Part 8. Lesbian-Ape
DAN scudded down Launceston Place, a high wind smote
its acacia fernery, and he found his way to Ashbum Place,
which was up in arms. Two vagabond cripples had seized
a basement, into which they had fallen. This Place he descended
in quick strides passing to the other side of the road, averting his
head from the scene of disorder. Where Ashburn Place ended he
hesitated, and then entered Rosary Gardens. Leaving them
behind him, and passing over into Chelsea, he consulted his
It was a long way to this spot from Mrs. Farnham’s. He could
never have done it without the help of a pocket-atlas of London
and his natural map-craft. Policemen made him extremely shy.
He never spoke to them if he could help it, and avoided their eyes,
even, when crossing the tides of traffic. From experience he had
found that, on account of his self-consciousness, it was quite
impossible to understand their directions at all. Nothing but
confusion ensued from asking to be directed by one of these
helmeted young men in blue—whose proverbially kind eyes only
drew him in, under the cruel peaked eaves of their helmets, and
made him forgetful of his duty and feel so terribly hot and ashamed
too and only upset him in any case.
Dan went along a tunnel that was an arched way beneath
flats. And in the twilight he came to an empty terrace, upon one
side of which was a row of liver-umber, brick, geraniumed
cottages. Confronting them was a high and gloomy wall, it
filled the terrace with premature darkness. Above it Dan could
see the tops of the windows of formidable studios.—These were
the gardens he was to visit. A great nest of women Apes! The
studios were secluded.
Turning into a paved court, out of the narrow terrace, there
was a row of wicket-gates, cottage-effect. He attempted in spite
of the misty dusk to read the numbers upon the small green studio
doors. He stopped at the third wicket-gate. He looked over it
for a little while, he was satisfied. Although the number was
blurred and might be five instead of three, he entered and knocked
upon the massive doll’s-house entrance. The door opened very suddenly. Dan at the moment was
collapsed, as if deflated, and crumpling at the left side. He had
forgotten he was there, about to put his head into the she-ape’s
den, in a spasm of delicious reminiscence, and of anticipation.
Tomorrow Horace would be with him !
With alarm he glanced up. Before him stood a severe masculine figure. In general effect it was a bavarian youth-movement
elderly enthusiast. She was beyond question somewhat past
mark-of-mouth. But this was a woman, as in fact she had
appeared in the typed description. Of that he felt tolerably cer
tain, because of the indefinable something that could only be
described as ” masculine.” An heroic something or other in the
bold blue eye, that held an eyeglass, that reminded him of the
Old Guard or the Death-or-Glory-Boys, in the house of Mr. Brian
Macdonnell, secured for him certainty of the sex at least without
further worry. It was She. This was Miss Ansell.
She was wiry and alert with hennaed hair bristling, en-
brosse. In khaki-shorts, her hands were in their pockets, and her
bare sunburnt legs were all muscle and no nonsense at all. There
was something that reminded Dan of Dick Whittingdon, for she
was bald, he remarked with a deep blush, on the top of her head.
Only there the resemblance ended it seemed, for whereas Dick
was anxious, that was easy to see, to disguise his naked scalp, this
strong-minded person had a peculiar air of being proud of it all
the time (to be bald, like the ability to grow a moustache, was a
masculine monopoly). A march had been stolen, with her
masculine calvity. But a strawberry-pink pull-over was oddly
surmounted by a stiff Radcliffe-Hall collar, of antique masculine
cut—suggestive of the masculine hey-day, when men were men
starched-up and stiff as pokers, in their tandems and tilburys.
The bare brown feet were strapped into spartan sandals. A
cigarette-holder half a foot long protruded from a firm-set jaw.
It pointed at Dan, sparkling angrily as the breath was compressed
within its bore.
