Chapter 15: A new special act is born
Sunday was a quiet day, and in late September the sun was still warm. The main group of the Inveigle Girls, Sapphire, Eleanor ,Fae and Victoria decided to go to Hyde Park for a picnic, they invited Samantha and Charlotte, who were already fully accepted and part of the group. Mummy Bear went too, as usual. It was a jolly day, filled with laughter.
To passing people out on a Sunday stroll they could have been anyone. And that’s just how they all wanted it to be.
It was a normal day, nothing exciting, nothing out of the ordinary.
Back at the Inveigle doors were still open on the corridors, and Tease Maids bottoms were blushing.
They ate by the river and then walked through the glasshouses and examined the flowers on display. However, there was one thing that did surprise Charlotte and Samantha. Abigail took out an artist’s pad and drew an orange dahlia, which the girls watched with interest. She used crayons and the detail she managed to achieve amazed them. She received much praise from her adopted daughters, which made her blush with pride and mock embarrassment. They finished off in the Italian gardens with afternoon tea, before catching a horse-drawn tram back to The Inveigle.
On their return Charlotte asked if she could have the drawing. Abigail was only too happy for her to have it, feeling very flattered that they seemed to appreciate her artistic skills. It was the very first thing that the two girls both had for their room. As they were to go to the circus for training tomorrow, they would get it framed on the way. It became one of their most treasured possessions.
Abigail was their protector now. They had all fallen in love almost at once, and the three formed an unbreakable bond for life. Abigail had other favoured groups of girls, but the girls knew that theirs was a special one.
Supper was taken in Mummy Bear’s parlour, the perfect end to a perfect day. The two candlesticks on the mantelpiece and one set down by Abigail provided the only illumination in the room other than the glow from the coal fire.
Charlotte looked to Samantha, and then up to Mummy Bear. The two girls were sat either side of her legs on the peg rug before the flickering fire looking at the flames. Abigail was gently stroking their hair.
“Do you know any stories Mummy Bear?” asked Charlotte.
Abigail looked down at Charlotte, the firelight reflecting in her eyes and said, “Oh yes, my dear. Yes, I do. I’ll tell you one. It’s all set in a park, a bit like this afternoon.”
The two girls listened fornas long as they could, but awoke the next morning wrapped around each other, under a warm cover before the empty fire grate. There was a small note from Mummy Bear pinned to the cover saying:
‘Hope you are not too cold! But you looked so peaceful, I just couldn’t disturb you. You’d better not be too stiff! It’s circus training today!’
The two girls dashed upstairs to get themselves ready. This was going to be a very different day and exciting day for them!
Abigail had arranged a carriage to take them to the circus as she was unable to take them herself. She said that she was too busy today to accompany them, but promised to come and see them train when they were getting the hang of it, and she meant quite literally, ‘the hang of it’!
As they trotted away Abigail caught sight of the ‘Lady in Green’ again. She noticed her quickly disappear around a corner to where the stables were located. A thoughtful Mummy bear walked slowly to her room. What was she up to, this ‘Lady in Green’? Was she besotted from afar, or was it something more sinister? She feared it was the latter.
Jacqueline hopped on her waiting carriage and ordered the driver to follow the one with the girls inside it. She felt her ‘net’ slowly tightening.
The girls had asked Mummy bear if she knew a picture framing shop, which she did. They stopped to pick a gilt frame for the dahlia picture she had given them, and then proceeded to their destination – a huge theatre with a billboard outside advertising the ‘Magnificent Cooke Family’s Circus.’
It was a hive of activity. Next to the theatre was a leisure park which housed the zoo and training tents. On weekdays people could pay a small fee to come and see the exotic animals and see the artistes perfect their acts and skills for the weekend or evening shows and matinees.
The girls were expected, and were soon ushered through the main doors.
A carriage pulled up a few minutes later, but did not stop long. The lady inside looked out of the window, smiled, and then asked the driver to take her home.
The two ladies, Esmerelda and Estelle Cooke came to greet them and took them on a whirlwind tour of the facilities inside the building. The actual circus performing ring was very similar to The Inveigle, but not raised above ground. It was the standard forty-two foot diameter typical of all circus rings. The space around it was covered in fresh sawdust. Three tiers of seats, each with eight rows seemed to dwarf it. At eye level to the top tier were tied the trapeze. They looked very high and scary.
