The Ball at Hampshire Hills
“Those sisters of mine are making a God-awful racket. I swear, a person can hardly hear herself think a single logical thought without being distracted.”
The pretty long-haired girl sat Indian style on top of a flat-topped seaman’s chest in a room filled with books piled in neat stacks from the high, high ceiling to the very bottom of every wall right above the three century old cut-stone floor. There was an unsafe looking ladder of European design that came to a point at the top standing right next to her but she was not interested in climbing anywhere right at that moment.
She already had a book in her hand.
It was a spectacular work describing the maiden voyage of an imaginary ship with imaginary sailors and imaginary clothing-free females all running amuck on some unnamed island in an imaginary land far away absent the worries and cares of a modern social system that required her to wear hideous corsets and brush her hair one hundred strokes each and every night before jumping into bed between her sisters. Her left hand sister was Rose and her right hand sister was Lily. She hated her name of Honeysuckle because it made her sound a bit too submissive and easygoing for her liking. That certainly was not how the pretty teenager saw her persona even with her admitted bias in her favor. In a way, she envied Rose and Lily for their straight-forward English sounding names although there was a distinct French flavor to Lily that made the name sound a little mysterious even to English speaking ears.
Honeysuckle already had her nightshirt on.
“God, I hate this dreadful nightshirt!”
She had that single solitary thought as she put the solid, seldom read book down on the Italian marble table next to the reading window alcove. It would be there for her in the morning when the first light came up over the hills to the East just like it did every morning almost at the same time. Honeysuckle loved reading in the soft early morning light because it was so easy on her eyes. She struggled not to rub her eyes because the doctor advised it was quite harmful.
Her eyes were a disaster according to her aunt Harriet.
That really was a case of the pot calling the kettle “black” because her aunt Harriet was never without her thick spectacles that she needed to see anything in the distance and needed the bifocal lens to read a book or a silly newspaper. Her aunt Harriet was a shallow sort of person and would never pick up one of the books that Honeysuckle buried her nose in because it would require some in-depth thinking of a sort that might possibly put unwanted wrinkles at the corners of her eyes or even her lips. Poor Aunt Harriet was at that age when the thought of an added wrinkle was a disaster to be avoided at all costs.
It was time to run on her bare feet all the way to the back bedroom where she, Rose and Lily slept in snuggled comfort on the bed that was said to be installed by enemies of the King before they lost their heads in just retribution for disloyal attitudes. It was a period that held no interest for Honeysuckle because her mind was focused on the current politics of an uncertain rule of government and she was confused in her own thoughts about the rightness or wrongness of supporting either side of such a high-profile issue. Her resolve was to simply ignore the entire thing and take no side to avoid making enemies unnecessarily. Later, she was to discover all she accomplished was to create enemies on both sides and lose the trust of some people she was desperate to have in her corner when push came to shove.
The three of them were jockeying for position in the bed. It was a large bed but three teenaged girls with the energy of youth and nervous tension tended to ignore their boundaries and invade the other bedmate’s territory. Being in the middle gave the advantage to Honeysuckle and she was able to calm the other two into submissive bundles of passive femininity. They pressed against her on both sides affording her the sensation of being sandwiched by a pair of lovers with desire run rampant in the cold night air. It was enough to stir her innards and make her tremble a bit with well-hidden urges and the little darlings never suspected she derived a certain level of satisfaction from their heated skin and curved regions intended for sensitive exploration. She stiffened into an unyielding rod not moving a single inch in any direction and allowed the wave of pleasure to sweep over her like a relentless wave driven by the forces of human weakness subtle in its covertness and all the more exciting because of her sense of suffocating guilt.
She was far too ashamed to confess her sin to the young priest who probably couldn’t comprehend how one female person could possibly experience any form of sexual release from the contact of a like and same female body. For a moment, she considered the opportunity to confess to the old priest who was so hard of hearing he just went through the motions of listening and told everyone the exact same thing usually ending with, “Now say (three Hail Mary’s and three Our Fathers) and proclaim your contrition for your sins against the word of God.”
On second thought, she chickened out on the thought because she was afraid he would miraculously hear every word and think her to be a sinner far too gone for any chance of redemption in the eyes of God.
The next morning, Maggie the maid brought the morning post into the breakfast room and her sister Rose tore open the pretty blue envelope that was an invitation for all three of them to attend the upcoming Ball at Hampshire Hills to celebrate the bountiful harvest just completed throughout the entire region. It promised to be one of those Balls that would cement relationships between budding female debutantes and sex-starved young men eager to fill their beds with a willing female ready to furnish great sport each and every evening with absolutely no charge whatsoever or compensation of a financial category.
Honeysuckle knew she was already overdue for that brand of mating call at the ripe old age of nineteen, but she was in no mood to be spreading her legs for a complete stranger no matter what range of income he had acquired by reason of good luck or inheritance. Her two younger sisters, Rose at eighteen and Lily at sixteen were right in the middle of the pack of virginal sacrifices and would be sure to pine every waking hour until their chance at finding a suitable husband to brandish around at family gatherings.
