Miss Martin

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Humor  |  House: Naked and Funny

The delights of artistic posing

It may be thought that a lady possessed of an independent fortune errs in maintaining her own household and not placing herself under the protection of either some near male relation, or, failing the existence of such, obtaining for herself the guardianship of a husband; for it is an undoubted truth that such a lady, be she ever so plain, will not want for male admirers.

 

Miss Martin was however, neither plain nor desirous of male tutelage; released at last from the dutiful care of an ailing father by the timely demise of such, she found herself free in the world and possessed of a fortune, which carefully placed in the three percents, yielded an income to her of close on six hundred a year.

 

Her long period of suffering at the hands of her intemperate parent had left her desirous of leading a life of independence, and with that in mind she betook herself into the county of Barsetshire and the small village of Denbury where she leased a villa of modest proportions, for be her fortune ever so great her desire for thrift was greater, and set up house with a household of cook-housekeeper - of almost unimpeachable character - and her niece Mary - a girl of sixteen years and quite unimpeachable character.

 

Mary was the daughter of Miss Martin's foster brother Septimus the adopted child of her own mother who had departed this world shortly after the arrival of Miss Martin therein. Septimus, being but the step-son of her father, had been sent to school in Yorkshire, married young and died young along with his young wife in the Wapping train crash of '55.

 

Mary had therefore been dependent in this world upon her step-grandfather who had, with much reticence it must be owned, placed her in Miss Marryat's School for the Daughters of Gentlefolk, a strict, if respectable, girls boarding school. She, having now reached the age at which girls look to marriage, had been taken out of school to be introduced into society in Denbury. She was a good girl, obedient, comely (if inclined slightly to an excess of adiposity) but imbued with only a modest degree of learning, being proficient only in French, Latin, Greek and Italian and having progressed no further in the sciences than the mastery of Euclid and a knowledge of the calculus (differential and integral). Her accomplishments were also limited for although she had mastered the pianoforte and the violoncello her watercolours had been rated by Miss Marryat as no higher than 'accomplished'. 

 

She was of slightly less than medium height with a round face, a nose of the variety known in those circles in which such things are spoken of as retrousse, deep brown eyes and an abundance of tight brown curls which she wore somewhat incongruously 'a l'anglaise'.

 

Miss Martin had at this juncture still not attained her thirtieth year and yet maintained both a maidenly form which was much admired, and a face of such notability that even were she not a lady of fortune, despite her advancing years, she would not have lacked for suitors. 

 

She was an upright beauty of above average stature, athletic build and somewhat aquiline features; her violet blue eyes were quite startling and toned to perfection with her chestnut tresses which she wore up at all times.

 

There are those readers of this tale who will look askance at the behaviour of Miss Martin at this period of her life; seeing evidence of a sinful soul in her desire both to attend balls and dance - although far past the age at which such youthful pursuits are acceptable - and eschew the card table for what some might consider a flirtatiousness more becoming a girl of eighteen summers.

 

However she must be forgiven this weakness, for who among us has not succumbed to the petty temptations of life; and it must be remembered that Miss Martin, at that time in her life when youthful flirtatiousness would have been considered appropriate, had been yoked under the thrall of that intemperate parent. 

 

Whether the gentle reader will equally forgive the other peccadilloes in which she indulged, and which are to be described in this tale, only time will tell.

 

For be it understood that Miss Martin had, as many ladies do, a secret vice, a species of compulsion, which perhaps she ought, by dint of prayer and supplication to have suppressed; however she did not and this was to lead her onto paths, broad and primrose strewn, down which ladies of society should not, if they wish to maintain their place in that society, venture.

 

This vice, she owned even to herself, she had had since the age of sixteen. At that time her father had kept a large household in Grosvenor Square in London, and Amelia, as she had then been known, had been placed under the tutelage of a governess of the name of Spriggs. Sadly Spriggs had been overly attracted to the consumption of that alcoholic beverage known to the inhabitants of London as Old Tom, a species of gin of unparalleled potency which rendered her insensible most evenings before the hour of six.

 

Amelia, even at her tender age, had thus been forced to learn to bathe and dress herself, a task which she accomplished with a fair degree of efficiency for one so young. Her father having not yet espoused the fashion for plumbing, it was necessary that she bathe with the use of a zinc bathing tub which was brought into her chamber and filled with water heated on the kitchen range. This task should perforce have been one allotted to the unfortunate Spriggs, but this worthy being always too far gone to accomplish it Amelia had called upon the services of James the underfootman, a handy if somewhat slow witted youth of seventeen years. 

 

Bathing herself, resourceful girl, thus, upon the occasion of her eighteenth birthday - a task which she carried out punctiliously every month - the unfortunate Amelia had been surprised by James in the act of applying Pear's Patented Soap to her nether regions. James, forgetful of the fact that he had already completed the filling of the bath tub, had brought up yet another pitcher of water from the range.

 

Amelia, thus surprised - like Diana taking her ablutions - in a state of nature, knew that she ought, like Diana, to cast the unfortunate James to the ravishing hounds; but somehow the experience of being thus observed imparted to her receptive body a feeling more akin to pleasure than anger, and she bade James empty the pitcher into the tub, and was even so far emboldened as to request that he bring yet another to refresh the warmth of the water.

 

So much did this exercise please Amelia that she henceforth instituted these refreshments of her bathing water as a regular occurrence each time she bathed; a process which continued for several weeks during which time, being a girl of exceptionally cleanly habits, she bathed no fewer than six times.

 

I fear that you, gentle reader, will already have attributed to Amelia motives for these displays of her naked form which were not entirely pure; and I fear that in this attribution you will not be entirely mistaken for she had discovered that being thus viewed in a state of nature aroused in her feelings which she had not hitherto experienced; feelings which led her to indulgence in that vice to which young persons are so often tempted and can so rarely resist.

