Bombay, India 1870
Why did she feel nothing? The corpse was her own flesh and blood, her father, Albert Merryweather. Surely she should weep, feel his loss? Yet she felt… nothing. The ululating wails of the house servants, the polite condolences made by the orderlies who had collected his body, none of it meant a thing to her. Elspeth lowered her gaze from the cobalt sky. Shading her eyes, she squinted through the glare of the Indian mid-day sun. Her attention centered upon a rising cloud of dust; a figure emerged from the midst of the sandy haze. It was him. She knew his stature when astride a horse; hadn’t she watched him play polo often enough? She knew the captain would come as soon as he’d heard that her father had died of a sudden heart attack, but word had spread quicker than she’d anticipated. She turned and fled inside the bungalow. She wasn’t ready, not yet. She’d refuse to see him. Their major-domo, Ashok, would turn him away, explaining that she was overwrought and not at home to visitors.
In her room, ear pressed to the thin panelled door, she heard the deep timbre of his voice rise above the constant drone of insects and the soft whoosh of the ceiling fan, kept constantly turning by the punkawallah seated outside on the veranda constantly working the pulleys to agitate the house fans.
Henry Wooten was demanding that tiffin be served. Agitated, her hand flew to her throat; he would not leave then. A sudden knock at her door, followed by his gruff voice startled her.
“You cannot hide from me, Elspeth. Come out!” She leapt back from the door in shock as the handle turned and it swung open. She gasped, “You cannot enter my bedroom, leave now, go!” But he stayed, his gaze held her pinned like a specimen butterfly.
He stretched out his arm, palm up. “Come, take tea with me, we must talk.”
Her ayah, Abha, bustled in and shooed him out of the doorway, yapping in Hindi too fast for Elspeth to follow. She urged them both out from the room and into the living area of the house. She gave small pats to Elspeth’s person, urging her onward toward the settee where Elspeth reluctantly sat down opposite the captain and allowed Abha to serve them tea.
He watched her as keenly as she watched him, however, she was subtle in her scrutiny, giving him fleeting glances over the rim of her tea cup; he stared openly at her. After only a few moments, he placed his cup down with decisive firmness and began to talk. It took her a moment to understand his words. He was offering her marriage, her only alternative other than returning to England, a homeland she’d never visited.
Born in India to low ranking civil servants, she knew no other world than this. She wanted to remain here on the sub-continent where she felt at home. Born of non-military personnel, but not the child of high ranking civil servants, Elspeth’s life was lonely. She was caught sandwiched between the rigid class systems of the British Raj.
Her mother, like so many, had succumbed to the cholera outbreak five years previous. Her death had left Albert and Elspeth leading an awkward and lonely life, sequestered in their small bungalow together. Death was a daily occurrence in India, but instead of cheapening life, the daily reminder of the struggle to survive, for both humans and animals, only strengthened Elspeth’s regard for the individuality of every one of God’s creatures.
Elspeth longed for family, for friendship. Perhaps if she married this captain from the Queen’s Lancashire Regiment she might finally achieve both?
“Yes,” she answered quickly, afeared that should she hesitate, he might withdraw his offer.
His face stilled, his almost navy eyes narrowed, holding her green-hazel gaze. “You accept?” He sounded surprised.
“I do,” she whispered. Then stiffening her spine, she raised her head and met his gaze squarely. Clearing her throat, she replied firmly, “Yes, I do.”
“Why? Oh never mind. Well, I am glad that you are being… sensible.” He stood up and she rose too.
“I will arrange everything. I am sorry for your loss.” He stepped around the bamboo occasional table scattered with their tea paraphernalia, moving to stand before her. He bent and pressed his mouth firmly to hers. She froze as the tip of his tongue slipped between the seam of her lips, sweeping the length of her softly parted mouth before abruptly withdrawing. Inclining his head to her, he spun away, calling loudly to Ashok for his hat and riding crop as he strode from the room without once looking back.
