Chapter 1 and beginning of Chapter 2
As Miss Leeds sat down at her desk, she was surprised to see a familiar but forgotten hand on a letter addressed to her. She pulled that note first from the small stack of post that had been pitched onto her desk, scattering them about. Opening the seal, she quickly looked at the signature and smiled. It had been a long time since she’d heard from Margaret. Her last letter to Margaret had been returned and Miss Leeds was at a loss as to where she was. She hurriedly began to read after pausing a moment or two reflecting on those wonderful years with her young charge.
Dear Miss Kate,
I hope this post finds its way to you and that you are doing well and staying healthy. I think we have both moved from where we once knew each other to be, for it took me some time to find where you were now.
It is with disappointment and desperation that I write such a letter, you would never expect from me. A year ago, within days of each other, I lost both my father and brother in separate circumstances. Father died of a heart attack, leaving my care, dowry and allowance with my brother to dispense to me. Somewhere in South Africa with the Navy, my brother had been battling malaria of which we knew nothing. Due to his death and having no will in his young life, all of our family’s assets where bestowed to my Father’s sister which included my personal jewels and any allowance or dowry that had been set aside for me. I know I will never see that dispensed to me from my aunt. She, Penelope nee Hale, immediately sold our family home and insisted that I come to live with her and her husband, George. Being without anything except my clothes, I accepted. I have been treated as a servant, earning my keep, and now Uncle George wants to treat me with his own special care when my aunt is out of the house. I am afraid I will be over taken, but in any event, I must leave this house. It behooves me, the necessity of asking for your assistance until I can establish myself in some line of work where you live. I hear that Milton is quite a growing city and I could possibly find an income there. Hoping you have an answer to my plea as you have done all of my life, Margaret Hale
Miss Katie Leeds took no time in answering Margaret, slipping in a few bills to get her to Milton on the next train if possible.
As John walked into Lucia’s spacious and generously furnished room with expensive furniture and a roaring fire, he was once again, stymied over what was expected of him at this point. He had been relieved although mystified why kissing was one of the forbidden rules. He just stood there with his hat in his hand which he had decided to keep with him, while Lucie went to the fire and poked at the coal in the grate. “Would you like me to do that, Miss?” John asked, surprised at the stuttering he heard himself speak.
“Thank you, Mr. Thornton, but it is all done. Wouldn’t you care to remove your coat and set it along with your hat here, behind the door?”
“Yes,” John thought to himself, “I would very much like to be doing anything except standing here like a fool.” As John hung his coat on the peg and set his hat on a small table, he asked, “Do you mind if we sit and talk for a moment?” As he turned around he was taken aback that Lucia had started to undress. He didn’t know how he was going to manage a conversation with her dress off, standing in her petticoats and slips and all the paraphernalia that women wore. “I’m sorry. You seem to be way ahead of me, Lucia,” John said, walking over to a chair by the fire while she reclined seductively on the bed.
“Mr. Thornton, how can I pleasure you? I am here solely for you and your desires. Miss Leeds says that this is your first time here and I will assume you have read her rules, have you not?”
“Yes, I have read them most carefully. Not only have I not been here but never to a place such as this. I am quite at a loss as to how to proceed or even what to expect,” he said, almost apologizing for his lack of worldly ways. I was taken aback at a few of the rules and certainly not surprised at the more vulgar abuse of others.”
“Which of the non-vulgar rules surprised you, Mr. Thornton?” Lucia asked, as she started to unhook her corset.
Stammering . . . why am I stammering? I should think I was to marry tomorrow. “Well . . . a . . . let me try to remember. Oh yes, the ‘no kissing’ rule. Personally, I am relieved but I would not have thought that to be forbidden.”
“The idea of not kissing is first for hygienic reasons – so neither of us can communicate a disease to the other. Also, it has happened that kissing can lead to deeper involvement with clients and this is forbidden. You do understand that on your first visit or at a time when you’ve not be a regular for a long time, that I must inspect your manhood for any . . . signs of sickness?”
“I’m sorry, I didn’t seem to read that part, but I guess in your profession I can understand it on both sides. No spirits and not arriving too inebriated is understandable, too. I think I am ready to talk, now. I must admit this takes some getting used to when you are new,” John smiled, trying to lighten his wavering resolve. “Could you stop undressing for a few moments? I don’t want to get too sidetracked.”
“Yes, Mr. Thornton. Whatever pleases you,” Lucia replied in a lilting voice. “Please, tell me your thoughts and desires.”
“I am sure you are going to find disappointment in me and that is by my own design. Oh, before I go on, do I understand Miss Leeds instructions about the absolute knowledge on your conception days?”
“Yes, rest assured. The women love it here but should we become pregnant we will have to leave Miss Leeds and never return even if we are still young and attractive and don’t have a child to raise. It’s cut and dry. All of us have schedules in her desk drawer and even she knows when bad days are for us. If the worst should happen, we have signed an oath that no client shall be named as the father. He will never know, but may figure it out when his regular girl is no longer here. He still won’t know if it’s his child unless she is his only client. Our working days are 3 clients a day for five days – rotating weekends. That’s fifteen men a week so there is no way to be sure of the father. And on top of that, we on occasion have a female client. That is quite strange and there are only a few of us that don’t mind that. Now, tell me your desires before we lose too much of your time. I am so surprised to see you here and I am eager to please you.”
