Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The Berkshire Correspondence Part 1

For your reading pleasure, and mine, I am happy to present to you The Berkshire Correspondence by Edith Bellamy.  This story is set in the 18th century and is told through a series of letters between an aunt and her downtrodden niece.  I admit that I haven't read this story in its entirety, but what I have read I have thoroughly enjoyed.  This is a story in two parts and I will publish the second part when appropriate.

So, without further ado, I leave you to your reading.



PART ONE
[EDITOR'S NOTE: In November, 1972, Brackenheath Manor, in Basingsford, Berks., abandoned and decrepit since the early 1950's, was condemned because it stood in the path of a proposed Motorway. On 23 January 1973, two weeks before the wreckers were to arrive, an auction of the manor's contents was held. The following letters and documents, bound in faded red ribbon, were found in an empty Fortson's Biscuits tin. Known as The Berkshire Correspondence, these papers now reside in the locked archives of the Berkshire Historical Society, in Reading, where they may be viewed by special appointment.]

Letter I: From Sophie Crenshaw to Amelia Poindexter (Lady Lovelle), her Aunt.

Brackenheath, Basingsford, Berks., Tuesday, 18th July 1732

Dearest Aunt,

The night before Mama died she bade me write you should I ever need advice & assistance in time of dire need. That time is now come! So I trust you will not feel inconvenienced that I turn to you now in what must be the darkest hour in all the nineteen years since God saw fit to grant me Life. I beg you attend my sad story & guide me in what I shall do.

You must not read further, dear Aunt, until you have promised me, in your heart, that you shall burn this letter the instant you have finished reading it. I know you shall do, for should this letter fall into other hands I shall be ruined forever.

Charles & I have been married a scant six weeks, but it seems an Eternity! I cannot begin to tell you the humiliations he has subjected me to. You, who have been widowed these many years, perhaps do not remember what a husband demands of a wife starting on her wedding-night, or perhaps Lord Lovelle had different expectations of you. But for me, married life is a perfect Hell, dearest Aunt. I am at my wits' end what to do!

Charles's behavior at our wedding-party was shocking enough, kissing every woman under thirty who came near to him, thrusting his tongue into their mouths, then telling them all that they should take lessons from me, who had never kissed him but chastely! All that paled, however, in comparison to what he did with me in the bed-chamber that night, after he had instructed the servants to retire & to disturb us not, on pain of dismissal.

Aunt, do tell me, does a husband bind his new bride to the four posts of her marriage-bed like a cut-throat about to be drawn & quartered? No one ever told me to expect such a thing! Mama never told me anything about marriage besides that a wife's duty is to obey her husband in all. Like other girls, to be sure, I had heard rumors about what men do in the bedchamber with their brides, besides sleeping soundly, and I was prepared to close my eyes, set my teeth and brave the worst. But the rumors never mentioned being bound hand and foot!

But bind me is just what Charles did, after ripping my night-gown off by tearing it to shreds in a frenzy, then cutting lengths of the purple silken bell-pull with his pen-knife & binding me tightly with the pieces, ankle & wrist, to the posts of the bed, me, all tender & unsuspecting & wanting to please! He brushed me, in places I dare not mention, with a soft brush of camel's-hair he keeps in his boot. Why he carries such an implement I cannot guess! Once he had roused me to sensations I could not have imagined, he took a lighted taper from one of the sconces & dripped warm wax on those same unnamable places! Never once did he speak a word, & all the while I was begging him to release me, promising that I would do anything he fancied, if only he would untie my bonds.

Ah, but that was a foolish thing to beg for, Aunt, for he extracted just such a promise, that I would do anything he fancied. When he undid my bonds, I was constrained to commit the most unspeakable acts at his command, Aunt! I thought I would certainly be asphyxiated taking that.... that unmentionable object into my mouth and down into my throat. I felt like a goose the farmer fattens for Christmas by forcing grain down its gullet with a funnel! I had no choice but to swallow those terrible spurts of that musky stuff, the which I could still taste in my mouth for hours.

Then, after he had satisfied himself in this bestial fashion, & just when I was beginning to feel stirrings again in that secret place whose name I have never been taught, the stirrings girls feel when they ride their ponies astride, (before they learn to ride side-saddle), Charles fell into a profound stupor, no doubt from the excess of claret he had taken all evening — I cannot say how many goblets, but I should guess at least ten or twelve. He collapsed on the Turkish carpet at the foot of the bed. I could not sleep for the sound of his snoring & the bouquet of claret on his breath which filled the bedchamber like a miasma. I never thought the dawn would come, but come it did, and Charles still snored on.

He had, as I have said, fallen face down on the carpet in his stupor, & had wet his breeches during the night, so I had to stand on a dressing-stool to reach the severed bell-robe, to summon Thomas, his valet, to carry him off to his own chamber to wash him & change his linen. Thomas came on the instant, and quietly. He took in the situation at a glance, for I believe he had found his master in similar circumstances on more occasions than this one. Fortunately, Thomas is a burly fellow, built like a wrestler, fifteen stone if he is a pound, so he merely swung Charles over his shoulder & carried him off like a sack of corn, leaving behind a dark stain on the carpet as shameful testament to Charles's drunkenness, for all to see!

When I had at last arisen & Susan was combing out my hair in my dressing-chamber, I heard the maids tittering beyond the door as they changed the bed-clothes. I am certain I heard one of them, Maggie it was, the one who is bald and wears a wig, exclaim, "No blood here, no, nor any of the other stuff, either!" & Betty, the one with the cast in her eye, reply, "Hardly surprising! The sot! Our new mistress knows not what she has got herself into."

Susan heard them too, for she stopped her combing to listen, but said nothing, then finished my toilette while chattering about the weather. I could have fallen through the floor in mortification, Aunt, to hear my servants talk thusly about me!

Here was I, new lady of the house, in charge of all its domestic affairs, already disgraced before her own servants on the morning after her wedding day! But my humiliation was not yet complete, for the whole house staff watched while Maggie & Betty dragged the reeking carpet out into the garden to wash it & let it dry in the summer sun light. I could hear the gardeners sniggering in the shade of the south wall, taking their respite from espaliering the peach-trees, for it was a hot day even though it was not much past eleven o'clock. The carpet, like a badge of shame, remained draped over a hedge until sun-set.

Such was my sorry wedding-night, dear Aunt, & such was my sorry first day as a married woman. And almost every night & all the days since have been not much better. Charles is a horrid brute, & he uses me as if I were a farm animal, but in unnatural ways! I have been disgraced beyond what woman can endure! I was not born to be a plaything to such a vile man, no matter what they say about a wife's marital duties!

In the meanwhile, Betty, the chamber-maid, has given her notice that she shall be returning to her mother at Reading after a fortnight. The staff is in turmoil, and I cannot control them. And Charles has taken to sudden and unannounced departures at all hours of the night, taking with him neither groom nor valet, and not returning until several days later, disheveled and dirty, with no explanation as to where he has been. His periodic disappearances afford me the only respite from my misery!

I beg you advise me what should be my course of action. Shall I sue to have the marriage annulled, as Charles has not yet done with me what a husband ought to do with his wife, but only engaged in torture and bestiality? Shall I take Susan and flee to France with my jewels, where I am not known? But we could only live for a year or two on what my bracelets and necklaces might fetch, for they are not my best ones, Papa having pawned my finest stones with a Jew broker in Golder's Green just before he died, to set something aside for my dowry and the nuptials. And of course the pledge was never redeemed. They say that money goes farther in France, is that true, Aunt? O, what a terrible lot for a girl such as I!

I am so disconsolate that I have even considered slitting my wrists in the bath. I have secreted in my sewing basket one of the sharp paring-knives from the kitchen — it will not be missed, we have so many. It would take but a moment, for Cook keeps her knives honed to a razor's edge. I dream nightly of whorls of blood swirling up though the bath-water, whilst Charles snores away on the sodden carpet. My wrists & ankles are raw from the rubbing of the cords & I must wear long-sleeved dresses & thick stockings to conceal them, despite the heat of summer.

I beg you to advise me, for I have no one else to turn to.

Anxiously awaiting your early reply, I am, as ever, your grief-stricken & loving niece,

Sophie Crenshaw

Letter II: Amelia Poindexter (Lady Lovelle), to her niece, Sophie Crenshaw
 
Swans' Rest, Folkestone, Saturday, 22nd July 1732

My Dearest Darling Sophie!

Your letter arrived only this morning, as severe summer thundershowers had turned the high-road to mud & delayed all traffic, slowing it to a snail's pace. One would think the King's own road would, in these modern times, be better-drained and that our land-taxes would be put to better use than 
pampering the powdered courtiers of London who suck the Treasury dry in pursuit of idle fripperies.

When Annette died I did indeed promise her to care for you as my own child should the need ever arise. Now I see the need has indeed arisen, and, as my marriage was childless, I need little prompting to make good my vow: your letter was prompting enough. I shall save you.

You cannot imagine, Sophie, how I cried to read of your trials, nor how angry I am with Charles Crenshaw, whom we must punish severely for his bestial behavior. Castration is too good for a swine who would subject a sweet innocent to practices so revolting, but I have a plan that will suit marvelously, which will de-fang your Charles in a far more imaginative & spectacular fashion. More of this anon. And as for that paring-knife, return it at once to the kitchen and keep nothing sharp by you, not even your scissors! Remember, you are a Montague! The Montague women come from strong stock and do not do away with themselves, at least not since Alice de Montacute took poison rather than marry the repulsive & misshapen dwarf, the Vicomte d'Annency, in 1173! Do you want to be the next one? Think not on it, Sophie! You must shake off this depressed frame of mind! Read on, and I dare say you shall find encouragement here.

Yes, your Charles is a wicked brute! But then, there is a cruel streak that runs through the Crenshaw male line, like a livid lightning-bolt through an oak, riving it with a blackened scar that smokes and smolders for months on end until the snows of December finally quell it. The Crenshaws are Welshmen all, back to Hugh Cranneshawe, Earl of Pembroke, who sided with King John at Runnymede. It is said that Richard had three wives at once, one each at his various castles, and that he maltreated them shamefully. Give a Welshman money, power and a young, comely bride, and see what one gets! It is most grievously unfortunate that you are the sacrificial lamb for this particular generation of Crenshaws. It is not your fault, Sophie; it is your misfortune.

This outcome was entirely predictable: I opposed your marriage to Crenshaw from the first, on account of this hereditary taint, but your father, stubborn as always, was set on the match. He never recovered, you see, when the South Sea Bubble burst in 1720, beggaring thousands, your father among them. He had invested the family fortune in Hopes of a killing and lost all in the crash when the bubble was burst. He managed to eke out his style — hounds and hunts and huge week-end parties at Featherly with gold plate and crystal — on credit for a few years, but by the late 20's he was constrained to sell off Featherly's magnificent copper beeches, as old as the Conquest, just to pay the domestics and current accounts, and when those profits were gone and his creditors were clamoring in the courts for relief, and Marshalsea loomed as a real possibility (for you, too, Dearest Heart), he sought alliance with a rich and powerful name such as the Crenshaws of Berkshire to avoid absolute ruination. He gambled that your beauty and grace would be the key to his salvation, and so he rolled the dice, staking your future, Sophie, hoping this Charles did not carry the Crenshaw stigma. He lost the roll, but his loss was nothing compared to yours!

Little good did the match do him, dying as he did right after the banns were posted, his estate instantly entailed in Chancery by his creditors. Imagine, a green-grocer, a butcher or a tailor holding sway over one's future! I must now thank God that he did not live to see your disgrace, for that would have been a less merciful death! Your mother, had she been alive, could, perhaps, have prevented the match, or perhaps not, but I, the elder sister of a wife then dead six years, had but scant influence over your father. Ah, the folly of money, Dearest Sophie! How many women have been sold into loveless matrimony for its sake! You are but the latest cipher in the endless iteration of victims, stretching back to dim time immemorial, that sums up the suffering of our sex!

You speak of annulment: an annulment, or even flight to France, Dearest Heart, cannot be considered for the scandal it would surely engender. At present your disgrace is confined to Brackenheath: annulment or flight would amplify it about the whole country and even to the Court (may it rot!) Your reputation would suffer infinitely more and you should not even be able to come to London for the Season for years on end, 'til you are older than I, when all might be forgotten. Moreover, even should you secure an annulment (which is doubtful and could consume £500 and three years), the scandal would render you unmarriageable for the taint you have suffered. No man of high station, nor even one with aspirations to the same, would ally himself with you. You would be a miserable outcast, & would end up in my household, a desiccated spinster, welcome enough in my eyes, to be sure, but unhappy none the less.

No, Dearest Niece, we must deal with the matter privately and resolutely, within the walls of Brackenheath. We two shall exact retribution upon Charles Crenshaw in a way he shall neither forget nor shall wish to have bruited about. It shall be a reprisal everlasting, one from which you will suck the rich marrow of revenge every day for the rest of Charles's natural life. You shall, I swear on all that is sacred, have this revenge, and you shall have lovers, too, to fulfill the needs every woman has. You shall be happy, I promise. Just hear me out. My time on Earth has been more than twice yours, and I do know some things.....

Dame Fortune has smiled upon us, my Dear Sophie, for at my Tuesday Soirée, held the very day you penned your now-incinerated letter, Sir Bradley Lennox, the great naturalist, held forth brilliantly on the miracles uncovered during his recent voyage to the East Indies. His ship, The Discovery, returned in June after a three years' voyage, you know. Sir Bradley brought with him to Swans' Rest a large collection of jars in which were preserved, in tincture of carbolic acid and camphor, some of the most fantastic animals I have ever laid eyes on! There was a tiny monkey-like sort of a thing, no bigger than a China-doll, but with eyes as large as half-crowns! He showed a fish that has lungs and crawls onto land like a salamander, and a spiny-looking hedge-hog sort of a creature that lays leathery eggs. There were six of the eggs in the jar to prove it! He had many other specimens of like wonder, all preserved so perfectly that they looked merely resting, so vivid were their colors and so real their textures. He also brought glass-covered cases of the most brilliant butter-flies, some of them more than twice a man's handbreadth across, in all colors of the rainbow.

But to the point, Sophie Dearest, to the point: Sir Bradley also brought with him Discovery's botanist, Simon Musgrove, a handsome but taciturn youth with spectacles, who, it seems, took all the prizes at Oxford in '29, then immediately embarked on the Discovery as ship's botanist. This Musgrove, whom everyone calls a genius, must keep his nose in the books most of the time, for he can barely get out five words in mixed company, so shy and tongue-tied is he. At any event, stammering and stuttering like a kettle that cannot quite boil, he told of his studies into the herbs, berries and barks of the Indies, many of which, so he says, have almost magical pharmaceutical powers.

One of these, the distilled juice of a berry the islanders call warrior's tears, which grows high on the ash-covered slopes of Java's volcanoes, has been used for thousands of years to subdue one's enemies without killing them, rendering them slave-like and docile. Even a dram of this extract placed on the most ferocious warrior's tongue, Musgrove says, is enough to reduce him to the temper of a kitten forever. Thus are captives spared and put at the service of their captors, carrying water, tilling fields, hewing wood and so forth (there is more in this "so forth," Dearest Sophie, than you may imagine if my intelligence is correct!) Musgrove showed us a phial of this brownish-coloured fluid, and said he had twenty-nine more in his specimen case. It must be used sparingly, Musgrove told us, or its effects are unpredictable.

When the ladies had withdrawn after dinner and the men were taking their brandy and pipes, Musgrove related that he had tested this potion on some six dozens of the Discovery's hundreds of rats, in rather high doses, during the nine months' homeward voyage, with startling results I will relate to you later. (Peter, my butler, tells me everything of interest the men may speak of, which has often been most opportune for my investments on the Royal Exchange.) Musgrove means to bring his phials to the Royal College of Pharmacy at Woolwich on his way to London, to be analyzed further, for the substance interests him greatly. I do believe that a phial of warrior's tears shall suit your Charles admirably. You must trust me in this.

Now, as it happens, Providence has arranged that both Bradley and Musgrove are my house-guests at Swans' Rest this next week. They are more than happy to exchange the fetid summer heat of London for the fair channel breezes of Folkestone and are at their ease, as guests ought to be. So, like Lady MacBeth at Cawdor, they are under my power: I am certain I still possess enough of my woman's wiles at the advanced age of one-and-fifty to separate the good botanist from a single phial of his remarkable elixir. I shall divine some ploy or other, do not fear.

Then, Dearest Sophie, I shall dispatch this phial to you by a trusted  servant, William, my foot-man, who shall deliver it into your hands. Remember, if it works on rats, it shall surely work on Charles Crenshaw! It shall be up to you to instill several drops into one of his myriad goblets of claret, and you shall observe him carefully so that you may apprise me of the results. Thus shall I, at a distance, sup on the tasty feast of vengeance even as you enjoy the effects of the potion at first-hand.

Persevere, beloved niece, yet a little while longer. May the knowledge of what I have set afoot this day give you strength to weather your ordeal with better equanimity, knowing that your sufferings will soon be done and vengeance shall be yours.

In the meanwhile, do not fret about your chamber-maid's leaving! It fits right in with my plans, of which I shall write at length presently. And your Betty's fortnight's notice could not be better-timed, for the moon will be new on that day, and what I am planning will need the darkness of night to proceed with expedition. You may interview girls for Betty's position, but make no commitment. My plan shall provide you with a replacement, believe me, and you must only give the appearance of seeking a new maid.

Until William places the phial in your hands, I am, as always,

Your loving Aunt,

Amelia Poindexter (Lady Lovelle)

A post-script: It was not easy to burn your letter, Sophie, as it was so soaked with my tears that it barely caught flame, then sizzled and sputtered disconsolately until it was reduced to a curl of grey ash.


Letter III: Amelia Poindexter (Lady Lovelle) to her niece, Sophie Crenshaw

Swans' Rest, Folkestone, Tuesday, 25th July 1732

My Dearest Sophie,

Lady Fortune has once more turned her fair countenance towards our little enterprise — for I have got, not one, but ten phials of warrior's tears!

I came by them in this wise. It was early this very morning, when all the men set out for a ride before dawn. I had prepared beforehand a bottle of molasses and water, mixed to the same color as what Musgrove had shown us last week, as well as a second, empty bottle. Then, when the all the maids, grooms and valets were at breakfast in the kitchens, I sent Molly down to Musgrove's rooms. (Molly is William, my footman's twin sister, a woman of infinite daring and remarkable skills). Molly slipped into his rooms and easily found his specimen case. Sure enough, there were the thirty phials of brownish liquid, each one clearly labeled "warrior's tears" in an elegant hand. Fortunately, the stoppers were of ground glass, and not sealed with wax. Molly extracted ten of the specimen bottles from the case, poured their contents into the empty bottle, and then poured the counterfeit molasses-and water elixir into each of the ten empties, replacing them in the case. She was back up in my own rooms in less than ten minutes, completely unobserved: she has all the quickness and stealth of a cat. The bottle now resides locked in my jewel casket, where it shall remain until I pour out a phial of it to be delivered to you. More of this later.

But now, Dearest Sophie, I shall tell you the miracle of this potion — what the men discussed over brandy and their tobacco-pipes after the women had withdrawn, and which Peter, my butler, related to me. I did not want to tell you until I had got some of this stuff in my clutches. Now that I have got it, attend carefully, for what I have to tell you beggars belief.

