tagNonConsent/ReluctanceAvoiding the Missionary Position

Avoiding the Missionary Position

byshawalphamale©

"Now, my dear, I must tell you that I've come to see you about a most important matter. One that involves both the Duke and his son."

Mrs Mason looked across the tea cups with an arch expression on her face which seemed to imply a hidden insight into the mystique of the nobility. Since Diane Mason's husband was the senior Steward of the Duke of Parsvale's estate both he and his wife were really no more than glorified servants. Still, if a cat could look at a king then Diane Mason was certainly in a good position to hear any gossip about the Duke's doings.

"Really?" Madelaine Swan-Smith answered vaguely.

She wasn't particularly interested in what was happening at the Ducal Mansion but she was certainly wondering what had brought Diane out to visit her on a day when gusts of rain were pattering against the cottage windows. A miserable day here in Kent, a worse day yet for the British warships in the chops of the Channel keeping watch and ward for any signs of invasion by Bonaparte's ungodly soldiers.

"Yes, a matter concerning the Duke himself, and his personal wishes in respect of Lord Horace. Have you met his Lordship since your husband took over the living in this parish?"

"No. He has been away at school at Rugby ever since we came here. But we have heard he is a sturdy young man."

"Yes," Diane agreed, "Sturdy and well developed, and with an excellent opinion of himself. But before we discuss Lord Horace any further, my dear, let all be made plain between us. You are newly arrived, Madeline, and perhaps lucky to be here. After all, there were plenty of clergymen who would have been very happy to have been granted this living by the Duke. For this parish is part of the Duke's estates and he decides who preaches here."

Madeline blinked in surprise at Diane's bluntness: "It is of course true that we were very happy to come here. It was due to some distant family connections with the Dukedom of Pursvale that Edward obtained his position here, thus allowing us to marry."

"Precisely so. As I understand it, neither of you have much in the way of independent means and so you are financially reliant on your husband retaining his present position."

Madeline's teacup rattled as she set it down angrily on the saucer: "Diane, is that why you've made such an uncomfortable journey on such an unpleasant day? Simply in order to insult Edward and myself?"

"My child, of course not. My husband and I are just as dependent on the Duke's good will as you are yourself. If it were not so I would not be running this important errand. I came here in both our interests."

Madeline barely stopped herself from snorting in disgust at being addressed as a child by a woman who could hardly be five and twenty, and thus only a few years older than herself. But of course Diane had crossed the great divide of womanhood by having borne her first child, which doubtless made her feel able to adopt such a superior attitude towards a younger wife.

"Perhaps you should explain what you mean."

"Certainly, Madeline, certainly, but I fear what I may have to say will prove . . . unsettling for you. When do you expect Edward to return?"

Madeline blinked: "Why, not until nightfall. He has gone to Staunton-Under-Stanton to spread the true word amongst the villagers, many of whom are having their silly heads turned by a local Methodist claiming that the word of God can come from a mere blacksmith."

Both of the women duly smiled at such nonsense, although it crossed Diane Mason's mind that many people believed that the word of God had come from a mere carpenter. Still, she had far more important fish to fry than quibbling over religious matters.

"Then, my dear, I can speak freely. I have been sent here by his Grace to request a favor from you, a favor which will be warmly appreciated and remembered. A favor, however, which you may find it difficult to reconcile yourself into granting. It has to do with Lord Horace and his desire for some obliging feminine company whilst on his school holidays."

"Good Lord, Diane, whatever are you suggesting?"

"At this precise moment, I am suggesting nothing," Diane answered rather tartly. "I'm attempting to explain to you is how things are done on great estates like this. You may have a notion that young aristocrats such as Lord Horace can pick and choose from amongst the local village girls for companionship, but that is certainly not the case. Not because the girls are unwilling, but because the Duke himself is. He believes that any such liaisons are inherently dangerous to the prestige of his family, and to the distance which the aristocracy should properly place between itself and the lower orders of his own estates.

"No, on that point the Duke is quite inflexible. His son is forbidden to ever lay a finger on a farmer's wife or daughter, be they never so willing. You must understand how valuable these tenants are to the estate's rent-roll. Some of the families here have been farming these fields since the Doomesday Book was written. Their knowledge and good will is essential to the estate's wealth and not to be jeopardized for any carnal whims."