“Miss Lucia, I am confident about my personal abilities to perform sexual acts with women. What I really would like to try now and again is something very slow and basic. I would wish for you to lie still and not to speak. Please speak no deception as to my merit or lack thereof. Please only engage with me when I ask. At least this first time. Perhaps never, will I have your desire as my goal. I have had a decade of that and I wish just to relieve my needs without the worry of performance for my partner’s sake. That must sound shallow and far different from your other clients. I want very little from you. I just want to use you and I will be gentle. Is that agreeable with you, Lucia?”
“Whatever you wish, Mr. Thornton. Would you like me to undress you?”
“No, not this time. However, I would prefer to watch you disrobe.” With John’s waning appetite for this whole bloody plan, he started watching her disrobe. Hopefully that would instill the lust he needed right now. “When you are done, just lie on the bed. I will undress and join you. Can we not, dim these bright lamps in here?”
“Oh yes, that is standard procedure unless the client asked for the room to be well lit?”
Lucie lowered the lights, and slowly proceeded to disrobe while studying his reaction, hoping he saw no disappointments. Lucia knew of his many years of being a single, sought-after male in Milton and she doubted there was very little in their standard lesson plan that he would not know.
John watched closely as she performed her erotic, almost dance, of undressing herself. He was thankful that his arousal finally found its way there. That had worried him most of all. He had experienced great apprehension with some of his latter women and suffered the ultimate embarrassment. Things did not go well and he had to invent some excuse about stresses at work that day to mask his own barrier that he seemed helpless to correct. He knew those humiliating times were part of the reason he was here.
As his hour ended, John was thoroughly satisfied with the results. He felt rested and although Lucie did not participate as he had asked, he warmed to a small bit of his assurance returning. He had no worries, no pressures, just a pleasurable, satisfying physical feeling. Lucie escorted John to a changing screen which held behind it, a pitcher and bowl set filled with room temperature water, soap, and a wash and trying cloth for both of them. Lucie would do her infinitely long routine of cleansing after he left, but wrapped herself in a satin belted robe.
John found his clothing and dressed quickly. “Miss Lucie, I am sure that was most boring for you, but it is what I wanted at this time and maybe for times further on. I was pleased with you. You did exactly as I asked. You didn’t engage when you may have felt like I wanted you to and you didn’t gasp and moan as if I were treating you like a man should treat a woman. I am waiting for the woman I will love, to know her real sounds of my pleasure to her. At some point, I do intend to go through your lesson plan to make sure I haven’t missed anything,” John said smiling, while slipping on his coat and holding his hat. “I shall see you again, if that is agreeable with you. Possibly next week at the same time?”
“I would like that very much, Mr. Thornton. I don’t feel like I’ve earned my fee this evening, but I will be most glad to see you again. Please see Miss Leeds on your way out for an appointment. Thank you for being the gentleman that you were. Many men arrive as you did and turn into animals before they have left. It was quite a delight to be at your service. Until next week then . . .,” Lucia said while displaying that highly sated look.
John didn’t expect any performance from her, so the ‘look’ had no effect on him except it was just more deception – part of their training, no doubt. Finding Miss Leeds office, he knocked lightly on the door.
She stood, smiling, “You seem in good spirits. I hope Lucie was all that you had expected.”
“Everything went as I had wanted it to. I was well pleased with her attention to my simple instructions. If there is an opening, I would like an appointment again with Lucie next week.”
“I’ve already taken a look at that for you and it is free. I will put you down for a week from tonight. I am glad we met with your satisfaction. Good evening, Mr. Thornton.”
“Good evening to you Miss Leeds.” John turned and left tapping his hat on his head. His last remaining hurdles were to take the questioning look that Branson was going to give him and tell Higgins what he had done.
Branson noticing his Master pulled the coach up to the front door and hopped down to attend him. “Branson, tonight, I would like to go to the men’s club. You know, the one called ‘The Falcon and Prey.” John felt like a nightcap with some of his working Mill Master associates and Branson sensed the old Master was finding his self confidence again.
* * *
Margaret spotted Katie immediately as she stepped out of the train coach. She worked her way through the crowd until Katie Leeds noticed her. They hugged each other for a long time; Margaret felt that Katie was her only real family, now. For most of her childhood, Katie had raised, taught, dressed, and fed her. Margaret would see her parents at special times during the day, but for the most part, Katie was her mother.
“Oh Margaret, how wonderful to see you. You’ve grown lovelier than when I left you as an anxious young woman in her teens. I would have been angry if you had not thought of me for your rescue. Of course, I heard of the deaths of your family, such a terrible and unfortunate event to happen to anyone, but I never knew all the rest. I wish I had known at the beginning. So . . . how did the aunt and uncle take to your leaving?” Katie asked, walking her toward the area where Margaret’s baggage could be found.