If you recall, Musgrove had tested the substance on the ship's rats, all of them male. Every rat who received the smallest dose of the stuff lost its aggression on the instant and became submissive, even allowing themselves to be mounted. But Musgrove gave some rats higher doses, and these, it turns out, lost their maleness entirely, in a matter of seconds, becoming transformed into females, who were mounted repeatedly by the untreated males. Within a month, all these feminised rats were delivered of large litters, and all of the offspring were female!

This miracle also explains the "and so forth" in my last letter, relative to how the Javanese use this potion on their captives. To the ones who are the smallest and slightest of build, the captors administer a much larger dose of warrior's tears than is necessary to induce mere subservience. In fact, these unfortunate warriors are transformed on the spot into maidens who then either serve their new masters in bed or else are sold into concubinage to neighboring tribes. Some are trained as dancers, some are taught to sing and play the banjarka, a three-stringed instrument like a mandolin. Yet others are trained as serving-maids for the women's quarters. All, however, are notable for their eagerness to please in all things. The practice did not fail to come to the notice of the Dutch traders, never behindhand when there is a Guilder to be made. A small trade has sprung up in bringing these lovely and willing girls to Amsterdam, were they are settled in elegant bawdy-houses to service wealthy merchants, at great profit to their owners, for their Eastern beauty finds much demand in Holland. Such are the wages of war, Sophie!

At any event, shortly after Musgrove had acquainted Sir Bradley with this intelligence, which seemed too fantastical to merit belief, they resolved to administer a goodly dosage of warrior's tears to one of the common seamen to settle the question of its powers on men once and for all. They chose a slim lad named Cummings, an apprentice seaman, rather a milk-sop (and, shall we say, a nocturnal favorite of the foredeck), who was promptly transformed into a stunning wench with an insatiable appetite for sailors. This Mistress Cummings, as she was now called, instantly became even more of a favorite as a woman than she had been as a lad, though' she now began charging a month's sea-wages for her intimate attentions.

For the rest of the voyage she was seldom seen above-decks save when she emerged to dry her long blonde hair in the sun-light or to titillate the crew by hanging her frilled underlinen on the buntlines after washing it at the water-butts. Other times, the watch might see her stealing her way aft to a night-time assignation with one of the officers, who did not want it known that they trafficked in her wares, but, of course, everyone did know, for no secret is possible on a sailing-ship. Mostly, however, she was engaged below-decks doing what she liked best to do.

The money she earned on her back served to pay for her lying-in upon landing at Bristol, where she was delivered of twin baby girls at the end of June, and where, no doubt, she shall ply her new profession with wondrous success once the babes have been weaned, or sooner, should she desire to employ a wet-nurse, which she can surely afford from her earnings.

The bespectacled Musgrove, dry scholar that he is, held interviews with Mistress Cummings whenever she was free (which was not often), of which he kept meticulous notes, from which he read at the dinner-table. It appears that warrior's tears induced in Mistress Cummings a marvelous and overwhelmingly irresistible compulsion to fornicate — with any man, anywhere, and at any time. She stated she would have been greedy for more of the elixir had she known of its effects before-hand, bemoaning that her bust was not quite ample enough to her liking (though' no sailor ever complained of it). She also remembered perfectly well who and what she had been, and in her particular case, as she had been a Ganymede to begin with, [Ed. Note: "ganymedes" were 18th. century male prostitutes, also known as "inlges," "mollies" or "he-strumpets."] this potent compulsion to couple delighted her no end: she actually relished having been turned into a common slut — though one graced with extraordinary beauty, and lamented that she had not been given the elixir years earlier. She felt as if she had to make up for lost time, as it were.

Of course, in most who are administered warrior's tears such a compulsion would be most unwelcome indeed, but, if Mistress Cummings is to be believed, the new woman has no choice but to obey her overpowering female impulses — welcome or not — and would find herself lifting her skirts for all and sundry at the least invitation. In other words, she averred, even though a transformed woman should loathe being serviced like a strumpet, her behavior would be the same, the only difference being the agony she would suffer by her own compulsion to do it. So irresistible is the urge upon these new women, Sophie, that they have no control whatever over the demands of their new bodies and must succumb to them on the instant! This intelligence has, of course, been suppressed at the highest levels, though' word is bound to leak out.

Now to your husband... Charles Crenshaw is a small man (which probably accounts for much of his viciousness). He is, then, both by size and brutal temperament, a most fitting candidate for a gargantuan dose of warrior's tears — a whole phial, in fact. The instant he swallows it he shall become a comely and obedient maiden, whom you must call Clarissa from that moment on. You may employ him at your pleasure as Betty's replacement, or in any other capacity you might fancy. You may make him a scullery maid, or make him collect and empty the chamber-pots, or place him in charge of the poultry and swine. He will, of course, be distracted from whatever duties he is given, by any man who may appear, for he will doubtless attempt to copulate with him on the spot — be it on a staircase, in a corridor, at the well or behind the livery stable.

But we are still left, Dearest Sophie, with a substantial difficulty: how to explain Charles Crenshaw's permanent disappearance from Brackenheath (and permanent it shall be, as he shall remain a woman for the rest of his life). But Charles himself has helped us out of this difficulty: you say he leaves Brackenheath unannounced, at odd hours, telling no one his destination or purpose. No doubt he takes himself off to London for whoring, gambling or opium, but it matters not where he goes nor for what. He has established a pattern: that is sufficient. But he will likely be home on the appointed night, for it is moonless.

When William, my footman, delivers the phial of warrior's tears to you on the afternoon of the new moon, on Tuesday a week, the first of August, his sister Molly shall accompany him: she is Charles's size. Molly shall be dressed as a serving-girl, and she shall be close-bonneted, so that none of your servants will get a good look at her. She shall have with her in her portmanteau a complete, second set of serving-girl's weeds; these are for Charles, of course. She will also have ropes and a gag for restraining him after his transformation, should this be necessary. You must prepare the household for Molly's arrival by informing them that your Aunt is sending you a serving-girl, named Clarissa Evans, to be interviewed for the position of chambermaid You shall give Molly the position on the spot. Keep her by you in your chambers, and have her meals sent up. You needn't give any reason for this: you are, after all, the lady of the manor.

By the bye, do not be shocked when Molly removes her bonnet — she wears her hair short, cropped like a boy's. Molly is a very unusual woman, Sophie, and in her two-and-thirty years has travelled widely and has seen many things. She has myriad talents and can be surprisingly audacious: she is not loathe to take drastic action when it is called for. If anything goes awry — which it may — Molly shall improvise. Do not question her commands, Sophie, as it can only complicate matters.

In any event, you must connive to get the warrior's tears into a flask of claret — or of whatever Charles is drinking that night. Keep the flask by you in your bedchamber for his revels, as its effects are instant, and you wish to be in attendance for his change. The moment he is transformed into Clarissa, call Molly out of your dressing-chamber, and together you will easily be able to bind him if needed, for his strength will be only that of a girl. He will likely protest vigorously when you first address him as Clarissa, and will demand to be restored to his former self. He may struggle, or he may be in a state of paralysis from the shock of his change.

In either case, it shall be up to you and Molly to show him this is impossible: strip off his male attire and bring him naked before a mirror so that he may see what he has become. Light many tapers so that he misses no detail, and do not discourage him from touching himself to assess the actuality of his transformation. Then clothe him in his serving girl's garb and keep a close watch upon him, though' he will likely be too befuddled and frightened to flee.

Once Clarissa is dressed and tractable, and Molly ready to depart, place a lighted taper in your window, for at three o'clock sharp, William shall be standing below and shall alert you of his presence by tossing pebbles against the glass. Molly shall descend from the window with a length of rope she has brought for the purpose. Do not fear, Molly has great strength for a woman, and will have no difficulty lowering herself three stories. And she will know how to secure the rope from within so that it will bear her weight. Before she descends it is essential that Charles's clothes be in her portmanteau! This is utterly crucial, Dear Sophie! Make certain that there are his usual personal articles in the pockets — watch, penknife, snuff-box, handkerchief and so forth, all of which will doubtless either be engraved or embroidered with his monogram or crest, as is the invariable custom among men these days. I also assume that his clothes, being richly tailored, have his monogram stitched in at the yoke and waist-band.

William shall then take Molly away with him in the moonless night with the clothes and return here to Swans' Rest starting by daylight, leaving but a single additional female at Brackenheath: viz., Clarissa Evans! All will assume that Clarissa is the girl who entered the house the previous day in company with my William. And as for Charles's absence, no one will give two thoughts about it: they will all suppose he has crept off at first light to pursue one of his usual debauches in London. After about ten days, you shall report his absence to the authorities and publish an advertisement in the newspapers, seeking information as to his whereabouts and offering a reward of twenty guineas for locating him.

But why do I want Charles's clothes, you ask? Ah, Sophie, that is the second-best part of the plan! William comes from a large family, living in Eastcheap, many with low connections. One of his uncouth cousins, whom I shall not name, has a skiff with which he makes a living dragging the Thames below London Docks, with a grappling-hook, in the small hours each Sunday morning, hoping to snag London Bridge suicides or inebriates who have stumbled into the river and drowned. There are, apparently, a good five or six such every weekend This cousin knows all the particular eddies and back-waters down-river where such grim human flotsam aggregates. He finds purses, jewelry and other valuables on the bodies of a few of these unfortunates — removes the same, then tows the corpses into the current where he releases them to be swept out to sea with the tide. It is a loathsome calling, to be sure, but there is no robbery in taking valuables from a dead man (so says the cousin), and it is a Godsend for our ends! Pray attend further, Dearest Niece.

For the trifling sum of three guineas down-payment, (plus the twenty guineas reward he shall receive), this cousin shall seek out a drowned corpse of about Charles's stature and dress it in Charles's clothes. He shall then tie this corpse under-water, at the low tide, weighting it down with sand-bags or stones, in one of the river's foulest shore-side pools, where no one dares go, so putrescent is the stench. There he shall leave it for several weeks in the hot summer ooze, whilst the tide-crabs and sea-worms do their grisly work. In early September, he shall recover this corpse, which will by then be unrecognizable, and turn it over to the authorities for his reward: the personal belongings, as well the labels sewn into the garments, shall identify the body as that of Charles Crenshaw. The cousin's occupation is well-known to the London constabulary, who do not bother him in his work (any more than they would bother vultures), and he has, on occasion, turned in corpses of important personages when a reward has been offered, so his bringing "Charles" to them will excite no suspicion. You shall have your solicitor pay this man twenty guineas reward for his discovery.

A Coroner's Jury shall be convened and shall declare Charles Crenshaw's death was due to accidental drowning or suicide. A death certificate shall be signed and issued, the which, once in your possession, shall make you Mistress of Brackenheath, with all its rents, mortgages, annuities and revenues: you shall be one of the wealthiest women in Berkshire, and in your own name, too, as the estate is not entailed.

You shall then have the leisure to deal with Clarissa as you see fit. You always were an imaginative girl, Sophie; I do not doubt but that you will treat Clarissa appropriately, bearing well in mind her past mis-deeds as Charles. If Musgrove's reports are accurate, Clarissa shall always know she was Charles Crenshaw, yet the knowledge will profit her nothing, as she will be known to all as an exceedingly becoming wench, but a wench none the less.

So there is my plan, Dearest Niece! Is it not perfection itself? With just a bit of luck, and good timing, we shall bring it off. You shall need to screw your courage up, but remember, you are a Montague and Montague women always rise to the occasion! I shall trust that all arrangements will be made within the week — indeed, they must be made — before William arrives with his sister at your door next Tuesday at noon-time.

I shall await your report with anxious anticipation. Until then, I am,

Your loving Aunt,

Amelia Poindexter (Lady Lovelle)


Letter IV: From Sophie Crenshaw to Amelia Poindexter (Lady Lovelle), her Aunt.

Brackenheath, Basingsford, Berks., Thursday, 3rd August, 1732

Dearest Aunt,

I am so over-wrought with excitement than I can hardly hold the quill in my hand! Forgive the scratches and blots!

Please welcome Clarissa, Brackenheath's newest and most charming chambermaid, and your own creation, Dear Aunt! This Clarissa is so well-formed, so fine in feature, so graceful in carriage and demeanor, so fluid in motion, so soft of voice, so deliciously subservient, so captivatingly feminine.... that I am insanely jealous of her!

Next to her, I am a but a scraggly and graceless school-girl: whilst I need my bodice laced tightly to uplift and display, Clarissa over-spills like a jiggling pudding too large for its dish, and needs her laces loosened, lest they part under the strain. Whilst I must wear padding over my hips and derrière, she needs none. Her complexion is like a ripe peach in August, translucent and blemish-less, giving the impression of palpable depth, with translucent fuzz as fine as gossamer, whilst my face still bears the stigmata of adolescence, requiring daily application of unguents and powders. Whilst my hair is of a mousy brown and limp, Clarissa's raven locks are thick and luxuriant. I merely walk; she undulates. My voice has a touch of stridor no matter how I try to suppress it; hers is as rich and smooth as heavy cream. In short, Clarissa is a gem of feminine perfection, thrusting all other women at Brackenheath into the penumbra of mediocrity! I hate her already, Aunt! But more of this later. (Do, however, ask your resident genius Musgrove what may happen if a woman should take warrior's tears!)

I tremble to relate, Aunt, that your plan almost mis-carried; it was only by the quick-thinking and audacity of your William's clever sister Molly that all did not fail spectacularly and we were not found out! (By the way, you did not tell me that Molly toured three years with an Italian travelling circus on the Continent — she climbed down that rope like a monkey!)

But I run ahead of myself! Let me relate all that transpired in proper sequence, though' it take ten pages and dry up my ink-well.

The first thing I must tell you is that, since my last writing, I have discovered a confederate amongst the servants, in the least likely person of all! Can you guess who it can be, Aunt? It is Thomas, Charles's burly valet, who, by certain signs and winks, made it clear a few days ago that he desired to speak with me privately. Though I was at first loathe to seclude myself alone in a room with such a fellow, I finally decided it would be worth my while to learn what he had to say, so I acceded and gave him an assignation one afternoon.

You will not believe, this, Aunt: Thomas hates Charles no less than I!

It seems that ten years ago, while traversing Bracknell Forest in his coach, Charles was accosted by a masked highway-man, who robbed him of some trifling sum — no more than a few shillings — which Charles happened to have in his purse. (Charles always secretes his gold in the hollow lifts of his boots, which are quite built-up to give the impression of height.) By a rare chance, the highwayman's breviary slipped from his cloak as he bent over to scoop up his loot on the deep forest moss where the passengers had tossed their belongings — unseen by anyone but Charles, who snatched it up the moment the brigand departed.

The breviary was inscribed with its owner's name: one Thomas Arthur Phillip Samuel Tupworthy of Reading. Charles, who hasn't the least interest in Justice, but has never been loathe to pass up any opportunity of advantage to himself, sought out this Tupworthy the next day, and found him with little difficulty after making cursory inquiries at the several Reading parishes. He confronted Thomas, threatening him with discovery (and the gallows) unless he agreed to be his valet, at no wages other than bread, board and livery. In this wise, then, has Charles black-mailed Thomas these ten years to be his unpaid valet, and to do his bidding in the most nefarious deeds. (Thomas told me he robbed only to feed his orphaned siblings, of which he was the eldest, and swore on his mother's grave that his pistols were never loaded with shot, but only with powder. Of course, every brigand, once apprehended, says the same, but Thomas's account had the ring of truth to it. Besides, I could see the truth in his eyes, and I knew Charles, at least as well as Thomas did, which knowledge eclipses all concepts of right and wrong as ordinary people understand them.)

In any event, Thomas professed to be shocked at his master's foul behavior towards me (and he knows all, Aunt, for Charles, in his drunken braggadocio, regularly boasted to Thomas of his bestial escapades with me, withholding not the least sordid detail). Thomas's purpose in the interview was to assure me that he himself meant me no harm, and that he would shield me, as well as he could, from Charles's brutality, by any artifice whatever short of placing his own neck in the noose.

Having heard this avowal, and perceiving that Thomas had, in effect, placed his life in my hands, I immediately determined to apprise him of our plans, once he had again sworn on his mother's grave to reveal this to no one. Upon hearing our intentions, he instantly and unhesitatingly gave his unqualified approval, volunteering, in fact, to be the very man to deflower Clarissa should our venture meet with success. Thomas had such a gleam of unalloyed vengeance in his eye that I could not doubt his sincerity! He begged me to call upon him at any moment of the day or night should I require his assistance in any affair whatever having to do with my husband.

And, as it happened, Thomas was crucial to the success of our venture.

Yes, Dear Aunt, Charles was at Brackenheath on Tuesday, just as you had predicted he would be, and William arrived with Molly at noon, just as you had planned. William gave me the phial of warrior's tears, I dismissed him, then ushered Molly up stairs to my chambers and "interviewed" her for an hour or so, after which I announced to all that I had selected her as Betty's replacement, and that she was to remain with me for the night so as to be apprised of her duties. The afternoon passed, supper was brought up to us and the two of us dined, Molly entertaining me with many amusing and exciting stories of her circus days in France and Lombardy. At eight, we poured out a flagon of claret in to a crystal decanter and waited for Charles. To be secure, however, we withheld the warrior's tears, in case of a mis-hap, and it was wise that we did so!

The clock struck nine, then ten, then eleven, then twelve, then one, and still Charles did not appear for his regular nightly depredations upon me! And we knew, of course, that William was coming at three o'clock to collect Molly, along with Charles's clothes! But where was Charles himself? We were frantic that he had not yet appeared with the time growing so short! So Molly and I, each with a taper, stealthily descended the stairs, where we eventually discovered Charles, in one of his stupors, face down on the billiard table in the gaming-room, in a pool of his own vomit. He could not be roused, nor could Molly and I, even together, lift him from the table and carry him up two flights of stairs to my chambers, whilst holding tapers at the same time to illuminate our way. We were thus constrained to seek help: it was Molly who thought I should get Thomas, so, abandoning Charles for the moment, we crept up to the servants' quarters in the attic and knocked Thomas up quietly. It turned out he was awake and dressed, anticipating that we two women might have difficulties in this venture, and was all eagerness to assist us in anything we should desire.

Thomas descended with us to the gaming-room, plucked Charles up like a feather, slinging him over his shoulder like a trussed pig, and carried him up to my chambers, where he deposited him, still snoring and insensate, on the infamous Turkish carpet. Molly washed his face carefully with a face-cloth, for he had drooled on himself in his drunkenness. It was indeed fortunate that we had not emptied the phial into the decanter of claret beforehand, for there was no possibility of getting him to drink: he was doing all he could merely to snore. Instead, by main force, Thomas prized open Charles's jaws with his fingers and Molly poured the entire phial of warrior's tears directly down his gullet, upon which we all sprang back to await its effects, just as children spring back from a squib whose fuse they have lit, to await the resultant display of sparks and reports from a comfortable distance. The clock said ten minutes before two....

[Here there are several large inkblots on the paper from where Sophie's quill sputtered in her excitement.]

....Do pardon the ink-blots, Aunt, but I tremble all over to write what happened next!

