30 May 18-
Dearest Carolyn -- Just a quick note to remind you of my existence. I apologize for the sudden hiatus in my calling upon you – I hope that you will find it in your heart of hearts to forgive me. It seems as though in my absence you have become a most respectable lady, and I must say, I’m very disappointed. The only ladies worth knowing are the dishonourable ones, and you, m’dear, have always been worth knowing.
I miss you terribly. Pray let me call upon you next Wednesday for lunch to reconcile.
31 May 18-
My dear Douglas -- Oh, you foul man! How do you sleep at night, in full knowledge of the way that you abandoned me? Thank Goodness Arthur is away at school; I fear what your influence would have on his horribly impressionable mind. I hope that in the coming times my name will bring upon you an air of guilt for your thoughtless transgression. My sensibilities urge me to forbid you my forgiveness, but my incredibly dishonourable heart grants your wish. I cannot deny it; I never shall be fully ‘respectable’ as my nature as tainted me thus far with the air of ‘worth knowing’, as you put it, but no matter. I’ll take infamous for one life time over famous for hundreds. There shall be no future generations biting their thumbs at me, good sir (although my association with you is ever jeopardizing this easily gained endeavor, and I have half a mind to do a thing about it).
Never fear, your correspondence has been placed in its usual spot if ever a time arises when confirmation of your proclivities with the fairer sex becomes necessary. I am sure this tawdry slice of wood pulp will be reduced to dust within moments of its arrival so I shan’t linger any longer than previously, and close succinctly: Do not be late. And yes, I shall be timing you.
The heat of summer months always excited Douglas, with its ability to flush the skin of untouched innocents in a mockery of intimacy, and he loved to wander the park in search of these fair skinned Beauties sweating underneath the shade of old oak trees. This same sun touched Carolyn’s hand as she reached for the sugar set in the middle of her table, that same gold flame that had kissed and caressed the flesh of youthful Ganymedes, but now the charm of it was gone, and it was a mere strip of light against her pale skin. “So, what is it this time? Another sailor boy with sticky fingers? Or are you at those gaudy letters again? You know it doesn’t pay to be in love, Douglas.”
“Come now, Carolyn. Can I not just wish to delight in the company of one of my oldest and best friends?” Douglas took a sip of tea, in mock offense at Carolyn’s words – yet the expression on her face remained, changeless, and with a sigh, he put his cup back down upon the table. “Discretion apparently has nothing to do with action, but rather with your connections. Lords and their disciples are able to flaunt their Shame without fear of consequence, but any of us lowly subjects so much as look at another in the wrong sort of fashion, and immediately we are labeled a criminal. Tell me where the fairness lies in that.”
“Fairness?” Carolyn cried in incredulity, a shake of her head noting her disapproval at the childish ideal. “Society is not about fairness, but rather the gold tiers that the minorities use to suppress the majority that threaten their privilege. You know this as well as any, if not more so; why do you insist upon this juvenile principle of Fairness?” She placed her cup onto its saucer with a soft tinkle of porcelain on porcelain, somehow abhorrently feminine in its daintiness. “Really, Douglas. Speak plain. What has happened?”
A few seconds ticked by in which Douglas attempted to conjure up a way to deflect, but this was Carolyn, who was far too intelligent and stubborn for her sex. “A boy was caught in my bed by a servant while I was in Italy. Rumours spread. I do not believe they’ve followed me, however I do not wish to take that risk. Lord Masters was in the room beside me, and the night before I had stumbled upon him and an even prettier thing conducting themselves rather lewdly outside his door, without fear of servant’s eyes.
“Such boldness disgusts me. It is not a sign of courage amongst deviants, but a display of grotesque conceit.”
“You silly little men with your silly little problems,” Carolyn sighed, “Whenever will you learn to leave things be? I assume now you will wish for us to be seen in public.”
“It is doubtful it would be believed given your current preoccupation with Lord Shipwright, but yes.”
