The Don't-Do List By Rebecca Milton

My father made sure I was far more educated than any other woman in the county. This included women my own age and those who were much, much older. He instilled in me a curiosity about all manner of life. He built in me an appetite for literature, art, dance 
The Don't-Do List
The Don't-Do List By Rebecca Milton

and the theater. He filled me with a strong working understanding of politics, business, and philosophy. He gave me a clear understanding of class and situation. He carved in me an awareness of the need to be kind and caring to all God’ creatures. When he died, the last thing he left me was... incredibly wealthy.

My mother left me with grace, beauty, a keen understanding of a woman’s place in the world, the guile and wit to circumvent that place while bruising no one. When she died, she left me with a deep understanding of the power of love and a yet untapped passion for sex.

My parents loved each other to the very end. I don’t say this with the usual kind of blind romanticism usually found in girls my age. I state it as a fact. They loved each other until the end. I say this because they died together, their hearts giving out due to exhaustion, in the middle of coitus. I found them that morning, my father’s rigor-mortis-stiffened member still deep inside my mother, and both of them with the most serene, pleasurable expressions on their faces.

When I walked into their bedchamber that morning – my parents, unlike most couples of our class, still shared a bed every night – I was surprised they were still in bed, apparently asleep. When I spoke to them, they did not respond, nor did they react when I shook them. I knew then that they were dead. I was shocked and grieved.

When, upon closer examination, I realized that they had died in coitus, I was thrilled, and I laughed for quite some time. I laughed and smiled all during the church service, through the funeral, and I was only momentarily sad when they put their coffins in the earth, and I realized that they had been separated. Unable, I thought, to be locked in passion again. Yet, when the good Reverend Talbot spoke of how they would live in heaven as they had lived on earth, together and free, I laughed again. I imagined Mother, her skirts up, bent over, grasping the bars of the pearly gates while my father stood behind her.

“When your father takes me from behind,” my mother was fond of telling me, “I often fear the level of pleasure will be just too much and I will die.” She would then pause, sip her tea and look dreamily into the distance. “Oh, but what a way to go,” she would say and we would laugh and laugh.





***





I was eighteen when my parents humped their way off this mortal coil. A beautiful, intelligent and remarkably wealthy woman, my Uncle Nestor claimed, but also vulnerable and in need of a guiding hand. Nestor was my father’s younger and only sibling. He was smart, wealthy, good in business and a pillar of the community. However, he was a crashingly dull prude. When I told him how my parents had passed into the Great Beyond, he fainted. When I met him before the funeral, he handed me a piece of rolled up parchment.

“What is this, Dear Uncle,” I said. He gestured for me to unroll it and read it. He placed a scented handkerchief over his nose and mouth while I did. On the parchment was written, in his precise hand, a list of over six hundred words. Male and female body parts. Sexual positions and bawdy words. The list was quite stunning in its scope. I had no idea what it meant or why he had given it to me. I suddenly wondered if my bachelor uncle was trying to... woo me.

“Uncle,” I said, “is this a list of suggestions? Is this a list of things that you feel you and I should do together?” He spun on me and his jaw dropped in horror.

“I am not averse to the idea,” I said, understanding now that wooing was not the case and deciding to tease him a little, “but you’ll have to be patient with me and explain what some of these things are.” He gasped and pressed his handkerchief harder to his face. “For instance,” I continued, “you’ll have to tell me what this is...” and pointed to one of the more unfamiliar words.

At that, he fainted dead away. He was revived by Doctor Clemens and the funeral went on. Later, back at the house, the mourners and friends had gathered as they usually did after a funeral. At one point in the evening, Uncle Nestor cornered me in the library.

“The list, dear niece,” he whispered, “is a list of words you must never, ever utter in my presence. Indeed,” he continued, “I would think it best that a person of your age, being a member of the tender sex, not even think about any of the words on that list.” He nodded. “For your own good.” He was a dear man, and I loved him very much. I knew he was only looking out for my best interests. I had teased him enough.

“You are very wise, dear Uncle, and I will familiarize myself with the list so that I may avoid any mistake of accidentally shocking you. Then I will lock it away in a trunk and never look upon it again.” His face lit up with gratitude, and he gave me a warm, if not obviously chaste, embrace.

As the evening wound down, guests began to leave, heading for their own homes. The servants straightened the manor and cleared away all remnants of the party. I went upstairs and sat on the edge of my parents’ bed. I missed them a great deal, and I felt quite alone. Still, I could not be sad. I knew that a love as strong as theirs would transcend death and last for all eternity. I wondered if I would ever find such a love.





