Louisa herself did not long outstay this adventure at Mrs. Cole’s (to whom, by-the-bye, we took care not to boast of our exploit, till all fear of consequences were clearly over): for an occasion presenting itself of proving her passion for a young fellow, at the expense of her discretion, proceeding all in character, she pack’d up her toilet at half a day’s warning and went with him abroad, since which I entirely lost sight of her, and it never fell in my way to hear what became of her.
But a few days after she had left us, two very pretty young gentlemen, who were Mrs. Cole’s especial favourites, and free of her academy, easily obtain’d her consent for Emily’s and my acceptance of a party of pleasure at a little but agreeable house belonging to one of them, situated not far up the river Thames, on the Surry side.
Everything being settled, and it being a fine summer day, but rather of the warmest, we set out after dinner, and got to our rendez-vous about four in the afternoon; where, landing at the foot of a neat, joyous pavillion, Emily and I were handed into it by our squires, and there drank tea with a cheerfulness and gaiety that the beauty of the prospect, the serenity of the weather, and the tender politeness of our sprightly gallants naturally led us into.
After tea, and taking a turn in the garden, my particular, who was the master of the house, and had in no sense schem’d this party of pleasure for a dry one, propos’d to us, with that frankness which his familiarity at Mrs. Cole’s entitled him to, as the weather was excessively hot, to bathe together, under a commodious shelter that he had prepared expressly for that purpose, in a creek of the river, with which a side-door of the pavilion immediately communicated, and where we might be sure of having our diversion out, safe from interruption, and with the utmost privacy.
Emily, who never refus’d anything, and I, who ever delighted in bathing, and had no exception to the person who propos’d it, or to those pleasures it was easy to guess it implied, took care, on this occasion, not to wrong our training at Mrs. Cole’s, and agreed to it with as good a grace as we could. Upon which, without loss of time, we return’d instantly to the pavilion, one door of which open’d into a tent, pitch’d before it, that with its marquise, formed a pleasing defense against the sun, or the weather, and was besides as private as we could wish. The lining of it, imbossed cloth, represented a wild forest-foliage, from the top down to the sides, which, in the same stuff, were figur’d with fluted pilasters, with their spaces between fill’d with flower-vases, the whole having a gay effect upon the eye, wherever you turn’d it.
Then it reached sufficiently into the water, yet contain’d convenient benches round it, on the dry ground, either to keep our cloaths, or . . ., or . . ., in short, for more uses than resting upon. There was a side-table too, loaded with sweetmeats, jellies, and other eatables, and bottles of wine and cordials, by way of occasional relief from any rawness, or chill of the water, or from any faintness from whatever cause; and in fact, my gallant, who understood chere entiere perfectly, and who, for taste (even if you would not approve this specimen of it) might have been comptroller of pleasures to a Roman emperor, had left no requisite towards convenience or luxury unprovided.
As soon as we had look’d round this inviting spot, and every preliminary of privacy was duly settled, strip was the word: when the young gentlemen soon dispatch’d the undressing each his partner and reduced us to the naked confession of all those secrets of person which dress generally hides, and which the discovery of was, naturally speaking, not to our disadvantage. Our hands, indeed, mechanically carried towards the most interesting part of us, screened, at first, all from the tufted cliff downwards, till we took them away at their desire, and employed them in doing them the same office, of helping off with their cloaths; in the process of which, there pass’d all the little wantonnesses and frolicks that you may easily imagine.
As for my spark, he was presently undressed, all to his shirt, the fore-lappet of which as he lean’d languishingly on me, he smilingly pointed to me to observe, as it bellied out, or rose and fell, according to the unruly starts of the motion behind it; but it was soon fix’d, for now taking off his shirt, and naked as a Cupid, he shew’d it me at so upright a stand, as prepar’d me indeed for his application to me for instant ease; but, tho’ the sight of its fine size was fit enough to fire me, the cooling air, as I stood in this state of nature, joined to the desire I had of bathing first, enabled me to put him off, and tranquillize him, with the remark that a little suspense would only set a keener edge on the pleasure. Leading then the way, and shewing our friends an example of continency, which they were giving signs of losing respect to, we went hand in hand into the stream, till it took us up to our neck, where the no more than grateful coolness of the water gave my senses a delicious refreshment from the sultriness of the season, and made more alive, more happy in myself, and, in course, more alert, and open to voluptuous impressions.
Here I lav’d and wanton’d with the water, or sportively play’d with my companion, leaving Emily to deal with hers at discretion. Mine, at length, not content with making me take the plunge over head and ears, kept splashing me, and provoking me with all the little playful tricks he could devise, and which I strove not to remain in his debt for. We gave, in short, a loose to mirth; and now, nothing would serve him but giving his hands the regale of going over every part of me, neck, breast, belly, thighs, and all the et cetera, so dear to the imagination, under the pretext of washing and rubbing them; as we both stood in the water, no higher now than the pit of our stomachs, and which did not hinder him from feeling, and toying with that leak that distinguishes our sex, and it so wonderfully water-tight: for his fingers, in vain dilating and opening it, only let more flame than water into it, be it said without a figure. At the same time he made me feel his own engine, which was so well wound up, as to stand even the working in water, and he accordingly threw one arm round my neck, and was endeavouring to get the better of that harsher construction bred by the surrounding fluid; and had in effect won his way so far as to make me sensible of the pleasing stretch of those nether-lips, from the in-driving machine; when, independent of my not liking that aukward mode of enjoyment, I could not help interrupting him, in order to become joint spectators of a plan of joy, in hot operation between Emily and her partner; who impatient of the fooleries and dalliance of the bath, had led his nymph to one of the benches on the green bank, where he was very cordially proceeding to teach her the difference betwixt jest and earnest.
