I was just a few days past my sixteenth birthday when first I arrived in Saratoga. My journey had been sped by the marvel of a rapid and smooth rail coach, and I often wondered at the miracle of such a speedy and modern appliance. My entire trip had been by such new means, first a steamship to the Americas and then a railroad trip. Why, even the nature of my appointments had been made by transatlantic telegraph! It was no wonder that the world marveled at these impetuous Yankee engineers. There seemed no end to what their ingenuity would conjure.
I should explain. My name is Caroline Pendrake, and I was born in the Year of Our Lord 1880. Now, as I look back at that time, even as our world speeds alarmingly towards an almost inevitably terrible conflict, I am still awed by how my own small piece of it changed that summer.
In a way, it all started several years before, when my parents died in the London typhus epidemic of 1893. Looking back with the benefit of hindsight, I can realize it was only a minor outbreak, yet for my loving parents it was major enough. Certainly, hundreds died, and countless thousands were laid ill. The only reason I survived is that by then I was living in a boarding school, Mrs. Pembleton's School for Young Ladies, a finishing school as it was called.
My father was a military attaché attached to the Foreign Office, and as such was routinely posted to embassies all over the Continent. Once I was old enough to live on my own, albeit in a supervised environment, I was placed in a boarding school. Both he and my mother felt that a military lifestyle in lands where the Queen's English was unknown was no life for me. Summers I would spend with them, viewing castles and forts with my father, and attending various embassy functions with my mother.
In many ways I was quite content. They were both quite affectionate with me, but some of the places they were stationed were terribly horrid. Most people would think of a military attaché as being stationed in one of the great capitals, such as Paris or Berlin, but my father, bless his dear departed soul, was an over-aged captain in an era without a war. He was stationed in places such as Carpathia, or Ruthenia, or even, try as I might to forget it, Slovenia.
Oddly enough, when they died in the plague, he was between assignments and they were living in London. Since my mother was an only child and had no surviving family (most having died in the Sepoy Mutiny in India years before), one of my father's few relatives, a second cousin was named my guardian. Little did this change my life, since what few savings my parents had were spent in sending me back to school immediately after the funeral. It was perfectly obvious that for a young woman in my situation, that is, a middle-class orphan with a good name and respectable education yet little money, I would most likely need to earn my way in life as a schoolteacher or governess until I married. Realistically, this was little different than my prospects before my parents died, and I had never expected any other, and was perfectly content with my life.
In truth, everyone seemed to think I would have little difficulty in finding a marriageable husband, even without a penny to my name. I must admit that I have a good education, although at the time it was rather conventional, a keen sense of humor, and an agreeable disposition. Most others never seemed to take note of these qualities and instead focused on those qualities which a woman does best to blush at, my face and my figure. Yet, even then, when brushing my hair in front of the looking glass, in my heart of hearts, I would often agree with my flatterers.
I am not a tall person, being only a bit over five foot, and barely weigh little more than seven stone, or roughly a hundred pounds. Nowadays, women look back on the corsets worn by proper Victorian ladies with horror, yet at the time it was little imposition on me, as I was, and am, very narrow-waisted and could easily fit into the smallest corset. I must report, however, that this tended to make my bosom quite conspicuous, forcing what few pounds I possessed up and out as it were, and inasmuch as a generous Creator has already blessed me with a considerable ampleness in this regards, my figure seems much like the proverbial hourglass, with more time to pass than had passed. My limbs are lithe enough, and I still have slim and elegant wrists and ankles. My hair is a golden yellow, and hangs to my waist when unfettered, which is often, and my eyes are a deep blue.
Mind you, in those days, little of a woman's figure could be seen. Certainly, anything above the ankle was cause for a scandal, if not a public stoning! In fact, the fashion of the day was that even married couples would not see each other but would perform their marital relations in the dark. I have always felt that this has been a precept more often obeyed in the breach than not.
So, it was expected that once I left Mrs. Pembleton's, with a few introductions into polite society, I could be assured of marrying an up-and-coming young man with prospects, or perhaps an older widower with money. Some of my more worldly friends suggested that I try for both, an older man to provide me with an income, and a younger man, to be more "vigorous".
Things changed for me only a few years later, when my second cousin suffered a stroke at Christmas time. He was a rather elderly gentleman for whom I felt not the love for a parent but rather a more distant affection. For his son, I had less emotion than that. He was a cold man, old enough to be my father, and at our first interview, he informed me that at the end of the school year I was to be matriculated, regardless of my feelings. He saw little use in the education of females, he said, and would certainly not keep up the needless expense. I was welcome to stay with him and earn my keep, but the cold glint in his eyes as he perused my form told me of the sordid way he intended for me to do so.
I politely thanked him for his offer, ignoring the obvious plan he had in mind, and contacted my father's solicitor, whose name I obtained from Mrs. Pembleton. In a letter, I explained my situation and asked whether there were any other relatives yet existent upon whom I could turn in my hour of despair. I also discussed with Mrs. Pembleton my circumstances, and she promised to begin searching for a situation to my liking.
You cannot imagine the extent of my surprise when a few months later, Mister Carruthers, my father's solicitor showed up at the school and asked to see both me and Mrs. Pembleton. It turned out that there was indeed another relative, a rather distant cousin from an offshoot Scottish branch of the family that had settled in the Americas. He had forwarded my letter to this cousin and a reply had just arrived.
"It is really quite unusual.” he commented. "There was no letter, simply a quite lengthy telegram specifying that you and an accompanying adult be provided with first-class steamship tickets to New York. Once there, you are to stay the night in a place called the Waldorf Astoria, then the next day take a rail coach to a place called Saratoga Springs, where you will be met, presumably by the gentleman, a Mister James MacAllister. I can't say as I've ever seen anything quite like this before."
"An accompanying adult? I don't understand.” I replied.
"I don't either.” he admitted.
"And how is this travel to be paid for?” asked Mrs. Pembleton.
"Well, as I said, he directed that everything be paid for ahead of time, and a wire transfer to Barclay's has already been arranged and cleared. We are to provide a pair of first-class tickets, and a hundred pounds to you, Miss Pendrake, and twice that to your companion, as spending money."
"I still don't understand about my companion. I may be young, but I am not that young!” I protested.
"As I said earlier, I do not understand myself.” said the barrister.
Mrs. Pembleton looked thoughtful. "Perhaps you could take the value of the second ticket and the other two hundred pounds in notes. That would give you an excellent start if there was a problem and could certainly pay for a ticket home if you do not like the Americas. What is this gentleman like?"
"Well, I cannot say as I truly know. He certainly seems rather wealthy, considering the cost of the tickets and the telegram, and what inquiries I was able to make indicate he is an investor of some sorts, but nobody seems to know where he got his money from.” he replied.
"And the spare ticket and funds?"
Mister Carruthers shook his head in the negative. "Unfortunately, I have no authority to do such a thing. However, I will make a counterproposal of sorts. Your father was a dear friend. If you do not like this Saratoga place, send me a letter, and I will arrange for you to come back to England. It may not be first class, but you won't have to row the boat either, and then we can find something else for the future. Is this to your satisfaction?"
Mrs. Pembleton smiled graciously, and I nodded my thanks.
It was thus that I found myself traveling to the colonies. The steamship made the journey in a fortnight, and as one of the first-class passengers, I found myself sharing the Captain's Table. In truth, I suspected that I would have had little difficulty finding any table to dine at, since it was made quite apparent that an attractive young woman, of admittedly barely marriageable age, would be welcome anywhere on the ship. I blushed politely at the compliments but was secretly pleased.
The Waldorf Astoria was not at all some provincial tavern, as Mister Carruthers had feared, but instead turned out to be one of the newest and finest hotels in New York City, itself a metropolis fit to rival London. Despite my plans to stay a single night, I was shown to a small suite with two bedrooms, and my bags were unpacked, and my clothing was taken out to be cleaned and pressed. The bell captain seemed interested in a gratuity, so I gave him a one-pound note, the only money I had on me at the moment. He gave it a strange look before pocketing it, and this was perhaps the most forceful reminder yet that I was now in a foreign country.
My rail trip began early the next morning. Again, my ticket had already been paid for, and I found myself in a most congenial conveyance called a Pullman car. Other such cars included dining and viewing coaches, and there were even sleeping cars, with beds, or at least bunks. It truly astonished me that this country could be so large that you could travel for days, and still not reach the other side! Why, the conductor informed me that this single province of New York was but slightly smaller than my own country of England, and that some of the states as they are called are larger than most of the nations on the Continent! They already had 45 of these states and blithely talked of adding more, even some overseas and in the Latin American countries, even in Canada, as if the Queen would allow of such a thing!
As per the instructions in the telegraph, I wired ahead to inform this Mister MacAllister that I would be arriving today, and upon my arrival in the early afternoon, descended from the coach in the hopes of greeting my distant relative. Saratoga Springs seemed a rather sleepy destination, as very few other passengers alit from the train. From the luggage car I saw my trunks being set out, and not espying anyone to greet me I began to make my way to reclaim my possessions.