Have you ever seen St. Elmo's Fire, Aunt? It is the bluish-white voltaic discharge seen at the mast-heads and yard-arms of ships at sea, that sometimes occurs in stormy weather. I saw it once, crossing the Channel from Boulogne one night, when Papa was bringing us back from a holiday in France, (the last he could afford). It glows and flickers in luminous spheres, sometimes single ones, as large as a child's hoop, then changes abruptly to clusters of small globes. It jumps about elusively from mast-head to masthead, and yard-arm-to yard-arm, silent and cold like the Aurora one sometimes may see over the Shetlands in autumn.

Well, for several minutes after Molly poured the elixir down Charles's throat, nothing happened but that he continued to snore, and to scratch himself grossly, from time to time, like a dog does with fleas. But on a sudden, he was covered with a thick, glowing blanket of luminous bluish-white spheres, like a diminutive display of St. Elmo's Fire. The spheres were some times the size of croquet balls, at others no larger than marbles; at all times, however, they swirled furiously over him and glowed and winked wondrously for five minutes or more, concealing Charles from our view. Then, one by one, the spheres winked brightly then flickered out, like guttering tapers in a rich chandelier, revealing...... Clarissa.

Before us on the Turkish carpet lay the most ravishing girl you have ever seen, Aunt — I have already described her to you. The girl, no more than three-and-twenty at the oldest, bore no resemblance to Charles save for her coloring and general size. Charles's clothes fitted her ill, as his tight breeches were strained at their seams from the breadth of her womanly hips and the plumpness of her thighs. Likewise, Charles's tightly-buttoned waistcoat was distended outwards by the protuberance of her generous breasts (I was full of envy on the instant!) In place of Charles' brutal face was the visage of an angel, every feature proportioned to perfect feminine dimension, with a low hair-line, straight fore-head, fine, angled eyebrows of black, eyelids with long jet lashes I would die for, a delicate nose and a small, full-lipped mouth like a cherub's, with lips red as rubies. Her cheeks were the color of pink roses, but otherwise, her flawless skin was almost milk-white

What was the color of her eyes, we could not yet say, for Clarissa was..... as drunken as Cockney gin-wife! She snored, but in a more delicate register, and stirred from time to time, scrabbling with her fingers to release her breasts from the painful confinement of Charles's tight waistcoat. But it was now a quarter past two, leaving us less than an hour before William was to come! And Clarissa still wore Charles's clothes!

Molly seized the initiative, alternately slapping Clarissa's cheeks and rubbing her temples and wrists, whilst I rushed to my dressing-chamber for my salts. Thomas at first stood as if struck dumb, gazing at his former master in a most peculiar way, with what could only be a glimmer of raw lust in his eyes. However, by the time I returned with the salts, he had snapped out of it and knelt down to raise Clarissa so I could apply the salts to her nostrils, whilst Molly began hurriedly to undo the myriad buttons of Charles's waistcoat and breeches. Clarissa began averting her face from the salts and all at once opened her eyes, which were of a startling violet color, and stared about her in amazement. By this time, she was naked to the waist but still wore Charles's underlinen. She looked down at herself and her eyes started from her head in pure animal terror.

"What have you done to me?" she cried, in a piteous voice still slurred from the drink. She appeared even more shocked to have heard her own throaty contralto speak these words.

“Why, nothing at all, Clarissa!” responded Molly, her tone dripping with sarcasm, "We are merely removing your ridiculous costume. Why in heaven's name were you masquerading as a man?" Molly demanded, her voice full of reproach.

"Because I am a man, you insolent bitch!" retorted Clarissa, frantically feeling herself up and down with her little hands, finding that she was nothing of the sort. For Clarissa's insolence, Molly struck her full in the face with the back of her hand, causing her to gasp in indignant affront.

"Never address your betters in such wise, or you shall feel the bite of the birch on your marble-white rump!" cried Molly. "And do not waste precious time!" Turning towards me, Molly continued, "Let us light more tapers, over there, by the mirror! Hurry, it is almost three!" By now, I had got Charles's underlinen off her, so Clarissa was utterly naked. She struggled furiously, kicking and biting, whilst Thomas restrained her and Molly and I lighted tapers enough so that the room was bright as day. Thomas hoisted her to her feet and frog-marched her over to the mirror. Clarissa regarded her reflection in stunned disbelief, her eyes wide with panic.

"Look at yourself! Is that a man you see? Have you gone blind? Or mad? You are Clarissa Evans, a serving-maid!" Molly exclaimed. "How can you doubt it? Release her, Thomas, so that she can, with her own fingers, confirm what she is. Nothing will convince her as surely as feeling herself."

Thomas let go Clarissa's arms. For several moments she remained motionless, regarding herself with an expression of absolute horror. Then her countenance suddenly softened and a dreamy look came into her eyes. She cupped her ample breasts in her little hands, which were so unequal to the task that it was like trying to stand two large melons upright in a couple of tiny sherbet-dishes. She stared, goggle-eyed, at her nipples, now stiff and elongated like the joint of one's thumb, and which were surrounded by those circles of smooth brick-red skin whose name I know not, circles far larger than mine, Aunt, the size of demitasse saucers, at least! Clarissa's eyes grew suddenly wider, for evidently it pleased her to so cup her breasts. She stood several minutes, almost immobile, quite plainly enjoying the sensation.

But presently, her hands abandoned her breasts and slowly stole downwards along her broad belly, until her fingers came to rest on that part of a woman I have been told is called Venus's Mound. What Clarissa did next, Dear Aunt, I blush to relate, for I have not even been taught the proper words to describe it: her fingers crept further downwards, crossed her ebony-furred triangle, then vanished into her woman's cleft! We all jumped (as she did) to hear her squeal of surprise! (Thomas, by this time, had thrust his hands tightly into his pockets, as if to immobilize them, and had gone bright red in the face, whilst Molly and I looked on in wonder.)

Clarissa's fingers disappeared further into her woman-cleft for a moment; she withdrew them and passed them beneath her nostrils. Then, Heaven strike me dead if I lie, Aunt — she licked her fingers! Gustatory ratification was apparently all that remained to convince her of her transformation, for, running her tongue round her lips as if to savor the last taste, she exclaimed, "O, Sweet Heavens, I am become a woman! What catastrophe hath befallen me?" And promptly returned her fingers whence they had come, eagerly slipping them into her body again.

"You see? She has at last returned to her senses!" cried Molly triumphantly. "Let us dress her in proper attire, for I must leave directly with Charles's clothes!" (The clock stood at a quarter to three). Hereupon Molly produced the duplicate serving-maid's garb from her portmanteau, complete with underlinen, petticoats and hose, and Clarissa, too stunned to resist, allowed us to clothe her — underlinen, petticoats, hose and all — whilst she mumbled incoherently. Molly had to keep pulling Clarissa's hands alternately from her breasts or from her intimate place, to which they returned the moment Molly released them. It was like dressing a small and recalcitrant child intent only upon a toy, who has no interest in being clothed, but only to play.

Whilst Molly was dressing Clarissa, I went through Charles's pockets to make sure all was in order. Sure enough, snuff box, pen knife, watch and handkerchief were all happily present and accounted for. I rolled up the garments and stuffed them into Molly's portmanteau.

Once dressed, Clarissa spun round several times in front of the mirror, as yet a bit unsteadily, making her skirts twirl outwards until her shapely legs were fully revealed; then she pirouetted directly into Thomas, who had to pull his hands from his pockets to catch her. As he did so, Clarissa applied herself to him like a leech, sliding one leg high up against him and attempted to climb up on him, draping her leg round his waist and rotating her belly and hips to press him most pruriently.

She turned her face towards Molly and me for a moment, and cried, "This cannot be happening to me! This is madness! Yet I cannot help myself!" And so saying, she turned back to Thomas and began in earnest to rub her self lubriciously against him like a cat eager for milk. She lifted her skirts, seized one of Thomas's hands and drew it to the place a woman dare not name. Then she tipped her face up towards Thomas's and closed her eyes in expectation of a kiss, now oblivious to Molly and me. "Look at me, Thomas! Am I not lovely? And are you not a man? Will not your flesh stand for me?" she asked, in a husky whisper audible to all, "Take me! I need you inside me!"

Thomas did not have a chance to reply, (though' he made no effort to withdraw his hand), for we were all startled by the sharp rattle of pebbles striking the window-pane. All except Clarissa, that is: she was in the thrall of her own burning desire, and was doing her very best to get Thomas to mount her, standing up, right there in my bed-chamber! .....

But, Aunt, the coach has crested Booth's Hill, for I hear the sound of its horn; it shall be here presently! Let me hasten to seal this letter and post it now, so that you shall not suffer another day in suspenseful ignorance of what has happened. I shall continue my account later and post it in tomorrow's mail.

I am, hurriedly, though' always with greatest affection, your own faithful niece,

Sophie Crenshaw.


Letter V: From Sophie Crenshaw to Amelia Poindexter (Lady Lovelle), her Aunt.

Brackenheath, Basingsford, Berks., Friday, 4th August, 1732

Dearest Aunt,

A thousand apologies for leaving you dangling, our venture not yet completed. But at the least you have learned the that the crux of the affair came off with signal success: your phial of warrior's tears performed as you had foreseen: Charles was transformed from a hateful and brutal man into Clarissa, the most voluptuous woman imaginable, who, within minutes, was more avid to copulate than a bitch in heat!

I shall now attempt to acquaint you with what transpired after William arrived below my window. So much was happening at once, and all of it so strange to behold, that I am unequal to the task of describing the events in proper sequence, though' I shall do my best.

As I said, Clarissa was at white-heat to have man-flesh within her, and, as Thomas was the first man she clapped eyes upon, she attached herself to him like ivy to a church wall. Poor Thomas knew not what he should do, but, being only a man, he could not suppress his own animal reactions: he bulged mightily, giving ample evidence of his substantial endowments. But, of course, this could not be! Clarissa's penetration would have to be deferred until she was just short of losing her mind from the excruciation of her unfulfilled female lust.

So both Molly and I cried out for Thomas to disengage himself from Clarissa's embraces, which he did, though' with reluctance. Clarissa stamped her little unshod foot in frustration and looked daggers at Molly and me, but said nothing.

"Throw her on the bed, Thomas," Molly commanded, "and fasten this rope to the leg of the clothes-press. And you, Sophie, keep Clarissa out of the way until I have gone."

Thomas did as he was bade: he flung Clarissa onto the bed as if she were a small child, then tied the rope to the leg of the clothes-press, opened the casement and threw the coil out into the night. Molly pulled on a pair of fingerless gloves, such as archers wear, seized her portmanteau, went to the window and dropped it to William, waiting silently below. Then, tucking her skirts up into her waistband to unencumber her legs, as one does when one is wading a stream, she jumped onto the sill with the agility of a cat, grasped the rope, tested it to be certain it was secure, bade us adieu and was out the window and gone in a trice!

Thomas and I turned to each other with worried looks, then turned towards Clarissa, who was lying on the bed, face up, arms angrily folded, her pretty face in a hard pout. Then we glanced back at each other questioningly, as if to say, "How shall we handle this wild beast on the bed?" We approached her warily.

"Listen to me, Clarissa," I began.

"No, Sophie, you listen to me," she interrupted, fixing me with a venomous glare. "I do not know what magic you have employed to change me thus, to make me not only a woman in body, but to make me unnaturally attracted to men! That I now have the self-same aperture between my thighs as you do is repellant enough, but far worse is that I yearn to open it wide to be impaled by a man, to feel the pressure of his shaft deep within me! I can bear neither the humiliation nor the delay of being penetrated! Either give me the antidote instantly or let Thomas have me!"

"Neither shall you be changed back, for that is impossible, nor shall you avoid penetration, for that is your fate. Your lust, and your humiliation at feeling such lust, shall never abate," I replied, with severity. "And you shall henceforth address me as "Mistress," for serving-maids cannot presume such familiarity with their betters as to call them by their Christian names. What you have been given is an irreversible Javanese potion for which there is no remedy known. Its first effect is your physical change, which is absolute and permanent; its second effect is your uncontrollable female lust to fornicate; its third effect, which apparently is somewhat delayed in your case, is submission. You shall learn to obey, Clarissa, and, if the impulse does not come to you quickly, you shall be whipped to hasten its arrival. Is that clear?"

Clarissa considered what I had said, then replied, "I cannot doubt that the change is absolute, for there is no question that I am now in a woman's body. Of a woman's desires, too, there is no question, much as it disgusts me. As to the permanency, that remains to be seen. But what is to keep me from going to the authorities and have you clapped into gaol for what you have done?"

"Nothing, except that you will not be believed. Just look at yourself, Clarissa! Who would give the least credence to your protestations that you are really Charles Crenshaw, Lord of Brackenheath Manor, magically transformed by his 19-year old bride into a stunning female? You would be sent up, on the spot, to Bedlam in London to be locked away as a mad woman for the rest of your life! No, Clarissa, better to keep the truth to yourself, and confabulate some other tale to account for your past. Better to live as a serving-maid at Brackenheath, obedient to me and to all whom I set above you, than to become an old woman in an unheated asylum, subsisting on gruel and surrounded by babbling lunatics. You'll remain a woman either way, Clarissa. So your choice is clear: live in relative comfort and safety, with decent food, warmth and shelter, and serve me obediently, or be sent up to Bedlam."

Perhaps the third effect of the elixir had begun to take hold just at that moment, or perhaps Clarissa had acknowledged within herself the wisdom of my words — and the true hopelessness of her position — for her countenance softened, and she unfolded her arms. "When may I have Thomas, then..... Mistress?" she asked, in a more tractable tone

"Good girl, Clarissa! That is much better!," I replied. "I knew you would see reason, for you do not seem a dull girl. But as to when — or if — you have Thomas, that depends upon your behavior. Do you promise to obey me in all?"

"Yes, Mistress, if I can only have Thomas."

"That reply merits six strokes of the birch, Clarissa: I have already rendered you a decision about Thomas! You must never question my decisions nor seek to qualify them in any way what so ever! I shall defer your punishment a fortnight [Ed. Note: Wednesday, 16 August], and shall add further strokes for other infractions of conduct you may commit until your birching, which shall be at a place to be determined. By then, I shall have decided whether to convene the servants to witness your punishment in the Great Hall, or whether you shall be accorded the privilege of privacy."

There was no reply from the bed.

"Make that twelve strokes, then," I added, "and the household shall attend. If you do not answer me properly now, I shall make it eighteen."

Clarissa cringed at my words, but responded without hesitation, "Very good, Mistress. Twelve strokes. Thank you, Mistress."

"You learn quickly, Clarissa."

"Thank you, Mistress."

"Thomas shall wield the birch."

A brief pause for this to sink in, then, "Very good, Mistress."

At this point, I turned to Thomas, who was beside himself with amazement to see his former master not only changed into a luscious woman that he might actually possess, but to see her cringing before me. "I think you may leave us now, Thomas. It appears that Clarissa and I have reached an understanding. Is that right, Clarissa?" I asked, turning once more toward the bed.

No pause this time. "Yes, Mistress."

"Very well then, Thomas," I resumed, "I am in your debt for all the help you have given me to-night, for the which you shall be handsomely compensated, you may well believe."

Thomas touched his forehead with two knuckles, and replied, "Thank you, my lady," and, turning on his heel, left us, closing the chamber door behind him.

An expectant silence filled the bed-chamber as I turned once again towards Clarissa, who now sat part-way up on the bed, supporting herself on her elbows. I sat down on edge of the bed next to her and said, "You are very beautiful, Clarissa. Do you know that?"

"Yes, Mistress."

I could not restrain myself from reaching out and stroking her cheek tenderly, and toying with a coil of her luxuriant hair, Aunt, so lovely was she! Her skin was as soft and smooth as warm satin, without visible pores, unlike my own, which, as you know, tends to blotches. And her waved hair was thick and resilient, with the heavy body of wool, but with the smoothness of silk. What woman would not kill for hair like Clarissa's? I longed to stroke her more, but I withdrew my hand, not willing to show undue interest in touching her further, & said:

"Now that it is just us two women alone, for the first time, Clarissa, I believe I can talk to you a trifle more frankly. First, for the nonce, you may lay off 'mistressing' me. You may call me Sophie if you wish, just for this time."

"Very well. What do you wish to talk about, then?" she asked, turning her piercing violet eyes towards mine and gazing into them warily, purposely avoiding pronouncing my name.

"I know you are burning within for a man, Clarissa," I replied. "I quite understand the feeling, of course, having burned many times myself, never having been properly satisfied in my marriage to Charles, as you very well know."

Clarissa's pupils constricted momentarily upon hearing these words and she hung her head penitentially. It was very hard, very hard indeed, Aunt, to reproach this lovely creature for Charles's past sins! I must confess that my purpose began to waver just least bit, not to the extent of our over-all plan, of course, what with having Charles declared dead, my becoming Mistress of Brackenhealth and the wealthiest woman in Berkshire, &c., &c., but only as to what to do that very moment with this incredibly beautiful — and newly obedient — creature on the bed, cowering before me! I confess my heart softened (she is so very beautiful, Aunt!), so I said, lifting her chin with the tips of my fingers until we were staring into one another's eyes:

"I have decided to be merciful, Clarissa, and grant you relief, not from your whipping next Sunday, for that is an inviolable matter of discipline, but from your unsatisfied lust." Her eyes opened more widely. "No, not Thomas: not yet," I continued, divining her thought, "nor any other man, either. Instead, I shall grant you relief at your own hand, in the manner to which I became accustomed during my marriage to Charles, when left alone, unfulfilled, night after night. And I shall instruct you how best to do it: it takes a certain delicacy of touch, unfathomable to men, which must be acquired by practice. Pray stand and undress yourself, Clarissa."

Without a word, Clarissa sprang from the bed with alacrity and began to fumble with the long line of buttons at her bodice, unaccustomed as yet to the exact manner of their fastening.

But here I must leave off, Dearest Aunt, for I have not the courage to relate what happened next! For all I know you shall condemn me for it! Forgive me, Aunt, but so much has happened so quickly, that I hardly know my own mind. I shall await a reply from you before writing further.

I am your much-confused, though' always-loving niece,

Sophie Crenshaw

[EDITOR'S NOTE: Only this letter, of all the others in this correspondence, appears to have been crumpled, as if it had been thrown in the dustbin, then smoothed with a flat-iron, for the wrinkles, though almost imperceptible, can easily be seen with a magnifying glass.]


Letter VI: From Molly Crispin to Amelia Poindexter (Lady Lovelle).

Stag's Head Inn, Reading, Friday, 4th August, 1732

My Dearest Amy,

By now you shall have heard from your niece about our enterprise, which went off tolerably well, considering the chances we have taken. All but my descent from the window, that is, which is the cause of our delay. Charles's man, Thomas, used up too much of my rope in securing it to the leg of the clothes-press, leaving me some eight feet shy of the ground, so when I dropped from the end, I turned my ankle quite badly. It is not broke, I am certain, but I cannot walk on it yet. So William and I are at the Stag's Inn at Reading for a couple of days, 'till my ankle can bear weight, and then I shall fly to you, my darling, I miss you so!

