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Out of the Shadows


Extracts for an Anniversary
1967-2017



Manifold Press

Smashwords Edition



Published by Manifold Press


Smashwords Edition, License Notes

This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to Smashwords.com and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.


ISBN: 978-1-9083125-2-5


Text: © Manifold Press and the original authors 2011-2017

Cover image: © Svetlana Ilina | shutterstock.com

Cover design: © Michelle Peart 2017

Ebook format: © Manifold Press 2017


For further details of titles both in print and forthcoming, see manifoldpress.co.uk


Characters and situations described in this book are fictional and not intended to portray real persons or situations whatsoever; any resemblances to living persons are purely coincidental.



Acknowledgements


Manifold Press would like to thank the authors for allowing us to use these extracts, and also to credit the proof-readers and editors who worked on the books in their original incarnations.

These include:


Julie Bozza

Jane Elliot

Hanne Lie

F.M. Parkinson

W.S. Pugh

and of course

Zee of Two Marshmallows


#


Editor: Fiona Pickles



Table of Contents


INTRODUCTION: 1967-2017

Julie Bozza


TIMELINE OF GAY HISTORY IN ENGLAND: 17 BCE-2017

Fiona Pickles


1st Century CE: THE EAGLE'S WING

Cimorene Ross


1198: DANCE OF STONE

Jay Lewis Taylor


1598-1602: THE PEACOCK'S EYE

Jay Lewis Taylor


The 1850s: THE WALLED GARDEN

F.M. Parkinson


1896: ALWAYS WITH US

Morgan Cheshire


1916: BETWEEN NOW AND THEN

Adam Fitzroy


1928: ELEVENTH HOUR

Elin Gregory


Early 1942: UNDER LEADEN SKIES

Sandra Lindsey


Late 1942: MAKE DO AND MEND

Adam Fitzroy


1945: LIKE PEOPLE

R.A. Padmos


1967: IN THE PRIVACY OF THEIR HOME

R.A. Padmos


1968: FROST AT MIDNIGHT

Elin Gregory


1976: GHOST STATION

Adam Fitzroy


2000: STAGE WHISPERS

Adam Fitzroy


2010: RAVAGES

R.A. Padmos


2011: THE APOTHECARY'S GARDEN

Julie Bozza


2012: OF DREAMS AND CEREMONIES

Julie Bozza


2014: IN DEEP

Adam Fitzroy


2015: THE 'TRUE LOVE' SOLUTION

Julie Bozza


2017: SUBMERGE

Eleanor Musgrove


IF YOU'D LIKE TO SEE MORE …



OUT OF THE SHADOWS

INTRODUCTION
1967-2017

Julie Bozza


The Sexual Offences Act 1967 received Royal Assent on 27 July of that year, and as a result private homosexual acts between men over 21 in England and Wales were decriminalised. It may have been a partial victory, but it was a deeply significant one.

We're sure most of us realised that 2017 would mark the fiftieth anniversary of that Act. What surprised and delighted us, however, was discovering how many of Britain's cultural institutions are celebrating this milestone.

The British Museum, Tate Britain, the Walker in Liverpool, and the Russell-Cotes in Bournemouth are all holding LGBTQ+ exhibitions. The National Trust is celebrating the queer history of various properties such as Sissinghurst Castle, Smallhythe Place, and Sutton House. And there are the more expected (but just as welcome!) activities, such as the exploration of 'Queer Talk' at Red House, where composer Benjamin Britten lived with his lover and muse, the tenor Peter Pears.

Manifold Press wanted to acknowledge the anniversary as well. We have created this free anthology of extracts from Press titles, which illustrates in a modest way the changes experienced by gay men over the centuries in Britain, and how these may have affected individuals. The Press is known for its historical stories as well as contemporary tales, so we felt we had a great deal of content to draw upon.

We hope that you'll enjoy this overview, and perhaps be prompted to ponder the various ways in which empathy, love and self-knowledge have triumphed despite the often harsh environment. If you are inspired to explore further – whether in our titles or elsewhere, or both – that would be marvellous, too.


#


TIMELINE
OF GAY HISTORY IN ENGLAND
17 BCE to 2017

Fiona Pickles

Pre-1533

Arriving on the shores of Britain in 43 CE, the Romans brought with them a system of laws which remained in place for some three hundred and fifty years. Romans were relatively tolerant of sex between men, although the law despised those who took the passive role and described them as 'an alien sex no different from women' threatened with 'avenging flames in the sight of the people'.

Unmarried male Roman citizens were entitled to use younger men for sexual purposes, specifically slaves or prostitutes. The law Lex Iulia de Adulteriis Coercendis of 17 BCE was more concerned with adultery, which it penalised with banishment to separate islands, and also criminalised sex with minors. It is thought to have been the reason for a number of castrations taking place, the purpose being to render individuals 'not male' and therefore legally eligible as sexual partners for adult men.

Early church law took over from the legal framework of the Roman Empire. There were vague condemnations for 'corrupting boys' and for male prostitution and pederasty, but the theologian Basil of Caesarea – writing in the fourth century – laid down the first specific penalties for sex between males, saying: "He who is guilty of unseemliness with males will be under discipline for the same time as adulterers."

Punishments for sodomy became steadily more severe, and varied according to the age of the offender; they could include flogging, degradation and castration. In 829 CE the Council of Paris made a connection between sodomy and the Great Flood, claiming that tolerating sex between males would be tantamount to inciting the wrath of God; the victory of the enemies of the Church would naturally follow.

The Council of London in 1102 declared sodomy a sin which must be confessed, a view which still prevailed more than two centuries later when Edward II died in captivity at Berkeley Castle. The story that he was killed by having a red hot poker thrust into his anus is doubtful historically, but it surely served as a graphic warning of the Church's attitude to any form of 'deviant' or alternative sexuality and the potential punishments that would follow being caught.