It was then that I noticed a somewhat confused gentleman approaching the few other passengers and the conductor. Suspecting that this was whom I was to meet, I stayed in place to await his approach, silently taking stock of his appearance. At first he looked rather elderly, but as he neared I realized that this was an error; the appearance of age was due to his silvery-gray hair and the presence of a cane. As he came closer, I could tell that the cane was in fact a walking stick, and that his hair, although indeed silvery in tone, was luxuriously thick and wavy, and went down to his shoulders. Other than that, he was in the peak of health and the prime of life. He was quite tall, almost a foot taller than I, and possessed of a slim waist and hips, but with a manly chest and wide-set shoulders. His high brow spoke of his breeding and intellect. Large and lustrous silvery mustaches graced his clean-shaven countenance. He had gentle and light brown eyes and a straight aquiline nose. His skin was tanned a very dark shade, almost as if it was a light walnut, yet was free from wrinkles everywhere but at the corners of his eyes and lips. The most prominent feature of his face was a long and thin white scar which descended from his left eyebrow to his jaw. He was dressed quite well, if not precisely in an elegant fashion, then certainly in one that showed a considerable degree of refinement. He wore a dark charcoal-colored riding jacket, tight on his frame, with matching riding pants, also tight, tucked into gleaming black riding boots. Under the jacket he wore a lighter charcoal vest and a snowy white silk shirt, with a bright green cravat. His hat was somewhere between what could be called a "cowboy" hat and a top hat and was worn at a jaunty angle. I could only guess his age at no less than the late thirties to no more than fifty, and he appeared to be in excellent shape. I must admit, I was hoping that he was whom I was looking for.
He approached me with a very worried look on his face and raised his stick to his hat in greeting. "Pardon my intrusion, Miss, but did you perhaps see a young child, a girl, on the train? She would be about six years of age or so, and her name is Caroline Pendrake.” he asked.
I blinked and answered with a start. "My name is Caroline Pendrake. Are you Mister James MacAllister, sir?"
He stopped and stared at me, his mouth flapping in silence like a fish in a fishbowl, before he could summon words. "You?...Oh my!...You?...Oh, good heavens!" Finally, he mastered his emotions as I continued to stare at him. He had been expecting a six-year-old child? Stepping back from me slightly, he looked up and down the track. Lifting his right hand to his mouth, he inserted a pair of fingers and let out a piercing whistle which could only be rivaled by the steam whistle of the train itself. The entire station turned in our direction, at which point he removed his hat and waved it frantically above his head.
I was mystified by this and was on the verge of protesting when another man and a woman approached from opposite ends of the platform. The woman was only a few years older than myself, a very attractive redhead several inches taller than I, but the other man was simply astonishing. Taller still than Mister MacAllister, he was at least ten years older and much heavier set, although not portly or stout, and he was an Indiaman, a Musulman in white linen pants, shirt, and floor length coat, dun colored soft boots, with a crimson sash sporting a long dagger, and a crimson turban! I had seen enough Indians in London and around the military to recognize him as a Sikh.
Turning to the others, Mister MacAllister said, "Allow me to introduce Miss Caroline Pendrake, six-year-old!"
The Sikh simply gazed at me, but the young woman started, and exclaimed, "Good heavens!” in a heavy Irish accent.
My temper was beginning to boil over, when Mister MacAllister explained. "Please excuse my intolerably poor manners, Miss Pendrake. In your letter you explained that you were six years old."
"That cannot be, sir, as you can plainly see that I am not!” I protested.
"I have it right here." He reached into his pocket and pulled out my well-traveled envelope and removed the letter I had sent to Mister Carruthers. Squinting at it, he mumbled to himself, then said in a louder voice, "Yes, here it is, 'I will be only six then, with hopes of...', well, it is right here." He handed me the letter.
I glanced at it, but since I was the writer, its contents were already familiar to me. "Excuse me sir, but it says, 'I will be sixteen, with hopes...'"
"What!" He tore the letter from my grasp and began to read it again, squinting fiercely. The young woman began to laugh as the Sikh made what I gathered was a disparaging comment in some Indian tongue. My relation began arguing back scathingly in the same dialect until the Sikh reached into his own pocket and pulled out a pair of wire-rimmed eyeglasses, which Mister MacAllister took with considerable distaste and put on. He reread the letter and grimaced. "Blast!” he swore, tearing off the glasses and thrusting them at the Sikh, and thrusting my letter to the woman. "Blast! Blast! Blast!"
Finally, he regained control of himself and faced me. "Well, my dear, you must think by now I am the perfect madman. I am not, but I will have to admit to a certain vanity where my eyesight is concerned. It would appear as if I have managed to cock things up nicely, indeed. As you can assuredly gather, I have been expecting a child, not a grown woman, but please, I pray you, pay no mind to this. Believe me when I say that you are as welcome as possible. Allow me to introduce Mrs. Siobhan Rourke, your nanny, and Ahkbar Singh, my, ummm, compatriot."
(For those unfamiliar with the Celtic speech, allow me to interject and specify that Siobhan is actually pronounced Sheh-Vawn, an extremely beautiful name for such an improbable spelling. However, as one who has grown up surrounded by the Celts - pronounced Kelts - such as the Irish, Scottish, and Welsh, an Englishman soon learns to ignore their oddities of birth. I do not know who first said that the wogs start at Calais; I've often suspected one does not have to go even that far!)
Mister Singh bowed silently but Mrs. Rourke laughed loudly. "You'll be needing a nanny like I'll be needing a third leg!"
My relation looked pained. "Please, let me apologize again. My behavior was quite outrageous and uncalled for. You had no way of knowing my error, and it most certainly was not your fault! Allow me to make it up to you. If you and Mrs. Rourke will accompany me to a bistro in the town, I will make a start of it. Ahkbar, please see to Miss Pendrake's luggage and then join us if you would." Mister Singh bowed towards me, touching his right hand to his breast then his forehead, before straightening up and moving away. Mister MacAllister stepped between Mrs. Rourke and me, then cocked up his elbows and allowed us to each take one as he escorted us from the station and into the town.
Mid-Summer in upstate New York, which is defined as anything in New York State north or west of Yonkers, is more akin to Spring than Summer. It was warm, with a slight breeze, and the trees and flowers were just beginning to bloom. Mister MacAllister led us to a small inn with an outside gallery and allowed the owner, a portly and small man, to seat us around a small table. He greeted Mister MacAllister profusely, who ordered a bottle of wine, "...something light, perhaps a white? And the usual for Mister Singh, of course." The proprietor promptly returned with two large bottles, opening one and allowing Mister MacAllister to sample the vintage. It was a German wine from the Rhineland. He also opened the other bottle, but left the cork in.
"Now, to the first order of business, Miss Pendrake. Could you possibly forgive my breach of etiquette earlier? And might I call you Caroline? Miss Pendrake sounds so formal for such a lovely young lady as yourself.” my host begged of me.
"Certainly, Mister MacAllister. I must confess, that upon thinking of it, I must have been quite the shock to you. Does this change your desire for me to stay? If so, I am sure that I can return home. A friend of my father's has promised my passage as needs be.” I stated.
He waved this aside. "Impossible! How can you return home when you already are home! You may consider my house your house. If I had been wearing my glasses when I read your letter, my response would have been the same. And please, call me James, or at least Uncle James, if that seems too familiar."
"Thank you, Uncle James."
He turned towards Mrs. Rourke. "As to you, Madame, I fear I have dreadfully mistreated you. When I retained your services, it was on the assumption you would be Caroline's nanny and governess, yet such a state hardly bears thinking." To me he said, "I brought Mrs. Rourke here from Boston and now have little proper employ for her." Turning back to my erstwhile governess, he continued, "So I will put to you a pair of propositions. First, you could return to Boston, with a generous severance and an excellent reference, for I am sure you would have earned it. Or, on the other hand, I can continue your employment, not as a nanny, but as a friend and companion to Caroline, as she gets used to life here in Saratoga. You are both of an age together, and I would be comforted to know that my niece would have someone to go shopping with and talk to. At other times, perhaps you could be my corresponding secretary, since it is obvious that correspondence is my weak suit. Might you be interested, my dear?"
Mrs. Rourke smiled at me. "That sounds quite interesting, actually. I only just got here. Why should I want to turn right around and go back to Boston? Caroline, call me Siobhan."
"Capital!” exclaimed my uncle. Just then, a very handsome open carriage pulled up to the curb, propelled by a beautiful pair of matched black geldings. Ahkbar Singh stepped down from the driver's seat and tied the reins off. He made his way towards us through the garden's side gate. "Just in time, Ahkbar!" Uncle James opened the second bottle and poured some in the Sikh's glass. "I have made amends for my behavior and Miss Pendrake will be staying with us."
"Be welcome and may Allah's blessings be upon you.” he replied in English, intoned with a voice deeper than even Uncle James' gravelly baritone. "And the nanny?” he asked with a twinkle and a wink at Siobhan.
"We shall continue her employment, only as my secretary."
"Excellent. She may read your letters for you." He handed Uncle James' spectacles across the table to Siobhan, at which both she and my uncle laughed. He then turned back to me. "So, child, was your voyage a comfortable one?"
"Oh, quite, sir. I must thank you, Uncle James, the arrangements and accommodations were simply superb. I hardly spent a shilling of your money." I reached into my purse and pulled out the bank notes I had remaining, along with the notepaper that I had written my expenses upon. "I have an accounting for you here, sir."
Now it was his turn to appear shocked. "What! Well, I never expected anything like that! That is your money, Caroline, to do with as you please. What in the world did you count my pennies for?"
I explained how my father's solicitor had handled the funds for the passage and told me to keep a proper accounting for him. "The purser told me that a ten-pound gratuity would be sufficient, and I spent another pound at the Waldorf Astoria the other day. On the trip over, only wines and spiritous liquors were not covered by the fare, so I did not imbibe spirits. I have here 89 pounds sterling for you, Uncle James.” and handed them over, along with the tally sheet.
