'Under the gaze of the crossing sweeper she fell. There were faces all about her like pale petals when she fell, struck by our own carriage, too. A dashed bad business, so I thought to bring her home,' said Easton Sherwood, toying with his beard.
'Your carriage, dear, not mine. Kate, are you bruised, all shaken up?' his wife Letitia asked.
Awe in her eyes, Kate dumbly shook her head. After her fall in Regent Circus--when the side of Mr. Sherwood's carriage had grazed her but slightly--she had been transported to what seemed to her a palace, though it was no grander than the other large houses in Chester Square. Her hip was bruised, no more than that. Shamefully conscious of her poor attire, she endeavoured to draw the toes of her ill-fitting boots under the dusty and equally worn hem of her second-hand dress.
'You must bathe. A warm bath will do wonders for you. Heaven knows it always does for me,' Letitia said, and rose to pull a bell cord to summon a maid.
'Oh no, I won't bother you. I'm all right to go now, I really am, and it were nice of you, sir, to bring me 'ere', said Kate in her Cockney twang.
'Won't bother? What bother? Of course you shall,' intoned Easton. 'Ethel will find you a new dress in recompense for what occurred to you. Ethel, I trust, is here?' he asked his wife as if their daughter might be anywhere about the world or in the world, or fast upon its very edge.
'She is here,' Letitia replied and waved her hand with great vagueness in apparent search for some semblance of Ethel in the air, at which point the double doors to the large drawing room--or 'the salon' as Letitia preferred it to be called--opened to admit a maid. Being then told that 'Miss Kate' would take a bath, the young servant's face remained expressionless.
Kate, for her pain, was quite dazed as she rose from the incredibly comfortable sofa on which she had been perched, receiving an encouraging nod from Letitia in her passing, though she did not see the overt signal that Mary, the maid, received from Easton who observed the back view of the slender and comely eighteen-year-old Kate with considerable satisfaction. A mere waif, he thought, albeit an extremely attractive one. With the quiet closing of the doors, he got up in turn and walked over to his wife who was recumbent in a blue velvet-covered chair.
'Are you to see to Johnson now?' he asked, soothing one of her wrists with his palm as he spoke.
'You wish me to? Easton, dear, what are you at?' Letitia asked. Knowing how strong he was, she did not resist as he slipped both hands beneath her armpits and drew her to her feet. Letitia, though in her early forties, had not yet run to fat, though her breasts and her derriere were satisfyingly ample and firm. She had been, in Easton's eyes, a fine catch when she was nineteen, and still was so now. Passing one large palm around her nether cheeks, he felt their weight and glowing warmth.
'Have I ever deceived you, my sweet?' he asked.
'Yes,' Letitia replied steadily, but under his gaze her expression crumpled a little. Their relationship, as just a few of their most intimate friends knew, was a strange and unusual one. In many respects Easton dominated her, in a few, Letitia held sway. Both recognised the fact, and both accepted it. 'He ... he is horrid, Easton. Johnson, I mean. He is crude. Do you not know that he uses me--a mere servant that he is?'
'All women, my dear, desire occasionally to be used. You wish to prove yourself an exception? I believe not. You will go timourously but willingly. You will enjoy and regret. Is such not the salt and savour of life?'
Held against him, Letitia hid her face.
'It would be nice if it were always you,' she murmured with little conviction.
'Do I not have other duties, too? Do we not both have? Is it not the way we have marked--the lane that we know. I should have said, perhaps, the lanes.'
'Yes, you should,' Letitia reproved softly. Her bottom cheeks quivered as he moved his hands down to palm them. For a moment her flushed cheek brushed in silent pleading against his own, but he pushed her gently away. 'You will come to me afterward, Easton?' she asked.
'We shall see. Go now and receive that which is due to you.'
As Letitia made her exit with just the degree of doubtfulness in her posture which she evidently felt was appropriate to the occasion, Easton rubbed his hands and straightened his purple waistcoat. The girl, Kate, had been a superb find--an orphan perhaps. Even better if she were. Charmante. He might call her that, though she would fail to understand the term.
Satisfied that Letitia had vanished to her appointed assignation with the head footman, Easton proceeded into the hall and mounted the wide stairway, pausing en route on the first floor to meander into his study where, taking up a pen and dipping it into his inkwell, he wrote, 'Faces all about her like pale petals when she fell.' Not bad. Rather good really, except ... was it his own or had he pinched it from one of those French chappies, Mallarme, or someone? Not that it mattered. Such gems from his lips fell into the carpet's dust, were trodden beneath the feet of servants, passed unremarked across Letitia's mind. Dusting the ink, he slipped the piece of paper into a drawer where it joined many other of his would-be gems then stepped out beyond to pass a bathroom wherein much splashing was to be heard.
Kate was in a liquid heaven now. She had heard of 'posh barns' but had never been in one before. Home was one room down in Spitalfields where she slept on the floor on a thin pelisse alongside her two sisters and her younger brother while their parents lay on the other side of the floor. Home was where she normally spent all day making up envelopes for sixpence a thousand and where fresh bread and dripping was to her as caviar was to the Sherwoods.
'You got a lovely figure, Miss,' Mary was saying while she laved soap over Kate's firm and satiny breasts, making her nipples tingle responsively. Time and again Kate had said, half-anxiously, 'I can do it,' because it seemed wrong to her that someone else should perform such a service, but each time Mary had demurred.
Kate did not at first hear the bathroom door open quietly, but at its closing she turned her head and saw through the clouds of steam an older woman whom she thought must be the housekeeper.
'Lovely body she 'as,' Mary said and moved aside a little to let Miss Martin see the somewhat embarrassed Kate who sat with soapy water flowing about her.
'She may stand then,' Miss Martin said, and Kate then found herself being levered up, her bush sparkling in its trimness between her shapely thighs. 'Indeed, yes. Kate, isn't it? Let Mary wash between your legs. Where are you from? Have you parents? There was an accident, I believe, but you are well? Good.' And all this said so quickly that Kate found no room to reply. She was blushing, moving her head shyly, uncertainly, as a sponge was brought up between the silky columns of her legs to lave and squeeze its inviting warmth between her lovelips while Miss Martin regarded her steadily, saying crisply after a moment, 'Turn about, Kate, then we'll have you out and dry you.'
'I can do it,' Kate wanted to say again, but there was no help for it. The sponge followed the alluring shape of her pert buttocks, working gently between them in a way that made her lean her hands against the wall and swallow as the water trickled and teased. Then, being turned again, she stepped out on to a waiting mat, Mary kneeling with a towel to reach up and begin drying her--first to her knees, then above, then more lingeringly, under Kate's pretty thatch while all the while Kate found herself being manoeuvred around with Miss Martin at her back.