Madeline gaped, astonished at Diane's bold speaking: "But if Horace wishes to behave in a certain manner, then surely the nearest towns could provide any number of -- of ladies of convenience."

Diane seemed amused: "My dear Madeline, his Grace has far too much respect for his son's health to expect him hire sixpenny slattons from local taverns. No, what is required are some respectable married ladies who would care to oblige him with discretion in these affairs of honor. Ladies who are willing to join a young knight for an pleasant joust in the lists of love."

"But Diane, you cannot possibly mean to suggest that I should countenance any kind of improper behavior? I am the wife of a man in holy orders!"

"Which is precisely why I thought of you. You are young, personable, pretty and, as you say, you are the Vicar's wife. Which means that the Earl could send your husband packing any time he chooses to, taking his pick from twenty other aspiring clerics the day afterwards. Your husband is not one of the farmers that the estate needs to keep it flourishing and his Grace couldn't give a fig whom attends to this spiritual needs of Pursvale parish, just as long as the sermons on Sundays are kept a short as is decently possible."

Madeline could find no words to answer, could only sit there in the home she had worked so hard to make, rigid with terror at the prospect of having to pack her belongings and perhaps take up missionary work in some God forsaken wilderness like West Africa or North America.

Clearly attempting to show her sympathy, Diane leaned closer as she continued. "My dear Madeline, I say again that I am in exactly the same situation as you are. My husband could be dismissed from his position at a snap of the Duke's fingers, so I too must do what I am told, or be turned out into the mud and rain. It is a situation of point nonplus. Let us be sensible therefore and see the thing through together, with never a hint of it to our menfolk, well remembering that what the eye doesn't see the heart doesn't grieve over. Come, let's make a game of it and enjoy what we cannot prevent. I can assure you that Lord Horace has a very kindly manner towards those he partners in such ventures."

Madeline almost spilt her tea: "You mean you've already . . ."

Her visitor was apparently unmoved by the prospect of eternal damnation for the carnal sin of adultery. Diane put her own cup back on its saucer without a tremor and answered calmly.

"Madeline, there is no need at all for you to concern yourself about what has happened in the past. All you need to do is whatever is necessary to keep the Duke contented. Have I your permission to speak plainly?"

"Yes, I suppose so."

"Very well. To recapitulate, Lord Horace will be home from Rugby very soon. His Grace expects that whilst here his son will be given ample opportunity to enjoy himself in the ways that young men of his station are wont to do. I have been asked to make the necessary arrangements. Because you are so suitable I am asking you to help both the Duke and myself in this matter. Can I take it you will be willing to do whatever is needful?"

"Diane, I cannot be involved in any such thing. It could ruin Edward's career in the church. Caesar's wife must be above suspicion, and so must the spouse of a man of the cloth."

Diane Mason rose from her chair and picked up her gloves: "As you wish, my dear, I'll ring no more peals over you. Where would you like your things sent on to? Africa, India, the Pacific Islands, or China? His Grace receives many appeals from different missionary societies seeking to spread the word of God abroad. Of course wherever you go there's bound to be malaria and yellow fever and sunstroke to endure, but what are such trifles to a lady of your high principles?"

"Diane!" Madeline looked around her at her furniture, and at the walls of the cozy cottage she had already grown to love. "Very well, you have me in a hobble. Tell me what you wish me to do and I will pray for guidance."

"What a wise choice, Madeline. England, home and beauty is always the best option and I think Edward would be much happier to continue dealing with the difficult natives of Staunton-Under-Stanton rather than those of Borneo. The Methodists may be a contumelious sect but at least they rarely carry theological dissension to the point of cooking and eating their opponents. So, let us discuss the arrangements calmly.

"Next Thursday the Duke will send your husband on an urgent errand with some legal papers which must be hand delivered by a person of trust to his lawyers in Chancery Square in London. You will then wait to be collected at one o'clock in the Duke's coach and taken to Pursvale Park. Should anybody ask you have been invited to attend a poetry reading that the Duchess is giving. There is nothing to fear, so remain calm. You will eventually return home safe and sound. In the meantime, say nothing about this to anybody else."

"But, Diane, who else will be there? What is going to happen? I must have some idea of what to expect."

Diane smiled as she prepared to take her leave. "An idea of what to expect? I can certainly provide that, my dear. Wait one moment."

