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Jenny took me to my room. I carried my dress. The ribbons of my drawers had been tied again on my rising when she appeared. My uncle had risen and kissed her brow.
'We were playing games,' I said. I sat on the bed. I wondered how Jenny had arrived. Perhaps she had been there all the time hiding behind the wallpaper - a voice in the shrubbery. Owl calls. Night calls.
She looked older, younger - both. The appearance of her costume was severe - high buttoned to her neck. Her face was Byzantine. By Giotto perhaps. Her long thick hair was swept back and tied with a piece of velvet. 'Games are nice,' Jenny said. She came and sat close to me, legs together, hands in her lap. I felt comforted. Had I betrayed myself upstairs? My uncle had followed us to the door, avuncular. Jenny was talking. There were words. I caught her words in the broad net of my mind. 'You must be kind to him, Beatrice. We must all be kind.'
'Have you just come?' I asked. My hands had not trembled. My voice was bright and clear. In the room with my uncle I had been speechless, mumbling. How foolish. The skin of my breasts beneath the low neck of my chemise was glossy, tight and full. Jenny looked at them. I saw her look. We used to undress together - when I stayed with her. When she stayed with me. But then I remembered something. Something I had never believed in. One weekend when she had come to stay, six or seven years before, Mother had said to me, 'It is best if Jenny has the guest room tonight.' Jenny had looked strange, I thought - sitting, listening. She had nodded at me lightly as if she wanted me to say Yes.
I had heard sounds in the night, that night. It was midnight. I had looked at the clock - the small clock that says yes to me when I want it to be a certain time. There were sounds. Sounds like leather smacking. I thought I heard Jenny whimpering. The servants sometimes made noises the night in their moving. But now the servants, too, would be abed. A voice said, 'You are a good girl, Jenny.' It sounded like my mother's voice. My dreams were often strange. I sat up in bed. There were more leather sounds, little cries, a voice like Father's voice. The sounds and the voices stirred and were mixed. I heard a woman-voice murmur: 'More - harder - a little harder. Ah, how sweet she looks.'
Oh, a little scream I heard, a screamy-moan, then quiet. Sounds of breath like rushing waters. Bedsprings tinkled. Small bells of the night. Two men went past the house below - rough men, not from our neighbourhood. One shouted and I lost the sounds.
'I just came,' Jenny said now. 'There are clothes in your wardrobe. Have you looked?'
She drew me up. The mirrored doors, whose mirrors were tarnished, opened. From a shelf Jenny took black stockings of silk with a raised, ornate pattern that was run through with hints of silver. With it she produced a tiny waist corset of satin black. The small fringe of lace at the top that would fall beneath my breasts was silver, too. From the bottom of the wardrobe she drew out long high boots of the finest leather. The studs around which the laces wound were silver. The heels were slender, tall.
'Where is Caroline?' I asked.
Her eyes were glitter stones. 'You will look beautiful in these, Beatrice. Who?'
'Yes, I know. Remove your chemise, stockings and shoes. Put these on.' She held them to me as a gift. I took them. The boots were light in weight. They would reach up to my thighs.
'It is late,' I said. I licked my lips. My uncle had wanted to see my lips wet. Jenny did not smile. She raised my chemise and drew it off my head. I shook my hair like a dog emerging from water. As carefully as if I were a nervous yearling she knelt and drew off my drawers, my shoes. Without my shoes my thighs looked plumper.
'Your pubis is full - a splendid mound,' she said. 'You are beautiful, Beatrice. Your hips have the violin curve that men adore.'
'I want to go home,' I said. I felt sullen. Caroline's face was my face. My lips brooded.
'You will be good,' Jenny said. She tickled me. She knew I hated being tickled. I squirmed, laughed, my breasts jiggled. I fell back on the bed, I rolled. She smacked my bottom. I yelped. The bright spreading of her fingers was upon it. It was a superb bottom, she said, the cleft as deep as a woman's heart. Her hands fell and pressed on it so that I could not rise. Her knee came into the small of my back.
'You will dress, Beatrice. You are not naughty, are you?'
'No,' I said. She had seen Uncle taking down my drawers. My pubis had been offered. On her entry into the room upstairs he had stopped and risen as if we had merely been conversing. 'What did you do in my parents'room?' I asked.
'What?' she asked sharply. She did not know my thoughts, my memories. Her palm tingled across my bottom again. 'Dress!' she commanded me, 'I like you in stockings best. You have the thighs for it - plumpish, sweet. Do not disobey. Get up!'
I obeyed her. The long boots were at first difficult to manage. They were tight. Their tops fell but three inches below the dark bands of the stocking tops. I would have difficulty in walking in them, I said. The corset nipped my waist. My hips blossomed. The corset framed my navel beneath an upward curve. My belly gleamed white.
'You will walk in them slowly and with stately tread - that is their purpose, Beatrice. Try.'
I moved from her. I walked. The high heels teetered. My legs were constrained. I felt the movements of my bottom, naked.
