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In the week that followed I made ready for our departure. Katherine made her future appointments with me. Maria's husband, Ned, was interviewed formally. He would come into service with me, I told him carefully. His uniform would be that of a valet. He would be put to many different tasks. Maria - I was pleased to think - had evidently scolded him into agreement beforehand since his continued nodding during my conversation became almost tiresome. His physique, however, was entirely suitable - his thighs good, his loins muscular. There would be Frederick also, as I appraised Katherine. He had been permitted no further licence with her. To ensure that, I had kept him to the house while she was elsewhere. The day before leaving I called her to my room.
'You will devise a play - not too simple a one, Katherine. I will have it performed a few weeks after we have settled in again.' She curtsied playfully. I had not asked her to sit.
'Shall there be many players? Six or eight, perhaps?' she asked.
I merely nodded as if my thoughts were already elsewhere. It is a simple enough trick. It keeps those I need, desire - or would work to my will - in a state of slight imbalance.
'You will engage Amanda in it,' I said. 'We shall then best see her progress - and her silver stocking bands, no doubt. And the maid at Arabella's house - the young one who attended upon us. I want her. You will obtain and bring her.'
The play itself would be of no great importance. The words, the acts, could be peeled away at my discretion and replaced by others. Arabella possessed a controllable wantonness, as I had witnessed. She would present a voluptuous example to occasional novices. As to the young maid who had lain at my feet after tonguing me - the sly-eyed, sloe-eyed one - there was a hint of impudence in her eyes that I could quell at will or use according to my whims. On the morning of our departure I made Caroline ready in the prettiest of blue dresses with matching bonnet and patterned stockings of the same shade. For myself I wore a modest back dress, severely buttoned to the neck, with a pearl choker. My bonnet was a three-cornered one. It gave me a slightly swashbuckling air without looking flirtatious. As to the kid gloves I had desired, I had now a dozen pairs in different shades. My uncle's wallet had been well pillaged. Maria and Jenny, I attired in oatmeal cloaks with hoods. Beneath, they were naked save for stockings and boots. I placed them, together with the clothes and cases my uncle had been made to endow, in the smaller of two carriages outside.
Aunt Maude had relinquished Maria not without reluctance. We had discussed much in private. I broadened her horizons. There would be garden parties from Friday to Monday on half a dozen occasions throughout the summer, I said. We did not use the word 'weekend'. It was considered common. From the gatherings, both my aunt and myself would make a discreet choice among the females and, occasionally, their escorts - whether related to them or not. They would be drawn aside and would receive special attention. The likeliest females would be cosseted and flattered. In the privacy of bedrooms there would be means of bringing them to undress and even of displaying them to the males through peepholes in adjoining rooms.
'The males will be discovered at their peeping by one or other of us,' I told my aunt. 'It will be necessary for them of course to be punished. Their fear of betraying the conventions will make them submit. The females they have viewed and who will remain naked - while being aroused by Maria or Jenny or another - will then be shown to the peepholes in turn and may gaze upon the males in their bondage.'
Such discourses pleased my aunt immensely. My imagination flourished. Even so I kept some secrets to myself. There were caves I would not allow her to enter. She sensed that. It gave her a certain air of diffidence as I flourished my images before her. There were moments when she seemed to stand in awe of me.
We stood in my room prior to descending to where Caroline and my uncle waited. Amusement and apprehension mingled in her eyes as I pressed her to the wall and bid her stand with her arms at her sides. I took her cheeks in my hands. They were as smooth as a girl's.
'You enjoyed?' I asked. She knew well enough to what I referred. Her smile was cautious but impish.
'When your bottom took his cock? You were superb,' she breathed.
I kept my eyes level with hers. As one enraptured by a fine statue I ran my little finger delicately along her lower lip. 'You will be used,' I said.
'With Frederick?' The question was a little unexpected but I absorbed it without expression. She had veiled her desires carefully.
'Yes - and with others. You will obey me, Maude.' It was the first time I had used her Christian name.
'Yes,' she acquiesced softly.
The tips of our tongues touched as if with a timidity at our own daring. My sails were hoisted, set. There would be no turning back for her. Our tongues in their moistness moved. So slowly they moved, as if Time had been run down.
'And your uncle?' she asked.
Our breaths flowed together. He had not been put to servicing since he had mounted me. His eyes had grown haggard in his waiting. I had had him placed in a small separate bedroom from my aunt. I licked her tongue for the last time and stilled the hands which would have reached for my bottom.
