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Eager young Clara is looking forward to her arranged marriage. She has been waiting all her life for the day when she will meet her husband. Her father has spent many months searching for the man worthy of his daughter’s hand.
Clara learns that her future husband, Francis, requires the young woman to undergo a medical examination to ensure that she has remained pure and that she is as intact as her reputation.
Clara has never felt more disgraced as she is forced to bare all of herself to the doctor, where she undergoes far more than she ever anticipated. Silently, she swears to herself that she will move past the humiliation and never speak of what happened with the physician.
When Francis pays a visit to Clara’s father to propose additional terms to the marriage, wanting to bring along one of her maids so he will have a nanny in the house for Clara, the young bride-to-be is shocked to realize that he was the man giving her an examination. Was he really a doctor, or was he playing the part to ruin her reputation?
Little Brides is the second book in the Victorian Chronicles. It can be read as a stand-alone story but it does follow the first book in the series: A Proper Punishment.
Publisher’s Note: Little Brides contains elements of power exchange, domestic discipline, anal play, medical play, and age play. If any of these offend you, please do not purchase this book.
Clara sat perched at the edge of her bed, her stomach tense at the mere thought of marrying a man whom she had not yet met. She was told that he was handsome, wealthy, and well-mannered. Though she wished she had at least met him before they were to wed on Wednesday of next week.
Her maidens were packing her clothes, preparing for her send off, while Clara sat patiently on the mattress, enjoying them tending to her every whim. It was much nicer than being forced to dirty her nails or hassle with packing her trunk of all her belongings. She intended on bringing all her clothes and possessions. Would there be room at her new home for even her furniture or was she to leave it behind with her parents?
The door squeaked open on its hinges and her father greeted her with a faint nod. “Clara, my dear, your husband to be Francis has requested that you undergo a thorough medical examination prior to the wedding.”
Clara’s brow furrowed, confused as to why he was asking for her to visit with a doctor. “But I am not sick.” Did her father forget to mention to the young man whom she was to marry that her health was well?
Her father was much taller than Clara. He stood in the doorway, towering from above, nearly a head taller than her. His hair had grayed, though she was not sure when it had happened. She had always remembered him with salt and pepper hair, but surely his must have had her grandmother’s dark locks at some point. “You may not be sick, but there are other examinations that doctors perform to young ladies prior to their marriages.”
“I do not understand.” Clara stared at him dumbfounded. If she was not ill, then what could her new suitor possibly wish to gain from sending her to a physician?
“Mr. Francis wishes to ensure that you remain a virtuous bride.”
Clara’s eyes widened in shock. “Can he do that?” She had not been aware that men could require such an intimate examination prior to the wedding. “Please, Father, it sounds terribly humiliating. I do not wish to be seen by a doctor. Can you assure Mr. Francis that I am well and remain as he desires?” She did not dare even say the word aloud ‘intact.’ After all, it was what he was seeking out, to ensure that she had not been claimed by another man. Clara was not sure that she would like Mr. Francis in the slightest if he could not believe that she was every bit of a lady as her father told him she was.
Her father sighed, pinching the bridge of his nose. “I have spoken with your husband-to-be in great length and he assures me that this is the only way to make certain that the marriage will go through. You, my sweet Clara, are not growing any younger. Men are growing suspicious of why you have not wed, and, in part, it is my fault for waiting until we found a man worthy of you. We also cannot let this opportunity slip by us. Francis is a good man and I believe you will be happy marrying him.”
Clara was not pleased but it was being made clear to her that she had little choice in the matter. If she did not wish to marry Francis then she could cause a ruckus, but it would not help her gain another husband either.
Her parents lived on the outskirts of London, in a town west of the city known as Farnham. Her father worked in the city, taking the train into London daily for business.
“You have met Mr. Francis and find him to be a gentleman of good standing?” Clara did not wish to ruin her reputation or her status. She may not have been wealthy, but she also was not poor either. Her parents did well to raise her, hired her the best tutors that they could afford, and saved up to ensure she had a healthy dowry for her husband.
“I promise, Clara, that he is a man worth marrying. Meet me downstairs in fifteen minutes. The coach will be here to take you to visit the physician.” Her father seemed to be done with the conversation, turning on his heel before heading out of her bedroom and down the stairs.
