Status: Very Active [Camp Nanowrimo 2018]

La Douleur Exquise

Chapter Two

In the end Isabella told both stories, leaving the girls red-faced in embarrassment but delightfully excited to hear such tales. Though the town of Watford was fast moving and ever growing, for the three girls who still called it their home it was dreadfully slow. The tales of sexual deviance and corruption amongst the wealthy that Isabella brought back from London was the only entertainment they had, and often they would ponder on these stories for months to stop them from going mad with boredom. Though Alice, Susan and Henrietta saw each other weekly, there was only so much to do and talk about in Watford. The lives of the everyday townsfolk often did little to amuse them when Isabella possessed tales of gold. The local baker having an affair with the butcher's wife across seemed like a bedtime story compared to Almeric Paget visiting London twice a year, purely to visit Isabella and Scarlett and have his back whipped by his own bullwhip in a twisted form of sexual pleasure.

"But it must hurt incredibly so!" Alice gasped as Isabella described a bullwhip to her friends.

"It does. Afterwards he must stay in a bedchamber overnight to recover. It is lucky Lucy had a doctor for a father or else he would likely become sickly." Isabella stated in a tone that mirrored the way someone described the weather; as if the story was nothing particularly interesting. She cared little for the pain that the men felt, it was more an annoyance to have someone inhabiting the brothel overnight. What enthralled Isabella to this career was the power. To quietly work behind the scenes unknown yet hold such an influence over men of great societal stature sent Isabella's pulse racing. Though she could not deny that the sex was not exactly unpleasant and was certainly a perk to the job.

"What pleasure can one get from being whipped?" Susan raised an eyebrow, as if more curious than disgusted.

Isabella grinned at the question, sipping at another cup of tea, so submerged in her tale she'd lost count of how many times Alice had topped up her cup. "There is a fine line between pain and pleasure, my dears. For some it must take intense pain to reach the heights of pleasure they need for a release."

"Most men do not require such..." Alice drew off searching for a suitable word that would not make her cheeks flush. "...things?"

"No, not at all. My work is secretive for a reason, my dears." Isabella smiled, letting images play over through her mind.

"Though I ask this too oft, are you safe?" Henrietta pleaded. "Your wild ways, though fill us with a dreadful delight, could send you to the gallows!"

"The higher classes have spent many an hour in my quarters. To let out word would leave them hung from the rafters with half of the government as company. In this position I'm as immune to danger as one could be." Isabella proudly stated, nonchalant and unafraid.

Susan lent forward resting her chin in her hands. "Oh a life you lead. Though I am glad it is not mine."

Isabella reached out and squeezed at Susan's cheek as a mother would to a child, "And I would not wish it upon you."

"She's far too delicate." Alice chimed in with a laugh, earning a scowl from Susan which swiftly turned into a smile.

In the distance the bongs of the clock tower in Watford town rang out, the deep notes managing to reach the greenhouse faintly though miles away.

"Five o' clock? How time does scamper by!" Alice exclaimed. "Oh you all must stay the night as we did when we were girls! It's so rare for Isabella to join us, we mustn't let this time go to waste."

"If you send word to my Father, then I am sure I can stay. After all, who is he to turn down a request from the Capell's? " Susan eagerly replied, smiling brightly at the thought of spending a peaceful night away from the ever watchful eye of her Father.

"And you, Henrietta?" Alice asked.

Henrietta pondered it for but a moment, the flash of red and the slamming of doors still prominent in her mind. "Send word, though I doubt someone will be there to receive it."

Politely ignoring the end of Henrietta's sentence, Alice nodded and headed to the servants quarters to pass on the message.

Isabella turned to face Henrietta, "Now that would be a cat I would like to unbag."

"For another time." Henrietta replied with a sigh.


Dinner had been quiet. Alice's family remained absent from the table, her brothers out on an overnight hunt, their favourite pastime, and the Earl would not be returning for some days yet. Around the servants the conversation between the girls remained civil and ladylike, discussing topics deemed appropriate for such sensible souls. At eight they snuck away from the prying eyes of the serving staff to Alice's chambers.

After rummaging through Alice's drawers, much to her complaint, Isabella pulled out thick woollen stockings and used them to stuff the key hole and line the bottom of the door frame.

"What in Gods earth are you doing?" Alice hissed, swiftly shoving her undergarments back into their drawer.

"If we wish to have privacy then you must temporarily sacrifice your stockings." Isabella hissed back, adjusting the fabric until no light seeped through the keyhole.

