The Molly Ch. 05byvillanova©
In which our heroine starts her long climb up out of the depths. Sorry there isn't more sex in this story, we'll make up for it later, I promise. For anyone who gets to the end of this story and is curious about what people look like, Google 'lady agnew sargent' . . .
Edith woke up and stared at the ceiling, thinking.
She was calm, for the first time in days. She still ached, but that would go away. The bits of Edith Stanley that had been scattered around the room had at last put themselves back together again.
I can't lie here forever. I've got to do something.
Do what you do. One thing at a time. What's the first thing?
I dunno if this Sargent bloke is on the level. He got me out of Mr Stephen's house, but god knows what else he's into.
He hasn't tried anything on since you've been here.
No. So there is that. On the other hand.
No. We don't trust anyone.
No. We don't.
Good. Now, clean yourself up and make yourself useful.
Edith levered herself out of bed, gave herself a sponge-bath with cold water, and put on some clean clothes.
That morning, Madame Sophie the cook was rather surprised to find the bruised, bald girl asking in a low voice if she could help in the kitchen. Since Mr Sargent was always a bit short-staffed, the cook was glad of this, and Edith was set to work cleaning dishes.
It felt better to be among people, and although Mr Sargent's people mostly seemed to speak French, they were friendly once it was clear that she expected no special treatment but wanted to work. She joined them at their table and shared their food, which wasn't bad for servant's food. They weren't all French; there were one or two English-speaking ones, such as sharp-tongued, plain-faced Ginny, the laundress. But the English-speaking ones were too few to have much common ground.
Slowly, Edith returned to daily life. The household routine helped to calm her nerves, and she found that it was helpful to do something boring and mindless but nevertheless strenuous, that would take her mind off what had happened to her. As the days went by, her wounds healed. Even the gash on her buttock scabbed over, and then the scab fell off, and it was just a small, shiny scar.
The servants drank wine, and Edith had never drunk much wine before. She quickly realised that the servants had a different attitude to drink than people where she came from. In Whitechapel, you got drunk to make the world go away. These French people drank wine because it made the world a better place. Edith soon learned the pleasure of cheap wine in moderate amounts, and she created a shy but friendly persona for Hester Campbell, which she hid behind. She learned some French, enough to understand which of the wines in Mr Sargent's cellar were for his table and which of them were for the servant's table, and enough to talk to half Mr Sargent's staff. She would join in on those days when they were having a below-stairs celebration, letting herself get mildly giggly. Then she'd smilingly withdraw and wish them all bonne chance, and go upstairs and rest.
Always, she kept herself under control. Sometimes, it was all she could manage.
During her off time, unbeknown to the rest of the staff, she engaged in furious exercise. Sometimes this meant hanging upside-down until the blood pounded in her head. Sometimes it meant punching and kicking a large bolster she'd found in the attic until her fists and feet ached. Sometimes it was just bending and stretching and testing her own capacity for pain. She wasn't quite sure why she did this, except that she wanted to be stronger, and her rage had to be let out somehow, and it was better to do it by herself in a room than to take it out on others.
There were bookshelves in her attic room. She rummaged around in these; they were mostly boring rubbish, boys' stories and books about cricket, but she also found some interesting reading. Bartitsu: the Martial Art of Gentlemen. Quarter-Staff, by Sgt Thomas McCarthy. A New Book of Sports, featuring some choice stuff on different kinds of combat. Edith read these in bed at night, and was amused by the pictures but paid close attention to the words. She exercised harder. She lifted heavy objects. She pilfered walnuts from the pantry and practised squeezing them until she wept with the pain and her hands were raw. She volunteered for heavy jobs in the kitchen, and the others were quietly impressed with the skinny red-haired girl's capacity for hard work.
She saw results. She grew muscles where she hadn't had them before. She became less skinny.
Edith Stanley, quiet and traumatised, only emerged in private. Hester Campbell, who was more friendly and more sociable, was her public face. Jane Tarvey had died a long time ago, in Mr Stephen's attic, along with Edwin Spencer.
There were other changes. As the days built into weeks, Edith's red hair grew back; first as stiff red fuzz which tickled uncomfortably, and then more recognisably as hair. Her eyebrows returned, her hair became a rather alarming short crop, and the hair on the rest of her returned to its normal length.
And then, as the weeks lengthened into months, still other things happened.
