My Dearest Sophia,
I hope you are well and that this important package arrives with you intact but, I dare say, much larger than you expected. Hopefully you will read this letter first and not dive straight into the manuscript.
Although I was minus-eight-months old at the time, I know that a bargain was struck between my mother and you, at her wedding, agreeing that you would ask neither her, nor your mother any further questions and that I should grow to birthing size, become eventually a teenager, and then I would furnish you with the story of a blue bra that has puzzled you over many years. So, you ask, how can the story of a bra take up so many pages? Surrounding the bra, now in your possession, is the story of separate attacks on both of our mothers, a murder, time-slip, roaring-twenties parties, illegal betting, suicide, bribery and corruption, not to mention Carter’s exploration of the tomb of Tutankhamun and the witnesses to that event being in a photograph that I will lead you to through the words contained herein.
You have told me that your main question, an answer to which you demanded at my mother and father’s wedding, was formed because your mother had given you a copy of her will and that amongst other items, you had been willed a diamond necklace, that had been coupled with a bright blue bra and these were discussed at Mum’s wedding but you were allowed no detail at that time. The story of the blue bra is a long one and is the story of why my parents were so close to your dear mother Daphne, with fifty years separating them in age.
I am aware that among the list of story contents that I just gave you, time slip is the most unlikely. We are both rational people and time slip, or time travel, is, we would agree, most unlikely. I shared that doubt, interviewed all those concerned and wrote what I found, finally coming to no other explanation for our family story.
The following is that story and recently, at your mother’s funeral. I told you, on that sad day, that the manuscript was finished, promises would be kept and that the work would be sent in the post to you, with a copy to my mother’s publisher. It will be up to you to make up your own mind. Should you be reading this as a book and you are not Sophia, then I must assume that publication has taken place.
I believe on the day we last met, I did warn you, twice, that both our mothers, although from completely different time periods, were extremely forthright in their bedroom descriptions. It is a known fact, I believe, that once an older woman latches on to the fact that she is embarrassing a teenage boy, she sees it as a valid blood sport, will not let go of that bone and enjoys inflicting as much pain as possible on the poor lad. Those personal bits, explained to me in too much intimate detail, remain in my disturbed teenage head and are not, here, committed to paper. You may therefore be disappointed with a number of classics along the lines of;
“His touch excited her to the point she knew she’d surrender her body. The following morning, etc. etc.”
Not quite written in such a corny way perhaps but you hopefully get the idea. This is, after all, a true memoir of a not-so-accidental time slip and not an erotic novel, although, in different hands, I’m sure it could easily have worked out that way. We must both be grateful that neither of us were youngsters finding our way in life during the sixties or the twenties. You may feel differently once the story is told to you but I now look on the sixties as being a watered-down version of what came before it, in your mother’s time.
Both my parents have read over this manuscript, made only minor amendments (you will see them in red biro, the publisher’s photocopy will show scribbles in black) and the rest is up to you to either believe or not. As agreed, after your reading, we will meet to discuss and for you to ask any questions you may have. I will come by train to keep station numbers up and dare say that my parents will want to accompany me.
I still have all the tapes of the voices of the major players, even those living in Cairo, and they include your mother’s voice but, unfortunately, not your father’s as I never met him. I have now found a means of transferring my reel-to-reel originals onto cassettes, via cables, should you wish to have copies and are not easily embarrassed. If you do listen to the tapes, to your mother’s descriptions of parties held at your home by your mother and dear father in the twenties, then you will understand how the telling of her side of the story, to you, would have been most embarrassing for your mother while she was alive and the main reason that this reaches you only after her funeral. It would, as you will find, be even more embarrassing for your brothers and your mother’s wish was that you, Sophia, make the decision on whether to enlighten them or not.
It may be that you wish to write a fuller version at a later date but I fear that task is beyond me, a mere male.
I look forward to seeing you soon, and remain.
Horace Goddard - (Horas), King’s Bishop, April 15th 1989.
King’s Bishop, England 1972.
The swishing of a light-cotton maxi skirt told the world that Rose was walking down the road with a spring in her step, and she could see that for herself in shop windows, as well as in the film playing in her head, accompanied there by the classical music that she hummed.
