the Starlight Suite the men’s absence had been duly noted with a certain degree of acerbity. “Gone bl**dy fishing!” fumed Rebecca to Alice as the two girls attended to their morning toilet, “Just up and dumped us for some bl**dy fish! Just wait until they come back! I’ll give them “Gone Fishing”! Sneaking out without even as much as a morning kiss! Its high time Alice that we taught them who’re the bosses around here!”
Alice laughed “Aye well Becky I suppose we can lerrem ‘ave the odd mornin’ off. They was well be’aved enough yesterday.”
“And so they should be! It’s the principle of the matter Alice. We must instil some discipline! You can’t have men thinking that they can get their own way. That’s the road to ruin! If they’d wanted to go fishing then they should have humbly asked our permission instead of creeping furtively out like a pair of naughty schoolboys! What is the human race coming to if men start to think that they can go gallivanting off without so much as a by your leave? No we established these protocols back in the Stone Age Alice! No self-respecting cavewoman would have allowed her old man to simply go traipsing out of the cave for a bit of fun, mammoth bashing or whatever, without her permission! No Alice this sort of thing has to be nipped in the bud. Wait till they get back! I’ll make them wriggle on their own hooks! Do you like that dress?”
“Yes its lovely Becky! Thank you!” Rebecca had given Alice a beautiful knee length dress in a light blue soft fabric.
“Well it looks better on you than on me! I’ve only worn it once. It’s a bit on the big side in the upper stories for me. You’re a bit more well endowed than me in that department.”
“Yer’ve got lovely boobs Becky!”
“Well I’m perfectly content with them but I’m not in your class there. Your boobs would be serious contenders for the blue ribbon for best marrows in the Mathomdale horticultural show any day! I noticed my Lord Robin couldn’t keep his lecherous paws off them last night!”
Alice giggled “Didn’t stop ‘im tryin’ t’ wares on t’ other fruit and veg stalls Becky!”
Rebecca laughed “Goddess I thought we’d gone too far when we made them make love to each other! We damn near had a mutiny on our hands!”
Alice joined Rebecca in laughter “bl**dy ‘ell! That were funny! Ah got right turned on watching that!”
“Yes it was fun! Presumably this morning’s insurrection is the backlash from that. The boys going out to reassert their masculinity or something! Well we’ll soon quell that particular rebellion!”
“When are we seeing Lady Mathom today Becky?”
“There was a message on my computer. The Lady didn’t come home last night but she’s asked if we could join her this afternoon at around half past four for tea. Is that alright for you?”
“Oh right Becky! Like I’m gonna say “Sorry that’s inconvenient” to ‘Er Ladyship? She’s t’ boss around ‘ere an’, if she says frog, we jump!”
“Spoken like a true slave of Mathom Hall already Alice! Yes the Lady calls the tune Alice but she pretties it up a little. Listen when we’re looking shipshape and Bristol fashion I have to pop off for a while. Julie gave me a letter to deliver to Jennifer and I’ll have to take it to her. Will you be alright on your own in the enf***ed absence of our menfolk?”
“Can’t I come with you? I’m dyin’ to meet your Jennifer.”
“Er not at the moment Alice. I haven’t cleared it. It’s…well it’s a bit awkward at the moment. Not diplomatic you might say. Later perhaps, maybe tomorrow or the day after, I don’t know, but it could be a bit inconvenient right now. As it is I’ll have to ask permission to see her myself. You don’t mind do you?”
“No Becky love. You go ahead. Will yer be long?”
“I shouldn’t be. In the meantime have a look around if you like. You’re a guest here and if anybody asks you just say that you’re here at Lord Robin’s invitation. It looks like another scorcher outside so I’ll ask our butler if we can have brunch out on the back terraces around twelve. It’s nearly ten o’clock now. Goddess knows if the boys will be back by then. If they aren’t they can go hungry! Maybe they can eat their fish if they actually managed to catch any!”