The maids chatted softly amongst one another, making it difficult for Clara to know what was spoken. Were they discussing the fact that she was to be humiliated in front of a stranger? Her cheeks burned with embarrassment. “Shut up!” she shouted at the three young ladies, two of which were younger than Clara. The third, Janie, the eldest, who could have been only two or three years older, stalked toward Clara, her eyes dark and her lashes thick and heavy. “I suggest you wash up. The doctor will be quite intimate and you have not much time to properly bathe.”
Was Janie mocking her? Did she know what would happen during the examination? Clara had seen a doctor a few times in her life, but it had always been when she was sick and at home. She had never been forced to travel to a physician before.
Clara pushed herself up off the mattress and stormed through the bedroom, unpleased that the girls were watching her and gossiping about what was to occur. Why couldn’t her father have spoken with her in private? Perhaps it would have been easier if her mother had sat her down and explained it to her. Had she been forced to undergo the same treatment prior to marrying her husband? She could not ask her maids as they were all unwed. It was why they worked for her family, tending to her needs.
Undoubtedly Clara had been lucky that she had not been required to work or become a governess. She had contemplated teaching for a moment, having flirted with the idea of leaving home, going out on an adventure, but she had not the patience or aptitude to make it work. Clara had never been around children as an adult, and, as such, was not sure she could handle the snot running from one’s nose. Being a nanny was off-limits as she had no doubt in her mind she would despise the job.
From downstairs there was a fervent knock on the door, and Clara knew that the coachman was here for her.
“Perhaps a bath after such an intimate intrusion would be better,” Janie said.
Clara lunged at Janie, pulling on her red hair, pummeling the young woman in the face with her fist.
“Get her off me!” Janie shouted.
Perhaps the young maid knew not to hit back or else she’d be fired. Marking a young lady who’s house you worked in would certainly get you booted out onto the street.
Marian and Elnora pulled Clara off Janie, dragging her back to keep the two ladies apart. “You cannot hit a maiden, Miss Clara. It is unconscionable,” Marian said. Her blonde curly hair was pinned up on her head to keep from falling in her face while working. The gray dress she wore made her fade into the background, same as the other maids. It was part of the ensemble provided by Clara’s parents. The young girls were paid small salaries but were given room and board along with clothes to be worn while working. Clara imagined that the dresses of grey were given so that the ladies would not be the least bit fashionable or appearing of their class when visitors did come to the house. It was not often enough that company arrived, but Clara did enjoy the rare occurrence of a party or ball.
“Clara!” Her father’s voice called from down the stairs.
She huffed and shrugged out of the girls’ embrace, dusting off the skirt of her gown, as though it were filthy from the earlier brawl. Composing herself, she exhaled a nervous breath and turned to head down the stairs, ignoring the stares of the maidens left in her bedroom. Were they jealous of Clara? She imagined that they were, wishing they had been the ones whisked away in a carriage. She hoped she’d be given the opportunity to meet Mr. Francis before their wedding day. Would she be so lucky?
Clara headed down the steps, her heels clicking over the wooden floorboards as she descended to the first level.
Her father and a gentleman who was as old as him stood beside one another. She silently prayed that he was not who she was to marry. He was nearly bald and walked with a cane to get around. “This is Mr. John Siders. He is to take you to meet the physician,” her father said.
“He is my driver?” Clara was not sure that the older gentleman could see clearly. He barely could walk on his own, using a support device to keep him steady. How was he to be trusted with her well-being? Was she not safer riding by horseback? Though Clara did not often have to ride in such a way. Her parents had a coach as well. Could their coachman not accompany her instead?
“Yes, Miss Clara,” John said. His voice was rough, gravelly as he spoke. “Mr. Francis would like me to bring you in for a proper inspection, prior to your wedding day. We are within a week’s time, it is most appropriate to do so, now.”
“Does he not worry that I have six days to sully my reputation after the examination?” Clara asked. She could not help the tone or her manners that she lacked when what was being asked of her hardly seemed fair. Clara did not have the justification or the privilege to inquire about Francis’ past trysts with women. Had there been any and how many, she would never know.
John exhaled loudly through his nose. Clearly, she was a handful for him. “I will inform him of such information. If he requires, we may perform the same test again the morning of the wedding.”
Clara groaned under her breath. Her hands were bunched into fists at her side. That was not what she intended, only to prove to him that such a measure was completely unnecessary and pointless. Instead, he had made it clear that she would be a virgin or there would be no wedding. “I am not pleased!” She made her feelings well known, wanting it relayed to Mr. Francis that his soon to be bride did not enjoy such scrutiny or attention on matters of her virtue.
