If I have delay'd the sequel of my history, it has been purely to allow myself a little breathing time not without some hopes that, instead of pressing me to a continuation, you would have acquitted me of the task of pursuing a confession, in the course of which my self-esteem has so many wounds to sustain.
I imagined, indeed, that you would have been cloy'd and tired with uniformity of adventures and expressions, inseparable from a subject of this sort, whose bottom, or groundwork being, in the nature of things, eternally one and the same, whatever variety of forms and modes the situations are susceptible of, there is no escaping a repetition of near the same images, the same figures, the same expressions, with this further inconvenience added to the disgust it creates, that the words JOYS, ARDOURS, TRANSPORTS, EXTASIES, and the rest of those pathetic terms so congenial to, so received in the PRACTICE OF PLEASURE, flatten and lose much of their due spirit and energy by the frequency they indispensably recur with, in a narrative of which that PRACTICE professedly composes the whole basis. I must therefore trust to the candour of your judgement, for your allowing for the disadvantage I am necessarily under in that respect, and to your imagination and sensibility, the pleasing task of repairing it by their supplements, where my descriptions flag or fail: the one will readily place the pictures I present before your eyes; the other give life to the colours where they are dull, or worn with too frequent handling.
What you say besides, by way of encouragement, concerning the extreme difficulty of continuing so long in one strain, in a mean temper'd with taste, between the revoltingness of gross, rank and vulgar expressions, and the ridicule of mincing metaphors and affected circumlocutions, is so sensible, as well as good-natur'd, that you greatly justify me to myself for my compliance with a curiosity that is to be satisfied so extremely at my expense.
Resuming now where I broke off in my last, I am in my way to remark to you that it was late in the evening before I arriv'd at my new lodgings, and Mrs. Cole, after helping me to range and secure my things, spent the whole evening with me in my apartment, where we supped together, in giving me the best advice and instruction with regard to this new stage of my profession I was now to enter upon; and passing thus from a private devotee to pleasure into a public one, to become a more general good, with all the advantages requisite to put my person out to use, either for interest or pleasure, or both. But then, she observ'd, as I was a kind of new face upon the town, that it was an established rule, and part of trade, for me to pass for a maid, and dispose of myself as such on the first good occasion, without prejudice, however, to such diversions as I might have a mind to in the interim; for that nobody could be a greater enemy than she was to the losing of time. That she would, in the mean time, do her best to find out a proper person, and would undertake to manage this nice point for me, if I would accept of her aid and advice to such good purpose that, in the loss of a fictitious maidenhead, I should reap all the advantages of a native one.
Though such a delicacy of sentiments did not extremely belong to my character at that time, I confess, against myself, that I perhaps too readily closed with a proposal which my candor and ingenuity gave me some repugnance to: but not enough to contradict the intention of one to whom I had now thoroughly abandoned the direction of all my steps. For Mrs. Cole had, I do not know how unless by one of those unaccountable invincible sympathies that, nevertheless, form the strongest links, especially of female friendship, won and got entire possession of me. On her side, she pretended that a strict resemblance she fancied she saw in me to an only daughter whom she had lost at my age, was the first motive of her taking to me so affectionately as she did. It might be so: there exist as slender motives of attachment that, gathering force from habit and liking, have proved often more solid and durable than those founded on much stronger reasons; but this I know, that tho' I had no other acquaintance with her than seeing her at my lodgings when I lived with Mr. H . . ., where she had made errands to sell me some millinery ware, she had by degrees insinuated herself so far into my confidence that I threw myself blindly into her hands, and came, at length, to regard, love, and obey her implicitly; and, to do her justice, I never experienc'd at her hands other than a sincerity of tenderness, and care for my interest, hardly heard of in those of her profession. We parted that night, after having settled a perfect unreserv'd agreement; and the next morning Mrs. Cole came, and took me with her to her house for the first time.
Here, at the first sight of things, I found everything breath'd an air of decency, modesty and order.
In the outer parlour, or rather shop, sat three young women, very demurely employ'd on millinery work, which was the cover of a traffic in more precious commodities; but three beautifuller creatures could hardly be seen. Two of them were extremely fair, the eldest not above nineteen; and the third, much about that age, was a piquant brunette, whose black sparkling eyes, and perfect harmony of features and shape, left her nothing to envy in her fairer companions. Their dress too had the more design in it, the less it appeared to have, being in a taste of uniform correct neatness, and elegant simplicity. These were the girls that compos'd the small domestick flock, which my governess train'd up with surprising order and management, considering the giddy wildness of young girls once got upon the loose. But then she never continued any in her house, whom, after a due novitiate, she found untractable, or unwilling to comply with the rules of it. Thus had she insensibly formed a little family of love, in which the members found so sensibly their account, in a rare alliance of pleasure with interest, and of a necessary outward decency with unbounded secret liberty, that Mrs. Cole, who had pick'd them as much for their temper as their beauty, govern'd them with ease to herself and them too.