Elspeth sat with a sudden thump onto the bamboo settee. She trembled as she stared vacantly into space and recalled the first time she had become aware of the handsome Captain. It was while she’d waited outside the civil administrative offices for her father to finish work for the day. Seated upon the warm dusty floor of the open veranda near the ever present punkawallah, she’d failed to notice the cobra slithering towards her over the sun heated wood. A warning shout, a pistol shot and strong arms which swept her safely out of harm’s way—her first introduction to Captain Henry Wooten.
It had been love at first sight, compounded by a hard smack to her buttocks and a growled warning about keeping a vigilant eye out for predators. To him it was an incident soon forgot, but from that day forward, Elspeth deliberately placed herself in his line of sight, and to her delight, he had recently begun to acknowledge her. At first he simply nodded, moved on and ignored her, but as she blossomed into a shy, titian beauty, the captain would stop and bow, occasionally even taking her small hand into his and kissing her palm. His dark blue gaze as mesmerizing as any snake’s could be.
To Elspeth he appeared a knight in shining armour, the man who’d rescued her from a serpent. He had literally saved her life. By gazing deeply into her eyes as he reprimanded her with his husky voice, he’d compounded her view of him as her hero. To her young romantic eyes, he was perfection personified.
The bungalow she lived in was the property of the British Raj. They owned the bamboo campaign furniture and the beds. Their servants were paid for by government coin, and so her father’s death left her penniless, a woman living alone on the sub-continent without male protection. Not a good position to be in, especially within this poverty stricken, socially rigid territory of the British Empire. Elspeth knew that she was utterly dependent upon the charity of a philandering rake, Captain Henry Wooten. As she watched him over the intervening years, she’d become only too aware of his immoral proclivities. However, nothing she’d heard about him changed her devotion to her devilishly handsome saviour.
Captain Wooten was known to the English community as a man without morals. A gentleman he was not. It was even rumoured that he kept a concubine in his quarters. Elspeth was certain the rumour was true and no well-connected mater would allow her precious girls anywhere near the man. Elspeth knew that she would become a pariah of Anglo-Indian society once it became common knowledge that she was affianced to the rogue. However, army society was a completely different story; she could perhaps make friends with other officer’s wives. There was a social way of life inside the military which was wholly separate to the civil society of Bombay.
As Elspeth watched Henry from afar, placing herself into his path whenever she could, her father was blinded to everything other than work and ambition. He failed to notice his young daughter’s growing infatuation with an unsuitable man. The young and impressionable girl put Wooten upon a pedestal, one that even the captain himself, conceited fellow he was, would have conceded was too high an accolade for one such as he.
Elspeth was fully aware that she’d chosen to marry the “Saphed Daanav”—“white devil”—labelled as such by his Hindu house servants. Wooten proudly proclaimed their name for him, wearing it among his men as some sort of badge of honour. Notwithstanding, she had made her decision, chosen her destiny, making a choice of her own free will… but oh, sweet Lord, whatever had she done?
Army life suited Wooten. He was the only son of a second son, one Sir James Wooten, landed gentry seated in county of Lancashire, England. Henry’s cousin Edward had inherited the title “Lord Wooten,” on the death of his father, Lord George Wooten, James’s elder brother.
When Henry turned twenty-one, his father gave him three choices. One, marry well and wait for his parents’ demise to inherit the small manor house, his childhood home. Two, take orders and go into the Church, or three, join the army with a commission bought for him by his parents. Henry chose the third alternative. Having a hankering for adventure, it seemed to him to be far and away the best solution.
He found himself living on a continent, the kind of place he’d always dreamed of. During the day, he followed army strictures to the letter and played the part of an officer and gentleman in the officer’s mess. At night, the wilder, darker side of the sub-continent seduced him. Henry quickly became a devotee of the intoxicatingly exotic.
