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I had just reached the age of eighteen when my father died. At this period we lived in a nice-looking house. But the quarter bears that stamp of poverty which is all-prevailing in the East End of London. The dwelling is in Shepherdess Walk, close to the City Road.
I went regularly to the district school and was reputed a bad scholar. The master was kind, although we found his haughty manner very trying. He was content simply to go through his lessons. If he asked a question or made an observation, he did so briefly, in a manner devoid alike of politeness and roughness. Never did I see him in a temper. He rarely rebuked and struck still more rarely. On these latter occasions, it was a rap with the ruler upon one's fingers as he passed. And he did not pause either to console or to reprimand the weeping child whom he had hit.
I had been the sullen recipient of several of those raps during my years as a schoolboy. I was always an awkward lad, as slender and pale as a scholar, yet lacking both native and creative intelligence. Without a doubt, the master was gravely disappointed with me, which discomfited me not at all. Indeed, toward the end of my education, I would seek out the company of rougher boys and learn from them the arts of shirking and sly avoidance. I was informed frequently that I would end up in a bad lot. This, too, made no impression on my foolish temper.
I was a handsome lad as well, quite pretty as a little boy and retaining some of that unsuitable grace as I grew into manhood. I feared my master because he alone could not be charmed by my sweet voice or my tears of pain and contrition, and that fear made me scorn him. Among the rougher boys of the yards and alleyways, I was prized as a lad pale enough and small enough to guarantee the sympathy of nearly any kindhearted woman, and in that role I was made to beg for sweets and farthings. My forcefully educated manners nearly guaranteed success and, when they failed, surely my tears would bring about my desire. I was never to unlearn the childish habits of my spoiled youth, and I was to regret that for many years.
The death of my father brought about great changes. Without being rich, we had been comfortably off. My mother was always ill at ease in this quarter of poor people, she with her prettiness, refinement and distinction. She was also still young, for she was not quite eighteen years old when she brought me into the world. She had been at her wit's end with me, I am ashamed to confess. For, try as she might, I could not be compelled to attend either an institute or academy for young men, nor enter into some apprenticeship to learn a trade. Her own manner, sweet and gentle before my father, affected me not in the slightest; I could always escape her slightest anger by allowing a tear to spill down my cheek, upon which she would grant me my every wish. Now, widowed and quite alone, she was a sight which tore my young heart to shreds. I resolved to be more of a man for her and took my place at her side with what dignity I could enact, assuring her that I would be nothing but her good son henceforth. Her eyes, heavy with unshed tears, revealed nothing to me of the greater changes which were about to be visited upon us.
After my father's funeral, my first recollection is the visit of a gentleman who was on very familiar terms with my mother and me, although I had never seen him previously. After my father's death he was a daily caller. Sometimes, even in my presence, he took my mother on his knees and kissed and caressed her. At these moments, the faces of both were very red. At times she would seize hold of his arm and, with a movement of her eyes, make signs towards me. But the gentleman would laugh and reply:
â€œAbsolute nonsense! What does that young puppy know of the fires of love!â€
I disliked him and perhaps even feared him, and yet I was always glad of his visits, for he always brought me a gift or some sweets and sometimes both. And indeed I was mostly ignorant of those fires to which he referred, my shy and fearful nature having bestowed me with a genuine fear of any woman who was not quite older than my own dear mother. I had never even dared to take a young lady's hand into my own.
I was in many ways an indulged youth; spoiled to rottenness, as my former master would say, and could always be won over by attention and presents, and these Mr. Joe Baker, my mother's caller, gave me in abundance. Indeed, he was not above speaking with me on all manners of topics. Butâ€”though whether inadvertently or purposely I do not knowâ€”he made me feel quite queer: for his manner of touching me as he spoke stern words and gazed into my eyes or, as he took me by the arm and walked me briskly through the garden, made me feel ashamed and unnerved. He never spoke to me as an equal, but as if he were speaking to a child, taking care to stop and make sure I understood what he was saying. I could never decide to be insulted or relieved, for many things he said seemed to make no sense at all. But my mother seemed to wish his presence, and I was determined to support her in every way.
This deliberation was quite shaken upon the day when I was witness to much more then a quick buss in the hallway. I had been out roaming by myself and returned home at a time far past my expected arrival. In order to avoid any unpleasantness, I was forced to creep through a back entrance and make my way to my own chamber in silence. It was this silence which allowed me to hear, coming from my mother's own bedchamber, a most curious sound; akin to the sound a boy makes when slapping his thighs in glee. My mind could not comprehend what such a sound could portend and, in a bout of clever slyness, I determined to discover the source without betraying my own presence. With stealth that would do a Newgate parolee some honor, I approached the door to my mother's room, my footfalls landing in time with the steady slapping noises. I was nearing the corner of the frame when, to my horror, I heard the voice of Mr. Joe Baker!
