Alice and I had decided that we would not taste all our marital pleasures in advance by sleeping together this night in my apartment, but rather reserve that for what the French so aptly term la lune de miel. So I slept on the couch in the Snuggery, while my fair bride-to-be took her repose in my own bed, and our pretty and provocative boygirl found her repose in the guest room.
Alice showed the next morning that she was quite adept at cooking, which augured well for our happy domesticity. As soon as breakfast was over, she took her leave of us and rode in a hansom cab to make inquiries of the orphanage from which, according to her story, our guest for the night had run away.
Shortly after lunch time, she returned to inform me that the pseudo-waiter at Willoughby's had not at all prevaricated, but that such an orphanage did exist and that the superintendent was named such and such. Alice had even gone so far as to inquire of the neighbors in that vicinity, and what she heard did not set well with the benevolent aspect which such an institution is supposed to have. There were reports of cries and tears from many of the younger girls who in the recreation yard were seen being slapped by the officious matrons, and there were even more lurid tales that some of the punishments were extremely severe and that the superintendent himself appeared to have, as one old lady told my fiance, "an eye for a pretty wench even though she is in his charge."
Accordingly I penned an anonymous letter to the authorities, urging them to investigate this nefarious and inhuman institution so that others might be protected from the fate which had impelled our slim young orphan to run away.
But now there remained the problem of what to do with this charming waif, for at eighteen she would surely present a problem to any parent, and I myself was not inclined to give her employment, not with a wife about to be wed who had her own delicious maid Fanny ready to serve the new household.
Wilhelmina seemed very grateful to us, and apparently, though she still blushed to recall it, had forgotten the chastisement we both had given her the night before. We therefore put her on her honor not to run away, and left her in my apartment while Alice and I went to the license bureau, and thence to the minister of my parish so that we might set the date for our wedding.
It would be two weeks hence and on a Saturday, an ideal time indeed for the first nuptials, since there would be no need to waken early on a Sunday morning!
We celebrated the formal announcement of our wedding date by a champagne supper at Simpson's, to which I had proposed we invite Alice's sister Marion. But to my surprise, my lovely brown-haired wife-to-be emphatically refused to let Marion share in this joyous news as yet.
And when I enquired why, she peevishly remarked, "Oh, Jack, you know how she has always stood in our way from the very outset. Why, I talked to her only the other day, and she was very surly and almost rude to me. I hinted then that you and I would soon have very important news to give her, which as you know was as much as saying that we were going to be married. And all she could say to me was 'Well, Alice, I hope for your own sake that you'll be able to hold him once he puts the ring on your finger!' Now what in the world do you think she meant by that, darling?"
As a gentleman I was honor-bound not to tell her what had occurred not only between us but between myself and her red-haired maid Kay. But I had no doubt that if Marion felt aggrieved that my choice had been for her younger sister instead of for herself and to end her divorced loneliness, she was hardly of a mood to attend any celebration which would sprinkle salt on the wound of the slight. And I was certain, moreover, that Marion would find a way to her own advantage, when the proper time came, to let Alice know that the latter's victory was not so complete as she might have believed.
Over the magnificent roast beef and Yorkshire pudding, I proposed to Alice that we go to Italy for our honeymoon, to Naples and Florence and Rome, and then perhaps spend about a week in some idyllic little village in the countryside where we might indulge ourselves like two children of nature with unconcern for the hidebound rules which would govern us in a so-called civilized metropolis. When Alice archly inquired as to what I meant by that, I smilingly retorted that I for one loved bathing in some refreshing stream without the encumbrance of clothing, and she turned a divine crimson because the waiter at that moment was approaching with side dishes of vegetables.
After he had gone, she teased me unmercifully, saying that I was marrying her only for her body and not for her mind, to which I laughingly retorted, "But you know very well that isn't so, my dear Alice, and I will tell you exactly why I have decided to forsake my freedom on your account. If it was simply because of your very appetizing and delicious flesh, I should be inclined to partake of it when the hunger seized me. But no, my sweet confidante, it is because of the wit and imagination and naughtiness you showed with Lady Betty Bashe and with dear Connie Blunt and even your own sweet maid Fanny, which encouraged me to believe that you would be a worthy partner in devising ingenious schemes which would add to our mutual gratification."