Daniel Boleyn stood simply rooted to the spot. He was frankly
dismayed, but could think of nothing to say to excuse himself for
having knocked at all. ” The wrong door! ” he muttered in his
mind but he could not utter the apology. He was genuinely
sorry he had knocked—but he was quite unable to find his
tongue. Could this be Miss Ansell? Surely he would have been warned in his morning duty-sheet. Not even Horace would
have been so inhumane as not to whisper a caveat! Why had
he been sent to her? He must have mistaken the number. What
was the number? Was it five? Was it three? He had not
looked for some time at his instructions, though he was positive
three was the number. What a terrible oversight! —
They stood staring at each other for a momentous half-
minute, the woman with the utmost hostility.
“What are you staring at! “at last she asked him, bold and
gruff, straight from the shoulder.
A shiver went down Dan’s back as he heard this voice, but he
was incapable of moving a muscle.
She turned up a wrist-watch towards the sky.
“It’s a bit late isn’t it?” She pointed out to him gruffly.
Dan blushed. It was late.
“Come in, if you’re coming in!”
She turned upon her heel and went back into a large lighted
studio, which he could perceive beyond. At least it was a studio,
even if the wrong one, and should he bolt she would be after him
like a flash of greased lightning he was positive and catch him
before he had gone far.
But as she left him he did regain the use of his legs. Con
vulsively he stepped out and it was forward he was moving. He
followed the soldierly boy-scoutish fantosh into the artist’s-studio,
slinking in the wake of its positive strut.
“Shut the door!” she called over her shoulder at him, as
Dan went back and, with the most anxious attention, he
closed the front door without making any noise whatever, as he
pushed it into its sleek solid oaken rabbets. Then anew he made
his way into the lighted interior, and she faced him in the manner
t hat is indicated by the word roundly and by the word squarely.
There she stood, and avoiding her militant male eye he approached
her. Her dander was up.
“Who sent you? Was it Borstie? Was it Miss Lippencott? “
“Lip Got!” Dan cooed, with blankest eyes, in Beach-la-Mar.
“Lippencott” she said with a dark puzzled scorn.
He was quite silent. However pressed for an answer, he would
have been quite unable to open his lips any more. She quizzed the drooping six-foot-three of speechless man-hood. With vicious eye she wrenched off his four-foot of swaying
trouser-leg. She tore to shreds the massive pretences of the male
She snorted a sigh, as she saw the man quail at her glances.
”Well, let’s have a look at you!” she then ruggedly ex
claimed, as one chap to another. She jerked a thumb backwards,
towards a screen, beneath the balcony, which ran the entire
length of the long side of the place.
“You can undress there! Look slippy!”
At this Dan’s knees in fact did shake. Had he had a tongue
in his head he would have told her then and there that she must
be mistaken. He was not an Italian model (such as he had seen
leaving the studio of Melanie). There was some fearful misunderstanding. This was not Miss Ansell, he had been deceived.
It was quite a different kind of Ape, that dwelt in this lonely well,
to the one it had been Horace’s wish he should visit.
But even as these words (which would not materialize) were
crying out inside his brain, he was assailed by a new doubt. If
this were after all Miss Ansell? Horace he said to himself would
not have sent him here upon a purposeless errand. There was
nothing purposeless about Horace. This was a noted Ape of
God no doubt. He had been dispatched to report upon her — he
must not leave empty-handed. It was not his place to call in
question the arrangements of Horace. Horace, it might very
well be, had intended him to pose as a nude Italian model, to this
woman. For the ways of Horace were mysterious in the extreme.
Taken to its ultimatum and crisis, where would this not
perhaps lead? The expressive eyes of this dewy colossus, this
maidenly great doe, rolled in panic — he saw the path that Horace
had, it might be, intended him to tread, but he balked it in one
sweeping squirm of lovely revulsion. He writhed, beneath her
insulting eyes. Mustht I? his eye, in tender obsecration, asked.
Yrslh! her eye signalled in response, in beastly parody—hitting
every time below the belt.
In spite of the fact that his glances were downcast mainly,
Dan was yet present to every object, and he had immediately
observed with terror a large dog-whip upon the model’s-throne.