You hear mindless humming. I hear a full orchestra.
She had dismissed four years of her life and felt, yet again, like a teenager, ready to start her adult life over again. When the skirt failed to swish, an accidental hand helped it move, to look good and to provide airflow where needed on such a hot day. All this was witnessed by smiling shop-assistants on the other side of the shop window glass, who smiled in a seemingly knowing way, but incorrectly because they were unaware of her plans.
Rose too had a smile on her face that she couldn’t hide because this was the day when all her past fantasies, including the volcanic fantasy of that very morning, would come into reality because today, the man she’d always worshipped from afar, would meet her, tell her he was at long last available and then they’d then spend a great time getting to know each other better, followed by the rest of their lives together. It had been in her thoughts all night before final release but now, she knew, she had the confidence to put into action, and place into reality, the film that had run to its ending that morning.
There were of course slight problems in her life, as nothing ever ran completely smoothly. Number one was the fact that she could no longer afford the flat she’d shared with the kicked-out pig called Grant so their upcoming holiday tickets to Egypt would have to be cashed in to pay next month’s rent, or pay up until the point that Rag would invite Rose to live in Caroline’s flat, something he’d no doubt do as soon as he saw the incredible way she was dressed. The fact that Rag lived in Caroline’s flat formed the second problem. Caroline, her best friend, would not appreciate Rose’s new man-target and may end up never speaking to her again once Rose had her claws into Caroline’s ex, her long-time lover, the afore-mentioned Rag.
Rose and Rag. Rag and Rose. Just popping over to chat to Rag and Rose. Rose Goddard. Mrs. Rose Goddard. Rose, do you take this man…
Rose had weighed up the equation on many occasions, over the last few days. A friendship with Caroline, a lifetime with Rag? Rag won every time. The cashed in holiday tickets and the loss of a best friend were slight problems and not obstacles, she told herself as she exited the street of shops and turned into the tree-lined boulevard that was Rag’s street and used to be Caroline’s street. Unusually, for a hairdresser, Rose’s hair was going through a long, straight phase, a grow-it-out phase and she wished it had looked more inviting to snag her man.
We were not that close to each other anyway, me and Caroline. If she can drift off with another bloke after dumping Rag, without discussing it with me then what sort of friend was she. Was! I just thought ‘was’ and not is.
It was one of those bright sunny mornings when all her thoughts needed to be positive, her witty banter that would come out in front of her target was rehearsed and firmly lodged in her head ready to impress her man and all was well with the world. She was even wearing her man-catcher bra, the push-up-into-their-face bra, under a semi see-through cheesecloth top that showed, blatantly, through the material, that cleavage was overspilling the already full cups. Her skinny legs were hidden under a long skirt that sat on her hips, accentuating her thin waist. There was no way the poor man could resist. She had accentuated the positives, hidden the negatives and had eventually approved of the result in her bedroom mirror as being the best she could possibly hope for.
It has always been a mystery to me, that men have no idea about what their good points are and where they have weaknesses. Rag’s firm little butt, that I remember from our group’s skinny-dipping days, is hidden under a baggy pair of old jeans. I know it’s still there because Caroline used to drop the fact accidentally into the conversation now and again. I also know he has a good, broad chest and it’s a mystery to everyone because he does next to no exercise. So, why wear baggy tee shirts that make him look chubby?
I’m getting ahead of myself here, dreaming about dressing the man the way I want him. Snag him first, haircut and beard trim next, then work on his wardrobe.
The three-storey house loomed closer and was anchored by the ground-floor flat that Rag now occupied on his own. That is, maybe he occupied it on his own and hadn’t found someone new. Caroline had disappeared off the scene and that was a fact. Rose had been told that Caroline had gone to live with some rich bloke, but Rose only had the word of a drunken Geraldine, staggering about in the pub three nights ago, for that.
