The victim of lust or scenes in the life of Rosa Fielding
It was a fine morning in May, and the dull, little frequented High Street of the small country town called Rutshole seemed absolutely cheerful, as if inspired by the exhilarating atmosphere.
So at least thought Mr. Bonham, a portly widower of fifty or thereabouts, as having left his carriage at the inn, he proceeded down High Street leisurely, but with the usual solemnity on his countenance, (which he considered dignified and respectable) much lightened by the cheering weather. He stopped at the door of a small shop, on which was inscribed, 'Trabb, Hosier and Glover'. Here he entered.
Now that capital woman of business, the widow Trabb, was engaged in suiting a stiff-necked old maid with a pair of mittens; but even if she had not been so occupied, we very much doubt if she would herself have attended to a gentleman customer. The worthy woman knew that there are other means of making a shop attractive besides the excellence and cheapness of the wares therein sold: and she had enlisted in her services a pretty girl of sixteen, whose remarkable grace and modesty had already attracted numerous young squires, young farmers, and officers from the neighbouring garrison town, as real or pretended customers, to the manifest advantage of Mrs. Trabb's till.
When therefore, she saw the rich and respectable Mr. Bonham enter her shop, she summoned her aide-de- camp with 'Rosa, attend to the gentleman!' and continued her attention to her customer. Now Mr.
Bonham, though nearly fifty as we have said, and of a very staid and even strict outward demeanour, was by no means so elderly in his feelings and capabilities as would have been judged from outward appearances. He had been early left a widower, and the very fact of his having to keep up the said outward appearances and his ambition to have a saintly character among his neighbours and friends, had forced him to restrain his indulgences within very narrow bounds, and to be circumspect and moderate in the enjoyment thereof. So that this self denial was of a double benefit to him; among the saints of his acquaintance he was esteemed as 'one of the elect and a babe of grace', while he himself was pleasingly conscious that, thanks to his regular but very generous diet, and his habit of self control (not abstinence) as to the softer sex, he was enjoying what is called a green old age; and was when on the verge of fifty, pretty confident that his latent powers when called into action would be found quite equal to those of many a worn out young roue of five and twenty.
He was remarkably struck with Rosa's beauty, and well he might be.
Long, flowing, golden hair; deep blue eyes, a sweet but by no means insipid expression of face, combined with a graceful figure, and manners very attractive even in her humble occupation; all detained Mr. Bonham in purchasing a pair of gloves, longer than he had ever been in his life before. Certainly he was very difficult to suit; and Rosa had to take the measurements of his hand more than once. At last he was suited-as far as gloves were concerned-and was about to leave the shop when a bright idea struck him. He turned back to where Mrs.
Trabb was standing, that estimable woman had just got rid of her Low Church-looking customer triumphantly, she had clapped two pence extra onto the price of the mitts, and then after some bargaining submitted to rebate a penny. So both panics were satisfied, and Mrs. T felt not only 'at peace with all men' (that she generally was) but with all women too (which was not so frequently the case).
'Mrs. Trabb,' began the respectable gentleman, 'I would like to consult you about a little matter of business that may be a source of gain to a trades woman in your line; besides being conducive to the moral benefit of a tribe of benighted heathens.'
'Dear me, Mr. Bonham,' exclaimed the gratified Hosier, 'step this wayvery land of you I'm sure-a glass of cherry brandy? — do now-and sit down and rest yourself.'
So saying, she ushered the artful old gentleman into her snug back parlour; and producing the refreshment alluded to, awaited further disclosures.
We will not weary the reader with a full account of the proposed mercantile transaction. Suffice it to say that Mr. Bonham disclosed a case of soul-harrowing destitution among the Fukkumite Islanders recently converted to Christianity.
The interesting females had not the wherewithal to cover their bare bottoms, but used to display those well rounded features to the unhallowed gaze of the unregenerate sailors of whale ships calling at the islands. Now the missionaries considered that if any bottoms were to be displayed by their precious converts, the exhibition should be made in private to their spiritual advisers. And to end the story, the benevolent gentleman, by way of advancing the moral and physical comforts of the Fukkumite ladies (to say nothing of the missionaries) asked Mrs. Trabb if she would like to contract for the supply of say to begin with, one thousand pairs of frilled pantalettes.
'Really very kind of you, Mr. Bonham, to give me such a chance,' said the gratified shopkeeper, 'but may I ask you, sir, if the creatures, or converts, or whatever is most proper to call them, are to wear nothing else but those trousers?'
'No, I believe not,' was the answer. 'Why?'
'Because sir,' replied the experienced widow, 'a woman's pants are made, to speak plainly, with openings at the front and rear, corresponding to her natural openings; so really, though I shall be very glad to undertake the contract, I must tell you before hand, for fear of having my goods thrown back on my hands, that the garments proposed are no obstruction whatever to a man who is determined to violate a woman.'
'Very proper of you to make the remark, Mrs. Trabb, very business-like and fair; but then of course the women should have opportunities for performing their natural functions conveniently; and then our selfsacrificing brethren, the missionaries, they must have facilities for their comforts.'
'Oh, of course, sir,' was the response.
'Then send in your estimate, Mrs. Trabb, I'll see that you have a good chance. By the bye, Mrs. Trabb, who is that modest looking and rather attractive young person who attended to my requirements in your shop just now?'
Aha! thought the sharp widow, that's it, eh? (Rather caught I should think.) 'That young woman, sir, is a daughter of the Fieldings. You know, sir, farmers about three miles from here. Rosa her name is-a very nice girl and as good as she looks. Take another glass, sir!'
'No, thank you, Mrs. Trabb, send in those estimates as soon as you can and good luck to you.'
The very next morning he mounted his fine weight-carrying cob and riding out leisurely, as if for exercise, had no sooner got out of sight and hearing of Rutsden Lodge, as his residence was termed, and out of the ken of his sharp daughter Eliza, than he spurred his good hackney into a smart trot, which pace being occasionally varied by a canter, very soon brought him to Elm Tree Farm.
Fanner Fielding was out, which his visitor was not altogether very sorry for, as he thought it would be better in every way to begin his tactics by talking the old lady over. She received him very kindly and hospitably, though evidently puzzled to know the object of his visit. Mr.
Bonham was not long in break-big ground, for he knew the farmer might return in five minutes. He recounted to the gratified mother how he had been struck by the elegant yet modest and quiet appearance of Rosa, and how he was pleased to learn from Mrs. Trabb, that she was as good as she looked; that notwithstanding the great respectability of Mrs. T and her establishment, and the high opinion he had of her moral worth, still he could not but be aware that a position behind her counter was pernicious, if not absolutely dangerous, to a girl of Rosa's attractive personal qualities.
'Why my dear Madam,' urged the moralist, 'I am informed that the young squires and fanners will ride a couple miles out of their way to deal in Mrs. Trabb's shop; and then those dragoon officers come all the way from Baboonfield Barracks. I know that man of Moab, their Colonel, Earl Phuckum the first, gets all his clothes from London, and I'd like to know what he wants in Mrs. Trabb's in High Street.'
'Perhaps dear Rosy will make a good marriage,' simpered the fond and foolish mother.