There, in the gloom, was a typical Welsh cottage: small, square, all stone and slate. A candle burned in a window. Gwenneth went to the door and knocked. A woman answered the door, dressed in black, just like the "witches" on Welsh postcards.
"Pardon me," said Gwenneth, "but could you tell me where I might be able to rent a room for the night?"
Sternly, the woman looked down on Gwenneth, who was all of five feet two. Then she turned and bellowed, "Elspeth!"
A girl came to the door: "Can I help you?"
"Please, could you tell me where I could find a Bed and Breakfast, a place to rent a room for the night?"
"Oh," said Elspeth, tilting her head as if in deep thought, "The nearest, it's like on to ten mile." She spoke to the woman, in Welsh. "Mum says its twelve miles. You're afoot?"
There was a discussion in Welsh. "Mum says you'd you'd better stay here for the night. You can sleep in my room. Would that be all right?"
"Oh, yes," sighed Gwenneth. It began to rain.
Elspeth led Gwenneth into a small sitting room, where the candle glowed. The only other light was the fire in the grate. The woman sat close to the candle and took up her embroidery. Gwenneth took off her pack and sat, weary, on a small settee. "I'll just go up and change the sheets and get some of my things out of the room," said Elspeth, who lighted another candle and mounted the steep stairs.
Conversation was impossible. Over the mantle was a large oil portrait. Holding her hands before the fire, as if in need of warmth, Gwenneth stood and studied the portrait. It was of a man, a warrior of some bygone time, dressed in furs and plaid, with a great sword, a longbow, and a quivver of arrows.
"He's supposed to be an ancestor of mine," said Elspeth. "What did you say your name was?"
"That's a good Welsh name, but you're not from around here."
"No, I'm American, but I have an aunt in Llandudno."
"Oh, really. Well, I expect you'll want to see your bed. Just follow me." At the top of the stairs, she pushed open a low door and handed the candle to Gwenneth. "Watch your head," she said.
The room was just a loft. The twisty, hand-hewn beams of the roof were exposed, and the undersides of the great, three-foot long roofing slates. On a dresser were a mirror, a pitcher, a porcelain bowl, and a small towel. There was a chamber pot under the high bed, which stood tall on four great wooden legs. "Well," said Elspeth, "I'll say goodnight. See you in the morning. Bolt the door when I've left."
Gwenneth glanced at the door, with its black iron bolt, and thought that really wouldn't be necessary. You don't find burglars or ax murderers in Wales, and she had nothing to fear from Elspeth. She took off her damp clothing, hanging her anorak, her jeans, and her flannel shirt on pegs in the roof beams, then spreading out her socks and underwear, hoping they might dry. She washed as well as she could. Gwenneth looked at her tuft of pubic hair, reddish, like the hair on her head. She cupped each breast in her hand, hoping they might have grown a little fuller, more womanly. She took from her pack an old-fashioned flannel nightshirt and dropped it over her head. It was just the thing for sleeping in, for the nights could be chilly, even in July. Then she took out her hairbrush and brushed her hair for fifty strokes. She held onto the brush and took from her pack two long scarves. Then she blew out the candle and groped her way to the bed.
The blackness was total, like swimming in ink. She remembered the spooky feeling of being enveloped by the silent, translucent clouds. She thought how lucky she was to spot the candle in the window. She thought about the portrait of the archer, wondering what sort of man he was.
Slowly, she drew the hem of her nightshirt up, up around her waist. Her left hand cupped her left breast, while her right hand slipped across her stomach, stroking the skin, finding the short, curly hairs. She pressed her hand against her labia, rocking it back and forth, feeling pleased that they were swelling and growing sensitive. She tried to imagine what it would be like having a man touching her. No man ever had, not there. A little groping at the breasts, at a dance or something, but never there, her most private place.
Then Gwenneth did something she had been doing, on and off, since she was about thirteen. With one scarf, she tied her left ankle to the left bedpost, and, stretching to do so, she used the other scarf to tie her right ankle to the right bedpost. When she lay back, her straightened legs formed a wide vee. This is childish, she thought to herself, but only briefly, for this was her way of turning on her favorite fantasies.
She was a Christian slave in ancient Rome, and her master, who really loved her, had had the eunuchs bind her thus so he... well, the details were a little vague, but it gave her a thrill. She rubbed two fingers up and down her furry mount, and a delicious tingly feeling accompanied her fantasy. "This slave must be punished!" said her master, who spoke English, not Latin. A little shiver of fear, entirely contrived, added zest to her predicament, as she was whipped across her thighs and belly, the Roman slave whip feeling too much like a hairbrush.
When her Roman master's attentions failed to excite her further, she declared a change of venue. She had been captured by that notorious London rake, Lord Walsingham, who now declared, heh heh, that this virginal beauty was at his mercy. How did he know she was a virgin? He would look for himself. With her eyes clamped shut, Gwenneth heard the rustle of her petticoats as the rakehell lord lifted her skirts and peered at her most private parts. In her imagination, she saw him holding high a candle and heard him exclaim, "As pretty a quim as I've ever laid eyes on!" She felt his hand spreading her lower lips and knew that he was peering into the pinky depths of her treasure tunnel. "Ah, ha. See her maidenhead. Virga intacta. I shall have it. But first, she must agree to marry me, for I am told that Lady Gwenneth commands a handsome dowry." Lord Walsingham dropped her skirts and put his hands on her breasts, praising their maidenly firmness and declaring that he would enjoy them, too.
When the lusty lord had done with her, gloating over what he was going to do, but didn't, Gwenneth fell captive to a murdering pirate who carried her onto his galleon and had her bound hand and foot, spread-eagled on a grating, helpless. "Ho, ho, ho," he roared. "I'll have fun with this one, and, if she doesn't do right by me, I'll give her to the crew." His rough pirate hands made free with her helpless captive body, but she knew, deep down, that he wouldn't hurt her. He would learn to love her and would carry her off to his secret island fortress, to keep her there, always, to be his love slave. Gwenneth grasped the bristles of her hairbrush, as the pirate whispered in her ear, "Well, my saucy maid, how would you like to be deflowered with the pommel of my longsword?" She pleaded with him to spare her maidenhead as she pressed hard with the brush handle, but it did not bring her the release she wanted, and the pirate faded from her view.
.... There is more of this story ...