You know I would not have undertaken this little caper for anyone but you, my Love, not to say that it was without interest. Indeed, that warrior's tears is truly miraculous stuff. It would be a pity if you could not lift a few more phials from your house-guest, the good Dr. Musgrove, before he departs for Woolwich. It has wondrous possibilities

You would not have believed what a lovely creature your warrior's tears created from the crass Charles Crenshaw (one of the vilest men I have ever had the misfortune to meet!) This Clarissa, who replaced him, is no less than stunning, as voluptuous as a Rubens nude. You would have been tempted by her, Amy, I am certain (I was more than tempted myself), so I am just as glad you were not there to see her, as I endure jealousy badly (as you know). At all events, it is pretty clear that Clarissa's inclinations are towards men: poor Thomas had all he could do to pry her off him, as she clung like an octopus: he had to peel her off him one tentacle at a time, so to speak. She was as hot as a mink, Amy!

At this rate, I'll wager Clarissa shall be with child before she bleeds even once. By next May, or by June at the latest, she'll be nursing a baby, mark my words, giving yet a new twist to our scheme of revenge. Perhaps we should travel up to Brackenheath then, to be on hand for her confinement; I should like nothing better than to refresh my mid-wifery skills on the transformed Charles Crenshaw! Ah, but I am merely dreaming, Amy! Vengeance can never be that perfect!

Your niece shall have her hands full of Clarissa for the next several days, but I think she can manage. She will have to! Sophie is a bright thing, and her sense of vengeance against Charles shall surely fortify her. Thomas seems devoted to her (perhaps too devoted?), and I think she may rely upon him should the going get rough.

Oh, yes, before I forget, we had Charles's clothing with us, complete with watch, handkerchief, snuff-box, &c., &c. I was constrained to launder his garments here at the inn, as they were rank and I could not sleep in the room for the odor. I do hope Clarissa bathes more often than Charles! I have already bundled them up in a package and dispatched them, by courier, along with three guineas, to our cousin in Eastcheap, with instructions to do as we bade him last week, and to plant "Charles" in the ooze just as soon as he can find a double of suitable stature.

Do not worry about me, my darling, I have suffered worse falls without lasting effects. Besides, William is my absolute servant, so I need not stir. He brings me everything I need.

Do not write, as I shall return before your letter can reach me.

I kiss your lips, Amy. I cannot wait to hold you again in my arms.

I am, as ever, your passionately devoted,

Molly


Letter VII: Amelia Poindexter (Lady Lovelle) to her niece, Sophie Crenshaw

Swans' Rest, Folkestone, Sunday, 6th August 1732

My Dearest Niece,

I have received both your letters, as well as one from Molly, who is delayed, by a turned ankle, in Reading. I cannot begin to express in writing my satisfaction with the success of our little enterprise! I do have some suggestions for how to proceed, but before I make them, I would like to speak about you, dearest Sophie, for I detect some self-dissatisfaction on your part, and that must not be!

You must not envy Clarissa her beauty, though' I dare say, having heard her description from Molly and you, she seems rather a fine piece of work. You are a lovely girl, Sophie. You were ever frail as a child, and frail girls are always slow to develop. You are but nineteen, and, though' you have reached your height, I am certain you will fill out more to your satisfaction in the next couple of years. Your features are fair and regular, and they betoken a keen intelligence within, a thing many "beautiful" women utterly lack. As for your skin and the blotches you speak of, that shall clear, too, with time, especially now that you are no longer suffering under Charles's oppression. And, if Nature has left anything undone, why, I can show you how a bit of paint and rouge can make remedy for it. Therefore, Sophie, let me not see any more self-pity in your letters — it is a trait unbecoming in a Montague.

What I wish next to discuss is of even greater importance, Dearest Sophie: your attraction to Clarissa, whom you say you hate, but who has softened your heart. Your attraction is nothing but the Sapphic inclination present in all women, which is almost universally suppressed, either purposefully or without awareness. Nothing, Sophie, can be more natural than for women to be attracted to one another, for we are, after all, the most perfect of God's creations, having been made in Her image, for God is clearly Female. Men are coarse, wicked, hairy, forked brutes with rough skins and voices, whose superior physical strength has given them an ascendency over women they do not otherwise merit. Were men not needed for their seed, they would not be needed at all, and the world would be a better place for their absence. However, we are stuck with them.

But that does not mean that we should love men to the exclusion of women — or that a woman should love a man at all. I am speaking in both the carnal and spiritual sense. Take my word, Sophie, that no Love can surpass that of two women for one another, who together can achieve a perfection and harmony — both of body and soul — that cannot exist between woman and man.

Are you shocked, then, Sophie, to hear your dear aunt profess such heresy? You would be surprised, my dearest, to learn just how many fine ladies of your acquaintance have their secret female lovers! You hear not of them because our Sapphic sisterhood is close-knit, and we keep an iron code of silence. I am telling you this because I can see where your tendencies with Clarissa are leading (or have already led), and far from discouraging them in you, I implore you to give them full rein! Not only shall you achieve a rare satisfaction, but you shall refine your revenge. Think of how much greater is Charles's punishment, not only to be changed into a woman forced by female impulse to copulate with men, but to serve his former wife as her Sapphic slave at the same time! And, should you also want a man, then take one, by all means, and enjoy both kinds of love! You would not be the first.....

This being said, you must take up your letter where you left off and be not ashamed — you were about to instruct Clarissa how to pleasure herself. I am with child to learn how that went, so you must write me immediately!

Now for my suggestions. They concern the forthcoming birching of Clarissa for insubordination. That she should be whipped, there is no question, but how and with what and by whom is another matter entirely. First of all, the disciplining of women is a female art, and should not be left to men! Therefore, Thomas cannot wield the birch, nor may he be present, for female discipline is a ritual in which men play no part (and neither should any other man be present to witness a punishment). Accuracy, timing and wrist-action are more important than strength, so, although a woman must wield the birch, she need not be one of your stoutest laundry-maids. You should also select beforehand two other girls to hold Clarissa down. And for this purpose, stout laundry-maids are quite ideal, for they have the strongest arms and shoulders of all female domestics.

The switch must be selected with care, and may be of birch, willow or cherry. It must be at least three feet in length, and supple enough to allow a knot to be tied at its tip, yet mature enough so that the handle-end is sufficiently thick to be firmly grasped: a switch that is too thin in the handle will have lesser force to its cut. Send Clarissa herself to cut the switch, and keep sending her back until she has brought one to you that meets your specifications exactly. Then make her carefully peel it, as the bark impedes flexibility. Finally, soak it in salt water for two days before using it, as water both will add to its weight and increase its suppleness, thereby augmenting its sting. As will the salt, as soon as the skin be broke.

Take your selected whip-mistress aside a day or two beforehand to let her feel of the switch and how it behaves in the hand. She must develop a good stroke and precise aim. Not only that, but she must be taught how to flick her wrist just so to produce the high, thin whine a switch makes as it sings through the air, which is so essential to a successful birching. A pillow tied to a chair tilted against a wall makes an acceptable dummy for practice. Your whip-mistress must be warned not to vary her tempo should Clarissa cry out, (though' she may wish to increase the force of her stroke, as crying out is considered poor form and is therefore a punishable infraction).

As for Clarissa, you must prepare her before-hand as to what shall be expected of her. She must be shown how to bend forwards over a chair. Tell her that two other girls will hold her in place. You yourself should tuck up her skirts behind (both for practice and at the actual event), exposing her pantalettes. Speaking of which, you must make Clarissa wear brief pantalettes for the birching, not of coarse serving-maid's muslin, but of fine, almost diaphanous cotton, so that they conform snugly to her contours and expose the tops of her thighs, thereby assisting the whip-mistress in her laying-on of strokes. The more sheer the pantalettes, the more easily will the welts be visible. Of course, Clarissa's pantalettes must be freshly laundered, as befits the gravity of the occasion. You must tell her that crying out may increase the force or number of strokes she shall be given.

I regret, Sophie, that affairs prevent me from attending the spectacle, else I would come up to Brackenheath a few days in advance to give you more detailed instruction in the art of female discipline. In the meanwhile, pray continue your narrative of what passed between you and Clarissa in your bed-chamber after you dismissed Thomas. As I said, I am almost with child to hear more!

I am, as ever, your loving aunt,

Amelia Poindexter (Lady Lovelle)


Letter VIII: From Sophie Crenshaw to Amelia Poindexter (Lady Lovelle), her Aunt.

Brackenheath, Basingsford, Berks., Tuesday, 8th August, 1732

Dearest Aunt,

I was so relieved to receive your letter that I cried! As I could not have borne to live under the eye of your opprobrium, your approval of my inclinations towards Clarissa removed a great and worrisome weight from my heart. For we did things that, had you condemned my tendencies, I should never have told you of, but would have taken the knowledge with me to the grave.

But since I bask in the sunlight of your approbation, I shall tell you all, dearest Aunt.

As you recall, Clarissa sprang from the bed at my command to undress, and began to fumble with her buttons, hooks, tapes, ties and garters and pins. The poor thing was all thumbs, for she had never before dealt with so many layers of clothing: I hastened to assist her. Within a few minutes she stood before me, naked once more, her garments at her feet — she resembled nothing so much as Venus risen from the foam of the sea. I handed her about, as in a minuet, to inspect her beauty from all angles. Then suddenly she blushed crimson and stammered, "I...I... must..."

"You must what, Clarissa, speak up! For the moment, nothing that you can say or do shall add strokes of the birch, so you may speak freely," I said.

"I... I.. must needs make water, and I am uncertain how to go about it!"

I am afraid I began to laugh, Aunt, which only caused Clarissa to crimson more deeply. To be sure, Charles had drunk freely before his transformation, so it was hardly surprising that, several hours later, Clarissa should feel a strong call of nature.

"Nothing could be simpler, Clarissa" I said, "There is the close-stool by the wash-stand. Go over to it, lift its cover and sit on the obvious spot!"

Still blushing, Clarissa minced tightly over to the close-stool, like a small girl afraid she will lose her water before she can sit, opened the polished top of the cabinet, turned and sat, folding her hands in her lap and settling down as if to a sermon in church — except that she was naked, of course."

"Now what?" she asked.

I laughed gaily again. "Just, well... just let go, Clarissa, I cannot put it more plainly than that!"

Clarissa's features assumed a look of rapt concentration, as if she were doing large sums in her head, when suddenly the sound of her feminine rill filled the room, sharp and high-pitched as it sprayed against the inside of the pewter pot. Clarissa's eyes opened wide in surprise that she should be the source of such a female sound, which continued undiminished for almost a minute before ending abruptly in a few delicate drips. She made a move to rise.

"Not so fast, Clarissa," I said, holding up my hand to detain her. "Are you not forgetting something?"

She regarded me blankly. Clearly, she had no idea what I was talking about.

"Women dry themselves after making water, Clarissa."

"O, I see. What do women use, then?" she asked, looking about herself in bewilderment.

"If you look next to you, inside the top of the cabinet," I replied, "No, to your other side.....that's right.... you will see a small, round sponge and several bowls of water. Dip the sponge into the first bowl to wet it, squeeze it as dry as you can, then spread your legs and apply the sponge to the spot where your water came out and dry yourself off. The sponge is quite soft and will not chafe your delicate tissues. Rinse out the sponge in the same bowl. Next time use the second bowl, then the third, and so forth. The bowls are changed twice a day here in my chambers; what you shall find in the servant's quarters, I know not, but the idea is the same. And you must become accustomed to sponges, Clarissa. You will find a woman has a surprising number of uses for them."

Clarissa did as I had instructed, blushing anew. Then she arose with surprising natural daintiness, closed the top of the cabinet and approached me gracefully to present herself for further instructions.

"Lie on the bed, Clarissa. On your back," I commanded. I sat again on the edge of the bed, next to her. "Draw your heels up on the coverlet and let your thighs part. No... more widely... like this," I continued, gently spreading her thighs further and thrilling within myself at the softness of her milky-white skin and at the incipient gaping of her female parts.

"Now sit up a bit for a moment, so I may place two pillows behind your shoulders and head. That's right. Lie back again. There! Now you can watch yourself if you wish."

Clarissa, taking her cue, glanced down, after adjusting the pillows a bit higher so that she could see over her enormous breasts. She gasped to see a hint of her pink penetralia, in sharp contrast to the ebony fur of her mound. Her hand shot downwards to explore.

"No, not yet," I chided, stopping her hand with mine, "Save the sweetmeats for last, Clarissa; they are not ready yet for the tasting. You must first come to terms with your breasts."

So saying, I grasped her soft, white hands and placed them, palms down, on her breasts. Then, taking two fingers of each hand, I began to move them in circular fashion about her nipples, which instantly hardened like puckered walnuts. Clarissa drew in her breath sharply and her nostrils dilated. I loosed her hands; her fingers continued what mine had begun. She closed her eyes and opened her ruby lips slightly, just enough so that her even teeth barely showed. Presently she began to moan softly, rolling her head side to side. Evidently, Aunt, her internal female connections, if I may call them such, are as genuine as her outward female appearance, for soon her white skin was covered in broad patches of pink. With a languorous sigh, she let her thighs fall yet more widely open, exposing a good deal more of her woman's depths, which now appeared almost crimson in the soft light of the tapers, almost crimson and remarkably wet.

Of course, Aunt, I had never seen a woman thus exposed! What I mean, is, I had never seen a woman thus exposed from my point of view, as an observer, that is, when one can see in marvelous detail & at leisure that which, in one's self, is never plainly visible, even with a hand-mirror. And, I must confess, the sight brought moisture and warmth to my own woman's depths, Dear Aunt, which, if I may believe your letter, you shall not be surprised to learn.

At any rate, Clarissa's breathing became shallow and uneven. Her face assumed an odd blankness, a transcendent serenity such as can be seen on the famous funerary mask of the Egyptian Queen on display in the Ashmolean Collection at Oxford. I decided, Aunt, that the time was ripe for the sweetmeats, so I gently took Clarissa's right hand and slid it down over her wide belly, over her Venus's Mound, and, extending her two fingers, gently pushed them into her slit, at which penetration her eyes opened wide in stunned amazement. She turned her head to look at me, smiled wanly, and, closing her eyes again, dipped her fingers more deeply inside herself to bathe them in her intimate moisture, of which there was an exceedingly great amount, making her manipulations readily audible. At this point, I was fairly flowing myself, my wetness welling up from within like a spring on a hill-side, but I could not yet abandon my role as her teacher.

"Clarissa," I whispered, "Clarissa, Clarissa, Clarissa, allow me to guide your middle finger to your bud of Venus," which by now had emerged from its enfolding hood like a diminutive Jack-in-the-pulpit. "But gently, gently, you must barely brush it with the pad of your finger-tip. Gently, now."

Saying nothing, Clarissa did as I had bade, as if in a trance, but could not suppress an involuntary squeal as her soft finger-tip made contact with that most delicate of all organelles, the only one, it is said, which has no other purpose but to pleasure a woman. (Indeed, I can divine no other reason for its existence.) Meanwhile, her left hand continued its circular rhythm about the nipple of her breast. Her pink patches were by now co-mingled so that she glowed with the color of a luminous rose; tiny beads of perspiration bedewed her whole body. Clarissa's dexterity was admirable, for, like one of Bach's two-part inventions we were all taught as girls, she played one voice with her right hand and the other with her left, each distinct in tempo and melody. She kept this up a remarkably long while.

On a sudden, her breathing altered to a series of grunts which built in volume to a crescendo — she froze for a moment and opened her eyes. Then her arms and body and legs were seized by a series of irregular spasms, like a person afflicted with the falling-sickness. Her grunts blended into a long wail of infinite pleasure. Then she lay still, save for the rippling of her belly and the pulsations of her wide-open penetralia, which continued unabated for some two or three minutes. At last, her feminine seizure petered out, and, with a long sigh of satisfaction, she began to weep softly.

Thus, Dearest Aunt, was Clarissa delivered from the harsh thralldom of her lust. I confess that I, too, acheived a tepid measure of release just by watching her. But you cannot imagine my envy, that this creature, a woman of only four hours, should have achieved at first try that which I had never achieved in all my nineteen years! I cannot describe my emotions of the moment: regret at missed opportunity, satisfaction at having made the man's soul of Charles surrender to the overpowering demands of Clarissa's magnificent body, envy that I could not attain such release myself, tenderness towards the girl on the bed, a feeling of dread that my own desires were wicked and unnatural .... all these were compounded in my breast, and I, too, began to weep.

And then, Aunt, Clarissa sat up and addressed me.

"I thank you a thousand-fold, Mistress, for delivering me! How can I repay you?"

Ah! A miracle! Clarissa had read my thoughts, Aunt, with all the clarity of a woman's intuition, granted her by the magic of the warrior's tears!

"Very well, Clarissa," I replied, snuffling my tears and doing my best to regain my aplomb, "You shall do for me with your tongue that which you have just now done for yourself with your fingers. Should you refuse, I shall not punish you."

I had crossed my Rubicon, Dear Aunt! My heart stood still awaiting Clarissa's reply. When it came, it was a testament to the miraculous power of the warrior's tears. Clarissa answered me with a question:

"If I do as you ask, will you give me to Thomas, then?"

"Yes, but I shall be present, and others, perhaps, to witness and certify your defloration."

"I am indifferent to any one's presence save Thomas's."

"You shall still be whipped in a fortnight."

"I desire it."

"You shall remain a serving-maid. Your fate can not be altered."

"I care not."

"Other men shall have you"

"So much the better."

"One shall likely get you with child."

"That I desire as well."

"You shall be no better than a common strumpet."

"A common strumpet is above all what I wish to be. That I am helplessly subjugate to the female state you have enforced upon me, is undeniably evident, repugnant as it is to the man-soul already withering within me: you have made me a woman in body, needs, desires and emotion. I must, and I will, do anything — anything! — to attain that shattering female ecstasy I have just now brought myself to, with your apt instruction! But it is with hot, solid man-flesh thrust into me, pumping me without mercy, impaling me deeply (Heaven forgive me!), filling my fertile recesses with seed, that I am destined to achieve it, not with these soft and puny woman's fingers," declared Clarissa, proffering her two small hands in display, "And Thomas is the very man I desire first, for he is built like a draft-horse. I know. I have oft seen him unclad these ten years, as you may well imagine. He shall give me the reaming I yearn for."

"Very well, Clarissa. It is to your credit that you understand the finer points of your transformation after so little time. There appears to be nothing further to discuss, then."

"I think not.... except for two things."

"What are they?"

"First, that you allow me to bring myself off with my fingers before I do to you with my tongue what you have asked of me. I simply cannot survive without this concession."

"You may do so, of course. Indeed, it shall give me great pleasure to watch you, as it will make me all the more ready for your attentions to me. And the second?"

"When shall you let Thomas have me?"

"The evening after your whipping. This gives us a fortnight to become better-acquainted."

"Ah! So long! I shall have to make do with my fingers till then! I accept the bargain, however. Let us therefore tarry no longer. Pray get undressed and lie on the bed. On your back. Draw your heels up along the coverlet, and allow your thighs open apart, as wide as your dare...."

And so, Dear Aunt, did Clarissa transport me to the same pinnacles of pleasure to which she had brought herself. I need not describe my reactions in detail, as they were no less intense than hers. She granted me in one hour what Charles had not granted me in six weeks of marriage and which I had never been able to grant myself, either. And, as the August sun rose, projecting its up-slanting red rays onto the ceiling of my bed-chamber, Clarissa and I extinguished the now-superfluous tapers, closed the shutters and fell asleep in one another's arms.

