I arrived at Allerton Hall unannounced, dressed in the classic style of a landed Gentleman while riding in a tolerably smart carriage pulled by a matched pair of Greys, driven by one Mr Barrington from Devonshire who had become my friend masquerading as a coachman.
The Earl Howarth's Butler rushed out in agitation crying "Are you expected sir, only His Grace is away at the whipping Sir." His Grace indeed, as if he was a Prince or Archbishop not a mere Earl.
"Oh! Then direct me pray," I requested, in as haughty manner as I could muster.
"In the town sir, Allerton, in the square sir, at the whipping sir," he said deferentially whereas by rights he should be ordering us hence.
"And the Lady Catherine?" I asked.
He paused as if confused, "At the whipping sir."
"Then to Allerton," I directed, and Barrington obeyed instantly cracking the whip and forth we lunged with flying hooves and myself desperate to retain possession of my ridiculously tall hat..
"I could get a taste for this John!" he turned and grinned at me and in that moment we shaved a gatepost by a whisker, "better than mining," he commented.
"Hah, not as lucrative," I laughed, "And not as safe with your driving, you better let me drive!"
We changed places and also changed coats and hats and we continued on our way, laughing.
I drove into Allerton at a good lick and swung into the square, thank god Barrington was alert because a seething mass of humanity confronted us and if he had not thrust the sprag through a wheel there should have been carnage for we should never have stopped.
I sat and stared, never having seen its like except at a hanging in Bodmin in August, for a great wooden stage had been set up against the Red Lion alehouse across from St Agnes church the whole market square was packed with all classes and upon that stage a serving wench was being whipped, she was naked to the waist, her gown or shift ripped from her and dangling from the string around her waist and her masked leather clad tormentor, the hangman Jenkins I fancied, was flaying her already scarred and bloodied back and then as she sought to avoid his blows by turning away he struck her shapely exposed breasts and the teats thereon with a measured ferocity.
Her hands were manacled and uselessly chained together and the chain tied to a high beam high above her head which served to hold her so she could do nothing but stand or swing uselessly from the wrist irons from which a trail of blood seeped already.
The crowd were transfixed and so fixed in their attention that they paid us no heed but I supposed that a public whipping was the height of their season, and all classes were present, merchants and peasants, workers and nobility indeed the Earl and Countess looked on from tiered seating set up for the purpose, the Lord Graham, his son, by his side and the Lady Phillipa his younger daughter with them, but I looked in vain for the Lady Catherine.
"We'll tether the horses and walk back," I suggested and I expertly backed the carriage through a T turn and tethered the team outside the Dragon Inn.
The maid was nothing but a limp and bloodied mess when I returned, and his worship Mr Justin Grant the Judge of the Trentham assizes was mounting the steps to the stage , "Observe and observe well one and all," he shouted to the assembled throng, "His Grace Earl Howard told me to apply the law in its full force, and here you see I shirked not my responsibility, and I commend and command that three months hence you shall assemble again to witness the punishment I laid down."
He paused for breath, "Note well that when I exercised leniency by refraining from having the wench transported to the antipodes, I was determined that punishment should never the less be carried out and seen to be carried out, and have you seen punishment?" he asked, "Have you?"
There was a murmur, "Have you seen that I Judge Grant am a man of my word and all are equal in my courts, that the lowest maid and highest lady can expect equality of treatment?" he demanded. There was a murmur of approval. "That the Lady Catherine received no preference when she abused her trust and stole a trinket, as she called it, one that should cost a servant five years toil?"
It hit me like a sledge hammer, the serving wench was the Lady Catherine, all bloodied and beaten.
"Six months has she toiled in the fields and six more shall she toil," he shouted, "I offered leniency should she confess as you all heard, but she will not admit her guilt, will not confess, will not apologise and without contrition there can be no leniency, no easy life as a house servant so shall she continue as the lowest farm girl until the after one year and a day then she shall be dismissed and be cast from her labours for her father to disown, I suggest she may have found the Antipodes preferable so be be warned one and all," he shouted his voice rising to a crescendo, "Thou shalt not steal."
"That's Catherine!" I gasped to Barrington.
"The girl you keep talking about?" he demanded.
"Indeed." I replied, scarcely believing my ears and eyes, "That's Catherine."
The shock of seeing Catherine was profound, to see her displayed so cruelly as a thief, I could scarce believe it. I scarce recognised her as she was cut down, filthy bloodied and yet to my eyes beautiful,though her hair was no longer neatly cut and her cheeks were now not painted but naturally ruddy and her shoulders firmed and muscled, and then as the ropes were cut and she fell and sprawled in the dirt so her shift fell away revealing an iron chastity belt.
A great laugh arose and jarred Catherine from her stunned immobility and she grabbed her torn smock around her, desperate to preserve the modesty that in truth was lost, and all the while her eyes were crying but her tears had run dry until just the tear tracks remained in the filth of her face.
"That's your girl?" Barrington queried, "She's a beauty!"
"Don't joke," I warned.
"I do not!" he said, "I bet she scrubs up really nice."
I realised she had an iron collar around her neck and she was taken down from the stage and chained barefoot behind a dung cart hauled by an ox and so was she pulled from the square.
"What now?" Barrington asked.
"Find Catherine," I suggested, "Follow that cart!"
It was a slow and painful process, but by and by we made progress until at length the yokel riding the cart saw we were no menace to them and pulled Catherine aboard so the Ox could proceed at its best pace which in all honesty was no better than when Catherine had been staggering behind.