"Oh, my dear, how dreadful. Trust a lawyer to encumber things. I knew that we should all have come over to bring you back. I am so terribly sorry for all of this."
The thought that he would pay first class steamship fares to take the three of them to England to retrieve a child he had never met before was astonishing! "I don't understand."
"Well, that was simply spending money for a small child! I assumed you would buy candy or such with it. That's why I provided more for whoever was bringing you over. I certainly never expected it back!"
"Well, that explains the companion. None of us could understand what that was about. Good heavens, a hundred pounds worth of candy, why you'd have had to roll me down the gangplank!” I exclaimed.
Uncle James stared at the bank notes, then pushed them across the table to Ahkbar. "See that these get deposited tomorrow, at whatever the current rate is." Reaching into his coat pocket, he retrieved a slim wallet. He pulled out a sheaf of American notes and pressed them in my hand. "Here, take these. You and Siobhan can go shopping this week. No, don't argue, if you need more, I have credit with all the local shops."
Half-dazed I took the proffered money. My newfound uncle obviously had far more capital then I could conceive of. His attire and coach and the arrangements for travel had all stated quietly his wealth, but the very idea of tossing a hundred pounds sterling at a six-year-old for candy spoke of dazzling funds. It was all I could do to croak out my thanks.
The ride to Uncle James' house was a short one, perhaps all of twenty minutes in length. House is not the correct term for the marvelous edifice that awaited our arrival. Mansion is the more proper term. Uncle James protested that it wasn't all that grand, only having fourteen bedrooms, and that Cornelius would not even consider it fit to be a tenement.
"Cornelius?” I questioned him.
I gaped. "You know Cornelius Vanderbilt?” I exclaimed.
"Oh yes, loaned him some money once, in fact. Rather too flashy for my tastes, however. Everything has to be bigger than anyone else's, his mansion, his yacht. I suppose that if I were to show up at his door on a larger horse than his he would have to buy an elephant from Mr. Barnum to outdo me."
The mansion was at the end of a long chestnut-shrouded drive, and as we arrived, more than a few of his staff came up and lined the walkway to greet us. The house, as he called it, was an imposing brick and granite structure, fully three stories tall, with a broad front and a pair of long wings. Uncle James stepped down and then helped me alight, then turned to our audience and introduced me, saying I would have all the privileges of the house, although I had no idea at the time all that this would mean. The ladies all curtsied and the men all doffed their caps and bowed slightly, then Ahkbar had several men take my trunks to my rooms while Uncle James led me inside. While my belongings were taken to my quarters, my uncle took me on what he called 'the nickel tour'.
In brief, the first floor was entirely public rooms, specifically the kitchen, any number of parlors and salons, a pair of dining rooms, one monstrously large, and a very grand ball room. The second floor of the west wing held servants quarters, while the third floor held Uncle James’ suite, Mister Singh's rooms, Siobhan's rooms, and my suite. The entirety of the second and third floors of the east wing were guest rooms. Interior plumbing was liberally sprinkled throughout the residence, and even the servants’ quarters had access to shared facilities. My own suite, only slightly smaller than my wealthy relation's, consisted of a large parlor, a sleeping chamber of considerable size, a dressing room, innumerable closets, and a bath with both a water closet and a bidet!
"Now, Caroline, if this is not satisfactory, simply let me know. I had originally planned on an even larger suite, but I had that converted to a nursery, and it will take a few days to convert back, I suppose." He showed me an absolutely beautiful nursery, complete to a gilded hobbyhorse, which he rocked gently, smiling. "I think that perhaps you might wish to trade this in on the genuine article."
A horse? "I don't know, sir. I've never ridden before."
"What! How dreadful, we shall have to obtain a riding costume for you straight away. There is nothing quite like a good canter in the morning." He led me back to my suite, where he left me in the care of a pair of young maids, with instructions to help me bathe and rest, and that dinner would be at seven, or whenever I came downstairs, if that was too early. Then he left me in the care of my new keepers.
The maids were sisters only a year or so older than me, with only a year separating them. Both girls were dressed plainly but becomingly and had a well-scrubbed and wholesome look. Both were quite comely to look upon, as in fact were all the maids and cooks that I had seen, a rather unusual thing given the general human condition. Another curious item was that aside from Mister Singh, whose position seemed to be that of butler and majordomo, the entire staff of the household consisted of young ladies. The various men I had seen earlier were all employed outside of the house, upon the grounds, and lived in a large bunkhouse behind the mansion. My maids’ names were Jenny, and her older sister, Bessie.
I endeavored to put Mrs. Pembleton's training to good use. Although my parents had never been able to afford servants, I had seen them on occasion at various Foreign Ministry affairs, and Mrs. Pembleton had a most practical curriculum in many ways. She had warned us of the immense danger that mistreated servants could be, and of the immense benefit that a properly treated servant was, and I tried to be as pleasant as possible, making no orders but only requests, and saying 'Please' and 'Thank you' frequently.
After I had shown the pair how I wanted my clothing taken care of and exploring my new residence, one at least of the size of my family's home in London before my parents’ untimely demise, Bessie suggested that I bathe and relax prior to dinner. It had been a long and tiring day and I readily agreed. I was, however, surprised when, instead of taking my remarks as a dismissal, Jenny went into the bath to begin drawing a hot tub, while Bessie went behind me and began unbuttoning my dress. I had never had body servants before, and my confusion must have been evident, for Bessie stopped briefly and explained that she and her sister would help me disrobe, and bathe, and then dress later, and that perhaps I would enjoy the entire process. Deciding to keep an open mind about it, I allowed her to continue.
As the tub filled and Jenny began laying out soaps and fragrances, and then a light silk robe for afterwards, Bessie soon had me standing in my undergarments, a shift, petticoat, light travel corset, bloomers, stockings, and high buttoned shoes. After hanging my dress over a chair, she knelt and helped me off with my shoes, then stood and undid the front stays on my corset. I must report that having assistance with a corset is quite intoxicating and, may I say, addictive. I untied my petticoat and handed it to her, and Bessie remarked that she would have my clothing cleaned the next day. She then rolled my stockings down my calves, and barefoot and dressed but in my bloomers and shift, I went into the bath to finish disrobing and to bathe.
I was most surprised when Bessie followed behind me and Jenny stayed to help in this process. My mind awhirl, I allowed the pair to raise my arms and lift my shift above my head. I retained enough thought to step out of my own bloomers, although the pair moved towards me with the intentions of helping here as well. They then assisted me in stepping into the large porcelain claw-foot tub in the center of the bath. While I had spent a number of years boarding in a ladies' finishing school, with the incumbent lack of privacy, I had never had such active assistance in my toilet. The reader can well imagine my astonishment when, once installed in the delightfully hot bathwater, I witnessed both my maids undo their frocks and kick off their shoes as well, to stand before me in only their light shifts as well. They then knelt on either side of me, and picking up soap and wash cloths, began to scrub my back and arms. Jenny and Bessie kept up a constant patter about life here at the mansion, and I listened intently, trying to learn as much about my new life as possible.
My bath was a most pleasurable experience, especially once my bathers finished with my back and limbs. Neither girl was the least reticent about washing my bosom or my loins, and in point of truth, spent considerable time soaping and rinsing my quim, which became considerably heated, and not simply from the bathwater. I simply lay back against the tub and allowed their hands to roam my body, luxuriating in the many small spendings they were providing.
This was not at all the first time I had allowed myself to indulge in the Sapphic pleasures. One should consider that I had spent several of my most formative years in a ladies' boarding school, rooming with other equally young and nubile women. Mrs. Pembleton had blatantly ignored any evidence of such trysting, feeling, quite rightly I am sure, that such affairs were only temporary at worst, and that as we grew to womanhood we would assuredly take nature's proper course and find our preference with the male of the species.
My first such tryst occurred but shortly after I returned to school following my parent's funeral. I was but thirteen, and just coming into my womanhood, and returned in a most despondent condition. We roomed four to a suite, with several older girls in with younger ones, to teach by example the necessities of such a way of life to those less knowledgeable. An older girl, Tess Harcourt, had taken me under her wing and befriended me, and was most distressed by my state. Late one afternoon, while our roommates were out, she came to me to comfort me, hugging and kissing my face. I responded with thanks, returning her kisses and hugs, and Tess continued with her caresses. I responded as well, and before our friends had returned shortly before dinner, we had both ended up naked, kissing and caressing each other's bodies in joyful abandon.
I was to discover over the succeeding months, that to one extent or another, almost all of the older girls had participated in such trysts. While I seemed to inherently shy away from them, I was honest enough with myself to realize the pleasure they provided. I simply had witnessed enough of my parent's joy in marriage to realize that the more proper congress of a man and a woman seemed to hold the greater pleasures I desired. This is not to say that I avoided such intercourse. In actuality, I was deflowered not by a man, but by another woman, losing my maidenhead to the intrusion of the handle of a large and substantial hairbrush. Most of us had such inanimate assistants for times of need.
Mrs. Pembleton seemed not to notice the occasional couplings of young ladies which came to her attention. Perhaps this was due to the fact that she, herself a widow, had recently remarried, to the chief groundskeeper, a strapping man a number of years younger than she. Rumor had it that she required his attentions several times a day, and on more than one occasion I had chance to see him leave her office after a 'consultation', to find her radiantly reinvigored, with a detectable scent of passion in the air.
