My Life and Loves, by Frank Harris

Chapter ix.

Student Life and Love.

That railway journey to Lawrence, Kansas, is as vivid to me now as if it had taken place yesterday yet it all happened more than fifty years ago. It was a blazing hot day and in the seat opposite to me was an old grey — haired man who appeared to be much troubled by the heat: he moved about restlessly, mopped his forehead, took off his vest and finally went out probably to the open observation platform, leaving a couple of books on his seat. I took one of them up heedlessly — it was “The Life and Death of Jason”, by William Morris. I read a page or two, was surprised by the easy flow of the verse; but not gripped, so I picked up the other volume:— “Laus Veneris: Poems and Ballads” by Algernon Charles Swinburne. It opened at the Anactoria and in a moment, I was carried away entranced as no poetry before or since has ever entranced me. Venus, herself, spoke in the lines:

“Alas! that neither rain nor snow nor dew

Nor all cold things can purge me wholly through,

Assuage me nor allay me, nor appease,

Till supreme sleep shall bring me bloodless ease,

Till Time wax faint in all her periods,

Till Fate undo the bondage of the Gods

To lay and slake and satiate me all through,

Lotus and Lethe on my lips like dew,

And shed around and over and under me

Thick darkness and the insuperable sea.”

I haven’t seen the poem since and there may be verbal inaccuracies in my version; but the music and passion of the verses enthralled me and when I came to “The Leper”, the last stanzas brought hot tears to my eyes and in the “Garden of Proserpine”, I heard my own soul speaking with divine if hopeless assurance. Was there ever such poetry? Even the lighter verses were, charming:

“Remembrance may recover

And time bring back to time

The name of your first lover,

The ring of my first rhyme:

But rose-leaves of December,

The storms of June shall fret;

The day that you remember,

The day that I forget.

And then the gay defiance:

In the teeth of the glad salt weather,

In the blown wet face of the sea;

While three men hold together,

Their Kingdoms are less by three.

And the divine songs to Hugo and to Whitman and the superb “Dedication”: the last verse of it a. miracle:

Though the many lights dwindle to one light,

There is help if the Heavens have one;

Though the stars be discrowned of the sunlight

And the earth dispossessed of the Sun:

They have moonlight and sleep for repayment:

When refreshed as a bride and set free;

With stars and sea-winds in her raiment

Night sinks on the sea.”

My very soul was taken: I had no need to read them twice: I’ve never seen them since: I shall not forget them so long as this machine lasts. They flooded my eyes with tears, my heart with passionate admiration. In this state the old gentlemen came back and found me, a cowboy to all appearance, lost, tear-drowned in Swinburne.

“I think that’s my book”, he said calling me back to dull reality. “Surely”, I replied bowing; “but what magnificent poetry and I never heard of Swinburne before.” “This is his first book I believe”, said the old gentleman, “but I’m glad you like his verses; “Like”, I cried, “who could help adoring them!” and I let myself go to recite the Proserpine:

From too much love of living,

From hope and fear set free,

We thank with brief thanksgiving

Whatever Gods may be

That no life lives forever,

That dead men rise up never,

That even the weariest river

Winds somewhere safe to sea.

“Why you’ve learned it by heart!”, cried the old man in wonder; “learned?”, I repeated, “I know half the book by heart: if you had stayed away another half hour, I’d have known it all and I went on reciting for the next ten minutes.

“I never heard of such a thing in my life”, he cried: “fancy a cowboy who learns Swinburne by merely reading him. It’s astounding! Where are you going!” “To Lawrence,” I replied. “We’re almost there,” he added and then, “I wish you would let me give you the book. I can easily get another copy and I think it ought to be yours”.

I thanked him with all my heart and in a few minutes more got down at Lawrence station then as now far outside the little town clasping my Swinburne in my hand.

I record this story not to brag of my memory for all gifts are handicaps in life; but to show how land Western Americans were to young folk and because the irresistible, unique appeal of Swinburne to youth has never been set forth before, so far as I know.

