The Secret Collection – Electra
A PRIVATE ASYLUM FOR YOUNG LADIES OUTSIDE PARIS, 1868
At night, the auditorium is a gloomy place. White dustsheets cover the laboratory equipment laid out on the scrubbed oak tables, the eagle on the lectern stares at nothing. No buzz of conversation fills the banked rows of wooden seats. No scratching of students’ scribbling quills. Nothing can be heard but the soft echo of footfalls on the tiled floor without. Someone approaches.
The glow of an oil lamp appears at the doorway. It illuminates the figure of a tall, frock-coated man, casting a chestnut sheen on his dark, neatly combed hair and close-trimmed goatee beard. His eyes, behind gold-rimmed spectacles, are almond-shaped, and a deep, dark amber, fringed with fine black lashes. It is Doctor Wilhelm deVere, chief physician of the establishment. For one so respected in his field, he is relatively young, still in his 30s, a bachelor known as much for his good looks as his intellect. As this handsome creature crosses the floor to the centre of the lecture theatre he moves gracefully, has the look of a panther.
Behind him, gliding through the shadows like a sleepwalker, follows the small figure of a young woman. Her back is ramrod straight, her white hands folded demurely before her in the dark silk of her sombre dress. Her head is bowed, showing the part in her black hair, which is drawn back in wings either side of her face and held in a low chignon behind. At a gesture from the doctor, she seats herself meekly in a chair facing the benches, as if about to take part in a demonstration. She waits, unmoving, as deVere circles the floor, first closing the door so that they shall not be disturbed, then lighting the gas lamps around the walls. Their radiance is dim, but sufficient enough to cast a circle of light around the girl.
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He walks behind her chair and, his voice a soft, yet menacing purr, addresses her.
“Clara? Can you hear me?”
“Yes, Doctor deVere,” she murmurs.
“Are you aware of your circumstances? Describe them to me.”
“I am in the auditorium where you examined me this morning. It’s empty now; all the gentlemen have gone. It is night. I’m sitting near the lectern and you are standing behind me.”
“Good. You are aware,” he says, and then, thoughtfully, as if to himself, he adds, “and yet you are sleeping and suggestible…” His tone becomes direct once more as he commands her: “Raise your head and look before you”.
She obeys, revealing a face blessed with dark, yet guile-less Irish beauty. Against the black hair, her translucent skin is porcelain white, and her huge eyes a blue so deep and vivid they appear violet. The structure of her face is fine-boned, elfin, and fragile, as if too heavy a caress might crush the bones beneath.
“Now, listen to me,” says the doctor. “You will regard what we do here tonight as a necessary psychological experiment. No matter how you feel about it, you will believe that it is being done in your best interests, to help you get well, and you will neither resist it, nor question it, not now, or at any time afterwards. Do you understand?”
“And you submit?”
“Then you will arise from your chair and take off your dress.”
Doctor deVere knows his subject is not a stupid woman. Under normal circumstances, Clara Dupont would bolt from such an immodest request, even if a trusted physician had issued it, unless that request was clearly justified. But so deeply does he have her under the mesmeric spell, the seed of which he planted in her this afternoon during a “routine” demonstration, that now she offers no objection. Without hesitation, she rises, removes the brooch from the neck of her tight-fitting, peplum silk jacket and unbuttons it; slipping her arms out of the sleeves and letting it fall to the floor. Her floor-length silk skirt follows, and now she is standing in only her petticoats and tightly laced corsets, the tops of her ample breasts in full view, rising and falling gently with her breath. Their beauty is not lost on Doctor deVere, who makes a slow circle around her, drinking her in.
After making a full circuit, he issues his next order. “Unpin your hair.” Clara obeys, slowly dropping grip after grip to the floor as she unravels the great black, braided coil of her bun and allows it to fall down her back. The plait reaches to her waist, shining jet against the snow white of her undergarments. Quickly, before it can unravel, deVere steps behind her and seizes the thick rope of hair. He takes a scarlet ribbon from the breast pocket of his frock coat and wraps it around the end, securing it with a bow. Tugging Clara gently backwards, he tells her to sit down once more.
