Miss Charlotte Takes a Husband

This is the beginning of a story that I tried to write for What Happened at Midnight. I couldn’t make it work as a reasonable novella-length story, though—unless the two of them are hopelessly muddle-headed and bent on not talking to each other, it has a swift, happy resolution. So I gave up on it shortly after starting.

You might not want to read this at work.


London, September, 1842.

The candles were out. The oil lamp was extinguished. Charlotte Young—no, she was Charlotte Musgrave now, and in a few moments longer, she would be Mrs. Musgrave in truth—lay in bed, her limbs rigid, her nightgown raised to her knees, and waited for it to happen to her.

Her husband, Mr. Lionel Musgrave, had pushed her knees apart and lifted her nightgown. She couldn’t see his eyes, as the lights had all been extinguished, but she imagined that they’d be looking at her with that humorous twinkle in them. He did always smile when he saw her, and—as this act was supposed to be pleasurable to men—she rather hoped that he was smiling now. He was, after all, about to consummate the marriage.

Not that she knew anything about that. Only what her mother had told her last night, and that had been both confusing and disappointing. “I’m sure Mr. Musgrave will tell you everything you need to know,” her mother had said, after an explanation that had left Charlotte only too confused. “Do as he says, and don’t cry out when it hurts.”

“Are you ready?” he asked from above her. He had scarcely touched her—just enough to nudge her legs apart. She wasn’t sure she would ever be ready. Her body felt on pins and needles—both fear and a hint of desire flooding through her. She wasn’t even sure what she needed to be ready for. Her mother had told her only that it might hurt, that she should lie still, and that he was going to put himself inside her.

A decidedly non-specific explanation, but when her mother fixed her with a gimlet eye and asked, “Do you have any questions?” Charlotte had been sure that the answer was, “No, Mama.”

Surely he could not fit the entirety of himself inside any part of her. As for the rest…inside her, where? She couldn’t imagine Lionel hurting her, though, no matter what. She knew very little about her husband, but he’d promised her three weeks ago that he’d be good to her, and she had to believe that now.

“Yes,” she said bravely. “I’m ready, Mr. Musgrave.”

“Very well.” He lowered himself onto her gingerly. His weight was not unwelcome. His whole body was warm against hers. He was wearing a nightshirt but no trousers, and his naked part pushed against hers.

Naked part. She lacked both understanding and vocabulary.

His naked part didn’t feel at all like the marble statues she had ogled sidelong in the museum. It was bigger—thicker and longer—and hard against her thigh.

He flexed the muscles in his legs, and that hard ridge pressed into her belly. He didn’t put his arms around her, didn’t kiss her. He just adjusted himself between her legs, and then, just as suddenly pushed away.

“I, uh…” His voice was hoarse. “I need to…” His hands touched her knees, feeling up her legs tentatively, until he fumbled his way into the place between her legs. His fingers didn’t feel like a caress. He felt about in the pitch-black of their wedding chamber as if he were an elderly man who had mislaid his spectacles. He palpated her legs, and that spot between them; her buttocks, and then down, and then back up between her legs.

Charlotte lay dutifully still.

“Right,” he said, more to himself than to her. “Best get on with it.” He moved over her again. His body covered hers. He guided that hard naked part of him between her thighs, and then he pushed between them.

Her mother hadn’t lied. It did hurt. Charlotte bit her lip and looked up into the darkness, trying not to make a sound. But it burned—a sharp, painful tearing as he pushed inside of her. She’d thought her mother had exaggerated the matter, but she was right. Marital relations were awful.

He made a noise, pushed inside of her more, and Charlotte bit back a whimper.

He held himself very still above her. “Am I hurting you?” he asked.

“No.” She squeezed her eyes shut. “I’m…I’m perfectly well.” And indeed, when he stopped moving, the burning dissipated. She could feel him inside her, hard and thick, joined to her. It didn’t feel good—it couldn’t feel good—but some primeval part of her seemed to respond to it all the same.

This was right. This was what she’d wanted—what she’d dreamed of all those nights after she’d fallen in love with Mr. Musgrave, the charming, lovely, amusing Mr. Musgrave. All the women had wanted him, and somehow, he’d chosen her.

Slowly, he pulled out of her.

