Another TMA story i had hoped would score better than it did. never the less it is still a piece i really liked writing and i hope that you will enjoy reading. i have corrected some grammar mistakes but other than that it is as submited.
She was beautiful. The eyes of all the men in the building rested upon her golden hair and graceful body. The eyes of all the men but one. That one sat in his curtained booth and instead watched the crowd. Every man in London wished to be acquainted with James Bartholomew Edward, they all wished to believe the lie he sold them. That any of these girls could be theirs. But Edward knew the truth. He had no need to watch the dancer, she was his. All the exotic creatures that appeared upon The Diamond’s stage belonged to him. Each enchanting singer and nubile dancer, they were his treasures. The Diamond was his kingdom.
During the day it was where he allowed his girls to worship him, on their knees amongst the trash left behind by the dandies and fops., and at night he saw them worshipped in their turn. The greatest treasure in Edward’s life was hearing his customers as they praised his possessions and admired him for having them. They wished that they could be him, he wondered to himself what those men would think if they knew that he was bored. James Bartholomew Edward had grown tired of his girls. Each of them, exquisite and unique, with their list of tricks as long as any prized concubine had become dull. There was nothing new or exciting in this world. At least until he heard the rumour.
He first heard it one night as his clients were leaving. Two young gentlemen talking in that way they do about what they had seen that night, comparing the girls by their beauty, their skill. Praise Edward accepted as his due. And then from nowhere a fragment of conversation that stood above the chatter.
‘I agree that those specimens had the voices, and the bodies, that could tempt a man to sin, I still say none can compare to the girl I heard yesterday. Her’s was a voice that could tempt a man to marriage.’ and then with a laugh before Edward could mark them, the dandies where gone.
This one sentence made Edward’s heart race, the best of the best in London belonged to him and so this girl would too. He gathered his factors, sent them out to the music halls, and concert halls, searching for the girl with the beautiful voice. But they returned with nothing other than more rumours and whispers. He turned his search further afield, to the operas and salons, but still nothing. Edward could feel the euphoria slipping away with each failed search. He was unable to eat or sleep. He took no pleasure in the soft lips or clever hands of his girls, the idea that something so precious existed out there, and yet was not his, tormented him.
It was months before his relief came one day in the form of a beggar boy.
‘I’ve heard about that girl you been looking for, Guv. Might be, I know where she can be found.’
‘And of course you would be willing to take me to her, from the goodness of your heart.’ Edward had had dealings with this type of ragamuffin before. They reeked of sewage and the street and their morals were just a rotten as their scent. On the whole, they were exactly his kind of people.
“There’ll be a price. Ain’t there always, Guv.” The boy smiled, Edward could see several of his teeth were missing and those which remained wouldn’t be there long judging by the smell. Edward paid the price, there was nothing within his possession that he would not have given to gain his prize.
Rather than take Edward to a concert or theatre, the boy led him to the backyard of a large house. In the yard was a young girl pinning up clothes. She was dressed in a homespun brown dress and her pale hair was tucked under a white cap. On her face was a large yellowing bruise that did nothing to disguise her perfect symmetry. As she worked the girl sang. She sounded like an angel, it was a voice unlike any Edward had every heard. It awoke parts of him he had worked hard to lock away many years ago. He knew his search had been worth the trouble, this was the girl who could wipe away his years of degradation. She could renew him.
It was a slow process wooing the mysterious girl, the matter of months, not hours as he was used to. At first she would not even tell him her name. He called her Nightingale because she sang in his dreams. Her father had promised her to a man with angry fists. Edward knew people who took care of that problem. But even once her abuser was gone, none of his usual tricks worked. He sent her a dozen crimson roses and she told him she preferred to see them growing wild. He offered her strings of diamonds and pearls and she returned them saying they were meant for a lady of breeding not one as simple born as she. He offered her everything he could think of, his money, his businesses, and she turned them all down. Eventually he went to her himself, without gifts or deceit and begged her to sing for him, just once, upon his stage. To his surprise she agreed , but only if he would marry her.
Edward’s life was bliss for a while, he was entranced by the newness of his marriage and the passion of his bride. He was once again the toast and envy of all of London. Once a month his wife would sing upon the stage and the crowds would flock to see her, paying him every penny they had. But as the night faded, his nightingale would sing just for him. Though she had appeared as such an innocent when they at first met, it took very little training to teach her the ways of pleasing him. She took to it like she had been to the whorehouse born.
A year had almost past before he found himself growing bored of his wife. It was longer than it had been for any of his other girls. By the time that their anniversary came around his wife had lost much of the sparkle that had drawn him to her. She reminded him of a plant stuck in a dark corner, withered from the lack of the sun, when he should be enough for her.