“Come, Clara. We haven’t got much time. The doctor is waiting for you on our arrival.” John opened the carriage door, waiting for Clara to come inside.
With a resigned sigh, she climbed into the coach and wordlessly took a seat. There was nothing she could say that would right or make the situation any less tense. She did not wish to be treated with such disrespect that they questioned her virtue. How could her father have agreed to such terms? She was a woman, not an animal to be examined! The anger stirred in her blood, making her grow even more uncomfortable in the back of the coach while the driver led them further from her home.
The dirt path was bumpy and with the older man’s shoddy sight, he seemed to hit every bump and crevice in the road. Her own coachman had done well through the years to avoid the gaps and create a smooth ride for the family. Clearly John did not take his responsibility of being a coachman seriously. Did he enjoy smacking the carriage around? She jolted on her seat several times and had to grip the wooden bench to keep from being tossed around. When would the ride end? How far was it to the physician’s office? Clara had not been made aware of the length of journey and having no one to speak with, she found the time to be quite dull.
Staring out the coach window, the sun began to dip beyond the horizon. When had the hour grew late? Clara was not quite hungry for dinner but she was growing tired as the day had worn her out. Watching her maids pack for the upcoming nuptials had been exhausting. She had not realized she had quite so many dresses and accessories to be taken with her.
The driver halted the coach and she glanced out the window, staring at collection of large stone buildings closely sitting beside one another. Surrounding them were trees and grass, even a bit of vegetation as the lawns were adequately taken care of and tended to on a regular basis. The carriage was stopped before the soft patch of green grass that looked perfectly manicured. There were flowers in bloom and taller grasses mixed with flowers that Clara refrained from picking. She desired to lay in the gardens and stare up as the stars filled the night sky.
“Mr. Siders?” Clara called out for the driver. This looked to be a residence or perhaps one of many homes; not a place for a doctor to perform a medical examination. Clara had anticipated traveling into the city to discover an office for a doctor at perhaps the hospital.
He opened the coach door and offered her his hand to help her outside. “Mr. Francis has arranged for your examination to be held here.”
“Is this his home?” She was hopeful that Francis had a home much like her family’s, a short distance from the city, but far enough to enjoy the quiet life that surrounded their home. Safe of danger and trouble as well. Clara had heard stories of young ladies in large cities, living wall to wall with little space and uncleanly facilities to bathe and eat.
“That I cannot say,” John answered. He helped her from the coach and led her behind him on the grassy path up to the front door.
She examined the property in the light of dusk. The heat of the sun was seeping down and darkening the sky but not making it impossible yet to see either. Clara was surprised to find that there was a cluster of cottages near the residence where she was walking up to. Did he own the other neighboring houses or did he enjoy having homes within walking distance from his residence?
For Clara, it seemed a strange occurrence to have a house that you could practically see another from next door. She had known of such tight dwellings in the city, but could not fathom the reason in the country. Perhaps this was the physician’s home. Would it not make sense for him to offer housing to the sick?
She did as instructed, keeping close behind Mr. Siders, deciding not to travel too far away from him. If this was a facility for the sick, Clara did not wish to catch something that might not go away. Developing a cold was one thing but the black death was something quite different. She had no desire to get mixed up in disease and filth.
He knocked briefly on the door and waited until a gentleman pulled open the door.
Clara glanced him over from head to toe, taking in his features. He wore spectacles that were black framed and slightly thick as he held open the door. The color of the glasses nicely matched his hair. His eyes were warmer, full of color and mirth as he led Clara inside. “Are you the physician?” Clara asked.
“I am,” he said. “My name is Doctor Benton. Do you know why you are here?” His voice was calm, his words coming out soft and reassuring. She was glad he hadn’t whisked her straight away into the exam room.
“Is this your home?” Clara asked.
The doctor nodded. “Yes, it most certainly is.” He studied her face, offering her a smile as he closed the door behind her. “Why don’t you come inside and let’s get started on your examination. It won’t take much time. Then we can send you back on your way home.”
Clara did not fuss with him. What good would it do? She was in this strange man’s house and had little choice but to cooperate if she wished for her suitor to receive a good report. Clara did not want to muck up her chances for marriage.
