THE DAMSEL IN DISTRESS IN POPULAR LITERATURE
Illustrations by Noir with friendly permission
Fuse challenged serial villain
The beautiful heroine clad in lace languished on the floor of the Hidden (and Forbidden) Room of the old mansion. Across her lips a crisp black silk scarf was bandaged cruelly, knotted so tightly that her cheeks bulged above it. Behind the scarf, wedged between her jaws, was a cambric handkerchief, wadded to stifle all but the faintest sound. Slender wrists were held together by thin cord. Arms that strained unsuccessfully for release were fastened by multiple windings of thicker cord close to her body, elbows drawn tightly into the small of her back. She rolled to one side, tossing her long tresses from her face, released by the slipped hair ribbon of blue. Her legs wrapped together from ankles to thighs, trussed thoroughly with strips of sheeting like a mummy, made of her body a single helpless unit. On the other side of the door the floor boards by the staircase creaked. Shoes scuffed at the carpet and a key rattled harshly in the unoiled lock. Fearfully she lifted her head and turned to stare at the slowly opening door, her wide frightened eyes highlighted by the soft but taut material that masked her face.
Then there was a commercial break.
The beautiful, proud heroine, bound hand and foot, gagged, helpless in the hands of the villain is a motif so common in popular literature that it cannot be accidental.
This is a revised version of an essay that was first published in Bondage Life,Vol. 1, No. 7, July, 1980, pp. 22-23, 73-74, under the title "More Bondage in Popular Literature: a Common Motif in Detective and Gothic Tales." It was the first of two essays on the subject. The other essay, "In the Gohic Bind: Ten Selections of Plucky Heroines," appeared in Bondage Life, No. 16, March 1984, pp. 32-33, 50-54. The first offering was deserves to be called an essay. The second was a compilation of bondage scenarios from different sources, mostly gothic romances. I have broken the first essay into three parts, the first of which appears below.
Part I: Early Detective Fiction
Bondage is an ingredient in detective and adventure novels. It may play a light part in the action, as in this scene:
Artie Wu got out of the station wagon, opened the rear door, and stripped back the blanket. The rear seats had been lowered to form a deck space. Stretched out on the hard surface was Silk Armitage, her hands tied behind her back, her mouth taped, her eyes wide and very frightened (Ross Thomas, Chinaman's Chance, page 303).
The front cover illustration depicts the scene faithfully. On the other hand, many of the John Creasy novels, e.g. Missing From Home, give plenty of space throughout the development of their plot for the plight of a girl held gagged and bound by kidnappers.
"Erik, unloose my bonds:" Victorian Melodrama
The tradition of the captured damsel (it’s perhaps too early to start calling her a heroine) goes back to the nineteenth century and early twentieth century. There is a bondage scene in Gaston Leroux’s The Phantom of the Opera (1911).
"Can you tell us where Erik is?" I asked.
She replied that he must have left the house.
"Could you make sure?"
"No. I am fastened. . . I cannot stir a limb."
When we heard this, M de Chagny and I gave a yell of fury. Our safety, the safety of all the three of us depended on the girl’s liberty of movement.
"But where are you?" asked Christine. "There are only two doors in my room, the Louis-Philippe room of which I told you, Raoul: a door through which Erik comes and goes and another which he has never opened before me and which he has forbidden me ever to go through, because he says it is the most dangerous of the doors, the door of the torture-chamber!"
"Christine, that is where we are!"
"You are in the torture-chamber?"
"Yes, but we cannot see the door."
"Oh, if I could only drag myself so far! . . . I would knock at the door and that would tell you where it is."
"Is it a door with a lock to it?"I asked.
"Yes, with a lock."
"Mademoiselle," I exclaimed, "it is absolutely necessary that you should open that door to us!"
"But how?" asked the poor girl, tearfully.
We heard her straining, trying to free herself from the bonds that held her.
"I know where the key is," she said, in a voice that seemed exhausted by the effort she had made. "But I am fastened so tight. . . . Oh, the wretch!"
And she gave a sob.
"Where is the key?" I asked, signing to M de Chagny not to speak and to leave the business to me, for we had not a moment to lose.