The month of Edward’s birth came around. Since this was to be his 50th year, James Bartholomew Edward decided he should throw himself a party. It was the social event of the season. Everyone who was anyone was in attendance. His girls danced and sung and kept his guests amused. And before his presents were opened, his delicate young wife took to the stage and sang a song, loaded with dark promise, dedicated solely to him. It failed to stir him.
Among the guests at the party was a man recently arrived from the east. Society had named him Magister for it was said he knew the secrets of the orient. His was the gift that Edward was looking forward to the most. His heart pounded with anticipation when the Magister’s men wheeled out a large wooden create. All the guests gathered around the box to see it opened, chattering like magpie preparing to steal off with the prize.
Inside the box was a figure. A doll with a perfectly proportioned female form. She had beaten gold hair, porcelain skin and sapphires for eyes.
‘I call it an… automaton,’ the Magister whispered in Edwards’ ear ‘and with the latest phonographic tools, I have made her sing.’
He reached around behind the doll and turned a dial, there was a whirring of gears and a strangely wet sound, then suddenly the automaton’s voice filled the air. It was pure and clear like Edward’s wife’s, but without the longing he heard in hers these days.
The doll sang note perfect and emotionless, and without ever having to take a breath. Throughout the night, even after the guests had grown tired of the novelty and gone home. Long after Edward’s wife had left the stage and slipped back to her quarters, her wet cheeks unseen. Past when the night had ended and dawn begun. The doll still sang.
In the quite moments after everyone else had left the Magister spoke to Edward of secrets, and the sacrifices needed to keep the doll singing.
‘ The creation of my masterpiece required skill and magic, to keep it running simply requires…willing.’ The Magister’s voice was deep and spicy. As potent as any drug or opiate. ‘ All my lady requires to keep performing is Oil. Rich, fresh Oil every day.’
The Magister showed Edward how to load the fluids into the chamber in the doll’s chest and how to set the dial. ‘I will give you one warning my dear sir, as with all things, what you get out is only equal to the quality of what you put in.’ And with a hyena’s laugh he left.
Procuring the necessary supplies for the automaton proved an easy task for Edward. Most of the girls who sang and danced at his clubs had come from nothing, he felt no regrets or remorse at returning them to nothing. He would gather the Oil in the morning, then spend every evening listening to the doll sing. The automaton’s radiance obscured his wife’s beauty to the point she ceased to exist for him. He never noticed when his wife vanished, so mesmerised was he by the song of his mechanical nightingale. It became the only thing that mattered. His kingdom was nothing to him now. The clients no longer came to The Diamond spending their money. What good was a music hall with no performers.
When his girls were gone, from his greed or from their fear, Edward turned to the streets for his Oil supplies. The ladies who worked the streets were infested with TB and syphilis, or they filled their bodies with cheap gin. Disgusting creatures but needs must and his darling had to be fed.
It only took days before the change to the automaton became noticeable, her gold began to tarnish and her voice became cracked and raspy. Edward found it hard to look upon her, seeing his reflection in her ruin. Instead he hunted the Magister throughout the seedy streets of London in the hope that he would have a cure.
‘ I gave you my warning, my fallen lord, if you chose not to heed it, why should I correct your folly?’ The Magister turned dismissively from Edward unaware of the knife gripped in the madman’s hand.
‘If you cannot provide a cure, then you shall provide the Oil.’
Each new collection was easier than the last, and if the showgirls had made his doll sing like an angel, then the Magister’s oil should fill her voice with magic. He ached to hear her sing once more.
Edward rushed back to The Diamond unaware of the world around him. Not noticing the people pointing at his blood stained form. His mind focused on his desperate mission to restore the automaton to glory. But as he entered through the stage door, Edward was lifted from his haze by the sound of his mechanical nightingale singing upon the stage. The Magister must have placed a spell upon the automaton, causing it to fail. Now the Magister was gone the spell had lifted, his precious thing had been restored to him.
She was standing upon the stage, under a spotlight. Her golden hair sat at an angle on her head refracting shards of light. Her voice sounded out loud and clear. A tear ran down Edward’s cheek mingling with splashes of blood. He rushed to her and his eyes flew open wide as the Nightingale slashed him from groin to neck. His life Oil flooded down on to the boards where she had once sang for him. His body fell as her rival’s golden wig fell from her head and a smile played on her lips.
‘ I would have sang for you for all eternity,’ she reached down and caressed his face, drawing down his eyelids, ‘all I asked for was your love.’