***





The days rolled by, and I kept my father’s investments thriving. His business partners eventually softened to the idea of a woman having a voice, and they grew to trust and respect me. I was fine. I didn’t find myself being taken advantage of as Uncle Nestor had warned. I conducted business, ran the manor, paid the bills, and lived a very quiet, simple life. Uncle Nestor came once or twice a week to check on me, have dinner, and lecture me about the duties of a wealthy woman.

On the occasional Sunday, I allowed him to drag me to church and stood by him as he belted out hymns with much gusto and many missed notes. On those Sunday outings, he often was rather… surprised… when we met up with a fine, young, single man at church. He would introduce me and then, after the service, would encourage the young man to walk me home. His matchmaking attempts were as subtle as his shrieking tenor voice, but I appreciated his efforts.

“My old aching legs,” he would say. “I would be greatly in your debt, young sir if you’d accompany my niece back to her splendid, but lonely, manor.” The men he happened upon and set on me were always very kind, very polite, but as frightfully dull as dear Uncle Nestor himself.

To amuse myself on these walks I would often pepper the conversations with words from the forbidden list that I promised my dear Uncle never to glance at, but that I actually studied and memorized every night. I truly did not know what half the words on the list meant. I would judge their severity by the amount of stuttering they would cause in my companions.

When the poor lad chosen to walk me home heard a particularly interesting word and passed out, I would put a small check mark by that word on the list when I got home. And so it went. Uncle Nestor taking care of me, setting me up with men of good marriageable stock, and me either shocking them to tears, or leaving them passed out in the brambles and thickets that lined the path on the walk home from church.

As for the list, it became my constant obsession. I read it over at night in my chamber after Maggie, my handmaiden, had undressed me and tucked me into bed. I would pull the list from a small, locked box in my night table, light a candle, and read it over. The words I did know, such as the male and female body parts, I quickly memorized and cast aside. But other words phrases fascinated me and filled me with wonder.

But sadly, these were the times when I missed my mother most. She was always willing to speak honestly about sex with me, but I had never been that curious. I certainly had never had such a tantalizing list before, and now it was too late.

There was no one I trusted enough to let my hair down and get a little naughty with. I had to maintain an air of composure around the servants, and Uncle Nestor was of no use to me. Often, in the summer, if he caught a direct glimpse of a woman’s bosom, he would turn pale and fall into the nearest body of water. The list caused me to burn with a desire to know and to understand. Sadly, I had no teacher.





***





The winter was quiet and nice. Christmastime I spent with Nestor and various cousins twice, sometimes three times removed. The boys were all very much like Nestor, blushing and coughing if I came too close, and covering their laps with blankets and unable to stand if I sat beside them and happened to touch them in any way. The girls all seemed to have one foot in the nunnery and one foot in the grave. I doubted if any of them had even seen themselves naked. That, to me, seemed a shame.

In my time alone I had discovered that I looked very much forward to my evening bath. Candles burning, a hot tub, and me, all alone with my thoughts and secret wonders. Before I would bathe, I had taken to standing in front of the glass and looking at my body. My mother had always taught me that your body was a gift, and one shouldn’t be ashamed of it. I certainly wasn’t ashamed of mine.

My breasts were perky and plump. My hips were smooth and not too wide. My bottom had a lovely curve to it, with just enough flesh to make it like the paintings of angels I had often admired in the museum.

All in all, I was quite pleased with my body, and I was certain I would be able to pleasure a man with it. If only I knew what to do.





***





The days went by like this for many months. I conducted business, looked after the affairs of the manor, made money, visited with Uncle Nestor, helped the poor, and attended church. All was well, but the list was still there, still unsolved. My curiosity burned.

One evening after my evening bath, I was still very restless. I could not sleep. The air was warm, and the moon was full. It bathed my room in crystal blue light that refused to allow me sleep. I rose, put on my robe, and wandered down the stairs. I was heading toward the kitchen, thinking perhaps a snack would satisfy me, when I heard a very strange sound. A grunting and moaning. It sounded like animals, and it was coming from my late father’s study. I quietly crept to the door and opened it ever so slightly.

