The Great Marvolo
Author's Note: Thanks to Jennifer Harrison for her assistance, and for letting me read her great-great grandmother's diary.
The next morning Max and I were up at dawn. I was allowed to wear the same baggy housemaid's dress, and after I performed a hurried toilet we adjourned to the kitchen. He locked the chain to my collar and I fixed a meager breakfast from the food still remaining in the larder. Karl was not around, and when I asked Max where he was I got an evasive answer. When I finished the cleanup Max released me from my tether and took me into the main room.
"Most of the act doesn't require much skill on your part, Jenny, just that you know the cues. Only the underwater escape relies on your talents for its success, and indeed, for your survival. I hope you're a quick learner, because we appear in Dresden starting a week from tomorrow."
"A week from tomorrow! Bella needed years of training, you said so yourself. I've seen the act, remember? I know I can't hold my breath for five minutes. Please, Master! I can't do this."
Max laughed. "Bella learned everything in three days. The 'years of training' is just hyperbole. It's all done by trickery. Come over here and I'll show you." Max and I went over to the cabinet. "Put your head against the glass and look behind the top iron strap. See that black rubber tube?"
The tube was about a half-inch in diameter and extended into the cabinet about three inches. "Yes, Master, I see it. What does it do?"
"It's connected to a bottle of compressed air in the cabinet base. There's a valve near the end of the tube. You put the tube in your mouth and bite on the valve, and it releases air into your mouth. There are plugs for your nostrils so you don't have to worry about breathing water."
"That's all very well, but I don't know how to pick locks with just a nail. Master."
"That's a trick too." Max dug into a wooden box and took out a shiny black padlock. "See these rivets? Most of them actually hold the two halves of the lock together, but this one on the upper right is a dummy. It's a false head that's just glued into place by the paint. Scraping it off with your fingernail uncovers a hole, and then just pushing the nail into the hole will open the lock."
"What about the handcuffs? Are they fake too, Master?"
"Of course. The ratchet has been filed down so they open when you squeeze the bracelet and pull. Bella used to open them before she went into the water, just to be sure nothing was stuck. Once you've practiced a bit you can get out of the chains in two minutes or less, and you stay underwater longer just to build suspense. The clock has an inside face so you can keep track of the time."
I was dubious, but of course I had no choice in the matter. Max pointed out the box where the costumes were kept and I explored it while Max was assembling the chains and locks. There were two of the sequined costumes, but they were too small for me. "These costumes don't fit me, Master. I'll have to alter them."
"You can do that later. For now, just strip."
No novelty there. I removed the housemaid's dress, my only garment.
Max had sorted out the chains. "Come here, Jenny. We'll practice outside the cabinet until you have the basics mastered." I did as he told me and he handcuffed my wrists behind my back. Then he wrapped a chain over my shoulders and through my crotch, locking it in place with a padlock placed over my stomach. Then more chain, this time around my torso, emphasizing my breasts and pinning my arms to my sides. Max fastened the last chain around my waist, then wrapped it around my legs, finishing with two final turns around my ankles, locking it there with the fourth padlock."
Max looked over my naked, chain-wrapped body, and I began to feel uncomfortable. He lifted his hand and cupped my left breast, squeezing and stroking it, before taking the nipple between his thumb and forefinger, rolling and pulling until it stood erect. My breathing was becoming ragged and shallow as he repeated the exercise on my right breast, his every touch tantalizing me. I hated that my body reacted to him in this way, but I could not prevent it, even as I saw his smug look of triumph.
"Bondage suits you, Jenny," he said, as he ran his hand over the chain which was pulled tight between my legs, making me squirm in my bonds. I closed my eyes as his fingers touched the soft folds of my flesh into which the chain disappeared, desperately ashamed of my reaction but wanting him to continue nevertheless.
"Do not become too distracted, Jenny. Now I want you to try to escape."
I flexed, trying to see how much I could move; not much. I just stood there, weighted down by sixty or seventy pounds of chain. "Get going, Jenny. First you have to free your hands from the cuffs. What's taking you so long?"
I roused myself. "Nothing, Master. I was just reflecting that before I came to Germany I never even thought about chain. Now it dominates my life."
"Ponder the philosophical ramifications later, Jenny. You have an act to rehearse. Concentrate!"
"Yes, Master." I pulled my hands out of the cuffs easily enough, and then I set to work on the chains. I decided I should start from the outermost chain, the one around my torso. Its padlock was resting on top of my right breast, so I held it in my left hand and scraped off the false rivet head with my right thumbnail. I held the nail in my right hand, and when I pushed it into the hole the lock clicked open. Once it was removed a I made a few twists of my body and the chain fell off. Now my arms were free and I made quick work of the other chains. I didn't have any way to measure the time, but it couldn't have taken me more than two minutes to free myself.
"See, Jenny? That wasn't so hard, was it?"
"No, Master, but I wasn't underwater."
"We'll try that next. Help me roll the cabinet into the kitchen." The cabinet moved easily on large rubber-tired casters and we wheeled it into the kitchen. Max locked the kitchen chain to my collar. "I have business to attend to, Jenny. I want you to fill the cabinet with water. It doesn't have to go all the way to the top, just over your head. There's a bucket under the sink. I'll be back this afternoon and we can do the underwater practice then."
"I can't reach the top, Master."
"I know, I'll bring the platform in here too." Max wheeled the platform next to the cabinet. He handed me the housemaid's dress. "Put this on. I expect the water to be ready when I get back."
The next hours became a nightmare of unremitting toil. Pump the bucket full of water. Carry it to the cabinet and climb the stairs. Dump the water. Repeat over and over, all to the accompaniment of my chain rattling on the floor. I lost count somewhere after the hundredth bucketful. My labor was interrupted around noon by a knock on the kitchen door. I opened it to find a teenaged delivery boy with two large baskets of groceries.
"Delivery, miss," he chirped. Then he noticed the chain locked to my collar and his eyes got wide. "What's all this? Have you been kidnapped?"
I didn't want to explain. There was nothing this boy, or anyone else, could do for me. "No, it's all right. It's only that my master doesn't want me to leave the kitchen. Please put the groceries in the larder."
He did so, but he kept staring at me and shaking his head. As he was leaving he said, "Why don't you get another job, miss? You're being treated like a slave."
"So I am. But slaves can't quit, can they?" I smiled at him. "Don't concern yourself about me. Thank you for putting the groceries away. Good bye." I shooed him outside and shut the door. Slaves can't quit, but they can be punished if they don't carry out their master's orders. I pumped more water.
Finally the cabinet was filled. And not a moment too soon, for Max returned just minutes later. My hands were blistered and my arms were tired. I just wanted to collapse, but of course that was not to be.
"So, Jenny, are you ready for the underwater training?"
"Yes, Master." What else could I say? I could say, No, I don't want to do this! I'm frightened, and I don't want to appear on the stage. Please, let me go back to England! I could say that, and then I could scream as I was whipped.
Max opened a door in the base the cabinet rested on and took out a metal cylinder. He inspected an attached gauge. "The air pressure is low. You'll have to pump it up." He brought a device from the other room that looked like a bicycle without wheels, mounted on a frame so it stood up. Max connected the air bottle to a hose leading from the machine. "Over here, Jenny. You work the air pump just like you pedal a bicycle. You've ridden a bicycle, haven't you?"
"It's simple enough." He helped me climb onto the machine and after a few minutes of fumbling I started pedaling. It wasn't hard, at least compared to filling the cabinet, and in ten minutes or so the air bottle was full and Max told me to stop. He reconnected it to the cabinet and it was time for my underwater training to begin. Max unlocked the chain from my collar and I removed my dress without hesitation. Nudity in front of Max meant nothing to me now.
Max took a small wooden box from the base and removed two black rubber plugs. "Put these in you nostrils, Jenny. Then get in the cabinet and practice breathing from the air tube." He wrapped a chain around my waist and fastened it with a padlock.