“Get that edge out of your voice, Douglas, one might mistake it for jealousy. If you are allowed your beaus, then I should be allowed mine. Hypocrisy is falling out of fashion, you know.”
Douglas could not contain a snort of derision. “There will never come a time in which hypocrisy is not the fashion. Perhaps it will be frowned upon in polite society, but always will it be our most profound internal pleasure. There is no changing human nature.”
“Soon enough, your cynicism will become contagious. Do take care of yourself, Douglas.” She rose as he did, extending a white hand to gently flit across his cheek, the motion betraying all the worry that she encased within the farthest corners of her bosom. Easily he felt that transfer of emotion in their contact and, briefly, did a bubble of regret tinge his mind.
However, as Carolyn dropped her hand, the moment passed; neutrality reentered her features and haughty apathy his; things were as they should be. “Don’t worry, darling, I always do.” He pressed a kiss into her knuckles with much flourish before taking his leave. Carolyn watched the door slam shut behind him, wondering about the depravity of the situation.
8 June 18-
Carolyn -- Do not keep this note, please dispose of it upon reading. I have full intentions upon exposing myself, for it is late, and I am drunk, despite all of my previous convictions. The feeling is not one that I relish and it leaves me with a question: what on Earth had I seen in such a state in the first place? Perhaps I am not drunk enough.
You see, my favorite servant has just left me. Deserted me, I should say, for his quarters are now empty, devoid entirely of any small facet that would betray that once it was occupied by a roguishly handsome boy, whom I never failed to delight in. What it especially does not hold is any scrap of paper upon which I may have scribbled my indecency. There is no other situation to assume but the worst. I fear to view the morning paper in the case that my ruin shall be on display, for all of England and Her socialites to see, and I flinch from every sound should it become that of a fleet of brute men under the guise of the Metropolitan Police uniform coming to whisk me away to prison.
I do not know what I should do now. Hire another servant and wait out the inevitable, I suppose. There is only one thing that I am certain on and that is concerning the future treatment of the lower classes in my household. In a word: shan’t. In eight words: I shan’t get involved with any of them.
Oh God, I am a ruined man. I promise that your name shall remain untainted; I would not dare breathe a word of your knowledge under penalty of death.
Ever your friend, Douglas Richardson.
9 June 18-
My Douglas -- I do hope you have pulled yourself together since that last correspondence. Anyone who did not know you would mistake the letter writer for that of a hysterical woman, screeching and paranoid. Normally if such acts against your person are to be committed, there will first be a request to bury the matter under an impressive sum of money, and therein will lay your chance to vanish it. If a request does not appear, then more likely he simply acquired an interested party to ease his ascension into our ranks; haven’t you heard of John Gray? Of course you have. No doubt your little Adonis has followed in such footsteps.
Honestly, Douglas, I would not panic were I you. You were designed for a life of unheeded leisure and this stress could be quite detrimental to your health. Might I suggest a soothing visit to a Turkish bath to ease your mind?
Always Yours in Need, Carolyn Knapp-Shappey.
P.S. I shall also be holding you to your word of a lack of involvement with your lower classes. I’d give you a month, but that would be generous. You could do well to hire less tempting specimens but I suppose that would go against your nature. A bet, then, that in a fortnight you shall no doubt find some cause to fall back upon this pledge.
The next time Carolyn saw Douglas was at his place of residence for an ‘intimate get-together amongst a few close friends’. In actuality it was a hodge-podge spectacle of the most influential of the acquaintances that Douglas had made over the years - a magistrate, the son of an earl, a duke and his duchess. To give substance to such a distinguished guest list were a few blurry faced bankers with grey names like John Smith and an overly flamboyant magazine editor with a name like Artemis or Achilles. And in the midst of it all stood Douglas, a gross facsimile of joy and excitement that disgusted in its exaggeration. “Oh, my sweet, sweet darling!” He exclaimed, sweeping her into his arms to brush his lips against her cheek in a manner that could easily be mistaken for sensuality. “I am so glad you could make it.”
