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Splish Splash | Saturday September 17th, evening

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'Bathhouse' was, in truth, too austere a word to describe the cornucopia of decadent entertainment to be found at the Windsor Baths. While they certainly served their hygienic purpose well, no elite leisure is ever simple, and such held as true with a bath house as it did with a palace salon. The exterior showed no particular promise, being an older complex reminiscent of the years before the extravagance of the Baroque style fully developed, but a step within proved the Baths were well up to modern fashions. The baths were a place not only for washing, but for primping, preening, and socialisation. The less formal attire required for bathing made for an easier atmosphere to that of the palace, one in which the impropriety Charles' court was famed for could truly run rampant.

Comfort and luxury were the order of the day as far as the baths were concerned, and no expense had been spared. A lavishly decorated foyer allowed access to two separate areas - to the left, a heavy blue velvet curtain allowed entrance to the men's baths, to the right a red for the ladies. A servant always stood watch to ensure proper segregation, but it was not unheard of for sufficient distraction to shake her concentration upon the task at hand.

The hefty sum of a pound was charged for entry.



Wearing underwear sufficient to only cover the most sensitive areas of a gentleman's anatomy, a gentleman entering the baths would find himself first in a room dominated by an enormous, sweet-scented bath. Steam rose constantly from the surface, the heat inside the bath house a comfortable contrast to the bitter cold outside. To one side of the bath, a wall was dominated by a Romanesque fountain, sirens and mermaids lounging amidst cascading water that ensured the room was never silent. Sitting by the fountain, one might almost be assured of private conversation. From one mermaid's hands a fountain of warm water spouted high, then down direclty into the baths.

For those seeking to perform their ablutions with an even greater semblance of privacy, curtained archways gave way to several rooms hosting smaller pools that might fit up to 5 gentlemen.

Another archway was sealed with a door rather than a curtain, behind which would be found a room heated to almost unbearable temperatures. In its center burned coals, with a water handy to be tipped over them and bring forth steam. Just beside the door outside, a stone cold bath was recessed into the wall.

One more door led to a walled outdoor area. The freezing cold air temperature was tempered by a dip into a steaming hot bath. Three sides boasted stone walls - the third was a wicker fence, behind which lay the ladies baths. It was an easy thing to hear and converse with the ladies on the other side, and a very enterprising man might find the occasional illusive peekhole...



Upon entering the central bath, clad only in her shift, the bathing lady would find herself first with a choice - lavender, sage and mint, or rosemary? Three baths formed a ring about a central fountain, occupied by musician cherubs, from whose lips and instruments water flowed forth.

For those seeking to perform their ablutions with an even greater semblance of privacy, curtained archways gave way to several rooms hosting smaller pools that might fit up to 5 ladies.

Another archway led to a room in which the bath was filled not only with water, but also with a hint of honey and buttermilk. From the cloudy water rose an almost irresistable scent, overhanging frescoes giving the room an almost cavelike feel.

In the same manner as the men's baths, a doorway led to a sauna, accompanied by a cold bath.

The women could enjoy an outdoor bath, one wall being wicker instead of stone, beyond which bathed the men. The enterprising lady was just as capable of gaining an elusive glimpse through the fence as her male counterpart, should she so choose.



How can gentlemen stand to wear periwigs?


Waiting for Dorset at the entrance to the bathhouse, Anne-Elisabeth gave into the urge to scratch her scalp. Two ladies walking by quickened their pace. They probably thought she had lice. At first she had thought the periwig itself was causing the itching, so she had bought a more expensive one just today while she had been exploring the town. Unfortunately, the problem persisted. At least the new one, which was a deep burgundy color, looked great with her outfit. Her ensemble consisted of a teal and gold brocade justacorps over a teal waistcoat and plum-colored trousers. Her stockings were deep gold and her shoes were black and shiny. A lace cravat completed it, fastened with a bejeweled pin. The outfit looked quite nice from a distance, but up close, a discerning eye would be able to tell that it had not been made by a professional tailor. It was the only gentleman’s attire she currently possessed.