"Yes, Master." Each plug had a small wire loop molded into the base, so I could use a buttonhook to remove it. I inserted them and climbed the platform's stairs to the top of the cabinet. I sat down and lowered my feet into the water. It was cold! But I had no choice, so I slipped into the water and the chain's weight pulled me to the bottom. The water was just over my head and I was momentarily frightened, but I forced myself to ignore my instinctive reaction. I took the air tube into my mouth. The reinforcing strap would screen this from the audience during a performance. I bit on the tube and I was startled by the force of the air jet. I tried it again, this time moderating my bite, and I was able to fill my lungs with air. After a few more minutes of practice I had mastered the technique.
I was very cold now and I wanted out of the cabinet. There were four-inch square horizontal timbers attached to the sides and back of the cabinet at the level of the straps, and these provided the holds I needed to climb onto the platform. Max called, "Why are you quitting, Jenny? Do you want me to fetch my crop?"
"Please, Master, I'm so cold. Let me warm up for a moment. I know how to breathe from the tube now, and I'm ready to try escaping from the chains."
"Very well. You may warm yourself. But be quick."
I got a towel and dried myself off. The stove was still warm, and I was able to stop shivering. "I'm ready now, Master." Before we started Max had me practice escaping from the chains outside the cabinet. After several run-throughs I was able to escape in a minute and a half, as measured by the clock on the cabinet.
Then Max handcuffed me and locked the chains around me. As he handed me the nail I asked, "What if I drop the nail, Master? I couldn't get the locks open then."
"Don't worry, there are some extra nails on the top of the lower right timber."
I was glad to hear that. Max carried me over his shoulder up to the platform. I remembered what he said and slipped free of the handcuffs before he lowered me into the water. I had no problem getting out of the chains and swimming to the surface, only needing to get air from the tube once.
"Very good, Jenny. Now fish the chains off the bottom and we'll try it again. This time pace yourself so you are underwater for five minutes. Can you see the clock?"
"Yes, Master." Max dropped a hook on the end of a rope into the water and I dived to the bottom of the cabinet and hooked the chains so Max could pull them up. Then he helped me out and we did everything again, this time with the delay, which required me to get air from the tube four times. Then we repeated the process two more times.
When I was back on the platform after the last time I was shivering violently. "Please, Master," I begged. "I'm too cold to do it again."
"All right, you seem to have mastered the basics, so we'll quit now. When we perform in a theater the water has time to warm up a bit, so it isn't so bad then. Get the chains, and then we'll go upstairs and I'll warm you up."
I dived into the cold water once more to retrieve the chains, and when I was finished I was cold to the core. Max used a buttonhook to take the plugs out of my nostrils, and then he carried me upstairs and dried me off with a thick towel.
"Are you warm now, Jenny?"
I was still shivering. "No Master, I'm still cold."
"Then let's get into bed." He locked the chain to my collar and put me into the bed. Then he stripped and climbed in with me. He hugged me and used his body to warm me. I felt a surge of... affection? Surely not! Although he was making himself uncomfortable to help me. I hugged him back, and my body responded to his presence.
Again Max made love to me, arousing me and bringing me to a peak of passion before satisfying himself. My emotions were badly scrambled. I still hated him (didn't I?) but my body responded enthusiastically to his touch.
* * *
Time just seemed to fly by. For another couple of days I practiced escaping from the chains while I was under water, and then Max and Karl packed up the cabinet and its accessories and shipped it to the theater in Dresden. Karl accompanied it, while Max and I stayed in Gorhalt and rehearsed the rest of the act, the mundane sleight of hand tricks that were just filler for the escapes. We didn't practice the part of the act where I would be tied to the pole and I asked Max about it.
"Don't worry about that, Jenny. It requires special equipment that's only available at the theater. Besides, you don't have to do anything, except look pretty and helpless."
Finally it was time for us to travel to Dresden. That morning I dressed in a chemise, corset, and the blue dress. I didn't have any underwear, and I knew asking Max to provide some would only lead to ridicule, at best. I wore knee-high woolen stockings and the flat-heeled shoes. I hoped Max wouldn't add any 'accessories', but my hopes were dashed when he produced the leg irons and ordered me to lock them on my ankles. He also produced a long piece of thick elastic.
"Tie this around your waist, Jenny, and then to the center of the chain between your ankles. Adjust the length so the chain doesn't drag on the ground. We don't want you to trip over it."
I was glad to do as he said. I wrapped the elastic around my waist under my dress and tied it to my ankle chain. This would hide the chain and greatly reduce my humiliation at being chained in public. The humiliation surged again, however, when Max handcuffed my hands behind my back. "Please, Master, don't handcuff me. I can't escape."
"Very true, Jenny. But I don't want to put temptation in your path, and besides, the cuffs help remind you of your status." He opened his suitcase, removed a short linen cape, and draped it over my shoulders. "This will hide the cuffs. I don't want any busybodies asking me why you're a prisoner."
"You could just leave the cuffs off."
"Yes, and I could also clip a leash on your collar. Don't press your luck."
"No, Master. You are very considerate, Master." I instantly regretted my sarcastic comment, but it was too late. Max was annoyed.
"You presume upon my good nature too much. Bend over."
I did not dare to refuse. I did as he ordered and Max pulled up my dress and exposed my bare bottom. Max struck me three hard blows with his crop, and I cried from the pain of each blow.
Max produced a handkerchief and wiped away my tears. "You are so stubborn, Jenny. Why do you force me to punish you?"
"I was a free woman all my life. I've only been your slave for a few days. I need time to adjust, Master." I hated myself for admitting that I might in time resign myself to a life as Max's slave, but I was afraid of the pain that he inflicted when I resisted him.
"Well, you must adjust, and quickly. I don't hurt you for my amusement, but I will not tolerate disobedience or disrespect. Do you understand?"
"Yes, Master." Max took my arm and guided me out the front door, pausing to retrieve his hat. He also found one for me, a small straw decorated with a bright feather. He placed it on my head and adjusted it. "Very attractive, Jenny. Just one more detail." He rotated my collar so the ring was at the back, hidden by my hair.
There was a carriage waiting; not the one with the ducal arms but another, hired from a livery stable. Max had a small suitcase, but none for me, of course. I literally owned nothing, not even my body. I suppose my soul was my own, but my hold on it was tenuous.
We drove into town and to the railway station. As we walked to the platform I feared that my status as a prisoner would be obvious, but we attracted no attention. Soon the train arrived and we were on our way to Dresden.
When we arrived in Dresden we took a cab to what Max told me was a theatrical boarding house. He led me inside where we were met by the proprietor, a rosy-cheeked woman with her gray hair in a bun, who looked like someone's grandmother. She obviously knew Max, and she greeted him warmly. "Ah, Max! So good to see you again! Karl told me you were coming today. Is this your new assistant?"
"Yes, this is Jenny. She's from England. Jenny, this is Frau Schäuble."
"Hello, Jenny. Welcome to Dresden." She gave me a quick hug. I was glad she didn't offer to shake hands.
"Pleased to meet you, Frau Schäuble."
"Call me Heidi. Everyone does."
"Is Karl here?" Max asked.
"No, he went out about an hour ago, he said he'd be back later tonight. He said he prepared your room, whatever that means."
"He just installed a special fixture. Nothing major. Is it the same room I had before?"
"Yes, Max. You know where it is." She gave him a key.
"Then we'll see you at dinner. Come, Jenny."
As we were climbing the stairs I asked, "Why didn't Heidi say anything about us sharing a room, Master? In England it would not be allowed."
"We're more Bohemian here, Jenny. Show folk aren't held to strict moral standards, as long as we don't upset anyone."
"Would Heidi be upset if she knew I was your slave, Master?"
"Probably not, but don't mention it to her, and don't call me master when anyone else is around. Understand?"
"Yes, Master. Does this mean you'll unchain me while we're here?"
"I'll leave the handcuffs off, as long as you behave."