Nowadays he needed more and more of the unusual to slake this thirst for potent diverse sexual conquest. An initiation by a friend, another captain, a man who preferred handsome young men to women, introduced Wooten to sleek, dark-eyed youths. They willingly joined him in his bed at night, their hard cocks clasped in his pumping fist and his tackle buried deep inside their tight young arses. This nonconformist sexuality excited him for a brief spell, but it soon began to pall. As a red blooded, heterosexual male surrounded by sloe-eyed, eastern beauties; Asian women so submissive that he could take one any which way he desired, young men soon lost their novel appeal.
His constant need for diversion meant that, after a while, two or three women in his bed no longer excited him. He cast his jaded eye about for other diversions and found his eye constantly drawn to the feminine curves of Elspeth Merryweather.
Surreptitiously, he watched her blossom. Her purity and innocence fired his imagination, titillating and taunting him. He felt compelled to breach her maidenhead. He wanted to be the man whose cock inspired the look of awed surprise a virginal woman gave to a man the first time she witnessed his erection. He longed to hear her moans as he licked her virginal cunny or forced her to suck his cock. The list of sexual “firsts” was endless. He dreamed of making Elspeth Merryweather carnally aware.
If he bored of her, he would fill her with his seed and pack her off to England to bear him a son. There they could live in his parents’ house in Lancashire, leaving him free to continue whatever new debauchery he could conjure, undisturbed by a whining, clingy wife.
Their wedding was a small civil ceremony. Neither bride nor groom had any family to attend; Wooten’s regimental adjutant and his wife agreed to act as witnesses for the couple.
Elspeth’s meagre belongings were moved into their new married officer quarters which comprised a small bungalow, set amongst similar properties, situated inside the British Army barracks on the outskirts of Bombay. The bungalows were far enough apart to ensure a semblance of privacy but close enough for social contact. They were allocated a cook and two young female house servants. Only higher ranking officers had the luxury of a major-domo, common to most non-military civilians.
On their return home, Henry dismissed the servants, swept her up into his arms and carried her over the threshold into their bedroom, whereupon he kicked the door shut behind them and set about removing every last stitch of her clothing, ignoring her feeble request for modesty. The way he intently watched her face as he roughly handled her shrinking body, unnerved Elspeth, and instead of the romance she expected on her wedding night, the conjugal act had been an uncomfortable experience for her, both physically and emotionally. Henry seemed to delight in degrading her, but the more he taunted her, the more she withdrew into herself.
Henry was bitterly disappointed. Having a virgin was not all it was cracked up to be. Elspeth did not respond to him in bed as he’d expected. When she failed to show him the awe he’d hoped for, he became cruelly demanding, deliberately inflicting pain on her to force some reaction from her. He would force her to her knees and shove his cock into her mouth. He debased her anally, ignoring her scream of pain as he forced his way inside her dry, forbidden entrance. One day he tired of tormenting his wife and turned away from her. Once again the lure of opiates and almond skinned, kohl-eyed sirens called to him, and he was not inclined to resist their lure.
Elspeth was utterly miserable. Marriage to Henry was not at all as she’d imagined it to be. She found that once the numbness of her father’s death had worn off, she’d missed him. Her grief at his passing began to overwhelm her, probably because her marriage proved to be such a disaster. She took some solace in reading and riding, the latter only when the all-pervading humidity permitted. Elspeth was glad of her husband’s return to his previous lustful partialities; at least it kept him from her bed. The unhappy couple existed in an uneasy truce for some six months, until one night, a ferocious thunderstorm brought the tension between them to a cataclysmic head.
Elspeth awoke in the depths of night, disturbed by tropical rain hammering upon the roof. She lay tangled in her sticky bed sheet; humidity causing it to cling to her like a second skin. She listened fearfully to the tempest raging overhead. Thunder rolled and lightning filled her room periodically with luminous flashes of light.
A sharp cry rent the muggy air, a woman wailing in distress. Drowsily, Elspeth forced herself from her bed. She assumed the cries came from Geeti, the younger of her two house servants. She was a shy girl of nervous disposition and the only one who lived in. Elspeth knew her to be afraid of the fierce storms common to their area.