For most of her life, Edith had been fed little and that badly, but at Mr Sargent's servants' table she at last began to eat something resembling a reasonably balanced diet, and it made her skinny, boyish body bloom in unexpected ways. She wasn't entirely pleased about this. Her mostly flat chest suddenly developed breasts, so that she had to spend a good chunk of her wages on a cheap corset; she'd never had to wear one before. Her hips became fuller, her bottom more protuberant. She was still tall and gamine, but she started to feel the eyes of the male servants following her, which they hadn't done when she was a skinny, bald spectre.
Nevertheless, most of the male servants treated her with respectful distance. They remembered the state she'd been in when she'd entered the house, and the memory was still raw. Besides which they were mostly French, and however more physically desirable Edith got, as far as sex was concerned they regarded a common London girl as beneath them. This suited Edith fine, as she wasn't interested anyway, and when she learned enough French to make friendly conversation, they treated her with a kind of grudging affection.
But then a new boy joined, a handsome, strapping young porter, a Londoner, who fancied himself quite the Lothario. His name was Christian Malone, but there was nothing very Christian about him. He liked a drink late in the evenings and he especially liked strumming his guitar and singing dirty music hall songs to make the other staff laugh. He tried on his cocky charm with all the French girls, with only limited success. Edith saw more than one girl picked up by him, used, and brutally rejected, then they'd moon after him and he'd ignore them with enormous relish. It soon became evident that he had his eye on the best-looking of the English-speaking girls: Hester Campbell, the tall, quiet, red-haired maid-of-all-work who kept herself to herself.
Edith knew that her old self would have fended him off with a few deadly words in the right company, and that would have been the end of him. But she didn't feel like that now, and anyway, Hester wasn't that kind of girl. Hester wasn't a sharp-tongued tart, she was a nice quiet girl trying to better herself. The most sensible thing to do was just to ignore the bloody idiot.
Then that became impossible, because the bloody idiot made his move.
At eleven o'clock one wet Tuesday morning, Edith was down in the cellars measuring out flour for Madame Sophie. Christian swaggered in.
"All right, Miss Campbell? Fancy a hand with that?"
"No thank you, Mister Malone," she said cheerfully. "I can manage."
"No need to brush me off straight away," he said, walking up to her, his hands in his pockets. "I can be very helpful, y'know."
"I'm sure you can, Mister Malone," she said, smiling. "But I'm well able."
"Why've you got to be so stand-offish, Miss Campbell?" he said, following Hester as she picked up the heavy sack and carried it over to the store. "'Aven't I been nice to you?"
"You've spoken scarce a word to me since you've been 'ere, I think," she said, giving him a comical look and a light laugh, and walking away.
"Then I'm sorry to've deprived you of the pleasure of my company," he said.
"I'm sure it's a great pleasure indeed," she said, swinging the sack to the floor, "but I'd prefer to mind me own business, if that's all right." She smiled at him merrily, picked up a heavy bag of sugar and carried it over to the row of empty stone jars on the table.
"I can make you very 'appy," said Christian, leaning into her as she walked. She blinked slightly at his not very fresh breath.
"I am very 'appy, as it happens," she said. "So if that's all, I'll be about me business. All right?"
"What's wrong with you?" he said. "Don't you like me?"
"I 'ardly know you, Mister Malone," she said, pouring sugar into another stone jar.
"We could remedy that now," he said, winking at her. "I like to get to know young ladies."
"You seem very friendly, but if it's all the same, I'd prefer not to," she said, smiling apologetically. "All right?"
"Why not?" he said, the smile on his face freezing a little. "You think you're, what? Better than me?"
"I'm sure I don't," she said, watching the level of sugar rising. "I'm sure you're better than me in every way."
"I'm sure I am," he said, then he seemed to hesitate.
"Are you taking the mickey out of me?" he said coolly.
Edith finished pouring the sugar and carried the bag past him back to the store cupboard.
"I'm not at all, Mister Malone," she said. "But I'd 'preciate it if you were to be so very kind as to leave me in peace."
Smile. Show you respect him.
Edith placed the bag in the cupboard, turned, gave him a bright, cheerful smile and walked over to the table again.
"All right?" she added, so as to break the tension in the room. He didn't move.