"Thank you, Master." I tried to pretend I was being sarcastic, but I was truly grateful to Max. I was adjusting to slavery, and that frightened me.
When we entered our room I saw the "special fixture" Karl had installed. It was a chain, bolted to the floor in the center of the room. Max locked it to my collar before he removed my handcuffs and leg irons. I tugged on the chain and gave him pathetic look. "Is this really necessary, Master?"
"What did you expect, Jenny? I'm going to be out much of the time and I don't want you to try to escape. This chain on your neck is the least restrictive restraint I can use; you can reach everything in the room. Would you rather be hogtied?
"No, Master. But how can I escape? I have no money, and all you have to do is show the parole papers and every policeman in the city would be looking for me."
"You are very crafty, Jenny, and I don't want to put temptation in your path, so you'll stay chained." Max checked his watch. "We have about an hour until dinner. Take off your clothes and get on the bed."
I did, of course, and not just because I knew he'd whip me if I hesitated. Max disrobed and joined me on the bed, and he used all his skills to bring me to a shattering climax. It was becoming harder and harder for me hate him, although hating myself for not hating him seemed much easier.
* * *
Early the next morning we went to the theater. Max had arranged rehearsal time for us, or more exactly rehearsal time for me. This would be the first time I would do the escape from the post trick. I still had no idea how it was done, and I worried that Max would blame me if I didn't do it properly.
Karl was there, and he bolted the posts to the stage while Max showed me where the dressing rooms were. This would be the first time I wore the sequined costume while performing, and while I had been able to alter it so I could get into it, it was very tight and I was afraid a seam would split. I expressed my fear to Max, but he laughed it off. "Don't worry, Jenny. If it splits it will just bring in a bigger crowd for the next performance, all hoping to see more of your skin." I was not as amused.
Back on the stage, the posts were installed but Karl was not there. Max backed me up to the left-hand post and tied my wrists together behind it. Then he wrapped coils and coils of rope around my body, so I felt like a fly trapped in a spider's web. I didn't have to wonder what to do, I couldn't do anything.
Max put the blue velvet drape over me and everything went dark. Suddenly I was falling straight down and I shrieked. The post and a square section of the floor around it dropped into a dimly-lit room under the stage. Karl was there, and he slid the assembly, with me still attached to the post, out of an iron frame. To do this he had to tilt the post to an angle of about 45 degrees, and once clear he wheeled me on over to the other side of the stage. There he lowered the other, empty, post and inserted my post into the now-vacant frame. He turned a crank, and I heard a muted clicking as I rose up inside of another cylinder formed by a velvet drape.
I could hear Max saying the usual "mystic incantations", and then I heard a faint hissing sound as he lifted the drape. I just stood there with my mouth open until Max said, "Smile, Jenny. Don't look so stupefied. And next time don't scream as you drop."
"I won't, Master. It just took me by surprise."
"Fine. Let's go back the other way."
Max replaced the drape and once again the post dropped below the stage. I was ready for it this time, and I didn't scream. Karl was there, and as before he took me out of the frame and wheeled me over to the other post. Before he cranked me back up he used his knife to free my hands and slash the ropes around my body. When Max removed the drape I remembered what Bella had done and stepped away from the post, smiling and waving.
"Bravo, Jenny!" Max applauded. "Nothing to it, is there?"
"No, Master. But how do you get the drape to stay up when the post drops?"
"That's the big secret, and my rivals would love to know how it's done."
"I heard a hiss. Does compressed air play a part, Master?"
"Very observant of you, Jenny. Yes, there are rubber tubes hidden in the velvet, and compressed air in the metal tube around the top. When I open a valve the rubber tubes inflate and support the drape. When I release the pressure the drape behaves like cloth."
"Very ingenious, Master."
"I think so. Now, let's run through the entire act, except for the underwater escape. You know how to do that, and there aren't any cues for you to remember there."
We rehearsed for the rest of the morning, and then Max and I went to the dressing room to change. After I had dressed Max had me lock the leg irons on my ankles, but he didn't handcuff me. "You did well today, Jenny, and you didn't display any of your usual insolence and disobedience, so I won't chain your hands. But if you even give me a hint that you are trying to escape the handcuffs go back on, and a leash, too."
"I won't try anything, Master, I know I have no chance of escaping. Thank you for letting me have my hands." I thanked him without thinking about it, because I was grateful to Max. My adaptation to slavery was progressing, partly because my situation was hopeless. Even if could complain to the British Embassy that I was Marvolo's prisoner they would just laugh. 'Of course you're a prisoner. You're a convicted felon'.
* * *
As the time for my appearance on the stage approached I became more and more anxious. Max tried to reassure me, in his own way. "You'll be fine, Jenny. If you just ignore the audience and remember what you learned in our rehearsals your performance will go smoothly. If it doesn't, I'll whip you until you are bloody."
With that kind of motivation I forced down my fears and concentrated on remembering my cues. Much to my surprise, after the first few times on the stage I was able to forget the audience entirely, and the performance did go smoothly most of the time. Max showed his appreciation by not using his crop, even when there were a few lapses on my part.
I had one problem which soon became apparent. Bella had long straight hair that she had worn in a braid to keep it out of the way, but my hair was too short and too curled to let me do this, and it got in my face when I was underwater. Finally I asked Heidi if she could provide some of the new spring-steel hairpins, and these solved the problem.
When I wasn't at the theater I was kept chained in our room, except for meals at the boarding house table, and for a daily bath, which Max personally supervised. Once he had some money Max bought some spangled cloth, and much of my spare time was occupied in making new costumes. Like the old costumes, these were very tight and displayed every curve of my body. The highlights of my day were the meals, where I got to see and speak with the other boarders, all of whom were show folk, many appearing with Max and me on the same bill. They treated me as an equal, and showed me the respect that had been so lacking in my life since I was arrested.
For some reason Karl didn't eat at the table with the rest of us, although he had a room next to ours. I rarely saw him except under the stage during performances, and that was fine with me. He groped me every time he had the chance, and although I found it repugnant I didn't say anything to Max. What would Max do if I complained? Karl was indispensable to him while I could be replaced, and I knew beyond doubt that my life could be much worse than it was now.
We performed every day for a week, and then Max announced that we would be returning to Gorhalt for a "Special Performance". I was confused, because there was no music hall there, and I knew Max needed the money we would earn in Dresden or some other large city. I asked, "How long will we stay there, Master?"
"This is a one-time performance, Jenny. As you probably know, my uncle the Duke is not fond of me, and he is also afraid of me, since I am popular with the people and I might displace him if there is a change in the structure of the government. So we have reached an agreement. I will stay out of Gorhalt and not meddle in politics in return for an annual stipend. He and his son will attend a single performance of my act to demonstrate there is no breach between us and that he does not disapprove of me appearing on the stage."
"Where will we perform, Master? There isn't a music hall in Gorhalt, is there?"
"We'll use the Opera House. It will require a modification to the stage, but that is all. Karl has already started the work."
* * *
And so we traveled back to Gorhalt. I was sorry to leave Dresden, because I would be trading the social interaction of the boarding house, limited as it was, for the solitary confinement of the old coaching inn. But it would be for a short time only, and then we would be back on the road, touring Europe as Max had done before. I felt a thrill as I contemplated an engagement outside of Germany. Would Max's custody of me be recognized in France or England? I might have a chance to escape! Yet Max must have thought of this himself, and devised some countermove. All I could do was wait for events to resolve themselves.
There wasn't much for me to do during the three days before our performance in Gorhalt. As before, I prepared the meals and did the other household chores, but I was bored and spent a lot of time napping on Max's bed, with my neck chained to the floor, of course. Max insisted that I strip naked when in bed, so I would be conveniently available when he wanted to use me. Although I disliked this unnecessary nudity, I found myself longing for the feel of his body beside me, and his sensitive touch, which was sure to bring me to the heights of passion. I tried to tell myself this was just my basic need for human warmth and companionship, but I knew in my heart that I was a wanton creature, who desperately needed the stimulation Max provided. I wondered what Lady Agnes would make of such depravity. Given her own sexual proclivities, perhaps she would understand, and even approve.
