Edna had no idea what Mr Topdraw wanted, he often rang the bell for the most insignificant things, just to have one of the two maids in the room with him so that he could look at them or touch them occasionally in his seemingly innocent way. She stood outside the door of his study hesitantly; she knocked, waited for the sound of his voice.
- Come in, Mr Topdraw called.
Edna opened the door, entered, and then closed the door behind her softly.
- You rang, sir? Edna said, remaining where she was by the closed door.
- Come closer, Edna, I won't bite, he said, looking at her, his back to the fire, his hands behind his back.
Edna walked further into the room and waited by the desk, which was piled with books and papers.
Mr Topdraw smiled, studied the maid as she stood a few feet away by his desk.
- Could you help me go through these papers and books? He asked, making a gesture with his hand, which he had removed from behind his back.
- If you want me to, Sir, Edna said, sensing touches or such ahead of her.
- Good, he said, moving away from the fire, moving closer to the desk and Edna. - I don't know how it all gets so messed up; I do try to keep on top of these matters, but there you are, that's life, he muttered, sensing Edna's hand close to his as he stood next to her at the desk.
Edna picked up a book and gazed at the spine. It was a poetry book; she didn't know who the poet was, she'd not heard of the name.
- Where did you want the books put, Sir? She asked, holding the poetry book in her hands.
Mr Topdraw peered at the book. - Put the books back in that bookcase over by the wall, he said nodding toward the far wall near the window.
Edna picked up a few more books, carried them over to the bookcase, and began placing them in the vacant slots. - Did you want them in any particular place?" Edna asked, turning back to look at Mr Topdraw.
- No, anywhere for now, Edna, he said, noticing how beautifully curved her body was, how she moved just then as she bent down to put the books away, how delightful to gaze, he mused, letting his words drift over to the maid across the room.
Edna nodded, put the last of the books away, went back to the desk and stood by Mr Topdraw as he sorted through some papers.
- Take these for the moment, Edna, he said and handed the maid a batch of papers he had been holding.
Edna grabbed the batch of papers, held them just beneath her bust, looked as Mr Topdraw fingered through others on the desk.
- What shall do with these? She asked, feeling boredom creeping into her body and brain.
Mr Topdraw paused in thought and gazed at the maid. She had an innocent face, he mused, taking her eyes, the curve of her jaw, the lips.
- Put them over on the table by the armchair, I'll go though them properly later, he said, watching as she moved across to the other table, taking her walk, the sway of her hips, the figure as she bent forward with the papers to pace them down. She was very neat, very precise, not like some he'd had, slovenly, moody.
Edna felt as if he was watching every move she made; she wondered if he crept up to her and Nellie's room in the attic, listened in at the door to their conversations or spied through keyhole as they undressed for bed. The mere thought gave her the creeps. If he spied what she and Nellie got up to at night he'd have a heart attack she was sure and serves him right, too, the creepy beggar.
- And these, Mr Topdraw said, holding out some more papers from the desk, waiting for the maid to come closer, wishing he was twenty years younger, feeling an urge which must control he told himself, watching as Edna returned, gazing momentarily at her bosom, at her head slightly to one side as if she were thinking about something.
Edna stood by the desk and waited. She felt his eyes on her; sensed his hands close by waiting like hawks to pounce. Sometimes he would let his hands touch her arm, or occasionally, he would pat her bottom as she passed or finger her hair where it poked out from her white cap.
- These can go over there, too, he said, handing Edna some more papers, and as he did so allowing his hand to touch hers. - Your hands are cold, Edna, he said, touching the side of her hands where she held the papers.
Edna nodded, wished Nellie had answered the dammed bell and not she. She sensed his fingers run over the sides of her hands in a gently stroking motion, felt like smacking his hands away, but didn't, she just moved away and walked to the desk across the room.
Mr Topdraw sighed softly, studied the maid's bottom as she walked from him, wished Mrs Topdraw were as she used to be, not off on her own room at night, not away from him and his passions, and needs. He looked at his desk. The desk was now cleared apart from a few pens and an inkwell.
Edna put down the papers, neatly arranged them, delaying her return to Mr Topdraw as much as possible, wondering what else he wanted, wishing he were different, wanting to go out and away.
- Anything else, Sir? She asked from the desk, looking around the room briefly, trying to catch his eyes.
- No, I don't think so, Edna, he said, wishing he could think of something else to delay her departure, find some reason for to stay awhile longer, be able to be near her for just a few more moments, but he could not think of anything.
Edna curtsied, smiled, and walked to the door. Thank God, for that she mused, looking across the room at him as he stood by his now neat desk and smiling.
Mr Topdraw soaked up what he could of the maid's body and movement before she left the room. Sometimes at night, alone in his room he would resurrect these images and play with the like a boy with soldiers, or dolls as he did as a boy when his sister wasn't looking. He watched as Edna smiled, swallowed up her lips, her eyes, the hands, the swaying hips. She closed the door and was gone. He sighed, closed his eyes, and breathed in deeply before walking to slowly back to the fire and his glass of whiskey on the mantelshelf.
Edna stood against the closed door, took in a deep breath and released it with a sigh. If eyes could undress she'd be naked now, she mused, feeling used, undone, somehow touched. She pushed herself away from the door and went in search of Nellie, to relate the awful adventures, feel her near, attempt to free herself from his touches, the searching eyes that seemed to have molested her body, take tea in the kitchen with Mrs tard the cook with Nellie at her side, the scent of her Nellie's body to soothe her nerves.