I was shocked by the sight. Maggie, her skirts up around her neck, was on her back. Jack Latham, the country clerk, his pants around his ankles, seemed to be wrestling with her. I watched for a moment and realized they were engaged in coitus. My mother and father both had spoken freely of this but, I suddenly realized, I had never witnessed the act in full motion before. I watched for a moment, feeling flushed and excited. I was about to turn away, to leave them to their privacy when an idea struck me. I took a breath and burst into the study.

“What on earth is going on here?” I shouted at them. “How dare you defile my dear, dead father’s sofa in that way?” Maggie shoved Mr. Latham off her, and he tumbled to the floor, grabbing at his trousers, doing his best to hide himself. Maggie pulled her skirts down and stood, apologizing profusely.

“I am quite surprised by you, Maggie,” I said. “Kindly see Mr. Latham out and then come to my chamber.” She curtsied, and I went to my room. This was perfect, I thought. Maggie would be just the teacher I needed. I went into my room unlocked the box, withdrew the list, and waited for Maggie to arrive. After some moments, I heard her clumping quickly up the stairs. She knocked on my door; I told her to enter, and she stood, hands behind her back, head bowed, waiting, I would imagine, to be dismissed.

Maggie was a sweet girl. We had grown up together. Her mother had been my mother’s handmaiden, and when Maggie’s mother died in a terrible carriage accident, my father and mother took her in and set her to work as my handmaid. We were very close and, if it hadn’t been for the class difference, I imagine we would have been the best of friends.

She was roughly my age, and quite beautiful with long red hair and a fine, curved figure. When we younger and would walk to town together, the sons of farmers, workers, carpenters and the like, would often stop and say hello to her with a familiar tone. To me, they were respectful. To Maggie, they were covetous.

“I am truly sorry for that,” she would say, her tone somber and frightened. “I can have my thing packed and be out of here in the morning.” She looked at me, and I stared at her with my most stern countenance. She was visibly shaking. It felt cruel, but then I could carry the charade no further.

“Oh, stop,” I said to her. “I’m not angry and I am certainly not going to dismiss you.”

“You’re not?” she asked, truly surprised. “What are you going to do?” Perhaps she expected I would have her beaten or possibly publicly shamed.

“I, dear Maggie,” I said, “am going to employ you as a teacher.” She had no idea what I meant, so I held out the list for her to read. “Do you know what these things are?” She took the list and slowly read it. Then I saw her blush, and she started to giggle almost uncontrollably.

“Yes, I do, ma'am,” she said. “Fact is, most of them I have done myself.”

“Perfect,” I cried and clapped.

“Do you want me to explain to you what they mean?” she asked.

“Better than that. I want you to show me. With Mr. Latham.”





***





And so, my lessons began. I would choose one or two things from the list, things that Maggie best knew how to do. Apart from acts that required farm animals, she knew most all of the list. She would then bring Mr. Latham into the study, I would hide in the closet, and would watch her do the acts that I had chosen. Later, she would answer my questions and give me hints, but most of all, she would tell me how it felt. At Maggie’s insistence, she started with the simplest things. Every few nights Mr. Latham would arrive, and Maggie would go to work on him. I was anxious and wanted to learn as much as I could as fast as I could.

“Why can’t you bring Mr. Latham every night?” I asked finally, growing tired of the lengthy times between my lessons.

“Because,” she said with a smile, “we don’t want to kill Mr. Latham, now do we?” I thought of my dear parents and what my mother had said to me.

“I don’t know,” I said. “It seems like it might be a wonderful way to go.” At that, Maggie burst out laughing.





***





The nights passed, and I was checking all the items off the list. So many things I had learned. On and on the months rolled by, and I became more knowledgeable about the list. However, some things didn’t appeal to me at all.

“Well,” Maggie said after one session with Mr. Latham, demonstrating a variation of the position my mother said she loved so much, “I’m not too fond of it myself, but once in a while is alright. The boys seem to like it, so I save it for special days. You know… Birthdays, Christmas, that sort of thing.”

“Right,” I said, “only take it in the bum on special days.” We laughed ourselves silly. After many months and many, many late night discussions, the list was complete. I had placed a check mark beside all the terms I now understood. We sat on the bed and looked the list over. Maggie was quite proud, and I was very thankful.

“You know,” she said, “it occurs to me that your upstanding Uncle Nestor is a bit of a pervert to have written this type of list.” This sent us into peals of laughter.





***





The next night, Maggie came into my room after I had gotten out of the bath. She told me that it was time I let a man pleasure me. She was right. All this watching and learning had built up in me an incredible desire to touch a man and feel what it was like to do some of the things on the list.

