I stared hard at Miss Molly Bashe, wanting to be certain that she was not pulling my leg.
"I will agree that your friend is most appetizing," I finally declared, "but I warn you that if I undertake this diverting scheme, you will not escape its consequences. Do you understand me, Miss Molly?"
Before my level gaze, the delicious brunette turned a most becoming scarlet and lowered her eyes. "I-I know you will, Mr. Jack," she faintly retorted. "And-and you needn't worry about Julia, because I will talk her into accepting whatever you try to do to us. But I think you had best start with me, because it will more natural."
Still further wonder upon wonders! And I confess that I was not at all loath to renew my carnal acquaintance with the enticing figure of this charming if affectatious young beauty.
"Very well," I said, "you will therefore tell your friend that I had asked you to show her my famous Snuggery. You will have her sit in the armchair which is near the door. It has green upholstery and is very becoming and inviting, quite wide and deep. I need not add that it so contrived that a mere touch of a secret mechanism will hold her captive while I proceed with you."
"I-I understand, Mr. J-Jack," Molly Bashe quavered. She was really adorable as she stood with downcast eyes and cheeks that were a brilliant crimson with her mingled emotions. She knew that she was being extremely naughty and forward, the delicious minx, and from the agitated rise and fall of her bosom I could discern that the prospect was exciting her already! Well, it was having the same effect on me. Indeed, it would take a moment or two for me to recover my composure before I could dare go out into the salon and face Miss Julia Denton without manifesting to this very prim and circumspect young lady the outrageous evidence of my manhood in a state of anticipatory excitement!
"Then, as for you, you will recall that you and your mother commented on the pulleys which are found in my Snuggery and how those same pulleys were the very cause of your downfall."
"Ohh y-yes!" Molly Bashe breathed, "I-I shan't ever forget that afternoon!"
"Nor I," I gallantly replied. "But it is time that you go back to your friend before she becomes the least bit suspicious. Mind you, you are to be dealt with first, so prepare yourself. Although I don't see at the moment how you're going to talk Miss Denton into surrendering to me, particularly as I have no rancor against her and I am not usually cast in the role of a ravenous rapist. What I did to you and your mother, Miss Molly, was done out of a much-deserved revenge because of her infernal matchmaking."
"I'm sure that when Julia sees - sees what you'll - what you'll do to me, Mr. Jack," Molly Bashe quavered, "she will get so excited that she won't think of anything else except what you may do to her, sir."
My blood was boiling, as you may well suspect! I took her hand and kissed it, as I would that of a great courtesan who had brought off a spectacular coup in the tourney of love, and I let her out. Then lighting a cigar, I made certain that my robe was properly belted and hid the fact that I was in only my undershirt with braces and my trousers, and at last I made my entry back into the salon. Julia Denton glanced up at me, her eyes rather large and insolent as they lingered on me, and I saw that Molly Bashe was beside her and had apparently been talking to her.
Seeing me, the delectable brunette raised her voice: "Oh, Julia, we mustn't leave until you see Mr. Jack's famous Snuggery. It's where he takes all his exercise, and it's a most unusual place."
You may guess that I had to maintain a great deal of self-control to keep a straight face during this masterpiece of double entendre. I bowed from the waist and replied, "Miss Molly is much too gracious in her estimate of my poor abode, Miss Denton, but it would be my privilege to show you its facilities."
"I don't mind," Julia Denton shrugged. "But we mustn't stay too late, Molly dear, because you know we promised to visit my Cousin Elsie before the afternoon is over."
"Don't be such a fussbudget. Come along now."
I now unlocked the double doors of the Snuggery and let them go ahead of me. Swiftly I bolted the outer door, then closed the inner one, and now both girls were trapped… Molly Bashe knowingly, but Julia Denton unwittingly.
"What lovely thick Persian carpets, don't you think, Julia?" the brunette turned to her sandy-haired friend.
"Oh, they're all right," Julia Denton diffidently agreed. "It's most quiet in here, I will say that. And after all the noise of the street, I imagine this would be a welcome retreat. But didn't you say, Molly, that this is Mr. Jack's exercise room?"
"Indeed it is." I took up the cue. "If you will make yourself comfortable in that green armchair, Miss Denton, I will show you just how I use it. It's better than a club or a gymnasium in many ways."
Molly Bashe averted her eyes, and I suspect that she too had some difficulty in keeping her nominal composure so as not to give away the secret. Julia Denton, I observed out of the corner of my eye, wandered over to the comfortable armchair and seated herself with a little sigh of comfort. The first trap was sprung!
"Now then, Miss Molly," I blandly continued, "you will notice the wristlets of those pulleys. You fasten them around your wrists and then grasp the rope with your hand, thus dividing your weight between wrist and hand, instead of all of it coming on the fingers as on a trapeze."
"Oh, yes, I do remember now. Let me try it."
Molly approached the pulleys, while I followed with a congenial smile. I fastened the ropes to her wrist, and she at once began to swing herself slowly and gently backward and forward.