Stepping into the central living space of the bungalow, she heard another screech. It seemed to be coming from Henry’s small box room, furnished with a single bed, meant for a major domo they did not have. Henry had moved into the room, choosing to sleep in there after she’d failed to satisfy him in the bedroom. Elspeth crept to the door and pushed it ajar. Something clattered to the floor and painfully caught her bare foot. She bent down, feeling about in the darkness. Grasping what she believed to be a stick, she brought it to her eye level just as dazzling light lit up the room. The object was Henry’s riding crop.
Glancing into the room she saw Henry silhouetted by the illumination. He was bending over Geeti, his body half blocking Elspeth’s view but she saw that the girl lay face down upon the bed, her golden skin beaded with perspiration and she could hear Geeti whimpering piteously, her distraught voice begging in Hindi for sahib to stop. Elspeth realised immediately that Henry was engaged in something lewd. As she stared, she realised that he was sodomising the helpless little maid. Impaled between Geeti’s buttocks, his pistoning hips drove his cock further into the girl’s behind.
Sickened, Elspeth turned away, but too late. Henry had seen her. “Come here,” he snapped. Taking a tentative step toward him, she halted as the light faded from the room. They were again plunged into inky black. After a moment, another burst of lightning enabled him to see her and he snagged her wrist, drawing her relentlessly to his side. “At least this way I don’t need rubbers.”
He leered, gesturing downward at his groin as he thrust hard into Geeti. She gave another pain filled wail, but Henry drowned her out with his yell of completion.
Elspeth felt hot tears of anger and despair spill down her cheeks. She fought her husband’s grip on her wrist. In his final throes of orgasm, he’d yanked her hard against him; his head came down now and he kissed her mouth roughly, his teeth catching the tender skin of her lower lip. Radiance from the storm lit up his face and Elspeth gasped. It was obvious to her that he was drugged, pupils enlarged so black they filled each iris. She cringed, twisting her head away, managing to break the slobbering, unwanted kiss. He withdrew his flaccid shaft from the still weeping Indian girl.
“See, I have a pretty friend for us to play with,” he slurred, gesturing to poor Geeti who was crying piteously, her face buried in the bed clothes. Elspeth gasped as brilliance lit the damage Henry had visited upon the poor servant’s buttocks which were covered in angry looking welts. Henry had beaten her with his crop.
“Turn over,” he ordered her sharply in Hindi. The girl gingerly rolled onto her back. It was clear that Henry had whipped her harshly because the girl winced, attempting to avoid contact with the bed. Elspeth found it painful to watch as Geeti’s wide almond-shaped eyes fixed fearfully upon her sahib, her mouth constantly moving as she whispered, begging in her native tongue for reprieve.
“Draw up your knees and part your legs,” he ordered severely. Geeti obeyed instantly.
“Wider,” Henry barked, in English.
Bright light again brought the room into stark relief and Elspeth saw the woman’s splayed limbs, her dark haired sex lewdly displayed. Her sleek golden skin contrasted against the white of the bed sheets.
“Lick her,” Henry ordered, his voice brusque. Elspeth snapped her head up, staring at her husband. Surely he couldn’t mean what she thought he’d meant? Henry yanked her closer to the bed. She noticed his erection starting to jut out of his gaping trousers, he was becoming aroused again. “Lick her cunt,” he hissed despotically. She watched his member jerk, clear liquid leaked from the blunt head and shone wetly in the repetitive flare of the overhead storm.
“No-noo!” She shook her head, adamant. His hand swiftly caught her skein of hair hanging loosely down her back. He wrapped the length around his fist and propelled her forwards. Pushing her to her knees, he forced her face down into the apex of Geeti’s legs, directly onto her musky sex. Elspeth gave a keen of protest, Geeti wailed, twisting her hips away from Elspeth, her distress finally seemed to register in Henry’s drug crazed mind because he let go of Elspeth’s hair. She lifted her head and he drew back his arm, punching her with the full force of his clenched fist. She just managed to twist her head aside so that his blow caught her cheek bone and not her nose. The light eclipsed from the room and again they were plunged into darkness. Elspeth took the opportunity to escape. Leaping to her feet, she staggered away; ignoring Henry’s bellowed command for her to stay.