In a comfortable room at the Eldridge House, in the chief street of Lawrence, I met my brother: Willie seemed woefully surprised by my appearance: “You’re as yellow as a guinea; but how you’ve grown”, he cried. “You may be tall yet but you look ill, very ill!”

He was the picture of health and even better-looking than I had remembered him: a man of five feet ten or so with good figure and very handsome dark face: hair, small moustache and goatee beard jet black, straight thin nose and superb long hazel eyes with black lashes: he might have stood for the model of a Greek god were it not that his forehead was narrow and his eyes set close.

In three months he had become enthusiastically American, “America is the greatest country in the world”, he assured me from an abyssmal ignorance; “any young man who works can make money here; if I had a little capital I’d be a rich man in a very few years; it’s some capital I need, nothing more”. Having drawn my story out of me especially the last phase when I divided up with the boys, he declared I must be mad. “With five thousand dollars”, he cried, k “l could be rich in three years, a millionaire in ten. You must be mad; don’t you know that everyone is for himself in this world: good gracious! I never heard of such insanity: if I had only known!”

For some days I watched him closely and came to believe that he was perfectly suited to his surroundings, eminently fitted to succeed in them.

He was an earnest Christian, I found, who had been converted and baptised in the Baptist Church; he had a fair tenor voice and led the choir; he swallowed all the idiocies of the incredible creed; but drew some valuable moral sanctions from it; he was a teetotaler and didn’t smoke; a Nazarene, too, determined to keep chaste as he called a state of abstinence from women, and weekly indulgence in self-abuse which he tried to justify as inevitable.

The teaching of Jesus himself had little or no practical effect on him; he classed it all together as counsels of an impossible perfection, and like the vast majority of Americans, accepted a childish Pauline–German morality while despising the duty of forgiveness and scorning the Gospel of Love.

A few days after our first meeting, Willie proposed to me that I should lend him a thousand dollars and he would give me twenty — five per cent for the use of the money. When I exclaimed against the usurious rate, twelve per cent being the State limit, he told me he could lend a million dollars if he had it, at from three to five per cent a month on perfect security. “So you see,” he wound up, “that I can easily afford to give you two hundred and fifty dollars a year for the use of your thousand: one can buy real estate here to pay fifty per cent a year; the country is only just beginning to be developed”, and so forth and so on in wildest optimism: the end of it being that he got my thousand dollars, leaving me with barely five hundred, but as I could live in a good boarding house for four dollars a week, I reckoned that at the worst I had one carefree year before me and if Willie kept his promise, I would be free to do whatever I wanted to do for years to come.

It was written that I was to have another experience in Lawrence much more important than anything to do with my brother. “Coming events cast their shadows before”, is a poetic proverb, singularly inept; great events arrive unheralded, were truer.

One evening I went to a political meeting at Liberty Hall near my hotel. Senator Ingalls was going to speak and a Congressman on the Granger movement, the first attempt of the Western farmers to react politically against the exploitation of Wall Street. The hall was packed: just behind me sat a man between two pretty grey-eyed girls. The man’s face attracted me even at first sight: I should be able to picture him for even as I write his face comes before me as vividly as if the many long years that separate us, were but the momentary closing of my eyes.

At the end of this chapter I reproduce a perfect portrait of him and need only add the coloring and expression: the large eyes were hazel and set far apart under the white, over-hanging brow; the hair and whiskers were chestnut-brown tinged with auburn; but it was the eyes that drew and fascinated me for they were luminous as no other eyes that I have ever seen; frank too, and kind, kind always.

But his dress, a black frock coat, with low stand-up white collar and a narrow black silk tie excited my snobbish English contempt. Both the girls, sisters evidently, were making up to him for all they were worth, or so it seemed to my jaundiced envious eyes.