To these pupils then of hers, whom she had prepar'd, she presented me as a new boarder, and one that was to be immediately admitted to all the intimacies of the house; upon which these charming girls gave me all the marks of a welcome reception, and indeed of being perfectly pleased with my figure, that I could possibly expect from any of my own sex: but they had been effectually brought to sacrifice all jealousy, or competition of charms, to a common interest, and consider'd me a partner that was bringing no despicable stock of goods into the trade of the house. They gathered round me, view'd me on all sides; and as my admission into this joyous troop made a little holiday, the shew of work was laid aside; and Mrs. Cole giving me up, with special recommendation, to their caresses and entertainment, went about her ordinary business of the house.
The sameness of our sex, age, profession, and views soon created as unreserv'd a freedom and intimacy as if we had been for years acquainted. They took and shew'd me the house, their respective apartments, which were furnished with every article of conveniency and luxury; and above all, a spacious drawing-room, where a select revelling band usually met, in general parties of pleasure; the girls supping with their sparks, and acting their wanton pranks with unbounded licentiousness; whilst a defiance of awe, modesty or jealousy were their standing rules, by which, according to the principles of their society, whatever pleasure was lost on the side of sentiment was abundantly made up to the senses in the poignancy of variety, and the charms of ease and luxury. The authors and supporters of this secret institution would, in the height of their humours style themselves the restorers of the golden age and its simplicity of pleasures, before their innocence became so injustly branded with the names of guilt and shame.
As soon then as the evening began, and the shew of a shop was shut, the academy open'd; the mask of mock-modesty was completely taken off, and all the girls deliver'd over to their respective calls of pleasure or interest with their men; and none of that sex was promiscuously admitted, but only such as Mrs. Cole was previously satisfied with their character and discretion. In short, this was the safest, politest, and, at the same time, the most thorough house of accommodation in town: every thing being conducted so that decency made no intrenchment upon the most libertine pleasures, in the practice of which too, the choice familiars of the house had found the secret so rare and difficult, of reconciling even all the refinements of taste and delicacy with the most gross and determinate gratifications of senuality. After having consum'd the morning in the endearments and instructions of my new acquaintance, we went to dinner, when Mrs. Cole, presiding at the head of her club, gave me the first idea of her management and address, in inspiring these girls with so sensible a love and respect for her. There was no stiffness, no reserve, no airs of pique, or little jealousies, but all was unaffectedly gay, cheerful and easy.
After dinner, Mrs. Cole, seconded by the young ladies, acquainted me that there was a chapter to be held that night in form, for the ceremony of my reception into the sisterhood; and in which, with all due reserve to my maidenhead, that was to be occasionally cook'd up for the first proper chapman, I was to undergo a ceremonial of initiation they were sure I should not be displeased with.
Embark'd as I was, and moreover captivated with the charms of my new companions, I was too much prejudic'd in favour of any proposal they could make, to much as hesitate an assent; which, therefore, readily giving in the style of a carte blanche, I receiv'd fresh kisses of compliment from them all, in approval of my docility and good nature. Now I was "a sweet girl . . ." I came into things with a "good grace . . ." I was not "affectedly coy . . ." I should be "the pride of the house . . ." and the like.
This point thus adjusted, the young women left Mrs. Cole to talk and concert matters with me: she explained to me that I should be introduc'd, that very evening, to four of her best friends, one of whom she had, according to the custom of the house, favoured with the preference of engaging me in the first party of pleasure; assuring me, at the same time, that they were all young gentlemen agreeable in their persons, and unexceptionable in every respect; that united, and holding together by the band of common pleasures, they composed the chief support of her house, and made very liberal presents to the girls that pleas'd and humour'd them, so that they were, properly speaking, the founders and patrons of this little seraglio. Not but that she had, at proper seasons, other customers to deal with, whom she stood less upon punctilio with than with these; for instance, it was not on one of them she could attempt to pass me for a maid; they were not only too knowing, too much town-bred to bite at such a bait, but they were such generous benefactors to her that it would be unpardonable to think of it.
Amidst all the flutter and emotion which this promise of pleasure, for such I conceiv'd it, stirr'd up in me, I preserved so much of the woman as to feign just reluctance enough to make some merit of sacrificing it to the influence of my patroness, whom I likewise, still in character, reminded of it perhaps being right for me to go home and dress, in favour of my first impressions.
But Mrs. Cole, in opposition to this, assured me that the gentlemen I should be presented to were, by their rank and taste of things, infinitely superior to the being touched with any glare of dress or ornaments, such as silly women rather confound and overlay than set off their beauty with; that these veteran voluptuaries knew better than not to hold them in the highest contempt: they with whom the pure native charms alone could pass current, and who would at any time leave a sallow, washy, painted duchess on her own hands, for a ruddy, healthy, firm-flesh'd country maid; and as for my part, that nature had done enough for me, to set me above owing the least favour to art; concluding withal, that for the instant occasion, there was no dress like an undress.
I thought my governess too good a judge of these matters not to be easily over-ruled by her: after which she went on preaching very pathetically the doctrine of passive obedience and not-resistance to all those arbitrary tastes of pleasure, which are by some styl'd the refinements, and by others the depravations of it; between whom it was not the business of a simple girl, who was to profit by pleasing, to decide, but to conform to. Whilst I was edifying by these wholesome lessons, tea was brought in, and the young ladies, returning, joined company with us.
