Hickey had not thought too thoroughly about what the Sandwich Islands might actually be like. And he certainly had never thought he’d be spending his freedom in a ramshackle approximation of a seedy drinking spot you could find at any number of English ports. And yet. It wasn’t too bad. And it was nice to be the proprietor of something, even if you were only leasing it. Jointly leasing it. A chair of his own - although the rattan seat was falling to bits and tended to poke you in the bum - a newspaper, and a pleasant breeze.
‘Hey, let us see it.’ He hadn’t expected the company, either. That, he was sometimes a bit more ambivalent about.
The man formerly known as Cornelius Hickey pulled the newspaper away from Tozer before he could snatch it (he was now also using a different alias, although he answered as often to one as the other, which rather defeated the point). ‘Hang on a second, let me read it properly.’
‘What have you put in it?’ Tozer finally got hold of it. ‘I knew you’d changed it without asking. You’ve spelt hygienic wrong. Why do you want to describe the place as hygienic, anyway, what sailor wants to get off his ship and drink somewhere hygienic.’
Hickey looked again at the paper and wrinkled his nose. ‘Must’ve gone funny at the printer’s, my advertisement looked better than that. Still, we are a proper establishment now.’
They peered at the advertisement with varying degrees of satisfaction.
HIYGEINIC & FINE ESTABELISHMENT
THE CREME OF THE ISLAND. THE REAL KNOCK-ME-DOWN.
FOR THE DISERNING SAILOR ON SHORE. RUM & OTHER ITEMS &C.
‘Sounds like a bloody molly-house,’ Tozer said. ‘Hygienic. We don’t need no official attention. And what are other items?’
Hickey gestured to the goods around them.
Oahu had not, particularly, much need of the small pile of clutter spilling off their ramshackle deal table; odds and ends won at cards, things Hickey had stolen off unsuspecting passers-by, personals from men who’d come up short paying for a last drink at the end of the night.
‘I’m not even sure it is hygienic, any of this. I think I pissed in that bottle, don’t you remember that, when I wanted to see if the same amount came out as I drank.’
Hickey said, suspicious, ‘And did it?’
‘Dunno, I was drunk and my aim was well off.’
Hickey shook his head, and flicked through the rest of the newspaper with little interest. The Illustrated London News, it was not. Now that he was here, the very object of his endeavours, Oahu really was just another place. Hot, sunny - paradise, yes, after the Arctic - but people are the same all over. Worst of all, he was the same person as before, despite another change of name and scenery.
An article on the second page, under an item about sugar prices, caught his eye.
‘Oi, Cornelius, are you even listening?’ Tozer had been saying - something.
‘I told you to stop calling me that. Look, Sol, look at this.’
Reading was not Tozer’s favoured pursuit, and he mumbled, ‘Lady Jane Franklin arrives on the Windward Chain of the Hawaiian Islands. Her husband- oh.’
Tozer sat his arse - restored, after years of hunger, to its former glory - down with a thump. They had two chairs, and only one of them rattled. He narrowed his eyes at Hickey. ‘So what? Done with all that, aren’t we. It isn’t like you to be getting sentimental and that’s hardly something to go all soppy about anyway. Best forget it.’
‘I’m not sentimental about her husband-’ here Hickey gave a look that would suggest the very idea to be ludicrous beyond apprehension ‘- only his coffers. She’s a rich widow, Lady Jane. She’s all alone on this foreign island, wondering what happened to us, searching for any clue - she’d pay handsomely for what we know, I reckon. There’s an opportunity to be had, here. For a man clever enough to grasp it.’
Tozer stared at him, mouth open. ‘Are you cracked?’ he stuttered, finally. ‘Of course you are, but this is - this is the worst idea I’ve ever heard. Well, second-worst from you, maybe. What in hell’s name are you going to say to her? If you’re lucky she’ll think you’re mad and if not it’s a quick way to get hanged.’
Tozer put his boots up on the table and crossed his arms. If the last five years had taught him much, it was a strict resolution when it came to Hickey - to be broken, of course, whenever Hickey invited him to bed. He had plenty of fun with the local girls and a place to sleep on the beach when the two of them argued, but he always came back.