“Yes, sir.” She watched as John remained in the foyer, waiting until she was done to return her back home. Following the doctor, her feet clicked over the marble floor, her heels tapping the ground with every step she took. It was louder than the wooden floors back home, making her feel even more self-conscious, and the examination hadn’t even been performed yet.
“Do you live alone?” Clara asked. She was trying to make polite conversation and was curious about the houses built quite close next door.
“I do,” the doctor said. “My focus has always been on my patients.”
Clara followed him into an exam room and her hands began to twitch nervously. The room was stark white, pale of color and devoid of any emotion. There were no paintings on the walls or décor to brighten the room up. She did not like it in the slightest, which only made her heart pitter patter even faster.
He retrieved a paper gown from the matching white cabinets and left it on the single black bed, the only item that had color in the room, if you could even call it that. “Undress and put the paper gown on with the opening in the back.”
Her face felt hot as she imagined the doctor seeing her naked. She had never been naked in front of a man, at least as far as she could remember. Clara did not consider her father changing her nappy when she was an infant as counting in the matter.
“I will come and check on you in a minute,” he said, turning and heading out of the small room, closing the door behind him.
Clara exhaled a nervous breath, fanning her face. The room felt hot but she suspected it was her nerves making her warm and not the room’s temperature that was uncomfortable. She touched the paper gown, unpleased with the material or the simple fact that she was to wear that and nothing else. Any other occasion and what she was doing would be quite scandalous. However, the gentleman was a doctor and it had been her potential suitor’s request that she be examined.
Sighing, she stripped down out of her royal blue gown that hugged her curves. Thankfully the ties were on the side or else she would have required her maids to help her undress. Slipping on the paper gown it crunched against her skin, uncomfortable and quite loud. The office for a physician was quite large and if he owned all the adjacent properties, then he was incredibly well-off.
A resounding knock sounded on the door. The doctor turned the door handle and entered back into the room. “We are going to start with a basic examination. Can you sit on the table for me?”
Clara clung tight to the gown, attempting to keep her bottom covered along with her legs clasped shut as she scooted onto the table.
“What is your full name?” the doctor asked.
“Clara Marie Carter.”
He jotted down the information. “Good, and your age?”
“I am twenty-one.” Did he not already have the information on hand?
“Clara, can you tell me of any illnesses that you’ve had?”
“None that I know of. Maybe a cold or flu?” Clara said and shrugged. She had not been a sickly child. Had he expected that she was?
He nodded, scribbled a few notes down and then placed the paper on a nearby counter. “I would like to do the next part of the exam and check your temperature. Is that all right?”
“I suppose so. Yes.” Clara did not think that having her temperature taken would be too terrible. She wasn’t sick but if he wanted to assure that she was not ill, she would go along with it. Anything to delay the inevitable that she worried would be required. Clara was not thrilled with being naked and having her intimate regions looked at by a stranger, a man, no less!
“Good. Now I would like you to roll over.”
Her eyes widened in terror. “Excuse me?” Why did he want her on her stomach?
“Clara, to administer your thermometer, I’m going to have to put it in your bottom. You should know that I do not like to repeat myself, and if it is necessary I will bring in Mr. Siders to restrain you.”
The mere thought of a second man watching was far too much to bear. “Please. I promise I am not running a fever. Must you put that in my bottom?” she asked, her voice shaking, nervous. When she was sick and had a thermometer placed in her bum she had not cared. Being sick and willing to do anything to feel better was different than undergoing such treatment for a man. She contemplated running. Though it was not in her nature to flee out of fear. Quite often she had been diplomatic in her approach with her father, trying to bargain her way out of activities that she found frightening or unenjoyable.
“It is not a desire I have, to watch you squirm or plea, Clara.” Without another word, he flipped her onto her stomach, her bare bottom revealed to him as the gown slid down to her sides.
The doctor spanked her cheeks, reddening her soft skin. Why would he do such a thing to her? “Please, no more!” Clara shouted, her voice growing ragged, filled with fear. She had been spanked as a child, reprimanded for her troublesome behavior, no doubt. That had been years ago. Clara did not think a grown woman deserved to be spanked.
“Quit fighting with me or I will be forced to administer fifteen spanks.”
