Dropping All Pretense
Caution: This Erotica Sex Story contains strong sexual content, including Ma/Fa, Consensual, Romantic, Heterosexual, Fiction, Masturbation, Petting,
Desc: Erotica Sex Story: Chapter 1 - In a time when position and status are fixed and immutable, Stuart Allen finds himself pulling a barge across a river. Ferrying others to and fro while he collects tiny sums for all his efforts. One day, something happens, something that changes everything for him. How will he handle such a change?
My name is Stuart Allen, a freeman, beholden to no man on this earth. I stood up on the barge, looking across the river at the two horsemen waiting for me to come and ferry them across. Being a ferryman on an insignificant little tributary like the Upper Remark River isn't a glamorous position. It pays poorly, hard work though it is, and there were no chances for either advancement or adventure. What possible excitement could you expect when you spent your whole day traveling between two muddy banks, both separated by less than a hundred yards of roiling river.
I pulled the barge and myself across slowly, hoping my drawing the transit time out would prevent complaints of overcharging from my soon to be passengers. While I pulled the barge towards my fares, I found myself wondering, for the ten thousandth time at least, why I was always sitting on the opposite side of the river from the side where my fares were waiting. You would think it would be about fifty/fifty, and half the time you'd already be on the side that the passenger needed to leave from. Three years now I had been the ferryman at this narrow bend in the river, and in all that time I've been on the correct bank no more than twenty five per cent of the time. Half of the time, when it turned out I was on the correct bank, it was only because there were fares waiting to be crossed on both sides at once. When that happened, of course, it just meant I'd have no opportunity to rest my arms before being required to pull the barge back in the direction I'd just come from. It was a hard way to scratch out a meager existence.
"How much to cross the two of us and our horses, boy?" I can tell you that I didn't much care for the slight whine I was already hearing in the stranger's voice. The other one had his head turned away from me, and was staring back at the road he'd just traveled.
"One copper for the passenger, and two for the horse."
"I won't pay that, damn me if I will. I'll wade my horse across this tiny trickle first."
"Yes sir, and that's your right, your grace. It's a wise man that know's the value of a whole copper." The other horseman barked out a high pitched squeak that might have served as his laugh. I couldn't be certain who the man was laughing at. If it was at me though, I didn't like it much. It wasn't me that set these fares for a crossing, it was Squire Appleton who was responsible. It was worth my job too if I ever let someone cross for less.
"I'll pay you three coppers for the two of us and our horses. Take it, or be damned, you vulgar get."
"He speaks only for himself boatman. I'll not risk to get drowned to save thruppence." That voice belonged to a lass and naught but. She kicked her mount forward onto the barge, leaning down from her saddle to press the three coppers into my hand. I looked up to say my proper thanks to her, and was struck near dumb by her comely looks. She looked to be my age, nigh on twenty years, and none more. Her teeth were whitest white, reflecting the good diet that bespoke gentry. As soon as she had lighted from her mount and caught her balance, I pulled on the rope and set us towards the far shore, leaving her companion to stare after us, surprised that I had ended his brilliant negotiations so abruptly. As I earned a tenth part of every copper collected, leaving him on the bank like that was an expensive proposition to me. I knew he wasn't going too far though. Not with the river up and swollen as it now was. He would have to be either desperate or crazy, or both, to try to ford the river here when it stood at full rise. I let off my fare on the other side, quite content to watch her as she rode off.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the river, that other rider was engaged in shouting out some kind of orders to me. He either knew not, or cared not, that the sound of the river's current deadened his shouted words long before they ever reached my ears. My hut lay on this side of the river, and, since there was no further business in the offing, I tied the barge fast for the evening, and wandered away from my responsibility. It had been a decent enough day of toil for me, nineteen coppers in fares, and another two coppers for me for the hares I'd sold that morning to the cook at the ordinary. Living as I did, almost completely off the bounty of the land, I was putting coppers away at a frantic pace. Already I had saved enough in my first three years working for the squire to imagine myself one day to be a landholder, fee simple, of my own estate.