1533-1967

Having broken from Roman Catholicism and declared himself head of the Church of England, Henry VIII revised and re-enacted many of the statutes which had previously existed. An Acte for the punishment of the vice of Buggerie (2 Hen. 8 c.6) left the definition of buggery vague and spoke only of 'an unnatural sexual act against the will of God and man', although subsequent judgements refined this description solely to anal penetration and bestiality. Those found guilty would 'suffer such pains of death and losses and penalties of their good chattels debts lands tenements and hereditaments as felons do', so it was a catch-all means of depriving the accused of their livelihoods – and often their lives – and obviously open to misuse. It was in fact one of the methods employed by the king to dispossess monks and nuns of religious lands that Henry wanted for himself; not only was it effective in doing so, but it added an extra taint of humiliation designed to discourage others from following their example.

The Buggery Act was repealed by Mary Tudor in 1553, but re-enacted ten years later by her half-sister Elizabeth I. Penalties imposed under the Act were sometimes moderated to imprisonment and a spell in the pillory, and the severity of the latter would depend very much on the mood of the crowd at the time; an offender might be pelted with anything from bricks to flowers, according to the view taken of his crime, but at the very least it was likely to be an unpleasant and humiliating experience after which, it was supposed, he would want to change his ways. It was not just homosexual acts of buggery that were targeted, either; a case in 1716 established that heterosexual sodomy was punishable in the same way, although a hundred years later it was established that fellatio was not covered by the law and couples of any description could therefore indulge in it without penalty until the infamous Labouchere Amendment of 1885.

In 1828 the Buggery Act was again repealed and this time replaced by the Offences Against the Person Act (9 Geo. 4 c.31), under which buggery remained a capital offence. Moreover the standard of proof was lowered, so that it was no longer necessary to prove 'emission of seed' to obtain a conviction; evidence of penetration was enough. This remained the case until the Offences Against the Person Act of 1861 (24 & 25 Vict. c.100) which abolished the death penalty for buggery and replaced it with the scarcely less intimidating sentence of penal servitude for life or any period of not less than ten years.

The removal of the death penalty seems to have caused a wave of what is now called 'homosexual panic' and a fervent desire to punish and humiliate gay men – perhaps stemming from the belief that any sympathy shown would be seen as a sign of weakness or effeminacy. In 1866 marriage was legally defined as "the voluntary union for life of one man and one woman, to the exclusion of all others" (Hyde v. Hyde and Woodmansee [L.R.] 1 P. & D. 130), which affected not only gay men and lesbians but also people from polygamous cultures whose multiple marriages, legal in their own jurisdiction, were not recognised in England. The word 'voluntary' must also have had a hollow sound for many women.

The Labouchere Amendment, known as 'the blackmailer's charter', was enacted in 1885 as part of the Criminal Law Amendment Act, and prohibited gross indecency between men. A magazine of the time explained the reasoning: "The increase of these monsters in the shape of men, commonly designated margeries, poofs etc., of late years, in the great Metropolis, renders it necessary for the safety of the public that they should be made known …" It was as a result of this amendment that Oscar Wilde was tried, convicted and sentenced, and many years later Alan Turing also fell victim to the same law. It was also at this time, however, at the end of the nineteenth century and the start of the twentieth, that the first organised homosexual rights groups began to appear in England, showing that the climate of public opinion had begun to change.

Although the mandatory sentence of penal servitude for buggery was repealed by the Criminal Justice Act of 1948 (11 & 12 Geo. 6 c.58) as it relates to actual buggery, the penalties for attempted buggery, assault with intent to commit buggery and indecent assault upon a male remained unchanged until the Sexual Offences Act of 1956 (4 & 5 Eliz. 2 c.69); there seems to have been little or no legal understanding of the possibility that a person of either gender might be quite happy to be on the receiving end of buggery. However prosecutions brought during this period tended to be aggravated by other factors – Oscar Wilde's contretemps with the Marquess of Queensberry, for example, and the later prosecutions of Michael Pitt-Rivers and Peter Wildeblood, had as much to do with notions of class as sexual morality; there was a fear in some quarters that homosexuality had a destabilising effect on society as a whole, which could lead to anarchy, and thus it was feared by those who preferred to hold on to the status quo.

In 1954 the Home Secretary ordered an examination and report on the law concerning homosexuality. This in due course produced the Wolfenden Report, released in late 1957, which recommended that "homosexual behaviour between consenting adults in private should no longer be a criminal offence". There was no immediate amendment to the law, and in fact the debate rumbled on for a further decade, but the passing of the subsequent Sexual Offences Act (c.60) removed the majority of homosexual behaviour from the scope of criminal prosecution. Royal Assent was granted on 27 July 1967, the fiftieth anniversary of which we are celebrating in this anthology.

Post-1967

The first gay kiss on British television was in the BBC's Edward II in 1970, with Ian McKellen as Edward and James Laurenson as Gaveston. The first Pride parade took place in London in 1972, and Gay News was founded in the same year. Two years later, Maureen Colquhoun came out as the first lesbian MP (Chris Smith, the first openly gay male MP, did not come out until 1984), and the year after that The Naked Civil Servant was first broadcast. At around the same time, both in Britain and elsewhere, writers of TV and movie fan-fiction began 'queering' their favourite characters, a development which led indirectly to the establishment some of the independent LGBTQ+ publishing houses in existence today.

The arrival in the UK of AIDS in 1982 led to a new backlash against gay men and the rise of what was now called homophobia, which almost appeared to be Government-approved when – following the publication of a book for children entitled Jenny Lives With Eric and Martin – Section 28 of the Local Government Act 1988 (c.9) forbade 'the promotion of homosexuality by local government' by, for example, including the book in public libraries.

When the footballer Justin Fashanu came out as gay in 1990 he met with such open hostility, even from his own brother, that he later felt he would not receive fair treatment when he was charged with a sexual offence in the USA; he committed suicide in 1998.