Senator Ingalls made the usual kind of speech: the farmers were right to combine; but the money-lords were powerful and after all farmers and bankers alike were Americans:— Americans first and last and all the time! (great cheering!) The Congressman followed with the same brand of patriotic piffle and then cries arose from all parts of the hall for Professor Smith! I heard eager whispering behind me and turning half round guessed that the good looking young man was Professor Smith for his two girl-admirers were persuading him to go on the platform and fascinate the audience.

In a little while he went up amid great applause; a good figure of a man, rather tall, about five feet ten, slight with broad shoulders. He began to speak in a thin tenor voice: “there was a manifest conflict of interests,” he said, “between the manufacturing Eastern States that demanded a high tariff on all imports and the farming West that wanted cheap goods and cheap rates of transport.

“In essence, it’s a mere matter of arithmetic, a mathematical problem, demanding a compromise; for every country should establish its own manufacturing industries and be self-supporting. The obvious reform was indicated; the Federal government should take over the railways and run them for the farmers, while competition among American manufacturers would ultimately reduce prices”.

No one in the hall seemed to understand this “obvious reform”; but the speech called forth a hurricane of cheers and I concluded that there were a great many students from the State University in the audience.

I don’t know what possessed me but when Smith returned to his seat behind me between the two girls and they praised him to the skies, I got up .and walked to the platform. I was greeted with a tempest of laughter and must have cut a ludicrous figure. I was in cowpuncher’s dress as modified by Reece and Dell: I wore loose Bedford cord breeches, knee-high brown boots and a sort of buckskin shirt and jacket combined that tucked into my breeches. But rains and sun had worked their will on the buckskin which had shrunk down my neck and up my arms.

Spurred on by the laughter I went up the four steps to the platform and walked over to the Mayor who was Chairman:

“May I speak 1” I asked:

“Sure”, he replied “your name?”

“My name is Harris” I answered and the Mayor manifestly regarding me as a great joke announced that a Mr. Harris wished to address the meeting and he hoped the audience would give him a fair hearing even if his doctrines happened to be peculiar. As I faced them, the spectators shrieked with laughter: the house fairly rocked. I waited a full minute and then began: “How like Americans and Democrats”, I said, “to judge a man by the clothes he wears and the amount of hair he has on his face or the dollars in his jeans.”

There was instantaneous silence, the silence of surprise at least, and I went on to show what I had learned from Mill that open competition was the law of life, another name for the struggle for existence; that each country should concentrate its energies on producing the things it was best fitted to produce and trade these off against the products of other nations; this was the great economic law, the law of the territorial division of labor.

“Americans should produce corn and wheat and meat for the world”, I said, and exchange these products for the cheapest English woolen goods and French silks and Irish linen. This would enrich the American farmer, develop all the waste American land and be a thousand times better for the whole country than taxing all consumers with high import duties to enrich a few Eastern manufacturers who were too inefficient to face the open competition of Europe. “The American farmers,” I went on, “should organize with the laborers, for their interests are identical and fight the Eastern manufacturer who is nothing but a parasite living on the brains and work of better men”.

And then, I wound up: “this common sense program won’t please your Senators or your Congressmen who prefer cheap claptrap to thought, or your superfine Professors who believe the war of classes is “a mere arithmetical problem” (and I imitated the Professor’s thin voice), but it may nevertheless be accepted by the American farmer tired of being milked by the Yankee manufacturer and it should stand as the first chapter in the new Granger gospel”.

I bowed to the Mayor and turned away but the audience broke into cheers and Senator Ingalls came over and shook my hand saying he hoped to know me better and the cheering went on till I had gotten back to my place and resumed my seat. A few minutes later and I was touched on the back by Professor Smith. As I turned round he said smiling “you gave me a good lesson: I’ll never make a public speaker and what I said doubtless sounded inconsequent and absurd; but if you’d have a talk with me, I think I could convince you that my theory will hold water”.

“I’ve no doubt you could,” I broke in, heartily ashamed of having made fun of a man I didn’t know; “I didn’t grasp your meaning but I’d be glad to have a talk with you.”