She had an opportunity to contract a mate two summers ago and was inclined to accept poor Tommy Brighton despite the fact his income was far below her father’s specified minimal requirements for approval. Unfortunately, Tommy was thrown from his horse in the hunt and cracked his skull wide open on a rock that should have been removed a long time ago just to prevent such a catastrophe. His proposal was not formally accepted and it saved her grief of being marked as an “unlucky” target and her father breathed a deep sigh of relief at escaping the prospect of subsidizing his eldest daughter’s family for the remainder of his life. It would be far better to just keep her at home and let her take care of him in his old age in the capacity of an unpaid nurse or family caretaker.
Honeysuckle had never considered that possibility because she was a romantic sort expecting that her “true love” would walk through the door any minute to declare his undying passion and whisk her away to a castle with a moat that kept out persons with negative vibes to disturb her sense of contentment even when circumstances were not as optimal as one could hope to obtain.
She always looked to the door when some new person was introduced hoping that the day of meeting would be that very instant and she was constantly disappointed by the lack of qualified applicants for her hand in marriage. It was beginning to look like a “Ball” might be her last chance at happiness and she began to gather her costume to make an impression on her would-be spouse.
Just before the Ball, her father suffered a bad attack of Gout and it began to look like she would have to stay at home and tend to him because her two sisters were not the “tending and looking after” kind at all.
She was brought to the brink of tears but her father was able to recover almost overnight and insisted that she attend the Ball along with her two younger sisters. It was in the back of his mind that if one or both of her younger sisters were to affect a contract with a young gentleman, it would certainly destroy her chances at avoiding the label of “old maid” and lead to excess distress and despair at home much to his chagrin.
The Ball was a huge success.
It looked to be the most famous gathering of young people in recent years. In fact, there were a number of older gentlemen in attendance as well since the pool of widowers and returning military types in the unmarried category swelled the ranks of the male participants to a level not seen for many years. If Honeysuckle had any chance of ever securing a spouse, it would be at the famous Ball at Hampshire Hills on that fateful Saturday evening of fun and dance.
Honeysuckle had to admit her youthful sisters had that certain bloom to them that made them prime targets for gentlemen with serious intent to find a spouse. In fact, Rose’s gown was a huge success because she had forgotten to wear the added petticoats and the light fabric allowed the shape of her perfectly formed legs to be seen delightfully when contrasted against the glare of the low hanging candle arrangements. Thankfully, she was totally unaware of her exciting presentation of feminine mystique and had received no less than three formal propositions before Honeysuckle had even secured her first dance.
Lily was in heavy conversation with a gentleman in religious garb. He was a small man with thick glasses and seemed to defer to Lily’s enthusiastic defense of the promotion of “women’s rights”. After all was said and done, his simple proposal and the fact he had family income of great magnitude, won the day and she accepted him with a promise to obey him in all matters behind the closed bedroom door. This so inflamed the cleric that he pressed her to agree to a quick engagement and a quick wedding the following month. Lily, being Lily, agreed to his terms and she was far too giddy for the remainder of the evening to dance a single dance.
Honeysuckle seeing the fast gobbling up of her two younger sisters, went into a funk of depression that put a frown on her pretty face that served to dissuade applicants for her dance card from the simple act of even approaching her.
An older gentleman that was of the same era as her father approached her and asked permission to sit on her bench as he was much fatigued. She, of course, agreed since she was ever in favor of coddling the senior citizens of the country whenever possible.
He had two cups of punch and gave one to her with the explanation,
“This one was for my niece, but she is so busy dancing with every Tom, Dick and Harry that she will be lucky to find respite when the band is too tired to continue.”
Honeysuckle laughed and took the initiative to introduce herself to him, informing him that she was her to find a husband but they all seemed interested in younger females. Now at the ripe old age of nineteen, Honeysuckle looked more like a sixteen year old and it was a source of amusement to the older gentleman, who was most certainly in his mid-forties, if he was a day.
He explained that he had recently retired from military service and had taken up the practice of medicine at a nearby hospital for those injured on military duty. His name was Sir William Hardman and she asked if he preferred being called Sir or Doctor, to which he replied,
“Just call me William, my dear, no need to be formal between friends.”
Honeysuckle almost wept at his kind words because she was beginning sense her purpose in attending the ball was a complete failure and that she was destined to be an old maid forever and a day.
He asked her to dance and she accepted certain that he was just being kind to a lonely girl and feeling a sense of pity for her lack of male attention. It surprised her that he caught her up in his arms and held her a bit more tightly than she had expected. In fact, she was certain he was in a state of full extension in his lower extremities and she could tell from the size of his excitement that she would be hard pressed to take Mister Hardman’s full erection in her feminine folds without the utmost attention to duty. It was a sobering fact that made her suddenly aware of his potential for husbandly duties despite his age and lack of handsome exterior like some of the younger, more boisterous, lads in search of a spouse.
They sat and talked for more than an hour and his proposal to her was accepted with a humble sense of rightness because she knew deep in her heart that their union was meant to be and that he would be the knight on a white horse to save her from the boredom of a life without love.