On the day before our performance I was lying in bed, thinking about what to prepare for dinner, and Max was reading in the sitting room. There was a knock on the door and Max opened it.
Karl muttered, "I planted the bomb. All is prepared."
Max asked, "Where did you put it? The Opera House is small, I don't want to be caught in the blast."
"No problem. It's in the floor, next to the Duke's chair. Him and his son will be the only ones killed. I'll set the timer..."
Max interrupted. "Quiet! Jenny's in the bedroom."
I heard his footsteps and quickly closed my eyes and feigned sleep. Then he walked back and I heard the sitting room door close. I was very frightened. If Max thought I had overheard him he might try to silence me. Then I realized that without me there would be no performance and thus no reason for the Duke to come to the Opera House. What to do? I quickly decided that I must not reveal my knowledge to Max.
A short time later Max returned to the bedroom. I was still pretending to be asleep, so he shook me and unlocked the chain from my collar. "Get up, Jenny. Time to prepare dinner."
I yawned and stretched. "Yes, Master." I climbed out of bed and put on my housemaid's dress.
"Did Karl disturb your nap?"
"Karl? I didn't hear him." I tried to be convincing as I lied, but I have limited acting skills.
"Well, he was joking about setting off a bomb in the Opera House. He used to be an anarchist, and planning to assassinate nobles was one of his major preoccupations. I sometimes play along, just for amusement. I love my uncle, even though we have had our differences, and I don't wish him harm."
"I can believe that about Karl, Master. He is practically a caricature of a bomb-thrower. I'm glad you reformed him."
No further mention was made of this, but I thought that Max was suspicious of me, though he said nothing. He made sure I was always chained when he wasn't with me, yet this was no different than usual, so I could not draw any conclusions from it. I could not determine if he knew I had overheard him or not. I successfully tried to put my concerns out of my mind, and as the time for our performance drew near I had no more than my usual anxiety.
* * *
The Opera House was much smaller than the music hall in Dresden, but it was full, with every seat occupied. The Duke and his heir were in a box close to the stage. The Duke was stone-faced, but his son showed more interest, especially in me and my revealing costume. There were differences in this performance, of course. For one thing there were no other acts to condition the audience. Also, Max frequently and surreptitiously consulted his watch, and the pace of the performance was much slower than usual.
But we followed the routine, and finally arrived at the climatic underwater escape. The volunteers chained me as usual and Max carried me up to the platform. I still hadn't decided what to do about the possible bomb in the Duke's box. Could I believe Max when he said what I heard was just idle talk, and he had no intention of killing his uncle and his cousin? And even if there was a bomb, should I warn the Duke? Of course, everyone has a duty to prevent murder, but I wasn't feeling very civic-minded. I had been imprisoned and brutalized by the Duke's officials, and I didn't owe him anything. From a strictly selfish standpoint I would be better off if the bomb succeeded and Max became the Duchy's ruler. I would still be his slave, but it would be better for me to be the slave of the ruling Duke rather than be the slave of a stage magician.
Max picked me up prior to lowering me into the water, and then he did something he had never done before. He kissed my cheek and murmured, "Goodbye, Jenny. I love you." Then I was in the water, and suddenly my fate became clear to me. I wasn't meant to come out of the cabinet alive.
I didn't hesitate. I immediately freed my hands from the handcuffs and removed the false rivet head from the first padlock, but when I tried to insert the nail it was too big to fit into the hole! I felt along the side of the cabinet where the spare nails were hidden, but they were gone. By this time I was short of breath so I put my mouth on the air tube and bit the valve. Instead of the usual powerful jet of air there was just enough for one breath. I was going to die in a "tragic accident".
I had just one chance. I pulled a pin from my hair and straightened it out. If this didn't work I was doomed. I probed the interior of the lock and it opened! I shrugged off the chain around my arms and probed the lock on the chain over my shoulders. It too opened and the chain fell off. Next I unlocked the chain around my waist and shed that chain. The lock holding the chain around my ankles didn't open immediately and I was becoming desperate. Finally it opened and I kicked the chain off my ankles. My breath was running out by the time I was free of this last chain.
I swam to the surface, opened the lid, and sucked in the blessed air. Max was looking at the audience and hadn't noticed I was free. I climbed out of the water and stood myself up on the platform. I shouted, "Your Highness! There's a bomb in your box. A bomb! Get out now!"
Max certainly noticed this! He bounded up the stairs, his hands found my throat, and he commenced to strangle me. I grabbed his wrists and tried to loosen his hands but he was too strong, and I was again moments away from death. Then I remembered something I had learned from one of my more unconventional governesses, and I kneed Max in the groin. He emitted a yell and grabbed his crotch, and I lowered my shoulder and rammed him. As he fell backwards his heel must have caught on the edge of the platform, because he landed on his head. A glance downward showed me he wasn't moving, and I resumed shouting. The Duke must have heard me, because he immediately exited his box, towing his son behind him. Moments later an explosion rocked the theater.
The explosion demolished the Duke's box, but the rest of the Opera House didn't seem to be damaged. I was unhurt, except for a ringing in my ears, and I hurried down the stairs and knelt by Max. I tried to revive him, but he was unresponsive, and there was a trickle of blood from his ear. I took his wrist and felt for a pulse, but I could not find one. I feared that Max was dead.
There was pandemonium in the theater as people struggled to leave, and several of the Duke's ceremonial guard, in their fancy uniforms, together with three men wearing plain clothes and brandishing revolvers, stormed onto the stage. I shouted, "Under the stage! The bomber is under the stage!"
I was distracted for a few minutes as I put on my shoes and struggled to get the plugs out of my nostrils, and when I looked up I was surrounded by guardsmen. For a moment I thought they were going to thank me for foiling the bomb plot, but I was quickly disabused of this notion when I was roughly seized and my wrists were crossed and tied behind my back. More rope was wrapped around my torso, and now I was tightly bound. Two guardsmen seized my arms, and one of the men in plain clothes ordered, "Take her to the Schloss. Put her in the dungeon, and don't let her talk to anyone."
There was a volley of gunshots underfoot and everyone flinched. The man shouted, "Go! Get her out of here!" I was hustled backstage and out of the stage door. In a few minutes a carriage appeared and I was lifted into it. Once the guards were inside the driver whipped the horses and we galloped off. My wet costume adhered to my skin, showing every curve, and I suppose the sight of my nipples was too much for the guards, because they took turns fondling my breasts. With my wrists bound I was unable to resist them, and their hands groped my wet body unimpeded. The guards must have been wary of the Duke's displeasure, for otherwise I was sure they would have gone much further.
When we reached the Schloss the carriage entered the bailey and stopped in front to the keep. We left the carriage and ascended a short flight of stone stairs to a large iron-banded wooden door. A guard pounded on it until a small barred window opened and a man's face appeared. He snarled, "What the devil you want?"
"We have orders to lock this woman in the dungeon, Hans. She is to speak to no one."
Hans looked me over. "She look like circus performer. What she done?"
"Someone set off a bomb in the Opera House, trying to assassinate the Duke. She may be involved. But that's not for us to decide. Our orders are to lock her up."
Hans opened the door and the guards pushed me inside, into a square stone chamber with a vaulted ceiling. Hans was a thickset bald man wearing a leather coat, dirty woolen trousers, and scuffed boots. "Wait here," he grunted. He went into a small room and emerged a few minutes later with a ring of keys and a lit carbide lantern. He said, "Follow me," and led us to another large wooden door. He unlocked it and we descended a long flight of stairs. At the base of the stairs was another locked door. Hans opened it, revealing a short corridor with four closely-spaced doors on each side, doors formed by a grillwork of iron bars.