Over the next few weeks, I kept my eyes open for a candidate. I told Maggie if I had any ideas, and she offered advice. The ones I mentioned from church she said no to. I needed someone with some experience, she told me.

“Nothing’s worse than a boy who doesn’t know what he’s doing,” she told me. “Too much fumbling around, and sometimes if he doesn’t know the ropes, it can hurt.” I pointed out men that we saw when we walked to market. She said they were either not attractive enough or far too indiscreet. I was impatient, but Maggie was determined to make my first time memorable and wonderful.





***





The summer burned away, fall arrived, and soon the days were short, and the nights were getting cold and long. I had all but given up hope of finding someone to practice with.

“We’ll start again in the springtime,” Maggie said and I agreed. What did I know? I would study all winter and perhaps, in spring, there would be new faces when the weather was warmer. I didn’t like the idea, but I really had no choice.

One night in late October, I was in my chamber writing a letter when Maggie came rushing in.

“He’s here,” she said, barely containing her giggles.

“Who’s here?” I asked. She gestured for me to follow her and I did. We crept down the stairs to the front foyer. There stood a tall, strikingly handsome young man. Hat in one hand, his other hand behind his back, his eyes roaming over the paintings and the sculptures in the room. I stood on the stairs, holding Maggie’s hand, watching him for a moment. He was truly beautiful. Finally, I descended the stairs to meet him.

“Good evening,” I said and extended my hand. “I am the mistress of this house.” When he took my hand and looked into my eyes, my stomach fluttered a little.

“I am Goodwin Martin,” he said. “I was a close friend of your father’s, and we did business together. I have just returned from the Americas, and I had heard that your father and mother had passed away. I came directly here from the city to offer my heartfelt condolences.”

I thanked him for his kindness and invited him in for tea. He accepted, and we sat in the drawing room while Maggie arranged for tea and a light supper. He told me of his travels in the Americas, of Indians and battles and storms at sea. His were thrilling tales, and I felt myself completely taken in by him.

“You have a most charming laugh,” he said to me and I blushed. The hours slipped by and soon, with deepest apologies, he rose to leave. I asked where he would go, and he told me that he would stay at an inn for the night, and then move on to London in the morning.

“Nonsense,” I said, “my father would be most unhappy if I didn’t insist you stay here for the evening. There are many rooms, all with warm fires and good beds.” He protested, but I would not hear of it, and I sent Maggie off to ready a room for him. He agreed, and we continued sipping tea until his room was ready. I walked him upstairs and made sure he had everything he needed, then wished him a pleasant sleep. Maggie had set him up in my parent’s room. I returned to my room and paced. Maggie entered.

“Well,” she said to me, “what are you doing in here? Why aren’t you with him?”

I told her that I didn’t know what to do, or how to begin. I was suddenly very frightened. She understood. She dressed me in my best nightshirt and plumped up my bosom. She took my hand and walked me down the hall. He had asked for paper and pen to write a few letters, and Maggie was carrying the items he had requested.

“You wait here,” she instructed me, “and I’ll set the cart in motion.” She knocked, then entered the room. I heard their muffled voices and, after a few minutes, Maggie came out. She smiled at me and said, quite loudly, “He will be happy to see you, ma’am.” Then she slipped off down the hall. I took a breath and opened the door. He stood and gave me a polite bow.

“Your maid said you wished to speak with me,” he said. “Therefore, anything you need, please just ask.”

I froze. I didn’t know what to say. I had brought the list with me and clutched it in my hand behind my back. I trembled both with fear and with a deep, heated anticipation. Would he refuse, I wondered. Could I bring myself to broach the subject was a better question.

“I was... I was wondering if you’d be willing to help me,” I said. He smiled and nodded, “I was wondering... if... if you wouldn’t mind telling me a story or two about my father.”

“Of course. I would be delighted.”

He pulled two chairs up to the fire, and we sat. He began talking about my father and his wonderful business mind, his kind heart, and his love of meeting strangers in pubs. He told me how my father had often spoken of his wife - my mother – and how deeply he loved her. I nodded and smiled throughout his discourse. He spoke most enthusiastically, and repeatedly, of how much my father had loved my mother, and how she was the constant subject of many of their more intimate conversations.

“Intimate?” I said.