Its destination was his Lordships piggery, set away from the main house and farm because of the smell it was a low stone built building with a stone tile roof on timbers, and there in the mud and filth lived his Lordship's pigs, and with them we soon discovered also resided Catherine chained as she was to an iron in the wall which I noted his Lordships agent fastened her chain with a pad lock.
"And what's your interest here master Matson?" he asked as he spied me watching.
"I have been away sir," I replied, "I am most curious as to why the Lady Catherine is so treated."
"She's no Lady!" he laughed, "A sow like the rest," he said and he tore away the last of her clothes leaving her naked, "She'll get plenty of swill come morning and she can enjoy a life of ease," he laughed, "No sir I must ask that you be gone as this is private land."
"Oh, yes indeed," I agreed, "Most certainly, good day sir."
"What now sir?" Barrington asked as we went away.
"Find your beloved in Rotherham of course!" I ordered, "Drop me at my father's and take the carriage."
I directed him the way to my fathers modest abode standing as it did high on the hillside overlooking meadows and pastures my father pretended to the world that he owned, yet sadly such was not the case, indeed there was a time in my youth when my father spoke to me earnestly, "John," he said, "You are the oldest son of a second son, you have a good name but no fortune, so my son it is for you to create your own fortune, shall you join the Militia, the Admiralty, the Church? he asked, "Or the Law."
"No father," I had answered "I shall be an adventurer and travel the world in search of treasure."
"Indeed," he exclaimed, "And marry a princess?"
"No the Lady Catherine." I said proudly, though in truth at that time I had barely exchange two dozen words with the girl.
"Ha!" he exclaimed, "Earl Howarth's daughter!" he laughed, "Oh my lord what a thought!" he laughed but Uncle Henry lent the money for my education and I attended Salford University and studied geology and chemistry and the way to establish purity of the precious metals with an eye to seeking gold prospecting and so by degrees my education progressed until with a loan from Father that he could ill afford I bought passage to Mexico.
I had a last summer at home, a brief spell of dances and fetes, and I saw the Lady Catherine often, I amused her, it seemed, but she sought not amusement but a rich suitor to woo her, but for the while my company sufficed when there was no more eligable batchelor present and indeed such was our companionability that the Earl himself challenged my intentions.
"Why to earn a fortune in the New World and wed Catherine sir," I replied.
"And if you return penniless?" he asked.
"I do not intend to return penniless," I explained, "Either I return with funds or not at all that is my intention."
"Then do not distract Catherine, you amuse her, but she has but a short season, you do understand?" he asked reasonably.
"I shall be gone before the London Season starts sir," I said, "I shall not trouble her again unless I return well set up."
I set of for Mexico but sea sickness afflicted me and it was a great relief when we hit a gale off the Longships reef and had to limp into Newlyn for repairs, and once ashore nothing would induce me to venture to sea ever again, and it was in Cornwall and not the new world that I made my fortune.
Thus it was with mild disinterest that father watched Barrington drive the carriage up to our house and then he watched in amazement as I descended, only to view its disappearance when I had unloaded my own baggage as sign that it was as a mere passenger in a hire conveyance rather than the man of substance as I appeared.
It was Mother that rushed to greet me, "John where have you been?" she asked, "Have you made your fortune?" she asked.
I admitted to a fortune of a thousand pounds and she insisted on hearing how I had fared before I even removed my bags from the roadside.
"I have been mining silver," I said.
"In the America's?" Father asked.
"No, Cornwall." I replied, "I bought passage to Mexico from Plymouth on the "Pallister" under Captain Trelawney but as soon as we passed from the Tamar river into the open Ocean I was rendered incapable with the sea sickness, and when we sprang a timber off the Longships reef and had to limp into Newlyn for repairs nothing would induce me to venture to sea ever again."
"Ha typical!" Father replied, "Did I not tell you that as the oldest son of a second son, you have a good name but no fortune, and to create your own fortune by joining the Militia, the Admiralty, the Church? he asked, "Or the Law?"
"Yes Father," I agreed, "And I said I shall be an adventurer and travel the world in search of treasure."
"Then it's a great shame you found none such." he added.
"Well Father I worked the Wheal Claire mine, Captain Trelawney's brother's mine and found silver." I told him, "He thought I made a pittance from Tin, but it was silver, he said there was tin there in the worked out lead seams and gave directions, just above the water he said, and there it was a thin seam and I started on my own with a peck axe and a bundle of candles, and I recognised the silver bearing ore and crushed my own rock by candle light, and made my own acid using my education to the full and dissolved the silver from the crushed rock and cast my own silver ingots, but the vein was not extensive, too thin to mine easily so I cut and propped barely a six inch slot in the rock and gradually worked all I could reach.
When it was all but worked out I made Telawney an offer, "What say you that I buy the mine," I put the proposition to him."
"His old face turned into a grin," I explained, "He named a price and I agreed, and then I recruited Barrington at Devonport near Plymouth and we scraped that silver seam clean as deep as we dared, and we, Barrington and I took our treasure to Truro piece by piece moulded and cast into ingots and had it's purity confirmed and marked to prove it was indeed silver and as an aside we made rings and trinkets by selective casting and we travelled the jewellers selling trinkets rings and pieces of silver and with the proceeds I paid for the mine, and then we showed portions of it to selected men of wealth saying there was sliver there and machinery was needed to mine the vein any further and I sold shares until I was quite bought out and now I am returned."
I didn't mention I sent my first ring to Lady Catherine, I had its purity checked and hallmarked by Truro Assay office and I sent it anonymously but within the inner circle I engraved, "To my love JM." so she should know she was in my thoughts always.
"A Fairy story," Father averred, "but come in and have an extra place set at dinner Mother."
"What happened to Lady Catherine?" I asked as we relaxed after dinner,
"She stole a ring," Father said, "A trinket from Lady Fowler."
