Wednesday, 1 June 2016

Chapter 4: “Every circus lion has a tamer!”

British Museum Underground Station

Edmund Molloy, a journalist at the Daily Courier longs for more interesting assignments than the obituaries he seems condemned to writing.  Having been thrown over by his intended, Agnes, despite her performing an intimate act upon him, he is taken by his friend, William Britten, to the Babylon Exploration Society, a high class bordello run by Madame Nathalie, where he loses his virginity to a beautiful Japanese girl, Hoshimi.

“I wish you would wipe that self-satisfied grin off your face, Molloy, you are making me feel quite sick!” said old McCandless, in the office, the following morning. I had not expected McCandless to be in The Courier's offices in Fleet Street at all; it was far too early. Did he, as some of the others joked, live upstairs in a secret flat equipped with listening apparatus so that he knew everything we said about him? “I much prefer your usual vague look of bafflement at the world around you.” McCandless, with his Scottish burr, always managed to get four syllables into the word ‘world’. “Good grief, man, you look like you are actually thinking about something other than trashy novels. I suppose it’s a wee lassie!” I know that I blushed. 

“Well, uh, you see...” I stammered, my face burning.  Ever since I was a young boy I have been plagued by the fact that I blush far too easily. My pale complexion just serves to emphasise the florid colour my face turns when embarrassed or otherwise caught out. I could feel myself colouring then, as some of the sub-editors looked on in amusement.

“Well, as you have been haranguing me about better assignments I now have one for ye! Not that you deserve it, mind! The famous naturalist Professor Challenor is making a speech at the Museum of Natural History tomorrow evening. He claims he is going to make some startling announcement about ancient reptiles. My information is that most of the scientific community in London think the man is deluded, if not a little touched in the head. You see, I dinnae want to hold a half page for nothing but nor do I want to miss a genuine story, in the remote possibility that there is one. I want you to go and see him before his lecture to get an idea of what he is going to say. Here is his address.” He handed me a scrap of paper with an address in Bloomsbury upon it.

“Thank you sir! Thank you so much!” I said. Proper journalism at last!

“Oh, and he canna bear journalists and will not see you if you introduce yourself as such, you ken?” McCandless continued. “I dinnae care how you do it but get to him and let me know if we need to reserve some space in the audience. Tickets have almost sold out. And Molloy, I suggest you go home, wash, shave and change before you visit the Professor’s house. You look and smell like a tramp. Someone might think that you had been up all night doing what we won’t go into, although from your jovial demeanour I can guess. Run along now and for pity’s sake stop smiling!” He stomped back into his glass walled office.

“First time, eh Molloy?” asked the odious Pitts. “Did she have very thick spectacles? Was she plain, dumpy and a desperate thirty years old? Or perhaps you had to pay? Spending the imagined money from your imagined novel, already!”

“I did not have to pay!” I replied truthfully. “Surely it wasn’t the saintly Agnes?” chipped in Jones. “The blonde Angel. I can’t imagine her getting up to anything sordid. Well, I can, actually. Oh yes! Splendid!”

“Oh, oh, oh Edmund! Oh! Have you finished so soon?” said Pitts.

“Shut up Cess,” I said using his hated nickname. “I had a wonderful night last night and you can sneer all you like!” I said.

“Stop gabbing and get back to work!” shouted McCandless from inside his office. I scuttled off gratefully.

Back in my flat in Shepherd’s Bush I was excited by the prospect of my first proper job at the newspaper for months. I only got assignments like this if someone was ill or otherwise engaged. I quickly stripped and ran a bath. Perhaps someone had turned this job down. Well, I didn’t care! It was better than writing obituaries of the not yet deceased. As I looked down at my body an image of Madame Nathalie applying her mouth to my manhood came into my mind. Then one of Agnes and then Hoshimi. I was instantly erect. I took hold of myself and gave myself a couple of gentle strokes. I cupped my ballocks. Women had made them spill their seed three times yesterday. What a day it had been! I wondered about continuing until I spent but that would be odd so early in the day. Last thing at night, as an aid to sleep, was one thing. I stood up and looked at the reflection of myself and my tumescent member in the large mirror opposite the bath, over my wash hand basin. Yesterday, my manhood had been inside the mouths of three women and inside the private parts of one of them. I would never have dreamed of such events. My reflection caressed himself once more. I shook myself out of my erotic stupor and prepared to shave.