"In the next room, near the organ, with another little bronze key which he also forbade me to touch. They are both in a little leather bag which he calls the bag of life and death.... Raoul! Raoul! Fly! . . . Everything is mysterious and terrible here. . . and Erik will soon have gone quite mad . . . and you are in the torturechamber! . .. Go back by the way you came! There must be a reason why the room is called by a name like that!"
"Christine," said the young man, "we will go from here together or die together!"
"We must keep cool," I whispered. "Why has he fastened you, mademoiselle? You can’t escape from his house; and he knows it!"
"I tried to commit suicide! The monster went out last night, after carrying me here fainting and half chloroformed. He was going to his banker, so he said .... When he returned, he found me with my face covered with blood.... I had tried to kill myself by striking my forehead against the wall...."
"Christine!" groaned Raoul; and he began to sob.
"Then he bound me.... I am not allowed to die until eleven o’clock to-morrow evening! . . ."
"Madenoiselle," I declared, "the monster bound you . . . and he shall unbind you.... You have only to play the necessary part! ... Remember that he loves you!"
"Alas!" we heard. "Am I likely to forget it!"
"Remember it and smile on him . . . entreat him . . . tell him that your bonds hurt you."
But Christine Daae said:
"Hush! . . . I hear something in the wall on the lake! . . . It is he! . . . Go away! Go away! Go away! . . ."
"We could not go away, even if we wanted to," I said, as impressively as I could. "We cannot leave this! And we are in the torture chamber!"
"Hush!" whispered Christine again.
Heavy steps dragged slowly behind the wll, stopped and then made the floor creak once more. Next came a tremendous sigh, followed by a cry of horror from Christine, and we heard Erik’s voice:
"I beg your pardon for letting you see a face like this! What a state l am in am I not? It’s the other one’s fault! why did he ring? Do I ask people who pass to tell me the time? He will never ask anyhody the time again! It is the siren’s fault...."
Another sigh, deeper, more tremendous still, came from the abysmal depths of a soul.
"Why did you cry out, Christine?"
"Because I am in pain, Erik."
"I thought I had frightened you...."
"Erik, unloose my bonds.... Am I not your prisoner?"
"You will try to kill yourself again...."
"You have given me till eleven o’clock to-morrow evening Erik, …"
The footsteps dragged along the floor once more.
"After all, since we are to die together . . . and since I am just as eager to die as you are . . . yes, I have had enough of this life, you know.... Wait, don’t move, I will release you.... "
(Gaston Leroux The Phantom of the Opera, Hertfordshire: Wordsworth, 1911/1995, pp.165-167).
In this early novel of the genre, we have a duo of stock characters that will see the test of time: the steady and intelligent investigator and his/her sidekick who is often less quick intellectually but may be a person of action. In The Phantom of the Opera, these character types are represented by the Persian and the impetuous young Raoul.
The duo, of course, entered literary history with the exploits of Arthur Conan Doyles’ Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson (both men of action), the most celebrated (and one of the earliest) fictional detectives. Bondage is rare in Doyles’ tales but there are three examples.
A faint moaning and rustling came from within. Holmes struck the door just over the lock with the flat of his foot, and it flew open. Pistol in hand, we all three rushed into the room.
But there was no sign within it of that desperate and defiant villain whom we expected to see. Instead we were faced by an object so strange and unexpected that we stood for a moment staring at it in amazement.
The room had been fashioned into a small museum, and the walls were lined by a number of glass-topped cases full of that collection of butterflies and moths the formation of which had beer the relaxatiorL of this complex and dangerous man. In the centre of this room was an upright beam, which had been placed at some period as a support for the old worm-eaten balk of timber which spanned the roof. To this post a figure was tied, so swathed and muffled in the sheets which had bed used to secure it that one could not for the moment tell whether it was that of a man or a woman. One towel passed round the throat, and was secured at the back of the pillar. Another covered the lower part of face and over it two dark eyes - eyes full of grief shame and a dreadful questioning - stared back at us. In a minute we had torn off the gag, unswathed the bonds and Mrs. Stapleton sank upon the floor in front of us. As her beautiful head fell upon her chest I saw the red weal of a whip-lash across her neck.
"The brute!" cried Holmes. "Here, Lestrade, your brandy-bottle! Put her in the chair! She has fainted from ill-usage and exhaustion."
She opened her eyes again. "Is he safe ?" she asked. "Has he escaped?"