Jennifer was having a tough morning. Her exercises had been even more demanding than yesterday and it had been a relief to finally jump under a shower. After her shower she’d returned to the dining chamber to find Rachel sat looking at her meaningfully, “Well Jennifer?” Jennifer had gulped and rushed off to fetch the paddle. Rachel had been unimpressed “I don’t expect to have to remind you again Jennifer.” she’d said taking the paddle out of Jennifer’s hands.
“No ma-am.” Said Jennifer frowning.
“Are you being resentful Jennifer?”
“Good! I dislike sulky petulance! Please assume the customary position.” Afterwards with Jennifer’s bottom stinging Rachel had begun a series of tests on Jennifer’s self-awareness and had found her to be woefully inadequate by her exacting standards. She‘d designated a pathway through a chamber as a catwalk and had made Jennifer walk the length of it in a variety of guises. “Imagine you’re a model,” she’d told her “Now I want you to strut along the walk aggressively dominant, hand on hip, devil may care and damn the consequences!” Jennifer had managed a look that made it appear as if she was desperate to get to the lavatory. She’d been ordered to appear kittenish and coy, then languorous and seductively sultry, next happy and flirtatious or tranquil and dream like. Rachel had wanted her to appear resigned, nervous, expectant as if walking to meet a lover, heavy as if burdened with a problem, light and vivacious as if newly in love, authoritative and confident (a hopeless cause as Rachel pointed out) or penitent and scared as if reporting for punishment which was about the only one she could manage easily as Rachel told her acidly. It had been a little like flogging the proverbial dead horse. Jennifer just didn’t seem to be able to visualise just how she appeared to other people. She lacked the awareness to project herself and her appearance. Perhaps if she’d been the sort of girl that spent more time watching herself in the mirror she might have found the exercises easier but generally she just couldn’t adopt a particular persona with any facility. Rachel had her sit down at a chair or stand up in various modes but Jennifer lacked the elegance and posture to turn the act into a meaningful gesture. She just looked as if she was sitting down or standing up.
“Do it slowly.” Rachel admonished her “Maintain eye contact with me! Part your lips! You’re supposed to be seducing me not telling me that you have to catch the four o’clock train!”
Jennifer slumped down demoralised. “I’m sorry ma-am I was never very good at drama.”
“This isn’t drama Jennifer! These are essential tools of womanhood! A lady always knows how she looks! She uses her body language like a tool, a weapon! You’re an artist Jenny! Well then start to see that you yourself are an art form. Your movements should be beautiful, harmonious, measured and, most of all, totally self-aware. Your actions should be a dance of grace and elegance as carefully choreographed as a ballet routine. You should know exactly when to lower your face demurely, when to look a person in the eyes and part your lips, when to slide your hand along the edge of the table or brush a lock of your hair away with a fingertip, how to rise from a sitting position as if you’re being drawn up by strings. You have to learn to enjoy the theatricality of your everyday actions. A lady, a truly self-aware lady doesn’t just walk into a room, she captures it, takes it for her own, holds it spell bound.”
Jennifer had sighed. She felt that she could never achieve the seemingly natural grace and poise that Rebecca and the other girls at the Hall demonstrated apparently without thinking. Rachel had made her repeat the actions in front of the big mirrors in the gymnasium and Jennifer was appalled to observe just how awkward and gauche she appeared. Rachel made her pour a cup of tea from a teapot with elegance and style and on this occasion it had not been too bad. Jennifer had recalled her first meeting with her Mistress and recalled the lovely movements that Her Ladyship had blessed the action with. She’d tried to recapture the aesthetic grace of those movements and had earned a grudging “Better!” from Rachel.