"Yes, a solid silver ring," Mother said,"From Lady Fowler."
"Oh it was all over the County and to think you thought to marry her!" Father joked, "There was something, Lady Fowler would have forgotten the whole thing of Catherine would have wed her Francis, but she refused and avowed Francis sent her the ring, which he denied."
"What happened?" I asked.
"Oh it was such a fuss," Mother said, "All Society attended, the judge, Judge Grant, insisted that the law were upheld for her as for the lowest order and when it was all over he found her guilty and ordered she should be stripped of her finery and her titles and whipped four times at equinoxes or the nearest Saturday thereto and should serve as Lady Fowler's servant for a year and a day."
"She said I should rather tend hogs in a field!" Father added, "So the Judge he said."
"He said very well, the sentence is to tend hogs," Mother squealed.
"And his Grace passed a note to the Judge." Father added.
"And the Judge ordered her to wear an iron chastity belt!" Mother chuckled, "Just imagine."
"What happened?" I asked.
"Tell him Gerald," Mother suggested, "I shall retire."
Father took up the tale, "They dragged her to the cell, it was pitiful, she came with her father and mother and sister and brother, she screamed for them pleaded her innocence and they just watched as she was taken away, silently, and then when the whispers started that she wouldn't be flogged at all his Grace paid for a stage to be built beside the Red Lion and promised fee ale and had the Judge bring her to the square on the Saturday of the equinox all dressed up, but chained hands and foot and there they had the hangman strip her to her under shift, tearing her dress right away and then he tore even that away so her udders were free and then he called the blacksmith and they had a hearth going and they rivetted an iron collar around her neck like any common criminal and hung it from a beam."
"Rivetted?" I queried.
"Red hot rivet, how she screamed," he said, and then the judge said 'One hundred lashes!' One hundred, that's twice the usual for a thief but you see it was a valuable ring, antique silver, and the hangman took up the whip and was merciless, left and right in alternate strokes, first he bared her buttocks so we could see the belt and when he made her bleed there he bared her back and then thrashed lines into it, an inch apart every inch very near he covered, and when he tired of that he thrashed her front."
"Her breasts?" I gasped in astonishment.
"Yes and her teats, criss cross hither and thither her ams were shackled overhead so she could not protect herself you see and her belly, he whipped that, some it was nearer two hundred lashes and all she could say was 'I'm innocent.'
"Then what?" I asked.
"Oh she fainted," Father said remembering, "So they revived her with throwing water at her from chamber pot, then he finished thrashing, they tore off her shoes and stockings and they drew the Earl's muck spreading cart up and chained her behind it and set the ox off with a report from a pistol, of course being a fine lady,"
Mother returned, "Oh yes she wasn't used to walking barefoot on cobbles and she sort of jumped and hopped and everybody laughed and hooted and threw rotted vegetables and all sorts of filth at her."
"They put a sack around her to hide her nakedness," Father added, "And they took her to the Earls pig sty and let her sleep and live with the pigs, she measures out their swill, some say she shares it because they don't feed her."
"And how is she?" I asked.
"Filthy and angry," Mother said, "The yokels used to like to torment her but they don't see the point anymore so she gets left alone."
"The Beadle has her road mending though," Father added, "Rock breaking, which is mans work really but the judge agreed it was fair."
"To think you wanted to hold your hat up to a common criminal, she'll have to become a servant or marry a yokel," Mother said.
"Enter a brothel more like," Father said because he knew of such things being a former Militia man.
"Gerald please!" Mother snapped.
"I see, and all because Catherine refused the Fowler boy." I suggested.
"Oh no, she stole the ring all right." Mother insisted, "The Fowler's would have no need of her dowry."
I knew something was wrong, but what?
"Oh of course she's been whipped since then," Mother said, "It didn't seem right when they brought her into the square behind the dung cart on mid summers day and the smell was something awful, so last week they found her clothes from the hall and dressed her without bathing her."
"It was, well," Father said, "Like a bad play, a filthy yokel in a richly embroidered dress brought in the Earls spare carriage, but the lower orders loved it,especially when the hang man ripped the dress off her and showed the under-things of a fine lady that the lower orders may go a lifetime without seeing."
"And the hoots when they bared her teats," Mother added, "You see she was healed up almost lily white where the dirt flaked off. and then he cut her again, left her bleeding again."
"I know, I saw, I was there," I said, "At the end."
"Oh, on your way home?" Father asked.
"My friend Mr Barrington had business in Rotherham," I explained.
"Well you are a very lucky boy," Mother opined," Why had you the money to match your infatuation you may have wed a thief."
"He wanted her dowry Mabel," Father explained, "A thousand guineas, eh, sweeten the pill eh! all her demands and haughtiness, I remember when she was young you went to her birthday and she just ignored you!"
"It was not that, she was so beautiful I could not summon the courage to speak to her." I said.
"Well," Mother suggested, "She's not beautiful now, even a tramp is cleaner and less diseased."
I ignored mother's jibe.
Next morning I donned my working clothes and borrowed father's horse for a ride to the Earl's piggery I rode past slowly, Catherine looked through me as I passed so I ignored her also but when I had rounded a bend I tethered my horse and I walked back, "Nice morning," I said cheerily.
"What exactly is nice about it?" she asked with a sarcasm completely at odds with her station .
"Fresh breeze, pretty girl, what more could a man desire." I asked.
"Don't get ideas," She said as she banged her manacled wrist against her chastity belt, "Or that because I have sharp teeth and a strong bite."
"A kiss then, a gentle caress of your," I paused, she had donned a pig swill sack for a smock but it was loose and her breasts were clearly displayed.