â€œThat's a good lass, that's my fine filly! Shake your rear to me, my fine lady, and receive your stallion's cock!â€
I gasped aloud, and unwanted tears sprang to my eyes. Could that man address my own mother in such a way? I neglected to hush myself, but a greater sound rose from the chamber and engulfed my pitiful sniffles. It was a womanâ€”nay, it was my own dear mother, if the truth be toldâ€”crying out like some wanton, as the sounds of their illicit lovegames filled the hallway. Yet surely she was pained; if not by the act, then by the words which spewed forth from this cruel man's mouth!
My eyes blurred, I thrust my fingers into my mouth to crush the sounds which threatened to ensue, and crept onward to my room without spying upon them. I knew I could not bear to see my mother in such dalliance with such a man. And thus, through the night, I heard their movements and the creaks and sighs and thumps which made up their congress. It was a most horrifying experience, as I am certain it must be for all young men, to discover that their mothers, sweet angels all, conducted themselves with men in the same manner in which we so dream of conquering some fair maiden. How much more terrible this knowledge is when the gentleman in question is not your father!
Despite my most heavy burden of virginity (for I was far too shy a youth to embark upon those crusades which the rough youths made into the houses of ill repute, and there were no ladies of my standing upon which to direct romantic attentions), I was not unaware of the mechanics of love. A sturdy lad named Ned Jones had once assigned me the task of watching for potential interlopers while he enjoyed a dalliance with his sweetheart in an empty shed. This shed provided a number of loosened slats from which an enterprising lad could spy upon the interior; this was my intention and deed. And through this vertical window, perhaps the breadth of my thumb, I was able to witness the act of joining.
Ned was a large young man, tall and strong, and I discovered that he was indeed large in all his parts! For that root between his white thighs was a veritable truncheon, and its size and majesty were of great interest to Sally, his chosen â€œlady.â€ But when she allowed his rough fingers to unlace her bodice and lift her heavy skirts, there indeed was discovery! For not since my infancy, when all men know nothing but the pleasures of their mother's breast, had I seen such an expanse of soft whiteness! Her bubs were large and rounded, heavy in Ned's hands. When he seized them and made grasping motions, Sally did not turn from him or cry in pain, but sighed and molded her soft flesh to his body. I watched, both enraptured and revolted.
Their coupling was swift and tumultuous, leading to much squirming about and the shifting of positions, from the wall to the dirt floor and then back up against the wall again. Ned thrust into Sally's body with such ease that I was astounded. Surely, my boyish mind considered, it is never so simple! Yet, for this pair, rutting together as two stoats in an abandoned shed might, there were no considerations of delicacy. For they were simple creatures, knowing only the needs of the moment and the hunger of their bodies. So they clung to each other and mewed and snarled like cats until Ned made a harsh, triumphant cry, and relinquished his hold on the girl.
She cried out and clung to him, shaking and moving her hips in such a startling fashion that I nearly fell from my place by the side of the shed! She thrust back at him and pressed her body to him in a desperate fashion, until she trembled and fell back on her own. Then, with a sly smile, she crawled to him and proceeded to take his huge rod into her mouth and clean it of their combined essences.
It was at this time that I relinquished my place by the spy-hole and pretended to be defending the shed valiantly from all other potential spies. Inwardly, I was awash with confusion, fascination, and distaste. Was that all to the majestic coupling of Man and Woman? Where was love, honor, and dignity in all that grunting and sliding? I could not imagine a lady of my class doing such a thing, and certainly not my own mother.
How sad it is when wisdom is gained at the expense of such innocent trust!
I resolved to come home early in the future and thus prevent this sort of behavior. In some way, my plan worked, for Mr. Baker came as often, but never again stayed into the evening. Yet my presence and its foiling of his intentions upon my mother must have caused him to create the plan which carried us both into his power!
For, one fine day, the three of us stepped into a very beautiful carriage drawn by two horses and, in Mr. Joe Baker's fine turnout, we drove to the West End, to Portland Place, to a beautiful mansion belonging to him and containing a vast number of grooms and maid-servants.