The four of them walked to the rear doors and out into the park. For the first time in their young lives they saw lions, bears, elephants, parrots and other exotic animals. Performing poodles trotted by, whilst they could see a woman breathing out huge plumes of fire was over to their left. To their amazement men and women on stilts walked by juggling. One pair of legs with a handsome young man on top straddled Charlotte and walked right over her. Clowns in Pierrot style outfits tumbled by laughing and greeted the girls with sweeping arms of courtiers.
They were enthralled. But then as they approached a high training tent their nerves returned. Outside the red and white, star spangled tent was a sign, ‘The Belgrady Girls’. Their fame had preceded them. The whole of London seemed to be talking about these four black girls from America. Their death defying leaps, their costumes, their American ‘Devil May Care’ attitude was famous.
The two women owners walked into the tent with their two shy followers walking closely behind.
“Two new slaves for you, eh Esme? Oh my god woman, what have you done to them, they look scared to death! Which one is yours Mistress Estelle baby? The tall one? Bet she is, she’s your type!” The bold girl laughed and winked.
The other girls giggled. Georgina Belgrady was renowned for making an impact on whoever she met, and in those first few seconds the young tall slender woman seduced our two girls.
Esmerelda and Estelle just tutted their dismay and turned to walk away. ‘‘You know your job George, train the girls!’’ was the parting shot of a smiling Esmerelda Cooke as she left Samantha and Charlotte were left alone with them.
“Well my, girls, what have we here? Two quiet little mice?” Georgina smiled at the girls and walked up close.
Samantha and Charlotte’s mouths were dry. They were star struck. These were the most famous people they would ever likely meet. Without knowing why or where the idea came from, they both curtsied.
“Oh my God, I’m not the Queen of England!” Georgina laughed loudly.
They both blushed.
The other girls came to gather round them and after a little teasing conversation, they warmed to them. By the time lunch of freshly baked bread, butter, pork pie and pickles was served, they were chatting away like a group of women in a temperance meeting over tea. Alcohol was never allowed in the training tents.
Rules were laid down, and a schedule was set. Every day, for the next few weeks would be spent on concentrated training, learning skills and tumbles. And so the circus training began, the two high flyers were going to soar to new heights.
Mr.Trentham came to shoot photographs of their training and some general ones of the Belgrady Girls. Here are some f his originals, which were sold at the Inveigle Shop, in the theatre foyer.
Training began with balance. They learned how to use their arms, and how to keep their eyes and body focussed. At every step safety was enforced vigorously. Take off positions were learned the first day and remembered for the rest of their lives. It was soon deemed that balance was not an issue.
Next it was heights. The ladder was first, and how to get from that to the platform. Both of the girls seemed to be ‘naturals’ and learned how to do everything very quickly. They showed little fear and when a chance of a swing through the air with another girl was offered they both jumped at the chance. The speed of their progress surprised everyone concerned.
It was soon deemed that heights were not an issue either.
By the end of the first week a metal and rope rig at around ten feet with a mountain of straw underneath was being used with ease. New phrases were learnt:
‘Listo’, meaning ‘are you ready’.
‘Ready’, meaning in trapeze terms, ‘bend your knees’.
‘Hep’, meaning begin, or start. In other words ‘Go!’
Many more were learned and logged into their eager absorbing brains.
The ‘knee hang’ and ‘the catcher’ skills were drilled into them relentlessly.
By the end of the second week the girls were swinging, letting go, and catching. The Belgrade Girls had done well. So too had their pupils.
Two big surprises came next, via a letter from Mummy Bear. Their first little performance was scheduled for a fortnight on Monday, and on Tuesday it was time to reward the Cooke’s and the Belgrady’s efforts. Details of the latter were to follow.
They wanted to pay Abigail back for all her efforts, and were happy to hear the news. Their initiation period was almost over, and they would soon get their Inveigle baptism. This meant proper customers, whom they had to please according ro Abigail’s instructions. They were almost ‘Inveigle Girls’ now and this meant that failure to please would mean their first Mummy Bear spankings. As much as they liked spankings, they did not want one of them as a punishment from Mummy Bear. They wanted to please Mummy Bear, and would willingly go over her lap, but not in disgrace.
Their costumes arrived and they looked absolutely stunning. They were ready for their first flying trapeze show, well almost. Mummy Bear needed a photo for her parlour wall and another for a space on the stairs just below the girl’s bedroom. They would need to be coloured in of course, and taken by the lovely Mr. Trentham.
He had been busy setting up his studio and developing room, and this was to be his first assignment for Abigail. He was excited.