There, setting her on his knee, and gliding one hand over the surface of that smooth polish’d snow-white skin of hers, which now doubly shone with a dew-bright lustre, and presented to the touch something like what one would imagine of animated ivory, especially in those ruby-nippled globes, which the touch is so fond of and delights to make love to, with the other he was lusciously exploring the sweet secret of nature, in order to make room for a stately piece of machinery, that stood uprear’d, between her thighs, as she continued sitting on his lap, and pressed hard for instant admission, which the tender Emily, in a fit of humour deliciously protracted, affecting to decline, and elude the very pleasure she sigh’d for, but in a style of waywardness so prettily put on, and managed, as to render it ten times more poignant; then her eyes, all amidst the softest dying languishment, express’d at once a mock denial and extreme desire, whilst her sweetness was zested with a coyness so pleasingly provoking, her moods of keeping him off were so attractive, that they redoubled the impetuous rage with which he cover’d her with kisses: and the kisses that, whilst she seemed to shy from or scuffle for, the cunning wanton contrived such sly returns of, as were doubtless the sweeter for the gust she gave them, of being stolen ravished.
Thus Emily, who knew no art but that which nature itself, in favour of her principal end, pleasure, had inspir’d her with, the art of yielding, coy’d it indeed, but coy’d it to the purpose; for with all her straining, her wrestling, and striving to break from the clasp of his arms, she was so far wiser yet than to mean it, that in her struggles, it was visible she aim’d at nothing more than multiplying points of touch with him, and drawing yet closer the folds that held them every where entwined, like two tendrils of a vine intercurling together: so that the same effect, as when Louisa strove in good earnest to disengage from the idiot, was now produced by different motives.
Mean while, their emersion out of the cold water had caused a general glow, a tender suffusion of heighten’d carnation over their bodies; both equally white and smooth-skinned; so that as their limbs were thus amorously interwoven, in sweet confusion, it was scarce possible to distinguish who they respectively belonged to, but for the brawnier, bolder muscles of the stronger sex.
In a little time, however, the champion was fairly in with her, and had tied at all points the true lover’s knot; when now, adieu all the little refinements of a finessed reluctance; adieu the friendly feint! She was presently driven forcibly out of the power of using any art; and indeed, what art must not give way, when nature, corresponding with her assailant, invaded in the heart of her capital and carried by storm, lay at the mercy of the proud conqueror who had made his entry triumphantly and completely? Soon, however, to become a tributary: for the engagement growing hotter and hotter, at close quarters, she presently brought him to the pass of paying down the dear debt to nature; which she had no sooner collected in, but, like a duellist who has laid his antagonist at his feet, when he has himself received a mortal wound, Emily had scarce time to plume herself upon her victory, but, shot with the same discharge, she, in a loud expiring sigh, in the closure of her eyes, the stretch-out of her limbs, and a remission of her whole frame, gave manifest signs that all was as it should be.
For my part, who had not with the calmest patience stood in the water all this time, to view this warm action, I lean’d tenderly on my gallant, and at the close of it, seemed’d to ask him with my eyes what he thought of it; but he, more eager to satisfy me by his actions than by words or looks, as we shoal’d the water towards the shore, shewed me the staff of love so intensely set up, that had not even charity beginning at home in this case, urged me to our mutual relief, it would have been cruel indeed to have suffered the youth to burst with straining, when the remedy was so obvious and so near at hand.
Accordingly we took to a bench, whilst Emily and her spark, who belonged it seems to the sea, stood at the sideboard, drinking to our good voyage: for, as the last observ’d, we were well under weigh, with a fair wind up channel, and full-freighted; nor indeed were we long before we finished our trip to Cythera, and unloaded in the old haven; but, as the circumstances did not admit of much variation, I shall spare you the description.
At the same time, allow me to place you here an excuse I am conscious of owing you, for having, perhaps, too much affected the figurative style; though surely, it can pass nowhere more allowably than in a subject which is so properly the province of poetry, nay, is poetry itself, pregnant with every flower of imagination and loving metaphors, even were not the natural expressions, for respects of fashion and sound, necessarily forbid it.
Resuming now my history, you may please to know that what with a competent number of repetitions, all in the same strain (and, by-the-bye, we have a certain natural sense that those repetitions are very much to the taste), what with a circle of pleasures delicately varied, there was not a moment lost to joy all the time we staid there, till late in the night we were re-escorted home by our squires, who delivered us safe to Mrs. Cole, with generous thanks for our company.
This too was Emily’s last adventure in our way: for scarce a week after, she was, by an accident too trivial to detail to you the particulars, found out by her parents, who were in good circumstances, and who had been punish’d for their partiality to their son, in the loss of him, occasion’d by a circumstance of their over-indulgence to his appetite; upon which the so long engross’d stream of fondness, running violently in favour of this lost and inhumanly abandon’d child whom if they had not neglected enquiry about, they might long before have recovered. They were now so overjoyed at the retrieval of her, that, I presume, it made them much less strict in examining the bottom of things: for they seem’d very glad to take for granted, in the lump, everything that the grave and decent Mrs. Cole was pleased to pass upon them; and soon afterwards sent her, from the country, a handsome acknowledgement.