All the latter were pretty. They were both fair and dark, gentle and proud, but all were remarkable. They were not dressed as English domestics usually are, except that they wore, as is customary, the little linen cap, so stylish, light, and charming. The other parts of their costumes were of a picturesque nature. All wore aprons of brilliant colored silk and a dress with no sleeves. On their hands and arms were exceedingly tight gloves of glazed kid, colored black or dark brown, and very long, reaching above the elbow. I was struck by this particular feature in their costume. It seemed strange that humble maid-servants should wear such valuable gloves. My young brain, much puzzled, sought a solution of this mystery, but with no success. The events which I shall relate threw light upon the matter for me as they will not fail to do for the reader. For the time being, I could not get beyond this simple conclusion: that Mr. Joe Baker must possess a vast fortune if he could clothe his servants so sumptuously.
The voyage to Portland Place had become a common occurrence in our lives. Mr. Baker himself would often come to fetch us, but at times it was merely the carriage which would drive up to our door. We would lunch and dine with Mr. Baker, who would not fail to remark at table that I was exceedingly ill-mannered, yet without giving the least suggestion as to how I should comport myself. His observation, always accompanied on his part with smiles and affability, did not fail to cover me with confusion. I sought to discover in what respect I was bad-mannered, but in vain; and I finished by asking Mr. Baker what he found amiss in my behavior. His sole reply was a fit of laughter, upon which my mother became greatly annoyed. She boxed both my ears, and I remember that the pain was nothing to me as compared with my sense of the injustice of her act. Lacking the strength and will to do otherwise, I wept with grief and vexation, bursting into hysterical sobs, which exhibition had for result my being sent away to finish my luncheon in the servants' hall. This would have normally suited me well, for then I would find my way from the house and spend the afternoon in some idle loitering or in the company of the local youths, who would accept my company for the sake of the few coins I could spare or a song from my still-unnaturally-high voice. However, in this instance, my great plans were not to be satisfied; there was one of Mr. Baker's odd housewomen waiting for me when I had exited.
She was tall, dark, and stout, with very big eyes looking blackly out from under heavy brows. Her lips were red and full, and the suspicion of a moustache was visible. Her thick arms carried without a single wrinkle the black glazed kid gloves. She took me by the hand. I stamped and resisted, but in vain; she took me away without effort. I was, however, in a terrible passion due to my mother's injustice which I had never previously experienced. To be sent away from the table was bad enough. To hear the mocking laughter of Mr. Baker rising to humiliate me further was an insult not to be endured!
The maid took me in her arms in a mannish, forthright manner. I struggled and cried, saying that I wanted to leave the house immediately. To my anguished horror, all my struggles wrought not a whit of weakness from her. In shock, I tried to bite her. But we were already in the hall. Here she firmly and swiftly boxed my ears, even as my mother just had. My mouth gaped in amazement, but the sensation owing to the contact of the kid glove immediately calmed my anger. I became at once quite tractable, my mind being filled with a strong desire to obey this tall female and do everything she wished. It was at this moment that she smiled at me pleasantly. I followed her without complaint, my tears drying as I walked.
In the servants' hall, as she watched me eating, she frowned from under her heavy brows. Then, in a rough voice, she ordered me to cease eating bread. To tell the truth, I was in the habit of eating a great deal of bread, far more than is eaten in the North Country, where they take scarcely any. I used at that time to stuff my mouth with bread between the courses and consequently had little appetite for meat and vegetables. My father had only laughed and used often to say that, in my gluttony for bread, I was a true Frenchman. I repeated this saying of my father to the maid, whose name was Betsy. I did not bother to swallow before enlightening her, and spoke through a mouth full of that good stuff, reaching for yet another piece.
She shrugged her shoulders disdainfully and replied that my father was a poor sort of man who had brought me up badly, or rather who had not brought me up at all, but all was going to change now.
My lassitude of a few minutes before was succeeded by a mood of excessive irritation. Her contempt for my poor dear father whom I had so recently mourned, I found unbearable. I burst into bitter reproaches of Betsy's cruelty, assuring her that my father had been worth Mr. Baker a thousand times over. She roughly told me to hold my tongue, adding:
â€œYou are an impertinent lad!â€ â€œ
No!â€ cried I. â€œIt is you who are insolent. You have no right to speak of my father except with respect, as a servant should.â€
She turned pale at my remarks, as though she had taken them as an insult, and directed so terrible a look at me that I immediately regretted my imprudence.
Then, appearing to recover herself, she rejoined:
â€œNot another word! Instead of gossiping, you would do well to eat this nice piece of underdone meat. It is better than stuffing yourself with bread.â€
So I tried to leave the bread alone, but so strong is habit that I began eating it again absentmindedly, filling my mouth gluttonously.