“Are you free tonight?” he went on: I nodded: “Then come with me to my rooms. These ladies live out of town and we’ll put them in their buggy and then be free. This is Mrs he added presenting

me to the stouter lady and this, her sister, Miss Stevens.” I bowed and out we went, I keeping myself resolutely in the background till the sisters had driven away: then we set off together to Professor Smith’s rooms, for our talk.

If I could give a complete account of that talk, this poor page would glow with wonder and admiration all merged in loving reverence. We talked or rather Smith talked for I soon found he knew infinitely more than I did, was able indeed to label my creed as that of Mill, “a bourgeois English economist” he called him with smiling disdain.

Ever memorable to me, sacred indeed, that first talk with the man who was destined to reshape my life and inspire it with some of his own high purpose. He introduced me to the communism of Marx and Engels and easily convinced me that land and its products, coal and oil, should belong to the whole community which should also manage all industries for the public benefit.

My breath was taken by his mere statement of the case and I thrilled to the passion in his voice and manner though even then I wasn’t wholly convinced. Whatever topic we touched on, he illumined; he knew everything, it seemed to me, German and French and could talk Latin and Classic Greek as fluently as English. I had never imagined such scholarship and when I recited some verses of Swinburne as expressing my creed he knew them too and his Pantheistic Hymn to Hertha, as well. And he wore his knowledge lightly as the mere garment of his shining spirit! And how handsome he was, like a Sun-god! I had never seen anyone who could at all compare with him.

Day had dawned before we had done talking: then he told me he was the Professor of Greek in the State University and hoped I would come and study with him when the schools opened again in October. ‘To think of you as a cowboy” he said, “is impossible. Fancy a cowboy knowing books of Vergil and poems of Swinburne by heart; it’s absurd: you must give your brains a chance and study.”

“I’ve too little money” I said, beginning to regret my loan to my brother.

“I told you I am a Socialist,” Smith retorted smiling: “I have three or four thousand dollars in the Bank, take half of it and come to study” and his luminous eyes held me: then it was true, after all; my heart swelled, jubilant, there were noble souls in this world who took little thought of money and lived for better things than gold.

“I won’t take your money”, I said, with tears burning: “every herring should hang by its own head in these democratic days; but if you think enough of me to offer such help, I’ll promise to come though I fear you’ll be disappointed when you find how little I know; how ignorant I am. I’ve not been in school since I was fourteen.”

“Come, we’ll soon make up the time lost” he said. “By the bye where are you staying?” “The Eldridge House,” I replied.

He brought me to the door and we parted; as I turned to go I saw the tall slight figure and the radiant eyes and I went away into a new world that was the old, feeling as if I were treading on air.

Once more my eyes had been opened as on Overton Bridge to the beauties of nature; but now to the splendor of an unique spirit. What luck! I cried to myself to meet such a man! It really seemed to me as if some God were following me with divine gifts!

And then the thought came: This man has chosen and called you very much as Jesus called his disciples:— Come, and I wilt make you fishers of men — Already I was dedicate heart and soul to the new Gospel.

But even that meeting with Smith, wherein I reached the topmost height of golden hours, was set off, so to speak, by another happening of this wonder-week. At the next table to me in the dining-room I had already remarked once or twice a little, middle-aged, weary looking man who often began his breakfast with a glass of boiling water and followed it up with a baked apple drowned in rich cream. Brains, too, or sweetbreads he would eat for dinner and rice, not potatoes: when I looked surprise, he told me he had been up all night and had a weak digestion. Mayhew, he said, was his name and explained that if I ever wanted a game of faro or euchre or indeed anything else, he’d oblige me. I smiled; I could ride and shoot, I replied; but I was no good at cards.