After a great deal of mix'd chat, frolic and humour, one of them, observing that there would be a good deal of time on hand before the assembly-hour, proposed that each girl should entertain the company with that critical period of her personal history in which she first exchanged the maiden state for womanhood. The proposal was approv'd, with only one restriction of Mrs. Cole, that she, on account of her age, and I, on account of my titular maidenhead, should be excused, at least till I had undergone the forms of the house. This obtain'd me a dispensation, and the promotress of this amusement was desired to begin.
Her name was Emily; a girl fair to excess, and whose limbs were, if possible, too well made, since their plump fullness was rather to the prejudice of that delicate slimness requir'd by the nicer judges of beauty; her eyes were blue, and streamed inexpressible sweetness, and nothing could be prettier than her mouth and lips, which clos'd over a range of the evenest and whitest teeth. Thus she began:
"Neither my extraction, nor the most critical adventure of my life, is sublime enough to impeach me of any vanity in the advancement of the proposal you have approv'd of. My father and mother were, and for aught I know, are still, farmers in the country, not above forty miles from town: their barbarity to me, in favour of a son, on whom only they vouchsafed to bestow their tenderness, had a thousand times determined me to fly their house, and throw myself on the wide world; but, at length, an accident forc'd me on this desperate attempt at the age of fifteen. I had broken a china bowl, the pride and idol of both their hearts; and as an unmerciful beating was the least I had to depend on at their hands, in the silliness of those tender years I left the house, and, at all adventures, took the road to London. How my loss was resented I do not know, for till this instant I have not heard a syllable about them. My whole stock was too broad pieces of my grandmother's, a few shillings, silver shoe-buckles and a silver thimble. Thus equipp'd, with no more cloaths than the ordinary ones I had on my back, and frighten'd at every foot or noise I heard behind me, I hurried on; and I dare swear, walked a dozen miles before I stopped, through mere weariness and fatigue. At length I sat down on a stile, wept bitterly, and yet was still rather under increased impressions of fear on the account of my escape; which made dread, worse than death, the going back to face my unnatural parents. Refresh'd by this little repose, and relieved by my tears, I was proceeding onward, when I was overtaken by a sturdy country lad who was going to London to see what he could do for himself there, and, like me, had given his friends the slip. He could not be above seventeen, was ruddy, well featur'd enough, with uncombed flaxen hair, a little flapp'd hat, kersey frock, yarn stockings, in short, a perfect plough-boy. I saw him come whistling behind me, with a bundle tied to the end of a stick, his travelling equipage. We walk'd by one another for some time without speaking; at length we join'd company, and agreed to keep together till we got to our journey's end. What his designs or ideas were, I know not: the innocence of mine I can solemnly protest.
"As night drew on, it became us to look out for some inn or shelter; to which perplexity another was added, and that was, what we should say for ourselves, if we were question'd. After some puzzle, the young fellow started a proposal, which I thought the finest that could be; and what was that? why, that we should pass for husband and wife: I never once dream'd of consequences. We came presently, after having agreed on this notable expedient, to one of those hedge-accommodations for foot passengers, at the door do which stood an old crazy beldam, who seeing us trudge by, invited us to lodge there. Glad of any cover, we went in, and my fellow traveller, taking all upon him, call'd for what the house afforded, and we supped together as man and wife; which, considering our figures and ages, could not have passed on any one but such as any thing could pass on. But when bedtime came on, we had neither of us the courage to contradict out first account of ourselves; and what was extremely pleasant, the young lad seem'd as perplex'd as I was, how to evade lying together, which was so natural for the state we had pretenced to. Whilst we were in this quandary, the landlady takes the candle and lights us to our apartment, through a long yard, at the end of which it stood, separate from the body of the house. Thus we suffer'd ourselves to be conducted, without saying a word in opposition to it; and there, in a wretched room, with a bed answerable, we were left to pass the night together, as a thing quite of course. For my part, I was so incredibly innocent as not even then to think much more harm of going to bed with the young man than with one of our dairy-wenches; nor had he, perhaps, any other notions than those of innocence, till such a fair occasion put them into his head.