 

In this however I must beg my readers indulgence on behalf of the poor girl, for such had been the lack of the education she had received on such subjects that she did not realise that an act which gave so much pleasure was one which was forbidden by the strict morals of our puritan society.

 

Indeed such a slave had she become to this vice that she was tempted to indulge in it even as James, with some care, and no little enjoyment, entered her chamber bearing his pitcher of water.

 

It was however a situation which could not continue long without discovery, for from time to time the wretched Spriggs made efforts to overcome her reliance upon the calming effects of Old Tom and betook herself to Amelia's chamber with the intention of seeing to the welfare of that young lady.

 

So it was that one September evening as Amelia stood in her bath unclothed before James indulging in that very act which is so abhorrent to the likes of Spriggs when that unworthy lady entered the room. The result of this discovery was that James was indeed thrown to the ravishing hounds, figuratively if not physically; and, Spriggs having fetched her punishment strap, Amelia received a chastisement upon her bare posterior condign to the wickedness of her behaviour; for as is known to all governesses, condign chastisement of the bare posterior is the only way to discourage such behaviour in young girls who might otherwise fall into ways of wickedness and impurity.

 

I fear however that this chastisement, repeated though it often was during the rule of the governess, failed to achieve its worthy aim; for at the time of our current tale Miss Martin was still wont to regularly indulge, though it must be said that in deference to the opinion of public morality such behaviour she limited to once a week upon a Wednesday evening. Such however was the guilt which Spriggs had induced in her with regard to this indulgence, that she invariably felt the need for chastisement that equalled, if not exceeded, that which in former times had been administered by her governess. Of course it being impossible that a lady of such mature years be so chastised, in order to achieve this aim she enlisted the services of her niece Mary, she of the quite unimpeachable character, to act in the role of proxy. 

 

The young girl, who had been brought up an orphan in a secluded institution, understanding this to be a normal duty of a niece, obliged Miss Martin by permitting the chastisement of her posterior; for which girl, if given the opportunity, would not relish the opportunity to oblige her aunt to whom she was beholden, by allowing a glow to be imparted to the her lower cheeks.

 

All of this, it is needless to say, passed unknown to the fashionable circles of Denbury; the most fashionable of which was, as is invariably the case in a small market town, led by the wife of the rector, the redoubtable Mrs Twinge. Though it must be said that although the details were unknown the result did not pass unremarked for Mrs Twinge had been heard to comment to her diminutive confidante Miss Dimmock that it was strange that the niece of the newly arrived Miss Martin always politely turned down the offer to be seated on a Thursday morning.

 

Mrs Twinge, it must be noted, ruled the roost in Denbury, not so much on account of the position of her husband, who was indeed ruled equally as vigorously as the roost, as on account of her indomitable will. Miss Martin however was possessed of no little will of her own and was a fair match for the rector's wife, and all would, undoubtedly, have passed quite merrily for many months had it not been for the arrival in the county town of Barchester of the Honourable Oswald Pointdexter. 

 

Oswald Pointdexter was, in point of fact, a representative of that unfortunate class of scions of the lesser nobility, the younger son. The laws and customs of England being such that all land, wealth and property appertaining to the title pass ineluctably to the first born male, the younger son is, by force of circumstance, thrown upon his own resources by way of making a mark in the world. 

 

In doing so the social conventions of the age do not permit to him any taint of what is termed 'trade'; the younger son who would set himself up as purveyor of meat, fish or fruit is forever cast into the outer pit of the infernal regions never to be mentioned again. Until recent times indeed the only professions considered suitable were the army, the navy and the church. 

 

Oswald Pointdexter considered the former too exciting and the latter too dull and would have been in a quandary indeed had it not been for a remarkable change in the attitude of polite society towards the arts. It had long been held a gentlemanly pursuit to indulge in poetry and painting, but only as a dabbling amateur; however the success of such notables as Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema and Sir Frederick Leighton had rendered the profession of professional artist as one acceptable within polite society.

 

Oswald Pointdexter therefore determined upon a career as an artist; much it must be said to the dismay of his father who considered the displays of naked classical beauties by the aforementioned academicians to be 'overstimulating'.

 

However Oswald's artistic career was not as illustrious as he had hoped owing to the unfortunate fact that he was totally incapable of painting anything; but his endeavours were saved by the sudden and entirely unexpected rise of photography as an art form, for though an imbecile with the brush Oswald proved a master of the lens and an expert in the developing laboratory.

 

A living, if not a fortune, was to be made as a society photographer and as such Oswald established himself in a studio in his native Barchester and awaited the flood of clients which would impress his pecuniary father and bring him longed for independence. However perhaps it was that the ladies of Barchester, for it was normally ladies who were desirous of having their portrait taken, were not so artistically minded as those in the capital, for business was indeed exceedingly slow.

 

At the time when Oswald was awaiting the call of his next client Mrs Twinge was hosting a garden party in the riparian grounds of the rectory.

 

"Do take a seat Miss Martin, and your niece also" she said unctuously, for she still needed to win this lady into the Twingeyan camp as regards the social circles of Denbury.

 

"She would prefer to stand," answered Miss Martin, for this was Thursday and she had gone at it with a will so that under her muslin skirt Mary's lower cheeks still glowed brightly.

 

"Indeed," stated Mrs Twinge, one eyebrow raised, searching for a suitable subject for conversation, "Had you heard that the Honourable Oswald Pointdexter has had the gall to establish himself as a portrait photographer in Barchester. Do you not feel, Miss Martin, that portrait photography is not the ultimate expression of the sin of pride?"

 

Miss Martin gasped, for a thought of the most outrageous proportions had just entered her mind. To understand the reasons for this thought we must perhaps take ourselves back to the previous evening and the reasons why Miss Martin had been so particularly severe upon Mary's unprotected lower cheeks.

