Today we visit with Sparrow Brown as she shares her saucy little tale.
Mary Beth was excited. She absolutely adored the carousel. She loved going and seeing all the gas lights reflecting in the thousands of mirrors, the brightly colored animals circling in a never-ending race, the excitement of seeing all the people, the way the steam escape always surprised her, and of course the eery but mesmerizing calliope music. Since she was a city girl, riding the carousel was the closest she had ever come to riding a horse. Despite her love for the ride, Mary Beth felt that something was missing from her previous carousel experiences. Mary Beth had never ridden astride. She always rode side-saddle, which was a mildly uncomfortable and sometimes precarious, or she would ride in one of the carriage seats, which was hardly worth the penny. This time, though, was going to be different.
Mary Beth had a theory. In the afternoon, when her mother and older sister were resting and her father was still at work, Mary Beth would sneak into her father's study and read the medical journals that he subscribed to. At first she just looked at the drawings and photographs. It had been her first look at a man in all his glory, but slowly, as she became better at gauging the timing in the forbidden zone, she started to actually browse the articles. Most of them used jargon far above her, but some of them were exactly the kind of thing a debutante was interested in. One in particular detailed Dr. Kellogg's work at his sanatorium in Battle Creek and his studies in the area of the curious phenomena of female hysteria. While Mary Beth did not consider herself hysterical, she didn't want to become so, either. She endeavored, with limited success, to find devices that worked the same way as the ones used by Dr. Kellogg. But the other day, when she had been at Golden Gate Park with her cousin Patricia, it all became very clear to her as she watched the folks on the carousel. The constant up and down motion....well, she was very excited that Patricia had accepted her invitation to go back to the park.
“Are you ready?” Patricia asked her as she skipped down the stairs.
“Oh, yes!” Mary Beth replied excitedly. “I've really been looking forward to the carousel.”
“Oh, alright,” Patricia sighed, somewhat confused about the glories of the carousel. “Well, you know, see and be seen. We want our dance cards to be filled at the party Saturday.”
Mary Beth smile weakly as they walked from the house. Patricia was beautiful. Blond curls, hair that always behaved, a flawless smile that drove the boys wild-- Patricia's dance card was always full. Boys constantly left their cards at her front door for her father to approve for courting. At best, Mary Beth was described as “mild” or “demure” in her looks, at worse she had overheard herself described as “homely with uncouth hair.” Her brown hair was not curly but frizzy. It rarely stayed nice. As soon as she put it up, it started escaping her bun in an attempt to run amok. And the trending new “upsweeps” were completely out of the question. She knew that if her skin weren't pale, that whispers of miscegenation would follow her because of the behavior of her hair. Needless to say, that Mary Beth's dance card only ever held the names of pity dancers that were related to her. Her front door was never littered with the calling cards of perspective suitors.
The street car zoomed through the steep streets taking the pair to the park, but for Mary Beth the ride wasn't short enough. Finally, they did arrive, with Mary Beth hopping off in her excitement instead of delicately descending the steps like Patricia. Patricia gave her a tight look of disapproval as she tried to keep up with Mary Beth in the crowd. No wonder she has no suitors when she conducts herself in such a childish manner in public, Patricia thought.
“Come on, Patricia!” Mary Beth called excitedly, waving for her to hurry up. Mary Beth was far ahead in the crowd, already near the carousel. Patricia didn't understand her cousin's sudden fascination with the contraption. It was nice and all, but it didn't hold the appeal that it had three or four years ago when the city first erected it. One ride was just like another. But Mary Beth was paying for their outing, not that Patricia's allowance wasn't just as generous or more so than her cousin's, so Patricia figured she should play along and indulge her.
There were a few people at the ride, but not as many as on a weekend. There were a smattering of young children with their parents or governesses. There was a small group of boys their age that from their rowdy behavior were probably passing a flask amongst themselves. Some of the boys waved and called Patricia by name. Mary Beth knew of them, but well, because of how she was, she had never actually spoken to any of them. Mary Beth gave the attendant her and Patricia's fare and mounted the steps with determination. She scanned the circle of horses and exotic animals for the one that went up and down the most. On her last visit she had noticed that the piebald horse with the pink ribbon bridal went up the highest and down the lowest. She wove in and out of the frozen figures until she found the horse, who she thought of in her head as being named “Hysteria.” She turned to see which figure Patricia would choose. Just as she suspected, Patricia was seated in a carriage. Mary Beth smiled at her and waved and pointed to her pony. Patricia gave her a debutante smile in return and tried to pretend as if they hadn't come together.
Mary Beth sized up her mount. It was suspended in space, slightly above her, at almost its highest point. She was perplexed. In her mind, the horse would be low enough for her to mount easily. She knitted her brow trying to figure out what to do. She knew that if Patricia were faced with the same dilemma than any one of the young men present would gladly offer to help her up. She looked around. Not a single pair of male eyes were watching her. She took as deep a breath as her corset would allow and hiked up her skirt with one hand and reached up high with the other. She put her left foot in the stirrup and pulled herself up. Immediately she wished she had loosened her corset and worn a slightly out-of-fashion skirt that was fuller. With great effort she hoisted herself up and threw her right leg over. She heard a rip of fabric as the back hem of her skirt split. Her petticoats were bunched under her. Still holding on with one hand, she arranged her skirt as best she could. Her stockinged legs were exposed past her knees, showing the world her pretty red garters and the bottom of her snow white drawers.