"Next you'll be drawing the blinds and dimming the candles!" Alice huffed.

"Quite right." Isabella agreed, nodding towards Susan who swiftly followed Isabella's instructions.

"This does seems somewhat excessive." Henrietta noted as the room was plunged into a musky darkness.

Isabella shook her head, "Not at all. We often do this when someone of higher important visits. Muffled voices spill no secrets on prying ears."

With a sigh of resignation, Alice flopped onto her bed, raising her skirts to easily access her laced pumps and unfasten them. Though it seemed extravagant in her mind, Alice was not one to protest the opportunity for privacy. Her damned dresses, though she loved how beautiful they were, set her body in a state of constant pain. Having privacy allowed her to slip out of these garments unjudged amongst close friends.

With a smile, Isabella followed suit, groaning when her toes were released from the tight boots.

"You two have no dignity in private." Henrietta tutted.

"Susan, be a dear and help me out of this awful bodice." Alice said, ignoring Henrietta's comment.

Henrietta watched doused in a sort of melancholy as Susan helped loosen the laces that restricted Alice's body. When speaking of Alice and Isabella's dignity it had been a jest, a way to hide her insecurities; poking fun at her friends without drawing attention to herself. She watched them shed their clothes. The dresses falling to the floor in a pool of blue leaving Alice and Isabella stood in their white chemises unashamed. If only she could shed the skin that felt far too tight too.

"Unfasten me?" Susan asked as Alice and Isabella were comfortable.

Alice leaned over, her thin fingers moving swiftly to untie the lace. Susan sighed joyously when the corset was undone and she breathed deep. Isabella picked the corset from the floor once Susan stepped out of it, not bothering to wait for it to be fully unfastened.

"I almost forgot how it felt to be without whalebone." Isabella pondered, turning Susan's corset in her hands.

"I imagine the pain is much the same." Susan groaned, rubbing at her sides over her chemise, feeling the bumps and welts left behind from wearing the garment all day.

Alice had been quietly observing Henrietta whilst Isabella and Susan talked. Henrietta was wringing her hands lightly, her eyes darting like a rabbit searching for a hole to hide from the feral dogs approaching. She was scared.

Stepping down from her bed, Alice headed over to where Henrietta stood towards the back of the room. Outstretching her arms, she urged Henrietta to take her hands in hers.

"I am sorry for our dreadful manners." Alice said, her voice sympathetic. "I understand we are no longer babes and this behaviour is practically heathen..."

"Here, here!" Susan laughed, earning a light backhand from Isabella.

"...but we are amongst friends with no shames to hide! Though Henrietta, we will understand if you wish to undress in private and not bare so much skin. My nightgowns will fit you, I am sure." Alice continued. She offered a small smile to Henrietta.

Henrietta returned the smile, grateful for Alice's sympathy though she had misinterpreted the situation. Yet how could Henrietta blame Alice for misunderstand when the feelings Henrietta felt she had yet to understand herself.

"It is not shame." Henrietta paused, pondering the words she wanted to speak though not truly sure of what they were. "I am simply more timid. My family are not..."

Henrietta drew off, unsure if any words she could speak would be an understandable excuse, or if she could speak the reason that really battled under her skin and prevented her from this moment of comfort around friends.

Luckily Isabella stepped forward, reaching out and gently squeezing Henrietta's upper-arm.

"Do not fret. Our friendship is not tied to your willingness to wear undergarments around others!" Isabella comforted. Her light-hearted tone set Henrietta at ease. For now Henrietta would not have to explain her thoughts.

"I will get you a night gown." Alice said simply. The sentence was enough to send a warm wave of love and acceptance through Henrietta and the breath she had not known she was holding escaped from her lungs.

Alice easily found a night gown in a size suitable for Henrietta, who gratefully took it and headed to the en suite of Alice's bedroom whilst the three remaining girls sat on the bed, eagerly talking about something with bouts of laughter that Henrietta cared little about at the present moment in time.

Shutting the door behind her, Henrietta headed towards the basin of the en suite, hanging the night gown on the wall hooks as she did. She stared at her face in the glass mirror above the basin. Though she tried to smile, Henrietta could not help but see her face as sullen. Eyes almost sunken and lips pulled tight. A face which felt foreign though she'd seen the same reflection for eighteen years now. As if it was not her own.