“You know that I am a slave to your little bashes, Douglas – I couldn’t resist, even if I desired.”
Introductions began, long and tedious, and by the end of it all everyone was worn out but attempting to cover this by gorging themselves upon the wine and cheese provided; all of the guests, besides Carolyn, were utterly given to that great vice, Alcohol, and therefore she alone could read the worry in the face of their host, hidden underneath each complicated layer.
When Carolyn could bear it all no longer, she stood, and gripped Douglas’ arm with an iron fist. “I have only to clear up a matter or two with our kind patron privately. I hope you all will forgive me for taking some of our time with him for my own.”
“Only if your intentions are immoral!” cried one from the crowd, most likely Apollo the editor. A lewd roar erupted in the wake of this distasteful comment but already Carolyn was shutting the door, closing them off from the realm of oppression and internalization, if only for a moment.
“I have never seen you submit yourself to such degradation before.”
“Then you do not know me as you think you do,” Douglas snapped, all pretense of enjoyment utterly evaporated. “Look, I only desired to know if any rumours had been going around, to make sure the air is clear before I hire a new servant.”
“You haven’t hired a new one yet?” Carolyn gasped. “How many do you have in total?”
“Not enough, certainly. With such an awful mess being perpetrated by these drunken louts, I fear that I may have to stoop so low as to have need of assisting the servants myself!” Sighing, the privileged gentleman ran a hand over his face, as if the action could somehow aid in steadying his dismay.
Carolyn took the hand within her own, not as an intimate connection, but rather a maternal one, and Douglas readily accepted the comfort. “Has there been talk of anything?”
“No, there has not. The advertisement will be placed in tomorrow’s morning papers.”
“See? All is well, as I’ve said. Life goes on.” Their hands unclasped, falling limply to their respective sides. “Now we should return to the main room, before the thoughts of your guests become any more improper than has already occurred.”
“Of course. But…” Lingering upon the door knob, Douglas did not yet open the door for her, and a sense of hesitance entered his features, not as a deliberate sense for effect, but rather that of a gracelessness that was not common for him. “Might I just first make it known that if you were planning upon making Lord Shipwright the happiest of men then you have my utmost support, and would of course extend my courtesies as far as necessary, particularly in the form of a celebration.”
“Selflessness does not suit you, Douglas,” was her immediate response, the normal amount of indifference that the pair had become accustomed to use with one another. “But…thank you.”
Douglas nodded and opened the door for her.
FOR a distinguished gentleman, bachelor, in need of a younger male servant to obey his every whim and fancies. Requirements include an understanding of bed and toilet sets, and a distinct flair for the fashionable. No references necessary. Address 5 Durham Road.
The knock on the door was heard at the exact moment that Douglas had concluded breakfast. Given that the morning paper had only been released for an hour or so, thethought that the caller was an applicant did not even cross his mind when the footman arrived and said, “A young man to see you, sir. He was most insistent.”
“Did you show him into the sitting room?”
“No, I left him in the hall. I think you will understand why upon introduction.”
Ignoring this remark, Douglas made his way towards his front door, to find the man who waited. No older than mid-twenties, pale with a smattering of red hair that seemed exotic against the usual backdrop of dark and golden heads, Douglas found the entirety of his world overturned.
Upon closer inspection, one could see the frayed state of the old clothes, stained beyond repair from constant usage, and smell a slight pungent odor that river water could never wash away. But it did not matter to Douglas because this was the One, the Idol, the Muse. “M-my name is Martin Crieff, a-and I’m here about the valet position-“
“You’re hired,” Douglas interjected, without even realizing that he had said it until the words rang back through his ears and lingered on the expression of shock upon Martin’s face. It might have been comical had his knees not felt so weak, jelly under the gaze of hungry eyes.