"He cannot escape us, madam."
"No, no, I did not mean my husband. Sir Henry? Is he safe?"
"And the hound?"
(Arthur Conan Doyle The Hound of the Baskervilles, London: John Murray, 1929/1954, p. 438).
Poor hound (shot by Watson), a sad end: covered in phosphorescent paint by a looney and told to roam the moors looking for human throats to disgorge. Nobody sees it from the point of view of the unfortunate villain or his/her unwilling accomplice.
Movie depictions of this scene from The Hound of the Baskervilles have ranged from neglecting it altogether to representations with varying degrees of success. The version which is the most insipid has the heroine discovered in a cellar beneath a trapdoor, manacled to a chair with a thin white cleave gag. It looks like a strip of sheeting loosely tied between her teeth. Going on the frequency with which this sort of gag appears in present-day movies, I wonder how many bedsheets have been cut by the props departments. This is I believe the 1983 version starring Ian Richardson as Holmes. A better version which was very close to the original text of the story, showed the captive wrapped in broad white strips of cloth. The part of Holmes was played by Tom Baker of Dr Who fame. But the best version in my opinion - The Return of Sherlock Holmes — depicts the actor Fiona Gilles secreted in a hidden room, tied with her back to a large pillar and gagged tightly with a thick woolen scarf, the part in her mouth saliva soaked: ‘Hel .. Hel me .. In here .. Hel …’ As she is freed, she swoons gracefully into Doctor Watson’s arms (lucky man). And the picture of her being escorted tenderly down the stairs, a look of anguish still on her pretty face, recaptures the Victorian mood quintessentially.
Victorian men had a double standard towards women which is still shared by many men today. Women were depicted either as a threat to masculinity — a woman of the night or the femme fatale — or placed on a pedestal as pure and beautiful, the keepers of all that is good. The latter, I suggest, became the damsel in distress as in John Willie’s delightfully parodic work starring Sweet Gwendoline; the former is represented by Gwendoline’s friend and dominatrix, Agent U69.
Another Conan Doyle offering is the short story "The Solitary Cyclist" which, according to my sources, was published a year earlier than "Hound." Here the language of Victorian melodrama is more startling. The distressed damsel has a brief walk-on part.
"Good Lord! Good Lord! What shall I do?" cried the stranger, in an ecstasy of despair. "They’ve got her. That hellhound Woodley and the blackguard parson. Come, man, come, if you really are her friend. Stand by me and we’ll save her, if I have to leave my carcass in Charlington Wood."
He ran distractedly, his pistol in his hand, towards a gap in the hedge. Holmes followed him, and I, leaving the horse grazing beside the road, followed Holmes.
"This is where they came through," said he, pointing to the marks of several feet upon the muddy path. "Halloa! Stop a minute! Who’s this in the bush?"
It was a young fellow about seventeen, dressed like an ostler, with leather cords and gaiters. He lay upon his back, his knees drawn up, a terrible cut upon his head. He was insensible, but alive. A glance at his wound told me that it had not penetrated the bone.
"That’s Peter, the groom," cried the stranger. "He drove her. The beasts have pulled him off and clubbed him. Let him lie; we can’t do him any good, but we may save her from the worst fate that can befall a woman."
We ran frantically down the path, which wound among the trees. We had reached the shrubbery which surrounded the house when Holmes pulled up.
"They didn’t go to the house. Here are their marks on the left–here, beside the laurel bushes ! Ah, I said so!"
As he spoke a woman’s shrill scream–a scream which vibrated with a frenzy of horror–burst from the thick green clump of bushes in front of us. It ended suddenly on its highest note with a choke and a gurgle.
"This way! This way! They are in the bowling alley," cried the stranger, darting through the bushes. "Ah, the cowardly dogs! Follow me, gentlemen! Too late! too late! by the living Jingo!"
We had broken suddenly into a lovely glade of greensward surrounded by ancient trees. On the farther side of it, under the shadow of a mighty oak, there stood a singular group of three people. One was a woman, our client, drooping and faint, a handkerchief round her mouth. Opposite her stood a brutal, heavy-faced, red-moustached young man, his gaitered legs parted wide, one arm akimbo, the other waving a riding-crop, his whole attitude suggestive of triumphant bravado. Between them an elderly, grey-bearded man, wearing a short surplice over a light tweed suit, had evidently just completed the wedding service, for he pocketed his Prayer Book as we appeared, and slapped the sinister bridegroom upon the back in jovial congratulation.