‘You’ll not be joining me on this venture?’
‘Not bloody likely. I don’t much fancy getting hanged next to you again.’
‘You didn’t get hanged, I told you, I had a plan.’
‘All right, have it your way, then. If you don’t put in the capital you don’t get to share in the profits,’ Hickey sniffed.
‘I should hope not! No, you’re well and truly on your own with this and I don’t want you putting my name into it. I mean that - you understand?’
This was how Hickey, dressed in his finest (it was originally somebody’s Sunday best, although he’d be hard pressed to remember whose), came to be stood outside a wide house, shuffling on the shaded portico. He hated going cap in hand, especially looking so shabby, but it wasn’t like he’d had much call for a new suit or new boots previous. He’d washed specially but it hadn’t done much to restore him, and he’d used to pride himself on looking so sharp. He reminded himself that he wasn’t begging, though - he was running a play.
‘I’m here to see Mrs - Lady Franklin. I have something that’ll be of the greatest interest to her.’ It surprised him how little effort it took, but perhaps they weren’t completely used to London ways. He was shown in, left to his own devices for a moment in a spacious living room. He’d not been in a room this big since- he couldn’t recall. Was bigger than the Captain’s Cabin back on Terror, that was for certain, and with a collection of soft furnishings that well exceeded it. Everything was plump, feminine, ornate if not tasteful. He wanted to try out the cushioned sofa, but as he was making for it a cough from the door interrupted him.
‘Lady Franklin,’ he turned the movement into a quick sort of bow, and smiled up at her. Tall, for a lady, unbonneted. She had heaving bosoms that kept catching his eye in a way he didn’t quite know what to do with. He wondered if Tozer would find them attractive - maybe, he did like bosoms, to Hickey’s occasional chagrin. She sat lusciously upon the greatest of the sofas, facing a fireplace that must surely have been decorative. Gestured for him to sit on a lower one across from her, which put his eyes only slightly above bosom level.
‘I’ve been told you have news of great interest to me, Mr -?’
‘Hickey. Cornelius Hickey. I served with your husband, aboard Terror.’
She pursed her lips, the only sign of displeasure. Her eyes were steely, he thought, but soon enough she’d change her tune, and he was rather looking forward to consoling her. And her pockets.
‘My husband commanded the ship Erebus. I don’t recall your name amongst those officers on Terror.’
Of course she’d make him say it. ‘Well, I wasn’t an officer,’ as she could clearly make out. ‘I was the caulker’s mate.’
She laughed. She laughed right at him and he smiled back, although it did not reach his eyes. Caught somewhat between a smirk and a grimace. He managed to make it seem a bit more genuine when he thought that she’d have to give him a few dollars at least. ‘And what do you propose to tell me, Mr Hickey, caulker’s mate? I’ve had several of this sort of visit already, each more preposterous than the last. And here at last is a caulker’s mate to deliver the truth of my husband’s final venture. How thrilling.’
‘Might have been caulker’s mate on the ship, but I’m the one as made it off, aren’t I. Madam.’
The room was hot - too hot, stifling, he pulled at his collar with its unhabitual stock wrapped tight - yet the atmosphere was decidedly chilly.
‘How did you make it off, then, where many finer men did not?’
Hickey schooled his face into a tone appropriate for the tale. It seemed unreal to him, now, and it was best to keep it that way, at a distance. ‘We were beset, you see - locked in the ice for years, our provisions spoiled, lacking any true command after the death of your husband.’
‘The death of my husband?’
‘He went early, before it got too bad. A mercy, you might say. Except that he was got by a polar bear, a huge one, but it was quick and quite heroic, I think.’
‘Excuse me - my husband died bravely, fighting a - bear?’
‘Yes, madam.’ He thought back to Sir John’s funeral, or rather, the funeral of what bits of Sir John they’d found. Which he’d missed, being otherwise engaged. Best to leave that part out.