So, I allowed Jenny and Bessie to pleasure me. By the time the water had become tepid, both their upper shifts were sopping wet, molding to their buxom forms. They helped me aright, drying me with large towels as I stepped from the tub, then held the silk robe for me to dress in. After, I was seated at a large mirrored vanity. Taking a hairbrush, Bessie began to comb my flaxen curls, while her sister moved to my side to provide a manicure. This was luxuriousness defined.
I was mystified, however, when Bessie began to strop a razor while Jenny mixed lather in a shaving bowl. I was informed that most of the women in the household shaved their bodies. It seemed that most of them had gentlemen callers with whom they allowed considerable liberties, and that this had become a popular enhancement of their natural charms. I was rather put off by the whole idea until Jenny pointed out that this would allow the wearing of the sheerest stockings, a notion that I was quite in fond of. I know that this was a most pointless undertaking, considering that a lady should never allow a gentleman to see her stockings, but why then do we wear them, if not to be seen? Of all the Victorian hypocrisies which I have outgrown, this always seemed the strangest.
I relented and opened my robe at the hem, lifting a foot to Jenny's lap, whereupon she lathered me lightly to just below the knee. Bessie knelt at her side and was most careful in removing the pale down upon my lower limb. I watched in fascination, and Bessie then had her sister move higher, from mid-calf to just above my knee. This level would certainly require me to be a good deal more risqué in showing my stockings. I failed to protest in time, when the pair began to barber well above my knees, and I soon found my thighs shorn as well. Despite my protest, it was decided that my other limb must needs be trimmed in the same fashion.
As Bessie shaved my other thigh, Jenny began a gentle foot massage, with a most erotic connotation. Her shift had slid down to her waist, and she had pressed the ball of my foot into her ample breast. I could feel her nipple tightening. I was so totally distracted, that I failed to notice that Bessie had lathered the fine down on my quim and had begun shaving this as well. I looked down and shrieked as I found myself as bare as I would have been if actually I had been a six-year-old moving into this house! In more intimate moments I could conceive of allowing a gentleman a glimpse of my legs, but under no circumstances could I dream of allowing him to see to this level! Bessie calmed me, saying that if I were ever to trust her, then I should trust her in this. It was too late to protest in any fashion, and the next outrageous thing that occurred was when the pair stripped me of my robe and shaved under my arms, saying that this was a peculiarly American passion.
I was most compliant, dazed and confused, as they led me from my bath back to my bedroom. As I laid back on the covers, they both removed their shifts and turned before me, displaying the fact that they, too, had undergone this process, and I must admit that I found the sight intriguing and most exciting to my passions. When neither moved to don their clothes, I silently invited them into my bed, whereupon I received a gentle massage and backrub, and a much more vigorous frontal massage. Despite my inclinations in favor of the male form, which in all honesty I had yet to partake, I quite eagerly joined with them in what the French call the ménage a trois. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the lack of cunt hair allowed me to readily attack the nubbins at the tops of their slits, and that said shaving eliminated the possibility of getting any fluff caught in my teeth! After a most extended session, we all reclined on the oversize quilts and drifted to sleep, wrapped in each other's arms.
We awoke shortly before six in the evening, and while Jenny was interested in resuming our afternoon pursuits, an interest I was rather secretly avid for as well, her older sister remarked as to the passage of time and the approaching dinner hour. With considerable reluctance we climbed from my bedsheets to dress. Both the maids were dressed in a trice, but my habiliment took longer. "How formal should I dress?” I asked. "Does my Uncle James dine quite formally? You've both known him much longer than I."
"Well, not really.” said Jenny. "I have only been with Mister MacAllister since last month. However, Bessie has been a maid here for a year now. It was she who recommended me for this position. Perhaps she could better answer the question." Both of us turned to face her older sister.
"Well, Mister MacAllister is not the most formal of gentlemen, but neither is he the least.” she replied thoughtfully. "I should say that Sunday supper is often quite formal, and whenever guests are in residence as well, but for the most part, a pretty dress will do quite nicely." She searched through the apparel they had hung in my closet. "Yes, this should be appropriate, I would think."
I gasped as I saw the dress she removed and held out to me. I had bought it almost on a dare, shopping with my friends, wishing for one new dress for my voyage, but had never worn it, being most nervous once I tried it on alone. It was red, a dark crimson hue, and made from the new rayon fiber; it was rather shiny and supple, and molded itself well to my form, with a simple bustle and peplum. This, in truth, was part of the problem. The fabric was so clingy and the bodice so low cut that when I put it on in my cabin and looked at myself in the mirror, I instantly felt as if a slattern was staring back. I promptly removed it, vowing to dispose of it as soon as possible.
"I cannot!” I cried. "I shall look like a trollop!"
Bessie simply smiled. "On the contrary, you will look ravishing. I must warn you; your Uncle's gray hair is quite premature; he is younger than he appears and has a marked appreciation for the ladies. If I owned such a dress, you may be assured that I would wear it when with him!"
Shocked, I gasped out, "But he's my Uncle!"
Jenny responded to this. "Yes, but a most distant relation nevertheless."
"I find him a most fascinating man, and a most eligible bachelor as well. As much as I love my dear sister, if offered the choice between her and your Uncle, Jenny would find herself on a dustheap!” said Bessie.
Jenny laughed at her sister's remark. "You are so much gentler than I, dear Bessie. I would use arsenic on you, given the choice."
At this we all laughed. "It's simply so, well, intemperate." I explained how I had come to purchase it.
"Regardless, this is the dress you should wear. I am sure that Mrs. Rourke will find something equally pretty. She has been here for several days already and has already begun to gauge your Uncle's preferences.” said Bessie. It was this last remark that swayed me. While I was already beginning to like Siobhan and enjoy her company, no woman can resist such a challenge.
As we all suspected, it was impossible for me to wear the dress over one of my shifts, and the bodice was so low that even my corsets would show. I completely refused to even consider going downstairs without undergarments, and we were stumped. Then Jenny bolted from the room, crying, "I'll be back!” while Bessie and I considered the problem of my wardrobe. Within minutes the young maid had returned, bearing several silken items, quite lacy and black. She held them up.
Her left hand held a most abbreviated pair of bloomers, her right held a foundation garment, what she called a 'French brassiere'. She explained how she thought that Charity, the pastry cook, and I seemed to be of the same size, and she had obtained them on loan. When I asked how she could afford such fineries on a cook's wages, Jenny grinned and told me they had been provided by a gentleman friend.
The bloomers I could understand, despite their scandalous nature, and I slipped them on. They had India rubber in the waistband and fit well. Jenny and Bessie had to assist with the French brassiere, since I had never worn such a thing before. It basically consisted of two half-cups, sheer and black, to support my boobies, with a strap across the back and one over each shoulder to hold the affair on and in place. Once dressed in it, my breasts were supported well, being both secure and snug, yet since the cups were only of a partial nature, my boobies rested atop them, feeling free and unencumbered. My small nipples were left uncovered by the black lace. I slipped into my stockings and shoes, then stepped into the dress, which Jenny buttoned behind me while Bessie held my hair back. They led me to the floor length mirror.
It was no sixteen-year-old trollop in the glass. Cinderella had been transformed into the Princess! I gasped as I saw myself and turned back to the maids. My eyes welled up with tears as I hugged them fiercely. "How will I ever repay you for your kindness?” I gushed.
Bessie simply shrugged this off, but Jenny replied, "I want to be invited to the wedding." I playfully swatted her at the scandalous thought.
"No jewelry?” asked Bessie. At my negative response, she continued, "Well not to worry, a scarlet ribbon in the back to hold your hair will be adornment enough. Besides, the best jewelry is that provided by a gentleman, and with dresses like that, you shall soon be swimming in diamonds and pearls."
Jenny reached out and fondled my exceedingly exposed bosom. "With jewels like these, who needs diamonds and pearls?"
When I entered the smaller of the two dining halls I discovered that I was the last to arrive, but only by seconds. Both Uncle James and Mister Singh were greeting Siobhan. Bessie had been correct in her assumption of my Uncle's informality, as his attire was no more formal than that in which he had retrieved me from the train, although it was more suited for the residence. It was then that I remembered and considered their comments concerning the distance of our relation, and his high degree of suitability as a husband, and I began to consider such a possibility in earnest. Mister Singh had changed only slightly. I was soon to learn that he was almost always attired in linen pantaloons, shirt and long jacket, and that his dagger never left his side. Jenny and Bessie were also correct in their assessment of Siobhan's probable attire. While her bodice was nowhere near as extravagant as mine, her Kelly-green ensemble suited her hair and fair coloration perfectly, and her dress had a most daring slit to mid-calf, through which an exceedingly fine petticoat could be seen. We smiled and hugged in greeting as the cheerful rivalry began, and as we marshaled our resources I could sense that my bountiful bosom would be vying with her much longer legs for the attentions of any gentlemen we chanced to do battle over. I immediately understood the necessity of obtaining undergarments of my own of the requisite nature, and several more dresses with the necessarily abbreviated bodice.
"Verily we have died and gone to Paradise, for where but in Paradise could we find two such houris.” commented the Sikh, to which my Uncle agreed. I asked Ahkbar to explain, and blushed as he described the Musulman vision of heaven.