Haunted as he was by the memory of the. Bokharan ox thong he
had been compelled to hold by that grinning old Jenny, the sight of this disciplinary instrument disturbed him extremely. In
fancy he could see himself naked, in full flight, before this little
hennaed white-collared huntress — her dog-thong cracking about
his girl-white surfaces, of Clydesdale proportions, as he rushed
round and round her artist’s studio — till probably he would fall,
panting and exhausted, at her sandalled feet! And vac victis of
course — there would be no quarter in this sanguinary immera.
For better or for worse, he must escape at once—he could not
go through with it, he had made up his mind—tomorrow he
must inform Horace that posing as a nude model was a thing he
was quite unable to do. Would Horace excuse him nude-posing
please, as a great concession! It would be asking him to suffer
the tortures of the Damned! Please Horace, do not ask me to
strip and nude-pose — not that! (It was not as though he were
beautiful, he added with a secret blush.)
“What are you doing may I ask?” the horrid masculine
accents banged out at him ever so loud in the big hollow studio,
and caused him a fright-bang too — a discharge of adrenalin.
“Look sharp! I can’t hang about here all night for you to
Oh how that dreadful word peel left him not only naked, but
skinless! What, wrench off his putamen, in obedience to this
martinet? Oh what a horrid errand was this, upon which Horace
had sent him! — if, that was, he had come to the right address.
What an anguishing thought — the real Ape he had been sent in
quest of might in fact all the time be expecting him with a glass
of sherry, in the studio opposite.
She had been lighting a cigarette, straddling her tiger-skinned
hearth, selecting a seasoned cigarette-holder, resembling a
Brissago, facing the mantelpiece. Catching sight (out of the
corner of her eye) of this maddening male professional lay-figure,
who had turned up to offer himself for posing-work, still in the
same place (posing as it were already where he stood) she wheeled
about in the most savage manner possible. Pointing to the
screen, she shouted:
“There you idiot — over there! — can’t you see the bloody
thing! Go over there and peel at once or I’ll chuck you out of
the bloody studio neck and crop! Yes I mean it! I do believe
you’re some beastly Fairy! I don’t know what possessed Borstie
to send a ghastly Fairy round here! It’s no use your making sheep’s eyes at me! Either go in there and peel or else beat it!
Do you get me! Jump to it !
As she said jump she jumped herself, and more dead than
alive Dan skipped as well. As she took a threatening step in his
direction he turned tail, he rushed quickly over straight at the
screen. Bolt upright behind it, his heart-rate trebled, he held
his breath and bit his lip, rolling frightened eyes. He strained
his ears to catch her movements. Oh — what he had gone through
for the sake of this man! And did Horace return his devotion?
He smiled wanly to himself, in the comparative darkness — no,
one would scarcely say Horace did, to judge from all he made
Dan became slowly aware that his was the opposite case to
that of the ostrich. He had achieved the occultation of his body,
but the luxuriant summit of his head must be visible above the
screen. So he made haste to crouch down, and in that position
he placed an eye to a crack, where two of the panels of the screen
met. With an intense alarm, he was able now to observe all the
movements of the threatening masculine person beyond, in her
sports-kit (dressed to kill, by sheer roughness, and to subdue all
the skirted kind) scraping a large palette with an ugly looking
He saw her look up, stop scraping, and incline her head to
listen. Then she called out sharply.
“I say aren’t you ready yet? You take a long time to peel for
There was a pause in which, knife in hand, she listened.
“I don’t believe you are peeling! “
He saw her put down the palette upon the model’s-throne,
next to the dog-whip. She retained, he observed abashed, the
long jack-knife in her hand.
In an instant Dan had wrenched off his jacket, torn from his
neck his collar and his tie. With hands all thumbs and all
a-flutter, he undid, and then in one continuous movement
dropped down, and kicked off, his man’s long trousers — as if as a
symbol of capitulation to the militant feminine-male beyond.
Standing white, occult, and quite naked, his teeth chattering,
with his vest in one hand and limp shoe in the other, he awaited
the next move of the master-spirit — the boy-scout spinster mascu
line rake. But suddenly he was pulled up sharp with a vengeance, and put to work to think in earnest: he gazed, startled and guilty,
blushing unseen, quite lost in thought. Feverishly he turned over
in his mind a most knotty problem. It had not presented itself
to him before, in the midst of this breathless march of events.
