Imogene preferred to have a quiet family wedding ceremony. She had no wish to emulate her brother’s ostentatious and grand society wedding. Instead, she opted to stay at home and be married by the local rector in the old stone chapel that she had attended regularly throughout her life.
The sunshine filled day passed by in a whirl of festivity for both the bride and groom. The lavish wedding breakfast was given in Merriton’s bright and naturally lit ballroom. As the breakfast ended, Roberts, the family butler, flung open the long row of French doors that opened out onto a large sun-baked terrace. The swathe of jolly and colourfully garbed guests spilled outside into the sunny warmth, while fluttering fans and twirling parasols added to the air of celebration.
All too quickly, Imogene’s magical day was over and the happy couple bowled away in a coach and four bearing the Haffenden family coat of arms. They were to spend their honeymoon week at her husband Charles’s second home, situated in the small, but ever growing, seaside town of Brighthelmstone-on-Sea, which was situated down on the Sussex coast.
So here is where most romantic tales should end, with the happy couple beginning their lives together but for poor Imogene, her confusing and complicated story was only just emerging….
* * *
During the journey to Brighthelmstone, Charles kissed his beloved often and he was pleased to note that she responded with sweet sighs and small girlish giggles. Obviously, she much enjoyed her husband’s tender attention and this pleased him. Charles looked forward to the evening of his wedding night with delighted anticipation.
They arrived at the tall townhouse that was the smallest of Imogene’s new homes at about six o’clock that evening. The small household staff lined up outside the house in order to meet their new mistress. Imogene spoke graciously with each and every servant, asking about their length of service and their own family situation. The staff consisted of Mr. Simmons the butler, Mrs. Mare the housekeeper, Mrs. Henderson the cook and Sarah who, together with Alma, were the two housemaids. They seemed charmed by their new mistress and Charles once again prided himself on his choice of bride.
Carlton, Charles’s valet and Imogene’s lady’s maid, Penn, had arrived early that morning in order to sort, prepare and organize their respective employer’s wardrobes.
That evening, the happy couple discussed their wedding day over a dinner of delicious plump partridge served with potatoes Lyonnais, followed by a syllabub; the entire meal delightfully washed down with champagne. The pair flirted affectionately together and when Charles suggested that they retire for the night, Imogene readily agreed. Much to Charles’s consternation, his bride kissed his cheek and wished him a bright goodnight before following her lady’s maid Penn who lit their way with a chamber stick.
Imogene noticed the connecting door situated between her chamber and that of her husband’s; how very cosy it was to be married. To know that her beloved was only a step away should she suffer a nightmare during the night and perhaps require his immediate comfort was a nice feeling.
Penn assisted her mistress out of her elaborate gown, her petticoats, shift, stays and stockings. She fetched an ewer of warm water and washed her mistress from head to toe, asking her to lift an arm here and a leg there until Imogene lost her patience and reached for her towel, which had been placed over a chair back and set before the fire to warm.
A beautiful cream coloured embroidered nightgown was pulled over Imogene’s head. Then Penn removed the pins from her mistress’s hair before she brushed out the soft curls, which spilled down her mistress’s back. While Penn brushed, Imogene used her favoured witch-hazel and rosewater to cleanse her face. She wore no leaded cream or powder upon her young face as her unblemished complexion had no need of such affectation.
Once prepared for the night, Imogene skipped across the room and burrowed happily into her comfortable bed, snuggling down into the soft billowing warmth with a contented sigh. The day had been arduous, her morning had begun at dawn, and all she wished for now was a good night’s sleep. Penn lit the candle by her bedside, wished her mistress a goodnight and respectfully crept from the dim room. Imogene raised herself up on her elbow to blow out the candle and watched the flickering firelight play upon the ceiling. She pondered the various activities that she and Charles might enjoy on the morrow. Finally, too drowsy to think anymore, she gave a huge yawn as tiredness overcame her and she turned her face into her pillow and slept.