“A-are you sure? I-I-I-"
“Positive. Remy,” Douglas called to his footman, without taking his eyes off of Martin, squirming uncomfortably under the unwavering attention. “Take Martin to the kitchen and give him some breakfast. Anything that he wants. Then call him a cab, so he can go home and pack. He starts work immediately.”
As if Fate itself had decided to strike a blow against his resolve, Martin threw himself upon his knees and grasped Douglas’ hands in his own, bringing them to those perfect lips, molded by Cupid himself. “Oh thank you, bless you, sir! I-I shall not disappoint you!”
“I don’t doubt that,” Douglas breathed as Remy dragged the emotional man away, his face already flushed from a slew of grateful tears. It wasn’t until Martin was out of sight that Douglas retreated into his bedroom to succumb to the wave of desire that left him utterly breathless.
20 June 18-
Oh Carolyn -- You shall mock me viciously for this output of emotion but so far I cannot think of any other outlet that I have, without making known my state of perturbation to the party it concerns. It occurred during my search for a replacement valet; the first of the applicants arrived after breakfast, a young man by the name of Martin Crieff. As you know, I resolved that thus far I should not become involved with any of my servants, which would have been left unfettered had not the earth moved out from under my feet.
Perhaps this is due to my disinclination towards conformity. God knows how I had begun to fear that bleak gray expanse of monotonous normalcy looming over my head. It was in this state that I first saw his face, and I swear to you that it was in that countenance that I saw Divinity.
I am sure that you tire of this drivel, my dear Carolyn, but you must be aware of the depth of emotion that this young incubus has wrought within me. I hired him upon sight and care not for the quality of his work, which is lackluster at best, but instead for the earnestness with which it is done, which delights me so much more.
I may have been able to carry out my resolution were it not for this man out of all coming to my doorstep, as now I cannot bare to lie when I have beheld such truth.
25 June: I have been Mister Richardson’s valet for five days now and it has been a godsend. Any other master would have thrown me out onto the street by now, for the amount of times I’ve accidentally set out brown shows with a black suit, or forgot to sharpen the razor. But instead of being chucked, Mister Richardson just takes one look at me and goes, “That’s alright, Martin,” in a long, drawn breath, almost sad. I don’t know why he keeps me, or why I should create such sadness within him. I guess he just pities how pathetic I am, like a stray dog or an orphan (with the latter one not being too far off the mark, certainly).
Mister Richardson even wants me to call him by his Christian name: Douglas! I shan’t – I do not deserve it – I am but a mere servant, so he shall forever be ‘Mister Richardson’ or ‘Sir’. But I have found that now suggested, it has planted itself inside of my brain, so that it is always on the tip of my tongue. ‘Yes, Douglas’, ‘Of course, Douglas’. But how improper! Without propriety I should have nothing going for me at all. It has become a struggle, though, between how I ought to act, and how I want to act. Mister Richardson doesn’t make this easy either, as it is rather well known amongst the other servants, who have taken it as their duty to inform and warn me, that he is a “deviant”. Speaking ill of one’s employer, though, can lead to nothing but trouble, in my opinion, and the talk left a rather sour residue within my mouth. Particularly due to Mister Richardson’s kindness and generosity. How could a man so inherently good be considered a fiend? I postulated this to Remy, the footman, who merely snorted derisively in response. “What?” I insisted.
“Just wait until he bores of you,” was all I could wrangle out of him. I do not know what, precisely, is meant by this remark, but it does cling to my mind as an ever present fear of my inevitable dismissal. Thankfully, Mister Richardson pays me an incredible wage for my position which, along with the comfort of lodgings and meals, allows for small luxuries and still leaving a considerable sum towards a contingency fund, lest I find myself on my own once more.