Necessity proved herself once again, upon the spot, the
mother of invention, and he put down his shoe and seized the
limp empty arms of the thin cotton vest. He held it out, until the
square body of it hung like an apron before the midst of his
person. With the speed bred of a high sense of decorum, he had
passed the shoulder-line of the vest, rolled into a rude rope,
about his waist — securing it behind, at the summit of the buttocks,
in a large knot. Then he drew the apron that hung down
between his legs, and he incorporated its extremity in the large
bulging knot behind.
“Look here I’ve had about enough of this!” came the now
familiar bark, from beyond the screen.” Are you coming out or
not? Anyone would think you were a bloody woman!”
The imperious tones of crashing command rang out upon the
air of this palatial well of stern bachelor loneliness, and they froze
Blushing a deeper red than any hefty big-handed Susannah
could ever compass — surprised by the most designing of Old Elders
that ever stepped upon painted canvas, Dan came out into the
obscene harsh light of the arc-lamp which hung above the
He gave one dilated terrified glance at the woman standing
astride before her easel. Turning swiftly, he rushed back behind
the screen. There was a hoarse laugh from the haggard old
bachelor-girl in sports-shorts. But her voice pursued him scorn-
fully over the screen, behind which once more he crouched:
“The world’s coyest virgin what! Well well well! Come
out of that! Come out and let’s have a look at what all the fuss
is about! I’m sure I don’t know what the men are coming to!”
Dan stood and shook behind the screen. Wildly he rolled his
eyes to himself in a great effort to decide what steps to take, in this
fearful emergency — what for a Pelman-brave would have been
Kinderspiel. But he simply shook with blank indecision.
“I say, cut this out old bean will you? You’ve come to the
wrong shop!” she raised her voice still more. (The wrong shop
indeed! This could not be where Horace had sent him!)
“I shall absolutely lose my patience in two shakes of a donkey’s
tail!” the harpy’s voice whipped him like a cat-o’-nine-tails. It
had grown ugly too. “Come out unless you want me to step
over there and drag you out by the – ! Chuck all this jolly
rot and roll out, you dirty little sprucer, or I’ll stick you up on
the jolly old throne myself!”
Upon a terrified sudden impulse Dan came swiftly out from
behind the screen. He cast one glance of wild appeal at the
woman, and rushed up upon the model’s-throne. There, blushing
down to his waist line—the “ram and goat” even, of the horrid
poetry, suffused with red, his solar plexus flushed, as if it had
been punched in boxing—he limply stood, his head turned in the
opposite direction from the watching slave-driving person, his
body drooped in profile.
“Good!” she rapped at him. “Yes!” she said, with her
painter’s squint. “Not at all bad!” she informed the nudity
before her, with hearty male patronage, as she ran over his
points, “you’re quite muscular!” she yawned.
The studio was extremely cold, when you were nude, and Dan
was beside himself with fear. He shivered without ceasing,
“Model! Turn round — do you mind! I’ve had that view
of you long enough.”
Slowly Dan moved, until the whole of his back was turned
“No!” the woman immediately bellowed, as she grasped
the manoeuvre. “No! Not that way! Turn round this way.
Not your back!”
With a fresh spasm of deep-red bashfulness, Dan still more
slowly turned about, until he faced her. But he stood with
averted face, gazing away to his right flank. He held his chin
high, for beneath upon the floor of the throne was the dog-whip,
and he wished to forget its presence.
“What on earth have you got there!” he heard her exclaim.
Dan was petrified. The hard white light poured down over
him, splitternaked and stark as your fist’s-face, he could not move
a muscle. Oh, what obedience to Horace (if it were indeed
Horace who had planned this) had led him to! In a pose of
hieratic stiffness, his head in profile, he awaited her attack. He
heard her brisk step and the rigor increased. Marching over with decision to the model’s-throne, she did not hesitate a moment.