But it was not so easy to replace to our community the loss of so sweet a member of it: for, not to mention her beauty, she was one of those mild, pliant characters that if one does not entirely esteem, one can scarce help loving, which is not such a bad compensation neither. Owing all her weakness to good-nature, and an indolent facility that kept her too much at the mercy of first impressions, she had just sense enough to know that she wanted leading-strings, and thought herself so much obliged to any who would take the pains to think for her, and guide her, that with a very little management, she was capable of being made a most agreeable, nay, a most virtuous wife: for vice, it is probable, had never been her choice, or her fate, if it had not been for occasion, or example, or had she not depended less upon herself than upon her circumstances. This presumption her conduct afterwards verified: for presently meeting with a match that was ready cut and dry for her, with a neighbour’s son of her own rank, and a young man of sense and order, who took her as the widow of one lost at sea (for so it seems one of her gallants, whose name she had made free with, really was), she naturally struck into all the duties of their domestic life with as much constancy and regularity, as if she had never swerv’d from a state of undebauch’d innocence from her youth.
These desertions had, however, now so far thinned Mrs. Cole’s brood that she was left with only me like a hen with one chicken; but tho’ she was earnestly entreated and encourag’d to recruit her corps, her growing infirmities, and, above all, the tortures of a stubborn hip-gout, which she found would yield to no remedy, determin’d her to bread up her business and retire with a decent pittance into the country, where I promis’d myself nothing so sure, as my going down to live with her as soon as I had seen a little more of life and improv’d my small matters into a competency that would create in me an independence on the world: for I was, now, thanks to Mrs. Cole, wise enough to keep that essential in view.
Thus was I then to lose my faithful preceptress, as did the Philosophers of the town the White Crow of her profession. For besides that she never ransacked her customers, whose taste too she ever studiously consulted, besides that she never racked her pupils with unconscionable extortions, nor ever put their hard earnings, as she call’d them, under the contribution of poundage. She was a severe enemy to the seduction for innocence, and confin’d her acquisitions solely to those unfortunate young women, who, having lost it, were but the juster objects of compassion: among these, indeed, she pick’d but such as suited her views and taking them under her protection, rescu’d them from the danger of the publick sinks of ruin and misery, to place, or do for them, well or ill, in the manner you have seen. Having then settled her affairs, she set out on her journey, after taking the most tender leave of me, and at the end of some excellent instructions, recommending me to myself, with an anxiety perfectly maternal. In short, she affected me so much, that I was not presently reconcil’d to myself for suffering her at any rate to go without me; but fate had, it seems, otherwise dispos’d of me.
I had, on my separation from Mrs. Cole, taken a pleasant convenient house at Marybone, but easy to rent and manage from its smallness, which I furnish’d neatly and modestly. There, with a reserve of eight hundred pounds, the fruit of my deference to Mrs. Cole’s counsels, exclusive of cloaths, some jewels, some plate, I saw myself in purse for a long time, to wait without impatience for what the chapter of accidents might produce in my favour.
Here, under the new character of a young gentle-woman whose husband was gone to sea, I had mark’d me out such lines of life and conduct, as leaving me at a competent liberty to pursue my views either out of pleasure or fortune, bounded me nevertheless strictly within the rules of decency and discretion: a disposition in which you cannot escape observing a true pupil of Mrs. Cole.
I was scarce, however, well warm in my new abode, when going out one morning pretty early to enjoy the freshness of it, in the pleasing outlet of the fields, accompanied only by a maid, whom I had newly hired, as we were carelessly walking among the trees we were alarmed with the noise of a violent coughing: turning our heads towards which, we distinguish’d a plain well-dressed elderly gentleman, who, attack’d with a sudden fit, was so much overcome as to be forc’d to give way to it and sit down at the foot of a tree, where he seemed suffocating with the severity of it, being perfectly black in the face: not less mov’d than frighten’d with which, I flew on the instant to his relief, and using the rote of practice I had observ’d on the like occasion, I loosened his cravat and clapped him on the back; but whether to any purpose, or whether the cough had had its course, I know not, but the fit immediately went off; and now recover’d to his speech and legs, he returned me thanks with as much emphasis as if I had sav’d his life. This naturally engaging a conversation, he acquainted me where he lived, which was at a considerable distance from where I met with him, and where he had stray’d insensibly on the same intention of a morning walk.
He was, as I afterwards learn’d in the course of the intimacy which this little accident gave birth to, an old bachelor, turn’d of sixty, but of a fresh vigorous complexion, insomuch that he scarce marked five and forty, having never rack’d his constitution by permitting his desires to overtax his ability.
As to his birth and condition, his parents, honest and fail’d mechanicks, had, by the best traces he could get of them, left him an infant orphan on the parish; so that it was from a charity-school, that, by honesty and industry, he made his way into a merchant’s counting-house; from whence, being sent to a house in CADIZ, he there, by his talents and activity, acquired a fortune, but an immense one, with which he returned to his native country; where he could not, however, so much as fish out one single relation out of the obscurity he was born in. Taking then a taste for retirement, and pleas’d to enjoy life, like a mistress in the dark, he flowed his days in all the ease of opulence, without the least parade of it; and, rather studying the concealment than the shew of a fortune, looked down on a world he perfectly knew; himself, to his wish, unknown and unmarked by.
But, as I propose to devote a letter entirely to the pleasure of retracing to you all the particulars of my acquaintance with this ever, to me, memorable friend, I shall, in this, transiently touch on no more than may serve, as mortar to cement, to form the connection of my history, and to obviate your surprize that one of my high blood and relish of life should count a gallant of threescore such a catch.