Section 28 was repealed in 2003. Same sex couples, who had been granted the right to adopt children in 2002, also obtained the right to form Civil Partnerships in 2004, and the first such ceremonies took place in 2005. This was not yet the full legal equivalent of heterosexual marriage, however, and there was still concern that same sex couples were being treated as second class citizens; accordingly pressure on various governments continued until the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill was introduced in 2013; it received the Royal Assent (c. 30) on 17 July of the same year, and took effect in the following March.

Nobody is pretending that the problems of gay men in particular – and LGBTQ+ people in general – are anything like over. However the fact that this publication exists at all, and that we as a mixed bag of queers and allies are in a position to mark the fiftieth anniversary of decriminalisation and all the progress that has been made since 1967, is surely something to be celebrated. The characters in our books have shared the journey made by their real-life counterparts over the centuries, but hopefully they – as well as we – can now look forward to enjoying even better and more comfortable conditions in future.


#


1st Century CE
THE EAGLE'S WING

Cimorene Ross


Lucius bought a slave, Keret, because he felt sorry for him, but has now become attracted to him both romantically and sexually. This is awkward; they both have enemies who would be only too happy to use their growing emotional connection against them …


His eyes snapped open and he couldn't be sure he had heard something. In the darkness beside him Keret stirred but didn't come quite awake until there was another crash against the wall dividing them from the nearest barrack room.

"What was that?" Keret finally woke up, sitting up with difficulty because his hair, as usual, was under Lucius's shoulder.

"Early warning system. Stay where you are, I'll go and see what's going on."

Lucius slid out of bed and padded across the room, relying on instinct to avoid any furniture. Without opening the outer door he peered through a convenient crack to look down the street. He could see torches and what looked like a security check.

"Another snap search?" enquired his duplicarius, emerging from his room and yawning prodigiously. "I hope they haven't been up to something, we can't afford another row."

"I think we can rely on Barius – his motto has always been 'no evidence, no witnesses'. I take it you heard his warning knock? Have a look, see if you recognise anyone."

Paetus peered through the gap and straightened up. "It's the Twentieth. It'll be another security panic."

"In that case, back to bed. They're being very quiet, obviously hoping to catch people off guard, so let's be law-abiding. We needn't worry about the men, they've had plenty of warning."

Lucius watched Paetus close his own door and then returned to the bedroom, where he stripped off his tunic and dropped it on the floor. "Come on, get undressed; nobody will believe we've been making love with you all bundled up like that."

"What?" Keret was still half asleep but obediently stripped off, adding his clothes to the pile on the floor.

"We're about to get a snap inspection. Whether it's an exercise or a real emergency I don't know, but all you have to do is look embarrassed and say nothing and I'll be indignant enough for both of us." He climbed back into bed and reached for Keret's warm body. "Lie down before you get cold, goose-pimples will give the game away. Put your arms round me and try to look as if you're enjoying yourself."

Obediently but tentatively Keret slid his arms round Lucius's neck and didn't flinch when he was held tightly against the solid naked body. Lucius took the opportunity to wind himself round Keret and tried to imagine this was real, while keeping his attention on the slightest sound from the street. When he heard footsteps outside he couldn't resist the temptation and lowered his head to kiss Keret, taking advantage of the stunned immobility before reluctantly releasing him as the outer door burst open, filling the officers' quarters with people and torches.

"What in Hades?" he exclaimed, adding some more choice Gallic and Pannonian epithets as he sat up, delighted by the way Keret clutched the covers and slid down the bed until all that was visible was a pair of enormous dazed eyes and a cloud of hair.

"Sorry, sir. Just a security check. We've had a report of unauthorised intruders in one of the barrack blocks," explained a harassed centurion, but Lucius could see Siccius Niger's leering face at the back of the group.

His mind full of other solutions he still managed to say, "Why didn't you call me out? In the absence of Praefect Licinius Musa I am in charge of the Third Augusta Gallorum. Why wasn't I informed? You know the Twentieth has no authority in this section of the fort."

"Sorry, sir, but there wasn't time. We thought the intruders would escape if we waited to send a runner for you," apologised the officer, turning to leave, obviously embarrassed at disturbing him, while Lucius's sharp ears heard a muttered comment that if they'd waited they'd have caught them actually at it.

"Have you finished with my men?" Lucius demanded, carefully getting out of bed without exposing Keret to the expectant men and threw on his discarded tunic.

"No, there's the other two turmae yet."

"I'll come with you. We might as well do this by the book. Any intruder is long gone; anyway, it's probably only someone getting back after lights out."

There was no way the officer in charge could stop Lucius from going with them, but as they systematically inspected every dormitory in the next two blocks he could see that interest was waning apart from the earnest officer of the guard. More and more he began to suspect that the whole operation had been engineered, but he couldn't think of any reason why the Twentieth Valeria Victrix would want to harass the Third Augusta Gallorum. Barius and his cronies had probably made a lot of enemies in the fort, but then there was also the sinister presence of Siccius Niger. There was no doubt that Niger hated him; the prickles on the back of his neck told him that two unfriendly eyes never left him. By the time he returned to his quarters a lot of unpleasant thoughts were churning round in his mind and he crawled back into bed, finding that Keret hadn't moved.

"You can come out now. They're not coming back, I hope. Keret, do you think I'm unduly suspicious or is it remotely possible that Siccius Niger engineered the whole thing just to find out whether I was sleeping with you?"

"What difference would that make?" Keret emerged from the depths of the bed and settled himself more comfortably.

"I don't know, but it wasn't my imagination that everyone's enthusiasm evaporated very suddenly once we got across the street. I think it's possible that he's going to attempt to get at me through you, so we'll have to be much more careful in future."


#


1198
DANCE OF STONE

Jay Lewis Taylor


Hugh, a master mason, is unexpectedly reunited with an old friend – who has recently been beaten up – and they take advantage of a quiet room at an inn to make up for the time they've been apart.