No way is Caroline coming back for Rag after ten days or thereabouts. She’s either smitten with this new bloke, or with his money. She won’t be back and didn’t think chatting about this new bloke, to me, was necessary. Maybe she knows I fancy her ex. Maybe she sees herself in a different, more affluent league now and has ditched her friends as well as her partner. I know one thing. If the new, rich guy was slightly naïve in bed, she will have taught him things he didn’t know existed.
Maybe life is balancing itself out and Caroline is more suited to that sort of bloke and I’m more suited to accidentally being with Rag for the rest of my life.
Rose couldn’t knock Rag’s door and ask for Caroline, because she knew, and he knew, that Caroline worked every weekday so that would seem weird to Rag. Rose’s strange hairdressing hours of noon until nine at night meant most evenings were ruled out as well. Could she knock to tell Rag she was worried because Caroline seemed to have disappeared and then console him when he broke down?
She reached the flat. Her stomach churned, her legs became as heavy as they had the day before, and the day before that and the witty banter disappeared. Her appearance seemed to change from sassy to dreadfully overstated. Four years of fantasy fizzled into a situation where she looked and felt like an idiot or like an infatuated schoolgirl, about to knock at a pop stars house to show her idol that she had tits that he might like.
I knock on his door and a blonde appears, taller than me, an inch or so under Rag’s height because of her long flowing locks being back-combed on the top. Flawless makeup, big lips bright from where he’s worn them out overnight, perfectly shaped, long legs and she asks me if she can help me in a sexy, sassy voice while wearing an expensive nightdress with no bra under it, showing an all over tan. I apologise, say I have the wrong address and run home crying and then cry all night.
Rose finally admitted to herself that this morning would be just like the past two mornings. She would stare at his curtains from the other side of the street, thinking, then eventually she’d go to work when the time came to leave. Her colleagues would try and lift her spirits, believing she was still getting over Grant, not knowing how she ached for Rag. Not knowing that after kicking Grant out, she’d carried on taking the pill just for Rag, just in case. She could tell nobody about her agony without them talking about her being on the rebound.
Rose stood on the far side of the road, annoyed with herself for being so stupid, waiting for him to emerge alone or for him to send the imaginary blonde down the shop for cigarettes, with her long, wavy hair bouncing in the sun, her perfect legs accentuated by expensive heels and moving in slow motion under a perfectly sized bum. The imaginary blonde was becoming more and more real in Rose’s head.
The closed curtains on the ground floor were those of Rag’s bedroom where Caroline and him had enjoyed incredible sex for four years and each new experience had been relayed to Rose on girlie nights that she’d shared with Caroline. Each of her descriptions was a dagger to Rose’s heart, each one a jolt to her brain asking her why the hell she was with Grant and why couldn’t Caroline fancy Grant and leave Rag to her. Every boast from Caroline on those girlie nights had produced another glug of wine down the throat of Rose, until she was thoroughly depressed, or, as Caroline put it, pissed. The long, staggering walks, back to Grant, were depressing to say the least but much better than any offers to stay – which would have ended up with a cushion over her head trying not to listen to what happened when Rag returned back from the pub. Should she call him Ron? She knew he was a Ron and had a middle name beginning with A and had become Rag because his last name was Goddard and someone, back in his schooldays had noticed his initials. Was that his choice, or something he disliked?
In her fantasy head, in the past, Rose had often imagined Caroline suggesting partner-swapping, just for a laugh, for a giggle, just to see how things went. After all, this was still the permissive sixties wasn’t it? Even though they’d slipped quietly into the seventies, nothing felt as if it had changed. Rose, through the sixty’s decade, had gone from being nine to nineteen, an awakening in any decade but particularly that one. Surely Caroline wouldn’t have objected to swapping partners for the night? The blokes wouldn’t have objected because blokes wanted it wherever they could get it. But, somehow, four years had passed without Rose having had the guts to make the suggestion. Probably her lack of guts was down to a fear of Rag finding her boring, compared with the supposed animal that was Caroline.
I enjoyed the freedom of the sixties. The naked swimming, the smoking, the all-night parties, but I was never a sleep-around sort of girl and treasured my long relationships.