Referring then to a more explicit narrative, to explain by what progressions our acquaintance, certainly innocent at first, insensibly changed nature, and ran into unplatonic lengths, as might well be expected from one of my condition of life, and above all, from that principle of electricity that scarce ever fails of producing fire when the sexes meet. I shall only her acquaint you, that as age had not subdued his tenderness for our sex, neither had it robbed him of the power of pleasing, since whatever he wanted in the bewitching charms of youth, he aton’d for, or supplemented with the advantages of experience, the sweetness of his manners, and above all, his flattering address in touching the heart, by an application to the understanding. From him it was I first learn’d, to any purpose, and not without infinite pleasure, that I had such a portion of me worth bestowing some regard on; from him I received my first essential encouragement, and instructions how to put it in that train of cultivation, which I have since pushed to the little degree of improvement you see it at; he it was, who first taught me to be sensible that the pleasures of the mind were superior to those of the body; at the same time, that they were so far from obnoxious to, or incompatible with each other, that, besides the sweetness in the variety and transition, the one serv’d to exalt and perfect the taste of the other to a degree that the senses alone can never arrive at.
Himself a rational pleasurist, as being much too wise to be asham’d of the pleasures of humanity, loved me indeed, but loved me with dignity; in a mean equally remov’d from the sourness, of forwardness, by which age is unpleasingly characteriz’d, and from that childish silly dotage that so often disgraces it, and which he himself used to turn into ridicule, and compare to an old goat affecting the frisk of a young kid.
In short, everything that is generally unamiable in his season of life was, in him, repair’d by so many advantages, that he existed a proof, manifest at least to me, that it is not out of the power of age to please, if it lays out to please, and if, making just allowances, those in that class do not forget that it must cost them more pains and attention than what youth, the natural spring-time of joy, stands in need of: as fruits out of season require proportionably more skill and cultivation, to force them.
With this gentleman then, who took me home soon after our acquaintance commenc’d, I lived near eight months; in which time, my constant complaisance and docility, my attention to deserve his confidence and love, and a conduct, in general, devoid of the least art and founded on my sincere regard and esteem for him, won and attach’d him so firmly to me, that, after having generously trusted me with a genteel, independent settlement, proceeding to heap marks of affection on me, he appointed me, by an authentick will, his sole heiress and executrix: a disposition which he did not outlive two months, being taken from me by a violent cold that he contracted as he unadvisedly ran to the window on an alarm of fire, at some streets distance, and stood there naked-breasted, and exposed to the fatal impressions of a damp night-air.
After acquitting myself of my duty towards my deceas’d benefactor, and paying him a tribute of unfeign’d sorrow, which a little time chang’d into a most tender, grateful memory of him that I shall ever retain, I grew somewhat comforted by the prospect that now open’d to me, if not of happiness at least of affluence and independence.
I saw myself then in the full bloom and pride of youth (for I was not yet nineteen) actually at the head of so large a fortune, as it would have been even the height of impudence in me to have raised my wishes, much more my hopes, to; and that this unexpected elevation did not turn my head, I ow’d to the pains my benefactor had taken to form and prepare me for it, as I ow’d his opinion of my management of the vast possessions he left me, to what he had observ’d of the prudential economy I had learned under Mrs. Cole, of which the reserve he saw I had made was a proof and encouragement to him.
But, alas! how easily is the enjoyment of the greatest sweets in life, in present possession, poisoned by the regret of an absent one! but my regret was a mighty and just one, since it had my only truly beloved Charles for its object.
Given him up I had, indeed, compleatly, having never once heard from him since our separation; which, as I found afterwards, had been my misfortune, and not his neglect, for he wrote me several letters which had all miscarried; but forgotten him I never had. Amidst all my personal infidelities, not one had made a pin’s point impression on a heart impenetrable to the true love-passion, but for him.
As soon, however, as I was mistress of this unexpected fortune, I felt more than ever how dear he was to me, from its insufficiency to make me happy, whilst he was not to share it with me. My earliest care, consequently, was to endeavour at getting some account of him; but all my researches produc’d me no more light than that his father had been dead for some time, not so well as even with the world; and that Charles had reached his port of destination in the South-Seas, where, finding the estate he was sent to recover dwindled to a trifle, by the loss of two ships in which the bulk of his uncle’s fortune lay, he was come away with the small remainder, and might, perhaps, according to the best advice, in a few months return to England, from whence he had, at the time of this my inquiry, been absent two years and seven months. A little eternity in love!
You cannot conceive with what joy I embraced the hopes thus given me of seeing the delight of my heart again. But, as the term of months was assigned it, in order to divert and amuse my impatience for his return, after settling my affairs with much ease and security, I set out on a journey for Lancashire, with an equipage suitable to my fortune, and with a design purely to revisit my place of nativity, for which I could not help retaining a great tenderness; and might naturally not be sorry to shew myself there, to the advantage I was now in pass to do, after the report Esther Davis had spread of my being spirited away to the plantations; for on no other supposition could she account for the suppression of myself to her, since her leaving me so abruptly at the inn. Another favourite intention I had, to look out for my relations, though I had none besides distant ones, and prove a benefactress to them. Then Mrs. Cole’s place of retirement lying in my way, was not amongst the least of the pleasures I had proposed to myself in this expedition.
I had taken nobody with me but a discreet decent woman, to figure it as my companion, besides my servants, and was scarce got into an inn, about twenty miles from London, where I was to sup and pass the night, when such a storm of wind and rain sprang up as made me congratulate myself on having got under shelter before it began.