"They’re married!" I gasped.
"Come on!" cried our guide; "come on!" He rushed across the glade, Holmes and I at his heels. As we approached, the lady staggered against the trunk of the tree for support. Williamson, the ex-clergyman, bowed to us with mock politeness, and the bully Woodley advanced with a shout of brutal and exultant laughter.
"You can take your beard off, Bob," said he. "I know you right enough. Well, you and your pals have just come in time for me to be able to introduce you to Mrs. Woodley."
Our guide’s answer was a singular one. He snatched off the dark beard which had disguised him and threw it on the ground, disclosing a long, sallow, clean-shaven face below it. Then he raised his revolver and covered the young ruffian, who was advancing upon him with his riding-crop swinging in his hand.
"Yes," said our ally, "I am Bob Carruthers, and I’ll see this woman right if I have to swing for it. I told you what I’d do if you molested her, and, by the Lord, I’ll good as my word!"
"You’re too late. She’s my wife!"
"No, she’s your widow."
His revolver cracked, and I saw the blood spurt from the front of Woodley’s waistcoat. He spun round with a scream and fell upon his back, his hideous red face turning suddenly to a dreadful mottled pallor. The old man, still clad in his surplice, burst into such a string of foul oaths as I have never heard, and pulled out a revolver of his own, but before he could raise it he was looking down the barrel of Holmes’ weapon.
"Enough of this," said my friend coldly. "Drop that pistol! Watson, pick it up! Hold it to his head! Thank you. You, Carruthers, give me that revolver. We’ll have no more violence. Come, hand it over!"
"Who are you, then?"
"My name is Sherlock Holmes."
(Arthur Conan Doyle ‘The Solitary Cyclist,’ in The Complete Sherlock Holmes Short Stories, London: John Murray, 1928/1952, pp. 654-656).
The scream suddenly cut off, a mainstay of the genre, though a cliché now.
A third and, to my knowledge, the last Sherlock Holmes bondage scenario is described briefly in "The Abbey Grange," in which a woman tells her accomplice to make their crime look like a burglary by tying her up. This is the story she concocts for Holmes:
I held my bedroom candle lit in rny hand, and, by its light, behind the first man I saw two others, who were in the act of entering. I stepped back, but the fellow was on me in an instant. He caught me first by the wrist and then by the throat. I opened my mouth to scream, but he struck me a savage blow with his fist over the eye, and felled me to the ground. I must have been unconscious for a few minutes, for when I came to myself I found that they had torn down the bell-rope and had secured me tightly to the oaken chair which stands at the head of the dining-room table. I was so firmly bound that I could not move, and a handkerchief round my mouth prevented me from uttering any sound. It was at this instant that my unfortunate husband entered the room. He had evidently heard some suspicious sounds, and he came prepared for such a scene as he found. He was dressed in his shirt and trousers, with his favourite blackthorn cudgel in his hand. He rushed at one of the burglars, but another–it was the elderly man–stooped, picked the poker out of the grate, and struck him a terriffic blow as he passed. He fell without a groan, and never moved again. I fainted once more, but again it could only have been a very few minutes during which I was insensible. When I opened my eyes I found that they had collected the silver from the sideboard, and they had drawn a bottle of wine which stood there. Each of them had a glass in his hand. l have already told you, have I not, that one was elderly with a beard, and the others young, hairless lads. They might have been a father with his two sons. They talked together in whispers. Then they came over and sure that I was still securely bound. Finally they drew, closing the window after them. It was quite quarter of an hour before I got my mouth free. When I did so my screams brought the maid to my assistance.
(Arthur Conan Doyle ‘The Abbey Grange,’ in The Complete Sherlock Holmes Short Stories, London: John Murray, 1928/1952, pp. 838-839).
This is depicted prettily in a film version.