Charles entered his own chamber in a state of excited arousal. He had fought his attraction to his best friend’s sister for a number of years. Imogene was younger than him by several years and he vividly remembered her as a young girl with pigtails. She had grown into a wide-eyed innocent with a sweet disposition and delightful demeanour. This coupled with her fresh faced beauty and beguiling curves, had led Charles to fall in love. Thinking of those curves now had him rampantly hard and spurred him on to complete his evening toilette in record-breaking time.
Slipping on his blue silk banyan and kidskin slippers, he opened the door to his bride’s chamber but was startled to find it in total darkness. He went back and reached for a chamber stick with which to light his way. Slipping back inside Imogene’s room, he moved to the edge of the bed where Imogene lay curled into a small hump in the centre of the bed. She was on her side and slumbering sweetly. Charles watched her for a moment before he stretched out his hand to stroke her cheek. She did not stir.
Disappointed but philosophical, Charles turned away back into his own chamber. He had so looked forward to his wedding night but he reasoned that he could wait just one more day. He then fetched a linen handkerchief and sat down upon his bed. Shedding his robe, he laid back, grasped his throbbing phallus and, as he had done so many times in the past, pictured the licentious things that he would like to do to Imogene’s luscious young body. Before long, his essence was pooling into his kerchief but, far from bringing him relief, Charles still felt fully impassioned and extremely frustrated.
When he awakened the following morning, Charles washed himself carefully in anticipation of finally taking his bride and making her his wife. He cracked open the connecting door and peeked into the room, but to his surprise, his pretty dove had flown her nest. Her chamber was flooded with hazy morning sunshine but her bed was empty and, of Imogene herself, there was no sign.
A discrete cough from behind him announced the arrival of Carlton, his valet. Disappointed, Charles turned back into his own chamber and placed himself into Carlton’s capable hands. Shaved and dressed, he entered the dining room a little while later to find Imogene happily tucking into coddled eggs and buttered toast with evident relish.
“There you are, Charles dearest; did you sleep well? I slept like the proverbial log. What shall we do today? It is fine and warm. I propose we stroll along the seafront but what say you?”
Charles scowled , I say that I strip off your clothes and fling you on the bed while I get to know every intimate inch of your delectable body.
“Why, Charles, you are frowning, are you feeling unwell?”
Charles ground his teeth.
“You are quite the early bird, madam. I wanted to join you in bed this morning but you had already risen.”
Imogene cocked her head aside, her lips in a pretty moue. “Why ever should you want to do that Charles? It would be immodest, don’t you think?”
“Darling, we are married!” Charles clattered his plate against the side of the silver tureen that held the kedgeree. He ladled a healthy portion of the spicy fish, egg and rice mix onto his plate.
Imogene giggled. “That is no reason for us to adopt a lack of propriety, dearest. Whatever would the servants think should we share a bed?”
Charles stood rooted to the spot. Had her mother not explained even the basic rudiments of marriage to Imogene; how best to answer her? This was a most unexpected and unwanted development. It fell solely on him to deal with her sweet but infuriating innocence. Already she had moved on from the subject and was babbling some nonsense about salt-water immersion, as evidenced by the late Dr. Richard Russell of Lewes.
“Please could we, Charles—are you even listening to me?”
“What? Hmm, yes, yes, of course, we can go to the spa if that is your wish, my dear.”
Imogene beamed up at him happily and Charles felt a complete cad. He could wait another night, what was he thinking? This was the woman of his dreams. He had so looked forward to his wedding night… but he was a patient man, if nothing else.
She was young and naive and, after all, her eighteenth birthday had only been a fortnight previous. He would be as tolerant and loving with her as her youthful gullibility deserved. He would take the time to explain the conjugal side of marriage to his adorable bride. He would make her his and teach her everything he knew about the giving and receiving of pleasure once they were between the sheets. There would be no unseemly rush. He was a gentleman after all, and, as such, he could wait to satisfy his baser needs.
The spa had been rather a disappointment to Imogene. The water had been distinctly chilly and somewhat cloudy. The building was shabby and there had been an unpleasant odour of fish that seemed to permeate the entire establishment. She was pleased to leave and partake of luncheon at a local hostelry that held a good reputation for dining. Charles asked for a private room and they both enjoyed the pheasant served with a piquant blackcurrant sauce, followed by a steamed golden syrup suet crust served with thick, golden cream.