 

Miss Martin had discovered among the possessions inherited from her late father, a book of prints, produced with great clarity by use of the four colour gravure system, illustrating the pictures of those great aforementioned artists Sir Frederick Leighton and Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema. Those among my readers not familiar with the works of these renowns may wish to study their works, for they will find within them the depiction of the female form in its classical perfection and a state of nature.

 

Miss Martin had looked with some astonishment at such blatant naked pulchritude and had immediately felt within herself an urge to copy the poses that she had seen therein depicted.

 

One in particular had caught her eye; Frederick Leighton's portrayal of The Bath of Psyche seemed to her to be the ultimate expression of the beauty of the female form which she wished to emulate. The portrait depicts a young lady dressed in nought but a flimsy chiffon veil standing side on in contrapposto, one arm raised above her head; the veil has drifted aside so that her naked form is revealed to the viewer.

 

Nothing would deter Miss Martin from the attempt to emulate this pose, and she had taken herself straightway to the Misses Golightly, dressmakers and milliners, to purchase three yards of chiffon.

 

That evening, it being the night before the riparian garden party, Miss Martin had stood before the full length glass in her chamber and practised this pose with such success, and with such effect upon her female sensibility that her efforts at self-satisfaction that evening had met with a success hitherto unachievable - a success which had been so ecstatic that on her regaining her normal composure she had sent for Mary, who on adopting the customary posture, had been informed that the part of her anatomy so presented was not to be spared. So, late in the day though it was at the garden party, her lower cheeks still glowed brightly. 

 

However the recall of the activities of the previous evening served only to remind Miss Martin of the overwhelmingly magnificent experience that the sight of her pose as Psyche, reflected in the glass, had induced in her. She yearned, in a way in which she had never yearned for anything before, to capture that pose for immortality. To have herself painted as such, even by an artist far less esteemed than Sir Frederick Leighton, was a goal beyond even her abundant means; but photography, could, given only the courage to storm the citadel, be the way to achieving the end that she so desired.

 

She determined there and then that nothing and no-one would gainsay her; and excusing herself in the most profuse terms to Mrs Twinge as having been struck down with the megrims, she returned to her villa in order to compose a letter to the Honourable Oswald. 

 

The letter so composed requested a private interview to discuss a portrait of a personal nature, and this she handed to the postman at half four o'clock in the afternoon, receiving a reply that evening that the Honourable Oswald Pointdexter would wait upon her at her villa the following morning at eleven.

 

Miss Martin thought long and hard upon the nature of the conversation she was to have with the photographic gentleman, for she wished to appear neither too forward nor too reticent; for the former might frighten him away from such a delicate commission and the latter might lead him into liberties that would not be acceptable.

 

At last her strategy decided she awaited his arrival in the fly from Barchester, for owing to the recalcitrance of Oswald's father, who owned the principal part of the lands thereabout, the railways had not yet encroached into that part of the county.

 

Prompt at eleven a tall, handsome and moustachioed gentleman was shown into her drawing room by Mary, who, on a signal from her aunt withdrew, only to remain in the hallway with her ear pressed hard against the door.

 

Within the drawing room Miss Martin commenced her campaign.

 

"I wish," she said, "to have my portrait taken, and I have been directed to your good self as the appropriate person to assist me in this matter."

 

"Indeed," replied Oswald, "You have been most correctly advised."

 

"However," continued our heroine, "this is to be a portrait which is not of the usual kind..."

 

Oswald raised an eyebrow.

 

"...for I wish to be dressed in a specific costume."

 

Oswald sighed, for he was well used to requests from ladies of leisure to be depicted as shepherdesses or milkmaids, although he knew full well that such ladies would run a mile to avoid contact with a sheep or a cow. He smiled politely however, "An excellent notion," he said, "...in what costume would you care to be depicted."

 

"In this," replied Miss Martin, drawing forth her chiffon veil.

 

Oswald was puzzled, "A fine garment," he replied, "but where is the rest of the costume."

 

"There is no rest," said Miss Martin, "I wish to pose as in this painting," and she showed him the print of The Bath of Psyche.

 

The Honourable Oswald Pointdexter sat with his mouth agape. Being an unmarried Englishman of twenty-eight years, and one furthermore who had never been to Paris, he had of course never had the pleasure of actually being in the presence of a lady dressed in a state of nature. He knew of course the appearance of the naked female form for he had attempted a course of instruction in art at The Academy, but the year he had spent before his inevitable discovery as one lacking in all talent had been spent in drawing from the classical statues to be found in the British Museum; and it is a truth to be acknowledged that a naked lady in stone is a poor substitute for the real thing.

 

"Would that be quite proper?" He gasped at last.

 

Miss Martin allowed a slight frown to pass across her brow, "Surely this painting is by Sir Frederick Leighton Bart.," she expostulated, "Are you suggesting that a baronet, one who has been honoured by the queen herself, would produce a painting that is not 'quite proper'?"

 

Oswald could think of no response to that.

 

"No..." He stammered eventually.

 

"Then it is settled," said Miss Martin, and Oswald returned to Barchester in the fly, with a bemused expression on his face, and an appointment in his diary for ten o'clock Monday morning when he was start a new career as a photographer of nude ladies.

 

That evening, though it was but Friday, such was the excitement engendered by the prospect of her portraiture that Miss Martin was unable to resist another evening of indulgence and poor Mary had to endure a whole weekend of attending functions while unable to sit down.

 

Come Monday Miss Martin had ordered the fly and was about to embark upon her journey into Barset when she was approached by her niece.

 

“Surely Aunt, you do not intend to embark upon this venture on your own,” enquired the young lady.

 

“And pray, what business is it of yours?” replied Miss Martin.

 

“Dear Aunt, be it known that I am fully privy as to your intentions with regard to your appointment this morning, for I could not but overhear the conversation between yourself and Mr Pointdexter.”

 

“You mean dear niece that you had your ear affixed to the door,” replied her aunt.

 

“Be that as it may, surely you cannot proceed with this enterprise without a chaperone.”