A. E. W. Mason
A.E.W. Mason 1865-1948) was a contemporary of Conan Doyle (1859-1930) and of J. M. Barrie (1860-1937), see below. As well as being a writer, Mason was an actor and politician. He wrote The Four Feathers (1902), which has at least two film versions, and later in life divided his time between writing detective mysteries and historical adventure fiction [Chambers Biographical Dictionary]. Arguably his novel At the Villa Rose (1910) contains one of the longest and most celebrated bondage scenarios, in two chapters. But another of his other detective novels, The House of the Arrow (1931) has a worthy scene:
... the small gay room was able; and in the glare Betty stood and laughed. Her white shoulders rose from a slim evening frock of black velvet; from her carefully dressed copper hair to her black satin shoes she was as trim as if she had just been unpacked from a band-box; and she was laughing whole-heartedly at a closed sack on the divan, a sack which jerked and flapped grotesquely like a fish on a beach. Someone was imprisoned within that sack. Jim Frobisher could not doubt who that someone was, and it seemed to him that no sound more soulless and cruel had ever been heard in the world than Betty’s merriment. She threw her head back: Jim could see her slender white throat working, her shoulders flashing and shaking. She clapped her hands with a horrible glee. Something died within Frobisher’s breast as he heard it. Was it in his heart, he wondered? It was, however, to be the last time that Betty Harlowe laughed.
"You can get her out, Francine," she said, and whilst Francine with a pair of scissors cut the end of the sack loose, she sat down with her back to it at the writing-table and unlocked a drawer. The sack was cut away and thrown upon the floor, and now on the divan Ann Upcott lay in her gleaming dancing-dress, her hands bound behind her back, and her ankles tied cruelly together. Her hair was dishevelled, her face flushed, and she had the look of one quite dazed. She drew in deep breaths of air, with her bosom labouring. But she was unaware for the moment of her predicament or surroundings, and her eyes rested upon Francine and travelled from her to Betty’s back without a gleam of recognition. She wrenched a little at her wrists, but even that movement was instinctive; and then she closed her eyes and lay still, so still that but for her breathing the watchers at the door would hardly have believed that she still lived.
Betty, meanwhile, lifted from the open drawer, first a small bottle half filled with a pale yellow liquid, and next a small case of morocco leather. From the case she took a hypodermic syringe and its needle, and screwed the two parts together.
"Is she ready?" Betty asked as she removed the stopper from the bottle.
"Quite, Mademoiselle," answered Francine. She began with a giggle, but she looked at the prisoner as she spoke and she ended with a startled gasp. For Ann was looking straight at her with the strangest, disconcerting stare. It was impossible to say whether she knew Francine or knowing her would not admit her knowledge. But her gaze never faltered, it was actually terrifying by its fixity, and in a sharp, hysterical voice Francine suddenly cried out:
"Turn your eyes away from me, will you?" and she added with a shiver: "It’s horrible, Mademoiselle! It’s like a dead person watching you as you move about the room."
Betty turned curiously towards the divan and Ann’s eyes wandered off to her. It seemed as though it needed just that interchange of glances to awaken her. For as Betty resumed her work of filling the hypodermic syringe from the bottle, a look of perplexity crept into Ann Upcott’s face. She tried to sit up, and finding that she could not, tore at the cords which bound her wrists. Her feet kicked upon the divan. A moan of pain broke from her lips, and with that consciousness returned to her.
"Betty!" she whispered, and Betty turned with the needle ready in her hand. She did not speak, but her face spoke for her. Her upper lip was drawn back a little from her teeth, and there was a look in her great eyes which appalled Jim Frobisher outside the door. Once before he had seen just that look–when Betty was lying on Mrs. Harlowe’s bed for Hanaud’s experiment and he had lingered in the treasure-room with Ann Upcott. It had been inscrutable to him then, but it was as plain as print now. It meant murder. And so Ann Upcott understood it. Helpless as she was, she shrank back upon the divan; in a panic she spoke with faltering lips and her eyes fixed upon Betty with a dreadful fascination.
"Betty! You had me taken and brought here! You sent me to Madame le Vay’s–on purpose. Oh! The letter, then! The anonymous letter!" –and a new light broke in upon Ann’s mind, a new terror shook her. "You wrote it! Betty, you! You–the Scourge!"
She sank back and again struggled vainly with her bonds. Betty rose from her chair and crossed the room towards her, the needle shining bright in her hand. Her hapless prisoner saw it.