Mrs. Pembleton and several of her instructresses had held classes of a most highly informal nature regarding the means and methods needed to impress oneself upon a gentleman, all the while without seeming to be in pursuit. They all agreed that the single tactic most suitable for such a conflict was to get the gentleman to talk about himself! In the meantime, one simply bats one's eyes while gazing adoringly at the intended victim, hanging on every word, with an occasional breathy sigh at those moments he thinks he is being most interesting. Certainly, in my present dress, a breathy sigh would focus a gentleman's attentions marvelously! Mrs. Rourke had apparently attended the same classes, because she was able to match me sigh for sigh, but since her arsenal was beneath the table while mine was above, I had the better of the battle.
Although my Uncle attempted to deflect our questioning with questions of his own about me, both Siobhan and I kept the conversation squarely upon his history, and Uncle James acceded to our interrogation with a considerable degree of grace, albeit with a considerably lesser degree of forthcoming. "You have so much art from India, Uncle James. You must have spent time in that country.” I mentioned.
"You seem familiar with the country yourself. Have you ever been there?” he asked.
"Oh, my, no. However, one cannot grow up the daughter of an English officer without learning something about the subcontinent.” I remarked. "For instance, I know that Mister Singh is a Sikh, since all Sikhs have the last name Singh, which means lion in their tongue."
"Most perceptive, Miss. Few in this country would understand that.” commented Ahkbar, eyeing me with interest.
"I quite agree, Ahkbar.” agreed my Uncle. "It's unfortunate that Mister Pinkerton is no longer with us, as I am sure that Caroline would have found profitable employment in his agency!"
"Mister Pinkerton?” I asked.
"Allen Pinkerton. He was a private detective of considerable repute, similar to your Mister Doyle's Sherlock Holmes, only real. He died ten or twelve years ago."
"So, how did you make your way there and back? May I assume you met Mister Singh there?” interjected Siobhan. Our genial battle for my relation's attentions continued with a renewed attack from the opposing general! Still, I had learned much from a military background, and felt confident in my abilities to defeat my opponent. An energetic sigh riveted his attention back to my almost nonexistent bodice.
"Well, if you must insist, yes, I spent a number of years there in my youth."
"Were you born there?” asked my rival.
"Oh, no. Actually, I was born on a farm in Morristown, New Jersey. That's where our branch of the family settled.” he said to me. "But when I was Caroline's age, I began to develop a severe case of wanderlust, and combined with a complete hatred for staring at the south end of a north bound mule, I ran away from home. I rode the rails to San Francisco, in California, then worked my passage on a clipper ship to the Orient. When we stopped in Madras, I gathered my meager possessions and departed the ship's company, rather informally if I might say.” he continued.
"I don't understand.” I admitted.
"He jumped ship.” explained Ahkbar, "perhaps with the contents of the ship's safe, eh?" Siobhan and I were properly scandalized at the thought.
"Hogwash! I was simply obtaining the pay which I had worked for! That captain wouldn't have paid us till we got back to the States, of all things.” Uncle James protested, tacitly admitting the charge. "Well, after that, I simply wandered the subcontinent, met Ahkbar, and then, after a few years, came home. I decided that since farm boy hadn't worked out so well, maybe I should try robber-baron."
Ahkbar commented in his foreign tongue, at which my Uncle laughed and replied in kind. He refused to comment or translate. Most curious!
We continued to press for details, without being satisfied, although we did learn a few things. My Uncle stayed in India and the surrounding regions, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Kashmir, the Punjab, and all those other heathen lands, for the better part of ten years, accompanied almost from the start by Ahkbar. Their bond was extraordinarily tight, enough so that when Uncle James came back to America, Mister Singh came with him and they had stayed together ever since, a period of almost fifteen years. In one curious moment, each claimed that the other had saved his life! Perhaps they both had saved each other's life.
Dinner and dessert were long past when we finished in the sitting room with brandy. This proved to be a tactical mistake on my part, for without the intervening table, Siobhan was free to daintily cross her ankles with an ever-so-gentle whisper of her petticoat. It took several breathy sighs to return my relation's attentions to where I felt them proper.
It was near midnight when the party broke apart, and as Ahkbar Singh escorted Mrs. Rourke out, I stayed back and pressed a hand to Uncle James' wrist. He looked at me curiously as I held him back as the others left the room. Finally, when we were alone, I asked, "Uncle James, one thing I do not understand. At the café this afternoon, Mister Singh, who is a Musulman, drank wine, as he did again this evening. However, he did not drink the same wine as we, but from a different bottle. Why is that?"
"You really are most perceptive, my dear.” he replied with a judicious nod. "Again, most do not understand the Koranic prohibition against spirits. I fear that my friend follows the letter of the law but not the spirit, with no pun intended. The prohibition is against consuming the fermentation of the grape or the fermentation of grain. What Ahkbar drinks is mead, a fermentation of honey, which he argues is neither grape nor grain. He would have made an excellent lawyer, I fear. In any regards, it is little enough to stock a supply of mead in my cellars, and to request that the local restaurateurs do likewise."
With this explanation, I bid him good night and retired to my rooms. I was most surprised to find a young lady reclining on my bed wearing a thin cotton robe. "Hello. Can I help you?” I asked.
The girl, only a few years older than myself, arose from the bed and came to me. "Good evening. My name is Charity and I came to retrieve a few of my belongings."
I remembered that Charity was the name of the person who had loaned me my present undergarments. "Oh, excuse me, yes. Thank you so much. I really had nothing with which to wear this dress. I hope you don't mind! I planned to return them in the morning." I reached behind me and began to unbutton my dress.
Charity stepped behind me and gently took over for me. As she continued to undo the buttons, she simply said, "Not to worry. I was most happy to help you. I simply figured that this would be a chance to meet you. Besides, I wanted a chance to wash them tonight, since I will need them tomorrow evening. The gentleman who supplied them is calling on me, and I'm certain he plans to inspect them for fit. At least I hope he does!"
I giggled as I stepped out of the dress, now puddling at my feet, and Charity unfastened the French brassiere and drew it away from my body. Then she came around to my front. She loosened the small sash holding her robe together and drew it off, to stand naked before me, then sank to her knees. I was most pleasantly surprised when she reached up to the waistband of the transparent black bloomers and drew them down, then leaned forward and buried her face between my thighs.
Charity did not stay long that evening, simply a period sufficient for the both of us to make the most intimate acquaintance and cuddle afterwards. The next morning, I awoke refreshed and relaxed, lazing in bed sinfully until I felt the first pangs of hunger. I disdained the need for servants to dress, so I made my way to the bath and drew water in the sink, then with a small towel made a whore's-bath for myself, and yes, I had heard the term before and understood the implications. It refreshed me further, and afterwards I dressed in a light shift and a simple gingham dress, then went down to breakfast.
Siobhan was already up and finishing her coffee when I arrived. Without Uncle James around, we could relax our combative skills and simply be friends, so she waited while I was served and continued drinking her coffee. It was decided that today we would explore the grounds, as she had only arrived a few days before I and had little opportunity to explore herself. We would take a coach into Saratoga the next day and go shopping.
The MacAllister estate was devoted to raising horses, thoroughbreds for racing, and consisted of all the necessities to do so. While there were some cattle and chickens, these were only for milk and eggs and such needed to maintain the residents of the estate; they were not sold at market. We spent a considerable time wandering through the barns and stables, along the fenced in pastures, and around the many small workshops and tack rooms spread out over the considerable acreage. The horses were absolutely magnificent, and I was not at all surprised when Siobhan informed me that but a short way back towards the town was the finest racing track in the country. Several other such estates were in the region, which was making a bid to replace Kentucky as the premier source of thoroughbred horses in America. Along the way I discovered one of the many joys of living on a farm - there were cats and kittens everywhere!
It was during this exploration that I began to discern just how informal living on the estate could be. Siobhan and I had been passing by the blacksmith's shop and we noticed a young lady was inside talking with the blacksmith, a very large man with a trim beard. Neither of us paid it any note, and we stopped to talk by a fence near a side window. I stopped to watch a most curious sight, and Siobhan followed my gaze through the window.
First, the blacksmith turned from the young woman, whom neither Siobhan nor I knew yet, and stripped off his tunic and apron. Then, bare-chested, and a very impressive chest it was, he bent over a large barrel of water and immersed his head and upper body in it, cooling himself and washing his torso. Finished he walked back to the girl, who promptly knelt before him. He then undid his breeches and pushed them down his thighs, to stand before him with his manhood rampant before her. Eagerly she leaned forward, opening her mouth wide to take his cockshaft between her lips, and I was impressed with her ability, inasmuch as it was proportional to his large frame. Then as she reached between his legs to fondle the pendulous sack present there, she played a happy tune on the mouth organ, culminating in a crescendo satisfying to both player and played. Afterwards, she kissed him and took her leave, and he resumed his professional duties.
Mrs. Rourke and I crept away quietly and could scarce whisper to ourselves about what we had just witnessed before we found ourselves among others and were perforce required to stop. We were near what was called the bunkhouse, where the male staff had their rooms and kitchen, and several of the men invited us to lunch with them. Curious, we made our way inside, to find Jenny and Charity serving a hot luncheon in the dining area attached to the large kitchen. Most of the men came in, to wash and be seated, and we joined them at a one of several large trestle-type tables. Lunch consisted of a good vegetable soup and several meat sandwiches. I should note that while nothing of the like which we had witnessed before occurred as we dined, the men felt free to touch and caress Jenny and Charity most freely, placing their hands on the two girl's backsides frequently, and neither of them seemed to be wearing undergarments.
After lunch, Charity showed us around the bunkhouse. It was a long and low-slung building with a number of rooms running down a central hallway from the dining area. Some of the rooms did indeed hold stacked beds, or bunks, for more junior workers. As a man increased in seniority and responsibility, he moved from a four-man room, to a two-man room, thence to a small single room, and finally into a larger room, although bath facilities were in common.