"Before either of us undressed, however, he put out the candle; and the bitterness of the weather made it a kind of necessity for me to go into bed: slipping then my cloaths off, I crept under the bed-cloaths, where I found the young stripling already nestled, and the touch of his warm flesh rather pleas'd than alarm'd me. I was indeed too much disturbed with the novelty of my condition to be able to sleep; but then I had not the least thought of harm. But, oh! how powerful are the instincts of nature! how little is there wanting to set them in action! The young man, sliding his arm under my body, drew me gently towards him, as if to keep himself and me warmer; and the heat I felt from joining our breasts, kindled another that I had hitherto never felt, and was, even then, a stranger to the nature of. Emboldened, I suppose, by my easiness, he ventur'd to kiss me, and I insensibly returned it, without knowing the consequence of returning it; for, on this encouragement, he slipped his hand all down from my breast to that part of me where the sense of feeling is so exquisitely critical, as I then experienc'd by its instant taking fire upon the touch, and glowing with a strange tickling heat: there he pleas'd himself and me, by feeling, till, growing a little too bold, he hurt me, and made me complain. Then he took my hand, which he guided, not unwillingly on my side, between the twist of his closed thighs, which were extremely warm; there he lodged and pressed it, till raising it by degrees, he made me feel the proud distinction of his sex from mine. I was frighten'd at the novelty, and drew back my hand; yet, pressed and spurred on by sensations of a strange pleasure, I could not help asking him what that was for? He told me he would show me if I would let him; and, without waiting for my answer, which he prevented by stopping my mouth with kisses I was far from disrelishing, he got upon me, and inserting one of his thighs between mine, opened them so as to make way for himself, and fixed me to his purpose; whilst I was so much out of my usual sense, so subdu'd by the present power of a new one, that, between fear and desire, I lay utterly passive, till the piercing pain rous'd and made me cry out. But it was too late: he was too firm fix'd in the saddle for me to compass flinging him, with all the struggles I could use, some of which only served to further his point, and at length an irresistible thrust murdered at once my maidenhead, and almost me. I now lay a bleeding witness of the necessity impos'd on our sex, to gather the first honey off the thorns.
"But the pleasure rising as the pain subsided, I was soon reconciled to fresh trials, and before morning, nothing on earth could be dearer to me than this rifler of my virgin sweets: he was every thing to me now. How we agreed to join fortunes; how we came up to town together, where we lived some time, till necessity parted us, and drove me into this course of life, in which I had been long ago battered and torn to pieces before I came to this age, as much through my easiness, as through my inclination, had it not been for my finding refuge in this house: these are all circumstances which pass the mark I proposed, so that here my narrative ends."
In the order of our sitting, it was Harriet's turn to go on. Amongst all the beauties of our sex that I had before or have since seen, few indeed were the forms that could dispute excellence with her's; it was not delicate, but delicacy itself incarnate, such was the symmetry of her small but exactly fashion'd limbs. Her complexion, fair as it was, appeared yet more fair from the effect of two black eyes, the brilliancy of which gave her face more vivacity than belonged to the colour of it, which was only defended from paleness by a sweetly pleasing blush in her cheeks, that grew fainter and fainter, till at length it died away insensibly into the overbearing white. Then her miniature features join'd to finish the extreme sweetness of it, which was not belied by that of temper turned to indolence, languor, and the pleasures of love. Press'd to subscribe her contingent, she smiled, blushed a little, and thus complied with our desires:
"My father was neither better nor worse than a miller near the city of York; and both he and my mother dying whilst I was an infant, I fell under the care of a widow and childless aunt, housekeeper to my lord N . . ., at his seat in the county of . . ., where she brought me up with all imaginable tenderness. I was not seventeen, as I am not now eighteen, before I had, on account of my person purely (for fortune I had notoriously none), several advantageous proposals; but whether nature was slow in making me sensible in her favourite passion, or that I had not seen any of the other sex who had stirr'd up the least emotion or curiosity to be better acquainted with it, I had, till that age, preserv'd a perfect innocence, even of thought: whilst my fears of I did not well know what, made me no more desirous of marrying than of dying. My aunt, good woman, favoured my timorousness, which she look'd on as childish affection, that her own experience might probably assure her would wear off in time, and gave my suitors proper answers for me.
"The family had not been down at that seat for years, so that it was neglected, and committed entirely to my aunt, and two old domestics to take care of it. Thus I had the full range of a spacious lonely house and gardens, situate at about half a mile distance form any other habitation, except, perhaps, a straggling cottage or so.
"Here, in tranquillity and innocence, I grew up without any memorable accident, till one fatal day I had, as I had often done before, left my aunt fast asleep, and secure for some hours, after dinner; and resorting to a kind of ancient summer-house, at some distance from the house, I carried my work with me, and sat over a rivulet, which its door and window fac'd upon. Here I fell into a gentle breathing slumber, which stole upon my senses, as they fainted under the excessive heat of the season at that hour; a cane couch, with my work-basket for a pillow, were all the conveniencies of my short repose; for I was soon awaked and alarmed by a flounce, and the noise of splashing in the water. I got up to see what was the matter; and what indeed should it be but the son of a neighbouring gentleman, as I afterwards found (for I had never seen him before), who had strayed that way with his gun, and heated by his sport, and the sultriness of the day, had been tempted by the freshness of the clear stream; so that presently stripping, he jump'd into it on the other side, which bordered on a wood, some trees whereof, inclined down to the water, form'd a pleasing shady recess, commodious to undress and leave his clothes under.
"My first emotions at the sight of this youth, naked in the water, were, with all imaginable respect to truth, those of surprise and fear; and, in course, I should immediately have run out, had not my modesty, fatally for itself, interposed the objection of the door and window being so situated that it was scarce possible to get out, and make my way along the bank to the house, without his seeing me: which I could not bear the thought of, so much ashamed and confounded was I at having seen him. Condemn'd then to stay till his departure should release me, I was greatly embarrassed how to dispose of myself: I kept some time betwixt terror and modesty, even from looking through the window, which being an old-fashinon'd casement, without any light behind me, could hardly betray any one's being there to him from within; then the door was so secure, that without violence, or my own consent, there was no opening it from without.