The day after my talk with Smith, Mayhew and I were both late for supper: I sat long over a good meal and as he rose, he asked me if I would come across the street and see his “layout!” I went willingly enough, having nothing to do. The gambling-saloon was on the first floor of a building nearly opposite the Eldridge House: the place was well-kept and neat, thanks to a colored bar-tender and colored waiter and a nigger of all work. The long room too was comfortably furnished and very brightly lit — altogether an attractive place.

As luck would have it, while he was showing me round, a lady came in; Mayhew after a word or two introduced me to her as his wife: Mrs. Mayhew was then a woman of perhaps twenty-eight or thirty, with tall, lissom slight figure and interesting rather than pretty face: her features were all good, her eyes even were large and blue-gray: she would have been lovely if her coloring had been more pronounced: give her golden hair or red or black and she would have been a beauty: she was always tastefully dressed and had appealing, ingratiating manners. I soon found that she loved books and reading and as Mayhew said he was going to be busy, I asked if I might see her home. She consented smiling and away we went. She lived in a pretty frame house standing alone in a street that ran parallel to Massachusetts Street, nearly opposite to a large and ugly church.

As she went up the steps to the door, I noticed that she had fine, neat ankles and I divined shapely limbs. While she was taking off her light cloak and hat, the lifting of her arms stretched her bodice and showed small round breasts: already my blood was lava and my mouth parched with desire.

“You look at me strangely!” she said swinging round from the long mirror with a challenge on her parted lips. I made some inane remark: I couldn’t trust myself to speak frankly; but natural sympathy drew us together. I told her I was going to be a student and she wanted to know whether I could dance: I told her I could not, and she promised to teach me: “Lily Robins, a neighbor’s girl, will play for us any afternoon. Do you know the steps’?” she went on and when I said “No”: she got up from the sofa, held up her dress and showed me the three polka steps which she said were the waltz steps too, only taken on a glide. “What pretty ankles! you have”, I ventured; but she appeared not to hear me. We sat on and on and I learned that she was very lonely: Mr. Mayhew away every night and nearly all day and nothing to do in that little dead-and-alive place. “Will you let me come in for a talk sometimes?” I asked: “Whenever you wish”, was her answer. As I rose to go and we were standing opposite to each other by the door, I said: “You know, Mrs. Mayhew, in Europe when a man brings a pretty woman home, she rewards him with a kiss — ”

“Really!” she scoffed, smiling, “That’s not a custom here”.

Are you less generous than they are!” I asked and the next moment I had taken her face in my hands and kissed her on the lips. She put her hands on my shoulders and left her eyes on mine: “We’re going to he friends”, she said, “I felt it when I saw you: don’t stay away too long!”

“Will you see me tomorrow afternoon?” I asked: “I want that dance lesson!” “Surely” she replied, “I’ll tell Lily in the morning.” And once more our hands met: I tried to draw her to me for another kiss; but she held back with a smiling — “To morrow afternoon!” “Tell me your name”, I begged, “so that I may think of it”. “Lorna” she replied, “you funny boy!” and I went my way with pulses hammering, blood aflame and hope in my heart.

Next morning I called again upon Smith; but the pretty servant, “Rose”, she said her name was, told me that he was nearly always out at Judge Stevens’ “five or six miles out,” she thought it was; “they always come for him in a buggy”, she added. So I said I’d write and make an appointment and I did write and asked him to let me see him next morning.

That same morning Willie recommended to me a pension kept by a Mrs. Gregory, an Englishwoman, the wife of an old Baptist clergyman, who would take good care of me for four dollars a week. Immediately I went with him to see her and was delighted to find that she lived only about a hundred yards from Mrs. Mayhew on the opposite side of the street. Mrs. Gregory was a large, motherly woman evidently a lady, who had founded this boarding-house to provide for a rather feckless husband and two children, a big pretty girl, Kate and a lad, a couple of years younger. Mrs. Gregory was delighted with my English accent, I believe, and showed me special favor at once by giving me a large outside room with its own entrance and steps into the garden.