I pray each night that such a fate will not fall upon me, though. Never have I felt such comfort in a job, and slowly I find my ever so tense nerves easing. Mister Richardson has placed me upon the receiving end of three compliments so far during my employment and it has filled me with such a warmth that I had never felt before or since. I fear to lose this.
“You are absolutely ridiculous.”
Douglas was fanning himself with a yellow silk piece, to match the light suit he wore to lounge while Carolyn stood over him, impressive in her discipline. “Oh, come, Carolyn. It’s much too hot for argument.”
“Buck up your effeminate sensibilities and listen. If you continue on this road it will lead to your own destruction.” Taking the fan from Douglas’ hand, she forced the distracting movement to cease, pressing a finger against his lips to silence his protests. “Do not touch that boy. Do not touch any more boys, at least until the papers switch their focus to another imagined immorality. Otherwise, you will be disgraced.”
“Do not speak to me about disgrace,” snapped Douglas, all pretense of nonchalance evaporated in an instant. “I carry my disgrace with me each and every day, and the only worth of doing so is if I risk everything. If I do not, then these feelings are for nothing, an imagined disgrace, which is ever the more shameful and futile.”
“Is it? Is it truly? Or is that merely your convoluted logic to justify your crimes?”
These words rested upon the air, the density of the humidity serving as a support. Douglas nearly leapt out of his perch upon the sitting room sofa, as if the floral woven upholstery had burned him. “My crimes?”
“I merely meant-"
“Could you possibly be referring to the love and passion I feel that is in accordance with the most base of human nature?”
“Your actions, however natural, are illegal. That is all that I meant.”
The next statement was breathed, barely audible had Douglas not stepped forward, staring into Carolyn’s eyes. “Do you think me a criminal?”
“You know I do not-"
“-but, as Arthur is returning home for the rest of his long vacation within the week, such an influence as yours might possibly make an unfavorable impression, particularly if met through the medium of seedy scandal headlines.”
Carolyn watched as Douglas pulled away from her, snatching back his fan with such a force that white lines of scraped skin appeared upon her hand, the pure color tainted with a brilliant red after a heartbeat. “So, you are ashamed of me.”
“You’re twisting my words now.”
“No, I am interpreting them correctly! Do not attempt to claim that it was not your ulterior motive in this ‘little chat’ – I shame you. Leave now, so that you can keep the dignified reputation that my association has apparently just begun to blacken.”
By this time, Douglas had fallen back to the windowsill on the other edge of the room; once again, the fan fluttered open with the whisper of silk against the hot air. “Please, Douglas-"
Picking up her skirts, Carolyn obliged, with as much control as her shaken demeanor allowed. Listening to her footsteps retreat, culminating into the creak of a door opening and closing, Douglas refused to move until silence was restored. His heart rushed into his ears, soft and quick, the noise hot inside the internal drums. “Sir?”
And there stood Temptation himself, fawn eyes reflecting the innocence that vanished from Douglas’ mind by his mere presence, hands outstretched slightly gracelessly, but nonetheless perfect simply by its connection to the body of his personal Dorian. “Do you need anything, sir? Would…would you like anything, sir?”
Those eyes, those pure eyes clear as water, became a mirror – Douglas watched himself stalk forward, a predator stalking its prey – and the heat was then embraced as the weather’s consent to these passions. “As a matter of fact, Martin, there is something I would like.”
30 June 18-
My darling Douglas -- I am left entirely at your mercy. I can only pray that you will be willing to accept my sincerest apologies. Forgive me my maternal instinct – but, at the risk of further insult, I can only say that you cannot possibly understand the frame of mind that one has after having a child. Arthur is my darling, born of my own flesh, and I will stop at nothing to protect him. However, I do realize that at times, I run the risk of paranoia, and that is what I am apologizing for. In my paranoia, I have wounded you, and that is what plagues me.
The only way I can prove that truly I do not mind your influence upon my Arthur, is that I beg you to call upon me at your leisure in the month. He is home most times so you will not have to worry about calling when he is out. I believe he would enjoy and benefit from your company immensely.