“Uh... yes,” he said, shifting a little uncomfortably. “Your mother and father had... Well, they had quite an appetite for each other, if you don’t mind my saying so.”

“I don’t at all,” I told him. “They loved each other very much and were very, very open about their physical relationship. It was inspiring to me.” I looked him directly in the eyes.

“Really,” he said, leaning forward a bit.

“Yes. Their passion taught me a good deal about love and what it takes to make a marriage last and be successful.”

“Communication, prayer and—” he started to say, but I cut him off.

“Good sex,” I said, holding out the list. “Tell me, Mr. Martin, are you familiar with any of the terms on this list?” He reached out and took the parchment from my hand. He opened it and looked it over. I waited, frightened. I hoped that he was more like my father and less like my Uncle Nester. I watched his face closely. His eyes widened, and then his lips curled into a sweet smile. He looked up at me.

“Why, yes, I am actually quite familiar with many, many of the terms on this list.” He sat back and took me in. I smiled and took a breath.

“Mr. Martin,” I began, “although I take much joy in hearing such glowing stories of my father, that is not my true desire. I was wondering, good sir if you would... Well, if you would like to… have me?”

He smiled and looked at the list again. Then he held it up to me. “The check marks?”

“Those are things that I understand in an intellectual way, but not in a completely physical way,” I said with a measure of pride. “You will find me eager, willing, and quite a good student, Mr. Martin, if you care to undertake this task.” He laughed. I demurred.

“You need not call it a task, believe me. From the moment I laid eyes on you, I wondered what you would feel like. For this reason, it is not so much a task as a great pleasure.” I smiled and thanked him for the compliment. “Is there anything in particular from the list that you’d like to try first?” he asked.

“All of it,” I said without hesitation. He laughed.

“Well, I am just one man, and I don’t know if I can do the entire list in one night.” He moved closer to me. “Perhaps you could select a few things that you are most excited to try.”

He handed me the list, and I looked it over. I felt like I was looking over the menu of a very fine, very special restaurant. All of the items seemed so good. I feared choosing one and missing out on something else. I looked up from the list and saw that he was watching me, smiling. I blushed again and ran my eyes over the list again, this time more quickly. I didn’t know what to pick, or what to ask. Then I remembered Maggie's words. I held out the list and pointed.

“This, please. I would very much like to try this.”

He looked at my finger, the term to which it pointed, and nodded.

“How do we start?” I said, feeling a rush of desire, and wanting to get to it before he changed his mind. He laughed.

“Are you in a great hurry?” he asked, stepping close to me. “We can and will get to that, I assure, but would you mind if we started with this...” and then he kissed me.

I closed my eyes and stood very still, then remembered what Maggie had taught me. I relaxed and opened my mouth slightly. His lips parted, and it did, just as had Maggie promised, feel very, very good. I wrapped my arms around his neck, and his hands clasped my hips.

We kissed and kissed, and I was warm with pleasure. I suddenly didn’t care about the list. All I wanted was to kiss like this forever. He pulled me tight, and I felt his hands move over my body, smoothly up and down my back, then ran them gently over my bottom. It sent little prickles of joy through me, and I moaned softly. He turned me so that my back was pressing against his front, and his hands continued their journey, over my hips and my thighs. I had touched myself before, in my times in the bath, but it had never felt like this.

The way he touched me made me weak and warm all over. He reached down and grasped the hem of my nightshirt. Slowly he raised it, exposing my pale, smooth skin. He pulled the nightshirt up and over my head and stepped back. He stood in front of me, my nightshirt in his hand, just looking at me. I suddenly felt self-conscious and tried to cover up. He stepped forward and held my arms, prevented me from covering myself.

“Please,” he said in a sweet tone, “you are so incredibly beautiful, please let me look at you.” I blushed but saw he was serious, and I was happy to have him look at my naked body. He dropped my nightshirt and came to me, extending his hand. He touched my shoulder and then slowly ran his hand over my back.

He walked around me, taking in my body, touching each part of me. I shivered, not because I was cold, but because I was excited. He pulled me to himself and kissed me again. His strong hands moved over my skin. He then lifted me up and lay me on the bed. I looked up at him, his eyes sparkling and smiling. He then knelt on the floor and parted my legs with his hands.

“Now,” he said, “it’s time to give you what you asked for.” He bent his head, and I had no idea what he was doing, but suddenly my mind exploded. He was so skilled that I nearly closed my thighs on his head, but he pushed my legs apart. It was so wonderful and so perfect.