It was in one of the larger rooms that we received our next shock. Charity was explaining how much larger a foreman's room was and decided to show us by opening up a door into one such. Ushering us in, we found ourselves in the presence of Jack Strong, a foreman, an older man intermediate in age between my Uncle and Ahkbar Singh, and of a medium size and build but with very rough and capable hands, and Jenny. Both were as naked as the day they were born, with Mister Strong laying on his back while Jenny straddled him, riding him like the stallion that I could clearly see he was! His callused hands were pawing at her bosom and she was squealing with delight as she gave him a vigorous ride. They both looked over as we came in the door, but neither made any effort to cover their nudity or terminate the ride. We made our embarrassed apologies and closed the door behind us.
Afterwards, Siobhan and I both wanted to talk about what we had seen that day and went into one of the large barns. We were distracted by one of the innumerable kittens deciding that we were exemplary prey, pouncing on us. Determining that we were not really overgrown mice, it playfully scampered off and we chased it up a set of stairs to the hayloft. We lost sight of it briefly, then followed it through a doorway into the other end of the barn. Below us we saw a breeding pen, in use.
The breeding pen was where a mare was placed when it was decided to breed her to a particular stallion. This was not allowed to be done haphazardly, but was followed quite closely, to develop specific bloodlines for instance, and required considerable care in the selection of the proper pair. At present, the mare was already in the pen, tied by her halter to a bar, and a young man called Little David from his stature (or lack of it, actually!) was leading a stallion into the stall. The stallion seemed to understand precisely what was about to occur and seemed rather anxious to begin, sporting an incredible tumescence. Maude, one of the house servants, was standing next to a bale of hay, watching the proceedings.
Once locked in the stall, the stallion rapidly got down to business, and as Siobhan and I spied on him, reared up and mounted the mare, burying himself, a most lengthy process. Then we stared goggle-eyed as Little David came up behind Maude. Undoing his own pants, he lifted her skirt to her waist and leaned her over the bale of hay, to repeat the act being performed before them. Both mares squealed with delight, and both stallions bucked and snorted their pleasure as well. Finally, when the stallion finished with his duty, he climbed off and watched Little David and Maude finishing theirs. Afterwards, Little David returned the stallion to the pasture and Maude returned to the mansion. My most coherent memory of the entire affair was that Little David was misnamed; Goliath would have been more appropriate, since his manhood was quite probably the largest I have ever seen! It was certainly the largest I had seen to that time, admittedly a very small number, but in hindsight I must stand by that statement, and as I write this memoir, I must say that I have since seen more than a few.
Both Siobhan and I crept away, to return to the other end of the hayloft, whereupon we lay down on a few coarse horse blankets to discuss these amazing scenes. The kitten followed us and curled up between us to sleep, and we discussed the amazingly debauched household we found ourselves in. She admitted that she had done all that we had seen with her own husband.
"That raises a question, Mrs. Rourke. Where might Mister Rourke be?” I asked.
Siobhan looked startled, then grinned. "Oh, he's in Boston, but I fear he is quite busy pushing up daisies." At my curious look, she continued, "He's been dead these several years, Caroline. I am a widow."
I apologized profusely, which she waved off as unnecessary. "I am curious.” I admitted. "You are not many years older than I, so how can you be a widow several years."
"Well, you see, I married when I was your age, at sixteen, but within our first year found myself widowed. Michael died nigh on four years ago, so the pain is gone, but not the memories, and they were sweet memories indeed."
"Go on. I am all ears.” I urged.
"Well, just in case you haven't learned by now, I grew up in Boston, in a large Catholic family. Michael was my second cousin and a good six years older. I have to admit that when I was little, he was the most cruel and terrible tease, but then, when I was nine, his family moved across the country to California. I did not see him again for another six years. At that time, he was twenty-one and about to enter his last year at the Rensselaer school."
"The what school?” I asked.
"The Rensselaer school. It is an engineering college, quite prestigious despite the ridiculous name. In fact, you rode by it on your trip here, it is only thirty miles south of here, near Albany. But anyway, he was visiting the family in Boston for a few days when we met again. I think it was love at first sight! He was no longer the snotty brat I remembered, and I was in my bloom, if I do say so myself. We wrote each other constantly, several times a day, and he found a position in Boston after he matriculated, at an engineering firm that built bridges. As soon as he came to town he asked my father for my hand, and we were married that summer. I was only sixteen, but my family knew Michael to be a good man with a fine position. We had a most glorious, if brief, marriage, although it got off to a most terrible start."
"Really? How so?” I asked.
"It was my mother's fault, really. I grew up in a very conservative household, and a very large family if you count cousins and all, but I was practically the only girl in the bunch! I had five brothers, and the only other girls in the family were a pair of twin newborn cousins! Momma was extremely religious, and marital relations were quite indistinguishable to her from the most sordid work of the devil. I led an extremely protected life. She never let me out of the house unattended, even when Michael was courting me, and she filled my head with the most terrible notions of what was to be expected of me by my husband.” admitted Siobhan.
"That doesn't make a lot of sense, Siobhan. I mean, how did you and your brothers get here, if she didn't take an active part?"
Siobhan grinned and shook her head. "That is because she played a most inactive part. On my wedding night, she advised me to lie back, grit my teeth, close my eyes, and repeat the rosary to myself while my husband had his dastardly way with me. It was a mortal sin to do anything more, and even that little would be sinful if it were not my husband's marital right to force himself upon me. She had me so scared that I almost called off the wedding."
"But you went through with it anyway.” I stated.
She laughed. "Good heavens, child, I had to! People had shown up from all across the country, my father would have killed me!"
"So, what happened? I gather you discovered your mother was wrong?"
"Eventually. I was quite terrified that immediately following the ceremony, Michael was going to tear my wedding gown from me and ravish me right there on the altar. When that failed to happen, I relaxed somewhat until later that evening, when he loaded me into a carriage and drove us to a small house owned by a friend. The friend had agreed to lend us the house for a few days, until we could move my belongings into Michael's. As he carried me across the threshold I burst into tears at my imminent ruin."
Siobhan laughed quietly as she remembered her not so distant past. "Needless to say, my husband failed to ravish me on the floor of the foyer. At nine or so, we retired to our bedchamber, and I put on my new white nightshirt, and Michael removed his boots and shirt and settled into bed next to me. I was already cowering under the covers, and promptly burst into unbearable tears." She sat up and looked at me intensely, her movements causing the kitten to wake and wander off. "To this day I bless Michael for treating me so gently that night. If he had simply taken his pleasure upon me, I have no doubt I would have ended as bitter as my mother. Instead he took hours talking to me, calming me, professing his love for me. It was ridiculous. First he had to talk me into pulling the quilt down, then the sheet, then into removing my nightshirt, and then finally into uncurling and laying back. At every step, I would comply, then begin crying again! It was utterly pathetic!"
"Well, then what?” I pressed.
"Well, then he touched me, and my tears turned instantly into tears of joy! It was as if a bolt of lightning had struck me and burned clear to my soul! My very flesh pulsed as he moved his hands over me, and I gasped and cried out my love for him as I grasped his body to mine. As soon as we had finished one course, I would begin begging for another, and we didn't fall asleep until well after dawn. It was glorious!” she exclaimed, sinking back on the blankets in happy reverie.
"Oh, my heavens!” I exclaimed. "Your husband must have thought you perfectly mad!"
"Oh, he did, he did, but once I knew just how wrong my mother was, I was able to demonstrate my affections quite convincingly."
"Did it hurt that first time? I know it did with me.” I said.
"What, your first time! I thought you had never been with a man. Or have you?” she asked, gaping across at me.
I blushed. "I have not. It was a hairbrush, and it stung terribly."
Siobhan snorted and laughed. "Well, then you should have waited for the real thing. It is a considerable improvement."
"So, the two of you were able to overcome your mother's warnings to you?"
"Oh, my, yes! To be honest, I was not Michael's first woman, I mean how could I have been? He was twenty-two, and had been away to college and all, but he proved an excellent instructor, and I tried to be the best pupil possible. He was most insistent on having his husbandly way with me, and I was equally insistent that he do so! He did things with me, and showed me things to do to him, that made what we witnessed earlier seem common and cheap."
"Such as?" I was fascinated.
"Well, you do understand that there exist more than one orifice in a woman's body suitable for the entrance of a man, don't you?"
"Indeed, I have even witnessed such!"
"Really, you shall tell me all shortly. In any event, they are all pleasurable. Further, what we saw that young girl doing to the blacksmith? A man can do the same to a woman, and they can even do them at the same time! Hardly a day would pass that my husband would not return home and take me immediately upon his arrival. He preferred me to meet him in the parlor, wearing nothing but my stockings, to slake his manly thirsts. Afterwards, I would dress as if for bed, and serve him supper, than he would make of me a dessert, and we would frolic until bedtime, at which time we would retire for a final passage and then sleep blissfully, naked in each other's arms. Good heavens but it was wonderful!"
"It sounds delicious!” I admitted.
"Oh, it was. Michael was the most wicked man, wickedly delicious, that is. He forced me to dress most immoderately, and not just at home, although very little force was needed."
"How do you mean?"
