“Uurrgh!” she nearly shouted and he stopped thrusting “No, no, please, don’t stop. I’m sorry. Please do this, I implore you”
Slower, trying not to hurt her, he started again; he was conflicted and confused. He really liked Charlotta and this was not something he was enjoying, yet he had to enjoy the act of sex to reach coitus and ejaculation. She had insisted he take her like this. It was proving difficult to balance the need to please her with the desire not to hurt her.
“Please, please do this. I won’t make another sound, I promise” And so, against his better nature he continued his thrusting and pushing until finally he reached the point of his throbbing penis spraying into her vagina with semen. He knew then he would not, could not, do this again as he saw a tear run down her cheek. She was desperate for a child, so was Mark, but this was too much; he couldn’t hurt her like this. He had entered her bed, she had pulled up her nightdress just enough and opened her legs and he had done the deed for his best friend and his wife. It felt like rape, and even though a small part of him kept suggesting that he enjoyed forcing himself on this woman, his real nature rebelled against that. He just could not do it again.
The story really began in 1917. The two platoons had arrived to replace depleted front line units on the same day and the lieutenants found themselves sharing the same dugout. Lieutenant Mark Sleedog-Smythe (“it’s pronounced sly dog smith, but I answer to anything close” he had introduced himself) and Lieutenant James Duff (“it’s pronounced duff” he had laughed back “like it’s owner”); they had got on well straight away despite the difference in social station. Smythe – Eton, minor nobility of some kind – and Duff – grammar school and barely middle class – found they looked remarkably similar: tall, around six foot (“we both make excellent targets” they agreed) with a shock of blond hair (“so we show up in the dark too”): Mark was 22, James 19. Both had joined up and been lucky to survive several ‘big pushes’. They were old hands, old cynical hands, neither really expected to reach the end of what seemed interminable mud and war. They took on the traditional, self-deprecating humour and both attributed their survival so far so “cowardice my dear fellow, keep your head down and let the other get his blown off”, but both had a few ribbons that contradicted that story.
The only difference seemed to be that Lieutenant The Honourable Mark Aloyisius Arbuthnot Sleedog-Smythe, to give him his full title, had married a week before signing on for the duration. He showed his new friend a picture of Charlotta and her face shown with a clear, intellectual, beauty; even in that faded, crinkled sepia toned image he could see she was stunning. They were childhood sweethearts and had married with parental approval as Mark went off to do his duty. All concerned hoped that that week of connubial bliss might have produced the heir in due course but it hadn’t. He was looking forward to some leave soon, maybe after this tour at the front line, to have another go. He didn’t say it quite like that, but they both understood that the occasional visits to the local town (and willing girls) for R&R was not what he was really needing.
Three weeks after arriving they shared a cigarette, Mark had given his last one to a dying soldier, he was that kind of officer (the kind that his men would follow to hell even if they didn’t come back); “This push tomorrow, you think we’ll take the salient?”
“Between us, no. Fritz knows we’ll try and straighten the line. If I was him I’d be ready and waiting”
“Yes” he handed the fag back “Yes. Well, best get that letter written then” They both wrote home in case it was their last letter. Sometimes these last letters arrived after the telegram and families dissolved in tears once again at the jolly, optimistic writing from one they knew was already dead.
Mark wrote to the family of the dead soldier, explaining how he had been a brave, valued member of the platoon, dying quickly and stoically, proud to serve his country. Actually he was a snivelling, incompetent soldier more suited to his civilian job of clerk than wielding a bayonet and disembowelling Germans, his own stupidity had got him shot and he had died slowly of blood loss, bemoaning he would never see his mother again; but you can’t tell people the truth. The man was dead however it happened and his family deserved to think well of him.
The bombardment began, when it stopped they would ‘rush’ – stumble, wade and trip – to the enemy trenches before the Bosch could get the machine guns back in operation. It may have worked once; no-one believed it now. Over the top they went, once more James wondered why these men followed him to near certain death, if not this time then next time. Why not run home? But they all followed orders and those that didn’t were shot by their own side. “Good job we’re fighting for freedom” he’d said once “I’d hate all this to be for the wrong reason”
“That means they are fighting for the bad cause, why do they continue?”
“Oh, they’re Germans, they just obey orders. Stupid see?”
They smiled at each other, these stupid Germans had much better, dryer, deeper trenches. These stupid Germans fought just as bravely for their wrong cause as they did for the right one. They both had enough brains to see the irony here; but both knew that they would carry on. James had written letters defending one of his platoon who had gone awol a few months ago, it hadn’t saved him.
A shell – could even have been one of their own falling short – landed nearby and James was sent into the air and landed in the mud and water of an older shell hole. Seconds later his friend fell in, a red stain spreading rapidly from his groin. Ripping the officer’s trousers off, he saw a mess with a small fountain of blood spurting in time to the heartbeat. The artery was only nicked rather than severed, but he would die of loss of blood soon enough. James produced from an inner pocket a clean handkerchief. One of the bizarre good luck charms many men carried, this handkerchief had been through years of war clean and unused, the only article of clothing with no mud, lice, or blood on it. Now it doubled as a pressure pad and James pushed hard on the wound and stemmed the blood. His men straggled back unseen and unseeing, another skirmish over. Night fell and he kept the pressure on. Mark lapsed in and out of consciousness, he had other damage aside from this and it wasn’t clear whether he would survive, but the shelling and counter shelling stopped, the machine guns lessened and died away and the rifle fire became desultory and then intermittent. To try for help would be to leave the wound and his friend would die; to try and carry him at night would be to risk a soldier on either side mistaking them for attackers; he waited until dawn and then used his Sam Browne belt to create a kind of harness to keep the pad, now soaked in blood, in place. Without his hand to keep up the pressure, the wound began to ooze blood again.
