Genre: Historical Fiction.
Published by Charlotte Greene, 2016.
All Rights Reserved.
The gentleman looked down at the young girl who had tripped before him and lay sprawled on the ground with one thigh exposed.
‘Young miss, are you all right?’
She glanced up at the dark-clothed stranger apprehensively, before taking hold of the black-gloved hand he offered her in assistance.
‘Thank you kind sir,’ she replied, rising to her feet.
He studied her with interest, narrowing his eyes to examine her features beneath the yellow hue cast from the lantern above, taking particular interest in her attractive almond-shaped eyes.
Lowering his gaze, the threadbare fabric of her clothing indicated an obvious sign of poverty right down to her scuffed dirty boots. Though if such shabby attire were to be discarded, standing before him would be a thing of innocent beauty and her sudden appearance served only to arouse his interest further. He examined the swell of her bosom where he might instinctively fathom her age, and by its relative flatness deduced that she was still at the cusp of womanhood.
Discovering a young lady carrying a case along the squalid and dangerous streets of Whitechapel at such a late hour could only signify that she was either a runaway, or a fallen woman caught between lodgings.
Of that he had no doubt.
He ought to know, he had spent his entire life residing amongst these women, who sought their best custom late at night when gentlemen exited the many drinking establishments more than mildly intoxicated. He recognised their mischievous scent, dubious expressions, doubtful eyes and that invisible aura of desperation they each carried upon their person. It was the latter which drove them behind the gloomiest alleyways or beneath the sheets of unfamiliar beds.
The girl had begun trembling now, fearful eyes ringed with dark shadows darted left and right as if she were lost or confused. For which direction she were headed it appeared that she could not decide.
‘Are you all right?’ he questioned her again.
‘Yes sir, I am looking for…’ her words trailed off at the appearance of a brawling gang of youths who were exiting a tavern a short distance away. A bell rang above the door and the girl swept her eyes to the location and kept them focused there.
‘I beg your pardon sir, but I must move on,’ she told him, and began to walk away before he could raise any objection or delay her.
He nodded, tipped his hat and allowed her to proceed.
There would be no point in bothering the girl with questions, he thought to himself. It was likely that she was fleeing from a troublesome customer, the very ones, who in all respects, either refused to pay their dues or requested more from these girls than they were willing to provide.
He watched her approach the tavern, partly to satisfy his own curiosity and partly to ensure her safety on the last few steps of her journey. There were more than a few offbeat characters about at this ungodly hour, for he had encountered more than a few himself over the years whilst roaming the narrow streets by twilight. He watched the girl open the door, sensing uncertainty and fear in her movements. She appeared completely unfamiliar with the popular haunt. Had she paused to enquire of him, he would have warned her that inside the Boars Tavern she might find many fallen women, for this particular district alone was heaving with them.
He could also, if one insisted, describe his most favourite belles-de-nuit in full and accurate detail. The pallid tinge of their skin, the promiscuous display of soft flesh above their bodices, the sanguine pout of their lips. Particularly tantalising to him was the more costly and better fed class of whore. Much more difficult to locate, but these particular ladies wore playful expressions as they peeled away layer upon layer of frilly apparel and under-garments. It was an act often repeated by twilight and many of them, by his own conclusion, offered an exemplary standard of service.
Of course, there were also the highly personal details of his interactions with them that he could not reveal quite so openly.
And these he saved for his diary.
They were the sort of scandalous details he had convinced himself to be bright modern musings for a man of his time.
One day he, Edward Cross, would make certain that his hobby-by-description procured some extreme wealth. Well, that is once he had found a way to debunk society’s unnecessary and old-fashioned scorn of the female naked body.
Yes, the day would come when he would make that act popular again, the pleasures of the flesh. He would bring it back into fashion, just as, “Harris’ List,” had done in the past with its well-documented and highly sought after list of Covent Garden whores.
It was only a matter of time before his publication would tear down the veils of prudery to excite and delight men throughout the country. Men such as – well him of course. A middle class gentleman with charm, intelligence and ambition.
And what of this lovely new handsome wench?
He began to whistle a popular tune as he continued along the uneven cobbled path, the fog thickening around him. He cast a quick glance over his shoulder to see that the girl had long since disappeared inside the tavern. Best to trouble her no further then, though he would certainly keep her in mind. Perhaps he would even pay a visit to the brewery shortly, for it was possible that the girl was ‘virgen in tactus’ and in the Whitechapel district of London, those untainted gems were becoming harder and harder to find.
This is Chapter One of The Whitechapel Virgin.
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