I wasn’t especially in the mood for conversation or conviviality anyway, if truth be told. Making new acquaintances is all well and good, but I was on this train until the following morning, and didn’t want to end up getting trapped with someone dull or loathsome. I’d noticed a pretty young French thing the day before - tall, blonde and succulent, no older than 19 or 20, flirting with an American military officer of some kind. She looked so good I could almost taste her. I’d contemplated attempting to seduce her, or at the very least catching her eye, but after dinner she was nowhere to be seen. Neither, for that matter, was the military officer. It wasn’t difficult to deduce that they’d retired together to her compartment, and I could hardly blame them – much of the popularity of the Orient Express centered around the ease with which it provided opportunities for illicit romantic assignations. The legendary Mata Hari had been a frequent traveller - having seen the opulence, sensuality and wood-panelled privacy of my own sleeping compartment, I could understand why.
I returned to writing my diary – it was something I kept for my own pleasure, full of reminscences of erotic liaisons (and my own frank masturbatory fantasies), but it was currently doubling as a travel journal, if only because I was egotistical enough to believe that my adventures might one day earn me a penny or two with a salacious publisher. Concentration, however, was difficult. In the far corner of the restaurant car, a beautiful young woman was holding court – long dark hair, layers of black velvet, cotton and lace, looking like some Gothic courtesan, surrounded by what appeared to be an admiration society of young men, and indeed even a girl or two. She was an attractive woman, no doubt, but I had no desire to join her fawning group, and she seemed tired of their attentions herself.
“May I join you?”
I was momentarily startled by a sweet feminine voice at my table, and looked up from my diary to see the pretty, nubile young thing I’d noticed the night before, no longer in the company of the American, and already seating herself at my table.
“I generally prefer to dine alone, madamoiselle,” I replied. “As you can see, I have my writing to complete. Perhaps later.”
“There are no other tables available, monsieur. I promise I’ll be little trouble to you.” And with that, she sat herself firmly opposite me at the table, smiling flirtatiously. I can resist certain temptations, but this young thing caught me immediately, and I caved in like an amateur.
“Very well,” I smiled, closing my journal and placing it discreetly on the side of the table, “It’s a pleasure to meet you. Allow me to introduce myself…”
(to be continued…)