"I cannot escape you so I shall ask only for a pastie, or a meat pie, and for that I shall allow that you may caress, suckle, do what you will." she said, "Otherwise I have sharp teeth and pointed elbows."
"Then a meat pie I shall bring," I agreed, "Or shall you accompany me?"
She rattled the chain attached from her manacled ankle to the pigsty wall, "I am afraid I am indisposed."
"So I understand," I answered.
"Do I know you?" she asked.
"You are Lady Catherine, yes?" I asked in reply.
"Yes, I was once on a past life, and you are?" she clearly had not recognised me, perhaps my hard labour had made a man of the boy she once knew..
"An admirer, and a meat pie you shall have," I promised, "And a jam tart if you please me."
"Don't mock, and where have you the money for pies?" she asked, "Pies not promises will win my affections."
I went away in search of pies, I bought a slice at the Red Lion and a jam tart and hurried back, to her.
She devoured the meat pie ravenously, "Oh that tastes so good, warm food." she said and when I gave her the tart she said, "You said if I pleased you? what are your terms.
"None, but should you desire more then entice me!" I suggested as she savoured the sweet water from my flask as she ate.
"Shall you play with my teats?" she asked, "As the yokels do?"
"I should be honoured," I said and I gently slipped her shift from her breast and bent my head.
Her teat stiffened as I touched it, "Oh please do not torment me with gentle kisses take what you will," she pleaded, "Bite me hurt me but do not love me for I cannot bear it."
"You do not welcome my attentions?" I asked.
"No, not this, let me relieve you swiftly I shall not bite I promise, you may use my lips." she said and I kissed her full on the lips and she recoiled, "No your member!" she cried, "I shall not bite."
I undid my breeches feeling unsure of myself, "Oh, my it's, ah it's bigger than," she said.
She looked so apprehensive, so lovely, I imagined for second how her passage might be, all golden fur and anticipation beneath the iron straps and it happened, uncontrollably my emission started, splattering her chin and nose and eyelids, "You beast you betrayed me!" she squealed.
I apologised, "You are too beautiful," I stammered, "allow me." I took my hand kerchief and moistened it and wiped the seed from her face, "You should have allowed my kisses," I suggested, "Promise me a long passionate kiss and you shall have a chicken leg and apple pie next time pass."
"And leave me all wanting, I think not, I should rather starve." she said, "But I shall steel myself to suckle you, for a pie, if you please?"
I left her to her labours, except I had a question, "Why did you steal the ring?"
"I never stole anything!" she insisted, "Francis gave it to me!" she insisted, it amused me so I wore it and then when I refused Francis his Mother insisted it were hers and had I stolen it!" she explained, "But why your interest?"
"Oh, I suppose, well I'm no great catch," I said, "But I own I should like to lay abed with you when your labour ceases."
She hit me, "That is twenty lashes," I said, "Now say you'll wed me and it will be forgotten."
"No, lash away, never." she averred.
"Then I shall petition your father!" I announced.
"You are cruel with these games," she insisted, "I shall rather eat pig's swill than endure your company and eat pies and tarts, chocolate even."
"Fare well then my beauty," I said and trudged away, but I returned on horseback, "Until the morrow," I said and threw her my horse blanket before riding away.
I went again to the Earl's house, riding horseback this time, all dressed like a Gentleman and I was accepted as such, and invited in directly, "Begging your pardon sir but whom should I tell his Grace for I cannot recall your name."
"Matson, John Matson," I replied, "I came once before." I explained.
The old fool was too impressed by my attire to realise who I was and invited me to wait in the parlour, and the Earl appeared presently, "Matson, son of Gerald Matson," he said, "I seldom forget a face.
"Indeed your Grace." I replied.
"Have you been ennobled?" he chuckled, "Or are you Black Ned the highwayman?"
I laughed, "No indeed, I am a failed adventurer who sought riches in the Americas and succumbed to sea sickness before I passed the Scillies but I had some luck mining in Cornwall, enough for a suit of clothes and a horse in any case."
"And your reason for calling?" he asked.
"Catherine," I replied.
"There is no Catherine here, I have disowned her entirely, what happens to her interests me not a fig." he said more with sorrow than anger.
"Then you have no objection if I woo her, offer wedlock perhaps?" I asked.
"You, a fraudster with a suit and a horse and no fortune, indeed you should be a perfect match, go to her, woo her fornicate should wish, I shall find the key to her chastity belt, if you have a shilling."
"Sir," I protested, but he was searching his pockets, and drew out a silver key.
"Here, now go wallow in the pig sty and fornicate to your hearts content." he said.
I found a shilling and placed it upon the table, "There was the matter of of a ring," I explained, "I have a great fondness for Catherine and would wish to have her innocence proven."
"Oh she had a penchant for rings," he explained, "It brought her downfall, an antique of the thirteenth century by its marks I believe, hugely valuable, hugely embarrassing, so I shall ask you to kindly never darken my door again should you consort with her, and now if you will excuse me," he said quite quietly as he stood to leave, and to my surprise as he left the room he pocketed my shilling.
It was quite strange, indeed very strange to be given a free hand with the Lady Catherine, indeed although the light was fading I went to see her forthwith, but she was sleeping contentedly under my horse blanket so I let her lie.
I said not a word to Father or Mother but next day I bought roast chicken leg, and an apple pie and some special chocolate with soft centres containing fine wines which I took to her, but the Earl's pig man was chastising her for possessing a horse blanket.
"She is keeping it safe for me," I informed him as I approached, but already he had struck her several times across the shoulders with a rough branch he had broken from a tree nearby.