I made myself some tea and had some toast and marmalade as a late breakfast and got dressed. First thing, the amount of alcohol I had consumed last night had left me with something of a hangover, although I have always been able to handle drink well. My father always told me that the trick was to eschew coffee and drink lots of water. When we left the Babylon Exploration Society early that morning, Britten had kindly booked us a couple of rooms at the Ritz, although he said he would pick up the cost of both of our three guinea rooms, thank goodness. I drank most of the jug of drinking water on the bedside table before sleeping, perforce naked, given I had no pyjamas and, as a result, did not feel too bad in the morning. There had been no sign of Britten and when I checked at reception I was told I didn’t need to make any payment, much to my relief. I assumed he would appear later and had set off to the Courier’s offices in Fleet Street.

I sat for half an hour and started jotting down my recollections of my erotic adventures. I had bought a dozen blank journals about six months ago with plans to start working on my novel. Now, I sat and wrote about things which I thought could never be published although I did think that Britten might enjoy them at some point. Perhaps not now, as he seemed rather put out at my adventures the previous day. I must try to be sensitive and not look, as McCandless had suggested, so pleased with myself.

I set off to Earl’s Court station to take the Underground to British Museum station, which was close to the Challenor’s house in Bloomsbury Square. As we rattled along I pondered how I was going to actually gain entrance to his house, my mind full of the remonstrations I had received when trying to enter Mr Cardwell’s residence. There would be no Agnes to intercede on my behalf here. As I walked up Southampton Place towards Bloomsbury Square my adventures of the previous night flooded back to me once more but superimposed on them was a vivid, imagined, mental picture of a naked Agnes, spreading her thighs for me as I prepared to plunge into her dripping depths. I now knew exactly what it felt like. My fantasy of it with Agnes was now embellished with elements of heat and wetness I had not included before in my imaginings.

I wished I had spilled my seed that morning, now, because by the time I reached the black door of Challenor’s imposing house I was uncomfortably erect again. I stood before the steps up to his door, gazing at the white stone arched surround of the dwelling’s entrance and tried to calm myself down. My general level of fearful anticipation helped in this. Robinson, from Sports, who I had met as I left the office that morning, had delightedly informed me that Challenor had actually physically assaulted two journalists who had tried to waylay him outside his house over some comment he had made about the French, which had upset the country’s ambassador in London. The police were called and he was lucky not to have been charged.

Ancient reptiles, McCandless had said. I suspected that he was talking of dinosaurs, a subject about which I knew very little. Recently, however, I had taken Agnes to Crystal Palace one crisp afternoon and we had looked at the monstrous sculptures in the park there. The sight of these prehistoric creatures in a natural environment had made a great impression on me but really I was focussed rather more on the close presence of Agnes who had taken my arm as we walked. No sign then of her forthcoming, perfidious rejection of me. She was all smiles and physical closeness. What a turncoat!

I took a deep breath, my person now having returned to its normal proportions, climbed the three white steps and knocked boldly on the large brass doorknocker. There was no response. I counted to ten and tried again. Still no response. I counted to twenty and tried once more. This time I could just hear something inside. I waited, holding my breath and then the door opened slowly and a lugubrious looking butler stood before me, his drooping jowls and large baggy eyes giving him the appearance of a tired old hound.

“Yes?” he drawled.

“I have come to see Professor Challenor!” I announced.

“Yes? And who might you be? Do you have an appointment?” he looked at me in a way that indicated he knew full well that I didn’t have an appointment.