"What’s that?" she cried, and she screamed aloud. The extremity of her horror lent to her an unnatural strength. Somehow she dragged herself up and got her feet to the ground. Somehow she stood upright, swaying as she stood.
"You are going to–" she began, and broke off. "Oh, nol You couldn’t! You couldn’t!"
Betty put out a hand and laid it on Ann’s shoulder and held her so for a moment, savouring her vengeance.
"Whose face was it bending so close down over yours in the darkness?" she asked in a soft and dreadful voice. "Whose face, Ann? Guess!" She shook her swaying prisoner with a gentleness as dreadful as her quiet voice. "You talk too much. Your tongue’s dangerous, Ann. You are too curious, Ann! What were you doing in the treasure-room yesterday evening with your watch in your hand? Eh? Can’t you answer, you pretty fool?" Then Betty’s voice changed. It remained low and quiet, but hatred crept into it, a deep, whole-hearted hatred.
"You have been interfering with me too, haven’t you, Ann? Oh, we both understand very well!" And Hanaud’s hand tightened upon Frobisher’s shoulder. Here was the real key and explanation of Betty’s hatred. Ann Upcott knew too much, was getting to know more, might at any moment light upon the whole truth. Yes! Ann Upcott’s disappearance would look like a panic-stricken flight, would have the effect of a confession–no doubt! But above all these considerations, paramount in Betty Harlowe’s mind was the resolve at once to punish and rid herself of a rival.
"All this week, you have been thrusting yourself in my way!" she said. "And here’s your reward for it, Ann. Yes. I had you bound hand and foot - and brought here. The water-lily!" She looked her victim over as she stood in her delicate bright frock, her white silk stockings and satin slippers, swaying in terror. "Fifteen minutes, Ann! That fool of a detective was right! Fifteen minutes! That’s all the time the arrow-poison takes!"
Ann’s eyes opened wide. The blood rushed into her white face and ebbed, leaving it whiter than it was before.
"Arrow-poison!" she cried. "Betty! It was you, then! Oh!" She would have fallen forward, but Betty Harlowe pushed her shoulder gently and she fell back upon the divan. That Betty had been guilty of that last infamy–the murder of her benefactress–not until this moment had Ann Upcott for one moment suspected. It was clear to her, too, that there was not the slightest hope for her. She burst suddenly into a storm of tears.
Betty Harlowe sat down on the divan beside her and watched her closely and curiously with a devilish enjoyment. The sound of the girl’s sobbing was music in her ears. She would not let it flag.
"You shall lie here in the dark all night, Ann, and alone," she said in a low voice, bending over her. "To-morrow Espinosa will put you under one of the stone flags in the kitchen. But to-night you shall lie just as you are. Come!"
She bent over Ann Upcott, gathering the flesh of her arm with one hand and advancing the needle with the other; and a piercing scream burst from Francine Rollard.
"Look!" she cried, and she pointed to the door.
It was open and Hanaud stood upon the threshold ....
[Ann Uppcot’s story, told in flashback, pp. 625-629].
"I shall get my cloak," she said, and she fetched it, leaving her two companions together. She did not return to the buffet.
On the far side of the big central hall a long corridor stretched out. At the mouth of the corridor, guarding it, stood Michel le Vay. He made a sign to her, and when she joined him: ‘
"Turn down to the right into the wing," he said in a low voice. "The small library is in front of you.’
Ann slipped past him. She turned into a wing of the house which was quite deserted and silent. At the end of it a shut door confronted her. She opened it softly. It was all dark within. But enough light entered from the corridor to show her the high book-cases ranged against the walls, the position of the furniture, and some dark, heavy curtains at the end. She was the first, then, to come to the tryst. She closed the door behind her and moved slowly and cautiously forwards with her hands outstretched, until she felt the curtains yield. She passed in between them into the recess of a great bow-window opening on to the park; and a sound, a strange, creaking sound, brought her heart into her mouth.
Someone was already in the room, then. Somebody had been quietly watching as she came in from the lighted corridor. The sound grew louder. Ann peered between the curtains, holding them apart with shaking hands, and through that chin from behind her a vague twilight flowed into the room. In the far corner, near to the door, high up on a tall book-case, something was clinging– something was climbing down. Whoever it was, had been hiding behind the ornamental top of the heavy mahogany book-case; was now using the shelves like the rungs of a ladder.
