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Not always have I had the happiness of being fortunate in my amours. It is true that I have managed to escape the dread fate of those poor unfortunate devils whose tools are living witness to the powers of caustic and the lethal weapons of surgery, but I have on occasions been singularly unfortunate, and as the warning voice of my publisher tells me I have little more time or space at my disposal, I will devote the present chapter of this work to detailing a most unpleasant incident of the sort which all people are more or less liable to who go in for promiscuous intercourse to any large extent.
My only sister, Sophy, came up to London with her husband shortly after my return from Folkestone, and although he was a perfect brute of a fellow, and a man I disliked very much, I made myself as agreeable as I could and took a furnished house for them during their stay, near the Regent's Park.
Frank Vaughan, a young architect and a rising man, was one I introduced them to, as my sister had brought a friend, Miss Polly White, with her, who lived near our old home in the country; being anxious for her to see London, her parents had placed her under my sister's guardian wing to do the 'lions' of the metropolis.
Polly was an only daughter, so knowing the old people had a good nest-egg, I thought it would be a capital opportunity to throw Frank in her way. I told him precisely how matters stood, and advised him to make a match of it.
'The old people are rich,' I said, 'but if they object to you on the score of money, fuck her, my boy, and that will bring them to reason.'
'Is she perfectly pure now?' said Frank. 'For to tell you the truth I haven't come across a genuine maid since I landed a stripling of sixteen, nearly ten years ago. Are you sure you haven't?'
'I'll swear it, if you like,' I returned, laughing at the soft impeachment, 'but take my advice, Frank, and win her. She'll be worth at least forty thousand when the old folks snuff it.'
'I'm on the job,' said Frank, and it was easy to see from the immaculate shirt front, the brilliant conversation, and the great attention he paid her, that he meant business.
One night, however, I was puzzled, for I thought Frank was far more assiduous in his manner to my sister than he should have been, considering that the 'nugget', for so we had christened Polly, was present.
I could not understand it at all, and determined to watch the development of the situation. There was, I must tell you, an underplot to all this, for several times I had noted that Polly's regard for me was a trifle too warm, and once or twice in the theatre, and in the brougham, corning home particularly, I had felt the soft pressure of her knees, and returned it with interest - but, to my story:
Frank proposed going to Madame Tussaud's, and as Polly had never been, and my sister knew every model in the show by heart, Frank suggested that he should take the 'nugget', 'unless you would like to go with us,' he said to me.
'Not I, indeed,' was my reply. 'Besides, Sissy here will be alone, as her beautiful husband has been out all day, and will, I suppose, return beastly drunk about midnight. No, you go together and enjoy your little selves.' So off they went.
When Polly passed me in the hall, she gave me a peculiar look, which I utterly failed to comprehend, and asked me to fasten her glove. As I did so she passed a slip of paper into my hand and when she had gone I read on it these words:
'Be in the study about nine o'clock'
What can the little minx mean? was my first thought. She surely wouldn't go about an intrigue in this bare-faced fashion; she has been brought up in a demure way. Yet what on earth can she mean? At any rate I will do her bidding.
Making an excuse to my sister about eight o'clock, for I was as curious as possible to know what it could all portend, and saying I was going out for a couple of hours, I slammed the hall door behind me, and then quietly crept upstairs to the study.
I found it in darkness, but knowing where the couch was situated, at the far end of the room, I made for it, and I must confess the solitude, the darkness and a good dinner, all combined, made me forget curiosity, Polly, the warning note and everything else, and in less than five minutes I was fast asleep.
I was awakened by a scented hand I knew was a woman's touching my face and a low voice whispered in my ear - 'You are here then; I never heard you come in.'
Damn it, I thought, it's an intrigue after all; but she's too tall for Polly. Oh, I see it all, she's our prim landlady (who retained one room in the house, and was, I knew, nuts upon my brother-in-law). Polly found out about it, and set me on the track, so without saying a word I laid her unresistingly on the couch, and in a few seconds was busy.
I could not help thinking while wiring in that she displayed much vigour for one of her years, since I judged the lady to be at least forty-five, but her ardour only made me the more fervent, and at the end of a long series of skirmishes the real hot short work began.
It would be impossible to express my horror at this moment when my hand came in contact with a cross she was wearing around her neck, and I found that it was my own sister I was rogering.
I had, unluckily, got to that point where no man or woman could cease firing, but the worst part of the damned unfortunate affair was that I burst out with an ejaculation of dismay and she recognised my voice. The situation was terrible.
'Good God!' I said. 'Sophy, how on earth has this come about?'
Then, sobbingly, she told me that her husband had abstained from her for more than two years because he had contracted a chronic gonorrhoeic disorder and that Vaughan had won her over to make this rendezvous, and had intended letting Polly be shown through Tussaud's by a friend he had arranged to meet there. 'But,' she added, 'how was it I found you here?' This I dared not tell her, as it was now evident that Polly was aware of the assignation, and to let my sister know - that would have been death.
Poor girl, she was sufficiently punished for her frailty, and Polly, who had caught a few words of the appointment, was sufficiently revenged.