Greatly mollified by this, Alice then took up the subject of our more or less "adopted" waif Wilhelmina. "I should hate to think, dearest Jack," she said earnestly, "that the poor dear would have to go back to a public institution because she cannot find employment. Do you suppose we could actually place her in some happy situation?"
"I have been devoting a little time to that topic, Alice," I replied. "You know that you have your own maid just as your sister Marion has hers..."
At this and again to my very delighted surprise, Alice somewhat cheekily interposed, "Oh, yes, that spitfire Kay, that red-haired baggage who fancies herself as good as my sister! Oh, Jack, if she were my maid, I should bring her over to you at least once a week to be tied up in the Snuggery, her drawers taken down and her big bottom given a sound flogging to improve her manners and teach her her proper and humble place!"
I feigned great surprise at this. "But how is it that you have had occasion to be irritated by this girl's behavior, seeing that she lives with Marion, who is at quite a distance from you?"
Alice tossed her lovely head and made a sulky little face, so charmingly that I almost forgot the rules of behavior in public to lean over toward her at my side and kiss her passionately. But I resisted, because it would afford an occasion for even more passionate demonstrations on my part once she and I were alone on our pilgrimage to sunny Italy.
"Come now," I said jestingly. "Perhaps it is possible that we may bring her to the Snuggery if you are of a mind to do so."
"Oh, Jack, I'd like nothing more! You see, I was staying with Marion for a time after I broke off with you and we had that dreadful misunderstanding and I remember that once I asked her if she would not go to the milliner's shop for me and bring back a special color of ribbon that I wished to sew onto my bonnet. And she was most insolent and rude, saying that she was Miss Marion's maid and that she did not understand why I did not send mine on this errand. I did speak to Marion about it, but she passed it off so lightly that I was almost vexed with her. But I haven't forgotten Kay's arrogance, I assure you!"
This, I began to think, might be the ruse by which Alice should finally learn - that is, if Marion so desired it - how I and her sister had had our own tender reconciliation and how also Kay had been more than well punished already for her arrogance. Yes, the motive was even stronger now that I should be Alice's husband, for I, in that role as the protector of the family and the household, had actually already avenged my darling Alice that afternoon in the Snuggery when Marion had brought her spirited maid along to be chastised. It would be a most delicious scene when both sisters finally comprehended that each of them was enamored of me, each in her own special way, and that Kay had finally been converted to a better appreciation of her status as well as to a proper appreciation for my own priapic talents!
"Yes, I should say that you have just cause to be incensed with the girl," I finally pronounced. "When we come back from our honeymoon, my darling, we shall talk about it at more length. But now as to Wilhelmina, I have been thinking about her a good deal..."
"I know," Alice rudely interrupted and gave me a dig in the ribs with her elbow, "ever since you took her breeches down and saw that she had a slit instead of a rod."
"And she had the rod too, if you'll remember," I laughingly answered back. "But that was not what I meant. You know that Connie Blunt has no maid of her own, as do you and Marion."
"Oh, Jack, what a perfectly capital idea!" my darling Alice cried. "I think she would be perfect for the role! Let's get in touch with Connie, for I know she is back now from Italy. Oh, now, you naughty scoundrel you, I begin to understand why you want to go on your honeymoon there with me. You will be thinking of Connie all the while."
"Of course," I laughed, "But, dear heart, those thoughts will be crystallized with your delicious presence, and they will serve only to inspire me to be a more tender lover to you as we begin our married life together."
"Very well. But I am going to make sure that you are a good boy until we marry. You shall not have me, sir, until our wedding night, I have decided upon it. Nor shall you have Fanny nor Connie either. Oh, what a delicious idea, Jack! You will be so terribly randy by the time our wedding night is upon us, that you will have no thought of any other woman save myself."
I realised that she was perfectly within her rights as my fiance and duly intended, so I acceded to her playful little game. But I warned her as we prepared to leave the restaurant that she would pay dearly when she was properly mine to have and to hold, to chastise and to cuddle, and that she had best look to herself lest she receive more chastisement than cuddling. And on this teasing note we parted, she back to her abode and I to mine with most delicious anticipations for the happiest of futures.