Although the Schloss looked medieval, I knew it was actually built about fifty years ago. This area may have conceivably been used as a dungeon once, but now it was a wine cellar, as a glance through the cell doors confirmed. But the end cell on the right was empty, and I was thrust into it by the guards. Hans slammed the door and locked it with one of his keys. It was just a bare stone cube, maybe ten feet square, cleanly swept, and with no furniture of any kind.
Hans asked, "How long she going to be here?"
"How the hell would I know? Maybe forever. Just keep her here until the secret police come for her."
Hans grunted and started back up the corridor, the guards following him. I screamed, "Wait! Please, untie me. Don't leave me like this!" Nobody paid any attention, and as soon as Hans closed the door at the end of the corridor it was totally dark. I made a perfunctory effort to free my hands, but it was hopeless. The cell was cold, and I was wearing only a thin, wet costume. I sat down against the back wall and huddled with my thighs against my chest, trying to conserve my body heat. It was not very effective, and soon I was shivering violently.
I don't know how long I sat there freezing in the dark, but I knew I would not survive the night. I had given up hope when I heard the door open and saw a faint gleam of light. Footsteps came closer, and soon Hans was outside the cell door. He unlocked it and stepped inside. "Stand up so I can get ropes off."
I struggled, and Hans helped me get to my feet. He cut the ropes binding me and I tried to get some feeling back into my numb hands. "Thank you," I whispered. "You're very kind."
He grunted. "I always try to foil oppressors and their lackeys. I hear about bomb at Opera House. Good work, Sister!"
"I didn't have anything to do with it."
Hans winked. "Of course not." He put down a bundle. "Two blankets and towel here. Also jug of water and bucket to piss in. Don't mess up my floor."
"I won't. Thank you, you've saved my life."
"Anything to help cause. I can't let you escape, guards are just outside keep. I bring you some food tomorrow." He left the cell and locked the door. His footsteps receded and when he closed the corridor door my cell was dark again.
I had never had much sympathy for the anarchists, but Hans changed my mind. Some of them were decent people, if you overlooked their little foibles, such as bomb-throwing and assassination. I stripped off my wet costume and toweled myself as dry as possible. My hair was still damp, but I could do nothing about that. I wrapped myself in the blankets and resumed huddling. I wasn't comfortable, but the shivering stopped and I had a chance of living until tomorrow.
* * *
The next morning Hans brought me some bread and a piece of sausage. I was very glad to get it, since I hadn't had any food since the previous noon. About an hour later he returned, with two men I had seen on the stage after the bomb exploded. Their revolvers weren't drawn now, but they wore the same suits, one black, one brown. Black Suit was carrying a cloth sack, and he gave it to me. "Get dressed," he commanded.
I rummaged in the sack and found the clothes I had left in the dressing room. I hadn't put the damp costume back on, so when I dropped the blankets I had wrapped around me I was naked. I put on the stockings and my shoes and then the chemise and the blue dress, not bothering with the corset. The men looked at me with startled expressions. "What?" I asked. "Do you expect a woman who has been in your prisons to retain any modesty? Especially in front of jailors?"
They didn't have any answer to that, but one of the men produced something else that was in the dressing room and locked the leg irons on my ankles. Then my hands were pulled behind my back and the shiny black handcuffs used in the act were locked on my wrists. The two men, who I assumed were from the secret police, escorted me out of the dungeon and up to the main part of the keep. We entered a small room and I was placed in a straight chair.
Black Suit barked, "So, Bella. Tell us who your accomplices are. Was it you who planted the bomb?"
"My name is not Bella, it's Jennifer Harrison. Bella was Max's previous assistant, and he never bothered to change the placard. As to who actually planted the bomb, that was Karl, Max's man. Did you catch him? He was under the stage."
"He was killed resisting arrest. By Max do you mean Maximillian von Gorhalt, the Duke's nephew?"
"Who else? You don't seem to be very well informed. Is Max alive? I couldn't revive him."
"He is dead. Are you suggesting he was involved in this plot against the Duke?"
"I know he was. I heard him discussing it with Karl, on the day before the performance. His motive should be obvious, even to you. If you want further proof, he tried to stop me from warning the Duke. You must have seen that." I wasn't shocked to have Max's death confirmed, and any affection I had for him vanished when he tried to kill me. Still, I shed a silent tear for him.
"If you knew of this plot in advance why didn't you warn the Duke sooner? He was almost killed."
"I couldn't warn him! Max kept me chained to the floor, except when he was close to me. Even on the stage he was right next to me until I was on the platform. As soon as I got a chance I did warn the Duke. I saved his life."
I thought it best not to mention my ambivalent thoughts about warning the Duke, resolved only when I knew Max was planning to kill me. Ah, Max! If only you had trusted me!
The two men conferred in whispers, and then Black Suit left the room. Brown Suit stood by the door and stared at me. A long time later Black Suit returned and the two men escorted me into the main part of the Schloss.
I was kept in an anteroom for a few minutes and then ushered into the presence of the Duke, who was seated in a throne-like chair. "So you are Harrison, the criminal who killed our nephew."
"Please sir, I didn't mean to kill him, it was an accident. Besides, he was trying to kill me, to stop me from warning you about the bomb."
"That is irrelevant. There is no excuse for killing a member of the ruling House. You should be executed, but we don't want a scandal. The official statement will say this was a failed anarchist plot. The death of Maximillian was an accident. If you tell anyone otherwise you will be executed. You would have been returned to prison, but Albert has taken a fancy to you, so he will have your custody. That is our command." The Duke gestured to Black Suit. "Take her to Albert."
And thus my fate was decided, just like that. Not a word about how I had been sent to prison for a crime I did not commit. Not a word of thanks for saving the Duke's life. Albert wanted me as his plaything, and that was all that saved me from a hideous death in prison. Black Suit roughly grasped my arm, and I was hustled out of the Schloss and into a carriage.
This time the carriage took me to one of the ugliest houses I had ever seen, set in a large park about five miles from the Schloss. It was a jumbled mixture of styles; Baroque, Rococo, even Gothic. The carriage passed through a large wooden gate in a stone wall behind the house and stopped in a stone-paved courtyard. Black Suit took me inside through a servant's entrance and stopped in a short corridor. He seemed to be confused, and finally asked a passing maidservant to find someone in authority. A short time later she returned with a formidable woman in her fifties, who was wearing a long black dress.
"I am Frau Fischer, the housekeeper. What is it you want?" No queen could have been more imperious. She obviously regarded Black Suit as one of the lower orders.
"This woman is a criminal. His Highness assigned her custody to your master. What do you want to do with her?"
Frau Fischer looked me over, contemptuously. "A criminal, eh? That's a novelty. Usually our Albert finds his trollops on the streets. Follow me."
She turned and walked away, and Black Suit followed her, dragging me with him. We climbed a steep wooden staircase, my leg irons clattering on every step, and finally emerged through an inconspicuous door into an opulent corridor. Fifty feet down the corridor was another door, and this was unlocked and opened by Frau Fischer.
"This is the room Albert uses for sex. Put her in here."
Black Suit pushed me through the door and it was slammed and locked. I was in a small bedroom, plainly furnished. There was a single bed and a small table in one corner holding a pitcher and a washbasin. The window had no curtains or drapes.
I decided not to take off the handcuffs, since that would do me no good now and might be useful later, but I did step through them and bring my hands from the back to the front of my body. There was a chamber pot under the bed and I emptied my bladder. The pitcher contained water and I slaked my thirst. My immediate needs seen to, I lay on the bed and immediately fell asleep.
* * *
I awoke when I heard the door open. I did not know what time it was, but it was dark outside. Albert entered the room. He staggered and only kept himself from falling by clutching the door frame. "Dark in here," he slurred. "Light a lamp, Fritz. I want to see Max's slut up close."
Another man entered the room and lit the gas lamp affixed to the wall. The incandescent mantle illuminated the room and its occupants. Albert was a scrawny youth, with a blotched complexion. Fritz was a large man, wearing a livery displaying the Ducal coat of arms.
