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A soldier returns from India and finds love


Submitted:Jun 25, 2011    Reads: 22    Comments: 0    Likes: 0   


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I Feel Free
by
Steven Hunley
London was packed with more white people than I'd seen in years. There weren't enough white women on the frontier to bother with. Most were married to other fellow officers. But in London, women, loose women, could be enjoyed for a mere pittance. So enjoy them I did, and found much of my entertainment in the West End, and I not referring to theatres. Drinking, gambling and women. That's how it was, at least up until I the most incredible girl. It was a charity ball, and many of my fellow officers were going and suggested I go. Comrades in arms, and all that. I was hesitant at first, but I was swept away by the obligations I'd given, and a man's only as good as his word.
Besides, I'd always looked good in uniform. It still fit like a glove. It was one of those fund raisers where women of station would dance with a man for a donation. I'd always aspired to marry an upper-crust woman, but the places I frequented I never ran into any, you can understand that. That night things changed.
The ball room at the Savoy in Westminster was lit with electric lights and filled with soldiers and sailors. The dancers moved as a body and swung past me in circles as the band played, at one with the hypnotic music. There were dozens of ladies in expensive ball gowns, wearing ropes of lustrous pearls and white gloves, each one with her hair up, each more alluring than the last. The officers in their red uniforms wore glittering gold braid on their shoulders. Enchanting, that's what it was.
I don't know why but I felt out of place.
Just then a magnificent creature appeared. Fair, but with dark hair, ringed with luxuriant curls. It fell in black cascades over her pale shoulders. She was the sole woman with her hair down. Her cheeks blushed like a budding pink rose, and her lips were coral.
When the music stopped I struck like a viper. I outranked the subaltern that was her partner.
"I'm next on your card," I said. He gave me a look and noticed my rank, and retreated in good order.
"Which one are you?"
I glanced at her card. There were quite a few names, so I did what I do best, I improvised, and picked one at random.
"Right there," I said. "Reginald Frobisher, that's me, at your service."
I bowed. The band started again. Taking her gloved hand in mine, I placed my other hand around her waist, and before she could say more, we were off.
She danced marvelously. Not too close, not too far. She was light as a proverbial feather. Her green eyes reflected the sparkle of the chandeliers like a hundred glittering stars. We danced faster and faster and she laughed an incomparable laugh. I've seen nothing like her before or since. A wild extravagant creature. When we were dancing I felt a part of her, and because of that, as if I belonged. The crowd lost its meaning. The extravagance of the room no longer intimidated me. I felt free.
When they stopped playing we danced out through the tall French doors that led to the veranda. Then we gazed at the moon like two lovers and talked the rest of the night away. I realized that although I was supposed to have a dance card, I didn't. I hadn't bothered to pick mine up, and didn't know her name, and for all I know, she wasn't even on it. I fumbled in my pocket saying,
"I believe I've lost my card! And I don't really know your name."
"It's Valentine Carnarvon."
"Lord Carnarvon's daughter? Lord Carnarvon, the one that's financing Carter in his expedition to Egypt to find the tomb of Tutankahmen?"
"That's me," she said, smiling demurely. "What's yours?"
"Mine's…" I stumbled. Damn I couldn't remember. "It's…"
"Reginald Frobisher, isn't it, Captain?"
"Yes, that's it."
The music stopped and the ball was over. Time flew by like a comet. The hours had been nothing. She started to leave, but when she hesitated, I took the opportunity to ask,
"Will I see you again?"
"I'm going the Tate Gallery this weekend on Sunday at three, try there."
I was pleased no end, like a kid watching fireworks explode. Right before she crossed through the French windows she turned one last time and informed me,
"By the by, Captain, Reginald Frobisher was the man you took me away from. Next time guess farther down on the card!"
I was stunned. She was a remarkable woman indeed and just ravishing.
I couldn't wait to get at her.
***

©Steven Hunley 6-11

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