 

Miss Martin was somewhat taken aback by the astuteness of this observation in one so young, for she had indeed not considered the impropriety of having her portrait taken without another female being present. She therefore decided to postpone the chastisement of her niece, necessary on account of her eavesdropping, until that evening and bade her accompany her in the fly for the visit to Barchester.

 

Oswald meanwhile was in that state of nervous trepidation which is often the lot of the young man thought to be experienced in the ways of the world, but who knows himself to be no such thing.

 

He had, it is true, enjoyed certain evenings in the company of comely young ladies, but the morals of the age insisting that on such occasions all intercourse should take place in the presence of an elderly duenna he cannot be said to have known much of the ways of womankind either in mind or in body.

 

He determined therefore that the best course of action would be to treat the whole affair as a matter of professional business and to make no comment upon the unusual state of dress of the lady concerned.

 

It must be owned that Miss Martin was, despite her former determination, upon the point of abandoning the whole project such was the extent of the apprehension that she felt at the prospect of suddenly appearing unclothed in front of a man who was almost a perfect stranger. 

 

"I fear," she said addressing Mary who sat beside her in the fly, "that we must return to Denbury for I fear a return of the megrims."

 

"Nonsense Aunt," replied the astute young lady, who had recognised that the so called 'megrims' were no more than an affliction of the spirits brought about by a state of excessive nervousness, "tis but a photographic portrait after all, and Mr Pointdexter is a man of much renown in regard to his professional accomplishments. To be sure if you lose heart now it will be a matter of much regret to you in the future."

 

Miss Martin felt herself embolded by these reflections and purposed that she should indeed fulfil the promise that she had made to herself.

 

Oswald Pointdexter meanwhile had decided in his own mind that this must be some cruel trick played by a mischievous woman upon his innocent sensibilities. The suggestion that she would actually proceed with such an adventure appeared increasingly ridiculous as the weekend progressed. By Monday morning he had therefore absolutely convinced himself that he would hear no more of this ludicrous escapade. Imagine his surprise then, when a carriage containing not only Miss Martin, complete with chiffon scarf, but a comely young (and pleasingly plump) wench who could not have surpassed more than sixteen years.

 

"May I introduce to you my niece Mary," announced Miss Martin, "who has an important part to play in the proceedings of this morning."

 

"Miss Mary," said Oswald, bowing slightly from the waist.

 

"Mr Pointdexter," said Mary, holding out her gloved hand to be kissed. Oswald Pointdexter obliged.

 

"Perhaps there is somewhere where I could change into my costume," Miss Martin, still afflicted with an unaccustomed apprehension, wished now for nothing more than to proceed with the session.

 

"Certainly," gabbled Oswald, somewhat uncertainly in fact, as he had indeed not thought to make any such provision, "you may use this room.". On the spur of the moment he had thought of using his dark room for the purpose.

 

"Come Mary," Miss Martin grabbed her niece by the hand and pulled her into the dark room, her former courage at the audacity of her proposal evaporating even as the morning mist upon a hot summers day.

 

She looked at Mary.

 

"I believe dear," she said, "that my courage deserts me."

 

"Pshaw!" Said Mary, utilizing the expression of disdain only ever used by young ladies in the poorer quality of Victorian novel, "tis but a photograph Aunt Amelia. I would have little hesitation in posing thus myself."

 

A look of intense relief passed over Miss Martin's face, here was the ideal solution, the pose could be captured for immortality, but with Mary as the model and not herself. The innocent girl would make an ideal, if slightly plump, model for Psyche.

 

"You would not mind your portrait being thus taken?"

 

"Certainly Aunt. I would like it above all else," it seemed the best way to allay the fears of the relative to whom she owed so much.

 

"Then it shall be done."

 

"Do you really mean that Aunt?"

 

"Of course dear. I should treasure such a picture above all else. It would be the greatest favour a penniless orphan could bestow upon a munificent distant relative to show her appreciation of all that had been done for her!"

 

"Then I am ready Aunt!"

 

"Excellent. Then you may change into your costume my dear."

 

"And where is this costume to be found Aunt."

 

"Why here my dear," and Miss Martin indicated the flimsy chiffon scarf.

 

"It is indeed a beautiful piece of material Aunt, but where may I discover the rest of my costume."

 

"Why this is the entirety of your costume my dear, you are to be otherwise quite in a state of nature."

 

At this point, and only at this point, did the scales fall from the eyes of poor Mary; for when she had avowed to her Aunt that she was cognisant of her intentions she had not indeed been entirely accurate, for it had appeared to her that her aunt was to have been photographed in the guise of of shepherdess or milkmaid. She had indeed wondered why such an appearance had induced such a state of nervous tension in her Aunt, but had ascribed this merely to the fear that elderly persons of thirty years of age have for the newly fangled.

 

She was now however in a quandary, for she had positively affirmed that she had no objection to such a photographic study; she was indeed beholden to her aunt and to disappoint her in this would have displayed an unwonted lack of regard for her charity. She realised she had no option but to proceed, and that with a willing disposition. 

 

A just punishment you may feel dear reader, for one who listens to private conversations through closed doors, to be forced to pose in order to have your portrait taken in a state of nature, and so poor Mary felt it, for though she had dutifully presented her bare posterior for the just chastisement of her aunt, this was altogether a fish kettle of a different type entirely.

 

With a flush on her cheek and a quickening of her pulse she dutifully removed her muslin dress and stood in her corset in the dark room, for in the common custom of the time she eschewed other undergarments. With deft fingers Miss Martin loosened the corset and allowed it to fall to the floor so that Mary stood completely unclothed before her.