Albert leered at me. "Not bad! I like red hair. Outside, Fritz, and close the door. I don't like an audience."
He lurched over to the side of the bed, and without preamble pulled my dress and chemise up to my waist, exposing my bare crotch. He fumbled with the fastening on his trousers and then dropped them to his knees, displaying a small, flaccid penis. He crawled on top of me, pawing at my breasts and gagging me with his alcoholic breath. His weight rested on my body, and the handcuffs hurt my wrists and pressed painfully into my abdomen.
I lay as still as possible. I knew it was futile to resist, and doing so would only bring me pain. Albert's legs forced my knees apart, and I waited for him to penetrate me. But this did not occur, in spite of his increasingly frantic activity, and I realized that Albert's penis was still flaccid. This was contrary to my experience with Max, and I did not know why Albert was having a problem obtaining an erection.
Albert was incensed by his failure. He sat up, his knees straddling my waist, and slapped my face. "This is all your fault, bitch!" he screamed. "I've never had any trouble before!" He slapped me again, and then he struck my jaw with his fist. The feeble blow didn't even stun me, but I pretended to lose consciousness. I closed my eyes and went limp.
Albert got off the bed and opened the door. "Fritz! Fritz! Get this worthless bitch out of here!"
"What should I do with her, my lord?"
"She's a bitch, so she belongs in the kennel. And make sure she stays there."
I could hear Albert staggering down the corridor and then Fritz entered the room. "Put her in the kennel?" Fritz muttered. "We don't have a kennel. Scheisse, I need some help."
He left the room, closing and locking the door. A short time later he entered the room with another man. "So what do I do, Horst? Our Albert said to put her in the kennel, but I don't know of no kennel."
Footsteps stopped next to the bed and a hand stroked my crotch. "Albert couldn't get it up, eh? I wouldn't mind taking his place, and I don't have his problem."
"Better not," Fritz cautioned, "you know how jealous he is. It isn't worth losing your job, or worse, just for a quick fuck. What do we do with her?"
"There's that old doghouse next to the stable, where they used to keep the coach dogs. We could put her there."
"Good idea! Let's get on with it. I still have a lot to do before we leave tomorrow."
"Right, I have a lot to do, too. You take her legs, I'll take her shoulders."
I was picked up and the two men carried me down the back stairs and outside through the kitchen. I still pretended to be unconscious, but I peeked every now and then. We went out a back door and into the stone-paved courtyard between the house and a large stable and carriage house opposite. There was enough moonlight to allow me to see that high stone walls connected the house and the stable, and the wide wooden gate in one wall was the one I had gone through when I was brought here.
Fritz said, "Put her down here, while I get a lantern from the kitchen."
In a few minutes he returned and the yellow glow illuminated our path across the courtyard as the two men carried me to the corner between the stable and the wall that was farthest from the house. Placed right in the corner was a wooden doghouse, perhaps three feet wide and three feet tall at the highest point of its peaked roof. The door was smaller, about two feet square, and it was covered with a worn piece of burlap.
The men dropped me on the ground. Fritz asked, "How do we keep her here?"
Horst replied, "How about this chain?" He rattled the links. "It's rusty, but it's sound. I remember seeing a padlock in the pantry. Wait here, I'll get it."
He returned in a few minutes with a large rusty lock. Fritz started to wrap the chain around my neck, and then he saw my collar. "This is convenient. Lock the chain to that ring on her collar." There was a loud click. "What shall we do with the key?"
"There wasn't any key that I could find. Let someone else worry about that. I've got other things to do."
"I feel sorry for the girl, she's being treated like an animal. And she may be badly hurt. Shouldn't we do something about that?"
"What can we do? We followed orders. We did our duty. Our Albert is an asshole, but that's not our fault."
"Don't say that so loud! You're right, let's go, I've got work to do too."
The two men walked away, leaving me lying on the stone pavement. As soon as they were gone I stood up and examined the chain locked to my collar. The padlock at my neck was solid, and the other end of the chain was bolted to the heavy timber that formed the peak of the doghouse roof. I could not make out much more in the dark, so further examination would have to wait for morning.
I freed my hands from the handcuffs and crawled inside the doghouse. It was empty, with no bedding of any kind, but I hoped that meant there weren't any fleas, either. It did have a floor of wooden planks so I didn't have to lie on the cold stone. The length of the doghouse was too small to allow me to stretch out, so I curled up as best I could and tried to sleep.
* * *
I woke up just before dawn. I had not got much sleep during the night, between the cold and the cramped quarters. I was also experiencing a different type of cramp, since my monthly flow had started. This was annoying, but it also was a relief, as I no longer had to worry about carrying Max's baby. I ripped up my chemise and formed a makeshift pad to absorb the blood.
Soon the courtyard was bustling with activity. The Ducal carriage, pulled by four magnificent horses, was brought out, followed by four much plainer carriages and a large wagon. Fritz and Horst, in their livery, were atop the Ducal carriage as it left the courtyard. A parade of servants carrying baggage of various sorts trooped from the house to the remaining vehicles like a stream of ants. After a while this stopped, and then the servants themselves were loaded into the carriages and the everybody left the courtyard.
During all this time I remained in the doghouse, anxious that no one should see me. The last thing I wanted was to accompany Albert, and with any luck he would forget about me. Once everyone had gone and the wooden gate was closed I crept out and surveyed my surroundings, starting with the chain that held me prisoner. It was about ten feet long, and, although not particularly heavy, it was more than strong enough to constrain my movements. I again tested the bolt that fastened it to the doghouse and the lock on my collar, but neither responded to my efforts to get free.
There was a pottery bowl next to the door to my kennel that once contained water, but it was dry now. I was very hungry, but that was not unusual for me, and I wondered if anyone had been told to provide me with food and water. All I could do was wait, so I sat in the sun with my back to the wall and dozed.
I was awakened several hours later when an old man with a grizzled white beard and worn clothing kicked my foot. "Hey!" he shouted. "Who are you and what are you doing here?"
I opened my eyes and sat up. "My name is Jennifer Harrison, and I'm Albert's slave. He ordered that I be put here." I jingled the chain attached to my collar.
"Slave? What are you talking about? There are no slaves in Germany."
"You are technically correct, but practically there is no difference. I was Maximillian's slave, and now I am Albert's slave. Please sir, could I have some water?"
"I suppose." He tottered off in the direction of the stable and soon returned with a bucket of water, and he poured some into the bowl.
I picked up the bowl and relieved my thirst, and he refilled it. "Thank you, sir. You are very kind. Could I have some food, too?"
"I don't have any, but I'll go to the kitchen and find out what's happening. And you don't have to call me sir. My name is Adolf Kühn."
"Thank you, Herr Kühn. I would appreciate any food you can obtain." I had decided I needed to be exceedingly polite to this old man, as he might be my only contact with the world, my only source of food and water.
He disappeared into the kitchen and I anxiously awaited his return. My hopes for a meal were dashed when he reappeared empty-handed. "Frau Fischer says she received no instructions about you, so she wouldn't give me anything." He reached into his coat and produced half of a loaf of bread. "I took this when she wasn't looking. Now tell me where you're from and how you ended up chained to a doghouse."
As I ate I related my story, how Max had arranged for me to be imprisoned and paroled to him, how I appeared in his act, and how my custody was given to Albert when Max died. I didn't tell him about Max's attempt on the life of the Duke.
"So why did Albert have you chained out here?"
"He attempted to have intercourse with me, but was unable to do so. This angered him, and he had Fritz put me out here. I'm lucky, in a way. He could have had me sent back to prison, and to my death."
Herr Kühn laughed, "That sounds like our Albert. He fails at everything he tries, and it's always somebody else's fault."
"I saw the activity in the courtyard this morning. What is happening?"