I am, your always loving (and newly fulfilled) niece,

Sophie Crenshaw


Letter IX: Amelia Poindexter (Lady Lovelle) to her niece, Sophie Crenshaw

Swans' Rest, Folkestone, Thursday, 10th August 1732

My Dearest Sophie,

Your letter of the 8th has just now been put into my hands by William, who returned yesterday with Molly from Reading. As the coach turns round here in Folkstone & does not depart until six o'clock this evening, I am writing my reply immediately so that I can post it to you without delay. I must therefore be brief, as the hour is now past five.

I am immensely gratified & astounded by your letter. You have already turned Charles's transformation to your remarkable advantage, & within mere hours, as well! I rejoice, too, at your initiation into the delights of Sapphic love, & wish you many more such encounters, though' it is to be hoped that you will soon find a woman who will return your affections, & not merely provide the physical pathway to gratification.

Now this: Molly has begged me incessantly since her return to send her back up to Brackenheath. Her ankle is much improved, & by then she shall be able to get about without the least pain. Not only does Molly desire to witness Clarissa's birching, & her defloration as well, (calling them "the spectacles of the century," the which she would not miss for the world), but she desires to give you & your chosen whip-mistress some last-minute instruction.

Molly has disciplined hundreds of girls, both here in England & on the Continent, & is a true Maestra of the art . She is equally accomplished with the birch, canes of all calibers, flails & even heavier instruments of discipline, such as the knouted cat. I have acceded to her request, so you may expect her arrival by coach on Saturday, around noon. Make sure your switch is properly peeled & soaked by then. In fact, better have several to hand, in the event that a single one may have a concealed flaw that your as-yet unskilled eye cannot detect.

Molly shall also assist you in arranging Clarissa's tryst with Thomas, which is to follow the whipping. This, too, with a little planning, can be made into an effective spectacle. Let a low-walled sheep-pen in your barn be Clarissa's bed-chamber, an inverted wash-tub her bed! Set the wash-tub at the center of the pen, as a platform, and cover it with straw. Let your smith affix three rings to a broad mastiff-collar, one with a lock, into which three lengths of rope may be readily fastened. When Clarissa is led into the stall and has been stripped of her garments, Molly shall order her to crouch, hands and knees, on the inverted tub. She shall lock the collar snugly round Clarissa's neck, then fasten the ropes to her collar, tying the other ends to stakes pounded into the earthen floor of the of the pen, so that Clarissa cannot stand; she shall be constrained to remain on all fours. Thus shall Clarissa be exhibited, on a little stage, as it were, unable either to stand or to move off the tub.

In this posture of humiliation, she will be ideally positioned to take Thomas's privy member into her mouth, and later to be had from behind, whilst you may observe her degradation from outside the stall, walking about at your leisure, chatting and pointing out this or that feature of the event with your folded fan. Make sure that the barn is well-lighted for the performance. Wear your finest gown, Sophie; so Molly shall, too, as this is an Important Occasion. Clarissa alone shall be bare — even Thomas shall remain clothed, unbuttoning the flap of his breeches at the requisite time.

You will find Molly is as quick at fastening ropes as she is at descending them from third-story windows! It will her but a moment clap on Clarissa's collar and position the ropes, then she will join outside the pen. Ask Molly some time about the year she posed as a sailor on a coastwise revenue cutter. She knows all there is to know about ropes and knots.

The church clock has just struck a quarter-to-six, so I must end now.

Trusting you will have continued success & pleasure in our mutual enterprise, I am, as always,

Your loving & admiring aunt,

Amelia Poindexter (Lady Lovelle)


Letter X: From Sophie Crenshaw to Amelia Poindexter (Lady Lovelle), her Aunt.

Brackenheath, Basingsford, Berks., Monday, 14th August, 1732

My Dearest Aunt,

I have just a moment to write, so I shall be rather brief to-day.

You are ever full of surprises! To-day just after the noon coach, a card was brought up, announcing a visitor awaiting me in the reception-room. The name on the card read "Quentin Crispin, Dealer in Rare Antiquities, Wigmore-Street, London." I was expecting no one to-day other than Molly, but I was intrigued, so I said I was at home and would be down presently. When I entered the room, a dashing young gentleman, clad in the latest fashion of the West-End, powdered wig and all, an ivory-topped walking-stick in his hand, sprang to his feet from the divan, bowed with an elegant flourish, and presented himself. I proffered my hand, which he kissed, and, as he raised his head and winked at me impertinently, I saw...... that it was Molly!

As we were the only two in the room, she dropped her pretense, and cried, "How good to see you again, Sophie!" and embraced me as woman to woman. Then she stood back, beaming, and spread her arms wide, palms outwards, as if to ask what I thought. I was so flustered, Aunt, that I knew not what to say. So I snapped open my fan and began to fan myself frantically, stammering, "But... but... who... why...?"

"Pray excuse my male clothes, Sophie. It pleases me to travel disguised as a man from time-to-time, and, besides, it has certain advantages, as travelling alone as a woman can on occasion be most tiresome. But do you fancy my new suit? Your aunt had it made for me only last month."

Indeed, I had to admire the wondrous cut of her waistcoat, coat and breeches, which were of the finest peach-coloured silk, well-suited to the August weather. The lace at her collar and cuffs, in ivory-white, was of the most costly Belgian variety. And her hose, of fine lisle, was of the tightest weave, showing the form of her legs to advantage. She wore broad-heeled shoes of soft Florentine leather, dyed to the same shade as the silk. This suit must have cost you a good fifty guineas, Aunt!

Before I could get a word out, however, Molly pressed both my hands in hers, and said, reassuringly, "Do not fret, Sophie Darling, I have brought a trunk of my dresses as well, and if you show me upstairs, I shall change into one of them, to avoid embarrassing you further. You may pick one out for me to put on," and, so saying, she offered me her elbow and we proceeded upstairs to the room I had prepared for her.

I rang for the porter to bring up Molly's trunk, and, while we waited, she apprized me of her adventures from the moment she went out through my window a fortnight ago. She told me of her ankle, the stay in Reading, how Charles's clothes were already sent off to London, and, God willing, were already being worn by their new owner.

Presently the porter arrived with the trunk. As soon as we were alone again, Molly opened it and laid out her dresses upon the bed for me to admire. They were like a royal wardrobe, Aunt! I have nothing quite so rich, I fear! I was not surprised to see that the loveliest gown was of the same silk as her man's suit, with the very same Belgian lace for the trimming, so this was, of course, the one that I chose for her to wear. She removed her wig, revealing her boy's hair, and proceeded to disrobe, while we chatted away, as women-friends will.

I played her ladies-maid, assisting with her laces and petticoats, and even tying her garters, both of us giggling like schoolgirls the while. As I was buttoning up the back of her bodice, she finally said, "So, Sophie, your aunt tells me you are, underneath it all, a bit of a Sapphist, and that you have taken, of all women, Clarissa! An intriguing partner, might I say?"

Molly could not see me blush, for I was standing behind her. The fact was, of course, that Clarissa and I had been sleeping together ever since that first night. I patted Molly at the bottom button. "There, you are all done up now!" I said by way of evasive reply. Molly spun round and took me by my hands, regarding me with a playfully conspiratorial expression.

"You needn't be ashamed, dear child! You look much happier, you know," she said, her eyes roving over my features," Your complexion has wonderfully cleared and your cheeks have filled out." She passed her hand tenderly over my cheek. "And where is Clarissa, may I ask?"

"She is in my room, sleeping," I replied. "Even my vengeance has its limits, Molly. For the past week I have given her every mean task in the household I could devise, and she has done them all without complaint, working herself to exhaustion, scrubbing floors, carrying water, laundering bed-sheets, ironing table-linen, pulling up turnips, and, yes, dealing with the chamber pots, too. She has given no occasion to have any strokes added to her punishment. And I've done my best to keep her apart from the men, so, to my knowledge, no one has had her yet, though' she's more than willing and would not be able to restrain herself if the occasion arose.

"And every night, Clarissa has made love to me," I continued, "though' I know she does so only because of the bargain we struck, that Thomas shall have her and not because of any affection for me. And she has accomplished her love-making well, to my infinite gratification," and here I blushed in Molly's full view, "so I have no cause to complain on that score. But it's men she wants, Molly, men! And, as you know, Thomas gets to have her after her birching, which is set for Wednesday morning at 11 o'clock, in just two days!"

"I suppose even vengeance may be tempered with mercy," Molly rejoined, "and, in this instance, there is a valid quid pro quo, until you give her to Thomas and the bargain's concluded. And yet, I would not despair of losing her quite yet, Sophie. You are her mistress, after all, she is effectively your chattel, and service without affection is service all the same.

"I have, on occasion, been in a similar position to Clarissa's, before I met your aunt. Of being a kept woman, I mean." Molly looked down for a moment and paused. Then, raising her eyes to mine once more, she continued, "Indeed, some accuse me of being that even now," she said, gesturing to the fortune's worth of rich gowns arrayed on the bed, "But I do love your aunt, you see. She plucked me from poverty and educated me, besides caring for me in every conceivable way. But, getting back to Clarissa, despite the power of the warrior's tears, things may turn out differently. Simon Musgrove is not omniscient, and the only transformed girl he ever interviewed was that Mistress Cummings, who was a Ganymede to start with. It is likely that each transformed girl is a bit different. Clarissa may develop a taste for women as well as for men — there are many such, you know, who play both sides of the street. Perhaps it's a pity that I emptied the entire phial of warrior's tears down Charles's gullet after all!"

Molly laughed extravagantly, then resumed, "At all events, we must live one day at a time, like all God's creatures. Were I you, Sophie, I would get this vengeance out of my system, let it run its course, else it will poison you. Enjoy Clarissa at night, but punish her by day, humiliate her, exorcise the evil man-spirit that yet dwells within her! Let Thomas take her brutally on Wednesday, and any other man, too! Let her swell with child — one or several! Punishment and humiliation shall purify her. After all, she is a magnificent creature, but with a rotten kernel, which, if it can be purged, may make her the most perfect of women. You are only nineteen, Sophie, and Clarissa cannot be much older. There is lots of time. Lots of time."

"Perhaps you are right, Molly; my hatred of Charles still gnaws at my heart, and I must purge myself of it, just as you would see Clarissa purged!" I cried, "Charles is haunting both of us!"

Molly gave her extravagant laugh again. "You Montague women are so damnably serious! Do what feels right at the moment, by your best lights, and live a day at a time, Sophie Dearest, and you shall never go wrong! That has ever been my motto, since growing up in the reeking slums of Eastcheap! And, La! Look at me now! Besides, this entire affair is immensely diverting! The most entertainment I've had in months — I'd not miss it for the world!" And she laughed yet again.

Molly embraced me warmly once more, then asked if she might see Clarissa. As Clarissa had just laid herself down and truly needed her sleep, I suggested an early tea instead, as I was certain Molly was hungry after her journey. We could awaken Clarissa at four, and she would be somewhat refreshed. So Molly and I, arm in arm once more, descended the stairs and called for tea, after which I still had an hour left to write you, Dear Aunt.

I have never met anyone like your Molly. She never fails to amaze!

Until my next writing, I am, your faithful & loving niece, &c., &c.,

Sophie Crenshaw


Letter XI: From Molly Crispin to Amelia Poindexter (Lady Lovelle).

Brackenheath, Basingsford, Berks., Monday, 14th August, 1732

My Dearest Amy,

A brief note.

I have just now had tea with Sophie, who is, as I pen this, in her own room most likely writing to you, so that we can catch the same mail before the coach leaves at three.

You were so very prescient to send me up to Brackenheath! Sophie is wavering in her resolve, as I believe she has actually fallen in love with Clarissa. This complicates matters somewhat, to be sure. But Sophie's sense of vengeance still smolders within her and has not yet been snuffed out: I have already told her she should fan it back into flame until its fuel is consumed. She will be the better for it.

Clarissa, as you already know, is a most fascinating piece of womanhood, unlike any other I have ever met before. I desired to have a few words with her before I wrote this, so I could give you more intelligence on the state of her mind, but soft-hearted Sophie has laid Clarissa down in her own feather-bed, fearing that the onerous chores she has given her have caused the girl undue fatigue! Sophie declined to awaken her until after four.

I remonstrated with Sophie that our plan should proceed as we have discussed, and that, ultimately, both she and Clarissa may gain by it. Imagine what Clarissa might be were we to drive out the last evil vestige of Charles Crenshaw! As I told Sophie, Musgrove does not know everything about this warrior's tears stuff. I have a little theory of my own, to wit, that if the male homunculus can be extirpated completely, Clarissa may emerge cleansed an annealed, a true New Woman in the image of Dea, created from the base clay of a man! What greater testament to the power of Dea could there be?

So, starting at four, I shall proceed as planned with training the whip-mistress (Sophie has not yet told me whom she has chosen), and afterwards I shall also prepare Clarissa as well for her ordeal. In the event Sophie has forgotten, I have brought along a pair of snug pantalettes that will set off Clarissa's magnificent bottom to perfection for all to admire! (I know you will forgive me, Amy, if I get just the least bit moist thinking about it, but it really is the bottom of the century!) Similarly, in case Sophie has also failed to procure the collar and ropes, I have brought the ensemble we used on Harriet Davies last year, when she was punished for betraying the sisterhood. And, of course, I shall make sure there is clean straw in the sheep-pen.

But I hear Sophie's tap at my door, so I kiss you, my Dearest Amy, and seal this letter with another kiss, from your,

Molly


Letter XII: From Sophie Crenshaw to Amelia Poindexter (Lady Lovelle), her Aunt.

Brackenheath, Basingsford, Berks., Wednesday, 16th August, 1732

My Dearest Aunt,

It is meet that I, Charles Crenshaw's erstwhile wife, and not Molly, write you about Clarissa's whipping, which took place in Brackenheath's Great Hall at eleven o'clock this morning. We have a good many hours before the "main event," as Molly delights in calling it — Clarissa's defloration, I mean — so I have time for a long letter to you. Of the "main event" I shall write you to-morrow.

As for describing the birching, I may be wanting in some of the words — I am not adept in these matters — but Molly is here beside me at my writing-table to help if I falter. (She says to tell you she sends you a kiss.)

After tea-time on Tuesday, I summoned Ellen, one of the dairy-maids, to be presented to Molly. As you know, dairy-maids are strong in the wrist, and this Ellen milks six pails to the other dairy-maids' five every milking-time, day after day. Molly said it was astute of me to choose a dairy-maid as whip-mistress: she would have done the same.

At any rate, I showed Molly the six or eight switches, of cherry-wood, that Clarissa had cut, peeled and soaked, according to your instructions. I had forgot to knot the tips, so Molly showed me how to make a large knot with a small tail, which, she says, acts like a thorn or a barb. Then she took Ellen, and, quite like a tennis-master, stood right behind her, positioned the birch in Ellen's hand, and, taking her arms, showed her the proper swing, with what Molly called the "follow-through." Within a short while, Ellen had mastered the technique of the swing, causing the switch to cut through the air with a terrifying whine, thin and high-pitched.

Molly then set up the chair-and-pillow dummy and demonstrated several blows, making a few "practice cuts" in the air beforehand and several preliminary "aim-taking" taps on the pillow, which, she said, are essential to build up suspenseful dread in the victim. She showed us the importance of the "follow-through," as that allows the tip of the switch the liberty to curl fully round the buttocks, raking them painfully. Of course, Aunt, I am certain you know of these fine points, but they were all new to me!

Molly stuck a dozen hair-pins in the pillow to serve as targets, then passed the switch to Ellen, who, after remarkably little practice, was able to strike the head of which ever pin she cared to. Her accuracy proven, Ellen worked next on the force of her blows. After five minutes, practice was called off, for Ellen ruptured the pillow in a flurry of feathers and we could not proceed. Nor was there any need to, quite obviously.

Ellen dismissed, we betook ourselves to Clarissa, who had just arisen from her sleep and was dressing herself. Clarissa was not, shall I say, overjoyed to renew Molly's acquaintance, but she kept a civil tongue in her head and listened obediently as Molly explained the gravity of the occasion in all its ritual aspects. At Molly's request, I fetched a new serving-maid's dress of white muslin, and several new petticoats, also white, for Clarissa to wear on the morrow, as well as a pair of white lisle stockings with white cotton garters. And a pretty white muslin cap, too. Molly presented Clarissa with a pair pantalettes of fine, polished cotton, almost as sheer as silk — shockingly brief for every-day wear, but meeting your specifications, Aunt, for purposes of a birching. From their cut, I should imagine they will fit Clarissa's bottom quite snugly. I have never seen cotton like this, Aunt! I draped them over my hand and could readily see the crease of my palm through the delicate fabric! (Molly has just let out a squeal of delight at watching me write this line! She told me the cotton is Egyptian, and very dear.)

Clarissa was shown how properly to bend over a chair, grasping its seat at both sides for support. Molly told her that crying out, though' not forbidden, is considered poor form and may result in an augmentation in the number of strokes she receives. Molly also showed Clarissa how her skirts and petticoats would be turned up and tied with a wide ribbon round her midriff to keep them out of the way. The instruction concluded, Clarissa was sent down to the scullery to her evening duties (Tuesdays she peels potatoes, feeds the peelings to the swine, scours all the pots and pans after the meal, refills the water-tubs and shakes down the stove, taking out the ashes to scatter upon the vegetable garden. Then she sets up the table for the servants' breakfast next morning.)

Molly and I went down to supper, clad in our most elegant gowns. Molly let me wear her diamond ear-rings and pendant. She said I look every inch a princess, and I confess that I felt one! We toasted one another with chilled sparkling wine from Champagne, served from the sterling ice-bucket you presented me at my wedding, then dined on trout, partridge and squab, preceded by a delicious water-cress soup, and followed by coffee and an assortment of petits-fours and mille-feuilles cook had prepared for the occasion.

After we retired to the drawing-room, Molly did, in fact, tell me of her life as a seaman on that coastwise revenue cutter. How she managed a year without detection is testament to her skill at disguise and at confronting the unexpected with unflappable sang-froid. She berthed with the men, yet none suspected she was a woman, though' more than a few approached her for what they thought would be male favors, as she made a very comely youth, I should think. These she skillfully fended off, remaining unmolested, her secret intact.

What you did not tell me, Aunt, was that her ship, Whippet, was sunk in a gale; Molly was swept out to sea clinging to the bowsprit. She would have perished but for the Henrietta Marie, a slaver bound for Dahomey with a cargo of London Dock Rum. Imagine, Aunt, being plucked from the sea only ten leagues from the English shore, and forced to be taken all the way to Africa! So she worked her passage as apprentice sail maker and jumped ship in Dahomey, unwilling to proceed to The Bardabdoes with a consignment of slaves, the which had been bought from the King of Dahomey with rum.

Molly was stranded in Dahomey for five months, the only white "man" in the city, 'till a Portuguese trader, the Funchal, put into port in for fresh water. She signed on as second cook, and worked her passage to Genoa, and thence over-land to Bologna, where she finally cast off her disguise and joined the Circo Bolognese as a trapeze artist. I have never met a woman of so many talents, Aunt! Where ever did you find her?