'You may keep him in a stiff but agonised state, his receptacles full. In a few weeks time he will be put to servicing the first of my novices - until then he is not to be milked,' I said.
My eyes held a strain of severity as I spoke. I released her gently. It would amuse her to follow my instructions, I knew. I swept down before she could speak, thus forcing her to follow me.
In the hall my uncle's glance was timorous. I afforded him a kiss on the cheek. In turning away from him my gloved hand made passing contact with his penis which stood proud in his breeches. The caress would appease him for the moment. The sun stood high above us as the door opened, flooding the vista with golden light. 'The sun is God,' the great painter Turner had said on his deathbed twenty years before. It had shone upon his bed, they had said, in the very moment of his uttering the words and dying. In that moment I believed him. Caroline moved in her beauty beside me. Her skirts swept the ground. I went as I had come, yet in my going I was one reborn. Passing the rhododendron bushes I caressed their leaves and blooms once more.
The silence of plants pleases me. They see without seeing, watch without watching. Subservient to the touch, yet they never surrender. Crush them and they will reappear next year or elsewhere. Their chemistry compounds miracles. They are there in their thereness. At night they sleep yet they know not Time. They breathe softly yet are not heard.
'I would be as a plant,' I said to Caroline.
In the carriage I held her hand. The figures of my aunt and uncle standing on the steps diminished.
'Yes, I would like to be a flower,' she replied.
She had not understood. It did not matter. Her voice was simple and childish. I saw her as she would be - rooted to the stamen, the pale fusing of the cock with her bottom. She would rock, moan and whimper in her beginnings. Later I would teach her silence. She would know the silence of the plants - the impelling flood of the sap in her gripping. Rising up the embedded stem, it would flood her in its submission. With its last throbbings it would withdraw. She would know the victory - the power.
The house waited for us, bereft of servants. My aunt had dismissed them. It was a wiseness. Only the older gardener, Perkins, was left. He was too withered for my purposes. Appearing at the approach of our carriages, he doffed his hat and acted as footman in opening the door. I gave him the most gracious of my smiles.
The rooms at least had been aired. From the kitchen came smells of butter, cheese and herbs. Mingled withal was the scent of bread which had been left that morning. Milk waited in stone jars, covered with fine net. In the stone-walled larder, lettuces shone their fine diamonds of cool water. All was well. My letter to Father floated upon the oceans. Maria and Jenny removed their cloaks and moved about us. Curiously nervous as they appeared of the windows and the gardener's eyes, I had them don dresses. The proprieties had to be observed. With the drawing of the curtains at night, our world would be enclosed.
'Shall there be visitors?' Caroline asked.
Maria made tea. We took it in the drawing-room.
'Many. There will be masquerades, amusements, entertainments, Caroline. Garden parties - you will enjoy those.'
I would chain the girls to trees at night, I thought, their dresses raised. Chinese lanterns would float and sway among the leaves. I would move among them with a feather. One by one they would be carried in for pleasuring. The stables would be candlelit. Did Caroline read my thoughts? Laying down her cup she rose and looked beyond the French windows to the lawn where the silver larches swayed in their slender beings.
'You will not love me as the others - I know it,' she said sullenly. 'Will all the girls be young?'
'No.' I rose in turn and moved to her. My hand rested upon her shoulder. Her head lay back. Her fine hair tickled my nose. 'Some will be matrons - firm of body. The summerhouse is large within, is it not?'
Caroline nodded. I could not see her eyes. 'Yes - why?'
'We shall furnish it to our tastes. What is within?'
'A divan - no more.' Her bottom in its roundness moved its globe against my belly. 'Father said.. .' she began. I stopped her.
'I shall ordain. There shall be ottomans, rugs, silken cushions, shaded lamps, a small scattering of whips and birches to tease your bottom. We shall have our privacies there - our secrets, our voluptuousness. Do you understand?'
'Yes,' she husked. She turned and nestled in my arms. 'Will you... will you make me do it there? No one will see, will they?'
'No one - no one but I. You will offer your bottom as you gave your mouth.' So saying, I raised her dress at the back and fondled the satiny orb. Feeling between the cheeks I circled the ball of my thumb about her rosehole, making her clutch my neck and quiver.
'It will b-b-be too big!' she quavered.
'Be still!' I said sternly, 'hold your legs straight, reach up on your toes. Hold so, Caroline!'
'Blub!' she choked.
Easing my thumb within I felt her warm tightness to the knuckle, her gripping. Her gripping was as a baby's mouth. With a smooth movement of my free arm I scooped her dress up at the front and cupped her nest. It pulsed in its pulsing. My thumb purred between the lips and parted them.