This had continu’d a good half hour, when bethinking me of some directions to be given to the coachman, I sent for him, and not caring that his shoes should soil the very clean parlour, in which the cloth was laid, I stept into the hall-kitchen, where he was, and where, whilst I was talking to him, I slantingly observ’d two horsemen driven in by the weather, and both wringing wet; one of whom was asking if they could not be assisted with a change, while their clothes were dried. But, heavens! who can express what I felt at the sound of a voice, ever present to my heart, and that is now rebounded at! or when pointing my eyes towards the person it came from, they confirm’d its information, in spite of so long an absence, and of a dress one would have imagin’d studied for a disguise: a horseman’s great coat, with a stand-up cape, and his hat flapp’d . . . but what could escape the piercing alertness of a sense surely guided by love? A transport then like mine was above all consideration, or schemes of surprize; and I, that instant, with the rapidity of the emotions that I felt the spur of, shot into his arms, crying out, as I threw mine round his neck: “My life! . . . my soul! . . . my Charles! . . .” and without further power of speech, swoon’d away, under the pressing agitations of joy and surprize.
Recover’d out of my entrancement, I found myself in my charmer’s arms, but in the parlour, surrounded by a crowd which this event had gather’d round us, and which immediately, on a signal from the discreet landlady, who currently took him for my husband, clear’d the room, and desirably left us alone to the raptures of this reunion; my joy at which had like to have prov’d, at the expense of my life, power superior to that of grief at our fatal separation.
The first object then, that my eyes open’d on, was their supreme idol, and my supreme wish Charles, on one knee, holding me fast by the hand and gazing on me with a transport of fondness. Observing my recovery, he attempted to speak, and give vent to his patience of hearing my voice again, to satisfy him once more that it was me; but the mightiness and suddenness of the surprize, continuing to stun him, choked his utterance: he could only stammer out a few broken, half formed, faltering accents, which my ears greedily drinking in, spelt, and put together, so as to make out their sense; “After so long! . . . so cruel . . . an absence! . . . my dearest Fanny! . . . can it? . . . can it be you? . . .” stifling me at the same time with kisses, that, stopping my mouth, at once prevented the answer that he panted for, and increas’d the delicious disorder in which all my senses were rapturously lost. Amidst however, this crowd of ideas, and all blissful ones, there obtruded only one cruel doubt, that poison’d nearly all the transcendent happiness: and what was it, but my dread of its being too excessive to be real? I trembled now with the fear of its being no more than a dream, and of my waking out of it into the horrors of finding it one. Under this fond apprehension, imagining I could not make too much of the present prodigious joy, before it should vanish and leave me in the desert again, nor verify its reality too strongly, I clung to him, I clasp’d him, as if to hinder him from escaping me again: “Where have you been? . . . how could you . . . could you leave me? . . . Say you are still mine . . . that you still love me . . . and thus! thus!” (kissing him as if I would consolidate lips with him!) “I forgive you . . . forgive my hard fortune in favour of this restoration.”
All these interjections breaking from me, in that wildness of expression that justly passes for eloquence in love, drew from him all the returns my fond heart could wish or require. Our caresses, our questions, our answers, for some time observ’d no order; all crossing, or interrupting one another in sweet confusion, whilst we exchang’d hearts at our eyes, and renew’d the ratifications of a love unbated by time or absence: not a breath, not a motion, not a gesture on either side, but what was strongly impressed with it. Our hands, lock’d in each other, repeated the most passionate squeezes, so that their fiery thrill went to the heart again.
Thus absorbed, and concentre’d in this unutterable delight, I had not attended to the sweet author of it, being thoroughly wet, and in danger of catching cold; when, in good time, the landlady, whom the appearance of my equipage (which, by-the-bye, Charles knew nothing of) had gain’d me an interest in, for me and mine, interrupted us by bringing in a decent shift of linen and cloaths, which now, somewhat recover’d into a calmer composure by the coming in of a third person, I prest him to take the benefit of, with a tender concern and anxiety that made me tremble for his health.
The landlady leaving us again, he proceeded to shift; in the act of which, tho’ he proceeded with all that modesty which became these first solemner instants of our re-meeting after so long an absence, I could not contain certain snatches of my eyes, lured by the dazzling discoveries of his naked skin, that escaped him as he chang’d his linen, and which I could not observe the unfaded life and complexion of without emotions of tenderness and joy, that had himself too purely for their object to partake of a loose or mistim’d desire.
He was soon drest in these temporary cloaths, which neither fitted him now became the light my passion plac’d him in, to me at least; yet, as they were on him, they look’d extremely well, in virtue of that magic charm which love put into everything that he touch’d, or had relation to him: and where, indeed, was that dress that a figure like this would not give grace to? For now, as I ey’d him more in detail, I could not but observe the even favourable alteration which the time of his absence had produced in his person.
There were still the requisite lineaments, still the same vivid vermilion and bloom reigning in his face: but now the roses were more fully blown; the tan of his travels, and a beard somewhat more distinguishable, had, at the expense of no more delicacy than what he could well spare, given it an air of becoming manliness and maturity, that symmetriz’d nobly with that air of distinction and empire with which nature had stamp’d it, in a rare mixture with the sweetness of it; still nothing had he lost of that smooth plumpness of flesh, which, glowing with freshness, blooms florid to the eye, and delicious to the touch; then his shoulders were grown more square, his shape more form’d, more portly, but still free and airy. In short, his figure show’d riper, greater, and perfecter to the experienced eye than in his tender youth; and now he was not much more than two and twenty.