 

"Your costume dear," pronounced Miss Martin and handed her the chiffon veil. With a nervousness approaching that experienced by the condemned Mary stepped through the door, for some strange reason a peculiar sensation had passed through her body, it had started as a warm flush in the face, passed as a feeling of heat through her bosoms and ended as a species of tingle in that part of her anatomy the purpose of which was entirely unknown to her, and as it passed it left an series of effects which came to the innocent girl as a surprise of a totally unexpected sort; for she noted that her two nipples stood out upon her bosoms as hard and as firm as the walnuts which she had often cracked at Christmastide, so firm indeed that she felt an intense desire to rub them; and even more surprising she noted a strange dampness accompanying the tingle between her legs and gasped with a concerned apprehension that she may have inadvertantly gone (as Miss Marryat would have delicately put it) while not seated upon the appropriate receptacle.

 

Her appearance in the studio caused a gasp of surprise to emanate from the lips of Oswald, for he had not expected that it would be the young lady who appeared so scantily attired; this gasp was rapidly succeeded by a second gasp for as he had only previously seen ladies tightly corseted, he had not expected that their bosoms be of such a prodigious size - it must be owned here that Mary was endowed as regard her bosoms to a degree rarely seen in ladies of quality; but this second gasp, great though it was, was followed by a third which it outdid to a degree which was almost unmeasurable. For, dear reader, you will recollect that the sole experience of the naked female form hitherto vouchsafed to Oswald was that of the classical statues in the British Museum; such statues not depicting the hirsute nature of the female pudendum he had no idea that ladies were so endowed; and Mary, it must be admitted was particularly well blessed in this respect, her lower thatch, even if not curled a l'anglaise, matched in density and lustre, if not in abundance, those flowing down to her shoulders. 

 

Oswald attempted to regain his composure by the paying of one of those little compliments by which men of society essay to endear themselves to the weaker sex.

 

"How lovely you are looking," he pronounced to the startled Mary, "I fear I had not seen enough of you until today.". At which point he pulled up sharply having determined that such a remark my possibly have been misinterpreted. The remark was indeed misinterpreted, and Mary who had heretofore attempted to make little of her unclothed state gave a slight shriek and immediately tried to cover those parts of her anatomy which she considered the most embarrassing to display; which, as this consisted of virtually everything below her neck and above her ankles, was a task which proved excessively difficult to accomplish.

 

It was left to Miss Martin to attempt to rescue the situation and her niece by providing her with the wherewithal to effect such a coverage, that is to say the three yards of chiffon which she wrapped once around Mary's bosoms and then passed between her lower appendages. Mary thanked her profusely and thereafter was able to continue the session in blissful ignorance of the fact that both her walnuts and her curls were clearly visible through the transparent material.

 

Miss Martin looked upon the apparition before her with some satisfaction; it must be said that she had not hitherto believed herself to be an acolyte of the delights of Sappho, but the appearance before her of her young charge as she was posed on a sort of plinth or podium in the centre of the studio, hip in contrapposto to accentuate the curve of her lower cheeks, arm above her head in a pose which thrust forwards her ample bosoms, her luscious curls falling like a shower over her bare shoulders, she felt a sudden desire to... To what? To tip the velvet perhaps? She suddenly realised that those so temptingly displayed lower cheeks were going to be a lot pinker before the last rays of the setting sun dropped into the west.

 

 

After the initial confusion engendered by the surprisingly hirsute nature of the naked female form Oswald had succeeded in regaining some of his natural composure.

 

'This,' he said firmly to himself in the tone of one admonishing a recalcitrant schoolchild, is a professional engagement sanctioned, if in spirit only, by the august personage of no less than a baronet. He therefore determined to behave in a manner that behoves a gentleman of Eton, Oxford and not quite the guards. He strode forth therefore to adjust the single raiment protecting, somewhat less than efficiently, the maidenly modesty of the young lady, in such a manner that she was displayed in tantalising, but in no ways vulgar, allure in the fashion depicted by Sir Frederick.

 

If Miss Martin was affected by the delights of Sappho and Oswald was discombobulated by his new discovery the emotions engendered in the young lady was of a double nature being at one and the same time both pleasurable and alarming. For she found the display of her near naked body both a source of extreme embarrassment and a source of extreme what...? She searched her memory of the great authors of classical times, for a study of such trivia as the modern novel had not been permitted at her school, for a name to put to this emotion and came up only with a notion which she termed 'the delights of Eros'. A delight which intensified to such an extent when Oswald pointed the lens at her, operated the lever which opened the lens shutter and exploded his flash light, that she suddenly realised that she would not be able restrain herself from 'going' much longer. 

 

Her naked form had been captured and Oswald's eyes would gaze upon it as the picture slowly developed under the action of his mysterious chemicals; not only his eyes but the eyes of all those to whom the image was shown. The strange sensation passed over her once more and she felt her face burning red hot in the way that the sun beating down upon a hot summer's day reddens the face of the maiden unwise enough to venture out without a parasol. The sensation passed down once more, flushing her bosoms, travelling across her nether regions and ending... 

 

'Oh dear,' thought Mary, she found herself in a position where she would not be able to control the urge to 'go' for much longer. It was of course a subject far too indelicate to mention in public, for the conventions of the time held that although men could with impunity, and indeed regularly did, relieve themselves against the rear wheel of any passing omnibus, ladies were required to hold themselves in patience as if indeed such a bodily function did not exist.

 

However such an option no longer existed for the poor child; she would perforce have to broach the taboo and indicate her necessity. She opened her mouth to speak, but her aunt had already seen that she was standing in an unusually strained cross-legged condition with a look of desperation on her face.

Oswald meanwhile was oblivious of the evident distress of his model as he refilled his flash pan with the magnesium powder, which when ignited produced the brilliant white light that exposed the image.

 

Miss Martin determined that it was indeed her responsibility to rescue her niece from the indelicacy of the situation.

 

"Mr Pointdexter," Oswald looked around at her, it being necessary for his composure that he avoid looking at the lubriciousness of his young model, "I wonder if you have upon your premises a water closet, for I fear that I am in much need of relief."

 

Oswald blinked. The fact that a lady might be in need of such a thing, never mind mention the fact, had never indeed occurred to him throughout his, admittedly secluded, life.