They had a trapeze set up just above ground level and a platform erected for the camera and tripod to stand on. The first set of photographs were taken for Abigail. They would soon be hanging on the parlour wall, and outside the girls’ room.
Dressed in their costumes, they looked stunningly attractive and complemented each other well. Both were sparkly sequins. Charlotte’s was pink, whilst Samantha’s was deep forest green and black. Around twenty photographs were taken so that Abigail would have a good choice to pick from.
Then Charlotte came out with an idea. “Let’s sit by each other naked, On the trapeze, looking over our shoulders!”
“What a splendid idea!” agreed Samantha.
Mr Trentham gulped and smiled. Oh how he had missed these two girls! Three more photographs were taken and he left with a promise of a quick delivery and that they would not be disappointed.
The next Saturday night show was again viewed by the girls, and a buzz of excitement was in the air as the customers could see the trapeze rigs all set up high in the roof. The girls felt excited and when they saw the posters advertising the Inveigle’s new arrivals, they felt like celebrities.
A customer in dark green with a black mask, scowled and thought to herself, ‘Huh, how can mill girls, and orphans to boot, possibly be classed as new upcoming stars?’
The show was as exciting as ever. The girls once more talked about the acts and the stars, then of their plans for their room, and finally fell gently to sleep, too tired for any spanking fun. Tomorrow was Sunday and they were ready for a day off.
The day of rest brought an educational visit to the British Museum and another picnic, this time on The Embankment. The girls were being educated, cared for and fed. Life was good right now. At the end of the day they felt fresh, eager and ready for the new week of circus training, and so the following week came and went in the same way.
The next week after that saw the promised Monday of their baptism. The Inveigle theatre was open for staff and invited guests only. The orchestra had the same music as the girls had trained to, and Eleanor had her words.
The chorus girls and the lower girls were all sat in the stalls. The ‘stars’ and the invited guests were in boxes. Abigail sat nervously with the two Cooke’s. The four Belgrady Girls were sat together in the box opposite. No green lady sat in there tonight.
The music began, Eleanor sang a specially written song about how ‘They fly through the air with the greatest of ease, their knickers come off and they float in the breeze!”
“I’ll catch them!” shouted Sapphire. Laughter and cheers rolled around the auditorium.
The girls looking relaxed and resplendent climbed their ladders. Every now and then, in perfect time, they pushed their bottoms out and wiggled.
The Belgrady Girls were a little astonished and asked when they had learned to do that?
They took provocative steps at various stages and in perfect time again they both did a version of a Victorian Pole dance about two thirds of the way up.
“Now you gotta show us how to do that!” shouted one of the Belgrady girls.
They had not reached the platform yet and the onlookers were all clapping. The girls looked across to each other, winked, smacked their own bottom and stepped onto the platform. They had been practising their own extra little ideas in their room, and on the Inveigle stage.
The audience laughed and clapped in delight.
The show was magnificent, and sexy. Moves which had never been seen before were done with consummate ease. Spankings were suggested at almost every swing, legs were open and the gusset of their outfits displayed as often as they could. They swung, they leaped, they caught. Their new found words?? echoed with professionalism through the air to gasping admirers.
Then came the finale, which surprised everyone.
Sapphire stood up and played their favourite, Tosseli’s Serenade. Both girls stripped naked, and did a variety of poses, all linked by elegant swings and interchanges. They pulled a rope and a trapeze for two rolled down, it’s ropes covered in flowers.
Nobody had ever seen anything like it. They sat with their backs to the audience, their rumps delightfully spread over the seat and swung as high as they could. At the far end of the Inveigle a small candle was lit in a bell-shaped glass jar cover. Below it were two small cymbals. It was pulled up to position high in the roof by Victoria.
As each swing got higher and higher, The Belgrady Girls stood anxiously, clasping their hands and holding their breath.
The girls, almost upside down showing their triangle of hair to the world, tapped the little cymbals with their toes.
To a woman they all stood and cheered.
They slowed down to a stop. Then looking over their shoulder they put a ‘thumbs up’ to Victoria, who was now standing behind Mummy Bear with a huge bunch of flowers.
Together they shouted, “Thank you mummy Bear, we love you!”
Mummy bear cried, whilst the audience gave a very noisy standing ovation. Their act was ready, and next week it would be the talk of London’s underground community.
After the show, they all met for drinks and a little party. The girls were chastised for their surprises but hailed as rivals to ‘The Great Belgradys!”