In this interval, however, I pick’d out of the broken, often pleasingly interrupted account of himself, that he was, at that instant, actually on his road to London, in not a very paramount plight or condition, having been wreck’d on the Irish coast for which he had prematurely embark’d, and lost the little all he had brought with him from the South Seas; so that he had not till after great shifts and hardships, in the company of his fellow-traveller, the captain, got so far on his journey; that so it was (having heard of his father’s death and circumstances) he had now the world to begin again, on a new account: a situation which he assur’d me, in a vein of sincerity that, flowing from his heart, penetrated mine, gave him to farther pain, than that he had it not in his power to make me as happy as he could wish. My fortune, you will please to observe, I had not enter’d upon any overture of, reserving to feast myself with the surprize of it to him, in calmer instants. And, as to my dress, it could give him no idea of the truth, not only as it was mourning, but likewise in a style of plainness and simplicity that I had ever kept to with studied art. He press’d me indeed tenderly to satisfy his ardent curiosity, both with regard to my past and present state of life since his being torn away from me: but I had the address to elude his questions by answers that, shewing his satisfaction at no great distance, won upon him to waive his impatience, in favour of the thorough confidence he had in my not delaying it, but for respects I should in good time acquaint him with.
Charles, however, thus returned to my longing arms, tender, faithful, and in health, was already a blessing too mighty for my conception: but Charles in distress! . . . Charles reduc’d, and broken down to his naked personal merit, was such a circumstance, in favour of the sentiments I had for him, as exceeded my utmost desires; and accordingly I seemed so visibly charm’d, so out of time and measure pleas’d at his mention of his ruin’d fortune, that he could account for it no way, but that the joy of seeing him again had swallow’d up every other sense, or concern.
In the mean time, my woman had taken all possible care of Charles’s travelling companion; and as supper was coming in, he was introduc’d to me, when I receiv’d him as became my regard for all of Charles’s acquaintance or friends.
We four then supp’d together, in the style of joy, congratulation, and pleasing disorder that you may guess. For my part, though all these agitations had left me not the least stomach but for that uncloying feast, the sight of my ador’d youth, I endeavour’d to force it, by way of example for him, who I conjectur’d must want such a recruit after riding; and, indeed, he ate like a traveller, but gaz’d at, and addressed me all the time like a lover.
After the cloth was taken away, and the hour of repose came on, Charles and I were, without further ceremony, in quality of man and wife, shewn up together to a very handsome apartment, and, all in course, the bed, they said, the best in the inn.
And here, Decency, forgive me! if once more I violate thy laws and keeping the curtains undrawn, sacrifice thee for the last time to that confidence, without reserve, with which I engaged to recount to you the most striking circumstances of my youthful disorders.
As soon, then, as we were in the room together, left to ourselves, the sight of the bed starting the remembrance of our first joys, and the thought of my being instantly to share it with the dear possessor of my virgin heart, mov’d me so strongly, that it was well I lean’d upon him, or I must have fainted again under the overpowering sweet alarm. Charles saw into my confusion, and forgot his own, that was scarce less, to apply himself to the removal of mine.
But now the true refining passion had regain’d thorough possession of me, with all its train of symptoms: a sweet sensibility, a tender timidity, love-sick yearnings temper’d with diffidence and modesty, all held me in a subjection of soul, incomparably dearer to me than the liberty of heart which I had been long, too long! the mistress of, in the course of those grosser gallantries, the consciousness of which now made me sigh with a virtuous confusion and regret. No real virgin, in view of the nuptial bed, could give more bashful blushes to unblemish’d innocence than I did to a sense of guilt; and indeed I lov’d Charles too truly not to feel severely that I did not deserve him.
As I kept hesitating and disconcerted under this soft distraction, Charles, with a fond impatience, took the pains to undress me; and all I can remember amidst the flutter and discomposure of my senses was some flattering exclamations of joy and admiration, more specially at the feel of my breasts, now set at liberty form my stays, and which panting and rising in tumultuous throbs, swell’d upon his dear touch, and gave it the welcome pleasure of finding them well form’d, and unfail’d in firmness.
I was soon laid in bed, and scarce languish’d an instant for the darling partner of it, before he was undress’d and got between the sheets, with his arms clasp’d round me, giving and taking, with gust inexpressible, a kiss of welcome, that my heart rising to my lips stamp’d with its warmest impression, concurring to by bliss, with that delicate and voluptuous emotion which Charles alone had the secret to excite, and which constitutes the very life, the essence of pleasure.
Meanwhile, two candles lighted on a side-table near us, and a joyous wood-fire, threw a light into the bed that took from one sense, of great importance to our joys, all pretext for complaining of its being shut out of its share of them; and indeed, the sight of my idolized youth was alone, from the ardour with which I had wished for it, without other circumstance, a pleasure to die of.
But as action was now a necessity to desires so much on edge as ours, Charles, after a very short prelusive dalliance, lifting up my linen and his own, laid the broad treasures of his manly chest close to my bosom, both beating with the tenderest alarms: when now, the sense of his glowing body, in naked touch with mine, took all power over my thoughts out of my own disposal, and deliver’d up every faculty of the soul to the sensiblest of joys, that affecting me infinitely more with my distinction of the person than of the sex, now brought my conscious heart deliciously into play: my heart, which eternally constant to Charles, had never taken any part in my occasional sacrifices to the calls of constitution, complaisance, or interest. But ah! what became of me, when as the powers of solid pleasure thickened upon me, I could not help feeling the stiff stake that had been adorn’d with the trophies of my despoil’d virginity, bearing hard and inflexible against one of my thighs, which I had not yet opened, from a true principle of modesty, reviv’d by a passion too sincere to suffer any aiming at the false merit of difficulty, or my putting on an impertinent mock coyness.
