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The New Epicurean

The Delights of Sex (10)

Erotic novel (Conclusion: To Thalia)


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All the versions of this article:

Edward Sellon, The New Epicurean or The Delights of Sex, Facetiously and Philosophically Considered, in Graphic Letters Addressed to Young Ladies of Quality, London, 1740 [1865].


To Thalia

The following Monday was the day appointed for me to go to Richmond, but all the way, as I rode along, I felt a vague uneasiness about Cecilia which I could not account for. There was a feverish excitement of manner about her the last few days. She was absent and abstracted, gave incoherent answers, or none at all, and was altogether quite unlike herself. What could it mean? I asked myself again and again, but at length, weary of speculation, I put spurs to my horse and galloped on.

Arrived at Richmond, I put up my horse at the Star and Garter, and enquiring my way to the Rectory (as a blind) I strolled slowly on; by and by I came to the wood which Miss Medley had so carefully described to me, and following a particular path I soon arrived at the trysting place.

Imagine my surprise when, instead of my lovely friend, I found an old gypsy woman seated under the tree. On seeing me, she rose, and dropping me a curtsey handed me a little three−cornered and scented billet. I tore it open, and read these words:

I have not been sufficiently careful with my linen; some stains have been seen and my aunt will not let me go out alone—I am in despair.

I put half−a−crown into the old woman’s hand and turned on my heel. She stopped me.

’What, your honour, are you going away without an effort? Consider, sir, the young lady is over head and ears in love with you; leave the matter to me, and I will arrange it.’

’Say you so, my good woman,’ said I, ’in that case I will pay you well. You know who I am, I suppose?’

’Of course I do, your honour, all our tribe know you well, Sir Charles, for have you ever turned us off your land; have you ever taken us before the beak when we robbed your poultry yard; do you not let us sleep in your barns; and did you not send us camp blankets and provisions last winter? Oh, we know you very well, and a right noble gentleman you are. A little given to the girls, perhaps, like other fine gentlemen, but what of that? Now look you, Sir Charles, we gypsies have a mysterious way of finding out things—take a friendly hint, don’t return the same way you came, go the other road, or blood may come of it.’

So saying, and before I could prevent her, she dived into the wood and disappeared.

The plot thickened and I began to feel now really uncomfortable, but you know cowardice was never one of my faults; besides, I had my sword, not the toy called by that name which one wears on gala occasions but a plain, strong, serviceable weapon which had served me well in several duels; I therefore rode on the way I came, regardless of the gypsy’s caution.

As I rode along the road which traverses the wood skirting my demesne, I observed a coach with imperial and portmanteaus strapped upon it, drawn up as if for concealment off the road and almost hidden amongst the trees. The coachman lay stretched on the grass while the horses grazed as they stood.

Taking no further notice of this travelling equipage I rode into the wood and, tying my horse to a tree, wandered about in different directions. At length, about fifty yards from me in a small open glade, I could perceive through the trees a lady and gentleman in amorous dalliance. I approached stealthily without being seen and ensconced myself in a copse, where I had full view of all that passed, though I could not hear what was said.

On the grass lay a tall handsome dark man, who I at once recognised as Lady Cecilia’s cousin, Lord William B, and lying upon the young man was her ladyship herself, her clothes thrown up, displaying all her hinder beauties which Lord B was playfully slapping as she bounded up and down upon him.

They were evidently very much pleased with each other, and the rapturous kisses, the ’oh!’ and ’ahs!’ were the only sounds that reached me. After some time they reversed the position, he kneeling up behind her and she wriggling and bounding in the most ecstatic delight.

At length, their climax came. She turned round and throwing her arms round her lover’s neck, sank down with him quite exhausted.

In an age when the spirit of amorous intrigue pervades the court, it was not to be expected that a person of quality like Lady Cecilia would be very rigid, more especially as Lord William B was an old flame of hers.

And remembering my own infidelities towards her I should never have taken umbrage at any she might have indulged in, had they been carried on openly as mine were. But this clandestine meeting when she thought I was gone out for the day disturbed me.

I was anxious to gather from their conversation what was the meaning of it. So soon, therefore, as they had finished their first delights and were seated lovingly side by side on the grass, I crept up through the gorse and underwood till I found myself about a yard from them. Here, motionless as a statue, my hand on my sword, I listened.

’I was saying,’ said Lord William, ’that this man must be a thorough old beast, a goat, a satyr, my dear coz, who ought never to have had you. The things you have told me, and pardie, I am no saint, really quite make my hair stand on end. Intrigue is one thing, damme, but to debauch children, fie, fie—’

’Perhaps,’ cried Cecilia, laughing, ’he would say, could he hear you, that to amuse oneself with little children who are nobody’s property is one thing, but to debauch another man’s wife is another. Damme, fie, fie−’

Lord William laughed but bit his lip, annoyed at the repartee.