Lady Franklin gave him a single raised eyebrow.
‘Well, you obviously never knew the man - he was sixty years old! And you ask me to believe he fought a polar bear on his own?’
He was starting to feel distinctly trapped. ‘Never said it was on his own. Got a sergeant of the marines too, didn’t it.’ He went on - told her of Crozier’s drinking (this, finally, she seemed willing to accept), the party on the ice, the long haul south as the men grew weaker. The crisis of command - scattered survivors trekking across the ice just before it broke up - how he’d bravely buried his companions-
‘In the ice?’
‘We’d reached land by this point. King William Land,’ then he thought, fuck, what if she believes me and they send someone and there’s someone still there. No, there couldn’t be. He continued his tale, growing ever more plaintive and touching. Yes, any audience would’ve lapped this up down the Britannia, he was practically doing a star turn. He told of the starvation - the loneliness - the heroism - the last, inevitable, touching deaths, all entirely decent and befitting the men of the Royal Navy. He was, then, quite nonplussed to find her looking at him no more than coolly amused, and he worked a finger between his neck and his collar again. God, he was sweating.
‘Well - that may be quite a tale, Mr Hickey, but I fear I’ve heard enough. That collar is clearly troubling you, do take it off.’
Hickey stared. ‘You- you - take it off?’ it was rare indeed, that he had nothing to say.
‘Yes, if you please.’
Unwinding the necktie felt like some otherworldly venture, as if he’d dressed for the Arctic and come to find it balmy as a summer’s evening. He set it down on the side-table and looked to her. ‘Is your ladyship not - shocked by the information I’ve uncovered?’ he tried again.
‘Terribly so. Is that better?’
‘Well, sir, I imagine you are a man of few scruples, from your errand. Correct me if I’m wrong, of course, I should hate to impose upon you. But I would like to get a little enjoyment out of the day. And to that end, if you could also remove your shoes, your trousers, in fact the rest of your clothes - I would be most appreciative.’
Hickey hadn’t been ordered about like that for a while, but he complied with more alacrity than he’d ever used to. His shoes had started to rub anyway - they were Tozer’s, and he’d stuffed the toes with rags. He stood up and stripped off in short order, shoes, socks, waistcoat, shirt, trousers and finally his drawers, and stood there in front of her. Well, he was less hot now. He wondered if the room was locked, if she did this with every man that came to the door, and felt a flush creep up his cheeks.
‘You have a remarkably beautiful body.’ Her gaze roamed over him as free as you like, and he found - utterly unexpectedly - that his prick had started to respond to the praise. ‘Quite a treat.’
He might bugger Tozer senseless (and frequently, too) but nobody talked to him like that. It was her dispassionate objectivity - the conviction that yes, he did have a beautiful body, and it was unquestionably clear to anyone who might choose to take a look.
She lay back on her sofa, skirts shifting ever so slightly to uncover layers of petticoats. Women’s things. He’d not realised before, but she wasn’t wearing shoes - her dainty stockinged feet played with the carpet - she must’ve come down straight from dressing, despite the midday sun having begun its descent some time since.
‘A lady gets - used to a certain way of life, you see, and I’ve rather found Oahu lacking. I’ve had to resort to certain measures in recent years; would you like to see?’
Hickey blinked, and nodded. He really had no idea what she meant, but he could tell it was expected of him. And at this moment his whole body, prick included, wanted to do what was expected of him.
She pulled herself up off the sofa and swept to an armoire in the corner of the room. From around her neck she pulled a chain with a locket and key dangling from it. It must have been truly buried in her cleavage, Hickey thought, and then caught himself before he could imagine anything else. A woman’s cleavage had never been his concern before. He was perhaps one of the only men on the expedition who could have boasted more genuine interest in the geological feature than the fleshly delight.
Instinctually he wanted to peer over at the drawer she was unlocking, but she was near a window, and some modicum of social decorum had yet survived the Arctic. He’d not scupper his chances of being paid handsomely, anyhow.