I have, I believe, somewhere before remark’d, that the feel of that favourite piece of manhood has, in the very nature of it, something inimitably pathetic. Nothing can be dearer to the touch, nor can affect it with a more delicious sensation. Think then! as a love thinks, what must be the consummate transport of that quickest of our senses, in their central seat too! when, after so long a deprival, it felt itself re-inflam’d under the pressure of that peculiar scepter-member which commands us all: but especially my darling, elect from the face of the whole earth. And now, at its mightiest point of stiffness, it felt to me something so subduing, so active, so solid and agreeable, that I know not what name to give its singular impression: but the sentiment of consciousness of its belonging to my supremely beloved youth, gave me so pleasing an agitation, and work’d so strongly on my soul, that it sent all its sensitive spirits to that organ of bliss in me, dedicated to its reception. There, concentreing to a point, like rays in a burning glass, they glow’d, they burnt with the intensest heat; the springs of pleasure were, in short, wound up to such a pitch, I panted now, with so exquisitely keen an appetite for the eminent enjoyment that I was even sick with desire, and unequal to support the combination of two distinct ideas, that delightfully distracted me: for all the thought I was capable of, was that I was now in touch, at once, with the instrument of pleasure, and the great-seal of love. Ideas that, mingling streams, pour’d such an ocean of intoxicating bliss on a weak vessel, all too narrow to contain it, that I lay overwhelm’d, absorbed, lost in an abyss of joy, and dying of nothing but immoderate delight.
Charles then rous’d me somewhat out of this extatic distraction with a complaint softly murmured, amidst a crowd of kisses, at the position, not so favourable to his desires, in which I receiv’d his urgent insistance for admission, where that insistance was alone so engrossing a pleasure that it made me inconsistently suffer a much dearer one to be kept out; but how sweet to correct such a mistake! My thighs, now obedient to the intimations of love and nature, gladly disclose, and with a ready submission, resign up the soft gateway to the entrance of pleasure: I see, I feel the delicious velvet tip! . . . he enters me might and main, with . . . oh! my pen drops from me here in the extasy now present to my faithful memory! Description too deserts me, and delivers over a task, above its strength of wing, to the imagination: but it must be an imagination exalted by such a flame as mine that can do justice to that sweetest, noblest of all sensations, that hailed and accompany’d the stiff insinuation all the way up, till it was at the end of its penetration, sending up, through my eyes, the sparks of the love-fire that ran all over me and blaz’d in every vein and every pore of me: a system incarnate of joy all over.
I had now totally taken in love’s true arrow from the point up to the feather, in that part, where making now new wound, the lips of the original one of nature, which had owed its first breathing to this dear instrument, clung, as if sensible of gratitude, in eager suction round it, whilst all its inwards embrac’d it tenderly with a warmth of gust, a compressive energy, that gave it, in its way, the heartiest welcome in nature; every fibre there gathering tight round it, and straining ambitiously to come in for its share of the blissful touch.
As we were giving them a few moments of pause to the delectation of the senses, in dwelling with the highest relish on this intimatest point of re-union, and chewing the cud of enjoyment, the impatience natural to the pleasure soon drove us into action. Then began the driving tumult on his side, and the responsive heaves on mine, which kept me up to him; whilst, as our joys grew too great for utterance, the organs of our voices, voluptuously intermixing, became organs of the touch . . . and oh, that touch! how delicious! . . . how poignantly luscious! . . . And now! now I felt to the heart of me! I felt the prodigious keen edge with which love, presiding over this act, points the pleasure: love! that may be styled the Attic salt of enjoyment; and indeed, without it, the joy, great as it is, is still a vulgar one, whether in a king or a beggar; for it is, undoubtedly, love alone that refines, ennobles and exalts it.
Thus happy, then, by the heart, happy by the senses, it was beyond all power, even of thought, to form the conception of a greater delight than what I was now consummating the fruition of.
Charles, whose whole frame was convulsed with the agitation of his rapture, whilst the tenderest fires trembled in his eyes, all assured me of a prefect concord of joy, penetrated me so profoundly, touch’d me so vitally, took me so much out of my own possession, whilst he seem’d himself so much in mine, that in a delicious enthusiasm, I imagin’d such a transfusion of heart and spirit, as that coalescing, and making one body and soul with him, I was he, and he, me.
But all this pleasure tending, like life from its first instants, towards its own dissolution, liv’d too fast not to bring on upon the spur its delicious moment of mortality; for presently the approach of the tender agony discover’d itself by its usual signals, that were quickly follow’d by my dear love’s emanation of himself that spun our, and shot, feelingly indeed! up the ravish’d in-draught: where the sweetly soothing balmy titillation opened all the juices of joy on my side, which extatically in flow, help’d to allay the prurient glow, and drown’d our pleasure for a while. Soon, however, to be on float again! For Charles, true to nature’s laws, in one breath expiring and ejaculating, languish’d not long in the dissolving trance, but recovering spirit again, soon gave me to feel that the true-mettle springs of his instrument of pleasure were, by love, and perhaps by a long vacation, wound up too high to be let down by a single explosion: his stiffness still stood my friend. Resuming then the action afresh, without dislodging, or giving me the trouble of parting from my sweet tenant, we play’d over again the same opera, with the same delightful harmony and concert: our ardours, like our love, knew no remission; and, all as the tide serv’d my lover, lavish of his stores, and pleasure milked, overflow’d me once more from the fulness of his oval reservoirs of the genial emulsion: whilst, on my side, a convulsive grasp, in the instant of my giving down the liquid contribution, render’d me sweetly subservient at once to the increase of his joy, and of its effusions: moving me so, as to make me exert all those springs of the compressive exsuction with which the sensitive mechanism of that part thirstily draws and drains the nipple of Love; with much such an instinctive eagerness and attachment as, to compare great with less, kind nature engages infants at the breast by the pleasure they find in the motion of their little mouths and cheeks, to extract the milky stream prepar’d for their nourishment.