"And who be you?" he asked.
"Two pence for you to make yourself scarce," I explained, "I am come to woo the maid."
"Ha!" he laughed but twopence was sufficient for him to quench his thirst in ale and as I proffered it so he grasped it and hurried away.
"You came back?" Catherine exclaimed.
"Indeed ," I agreed, "Are you pleased to see me ?"
"If that's the smell of chicken," she smiled, "Tell me are you John, Gerald Matson's son?"
"I am and it is indeed," I agreed, "But there is a price." I handed the chicken to her and Catherine gnawed hungrily upon the chicken leg and peered at me. I dangled the key to her chastity belt. She stopped chewing.
"How?" she asked, "How did you?"
"Your father sold it for a shilling." I told her and her eyes welled with tears, she sobbed softly, "I shall claim you when you are released, first you shall bathe and then we shall find a soft bed and then I shall claim you."
"Do you not desire me?" she asked, "Now, like this?"
"I can wait," I admitted, "But can you resist me," I produced the pie, and then the chocolates.
"No!" she admitted, "I cannot."
I just smiled and enquired about the ring, "It was antique," she replied," A Mr Allenbroke testified as to its antiquity, it seems they can tell from the marks when the ring was made, for myself I thought it but a trinket."
"And where is the Ring now?" I asked.
"I know not." she explained.
I went not to the house but sought instead the Judge Grant. He knew of my father and so he allowed me an audience for ten minutes as he was very busy, yet he called his man to cancel his appointments when I explained the situation and that I was enamoured of Catherine and I had grave doubts about the evidence against her.
"Did they have the provenance, the chit from the Jeweller's?" I asked.
"From my recollection a Mr Allenby of Allenby and Gough, the jewellers to Lord and Lady Gower produced a record that the ring was resized some years ago for Lady Fowler's ancestor," the Judge remembered, "And he read the assay marks with a spy glass and indeed gave a precise date of manufacture some hundreds of years prior."
"So it sounded correct," I agreed, "Except Assay stamps don't give the century merely the year it may be thirteenth or fifteenth or sixteenth century from the style, but not from the marks sir."
"You have sowed a seed of doubt Mr Matson," The Judge agreed, "A seed no more, but I shall make enquiries, indeed I shall."
I thanked him for his time and went home. Father was in an irritable mood, and after dinner he tackled me, "You say you have a fortune?" he asked.
"Indeed," I agreed, "A small one."
"As long as it was honestly obtained," he said, "Every wench in the County will pursue you if this is known." he averred, "How I wish I had a tenth of a fortune to spend," he said.
"Then I shall repay what you lent me and more, a hundred pounds, but keep it between us." I insisted. He smiled broadly.
"Tis good to hear John but it will be even better when it is in my hand."
I found him a silver ingot from my room, "A deposit," I insisted, yet we both knew it was far more than I owed.
I went to see Catherine again, the swine herd had whipped her again when she bit his appendage while he sought to take advantage and her blanket was stolen so I found her a blanket and a hot meal, and I worried that the winter weather might yet see her perish.
"Don't John," she said as I sought to kiss her, "My mouth is foul with the Swineherds emissions."
"Poor poor Catherine," I said.
"If you will you may," she whispered softly, "Claim me as your own."
"Claim you?" I asked.
"Take away the iron," she invited, "If you will."
"Not until you are proven innocent," I agreed.
I stayed with her and regaled her with tales of Cornwall, "Did you get my ring?" I asked, "I made several, but I despatched the first to you by messenger, I engraved With my Love JM inside it, just a simple trinket."
"No, I never received any trinket, Francis gave me a fine antique ring and then denied the gift which is why I languish here," her eyes welled with tears, "So please never speak of rings again."
I told her something about my fortune which I admitted to being in excess of two hundred pounds, after the repayment of fathers loan.
"So I shall not enjoy finery as Mrs Matson," she laughed, and then she went deathly white, "I am so sorry, I presume too much."
"Will you marry me?" I asked, "I shall not kneel because of the pig muck but please say you will Catherine."
She laughed, her eyes full of tears and incongruous in her filth, and she said so sweetly, "If you can love me then that is my fondest wish."
I went home with the failing light leaving her to gather sufficient hogs around her to keep her warm through the long cold night.
"His Honour Judge Grant wishes to see you John," Father announced when I returned, "He said it was of the greatest urgency."
I went to his chambers with the greatest speed and once there I was at once ushered into his presence, "Ah Matson," he said, "The ring, I do believe young Fowler may have given it to Miss Maisey Fellows, Theodore Fellows gal, the merchant do you know."
"Sir?" I said.
"I make enquiries sir, when my decisions are questioned I make enquiries," he said "And I have spoken to Mr Fellows and he has agreed we may question Maisey."
"Indeed?" I queried.
"I shall send for her directly," he said and shouted for his man, "And tomorrow at Ten o'clock we shall meet at Mr George Ratner's emporium, a short walk away," he ordered, "Ten sharp mind."
I went directly to the George Inn where I put up and in the morning, and when I was woken with a wonderful breakfast served in bed I dressed and with a flurry of activity I quickly found myself hurrying to the Ratner emporium, the Judge greeted me, "In the back room," he ordered, "And listen."
Miss Fellows was a striking young woman, she strode into the shop on Haven Street accompanied by her maid and her Mother, "How dare you summon me," she snapped, "Mama has invited Mr Fowler this evening."
The judge smiled, "It is your ring," he said, "Antique silver, very rare,"
"A present from Mr Fowler," she said, "What of it?"
"We believe one like it was stolen from Winchester Cathedral." the Judge said misleadingly, "May I see?"