'Still! I commanded her. 'Hold your dress up - waist high, Caroline!'
She obeyed, swaying on her toes as she was. Her eyes glazed as I moved my thumb up deeper into her most secret recess, toying with the small perky button of her clitoris at the same time. Unable to keep her balance, her heels chattered on the floor. 'WhWhoooooo!' she whimpered.
I allowed her the sounds, the small outburstings of breath. The warmth emanating from between her silky thighs was delicious. Had I not intended now to keep her separated from the others I would have had Maria or Jenny enter and tongue her.
'Be quiet now - be quiet now, darling,' I coaxed. I had moved to her side in the moving of my hands.
Her fingers sought to release her uplifted skirt and clutch at air, but by some silent command they stayed. The folds drooped but a little. The pallor of her thighs gleamed above the blue darkness of her stocking. The natural elasticity of her bottom eased a little until I was able to insert my thumb fully, my fingers flirting with the nether cheeks. The oiliness of her slit increased - its pulsing fluttered.
'B-B-Beatrice!' she stammered. Her head hung back until I almost feared she might collapse. An intense quivering ran through her. The curving of her straightened legs was exquisite. Of a sudden then her head snapped back, her shoulders slumping as I withdrew my thumb.
'OH!' she choked and would have slid to the floor had I not caught her.
'So, it shall be,' I smiled and kissed her mouth. She would make much of it in the beginning. In time she would kneel for it with glowing pride - an altar of love. After two years, as I had promised myself, she would return to her everydayness, free to leave or to stay.
You ask why - and I know not. Who shall be free and who not? I had chosen to ordain. There were those who would follow and those who would not. Through the dark glass of unknowing they would seek my image. At night they would huddle in the woods, the shrubs, among the wet leaves - crying for my presence. I would untie their childhoods.
The last drums of their youth would beat for them. In their submission would be their comforting. Wailing and crying they would succumb to that which they had longed for. The whip would burnish their bottoms in their weepings. The velvet curtains would be drawn - receive their tears. The dry leaves of the aspidistras would accept their lamentations. In the mornings they would be as choir girls, clothed in white. Calmed from the storm they would talk softly, twittering. I would absolve their sins. I would teach. In time they would learn the inferiority of men - the penis-bearers, the money bringers. For as such only would men be used. I would teach.
Now we composed ourselves again. Caroline sat fidgeting a little while Maria removed the tray. She would prepare a meal for Frederick and her husband on their arrival later, I told her. Together with herself and Jenny they would eat in the kitchen. Maria bobbed and nodded in her going. She saw herself perhaps as the head of a small conclave of servants. but I would know how to split and divide.
'Caroline, you will have a maid shortly,' I said when the door had closed. She looked at me in astonishment. We had lived in comparative modesty before.
'I?' she asked.
I smiled and seated myself beside her, rolling her warm and slender fingers in my hand. 'A young servant who at present serves Arabella and her family,' I explained. The idea had come sudden upon me. It would serve to elevate Caroline above the others.
'She shall be unto you as a handmaid. You will train her,' I said. 'She will attend upon no one else other than at my bidding.'
'Train her?' Caroline's face was a picture. 'Oh! Shall I be as you, then?' she asked naïvely, but I forebore to laugh. Her sweetness was apparent. She would lend herself with the seeming innocence of an angel to all that I intended.
'In time perhaps, Caroline. You have been stabled, at least. And cupboarded. Was that not splendid? Did you not enjoy it?'
She nodded, her cheeks suffused. 'No one will ever tie us together again,' she said.
'But I may tie you together with your maid,' I laughed. The shyness in her eyes darted with the delicacy of moths. 'She is pretty - a perfect body. Pleasures and punishments - did I not tell you?'
'May I. . . may I strap her? Just sometimes?'
The question was as unexpected as Aunt Maude's had been about Frederick. Deep pleasures were in my being at such questions. I had the power to answer or not - to assuage, persuade, refuse, mollify or conquer.
'You wish to? Who else did you wish to strap?'
A knowingly attractive pouting of Caroline's mouth offered itself to me. 'Amanda. She wanted silver stocking bands - did you know?'
'Yes, I knew. What else did she say?'
Caroline's eyes retreated. They appeared to take an immense interest in my corsage. 'She ... she said if they were silver, solid silver, she would let him.'
