Extract from We Are Villains All
In the town of Daneburton, the women would often turn their drawing room conversation to the subject of the poet, Maxwell Wainwright. He had lived among them in the Hampshire market town for twenty years, seeking the peace and solitude that London could not offer. He sought to further the appreciation of poetry amongst the ladies of the community. It was not only poetry that the ladies who gathered in his home appreciated. When they returned to their own drawing rooms, the talk was of his latest publication, the sweetness of his words. Sometimes the praise of his writing came dangerously close to praise of the man himself. It wasn’t that Mr Wainwright was not a praiseworthy man, quite the opposite. What they did not say was the way his glance, his smile, the brief, warm touch of his hand made them feel. Each one of the women considered his unmarried status with speculation. Not one of the fine ladies of Daneburton would have admitted this as they spoke of his deep well of feeling behind each metaphor, but each and every one had considered his ever so proper form, if only for a moment, naked.
Max Wainwright could have been accused of promoting this feeling among the women of the town by his insistence on holding poetry appreciation meetings. During these gatherings the poet stood in front of them, his book cradled like a precious thing in his hand. When he read, his voice was even and smooth, laced with a smile and the ruffle of humour. The words that escaped his lips were mere background noise, compared with the lips themselves, faintly blushed and wide, but not full. His hair was light brown, speckled with grey and brushed back in waves, a little tousled, unruly, and appropriate for the romantic poet he was at heart. His eyes almost vanished as he smiled, crinkled and dark, pressed to curves by the apparent authenticity of his joy in the company of others. His countenance was generally one of innocence, despite now being in his sixth decade, enhanced by his frustrating habit of remaining on pleasantly professional terms with his ladies. This drove some to flirt, to cast their gaze down then allow their eyes to rise to his in an encouraging manner as they breathed a little deeper, their book held just before their rising breasts. Max would just smile, seemingly oblivious to the actions of the increasingly desperate women. His cheeks curved his eyes to mirrored smiles, but then the butterfly of his attention would move on.
The poetry gatherings were held in Mr Wainwright’s spacious dining room. The table had been cleared a while ago and an assortment of chairs accommodated the twenty women of status and leisure who gathered there.
A half dozen of the women were in their older years, such as Rosalind Hunter, a woman who looked upon Max with a reflected warmth and motherly affection. Her regard for the poet was gentle, patient and appropriate, and she had distaste for the more obvious plays for the man’s attention by the younger women. She wasn’t much older than Max, less than a decade, but her hair was white and her figure had roamed to fill the chair, so the idea that she had ever been a lithe young woman seemed impossible. It was if she had been born a fully formed matron, stately and wise.
Some of Mr Wainwright’s acolytes were women in their middle years, but not all the women in their thirties were married. A few were spinsters, like Maud Blake. Maud sat at the back where she could not even see the poet the others so avidly attended. She sought to be as unobtrusive as possible. It was possibly the reason her employer liked her; that, and the fact that Emeline had become Mrs Hutchinson and Miss Blake had not.
Emeline Hutchinson was the youngest of the group, but wore her widow’s weeds with assumed superiority. She had barely accomplished her first anniversary of marriage before her husband dropped dead from a storm in his brain, brought on from an excess of brandy and shouting, mainly due to the company of his young wife. Despite her youth, no-one was under any illusion as to the social power she held. Her connections, her parentage and her beauty fitted her perfectly to rule and none of the ladies had yet come close to usurping the girl-queen...
|Coming very soon....|