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The time passed. In another week Frances was to be married.
She had introduced me to Gilbert, whom I found to be a very good sort of fellow in every way, and very much in love with Frances. She also loved him, so there was every chance of the marriage turning out well. I was glad to know that my "ward" would have a good husband, and I felt quite sure she would be a faithful wife, if she was well treated, and also well poked. During the past weeks, she had very frequently been out with her fiancé; so I had been able to spend pleasant afternoons with Miss Martin whom I showed practically - as she had desired - all the various positions in which a man may poke a woman.
Dora had been sent to a boarding school which had been recommended by Miss Martin; and that lady, one afternoon, told me that the principal of the establishment was a strict disciplinarian, and a firm believer in the salutary effect of a good whipping applied in orthodox fashion to the bottom of a naughty girl. Miss Martin also informed me that the mistress of the school did not use a birch rod, as she considered it too apt to cut the tender skin of a girl's bottom.
So, instead of a rod, she always used a small whip with six thin leather thongs - it is called in France a "martinet" - which stung sharply, and left scarlet stripes on the culprit's bottom, but never broke the skin. The delinquents were flogged privately, and were strapped to a padded "horse" while receiving their punishment.
The governess added, laughing: "Dora will soon find herself on the 'horse,' and then she will feel what a real flogging is like. She has never had a severe whipping in her life."
"Poor Dora!" I remarked in a tone of sympathy.
"Oh, you needn't pity her! It will do her good. You have no idea what a troublesome girl she has lately become."
We then dropped the subject, and proceeded to business. That afternoon I spanked her once, and poked her twice.
The last few days before the marriage slipped away rapidly, and uneventfully; the wedding day arrived, and then, according to my promise, I gave Frances away. She was exquisitely dressed, in the most perfect taste; and though she was thirty years old, she was still a very beautiful woman, and I felt a pang of regret at knowing that I should never again poke her, or even have the pleasure of feeling her plump bottom or her firm bubbies.
At the wedding breakfast there was a large party of guests, including a number of the bridegroom's relatives; the usual speeches were made, and everything passed off well.
Frances was in good spirits; and just before she left the room to put on her travelling-dress, she drew me aside out of sight of the guests, and giving me a kiss, said: "Charley, I love my husband and I will be faithful to him; but I shall never forget how kind you have been to me, from the day you took me into your house, up to the present moment."
I clasped a bracelet on her wrist, as a wedding present, and kissing her for the last time, bade her good bye; then she ran upstairs to her room.
In a short time she came down, dressed for her journey; and then the newly-married couple got into their carriage, and were driven off, amid showers of rice, to Charing Cross station, en route for Italy, where they intended to spend their honeymoon.
And so, for the second and last time, my sweetheart passed out of my fife.
Next day I went home to Oakhurst, and settled down to my old life as a country gentleman.
Five years have passed since the last lines were written, and I again take up my pen to put the finishing touches to the story.
Frances is now a buxom matron, thirty-five years old, with two little children. She and her husband are perfectly happy; they are very well-off, and they live in London half the year; and I am always a welcome guest at their house whenever I choose to go there. Gilbert and I are very good friends; as he has not the faintest suspicion that I ever was anything to Frances but her "guardian." She has quite a daughterly affection for me, and whenever we meet we talk and laugh about the old days.
Miss Martin, after leaving Frances, got a good situation as governess in a family, where she remained until she heard of her husband's death in South America. Then she married again. I have never seen her since.
Frances' two stepchildren live with their father's relations: but they often visit their stepmother, and I have frequently seen them. Robert is sixteen years old, and is studying for the army. Dora is nineteen years old, and has grown - I knew she would - into a magnificent young woman, tall and shapely, and most "divinely fair." She is engaged to be married.
My story is finished, and though I am fifty years of age. I am in good health, and I can still "look upon the wine when it is red", and I can also still enjoy a pretty girl.
But often, in the long winter evenings, when I am sitting all alone in my big dining-room after dinner, I think of the "boy Frank" whom I had picked up on the road twelve years before, and who had eventually turned out to be a loving, faithful woman.