She brought over a wooden box, carved, sat down and placed it on her knees. ‘Do come,’ she patted the space next to her. ‘I’m sure you’ll enjoy the contents.’
The box was opened - inside, on a bed of red velvet that looked custom-ordered, lay-
‘Well, it’s only - what about my cock?’ He stared at the ivory phallus, which was carved in a somewhat literal imitation of a prick. But a sight larger than most, larger than his. Its base flared gently out, as if the beginnings of attachment to some absent body.
‘Bless you, my dear, it isn’t for me. No, I’ve had rather enough of that. I thought I might use it to sodomise you. Only if it would prove mutually agreeable, of course, although I believe it would; I’m rather a good hand with it, or so I’ve been told.’
Hickey’s mouth fell open. ‘Yeah,’ he said, ‘yeah, all right.’
She smiled. It was all too kindly, out of place against the way she caressed the object. But the hardness of her gaze remained - penetrating, Hickey thought, for want of a better word. Perhaps he really had died of starvation and this was all some sort of fever dream as he awaited some final reckoning. Reward or punishment, who knew.
Lady Jane took the phallus from its casket, held it fondly. It was surprising, that a mere imitation could rouse such a response in him, but his prick liked it and that was that.
He made to touch it, but she pulled it back. ‘Ah, ah. Before I do you this favour, however, there’s something I’d like you to do for me first.’
Every moment spent with this woman, Hickey found himself more and more confused. So she did want him to fuck her after all? Could’ve just said so. She lifted the bulk of her skirts, layers upon layers, soft taffeta and rumpled, very fine, very comfortable, cotton. Beneath, he saw the outline of some ruffled drawers or other, the kind of thing he’d not seen much. She held his wrist and guided his hand beneath the skirts, and it was quite a surprise to him that the drawers had a split right down the middle; he felt her there, between her legs, soft and very warm. Men might laugh, but he really hadn’t ever touched a woman like this, not even for larks as a boy. It felt a bit like an arsehole, he supposed, sort of but not really. Very few points of reference presented themselves. But it was wholly pleasant, wet and welcoming, and he felt for where his finger might press more intently. He thought it might be quite nice to have his cock in there.
Lady Jane rested her head against the sofa and sighed, seemingly contented. ‘Now,’ she said, ‘there’s a dear,’ and ‘there’ and ‘oh’. And then she said, ‘Kneel.’
An insistent hand pressed upon his shoulder, encouraged him to get to his knees. Not a position he’d ever struggled with, but this was very different. He pushed the skirts out of the way and they rustled about him.
He’d heard Tozer describe this act before, quite drunkenly, as diving for pearls; and he desperately tried to recollect what Tozer had said about it. He’d not been much interested at the time. It was a term befitting Lady Jane’s status, maybe, but not her cunt, which was nice enough but certainly not pearly. More like her velvet armchair. Well upholstered. He gave it a lick, sort of experimental, at her entrance. ‘Up a bit, my dear,’ she said. He felt her hand move into his hair, direct him. When he lapped at a certain spot she seemed to like that; her grip became vice-like, her thighs pressed tight and she drew one leg up a little to allow him more room.
‘That’s very good - yes - oh, you’re doing very well,’ she said, though it was muffled by the fabric pillowing about his head. Hickey felt vindicated - he’d known, privately, that he’d be good at it - after all, if Tozer could then how hard could it be? ‘Oh - there, there - you’re taking to this well - for a novice,’ and perhaps he didn’t feel quite so hot about it. His cock was hard, though, against his thigh, almost achingly so, which was more than a bit of a surprise.
She pushed her thighs forward - her cunt was wet, now, some mixture of his spit and her own wetness, and he lapped quicker at that spot above it that he’d vaguely known women had, but had never encountered personally. Her breathing quickened, and she let out a high-pitched gasp as he gave it a speculative suck. Wasn’t all that different, really, he reasoned. Different muscles - his tongue rather than his jaw - but the same tricks.