“No.” I began but he was already closing the door. “Wait!” I cried, an inspiration striking me. “Wait! I am from the Natural History Museum in Kensington!” I said. “I have come about Professor Challenor’s lecture tomorrow evening. There are administrative arrangements to be finalised!

“Administrative?” asked the butler.

“Arrangements!” I confirmed. He stood there for fully fifteen seconds, looking down his nose at me. He sighed.

 “I suppose you had better enter!” he said. “However, Professor Challenor is currently engaged and may be some time!”

“I am happy to wait!” I declared, as he reluctantly held the door open for me. I stepped into a large square hallway, some twenty five feet on a side, decorated with paintings of exotic wildlife and several mounted heads of antelope and jungle cats. A large aspidistra sat in a brass planter at the bottom of the stairs which led up to an open landing. There were some small tables around the edges of the room on which sat a number of ethnic looking objects which reminded me of the Babylon Exploration Society. Oh dear, I thought, I must control myself.

“The professor is in his study!” he nodded towards a door on the left at the rear of the hallway, as he took my hat and coat. “You may wait here until he is free!” I nodded gratefully and looked for a chair but there wasn’t one. “Do I detect an Irish accent?”

“Yes, indeed. Molloy. Edmund Molloy!” I held out my hand. The Butler curled his lip and pointedly did not take it.

“I know the exact position of every object in this entrance hall, Mr Molloy. Just remember that!” he intoned.

“To be sure, sor, I will try to control me natural thievin’ instincts in such a place!” I joked. Did he think I might try and stuff an ibex head into my pocket? He sneered and withdrew into a side door and I was left standing alone in the hall. I occupied myself for a few minutes looking at the paintings, the elephant’s foot umbrella stand, which was full of broken umbrellas, and the other objects in the hall. I looked at my pocket watch and realised I had only been there five minutes. It seemed like an eternity. Glancing around, in case I incurred the wrath of the bloodhound like butler, I edged to the rear of the hallway, under the stairs, where I spied a display case, as you find in museums. As I approached it I realised I could hear sounds emanating from the Professor’s study to my immediate left. Gasping, moaning and grunting. Until last night I would not have been entirely sure what they were but now I knew them to be the sounds of passion.

Hoshimi had been rather quiet as I took her the previous night; her passion being indicated by her rapid breathing alone. Britten had later told me that the Orientals were rather more restrained in their behaviour, which is why he preferred the girls from Northern Europe. “That Anna. She barks like a dog when you get her going!” he had said as we walked to the Ritz at about one thirty in the morning. I had heard plenty of sounds of passion from behind closed doors in the Babylon Exploration Society as the members explored foreign parts. I smiled at the memory. At one point, as I took a break from Hoshimi’s charms to find a water closet, I am sure that I spied Lord James Hoxton stalking down the corridor. Surely a man of his reputation would not need to pay for his female companionship? He was a notorious lothario, after all; cutting a swathe through London’s beauties as if they were the helpless targets of his hunting rifle. When I quizzed Britten he refused to discuss the subject; maintaining it was a Society rule not to discuss other members.

Whoever was inside with Professor Challenor, if it was indeed him and not some wayward footmen with the parlour maid, was giving good voice.“Oh George! That’s it! That’s it!” cried a woman. I could now, as I crept up to the door, discern a rhythmic slapping sound as well. Challenor, for it must be he, as he was certainly called George, responded by grunting like a pig. I looked down at the keyhole. I bit my lip and looked back into the main hall. There was no one in sight. I squatted down quickly and peered through the keyhole but it was blocked, obviously by the key inserted from the other side. I stood up and took a step back as ‘George’ started a low growling that increased in noise and pitch into a terrifying crescendo like the arrival of an express train. The woman shrieked and there was silence. After a brief pause there was the sound of a kiss and the female voice said: “That was quite excellent, George. Shall I arrange for some tea?”