I lay back and let him work this special magic on me and I was beginning to feel a rush. It started in my chest and rolled down my whole body. It felt incredible. I knew I was about to experience what Maggie had taught me about.

“It's happening,” I gasped, and he continued licking me. “It’s going to happen, I just know it,” I said, my heart pounding. And then, it did happen. The candlelight turned red, and I felt a long, fluid rush course through my entire body. My body jumped and shook, and I felt such pleasure. I could not control myself, and I repeatedly screamed to God above. He stayed between my legs as I shook and screamed. Then, after what seemed like days, he slowed and then stopped. He moved his head back, kissed the inside of my thighs and looked at me.

“How was that?” he asked me. I didn’t know what to say. I had nothing to compare it to, but if Maggie was to be believed, that was exactly what it was supposed to feel like. I smiled but couldn’t seem to form any words. “I will take that as a good sign,” he said, and then reached across the floor and picked up the list.

“What next?” he asked and placed the list in my belly. I had no idea. This was enough, wasn’t it, I thought. How could it be better than this? However, the list was long, and I was still very eager to try as much of it as I could.

“The beast,” I tried to speak but my mind was still somewhere else, and my body was just a carpet of pleasure. “I want...” He picked up the list and pointed to something on it. It barely registered it, but I nodded, smiling.

“Yes,” I sighed, “can we please do that now?” He put the list on the nightstand and stood. He slowly undressed. I watched him, fascinated. His body was muscular and strong. His skin was smooth. He crawled into the bed with me and kissed me again. We kissed those glorious kisses for a while, all the time his hands moving over my skin, touching me, making me feel so warm, so full of desire.

He opened my legs and slid on top of me. I could feel him brushing my thigh. I took in air quickly, anticipating... I don’t know what. It was all new and all very exciting to me. I felt him brush me where he had just kissed me, and it sent shock waves through me. He entered me oh, so gently, and at first I felt a scalding pain and almost cried. But then, skilled and knowing, he moved slowly, and I could feel myself accepting him.

“How do you feel,” he whispered to me, and I could not answer.

“Yes,” was all I could muster, and then, “please.” Slowly, gently, he began to move again, his rhythm, his motion, was so right. This was the glorious wonder my mother had spoken of. This was the perfection that Maggie had gone on about.

He was such a willing tutor, and it was all so wonderful and very soon, that glorious, rolling liquid feeling was mounting inside me. Deep inside, I could feel it like the tide was rising in me. I dug my fingers into his skin, whispered yes and more into his ear.

Together we were moving as one, sighing, breathing, and then, “Oh, Mr. Martin,” I said with wonder and joy, “it’s going to happen again” And... it did. It did happen. The rush, the rolling perfection. He kept moving, and I rolled with the waves of passion.

“I must not leave you with child,” he whispered to me, “so next time I will be more prepared.”

He then pulled himself from me. It felt like a great loss. He straddled my body, then took my hand and wrapped it around his beautiful member.

“Stroke gently,” he instructed, and I did. His eyes fluttered, his head dropped back, his mouth opened, and a sweet moan of pleasure drifted out of him. I moved a little quicker and, then he looked down at me, smiled and said, “It’s going to happen for me.”

And it did, and it felt incredible. He shook with his own pleasure and at long last, he held my hand still.

“I have no more to give,” he said and laughed. He rolled over beside of me and touched my face. Then he kissed me. “Give me a few moments to recover,” he said, “and we can return to the list.” I agreed and curled next to him, my head on his wide, strong chest. I was relaxed, open, and felt a deep sense of satisfaction. I sighed and closed my eyes for a moment. Just for a moment, I thought.





***





“Rise and shine you little minx,” Maggie said as she threw the curtains open and the sun filled my chamber. “Come and have some breakfast.”

She left, and I was alone. Mr. Martin’s clothes were nowhere to be seen. All that was left was the scent of him on my pillow and a slight stickiness on my breasts. I lay in bed, wondering what I had done wrong. Wondering why he had left me. I washed myself in the basin, put on a dressing-gown, and went downstairs.

“He’s gone,” I said to Maggie. “He has left. What... What did I do wrong?” I needed to know. Maggie needed to tell me. I sat down, and she poured me tea, then put a plate of bread, cheese, and bacon down for me. “I’m not hungry,” I said peevishly and pushed the plate away. Maggie sat beside me.