Hugh said, "I want to kiss you."

Finn's voice was languid as warm honey. "Well, then – kiss me."

"I can't – your lips are so bruised."

"Are there no other places to kiss a man?"

"Not that I know of." Hugh raised his head at the sound that came from Finn's mouth: a soft, low chuckle.

"Gud in himinn, you English. So staid."

"I'm not English. I'm half Kentish and half Norman French."

"Ah," the harper said. "But still staid." He put his hand on the back of Hugh's head, and guided it down his chest. "Try there."

"I –"

"Do it; go on."

And Hugh kissed one nipple, tentatively at first, then with more fervour. At length Finn, twisting beneath him, said, "Other one," and he found the other in the dark, and had to hold Finn still to keep his mouth where he wanted it to be. After a while he said, "What now?"

"Lower," Finn said, pushing Hugh's head away, until –

"What?"

"Himinn," Finn muttered. "English. Do I have to open your mouth for you?"

"I –" Hugh wriggled down the bed. "Do you really mean – ?"

"I do. Only be – ow." Finn breathed harder for a moment. "Skítur," he muttered. "All right. That's enough."

"Did I hurt you?" Hugh got up on his hands and knees.

"Yes, but it's my own fault. I forgot about that scrape on my belly, and your head's damn heavy. And – well, it happens. Or it doesn't, in this case." Finn chuckled. "Have you really never – done that?"

"Never." Hugh crawled up the bed and lay beside him. "It never occurred to me." After a moment he himself chuckled. "It wasn't in our local priest's penitential."

"Ah." Finn stretched, winced, and said, "It's in the Irish ones."

"I always knew the Irish were –"

Hugh's mouth was stopped by a slim hand. "Nobody says a word against the Irish to me."

"But you're not Irish – are you?"

A whisper of linen on linen as Finn rolled over. "My father was half Icelandic and half Danish. My mother was half Icelandic, half Irish noblewoman."

"I remember: you said your grandmother was Irish, once," Hugh said, trailing one finger up and down the sinews of Finn's throat. "How come?"

"She was a slave, one of the last in Iceland. Captured in a raid in some part of Éireann where the king's word didn't reach."

"Oh." Hugh lay still a moment. "I'm sorry."

Finn shrugged. "The way of this world." He lay still for a moment, and then said, "You didn't mean to let me stay here, did you?"

"No. Not when the evening started," Hugh admitted. "I never meant for – for any of this to happen, except that suddenly I wanted to, and it seemed the most natural thing in all the world."

"Yes," Finn said, a little sadly. "It always does, when it first occurs to you."

Hugh slid his fingers round Finn's throat. So narrow. I could stop the breath in it with one hand. "A story there?" he said, teasing gently.

"Yes; but not one I want to tell right now." Finn sighed. "Another time?"

"Yes. Yes, of course." They were lying face to face now. Hugh made as if to caress Finn's mouth, but drew back, remembering the blood and bruises. Finn, as if he hadn't noticed, slid his own hand across Hugh's chest to rest in the hollow of neck and shoulder, and laid his head on the pillow.


#


"How come you left Iceland? How come you went to Provence?" It was the middle of the night, but as usual after his first sleep Hugh was wide awake, and would be for a while yet.

"Is there any of that ale left?" Finn asked. "If there is, get me a cup of it, and I'll tell you."

"Not much left," Hugh said. "One cup."

"We'll share it." Finn took the cup from him as Hugh climbed back into bed. "So … I left Iceland for the first time when I was thirteen, and after that, twice a year." He drank some of the ale, and held the cup to Hugh's lips. "Here."

"Fighting?" Hugh asked, and swallowed, awkwardly because Finn was tipping the cup at the wrong angle.

"Trading," Finn said. "Or that was the reason, the first time. The last time, I knew it was for ever." The words came chill from his lips; he took another mouthful of ale, and for a long while said nothing else.

At last Hugh took his hand, and said, "Tell me more?"

Finn sighed. "The most natural thing in all the world, you said. That was how it was for Ari Einarsson and me. It's a wild place, Iceland, and you can think you're hidden, and still someone will spy on you. Hild Einarsdottir spied on us – Ari's half-sister – and there was a law case, and … to shorten a long story, I left the country and took the blame with me. Ari was the oldest son, so he had more to lose. I was a younger son of a second wife, and I was always going to be the wanderer."


#


1598-1602
THE PEACOCK'S EYE

Jay Lewis Taylor


In a time of uncertainty – when sex and politics are almost indistinguishable and full of pitfalls for the unwary – Nick, Gabriel and Philip (Phip) must negotiate both their love-lives and their everyday lives with more than ordinary caution.


May 1598

After a few moments, Nick said, "If you feel – like that – about master Standage, why don't you come and lodge here with him?"

Gabriel licked crumbs off his lips, and said, "But I don't feel like that about him."

"Oh." That asked more questions than it answered, and Nick wasn't sure whether questions would be welcome. He said, "Ben Jonson came to the theatre yesterday, about that play he's writing."

"I saw him," Gabriel said. "He seemed to have a lot to say to you."

Nick pulled at the grass with the hand that wasn't holding a hunk of bread. "He was warning me against becoming anyone's ingle. Ganymede. You know."

"I know." Gabriel chewed thoughtfully, and said, "Is that what you wanted when you came here?"

"It wasn't why I came here." Nick's mouth was dry; he took a swig of the beer. "I wouldn't mind if it happened. I think."

Gabriel raised one eyebrow. "If that's what you say, then you don't know what you're doing." He drank from his own mug, took a deep breath, and leaned closer. Nick made to edge away, but he was confiding rather than threatening. "The thing is about Ben Jonson, he loathes sodomites. He also loathes Puritans. But the Puritans loathe sodomites too, so Ben, bless his big boots, doesn't know which way to turn because he can't decide which he hates more. If he tells you there's sodomy in all directions – you'll need more than a pinch of salt before he can be believed, that's all."