Ann was seized with a panic. A sob broke from her throat. She ran for the door. But she was too late. A black figure dropped from the bookcase to the ground and, as Ann reached out her hands to the door, a scarf was whipped about her mouth, stifling her cry. She was jerked back into the room, but her fingers had touched the light switch by the door, and as she stumbled and fell, the room was lighted up. Her assailant fell upon her, driving the breath out of her lungs, and knotted the scarf tightly at the back of her head. Ann tried to lift herself, and recognized with a gasp of amazement that the assailant who pinned her down by the weight of her body and the thrust of her knees was Francine Rollard. Her panic gave place to anger and a burning humiliation. She fought with all the strength of her supple body. But the scarf about her mouth stifled and weakened her, and with a growing dismay she understood that she was no match for the hardy peasant girl. She was the taller of the two, but her height did not avail her; she was like a child matched with a wild-cat. Francine’s hands were made of steel. She snatched Ann’s arms behind her back and bound her wrists, as she lay face downwards, her bosom labouring, her heart racing so that she felt that it must burst. Then, as Ann gave up the contest, she turned and tied her by the ankles.
Francine was upon her feet again in a flash. She ran to the door, opened it a little way and beckoned. Then she dragged her prisoner up on to a couch, and Jeanne Leclerc and Espinosa slipped into the room.
"It’s done?" said Espinosa.
"Ah, but she fought, the pretty baby! You should have given her the coffee. Then she would have walked with us. Now she must be carried. She’s wicked, I can tell you."
Jeanne Leclerc twisted a lace scarf about the girl’s face to hide the gag over her mouth, and, while Francine held her up, set her white cloak about her shoulders and fastened it in front. Espinosa then turned out the light and drew back the curtains.
The room was at the back of the house. In the front of the window the park stretched away. But it was the park of a French chateau, where the cattle feed up to the windows, and only a strip about the front terrace is devoted to pleasure gardens and fine lawns. Espinosa looked out upon meadow-land thickly studded with trees, and cows dimly moving in the dusk of the summer night like ghosts. He opened the window, and the throb of the music from the ball-room came faintly to their ears.
"We must be quick," said Espinosa.
He lifted the helpless girl in his arms and passed out into the park. They left the window open behind them, and between them they carried their prisoner across the grass, keeping where it was possible in the gloom of the trees, and aiming for a point in the drive where a motor-car waited half way between the house and the gates. A blur of light from the terrace and ornamental grounds in front of it became visible away upon their left, but here all was dark. Once or twice they stopped and set Ann upon her feet, and held her so, while they rested.
"A few more yards,’, Espinosa whispered, and, stifling an oath, he stopped again. They were on the edge of the drive now, and just ahead of him he saw the glimmer of a white dress and close to it the glow of a cigarette. Swiftly he put Ann down again and propped her against a tree. Jeanne Leclerc stood in front of her and, as the truants from the ball-room approached, she began to talk to Ann, nodding her head like one engrossed in a lively story. Espinosa’s heart stood still as he heard the man say:
"Why, there are some others here! That is curious. Shall we see?"
But even as he moved across the drive, the girl in the white dress caught him by the arm.
"That would not be very tactful," she said with a laugh. "Let us do as we would be done by," and the couple sauntered past.
Espinosa waited until they had disappeared."Quick! Let us go!" he whispered in a shaking voice.
A few yards farther on they found Espinosa’s closed car hidden in a little alley which led from the main drive. They placed Ann in the car. Jeanne Leclerc got in beside her, and Espinosa took the wheel. As they took the road to the Val Terzon a distant clock struck eleven. Within the car Jeanne Leclerc removed the gag from Ann Upcott’s mouth, drew the sack over her and fastened it underneath her feet. At the branch road young Espinosa was waiting with his motor-cycle and side-car ....
[A.E.W. Mason, The House of the Arrow, in The A.E.W. Mason Omnibus: Inspector Hanaud’s Investigations, London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1931/1950, pp. 589-593; 625-629].
The core elements of capture and bondage fantasy literature were laid down in the early detective novel and short story. But there was also an overlap into young adult fiction with a history parallel to that of the detective genre.
To be Continued in "Young Adult Fiction", coming soon.
© Brian Sands 2004