I was well advanced, walking along my route, when the lass doubled back on her mount. She gave me a puzzled look as she saw me so far from the river and barge.
"And what of my husband then, boatman? Tell me that you haven't left him stranded on the Quincy side? We dare not tarry if we have hope of arriving in time to do some good."
"If your husband is that gentleman seeking to cross at half fare, I imagine he is still waiting in hopes that the river will recede so that he might cross without any loss to himself of his precious copper coinage."
"Do you mean to strand him for the whole night then?"
"It wasn't me that did the stranding, begging your pardon mistress. It was him as declined to be towed across by me. If I wasn't going to make one trip across for the half pay he offered, then it would stand to reason, for those possessed of any of the same, that I wouldn't care to make three trips for only one full pay. I'm sure he'll be more amenable to paying his full fare when I cross to the other bank in the morning."
"I grant you your logic, and concede that you were within your rights to act as you have. Still, I would ask it from you that you return once more to your barge, and bring him forth to this side today. If not for his sake, then for mine."
It isn't often that one such as me, base born and without any prospects of note, should find himself being asked to provide some small aid to one such as she. In truth, this was the first such time. I didn't choose to have it go by the boards unfulfilled either.
"For you then, I'll do it. I'll not take even one of his precious coppers though. Let him keep them if they are so dear that he'd choose them over seeing to his proper duties of seeing to your comfort and safety. I'd sooner pay his fare myself."
I turned back from whence I'd just come, and returned on shank's mare to the barge. Light was beginning to fade as I untied the barge and started my crossing one more time. I couldn't see any sight of him as I drew near the other end. Thinking that he'd gone back to find the shelter of the ordinary, I set off in search of him.
Standing there in the open doorway of the tavern, I chanced to set my eyes upon him once more. He had a tankard of ale in the one hand, standing there he was, as relaxed as if he were in his own grand lodgings, warming himself close by the tavern's well lit hearth. In his other arm, was Gwen, the indentured serving wench who sculled for the kitchen and brought out trays and tankards for the tavern's customers and guests. The open palm of his hand was clutching shamefully at her right haunch. His rubbing at her buttocks, visible to any who cared to see it.
I thought him a vile and contemptible cur to take such liberties in full sight of any who chanced to pass by. I approached him and cleared my throat, hoping thusly to attract his attention. He turned, staring at me, not recognizing me, even for all that he'd seen me not one hour's time before.
"Forgive my intrusion, your worship, I've come back to see to your crossing. It soon grows dark and we must hurry if we are to beat the fading light."
"Oh, it's you then, Bumpkin, changed your mind about my offer, I see. Well, it's too late for that now. I've had my horse seen to, and booked room and supper here for my rest. I'll see you on the morrow, make sure to be waiting for me from first light onwards."
"But sire, what of the lady?"
"Not any concern of mine. She can wait or go forward as she chooses. I won't assume responsibility for her headstrong and intemperate actions. She has crossed and left me to my own devices. Let her then see to her own comfort, as I've had to look after my own." He waved me away, dismissing me with all the contempt of a man shooing away a horsefly. I turned toe to heel and left his presence. What sort of man was he, to be brazenly fondling a serving wench, all the while he was discussing his own wife's dire predicament, as if none of it were of any real concern to him? I walked back to the barge and pulled myself across. My anger at his attitude allowed me to pull across in less than a minute. I tied the float off with an angry knotting that would surely take me a few minutes to unravel in the morning. Finished, I looked up and saw her staring after me, from her position fifteen feet away, and fully astride her horse.
"He's in the ordinary, your ladyship, says he's settled in for the night. Put his horse up and all. Would you wish me to ferry you back across? I'd not charge you for the crossing?"
"What of me then, did he tell you what I'm to do?"
"He says you are to wait or move forward, milady. But I can run you right across again, and have the two of you on the same side of the river at least. You need to be looking after your safety and comfort. It isn't safe to be caught out in the open of a night hereabouts."