Clara gasped, her eyes wide as she turned her head, trying to face the doctor. She was unable to pull away from his tight grasp, his body pressed against hers beside the exam table. His hand came down roughly, painting her bottom. She was quickly learning the consequences of not obeying the doctor. At least she wouldn’t ever have to see him again. “Fine.” She shut her eyes and prayed that the spanks were over or would be soon. If she cooperated then he would go easy and not administer any further spankings, right?
“Good.” He sounded quite pleased as he spread her bottom cheeks apart and swiftly dove the glass bulb of the thermometer into her rear.
She hissed, unpleased with its intrusion into her bum. “Must we do this?” Clara whined. She was not thrilled to be examined and even less to have a thin glass tube forcing its way inside of her pink pucker. How could this give any insight into whether she remained pure and pristine for her future husband?
“Yes. You are required to undergo a series of examinations and tests. They will be over quickly if you refrain from fighting or passing judgment on what must be done.” His tone was strong and sturdy, much like his arms, from what Clara could see earlier. He wore a physician’s coat and had not seemed overly charming or inspiring to study.
Clara had wanted the entire situation to already be over and was doing her best not to remember the doctor. She had no plans to ever lay eyes on him again. Hopefully, Francis would not insist on the doctor being her physician. Would it not be awkward for the gentleman who had already seen her lady parts to know her husband?
“I wish to get this over with as soon as possible.” She did not argue or fight him any further, relaxing her bottom as he pushed the thermometer in slightly more, his hand clasping her cheeks together to keep her from pushing the glass tube out.
“That’s what I like to hear,” the doctor said.
Clara sighed, pinching her eyes shut. Why was it that women had to be scrutinized prior to the wedding but there were no exams or tests for men? It was as though a woman were lucky to marry any man. She did not agree with that assessment, but she did trust her father to choose a husband worthy of her hand and her body. She had not given herself to anyone, not even her heart. Clara had stayed away from boys while growing up. She had, of course, played with the occasional neighbor who had wanted to chase her around the gardens, but to her, he was nothing more than a brother. She had never felt the pull of love, the gaze of warmth that made one’s heart pitter pat and stomach tense. Did such emotions exist at all? Clara was not sure she knew.
She had read of great loves and romances in novels. Books that her parents would have been disappointed in her reading. She had often hidden such stories under her mattress and then sold the copies after the pages were tattered and the bindings bruised. She had loved her books as one loves children, tight to her chest and without abandon.
Slowly he withdrew the thermometer and read her temperature before putting the glass tube down on the counter. Before she could so much as shift her hips to turn around, he had her pinned against the exam table, unable to move, his hands on her bottom cheeks.
“What are you—” her words were cut off as he inserted one finger in past her pink pucker.
Clara gasped. “Sir, I do not think that is proper!” What was he trying to find in her bottom? She had never had anyone stick anything more than a glass thermometer into her bum and she had never enjoyed that attention very much.
“I am determining if you will be a good fit.”
She hadn’t the slightest idea what the man was talking about, only that she did not want to fit into anything, or have anything fitted into her. She grimaced at even the slightest thought of an intrusion into her bum.
Although the doctor was gentle yet firm, she did not like his intrusion with his finger as he pumped it in and out of her bottom hole.
“Please, sir. I insist that you must stop.” Clara was not above telling a man what she did not like. She was not fond of him inserting a digit into her bottom hole.
“Very well. I will have to make a note of your non-compliance.” He withdrew his finger and turned around to wash his hands before jotting down a plethora of information onto a sheet of paper.
“What is that?” Clara asked. What was he writing about her? No, she did not enjoy her bottom being played with, but if he was making up lies she would punch him in the nose! “What are you writing?” She hopped off the exam table and came up behind the doctor, trying to determine what he was writing about her.
He flipped the page over, giving her no indication of the information that he’d written down.
Clara huffed, unpleased, under her breath. “I find you quite repulsive.” She spoke her mind, honest and right to the point.
“Then I guess I am glad that your words mean very little to me,” the doctor said. “Climb back onto the exam table, Clara. I must finish a proper inspection of your body.”
She did not like the way his words sounded. Though she knew what he would likely desire to do, Clara did not wish to spread her legs for the man. He was arrogant, no doubt, and a doctor too. For any man she would have been uncomfortable, but for him she shuddered to think that he might enjoy looking at her naked and exposed body.
“Onto the table, Clara.” His voice was stern, showing that he was not above disciplining her again.