Anne-Elisabeth had stopped in front of the tailor’s shop this afternoon and had considered going in and saying she wanted to surprise her younger brother with a new suit and that he was the same size as she was, but she had not been in the mood to be laughed out of the shop. Other ladies who liked to disguise themselves as gentlemen had probably tried the same tactic, and tailors were known to be pompous and arrogant and overly proud of their work. They would never concede to fashion garments for a lady.


She hoped maybe Dorset would have a solution, though she didn’t plan to ask him about it tonight. Tonight was for pleasure, companionship, and witty conversation. Passion suffused her young body at the very thought of her handsome and intriguing lover. He had wanted to see her dressed as a man again. She wondered what he would think of her new, but extremely itchy, periwig. The rest he had seen before.  Remembering the lessons he had given her, she was attempting to act like a man even just standing it front of the building.


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Around the corner came a gentleman in a dark cloak and a wide brimmed hat.  He watched his step as he approached.  "Evening good sir."  It was Dorset, though hard to see in the dark.

The baths had closed early, just before midnight, and the Earl gave four slow knocks.  He smirked at Anne as he waited for the outer door to open.  It did and  large servant ushered the pair inside.  "Good evening Mister Charles," the doorman greeted.  The door was closed behind and locked.

Dorset waved her silently into the men's bath house.  Once they were alone on the men's side, from out of the cloak he made appear two brushes, one for backscrubbing and a much smaller one ... for smaller areas.  He also produced a bar of heavily perfumed soap.  

"Right, now proper gentlemen do not go through any ceremony.  We drop our attire and enter the waters in a utilitarian function ... meaning we wish to soak with dispatch, and sneak a peek through the wicker when we can."

There were stools for draping one's attire and Dorset started disrobing at once.  "How did you find that attire?" he asked with a smile.  He knew what she was thinking.  "Men do not disrobe each other, or act provocatively when we undress in front of another," he advised, assuming his former role of tutor.  Once entirely naked, he was ready to splash into the pool.

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“A pleasant evening to you too, sir,” Anne-Elisabeth replied, deepening her voice as Dorset approached. She envied him for wearing a cloak. Bess was making one for her, but it was not yet finished. Wearing a cloak made for a lady would have ruined her disguise, and so she shivered in the cool night air.


His smirk sent flames of desire spiraling through her young body, warming her instantly. He had apparently rented the entire bath house for the evening. As the servant did not address him by his title, she assumed that he was in disguise as well, perhaps as a rich merchant. Though the baths’ attendants had probably seen it all,  servants were prone to gossip. He would not want it known that he had secured the bath house for a rendezvous with another gentlemen. Anne-Elisabeth didn't want to contemplate what Pembroke would do with that information.


Preceding Dorset into the men’s section, she looked around with interest. She had expected tubs, not a Roman-style bath. Fragrant steam rose from the pool and formed wispy patterns in the air. She grinned mischievously when he pulled two brushes and a bar of soap from his cloak. The dark-haired Countess especially looked forward to using the smaller brush on him.


Anne-Elisabeth had planed to divest Dorset of his attire and seductively remove her own, but he informed her that gentlemen disrobed in an efficient fashion. As he began to undress, she pulled off her periwig and threw it against the wall. “How do you gentlemen endure wearing these things all the time?  They itch like hell."


As to her outfit: “It’s the same one I was wearing the last time I posed as a man. Only the periwig is different.” She began to disrobe, a bit more slowly than he did, for she was not accustomed to either dressing or undressing herself, no matter what she was wearing.


Anne-Elisabeth was down to her shirt and breeches by the time Dorset was completely nude. She took a moment to admire his naked form before pulling her shirt over her head, revealing the band she used to bind her breasts. “I really need to find a tailor who is willing to make a few decent sets of clothing for me.”