'Stand!' she commanded me. I stood, my back to her. She drew upon my wrists and brought them behind my back. A metal clink - a clink of steel. My wrists were bound. I wanted to cry and hide my face. Next she secured my ankles. Why? 'Lie down, Beatrice.'
I was bundled on to the bed, face down. 'I don't want to,' I said. I did not know what I meant. Jenny tut-tutted and arranged the tops of my stockings above the rimming leather. My toes were cramped in the boots. Jenny turned my face and bent and kissed my mouth. Full lips. Rose lips. She straightened and her eyes were solemn, full of night.
'You will stay so a little while,' she told me. She moved away. A chinking of metal as I tried to move.
'Please don't, Jenny.'
She was at the door. 'I always loved you, Beatrice,' she said.
'Please don't, Jenny.'
She did not hear. The door closed. I was alone with my aloneness. In the night. Where was Caroline? I listened as I listened when a child, on evenings when the curtains were drawn in my room against the evening light. I listened now, I heard. There were footsteps, soft voices. Voices heard, unheard. Was it the wind? I was half naked and bound, strange in my half-nudity and bonds. Jenny was naughty. She would come and release me and I would dress in my summer dress and we would picnic. Caroline would be tied to a tree. She would watch our small white teeth nibbling cakes. Lemonade would gurgle down our throats. The world would never come to an end.
I heard voices. Caroline's voice. She was laughing. Jenny was laughing. I knew I must not call out in my calling. They stopped outside my door and went on up. I imagined in my imaginings my uncle waiting for her in the attic room.
Did Caroline remove her chemise in the attic?
It was quiet again. The walls are thick. I dozed. Tight in my bonds I dozed. The door opened. Was it a dream? Through slits of eyelids I saw Jenny. She was dressed as I was dressed save that there was no silver in her stockings nor in her corset. She wore drawers of black satin, but they had no legs. Their lines swept up between her thighs.
Aunt Maude entered behind her. The door was closed. From her ears dangled rubies in long gold pendants. Her mouth was carmine. In her hand the whip.
Was she an aunt? There were aunts in the garden once when I was young. They moved among the flowers and the shrubs. Sometimes Father and Mother would kiss them. We ate delicacies from silver platters. The servants were quiet, moving like wraiths. Tea was drunk from translucent cups. It was said that my uncle's first wife had left and died. I believe not that she died, but that she left I knew. Long later I heard of it. Her name was Lucy. She was but eighteen. My uncle then was a racier man. He sought a sexual abandonment to which Lucy could not lend herself. She was beautiful but shy. In the end my uncle grew impatient. He had wished to see her in the throes of lust. She had refused. One night, becoming impatient, he had called the butler.
Lucy, naked, had been held down over the edge of the bed. First my uncle and then the butler had entered their penises in her bottom and buggered her. The butler was a lewd, crude man. Such things were not unknown. My uncle, it appeared, had been in raptures over the scene.
He having buggered Lucy first, she was more docile and receptive to the second breaching of her bottom. Nevertheless, she departed soon after. For Australia, they said. Her death being announced, but never proved, my uncle remarried.
Aunt Maude sat now on the bed. I felt her weightness. She rolled me on to my hip, my back to her. Her hand caressed my cheek and brushed my hair back where the strands were loose. 'Has she been good?' she asked.
Jenny stood as if she had been waiting to be asked. 'She has been good,' she said. I was pleased. They were going to release me. We would have our picnic. Jenny and I would hide in the shrubbery and Caroline would have to find us.
'It will take time,' my aunt said. Her complexion was as smooth as mine. Once when I was very young she was younger. She bent over me so that our mouths almost touched. Jenny stood still. I knew that Jenny was being good standing still.
'She was smacked,' Jenny said. I wanted to cry. I hated her. I glared at her and she smiled. My aunt continued to stroke my face and hair. Then she passed her long-tapered fingers down my neck and back. I shivered. I jerked towards her. Her eyes were kind.
'Twenty-five. She looks younger - she could be younger. Beatrice always had a fine bottom, did you not, Beatrice?'
My eyes said no-yes. Her fingertips floated across my globe, my split peach, my pumpkin glory pale. The tip of her forefinger sought the groove. My lips quivered. Jenny did not look away. All hands should be hidden from people. My mother told me that. Hands can be wicked. My wrists were bound. My aunt's finger tasted the inrolling of my bottom cheeks and wormed between them. No - even my husband did not do that. Edward never did that. His stepmother was jealous of me. He bought her flowers. I remembered his cock. It was thin and long.
I made a noise - soft, small noise. The fingertip had touched my rose, my anus, my little bottom mouth that makes an 0. My aunt smiled. She had turned my chin towards her. I bubbled little bubbling sounds. I jerked my bottom. My lips pursed in a long, soundless oooooh.