Her bottom still stung from the earlier spanking and he hadn’t even administered fifteen spanks as he had threatened. Clara was grateful that she had not continued to disobey him. She would have found lying on her back, with her bottom pressed tight to the table to be far more uncomfortable than it already was.
“I need you to lie down and bend your legs,” the doctor instructed. “Scoot down toward the edge of the table with your bottom almost hanging off.” He guided her into the proper position and Clara kept her legs sealed tight as long as she possibly could.
He grabbed a bench and sat across from her. The doctor gently guided her legs apart, revealing her quim to him.
Clara gasped and took in a sharp breath as his fingers separated her folds. She did not dare admit that it sent a tingle straight into her cunny.
His touch was soft and gentle, unlike his intrusion into her bottom that was rough and firm. He was caressing her pearl, touching and grazing her lips, watching and studying her reaction. His hands continued to dance along her labia and lips of her cunny, drawing wetness out as he aroused her.
Clara felt heavily embarrassed at the dampness that seeped from between her thighs. She should not have been aroused by the strange doctor touching her cunny, and yet she wanted him to taste her nectar. Where had such scandalous thoughts come from?
The doctor guided one finger and then two inside of her quim, in past her tight entrance, stretching her as he entered her with his digits.
“Oh!” Clara gasped, not having expected the intrusion to be quite so tough after his delicate ministrations on her cunny lips.
He pumped his fingers in and out, curling his digits inside of her cunny, forcing Clara’s quim to tighten as she desired more from him.
“Please.” Her words came out in soft pants as he aroused and stirred feelings and desires within her that she did not know existed.
“Please, what?” the doctor asked, as he continued thrusting his fingers in and out of her cunny. His thumb circled the head of her clit, sending a shudder spasming through her body.
Clara moaned, not caring that he heard and witnessed the entire ordeal. A warmth flooded through her body as her cheeks burned with a fierce heat. Her heart pounded swiftly against her chest and her toes curled, slamming her eyes shut, enjoying what the doctor had to offer her. Would he inform her suitor, the man she was to marry, of her experience during the exam? The fear came flooding over her, crippling the orgasm that had torn through her body and forced her to sit up out of terror.
“You mustn’t tell anyone.” Her eyes flashed open, bright and wide, staring into his brown gaze. Her reputation would be ruined if anyone discovered that the physician examining her had brought her to orgasm. Clara was quite certain that was not part of the test prior to marrying another man! Oh, the humiliation that she would be faced with if anyone discovered her secret.
“I have no intention of sharing such private information with anyone,” the doctor said. He did not so much as smile and Clara found it difficult to know whether he was pleased with what he’d done or if it had merely been part of the exam requirements.
Clara breathed a sigh of relief. “You promise not to write it in your file either?” She did not trust the man who she had known for a matter of minutes. He may have been a doctor, but to her, he was very much a stranger. He could easily ruin her future with just a few strokes of his pen to paper.
“I assure you that my intention is not to ruin your reputation. You have done well to keep everything intact. The driver, Mr. Siders will return you to your home after you get dressed. He will meet you in the foyer.” He scribbled a few notes down before stepping out of the room, taking his paper along with him.
She had not the slightest notion what he’d written, but he sounded genuine in that he would not sully and destroy her chances of marrying Mr. Francis. She had to trust him. What other option was there? Clara waited for him to leave the room before she tossed the paper gown to the floor and quickly slid back on her blue gown, cinching up the sides, making certain that she was properly dressed for her presence among others. The doctor may have seen her naked, but she did not wish to give the coachman a show as well.
She toed on her shoes last, cinching them up, walking out into the hall looking around the room for the man who had brought her to the physician. “I am ready to return home,” Clara said. She tried to keep her voice calm and steady. It was difficult not to falter with her words. Her heart raced in her chest and her head felt light. She was unsteady at best on her feet, never having such attention bestowed upon her. Clara was uncomfortable and it had easily spread to make her nervous.
“We will retrieve the carriage. Come with me.” The coachman led her outside and across the finely manicured lawn. She was curious about the other houses outside of the doctor’s residence. From what she could see, there were no patients living among the homes. No signs of life inside as it had grown dark and late, and there were no hints of light cascading from the candelabra’s. Surely, if someone had been inside, a slight glow would have emitted from the dwellings.
Clara remained quiet and contemplative, following the coachman to the carriage. He opened the coach door and allowed her inside, shutting the door behind her. “I will have you home in no time,” he assured her.