He took deep breath and hoisted his fellow officer onto his back, clambered to the rim of the crater and began to walk slowly and deliberately, expecting the crack of a rifle at each step. For the whole length of 100 yards he expected to die and yet the Germans stayed silent. As he reached the trench a cheer went up from the enemy. They were decent fellows, he knew he’d have a job killing again.
Mark was sent back down the line and hovered between life and death for several weeks, his blood loss was huge, even with the pressure pad; it would undoubtedly have killed him without it. But he was saved, the tip of his penis wasn’t, neither were his testicles. The bullet had destroyed both of them and the nick in his penis got infected. The doctor saved most of it but had to remove the head. He maintained some urinary control, but sex was over for the young man.
“I do hope you understand” said his commanding officer, as Colonel Brixtet, no less, had explained to James that although the action he took probably deserved an MC but he could think of no way to write it up without having to include the information that James had “held Lieutenant Smythe’s cock all night. You see the problem?” James did, and was not upset to miss out on the award.
Back in the recuperation centre at Crecy – a large house near Bournemouth, built by Sir Archibald DeMoin the brewery magnate, named Crecy in an imagined reference to some mythical ancestor who fought there, and given over for the duration as a place for walking wounded to recover. As the war dragged on the wounded there became cases for which no more could be done, medically that is – Charlotta came to visit and rapidly showed her nature. She held Mark’s hand for hours as he came to terms with his fate, but found herself reading a letter to a blind soldier here, holding the hand of a dying soldier there. The nurses resented this ‘amateur’ at first and then came to rely on her for her calm, considerate, loving nature. She wrote a letter from a captain with no arms to his betrothed, breaking off the engagement. Tears streamed down her face at the bravery of this man freeing his girl for better things. And tears again when she replied accepting his rejection.
That her body complemented her face made the (sighted) soldiers more than happy to see her moving amongst them; she received many compliments, and even one or two propositions; all of which she received with a smile and an elegant rejection. She was tall for a woman, only an inch or so shorter than her husband; slim, with an unfashionably developed bust – the flat chest becoming far preferred for a few years, plenty of men saw her more curved figure as something to lust after in their nighttimes than their straighter sweethearts. Her hair was a light brown and worn simply in a bun at the back. Though tall and slim she managed to avoid the gangly appearance that some girls have, she would float elegantly round and bend over a bed with the air, as once was said, of a concerned fairy queen. A couple of young nurses developed crushes on her whilst she was there and were heart broken when she left with her husband.
James and Charlotta worked together to get Mark over the black depression and recover as well as he might. They found themselves friends because of Mark; and the three formed a triangle which was stronger for having equal angles – no person was dominant or less, the three respected each other and even loved each other (in their different ways).
Three years later, when Mark finally returned to the marital home, an idea had formed in his mind. Gently, tenderly he put it to Charlotta who considered it and accepted it. Even more diplomatically he put it to James, who baulked at it, refused, was talked round by Charlotta and finally agreed. He would father a child with Charlotta and Mark would be named the father. Although it was known he had awful injuries, no-one outside the three (and the doctors) knew how bad, and none would have the temerity or bad form to ask. There was every prospect that people would accept that it would be his child.
The visit had been carefully arranged, and Charlotta had emphasised that she was willing to accept him, James, to gain a child.
“Charlotta is my friend as well as your wife, Mark. Please understand, I cannot. It hurt her to take her unready as she was. She isn’t some French peasant, forgive my language, ready to accept a poke for some bread and meat; but even then I felt bad imposing myself on an unready woman. Charlotta is too good and too dear to me to do that. Please don’t ask me again”
They had waited a few weeks, but the hoped for pregnancy did not appear. “I understand, you are far too much a gentleman and I love you for that. Let me talk to her, no, I will not try to make you do anything you are uncomfortable with”
The conversation that followed in their private rooms was probably the most bizarre for a husband and wife to have. He essentially bade her take James as her lover. Not simply to accept his seed in the form of a sacrifice, but to allow herself to enjoy with him what Mark could no longer fully provide. He had kissed and stroked her several times in an effort to bring her to climax, but this was hard for both of them, her because she craved his full entrance, especially as she became more excited; he because his mind demanded he impregnate her even though he knew he could not. Often the result was a disappointing collapse into tears on both sides, even if they were tears that drew them together in their common misfortune.
She took a lot of persuading, she was sure this moved beyond the wedding vows; but Mark pleaded that this was the only way to achieve their joint desire of a child and James was the only one he would trust in this way. Finally she consented. And then the same persuasion was required with James.
“No! You cannot be serious in this my friend. You offer me too much, you ask me too much! Charlotta surely would not agree”
“She has agreed, not easily to be sure. You may rest assured she is faithful and loving and would never consent to such an act if it was not so essential. But we must do this! I am incapable and without a child the estate will eventually pass to cousin Richard” Richard was as spiritually unattractive as he was physically attractive – to some girls at least. He was unprincipled and constantly on the verge of paternity suits and bankruptcy. James had met him twice and formed an abiding dislike for this man who had gained promotion to Major and spent his entire war in the safety of Dover. It helped sway him; as did Charlotta’s quiet discussion in the garden with him where she assured him that she would willingly obey him in all things in the bedroom simply to achieve the desired pregnancy, but otherwise would remain steadfast and faithful to the man she loved dearly.
Gentleman though he was, who could not be convinced that he had a duty to take this elegant, lovely and very willing woman to bed and have sex as often as he could with her? He agreed, and the three sat round a table after dinner and, unembarrassed, drank a toast to ‘the bargain’.