In her more recent fantasy head, Rag had always wanted to go to Egypt and suggested them keeping the tickets, going on holiday and returning to share one flat, to keep costs down. But Rag wasn’t working, couldn’t afford the ticket and probably couldn’t afford his rent. The Egypt trip would be too soon for him and Rose knew she would have to take things slowly. She would probably find Rag a broken man and would have to befriend him, take him out to the cinema, or maybe for a meal to slowly get him over Caroline. She could then build up to having a drink in a pub with him and letting him suggest things that she couldn’t possibly contemplate if she was sober but, oh dear, she did feel a bit tipsy after the drinks he would think he’d plied her with.
That would all be in the future, after she’d suggested to him that she trim his unruly long hair and unkempt beard. It would be embarrassing for her, as a hairdresser, to be seen out with him in his current state. Rose was well practiced in the art of washing hair before a cut, including a sexy head massage, purely to relax a customer. She was also proficient in standing in front of a customer and studying closely the straightness of a man’s fringe while she cut, knowing the victim’s eyes could only be on the breasts that couldn’t be ignored because they were so close to the gent’s eyes. In the salon it was done to drive customer-return and many asked for Rose by name. In her flat, or Rag’s flat, it would be done to drive Rag wild with desire as she chunked into the beard.
All of that would depend on her having the guts to knock on his door and be able to say something constructive, something other than “I love you, always have done, will you marry me and give me children?” She stood and stared at his curtains, wondering where life would take her.
Ringage Manor, England 1922.
Daphne lay awake in her cold bed, frightened, shaking, listening to the growl-snoring of the man she was to spend the rest of her life with and the thought horrified her. The surroundings of Ringage Manor were strange to her, her new life even stranger, neither were tolerable in these darkest of hours. She was abandoned, on her back, unable to move through pain, discomfort and also through a state of, what she thought was probably, severe, clinical shock. He, (she couldn’t bring herself to look at him) Bertrand, had scared her when he’d started, scared her throughout his hurtful act and seemed most disgusting to her when his sweaty body finally rolled off her.
He’d rolled as if he was merely turning over in bed from a wife that he’d known for years, and this wasn’t actually their first married night together. The animal growling had turned to snoring almost immediately. He had not said one word throughout and Daphne had to assume he knew what he was doing while positioning her limbs and her nightdress, after all he was two years older than her own twenty, young, innocent years and may even have had plenty of experience of such things, maybe in France during the war. She certainly didn’t have experience, either practical or read in a book and the pain of having him rubbing her dry insides was a memory that would never leave her.
To be engaged, at sixteen, to such a handsome, eighteen-year-old man was exotic, to see him in uniform was even more exotic. I thanked God that the dreadful war completed its course in less than a year of Bertrand being first taken away from me but tonight, I fear, I may have wished he had not returned from France. It’s as if a different person returned, an animal.
It was a disappointment to Daphne that she’d been too young to work through the war effort. The women who had worked, while their men were being gunned down by machine-gun fire, were modern women, had built a camaraderie in the workplace, had discussed matters with each other and would know what needed to be done by the woman in the circumstances that Daphne had found herself in, on her wedding night.
If I am to look for positives in this whole affair it is that I was too young to marry when Bertrand was old enough to join up. What happened to me last night should never happen to a twenty-year-old woman, never mind a younger girl. I fell between two stools, two middle-class stools, too rich to be a woman that had to work to provide for a family, too poor for the upper-class dope parties. I floated then and feel I still float in ignorance. My private, finishing school taught nothing of maths and science, taught only how to be a middle-class wife. Absolutely no mention of running a household this big with its myriad of servants. Definitely no sex-education.
Daphne knew that her decision to marry Bertrand was an upwardly mobile step and the correct move for her family - a more upwardly mobile step than at first expected as it happened - but she wondered if it had been the right choice for her, as another tear rolled from her eye to the pillow and she wondered if she could take even one more such night with her newly acquired husband. The thought of it made her body shake again, the thought of rising from the bed to face the staff, his staff, horrified her. Surely, they would know, surely, they would snigger behind her back as she walked bow-legged to breakfast, with her hair in flattened ringlets. Everyone would know her pain, her sacrifice, her payment for daring to become the wife of the recently appointed Earl of Ronslip.