’In fine, my dear William,’ said Cecilia, ’it is so much easier to see the wickedness of other people’s actions than that of our own. I’ll venture to assert that if every man now living got his deserts, there would be few would escape. Let fanatics abuse their fellow creatures, condemning them wholesale to hell—human nature, depend upon it, is the same everywhere, whether under a parson’s cassock or a soldier’s scarlet coat.’

’Granted, my little philosopher,’ laughed her cousin, ’but did you not tell me that you regarded your husband with abhorrence and detestation?’

’Oh, doubtless, doubtless! Yes, he is detestable; a horrid, debauched old scoundrel, no question; but that is no reason you, who have just made him a cuckold, should add insult to injury by calling him names. How do you know that he is not nearer than we think and might suddenly —’

’Appear!’ I hoarsely exclaimed, springing into the open space where they were seated, sword in hand. ’To your feet, my lord; draw and defend yourself. The intrigue I could have pardoned, for it is the custom of the age in which we live, but the abuse is too insulting, and on your part, my lady, too cruel; but enough of words. Guard!’

I placed myself in fencing attitude. Lord William (who was an antagonist not to be despised, being one of the first swordsmen of the day) raised his sword to his head en salute; then gracefully he threw himself into the second position and our blades crossed with a clashing sound that elicited a little shriek from Lady Cecilia, who sank, half fainting, on the greensward.

The duel lasted some time; we were combatants worthy of each other. Carte and tierce, volte and demi volte, all the finesse of fencing was tried by each for some time in vain.

At length I pricked him in the sword arm and his cambric sleeve was crimsoned in an instant. The wound only roused his anger; he lost his coolness and did not keep himself so well covered; lunging then under his tierce guard, I should certainly have despatched him had not the traitress, Lady Cecilia, at that instant struck up my arm with Lord William’s cane; at the same moment his sword passed through my body. I fell back like a dead man, without sense or motion.

When I again opened my eyes, they rested on various familiar objects; I was in my private chamber. At the foot of the bed was seated Phoebe, her eyes red with weeping. I tried to speak, but she put her finger to her lip and, approaching, said, ’Pray don’t try yet, Sir Charles.’

’What has happened?’ I faintly exclaimed.

’Not now, not now,’ whispered Phoebe; ’you shall know all about it another time. You have been light−headed and very ill, and for three days that kind young surgeon who scarcely ever left your side despaired of your life; but if you will only keep quiet, dear Sir Charles, all may yet be well.’

She put a cooling drink to my lips and, shading the light, moved further off. I found myself from loss of blood to be weak as a baby and, closing my eyes, was soon again unconscious. In another week I was a little better, to the great delight of the poor doctor (to whom I had certainly shown many acts of kindness, never expecting such a faithful and grateful return for it). He told me that the right lung had been pierced and that the haemorrhage had at first been so great that he despaired of staunching it; but that quiet, the excellent nursing of old Jukes, Phoebe and Chloe, who had sat up with me in turns, and an iron constitution had combined to save me. He said not a word of himself or his own skill, so that when, about a month afterwards, being convalescent, I presented him with a cheque for one hundred guineas, he regarded me with astonishment, declaring that ten was all he deserved; but I would not be gainsaid and sent him away rejoicing.

Feeling myself now well enough to hear Phoebe’s recital, and kissing her and Chloe and even poor old Jukes with much ardour as I thanked them for their tender care of me, I made the two former seat themselves at my feet, while Daphnis placed a pillow at my back and handed me a glass of lemonade.

’It is little I have to tell you, Sir Charles,’ began Phoebe, ’but I will endeavour to be as clear as possible. Soon after your departure for Richmond, her ladyship went out alone on foot. As we had no orders to watch my lady, I would not permit Jack to do so, and we saw her no more. About five in the afternoon Jack was rambling about in the woods outside the walls when suddenly he came upon the spot where, to his great horror, you lay weltering in your blood.

’There was blood on the turf all about, which was much trampled down. You lay on your back, pale as death. Near you he picked up a fan, a ribbon and a lady’s glove. Returning to the dairy at speed he at once told us what had happened, directed us to bring your body in quietly and make up a bed in this room while he galloped off for the doctor.’

’My dear boy,’ said I, extending him my hand, ’your presence of mind and decision in all probability saved my life. I thank you, and will remember it. Go on, Phoebe.’

’Well, sir, we did just as he bid us, and the doctor came; you know the rest.’

’And Lady Cecilia?’ I exclaimed.

’Oh,’ said Phoebe, ’Jack must tell you all about her ladyship, for as soon as he had heard what the doctor had to say and saw you in good hands, he brought your horse, which you had left tied to a tree, into the yard, put a pair of loaded pistols into the holsters, buckled on your short sword and rode away.’