"But now, by my own experience, I found it too true that objects which affright us, when we cannot get from them, draw out eyes as forcibly as those that please us. I could not long withstand that nameless impulse, which, without any desire of this novel sight, compelled me towards it; embolden'd too by my certainty of being at once unseen and safe, I ventur'd by degrees to cast my eyes on an object so terrible and alarming to my virgin modesty as a naked man. But as I snatched a look, the first gleam that struck me was in general the dewy lustre of the whitest skin imaginable, which the sun playing upon made the reflection of it perfectly beamy. His face, in the confusion I was in, I could not well distinguish the lineaments of, any farther than that there was a great deal of youth and freshness in it. The frolic and various play of all his polish'd limbs, as they appeared above the surface, in the course of his swimming or wantoning with the water, amus'd and insensibly delighted me: sometimes he lay motionless, on his back, waterborne, and dragging after him a fine head of hair, that, floating, swept the stream in a bush of black curls. Then the over-flowing water would make a separation between his breast and glossy white belly; at the bottom of which I could not escape observing so remarkable a distinction as a black mossy tuft, out of which appeared to emerge a round, softish, limber, white something, that played every way, with ever the least motion or whirling eddy. I cannot say but that part chiefly, by a kind of natural instinct, attracted, detain'd, captivated my attention: it was out of the power of all my modesty to command my eye away from it; and seeing nothing so very dreadful in its appearance, I insensibly lock'd away all my fears: but as fast as they gave way, new desires and strange wishes took place, and I melted as I gazed. The fire of nature, that had so long lain dormant or conceal'd, began to break out, and made me feel my sex the first time. He had now changed his posture, and swam prone on his belly, striking out with his legs and arms, finer modell'd than which could not have been cast, whilst his floating locks played over a neck and shoulders whose whiteness they delightfully set off. Then the luxuriant swell of flesh that rose form the small of his back, and terminated its double cope at where the thighs are sent off, perfectly dazzled one with its watery glistening gloss.
"By this time I was so affected by this inward involution of sentiments, so soften'd by this sight, that now, betrayed into a sudden transition from extreme fears to extreme desires, I found these last so strong upon me, the heat of the weather too perhaps conspiring to exalt their rage, that nature almost fainted under them. Not that I so much as knew precisely what was wanting to me: my only thought was that so sweet a creature as this youth seemed to me could only make me happy; but then, the little likelihood there was of compassing an acquaintance with him, or perhaps of ever seeing him again, dash'd my desires, and turn'd them into torments. I was still gazing, with all the powers of my sight, on this bewitching object, when, in an instant, down he went. I had heard of such things as a cramp seizing on even the best swimmers, and occasioning their being drowned; and imagining this so sudden eclipse to be owing to it, the inconceivable fondness this unknown lad had given birth to distracted me with the most killing terrors; insomuch, that my concern giving the wings, I flew to the door, open'd it, ran down to the canal, guided thither by the madness of my fears for him, and the intense desire of being an instrument to save him, though I was ignorant how, or by what means to effect it: but was it for fears, and a passion so sudden as mine, to reason? All this took up scarce the space of a few moments. I had then just life enough to reach the green borders of the waterpiece, where wildly looking round for the young man, and missing him still, my fright and concern sunk me down in a deep swoon, which must have lasted me some time; for I did not come to myself till I was rous'd out of it by a sense of pain that pierced me to the vitals, and awaked me to the most surprising circumstance of finding myself not only in the arms of this very same young gentleman I had been so solicitous to save, but taken at such an advantage in my unresisting condition that he had actually completed his entrance into me so far, that weakened as I was by all the preceding conflicts of mind I had suffer'd, and struck dumb by the violence of my surprise, I had neither the power to cry out nor the strength to disengage myself from his strenuous embraces, before, urging his point, he had forced his way and completely triumphed over my virginity, as he might now as well see by the streams of blood that follow'd his drawing out, as he had felt by the difficulties he had met with consummating his penetration. But the sight of the blood, and the sense of my condition, had (as he told me afterwards), since the ungovernable rage of his passion was somewhat appeas'd, now wrought so far on him that at all risks, even of the worst consequences, he could not find in his heart to leave me, and make off, which he might easily have done. I still lay all descompos'd in bleeding ruin, palpitating, speechless, unable to get off, and frightened, and fluttering like a poor wounded partridge, and ready to faint away again at the sense of what had befallen me. The young gentleman was by me, kneeling, kissing my hand, and with tears in his eyes beseeching me to forgive him, and offering all the reparation in his power. It is certain that could I, at the instant of regaining my senses, have called out, or taken the bloodiest revenge, I would not have stuck at it: the violation was attended too with such aggravating circumstances, though he was ignorant of them, since it was to my concern for the preservation of his life that I owed my ruin.