He laved attention on her, sucked and licked at that place and she started to move rhythmically against his face. He braced a hand against the downy inner part of her thigh and then thought to move a finger into her - she’d liked it earlier - and sure enough, she hummed some sweet assent. It seemed to him that her thighs might very well smother him, such was the strength and her insistence. His nose was pressed into her; she moved a silken foot over his shoulder. Her thighs started to tremble as he gently pushed in another finger, curled them up, and she rocked herself insistently against his face.
He felt her move around his fingers, clench as she fucked his face, and heard a groan from above. But he continued licking and moving his fingers until she pushed his face away.
He sat back and wiped his mouth; if she’d come, it wasn’t much like come at all. He could feel it cooling in his beard - his face was probably glistening with it.
She sprawled at a rakish angle against the sofa, head tilted back in bliss. ‘Doing it corseted is never ideal, I find. Well, at least I no longer feel compelled to tight-lace!’
He felt, suddenly, very aware of how naked he was next to her yards of skirts and petticoats.
‘That was very good,’ she said, smiling pleasantly at him. ‘You are a fast learner - I could hardly tell it was your first time.’
He narrowed his eyes but it seemed no insult, and he was forced to smile and incline his head politely. The bashfulness was not entirely feigned. ‘Thank you.’
‘Now,’ she said, ‘I believe after such a performance, your reward is in order.’ He eyed the pocket of her skirt where a purse might sit hopefully. When she made no move towards that end he felt a little discomfited, but her attention had turned again to the ivory phallus and his cock gave a twitch.
She gave it a fond stroke. ‘It’s a thing of beauty, is it not? I fancy you know this act a far sight better.’ Was he meant to reply? He felt not. ‘Now, my dear - is there a particular position you prefer? I propose you bend over that ottoman, but I am amenable to suggestions.’
‘No, the- the ottoman is fine.’ The whole afternoon had been nothing if not bewildering, but the ottoman looked soft, a cushioned thing patterned with curling ivy prints, and his cock and arse could do with a bit of attention.
He turned and bent over with a bit of apprehension. She drew a chair up behind him and briefly splayed a hand over his scars, but blessedly didn’t remark on them. There was the sound of a bottle being uncorked, a wet noise, some sort of oil. He was thankful she seemed to know what to do. The thing looked big and he hadn’t fancied limping home, no matter the reward.
The hand returned to his arse, and he resisted the urge to look over his shoulder. Then he felt a slick finger push up against his entrance. This, he knew how to do, and he wanted to please her and do it well. He took one finger easily, felt the warmth of the stretch and levelled his breathing - and god, it did feel good. Another followed, and he felt fluid beading at the tip of his cock as she stretched him. Oh - it was nothing like doing it up against a wall or even in a passion with Tozer, the odd times he had - although she was insistent in her movements, it was leisurely and precise, her manner rather cool.
‘Do you think you might take a third?’ she asked.
‘Don’t need it, I’m ready for it,’ he said, and if he’d been with anyone else would have snarled at them to stop fucking about. But she wouldn’t be too happy with that.
Still she worked another finger in, terribly unhurried. He pushed back against her, gritting his teeth. He wanted it, now, he was curious about that thing and it was getting him hot. Though he tried not to be desperate about anything much he did, desperation being a fool’s game, if ever there was a time to be so then this was it.
‘If you’re sure,’ she said. ‘You don’t like to take your time?’
He shook his head.
She removed her fingers, and he heard her make an appraising hmm noise at whatever she noticed. From the corner of his eye he saw her remove a handkerchief from the volumes of her skirts and presumably wipe her hand on it.
Then he felt it - a little cold against him but slicked up well enough, pressing in - and God, it was big. He was glad she’d insisted on the third finger. He huffed out a breath as she worked it in, gently but firmly. He hoped he could take it, he had to be able to take it. Finally he loosened up around it as she got the head of it further inside him - and unexpectedly his arse sucked the last bit of it in so that the base sat snugly against him.
‘Yes, we are keen, aren’t we,’ she said, and he flushed bright pink. Lucky she couldn’t see his face, really. He could feel his brow sweating despite his nakedness, grasped onto the edge of the ottoman as she began to slowly move the phallus inside him.