She picked up an ice bucket and went over to the ice store. He stood motionless, as if making up his mind, and then he followed her. She could feel him, two or three paces behind her.
"You don't fool me, y'know," he said softly.
"What don't I fool you about, Mister Malone?" she said.
"Your good little girl act," he said. "You may fool those Frog bastards but you don't me. You carry yourself like such a princess, don'tcha? But I can tell. You're not a good little girl. No, you've 'ad practice. Oh yeah. You've had more pricks than some o' them French birds have had 'ot dinners."
"You don't 'alf talk common, Mister Malone," she said, keeping a step ahead of him.
"Oh, fuck off, girl," he said. "Don't come the grand lady with me. I know your sort."
Come on. Come on. Get him to stop.
"Begging your pardon, Mister Malone," she said, and she couldn't keep a slight tremor out of her voice, "but I don't know what sort of girl you think I am, and I'll thank you not to presume."
He grabbed her buttocks through the cotton dress, and at that she instinctively jerked herself out of reach, turning her head to keep him just on the edge of her vision.
There was a funny look on her face that he couldn't quite read. It was almost a sort of half-smile. He knew it! He bloody knew she loved it! He was delighted that he'd got her number so well.
"I heard that you know a lot more than you let on," he said, feeling more confident. "I heard that you know an awful lot about 'ow to please a gentleman."
"I can't help what you heard," she said still with the funny half-smile, "but I just want to keep on me own. All right?"
She looked right at him over her shoulder. She was smiling brightly. He was right behind her. He was reaching downwards.
She turned away from him and breathed deeply and pulled open the doors of the ice store, and the cold hit her. She breathed out, picked up the ice pick and began to chop away at the block of ice, breaking it into smaller chunks. She breathed in again.
"Don't come it with me, Hester Campbell," he said. "I know you. I know where you come from."
"And where did you hear I come from, then, Mister Malone," she said calmly, without turning around.
"I heard you was a common whore in Whitechapel," he said. "You've sucked a lot of cocks, you little tart. I reckon you can suck one more."
Edith paused, very deliberately put down the ice-pick, turned around, placed her fists on her hips and glanced downwards.
As she thought. He'd got his cock out.
She stared down at it for a moment, watching it dangle long and purple out of his serge trousers, and felt the flush rise to her face. She raised her eyes and looked him in the face, forcing herself to breathe slowly and regularly.
"I dunno what you've got that out for," she said coolly, "but I'll thank you to put it away, please."
Her heart was pounding. She hoped it wasn't too obvious that she was sweating. He pointed his finger at her face.
"You're a fucking little Whitechapel tart," he said, grinning. "I bloody knew it." He stepped towards her and she backed away from him and came up against the wall. She felt the cold stone behind her.
"Mister Malone," she said, smiling nervously, "I think I've asked you politely, more than once, to leave me alone, haven't I?"
"You 'ave," he said, and he leered at her and pointed his finger at her in mockery. "Oh, but you Whitechapel girls, you can't say no to a bit of Limehouse cock, can yer?"
He thrust his hips forward and pointed downwards.
Come on, he urged her with his grin, on your knees. Take it in your mouth.
Edith stared him in the face, and then glanced at the index finger of his left hand, which was pointing expectantly towards his exposed member.
"You play the guitar, don'tcha, Mister Malone?" she said conversationally.
"What?" he said, startled. "Yeah. Why?"
"Not now you don't," she said, and she grabbed his wrist with her left hand, and his index finger with her right hand, and she bent it backwards swiftly and firmly until it made a light crunching noise.
She'd thought it'd be like disjointing a chicken. It turned out to be a bit easier.
"AaaaAAAAAAUUUGHHH!" he howled, his knees buckling, his eyes bulging as he stared at her in horror, drawing his hand back, but she pulled him to her and he howled again with pain. She reached down with her left hand, right into the open fly of his trousers, grabbed his genitals and twisted them.
He howled again, and Edith breathed deeply as she stared at him, half-doubled over with pain, looking up at her in shock and terror. She was tall, and he was normal height, so now that he was doubled up in pain, she was looking down at him.
"All right," she said patiently. "I did ask you to leave me alone, but you couldn't do it, could ya? You 'ad to keep following me. Now I'll have to say it one more time so that you get my meaning. It's nothing personal, but I really don't want to do any naughty business with you or any other gentleman, all right?"