 

He opened his mouth, but try as he may, how could he talk of such matters in front of ladies.

 

"I... No.." He finally managed to produce the words in a type of mangled explosion of consonants.

 

"You have perhaps then a 'pot de chambre'?" Miss Martin had indeed exceeded the bounds of delicacy in even mentioning the existence of such an object, but at times the exigencies of delicacy must be cast aside in the face of the exigencies of nature.

 

"I... Yes," it was as much as he could manage.

 

"Well, please to fetch it then good Sir."

 

Oswald dashed off while Mary, legs still crossed upon the podium let the chiffon scarf fall and stood quite in a state of nature awaiting the return of Oswald. That worthy returned in but a few minutes and the necessary receptacle was placed upon the podium.

 

"Perhaps, Mr Pointdexter," Miss Martin felt now in total control of the situation, "it would be as well if you were to avert your gaze. Oswald required no second bidding. He busied himself once with the preparation of the magnesium flash.

 

Mary, much in gratitude to her aunt, for her selfless rescue of the situation seated herself upon the receptacle, mouthing the obligatory prayer to Our Lord of 'For this relief much thanks' as she did so.

 

Oswald, with shaking hands finished applying the powder to the flash pan when suddenly his hand jerked, the magnesium ignited and the whole room was filled with a blinding white light.

 

"Apologies ladies," he gasped, "I had a premature miscalculation, and he exited the room, somewhat flustered by the nature of the events, which had been far removed from the professional encounter expected.

 

He returned after an interval to find the ladies, with Mary now returned to her normal attire, ready to leave; Miss Martin noted with some surprise that the professional gentleman had found it necessary to don a different pair of trowsers, but understanding this to be a habit with some of the more fashion conscious among them, she abjured from passing comment upon this matter.

 

"Thank you so much for your most professional assistance in this matter," she remarked, please be so kind as to dispatch the portrait of my niece to my residence forthwith, it has been most gracious to do buusiness with you."

 

Oswald realising that matters should now be regarded as being back upon a formal footing did not hesitate to assure the ladies of his most earnest obligations in the matter.

 

"Would you care for an enlargement of the portrait?" he enquired, "for I have the necessary apparatus to produce the portrait in sizes up to two foot by one foot for the cost of an extra five guineas."

 

Miss Martin was much taken with this notion, for what was a mere five guineas to a lady with such a fortune as hers.

 

"Why certainly," she exclaimed, "that would be a capital notion, but Mr Pointdexter," she added pointedl.

 

"Yes ma'am?"

 

"As a professional man I am sure that you will not take the opportunity to cast your eyes upon the portrait during your developmental activities, for it is meant for a most particular purpose and I am sure my niece would not appreciate the notion of a gentleman gazing upon it in any unwarranted fashion."

 

"I fear that such would render the development a most difficult task," replied Oswald.

 

"Nevertheless I am sure that a man of your accomplishments can cope with such obstacles."

 

And Oswald gave his word of honour as a gentleman and the parted on the most amicable of terms.

 

Mary meanwhile had been struck totally dumb by the experience of the morning; it had been at one and the same time both thrilling and acutely embarrassing and she had for the first time in her life realised that there lay between her legs something which could be to her in the future a source of extreme pleasure, if only she could discover the way by which this pleasure could be released.

 

If the day had awakened in Mary feelings which heretofore she had not realised existed, her greatest pleasure until this time being the parsing of the works of Virgil in the original Latin, it had also resulted for Miss Martin in the awakening of desires which she had believed existed only in the works of Greek lady poets.

 

She was therefore able, by reliving such delights in her mind, to reach once more the heights of ecstasy by the indulgence in that vice for which her unfortunate niece was so regularly chastised.

 

Thus it was that that evening the poor girl received a double chastisement, for Miss Martin had not forgotten the need for an exemplary punishment on account of her eavesdropping. This however did give the girl the opportunity to question her aunt upon the strange nature of the sensation which she had felt between her legs.

 

"Thank you dear Aunt," she said as, with lower cheeks glowing, she straightened up from the position she adopted to receive her well merited chastisement, for she was a well brought up girl and knew the value of regular chastisement for the moral development of a young person.

 

"It was a pleasure," said Miss Martin, "do not mention it. I will only be too pleased to oblige you on any future date on which it is well merited."

 

"You are too kind to me Auntie, too kind to me indeed. However I would be most grateful if you could vouchsafe to me a further kindness." 

 

"If dear child you have indulged in further wickedness deserving of posterior chastisement please do not hesitate to present your posterior and it will be most thoroughly chastised."

 

"Dear aunt you do me a kindness beyond that which I merit, but indeed I was not thinking of that. Dear aunt I do believe there lies a spot between my legs which, if stimulated in the correct fashion, would greatly benefit my well-being."

 

"You are correct in your assumption dear child, do you wish that I should demonstrate the method by which it is so stimulated?"

 

"I most assuredly do dear Aunt."

 

"In that case it is necessary for you to lie back and part your legs, but I do feel it incumbent to point out that any such stimulation to the well-being must be succeeded by a chastisement of the posterior to ensure that the humours of the body are kept in balance and the holistic well-being is maintained."

 

So it was that by the time that Mary retired to her bed that evening her posterior was emitting such a warm glow that the provision of a hot water bottle was considered to be an excessive luxury. 

 

Miss Martin awaited the arrival of the portrait of her niece with a degree of expectation not quite fitting in a lady of the highest society. She had pondered long to what best use the portrait could be put. Should it be placed in the family album of photographs? True this being the first photograph of a member of the family which had been taken it would be necessary to first purchase such an album; however she had at length dismissed this notion, the beauty of the pose was such that she decided that it should hang in pride of place over the mantleshelf of her villa in Denbury. In such a matter she did not consider it necessary to consult with Mary; she was but a girl and it was she, Miss Martin, who had both commissioned and paid for the portrait.