She felt her stomach grumble at the hour growing late but she was not particularly hungry. Relaxing in the back of the carriage, she waited for the coachman to ride her back toward home. Staring out the window, the cool night air caressed her skin in the carriage, forcing her to close the shade to keep the coach warm. She jostled about, gripping the bench, almost forgetting the ride earlier had been just as uncomfortable and bumpy to the physician’s home.
Grateful when she arrived back home, Clara quietly ate, not wishing to speak of the activities that happened while at the physician. She hoped they would not question how it went and was pleased when not a word had been spoken of the event.
The table was filled mostly with silence as her parents and she hungrily ate their dinner. She was famished and Clara was not certain why she had been as hungry as she felt. It was not particularly that much later than the usual dinner hour.
“Are you excited for the wedding?” her mother asked, watching her daughter as she ate.
Clara nodded and took a bite of her roll, pleased that the conversation was upbeat and not dampening her mood. She had not been thrilled to be forced to meet with the doctor and had been nervous that her family might discover what had occurred while she was under his care.
“I am, Mother,” Clara said. “I wish I could meet my suitor before the wedding, but I know you have told me that it is not possible.” She had begged her mother to let her pay him a visit, even if it was in secret. She knew nothing of him, not even a hint of his profession so that she might see him at work.
“I assure you Mr. Francis is a good man,” her father said. His voice insistent that they drop this very subject. “You do not need to worry about your marriage or the family you will be marrying into. He will be able to take care of you, Clara. That is what every woman dreams of.”
Clara sighed and placed her half-eaten bread on the plate. She reached for her water, having a sip, wishing it were wine. Her parents had given her a taste every so often, but had assured her that it was only given on special occasions and that too much would ruin her reputation and her chance at marrying a proper young man.
“I do not worry about his finances, Father, only his heart. Will he love me?” She had not spoken her concerns quite so freely before. She had gone along with their plans to choose a husband for her and marry him just after her twenty-first birthday. They had insisted on giving her a proper education and waiting to offer her hand.
“I am sure with time that he will grow to love you, Clara.” Her father smiled politely and excused himself from the table, his meal finished.
Clara had only just begun eating, taking her time as she nibbled at her food and picked at her bread. She was hungry but distracted. She wanted to know that her husband would love her and take care of her. The doctor had been kind and though she had not known him very well, he had paid her far more attention than any other man she had met before. Would her husband be interested in her body as the doctor had been? She knew that she would have to consummate the marriage, that was not the act in question, only she wished to know whether he would love her in doing so, touching and pleasing her.
The young woman had never been brought to orgasm from her own hands or anyone else’s. She desired to feel such love and kindness again. Speaking as much about it would be highly frowned upon and improper. Besides, she swore never to say a word and the good doctor had promised to keep it between them.
“You need to finish your vegetables, dear,” her mother said.
Clara picked at her plate, no longer hungry but also not wanting to start a fight. She sat at the table, unwilling to eat more, but pushing her food around until her mother insisted she was excused from the table.
From down the hall, she could hear a heavy insistent knock on the front door. Who was there? She tried to listen but found it difficult through the long halls and thick walls.
“Mr. Carter,” Janie’s voice echoed down the hall and into the dining hall. “There is a gentleman to see you.”
Clara wanted to slip from her seat and peer around the dining room wall toward the hall to catch a peek at who was coming at this late hour, unannounced.
“Mr. Francis, I am pleased to see you. Please, come inside,” her father’s voice trailed down the hall.
Her eyes widened and she lifted her bottom from her seat, prepared to rush down the room and steal a glance at the young man she was destined to marry.
“Do not dare lift your bottom, Clara. You have not eaten all your vegetables or your meat,” her mother said, her tone strict and without a dash of humor. She was not the least bit pleased with her daughter, that was clear.
“But I am not hungry,” Clara said, insisting that she wished to meet Mr. Francis. Would he request to meet Clara before the wedding as well? If he did, would he join her in the dining room, even if he had already eaten? “Perhaps we can offer him a cuppa?” She knew that tea was often served in the sitting room, but Clara hoped he might join them in the dining room for tea and biscuits.
“At least I know your manners are still intact,” her mother said, condescendingly.
Clara’s brow furrowed, confused. What was she implying, that her daughter was not virtuous or something else? “I do not understand.”
