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Venus in India

Venus in India

Charles Devereaux

 

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Chapter I - A Call to Arms

The war in Afghanistan appeared to be coming to a close when I received sudden orders to proceed, at once, from England to join the first battalion of my regiment, which was then serving there. I had just been promoted captain and had been married about eighteen months. It pained me more than I care to express to part with my wife and baby girl, but it was agreed that it would be better for all of us if their coming to India were deferred until it was certain where my regiment would be quartered on its return to the fertile plains of Hindustan from the stones and rocks of barren Afghanistan. Besides, it was very hot, being the height of the hot weather, when only those who were absolutely forced to do so went to India, and it was a time of year particularly unsuitable for a delicate woman and a babe to travel in so burning a climate. It was also not quite certain whether my wife would join me in India, as I had the promise of a staff appointment at home, but before I could enter upon that I had of necessity to join my own battalion, because it was at the seat of war. But it was annoying to have to go, all the same, as it was clear that the war was over, and that I should be much too late to participate in any of its rewards or glories, though it was quite possible I might come in for much of the hardship and inconvenience of the sojourn, for a wild, and not to say rough and inhospitable country is Afghanistan; besides which it was quite possible that an Afghan knife would put an end to me, or that I might fall a victim to a common murder instead of dying a glorious death on the battlefield.

Altogether my prospects seemed by no means of a rosy colour, but there was nothing for it but to submit and go, which I did with the best grace possible but with a very heavy heart.

I will spare the readers the sad details of parting with my wife. I made no promise of fidelity, the idea seemed never to occur to her or to myself of there being any need for it, for although I had always been of that temperament so dear to Venus, and had enjoyed the pleasure of love with great good fortune before I married, yet I had, as I thought, quite steadied down into a proper married man, whose desires never wandered outside his own bed; for my passionate and loving spouse was ever ready to respond to my ardent caresses with caresses as ardent; and her charms, in their youthful beauty and freshness, had not only not palled upon me, but seemed to grow more and more powerfully attractive the more I revelled in their possession. For my dearest wife, gentle reader, was the life of passion; she was not one of those who coldly submit to their husbands caresses because it is their duty to do so, a duty, however, not to be done with pleasure or joyfully, but more as a species of penance! No! With her it was not, ‘Ah! no, let me sleep tonight, dear. I did it twice last night, and I really don’t think you can want it again. You should be more chaste, and not try me as if I were your toy and plaything. No! Take your hand away! Do leave my nightdress alone! I declare it is quite indecent the way you are behaving!’ and so forth, until, worn out with her husband’s persistence, she thinks the shortest way after all will be to let him have his way, and so grudgingly allows her cold cunt to be uncovered, unwillingly opens her ungracious thighs, and lies a passionless log, insensible to her husband’s endeavours to strike a spark of pleasure from her icy charms. Ah! no! With my sweet Louie it was far different; caress replied to caress, embrace to embrace. Each sweet sacrifice became sweeter than the one before, because she fully appreciated all the joy and delight of it! It is almost impossible to have too much of such a woman, and Louie seemed to think it quite impossible to have too much of me. It was, ‘Once more, my darling! Just one little more! I am sure it will do you good! and I should like it!’ and it would be strange if the manly charm which filled her loving hand were not once more raised in response to her caresses, ready once again to carry rapturous delight to the deepest, richest depths of the trembling voluptuous charm for the special benefit of which it was formed, a charm which was indeed the very temple of love.

Having ascertained from the adjutant general, that my destination was Cherat, a small camping ground, as I heard, on top of a range of mountains forming the southern limit of the valley of the Peshawar, and having received railroad warrants, via Allahabad, for the temporary station of Jhelum, and dak warrants from that spot to Cherat itself, I made my preparations for the long journey which still lay before me; amongst the necessaries for mind and body I purchased were some French novels which included that masterpiece of drawing-room erotic literature Mademoiselle de Maupin by Théophile Grautier.

The route from Bombay via Allahabad to Peshawar runs almost entirely through a country as flat as a table. Only once on this journey, about which I fear I may become tedious, did the tempter accost me, and then so clumsily as quite to frustrate his well-meant intentions. I had to make a few hours’ stay in Allahabad and to pass that away pleasantly I wandered about, examining the tombs of the kings and princes who reigned in past times over the banks of the Ganges and the Jumna, and in seeing such sights as I could find to amuse and interest me. As I was returning to my hotel a native accosted me in very good English.

‘Like to have woman, sahib? I got one very pretty little half-caste in my house, if master like to come and see!’

Oh! dear Mademoiselle de Maupin!