She pulled it from her finger, "It may have been but Mr Fowler gave it to me." she insisted.
"And your dowry Miss Fellows the Judge enquired.
"A thousand pounds or in that region," the Mother explained.
They handed the ring to Mr Spey, Mr Ratner's man and by turns they examined it minutely, "It may well be the one." Mr Ratner agreed, the hallmark, do you see, oh four, we had better see where Mr Fowler obtained it."
"May I see?" I asked, ordinarily all rings looked much the same but this was little different to those Barrington and I had cast at Wheal Grace and when they allowed me the use of the glass and I also examined the ring, although I knew very well, it was the Truro hallmark.
It did look very familiar, and plain, I expected a dazzling array of diamonds but this was simply plain, I peered closely, there was an inion HM and suddenly it hit me that it was my own ring,
"Ah, Cornwallis," Mr Sprey agreed, "Like the Winchester ring." before I could gather my thoughts.
The judge gave Miss Fellows a receipt for the ring and asked that he might interview Mr Fowler later, and so it was that with the Fowlers gone Mr Ratner turned to Sprey and in the presence of the Judge he said, "I would say this century."
"That is the Truro Stamp," I averred, "See the nick along the bottom line, I have stared at that enough times."
"Indeed Mr Matson?" Mr Sprey asked, "In what capacity?"
"Miner, extractor, and a very poor Silver-smith," I replied, and taking my own ring I said, "See here, a ring I made myself," and as they looked I added, "With the Truro stamp."
They peered and peered again, and took their books and peered in them and then at the ring again and then Mr Sprey said, "Indeed, that is the new Truro Assay office stamp, and that is no antique, indeed the two rings could have come from the same cast!"
"They did," I said, "The Fellows one was inscribed with my love HM, the HM is still visible the rest gone where the ring was re sized." I paused, "I sent it to Catherine anonymously as a token." I admitted.
We ate our dinner in the servants quarters at the Emporium, the Judge, myself, Mr Ratner and Mr Sprey the Jeweller, and afterwards we were joined by Lieutenant Gervais and five soldiers of the militia and we went to the Fellows' abode and there we waited for Mr Fowler.
Mr Fowler had barely walked in the house when the Judge approached him, "Mr Fowler, I have to question you about an antique silver ring."
"What ring?" he asked.
"This one," the Judge announced as he pulled the ring from his pocket.
"It was mother's" he said, "Why?"
"Then we shall interview her, come." he ordered, and turned to me. "Mr Matson, I suggest you proceed homewards and meet me at my chambers at nine tomorrow."
I went home and I fretted and I was thoroughly bad company and indeed I slept badly and I eventually rose at dawn.
The Judge was indisposed when I attended, and his manservant sent me down to the courthouse in Frenshaw square where a goodly number of people were already there and I became aware that the court was rapidly filling, the older Mr Fowler father of Francis Fowler was in the seats behind me looking grim and at once angry and worried,and then when I was seated for a half hour the Judges clerk ordered "All Rise," and the Judge appeared.
"If it pleases the first case is Rex versus Fowler. Perjury." the clerk announced. "Fetch the prisoner."
"If it pleases your worship," an insignificant little lawyer announced.
"No it doesn't please me bring Franics John Hunstanton Fowler." he ordered and when Fowler appeared from the cells escorted by militia the judge wasted no time, "Where did you obtain this ring?" he asked, "Or must I summon Miss Fellows to testify you gave it to her."
"It was mother's, a family heirloom," he lied.
"So let us call Mrs Fowler." he ordered.
"I must protest," the lawyer complained.
"Silence!" the Judge ordered, "Mrs Fowler, if you please."
She strode in from the waiting room, "So where did you obtain this antique ring?" he asked.
"From my mother and from her mother before her," she lied convincingly.
"And this is the one?" he asked and had the clerk show her the ring.
"Yes, this is the one I gave dear Francis for his beloved." she replied.
"The one the Lady Catherine stole?" the Judge asked.
"Why yes!" she agreed.
"Then how do you explain the Truro oh four Assay mark." the Judge asked.
"My Lord," the lawyer insisted on being heard, "Truro is an ancient Assay office and one cannot tell in which century a piece was marked, merely the year from nought to ninety nine but no more."
"I thank you," The Judge replied, "And when did the Truro office cease to stamp with the Cornwallis stamp and begin to use Truro."
"I have no idea," the Lawyer confirmed.
"Mr Ratner, can you enlighten us," the Judge asked.
"Some ten years ago sir." he replied.
"You fool Francis," Mrs Fowler cried.
"I ah," Francis sought desperately for an answer.
"You lied that this is an antique ring and lied also that Lady Catherine stole the ring" the Judge suggested.
"No," he protested uselessly.
"Enough!" the Judge ordered, "I order that Francis John Hunstanton Fowler and Lady Hermione Desdemona Ruth Fowler be detained securely until this Friday week when they shall be tried for perjury, and that Miss Catherine formerly Lady Catherine Howarth be arrested and brought before me for retrial on charges of theft also on Friday, I shall receive applications for bail for both matters in my chambers after this hearing.
I slumped in my seat, the business of the trial of Manningham, Lord Grey's Gamekeeper for theft of pheasants and Mister Johns for the theft of a Horse which he had apparently not stolen at all washed over me until at length the Judge retired.
I approached and offered bail for Catherine, "How much do you offer?" he asked.
"I have twenty guineas here, sir," I offered.
"Ten will suffice," he said, "I shall send word, but she will need clothing so spend your ten guineas wisely."
I had little time so I a few servants smocks were all I could obtain, and I was at Trentham Gaol when the Militia brought Catherine back. She was dressed in a Militiaman's tunic, "I have come to stand bail" I announced and when I paid the bail the guard released her manacles.