Molly could have entertained me all night with her stories, but, what with the sparkling wine and cordials afterwards, we at length grew weary and retired to our bed-chambers for the night, I to be joined by Clarissa near mid-night, when she had finished her chores. We made passionate love, Aunt, more passionate than ever before! It was as if each was afraid it might be for the last time! You see, (and I do not blush to tell you this), I have taken to making love to Clarissa!

It came about in this wise. At first, I had permitted Clarissa to bring herself off with her fingers, as per our bargain, before servicing me. After a week's worth of house-work, however, her hands had become so uncommonly roughened and red, that she was no longer able to achieve the same satisfaction with her fingers as when she was a fresh-minted girl with the softest of hands, and the ardor of her love-making to me fell off. So, Aunt, I learned to service Clarissa as she services me.

There, I have told you! But, even so, this last night was unique, as we did not take turns, but did the act with one another at the same time, she above me, tasting my Venus's bud, and I on my back underneath, tasting hers. We came off at the same moment, so you may imagine the groans, moans and flailing about, which I am certain shook the chandeliers in the room below! (Molly is right now laughing quite hard that it took the two of us so long to discover this!) We then slept sweetly, cuddled together, until eight this morning.

Clarissa, of course, was excused from her chores for the day. I had breakfast brought up for Molly, Clarissa and me, and we ate silently. Then Molly and I dressed Clarissa ourselves in her new clothes. I must agree that the cotton pantalettes looked delicious on her! (Do you know that Molly calls Clarissa's derrière as "the bottom of the century"? She seems to revel in using the term, as I have heard it from her five times if once.)

At five minutes to eleven, we led Clarissa downstairs and entered the Great Hall of the manor in solemn procession, Molly and I each holding one of Clarissa's elbows, and Ellen, holding several birches, as well as the ribbon for binding up Clarissa's dress, several steps behind us. Brackenheath's female domestics had all been assembled beforehand at one side of the hall, facing the punishment chair, which stood at the center, stark as a gallows, a stout laundry-maid, facing the assembly, positioned to either side of it. All that we needed was a drum-roll, Dear Aunt, to complete the illusion of a hanging!

Molly and I delivered Clarissa to her holders, where she stood, facing forward, as I announced to all assembled that Clarissa Evans, serving-maid, was to receive twelve strokes of the birch for insolence to her mistress, and that this punishment was to serve as a lesson not only for Mistress Evans, but for all Brackenheath's servants, that insubordination would be punished severely from this time forward. A few stray murmurs arose from the group, but a sharp glance from Molly silenced them instantly.

I turned to the holders. "Commence punishment!" I commanded. The two laundry-maids turned Clarissa about; she bent over the chair rather tentatively. At a small nod from me, however, the holders pushed her downwards until her bottom, though still covered by her dress, was the most prominent object in the room. I stepped forwards to fold up her skirt and her petticoats, exposing her tight pantalettes, the tan mole on her left buttock plainly visible through the delicate cotton. Molly, taking the ribbon from Ellen, secured the not insignificant mass of fabric out of the way by throwing the ribbon round Clarissa's midriff and deftly tying a large bow with a flourish. Stepping back smartly, she beckoned, with the least flick of her index finger, that Ellen should come forward.

Ellen took up her stance a little behind and to the right of the delectable target, selected a switch (passing the others to Molly) and flexed it several times. Then, as she had been taught, she took several practice cuts off to the side, producing that same high, needling whine, which seemed to hang in the air, so still was the Hall. Clarissa tried to writhe, but her holders easily restrained her. All she could really move was her bottom, which seemed to tremble, like a great jelly, in anticipation of its coming ordeal. The trembling ceased as Ellen applied the obligatory "aiming taps," on Clarissa's taut pantalettes, barely touching them, in ominous contrast to the strokes that were shortly to follow.

One could have heard a pin drop as Ellen raised her arm high, paused for effect, then brought it down with remarkable speed and force, the switch producing a terrific whistle as it cut the air, the whistle ending abruptly in that inimitable "thwack" a switch makes against tender girl-flesh. Clarissa drew her breath sharply and struggled, but in vain, for the laundry-maids had been chosen precisely because of their strength, necessary in holders, though' not in whip-mistresses (where wrist-action is the thing). By the time Ellen raised her arm for the second blow, a long, thin red welt running diagonally across both buttocks could be clearly seen through Clarissa's sheer pantalettes.

Again came the fearful high whistle, and again it ended in a sickening "thwack." A second welt arose, not quite parallel to the first, but not crossing it, either. Again the whistle and thwack, then again! Clarissa's bottom was clearly wriggling now, but as yet she had not cried out, to her credit. The holders visibly increased their pressure, suppressing her wriggles. The fifth whistle was louder than any before, and so was the thwack, which this time caused a visible ripple in the assembly, as if it had been felt there as well. Clarissa shrieked, and the reason was clear, for the new welt which appeared had been laid on over the previous four, crossing each of them.

Ellen continued the birching at the same measured pace, allowing each welt to develop before adding the next. By the ninth stroke, the laundry-maids were having trouble restraining Clarissa, who was now emitting piercing shrieks at the bite of each stroke and sobbing deeply between them. Great dark patches of perspiration had appeared under her arms, and what little could be seen of her face, as she writhed her head side to side, showed it to be as red as the welts on her bottom. As Ellen raised her arm for the tenth stroke, Clarissa screamed, "O! For the love of God, Stop! I cannot bear any more! Have mercy! "

I instantly signaled a halt with my hand and cried "Stop!" Ellen's arm remained poised in the air. Much as I hated to do it Aunt, I had no choice!

"Six additional strokes for crying out!" I commanded. Clarissa made a hideous gasp, and then, as if all had been lost, began to sob hysterically.

"Continue, Ellen! You have your instructions" I cried.

Ellen resumed, at the same slow tempo, producing a crazy-quilt of brilliant red welts across Clarissa's bottom, which glowed lividly though her thin pantalettes. By this time, Clarissa's sobbing had subsided to a continuous low moan and she had gone slack under the holders' grip. At the last stroke she emitted an unearthly cry, distant and high, like a gull does, soaring in circles so far above the waves that it is almost too small to see.

When the holders released Clarissa, she could barely stand; her mind must have been a red haze of pain, for she reeled and stumbled; the laundry-maids had to grasp her to keep her from toppling. Molly stepped forward and undid the ribbon restraining her dress, and smoothed it and the petticoats down into place. I signaled that the punishment was over, and left quickly with Molly, after instructing the holders to help Clarissa up to my room and put her to bed — face down, to be sure — and to apply cool poultices to her bottom.

Thus was Clarissa punished for her insolence to me. I cannot say I am happy about it; each of those strokes seared my heart as much as they seared her bottom! For I love, Clarissa, Aunt, as unnatural as that may be! I love her! And now I must give her to Thomas this very evening! O! What have I done!

I am crying as I finish this letter, Aunt, and Molly is consoling me, dabbing my tears with her handkerchief, which she will soon have to wring out like a face-cloth! However, I shall persevere in our plan, for I am convinced that is the only path that can save Clarissa and me!

Your miserable, but still resolute, niece,

Sophie Crenshaw


Letter XIII: From Molly Crispin to Amelia Poindexter (Lady Lovelle).

Brackenheath, Basingsford, Berks., Wednesday, 16th August, 1732

Dearest Amy,

You have no doubt read Sophie's letter about this morning's events — Clarissa's whipping. I agree with what she wrote in every particular.

You would have been proud to see how Sophie carried off the affair with almost military precision. I have rarely seen a provincial birching come off so splendidly! I shall add it to my annals of girl-whipping and use it as a model for future instruction.

But a few wrinkles have developed: Clarissa is now running a fever, and is at times delirious. I myself have confirmed this. Sophie has, of course, flown to her side and will not leave her, insisting on being her nurse: she is applying poultices to Clarissa's bottom with her own hands, and is spoon-feeding her broth whenever she will take any. So there is no question of holding "the main event" to-night, as even I must concede that to go through with it now would be simply inhuman. It shall have to be delayed until Clarissa recovers.

That Sophie is deeply in love with Clarissa is now abundantly clear. Indeed, she has said as much to you in her letter. But here's the other wrinkle: in my observation of how the two act in one another's presence when I am with them— by their not-so-secret glances and certain subtle signals made with bodies and postures, or by how their hands graze and linger in passing, &c., &c. — it is apparent that Clarissa is in love with Sophie as well! As is often the case with the young, however, neither is as yet aware of this new development, and when it dawns on them, which must be soon, the effect may be shattering.

I must admit, Amy that the increasing complexities of this situation are rather challenging. And exceedingly interesting, of course — I've never seen the like in my entire experience, and I've seen a lot. How this will turn out is anyone's guess. Well, I pray, for Sophie's sake at least.

I am yet firm in my belief that the best course is to proceed with Clarissa's defloration, though it might do to keep Sophie from witnessing it. I should be pleased to be mistress of ceremonies, and oversee the affair myself. I cannot believe it will make much difference to Thomas, who has his own axe to grind, as we know. And grind it he must, for, though' Thomas is neither kith nor kin, he is a decent fellow, and will be poisoned by his vengeance against Charles if it is not satisfied. And copulating with his master transformed is clearly the only way he can now wreak his revenge, particularly if he gets Clarissa with child, which might not be a bad outcome, you know.

Do let me know your thoughts. We have a few days. Clarissa's fever is high, and it may take as long as a week before she is physically up to what shall be demanded of her.

I send you the tenderest kisses, from your own,

Molly


Letter XIV: Amelia Poindexter (Lady Lovelle) to her niece, Sophie Crenshaw

Swans' Rest, Folkestone, Friday, 18th August 1732

My Dearest Sophie,

To-day I received letters from you and Molly. I congratulate you both, but particularly you, Sophie, for bringing off Clarissa's whipping with such éclat! You have a surprising degree of refinement, my dear, for one so tender in years. As an incidental benefit, you shall no doubt find all your servants rather more tractable than they have been up to now, and that your position as lady of the manor is firmly established in their minds. Do not forget that September is hard upon us; before you know it, the coroner shall make you the owner of Brackenheath as a matter of recorded deed.

I am very sorry to hear of Clarissa's indisposition, and earnestly hope she is nearly recovered. From all your descriptions of her, I did not imagine her to be such a delicate creature: I have seen girls receive three times that number of birch-strokes and be up and about their business the next day (though' they might have to eat standing up for a week). I take her delicacy as a sign of progress, however, and I urge you to consider it in that light as well.

It is becoming clearer every day that Clarissa is a rare creature, like a phoenix arisen from ashes, as it were. I confess, I find this result of the warrior's tears to be quite unexpected, but then, as Molly has pointed out, Simon Musgrove really had no more experience in observing its effects with Mistress Cummings than we have with Clarissa in the short time we have known her. Nay, our experience is greater, as you are, shall we say, far more intimately acquainted with Clarissa that was Musgrove with Mistress Cummings.

What also is unexpected, of course, is your having fallen in love with the very creature whom you created to punish! This does complicate matters exceedingly, Sophie, as it is, after all, your own well-being and peace of mind that gave birth to our plans in the first place. The last effect I should wish to see from this venture is that you should be hurt by it! Thus, we must proceed now with great caution from this point forward.

As much as it may pain you in the short run, Sophie, I still deem it essential that Clarissa be given to Thomas as soon as she is recovered. And given to Thomas in the humiliating way I have set out. (You needn't worry about the collar and its accoutrements — Molly has brought a suitable one with her, and knows how to use it). You must understand that Molly and I have our own interest in Clarissa, as we are avid students of women, and find Clarissa exceedingly fascinating.

It is Molly's theory, in which I concur, is that Clarissa is really Dea's creation — Dea being how Molly and I refer to God, who, as I have told you, is female. The phial of warrior's tears is merely Dea's instrument. Molly sees Clarissa as the New Woman, a sort of Sapphic Messiah, if you will, created from the foul clay of the world's most worthless man — Charles Crenshaw. To make a Perfect Woman from such a base substrate is the ultimate expression of Dea's omnipotence and glory. And we, too — Molly and I — see ourselves as Dea's instruments in Clarissa's creation. It is our considered opinion that brutal fornication with a man — which Clarissa desires beyond anything else — may be the key to Clarissa's perfection, particularly if it gets her with child, for child birth may be the ultimate purgative for her.

I feel quite certain, dear niece, that you shall not lose Clarissa by this: on the contrary, I think you shall win her. Thus, let her defloration proceed, but absent yourself, letting Molly take charge, which she has told me she is more than willing to do.

Do not lose heart: all will come out in the end!

Your loving aunt,

Amelia Poindexter (Lady Lovelle)

P.S.: Your love-making has made a giant step forward, Sophie! Do not even think of blushing about it: it is the noblest form of love Woman may attain.


Letter XV: Amelia Poindexter (Lady Lovelle) to Molly Crispin

Swans' Rest, Folkestone, Friday, 18th August 1732

Dearest Molly,

I am set to entertain some important personages in a short while, and my preparations are already in arrears. So I shall be brevity itself.

Of course I agree to Clarissa's defloration the moment she is recovered! This must go forward for all the reasons we have discussed.

I've just written Sophie to steel her resolve in this. Pray you do the same.

That Clarissa has fallen in love with Sophie is an excellent development — I am certain your observations are correct; I have rarely known you to be mistaken in such matters.

Pray keep me informed.

Kisses for you in all the usual places, from your,

Amy

A Post-Script: William tells me that your mutual cousin planted "Charles" in the ooze a week ago yesterday. As the weather is now well into the dog-days, the plant should be ready to bloom by the first of September. We shall make Sophie rich as well as happy.


Letter XVI: From Molly Crispin to Amelia Poindexter (Lady Lovelle).

Brackenheath, Basingsford, Berks., Tuesday, 22nd August, 1732

Dearest Amy,

Today's bulletins:

Clarissa is fully recovered, so now it is Sophie who is ill! I should imagine she was overcome by all the strain and worry of nursing Clarissa, for she seems to have a slight touch of brain fever, which shall surely pass by the week-end. So now the girls' roles are reversed: Sophie is prostrate in bed, with Clarissa constantly at the bed-side, bathing her forehead with cool compresses, holding her hands, feeding her so much broth-of-mutton that the cook has become ill-tempered from cooking nothing else! (We are all having broth-of-mutton before every dinner now, though' ours has dumplings in it, a luxury denied the invalid).

I, too, have sat by the bed-side to do what little Clarissa will allow me. Amy, you would not believe the tenderness Clarissa displays towards Sophie, and how truly devoted she is to her! At the slightest sign of relapse — should Sophie moan or appear restless — Clarissa breaks out in tears and wrings her hands in despair. And at the least sign of recovery — should Sophie bestow a wan smile upon her, or take two spoonfuls of broth in ten minutes, instead of the usual one — Clarissa overflows with joy & excitement, claps her hands together and exclaims, "See! She is cured!" Thus is each day spent in alternate lamentation or rejoicing.

Clarissa even sings lullabies to Sophie in her velvet contralto, with a pitch that is perfect! And she improvises both melody and words, Amy — they are all new to me — in accurate measure and rhyme, all about castles and fairies and enchanted princesses. Or amusing ones, about lambs, ducklings and other infant animals and their ridiculous escapades. I shall write some of them down and send them to you, for they are really quite beautiful.

You know my opinions on brain-fever, Amy: like its lesser cousin, the vapours, both are tinged with not a little measure of feminine subterfuge. Indeed, I caught the "sleeping" Sophie stealing a quick glance at Clarissa, whilst she was at the wash stand pouring water into the wash-basin for Sophie's sponge-bath. (Sophie thought I was engrossed in reading the newspaper that had come down from London by the coach). The glance was full of the quick intelligence one does not associate with serious illness. The moment Clarissa picked up the basin, about to turn towards the bed, Sophie closed her eyes and pretended to be asleep again. She enjoys being coddled by Clarissa, and is playing this brain-fever sham for all it is worth. That is why I am confident that her recovery is not too far off: she shall tire of mutton-broth quite soon, I should imagine.

Another bulletin: Brackenheath's aged bailiff, Crutchfield, was taken with apoplexy on Friday last, and is not expected to live. Sophie, before her indisposition, appointed Thomas to replace him, a wise decision, as Thomas has had really little to do since his master "went up to London." This is good news for Thomas, for the post pays exceedingly well, and Thomas is a clever enough fellow to manage the farm-accounts and the rents. It is said that old Crutchfield was so often indisposed by one ailment or another, these past few years, that merchants have been giving Brackenheath short measure on all manner of goods, and the corn-factors doing the same at reaping-time, and getting away with it, too, at great cost to the manor.

At all events, Clarissa's defloration will most likely take place this next Saturday. I have seen the barn, Amy. The sheep-pen will suit admirably — it is central, like a miniature arena — and I have ordered fresh straw to be strewn about. I have had sconces affixed to the barn-posts, so there will be no dearth of light. I have also had the handles sawn off one of the wash-tubs, so that it will not be unsteady when inverted. A wobbly bed would not suit our Clarissa!

When I next write you, my dear, it shall be to tell you of Clarissa's next ordeal — or her beatitude, as the case may be. I shall do my best to restrain Sophie from attending.

Until then, my Love, I enclose my kisses with this letter, from your own,

Amy

P.S.: I am sure you will be most curious to see the enclosed advertisement, which I came across in the newspaper to-day.

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[EDITOR'S NOTE: On Sunday, 20th August, 1732, the following advertisement was published in the London Times. Similar advertisements appeared the same day, or several days later, in the Reading Spectator and in other newspapers in South-East England. The one reproduced here had been carefully cut from the newspaper, presumably by Molly Crispin, and pasted onto a square of parchment with a mixture of egg-white and flour. It was found in the same packet as the letters and other papers.]


* * * * *

Letter XVII: From Molly Crispin to Amelia Poindexter (Lady Lovelle).

Brackenheath, Basingsford, Berks., Sunday, 27th August, 1732

My Dearest Amy,

This shall doubtless be the most astonishing letter you have ever received, for it recounts events perhaps never yet recorded before, much less witnessed in the flesh. I am speaking not only of Clarissa's defloration, but of Charles' Crenshaw's demise, for I think he has finally been exorcised, leaving Clarissa precisely as we had hoped — unpollutedly feminine.... and possibly with child.

You will forgive me if my account is o'er-laden with detail: I desire to omit nothing, but to represent events as they happened, in all their minutiae.

By Thursday morning, Sophie, at last full sick of mutton-broth eight times a day, sprang out of bed and declared herself restored to the pink of health. Clarissa was returned to her chores and the day passed without event. Sophie and I dined together; I regaled her with tales of my days on the Funchal making English puddings for the Portuguese crew en route to Genoa. We retired near mid-night, I to my room and she to hers, where Clarissa soon joined her. Friday passed the same way.

At Saturday breakfast, Sophie informed me that she meant to be present that night, when Clarissa was to be given to Thomas. I could not very well demur, Amy, as the girl certainly has more right to bear witness than anyone else. Then Sophie and I spent part of the day reviewing the preparations. I showed her the ringed collar and ropes, and how the hasp locked with a small key, which I gave her, for she insisted on being the one to clasp the collar round Clarissa's neck. Sophie showed me a virginal white cotton gown, floor-length, which Clarissa, barefoot and otherwise naked, would wear into the barn. The barn itself we next inspected, testing the stakes which had been pounded into the floor: they were secure enough to tether an ox, much less a girl. The wooden wash-tub, low and broad, sans handles, lay up-ended at the center of the stakes. This, too, we tested, finding it to be stable, and not easily skidded about. Then we filled all the sconces with tapers and went to our usual supper.