â€œYou disgust me!â€ said Betsy. â€œYou spiteful little gourmandizer!â€
The meal was, however, at an end. She showed me fruits and jam and then replaced them in the cupboard without offering them to me. She said that as a punishment for my impertinence, I should be deprived of dessert. Then she came and sat close to me, putting one arm round my neck and patting my face in an affectionate way. I do not know if it came from her arm or from her glove, but the perfume which entered my nostrils intoxicated me.
â€œYour father ought to have whipped you,â€ she said suddenly.
I made no answer. She continued.
â€œHave you ever been whipped?â€
â€œWell! You are going to be, then! You deserve punishment.â€
â€œReally?â€ said I, pulling away from her. â€œAnd who's going to whip me, I should like to know?â€
She had already caught me in her powerful arms. I struggled, kicked, threatened, tried to bite and scratch her, without appearing to make the least effect upon her. This woman of thirty was very strong and had no difficulty in getting the better of such a poor undersized specimen as myself. She gave me some sound cuffs on the ears, which made me giddy. Then she put me down on the ground so violently that I almost had a fall. She gave me this order:
â€œUnbutton your clothes!â€
â€œWhat?â€ said I, in astonishment.
â€œTake down your trousers!â€
I was about to obey her mechanically, when I was seized by a transport of anger and began stamping my feet. She held me firmly down with the simple measure of placing the heel of her terribly high boot upon my back, whereupon I felt that a knife was being held to me. She then said: â€œ
You refuse to obey me?â€
â€œWhy, yes! I do refuse ... You must be mad! Let me up at once!â€
â€œVery well!â€ she replied. â€œYou shall pay for this impertinence and for your rudeness at lunch at the same time.â€
the twinkling of an eye, she was down beside me. Her quick fingers (in spite of her gloves) had unbuttoned my trousers which she then proceeded to pull down to my heels. Pulling up my shirt, she leaned one knee against my frail body and gave me a very sound spanking! Helpless, pinned to the floor and bound by my own clothing, I bellowed and shrieked. The slaps fell thick and loud while she cried to me:
â€œShriek away, my young gentleman! Shriek as much as you like. No one will come to your aid. Presently I'm going to give you good reasons for crying yourself hoarse. That I promise you!â€
After spanking me soundly, she set me on my feet again and told me to open the drawer of the sideboard, take the birch rod which I should see there, and bring it to her. Instead of obeying her, I rushed away as she released me, nearly falling at full length on the floor on account of having my trousers down, and took refuge in the farthest corner of the room. With my face turned to the wall, I began to cry bitterly, calling for my mother between sobs. Never had I felt so abused and alone. And the thought of such a great lad crying like a babe in nappies made me even more ashamed. I could barely hear Betsy as she continued to speak to me.
â€œOne! Two! ... Are you going to obey?â€
I trembled at her voice and, sobbing more than ever, as though my head were splitting, went to the sideboard. On finding the drawer, I was seized with a new fit of passion and, crying worse than ever, took refuge once more in my corner.
She got up, seized the rod herself and, holding me by the ear, led me back to the chair. She then made me go down on my knees in front of her. Holding my head between her knees, she flogged me during long minutes, paying no heed whatever to my tears and entreaties. Held firmly by her, I had no choice but to submit to the pain and the indignities until she was satisfied.
â€œAnother time I shall flog you till the blood comes, you naughty little rascal! It's the only way to make you mend your ways.â€
I wailed, rolling on the ground. She told me to get up. I did not want to listen to another word and lay where I was. Leaning down over me, she inflicted an intimate caress on me which, far from calming me, unnerved me more than ever and made me fall into a state of dull stupefaction.
Her hand swept gently across my wounded posterior and then tickled right between my legs, to that forbidden grotto which the other boys spoke of in such rough language! I stiffened as she manipulated me, confused and frightened. This did not stay her hand but seemed to embolden her, as she grasped the very flesh of my manhood and gave it a prodigious squeeze, which brought more tears to my eyes. But my rod was not displeased by these attentions; to my dismay, it grew to its greater size and rigidity. She slowed her movements and said:
â€œYou have never been soothed this way, young sir?â€
â€œNo, never!â€ was my reply, my voice a tight little instrument of pity. â€œWill you release me at once?â€
â€œI shall notâ€”not until you have spent for me like a good boy!â€
Spend for her? Release myself to such weakness before such a horrid creature? I cried out as her manipulations wrought greater growth in my Willy, until it seemed ready to burst upon itself. Too weakened and shamed by the beating, my body seemed willing to give up this intimacy to this rough woman, and I could not control it any more than I could control the rutting of my own mother. Indeed, as pleasure infused my limbs and loins, I lost all desire to struggle against this woman, and I finally released onto the floor a stream of the fluid she seemed so eager to see. But she refused to yield her grip upon me, holding me down and continuing to stroke and caress me until I began to sob my relief. Then she released me with a chuckle. I tore my clothing up around my body, shaking like a wet kitten.