In an hour I had paid my bill at the Eldridge House and had moved in: I showed a shred of prudence by making Willie promise Mrs. Gregory that he would turn up each Saturday with the five dollars for my board; the dollar extra was for the big room.

In due course I shall tell how he kept his promise and discharged his debt to me. For the moment everything was easily, happily settled. I went out and ordered a decent suit of ordinary tweeds and dressed myself up in my best blue suit to call upon Mrs. Mayhew after lunch. The clock crawled but on the stroke of three, I was at her door: a colored maid admitted me.

“Mrs. Mayhew”, she said in her pretty singing voice, “will be down right soon: I’ll go call Miss Lily”.

In five minutes Miss Lily appeared, a dark slip of a girl with shining black hair, wide laughing mouth, temperamental thick red lips and grey eyes fringed with black lashes: she had hardly time to speak to me when Mrs. Mayhew came in: “I hope you two’ll be great friends”, she said prettily; “you’re both about the same age” she added .

In a few minutes Miss Lily was playing a waltz on the Stein way and with my arm round the slight, flexible waist of my inamorata I was trying to waltz. But alas! after a turn or two I became giddy and in spite of all my resolution had to admit that I should never be able to dance.

“You have got very pale”, Mrs. Mayhew said, “you must sit down on the sofa a little while”. Slowly the giddiness left me: before I had entirely recovered Miss Lily with kindly words of sympathy had gone home and Mrs. Mayhew brought me in a cup of excellent coffee: I drank it down and was well at once.

“You shoulid go in and lie down”, said Mrs. Mayhew still full of pity, “see” and she opened a door, “there’s the guest bedroom all ready”. I saw my chance and went over to her: “if you’d come too”, I whispered and then, “the coffee has made me quite well: won’t you, Lorna, give me a kiss? You don’t know how often I said your name last night, you dear!” and in a moment I had again taken her face and put my lips on hers. She gave me her lips this time and my kiss became a caress; but in a little while she drew away and said, “let’s sit and talk, I want to know all you are doing”. So I seated myself beside her on the sofa and told her all my news. She thought I would be comfortable with the Gregorys. “Mrs. Gregory is a good woman”, she added, “and I hear the girl’s engaged to a cousin: do you think her pretty?”

“I think no one pretty but you, Lorna”, I said and I pressed her head down on the arm of the sofa and kissed her. Her lips grew hot: I was certain. At once I put my hand down on her sex; she struggled a little at first, which I took care should bring our bodies closer and when she ceased struggling I put my hands up her dress and began caressing her sex: it was hot and wet, as I knew it would be, and opened readily.

But in another moment she took the lead: “Some one might find us here,” she whispered, “I’ve let the maid go: come up to my bedroom” and she took me upstairs. I begged her to undress: I wanted to see her figure; but she only said, “I have no corsets on, I don’t often wear them in the house. Are you sure you love me, dear!” “You know I do!” was my answer. The next moment I lifted her on to the bed, drew up her clothes, opened her legs and was in her. There was no difficulty and in a moment or two I came; but went right on poking passionately; in a few minutes her breath went and came quickly and her eyes fluttered and she met my thrusts with sighs and nippings of her sex. My second orgasm took some time and all the while Lorna became more and more responsive, till suddenly she put her hands on my bottom and drew me to her forcibly while she moved her sex up and down awkwardly to meet my thrusts with a passion I had hardly imagined. Again and again I came and the longer the play lasted, the wilder was her excitement and delight. She kissed me hotly foraging and thrusting her tongue into my mouth. Finally she pulled up her chemise to get me further into her and at length with little sobs she suddenly got hysterical and panting wildly, burst into a storm of tears.

That stopped me: I withdrew my sex and took her in my arms and kissed her; at first she clung to me with choking sighs and streaming eyes, but as soon as she had won a little control, I went to the toilette and brought her a sponge of cold water and bathed her face and gave her some water to drink — that quieted her. But she would not let me leave her even to arrange my clothes.