"But how quick is the shift of passions from one extreme to another! and how little are they acquainted with the human heart who dispute it! I could not see this amiable criminal, so suddenly the first object of my love, and as suddenly of my just hate, on his knees, bedewing my hand with his tears, without relenting. He was still stark-naked, but my modesty had been already too much wounded, in essentials, to be so much shocked as I should have otherwise been with appearances only; in short, my anger ebbed so fast, and the tide of love return'd so strong upon me, that I felt it a point of my own happiness to forgive him. The reproaches I made him were murmur'd in so soft a tone, my eyes met his with such glances, expressing more languor than resentment, that he could not but presume his forgiveness was at no desperate distance; but still he would not quit his posture of submission, till I had pronounced his pardon in form; which after the most fervent entreaties, protestations, and promises, I had not the power to withhold. On which, with the utmost marks of a fear of again offending, he ventured to kiss my lips, which I neither declined nor resented; but on my mild expostulations with him upon the barbarity of his treatment, he explain'd the mystery of my ruin, if not entirely to the clearance, at least much to the alleviation of his guilt, in the eyes of a judge so partial in his favour as I was grown.
"Its seems that the circumstance of his going down, or sinking, which in my extreme ignorance I had mistaken for something very fatal, was no other than a trick of diving which I had not ever heard, or at least attended to, the mention of: and he was so long-breath'd at it, that in the few moments in which I ran out to save him, he had not yet emerged, before I fell into the swoon, in which, as he rose, seeing me extended on the bank, his first idea was that some young woman was upon some design of frolic or diversion with him, for he knew I could not have fallen a-sleep there without his having seen me before: agreeably to which notion he had ventured to approach, and finding me without sign of life, and still perplex'd as he was what to think of the adventure, he took me in his arms at all hazards, and carried me into the summer-house, of which he observed the door open: there he laid me down on the couch, and tried, as he protested in good faith, by several means to bring me to myself again, till fired, as he said, beyond all bearing by the sight and touch of several parts of me which were unguardedly exposed to him, he could no longer govern his passion; and the less, as he was not quite sure that his first idea of this swoon being a feint was not the very truth of the case: seduced then by this flattering notion, and overcome by the present, as he styled them, superhuman temptations, combined with the solitude and seeming security of the attempt, he was not enough his own master not to make it. Leaving me then just only whilst he fastened the door, he returned with redoubled eagerness to his prey: when, finding me still entranced, he ventured to place me as he pleased, whilst I felt, no more than the dead, what he was about, till the pain he put me to roused me just in time enough to be witness of a triumph I was not able to defeat, and now scarce regretted: for as he talked, the tone of his voice sounded, methought, so sweetly in my ears, the sensible nearness of so new and interesting an object to me wrought so powerfully upon me, that, in the rising perception of things in a new and pleasing light, I lost all sense of the past injury. The young gentleman soon discern'd the symptoms of a reconciliation in my softened looks, and hastening to receive the seal of it from my lips, press'd them tenderly to pass his pardon in the return of a kiss so melting fiery, that the impression of it being carried to my heart, and thence to my new-discover'd sphere of Venus, I was melted into a softness that could refuse him nothing. When now he managed his caresses and endearments so artfully as to insinuate the most soothing consolations for the past pain and the most pleasing expectations of future pleasure, but whilst mere modesty kept my eyes from seeing his and rather declined them, I had a glimpse of that instrument of the mischief which was now, obviously even to me, who had scarce had snatches of a comparative observation of it, resuming its capacity to renew it, and grew greatly alarming with its increase of size, as he bore it no doubt designedly, hard and stiff against one of my hands carelessly dropt; but then he employ'd such tender prefacing, such winning progressions, that my returning passion of desire being now so strongly prompted by the engaging circumstances of the sight and incendiary touch of his naked glowing beauties, I yielded at length at the force of the present impressions, and he obtained of my tacit blushing consent all the gratifications of pleasure left in the power of my poor person to bestow, after he had cropt its richest flower, during my suspension of life and abilities to guard it.
"Here, according to the rule laid down, I should stop; but I am so much in motion, that I could not if I would. I shall only add, however, that I got home without the least discovery, or suspicion of what had happened. I met my young ravisher several times after, whom I now passionately lov'd and who, tho' not of age to claim a small but independent fortune, would have married me; but as the accidents that prevented it, and their consequences which threw me on the publick, contain matters too moving and serious to introduce at present, I cut short here."