"Albert always goes to the spa at Baden-Baden this time of year. He says it's for the baths, but it's really for the Casino. He departed this morning, along with his staff. In a week or so the house will be closed up for the summer and most of the servants dismissed. I'm one of the few that will still be around."
I was immensely relieved to hear that. I did not want to see Albert again. But I had other worries. "But what about me? How shall I live if Frau Fischer won't provide me with food?"
"I don't know. I suppose I can steal food from the kitchen for a while, but once the kitchen closes it won't be available. I can't buy food for you, because my pay is so low that I can barely afford to feed myself. I'm sorry, but if I supplied you too we would both starve."
"Can you help me escape? I don't want to die here."
"I don't dare. Frau Fischer knows you're here, and if she notices you have escaped she will call the police. Even if I was only suspected of helping you escape I would be dismissed, and not only me, but also my son and daughter-in-law. I'm sorry, but I can't take the chance. Wait for a while, things must get better."
"I understand. You owe me nothing; rather I owe you, and I appreciate your kindness. Do you suppose you could get me a blanket? It's cold at night, and I'm wearing all the clothing I have."
"I'll see what I can find. But I must get back to work, so goodbye for now."
Herr Kühn left, and I sat by myself and contemplated my bleak future. Even if I could get the chain off my neck how could I even get out of the courtyard? And anyway, what could I do then? I had no money and my ankles were chained. Escape from Germany was impossible. I thought of one chance I might have, but the odds against success were long.
It was almost sunset when Herr Kühn returned. He gave me some more bread and a thick blanket that smelled strongly of horse. "Thank you, Herr Kühn. May I ask one more favor? Could you get me a pencil and paper?"
"Yes, I can do that. Do you want it right away?"
"Yes, please." Herr Kühn went into the stable and soon returned with a pencil stub and a piece of brown paper. I hurriedly scrawled a note, explaining where I was and describing my predicament. I also gave a brief history of the events of the last few days. Then I handed the note to Herr Kühn. "Please take this paper to the city and give it to Herr Speer. I don't know where he resides, but he is an attorney, so you should be able to find his office. I'm sure he will pay you for your trouble."
"Well, I don't know. It's a long way into the city, and I can't be away from my job."
I knelt before him and begged, "Please, please! This is my last hope, and you must help me." I started crying, and it wasn't all pretense. "I'll do anything you ask."
"No need for that, and I'm too old anyway. I'll do it, please stop crying. I'll leave early tomorrow morning, so I can be in the city when the businesses open."
"Oh, thank you! You may have saved my life."
* * *
The next day I anxiously awaited Herr Kühn's arrival, but he didn't appear until mid-morning. "Please tell me. Did you deliver the message?"
"Yes, I gave it to Herr Speer personally. He gave me two marks, so the trip was worthwhile." Herr Kühn was carrying a bucket of water, and he filled my bowl.
"What did Herr Speer say?"
"Nothing. He read the note, but he didn't say anything to me."
I could not interpret this. Was Herr Speer going to help me, or was he going to ignore me? In the worst case, Herr Kühn could be lying about delivering the note. All I could do was wait, and it wasn't easy. I tried to avoid dwelling on my likely fate, but I was very morose and I cried often.
Several days went by. Herr Kühn still filled my water bowl, but he could only provide me with scraps of food, and he didn't spend much time with me. I suppose he felt bad about not being able to give me more food, and he didn't want to watch as I starved. To make what food I did get go as far as possible all I did was sit quietly. After a while I was able to achieve a trance-like state.
I heard nothing from Herr Speer, and the hope generated by sending my message to him was fading. After all, what could he do? I was legally a convict. Albert, like Max, could do with me as he wished. Indeed, except for the lack of food I was now being treated less harshly than I would have been treated in prison. Herr Speer could do nothing to help me legally, and why would he risk his position to help me illegally? I was just as doomed now as I was when I was tied to the whipping post, and all I could hope for was an easier death. I tried to fight against my depression and lethargy, but without success.
More time passed. The house was closed now, and some days I got no food at all. Then one night I was awakened by a strange whistling noise. Puzzled, I crawled out of the doghouse to see what was causing it. As soon as my head was outside it was covered with a cloth sack and hands seized my arms and pulled me the rest of the way out. I opened my mouth to scream, but something like a bit was forced into it and tied in place by a rope around the back of my head. I struggled, but there were at least two men holding me, and my arms were forced behind my back and my wrists crossed and tightly tied with rope. Next my ankles were tied together, and then tied to my wrists by a short rope. I was now completely helpless, and all I could do was wriggle ineffectually and whimper.
I heard the sound of a hammer striking metal; presumably my chain was being cut with a chisel. Then I was picked up and placed in a wheelbarrow and trundled across the courtyard and for some distance beyond. I was transferred to a carriage and placed face-down on the floor. We traveled in it for some time, and my discomfort escalated into pain. By now I was completely disoriented, and when I was carried out of the carriage, into a building, and down some stairs, I had no idea where I was.
I was placed on the floor and I heard the click of a lock. Much to my relief, the ropes on my wrists and ankles were cut off and the gag removed from my mouth. I took the bag off my head, and saw that I was in a cellar, illuminated only by one dim gas lamp. Two masked men were standing by the door, and they left without saying anything, locking the door behind them.
The chain attached to my collar was locked around a thick wooden support post in the center of the stone-paved cellar. The cellar was furnished with a straw-filled pallet with two folded blankets, a jug containing water, a pottery cup, and a chamber pot. There was only about three feet of chain between my collar and the post, so most of the cellar, including the door and the lamp, was inaccessible to me. I moved the pallet close to the post and lay on it, the first comfort I had experienced in days. I wrapped myself in the blankets and slept.
When I awoke daylight was shining through two small barred windows at the top of one wall of the cellar. A short time later the door was unlocked and a masked man entered carrying a tray. He put it on the floor and retreated out of the door without saying a word. The tray contained a large breakfast, served on china dishes and with pewter utensils, and I devoured it. Whoever my captors were they didn't stint on food. Perhaps they were fattening me up for nefarious reasons. If so, I would cooperate by eating all that I could.
An hour or so later the door opened again and the two masked men entered, this time carrying a large washtub, two buckets of warm water, a bar of soap, and a towel. As a bonus, one man removed my leg irons. The last time I had bathed was the day before the performance, and I looked and felt dirty. Once the men left the cellar I quickly stripped off my shoes, stockings, and dress, my only clothes since I had sacrificed my chemise. I stood in the tub and poured water over my head. It then occurred to me that I might be secretly observed, but I just shrugged and continued to bathe. When I had finished I felt much better, and only regretted that I didn't have any clean clothes.
At midday the men reappeared with a tray containing another substantial meal, and more food was forthcoming at sunset. This routine continued for over a week, and soon I felt much better, at least physically. I still wondered why I was a prisoner here and who was responsible for my captivity. Would my next journey be to the seraglio of some oriental despot? Whatever my fate, I was powerless to alter it, and all my time in captivity had taught me not to worry about the future.
One evening the men appeared about an hour after sunset. They were carrying rope, and I didn't bother to resist when they tied my hands behind my back and also tied my knees and ankles. The cloth sack went over my head and the gag went into my mouth. One man put me over his shoulder and carried me outside and placed me into a carriage. This time I was sitting on the seat, so I was not too uncomfortable.
This journey lasted for about an hour, and I could tell we were traveling on city streets for much of that time. The carriage stopped and I was lifted out and stood on the ground. One man whispered, "We're going to put you in a trunk. It won't be for long, so be quiet and don't struggle. If you do you'll regret it."
I was not reassured by this, but any resistance I made would be futile, so I passively allowed myself to be folded into a large trunk. The lid was locked and the trunk was placed on end (fortunately with my head up), and then it was being moved on a trolley. I was bumped up some stairs, across a very smooth surface, and then I was carried up more stairs. I heard one of the men knock on a door, and then I was carried some more. The trunk was put down, the lid was opened, and I was dumped out onto a carpeted floor. More footsteps, and the door closed.