“Oh, you great, strong dear,” she cried, with her arms clasping me, “oh, who would have believed such intense pleasure possible: I never felt anything like it before: how could you keep on so long! Oh; how I love you, you wonder and delight!

“I am all yours,” she added gravely, “you shall do what you like with me: I am your mistress, your slave, your plaything and you are my God and my love! Oh, Darling! oh!”

There was a pause while I smiled at her extravagant praise, then suddenly she sat up and got out of bed: “You wanted to see my figure”, she exclaimed,, “here it is, I can deny you nothing; I only hope it may please you” and in a moment or two she showed herself nude from head to stocking.

As I had guessed, her figure was slight and lissom, with narrow hips but she had a great bush of hair on her Mount of Venus and her breasts were not so round and firm as Jessie’s: still she was very pretty and well-formed with the fines attaches (slender wrists and ankles) which the French are so apt to over-estimate. They think that small bones indicate a small sex; but I have found that the exceptions are very numerous, even if there is any such rule.

After I had kissed her breasts and navel, and praised her figure, she disappeared in the bathroom but was soon with me again on the sofa which we had left an hour or so before.

“Do you know” she began, “my husband assured me that only the strongest young man could go twice with a woman in one day? I believed him — aren’t we women fools! You must have come a dozen times?”

“Not half that number”, I replied smiling.

“Aren’t you tired?” was her next question, “even I have a little headache” she added: “I never was so wrought up: at the end it was too intense: but you must be tired out.” “No,” I replied, “I feel no fatigue, indeed I feel the better for our joy ride!”

“But surely you’re an exception?” she went on; “most men have finished in one short spasm and leave the woman utterly unsatisfied, just excited and no more”.

“Youth”, I said, “that, I believe, makes the chief difference”.

“Is there any danger of a child!” she went on, “I ought to say ‘hope’,” she added bitterly, “for I’d love to have a child, your child” and she kissed me.

“When were you ill last?” I asked.

“About a fortnight ago”, she replied, “I often thought that had something to do with it”.

“Why!” I asked: “tell truth!” I warned her and she began: “I’ll tell you anything; I thought the time had something to do with it for soon after I am well each month my “pussy” that’s what we call it, often burns and itches intolerably; but after a week or so I’m not bothered any more till next time. Why is that?” she added.

“Two things I ought to explain to you” I said, “your seed is brought down into your womb by the menstrual blood: it lives there a week or ten days and then dies and with its death your desires decrease and the chance of impregnation. But near the next monthly period, say within three days, there is a double danger again; for the excitement may bring your seed down before the usual time and in any case, my seed will live in your womb about three days, so if you wish to avoid pregnancy, wait for ten days after your monthly flow is finished and stop say four days before you expect it again, then the danger of getting a child is very slight.”

“Oh, you wise boy!” she laughed, “don’t you see you are skipping the time I most desire you, and that’s not kind to either of us; is it?”

“There’s still another way of evasion”, I said, “get me to withdraw before I come the first time, or get up immediately and syringe yourself with water thoroughly: water kills my seed as soon as it touches it — ”

“But how will that help if you go on half a dozen times more?” she asked.

“Doctors say,” I replied, “that what comes from me afterwards is not virile enough to impregnate a woman: I’ll explain the process to you if you like; but you can take it, the fact is as I state it”.

“When did you learn all this?” she asked.

“It has been my most engrossing study,” I laughed, “and by far the most pleasureful!”

“You dear, dear,” she cried, “I must kiss you for that”.

“Do you know you kiss wonderfully?” she went on reflectingly, “with a lingering touch of the inside of the lips and then the thrust of the tongue: that’s what excited me so the first time” and she sighed as if delighted with the memory.

“You didn’t seem excited,” I said half reproachfully, “for when I wanted another kiss, you drew away and said ‘tomorrow’! Why are women so coquettish, so perverse?” I added, remembering Lucille and Jessie.