“Honestly, I didn’t want a scene with them. I wrote a long letter, leaving it on the dining room table as I tip-toed out of the house for the late train. I was fortunate that their driver was willing to help me at that hour, but he didn’t know I was sneaking out. I think I have burned my bridges there and, at this moment, it feels good to say so. I can’t imagine what is waiting for me but it can’t be worse then what it has been.”
Helping Margaret with her several bags as she collected them, Katie said to her, “You are going to be surprised and may be disappointed in me when you see where I am going to take you.”
Margaret looked at her in wonder, “I can’t imagine I’d be disappointed wherever I was with you. What can you mean?”
Katie nodded Margaret to follow her to the left, as that’s where her coach was parked. “I’ll tell you when we’re settled in the carriage. Margaret, I’d like you to meet Tawl Peters, my driver. I told him I thought he made that name up, but he says no. Peters this is Margaret Hale, to which I was once her governess. She is a real lady, so please treat her accordingly.”
Peters tipped his hat, “Good afternoon, Miss Hale. It is a pleasure to have you with us.”
“Hello, Peters. I can’t say that I understand why your Mistress thinks your name is made up, but you are rather tall. Thank you, it’s nice to be here in Milton with Katie.”
Peters just grinned, knowing she’d eventually find the humor in his name being affiliated with Miss Leeds’ Place. “Please, set the bags down so I can hand you in. Then I will pack the coach and we’ll be off.”
“He’s such a nice lad, Margaret. He’s a great help to me in my business, of which I am about to tell you.”
Margaret and Katie settled into the comfortable bench seats in the coach. Katie hearing the “walk on” command that meant they were underway.
“I should be pointing out a few interesting places as we ride, but I better get this part over with. Margaret, after I was dismissed by your family as you left for more schooling, I found it difficult, like you, to keep a roof over my head and support myself. Your family paid me well, but it surely was never meant to be enough to grow old on even with the most modest surroundings. Through the years, I had kept in contact with women that I knew before coming to the Hales and well . . . I won’t go into the sorted and confusing decisions I found myself faced with, but I now own and manage a ‘Gentlemen’s Club’ called Miss Leeds Ladies.” Katie paused. “I see that look on your face – your frown, that look of not understanding when I had been a governess, but that’s how it turned out. In the most basic words, it’s a brothel. I’m sorry to bring you here to such a place but I never expected you to be a worker for me at all, but only to give you a downstairs room near mine and away from the action. It’s a port in your storm until you can get on your feet.” Katie paused allowing Margaret to take it all into her thoughts.
Margaret sat quietly looking into the face she once knew loved her more than her own mother. She must have had a bitter life to have come to this. Margaret wondered who was she, to make such ill judgments. She had to work to live and Margaret could understand that now. It wasn’t just a passing phrase one heard . . . ‘She had to eat’ . . . as it once had been. It was a serious, bottom of life situation. “Katie, I admit I am surprised but not judgmental. I have to learn to take what life gives me now as no doubt was your path.”
“Margaret, it isn’t as bad as you think, either. You will be quite surprised. I’ve retained my same values for the girls, my charges as I refer to them myself. I ensure the utmost care and the establishment is run by strict rules and only the most affluent gentlemen can apply for membership. I have taken this sow’s ear and turned it into a silk purse. You will see. I think I can use you around the house and for help in the office – but you will not be a worker and will not be a servant, so let’s don’t argue about that.”
“Katie, I will be whatever I have to be to survive. I am just so grateful that I have an opportunity to make choices.”
“We’re just about here. We’ll get you settled and rested and then I will introduce you to the girls when we sit down to an early dinner at five this afternoon. Their evenings can start at six or seven and go to midnight on late customers. That is at the option of the girl. It’s not all bad; you’ll see.”
“Katie, if you’re the one running the establishment I am sure it couldn’t be done finer anywhere. Are the girls friendly?” Margaret laughed at how stupid that sounded. “I mean, will they accept me not being like them?”
“As they come to know you, they will love you. They will probably play around trying to convince you to join them. Don’t listen to any of that talk. You are a real lady. They are pretend ladies. When their looks or figures are gone with their age, they will have nothing in life. They will be shunned and probably remain single forever . . . no friends. Most of them don’t have families that want to know them anymore. Of the six girls, only one is here by choice. That’s Adrienne. She gets all the men that like things very lively and slightly skewed. The one thing I cannot prevent is the talk you will hear at times by the girls and maybe the clients if you’re nearby. I am sure you still have your virginity so you won’t really understand the sounds that you will hear through the doors. Nearly all of that is an act for the gentlemen, making them feel good about themselves. Just try and turn a deft ear to it, if you can.”
“Katie, you are making it sound exciting and mysterious. Sounds through the doors, words spoken in whispers, acts of skewed sensuality. I’m in a mind to write a book about my experience here. I shall certainly buy a diary and pen this forbidden world.” Margaret said smiling broadly.