I miss you.
Ever Lovingly, Carolyn Knapp-Shappey.
30 June: I have failed to record life in the Richardson household for the past few days as I have been conflicted over whether this is such a thing that should be written about. But how can I not? This is meant to be a space to stash my secret feelings, a necessity to maintain myself during the very emotional and nerve-wracking time periods of my last area of employment, as well as being unemployed. Now I do not fear hysteria but rather that my chest might burst if I do not confide within these emotionless pages.
I can no longer be known for my propriety. I had always thought those stories of servants intimately connected to the gentlefolk that hired them were mainly perpetuated by gossipers in need of a good scandal to dramatize their lives – but now I see that it can happen. It has happened. And I do not know how I should feel about what has been done.
Perhaps I should simply narrate what occurred. Mister Richardson had a visitor over, one Ms. Carolyn Knapp-Shappey, who he apparently has had a long and distinguished past with. He did not require my assistance but I stayed outside the door all the same - why I should do such a thing rather than enjoy a break, I do not know, only that I did not particularly wish to be separated from my kindly patron – and therefore caught snippets of an argument that broke out between them. I could not follow, precisely, what the argument was about (Mister Richardson, a criminal? No, there had to be a mistake), only that Ms. Knapp-Shappey had said something that offended Mister Richardson to the point where he ordered her to leave.
I hid behind a tapestry when she left, but I doubt that I needed to do so, as she was so distracted that she probably would not have noticed my presence anyway. I waited until I heard Remy lead her out of the house, before I approached my master, standing at the parlor window with a silk fan in hand. Anyone unacquainted with the man and the situation might have described his state as ‘nonchalant’ or ‘careless’ but as he turned to respond to my initial query, I could tell that such words were wholly inappropriate. Desolation entered my soul at the depth of sorrow resting in his expression. I continued in my questions, for I did not think he heard me the first time, despite the stillness of the house.
It is here that Mister Richardson engaged me in The Action. Previously, I had imagined many different scenarios in which I would show my utmost gratitude towards his hospitality, some more affectionate than others, but never had any of my dreams encapsulated such intimacy…
I shall throw caution to the wind, for my heart simply cannot bear to hold all this within me. Mister Richardson kissed me upon the mouth, not the chaste kisses that close friends share, but something that holds within it a promise of the closest communion. At first, I did not know what to say or do – I merely allowed it to happen, feeling the way his lips moved against mine, and wondering about all these feelings that suddenly arose – but as he pulled away, the fear within his face frightened me terribly. “Do you not like this?” Mister Richardson gasped, attempting to piece it together as something that did not matter. But I realized then what it was that he was asking of me, and why he should look so afraid at my lack of reciprocation.
“I…I merely was unsure of what you were asking, Mister Richardson,” I said, eyes cast down, remembering that one of my employers had mentioned that it was impolite to look them in the face. “I was waiting to be told what it was that you liked.”
Mister Richardson pulled me close, and whispered his desires in my ear, of which I blush to merely think of, and have not yet the strength of will to quantify them with my pen. We retreated to his room, locking the door behind us – and within those four walls, I came to realize that love and affection is all that matters.
This reminds me of the time that I roomed with someone who told me that each night, he went to the owner of the house, and laid with him. There had been scandals in the newspaper, and the only reason he had told me was that if he had kept it to himself any longer, the anxiety would have killed him. At the time, I did not understand, and merely told him that I hoped it would not be so, and went to sleep.
Now, I understand. I understand why he would bring such stress upon himself with what I had previously considered as mere rebellion against the law, and why he felt the need to tell me. It is a lonely thing to find such closeness and not be able to breathe a word of it to anyone; yet all I want to do is cry out all from the towers, in a fit of utter shamelessness.
Perhaps I should feel guilt from the illegality of our actions, but instead I merely feel satiation and complacency.