"And – master Standage?" Nick said.

"You saw us together," Gabriel said, and smiled, looking into the distance. "Mostly, you know, a boy in the theatre, that likes men that way – well, he starts as an ingle. Ganymede, catamite, whatever you like to call it. Philip did, but Philip's different. Now he's older, he still takes that part. No, I don't feel 'like that' about him, but that's why I came to his bed. He's generous. He's kind, anyone'll tell you. Phip will put himself out for anyone – once he's awake. So now you know enough."

Nick made no reply; and after a long pause Gabriel said, "Or is there more?"

"What do you mean?"

Gabriel pulled the last of his bread apart, dipped it in the beer and said, "Do you want Philip?" before putting the sop in his mouth.

Nick hadn't thought of that, but now his skin tingled, and he wondered if he were blushing. He shrugged.

"You don't know what you're doing," Gabriel repeated softly. "Don't waste your time. If you want to be a player, all well and good; learn, learn, learn, and he'll teach you. He knows the craft. If you want to be Phip's ingle, leave now. He took no notice of me until I was a grown man."

February 1602

"Your memory for names is excellent, as I know already, and you do not need leading to remember them, which is more valuable."

"It makes me wonder that torture should ever be necessary," Philip said, only half-jesting.

"Some men's memories need a little assistance," Cecil said, calmly as if he were speaking of the weather. "But it is costly, and time-consuming; I prefer not." He was running one pale finger down a list of names. "Did it seem to you that Howard made any friend in particular?"

"The King smiled on him often enough," Philip said. "He stayed with Mar at first, and he was much about the King's favourites. But that may have been mere policy."

"There is a thing that they say of James, concerning – favourites." Cecil's eyes were on the paper before him.

"I know what you mean."

"Well?"

"I saw nothing, save that if you are a man in the Scottish court, the younger and better you are to look upon, the more likely you are to be – well-favoured."


#


The 1850s
THE WALLED GARDEN

F.M. Parkinson


William Ashton, frustrated by living in close proximity to his employer Edward Hillier – whom he loves, but who seems oblivious to his affection – is in London on business when he encounters a soldier in a park.


After a meal consumed in the small hotel recommended by the cab driver, Ashton armed himself with The London Conductor, a guidebook for visitors, and strolled out along the busy pavements of the Haymarket, casting an amused eye over what he presumed were those in the forefront of fashion. There was nothing to equal them in the rural backwater of South Pennerton, and Hillier himself was more concerned with sober attire and clean linen than the colour and patterning of his waistcoat. Without doubt, Ashton thought, his own lack of sartorial splendour marked him out as the country visitor he was, the low-crowned hat he wore in preference to more fashionable headgear confirming the fact.

Fashionable or not, he received as much attention from one quarter as did many of the other men walking along the street. In this respect, he realised with some irony, the centre of the metropolis differed little from the streets and waterfronts of the many foreign ports into which he had sailed. Even in this most exclusive of areas, or perhaps because of it, it was an easy matter to buy the services of a woman, for they stood in doorways or walked slowly along the pavements, their manner and the look in their eyes proclaiming them for what they were, prepared to sell themselves to any man willing to pay for his pleasure.

Perhaps he, too, thought Ashton with self-mockery, should avail himself of the opportunity presented so brazenly. In a country town such as South Pennerton, these possibilities were not easily come by, gossip a deterrent to would-be transgressors. Not that it was impossible to find a willing female if needs became desperate; it was simply that he preferred certain other pleasures, ones that were not so obviously on offer in the streets of London.

The problem, his thoughts continued to voice themselves, was that what he really wished for, would give everything for – his mind made a mental sweep of all pleasures, both past and present, available to him – would never be possible. He therefore decided to appreciate what was offered to him here, to try and find some relief from the longing that was tormenting him.

In a perverse mood nevertheless, he ignored the blandishments of the women and walked on till he reached Piccadilly, its broad thoroughfare stretching away westwards towards the newer suburbs of the metropolis. Consulting his guide once more, he decided upon walking to Hyde Park and the mansion wherein the Iron Duke had lived when in Town.

By the time he had reached the entrance to the Park, the traffic had thinned, a few riders making their way in the direction he had taken, other carts or carriages bound for Kensington and beyond. Pausing to admire the large stone mansion at the edge of the Park and the late owner's equestrian figure atop the great arch giving entrance to the Green Park on the opposite side of Piccadilly, he then left the roadway, passing under the Ionic Screen entrance to Hyde Park and strode along a path through the greenery.

It was a pleasant day, the breeze preventing it from becoming over-warm, and for Ashton it was pleasurable to be amongst trees again. It surprised him to discover that he felt so comfortable now in such a pastoral setting, but then he had lived and worked in the open air for a number of years and had come to enjoy the outdoor life he had led. At this moment he sought solitude, turning away from the townsfolk exercising their mounts or passing the time of day with one another from their carriages, and struck out towards a more overgrown area of the parkland, the trees and bushes uncontrolled by human agency. Some distance off, a woman made as if to approach him but he ignored her, surmising that by her manner she was undoubtedly one of the women who found the Park as profitable an area in which to work as the streets of the West End.

Intent on following the track that, he reasoned, might bring him out on the far side of the Park, Ashton was well out of sight of the main thoroughfare when a man stepped out from the bushes onto the pathway ahead of him. The secretary halted abruptly, alert for any sound that might indicate the fellow had accomplices. It would be an easy matter here to carry out an attack upon an unwary citizen, rob his person of any valuables he carried and dispose of the body amongst the thick undergrowth where it might lie undetected for months. If that were the intention, Ashton reflected with grim determination, he would sell his life dearly. Not for the first time would he be defending himself against violent assault; the years of hard living had given him abilities in such a situation few ordinary citizens might be expected to possess.