There was a serious point to all this Rachel had told her. An enhanced human being had to be in complete harmony with their body. Your body had to be an expression of your will, enslaved to your purposes and totally under your control. You could manipulate people with the expression of your body. People reacted to you by the way they read your body signals. A person that was fully in control of their body made sure that the other person read what they wanted them to read. Life was a carnival and you carried your faces around like a collection of Venetian masks. There were faces you showed to your boss, faces you showed to your c***dren, faces reserved for your lover, ones for the general public. A lady had more faces in her armoury than she had dresses in her wardrobe and they all lay over the face you showed only to God, the Goddess or yourself and that was the face that controlled them all. That was the one you had to be able to look at and be content with
Sebastian intervened and begged a quiet word with Rachel whispering quietly in her ear. Rachel turned to Jennifer and smiled “Ok time out for the moment Jenny. You have a visitor it seems!” A few moments later Sebastian ushered Rebecca into the dining chamber, beautiful in a white and honey dress, and Jennifer emitted a squeal of delight and rushed into her arms caring not that she was naked.
“Oh Becky thank you for visiting me! I’ve been missing you!”
Rebecca laughed touched by Jennifer’s obvious joy in seeing her. “We’ve missed you too sweetheart! How are you doing? Is Rachel putting you through the mill?”
“Oh Becky I’m just hopeless! I don’t know how Rachel finds the patience with me!”
Rachel laughed and embraced Rebecca in her turn. “Come along girls let’s see if Sebastian can rustle up some coffee for us.” They sat down at the long table and Sebastian served them coffee.
“It’s very good to see you again Miss Rebecca. It’s been a long time since you came for a stay in these chambers.” He said
“I must have been behaving myself Sebastian! Never mind I’m sure it won’t be long before I earn myself another protracted round of your hospitality!”
“I shall look forward to it Miss!”
Rebecca turned to Jennifer “Listen honey I can’t stay long. We’ve got Alice and Daniel from Bolswick Bay staying and Robin and Danny have gone out fishing for the moment so poor Alice is left upstairs on her own. Look though I’ve got a letter for you from Julie.” Rebecca handed the envelope over. “She’s a bit worried about you Jenny.”
“Oh dear! Will you tell her that I’m alright?”
“I already have done Jenny but its hard work. Still she’ll be alright. So how’s my lovely Jenny doing then Pixie?”
“Oh I’ve had her doing some bodily and self-awareness exercises this morning Rebecca. She’s really crap at them!”
Rebecca laughed richly “I could have told you that Rachel! Jenny’s so interested in things around her that she never takes the time to look at herself! She just doesn’t seem to notice the effect she has on people. I’ve seen her walk into the pub, bring the entire pub’s conversation to a grinding halt and she just looks puzzled as if it had nothing to do with her!”
“That’s not true Rebecca!” pouted Jennifer as Rachel burst into laughter.
Rebecca stayed for a few minutes more before begging permission to leave. After she’d embraced Jennifer warmly Rachel rose and said “I’ll walk you out Rebecca. You can take a few minutes to read Julie’s letter Jenny then its back to the grindstone I’m afraid!” Walking Rebecca back through the cellars Rachel looked concerned “You were a little diplomatic there Rebecca. About Julie I mean. Is there something wrong?”
“Yes. Yes there is Pixie. I didn’t want to bother Jenny but I’m really worried about Julie. She seems to be coming apart at the seams. She ran away from us nearly in panic yesterday and she’s scared to hell about Jenny. I don’t know what to do Pixie.”
“Hmm what’s in that letter do you suppose?”
“I don’t know Pixie but it might be a good idea to keep an eye on Jenny. If the letter’s really torrid then there’s no telling what Jenny might get it into her mind to do!”
“I’ll bear it in mind. Thank you for warning me. In the meantime can you look after Julie?”
“I’ll try Pixie but I’ve Alice and Daniel here as well for the moment and I’ve not as much time as I’d like. I’m not sure I’d be much use anyway.”
“I tried to warn Jenny about getting entangled with Julie but she can be as stubborn as a mule sometimes.”