I felt a knife cutting the ropes off, and then the gag was removed, followed by the sack over my head. Lady Agnes was standing over me, and Betsy was kneeling next to me with the knife. "Hello, Jenny," Lady Agnes said. "I've had to go to a lot of trouble to get you back."
I was speechless with astonishment. Finally I was able to ask, "Where are we?"
"In the hotel in Gorhalt."
"But I'm an escaped convict! The police must be looking for me. I can't stay here."
"Not to worry. I purchased your custody from Albert. You're mine now."
"How... How..." I sputtered.
"When Herr Speer got your message he telegraphed me. It took a while for his message to find me, but once I got it I swung into action. This is the most exciting thing I've done in years! I hired a professional gambler and sent him to Baden-Baden to fleece Albert. Once all of Albert's money was gone I made him an offer for your custody that he was glad to accept. In the meantime, I hired some men to kidnap you and keep you until the paperwork was all in order. I received the documents today and they delivered you to me."
"I owe you my life, Lady Agnes. I got almost no food when I was Albert's prisoner, and I was sure I was going to starve to death. But why didn't those men tell me you had hired them?"
"If Albert didn't sell you to me I was going to keep you anyway, but that would have been illegal, and in that case I didn't want them to know who hired them."
"I will be eternally grateful for all that you have done for me, Lady Agnes. What do you want me to do now?"
"You will continue be my companion, but with a change in your status." She lifted the chain still attached to my collar. "We'll have to get this chain off, but the collar will stay on. 'Slave jenny' - the inscription is still appropriate. Do you understand?"
Lady Agnes, Betsy, and I spent the summer and autumn touring Germany, Switzerland, and Austria, and we moved into Lady Agnes' villa in Tuscany for the winter. By then I was Lady Agnes' slave in all respects. I called her mistress, and I obeyed her without hesitation. Once I could not leave Lady Agnes because I had no money, now I could not leave because without her protection I faced prison and certain death. This was never overtly mentioned, but it was on my mind at all times, and it reinforced my acquired servility.
The class-based conventions were observed, in that Betsy performed her duties as a personal maid and I performed mine as a secretary-companion, but my true status was actually lower than Betsy's, since Betsy was not wearing a collar that proclaimed she was a slave. But Betsy and I became close friends in spite of my lowly status and our class differences.
Both of us were punished for real or imagined transgressions, and I was beaten about twice a month, on average. But my life was tolerable, all things considered. The sex was physically pleasant, whether I partnered individually with Lady Agnes or Betsy or participated in a group activity with both of them, but it did not compare to what I had experienced with Max, and I longed for male companionship.
In the spring Lady Agnes made plans to return to Germany. As the date of our departure drew near my anxiety increased, because I recognized the great risk I was facing whenever I was under German jurisdiction. If something happened to Lady Agnes my parole would lapse, and I could be sent back to prison, or wherever the Duke of Gorhalt chose. Indeed, the Duke could revoke my parole even if Lady Agnes objected, and he could then sell me to the highest bidder, with all that implied.
There was a deeper, hidden cause for my unhappiness, one that even I hadn't really recognized. I involuntarily displayed it one day when one of our Italian day staff brought her two-year-old daughter to work with her. Lady Agnes and I were sitting in the garden when the little girl joined us, and we were charmed by her beauty and her cheerful behavior. I hugged the child, and suddenly I was sobbing.
"What is the matter, Jenny?" Lady Agnes asked.
"Nothing, Mistress. Just a foolish thought. I don't want to bother you with it."
"Tell me, Jenny! That is an order."
"Well, I was just thinking that when I complete my sentence I'll be 38 years old, too old to have a child. I'll never have a little girl of my own, and it makes me sad." I released the child and pushed her away. "But I'm all right now, Mistress. Some things are not to be, and I'll adjust."
Lady Agnes said nothing, and the subject never came up again.
* * *
In early May we left the villa and traveled to Leghorn, the nearest city with good railway connections to Germany. We would spend the night in a hotel, and then depart for Berlin the next morning. About a hour before bedtime I was quietly reading in the sitting room of our suite when suddenly Lady Agnes said, "Betsy, tie Jenny's hands behind her back."
I was surprised when I heard this. I had done nothing wrong that I knew of, and always when I was whipped my hands were tied in front, so they could be fastened over my head. We often used bondage when we had sex, but not before we took our clothes off. But as an obedient slave girl I stood and did not resist when Betsy crossed my wrists and tied them tightly with the thin rope. My surprise, and my fear, increased when Lady Agnes blindfolded me with a scarf and clipped a leash to the ring on my collar. What was she going to do?
"I suppose you wonder what this is all about," she said. "What I have to say may shock you, so I've bound you to prevent you from doing anything rash."
She paused and my fear mounted. I could not imagine what this was all about, or why I had to be bound before hearing her announcement. Lady Agnes sometimes displayed a perverse sense of humor. Was this some bizarre joke?
Lady Agnes let the tension build before she spoke. "Jenny, I have sold you to a man who plans to take you to the east. It is possible you will never return to Europe."
I was stunned. Had she sold me to an Ottoman slave dealer? Was I going to vanish into some harem? I started to plead with her, but she put her hand on my mouth, and, obeying my conditioning, I stopped talking.
There was knock on the door. "That must be the buyer. Open the door, Betsy." Lady Agnes hugged me. "Goodbye, Jenny. I'll always love you." She kissed me, and I kissed her back. I was too shaken to say anything. My fear increased when Betsy also kissed me and I felt her tears on my face.
Someone entered the room. Lady Agnes said, "Welcome, sir. Here is your merchandise. I hope you are satisfied with your purchase."
This mysterious buyer said nothing, but he pulled on my leash and I followed him out into the corridor. We walked a few steps and another door opened. I was led forward and I could tell we were inside another room. The door was closed and I heard the lock click.
My blindfold was removed and I saw that my new owner was Robert! He took me in his arms and kissed me. I eagerly responded, opening my mouth and pressing my body against him. When our lips separated I said, "Oh, Robert, I've missed you so much. But what are you doing here? I thought you were in Australia."
"I was in Australia. I left two months ago and came to Europe to find you. It took a while, Lady Agnes was hard to track down."
"But how could you afford it? You were almost penniless when you left England."
"I struck it rich in the gold fields, and I sold a part interest in my claims for a lot of money. Now that I've found you we'll be returning to Australia. I've booked passage on a steamer that sails tomorrow. The captain can marry us once we're at sea."
He put his hands on my shoulders and looked into my eyes. "You do not have to do this, Jenny. Lady Agnes will take you back and you can continue your life with her, if you wish."
"Oh no, Robert! I love you and I want to marry you. But I am a convicted criminal. If I'm your wife will this affect your social position?"
"In Australia?" He laughed. "Of course not. Half the population have convicts as ancestors." He turned me around and untied my hands. "Tying your hands and pretending she sold you to a slaver was Lady Agnes' farewell joke. She asked me to play along, and I could not refuse her. Where's the key to your collar?"
"There isn't one. The collar is permanently locked around my neck. It will have to be cut off."
"We can get that done on the ship. Now, for tonight I've also booked the room next door. You can sleep there if you wish, since we're not married yet."
"I'm still wearing my collar so I'm still your slave girl, Master. My place is in your bed." I put my arms around his neck and kissed him. I was aroused, and I pressed my hard nipples into his chest. "Let's not wait any longer, Master."
"What are you doing, Jenny? Why are you so wild?"
"I'm deliriously happy because I belong to the man I love. When we're married I'll be a model of decorum, but right now I'm your slave girl, and I have no inhibitions. But if you want me to go I'll go, Master. You have only to command me and I will obey." I released him and took a step back.
"No inhibitions, eh? I still plan to marry you tomorrow, but perhaps we can leave the collar on for a bit longer. Kiss me, slave girl."
Copyright© 2012 by Zack. All rights reserved. I welcome your comments. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org