She dried my eyes, washed my face in cold water and led me back to the drawing room where, ready to die of wretchedness and grief, I gingerly seated myself apart from my mother and Mr. Baker, who at first paid no attention to me. It was only after some minutes that my mother glanced at me attentively, saying:
â€œLook at him! One would think he had been crying.â€
Mr. Baker, who was seated in a revolving armchair with his back towards me, wheeled round slowly. In his turn, he gazed at me, but in a contemptuous way which set my heart thumping. He laughed sarcastically and then suggested:
â€œLet him alone. It only makes him conceited when attention is paid to him. I quite understand what it is. He's been impertinent and Betsy has punished him. She has a heavy handâ€”the wench! Yet she knows well the ways of young men!â€
His face bore a strange expression as he said those words, and it seemed to me as though he were menacing me. My mother must have understood the words in the same way, for I saw her redden and lower her head in confusion. Rising to her feet, she looked at Mr. Baker apprehensively; so, at any rate, I interpreted her glance. Later, when the course of events had brought me to light, I remembered that my childish intuition had not been at fault. My mind did not easily reach this conclusion, which I found very astonishing. I was so absorbed in my reflections on the matter that I trembled at hearing myself addressed sternly by Mr. Baker:
â€œWell! Have your wits gone woolgathering? Listen to me and have done with your blue devil's stare! It is important that you should hear what I say to you. I have known your mother for a long time. She was my mistress during your father's lifetime.â€
My mother tried to interrupt him.
â€œOh! Joe!â€ was all she could say.
As for me, understanding precisely the meaning of Mr. Baker's words, my grief and humiliation increased a thousand fold, and I felt the rise of still more tears.
My mother cried, too, and ran to me to comfort me. I avoided her and, as she ran to me to take me in her arms, I put out my arms to push her away. I could not bear to think of her in this cruel man's arms, unfaithful to my own dear father!
Mr. Baker again burst into a hard unpleasant laugh. â€œHa! Ha! He doesn't want you to come near him. Leave him alone, or I shall ask Betsy to take you into the Punishment Room. As for you, young man, this is what I have got to say to you. I have decided to marry your mother. The ceremony will take place next week. But I should be ashamed to show my friends a big lad so badly brought up as you. So you won't take part in the rejoicings. As your education has been horribly neglected and you cannot imitate your father's good manners because he hadn't got any, it is high time for me to think of crushing your stubborn will and teaching you how to behave in society. I have got money, and I am quite willing to spend a large sum in so praiseworthy an object. That is the reason why you will go to school tomorrow.â€
â€œWhy, I shall not go to any school!â€ I retorted smartly.
â€œIs that so?â€
Mr. Baker then curled his great pale lips into a grimace which made me shrink from him in horror. He continued:
â€œBut indeed you shall, impertinent lad. Here is the reason why: you and your mother are now quite destitute. Your late father owed quite a sum of funds to various creditors; I have assumed all of your mother's debts, and I shall be your guardian. And you shall go to school as I direct, for you are under my protection and direction.
â€œBut do not fear, boy. You will be very comfortable there, for the establishment of Mrs. Flayskin is well-managed. I may even say that it is a perfectly aristocratic boarding-school where you will meet with the heirs and heiresses to the greatest titles of the United Kingdom and to the biggest fortunes of America. If you behave yourself well and make progressâ€”in a word, if the mistress declares herself satisfied with your conductâ€”you will pass your holidays with us. I don't think you are a bad youth. You love your mother. That is good. Only, in your own interest, you must bend your unruly spirit. While there is yet time, you must uproot your rebellious instincts. You understand, then? Tomorrow you will leave the house. Betsy will take you. Come, give me your hand and let us be friends.â€
But already, like one distraught, shrieking in despair, my whole body convulsed with sobs, I had made a rush for the door, wishing to flee this accursed house forever. My idea was to gain the street and then go on foot to our own house to find once more the abode where my beloved father had died. Through the tears obscuring my sight I recognized Betsy. My childish fits were doubled in vain. They were powerless against those strong arms encased in black kid.
No sooner had I reached the outer door than I felt myself caught in a vigorous grip. How I would rue that I lacked the strength to escape that fateful