Worried about whoever the woman was, emerging from the room, I carefully and silently crossed the entrance hall and stood looking out of the window onto Bloomsbury Square, with as much of an air of innocence as I could conjure up. A very pretty young woman was walking past with a white poodle on a lead. She caught me looking at her and smiled, her dark eyes peering from beneath the brim of her chestnut coloured hat. I smiled back and she nodded before leading her poodle out of sight, although not before I had registered the enticing sway of her hips. Suddenly, women seemed to be noticing me. Could they tell that I was now a man not a boy? Surely not. However, I decided that the pursuit of beautiful women was to be my new calling in life.

I heard a key turning in the lock and spun around to see the door of the study opening and a delicate woman emerging dressed in a simple white blouse with watch fob and dark blue skirt. She was in her late thirties or early forties, I supposed, with light brown hair tied loosely on top of her head. She was a striking looking woman with large well defined lips, a fine, delicate nose and flashing hazel eyes. She was petite, not much more than five feet two inches tall, but possessing beguiling curves, particularly in her upper body. Her shape was quite different from that of Hoshimi even though, I supposed, their height was similar. I thought that she might not be wearing a corset. A modern woman, then. She was patently not a servant despite her plain dress.

“Good afternoon, young man? Have you come to see George?” She gave me a lovely smile and I smiled back.

“Edmund Molloy, ma’am!” I said, taking a step towards her. “Natural History Museum.”

“Ah! Really? Oh, well, you must be here to talk about my husband’s lecture tomorrow, I suppose. I am Edith Challenor.” She extended her hand and I took it and squeezed gently.

“Delighted!” I said. A strong reek of what I now recognised as intimate female odour wafted into my nostrils. I tried not to react but I must have as she grinned at me and winked.

 “Now I was just going to arrange for some tea. I always like a cup of tea afterwards. Would you...?” she began but was interrupted by Professor Challenor erupting from his study like a gorilla from the depths of the African jungle.

“And who the devil are you?" he roared.  "And why are you inside my house? And why are you speaking to my wife?”  One thing I was to learn about Professor Challenor was that he had quite the loudest voice I have ever experienced.

“I, er...” I began but was interrupted by him stomping across the tiles, grabbing the back of the waistband of my trousers and bundling me towards the door.

“Out! Out! Out!” he cried. “Mason!” he roared. The lugubrious butler immediately appeared through the door at the side of the hall. “This man is just leaving! Door!” Mason scooted in front of me and opened the front door, literally tossing my hat and coat at me, which I grabbed out of the air employing the skills I had developed upon the rugby field.

“But Professor Challenor, I am here from the...argh!” I cried, as he had grabbed one of the broken umbrellas from the elephant’s foot and started beating me about the head. Then he shoved me in the back so forcefully that I was propelled through the front door and tripped and tumbled down the steps onto the pavement. I landed clumsily on my behind and thought that I might have turned an ankle in the process.

“Now then, now then,” said a voice and I looked up at a pair of midnight blue clad legs to see a police constable standing over me. “What’s goin’...?”

“Nothing! Nothing at all, constable!” I said standing up quickly, to demonstrate that I was not injured, even though I thought I probably was, as my ankle twinged.

“Constable this man is an intruder and I suggest you arrest him immediately!” said Challenor from his front door step.

“And he is Irish!” added Mason, looking at me triumphantly. “Perhaps he should be searched!”

“Now, now, Professor Challenor, I do hope that I won’t have to report another altercation with an innocent member of the public. You cannot go about throwing people down your steps like bags of coal!” said the policeman.

“It’s quite alright, constable,” I said, quickly. “We were merely acting out a potential problem regarding the stage that Professor Challenor is speaking from at the Natural History Museum tomorrow. I was demonstrating how he might inadvertently tumble off the stage if he was not careful. Unfortunately, I slipped myself, as you saw. Molloy. Edmund Molloy. Natural History Museum, Kensington.” I held out my hand, which the constable took and shook firmly.

“See, everything is quite alright! Edmund was just about to take tea with us. Please see to it, Mason!” said Mrs Challenor.