A half-scream, the first sound he had uttered since his entrance,
broke from the lips of Dan, as with careless hand she rudely
seized the coil of his cotton vest. Then, with a violent tug, she
dragged it clean off his shrinking person.
Standing beneath him, his vest in one hand, she fixed him
with a chilly masculine eye.
“Listen to me my dear man!” she said: she waved a dis
dainful hand in his direction, “that is of no interest whatever to
me. Do you understand me? Put your mind quite at rest! It
would take a jolly sight more than the likes of you to vamp me!
Get me ? So don’t let’s have any more of this stuff! You come
here to sit, not to try and seduce me anyway! It’s love’s labour
lost! See? Spare yourself the derangement!”
She threw down the vest upon a chair.
“Do you want to sit or not?”
Dan violently nodded his head. He desired from the bottom
of his heart to sit down.
“Very well. Let’s get on with the War then! I shan’t pay
you for the time you waste while you’re trying to vamp me! If
you want to sit — sit!”
Dan again nodded his head, without looking at her, with
great vehemence. She was appeased.
“Very well!” it became almost a tone of approval. “Here
get hold of this!”
To his horror she snatched up the dog-whip and brandished it.
He retreated a step, his eyes fixed upon her in terror. She held
out to him the handle of the whip. He seized it, and his knees
knocking lightly together from mingled cold and dread of what
this fearful Ape might not require of him, he held it tightly at
“Take up an attitude like this will you?”
Dan gave her askance one fleeting look of horror — for she had
thrown herself into an attitude replete with offence not to some
figure but to himself he felt.
“I want you for a figure of a roman soldier threatening Our
Saviour. No that whip!”
Dan struck several attitudes. All were designed, as far as pos
sible, to minimize the immodesty of the glaring white crown-to-foot
exposure of his animal self. The towering milk-pink declivities of the torso beneath the arc-light, the sectioning of the chest by
the upright black feather of body-hair, the long polished blanched
stalks of the legs, upon which the trunk oscillated, all moved hither
and thither. He threw his head into the scales, first to the left then
to the right. Full it is true of earth’s old timid grace, as haunted
by the feminine irish chastity, he threatened an imaginary
Saviour with a whip. But at length the restless evasive bulk
fell into an accepted position.
“Stop like that!”
Camped energetically, charcoal in hand, she dropped into a
watchful, pouncing attitude. She looked keenly from the white
surface of the body to the white surface of the paper, and back.
With difficulty Dan came to a halt.
“Can you keep that?” she asked him.
His whip gave a weary upward waggle. His head sank, in
melancholy affirmative. For a few seconds he held himself quite
still. When he saw her eyes were upon her paper he moved
about, seeking a more comfortable arrangement for his twisted
nudity — one that might eventually lessen the immodesty.
Now a steady scratching began. A large sheet of paper was
fixed upon a board. Her legs wide apart, the busy artist stood
before her super-easel — thrusting out at arm’s-length a stick of
charcoal, from time to time, while she squinted up the eye that
was not furnished with the eye-glass. She computed relative
distances, from one landmark to another, upon the person of her
sitter. She joined these major points, upon the paper before her,
with sweeping lines.
But for Dan the physical agony, in succession to the mental
agony, had now set in. His hips had become still more incon
veniently twisted, in order to remove away to the left the greater
part of his exposed person, and so present as far as possible an
offenceless edge-on object to the eye of the observer. On one
foot the heel was gracefully removed from the ground. The
other foot received the complete weight of a muscle-laden body
rising above two metres into the air.
The staccato rasp, flashed to and fro, of the brittle charcoal,
was incessant. A page was whisked off the board with as much
force as had been used to remove Dan’s vest. It fell to the floor
and she stamped upon it as she returned to the attack, dashing dark
black lines here and there upon the new page.
But Dan stood bathed in a cold perspiration. His face, from
having been a sunset crimson, had become a corpse-like white.
Then it became a most alarming pallid green. Holding stiffly at
arm’s length the whip of the legionary, Dan swayed from side to
side, with more and more giddy abandon.