Diane went out to her gig and returned quickly, the shoulders of her dress damp with rain. She held out a small package to Madeline, a package neatly wrapped in expensive paper with a decorative bow.

"Remember, one o'clock of Thursday afternoon and be of a cheerful mind. This is going to be an experience you will long cherish. And here is your clothing for the poetry reading. Wear your travelling cloak for the journey in the coach and what's in this box underneath your cloak. Nothing else but those items and your shoes. Not unless you want your last view of England to be over the stern of a foreign bound ship."

The clergyman's wife had stared with puzzlement as she took the package. "But it weighs nothing at all."

"Then now you know what to expect, Madeline, and I hope you may blush so prettily on Thursday -- 'twill look well!"

As soon as Diane's cob had dragged the gig away down the muddy lane Madeline retired to the bedroom and opened the package. There was nothing in it but a long white robe made of pure silk. The luxurious feel of it in her hands made her gasp but not as much as the styling of it, for from the neckline down it was cut into strips, all the way around, and each strip no wider than a thumb's breadth. The only other item in the box was a belt of the same material as the robe, clearly intended to be tied around the waist. Even more obviously, any woman wearing such a garment could never make a single movement without the risk of displaying herself in the lewdest manner.

Eventually, impelled by a fearful curiosity, Madeline took off every stitch of her clothing and slipped the gown down over her head and her arms, the silk caressing her skin with a sensuous smoothness which had her shuddering at the garment's disgusting lasciviousness. It was as if she was dressing herself in actual bodily sin. Yet surely, no man could take any pleasure in the sight of a female who permitted herself to be displayed in such an immodest manner?

Never had she seen such an odd contrast between normality and singularity. The background reflections in the mirror were the same as always. The four poster bed, the small table by the window with her bible on top of it, the rather battered oaken wardrobe which was supposed to date back to the days of Queen Elizabeth. All this was as it had been ever since she and Edward had arrived her to make the cottage their home. And what had been a place of good works and Christian principles was now harboring a -- a courtesan, a lady of the night, who looked as if she was bound for one of the utterly shameless entertainments that the Revolutionaries held in Paris, whispered about behind her friend's fans as the most decadent spectacles to disgrace mankind since the orgies of Ancient Rome!

Madeline's reflection passed its tongue over her lips as she saw that her left nipple was peeking out shamelessly between two of the silken strips. Instead of lifting her hand to re-arrange the gown Madeline tried to imagine what it could possibly feel like to be standing in front of the Duke's son in such a situation. A young man, a stranger, able to gaze his fill on some part of her body sanctified forever by her marriage vows as Edward's property alone. With an strange sense of detachment Madeline Swan-Smith noticed that the more she considered such a monstrous sin, the tighter and harder her exposed nipple became. Eventually her hand did rise, but instead of touching the robe it squeezed the tip of her bared breast. Madeline gasped and blushed when she realized what she was doing, forcing her mirror-image to cease its disgusting behavior immediately.

Thursday, as it must, arrived and was eventually followed in due course by Thursday afternoon, which in turn brought forth the promised coach. It pulled up outside the Vicarage, the footman dropping from the driver's seat to open the door for the Parson's lady. Madeline desperately clutched her travelling cloak around her body and hoped with all her heart that no word of the real reason for this summons to the mansion had reached the servants' quarters.

"Come, Madeline, welcome aboard. Now our complement is complete."

It was Diane's voice which greeted her inside the darkened interior of the coach. She was not alone though. Two other women were already seated inside, eyeing Madeline with open curiosity, in which same manner she also stared at them. A whip cracked outside and the coach lumbered into motion.

"Madeline, I believe these are mutual acquaintances of ours. Edith and Yvonne."

"Of course. How nice to meet you again."

It was an absurd thing to say, as though they were all gathering on a normal social occasion, and Madeline saw amusement on the other faces in the coach. Yet it was hard to believe that the other women were each so composed as they appeared to be. The logic of their presence was certainly as clear as her own, for Diane must be coercing them with the same kind of threats about the Duke's patronage as she had employed against Madeline.

Edith Mason was married to one of the teachers at the local school, a school paid for by the Duke, and for which he chose the staff. She was about Madeline's age, the mother of a small daughter, the possessor of a good figure and a delightful fresh complexion. Though not exactly pretty her long nosed and much freckled face was one of those which always seemed ready to smile, as indeed Edith was smiling now.