“Of course, ma’am,” said Mason, glaring at me.

 “Do come back inside, Edmund. Come along George. Thank you, constable!” She hustled Professor Challenor and myself inside and closed the door, as the constable continued on his beat. She leant back against the inside of the front door and took a deep breath and let it out slowly. “You are lucky, George! Very lucky, that this nice young man covered for you just then. There are laws about assaulting people and I do not want to see you in prison. After all what would I then do about...? Well, you know!” She glanced at me and smiled and this time I did manage to keep a stony face. She really was a very attractive woman and I wondered what she saw in Challenor. It must be something from this secret sexual world, I reasoned. “Now this man is from the Natural History Museum and is here to discuss arrangements regarding your lecture tomorrow. Do not upset him further! Just remember the difficulty we had in getting any institution to host you. The Royal Zoological Society would not have you, don’t forget, because of your reputation for causing trouble and general uproar. The Royal Society was the same. And as for the Royal Geographical Society! Well! Their comments were most disrespectful! We will soon be reduced to you giving your lectures at Covent Garden Market, with all the vegetables!”

“Most of those at my lectures might as well be vegetables for all the sense they have! Why at my talk on elasmosaurs two months ago that dolt Somersby said...”

“That is enough, George! Now let this young man into your study and stop barking at him!” Grudgingly, Challenor showed me towards his study. I glanced at the display case on the way in and saw that it was full of fossils.

“You can name them, of course!” he growled.

“Ah, well!” I stammered. “Not really my field but some nice ammonites, from Lyme Regis, perhaps. A trilobite. The famous Dudley bug!” I said referring to the town in the West Midland where many such fossils have been found. “And surely that is a tooth of an Iguanodon?” I said, indicating the large triangular fossil in the corner of the cabinet and remembering the names of some of the creatures depicted at Crystal Palace. I later discovered that it was nothing of the sort but was the tooth of a giant extinct shark named Carcharodon something.

“Hmm!” said Challenor, but let me enter his study, which was quite the most untidy room I had ever seen in my life. The walls were all book shelves but not with the volumes all nicely arrayed but with random piles of books piled vertically and horizontally and sometimes both in the same untidy stack. Every surface, including the floor, was covered in piles of more books, boxes, sheets of paper, bones, fossils, tools, shoes, microscopes, bottles, glasses, plates covered with half eaten food and small skeletons of birds in glass cases. Challenor sat down in a large, worn leather chair next to the fire, which was unlit, and stared at me. There was another chair opposite. There was a strong musky smell in the room which I recognised from the person of Mrs Challenor. “Well don’t just stand there like the idiot you undoubtedly are! Sit down, you fool!” I looked at the chair and attempted to pick up the pile of books and papers strewn across the seat in one go. Halfway to placing them on the floor the pile collapsed in my hands and tumbled onto the worn Persian carpet like a pack of cards. “Oh good grief! How difficult is it to pick something up without dropping it! Even my wife can do that!”

“I... I’m so sorry!” I said trying to reassemble the pile on the floor, to no avail.

“Leave, leave them, you buffoon!” barked Challenor. “Sit and tell me why you are here! Then depart!” I sat in the leather chair and looked at Challenor properly. He had a large head with a protruding brow ridge and thick bushy black eyebrows. He had rather longer hair than was fashionable and a huge bushy black beard that spread over his chest. His torso was massive and compared with his rather short legs, appeared to have come from another body entirely, rather in the manner of Frankenstein’s creature. Although his legs were short his thighs were huge and stretched his grey tweed trouser legs to their full circumference. His eyes were coal black and were fixing me with a most aggressive stare. I looked down at the floor in consternation and immediately saw a pair of woman’s drawers on the rug, partly under the chair on which Challenor was sitting. Was that where they had just been...?” I looked back up at him. Fortunately, he seemed to be unaware of his wife’s underthings on his floor. “Well come on! Come on! Spit it out! I haven’t got all day!”