She laughed a bit when he hissed at a particularly tender thrust. It was curved in such a way as to hit that place inside him, and his knees almost buckled when she pushed it again - god, he was close, it was so good and he was so close. He rutted his prick up against the soft fabric, smearing a line of pre-come onto it.
‘Can I - can I touch myself?’ he managed to get out.
‘Why, of course you may! You didn’t need to ask my permission. After all, while your - member - is none of my concern I am most anxious for you to enjoy yourself.’
He grasped it gratefully, feeling a right fool, and matched her strokes - they’d started to come faster now, fucking him hard. Somewhere behind him he heard the obscene sound of the phallus pushing in and out of him, and added to that another wet noise - she must be touching herself, too.
His rhythm became more erratic - the feeling of that big ivory cock inside him was overwhelming, and he couldn’t help but let out a whine, screwing his eyes shut.
‘If I may ask one - thing of you - please don’t have your crisis into the soft furnishings, I can’t inflict that on the maid.’
‘Where in God’s name do you want me to do it?’
She patted his arse - not a slap, per se, but a little tap. ‘You’re an inventive fellow, very - capable - and besides, I will provide an alternative.’ She pressed the handkerchief into his hand, and he cupped it around himself, too desperate to think too hard on it.
He felt her movements stutter somewhat, and her gasping behind him. For a moment her hand flagged and he whined in annoyance, pushed back onto it and fucked himself harder. Soon enough her crisis had passed - her second, and he’d not even come yet - and she went back to it with renewed vigour. It was overwhelming, and he teetered on the brink of spending for what felt like an eternity, pulling at himself furiously.
‘Christ,’ he spat out, unable to help himself, then made an embarrassingly high-pitched noise as he came, spurting into the handkerchief. She gave a few last thrusts into him, making him twitch and squirm away.
‘God,’ he said, as she pulled it out of him. ‘God.’ And he collapsed into the ottoman, head in his arms, feeling as if his whole body was about to give way, he was shaking so badly. He couldn’t imagine how he was ever going to get up, get dressed and stagger home.
‘You never,’ Tozer said, gaping. ‘She never. Make a face-man of you yet.’
‘She did! She was right appreciative of my heroic efforts.’
‘Give over, is it going on your visiting cards then. Cornelius Hickey-Franklin, Royal Navy, Royal Geographical Society, Adopted Son and Bum Boy.’
‘I imagine that’d be a more unofficial society,’ Hickey said. ‘And - well - I shouldn’t think I’ll be seeing her again.’
‘Got a nice tidy lump sum, did you?’ Tozer asked, only half joking.
‘Not precisely.’ Hickey fidgeted.
Tozer rolled his eyes. ‘I did tell you. So what was it, a boot out the door for your trouble?’
‘Something like that.’ She had, in fact, told him that she believed him to be a fraud and a charlatan seeking to prey upon a distressed widow and that if he came back she’d have him prosecuted, and then pleasantly and coolly wished him a good day. ‘She gave us two dollars though.’ She had, in fact, given him three, but he didn’t see any harm in putting one by.
Tozer brightened. ‘Well, that’s our rent paid then. Even if you didn’t get a baronetcy.’
‘Yeah. It was - an enlightening experience.’ Hickey sniffed and adjusted himself in his chair. It was no good, he needed a proper lie down.
‘Hold on, do you think that went up Sir John’s Northwest Passage?’ he sniggered, then looked stricken. For a short moment, until something else occurred to him. ‘Hey, I don’t suppose you fancy another go round now you’re all warmed up?’
‘Not on your fucking life,’ Hickey said, with feeling. ‘I’m going to lie down in the back room.’
‘Ah -’ Tozer said, looking sheepish. ‘That advertisement looks like getting us a fair bit of business but the boys do all think it’s a whorehouse. Think it was ‘hygienic’ that did it. A couple of girls agreed to come in for the night but if you want the bed you’d best be quick about it, they’ll be here in an hour.’
Hickey groaned. Hygienic, indeed.