Now that this was done, I walked slowly back toward the armchair. Julia Denton looked up at me with some surprise. I had adjusted the catch, which formerly closed the arms over its occupant the moment the latter seated herself, in such a way that it required the touch of my finger at the back of the chair.
"Are you quite comfortable, Miss Denton?" I now inquired as my left forefinger sought the secret catch.
"Yes, quite, thank you. But really, Molly, I've seen enough. It's very nice, and I suppose there are advantages, but I prefer my exercise outdoors - OHHH - what in the world? - stop it - how dare you - what does this mean?"
For having touched the catch, I now stepped back and saw the arms folding around Julia Denton's waist, capturing her snugly and preventing her from escaping her fate.
"It means, Miss Denton, that I shall ask you to bear with me until I have concluded the little matter of some unfinished business with your charming companion," I smilingly retorted.
Julia Denton stared up at me with an incredulous expression on her lovely face. "But, sir," she protested in a voice that shook with indignation. "This is audacious and high-handed! I have absolutely nothing to do with whatever has gone between you and Molly, and you have surely no right to compel me to be a witness to anything scandalous. Molly, how could you? Do you mean to tell me you are actually on - Oh, it's unthinkable and it offends my modesty even to say it aloud! - on more intimate terms with this man than simply those of casual acquaintance through your mother's introduction?"
I glanced toward Molly Bashe, who still swung back and forth on the trapeze, the ropes fastened neatly about her wrists. I then strode forward to the wall and turned a little crank which acted on the windlass which acted on those pulley-ropes fixed so tightly to Molly's wrists, which had the effect of hoisting her up till she strained on tiptoes.
"Oh dear! What are you doing, Mr. Jack? Please let me down! These ropes won't come off, and they're hurting my wrists."
"I don't propose to let you down quite yet, my dear," was my calm retort as I approached her. Wide-eyed, and her face flushed, with that magnificent bosom of hers beginning to heave against the bodice of her frock, she at once rekindled within my loins the ardent flame so dear to Priapus, and one which had burned with so fierce a warmth on that other occasion when her buxom and officious mother had brought her to me for the purpose, as she had hoped then, of foisting Molly off on me as my nuptial consort.
"There," I said at last as I stepped back and pretended to study her, "you are quite properly prepared for the resumption of our unfinished business, Miss Molly Bashe."
"Sir, this is ungallant and unworthy of you," Julia Denton protested from her chair of treachery. She made ineffectual attempts to rise, but of course the mechanical contrivances of that piece of furniture quite foiled them.
"It's quite useless to struggle, Miss Denton," I remarked, "and I advise you to conserve your strength so that your undivided attentions may be given to your lovely companion. She has un-pardonably offended me and impugned my honor as a gentleman, which I cannot and will not tolerate. I am exasperated by now, I can quite assure you, over the insolent way the female of the species employs her supposed advantage of sex by flaunting herself, by insulting, and by taunting, believing that she is inviolate and immune from the consequences of a justly deserved punishment. But this time, Miss Molly Bashe, I intend to show you that I do not subscribe to this policy in the least."
"Oh, Lordy, what do you mean, Mr. Jack? What are you going to do to me?" Molly Bashe exclaimed, glancing at her friend in the chair of treachery.
Inwardly, I could hardly suppress my delighted amusement at the consummate artistry this pretty brunette was now displaying. Yes, I had completely misjudged her that afternoon in the Snuggery when I had initiated her into the mystic rites of Cythera. The little minx had evidently acquired a gluttonous taste for more of the same, and I was assuredly in the mood to nurture her newly acquired appetites to the very limit of my power!
I was, of course, in no hurry whatsoever. Foremost in my mind was the problem of what pretext to use to condemn Miss Julia Denton to this very same punishment and execution of it, although the delicious Molly had already slyly intimated to me that her companion was secretly yearning to be forced. But I decided to play the tune by ear and to discover what subtle and newly rewarding harmonies would come from it as Molly Bashe reacted to each minute progression of her "punishment."
But I now addressed myself to Miss Julia Denton, whose flashing eyes, heaving bosom, and delightfully flushed color indicated that she was overwhelmed by my unexpected tactics towards her friend. "The lesson which you are about to see, Miss Denton," I now expatiated, "is one that every pretentious girl should learn so that she will not make the error of riding roughshod over the males of this world, who are bound by our smugly conventional code to be gentlemen at all times. There are occasions, Miss Denton, when a gentleman is heartily disgusted at having to be such and would far rather revert to the one honest, candid and I may say, instinctive kind of behavior which impels him most sincerely and honestly… by that I mean, by acting like a man of parts and of virility and full mastery over the justly weaker sex."
"I demand that you release me at once from this abominable chair, and you'd better let Molly go, unless you want dire consequences!" was Julia Denton's panting reply.
There would be dire consequences indeed - but they would rebound against the irritated Miss Denton herself. For the time being, however, she would just have to wait her turn, for in all fairness I was obliged to commence with her lovely brunette companion Miss Molly Bashe, the scheming architect of this ingenious reunion. And to that end, I meant to proceed at once.