Prepared for an onslaught, the secretary glanced around him, listening intently for any further sound, his task made more difficult by the breeze that rustled the leaves and branches. No attack came, however, nor did the man ahead of him move. Indeed, he gave the impression of being somewhat wary of Ashton, making no attempt to approach him. By his dress he seemed to be one of the lower orders.

As an impasse appeared to have been reached, Ashton broke the silence, calling out, "Well, fellow, what do you want with me?"

Glancing around him nervously, the man said in a loud voice, "It's me as c'n 'elp you, sir, if yer wishes it."

"Oh indeed? And in what manner can you help me?" asked the secretary, still alert to counter any attempted attack upon his person.

The man seemed disconcerted by the question and at a loss for words. He looked around him again as if seeking inspiration from some invisible source. "Gen'lemen allus comes 'ere when they wants 'elp … an' is willin' … to pay fer it. But if yer not, sir, I begs yer pardon, an' no 'arm done." He made as if to retreat back into the foliage lining the pathway.

"Wait!" commanded Ashton, taking a few steps forward. The man halted. Staring at him, Ashton could see he did not appear to be armed, though that was no surety the would-be assailant did not carry a knife about his person. "If it's your intention to rob me, then think again before you make so rash a move. It'll be the worse for you, I promise."

"Oh no, sir," the man grew quite agitated, "not at all, I'm no robber, sir. I serve 'Er Majesty: taken 'er shillin', an' wot I c'n earn … other ways."

Intrigued now, Ashton asked, "You said that gentlemen come here when they need help. What did you mean?" He walked nearer to the soldier, who watched his approach with wary eyes. He was a young man, Ashton noted, not uncomely, and to the secretary's surprise, his clothes and person appeared to be remarkably clean, although the garments were worn and mended in places. Nor did he seem to be carrying a knife or other weapon, to Ashton's reassurance. Remembering times in his own life when he had been glad to earn a few extra shillings, Ashton decided to humour the young man, instead of, as he had first intended, marching him back, by force if necessary, to a more frequented area before allowing him out of his sight.

"What did you mean?" he repeated, coming closer.

The soldier hesitated. "Some gen'lemen," he said at last, "wan' services done for 'em. I does 'em."

"Such as?" prompted the secretary, taking a firm grip on the man's coat-sleeve as he became more nervous at every question. He seemed to be torn between escaping before he could be asked further questions and staying in the hope of eventually earning some money. Greed won out over caution and he made no attempt to break free from the hold on his arm.

"Depen's, sir," he prevaricated. "Now supposin' you wan'ed a moll; I could get yer one."

"I don't need your help in finding a woman," said Ashton, "there are enough on every street corner in this part of the city."

"Or," continued the soldier, his tone becoming sly and confidential, "I could do summit about it if yer didn'." He squinted sideways at Ashton, bracing himself for an attempt to beat a rapid retreat if he found he had totally misjudged the situation.

A glimmer of understanding caused Ashton to ask, "You mean, if I were to say to you, I need a certain sort of help, and I don't want the services of a whore, you would do that for me?"

There was a silence. The soldier cast an anxious look about him. "I'm a poor man, sir. A soldier's pay don' go far; an extra bit's allus welcome. But there's some thin's I won' do."

Almost sure now, Ashton said, "Then what would you do? If I were to ask you, that is."

"I … c'n bring you off, sir," the young man said, all of a rush.

"Ahh." Ashton's body tensed involuntarily at the words, then relaxed, his nerves sending prickles of feeling through him in anticipation. He had not misread the soldier's intent. Fleetingly he thought of the body he could not have and closed his mind. He wished for relief and whether by a woman or this young man in need of extra money, he would have it; to be touched intimately by another man's hands was preferable.

"And what would you charge for such a … service?" he added after a short pause.

A meagre enough sum indeed, thought Ashton as the soldier named his fee, considering the risks the man was taking. As for himself, he would take pleasure when and where the opportunity presented itself, even though he had to pay for it; it was little different from buying many another service.

"I accept," he said, handing over a part of the sum of money agreed upon as a sign of good faith, "but let us remove ourselves to somewhere more discreet. A room, perhaps? I'm sure you know of something suitable."


#


1896
ALWAYS WITH US

Morgan Cheshire


Harrison Calderwood befriends Daniel Harper – a widower with a young son, Joseph. Unknown to each other they both yearn for a deeper relationship, and eventually the tension between them reaches a point where something really must be said.


After lunch, they walked slowly in the direction of Dale Street and the business quarter, cutting through the old cemetery close by St George's Hall.

Although the city traffic was only a few yards away it felt peaceful within the churchyard. There were no new monuments to be seen; no-one had been buried there for over forty years. The area around the century-old church was well kept, but beyond that long grass swayed in the breeze.

"Let's sit down for a moment," suggested Harrison, indicating a bench in a particularly delightful location under a wild cherry in full bloom.

The interruption to their progress gave Daniel reason for misgivings; Harrison had seemed much stronger over lunch, but he was still a long way from being the hale and robust man he had been a few months earlier, and this sudden weakness was cause for concern. "Are you feeling quite all right?" he asked.

"Yes, thank you, Daniel; I just want to talk to you privately, and this seemed like a good enough place. Sit down, please."

Daniel sat on the bench beside him, but it was a few seconds after that before Harrison spoke. "Daniel, your friendship is one of the most important things in my life, and I really don't want to lose it." He paused there, seeming to reach for some inner resource of courage before continuing. "I never seem to have the words to tell you how I truly feel."

Daniel took an unsteady breath. So this was the moment, the one that he had half been hoping for and half dreading, and now that it had arrived it seemed that he was not nearly as self-conscious or embarrassed as he had thought he might be.