His fingers move gently down the length of her hair. Stroking, stroking. He grasps the end in his fist, then slowly, very slowly, begins to wrap the braid around his hand, winding and winding, until his hand is held taught against the nape of Clara’s neck. He cannot tell if she feels the pull, for she is silent, and does not flinch at all. Reaching behind him with his free hand, deVere locates the edge of the table he prepared earlier with all the equipment he would need tonight. He tugs blindly at the dustsheet and it slides away. Groping, his fingers close on the handle of something, grasp it; and flicking the object open he brings it around to meet with the tightly pulled base of Clara’s braid. A couple of slashing motions, a glint of steel, and suddenly the braid is no longer attached to Clara’s head, sawn off by the wickedly sharpened blade of a pearl-handled straight razor!
Our good doctor smiles. He sets the razor down on the table and carefully unwinds the hair from around his hand, dangles it from his fist. Eyes shining, he stares at the shining black trophy with its red ribbon, then, impulsively, holds it to his face and breathes its feminine aroma. Sighing with arousal, he grinds his groin against the edge of the table. Then he checks himself, and regaining his composure, looks down at his patient, sitting very still, with the ragged remains of her hair falling about her face at jaw level like the wings of a bedraggled crow.
“The bones of your face are exquisite,” he muses. “I’ll wager you have a beautiful skull. And what is to stop me finding out,” he continues. “If the cutting of the hair can be so pleasurable… why, how much more pleasurable may it be to shear it entirely!”
Laying the braid gently on a sheet of tissue paper, deVere takes up the razor a second time and turns back to the girl. He studies her thoughtfully for a few seconds, deciding where to make his first cut. Then quickly, his breath held, he reaches with his left hand and grasps a handful of hair at Clara’s temple, pulling it tight. His right hand, with the razor, arcs forward and with a barely audible scrunch, severs the lock close to the head, leaving a patch of stubble. Now he grabs another handful next to it, and cuts that too, and another, and another, dropping the sheaves of shorn hair into the girl’s lap. Presently, he is cutting and tossing the hair so fast, in such abandon, that much of it falls into the cleavage between the girl’s breasts, some clinging to the blushing flesh, and some disappearing inside her corset. DeVere’s no longer holding his breath. It is audible, laboured; he’s almost gasping with pleasure.
Soon, too soon, it seems there is nothing left to cut. Clara’s head is covered with uneven, tufted stubble, which in some places is so short that the white skin of her scalp shows through. DeVere steps back and gazes in amazement. It is had to believe that the stubby poll before him now is the same head that only minutes before possessed a luxuriant black mane. Yet he does not regret it. Even now, he spots a tuft of hair at her brow that is longer than the others, and swoops to deal with it, his fingers closing on her jaw to lift her head. But he stops, noticing the feel of wetness on Clara’s cheeks. There are tears coursing down her face.
“Are you upset that I have cut off your hair, Clara? Is that why you weep?” he asks.
“Yes,” she whispers.
“Yet you do not resist?”
“It is a necessary psychological experiment. It is in my best interests to submit if I want to get well,” says Clara, her voice a sleepy drawl, repeating the notions he himself has implanted in her mind.
“That’s right.” He pats her cheek. “But you don’t like it.”
“I look awful.”
“You look awful.” DeVere draws a deep, shuddering breath. Oh, how he is enjoying this! Her distress has only intensified his pleasure. He adds, “But I dare say I can tidy you up a bit. I have not quite finished, you know.”
Just then, there is a knock at the door. “Ah! The hot water I expected. Do not worry, no-one will come in; I asked that it be left behind the door.” DeVere crosses the room quickly and opens the door. Indeed, the servant has retreated, and there is nothing in the passageway but a steaming copper kettle and a clean white towel, which deVere uses to shield his palm from scalding as he lifts the kettle and, shutting the door behind him, brings it back to the table. “To continue, then,” he says.