"This is what it comes to then? I mean less to him than his horse? I'll ride on boatman. If I ride through, I could be in Fairlawn before first light. Thank you for all of your kind assistance. Tell my husband, when you next see him, that I've ridden on."
Spurring her horse as she first turned him and then prodded him forward, she disappeared into the early evening's dusk. I watched after her. Fairlawn was twenty miles or more past where I stood. It was a large estate near Herriot. If she was heading there, she was in for a long ride through the night. I looked up, trying to see what type of night sky she'd have for her journey. It would be dark, I hoped her mount was sure footed. I started walking towards my hut, angry with myself for my part in placing her in this danger. Had her husband been near enough to me then, I'd have given him something to worry about as well. Well, I would have if he hadn't been a gentleman, and I merely a lowly ferryman.
I arrived home, not even taking the time to check my snares. I hid the squire's coppers and then placed my own four in my secret place of safekeeping. I grabbed my tines and turned my straw, and then laid myself upon it. Too soon the rooster crowed and woke me from my dreams. I searched for tucker and found stale bread and a small piece of cheese, so old and hard that it gave my teeth a worthy contest in the eating of it.
I walked to the river, and knelt down by the bank, washing my face and hands. Because of my work, I tended to keep myself somewhat cleaner than others who hadn't the advantage of my closeness to a ready source of water. The air held a chill as I pulled myself across to the Quincy side of the river. I arrived and tied up, figuring to wait for my fare. It was still early when I looked across to the other side to see three people on foot, signaling to me to come get them.
I shook my head in wonder that I once again found myself on the opposite side from my fares, but shoved off with my pole and then pulled myself over to them quickly. The three were two men and a woman, people from the country, heading to some of the bigger towns in hopes of finding some work for themselves. The men appeared to be related, probably brothers, and the woman belonged to the taller of the two. They paid their three coppers without any murmur, grateful for a dry and safe crossing, and also for not having to waste part of their traveling day waiting for me to get to my work.
It was an hour later before the man from the evening before rode up to my barge. I had enjoyed no other fares since that first one, so, I found myself sitting on the correct side of the river for once.
"I'm happy to see you took my advice and positioned yourself here early, Rustic. To show you my good humor, I'll pay you two coppers for the transit." He put the two coppers in my hand, making sure not to soil himself by making any contact with my skin.
"That takes care of the horse, Governor. It's another copper if you wish to join him."
"Are you determined to try me then, you clod?" He took a riding crop I hadn't noticed before and lashed out with it, striking me in the face. I felt my skin ripping, and then my cheek burned like the fires of Hell. He pulled his arm back to strike me again, but I stepped backward, and thus avoided his lunge. The movement of his horse, skittering nervously on the barge, had dislodged us from the shore. We had drifted out into the current. He tried to urge his horse into me, hoping to dislodge me from the barge. Again, I was able to sidestep him, and moved out and away from the horse.
I put my hand up to my face, and looked at it as it came away with fresh shed blood coating my fingers. I grabbed at the ropes and yanked for all I was worth, taking us out another twenty feet into the current. When he urged his horse forward again, I punched it right near it's eye. I'm not a violent sort, but still, being trampled by a horse wasn't an option that I wanted to experience firsthand.
Because of my three years spent pulling the barge back and forth on the river, I had built up a considerable strength in my back, arms and shoulders. After being hit by me, the horse bolted backwards in fright and pain, losing it's balance, and then plunged sideways into the water. The man riding it went in as well.
I watched as both man and horse were swept away quickly, racing together helplessly downstream in the current. I pulled across and beached the barge, throwing a knot across the stump to hold it fast. I went downstream of the barge and washed my face in the water, trying to keep the gorge from rising up past my throat. From the bend here, where the river was narrow, it expanded some and the banks got much steeper. It was possible that horse and rider could have survived. It was possible, but it wasn't likely. The current was running swift and strong, and the river was at high crest from all the recent rains. It was probable that both would be swept under and drowned. I needed to think, to come up with a story that would hold together in the event I was questioned about the man's disappearance. That story would have to take into account the damage done to my face.