’Do you, then, continue the narrative, Daphnis,’ said I.

The boy hesitated a moment, and then began.

’You will readily understand, Sir Charles, that being quick of apprehension, seeing you lying there with your drawn sword still in your hand, a glove, a ribbon, a fan and the prints of strange footmarks, and those, too, from shoes not such as are generally worn by the vulgar or by highwaymen, I rapidly came to the conclusion that my lady had met a gallant in the wood, that you had surprised them, and that the duel was the consequence.

Then I followed the footprints in the moist mossy turf, which showed clear owing to the recent rains, until they nearly reached the road; here the marks of wheels appeared: a coach−and−four had been driven off the road and into the wood, had stopped where the footprints ended and then, skirting the wood, had debouched on the road. Putting spurs to your horse’s flanks, I galloped on. At the next town I heard news of the fugitives; twelve miles further on they had changed horses; at the next six miles they had supped. It was now quite dark, but still I galloped on; soon however I lost them; there were three roads in diverse directions and no one could give me a clue as to the one they had taken. Horse and self being now quite worn out, I stopped at the nearest inn and retired to rest. The next morning I made the best of my way to Hastings. Here I learnt that a lady and gentleman answering their description had sailed for France five hours before.’

I thanked Daphnis for his zeal, but assured him he had taken a great deal of unnecessary trouble.

I will now conclude this long story by telling you I subsequently heard that Lord William had quarrelled with a Frenchman at a public gaming table, blows had ensued which resulted in a duel and the Frenchman had left his lordship stark dead on the field.

As for Lady Cecilia, broken−hearted at the loss of her cousin and lover, she entered a convent of Benedictine nuns and has lately taken the black veil.

But it is time to put an end to this long letter, so, adieu!

CONCLUSION

To Thalia

You ask me, dear friend, where I have been hiding myself the last fifteen years. Alas! we are both that much older since we last corresponded. I was, however, about to indite a letter to you, having heard from Jack Bellsize that you had just returned from India with your husband, the General.

You duly received my communication of the affair with Lord William B, you tell me, and wrote a long letter in reply, but I never got it.

After these unfortunate events I took a disgust to my villa at Twickenham, which I sold for a good price to Sir Bulkeley H, and retreated, with Phoebe, Chloe, Daphnis and old Jukes, to my Herefordshire estate, where I have resided ever since.

As for Miss Medley, having heard from the gypsy of my intended departure she decamped one night from her aunt’s and joined us. She remained with me about five years but when an opportunity arose for her to make an advantageous marriage with a young farmer, I persuaded her to have him and stocked their farm for them.

To Mrs. J, I presented the house in which she lived, fairing an affectionate farewell of that excellent lady. Augusta and Agnes I suitably provided for, and also found husbands for Miss Marshall and Miss Jennings, giving to each a dowry.

Poor old Jukes died five years since, come Michaelmas. Daphnis I started in life with an ensign’s commission in a marching regiment when he was about eighteen; poor lad, he fell gloriously while leading his men in the forlorn hope of storming some place in the Low Countries (not Cunnyland), such are the fortunes of war; and a more gallant youth never campaigned in the fields of Venus or Mars.

Phoebe, now a fine buxom woman of thirty−five, retains all her good looks and much of her freshness. She is sweet tempered and affectionate as ever.

Chloe has grown up a lovely creature and is now twenty−eight.

Having ’lived every day of my life’, as the saying is, you will readily suppose that I cannot perform the feats of Venus I once indulged in, but two or three blooming little girls who pass for the sisters and cousins of Phoebe and Chloe serve to amuse me by their playfulness, and, tumbling about showing their beauties, sometimes stir my sluggish blood into a thrill.

Occasionally I am able to remind Phoebe and Chloe of my old vigour and have a fucktious romp, but. . . ’From fifty to four−score, once a week and no more.’

They each have a strapping young fellow as a lover, and my consideration in this regard, so far from alienating them, only makes them more amiable and compliant to my wishes.

By my neighbours these dear girls and old friends are regarded as favourite domestics merely, a discreet old woman, the cook, who supplied old Jukes’ place, lending propriety. So I am no longer a rake. The rector of the parish is my very good friend. My faithful surgeon lives in the house, being still a bachelor. So, with the extra aid of two neighbouring squires, we have our bowl of punch and a rubber. This quiet life suits me admirably, and I have forever bid adieu to the gay world and the pleasures of the town, passing much of my time in reading those philosophical writers who are just now making such an impression on the public mind. And now, dear friend, having given you all the news, I would fain express a hope that you will some day find your way into this remote region, but if the fates decree otherwise, then accept my farewell. Vale! Vale! Longum Vale!



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