 

Mary, when she heard of this proposal, was somewhat ambivalent on the matter. She was indeed proud of the part she had played in its production, on the other hand she was unsure of the notion that she was to be displayed, be it in facsimile only, for all the world to see.

 

"Would that be quite proper dear Aunt?" She queried when the notion was first put to her.

 

"Absolutely," replied Miss Martin, "the original, created by a baronet no less, was much admired by our own dear Queen, a lady who, as you undoubtedly know, would permit of nothing improper to be discussed within her hearing. Furthermore, it is well known, the painting was modelled by a lady of the highest quality."

 

Mary was thus much reassured and consented readily. Miss Martin thereupon sent word by the penny post to Mr Pointdexter that he should have the portrait, upon completion, framed in gilt and delivered to herself forthwith.

 

Oswald had struggled somewhat with the development and enlargement of the portrait, having given his word of honour not to set eyes upon it in the process. He had, if truth been told, been much smitten with the young lady and would fain have gazed upon her likeness again; but the word of a gentleman, and Oswald was nothing if not a gentleman, is, as is well known, his bond; and Oswald would have walked naked over hot coals before breaking his bond. He therefore determined that he would work, both literally and figuratively, in the dark, and by dint of the use of a very low intensity light he accomplished the development of the negative and the enlargement of the print without once giving himself the opportunity to admire the young lady depicted thereupon. The picture was duly framed and packaged and sent to Miss Martin in Denbury upon the omnibus.

 

Word of the presence of the portrait, though not the precise nature of the costume worn by the young lady, soon spread amongst the society circles of the market town, for portraiture by photographic imagery was at that time new and had, as we have already noted, been condemned as a work of the devil by that doyen of such society, the wife of the rector, Mrs Twinge; and as is well known to students of human nature, there is nothing like a whiff of the forbidden to stir the interest of modern society.

So it was that at the riparian picnic held the following day by the rector's wife the talk was of little else.

 

"Perhaps your niece would care to take a seat," Mrs Twinge had found that her opposition to the art of photography had condemned her to a difficult moral position, for she was now unable to condone it, but was as fascinated as all as to the rumours beginning to circulate regarding the nature of the portrait.

 

"I would prefer to stand," replied Mary, the tenderness of her posterior as yet not permitting of such a position.

 

"My dear," the words slid out of the mouth of a tall languid gentleman of indeterminate years and sycophantic nature; this was Mr Snipe, the curate, dispatched by Mrs Twinge to burrow deep and discover the nature of the portrait. Mr Snipe prided himself that he knew the minds of young persons of the female gender and could bend them to his will, a belief in which he was almost totally mistaken.

 

"My dear," he said, "how good it is of you to forsake your eleemosynary duties and grace our humble event with your radiant presence."

 

"Indeed," replied Mary, wary of the smooth tongued curate, but at the same time strangely flattered by his choice of the epithet 'radiant'.

 

"I understand," continued the curate, "that you have recently sat for a portrait utilizing the technique of photochromic reproduction. I fear that dear Mrs Twinge is somewhat adverse to such adventures, but I feel that we modern men should embrace these modern times!"

 

"Indeed," Mary could think of little else to say.

 

"Indeed yes, dear girl. May I," and here he adopted his most sycophantic and ingratiating tone, "may I venture to enquire in what manner you were attired for this most wonderful portrait."

 

Mary looked at him somewhat taken aback, it would not have behoved a young lady of quality to propound an untruth, yet she found it difficult to admit to the actual nature of the portrait.

 

She opened her mouth, and yet no words emanated. She was saved from this predicament by the arrival of Miss Martin, whose capacity for dissimulation was hardly better, yet on this occasion she coped admirably to rescue her niece from her discomforture.

 

"You refer, Mr Snipe," she cried, "to the fine picture which we endeavoured to emulate and which now, by happy happenstance, hangs on display to the general public in the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition," at this point perhaps Miss Martin got excessively carried away by the exuberance of her own verbosity,"Indeed Mr Snipe, I do believe that Miss Mary's portrait would grace even such an exhibition itself!"

 

"Aunt!" Expostulated Mary, but her aunt was not to be gainsaid.

 

"What a pity, Mr Snipe, that we do not have such an exhibition in Denbury!"

 

"Oh, but dear Miss Martin, we do indeed!"

 

It must be here admitted that in making this statement Mr Snipe had not entirely restricted himself to the narrow path of virtue, but had allowed himself to be diverted onto the primrose path of mendacity, for indeed there was no such exhibition in Denbury. However he qualmed his conscience, a thing of which he was truly possessed even though he was an ordained minister of the Church of England, with the thought that he would straightway organize such an exhibition.

 

Although he argued that in so doing he was merely ensuring the truth of his assertion and thereby regaining the narrow path of virtue, I am sorry to say dear reader that his motives were somewhat affected by his strong desire to see the nature of the portrait himself.

 

Miss Martin now realized that she had somehow been led into a situation where the portrait of her niece, attired in nought but three yards of chiffon and standing in contrapposto upon a raised dais was to be the prize exhibit in the Denbury Town Hall.

 

The notion filled her both with a sense of horror and with a sense of excitement. Surely, she argued with herself, such a pose as has been adopted by no lesser person than a baronet and friend of The Queen, and which is currently exhibited at the Royal Academy, cannot but grace the walls of Denbury Town Hall. Her mind was made up.

 

"Then my niece's portrait shall be so exhibited!" She exclaimed, "and you, dear Mr Snipe, may unveil it."

 

"Aunt!" Exclaimed Miss Mary.

 

It cannot be said that Miss Mary was intially overenamoured of the notion that her portrait was to appear in the town hall, she was however dependent upon her aunt both for her place in society and for her moral education. She did however make one stipulation. She knew that once she saw the portrait her embarrassment at the notion of its exposure would be such that she perforce need to contradict her aunt and retire to a refuge for indigent young ladies, she therefore stressed to her aunt that none were to look upon the portrait until its unveiling.