"You?" she said, as I handed her a clean smock, "And where shall you take me?"
"Home?" I suggested.
"Have you soap, towelling?" she asked.
"No but I have funds." I announced.
"Then take me to soap and water." she demanded.
I had funds indeed but she was unwelcome in any shop so I purchased such for her and a hair comb and soft leather slippers then we rode together to the river to Boulby bridge where the road crossed the Trentham river on numerous small low arches and after tethering the horse she slipped over the parapet and casting aside her smock she slipped into the breast deep crystal clear water.
She stooped with water up to her shoulders soaping herself and washing herself and the glorious pinkness of her slowly emerged from her coat of filth and she stood proud and firm bodied with not an ounce of spare fat, her udders sweeping from her breast like as utter perfection, just the crisscross of the whip trails to blight her as the filth slipped away and my manhood stirred mightily at the sight of it.
She stretched and luxuriated in her unaccustomed freedom then at once she sank from sight only to spring back out delightedly swishing her long yellow straw like hair like a naughty retriever dog, and yet with copious use of the soap slowly did her hair regain it's golden hue and refreshed she came to the of the river where the bridge parapet curved down towards the bank and I lifted her from the water and used the key to unlock her chastity belt.
Then tenderly I dried her, but she felt dirty still and it was an hour and more of splashing and frolicking before she felt clean and donned a new smock and sat with me as I combed her hair.
"I shall take you home," I said, "Your father will be concerned."
"Liar, he sold me for a shilling," she complained
I was nonplussed, I considered a lodging house but when questions were asked we were ejected so finally we booked into the Trentham Hotel, as master and servant, and as was the practice I paid for two rooms and used but one.
She ate heartily with the servants that evening and when I retired following a convivial but sober evening with some travelling salesmen and merchants I found her ready in my bed, fast asleep, yet naked as if she welcomed the notion that we should conjoin.
I undressed entirely and lay listening to her breathing and then succumbed to sleep but she woke with the dawn, and woke me with a kiss, which I reciprocated, her warmth aroused me and I explored her entirely with my fingers and with particular care I explored where the chastity belt had been,and then she said, "You paid you shilling, now take what you are owed and release me from your hold."
I took hold of her and pried her legs wide and after exploring her softness with my fingers eased the soft folds asunder and eased the purple head of my manhood into her soft wetness and then she grasped it and I as I heaved mightily so by degrees and through her agony which she staunchly repressed so quarter inch by quarter inch I claimed her and with a cry she was truly mine.
She was all I ever dreamed of warm and wet and tight, and to her consternation I emitted within her promptly with all the potency of abstention and then did I insist on kissing her with passion until my potency returned and I entreated her to allow me to enjoyed her delights once more.
She demurred, she resisted, "I have paid a shilling, and many more shillings for soap, I do believe you owe me the courtesy of allowing my attentions a few more times."
"But it pains me!" she explained, "The insertion, it distresses me greatly though I try to suppress my distaste out of gratitude."
I thought briefly, "I have it on good authority that the pain subsides with practice," I informed her, "And with my expenditure I should expect a good few insertions before I am repaid."
I grasped her firmly, so firmly that she knew that resistance was futile and pressed home my manhood against her, and when pressed her softness parted like the petals of a daffodil and he slipped easily within and her soft folds enveloped and swallowed him until the balls beneath were tickled by her small hairs around her softness.
This was indeed heaven, a higher plane of heaven entirely as she began to moan but with pleasure and not pain, "I do believe you may be right," she whispered, "Now profess your love and I shall be content indeed."
We conjoined more in love than passion and in a while her passions overflowed and as she gasped so I emitted copious amounts seed within her to quench her inner fire.
"Now, are you displeased?" I asked, as withdrew from her "Or shall you enjoy being Mrs Matson."
"Oh please, use me as you will but don't joke." she protested.
"I'm not joking," I assured her, "And who else would want you, and in any case you have agreed already!"
She sealed our bargain with a kiss and we conjoined again.
Sadly My father objected to our union but the promise of two hundred pounds changed his mind, but the Earl was more awkward, "I have disowned her," he insisted, but I sneaked back after our interview and struck a bargain with the housekeeper and I took away all the Lady Catherine's clothes for the sum of fifteen shillings!
The Reverent Bailey agreed to marry us and then came the Friday trial at Trentham Assizes in the Court house.
Catherine chose to wear her red velvet dress with white detail and a red hat looking every inch the Duchess she should have been, to the shock and consternation of the yokels clustered around the court who expected her to be near naked, and she was allowed to sit with me in the public seats and not taken to the cells until called to the dock.
The proceedings were over in the blink of an eye.
"The case of Catherine, formerly Lady Catherine Howarth." the clerk announced.
"Is there a case for the prosecution." the Judge demanded of a small lawyer cowering before him.
"Ah." he said, "Our expert Mr Allenby is indisposed."
"No, he is the cells," the Judge remarked, "I had him brought down, he shall speak up for you."
"Ah," said the Lawyer, "Oh, well, perhaps it was a simple mistake, and I'm sure Mre Fellows and Mr Francis Fellows would magnanimously forgive the girl and release her from her sentence."
"Indeed," the Judge ordered, "Then call Mr John Matson."
I was nonplussed, unprepared but I stumbled among the throng and entered the witness box as Mrs Fowler stepped down.
"Your ring, Mr Matson, please tell the court where you obtained it." The Judge asked,once I had sworn the truth to tell, "The one on your finger."
"I cast it," I admitted, "Myself, it bears the Truro hallmark."