The intricately patterned plasterwork on the ceiling above Daphne, was part lit by the moon and the heads of angels smiled down at her inadequacy, at her pretence at being part of this aristocratic set, and at her youthful frailty. If she tried to slowly lift herself enough to pull her long cotton nightdress back down towards decency, every muscle ached, so it stayed where it was. She just lay, shaking, trying harder not to cry more, wondering when his next attack would take place as she fumbled to button her nightdress front against any further advances. Hopefully he would snore until dawn.
A day of contrasts. A beautiful day, all about me in that beautiful Edwardian dress given
to me by my Auntie Prudence, my ringlets pinned into swirls to cover my ears, the daisy-headband making me more feminine for him with my doe eyes looking up to him as I said my vows. Sweet teasing from the women in the wedding party and giggles from the younger set once they’d realised I knew nothing of the meaning of barneymugging. It spurred them on. But why laughter if they knew I was to be barneymugged in such a hurtful, barbaric and disgusting manner. My dress, now thrown over the back of a chair, removed over zealously, while Bertrand acted like an animal, grunting and snorting over me even though I’d told him he was hurting me greatly, and then immediately he falls asleep leaving me with my guilt. My body is invaded, literally, hurt and I’m left with bruised breasts. Why did nobody warn me against such brutality? Is this every marriage, or simply mine to endure?
Why is love so unlike that delicate item expressed in poetry and so much more like the wide-eyed pummelling of breasts from a Turkish masseur?
I know it’s my fault and I’ve exhausted my new husband by extracting fluid from him and I know there is something I need to do to add to his enjoyment such that he is not so exhausted and depleted in the future. I know what happened is necessary to produce an heir for him but I pray, that maybe that one time together gives us triplets and I can rest for the remainder of my married days with him sleeping in his own room. I fear the pain of childbirth, delivering three in one go, would be preferable to his animal act every night.
How many times do I have to suffer that act to produce one baby? How many times to produce the three that he says he wants? Maybe producing one baby will enlarge me to allow him into me without pain for future acts. Oh God, what if I keep producing girls and he tries harder and harder for a boy? Will his frustration of being heirless be taken out on my frail body?
Maybe the ordinary Bertrand, that I met and fell in love with, changed. As family deaths occurred on the battlefield and then the dreadful Spanish flu, he climbed higher from our shared middle-class to become the new Earl, maybe he took on a more masterful role in life and mastered me for his single pleasure alone. Did the trenches change the man? He will not speak of the war in my company. Did he bring some hurtful disease back from a French whore?
Daphne finally drifted off to sleep and was rested enough in the morning to brush off her aches and internal pains to the point where she was able to move her nightdress to a respectable place whilst half rising from her bed. She sat on the bed edge, legs tight together, arms across her chest in defence and in an attempt not to rouse her husband. Bertrand eventually stirred and thankfully showed no animal signs.
Nothing was being said as the Earl put on his dressing gown to ready himself to return to his own bedroom. It was as if the previous night hadn’t happened, or both the respective parties were happy with the result and no discussion was required, so Daphne picked a different topic.
“Bertrand. You said that this morning you would introduce the staff to me. An act I am not looking forward to, incidentally. I imagine them to be set in their ways, the ways of your older brother and now, with you inheriting and taking a wife, I fear they may wish to impose their ways on me. Will you protect me against them dearest? Will you tell them to be gentle with me?”
My way, perhaps, of saying I require to be treated gently and not to have my breasts removed from the rest of my body by an animal each night. No mirror around me that I can see from here but I know my hair to be an utter mess. My husband is between my dressing table and my body so I will remain seated on the bed edge.
“My Dear, I think you should call me Bertie in your bedroom, or my bedroom come to that, should you wish to visit. Bertrand in front of friends and acquaintances and His Lordship in front of the staff if directing them. You are now, today, post consummation, Countess Patterson-Smyth, Lady Daphne to friends and your Ladyship to staff. Is that clear Daphne? I will, as you hear, call you Daphne in our rooms unless you prefer a diminutive.”