"Well, I have mentioned how at home I wore nothing but my underthings. Whenever we went out together, to a restaurant or a party, he would allow me only to wear a dress and my stockings, and nothing else. Then, whenever we were at all alone, he would force his attentions on me in the most shocking ways, lifting my skirts to fondle me in the most intimate of fashions! Often, when we had left to go home, he would have the hansom driver take a longer way home, or simply drive around, while he laid me naked in the coach and had his way upon my body.” said Siobhan.
"So, how did he die?” I asked.
Siobhan waved the question off. "Later, later. Now you must tell me how you came to witness the methods with which a man and a woman may find pleasure of each other. Come, tell me all. Who did you watch, your parents, perhaps?"
"Precisely so.” I admitted.
"So, tell me, what were they like? Your father you have said was an officer, but that is all I know. Do you take after either of them?” she pressed.
I laughed. "Well, not my father, that is for sure. He was almost ten years older than my mother and was forty-two when they passed. He was of an average height and build, somewhat shorter and stockier than Uncle James, I should say, with the most amazing muttonchops and mustache! On the other hand, I have been told many times that I am the spitting image of my mother, except for the fact that I am almost a half foot shorter than she was. Papa oft joked that Mama must have had outside help, after which Mama would squawk and hit him with the nearest item to hand. Papa would let her connect with the first blow, then wrap her in his embrace and buss her with great laughter."
"They sound most affectionate.” commented Siobhan.
"Indeed, they were, most affectionate and attentive to each other's needs. There was a brief period even when I felt a certain jealousy towards them both, until I could understand that their love for each other, in all its varied forms, did not mean they cared for me the less. Whenever I was home, I often would hear their bedsprings squeaking as they expressed their affections in the most intimate of fashions.” I said.
"So, when and in what manner did you witness these affections?” my friend pressed.
"It was my thirteenth birthday. They had taken me out of school for a few days of holiday, and I was rather excited by it all and could not sleep. They had sent me to bed, but I was so excited I wished to stay up longer, so I left my room and went down the hall, to attempt to sneak back downstairs for a bit. However, I was need be detained on the steps, as both Mama and Papa were sitting on the divan, sipping tea and reading the Times. I waited for them to leave, so I could continue my sneak, but events grew out of my control. After they had finished their tea, Papa tossed aside his newspaper and moved closer to Mama, placing one of his hands on her skirt and gently tugging it upwards. Mama let out a squeal of impropriety but laid down her paper as well and embraced him as he slid his hand under her skirt and between her legs. After only a few brief moments more, I saw Papa pulling Mama's bloomers from under her dress, then he pushed her back onto the divan and moved atop her. Mama was cooperating wholeheartedly, helping my father remove his tunic and braces, and undoing his breeches, then she spread her legs wide as he raised her skirt to her waist and took her there on the divan. I remember thinking how Mama was failing to obey Queen Victoria's admonition for a woman to lie back, close her eyes, and think of England! How treasonous! It was very interesting to watch as she wrapped her arms and legs around him, crying gently, 'Fuck me, Thomas, fuck me!' It was over much too soon for my tastes." I remembered the episode well, as it was my last vacation with my parents; the typhus would kill them only a few weeks hence.
"I would have preferred that type of explanation to the one provided by mother.” said Siobhan.
"Quite so. It was obvious that if my mother, a fine and God-fearing woman and mother, could enjoy herself so, then perhaps the Queen was mistaken, treason though that be. Afterwards they cuddled on the divan for a while longer, then Mama said that perhaps they should go to their room to continue. I almost bolted at this, but Papa demurred, stating he felt like another course, right then and there, and insisted that Mama relieve him of his needs. With that, he began to remove Mama's clothing from her, and although Mama asked if I might not wake, he persisted and very soon had my mother's dress and corset laying on the floor. With that, he laid back and positioned my mother as he desired, with her face in his lap. From my vantage point it was perfectly clear what she was performing, and Papa was highly pleased with that performance."
"How large was your father?” asked Siobhan. At my confused look, she elaborated, "As compared to the specimens we witnessed earlier today, for example?"
"Oh, well, I cannot be entirely sure. It was, after all, several years past, and I had no standard of comparison, but he seemed more than adequately endowed to gratify my mother's passions. In this second course, he had her satisfy his need with her lips and tongue, taking him into her mouth in his entirety, except for a brief spell, where she knelt between his legs and buried his manhood in the valley of her bosom." I reenacted this part by pressing my own boobies together from the sides, through my dress. "Then she returned to her oral ministrations and allowed his release, swallowing his spendings."
"That sounds so much like Michael and me, it gives me shivers.” said Siobhan.
"Yes, but they were not finished yet! While Mama tended to Papa in this manner, Papa finished removing his own clothing. Then he drew her into his lap, and told her he would cause her to spend, while he renewed his strength. After this statement, he devoted his touches and kisses to her naked form, concentrating muchly on her boobies and quim. Mama gasped and shook so I feared she was having a fit, but I was mistaken, for when his manhood stood proud again, she stopped him, and after embracing him, knelt on the carpet. Papa knelt behind her and entered her from behind, as we saw Little David and Maude doing earlier today, but then the most astonishing event occurred. Papa reared back, and as Mama reached back to spread her arse, Papa pushed himself inside her arse! Mama squealed with delight as Papa ravished her backside with vigor and energy, and he spent himself in her nether orifice, collapsing atop her as she gasped out her own spending. It was at this point I returned to my own bed."
"What an amazing lesson you learned at such an early age!"
"Quite. I have since come to the conclusion that when I do marry, my relations with my husband promise to be most pleasant, and I look forward to them eagerly. Mrs. Pembleton, the headmistress at my school, told us, if somewhat indirectly, that she and her husband enjoyed their relations as often as practicable, and you also say as much, so I have great hopes for my wedded bliss!"
"You shall, you shall!" Siobhan and I embraced at the thought. It was a lengthy embrace, and I briefly wondered if she had a different type of embrace planned. I considered it one thing to enter into a dalliance with the hired help, but something quite different to do so with a friend and was relieved when she pulled away.
"So, how came you to be widowed, and what did you do thereafter?” I asked.
"The first question is simple. There was an accident at a bridge Michael was building, and he and two workmen plummeted to their deaths. Fortunately, Michael had left me well able to survive on my own. His own parents had died, leaving him a reasonable inheritance, and he had some insurance and savings as well. Despite my parent's insistence that I return home, I refused, preferring my independence. Then, I learned the most amazing thing."
"What was that?” I asked.
"Well, by the time my year of mourning was up, I had been an entire year without the touch of a man's body, and I was feeling most deprived, yet I felt no impulse to wed again for such a purpose. During my mourning, several of Michael's friends had approached me with offers of companionship, and I realized that wedded bliss did not necessarily require the wedding. With the proper care and discretion, it is quite easy to manage such events, and I partook of them gladly. I also confirmed that my love for Michael had been true, as I felt little for these dalliances beyond the pleasures they provided me.” she admitted.
"You would be surprised, but I feel as if I can understand you completely. It is similar to the trysts I engaged in with the girls at Mrs. Pembleton's school, in that I knew that while extremely enjoyable, they would never satisfy my desire for a loving and affectionate husband. So, what did you do when you were not engaging in these pleasures?” I asked.
"Well, Michael's funds were sufficient to pay for the house and the upkeep thereof, but he had always cautioned me of the difference between capital and income, and of the danger of spending capital. I soon found myself as a nanny and governess to young children, which I continued until I came here. I fear that you have little need of either, but your Uncle's offer was most suitable to me. My last position was rather strange."
"Well, I was attached to the household of a fairly wealthy banker in Boston. He had both a large family and a large staff and was quite active in obeying the Biblical command to be fruitful and multiply with both!"
"What! You must explain!” I demanded.
"It is hard to do so, since I little understand it myself. He was quite active in his pursuit of the maids and cooks, with considerable success I might add, and even added me to his harem. I at first thought that he made such pursuits since his wife was an absolute harridan and battleaxe, with a face and figure suitable for your Uncle's pastures, but this was not so, since their own relations were equally frequent. They had eight children already, and she was in a family way again when I began my employ! His success with the women on the staff was a match for this, since his wife was frequently sacking a cook or maid who showed the signs of incipient childbirth. As it was, she managed to walk in on her husband and I, and I was let go on the spot!” said Siobhan.
"How terrible for you. What kind of a cad was the man?” I exclaimed.
"Now that is the most amazing part of the tale. He was the most innocuous gentleman you can imagine, of average appearance at best, as old as Mister Singh appears, bald, myopic, and stout to boot. The single trait he possessed in abundance was the ability to talk a girl into bed, a trait which he exercised as often as humanly possible. I tell you; the man could have talked a cloistered nun onto her back!"
The afternoon was ending, so we took our leave of the hayloft and went down to prepare for dinner.
At dinner that night I found that I had exhausted my reserves at the first conflict. My mode of attire was limited to a long and tight black skirt and a high-necked white blouse. While the blouse was relatively sheer, and I disdained a shift for a lacy corset, Siobhan countered with a rather immodestly cut dress of her own, and though her forces were not perhaps equal to mine, they were nonetheless quite sufficient for the battle at hand. An impartial referee would be charitable to describe the contest as an equal one. My Uncle proved that in such matters he preferred to be able to clearly see the combatants.
I was still able to score on a different ground, and in doing so expanded my duties from lay-about to gainfully employed. During talk after supper, my Uncle declared that he had recently received a letter imploring him to invest in an ironworks in Bratislava, Slovenia. I corrected him gently, saying that Bratislava was in Slovakia, not Slovenia.
He goggled at me. "Are you sure?" He seemed quite skeptical.