As Clarissa had been relieved of her chores, she had spent the most of her day in the bath and at Sophie's dressing table and mirror, beautifying herself for her giving-away. When we came for her a little after eight, she was as expectantly radiant in her simple white gown as a child about to set off for a fair. She kept repeating how this night was her destiny and how she had yearned all these weeks for this moment to come, and thanked God that it had at last arrived. Poor child! Little did she suspect that she was being led to a barn, to be collared and staked!

"Why are you taking me out of doors?" she apprehensively asked when we left the main house through the back door and proceeded directly to the barn.

"You shall see very shortly," I replied. "You desired to be taken brutally by Thomas, did you not?"

"Yes," she conceded, "I did and I do, but a barn was not precisely what I had in mind."

"It is not yours to choose, Clarissa," I rejoined. "A sheep- barn is what you shall have. Trust us, it shall be better this way."

We entered the barn. Its high and hollow interior was suffused with the soft yellow glow of the myriad tapers Thomas had lighted beforehand. Thomas himself was standing at the pen's gate, arms akimbo, the sleeves of his white blouse rolled up, exposing his massive forearms. Near him, upon the railing, stood a pottery cup filled holding a distillate of muscarine, with a few drops of Physostigma venosa, which I had compounded earlier. As you know, this mixture may induce a trance-like state for an hour or two, a sort of hypnosis, which I thought would assist in the desired outcome of the event.

Thomas wordlessly swung open the low wooden gate, ushering Sophie, me and Clarissa within. He left the pen for a moment to close and bar the heavy barn-doors, so that no-one else should interfere with our doings, then he returned to the pen. Clarissa, meanwhile, stood immobile, her eyes transfixed by the heavy, studded collar with its three iron rings, which lay on the upended washtub, three lengths of rope coiled carefully beside it. Upon seeing the stakes surrounding the washtub, she at last comprehended, though' yet dimly , that she was to be somehow restrained. And guess what, Amy? Clarissa breathed a sigh of relief and smiled!

"No doubt the cup is for me, as well?" she asked. "What is in it?"

"It is muscarine tempered with Physostigma venosa," I answered, "which will help put you in the proper frame of mind for what awaits you."

"I am already in the proper frame of mind for what I hope awaits me, but I pose no objection to the draught — give me the cup."

Thomas handed her the cup, which she took in both hands, like a sacred chalice, and unhesitatingly drained, making a wry face, for mixture is somewhat bitter. She passed the cup back to me. I placed it, empty, upon the railing.

"Now, Clarissa, we must put Thomas, here, in the right frame of mind as well; therefore you must quit your gown so that he may behold you entire," said I.

Clarissa instantly drew her gown off over her head and cast it negligently upon the straw. She stood stark naked before us, proudly defiant, breasts thrust forward, chin up. Turning towards Thomas, she first lifted her magnificent breasts with her hands, like sacred offerings. Releasing them, she slid her hands symmetrically downwards along her white belly then flared her hands out and down over her hips, then slid them again up, retracing their path, as if she were stroking a cat. This she repeated in silky and sinuous rhythm for quite some while, her face turned up towards the high beams of the barn, eyes closed and lips slightly parted in feminine rapture. As she stroked her luxuriant skin, which glowed in the lambent candlelight like pale rose-coloured satin, she slowly turned about on the tips of her toes, making soft crinkling sounds on the straw as she crushed it.

Sophie and I stepped back to give full rein to so elegantly provocative a mating-dance in so unlikely a venue as a sheep-pen! Clarissa may as well have been draped in rich silken veils, adorned with precious jewels — wrists and ankles encircled with bracelets of gold — a precious gem in her navel, her body scented with priceless perfumes, whilst dancing on rose-petals in the most sumptuous harem of all Araby, instead of twirling nude, in a chill sheep-barn in Berkshire, its floor covered with straw, so oblivious was she to the banality of her surroundings.

And Thomas? Well, dearest Amy, as you can surely imagine, no man with red blood in his veins could be impervious to such display of lush femininity (and, though' I cannot speak for Sophie, I must confess to more than a slight twinge of moisture inside my own secret place!) Thomas, standing opposite us, arms folded, displayed that same masculine bulge in his heavy woolen breeches as on the night he first beheld his master, Charles Crenshaw, transformed into the lovely Clarissa, this bulge tenting the heavy fabric outwards & upwards in such manner that left no doubt whatever as to the prodigious size of the privy member so tightly constrained.

After some minutes of being thus entertained, Thomas's hand suddenly shot out as Clarissa passed close by him on one of her sinuous twirls. "Enough twirling about!" he cried, "I am ready to take you!"

At this, Clarissa plastered herself against him, entwining her arms about his neck and running her hands through his hair. But he peeled her off him, finger by finger and limb by limb, then impelled her towards the wash-tub with a thrust of his powerful arm. He picked up the wide leathern collar and proffered it to Sophie. "You wish to do the honors, I believe?" he asked.

Without replying, Sophie accepted the spike-studded collar and approached Clarissa, who raised her delicate chin and held her thick hair up out of Sophie's way with her hands, to assist her. Sophie tenderly fitted the collar into place, locked it with a dull click, and withdrew the key, placing it in her bosom. She gestured towards the tub, which Clarissa obediently mounted, assuming the position desired — on her hands and knees. Thereupon, I rapidly threaded the ropes through the rings of her collar, whipping the ends round the stakes pounded into the floor, and cinched them up tightly, so that Clarissa was unable to rise from her kneeling position, and was equally unable to move off the tub.

As Thomas strutted round the perimeter described by the stakes, regarding Clarissa from every angle, Sophie and I left the pen, closing the gate behind us, and assumed our positions at one of the railings.

Thomas drew a riding crop from his boot; with it he gently tapped Clarissa here and there — her breasts, thighs, and buttocks — as if testing their consistency and resilience. Standing behind her, Thomas re-positioned her knees by prodding them farther outwards with peremptory flicks of the crop, thereby fully exposing her woman's cleft, which glistened, moistly pink, in the candle-light. And, though' her eyes were wide open, Clarissa's pupils had by now become almost invisibly small, giving her gaze an unworldly blind, blank look. This was, no doubt, an effect of the muscarine.

Now Thomas strode round till he was standing directly in front of Clarissa.

"Crenshaw!" he cried, "I know you are somewhere inside this woman! Speak to me! We have matters to settle between us!"

There was no response.

"Speak, Crenshaw! I demand satisfaction! Speak to me, or I shall thrash an answer out of you!"

Silence again.

Stepping round to Clarissa's side, Thomas delivered a sharp stroke across her buttocks, eliciting a yelp and causing her body to jolt, but still she said nothing, even as a livid red welt arose across her ivory bottom.

Another stroke. And another. As the crop drew back for a fourth, a tinny voice, such as ventriloquists employ with their dummies, spoke out: "You needn't flog me again, Tupworthy. I can hear you well enough. Why are you summoning me?" it demanded.

This strange voice was clearly audible to all. Though' the words issued from Clarissa, neither did her mouth move, nor her lips, either. Last time I heard such a voice, Amy, was in Dahomey, while I was five months' stranded. I used to attend nocturnal Vodoun ceremonies of the Yoruba as a diversion from the stultifying boredom of the city. [Ed. Note: Vodoun, Voudou, or, more recently, Voodoo, is the ancient spiritualistic religion of the Yoruba of West Africa.] The culmination of such ceremonies is always the dance, whipped up to a frenzy by drums and rattles, and which ends abruptly when one of the postulants falls to the floor, insensate and foaming, evidently possessed by a spirit, which the Yoruba call Loa, and begins to address the assembly in the sprits’ voice.

Thomas, you see, aided by the distillate of muscarine, had somehow called forth Charles Crenshaw's spirit, which was now in full possession of Clarissa's body — whilst Crenshaw's spirit was, in turn, hopelessly entrapped within the voluptuous female kneeling before us on the wash-tub. Thus, here at last in all his evil splendor, knelt the vile Charles Crenshaw himself, a man in mind and spirit but a woman in body, collared and shackled submissively, like a slave-harlot, confronted by the man he had blackmailed and ill-treated in every conceivable fashion for a decade of years! Not Dante Aligheri himself, nor Heironymous Bosch, could not have devised a more hideous torture for their respective infernos than that of the damnable Crenshaw, made a woman against his will, subject to womanly needs and desires — lusting to fulfill them and revolted by them at the same time.

Crenshaw's eyes, their pupils no longer pinpoint, now focused upon Thomas a glare of malevolent hatred mingled with dread. "I repeat, Tupworthy," the small voice continued, "Why are you summoning me? Why call me forth me from my own particular hell, imprisoned in this woman's body where I have dwelt these past weeks, feeling everything she feels, desiring everything she desires, overcome by her woman's ways, forced against my masculine nature to become soft and effeminate, forced to squat to make water, forced to wear women's garb and to do women's work, forced to crave a man's stiff member within me and yet forced to have my accursèd bud of Venus licked nightly by my own wife, and forced to lick hers..... and to adore a woman's existence as much as I loathe it! What further humiliation can I suffer? Am I not tortured enough?"

"Tortured enough?" replied Tupworthy, "Not by half. Can'st not you guess what I want, you foul toad? You, who have black-mailed and abused me these ten years, and have made me do your bidding in all your nefarious schemes, without the least recompense! You, who have treated your innocent bride as if she were a common slut! You, who have had every maid of the manor whenever you fancied, then have driven them off with their babies to fend for themselves! You are the scum of the earth, Crenshaw! Death would be too good for you!"

"Since you frame it thusly, I can most likely divine your intentions...." spoke the voice.

"No need to guess, Crenshaw," Thomas continued, "I shan't keep you in the dark. I intend to avenge myself, and to avenge your poor bride as well, by giving you that which you no longer possess, which you now most fear and yet most crave, by giving you all you can take of.... this!" With these words, Thomas took down the flap of his breeches, releasing his privy member, which, once freed, sprang instantly upwards to its full length and dimension, at least twelve inches long and as thick as a cudgel, vibrating menacingly before Crenshaw's horrified eyes. Sophie promptly swooned at the sight, distracting me momentarily from this fascinating interchange as I knelt down to revive her.

"Tupworthy!" the little voice resumed, "If you come any nearer to me with that member of yours, I shall kill you! Yet I feel that hateful and irresistible wetness welling up within me, and my moist woman's cleft is even now softening like wax in the sun and commencing to flow.... O, God! How I crave to be penetrated, Tupworthy! What horrible torture that I, a man, need a man, to grant me release! I command you to fuck me, Tupworthy, but, if you do, I shall kill you!"

"You are but a weak woman now, Crenshaw. Far from commanding or killing any one, you shall instead beg me to fuck you, for that is your destiny now, to spread yourself wide for every man who wants to lie with you," Tupworthy replied, reaching round to Crenshaw's rear and shoving two fingers into his tender pink slit, as casually as one might test the temperature of one's bath-water. With a squeal of outrage, Crenshaw lurched at this coarse violation of his feminine softness, straining the ropes lashed to his collar. Tupworthy withdrew his fingers, inspected them, shook his head in exaggerated disappointment, and continued, "But I fear, Crenshaw, that you are not wet enough for my liking, nor have I yet reached the peak of my own manly desire, so, before I quench the smoldering fire in your woman's belly, you shall take me in your lovely mouth to stiffen me further, the better to enter you when you are at your full flow!"

"I shall carve out your liver, Tupworthy, for saying I am not sufficiently wet," answered the voice, "It is a slur on my womanhood! But I cannot deny you are right: I am by no means wet enough for my own liking either, may Heaven help me for saying so! For wetness is essential in woman, as I have already learnt with my fingers. Shameful as it be, the mere idea of taking your organ into my mouth is making me melt. So take you I must, for I am only half-melted and I must melt completely ere you can properly fuck me. And as I cannot but crave to give a man satisfaction, let me take you now into my mouth...."

Crenshaw wetted his lips three times round with his pink little tongue and obediently opened his mouth to receive Thomas's enormous organ, whose whole length was now slid into his throat. Crenshaw took it straight down his esophagus, just as those sword-swallowers do in the circus, his delicate neck distending visibly as the monstrous organ advanced relentlessly downwards.

"How does it feel, Crenshaw?" Thomas demanded. "Tell me, how does it feel for the Lord of Brackenheath Manor to take a man's privy member into his throat?"

"Mmmphhh! Mmmmphh! Mmmmmm!" responded the voice, unable to articulate as Thomas advanced, then retracted his gargantuan tool, presently assuming a lazy rhythm, withdrawing far enough each time — but never quite exiting — to allow Crenshaw to catch his breath, through his nose, between thrusts.

After several minutes, Thomas, just shy of achieving his man's ecstasy, fully withdrew with a soft little pop; Crenshaw sucked in a deep breath, then licked his lips lasciviously, greedily eyeing Thomas's member, which was now of an angry purple hue and knotted with veins, as dangerous a piece of man-flesh as has ever been seen, Amy!

"Fuck me now, Tupworthy! Fuck me!" shrilled the voice, with sudden urgency. "If you do not fuck me with that wondrous tool of yours, I shall die from the yearning for it! I must have it inside me! You have robbed me of mine with your warrior's tears; I can only possess one again by being fucked by a man, by ensheatheing him in my womanly warmth. So fuck me, Tupworthy! Let me take you into myself! You shall find me wet enough now."

Crenshaw's soft, hairless body was by now covered with irregular splotches of pink; he wriggled his ample derrière higher up into the air, and broadened his subservient stance by spreading his knees even further apart on the wash-tub, until he was gaping shamelessly, his now-crimson penetralia glowing like a small furnace, sending wisps of vaporous steam up into the cool air of the sheep-barn.

"Fuck you?" echoed Thomas, "You command me to fuck you? Come, come, Crenshaw, you shall have to ask bit more civilly than that if it's a good fucking you want. You are no longer my master, and hardly in a position to command. Look at you, splayed before me like a strumpet, a common strumpet shamelessly showing her wares, plying her trade for a shilling a trick. Would'st like your shilling now, Crenshaw, or after?"

"Tupworthy, you knave! How dare you call me a shilling-a-trick strumpet! Gentlemen deal only in guineas, and I would never dream of lifting my skirts for less than a guinea, not for any man!....Yet I must have your bulk inside me, I must! You are hot, stiff and ready to ride me and I am flowing like a brook at spring flood!" shrilled the voice in a spasm of impotent rage and confusion, "I would'st not have you abandon me thus, so wet and so unfulfilled! Fuck me, Tupworthy! Leave off the chattering and ream me with your damnable tool!"

"Beg!"

"Never!"

"Beg!"

"Never! I have my gentleman's pride, and I cannot beg! Just fuck me, Tupworthy! You shall die to-morrow if you do! But fuck me now! Now! I cannot bear this agony any longer! Damn your revenge and prithee fuck me without further discourse!"

"You shall bear this agony, and more, Crenshaw!" cried Thomas, stepping to the side to deliver a curt but well-aimed cut with the crop across Crenshaw’s huge dangling breasts. The little voice shrieked in pain.

"How does the Lord of the Manor like having his lovely breasts switched with a riding-crop?" Thomas demanded.

He lashed Crenshaw's breasts again, and again the voice shrieked hideously, like a soul being tortured with Hell-fire.

The dummy's voice gasped for several moments, then resumed:

"Thrash not my breasts again, Tupworthy! You cannot imagine how painful it is! How can you be so cruel to a woman?"

"It pleases me to hurt you, Crenshaw," Thomas replied, flicking back the crop, as if to deliver another cut. "You must beg," he cried.

"Please fuck me, Tupworthy! Please!" pleaded the voice. "Do not strike me again! I shall say whatever you desire if you will only please fuck me! "

"You must beg me in so many words, Crenshaw!" The crop lashed out with a short, vicious swish, strumming Crenshaw right across his taut, brick-red nipples.

Another unearthly shriek. A choking pause. Then, in a lower, desperate register, the voice resumed:

"...I beg you to fuck me, Tupworthy, I beg you! Cannot you see, I am literally on hands and knees, collared and staked, my slit wide open and dripping, begging you, for Christ's sake, begging you to fuck me! What more do you want of me? Do not torture me thus! Prithee, fuck me instantly and end my suffering!"

With this, Crenshaw lay his face down on the washtub, and embraced it with his lithe white arms, assuming the posture of a Muslim at prayer. He spread himself more widely yet, elevating his bottom to offer up his gaping woman-depths as a lush, penetrable target, into which Thomas again inserted two fingers — this time with a syrupy gurgle — readily coating them with Crenshaw's now-copious intimate fluids. Again Crenshaw jumped at the crude violation of his tender recesses. Removing his fingers, Thomas brought them round, virtually smoking, to Crenshaw's mouth.

"Taste yourself, Crenshaw!" Thomas commanded, "Taste your own whore-juice!" Crenshaw eagerly sucked at Thomas's fingers, like a babe at its mother's teat, moaned, shuddered, and again pleaded to be fucked without further postponement. Taking his stance dead center behind Crenshaw, Thomas began to taunt his ex-master's labia with the head of his enormous tool, until the little voice wailed, in piteous frustration, "Do not tease me thus, Tupworthy, do not tease me! Just thrust it into me! Do not toy so with my nether lips! They want only to be spread asunder with your tool."

"I shall tease you as much as I like, Crenshaw, five minutes for each of the years you mistreated me in your service!" Thomas cried, then he turned towards me and asked if I might be good enough to count off fifty minutes on the watch I had, pinned to my bosom. I acceded, of course. Sophie, by now, had regained her senses several times, but, upon taking a glance at what was going on in the arena, would straightaway swoon again. As she was in no serious danger, I made her as comfortable as I could on the straw, and returned my attention to our little drama. As I have said, I did not wish to miss a moment of this fascinating intercourse between master and valet.

Thomas had by now dropped his riding crop. He took to rubbing the tip of his member against Crenshaw's bud of Venus, whilst he reached forward to play with his dangling nipples. Then he would carefully circumnavigate the sensitive perimeter of Crenshaw's pentralia with his tip and tentatively enter his vestibule — not deeply enough to satisfy, but only to tantalize, for he would each time withdraw, leaving Crenshaw empty again, gasping with frustrated lust.

Upon receiving these ministrations, Crenshaw would gibber, "Ahhhh! Oooooo! That feels sooooo very good, Tupworthy! But do not keep cruelly withdrawing your member, I beg of you. Shove it in all the way!" or, alternately, "Tupworthy, you cur! I shall slice you into dog meat if you thrust that damnèd thing into me! .... Oh! but do it now, Tupworthy! Do not delay! Do it now! Now! Now! .....Ahhhh! Oooooo! Oohhhhh!"

And thus it went on for a full fifty minutes, Amy, by the fine Geneva watch you bought me last year in Vienna, with Thomas tormenting Crenshaw to the brink of madness, all the while the little voice crying "Desist, Blackguard!" or "Fuck me now!" and poor Sophie awakening, then promptly swooning again... until I cried, "The time is up!"