“Then you’d best warn me as well Pixie because, for better or for worse, I’m entangled with Julie as well now and I can be just as stubborn as Jenny.”
“Alright stop bristling! Is it true that Julie suffers from epilepsy?”
“No! Or rather we don’t know. She’s been suffering fits and blackouts but the condition has not been diagnosed. Until it is then her condition is just speculation. In any case millions of people live with epilepsy. It is controllable with modern medication and it doesn’t carry the stigma that it once did thank the Goddess. Most people with epilepsy live perfectly ordinary fulfilled lives. Whatever her condition it will not stop Jennifer loving her or me loving her for that matter. Even, no especially, if its something more serious we’ll stick by her. I’ll try to get to see her this week. What I really need to do is get her to a doctor but she’s frightened to death of that!”
“Well alright Rebecca.” They were near the stairs leading to the upper house. “I’ll leave you here. Are you still certain about Thursday?”
“Yes Pixie I am. It’s something we need to do.”
“And Friday too?”
“Well I’ll say no more. I just hope Jenny is ready for it is all. We could be pushing her too hard.”
“I think Jenny could surprise us all yet.”
“You might be right. The Goddess is powerful in her. I wish I could be there when she meets Yuki. Ok I’d better get back to my tutoring chores. Give me a kiss and I’ll see you on Thursday.”
“Perhaps earlier Pixie. Would it be alright to bring Alice down to meet Jenny?”
“Maybe Tuesday. I still have some work to do to prepare Alice for the experience. Would that be alright?”
“Should be but run it past me first ok?”
“Good! Now kiss?”
Whilst Rebecca was in the cellars Alice was having a little adventure of her own. Chafing at confinement in the Starlight Suite when she was so excited about being at Mathom Hall she had set off on a short exploration of the building’s multitude of corridors. It was a mistake. She was quickly lost. She seemed to wander endlessly without coming to any part that she recognised from the previous day. At one point she passed a young maid who curtsied to her politely but she lacked the courage to ask for directions. She was entirely uneasy about enlisting the assistance of domestic help. Finally however she found herself in a familiar hallway. Robin and Rebecca had showed her around this part the day before and there was one room she really wanted to see again. It was the music room on the ground floor and she tentatively pushed open the big heavy door to observe gleefully that the room was unoccupied. The object to which she had been drawn like a magnet sat polished and gleaming near to the windows. It was a piano and what a piano. Alice had learned the piano from her early days from her adopted grandparents and she happened to be very, very good on it. She’d taken lessons on the instrument regularly in her youth. At school she had continued her love of the instrument and had even at one point harboured ambitions to study music at an academy after leaving school. Then her adopted parents had moved up to Teescastle. She’d tried to keep up with her piano playing but there’d been little money for it and it had fallen by the wayside. Then she’d met Daniel and started courting seriously and the future as a pianist had become just a broken dream in the passage of her young life.
Yet she could still feel the thrill of a beautiful instrument like this. She just loved pianos. Even old upright pianos gave her goose pimples. They seemed to belong to a dream world of might have beens where she sat down in an elegant evening gown before an orchestra and an audience in the respectful hush before the opening bars. She just loved to touch them, run her fingers over the polished wood of them and allow her daydreams to wander. But this instrument was something else altogether. Not since she had played on the concert grand of her tutor in Bolswick Bay had she come so close to such a beautiful piano. It was a Steinway but so old! It had to be nearly a hundred years old! There was no sense of decrepitude about it however. The instrument was beautifully kept and its woodwork was polished to such a high veneer that you could see your own reflection in it. Alice felt almost a venal sense of envy. What it must be like to possess such an instrument as this! Lovingly she caressed the smooth woodwork of the case, the polished spruce warm under her fingertips. The strings under the open lid gleamed in their frame over the Sitka Spruce soundboard. The action of the piano seemed to be well maintained and Alice daringly lifted the hood to the keyboard. The row of keys gleamed invitingly.