Louisa, the brunette whom I mentioned at first, now took her turn to treat the company with her history. I have already hinted to you the graces of her person, than which nothing could be more exquisitely touching; I repeat touching, as a just distinction from striking, which is ever a less lasting effect, and more generally belongs to the fair complexions: but leaving that decision to every one's taste, I proceed to give you Louisa's narrative as follows:
"According to practical maxims of life, I ought to boast of my birth, since I owe it to pure love, without marriage; but this I know, it was scarce possible to inherit a stronger propensity to that cause of my being than I did. I was the rare production of the first essay of a journeyman cabinet-maker on his master's maid: the consequence of which was a big belly, and the loss of a place. He was not in circumstances to do much for her; and yet, after all this blemish, she found means, after she had dropt her burthen and disposed of me to a poor relation's in the country, to repair it by marrying a pastry-cook here in London, in thriving business; on whom she soon, under favour of the complete ascendant he had given her over him, passed me for a child she had by her first husband. I had, on that footing, been taken home, and was not six years old when this step-father died and left my mother in tolerable circumstances, and without any children by him. As to my natural father, he had betaken himself to the sea; where, when the truth of things came out, I was told that he died, not immensely rich you may think, since he was no more than a common sailor. As I grew up, under the eyes of my mother, who kept on the business, I could not but see, in her severe watchfulness, the marks of a slip which she did not care should be hereditary, but we no more choose our passions than our features or complexion, and the bent of mine was so strong to the forbidden pleasure, that it got the better, at length, of all her care and precaution. I was scarce twelve years old before that part which she wanted so much to keep out of harm's way made me feel its impatience to be taken notice of, and come into play: already had it put forth the signs of forwardness in the sprout of a soft down over it, which had often flatter'd, and I might also say, grown under my constant touch and visitation, so pleas'd was I with what I took to be a kind of title to womanhood, that state I pin'd to be entr'd of, for the pleasures I conceiv'd were annexed to it; and now the growing importance of that part to me, and the new sensations in it, demolish'd at once all my girlish playthings and amusements. Nature now pointed me strongly to more solid diversions, while all the stings of desire settled so fiercely in that little centre of them, that I could not mistake the spot I wanted a playfellow in. "I now shunn'd all company in which there was no hopes of coming at the object of my longings, and used to shut myself up, to indulge in solitude some tender meditation on the pleasures I strongly perceiv'd the overture of, in feeling and examining what nature assur'd me must be the chosen avenue, the gates for unknown bliss to enter at, that I panted after.
"But these meditations only increas'd my disorder, and blew the fire that consumed me. I was yet worse when, yielding at length to the insupportable irritations of the little fairy charm that tormented me, I seiz'd it with my fingers, teasing it to no end. Sometimes, in the furious excitations of desire, I threw myself on the bed, spread my thighs abroad, and lay as it were expecting the longed-for relief, till finding my illusion, I shut and squeez'd them together again, burning and fretting. In short, this dev'lish thing, with its impetuous girds and itching fires, led me such a life that I could neither night nor day be at peace with it or myself. In time, however, I thought I had gained a prodigious prize, when figuring to myself that my fingers were something of the shape of what I pined for, I worked my way in for one of them with great agitation and delight; yet not without pain too did I deflower myself as far as it could reach; proceeding with such a fury of passion, in this solitary and last shift of pleasure, as extended me at length breathless on the bed in an amorous melting trance.
"But frequency of use dulling the sensation, I soon began to perceive that this work was but a paltry shallow expedient that went but a little way to relieve me, and rather rais'd more flame than its dry and insignificant titillation could rightly appease.
"Man alone, I almost instinctively knew, as well as by what I had industriously picked up at weddings and christenings, was possess'd of the only remedy that could reduce this rebellious disorder; but watch'd and overlook'd as I was, how to come at it was the point, and that, to all appearance, an invincible one; not that I did not rack my brains and invention how at once to elude my mother's vigilance, and procure myself the satisfaction of my impetuous curiosity and longings for this mighty and untasted pleasure. At length, however, a singular chance did at once the work of a long course of alertness. One day that we had dined at an acquaintance's over the way, together with a gentlewoman-lodger that occupied the first floor of our house, there started an indispensable necessity for my mother's going down to Greenwich to accompany her: the party was settled, when I do not know what genius whispered me to plead a headache, which I certainly had not, against my being included in a jaunt that I had not the least relish for. The pretext however passed, and my mother, with much reluctance, prevailed with herself to go without me; but took particular care to see me safe home, where she consign'd me into the hands of an old trusty maid-servant, who served in the shop, for we had not a male creature in the house.
"As soon as she was gone, I told the maid I would go up and lie down on our lodger's bed, mine not being made, with a charge to her at the same time not to disturb me, as it was only rest I wanted. This injunction probably prov'd of eminent service to me. As soon as I was got into the bedchamber, I unlaced my stays, and threw myself on the outside of the bed-cloaths, in all the loosest undress. Here I gave myself up to the old insipid privy shifts of my self-viewing, self-touching, self-enjoying, in fine, to all the means of self-knowledge I could devise, in search of the pleasure that fled before me, and tantalized with that unknown something that was out of my reach; thus all only serv'd to enflame myself, and to provoke violently my desires, whilst the one thing needful to their satisfaction was not at hand, and I could have bit my fingers, for representing it so ill. After then wearying and fatiguing myself with grasping shadows, whilst that most sensible part of me disdain'd to content itself with less than realities, the strong yearnings, the urgent struggles of nature towards the melting relief, and the extreme self-agitations I had used to come at it, had wearied and thrown me into a kind of unquiet sleep: for, if I tossed and threw about my limbs in proportion to the distraction of my dreams, as I had reason to believe I did, a bystander could not have help'd seeing all for love. And one there was it seems; for waking out of my very short slumber, I found my hand lock'd in that of a young man, who was kneeling at my bed-side, and begging my pardon for his boldness: but that being a son to the lady to whom this bedchamber, he knew, belonged, he had slipp'd by the servant of the shop, as he supposed, unperceiv'd, when finding me asleep, his first ideas were to withdraw; but that he had been fix'd and detain'd there by a power he could better account for than resist.