"Then I'll tell you," he said, deciding it was best to be direct, whatever the likely consequences might be. "When we're apart, the only thing that makes life worth living at all is Joseph. When we're together … I find I can't say any of the things I want to say or do any of the things I want to do. That's why I must go away, Harry; this awful situation is killing me inside."

Harrison raised a hand, as though to stop him speaking. "Do you remember meeting Miss Weston that night you came to dinner?" he said into the sudden silence.

Thrown off-balance by the abrupt change of direction, Daniel searched his memory. It had been a long time ago, but nevertheless he managed to recall her face to mind. "Yes. Yes, I do remember her." What he remembered most of all, however, was her air of confident ownership regarding Harrison.

"Well," continued his friend, slowly, "her brother James went to France after Wilde was arrested. He isn't over there studying, as his family would have everyone believe; he's gone there to avoid the law. He would have been liable for prosecution if he'd remained in England, and I'm afraid he would not have been able to make much of a defence. Now, James is one of my best friends; I've long been aware of his preferences, and in fact he's made it very clear on more than one occasion that he was attracted to me. I'm fond of him, of course, but I'm afraid I found it both necessary and desirable to turn him down."

"Yes, of course," said Daniel, numbly. It was even worse than he had thought, this cool, gentle, detailed explanation of why it was quite impossible … why it would always be impossible …

"You see," said Harrison, "I never felt towards him one quarter of the feelings that I feel towards you."

Astounded, Daniel stared at him. "You do realise what you're saying, don't you?"

Harrison remained calm, and his gaze remained level. "I'm telling you the truth," he said. "Nothing more, and nothing less."

"And if it turns out that I'm not like James? That I'm not that sort at all?"

"Well, then, I would just have to accept it, and hope that you were still willing to be my friend now that you know how I feel."

Daniel scrubbed his hands roughly over his face, his whole body shaking in reaction. "You bloody well don't make life easy for yourself, do you, Harry?" he exclaimed, somewhere between exasperation and delight.

"I take it that question is rhetorical?" returned Harrison, mildly.

Daniel ignored the comment, wanting to be absolutely certain what he was hearing. "Let me get this clear," he began. "Because it sounded to me very much as if you want us to have a …" He hesitated again before putting into words what he had dreamed of for so long. "… a closer … relationship … ?" For Heaven's sake, even language seemed to be conspiring against him now! Was this even the right way to describe it? How could there ever be any appropriate words for describing something that most people wouldn't even dare to name?

Turning slightly toward Daniel, Harrison held out his hand. "Yes," was all he said – and really, no more was needed.

Daniel took his hand briefly, then released it. "Do you realise you've put yourself completely in my power?" he asked, shakily.

Harrison smiled at this. "As a lawyer, I'm bound to point out that you have no witnesses," he said. "It would be your word against mine."

"You know better than that," rallied Daniel. "Unfortunately there are witnesses everywhere – otherwise I would just kiss you now and be done with it."


#


1916
BETWEEN NOW AND THEN

Adam Fitzroy


Falling through an anomaly in time from the 1990s, football fans Dennis and Allan find themselves living the lives of two First World War soldiers whose intense love-affair is a vivid contrast to their own casual enmity.


The room was lighter when Dennis next awoke, and the sounds of the barrage had died away to nothing. One bird sang in the hostel garden, such a plaintive little tune that if anyone had ever wanted to set words to it they would have needed to be unbearably sad. It was a song of separation, if ever he'd heard one; winter was closing in upon them, and from now on the poor thing would always be alone.

At his side Allan was just beginning to stir, his head turning on the thin pillow; they had made a tragic mess of this bed with their efforts during the night, but had somehow managed to bring the rough woollen blankets up around themselves and cut out the worst of the chills and draughts, and had therefore been surprisingly warm. Or maybe it was proximity and the aftermath of a bout of vigorous exercise which had accounted for that.

Dennis extracted himself carefully, doing his best not to wake his companion, but all his efforts proved to have been fruitless when Allan shifted in the bed and spoke to him.

"Are you leaving?" he asked, raising himself up onto one elbow and fixing Dennis with what – even in the pre-dawn gloom – could have been described as an accusatory stare.

"I should do, shouldn't I?" Dennis asked him, frankly. "The longer I leave it, the more difficult it's going to be to sneak out of here unseen. The girl in the kitchen – Marguerite – starts work really early, doesn't she?"

"Well, maybe she'll be late today," suggested Allan, the note of pleading in his voice almost matching that of the lonely singer in the garden. "And maybe she wouldn't tell on you if she saw you, anyway; I've always had the notion she seemed like rather a good sport."

Dennis thought about that for a moment.

"Listen, if we got caught together it would be embarrassing for you, but it would almost certainly be a lot worse for me. You're an officer, you can always talk your way out of things – you can blame it on your nerves and get yourself sent away to a nice comfortable hospital somewhere to be cured – but you know bloody well that the same thing wouldn't happen to me, especially if the powers that be decided they were going to deal with it as mutiny or desertion …"

"I know, and I honestly do appreciate your point of view," said Allan, soothingly. "Although it's not as if either of us ever had a realistic chance of getting home in one piece anyway, is it? I'm afraid you and I have pretty much seen the last of 'England, home and beauty' for a while – at least for this campaign, anyway."

"I understand that," responded Dennis. "But what I'm really trying to say is this; if ever I do have to be shot at dawn, I'd very much prefer it to be by the enemy rather than our own side – that is, if you don't object too much!"

"Yes, of course," was the more subdued reply. "And I'm very sorry; I really should have thought of that myself."