With shaking hands, Henrietta turned on the hot water tap, grateful for the wealth of Alice's family that she could use such a luxury. The water was near boiling and rapidly filled the bathroom with steam that clouded the mirror. Outstretching her hands, Henrietta began to trace the outline of her face on the mirrored glass. She let her hands move in dissociated patterns. Moments passed and Henrietta stared back at the image in front of her. It was childlike in style, a mere finger painting in the mist, but it was so clear what she had drawn. She blinked rapidly, the uncertainty she had felt mere minutes ago with her friends returning in a powerful wave. Reaching out her hand she wiped it away and felt a shudder run down her spine. It was wrong to feel the things she did. There was something wrong with her, she was sure.

She turned off the faucet and watched the water whirlpool down the drain. If only she could easily rid her mind of these sinful thoughts in the same way. With a heavy breath, Henrietta turned from the basin, quickly changing into the night gown, her back to the mirror.


When Henrietta returned from the en suite conversation was still bubbling between the three girls. At seeing her return, Susan moved slightly to the side, clearing enough space for Henrietta to join them sat cross legged on Alice's large four poster.

"What conversation have I missed?" Henrietta asked. She smiled lightly and hoped they would swiftly move on from the dramatics she'd caused earlier.

Susan casually curled her brown locks between her fingers as she leaned against one of the bed posts. "Little beside the dull topic that is my marital status."

Isabella snorted, "More so your avid denial to reach a marital status."

"The harlot speaks truthfully." Susan mockingly replied back to Isabella who responded with a hearty laugh rather than seeing any hurt in the words Susan spoke.

"Forgive me, but I thought I heard laughter rather than sorrowful tones?" Henrietta questioned.

"Sometimes you must laugh to prevent you from crying." Susan smiled widely though it was clear the smile did not reach her eyes. She oft talked in a playful tone when it came to the topic of her potential marriages, an attempt to hide how much the concept hurt deeply. Her earlier conversation with Isabella had left the terror-inducing thought of marriage replaying through her mind.

"Why does marriage frighten you so?" Alice asked, her head tilted in an inquisitive motion.

Susan pondered a while, unsure of how to answer. For many years the concept of marriage had frightened her greatly, and her uncertainty towards being wed often left her confused. Throughout Susan's childhood her Father had preached sermons of marriage, faithfulness, and the punishment that would befall those who failed to oblige by the biblical rules. Even though she may not have been excited for marriage, the prospect of eternal damnation should have been enough to scare her towards an (albeit unhappy) marriage. The promise of an everlasting life after death should be a pleasant reward for the tribulations of her life on Earth, including an unpleasant marriage.

Yet somehow the knowledge of who her Father was once he stepped down from the pulpit, had made Susan question the words that he spoke so passionately. The more she listened, the more she disagreed. His passion for religion failed to stretch to their home life and Susan grew to realise that her mother and self were not loved, but were instead requirements. A bid to show him as a sane man; a man with passions and love beyond the lord above. For Susan, the truth of who her father was allowed her to see the words of God in the same light. Nothing but lies and elaborate tricks of the bewilderedly faithful. The prospect of eternal damnation or heavenly afterlife vanished, and Susan came to believe that the life she was living now was the only one she had, and the idea of being tied to unhappiness for the rest of her earthly days was something she did not want.

These were all things she wanted to confess to her friends. Susan wished she could explain how the idea of a mans touch sent sickness to her stomach, how the sermons of sinfulness her father preached were nought but lies, but Susan was the one who brought joy to her friends. She knew they saw her demure, reserved nature in church and around her father, and that they understood that person was not who she truly was. But to confess the secrets she held about herself? Susan was not sure they were ready for the truths that brimmed beneath her tongue. Instead, she shrugged at Alice's statement.

"I guess I am hoping for a man who loves me in return."

Alice nodded, content with the answer. "Don't we all."

Isabella smirked, "I for one, would rather not find one at all." and with a side glance towards the girls who sat around her, she believed that they may feel the same way too.
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I felt really unhappy with this chapter when I first wrote it, and even after going back and editing it a little (I'm sorry Tayla!) I'm still not entirely happy with it. It's not as bad as I first thought but it still needs a lot of work! However, this is Camp NaNoWriMo and I'm not meant to be editing anyway so I just need to get words onto paper.

If any of you do read this and get to my authors notes I was wondering if you could answer a question for me; would you prefer to read an unedited story on Mibba if it had very regular updates, or would you prefer much slower updates but the story had a much better quality of writing?