“I should have borrowed a riding habit,” she whispered to herself as the calliope started and her horse started to go up a few inches more and then slowly descend. She looked to her left and right. There were no other riders in her immediate vicinity. Everybody was either in front of her or behind her. As the boiler heated up, her horse picked up the pace, riding up and down. She held on and closed her eyes. She could feel it, slowly at first, but gradually it became more apparent. She was feeling the same sensations that the females interviewed by Dr. Kellogg had described to him after their treatments. It was incredible. She had never, ever felt anything quite like it. She grinned and giggled with each movement of the carousel. She wanted to feel this level of elation forever. “Elation,” she decided, wasn't even the right word. There really was no word to describe the bliss that her horse was creating for her. Dr. Kellogg was right. Every woman needed this to help them maintain their equilibrium. She was sure that the lack of these feelings were the reason why most of the matrons that she knew no longer readily spoke to their husbands and why they felt too fatigued to attend to life. She moaned as the steam escaped the boiler, making the ride buckle temporarily, like an Earth tremor.
She could feel the ride slowing down. She clung to the metal handles on either side of her horse and breathed heavily against her corset. Mary Beth opened her eyes and looked at the slowly spinning world. People were pointing and talking behind fans. There was more of a crowd than there had been at the beginning of the ride. She blushed deeply, knowing that they were gossiping about her unintentional impropriety, but she did what she thought Patricia would do. She found a small reserve of hidden charm, smiled as femininely as she could, and gave her version of Patricia's deb wave with her gloved hand.
The ride came to a stop finally. Mary Beth was contemplating the most graceful way to dismount, when she felt a soft touch on her calf. Through her stocking it felt like a feather. “Excuse me, miss, would you like me to help you dismount?” The young man who spoke smiled up at her with genuine interest, not with pity or salaciousness or disgust.
“Yes, please.” She replied demurely, a little unsure of herself but very happy. She looked back over her shoulder and saw several more young men making their way towards her. Mary Beth twisted in her saddle and slipped her right leg back over her horse to dismount. The young man placed his hands on her cinched waist and lifted her down. The feeling of a man's hand on her was almost as thrilling as her ride.
“Thank you,” Mary Beth said, blushing, not knowing what else to do.
“May I call on you some time? My name's Jack Tanner. You're Dr. Waller's daughter, right?”
“Um, yes, of course. That would be lovely.” Mary Beth was gobsmacked. Somebody wanted to call on HER.
“I know your sister, but I'm embarrassed to say that I don't even know your name.” The young man continued, lightly touching the back of her hand.
“Oh, it's Mary Beth.”
“Mary Beth,” he repeated with a smile as Patricia approached them.
“We have to go now!” she hissed in Mary Beth's ear and pulled her away.
“Wait!” another young man called, who had been making his way toward her while she spoke to Jack. She paused and pulled free from Patricia. “Why...well...what made you, um, decide to, to..” he stammered trying to frame his question politely.
Mary Beth smiled with confidence for the first time ever. “Hysteria.” she said and walked away.
The cousins were completely silent on the way back to Mary Beth's house. Mary Beth sensed that there would be no more outings with Patricia for awhile, that she would never be forgiven for embarrassing her in public. When she arrived home, there was a tray full of calling cards on the small table in the foyer. Her sister wandered in from the sitting room when the maid had opened the door.
“Wow, Annabelle, you've had a lot of fellas stop by this afternoon!”
“Those aren't mine. They're yours.
“Mine? Are you sure?”
“Yes. I'm very sure.” Mary Beth thought there was a little bit of envy in Annabelle's voice. “I don't know what you did this afternoon, but you caught somebody's attention.” Annabelle looked at her hard as she took in the state of Mary Beth's skirt. She knew that Annabelle wanted an explanation, but she instead glided past her like a well-balanced queen and went up stairs to change for supper.
Mary Beth sat picking at her peas. She was still in an afterglow that she felt no one else at the table could possibly understand. Her father sat at the end of the table, perusing the evening paper. Her sister was completely ignoring her, and her mother sat at the opposite end of the table swirling her mash potatoes around in a laudanum stupor. Her mother was a very nervous person.
“Oh my!” her father exclaimed and looked up at her. Just then the door bell rang. Mary Beth knew that it was another young man. They had been coming in a steady stream all evening.
“'and she brazenly rode astride the carousel horse without any care of the stares she was receiving at baring herself in such an inappropriate manner. When asked why she had comported herself in such a manner, Miss Waller was heard to exclaim, 'Hysteria!'” Her father sat the society page down and looked at her seriously for a moment, and then burst into large guffaws.
“Well at least you won't end up an old maid living here forever. No wonder there's young men bombarding me—finally-- to take you off my hands!”
Mary Beth smiled and smashed her peas in satisfaction.
****Sparrow is a writer who loves to observe humans (and often makes fun of them and occasionally talks shit about them). She became a Pagan in her early formative years. A few years later she introduced her first serious boyfriend to BDSM. Her current partner introduced her to blood sacrifices several years ago. She worships in several Wiccan/Pagan and Hellenic traditions and is a priestess in a few of them. She lives in Charlotte with her partner. Oh, and she enjoys eating fluffy bunnies (with french fries and beer) and feeling their nice soft fur against her naked skin!
You can find her on the web at: http://barbedpentacle.com
(Her site is not always safe for work, or kids, or uptight folks.)