"Would you like a drop of something to warm the cockles of your heart, Mrs Swan-Smith?"

The offerer was Yvonne Talbot, a tall, dark and deep bosomed young woman, probably the youngest in the coach, recently married to a builder in the town who was himself deeply involved with the Duke in plans for building new stables at the Park. Yvonne was holding out the small leather cup from a travelling flask to Madeline.

"Come, you'll find it a great comfort."

Not wishing to offend, Madeline took the cup and swallowed some of the liquid inside it, then began coughing as it left a burning path down her throat.

"Careful, my dear," Diane warned. "I fear that you are unused to gin. But Yvonne is quite right, we all need a little help to relax."

"And to be on our best behavior," Yvonne cut in, making Edith giggle. Madeline began to believe that some appreciable amount of the gin in the flask must already have been consumed.

"But now that Madeline is here," Edith continued, "Perhaps we should now know more of what you've planned for us, Diane."

Diane bowed her head in compliance: "All I know is that we shall be taken to the music room, there to await Lord Horace's pleasure."

Edith giggled again at the implication in the words and Diane smiled: "I take it that you are all dressed in your gowns?"

They all nodded and Yvonne said: "I hope there's a good fire in the room or else it may turn out to be a cold business."

Diane reached out and patted her hand: "Be assured, my dear, you'll find it warm enough, I warrant. Let me simply add that I think it would be unwise not obey instantly any instructions you are given. His Lordship is a pleasant enough young fellow but there will be a cane in the music room and Horace, as a prefect in his school, is well versed in using it if he feels he's being disappointed in any regard. Is that all clear?"

"Yes, but how will it all begin?" Edith asked.

Diane shrugged her shoulders lightly: "Horace is the master of the hunt and we must follow whatever line he sets for us. I only act as a whipper in, so I ask you to do freely and willingly whatever you are told, otherwise I will have to play that role more realistically than I would wish to. As for you, Madeline, you've as much spirit in you as any of us, I know that, and I'm sure you can play your part full well."

The conversation died away into a reflective silence as the coach turned underneath the twin rows of elm trees which shaded the driveway up to Pursvale House. Bright eyes, wary eyes, frightened eyes, excited eyes, they all shared a common view of the approaching mansion as the gin flask was passed around again. The coach stopped, the door was swung open, the step lowered and the footman stood stiffly with his hand extended to help each passenger descend to the smoothly raked gravel. If he noticed the way each of his alighting passengers held on so tightly to her cloak he showed no visible sign of it.

Madeline kept her eyes downcast and walked closely behind Diane, up the flight of steps and into the great hall, onto a polished wooden floor which suddenly felt unsteady beneath her feet. Please God, she wasn't going to fall down drunk, not here on the Duke's own doorstep! Edward would be furious if such a thing happened and she could never explain to him how it was she had taken gin to deaden a grosser sin.

Down endless passageways, a flunkey in a scarlet coat leading, Diane behind him, then Yvonne and Edith, and Madeline last. There were pictures on the walls, swords and shields, a suit of armor at the junction of two corridors. Yvonne pointed to the sharp angled steel glacis at the crutch of the steel shields, both Yvonne and Edith apparently sharing some joke about that part of the male anatomy which needed so much protection. Edith looked back and smiled at Madeline with the clear intention of also involving her in the jest. But Madeline could barely make a nervous and tight lipped response of feigned amusement.

Eventually they were shown through a door into a small room with a high ceiling decorated with rows of plaster of paris mermaids, sailing ships and dolphins. Even at this time of tension Madeline wondered that aristocrats with so much money should so often spent it with such bad taste. Yet the oak floor was as fine a piece of work as the murals were bad, laid by restoration craftsmen and polished with beeswax by succeeding generations of kneeling maids to a sheen which reflected back the light cast down from the overhanging chandeliers. All of them lit, burning away a small fortune in candles while the curtains remained drawn against the daylight outside. The only pieces of furniture in the room were near the fireplace. The red glow of the flames merged into the scarlet silk coverings of the four chaise lounges set close to it. Madeline stared at each of them as if they were the Devil's footstools and yet somehow was still able to find it within herself to admire the style of the couches and the luxury of their coverings.

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