“Later today, I’m taking you to the viewing annex to watch La Reine at work.” Mrs Davenport looked up as she folded the edge of a bedspread down in one of the smaller rooms on the second floor, her eyes round and amber like an owl’s. “You’ll have to be silent.”
Molly stood in the doorway, she’d been following the old woman around as she did her morning chores, checking the rooms. Putting it back to rights. She’d only been in the seraglio a week and felt shy with the others.
“Girls who we find on the streets need to be educated by watching others. It’s the best way to learn.”
Molly nodded. Mrs. Davenport had brought her in, fed her and gave her a life with sheets and fires and clean windows, she’d do anything not to feel the savage twist of hunger again. She’d been reduced to selling her arse around St Giles’s after her mother died a year before. Her experience as a young street walker was limited to a quick upright in the alleys behind Covent Garden or a drunken hand job under a table at the Drury Lane Tavern. Running away afterwards with a coin clasped in her hand.
That afternoon, the clouds over London hung heavy and dark as Mrs Davenport led Molly up the grand sweeping staircase to the first floor. She moved quickly for an old woman and Molly wondered how old she actually was. The four larger rooms were on this floor, saved for their most discerning and wealthiest clients. There was a table pushed against the painted, wood-panelled wall with a bowl of yellow daffodils upon it. A portrait of an amused young woman in a formal gown looked down at Molly. Her white breasts were exposed and she was pinching one pale nipple. The housekeeper bent down and pressed a notch cut into the skirting board. The wall clicked open and the chandelier above their heads shivered a complaint. The old woman put her finger to her lips and beckoned Molly into the darkness.
Molly found herself in a narrow cupboard off the Blue Room. It was pitch black inside and smelt of wood and mice. The door clicked shut and she was alone, heart surging. She made herself breath slowly and adjusted to the darkness, the dull light from two holes cut in the wall. She heard a man’s voice, nasal and lilting with wealth, talking about a Grey he wanted to ride around Hyde Park in proper style. How he’d look of the first order. Sir Michael had recently come into his fortune, moved to London and was spending it on La Reine. She was the most famous harlot in the house, even though she was getting old at twenty-six. Molly had only seen her a couple of times as she spent her days languishing with her keeper. She was tall and statuesque with long blond hair like a river of gold down her back. Her haughty, wide blue eyes had looked down at the new girl with disinterest.
Molly moved as softly as a cat to the eye holes, covered in gauze and peered into the opulent scene before her, adjusting to the candlelight and the limited view. In the haze, she saw La Reine sprawled lazily on the bed, completely naked; long limbs white in the flickering light, breasts lolling. Her golden hair ran across the pillows. Her pale legs were bent across the rumpled bed spread. It was an elegant four poster, draped with heavy, red velvet curtains to keep out the winter chill. Plump cherubs danced in a circle on the head rest above her and on the far wall there was a painting of a sleeping women in a transparent slip with a satyr panting over her, his enormous erection in one hand. She could hear a fire burning fierce in the stone hearth beyond her view. The young libertine walked around the bed, in a linen shirt, waving a crystal glass of wine as he continued to talk about horse lineage. He was short and lean in stature, with bulbous blue eyes. Occasionally he would glance at La Reine, his prize, and run a hand over his wig-less head.
“La Reine flopped back onto the bed, the landscape of her body and the fair hair between her legs gleamed. Slowly, she parted her legs wide and the pink crack between the hair glistened.”
La Reine was gazing, bored, at the fire and then wriggled down the bed so she was sitting in front of the hidden cupboard. Molly breathed in and took a step back, as though she might be seen. Heat began to emanate from her skin in the darkness; her stays felt too tight. The resplendent whore’s breasts stood round as pumpkins in the candlelight, her smooth skin glowed and Molly thought her magnificent; so carnal and healthy. La Reine flopped back onto the bed, the landscape of her body and the fair hair between her legs gleamed. Slowly, she parted her legs wide and the pink crack between the hair glistened. Molly had never seen a woman so intimately before. She leaned forward as Sir Michael talked about an Irish horse called Eclipse and La Reine ran her hands down over her breasts, her belly; reaching down between her parted legs and moving her fingers over the folds and pools of pleasure there. Molly had never touched herself like that and she licked her dry lips.