Darling of the Age | Heather Mercer

Darling of the Age

Heather Mercer

For The Waiting For Starman Award

Kitty Fischer, a famous courtesan of 18C London, was one of the first celebrities. The public could not get enough of her and she took an active role in manipulating her own image.
More info: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kitty_Fisher

January 1767, Kent
‘Lady Norris? Mr Ganfrey. London.’ The stranger slipped his watchcase into his coat pocket as Kitty entered the withdrawal room of Hemsted House, leaning on Beatrice. Her stomach churned with nausea from the exertion of walking down the staircase, and she put a hand to her mouth. Ganfrey executed a short bow. His blue eyes sparkled and his lips curled into a small smile. ‘I trust you are well?’
Kitty stiffened her back and offered her hand. The emerald bracelets on her thin arm slipped and glittered as he pressed his lips to her fingers.
‘Yes, thank-you.’ murmured Kitty. Droplets of sweat formed on her upper lip and she felt a trickle of moisture run down her white-powdered temple, revealing a line of yellowing skin. ‘Mr Ganfrey, may I inquire into your call? The servants are quite overcome. Are you an acquaintance of Sir Norris?’ Kitty gestured him to sit on the wing chair opposite the mantelpiece, and she took another as Beatrice hurried away.
Ganfrey cleared his throat. ‘You are the Admiration of Every Eye. The celebrated Kitty Fischer, are you not?’ He glanced up to the Reynolds’ portrait of her over the mantelpiece. His blue eyes looked grey now, as though dimming with the fading afternoon light.
Kitty narrowed her eyes. ‘Yes of course. Who are you, Mr Ganfrey?’ Her tone was blunt, and her head was beginning to throb.
Ganfrey spread his palms wide. ‘Forgive me, Lady Norris, but London is all talk of your demise. I merely wanted to see for myself if the rumours were true, before I go to ink. They are clamouring for news of your illness.’
Kitty’s heart was racing. A Fleet St printer! How dare he come here with plans to spread dirty gossip! She inspected the large diamond ring on her left hand for several moments before speaking.
‘You’re from The Chronicle, then? As I said before, I am quite well.’ Her earrings swung as she inclined her head.
‘My… Lady,’ Ganfrey leaned forward. ‘I can see you are not. You have realised I am no doctor, but…I have eyes.’ He chuckled and began to rise.
‘Sit down, Mr Ganfrey,’ she commanded. Dizziness and images swam and swirled in her mind. People chattering on street corners in London, in St James park, whispering about her complexion, the fleshless arms.. their haughty murmuring about Kitty Fischer, laughing at the courtesan of the Age now in decay… None of that must happen! She was the celebrated Kitty Fischer! And now Lady of the Manor! She clutched at the emerald necklace which hung heavily on her collarbones. ‘It is fortuitous you have called. It is time for an update on the adventures of Kitty Fischer. I shall pay you one hundred pounds.’ She slowly twisted a strand of hair behind her left ear and smiled. ‘You shall mention the Pleasure Garden which Sir Norris and I have added to the west lawn, my charity excursions to the village..and..my good humour and healthy radiance.’
Ganfrey was silent. He smoothed his moustache with his fingers. The fireplace in front of them was as cold and silent as the jewels around Kitty’s neck. She held her breath as the urge to cough rose in her chest. It was a gamble perhaps, but she knew the power of the pound.
‘Very well.’ said Ganfrey. ‘I shall write of your good deeds, youthful beauty, your wit and wealth.’
‘Make it remarkable, Ganfrey.’
She closed her eyes.
The Darling of the Age is still alive and well and all Londoners shall know of it!