The fingertip oozed in me and it moved. Back and forth, an inch of it, it moved. My aunt took my nose pinched between her thumb and finger. I was like a fish. I had to part my lips to breathe. Rouge-scented, her mouth came to my mouth. Her tongue extended, licked within. I squirmed. Between my bottom cheeks her finger sank. In deeper sank. I was impaled. My breath hush-rushed. Her tongue worked. It worked its long wet work around my tongue. Her finger moved in-out, gently, like a train uncertain at a tunnel. Menace of dark and tightness. Her finger felt burny, itchy, strange. Then it came out. Her tongue came out. I tasted her rouge on my mouth with my rouge. I wanted to tell Jenny that but I hated her. My aunt gave my bottom a pat and stood up. She smoothed her skirt down. 'She should bathe,' my aunt said. 'Take her, Jenny.'
Jenny made me get up. Into the hallway I was led, along to the bathroom. As in those days it was huge - a fireplace within. The walls were draped with dark blue velvet all around. The bath was of white porcelain. Unshackled, my attire was removed. The water had already been brought in and emptied by the servants into the bath. It was lukewarm and pleasant. 'You know I love you,' Jenny said.
I sat down. The water lapped me with its tongues. I liked that. Jenny sponged me and poured scented water over me from a pitcher. 'Do you remember we learned wicked words at boarding school?' she asked. I wanted to ask things, but I did not. I nodded. Her eyes were bright and merry. Christmas tree decorations. 'What is cunt?' she asked.
'Con,' I said. I did not want her to think I did not know. I like the French word but not the English word. The English word is ugly. Its edges are sharp. 'And prick?' She held my head round so that I could look into her eyes. Her breasts were splashed with water. I wanted to nibble her nipples.
'Pine.' I knew I was right. I would never then say prick. Why are all wicked words sharp in English? Someone sharpened them. Anglo Saxons with dirty beards and guttural voices sharpened them. My bottom squashed its cheeks into the water, plump. Is it too big?
'And sperm?' She would not stop, Jenny was often like that before, not ever stopping. She would tickle me in bed when we were younger and make me say things. In my imaginings I would say better things, naughtier things, but I never told her. Did she know? Was this punishment?
'Foutre,' I said. I knew she liked the word best. I liked the word best.
It was like a ripe plum being chewed and then pieces coming out briefly on the lips before being swallowed. The word was thick bubbles around my tongue. Creamy bubbles. 'Have you not been whipped yet?'
It was Jenny asking me. At first I did not know that it was. I thought the voice came from the ceiling. I did not answer. I was mute. Her fingers moved over the outjutting of my breasts. My nipples had risen under the sponge. Jenny licked inside my ear. I giggled. It wasn't fair.
'I knew you hadn't been,' she said, 'get up.' My feet slipped. She smacked me. 'Now stand still,' she said, just as Father and Uncle said. She sponged my legs and made me open them.
The sponge was squelchy and warm under my pussy. Did Jenny ever touch me there before? No, yes. In bed once, I think. That was summers ago. The ice cream has all been eaten since then, the plates put away. 'Move your hips. Rub them against the sponge, Beatrice. Did you often come over Edward's prick?'
'I hate you,' I said. There were tears in my eyes.
She knew that I would not tell her. She became impatient with me.
'Oh, get out,' she said. She pulled me roughly from the bath and towelled me. She was brisk and quick as Mother used to be when I was young. Younger young. Then she powdered me. Clouds of powdering me. The powder made me sneeze.
She led me back into my room. The house was silent. Had they all run away?
'I want champagne,' I said. I do not know why I said it. Bubbles. Font re. Jenny laughed.
'There should be rouge on your nipples,' she said. She had left the door open. From along the passageway came sounds, cries, whimpers.
'Please?' I asked. I felt as if I were speaking in a foreign language and that I only knew the beginnings of sentences. Then I recovered myself. 'I heard Caroline,' I said.
Jenny put a white linen nightdress over my head. It flowed to my feet.
The hem was wide. 'You shall see,' she replied. She took my hand and led me along the corridor. The door to Caroline's room was half open. Caroline was lying naked on her bed, face down. Her wrists and ankles were bound as mine had been. Aunt Maude was swishing a long slender cane lightly across her tight, pink cheeks. Caroline's face was flushed. At every contact of the cane she jerked her hips and whimpered.
'You will both sleep now,' Jenny said. She pushed me back into my room and closed the door. I heard the lock click.
The tasselled curtains parted to my hands. I pressed my forehead to the cool glass and stared down into darkness. The baker's van had gone - the maid - the cat. Had the loaf been eaten? My bed was soft and comfortable, the sheets scented with lavender.
The oil lamps made shadows on the ceiling. I could not stir myself to extinguish them. A servant would come in the morning and attend to them. Through the green-blue sea I floated. The dark shadow of a huge ship loomed above me. I reached and touched the planks and felt the barnacles. There was seaweed in my hair. Father came floating towards me. My skirts billowed up to my hips in the deep, still waters. No one could see.