“Ah, well, professor, the Museum would like to know the key points of your lecture in advance, you see. So we can ensure that we get the right people invited...”

“What?” he roared. “The day before my lecture and you have yet to invite anyone! I told your Professor George that...” It was my turn to interrupt him.

“No of course we have already invited many distinguished people. It is a sell out, in fact. But for you to make the maximum impact we need to brief the press tonight to make sure that they send reporters...”

“Reporters? Reporters?” He stood up from his chair and I contemplated making a dash for the door. “What use will they be? You might as well get some drooling cretins from Bedlam to attend. Their level of comprehension will be just as acute!” The door opened and Mrs Challenor entered, followed by Mason with the tea. I was relieved to say the least. “Edith, this idiot has just suggested that I invite reporters to my lecture! Reporters! Scribbling away with their blunt pencils and blunt minds!

“Well, I think that is a very good idea, George. What you are about to announce is so important it deserves the widest audience, not just a few academics and students...” Mrs Challenor pushed some more papers unceremoniously off a footstool and perched on it daintily.

“Good grief, woman, don’t push my papers about like autumn leaves in the park! Those were all carefully sorted documents which I was going to...”

“They are nothing of the kind, George. We both know full well that they are mostly bills from bookshops which you have not settled. I will deal with them in due course! Ah, thank you, Mason.” She took a cup of tea from the butler, who served Challenor next and myself last. He jogged the cup and saucer as he presented it to me, so that hot tea spilled onto my trousers. I winced but stifled an inappropriate exclamation.

“So sorry, sir,” he whispered. I tried not to scowl at him but refrained from saying anything, even though there was some pain.

“Oh poor Mr Molloy!” said Edith putting her cup and saucer on the rug and stepping across to brush the wet patch of my trousers. “Do you need a towel, perhaps?” She kept brushing my thigh, rather enjoyably.

“For God’s sake stop fussing woman! It’s tea not sulphuric acid!” roared the Professor. She sat down and smiled at me.

“It was hot tea, George! Not pleasant!” she glared at the back of the retreating Mason.

“Edith, why do you remain in my study?” barked Challenor.

“Well, I want to hear your story again, as it is so exciting! I also want to protect Mr Molloy. I don’t want to see him emerging with boxed ears like that poor man from The Times!"

"Hmm!” grunted Challenor but it was interesting to observe how he acceded to her wishes. Every circus lion has a tamer. I smiled and looked down at the floor so that Challenor wouldn’t see my reaction but ended up staring at the lady’s drawers half tucked under the chair again. I immediately looked up but caught Mrs Challenor’s eye as I did so. She winked at me again.

“Ah, I wondered where my drawers were! They are right under your chair, George!”

“What?” roared Challenor. “For heaven’s sake, woman, we have a guest, albeit an unwelcome one!”

“Shall I put them on again, George?   Mr Molloy would have to avert his eyes while I did so.  Or not, depending upon his inclination.  Perhaps it is best if I leave them off and remain naked underneath my skirts.”

“Edith!” said Challenor, reprovingly.

“It is quite alright, ma’am,” I said. “We are all naked underneath our clothes, as me Nanna used to say!”

“Mr Molloy,” boomed the Professor, “you should know that I am a firm believer in telepathy and I have some ability in this area!” He tapped his temple twice with two sausage-like fingers. I noticed Mrs Challenor pursing her lips and looking doubtful. “If I detect any part of your, no doubt filthy, bog-Irish mind forming thoughts about my wife I will not bother to throw you down the steps, I will pick you up and eject you through the window and glazing be damned!”

“I have no impure thoughts about your wife, sir," I said, lying, "although she is a very handsome women indeed. You are to be congratulated on your excellent taste!” I said, giving it some blarney. Challenor opened his mouth as if to say something but then just exhaled noisily instead, like a cornered bull. He looked at me and then his wife. He closed his mouth.