A few minutes later, Allan was sitting up against the head rail of the bed with the pillow squashed behind him, smoking thoughtfully and watching as Dennis rinsed his face and hands in the water from the jug. He had half-contemplated a trip into the adjacent bathroom, but that had felt too much like courting discovery so he'd opted instead for making use of the traditional chamber pot under the bed, and washing himself in cold water before carefully sponging his uniform. By trench standards this was tantamount to luxury in any case, and although he would not have time to shave he would certainly be as presentable as a great many of his comrades. Whatever some of the stuffier and more regimented regular officers had to say on the subject – and it was all right for them, they had batmen and servants to help them to maintain their appearance! – in the front line it didn't much matter what a man looked like as long as he was able to do his job. Nevertheless Dennis had borrowed a comb and slicked his hair down with water, and was even now climbing carefully back into his uniform.

"You'll go out through the garden, I suppose, will you?" asked Allan. "I presume that was how you got in?"

"Safer than trying to get that front gate open," said Dennis. "You know how it squeaks, it'd wake up everybody in the street. No, I'll climb out over the roof of the potting-shed, drop down into the baker's yard, and go out that way."

"They'll be working in there this morning," Allan reminded him soberly.

"I know; I promise I'll be careful. With a bit of luck I should be able to get out as far as the street without anybody seeing me, and I shouldn't have too much trouble making my way back to my unit from there. As for you – well, you really ought to go back to sleep for a while, if you can possibly manage it."

But Allan was shaking his head. "Not a chance," he replied decisively. "I'll wait until after you've gone, then I'll sort everything out and pack up my belongings ready to leave. No point in hanging about, after all, is there?"

"I suppose not." Dennis was buttoning his tunic, smoothing it down, checking that he had everything he was supposed to have. "Do you reckon we'll ever see each other again, then?" he asked. "It would be a bloody shame if not."

Allan shrugged, crushing out his cigarette. "Then I suppose it may have to be a bloody shame," he allowed, "although anything's possible. It's hopeless to try to predict what might happen. I wish we could, though; I wish we could spend more time together – and perhaps not all of it in bed."

"I don't imagine we'd have much in common if it wasn't for that, do you?" said Dennis, his mouth twisting wryly. "What would the two of us ever find to talk about, for a start? We're from completely different worlds – well, different classes, at any rate."

"Perhaps," acknowledged Allan. "Although it would be nice to have the chance to find out. Now," he added, swarming up out of the bed, naked and pale in the bedroom's pre-dawn light, "I hope you're going to behave like a proper gentleman and kiss me goodbye? And I'm not just talking about a quick peck on the cheek, thank you very much; I trust you to make a better job of it than that."

"All right."

Dennis did his best to make this seem like grudging capitulation, but in reality he could think of very few things he'd rather do. They hadn't spoken much about affection – there hadn't really been time, and anyway it had felt out of place somehow – but for all the urgency of their encounter there had also been a degree of tenderness between them. Kissing this man, therefore, would present him with very little of a problem; it was not as if he'd never actually done it before.

Settling his hands on Allan's bare shoulders, he was surprised to discover how warm he was – or how cold he was himself – and pulled him closer, his hands sliding easily down to Allan's waist and further still, over skin that was smooth and silky and seemed to sing beneath his fingers.

"I could quite easily have you again right now," he confided, ardently.

"I'm sure you could, darling," came the all-too-knowing response, "and I could quite cheerfully let you, but perhaps we ought to save it for another time?"

And Dennis, startled by what appeared to have been a thoroughly misplaced endearment, could think of nothing better to do at the moment than to stop him speaking, to make this no more difficult than it must be already by closing his mouth in the most effective manner possible. Allan's lips beneath his were warm and yielding and Allan – tall by most standards but not quite Dennis's equal – was as quiescent in his arms as any swooning moving-picture heroine, and perhaps for the first time Dennis understood that this might not simply be about sex after all. He had never really considered that it had anything to do with romance, or possibly even with love, yet if this was indeed the case he could be walking away not merely from a casual acquaintance with whom he'd shared a night of pleasure, but from someone who could – had the circumstances been conducive – have turned out to be the love of his life.

In any event, it would be better not to think about it. Too great a consciousness of what he might be losing, and he would not be able to leave at all. That was the way they all learned to feel eventually, once they got up as far as the front line; they were fighting for the future of whatever they held most dear – family, country, freedom – but it did not do to clasp it too close to one's heart when there was a job of work to be done. In time, perhaps, the men who survived the war would return and take up the threads of their lives again, and then they would be able to enjoy all the benefits of their own and their comrades' sacrifices. For now, however, such delights as those which Allan represented were probably best to be kept firmly at arm's length and not thought of in any detail for a while.

"Another time," Dennis acknowledged, as he ended the kiss. "But I'm going to have to leave you now, I'm afraid; I've got work to do today, and so have you."

"Yes, of course – but I'll watch you from the window as you go, if you wouldn't mind."

"All right." And then, because there was nothing remotely the equivalent of 'goodbye' that Dennis could ever have said to this man with a clear conscience, or that would not have caused him to falter in his duty more than he had already, he said the only thing that he could think of that he could still mean with all his heart. "I'm sorry," he told Allan, more brusquely than he meant to, and left the room without even once succumbing to the temptation of looking back.


#


1928
ELEVENTH HOUR

Elin Gregory


Briers Allerdale, secret agent, is undercover and living as a couple with female impersonator Miles Siward – a situation he finds awkward, to say the least. Fortunately, however, he encounters someone willing to help relieve the frustration he's experiencing.


Briers scoured the East End, Limehouse, Wapping and Deptford, asking leading questions but mostly relying on his eyes. His greatest advantage was he knew Andrija by sight but Andrija did not know him, and he was confident he would spot the bastard even if he was disguised. There was something about being shot at that fixed a face in one's mind.

But it was frustrating. Day after day he left for work, changed his clothing into rough workman's wear, then roamed the back streets and alleys. It was boring and lonely, but familiar. Having someone to go home to was unfamiliar but oddly enjoyable. But for now, he decided he needed a little rest and recreation, mostly to prevent himself from reliving his constant imaginings of Miles, warm at his side in bed, or better yet, hot, under him in bed. And there was one place above all where he knew he would find what he sought.


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