Just once Alice had to sit at this instrument. Her heart thundering with fear and excitement she lowered herself onto the stool and faced the keyboard daring her fingers to come lightly to rest on the keys. She could feel the atmosphere, smell it, hear the last echoing vibrations of the tuning violins and the tapping of the conductor’s baton in the expectant silence. She felt the conductor’s eyes turn towards her questioningly and she nodded in acknowledgement taking a deep breath as she poised her hands over the keys. Alice shook her head. The vision was overpowering, a beguiling fantasy of a lost c***dhood. She sat very still in the big quiet room, the only noise a distant buzzing from a lawn mower somewhere out in the grounds and felt a yearning that she had thought long forgotten. She was lost now, the temptation of the keys irresistible, her fingers beyond her volition. She just wanted to see if this piano was in tune. Did anybody ever play it or was it just stood here as an antique curiosity? Was it still a living instrument or just a museum piece in the Hall’s collection? Tentatively she tried a few notes and the richness of the sound was an unfathomable thrill in the stillness of the room.
She had doomed herself, taken upon a presumptuousness which took her breath away, a cleaning girl daring to m***** an instrument never built for the likes of her. But she began to play. It was one of her favourites and one of the most demanding pieces in her repertoire. The deceptively simple rhythm was overlaid with the richness of an orchestra and the piece told the story of a wandering search for happiness. The slow melody was enriched by the tremolos and the texture became deep and bordering upon the epic. She was lost in the haunting fantasy of the piece and the instrument must have inspired her for she had never played it so well. She could almost feel the composer’s despair and his hunt for fulfilment within his music, his desperation that happiness was where he was not and the fading sands of his own mortality. For twenty-two long minutes she was enraptured in her music her eyes blurring with tears as she coaxed the melodies out of the lovely piano. Finally she came to the conclusion of the final resonant fugue and sat gasping in the echoes of the ultimate notes, her mind on a high plain it had never touched before.
“That was very, very beautiful.”
Alice span around on the stool in shock at the sound of the voice. Sitting on a low stool just inside the room was a woman. In her reverie over the piano Alice had not heard her enter. The woman was beautiful with waist length jet-black hair. “Oh I beg yer pardon Miss. Ah never ‘eard yer come in! I ‘ope I ‘aven’t disturbed anyone! I jus’ wanted to try this piano like. I didn’t mean ter do owt I wasn’t supposed to.”
“That piano is supposed to be played my dear. It is a long time since it was played so well. Schubert wasn’t it? The Wanderer Fantasy in C major if I’m not mistaken. It’s a long time since I heard that piece.”
“Y… yes Miss.”
The beautiful woman rose easily to her feet and Alice instinctively rose in her turn suddenly aware of the power of this raven haired woman in her soft cream dress and with her startling amethyst eyes. The woman crossed the room “I’m Lady Mathom. You must be Alice Foreman.”
Alice gasped. She’d had some image in her head of Robin’s mother as some forbidding dowager matriarch and now she was confronted with this electrifying female. Everybody remembers his or her first encounter with the Grand Mistress of Mathom Hall with an astonishment that doesn’t fade with the passage of years and Alice would be no exception. Many years later she would still feel the thrill of that meeting, still experience the tingling aura of the woman’s presence. Hastily Alice dropped a clumsy curtsy “Forgive me Ma-am. I ‘ad no idea!”
“Please don’t concern yourself. I walked in unannounced. I was passing the music room and heard somebody playing the piano. I am very pleased to meet you Alice. May I call you Alice?”
“Of course My Lady.”
Lady Mathom came close to Alice, held out her hands palm up and looked at Alice’s hands. “May I Alice?” In wonderment Alice placed her hands in Lady Mathom’s. Alice’s hands were long and slender with elegant sensitive fingers. Lady Mathom examined them critically gently massaging them with her fingers and turning them over in her hands as Alice stood still, her heartbeat loud in her breast, for long seconds. Finally Lady Mathom grasped Alice’s hands firmly and looked into her eyes. “You must be sure to take very good care of these Alice. They are full of magic and very precious.”