“Oh, my dear, I am so sorry,” she said, gently stroking my hair. “Was it a bad night?” I thought for a moment, and then I told her everything that had happened, and in detail. She listened intently.

“Well,” she said at last, “that doesn’t seem like such a bad night at all. I think you did very well.”

“Then,” I protested, “why did he leave me?” She looked at me with such sympathy. It made my heart ache.

“Men,” she said. “That’s all the answer I have. Men.” I needed more, so she explained how men sometimes got what they wanted and then wanted no more. She told me that, when she first started enjoying Mr. Latham’s company, he spent one night with her, and then he vanished for a fortnight. No words, nothing. Then, he appeared again, wanting and willing.

“We’re called the weaker sex, the fair sex,” she said with a tinge of anger in her voice. “But it’s men who don’t know their arse from a hole in the ground.” This caught me off guard, and I laughed. She joined me.

“Eat something, miss,” she said to me. “The kind of night you had, it tends to take the strength out of you.” I ate while Maggie drew a hot bath for me. I relaxed in it, determined to forget about Mr. Martin. Yet, while in the bath, I thought of the night and my hands drifted down, beneath the water. It was pleasant, and I felt a slight roll through my body, but nothing compared to Mr. Martin’s skill. I dried and dressed and went downstairs. In the dining room, Uncle Nestor was sitting, having tea and talking with Maggie. I greeted him and sat down.

“I was just telling Ms. Climpsole here,” he said, “how I met Goodwin Martin this morning. He was riding by as I was out for my morning walk. I invited him to breakfast, and he accepted.”

“Mr. Martin,” I said. “You saw him this morning?”

“Indeed, I did,” Uncle Nestor said. “He is a very fine man, very wealthy, a dear friend of your poor late father. He told me the reason for his visit and he said that you extended the most remarkable hospitality to him last evening. I was very proud of you when he told me this. Very proud. And, I am sure your father and mother would be proud as well.”

He smiled, and I caught Maggie’s eye. I had to summon all my strength not to laugh aloud. I am sure Mother and Father would have been proud, but I seriously doubted that Uncle Nestor would have been pleased if he knew the full scope of my hospitality. Uncle Nestor stayed for about half an hour more, going on and on about the splendid Mr. Martin and the wise Mr. Martin. I was happy to hear that Mr. Martin was such a good and decent man, and yet it chipped away at my heart that he had chosen to stray from his course of goodness with me and leave so coldly.

Uncle Nestor finished his tea, and invited me on a ride to the city that I declined, saying I needed to look after some of the business statements before the monthly meeting. He smiled at me.

“Dear girl,” he said, placing a kindly hand on the side of my face, “I applaud you for the hard work you do, and I know your father is looking down with great joy. But you are young and a very lovely girl. I encourage you to find amusements, as well as work.” I assured him I would try. He kissed the top of my head. Then he stepped out the door but stopped and returned quickly.

“What a silly ninny I am,” he said, reaching into his coat and pulling out a folded piece of parchment. “Mr. Martin asked to borrow quill, parchment, and wax. He wanted to write you a thank you note. He told me he had to leave very early to make his appointments in London. He asked me to deliver it to you. Foolish man that I am, my head going in so many directions, I almost forgot.” He handed me the parchment, and I cracked the wax seal and opened it. Written in a stylish hand was this: “Get rest, drink water and be ready. I shall return in three days, and when I do, I believe that we have these items to discuss...”

There, written on the page was…a list.

“Is everything all right?” Uncle Nestor asked with slight alarm. “Your face seems to have flushed.”

“I am quite fine, dear Uncle,” I said. “Mr. Martin just writes so well, and so kindly, and he has written a list...” I looked to Maggie, and her eyes widened. “A lovely list of all my good qualities and the good qualities of my hospitality.” I folded the sheet.

“As I said,” Uncle Nestor grinned, “he is a good man, a fine man.” He stepped away and headed down the stairs to his carriage. He stopped and turned once more. “Perhaps,” he said, “if this suggestion is not out of line, you could set aside some time and find some amusement with Mr. Martin. He is a good man.”

“What a wonderful idea, dear Uncle. I can imagine an entire… list of things I could do for Mr. Martin.”

He smiled, very pleased with his suggestion. He waved goodbye and off he went. When he was out of sight, I rushed to Maggie, grabbed her up in a hug, and showed her the note.

“An entire list,” I said with much joy. We hugged, and laughed, and fell on the couch to read the list, again and again and again.

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