"Show me," The Judge insisted, and when it was conveyed to him he added, "It looks very much like the Fowler one, did you make that too?"
"Yes sir, for Lady Catherine, it was engraved "With my love HM, but the words have been worn off to leave but HM."
"What say you?" The Judge asked the Fowler's Lawyer.
"Our expert is indisposed." he repeated.
"Oh enough!" the Judge insisted, "It is clear the ring is Matson's and was given so could not have been stolen," and he addressed the court Catherine, Lady Catherine your sentence is hereby declared suspended, however, this is not the end of the matter and should perjury be proven then at a later date perhaps you may leave the Court with no stain upon your character," he said, "You may go."
I left with her and we mounted my Carriage, Barrington had offered his services once again as driver and so we went to Halliwell unannounced, I dressed in the classic style of a landed Gentleman with my beloved in a new dress and shawl procured from Mrs Price -Wright and we rode in my tolerably smart carriage pulled by a matched pair of Greys,
The Earl Howarth's Butler rushed out in agitation crying "Are you expected sir, only His Grace."
he paused, "Lady Catherine?" he asked.
"Indeed tell father I have come for his apology," she snapped.
"Look just be yourself," I said, "Forgive him."
"Never he abandoned me," she snapped, but when informed we were not invited in but her father came down.
"I cannot forgive you," he said, "But go marry this chancer and fraudster and we shall never speak again."
"But you allowed our union?" I asked.
"Indeed, I sold her for a shilling, a fair price," he asserted, "But I cannot receive you or her,"
She set her face like stone and then we went away.
We went driving, I had previously made tentative enquiries and when Catherine approved I bought the manor house called Boulby Manor for a veritable song as it was in an unfashionable style, and the trustees of the late Mable Sempter needed a quick sale and there we declared that we should set up house.
We missed the following Friday trial, the Fowler's offered no defence but merely relied upon the leniency of the Judge so on the Saturday we went to Allerton square to see them punished.
We sat where the Earl sat formerly, and the Judge came and announced the sentences.
"The sentence must represent the sentence which their perjurious statements brought down on the innocent, therefore as laid down Mr Francis Fowler shall be sentenced to two hundred lashes and be transported and Mrs Fowler shall endure one hundred lashes at solstice and equinox and shall serve Lady Catherine who is soon to be Mrs Matson in any menial capacity she shall choose.
Catherine looked at me and I at her and she kissed me on the lips.
The time and date were set, snow flurries set the market place white like fairyland and made the stage slippery and the hangman stood as whips man again.
They led the Mother in first, Catherine stared intently, as she was led up the steps to the stage, she was dressed in her cloak and her heavy winter robe with her hands manacled but as soon as she was under the beam they hauled her hands above her head, and tore her cape off her.
"That was the worst bit John," Catherine said, "When they tore my robe off, I had no idea, no idea at all." she said, "All the yokels staring at what is private," she said, "Ugghh!"
The hangman took up his whip and when Lady Fowler's cloak was thrown aside he tore away her dress but he struggled and then it was away and mere under things covered her and then with rendings and tearings her tore her to nakedness. not even a chastity belt protected her modesty, as the rolls of fat and voluptuousness were laid bare.
She stood in blind panic and all was not well with the whipping as her soft flesh split almost the first blow.
There was consternation, and the Judge Grant ordered proceedings halted, and he came up to Catherine, "My Lady," he said, "Can you find it in your heart to commute the sentence?"
"Indeed," she agreed, "My Husband and I shall adminiser the blows at a suitable rate nightly whilst the Lady fowler serves us." she thought, "Perhaps Francis might with advantage serve my pigs as I should hate for him to return from the Antipodes with a fortune."
"A wise and compassionate thought," the Judge agreed and then he returned to the stage, "In a spirit of compassion Lady Catherine has agreed that the lashes shall be applied at her home and in addition has petitioned that Mr Francis Fowler should be spared transportation and instead lashed in the place of his aforesaid mother and consigned to serve the pigs."
The mother was thus cut down and the Fowler son in turn brought up, the yokels lost interest but the maids became interested in their turn as his jacket and shirt were taken off before he was hung from the beam by a rope round his manacled hands, and then his breeches were hauled down and the first blow was administered across his left shoulder and then a second across his right shoulder, and he bore it stoically while ten or more blows were landed and then in the manner of such people he began to break down, but it was not until after the first twenty blows were laid and after the leather clad hangman acting as whips-man had rested and downed a pint of ale that the maids had their thrill.
It was as the whips-man began to whip the man's buttocks that the titter of laughter for as the blows landed so his manhood found the gap in his under breeches and reared through the gap though by many standards it was both short and fat it caused immense merriment, indeed Catherine turned to me and said "Ugh, revolting, but as the blows continued it reared obscenely and his visage reddened with embarrassment.
"Look,!" was the shout, taken up around the square, "Oh," some gasped, and then with a wicked sense of devilment the whips-man flashed the whip between Fowlers legs and deep into his loins and all at once his manhood became animated and spewed forth such a disgusting greyish substance, like three day old milk, that stout women fainted.
"To think I might have married that?" Catherine gasped, "I own six months in a pig sty was in all ways preferable."
But Fowler had collapsed upon buckling knees and with half the blows unadministered he was carried away senseless to the Gaol to recover before a further session a week hence.
Catherine and I stepped down among the first and we travelled home by carriage driven by the Mrs Sempter's coachman, whom hoped to find permanent employ with us and we joked about Fowler but Catherine was despondent although she remained stoical throughout but I sensed she was still unhappy and I asked about it.
"I want Father and Mother at my wedding," she said sadly. Now that I could never deliver