Camorra Chapter 3
Hurriedly changing his breeches and shirt for a clean pair, he made his way down towards the kitchen again. In the corridor, he passed Camorra in the corridor, who avoided his eyes and swept past without a word. As Benjamin turned the corner, he caught a glimpse of Camorra standing motionless, his fists balled at his sides, stopped in his tracks in the corridor. He was about to enquire of his master's health, but before he could speak, Camorra shook his head to himself and strode into the Library.
Lunch was a quick affair, some cold meat sandwiched in wholesome fresh bread, washed down with a mug of steaming tea. Placing his crockery by the large sink, Benjamin made his way to the Library to meet his master.
In the Library, Camorra fumed to himself. Why in Hell's name had he protected the boy so much? The boy was just a means to an end, not a blasted end in himself. As if displaying his talents were not dangerous enough, he'd then offered some revoltingly nonsensical explanation that not even a street urchin would believe. Fates, but he was a mess. He needed a damn drink. That was the problem, he decided. In that case, he'd soon solve it.
A knock at the door announced Benjamin's presence, and Camorra bade him enter. The boy advanced somewhat hesitantly into his master's presence, but Camorra blithely waved him to a chair. "Now, young man," he said, as Benjamin made himself comfortable, "it seems to me that you're going to require some sort of uniform to fit in with my household. I can't have a butler that's dressed like a commoner, now can I?" Moving smoothly over Benjamin's attempts at pleasantries, he continued, "To that end, I have seen fit to make you an appointment with my personal tailor. I shall have my driver drop you off there this afternoon, where you will be measured and fitted for a pair of suits, some clothes more suited for your time off, a formal suit for special occasions, and a proper frock coat as well. Do not worry about the expense; I have an account with this tailor, so all monies are taken good care of. Now, be off with you, and I'll see you at dinnertime. Meet me in the dining room at, shall we say – seven tonight." Camorra stood, indicating to Benjamin he was dismissed, and the boy hurriedly scrambled to his feet, bowed slightly, and made for the door, stuttering garbled thanks as he did so. Smiling, his master patted him genially on the shoulder and sent him on his way.
With the boy dismissed, Camorra returned to his chair and turned his brain to the other problem. Sometime he was going to have to offer the boy the truth about the morning's sight – at least, if he wanted any chance of Benjamin sticking around. It irked him still that he found himself caring quite so much whether or not the boy did remain, but he pushed that to the back of his mind. That, he decided, was a mental gymnastics session that could wait.
Leaving the library, he strolled through the corridors of his house. Looking out the window of the landing to the street below, he watched as tousled curls on long, lithe legs hurried down the steps to the waiting cab, a slight smile curling his lips as the horses moved off. Continuing his wanderings, he found himself outside the boy's room. The young maid was inside, changing the bedlinen, and as he entered she curtsied and said hastily, "My apologies, Master Camorra sir; I'll come and finish this later." Putting his hand upon her shoulder, he shook his head: "It's fine; I'm just meandering anyway. Forget I'm here, Yvonne." With a faint blush, the girl curtsied again and finished putting on the sheet, before gathering the dirty linen in her arms and hurrying away. Smiling, Camorra moved around the room, taking in the view from the window, enjoying the scatter of Benjamin's few possessions; breeches and shirt over the end of the bed, a hankerchief, a couple of shillings on the desk. In the distance, he heard church bells; two o'clock. He had plenty of time.
Moving to his room, he changed quickly; in place of his customary dark attire, he donned some simple brown breeches, a white shirt, and a well-made but discreet coat, before making his way outside. Stopping to look either way up the street, breathing in the slight fog that was forming, he moved off in the opposite direction that Benjamin had taken.
Before long, he was ambling through the verdant avenues of Hyde Park, looking for all the world like an ordinary man out for a stroll. Only his eyes would have given him away, had anyone cared to notice, for they were constantly on the move, roving, searching. It wasn't long before he found what he was looking for: a young man, about 19, probably, sitting along under a tree, drawing what he saw in a sketchbook across his knees. Drifting silently up behind the boy, Camorra looked over his shoulder, careful not to cast a shadow to betray his presence. What he saw made him smile wistfully, for the young artist had drawn many little figures scampering across the pages, in various poses, and outlined in the middle were two male figures, one beseeching, the other with his back turned in defiance. The vigour with which these two were drawn made Camorra suspect that this was an autobiographical scene, and a romantic one at that.
Moving around the tree to intersect with the boy's eyeline, Camorra bent down, saying, "I couldn't help but notice you drawing here. It is always so good to see the young enjoying the arts – both practicing as much as appreciating." The boy, looked up, faintly startled, and said, "Ah yes, sir. I love to draw, and I am lucky in that my family have always encouraged me in this pursuit."
"Consider yourself lucky, young lad. I know of many who would prefer their son to worry more about getting apprenticed than filling their heads with drawings and suchlike. My parents were of that same ilk as yours, though, and I count myself fortunate."
Looking up with more interest, the boy asked, "Forgive me for being so bold, sir, but do you then study the fine arts, sir? It is always pleasant to meet others who do."
Camorra nodded. "Indeed I do, young lad. In fact, it was for this reason that I approached you; I had wondered idly if you might be interested in a proposition I have. You see, I find myself somewhat lacking in certain areas. While I can produce an endless stream of still-lifes, I feel that my abilities at capturing the human figure to be wanting. To this end, I wonder if you would agree to pose for me? You would be rewarded for your time, of course." The boy looked over at the nearby clock, and nodded his agreement, saying, "Why not? I have nowhere to be until 5 o'clock, and I'm always ready to help a fellow scholar – especially one who seems as polite as yourself. Where would you have me stand?"