His voice, his whole demeanour, has changed slowly as his brother James did not return and his body was eventually identified in the mud of the fields. His announced station towards Earldom changed the man. He became more confident and, dare I say, arrogant, and I did, at first, admittedly appreciate having a strong man to protect me. Now that the contract of marriage has been signed, and last night sealed, I believe I am a bag of human flesh for him to treat as he will. I am, as he referred to me, post-consummation. Perhaps with his new-found title he feels he should have done better in the wife stakes and I am to suffer as a consequence.
Daphne thought her new husband to be hovering somewhere between the gentleman and animal, and wondered if he might turn either one way or the other at any time. The thought of visiting him in his bedroom, looking for what he’d done to her that night, was dismissed from her mind immediately. He was still above her, dishing out his orders.
The war to end all wars was supposed to liberate women who had worked in the stead of their men. They now outnumber greatly the males, but are still subject to their orders and seemingly have to endure their brutality in order to allow the menfolk their pleasure. Is that what it is? We outnumber men so have to be shown our place?
“Instruct the staff you will my dear, especially when I am away on business, and you will have to instruct cook on matters of meals every day unless you can arrange to do it at the beginning of each week. When guests are due to arrive here for dinner parties and for drinks parties, you will be in charge of all matters. There is no need yet for us to descend to the likes of bottle parties and I will supply any alcohol required. Once you have instructed cook, I will discuss with Hopkins with regard to wines from the cellar. Anyway, your staff-baptism won’t be for long because as soon as you get your eye in, it will be time to take a rest from it all. I have devised a honeymoon for you. A trip on a boat, down the Nile River, exploring ancient tombs and temples. It will give us time to get to know each other better as we shall share a cabin and a bed for the whole two weeks of the cruise as well as the long boat trip to and from Alexandria, which will take longer than the cruise itself.”
She looked up into his eyes, looking for the animal of last night. Did getting to know each other mean more pain and a return to being savaged by a grunting animal? Her arms held her body more tightly, as if she shivered from the coldness of his description of her life to come. The ache returned to her breasts where they’d been man-handled. The pain between her legs had ceased but she feared it could easily return if she were touched internally again.
Bertrand had not finished speaking, although he had now knotted his dressing gown cord and had made to leave the room. It seemed he abused his wife for pleasure, issued her with instructions enough to finish her off if she were not already dead, and then leave the room as if all was right with the world.
He stopped at the door. Smiled at her. The gentle Bertie had returned and spoke quietly.
“You may, Daphne, point out to me any member of staff that you don’t like, and I will personally tell them to change their attitude or their actions, or leave my service. You are, after all, the mistress of this house and mother to the next heir, the next Earl of Ronslip, a most important position for a woman to hold. Egypt will be a hotbed of cheap labour and I think that workers there will not only be looking for employment, but will be willing to travel back to Britain with us to enjoy a life of relative luxury. New and good staff are so hard to come by now and a lot of them seem to have migrated towards London to work in pubs and clubs for a higher salary. You may wish to keep an eye out for a personal maid in Egypt, to look after you and to keep you company while I am in the City. Egyptian maids sound exotic, don’t you think?”
Daphne smiled with her cheeks but with dead eyes. Do I have to suffer his brutality and watch him finding maids exotic? My personal maid, my lady’s maid exotic? I will look for efficiency and ugliness in equal measure.
He turned towards her again, stopping her from reaching her dressing table. “Colonel Baylies will be there of course, in Egypt, travels every year, in season obviously. A womaniser of some great repute and a gentleman for you to steer clear of please. If I am not accompanying you then you should seek the company of other women in his presence. He already had a reputation before his wife passed away and throughout the war also. I’m informed that his excesses have increased since. Decent chap though, for all that. Member at my club.”
Bertie, as he was to be called, moved back towards his own bed-chamber without waiting for his wife to return any conversation. He had instructed and, it would appear, she would obey.
Womaniser, even when his wife was alive, decent chap though. Are male morals that different to those of the gentler sex? Am I to avoid one man through my days in Egypt, to be brutalised by another overnight?