“Your stomach is not full and until you finish your dinner, you will sit at this table like a child. I do not know when your mind turned you into a child, Clara. It is not like you not to finish your dinner and to pick at your meal. Do not think I don’t see what you are doing; moving your food about your plate, as if you were pretending to show any bit of interest. Tell me what is troubling you.”
She was telling her mother, making it as clear as possible and she wasn’t listening to her. “I wish to meet the man I am to marry.”
Her mother did not look the least bit amused. “You will when you are wed. I will not have another word from your mouth. Finish your dinner.” Her mother stood and strode across the wooden floor, coming to stand by the door.
She must have caught a glimpse of Francis! Would she tell Clara what he looked like? She reached for the door and slid it shut, not allowing Clara’s future husband to hear another word spilled from her lips.
Clara found it difficult to eat when her stomach was a bubbly mess. What was Francis doing at her parents’ home less than a week before the wedding? Had the doctor informed him of what had occurred during the examination? Had he come to tell her the wedding was called off? The more she thought about every possible scenario, the quicker she found her stomach in knots and her hands shaking. Her forehead perspired as the room began to swim.
“Mother, may I go lay down? I do not feel well.”
“Very well, my child.”
Clara stood, her legs shaky and wobbling as she stumbled from the dining room out the back entrance and up the stairwell to her room. She held the banister handle, stumbling and swaying until she reached her bed, where she collapsed, exhausted. What had gotten into her? She took several calming breaths, her hands trembling as her heart raced.
The longer she laid in the bed, alone, the better she began to feel. Her heart seemed to slow down to a steady rhythm, calming her nerves. What had gotten into her? Closing her eyes, she contemplated sleep when she thought more about the man downstairs in her home. Had he come to tell her father that he no longer wished to marry Clara?
She waited several more minutes, feeling better when she stalked down the squeaky wooden stairs in the back of the house. Their home was large with two staircases and a grand entrance for visitors. Her parents had money, and though Clara never fully understood her father’s profession, she knew her mother had worked as a nanny when Clara was younger. Had she done so out of need or desire? She guessed it was the latter, but it was not spoken of in years and bringing it up was always a cause for changing the subject. There were some secrets that would remain that way in her family.
Reaching the bottom stair and careful to avoid her mother in the dining room, where the door was now open, she tiptoed through the hall, listening to his voice, trying to imagine his features based on the way he spoke. It was not easy. His voice was rough, thick, and it was hard to distinguish his age from solely his voice. She edged closer down the hall, listening to what was being spoken, not only the tone.
“I would like to bring with me on the day of the wedding one of Clara’s maids. I assume that she has a handful who work in your home?” Francis asked.
George, Clara’s father, cleared his throat and answered. “Yes, we have a few who will be available once our daughter is residing with you. We may be able to lend you the help of Janie. She is the eldest maid and the quickest to respond to change. Our younger girls are lovely ladies but often must take direction more than once.”
“Janie sounds lovely,” Francis said.
Clara huffed under her breath. Janie? He was going to bring one of her maids and her parents had to suggest the one she got along the least with? Was it because they did not like Janie either and were trying to pawn the maid off on Clara’s suitor?
“She comes with a modest salary. We have been supplying her with gowns, along with room and board,” her father said. “Janie has no children, is unwed, and will cause you no problems. She is good with Clara, helping her dress and bathe, making sure that she is tended to when needed.”
“She sounds quite perfect,” Francis said.
Clara could not believe the nerve of her father and even more so Francis. Was he thrilled with the proposal of bringing a maid into their home? Perhaps he was hoping to bed her too, especially with the sound of his words and his sweet tone of ‘she sounds quite perfect.’ Her stomach flopped at the thought of him falling for the bitchy red-head who did not deserve his attention.
The young woman burst into the room, unable to take listening in anymore without responding. This was her life too. Shouldn’t she be given a say in who she wanted to accompany her to her new home? “I do not wish for Janie to accompany me after I am wed.” She stared at her father and if she weren’t mistaken, it appeared as though steam emanated from his ears and rose above his forehead in anger. His face grew quite red, unpleased with her interruption. Perhaps she should have thought twice before interrupting, but she could not contain herself any longer. She did not like Janie and there was no chance that she desired the woman to come live with the two of them after they wed.
Turning on her heel, glancing at Francis, her eyes widened and her mouth dropped, confused. Why was the doctor standing in her home, unless he was Mr. Francis?