 

The work of organising the exhibition fell to Mr Snipe, although in the execution of this duty he was much hindered by the assistance of Mrs Twinge. The motivations of these two worthies in taking upon themselves this arduous task, were diametrically opposed; for rumours now circulated strongly that the portrait depicted Mary in a state of classical beauty, and in truth all lovers of art understood full well the meaning of that phrase. Mr Snipe could be euphemistically described as an amateur of the classical female form whereas Mrs Twinge regarded it as a temptation of Lucifer and looked forwards to condemning the portrait openly upon the public stage.

 

Mr Snipe had encountered no difficulty in obtaining sufficient paintings to mount an exhibition, for it is well known that all young ladies in society feel themselves to be expert at the execution of an aquarelle. If however the quantity were indeed sufficient, quality was however sadly lacking. So it was that Mary's portrait in photochromic tint, was the centrepiece of the show. 

 

The flames of interest were furthermore fanned by the fact that the portrait was to be unveiled at the opening of the exhibition. Rumours abounded as to the nature of the portrait. It was variously held to depict: Aphrodite arising from the waves, Andromeda chained to the rocks and Diana bathing, but by far the commonest belief was that it emulated the Rokeby Venus.

 

Tickets for the opening, nominally costing but two shillings and sixpence were passing hands for sums in excess of five guineas. The portrait was hung in pride of place; the unveiling to take place at precisely two of the clock. Even the Honorable Oswald Pointdexter had bethought himself to attend, seeing in the exhibition the opportunity to court that publicity which a gentleman should not openly seek, but cannot be expected to forbear when its result is to further his renown among the society of culture.

 

Mary had, as befits a young lady of modest demeanour, initially determined to eschew any part in the proceedings; but her aunt had at last prevailed upon her to attend and receive the rapturous adulation of the populus. Mr Snipe had prepared an encomium upon the life and virtues of the young girl and Mrs Twinge was already writing her husband's sermon for the following Sunday denouncing it in the most vitriolic of terms.

 

So it was that at a quarter before two all the worthies of the town assembled for the unveiling. Mr Snipe coughed, withdrew a paper from his pocket and started upon his address.

 

"When beauty comes to us, in the form of a girl,

Of peerless features, and a golden brown curl," Mr Snipe was overly fond of Alexandrines and the sound of his own voice. 

 

"Get on with it.." A voice cried out from among the audience whose deeper respect for the forms of classical oratory had not been so well honed as those of Mr Snipe.

 

Mr Snipe stopped, "But there's another fifty-three verses," he said.

 

It was not perhaps the wisest thing to say, pandemonium broke out, and Mr Snipe was forced to abandon his address.

 

"Ladies and gentlemen," he announced, "I give you Miss Mary!"

 

With a sweep of his hand he whipped the covering off the portrait. As if struck by the mighty hand of God the tumult ceased and for three seconds total silence reigned. Followed by a long, loud and plaintiff scream. Mary had seen her portrait.

 

Mr Snipe turned round to see what had brought about this transformation in affairs. There depicted in full view of the whole of polite society of Denbury was a girl, wide eyed and open mouthed, seated stark naked upon a pot de chambre.

 

The words tumult, pandemonium and riot hardly describe the resulting affray. Some ascribed it to the fit of the vapours affected by Mrs Twinge, some to the hysterical screams of Miss Mary, some to the weird expression that transfixed the face of Mr Snipe, but most to the attack, savage and brutal, verbal and physical, of Miss Martin upon the unfortunate Oswald Pointdexter

 

It was as he gazed upon the scene that the Reverend Ebenezer Twinge, rector of Denbury, was suddenly struck by enlightenment. Hitherto the Reverend Twinge had not been one for whom enlightenment had been an important facet of his faith; indeed his faith had little of the spiritual about it. He was a follower of the evangelical wing of the Church of England, a man who believed in a vengeful God, who had for some reason, possibly some act of random evil during his childhood, sought out vengeance to be inflicted upon him in the form of Mrs Twinge.

 

But suddenly, as if a curtain had been drawn back from his eyes to reveal the truth hidden behind, he realised the ways of a vengeful God and the part he was to pay in their realisation.

 

Mary had become possessed, it was a fact as clear to him as if it had been written in fire upon tablets of stone, and the demon must be driven out. He had to act.

 

Slowly the realisation that the Reverend Twinge was behaving in a manner not appropriate to that of an ordained clergyman spread among the rioters. The first to notice something strange was Mary herself, for she suddenly found herself accosted by the Reverend gentleman; this was in itself a surprising event, but even more surprising was he grabbed her muslin dress and tore it quite off, leaving her, as she wore no underwear in line with the fashion of the day, like Patience upon a monument, naked. The second surprise was when she found herself placed across his knee in that position which presents to the owner of the knee, a bare posterior which may, by the judicious application of the palm of the hand, be chastised in a fashion appropriate to the needs of the moment. Her third surprise was that the Reverend Twinge should find the needs of the moment quite so compelling.

 

The rioters stopped and stared in fascination. The appropriateness of the action of the clergyman was evident to all; he was after all the rector and thus of course any action by him would be appropriate.

 

Mary felt her posterior becoming somewhat warm, then she felt a strange sensation, a sensation which was uncontrollable, and to the accompaniment of a noise of exceptional volume and even more exceptional rudeness the reverend gentleman succeeded in his exorcism.

 

The trial of Miss Mary Carmichael upon charges of committing a lewd act in public was the cause of much debate in the Twingeyan social circle. Some held that fifty strokes of the birch upon the bare posterior, a month stark naked in the pillory and transportation to Australia for life rather mild by way of punishment, others disagreed, feeling that it was extremely mild.

 

As for Mary herself, her gratitude to her aunt knew no bounds. She had always wanted to see a kangaroo.

 


Submitted: February 23, 2021

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