By now Crenshaw, his voluptuous body all a-shimmer with girl-sweat, was sobbing with thwarted female desire, his ebony hair plastered in wet elf-curls against his pretty forehead and cheeks. No bitch in heat could be hotter to copulate, nor any wanton girl more eager to lose her maiden-head, Amy, than this transformed man, perched on his wash-tub, his shapely rump in the air, offering up his female treasure, which now glistened wetly, the excess streaming down the insides of his plump white thighs.

At my having called out the time, Thomas had stood off for a few moments, his blood-engorged member yawing and swaying menacingly like an unstable pillar. Then, steadying his tool with one hand, and carefully aligning himself, Thomas at last introduced it into Crenshaw’s slit, but slowly, ever so slowly, distorting his tender labia until they formed a perfect "O" gripping tight the thick root of his shaft. Crenshaw gasped sharply to feel a rigid privy member part his nether lips wide, to plunge relentlessly into his delicate depths for the very first time, as far in as his dimpled navel, skewering him like a lamb on a spit. And such a member, Amy, quite as thick as any May-pole!

"Unnghhhh!" Crenshaw groaned, "Unnghhhh!" as Thomas's shaft advanced implacably into him, inch by inch, until it was nearly buried in his womanly softness. "Aaahhhhhhhh! Oooooh!" crooned Crenshaw, powerless to arrest Thomas's pitiless advance (even had he wished to), "Deeper, Tupworthy, deeper! Shove it all the way into me!"

Thomas obligingly thrust home, lifting Crenshaw off all fours, as high into the air as his collar-ropes allowed. Crenshaw flailed wildly about, squealing like a stuck pig, until Thomas deposited him back down onto his wash-tub. Crenshaw drew in his breath sharply, mouth agape and violet eyes wide with stark disbelief that he could possibly have taken so monstrous an organ so completely into his soft female belly, that he had actually been impaled by a man.... and that he adored how splendid it was to have Thomas's stiff member lodged so profoundly within him, filling him with an intense pressure that was insanely divine, making him vast and omnipotent — the Fertile Creatrix Eternal, avid to breed.

"Deeper!" Crenshaw implored, as he began diligently to squirm and wriggle his broad hips backwards (with tolerably good technique for a novice), until he had transfixed himself utterly on Thomas's colossal shaft. The pair remained motionless for a minute or two, Crenshaw moaning with rapture, his pretty face oddly placid, his large eyes now closed. Presently Thomas began to pump his ex-master, who responded obediently with sinuous to-and-fro strokes of his hips, perfectly timed, so that the two were soon moving together like shuttle and warp on a loom. Only more smoothly.

Crenshaw grunted involuntarily at each powerful in-stroke of the remorseless piston, whilst at each out-stroke he babbled frantically, keeping pace with Thomas's steadily increasing tempo:

"(Unnnh!).... Tupworthy!.... (unnnh!).... You perfidious swine!....(unnnh!).... It cannot be.... (unnnh!)..... that I, .... (unnnh!)..... Charles Crenshaw.... (unnnh!).... Lord of.... (unnnh!).... Brackenheath Manor ....(unnnh!)....am being fucked.... (unnnh!).... like a street-whore .... (unnnh!).... by my valet.... (unnnh!).... Such is my final .... (unnnh!)..... humiliation!.... (unnnh!).... And I love it.... (unnnh!).... Do not.... (unnnh!).... cease fucking me!.... (unnnh!)..... I pray you.... (unnnh!).... Fuck me deeper!.... (unnnh!).... And harder!.... (unnnh!).... And faster! .... (unnnh!).... Keep fucking me!.... (unnnh!).... O! O! O! ....(unnnh!)....Tupworthy! .... (unnnh!).... you whoreson! .... (unnnh!).... You are.... (unnnh!).... making me!.... (unnnh!).... come!.... (unnnh!)..... I shall kill you! ..... (unnnh!).... you are.... (unnnh!).... making me .... (unnnh!).... come!.... (unnnh!).... I am undone!.... (unnnh!)..... I am destroyed!.... (unnnh!!) .... I am.... (unnnh!) ..... I am.... (unnnh!).....O! No!....(unnnh!).....No-ooooo! .... (unnnh!).... Yessss!....(unnnh!)..... I am.....(unnnh!).... I am coming! .... (unnnh!).... I am coming!.... (unnnh!).....Coming!.... (unnnh!)..... Sweet Heavens.... (unnnh!).... preserve me!.... (unnnh!)....I am coming! .... (unnnh!).....I am coming! ..... (unnnh!)..... (unnnh!).... (unnnh!).... (unnnh!) .....I....(unnnh!) ....am......(unnnh!) ....Aaaieeeeeee!"

Thomas plunged home with a mighty last stroke, then leant with all his considerable weight into his ex-master, impaling him as deeply as Woman can be Impaled. Crenshaw gasped to feel such intense pressure within his belly, his chest, his brain, and even unto the tips of his fingers and toes. He froze, teetering on the knife-edge of his shattering orgasm. Then Crenshaw lost his balance, toppled off his precipice, and began to buck and writhe, screaming, "O! O! O! Ooooooooooh! O! Ahhhhhhh! Ooooooooo! Heavens preserve me! O! O! O! You have made me come as a woman, Tupworthy! You have made me come as a woman! Ooooo! Aaaah! Oooohhhhh! I am a woman, Tupworthy! You have made me into a woman!"

Just as Crenshaw reached his climax, Thomas, transported beyond his man's point of no return, released his pent-up essence with the force of heavy surf rushing up a beach of wet sand. Hot pulses of man-seed leapt into Crenshaw's soft body in thick, ropy torrents. Crenshaw shrieked in agonized ecstasy to feel the Liquid of Life shoot into him, deeply into him, filling and o'er-filling his female recesses, just as a brood mare, hobbled fast in the paddock, whinnies as she is o'er-filled by the stallion.

Crenshaw began to jabber wildly:

"O! O! O! Pump me full of it, Thomas! Give it to me! Give it to me! Give me all you have! O! O! O! Pump me full of it, Thomas! Give it to me! Give it to me! Give me all you have!" as jet upon jet of hot semen surged up and up through his delicate tissues and membranes, to beat against the barrier of his maidenly cervix.... penetrating it instantly, as if it were as insubstantial as a soap-bubble..... and impregnating him. For Crenshaw was as fertile as any young woman can possibly be.

Pumped full of Thomas's essence, Crenshaw howled loud and long at his impregnation: the Javanese warrior's tears had at last fulfilled its promise of transforming him into a subservient female, and one now surely got with child, though' Crenshaw is far too great a blockhead to know it — doubtless it won't dawn on him until his breasts have doubled in size, his belly swells and his baby commences to kick at him from within. Then, perhaps, he shall notice that he is with child. He shall make quite the most delightful mother-in-waiting ever seen, dear Amy! I shall make certain to attend his confinement, and, if possible, deliver him as well! Is it not deliciously diverting to imagine Charles Crenshaw, his breasts sore and heavy with milk, giving suck to his babe at all hours of the day and night?

And the great thing was, Amy, Crenshaw now seemed content to be a woman. One could read his radiant face like a book, and not a terribly profound one, either: his looks plainly proclaimed his innermost thoughts. "How grand to be a woman!' he no doubt reflected, in his dim, feminised brain, even as Thomas's seed coursed into him in long, ropy squirts, "And how grand to be fucked by such an one as Thomas ! O, Yes! I am surely the most fortunate of girls to have landed such a splendid man, and one so big where it matters!" These feminine sentiments were so clear from Crenshaw's beatified expression that he may as well have spoken the words aloud.

But it was no longer the transformed Charles Crenshaw who was impregnated with the Ichor of Life. No.... Thomas's seed gushed into.... Clarissa, for the unearthly jabbering trailed off and died, until all that could be heard was Clarissa's velvety contralto, moaning and sighing in gratification, even as she languorously squirmed to milk the last drops from Thomas, her wide belly undulating like a harem-dancer's as she swept his numberless seed deep into her womb.

Thomas at last withdrew himself, leaving Clarissa's stretched and spent penetralia pulsating rhythmically in the candle-light for many minutes more, whilst rivulets of pearlescent man-fluid o'er-flowed her, ribboning down the insides of her milky-white thighs in creamy profusion and wetting the straw....

Thus, my dear Amy, was the foul Charles Crenshaw serviced, impregnated, made a woman, and then sent packing to who-knows-where, leaving the field to.... Clarissa. When, or if, Crenshaw may return, is any one's guess.

Dost need a kiss after this, Amy? If so, here is one, and more, from your own,

Molly

 
Letter XVIII: From Sophie Crenshaw to Amelia Poindexter (Lady Lovelle), her Aunt.

Brackenheath, Basingsford, Berks., Monday, 28th August, 1732

My Dearest Aunt Amelia,

I know not how to tell you this Aunt, so heavy is my heart with grief......I can barely see the writing-paper for my tears! Indeed, this is the first time in almost a day that my sobbing has subsided enough to make writing possible.

Molly has run off with Clarissa! It happened yesterday, after she wrote you of Saturday's events, whilst I was taking my afternoon rest. Molly had gone into Basingsford to post her letter to you. Apparently, she returned with a porter, to carry her trunk to the Crown & Thistle, where the London coach stops, then stole out of the house with Clarissa and set off to the town across the fields, using the foot-paths and stiles.

Upon finding both of them missing, I instantly sent a servant into Basingsford to make inquiries. He returned with this intelligence: an elegant gentleman, fashionably dressed in a suit of peach-coloured silk, and carrying a walking-stick with an ivory knob, was seen boarding the London coach in the company of a black-haired young woman wearing a dress of very same peach-coloured silk! They were, of course, Molly, in her man's garb, and Clarissa in Molly's dress!

And sure enough, not long after this discovery, Ellen, the dairy-maid, asked to see me, and handed me a folded note, sealed with Molly's ring, which Molly have given to her in the milking-barn, with instructions to hand it to me when the afternoon's milking was done. I have enclosed it for you. Please send it back to me with your reply.

After reading her note, I found it hard to judge Molly too harshly, but it did little to assuage my pain, for I miss Clarissa so, Aunt! And I was intent on remitting her sentence of being a menial servant: I was going to tell her to-night. I had bought her a whole wardrobe of elegant dresses in my mind's eye, I had imagined taking her up to London with me to the theatre, of showing her the sights of the great city, of taking her to Paris... of doing all these things as soon as Charles was to be declared dead and Brackenheath deeded to me!

You must explain Molly to me, Aunt! Yes, you had told me that she was audacious and daring, with myriad talents, and that I should never question her commands. But for her to abscond with Clarissa! O! How hurtful it is, Aunt!

Please write me, console me in my misery, tell me all will be well!

Your much-imposed upon, loving niece,

Sophie Crenshaw


Letter XIX: A Note from Molly Crispin to Sophie Crenshaw

[Editor's Note: This hastily-penned note was found in the same envelope as Letter XVIII, above]

Brackenheath, Monday, 28th August, 1732

Sophie Dearest,

I haven't much time, as it is now half-past three, the coach leaves at four-thirty, and we must be off across the fields. At least they are mown and dry, so our good shoes will not be muddied.

Sophie, I have taken Clarissa away with me to London. Do not ask where in London, and do not try to follow us, for you shall just be wasting your time and energy. But you must know that, although Clarissa came willingly, she shed many tears for you, Sophie.

I know that you love Clarissa, but for reasons difficult to explain in this note, I must have her to myself for the next several months. Then you shall have her back, and in a better state than when you last saw her, I promise you. Clarissa is a rare jewel of a woman now that the Charles Crenshaw in her has been purged, and I love women far too much to forego such a gem when I can polish and set her as her rarity and richness deserve.

I beg you not think too ill of me, Sophie, but I am certain that what I have done is for the best: for you, for Clarissa and for me. Though there is no reason for you to place trust in me, I nonetheless ask you to do so. The joy you shall feel when Clarissa returns will far out-weigh the present sorrow of her sudden removal from Brackenheath.

I shall write you from time-to-time, from London, or from elsewhere, as I intend to travel a bit. Your aunt will doubtless tell you more about me in my absence, and you shall see that your trust, however, painfully given, shall not have been misplaced.

Farewell, then, Sophie, until December, at the earliest. But we may not return until the early spring when the pear-trees are in blossom.

With genuine affection, believe me, I am, your friend,

Molly Crispin

P.S.: Do not neglect to have the servants whipped when they need it! Ellen will be glad to lend her arm again.


Letter XX: Amelia Poindexter (Lady Lovelle) to her niece, Sophie Crenshaw

Swans' Rest, Folkestone, Wednesday, 30th August 1732

My Dear, Sweet Sophie,

Ah! Your poor, suffering creature! I should have foreseen this twist in our plans, Niece! Clarissa's abduction is entirely my fault, for letting Molly talk me into sending her up to Brackenheath to "supervise" Clarissa's defloration. Not that my permission one way or the other would have been worth a jot to Molly: she would have gone anyway.

Molly, Dearest Sophie, is a Force to be Reckoned With, an intellectually brilliant, tempestuous and independent spirit, a Law unto Herself, whom no-one can control, much less I. Molly wrote in her hasty letter to you that I would probably tell you more about her, and so I shall, from the beginning. Then perhaps you shall understand her a bit better and shall not revile her, though' I cannot blame you should you never wish to lay eyes on her again.

I first laid eyes on Molly twenty years ago, in London, in the year '12, just after Lovelle died, and I had come into his fortune in my own name. I had gone up for the season to our town-house in Hanover Square to escape the autumn dreariness of Folkestone. I had gone out in my carriage one chill October evening to attend a performance of Purcell's Dido and Aeneas at St. Catherine's School for Girls in Ebury-street — in Chelsea — this was before the days of Covent Garden, when performances were still private, by invitation only. The weather was raw, with sharp quills of icy rain gusting in from the river, but, nevertheless, the muddy streets were jammed with fancy carriages. like mine, filled with London's Finest, intent on one diversion or another that Chelsea offers to those who are otherwise bored. The crush was so great that we did not move ten feet in so many minutes, so I decided to take my chances on foot, and walk to St. Catherine's, which was no great distance from where we had become stalled.

Many others had also abandoned their carriages, so business was booming for the crossing-sweepers, who would walk backward before one, clearing a path through the mud at the crossings with their stiff brooms. Like the Jews crossing the Red Sea, one would have to hurry across before the channel would close in again. A good sweeper could conduct one from pavement to pavement without getting a speck of mud on one's shoes or stockings. It was well worth the few coppers they demanded for their services.

When I reached Ebury-street, I found a long line of well-dressed people waiting to cross, hailing sweepers, and bidding up their prices. As I waited, I noted that the best and busiest of them all, was a pair of young boys, no more than twelve, who were working in tandem, clearing a double-path, as it were, with their brooms. They were raking in coppers at a great rate. They appeared to be twins, though' one seemed rather slighter than the other, and more delicate of feature. Both were thinly-dressed for the weather, in loose shirts and ragged breeches, and were bare-footed, but the exertion of their labors apparently kept them warm enough. As I awaited my turn, I could not help noting how, under the street-grime and coal-soot that coated their faces, their features were exceptionally fine, especially those of the slighter one.

Presently, I was next in line to cross. As the twin boys swept for the couple before me, an altercation broke out between two coachmen on Eccleston-street — not surprising, given the heaviness of the traffic and the peremptory demands of the carriages' occupants. One coachman apparently whipped the other's horses, for one of the carriages suddenly broke free, lurching crazily through the crossing, knocking over the stouter of the two boys, then careening away down lower Eccleston-street towards the river. The boy lay injured in the crossing, covered with mud and unable to rise. He may as well have been invisible to all the fine people waiting to cross Ebury-street — one street-urchin more or less makes no difference to them, after all.

But the victim was not invisible to the slighter of the two, who instantly threw down his broom and dragged his brother back to my side of the crossing, to tend to his wounds. The boy was bleeding briskly from a gash in his leg, the which was clearly broken, for it lay at an unnatural angle, like the limb of a doll that has been tossed into a corner by a negligent child. But the slighter one did not hesitate for an instant: he stripped off his shirt, and, by the aid of his teeth, quickly tore it into bandage-strips and rapidly bound up the other's wound, staunching the hemorrhage, and leaving himself bare from the waist up in the needle-like rain.

But, Sophie, this was no boy! For, minus the shirt, a pair of budding adolescent breasts was exposed — certainly more than bee-stings, still less than a handful, but breasts nonetheless. Perhaps no-one noticed but I; perhaps I am more sensitive to such matters than others. But, whatever the reason, I instantly resolved to take charge — and when I take charge, Sophie, I take charge!

I looked about me and saw a well-made young gentleman waiting behind me for his chance to cross. "You, Sir," I cried, "Gather up this boy and bear him to my carriage waiting on Bridge-row!" As I issued this command, I removed my shawl, wrapped it about the girl and seized her hand. The gentleman, to his credit, scooped up the injured boy without a word, and followed me obediently, as I dragged the girl along, back towards the river, and my carriage. Fortunately, by the time we reached it, traffic had dispersed so the way was now clear. The gentlemen lifted the boy into my carriage, saluted me and dashed back towards Ebury street, no doubt to re-join his companions, whilst I clambered inside with the girl and gave orders to be driven back to Hanover Square. On the way, I ordered the footman to jump down as we reached Bruton-street, so he could knock up Mr. Bradbury, the surgeon.

Once at the house, I had the butler carry the injured boy upstairs to one of the guest-rooms, whilst I, not leaving go of the girl's hand, ordered hot water for baths. Presently, Mr. Bradbury arrived with his bag of instruments, unguents and salves. He set the boy's leg and splinted it, remarking that, despite the gash, the fracture was not compound, and thus would not likely become putrescent. He left us with careful instructions, as well as with several draughts of tincture of opium for his pain. I left the boy in the care of two serving-maids, who were to bathe him and put him to bed, whilst I attended to the sister, along with Janine, my lady's-maid.

The girl seemed not the least perturbed, once she perceived that her brother was being cared for better than she could have cared for him herself. She thanked me matter-of-factly for my succor, casually remarking, in chillingly adult fashion, that street-urchins like herself and her brother, are invisible to Londoners, unless their meager services be required, and that, but for my kindness, her brother would have become a hopeless cripple, with a broken leg that would never have knit, and would have had no choice but to become a mendicant, dragging himself about the city begging for alms. She remarked that she had witnessed many such accidents — and such cripples — amongst the street-urchins of London.

She told me her name was Molly Crispin, that she was almost thirteen years of age, and that the boy, named William, was, indeed, her twin brother. They were orphaned a year ago when a small conflagration of the Plague erupted in Eastcheap, where rats abound and foul airs from the river promote all manner of pestilence. Molly told me that the two of them live hand-to-mouth — sweeping crossings, selling boot-blacking, lucifer-matches, flowers or whatever the season demands, on consignment from those London street-factors who manage a living by selling anything our better-off citizens might need on a whim or at a moment's notice, like, say, flowers on St. Valentine's day, or a breath-freshener on the way to some special assignation.

By then, water had been heated and had been carried up stairs. Some was taken to William's room, where he was carefully bathed, whilst the remainder filled my own bath, into which Molly, having unselfconsciously dive