“Keep still can’t you!” the enraged employer of labour
shouted, from the easel. “I can’t draw you if you roll about
Dan’s last thought (before he fell) was of Horace. He had forgotten that this might be the wrong studio altogether. All he
could say over and over again to himself was “Horace, why are
you always so unkind — why — so always — unkind!”
Dan reeled, slowly at first. His body with a loud report came
in contact with the floor of the model’s throne. As his head struck
he had a sickly flash of consciousness, and his body turned over,
in a slight convulsion. Then he lay relaxed at last in a deep faint.
When Dan came-to there were two voices audible — one soft
and one hard. The hard one said,
“Of course I thought you sent him, Borstie. How can you be
The soft voice replied inaudibly, it was a muffled tinkle.
“With that? Thank you!”
There was a hoarse whispering, with a snorted laugh or two,
also a super-male chuckle, a bald ha-ha !
A more useless piece of goods I’ve never met with.”
“It is certainly a horrid sight.”
“You’re right. If it could only stand up on its legs!”
“You don’t propose to pay it for lying on its back do you”
“The trouble I had to get the animal to peel ! II s’est fait
prie ma chere.”
“Isn’t he a model? —What does he come for?”
”I think he thought he’d got a bonne poire. He tried to
“My dear! That!”
“Oh yes. He wanted me to undress him. He was most
averse to posing.”
“Pah! Turn it over! I don’t want to look at that any more!”
Opening an eye slightly, Dan perceived a second younger
figure, that that possessed the softer voice, beside the first — but
dressed with recognized feminine elegance, with a breast visible to the nipple, and with sun-kissed silken legs all-clear to the
tenderloin. Then a rough hand seized his shoulders and
attempted to roll him along the floor of the throne.
“Don’t touch him—he might not like it, if he were conscious,”
the feminine voice remarked, solicitous for the safety of her mate.
The man-voice snorted defiance, and gave Dan another big
Dan’s head and neck were wet with water. He made a slight
movement with his arm.
He if coming round” said the slight voice. “My dear!
“Model! Do you feel better?”
Dan was nearer the edge of the throne now: with an eel-like
agility born of shame and terror he rolled off, and as he did so he
sprang to his feet. The newcomer started back and uttered a
scream. Swiftly Dan regained the cover of the model’s undress
ing screen. His “vanish” was accompanied by two loud shouts
of laughter from extraordinary woman No. I — who, at his bashful
exit, indulged in the coarsest mirth, pointing after him with her
cigarette-holder to her sweetheart, who tittered sneeringly as the
great white mass disappeared, like a rat into its hole.
With a violent head-ache, overwhelmed with shame, Dan got
his clothes on very quickly. But the vest remained in the hands
of the feminine enemy. When he was quite ready, standing in
his hiding-place he waited some minutes. He hoped that the
second woman might take herself off. But the terrible voice of
the first to bring him to his senses soon rang out.
“How much longer are you going to potter about in there?
If I hadn’t seen all you’ve got I should have thought you were a
woman. Hallo! Come out! I’ve had enough of your com
pany. Hop it! Do you hear model ?”
Dan came out and went towards the door with averted head.
“Here. Here is a half-crown for you.”
She intercepted him and thrust the money up into the occulted
palm of his trembling hand.
“Go and have a Scotch.”
He held the half-crown in his hand, and he went on towards
“You don’t appear satisfied. It’s all you’ll get! It’s a bloody
sight more than you deserve!”
She slammed the door upon him, as soon as he had passed out
into the garden.
Night had now fallen. In the lighted doorway of the opposite
studio stood a dark eminently feminine figure. As he went
through the wicket-gate he observed it making signs to him.
Without losing time he decamped at the double, but he heard
at his back in the darkness a tinkling voice.
“Is that Mr. Boleyn by any chance?”
That was it! Evidently that could be none other than Miss
Ansell, to whom he had been supposed to go after Yarmouth Place.
He had got into the wrong studio. Horace was not to blame! He
did not look back but hastened away from this monstrous colony.
Wyndham Lewis. 1882-1957. Apes of God. 1930