“Th… thank you My Lady.” Alice could think of nothing more sensible to say.
“Would you do something for me Alice?”
“Aye! I.. I mean yes My Lady.”
“Would you play that piece for me again? I only caught the latter part. I would love to hear all of it.”
Of … of course My Lady.”
“Thank you Alice.” Lady Mathom relinquished Alice’s hands and sat back down smiling encouragingly. Nervously Alice took her place once more at the piano, flexed her hands and addressed the keyboard. In spite of her nervousness Alice knew from the opening bars that she was playing more sublimely than she had ever managed in her life. She felt elevated in a way she could not describe. She’d heard of athletes describe some state of consciousness they called “the zone”, some indefinable condition of higher consciousness that transcended their normal waking reality, a zone wherein they could concentrate all the mental and physical faculties at their disposal and achieve the seemingly impossible. Alice had reached such a zone now, her hands flying over the keys, the music so faultless that it took her own breath away. The familiar movements of the piece seemed new, fresh as if she had never heard them before, emitting from a will that was both hers and yet apart from her. Ever since the days of her c***dhood when she had learned to love the piano she had wanted to achieve this perfection when the instrument was no longer a technicality to be mastered but an effortless expression of the music flowing in her veins, almost a part of her body, an extension of her fingertips.
As she played Rebecca entered the room looking for her and drawn to the music from the room. Lady Mathom raised a finger to her lips and beckoned Rebecca to her side where she knelt on the floor and rested against her Mistress’ knee staring at Alice at the piano, her eyes shining in wonder. Lady Mathom laid a hand on Rebecca’s head affectionately and her eyes grew misty with the lovely music. When Alice finished the piece there was a deep silence, the silence that all artists long for but rarely achieve, when the audience is too awestruck to even applaud. Rebecca broke the silence with a gasp “That was fantastic Alice!”
Lady Mathom applauded warmly “You have a prodigious talent Alice. You played wonderfully!” she turned to Rebecca at her side “You never told me that your new friend from Bolswick Bay was a virtuoso at the piano Rebecca.”
“I never knew My Lady. Alice has never mentioned that she plays piano.”
Lady Mathom looked back at Alice. “Where did you learn to play so well Alice?”
“I …I er used to play a bit when I was in t’ Bay ma-am. I ‘ad…had a piano teacher there… a Dr Mannstein.” Alice remembered the uncompromisingly stern master of her lessons, the man that would drive her to do things she thought beyond her. He would make her sit for hours at an end at the piano until her back and finger’s ached, barking commands at her as he strode up and down the room overlooking the sea beating the rhythm with his hands. He would never take no for an answer, would never accept a moment of surrender, never for a moment concede that a piece might be too difficult for her. The hours of Mozart, Bach, Brahms, Beethoven, Schubert and so many others were a whirl of unrelenting challenge and when he was displeased she would come home crying yet his rare praise had been moments of exultant triumph. Nobody in Alice’s life had demanded so much of her and achieved so much. She blessed the miserable, cantankerous old man gratefully now.
“Yes I know of Johann Mannstein Alice. He must have been delighted to have so apt a pupil.”
“Er … not always ma-am. He were a bit strict wi’ me!”
“It seems to have paid dividends Alice. Do you still play often?”
“Er .. no. Not much now My Lady. Since we moved up to Teescastle I ‘aven’t ‘ad much chance like.”
“That is a criminal waste Alice! A talent such as yours should be nurtured and not allowed to fall by the wayside. I sincerely hope that now you are returning to Bolswick Bay that you take up playing seriously again. Dr Mannstein is one of the finest products of the Stuttgart music academy. I saw him once many years ago perform Brahms’ second piano concerto and it was ethereal. You could have no better teacher Alice.”