Daphne thought about dressing herself and decided a personal maid would suit her. Not to physically dress her but to discuss what clothes were appropriate, to discuss fashion, to discuss whether her barney had been mugged or whether that awkward barneymugging word actually meant something completely different. Maybe she needed someone that she could confide in, someone to help her to learn how to minimise discomfort.
A number of creams and potions littered Daphne’s dressing table, some brought with her, some forming small parts of wedding presents. Which one would ease breast ache would be a matter of experimentation. Whether creams could be applied elsewhere to facilitate a frictionless experience would be an even bigger experiment. She had no friends after losing dear Victoria to the flu, so nobody to discuss such matters with, if indeed, such matters were acceptable for a lady to discuss.
Maybe I’m being too soft. I am, after all, no longer a girl and have to act as a married woman acts. It’s just come as a shock that I have to put up with what happened last night. Child birth, I knew was painful but I had no idea that the means of becoming pregnant was equally so. Maybe this is why girls appear so happy, while married women look so stern.
A honeymoon in Egypt sounded horrendous to Daphne. It would, as Bertie had explained, entail a long boat trip to even get there and Daphne was sure that from that day until they returned, she would have nightmares about being hoisted onto the back of a camel, taken to a tent at an oasis and treated even more roughly than the animal Bertie had treated her. Maybe then, when her Arab was fed up with her constant moaning from being in pain, he would sell her into slavery. She would kill herself, Daphne decided, at the earliest opportunity, as soon as she saw a camel riding Arab approaching her.
As she applied creams in her dressing table mirror, with the neck of her nightdress undone, she briefly imagined the camel rider being handsome, gentle and taking her to exotic places to merely kiss her and hold her tightly while he applied foreign-smelling creams to her body. When it was time to dress, reality hit home. Maybe she could become seasick. Would Bertie take pity on a sick lady, confined to her cabin while they travelled down the Nile? Or would his honeymoon frustration make him even more brutal?
The thought and worry of facing the staff had now become a secondary fear, close behind the thought of a honeymoon, so she washed, dressed and took an age with her hair before wandering around the house, aimlessly, looking for staff to instruct in whatever they needed to be instructed in.
For the next few days, the staff were polite but appeared to Daphne to somewhat resent her presence. She placed not one order and yielded to all of their suggestions. Bertie had retired to London, she was told by his butler, and was no longer at home to offer assistance.
He offered her a note on a silver tray. “Would your ladyship enjoy venison for dinner tonight, or beef perhaps.” This was the type of suggestion that prompted her to be forceful in her management of her house by choosing the best of a choice of two. Everything else about the house seemed to happen as if she didn’t exist. Bertie’s presence certainly didn’t exist and he’d gone up to London to do…
What is it a stock broker does in London, in The City? I have no idea and no way to ask. His note merely tells me he will be there on business, stay at his club, and then return north to collect me to travel south again to the coast. Does he party? Are women present? Does he brutally ravage others before returning to me?
Taking control properly of the staff, of the house, or of her life, would have to be commenced post-honeymoon, Daphne decided. Eventually, four days later, Bertie returned and acted as if he’d just popped out for a stroll and had returned to whisk her away.
It was almost a relief to pack, get the train to Southampton and to board the ship to Alexandria. For the first few hours of the trip, she tried to steer Bertie away from bar areas realising that alcohol might fuel his animal instincts making him more monster-like. She was sure that wedding-cups had turned him that first time, and that his absence from her may now have fuelled further and more brutal animal desires. That problem disappeared however when they got into the ocean proper, which was in fact, just outside Southampton harbour. Daphne found her only daily exercise to be the movement between her toilet area, where she was violently sick, and her bed where she appeared to want to be permanently asleep.
The rest of my life as a married woman could be a relatively short one, if I jump from the deck to the sea. The sickness would stop and the discomfort of trying to produce an heir for the Earl would stop and then I could sleep in sweet comfort under the waves. If I ever recover from this sickness, I swear I will face my husband and request to know what he wants from me to improve his manner. I am vowed to love, honour and obey him but do not know how to love which gives me dishonour, even though I try to obey.
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