I felt no desire to see the pretty little half-caste! I put this self-abnegation down to virtue, and actually laughed, in my folly, at the idea that there existed, or could exist, a woman in India who could raise even a ghost of desire in me!

The station beyond Jhelum is reached, I having but one mighty river to pass before I leave the bounds of India proper and tread the outskirts of central Asia, in the valley of the Peshawar. But it took some two or three days and nights of continuous travel in a dak gharry [carriage], before I reached Attock. The dak gharry is a fairly comfortable mode of conveyance, but one becomes tired of the eternal horizontal position in which it accomodates the weary traveller. Crossing the Indus in a boat rowed over a frightful torrent with the roar of the waters breaking on the rocks below, was a very exciting experience, especially as it happened at night, and the dark gloom added a magnifying effect to the roar of the suspected danger. Another dak gharry waited, into which I got, lay down and went to sleep, not to waken until I reached Nowshera.

Ah! Mademoiselle de Maupin! What a lovely girl! Who can she be? She must, I fancy, be the daughter of the colonel commanding here, out for her morning walk, and perhaps, judging from the keen expectant glance shot in at me through the half-open sliding door of the gharry, expecting somebody, perhaps her fiancé; perhaps that is why she looked so eager and yet so disappointed!

Oh, dear reader! just as I opened my eyes I saw, through the half-open door, this perfect figure of feminine beauty! A girl clothed in close-fitting grey-coloured dress with a Teria hat archly sloped on her lovely and well-shaped head! That beautiful face! How perfect the oval of it! What glorious, yet rather stern eyes! What a delicately formed nose! Truly she must have aristocratic blood in her veins to be so daintily formed! What a rosebud of a mouth! What cherry lips! God! Jupiter! Venus! What a form! See those exquisite rounded shoulders, those full and beautiful arms, the shape of each so plainly visible so close does her dress fit her; and how pure, how virgin-like is that undulating bosom! See how proudly each swelling breast fills out her modest, but still desire-provoking, bodice! Ah! The little shell-like ears, fitting so close to the head. How I would like to have the privilege of gently pressing those tiny lobes! What a lovely creature she looks! How refined! How pure! How virginal.

And all these impressions flashed through my mind from a glimpse, a very vivid glimpse it is true, and she seemed so absolutely and completely removed from ordinary mankind that I never dreamt I should ever see her cunt; according to plan I was going to change horses at Nowshera and proceed immediately to Cherat.

But on arriving at the post office, which was also the place for changing horses, the postmaster, a civil-spoken Baboo, told me that he could give me horses only as far as Publi, a village about halfway between Nowshera and Peshawar, and that from that place I must make the best of my way to Cherat, for there was no road along which dak gharrys could be driven, and my good Baboo added that the said interval between Publi and Cherat was dangerous for travellers, there being many lawless robbers about. Moreover, he added, the distance was a good fifteen miles. He advised me to put up at the public bungalow at Nowshera until the brigade major could put me in the way of completing my journey.

This information was a great surprise and a great damper to me! How on earth was I to get up to Cherat with my baggage if there was no road? How could I do fifteen miles under such circumstances? To think I had come so many thousands of miles, since I had left England, to be balked by a miserable little fifteen. However, for the present there seemed nothing to be done but to take the excellent Baboo’s advice, put up at the public bungalow and see the brigade major.

The public bungalow stood in its own compound, a little distance from the high road, and to get to it I had to drive back part of the road I had travelled. I dismissed my driver, and called for the khansama [house-steward], who informed me that the bungalow was full, and that there was no room for me! Here was a pretty state of affairs! but whilst I was speaking to the khansama, a pleasant-looking young officer, lifting the chick [bamboo blind] which hung over the entrance to his room, came out on to the verandah, and told me that he had heard what I was saying, that he was only waiting for a gharry to proceed on his journey down country, and that my coming was as opportune for him as his going would be for me. He had, he said, sent at once to secure my dak gharry, and if he could get it, he would give up his room to me but anyhow, I should, if I did not dislike the idea, share his room which contained two bedsteads. Needless to say I was delighted to accept his kind offer, and I soon had my goods inside the room, and was enjoying that most essential and refreshing thing in India, a nice cool bath. My new friend had taken upon himself to order breakfast for me, and when I had completed my ablutions and toilet, we sat down together. Officers meeting in this manner very quickly become like old friends. My new acquaintance told me all about himself, where he had been, where he was going to, and I reciprocated. Needless to say the war, which was now practically over, formed the great topic of our general conversation. Getting more intimate, we of course fell, as young men do - or old, too, for the matter of that - to discussing love and women, and my young friend told me that the entire British Army was just simply raging for women! That none were to be got in Afghanistan, and that, taking it as a general rule, neither officers nor men had had a woman for at least two years.