Edited by Anne-Elisabeth Devereux
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The waters were still warm and the steam rose accordingly. The baths could be rented for private use after midnight and before sunrise if the price was right.

"We do not wear wigs often," he replied as he descended into the pool naked.  "It is more a French thing.  Ladies can wear monstrous wigs too you know."  He was floating on his back.

"I can take you to the tailor.  All we need say is that there is a court masquerade ball and you need gentlemen attire.  You need the right fit, so we do not want you borrowing clothes from other gentlemen.  You need a color like grey so that you can blend in.  In disguise you never want anyone to notice you," he advised again.  "I will get you a full suit and have the tailor send me the bill," he offered, unsure whether Anne really had wealth or not.  Beside, he needed to give her a gift episodically. 


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“Unfortunately, I must wear them because gentlemen don’t grow their hair as long as mine.” Anne-Elisabeth removed her breast band and began unfastening her breeches. The first items she had taken off had been her stockings and shoes. Ladies from Barbados were accustomed to going barefoot and the floor was a lot cooler than the beach sands and not as perilous to walk on.


“I’ve seen a few Frenchwomen wearing them. I hope wigs never become fashionable in England. I have so much hair, I wouldn’t need one anyway. My maid could arrange my own tresses into those ridiculous styles.”


Stepping out of her breeches, she was now completely nude. As Dorset entered the pool, she began removing the combs from her raven hair, which tumbled down her back and over her shoulders in a silky profusion of curls.


Anne-Elisabeth's dark eyes widened when he promised to take her to a tailor and have a suit made for her. “Thank you, my lord!” she exclaimed. “You are always so good to me. I need to look the part when I approach printers with my epic.” Though she preferred bright hues, she agreed that she needed a subtler color when posing as a man. Calling too much attention to herself would make others scrutinize her more closely.


Without thinking, she made a shallow dive into the pool, coming to the surface beside Dorset. Anne-Elisabeth was close enough to touch him, but she restrained herself. “I suppose that is not how a gentlemen enters a bath.” She splashed him playfully, careful not to get any water in his face. “I’ll only be a man again when I put my disguise back on. Nobody would believe that I’m male while I’m naked. I have the wrong plumbing.”

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Though he seemed lost in thought, Dorset watched her undress.  It was not as if it was a first experience with her for him, but each change of scenery and garb created a flame of excitement.

"How is your epic coming?" he asked quietly as he watched her ready to enter the pool.  With a splash she was beside him.  As she toyed with him, he returned with the statement "it is so dark in here, I might not be able to tell if the person next to me is a woman or man.  Perhaps you could do something to demonstrate you are indeed a woman?" he jested, failing to keep a straight face.  "I could have sworn I saw a man there that entered the pool."

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Anne-Elisabeth could feel Dorset’s eyes on her as she shed her garments, which was why she made a show of letting down her lustrous raven hair, which she considered one of her best features. She had disrobed slowly out of necessity, being unfamiliar with men's clothing and undressing without assistance.


She didn’t answer his question until she had entered the bath. “At the moment, I am studying the form of famous epics so that I will get it right.” The young Countess rolled her eyes. “If I don’t, Rochester will probably say it doesn’t count. I do need to start writing it soon. I haven't yet decided on a theme.  Do you have any suggestions?  Any role you would particularly like to play?"


His teasing made her laugh. So he wanted her to prove she was a woman? That was easy enough. Wrapping her arms around his neck, she pressed her slick body against his. Anne-Elisabeth was not voluptuous, but she did have feminine curves in all the right places. “There,” she whispered into his ear, unable to resist a playful nibble. “Is that proof enough?”


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Dorset watched her slip into the water and draw near.  He was content to float mostly motionless.

"The themes of Pembroke are most heavy drinking and violence.  Yet, even when sober he plots murder.  He is a ravenous beast dressed in court finery," he suggested.

As she drew close and rubbed against him, she might feel something stiffening beneath the waterline.  "Call me a skeptic, but I will need further proof."

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