I worked the remainder of the day, stopping often to put soothing cool river water on my wound. Several people commented on my injury. I told each one who asked me the story of a horseman who refused to pay three coppers for himself and his horse. I described how he lashed out at me, and then took off, riding the path by the riverbank downstream. Almost, I believed it, after repeating it over and over for that day and the next. By the third day, the wound was starting to heal and the comments on it became fewer and fewer. My life became one of fear and anticipation. For every noise I heard, I'd look up quickly, expecting to see either that horseman, somehow rescued, and in search of his vengeance against me, or a constable, there to read me his charges and cart me off to his gaol. I became so tense from the worrying, I almost wished it would end in any one of those ways, just to be done with it.
When a week had gone by, and then two, I started to return back to my normal life. I was sure that, if he still lived, he would have returned to settle with me before now. My face had healed, although I would bear his scar for the remainder of my lifetime. It became my habit to run a finger along the scar's uneven edges. It traversed my cheek from eye socket to jawline. In the reflection from clear pools of water, I could see how red and angry the scar now looked.
After three months had passed, I was sitting on the bank having a noon meal when that lady rode up in the company of three gentlemen. She was bedecked in widow's weeds, from head to toe. I took them across in two trips, the lady and an older gentleman were first. She stood beside her horse after dismounting for the crossing. The older gentleman stayed up on his mount.
"You've injured your face since I last saw you, boatman."
I nodded my agreement, acknowledging her words. She stared at my wound intently, saying nothing more about it. It left me uneasy and self conscious. I went back for the other two gentlemen, and crossed them too, without incident or comment. I stared after the four of them as they made off towards Quincy. The next day, the three gentlemen returned, and I ferried each of them across, again needing to take two trips. After seeing her, all dressed in black as she was, I put the incident to rest. He was dead, but I felt blameless for his death. I was simply trying to keep from being pushed into the water myself. He had been the one who tried to do me harm, who had, in fact, done me harm.
Another month passed, and then, early of a splendid spring morning, the lady rode into sight. I recognized her right away, even though I stood on the far bank from her. There was something in her carriage, as she sat there on her horse that was distinctive to me. She still wore nothing but black, except for a cameo broach that was the color of fine ivory and set in yellow gold. Of course, I didn't know about the broach until after I pulled my way across to her.
She rode on to my barge and dismounted easily, handing me three coppers as she did so. I started pulling her to the other side. We had gone less than halfway when she asked me to halt.
"How did my husband die, boatman? I need to know how it happened. Is the scar that you bear on your face any of his handiwork?"
I looked at her as she spoke to me. From the tone of her speech, you would think she was asking me about the weather, or about how I liked the way the water levels on the river had dropped back down again. I wasn't going to reply to her at first. If I stayed silent though, would she draw her own conclusions, and assign to me the role of being her husband's murderer?
"Aye, milady, he gave me this to remind me that people like me don't ask people like him to pay more than they are willing to spend for little things like a quick and safe passage across the river. As for his death, I can assure you that he was alive and sitting astride that big bay of his when last we chanced to see each other. The first inkling I had that all was not well with him was when I saw how you were dressed when you passed by with those three gentlemen."
"My father and two of my brothers. So, you have no knowledge of how he might have drowned himself and his horse in this very river then?"
"Perhaps he attempted to cross himself downstream and got caught in the current? He left in that direction when I saw him last."
"I don't believe you. My husband wasn't the sort of man who would add to his own discomfort in order to avoid paying a few coppers. He would have paid what you asked, or else forced you to take him across, rather than ride off elsewhere in search of a place to ford the river. I want to know how he came to drown. You are going to tell me. How did my husband die?"