“Was…was that it?” Charlotte asked. Maybe her mother’s explanation hadn’t been undescriptive. He’ll put himself inside of you, and when he’s done, he’ll be satisfied. Perhaps that was all there was to it, then. It seemed a strange thing, that intercourse was so short in duration when it was the subject of such furious discussion. And yet she couldn’t help but feel curiously empty—as if somehow, she’d missed something. Maybe next time, he might kiss her when he was inside her, and perhaps stay there longer than a few seconds.

His naked part was still hard and thick.

Maybe she’d been doing it wrong. Maybe he expected her to know what to do. Maybe he’d pushed up against her and discovered that her corset had hidden the truth of her—the thickness of her waist, the fullness of her bosom—and he’d gotten a disgust of her. If he was done, he was supposed to be satisfied, but when she reached out to touch his hand, he pulled away from her as if flinching.

Oh, she’d truly done something wrong.

“Do we need to do it again?” she asked.

“Not for another week.” He was standing up. “There’s no need for any husband to impose on his wife more than once a week, and you can be sure I won’t be pawing at you more than necessary.”

“Did I…have I displeased you in some way?”

“Nonsense, dear,” he said, and then, as if by magic he sounded like the pleasant man she had met and married again. “You’ve pleased me very well. Very well indeed.”

But he didn’t reach for her, didn’t so much as pat her cheek in praise.

She had known it was a mistake to marry him. He had made her laugh, with his ready wit and quick smile. All the women had wanted him—for his wealth, his father’s empire of ready-made shoes and other goods, for his handsome smile. He’d chosen her.

She thought he had chosen her.

But maybe he had just wanted a wife—and any woman would do. As if to emphasize it, he gathered the robe he’d took to her room about his shoulders and left.

She wasn’t sure why, but she felt tears burn the back of her eyelids.


It was a shameful, ignominious retreat, made all the more shameful by his still-prominent erection.

If he had truly thought it through, he would have swallowed his pride and asked his uncle the questions when he had the chance. But truly, he’d not thought the act of consummation would prove so difficult. He’d understood the concept all too well—had, in fact, been consumed of nothing else for months.

He could not even imagine drafting the letter he would need to write, just to learn the basic facts. The entire concept was simple enough—get hard (easy), get under her skirts (marry her first, and this was in fact expected), put your cock inside her, and then let natural instinct take over.

He hadn’t thought that last would be a problem. He had natural instinct—a great welter of it, so much that for the last weeks of his betrothal, he’d thought of nothing but her at night, over and over again, until he’d almost rubbed himself raw through masturbation. But his fist and his feverish imaginings had not prepared him for reality.

He was doing it wrong. He had to be. He was almost certain he’d found the right opening, but she had been so dry, and he had scarcely managed to maneuver his cock inside. She’d tried to suppress her noises of pain, but he’d heard that little mewl of protest, felt her grow tense beneath him. She’d been gritting her teeth and clenching her fists…and no doubt thinking of England.

Goddammit. He was not going to have his wife thinking of England while he rutted at her in lust. He’d managed to get his length inside her, but natural instinct could not overcome his unnatural worries. If this was the.. wrong way to do this, he might actually do her an injury her by pounding away in enthusiastic marital bliss.

He couldn’t even imagine trying to explain that to the doctor. He especially could not imagine explaining it to his wife.

It was all more ironic than he could have dreamed. He’d saved himself for marriage. It had seemed right and intelligent and noble…and what it meant was that while he was an expert at bringing himself to orgasm, he had no idea how to do it using a woman’s body.

There were three possibilities. One, he could throw himself on his uncle’s mercy, and admit his ignorance. Two, he could try to muddle through it again and again, groping his wife in the dark and causing her who knows what sort of pain, all the while tearing her up and causing all kinds of damage with his shameful lusts. Or three…no, he wasn’t going to think of three.

But he wasn’t going to see his uncle for another two weeks. He certainly couldn’t imagine writing about this particular predicament, and his face burned, trying to imagine the reply he might get. As for the thought of hurting her… no. No. He’d heard of men who used up their wives in their lusts, demanding that she service their needs no matter her own inclination. He had no intention of being a man like that.

That left only the last possibility. Sometime, between now and the next time he came to his wife’s bed, he was going to have to figure out how one performed the marital act.

How ironic, that he should have saved himself for marriage only to discover that he needed a whore’s services after all.