“Come back, you bitch!” His angry shout reverberated after her. Reaching the relative safety of her room, she slammed the door and shoved her chest of drawers in front of it. She fell onto the bed listening fearfully for sounds of angry pursuit. None came, but she trembled violently, shaking with fear and reaction at what had occurred.
At some point during the night she must have slept, because she found herself awaking in the calm of morning to the usual sound of parakeets chirruping and monkeys chattering outside. Dragging herself upright, she winced at the pain in her head. Lifting her hand, she gingerly explored her painful cheek. It felt hot and swollen. Reaching for the bedside bell, she rang it, alerting the servants to her wakefulness. Geeti arrived with her breakfast tray, avoiding Elspeth’s gaze as she placed it across her mistress’s lap. Then she produced a folded note and handed it over before bowing, eyes cast downward; she pressed her hands together in a salaam and left, closing the door softly behind her. Elspeth shook out the letter nervously. Henry’s bold black scrawl covered the page. She scanned the contents quickly and sucked in her breath. He apologised for the previous night but told her that he was sending her away. He wanted her to travel to England and live in his parents’ house in Lancashire. He wrote that he feared that should she remain with him he might truly harm or maim her. He confessed that he had no control over himself whilst under the influence of the opiates that he craved and feared he could no longer live without.
He couldn’t do this to her! She wouldn’t go! Elspeth shoved back the bedclothes and set aside the tray. Grabbing her robe, she hurried from the room still dragging on her dressing gown as she flung open the door to Henry’s room. The bed was made and there was no sign of her husband. She sped through the bungalow yelling for Geeti. The young Indian appeared nervously in the doorway of the kitchen. “Memsahib?”
“Where is my husband?” Elspeth asked urgently.
“Master gone, he leave note,” Geeti replied, unable to meet her mistress’s eyes.
“Do you know when he will return, did he not say?” Elspeth pressed her. The girl looked at the floor. It was obvious that Geeti didn’t feel comfortable around Elspeth after the previous night. Exasperated, Elspeth returned to her bedroom to retrieve Henry’s letter.
Rereading it, but slowly this time, she saw that he’d stated that his detachment had been posted north for a short term. He wouldn’t be returning home to Bombay until a day or so before her ship was due to set sail for England. Elspeth tapped the folded letter with her finger, thinking hard. She realised that she could possibly persuade him otherwise, but after last night’s performance, perhaps it was for the best that she left Henry and India behind. An adventure overseas, the opportunity to see her homeland, and a readymade home to go to, would that really be such a bad thing? The alternative was to stay here and watch Henry deteriorate as he demanded more and more lewd acts from her, and his sinking so deeply into a total lack of self-control, quite frankly terrified her.
Leaving was the better of two evils. Rather than stay in India tied to a depraved madman, and one who treated her with no consideration or respect, she would leave. Henry was cruel to her. He was a debauched man whose dark morals threatened her very soul. She felt she’d no choice but to go.
Resigned, Elspeth accepted she must travel to England for her own safety.
Decision made, she settled comfortably back into the bamboo chair and ate a little of the breakfast that Geeti had brought her. She managed a little mashed banana and drank a cup of tea, before pushing the tray aside. Her teeth and mouth throbbed painfully where Henry had hit her. She went into the bathroom to study her swollen cheek. She would have a nasty bruise for some days to come. She decided to feign sickness in order to hide from prying eyes. Gently bathing the contusion in cold water and then applying witch-hazel, she winced at the sting. Perhaps her cheek bone was broken? She daren’t ask a military doctor to take a look at it because she was concerned Henry might face court-martial if it became public knowledge he’d punched his wife. No, she would have to wait and see how well she healed. Setting aside her worries, she saw to her ablutions. There was a lot to sort through today. Despite her heavy heart, for the first time in weeks, Elspeth felt a small glimmer of excitement about her upcoming adventure.