Smiling to himself, Camorra shook his head. "Alas, young man, I am unprepared. If you would come back to my studio – it is but ten minutes on foot – then we can proceed from there." Seeing the young lad's slight misgivings, Camorra proceeded, "Come, lad, do not be troubled. Here, let me show that I mean well," and took two pounds from his coat pocket, sliding them between the pages of the artist's sketchpad.
At the sight of the money, the boy's misgivings seemed to ease. Rising to his feet, he collected his belongings, saying, "Well, it seems you are making me an offer I cannot refuse, good sir. I am yours until 5 of the clock!" At his words, Camorra smiled again, widely, at the eager boy, his startling white teeth flashing slightly. "Excellent! Let us not delay a moment then!" Turning on his heel, he began to retrace his steps back to his house, the boy falling in step beside him.
As they walked, he asked, "Tell me something, if you will. I could not help but notice that, in the middle of your page, was two figures – one seemingly imploring the other, who was apparently ignoring him. It made me curious, I confess. Would you explain it?" The young man blushed slightly, endearingly. "Ah, sir. It is nothing; merely the foolish fancy of a young artist. There is a boy I met – he is my age – that I found myself unaccountably drawn to. He was defiant of my advances, however, so I resolved to leave it be, and admire from a distance for now." Camorra nodded. "The strains of young love. So delicious, and yet so anguished. Nowhere is there a fuller expression of pure emotion than in these flutters of passion." He looked down at the top of the boy's head with a smile, but found himself seeing instead the tousled mane of his new butler. Frowning, he looked up the street, taking the boy's arm and leading him across the road to his front door.
Once inside, they moved to the drawing room, where Camorra instructed the housekeep to start a fire. Within minutes, a healthy blaze was licking over the logs and the room was warming perceptibly. As the young artist looked around with interest at the quiet wealth, Camorra busied himself at the side bureau, producing a variety of sheets of paper that he mounted on an easel he pulled from the corner of the room. Setting it up where the light was good, he drew the curtains to shield the room from the street, and asked his model to strike a natural pose.
The young man complied, standing with a hint of a slight slouch, his thumbs hooked into this waistband. The firelight made shadows on the contours of his face, and in the hollows of his wrists, and Camorra smiled. "Delightful, my young man. Now, if you would so good as to turn to your left very slightly, it shall be perfect." He complied, and the shadows deepened slightly, the shapes changing and elongating, while over his cheekbones and knuckles, subtle highlights played. Smiling again, Camorra put his pencil to the paper.
He was an accomplished artist, and quickly produced an excellent likeness of the boy. After critically appraising it for a moment, he turned to his young model, saying, "Now, this is all very satisfactory. However, I feel that, in order to fully understand the mystery of form, it must be studied unencumbered by clothes. Please, if you could disrobe, I would be most grateful." With merely a nod and an "As you wish, sir," his model disrobed and stood simply before him, without a hint of bashfulness. Camorra sucked in a breath as the firelight made the boy's skin glow, shadows forming across his toned torso, the hollow of his collarbone, a darkening on his sternum, shadowed lines leading from his hips to the dark pool of his crotch, where his penis hung, catching the light again. Feeling a tightening in his trousers, Camorra moved behind his easel again, tacking on another sheet of paper. "Please, lie in front of the fire, as you would recline upon your bed as you read a letter." He looked up to see a youthful sprawl, unashamed and open, touched by shadows and highlights that flickered, a slight sheen of sweat from the heat of the fire.
As he drew, he found himself becoming more impatient. His continued failure to shake off the image of his young butler, in spite of the presence of the gorgeous young artist, was something he had become unused to. His lines grew spikier, more angular and angry, as the model moved from one pose to the next; first lying, then setting, finally kneeling with his back to Camorra as he sketched the lines of his spine. He had planned to use this boy for pleasure as well simply to appease his thirst, but it seemed increasingly likely that this was not going to be a viable possibility.
Finally, he put down his pencil. Brusquely, he instructed his model to put his clothes back on. Whipping the curtains back angrily, he glared outside. The fog had come in earnest, and it was almost impossible to see; only the lamplights made patches of light in the oily gloom. "It is nearly 5 o'clock, young sir. Come with me, that we may address the matter of your reward. Leaving the drawing room, he started up the stairs, the boy following behind. In his bedroom, he rifled the drawers of his desk, producing a purse. "Now, five pounds seems a worthy recompense for your time. I trust that seems… reasonable." Without waiting for a response, he waved it at the young man. Slightly stunned, he took it, stuffing it in his breeches pocket, looking up to see Camorra standing above him, his expression dark and unreadable. For a moment the older man seemed to be struggling with himself, before turning away and grating, "Get out of my house. Now." He stood there, his back turned, until he heard footsteps stumble hurriedly down the stairs, and the front door slam.
For interminable moments he stood there, staring at the wall, seething. Who the Hell was this boy, this damn butler, that he could strip him of his desire? Striding angrily downstairs, he looked at his drawings of the young artist. Sneering, he ripped them up and fed them into the fire. What should have been an exhilarating afternoon, playing games with a human, taking for pleasure and greed, had turned sour. In a grim mood, Camorra stormed to the library, and slammed the door.