DeVere pours the water into a large porcelain bowl. It continues to steam, so he adds some cold water from the carafe that always stands on the lectern alongside a glass, should a speaker feel thirsty. Testing the temperature with his little finger, and finding it to be tolerable, he now selects a barber’s shaving brush and soap from his equipment, dips the brush in the water, and sets to work to produce a thick, white lather.
“Clara,” he says, “I have cut the hair of many of my prettier patients. Just look around you at all the young ladies in this institution who never remove their caps and you will realise this. But I have never yet…” (and here, he takes a long, anticipatory intake of breath) “…shaved a girl. I was saving that treatment for someone as beautiful as yourself.”
As he uses the brush to slather foam over the remains of his patient’s hair, her face crumples in anguish, but still she does not resist. Her programming tells her she must allow it. Now she feels his fingers on her throat, under her chin, coaxing it up a little so her head goes back. At the sensation of the blade against her forehead she closes her weeping eyes. She is sick to her stomach, and between her legs there is a strange feeling that she does not understand, blossoming warmth that grows stronger as the razor rasps back to the crown of her head, leaving a smooth white path in its wake. Again, the blade passing from forehead to crown, but this time further to the left, and again, and again, until the razor reaches her ear. And then the other side, just the same, and now the whole of the top of her head is nude.
The touch of his fingertips against the bald scalp is electrifying as he presses her head forward to expose the nape of her head. The odd warmth between her thighs intensifies, seems to rush to one small area that throbs and radiates. Is this what shame feels like? As the razor scrapes down from the back of her head to the nape of her neck, Clara’s legs begin to tremble, and the throbbing becomes an escalating pulse she thinks she cannot bear. “But you must bear it,” her subconscious orders. “Doctor deVere is performing a necessary psychological experiment, for your best interests, so that you can get well.” She believes it.
DeVere gives the razor another rinse and whisks the last trace of foam from Clara’s head. With a towel, he cleans her off. Her scalp is bare now, and very nearly smooth. But here and there the scalp still has a greyish tint, where the roots of the dark hair have not quite been razored to the skin. No matter, a second shave will remove the shadow. He dispenses with the foam this time; just wetting the skin with a flannel cloth dipped in the steaming water. He is so intent on the work and his own hot hard lust that he never guesses the reason why his subject trembles so.
Clara, feeling the razor glide over her skin once more, experiences her first orgasm without even knowing what it is. The hot spasms that course through her groin she mistakes for hysterics – the reason she was brought here in the first place. Doctor deVere must not know! He would be so upset if he thought his treatment was not helping her to get better! The treatment is necessary; the treatment is for her good, oh, how she wants to get well! She must endure it!
The doctor has finished. It is just as well, for his arousal gets the better of him, and, shaking, he must lay down the razor and retire as he experiences his own, ill-gotten climax.
It is only afterwards, as he re-fastens his trousers, pockets his soiled handkerchief and turns back to his subject, that he feels a moment’s remorse over what he has done. The girl sits motionless where he left her, and in her underwear, with her bare, white scalp, she looks like an unfinished doll, a sad thing.
Sad, but unaccountably beautiful. He cannot feel guilty for long, for, in his heart, he believes his handiwork to be a great improvement. Clara has, as he anticipated, a beautifully shaped skull. His fingers itch to stroke it, and so he reaches out and satisfies the urge.
Her skin is like satin under his hand. It sends shivers up his spine to touch it. Wonderful! He bends to kiss the crown of her head with soft warm lips, barely brushing the skin at first, then becoming bolder, covering Clara’s head with gentle pecks and even licks, bringing a pink blush to the scalp, a new marvel.
No, he will not reproach himself. He has done Clara no harm. She will not suffer because she will believe his motives are pure, he’s seen to that. In time (for he means to keep Clara in his care well into the foreseeable future), his patient may come to appreciate her secret, bald beauty as much as he does.
And, after all, her hair is not gone. It is here, wrapped in tissue paper, ready to go into the drawer with all his other trophies. The blonde skeins tied with blue ribbon, the auburn locks adorned with green velvet, the chestnut curls with yellow. And now, his very first black braid. It will never grow thin and tired-looking, never turn white. The beauty of these harvested locks has been preserved forever. His girls should thank him for that.