“Thank you, Mr Molloy. Your gentlemanly compliment is well taken!” said Mrs Challenor. My mind was flooded with images of what was under her skirt. What was her intimate hair like? Straight or curly? Britten and I had had a fascinating discussion about women’s parts the previous night. Did she have protruding lips or a neat little slit? Matters which, twenty four hours previously, I would have had no comprehension of.

 Challenor grunted and stood up, walking over to the large mahogany desk in front of the window. It was equally overburdened with piles of precariously balanced books. He picked up a tatty, hide-covered notebook. I looked at Mrs Challenor who wriggled slightly on her stool and smiled at me again. I could feel the beginnings of tumescence and turned my eyes to Challenor’s unprepossessing face, as an effective antidote to passionate thought.

“I have lately returned from the jungles of Amazonia. You do know where Amazonia is, I suppose? I would assume so but I have learned to never assume anything, particularly as regards the ignorance of the general public!”

“South America, Professor Challenor. I have a friend in the rubber trade and he regularly travels to the region!”

 “Good! Well, I was deep in an uncharted part of the jungle, having travelled up a northern tributary of the great river, when I came across a tribe of Indians...”

“They all walk around quite naked in front of each other, Mr Molloy,” interrupted Mrs Challenor. “All their parts on display! Can you imagine? If we were Indians we would all be sitting here naked as well! What a thought! Perhaps you might have a sheath on your manhood for decoration...”

“Edith! Stop it!” said Challenor sitting back down in his chair. “Are you married, Molloy?” he asked. I shook my head. “Don’t even contemplate it!” he said.

“I am sure Mr Molloy has many young ladies vying for his attention!” said Mrs Challenor. “He has a most handsome face and a very athletic figure!”

“Now is the time, woman, for you to remain silent! If that is even possible! Now where was I?”

“With the Indians, Professor!” I said.

“Indeed! I had come across a group of Indians in a canoe who seemed most anxious to attract my attention. I was with my guide, an excellent negro boy named Bumbo...”

“Such an amusing name!” said Mrs Challenor. Challenor glared at her.

“Bumbo confirmed that these natives were friendly so we joined them in their canoe and paddled to their village, several miles upstream. Once we arrived there, one of them led me to the largest hut; that of the headman of the village. Inside, I was shown, much to my surprise, a white man, obviously stricken with fever. Bumbo knows much about local medicine and inspected the fellow. He looked up at me and shook his head. He had been bitten by a Common Lancehead snake, bothrops atrox, as well as having contracted a fever. I knelt down beside him and saw that the natives had tried to make him as comfortable as possible. Eventually his eyes focussed on me and he mumbled something. I leant down closer to try to make out his almost inaudible words. I soon discerned that he was mumbling “mon journal” and “monde perdu”. Then he lapsed into more incomprehensible French. He waved feebly at a worn leather knapsack by his head. I opened it and extracted the journal you see in my hands now. Look at it Mr Molloy! Look!” I stood up and came to stand behind his chair as he opened the tatty volume which was quite large, about the size of The Illustrated London News, but much thicker. Challenor opened the first page and there was a hand drawn but seemingly accurate map of the top half of South America. “Here we find the poor man’s name, he died just hours after I found him in the hut. He was one Waring Blanc, a professor of engineering from McGill University in Montreal,” he said indicating the inscription.

“A Canadian?” I said.

“Yes, a Canadian, of course, Mr Molloy! Montreal is in Canada. A five year old knows that!  Have you ever been to Canada?”

"Indeed, no, Professor Challenor.  It is a country of trees and beaver and little else.  Wheat too. Don't they produce good flour?  Cook at home swore by it!"

"I absolutely do not need to know that, Mr Molloy, please be silent and listen!" said Challenor

The next few pages included sketches of scenes by a river which I took to be the Amazon.

“The drawing quality is very good,” I ventured, as Challenor turned the pages. “I am something of a draftsman myself and the artist has some real skill!” At this point Mrs Challenor came and stood next to me behind Challenor’s chair. I felt her hip press against my thigh. I edged slightly away from her but she immediately moved back into contact.