"Very much so, sir. My father was stationed there briefly."
He swore and bolted from his chair, much to the amazement of Siobhan and me. Several minutes later he returned, brandishing a letter in one hand and his spectacles in another. "I thought my eyes were giving me away again, girl, but this time you are the one mistaken!" He thrust the letter at me. "Slovenia, see?"
I glanced at the letter long enough to see that indeed it did say, 'Bratislava, Slovenia', but stood my ground firmly. "Mayhap the letter does say so, Uncle James, but the residents of Bratislava consider themselves Slovakians, not Slovenians."
This quite consternated him, and he left a second time, returning shortly with a large atlas of maps. "Show me.” he demanded.
A quick check of the index led me to the correct page, and I pointed out that they were indeed two separate nations, and that Bratislava was indeed the capitol city of Slovakia.
He stared at the page for several moments, then sat back in his chair, tossing his spectacles aside. Looking at Ahkbar Singh, he said, "Drat! And to think I was actually considering this investment! Yet this fool either doesn't know where he plans on building his factory or thinks I won't catch on!" Ahkbar simply pondered in silence, although his facial expressions were interesting. My Uncle turned back towards me. "I am afraid my dear, that while Ahkbar and I are quite familiar with the subcontinent and Asia, and I am fairly familiar with the United States, neither of us has traveled at all in Europe. Are you at all familiar with the continent?"
"Well, on such a relative basis, I would have to say more so than you, sir. I have traveled there, at least to a certain extent with my parents, and in truth an English education does tend to concentrate more in that direction, but I am in no ways an expert."
He slapped his palm on the table soundly, setting the crockery to rattling. "By Jove, we must talk more. I am getting reports of a number of investment opportunities in Europe of late, and here you are to help me. What say you if I make you my European secretary, with a salary to match?"
Alarmed, I tried to demure. "Please, Uncle James, as I said, I am not an expert. Surely you must have some others more qualified available?"
He shrugged my worries aside. "Quite so, in Boston and New York, but not in Saratoga. Please, you can help me more than you can imagine. They may know a good deal more, but they also charge a good deal more than I plan on paying you. Still, it will give you something to do while you plan your future, and it may well prove useful all the way around. I am willing to chance it if you are."
"Well, on those nebulous conditions and for an indefinite term, agreed, sir." I thrust out my hand and he shook it firmly, while Siobhan applauded my good fortune.
The next day both Siobhan and I had planned for and obtained permission to go into town and shop. We met over breakfast, and being curious how we were to get thence, were directed by the cooks to go find Uncle James and Ahkbar, presently dueling! Mystified, we sped out the door to a large pen behind one of the nearby sheds. Here, in the small fenced-in circle, surrounded by a fence upon which several of the maidservants were hanging and watching, the two men were going at each other with swords!
It became obvious in a second that this was not a real duel, but a practice. Both men were stripped to the waist, even Ahkbar had removed his coat and shirt, and despite the early morning coolness, perspiration flowed freely along their manly chests. They made quite the contrast. Uncle James was slender, with wide-set shoulders, and his musculature was hard and rangy and not at all bulky, while Mister Singh was larger in girth and musculature, although not stout but stocky. A life of hard usage showed on both forms. My Uncle had several noticeable scars on his torso, beyond the one on his face. A long and jagged tear had been made in his side at one time, his right chest showed a pair of small round scars matched by another pair, obviously bullet exit marks, on his back. Ahkbar's torso was even more amazing. Somebody had once endeavored to torture him with the lash, as his back was a latticework of long welts and scars, some healed white, others persistently reddened. In addition, both bore the marks of the morning's exertions, with several lighter abrasions showing where they had been scored upon.
We waved as we approached, and Uncle James glanced over at us in acknowledgement. It was at that moment that Ahkbar struck most foully, kicking my Uncle's legs from beneath him. As my relation collapsed into the sawdust, Ahkbar's sword whistled down from above, stopping only as it met the skin on the back of Uncle Jame's neck.
"Foul! Foul!” we cried, as Uncle James threw down his sword in surrender.
In response, Ahkbar helped him to his feet, cursing him loudly in a Punjabi dialect. At my Uncle's nod in our direction, he translated. "In a real fight, allowing yourself to be so distracted will get your head mounted on a pike at the palace gate!"
"They don't really do that, do they?” asked Siobhan. I already knew the answer, but Uncle James answered for me.
"Only if you're very lucky.” he puffed out. "At least that way you're already dead. I've seen some palace gates decorated by entire bodies up on pikes, and they were still kicking."
I nodded. "Quite barbarous, I have been told."
Ahkbar smiled. "Oh, yes, much worse than blowing your prisoners apart by cannon, like the English do."
"What?” I asked.
A grinning Uncle James explained. "The English have been known on more than one occasion to remove excess prisoners by tying them across the barrels of cannons prior to battle, then lighting them off." He held his arms out to demonstrate.
"That's not true!” I protested.
"Quite true, child.” remarked Ahkbar.
"Damn near happened to us, eh, old friend!" concluded my Uncle. Subdued, Siobhan and I asked about transportation into the town. Uncle James announced, "One more passage, then Ahkbar can run you in." Pointing at one of the spectators, he ordered, "Go tell Jack to rig up the carriage.” then he and Mister Singh resumed their stances in the center of the small arena.
Despite the playacting characteristic of the practice duel, both men went about the affair with deadly earnest. Unlike the more formalized training taught in a fencing class, this became a knock-down, dragged-out brawl. In one instance Uncle James punched the basket hilt of his saber into Ahkbar's stomach, only to be followed by a hearty kick to his own. This was caught and turned, only to be followed by the falling Ahkbar throwing sawdust in Uncle James' face. This back and forth went on for several minutes before a deft move threw Ahkbar's sword across the ring, and Uncle James' blade was felt along the side of Ahkbar's neck. He surrendered and they gathered their weapons, tossing them out of the pen and onto a small table.
I examined them, having often seen my father's dress sword. Unsurprisingly, they were quite blunt and dull, but I was amazed at their weight. I could scarce lift one!
"Practice swords. You double or triple the weight to build strength and stamina. That way, if you ever have to do it for real, you can last longer and strike harder and faster.” my Uncle commented.
"Have you ever had to do so?” asked a breathy Siobhan.
Uncle James paused in putting on his shirt. Pointing at the healed gash in his side, he replied, "Sumatra. Almost died, too. Fortunately, the other fellows really did die, so it all worked out in the end." He finished with his shirt and led us outside to the carriage. Mister Singh had miraculously managed to clean himself and dress in his full ensemble in the brief time allotted.
In short order we found ourselves deposited in the town square, surrounded by chestnut- and elm-lined streets with a multitude of small shops. We spent the rest of the day, with a generous break for lunch, going from one lady's shop to another, leaving our purchases behind to be gathered at the end of the day. I was quite astonished by the value of the sheaf of banknotes my Uncle had provided me. In retrospect, I understood that the British pound sterling was the foremost currency in the world, but what this meant when translated into American money allowed me to shop for most of the morning before I had to dip into the credit my Uncle had at these establishments. I utterly failed to wonder why my Uncle would have credit with stores that only sold women's clothing, especially those which specialized in lady's fineries. Siobhan also unlocked her purse to a considerable degree, and we had a glorious time spending our monies.
I knew that in the polite battle which we were waging for Uncle James' attentions that it would be necessary to call attention to my pair of considerable armies, and I knew Siobhan would be attempting to do the same. Still it was a most genteel combat, and neither of us hesitated to point out to the other an especially attractive outfit. While she may have been the more experienced campaigner, I was a fast and eager cadet. I took my red rayon dress as a mere beachhead. I purchased several dresses which displayed my charms amply, in a variety of colors and fabrics, with narrow waists, low cut bodices, and bustles which were just large enough to highlight my proportions. Siobhan tried to do the same, but in this style of combat, God truly does favor the bigger battalions!
We also purchased several pair of shoes, not the button front styles more conducive to walking, but slippers, delicate and high heeled, to lend height and grace, and a definite sway when walking. As for our undergarments, we both selected attire reminiscent of Charity's garments. Our stockings were longer and sheerer, and our bloomers were most abbreviated. We both obtained several garter belts and a few of the new French brassieres, both fuller coverage and the open-topped style. Our new corsets were very immoderate, being simply sufficient to nip our waists and support our boobies as if for display. By the end of the day, as the shops began to gather our possessions, we could both feel that we were ready for this contest.
I was rather curious when, in the final shop, a lady's finery and notions store, Siobhan spotted a small and oblong box and handed it to me, commenting, "Here, I am sure that you will be needing this."
I glanced at the box. 'Doctor Allsworth's Patent Cure For Female Hysteria', it said, and underneath this elaborate title, it announced itself as the cure for '...Feminine Hysteria, Nervousness, Exhaustion, Dietary Disorder, Fluxion, Vapors,...' and a myriad of other ills. "I don't have any of these!” I protested, setting it back on the shelf.
Siobhan laughed and picked it back up and handed it to me again. "Take it, trust me."
Curious, I opened the end of the cardboard box and looked inside. I could not quite see the contents, so I turned the box upright and the 'Patent Cure' slid out into my hand. I could but stare! Inside the box was a duplicate of an erect male organ, cast in artificial ivory. Flabbergasted, I fumbled the item back into the box and thrust it back onto the shelf, all the while exclaiming, "Ye Gods!" I looked daggers at my erstwhile rival. "Siobhan, what are you thinking of?” I whispered urgently.