I breathed lightly, betraying no surprise. And, Amanda! the depths of you! But no doubt she had seen no other escape and so sought to make her excuses. Caroline had obviously probed and asked. We know not those we know when they are away from us. Father would lie with women in their bronzeness. He would swish their bottoms with a fly-switch. Languorous they would lie, the sweat between their nether cheeks, up-bulbing, offering the delicate twitching of flesh as the switch descended. Servants would come and go, bearing tea, blind in their unseeing.
'You may strap her, yes, but only playfully,' I said, recalling Caroline's question. I would draw her into my plans a little, yet leave her always on a fringe of wondering - the last lines left undrawn, a mid-air hesitation. Workmen would come shortly to commence the building of the stables, I told her. I had promises that the work would be completed in two weeks. The main bedroom which Father normally inhabited would become now my own. Caroline would take the room next to it. The stables would have an annexe that would form a caging-room. My plans expanded with every breath - her face a mirror to my thoughts. Withal a question poised itself on her lips as a bird alights and rests upon a sill.
'But when Father returns?' she asked.
My face was a blankness. 'And naturally we shall furnish the summerhouse last,' I said, as if there had been no pause in my words. Clearly she was about to speak again when the doorbell sounded. Jenny hurried to answer. In a moment she returned bearing a carte de visite on a tray. I took it and read.
The name meant nothing to me: The Reverend Horace Ames. 'He seeks but a moment and is accompanied,' Jenny said.
I did not ask by whom. Such questions tend to indicate some unsettlement of the mind. I waved my hand languidly for her to admit them. Caroline adjusted herself, fanning out her skirt. Her composure at such times pleases me. In a moment the door opened to admit a gentleman of not unpleasing aspect in his middle years. He was alone. He sought my indulgence, he said. His dark suit and clerical collar gave him a slightly hawkish air. They had travelled from Kent, he explained, to inspect a neighbouring house he intended to purchase in the parish. Alas, the hub of one of the wheels of their carriage had collapsed and the house agent had not arrived with the keys, as promised. They had waited an hour in the gardens. Now with the lateness of the day he sought to find friendly shelter for his daughters.
'They are waiting beyond?' I asked.
'In the hall, Madame. I thought not to disturb you overmuch...'
'Oh, but you must bring them in!' I interrupted swiftly. 'My sister will see to it. Will you not have a sherry? Of course we shall afford you all that you need. What a hopelessness you must have felt in your waiting.'
Overwhelmed by my reception as he appeared to be, he took the proffered glass and sat as the door reopened to admit two young ladies of apparent exceeding shyness. Both were prettily dressed and bonneted, but their boots had the sad and dusty air of those who have travelled far. In seconds they were introduced. The taller, Clarissa, was, it seemed, eighteen. Jane was her junior by three years, but already had sufficient nubility to attract my eyes. Both were brunettes with retroussé noses and pleasing mouths. Their ankles were slender, though mainly hid.
'How were you to return and when?' I asked.
I affected a great bubbling, flooding him with words while Caroline attended to the girls with refreshing drinks. By some fortune, Frederick and Ned made their appearance during my discourse. I despatched the latter immediately to the wheelwright, who I knew sometimes put carriages out on hire. Within the hour the fellow returned bearing the solemn news that only a small phaeton was available with scarce room for three for a longish journey. In the meantime, however, I had gathered much. The Reverend Ames was to replace the present incumbent vicar.
Yet, it seemed, he had business that very night in Gravesend, whither he must return.
'Then the girls must stay,' I proclaimed immediately, while both sat darting the most timid yet enquiring glances at me. No doubt, like he, they wondered at my mistress-ship of the house in my relative youth.
'Nay - it would be a terrible imposition, Madame. In particular since I shall be unable to return for a week. Is there no hotel or hostelry close?'
'Where they would stay unchaperoned?' I asked.
The thought soon overcame such objections as he had tendered with obvious civility, hopeful as he had obviously been that I would take them in. They were after all of our own class. The conventions were being observed. The additional presence of Caroline placed a perfect seal upon the matter.
At five-thirty, having partaken with us of a cold collation which Maria had prepared, he was ready to depart. His daughters sat demure as ever, a dutiful kiss imprinted on their cheeks at his parting. Crowned as I was with his gratitude, I saw him to the driveway where the phaeton waited. Clarissa and Jane would be well seen to, I assured him. His hand received my own and held it rather warmly. He was a widower, I had learned.
'They will be in the best of care - of that I am now certain,' he proclaimed and kissed my hand gravely before ensconcing himself on a rather hard seat.
'The very best,' I assured him, 'they will be seen to in all respects.'