“I thought myself that the drawings were rather good,” she said. “But I know nothing of art so am glad to have my views confirmed by an expert!”

“Good grief, woman, it doesn’t take an expert to recognise artistic talent. The accuracy of the illustrations of the river at the beginning of his journey and the drawings of the native peoples make the later entries all the more remarkable!” said Challenor, constantly turning the pages. A neat precise script covered all the pages, interspersed with detailed drawings, executed in pen and ink, of the flora, fauna and peoples of the region. He turned the page and on one side was a full page drawing of several Amazonian Indians, men and women, standing completely naked, apart from certain decorative trinkets and anklets of what looked like feathers. The men’s private parts and the women’s breasts and groins were, as Mrs Challenor had indicated, blatantly displayed.

“What bucolic bliss it must be to disport oneself in one’s natural state all the time!” said Mrs Challenor. “Untrammelled by tiresome clothes and unaffected by the ridiculous dictates of fashion. I get the opportunity myself but rarely on the Isle of Wight, when I sometimes swim and lie naked in the sun along the bottom of the cliffs near Freshwater Bay, while George looks for fossils on the beach. I keep asking George to take me to Germany where communing naked with the elements is becoming a popular pastime. Although how our poor German cousins would react to George’s ape-like body would be interesting! Still, to feel the health giving rays of the sun on every intimate part of one’s skin is...”

“That is enough, Edith! This incessant flirting with Mr Molloy is getting tiresome. I will put you over my knee if you continue!” said Challenor, turning in his seat to look over his shoulder at his wife. I took a quick step away from Edith and hoped he had not noticed my proximity to her.

“I will take my punishment as always,” she said.“Perhaps Mr Molloy might like to witness my chastisement. It may be particularly entertaining for him given my somewhat underdressed state below!”  She looked at me and grinned.

Challenor sighed and turned the page of the journal roughly. “And here is where it begins. This map,” he indicated the detailed drawing on the page, “shows a heretofore unknown sub-tributary. In the next few pages, Blanc gives detailed instructions on how to reach a plateau deep in the interior. A plateau unknown to current geographers! He flicked through a few more pages. “And here it is!” The drawing showed an impressive escarpment raised high over the forest with waterfalls tumbling from the top of sheer cliffs. To one side stood a giant rock pillar which had obviously, in the past, been connected to the plateau.

“Good Lord,” I said. “It is like Table Mountain in the Cape!”

“Yes, but steeper and far larger. Later in his account Blanc estimates it as some twenty five or thirty miles across!”

“Similar to the Isle of Wight!” said Mrs Challenor. “Plenty of room for naked bathing in the sun!” He turned another page and there was an unexpected portrait of a young girl with dark, braided hair. About fourteen or fifteen years old, I would guess.

“But who is this?” I said.

“This is Blanc’s daughter, Véronique. She accompanied him on his travels. She is the artist behind these drawings, not the professor, it seems. This is a self portrait, perhaps done using a mirror. It is the only representation of her in the journal, although she is mentioned many times!” said Challenor. It was such a pretty, sweet and innocent face but she must be a far tougher individual than she looked to undertake such a gruelling expedition.

“I wonder what her pubescent thoughts were as she drew the naked Indians? Did it create a first few stirrings of feminine...?” began Mrs Challenor.

“Edith! That is enough! Not everything in life revolves around sex, you know!” Challenor, harrumphed and obviously realised he had said too much in front of me as he flicked through more pages, grumbling wordlessly to himself. Mrs Challenor squeezed my behind and nearly made me cry out in surprise.


  1. This story of yours is so enjoyable ;) Was that part at the beginning another nod to Masturbation Month??

    1. Ha! You are very perceptive. It wasn't in the original, written a year ago but I added that section for that reason. There will be more masturbation in Chapter five; based very closely on an incident I experienced in Rome in 1985!