"Please . . ." he gasped, tears streaming down his face.
"D'you understand me perfectly well, Mister Malone?" she said, cocking an ear at him. "Nod yes if you understand me, all right?"
After a long moment, he managed to nod.
"Good," she said. "Like I said, it's nothing personal about you. It's just whatever I did wrong in my earlier life I've paid for a lot of times over, and I'm not paying for it again."
She looked him in the eye, feeling the fear rising in him.
"I know you think you're wicked," she said quietly. "I know you think you've got something you can teach me. But I 'ave to tell you, Mister Malone, I've met wickeder men than you. And they have done things to me that if I told you what they were, you would cry for your mum. Men 'ave done things to me that if you dreamt about them bein' done to you, you'd never close your eyes again. That's why you don't scare me. All right?"
"All right," he squeaked.
"Good," she said, and she gave his genitalia a further slow twist. He began to make a high-pitched keening sound. She leaned down and spoke very quietly into his ear.
"I'm glad to hear it," she said, "because I'll tell you something else: as long as I'm within these walls, if you ever try it on with me again, I will come to you when you sleep, and I will cut off your cock, and I will fuck you in the mouth with it till you die."
She drew back and looked at him appraisingly. Her left hand felt suddenly warm and damp, and she wrinkled her brow and sniffed suspiciously.
"Oh my," she said, "you've wet yourself."
She let go of him and he fell to the floor. Sure enough, there was a damp stain spreading on his trousers. She went to the pump and washed her hands, and then got a cloth and sponged him down, while he lay there whimpering and nursing his broken hand. Then she buttoned him back into his trousers and helped him up and supported him while she got him upstairs.
Fouchet, the butler, greeted with concern the arrival in his kitchen of Hester Campbell and broken, whimpering Christian Malone, but Miss Campbell explained that pauvre Mister Malone had been trying to be helpful; he'd offered to help her chop up the ice, but the pick had slipped and he'd fallen on his hand and apparently broken his finger, le pauvre garcon. Fouchet was all concern, and Christian Malone was whisked off to the local sawbones to get a splint on his finger.
Edith went about her daily chores, but inwardly she was a little disturbed to find how much she'd enjoyed the feeling of having Christian Malone in her power. It wasn't that she'd fancied him -- goodness, no. It was more to do with how intoxicating it had felt when he'd been cringing before her, and one sharp twist of her hand could have made him say goodbye to ever being a father some day. She'd enjoyed teasing and flirting with men when she'd gone out into the streets as Edwin, but this was very different. It was very potent, and not altogether very nice.
She realised, after a while, that it was how the men who'd raped her had probably felt the entire time they were doing it. And that made her feel . . . not exactly comfortable. She told herself that Christian Malone was a cad and a user of women, and she felt better about it, but she couldn't help being unnerved by her own taste for watching a man cower before her.
Christian Malone never came back. He was absent for a few days, and then Monsieur Fauchet announced one morning that Mister Malone had decided that life in Mr Sargent's service did not suit him, and that he had gone to seek an opening elsewhere.
Seated next to Edith, Ginny murmured "I'm sure he has," which made Edith crease up in helpless laughter. She was laughing so much she found it difficult to pull herself together enough to apologise to the others. But as much as she found it funny, she couldn't help wondering if Christian Malone would tell anybody else about the terrifying kitchen girl in Mr Sargent's house. She told herself to be more cautious.
As the weeks went by, Edith developed more ways of dealing with the world, and of keeping the nightmares under control. She exercised her body, taking long walks whenever she had the time, working her way through the self-defence books she found, even purloining the leg of a broken chair and whittling it down with a pocketknife until it made a serviceable weapon she could hide about herself.
At night, she struggled with her unfulfilled desires by thinking about her body, and other women's bodies, and what kinds of pleasure could be had by them, and by touching her own body, and exploring which kinds of touching were enjoyable and which weren't. It wasn't always something that made her feel warm and cuddly. She had been told a lot of things about her body when she was growing up, and all the men she'd known had made it clear that she was expected to feel certain other ways about it. She didn't want to know that any more. She wanted to know everything that she could teach herself about her own body. So now she made herself try everything she could think of to do, short of injury; steeling herself to try things that she'd always thought might be disgusting, willing herself through every indignity, so that she'd never be scared again of her own body, or in what it took delight.