“I think it is that we wish to be sure of being desired,” she replied, “and a little too that we want to prolong the joy of it, the delight of being wanted, really wanted! It is so easy for us to give and so exquisite to feel a man’s desire pursuing us! Ah how rare it is”, she sighed passionately, “and how quickly lost! You’ll soon tire of your mistress”, she added, “now that I am all yours and thrill only for you” and she took my head in her hands and kissed me passionately, regretfully.

“You kiss better than I do, Lorna! Where did you acquire the art, Madame?” I asked, “I fear that you have been a naughty, naughty girl!”

“If you only knew the truth,” she exclaimed, “if you only knew how girls long for a lover and burn and itch in vain and wonder why men are so stupid and cold and dull as not to see our desire.

“Don’t we try all sorts of tricks? Aren’t we haughty and withdrawn at one moment and affectionate, tender, loving at another? Don’t we conceal the hook with every sort of bait only to watch the fish sniff at it and turn away. Ah, if you knew — I feel a traitor to my sex even in telling you — if you guessed how we angle for you and how clever we are, how full of wiles! There’s an expression I once heard my husband use which describes us women exactly or nine out of ten of us. I wanted to know how he kept the office warm all night: he said, we damp down the furnaces and explained the process: that’s it, I cried to myself, I’m a damped-down furnace: that’s surely why I keep hot so long! Did you imagine”, she asked, turning her flower-face all pale with passion half aside, “that I took off my hat that first day before the glass and turned slowly round with it held above my head, by chance? You dear innocent! I knew the movement would show my breasts and slim hips and did it deliberately hoping it would excite you and how I thrilled when I saw it did.

‘Why did I show you the bed in that room?” she added, “and leave the door ajar when I came back here to the sofa, but to tempt you and how heart-glad I was to feel your desire in your kiss. I was giving myself before you pushed my head back on the sofa-arm and disarranged all my hair!” she added pouting and patting it with her hands to make sure it was in order.

“You were astonishingly masterful and quick,” she went on: “how did you know that I wished you to touch me then’? Most men would have gone on kissing and fooling, afraid to act decisively. You must have had a lot of experience? You naughty lad!”

“Shall I tell you the truth?” I said, “I will, just to encourage you to be frank with me. You are the first woman I have ever spent my seed in or had properly — ”

“Call it improperly, for God’s sake,” she cried laughing aloud with joy, “you darling virgin, you! Oh! how I wish I was sixteen again and you were my first lover. You would have made me believe in God. Yet you are my first lover”, she added quickly, “I have only learned the delight and ecstasy of love in your arms — ”

Our love-talk lasted for hours till suddenly I guessed it was late and looked at mv watch: it was nearly seven-thirty: I was late for supper which started at half-past six!

“I must go,” I exclaimed, “or I’ll get nothing to eat”.

“I could give you supper,” she added, “my lips too, that long for you and — and — but you know” she added regretfully, “he might come in and I want to know you better first before seeing you together: a young God and a man! — and the man in God’s likeness, yet so poor an imitation!”

“Don’t, don’t,” I said, “you’ll make life harder for yourself — ”

“Harder” she repeated with a sniff of contempt, “Kiss me, my love and go if you must. Shall I see you tomorrow? There!” she cried as with a curse, “I’ve given myself away: I can’t help it, oh how I want you always: how I shall long for you and count the dull dreary hours! Go, go or I’ll never let you” — and she kissed and clung to me to the door.

“Sweet — tomorrow”, I said and tore off.

Of course it is manifest that my liaison with Mrs. Mayhew had little or nothing to do with love. It was demoniac youthful sex-urge in me and much the same hunger in her and as soon as the desire was satisfied my judgment of her was as impartial, cool as if she had always been indifferent to me. But with her I think there was a certain attachment and considerable tenderness. In intimate relations between the sexes it is rare indeed that the man gives as much to love as the woman.

Professor Byron. C. Smith: 1872.

Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:55