'A week, then,' he said and waved his hand. He seemed rather enamoured of my gaze, I thought, as his carriage trundled forward.
I watched it to the gates. The door lay wide still - invitingly open for me. Its panes of coloured glass fragmented glittering streaks of light along the wall of the hail where the sun struck. The light brushed my cheek as if in benediction as I walked through and entered the drawing-room.
Caroline had engaged herself more animatedly, it seemed, in conversation with the girls. Perhaps, in her knowing, she thought as I.
I clapped my hands and smiled, expressing my pleasure at their presence. 'First we will bathe you and refresh you,' I said. They had removed their bonnets. Their hair flowed long and prettily about their shoulders. I reached down and took the hand of Jane. 'Come - I will see to you first. Then Caroline may attend upon Clarissa,' I said.
A light flush entered Clarissa's cheeks. 'Oh, but. . . 'she began. I stopped her with a further smile.
'I know,' I said softly, infinite understanding in my voice. 'Normally you bathe alone, but in a strange house - and the taps are really so difficult...' I allowed my voice to trail off vaguely in leading Jane out.
She had the perfect air of a cupid, I thought - an impression that increased as I first ran the water and then undressed her. Her form was exquisite, her breasts the firmest of pomegranates on which the buds of her nipples perked as if beseeching kisses. Her bottom had a chubbiness that my hands sought slyly to fondle in removing her drawers. In stepping out of them she betrayed with many a blush the pouting of her cunny-lips which nestled in a sweet little bush of curls.
Tempted as I was to finger them I urged her into the water where she sat with the warm scented water lapping just beneath her breasts.
'I shall soap you - may I?' I asked.
Seemingly not wishful to escape the admiration in my eyes she sat mute, pink-cheeked, as I passed my soaped hands first over her deliciously firm breasts. Plump and silk-smooth as they were, her nipples erected quickly, her lips parting to show pearly teeth as I playfully nipped the nearest between two fingers.
'How pretty you look,' I breathed, 'may I kiss you?' In speaking I passed my free hand up the sleekness of her back, cradling my palm beneath her hair.
Hot-flushed as she was, her lips came peachlike to mine with sufficient parting for me to intrude my tongue. For a long moment her own coiled back, but then came timidly to meet mine. My hand passed over the succulent weight of her other breast. Its nipple burned like a thorn to my palm. Her lips moved farther apart in her wondering, but I intended not to spoil her yet. I assumed an air of loving fun and joviality that would disperse itself as a balm to her conscience.
'It will be fun, Jane, will it not?' I asked and received a shy, lisped 'yes'.
For the rest I soaped her carefully, fondling every crevice and hillock I could reach without making my further gestures too obvious. The drying took longer - particularly in the gentle, urging motions of my towelled hand between her thighs. Her flush rose considerably then, her knees bending as she clung to me. I said no more, donating but a light kiss to her mouth before putting her into a robe. In a week I would work wonders with her. And night had yet to fall.
Hearing the opening of the bathroom door from below, Caroline brought Clarissa up. The water lay warm still. It was the custom then for two people to use the same bath, the water supplies being often uncertain. Clarissa's eyes grazed mine in their coming. I knew her eyes. I would neither fondle nor kiss her in the bath. While Caroline escorted Jane to her room, I led Clarissa within and waited unobtrusively while she disrobed. In chemise and stockings her figure was similar to Amanda's, save that her bottom was larger. Nervously fingering the straps of her chemise, she paused, evidently waiting for me to leave.
Instead of doing so I gathered up the clothes she had discarded. I did so as if by reproof. With a pettish gesture she removed her last garment and stood in her stockings. Her mount was plump, her thighs elegant, feet small. Her breasts, though not large, were of perfect roundness.
'Call me when you have bathed and I will bring you a robe - or the servant shall,' I told her.
The relief in her eyes was evident. A smile of assent meandered to her lips. Removing her stockings and stepping daintily into the clouded water, she sat down. I went out, leaving the door ajar and placing her clothes where she would not find them. Jane would be easy. I knew her kind. Loving, warm and submissive, she would absorb the cock with wriggling wonder. A week was almost too much. With Clarissa it would be different. I had allowed her but one small victory, and her last. The surprise of the strap would come all the more clearly and stingingly to her that night. Maria would hold her.
I moved in my musings beyond, into the lumber room whence the ladder led to the attic. A sadness of dust was upon the rungs. Beneath me, the water in the bathroom splashed as it would splash upon the prow on the tall ship in its sailing. And its returning.. . its returning. . . its returning...