“Yes ma-am. I… er I ‘ave you to thank for us movin’ back to Bolswick Bay My Lady.”
Lady Mathom rose “We must talk at greater length a little later Alice. I’m afraid your playing has lured me away from my duties for the moment and I must return to them. We will take tea at half past four and dinner at eight if that is convenient for you. We’ll have more time to talk at our leisure then. In the meantime welcome to Mathom Hall. I hope your visit will be enjoyable and profitable. Thank you very much for the recital. If you girls would excuse me now?” Rebecca rose and curtsied, Alice followed suit a little self-consciously and the Lady swept out.
Alice let out her breath. “So that’s your Mistress Becky!”
“Indeed it is! What do you think?”
“She’s bl**dy fantastic! I thought she were gonna be some awd crinkly or summat! God I nearly shat mesen when she introduced hersen! When I fust saw ‘er I thought she must be one of your… you know your mates or summat. I couldn’t believe it when she said she were Lady Mathom! Ah do now though! That is one ‘ell of a Lady!”
“She’s far out isn’t she? Where did you meet her?”
“Just in ‘ere. I was playin’ on t’ piano and ah didn’t notice ‘er come in. She must ‘ave bin sat there fer ages! She seems to know loads about music.”
“She knows “loads” about nearly everything Alice. She certainly seems impressed by you! You’re a dark one Alice! You never told me you were a concert standard pianist!”
“Oh I’m not that good.”
“You bl**dy well are! I play a bit myself although I’m nowhere near your standard. Nevertheless I can tell when somebody is bl**dy good. So can the Lady. She’s an accomplished musician herself and if she says you’ve got talent then you’ve got talent! Do you own your own piano?”
“Ell no! Couldn’t afford it!”
“I’ll make you a little prediction Alice. Before you leave this house on Thursday morning you will not only be a slave of the Purple Lady but you will also be getting Daniel to draw up plans for the music atelier extension to your new house to fit your new grand piano in. Care to take a small wager on that?”
“Oh ‘ell Becky she couldn’t do that!”
“I know my Mistress Alice. You don’t…. yet. You’ve impressed her mightily. She’ll have you chained to the legs of a concert grand before this week is out so you’d better start getting used to it!”
“Ah’ve allus wanted to be a concert pianist Becky. It were me dream when I were young. I suppose t’ Lady were right. It’s a right shame I never kept it up. It were me dream.”
“Do you know the motto of this house Alice?”
“Nay Becky. What is it?”
“It’s “Audeo Somnio”, to Dare to Dream. Remember what I told you in Saltersea? Dreams do come true! You just have to have the courage to dream them.”
Alice looked sombre but her mind was soaring. Yes dreams could come true. The little house at Bolswick Bay was testimony to that. And this great house! It was a dream too wasn’t it? It was a dream that made dreams reality and its strange and beautiful Mistress the wielder of those dreams. Alice cleared her throat “Becky, yer know when you an’ Robin said that I’d ‘ave to become ‘Er Ladyship’s slave?”
“Well when she were an’ she ‘eld me ‘ands an’ talked ter me I felt like I already was. Like this was my Missus an’ all I ever wanted ter do was mek ‘er pleased wi me. If’n she’d told us to go down t’ garden an’ jump in t’ lake ah’d ‘ave done it if it’d med ‘er ‘appy! Does that sound daft?”
Rebecca laughed and embraced her “Not at all Alice. On the contrary! It sounds all too familiar. Welcome to the House of Mathom s****r!”
“I aven’t even thanked ‘er proper for payin’ fer us ‘ouse!”
“You’ll do that when you take your manacles and her brand on your breast Alice. Come on now I’m starving and it’s a long time until tea so let’s see if we can rustle up some calories out on the terrace whilst we wait for the boys to return.” The two girls left the chamber arm in arm. The dreams hung heavy in the air about them.