There we were, in the middle of the river. It was just like my life, and there were only two choices, go forward or go back. Staying out there in the middle wasn't an option. I had to either tell her or keep up with my denial. She knew her husband far better than I did. If she told the constable her husband wouldn't have attempted to ride downstream in order to ford the river, who would take my word over hers?
"After he hit me, he lunged his horse at me twice, trying to throw me into the water. The second time he did it, I struck out at the horse, knocking him backwards. The horse stumbled and fell over the side. Your husband went with him. I didn't mean for any of this to happen."
"You've told no one else of this?"
"No, only you. I've told people that the man who cut my face rode downstream after he did it. That's all I've ever said about it before now."
"How did he look after he had fallen in the river? Was he frightened? Do you think he knew he was going to drown?"
"It all happened very quickly. One minute he was lunging his horse at me, and the next, he was in the water being swept away."
"Tell me your name, I can't keep on calling you boatman."
"I am Stuart Allen, milady. What are you going to do about me now that I've confessed it all to you?"
"Do? I'm going to do nothing. I needed to know how it happened. I've thought about it so many times, imagining how it might have been for him. To hear it from you, knowing you were a witness to it, as it was happening. This is just what I've needed."
"You aren't going to have me brought before a magistrate on charges?"
"Why ever would you think I'd do that? You've observed the man close to. Can you possibly believe that I'd lament his death for even an instant? I'm free of him. You helped to make that possible for me. It is I who need to reward you, not punish you. No, never to punish you. What boon can I offer to make amends for that wound you now carry?" I rubbed at my scar self consciously. I was astonished that she would speak so openly of her relief at being free of her husband. Having known him, even for only that short time, I understood her feelings. For her to express them like she had, so openly, to a common and low born stranger such as myself? It didn't seem right or proper. "What can I do for you Stuart? Would you like a bag filled with gold coins to free you, to help you make your way in better circumstances? You have only to ask it of me, and I will provide it."
I didn't speak. I couldn't tell her how repugnant her offer was to me. How little I wanted to profit from the death of any man, even one as vile as her late husband. All I could manage to communicate that aversion to her was to shake my head no.
"Not money then? Fine. Would you like me to arrange for you to increase your station in life? My father would take you on as a supernumerary manager on his estate. It is only a matter of training and observation. In that capacity, you'd be able to marry someday, and to raise your own family, to provide well for them, and for yourself too."
"No, milady, nothing. I don't wish to profit at another's misfortune. Please can we end this conversation? Which way do you want me to take you?"
"Take me? Yes, take me forward Stuart. Take me across to the other side. I want to ride away from Quincy for a time. Cooped up with his family, I can't breath in freely or savor in any way my new found freedoms."
I took her across and she rode off at a fast trot, that quickly turned into a hard gallop. I spent most of the rest of my day waiting for someone needing passage across the river, but to no avail. I was still waiting when the lady returned. She was walking her horse gently, but there was ample evidence that he had been ridden hard for much of the day. Her own hair showed similar evidence of disarray, caused, no doubt, by the wind from her galloping.
"Hello Stuart. I've just enjoyed the most marvelous of days. I haven't enjoyed myself like that since I was a little girl, and was still young and carefree. That's exactly how it felt today, like I had once again regained my youth and my innocence. Please ferry me across once more so that I can return to my life of feigned and fraudulent sorrow."
I took her across, first accepting the three coppers that she pressed into my hand. She took a finger of her hand, right after handing me the money, and ran it slowly across my scar. When she was done with doing that, she lifted that finger to her lips and kissed it softly. I couldn't help the thoughts her action brought to my mind. I pulled at my barge rope with strong, even, pulls, conscious of her looking at me for the whole time it took to cross. I could feel the scar burning, whether from my embarrassment or her touch, I didn't know.
Later that evening as I tossed and turned on my straw, I couldn't shake the image of what she had done from my thoughts. I got up from my pallet and walked back outside into the night. I leaned against a tall poplar tree and groaned out loud as a copious spend flew out from my distended manhood. Ashamed at my lack of restraint and control, I went back to my hut and fell fast asleep.