"What shall I say? my emotions of fear and surprize were instantly subdued by those of the pleasure I bespoke in great presence of mind from the turn this adventure might take. He seem'd to me no other than a pitying angel, dropt out of the clouds: for he was young and perfectly handsome, which was more than even I had asked for; man, in general, being all that my utmost desires had pointed at. I thought then I could not put too much encouragement into my eyes and voice; I regretted no leading advances; no matter for his after-opinion of my forwardness, so it might bring him to the point of answering my pressing demands of present case; it was not now with his thoughts, but his actions, that my business immediately lay. I rais'd then my head, and told him, in a soft tone that tended to prescribe the same key to him, that his mamma was gone out and would not return till late at night: which I thought no bad hint; but as it prov'd, I had nothing of a novice to deal with. The impressions I had made on him from the discoveries I had betrayed of my person in the disordered motions of it, during his view of me asleep, had, as he afterwards told me, so fix'd and charmingly prepar'd him, that, had I known his dispositions, I had more to hope from his violence than to fear from his respect; and even less than the extreme tenderness which I threw into my voice and eyes, would have served to encourage him to make the most of the opportunity. Finding then that his kisses, imprinted on my hand, were taken as tamely as he could wish, he rose to my lips; and glewing his to them, made me so faint with over-coming joy and pleasure that I fell back, and he with me, in course, on the bed, upon which I had, by insensibly shifting from the side to near the middle, invitingly made room for him. He is now lain down by me, and the minutes being too precious to consume in untimely ceremony, or dalliance, my youth proceeds immediately to those extremities, which all my looks, flushing and palpitations had assured him he might attempt without the fear of repulse: those rogues, the men, read us admirably on these occasions. I lay then at length panting for the imminent attack, with wishes far beyond my fears, and for which it was scarce possible for a girl, barely thirteen, but all and well grown, to have better dispositions. He threw up my petticoat and shift, whilst my thighs were, by an instinct of nature, unfolded to their best; and my desires had so thoroughly destroy'd all modesty in me, that even their being now naked and all laid open to him, was part of the prelude that pleasure deepen'd my blushes at, more than shame. But when his hand, and touches, naturally attracted to their centre, made me feel all their wantonness and warmth in, and round it, oh! how immensely different a sense of things did I perceive there, than when under my own insipid handling! And now his waistcoat was unbuttoned, and the confinement of the breeches burst through, when out started to view the amazing, pleasing object of all my wishes, all my dreams, all my love, the king member indeed! I gaz'd at, I devoured it, at length and breadth, with my eyes intently directed to it, till his getting upon me, and placing it between my thighs, took from me the enjoyment of its sight, to give me a far more grateful one in its touch, in that part where its touch is so exquisitely affecting. Applying it then to the minute opening, for such at that age it certainly was, I met with too much good will, I felt with too great a rapture of pleasure the first insertion of it, to heed much the pain that followed: I thought nothing too dear to pay for this the richest treat of the senses; so that, split up, torn, bleeding, mangled, I was still superiorly pleas'd, and hugg'd the author of all this delicious ruin. But when, soon after, he made his second attack, sore as every thing was, the smart was soon put away by the sovereign cordial; all my soft complainings were silenc'd, and the pain melting fast away into pleasure. I abandon'd myself over to all its transports, and gave it the full possession of my whole body and soul; for now all thought was at an end with me; I lived but in what I felt only. And who could describe those feelings, those agitations, yet exalted by the charm of their novelty and surprize? when that part of me which had so long hunger'd for the dear morsel that now so delightfully crammed it, forc'd all my vital sensations to fix their home there, during the stay of my beloved guest; who too soon paid me for his hearty welcome in a dissolvent, richer far than that I have heard of some queen treating her paramour with, in liquify'd pearl, and ravishingly pour'd into me, where, now myself too much melted to give it a dry reception, I hail'd it with the warmest confluence on my side, amidst all those extatic raptures, not unfamiliar I presume to this good company! Thus, however, I arrived at the very top of all my wishes, by an accident unexpected indeed, but not so wonderful; for this young gentleman was just arriv'd in town from college, and came familiarly to his mother at her apartment, where he had once before been, though by mere chance. I had not seen him: so that we knew one another by hear-say only; and finding me stretched on his mother's bed, he readily concluded, from her description who it was. The rest you know.
"This affair had however no ruinous consequences, the young gentleman escaping then, and many more times undiscover'd. But the warmth of my constitution, that made the pleasures of love a kind of necessary of life to me, having betray'd me into indiscretions fatal to my private fortune, I fell at length to the publick; from which, it is probable, I might have met with the worst of ruin if my better fate had not thrown me into this safe and agreeable refuge."
Here Louisa ended; and these little histories having brought the time for the girls to retire, and to prepare for the revels of the evening, I staid with Mrs. Cole till Emily came and told us the company was met, and waited for us.