But still there was no end of his vigour: this double discharge had so far from extinguish’d his desires, for that time, that it had not even calm’d them; and at his age, desires are power. He was proceeding then amazingly to push it to a third triumph, still without uncasing, if a tenderness, natural to true love, had not inspir’d me with self-denial enough to spare, and not overstrain him: and accordingly, entreating him to give himself and me quarter, I obtain’d, at length, a short suspension of arms, but not before he had exultingly satisfy’d me that he gave out standing.
The remainder of the night, with what we borrow’d upon the day, we employ’d with unweary’d fervour in celebrating thus the festival of our re-meeting; and got up pretty late in the morning, gay, brisk and alert, though rest had been a stranger to us: but the pleasures of love had been to us, what the joy of victory is to an army; repose, refreshment, everything.
The journey into the country being now entirely out of the question, and orders having been given over-night for turning the horses’ heads towards London, we left the inn as soon as we had breakfasted, not without a liberal distribution of the tokens of my grateful sense of the happiness I had met with in it.
Charles and I were in my coach; the captain and my companion in a chaise hir’d purposely for them, to leave us the conveniency of a tete-a-tete.
Here, on the road, as the tumult of my senses was tolerably compos’d, I had command enough to head to break properly to him the course of life that the consequence of my separation from him had driven me into: which, at the same time that he tenderly deplor’d with me, he was the less shocked at; as, on reflecting how he had left me circumstanc’d, he could not be entirely unprepar’d for it.
But when I opened the state of my fortune to him, and with that sincerity which, from me to him, was so much a nature in me, I begg’d of him his acceptance of it, on his own terms. I should appear to you perhaps too partial to my passion, were I to attempt the doing his delicacy justice. I shall content myself then with assuring you, that after his flatly refusing the unreserv’d, unconditional donation that I long persecuted him in vain to accept, it was at length, in obedience to his serious commands (for I stood out unaffectedly, till he exerted the sovereign authority which love had given him over me), that I yielded my consent to waive the remonstrance I did not fail of making strongly to him, against his degrading himself, and incurring the reflection, however unjust, of having, for respects of fortune, barter’d his honour for infamy and prostitution, in making one his wife, who thought herself too much honour’d in being but his mistress.
The plea of love then over-ruling all objections, Charles, entirely won with the merit of my sentiments for him, which he could not but read the sincerity of in a heart ever open to him, oblig’d me to receive his hand, by which means I was in pass, among other innumerable blessings, to bestow a legal parentage on those fine children you have seen by this happiest of matches.
Thus at length, I got snug into port, where, in the bosom of virtue, I gather’d the only uncorrupt sweets: where, looking back on the course of vice I had run, and comparing its infamous blandishments with the infinitely superior joys of innocence, I could not help pitying, even in point of taste, those who, immers’d in gross sensuality, are insensible to the so delicate charms of VIRTUE, than which even PLEASURE has not a greater friend, nor than VICE a greater enemy. Thus temperance makes men lords over those pleasures that intemperance enslaves them to: the one, parent of health, vigour, fertility, cheerfulness, and every other desirable good of life; the other, of diseases, debility, barrenness, self-loathing, with only every evil incident to human nature.
You laugh, perhaps, at this tail-piece of morality, extracted from me by the force of truth, resulting from compar’d experiences: you think it, no doubt, out of place, out of character; possibly too you may look on it as the paltry finesse of one who seeks to mask a devotee to Vice under a rag of a veil, impudently smuggled from the shrine of Virtue: just as if one was to fancy one’s self compleatly disguised at a masquerade, with no other change of dress than turning one’s shoes into slippers; or, as if a writer should think to shield a treasonable libel, by concluding it with a formal prayer for the King. But, independent of my flattering myself that you have a juster opinion of my sense and sincerity, give me leave to represent to you, that such a supposition is even more injurious to Virtue than to me: since, consistently with candour and good-nature, it can have no foundation but in the falsest of fears, that its pleasures cannot stand in comparison with those of Vice; but let truth dare to hold it up in its most alluring light: then mark, how spurious, how low of taste, how comparatively inferior its joys are to those which Virtue gives sanction to, and whose sentiments are not above making even a sauce for the senses, but a sauce of the highest relish; whilst Vices are the harpies that infect and foul the feast. The paths of Vice are sometimes strew’d with roses, but then they are for ever infamous for many a thorn, for many a canker-worm: those of Virtue are strew’d with roses purely, and those eternally unfading ones.
If you do me then justice, you will esteem me perfectly consistent in the incense I burn to Virtue. If I have painted Vice in all its gayest colours, if I have deck’d it with flowers, it has been solely in order to make the worthier, the solemner sacrifice of it, to Virtue.
You know Mr. C—— O—— you know his estate, his worth, and good sense: can you, will you pronounce it ill meant, at least of him, when anxious for his son’s morals, with a view to form him to virtue, and inspire him with a fix’d, a rational contempt for vice, he condescended to be his master of the ceremonies, and led him by the hand thro’ the most noted bawdy-houses in town, where he took care he should be familiarized with all those scenes of debauchery, so fit to nauseate a good taste? The experiment, you will cry, is dangerous. True, on a fool: but are fools worth so much attention?
I shall see you soon, and in the mean time think candidly of me, and believe me ever,
Yours, etc., etc., etc.,
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