‘George!’ he cried, as he laughed, ‘the Peshawar polls are reaping a rich harvest! As fast as a regiment arrives from Afghanistan, the whole boiling lot rush off to the bazaars, and you can see the Tommy Atkinses waiting outside the knocking shops, holding their pricks in their hands and roaring out to those having women to look sharp!’

This was of course an exaggeration, but not to so great an extent as my gentle reader may suppose.

We had just finished our cheroots after breakfast, when the young officer’s servant drove up in the same dak gharry which had brought me from Attock, and in a few minutes my cheerful host was shaking hands with me.

‘There’s somebody in there,’ said he, pointing to the next room, ‘to whom I must say goodbye, and then I’m off.’

He was not long absent, again shook my hand, and in another minute a sea of dust hid him and the gharry from my sight.

I felt quite lonely and sad when he was gone, for, although the bungalow was full, I was left in a small portion of it walled off from the rest, so that I didn’t see any of its other occupants - though I might occasionally hear them. I had forgotten to ask who my next door neighbour was, and indeed I did not much care as I was so bothered, wondering how I should get up to Cherat. It was now nearly ten o’clock, the sun was pouring sheets of killing rays of light on the parched plain in which Nowshera is situated, and the hot wind was beginning to blow, parching one up, and making lips and eyes quite sore as well as dry. I did not know what to do with myself. It was much too hot to think of going to the brigade major’s, so I got another cheroot, and taking my delightful Mademoiselle de Maupin out of my bag, I went and sat behind a pillar on the verandah, to shelter myself from the full force of the blast and try to read; but even this most charming damsel failed to charm, and I sank back in my chair and smoked listlessly whilst my eyes wandered over the range of lofty mountains which I could just distinguish quivering through hot, yellow-looking air. I did not know at the time that I was looking at Cherat and had I had any prescience of what was waiting for me there, I should certainly have gazed upon those hills with far greater interest than I did.

Reader dear, do you know what it is to feel that somebody is looking at you, though you may not be able to see him, to be aware for a fact that somebody is looking at you? I am extremely susceptible to this influence. Whilst sitting thus idly looking at the most distant thing my eyes could find to rest upon, I began to feel that someone was near, and looking intently at me. At first I resisted the temptation to look around to see who it was. I felt so irritable, that I resented, as an insult, the looking at me which I felt certain was going on; but at last this strange sensation added to my unrest and I half turned my head to see whether it was reality or feverish fancy.

My surprise was unbounded when I saw the same lovely face which I had caught a glimpse of that morning peering at me from behind the slightly opened chick of the room next to mine. I was so startled that instead of taking a good look at the lady I instantly gazed on the hills again, as if turning my head to look in her direction had been a breach of good manners on my part; but I felt she was still keeping her eyes fixed on me, and it amazed me that anyone in the position which I imagined she held (for I was firmly convinced that I was right as to my surmise that my unknown beauty was a lady, and a colonel’s daughter) should be guilty of such bad manners as to stare at a perfect stranger in this manner. I turned my head once more, and this time I looked at this lovely but strange girl a little more fixedly. Her eyes, large, lustrous, most beautiful, seemed to pierce mine, as though trying to read my thoughts. For a moment I fancied she must be a little off her head, but just then, apparently satisfied with her reconnaissance, the fair creature disappeared from sight. From that moment my curiosity was greatly aroused. Who was she? Was she alone? Or was she with the unknown colonel in that room? Why was she staring at me so hard? By Jove! There she was at it again! I could stand it no longer. I jumped up and went into my own room and called the khansama.

‘Khansama, who is in the room next to mine?’ and I pointed to the door which communicated with the room the lady was in, which was closed.

‘A memsahib, sahib.’

A memsahib! Now I had been in India before, this was my second tour of service in the country, and I knew that a memsahib meant a married lady. I was surprised, for had anyone asked me, I should have said that this lovely girl had never known a man, had never been had, and never would be had, unless she met the man of men who pleased her. It was extraordinary how this idea had taken root in my mind.

‘Is the sahib with her?’

‘No, sahib!’

‘Where is he?’

‘I don’t know, sahib.’

‘When did the memsahib come here, khansama?’

‘A week or ten days ago, sahib!’

It was plain I could get no information from this man, only one more question and I was done.

‘Is the memsahib quite alone, khansama?’

‘Yes, sahib: she has no one with her, not even an ayah [maid].’

 

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