"What do you mean?" he wondered, putting his hand on my neck companionably.
"Just that you could get to know her if you don't come at her like Don Juan on the make," he was still standing terribly close, and I wondered why; it made sense when he was trying to intimidate me, but now it was a little bit odd, "She's sensitive about men wanting to marry her for her money, it will put her right off you. If you take a friendly interest in her and her pursuits, who knows? She might come to like you, and though I seriously doubt she'd marry you, it would get your mother off your back if she sees you two getting along."
"You're awfully pretty, you know," he said, stroking my jaw with his thumb.
"I know," I answered stupidly, startled by this sudden change of topic. Something was poking me in the stomach, and it wasn't a pool cue.
"I'd like to get to know you better," he said quietly, then leaned in and kissed me softly.
"I'd like that, too," I said when he let me come up for air, "Not just now, though, do you mind? I'm kind of beat from the trip."
"All right," he said cheerfully, not at all put out as men usually are when they poke you and then don't get to go any further, "Shall we finish our game?"
"Does it ever seem to you, Pond," I mused as he arranged my pajama collar to lie elegantly against the lapels of my dressing-gown, "that more people are queer than aren't?"
"I don't see how that could be true, my lord," he answered, "If we were in the majority, there wouldn't be so much legislation about us, would there?"
"Oh, I don't mean exclusively queer like you and me," I clarified, "But it seems to me that a surprising lot of people go both ways. I expected that sort of thing at school, most of the boys were pining for girls while having it on with another boy; but it seems to have carried over into adult life to quite an unexpected degree."
"Perhaps your lordship's circle of acquaintance is more conditioned to such duality," he said thoughtfully, turning to neaten the arrangement of toilet articles on the dresser, "How many men does your lordship know who weren't educated at a public school?"
"Not very many, that's true," I went and sat in the very comfortable chair by the fire and put my slippered feet against the fender to warm, "But even at school, it was only a slim majority of us having it on with each other, almost half the fellows believed all the 'hygiene' bunkum they taught us and didn't even have it on with themselves. But so far, five out of the eight men in this house have made a pass at me, and I haven't even been here a whole day, yet."
"I don't wish to take liberties, my lord," he said with a sort of wooden formality, which is his usual prelude to remarks of a blindingly personal nature, "but I suspect that is largely due to your lordship's particular beauty. I doubt those gentlemen are busy making passes at each other."
"That's sweet of you, Pond," I glowed at the compliment, "I suppose you're right, though, my sort of looks do seem to appeal to men. Not that I'm complaining, mind. But do you mean to say that men who don't go to public school tend not to like boys?"
"It has been my experience, my lord," he said as he folded my shirt and underclothes over his arm in preparation to taking his leave, "that young people who remain at home for their education, and are not sequestered from the opposite sex during what one might call 'the sweetheart years,' are less likely to explore and develop feelings for their own sex."
"Really!" I frowned thoughtfully at this, "That must make it very lonely for those of us who don't care at all for the opposite sex."
"Very lonely, indeed," he said with a sad sort of smile, "Will there be anything else, my lord?"
"No, thank you, Pond," I hoped I hadn't upset or offended him, it was so hard to gauge his emotions--I never knew if he was annoyed with me until he put an uncomfortable collar on me next day, "Good night."
"Good night, my lord," he slid backward out the door.
Pond had given me a lot to think about, so I sat in the dressing-room for quite a while, smoking my pipe and sipping the snifter of cognac thoughtfully left at my elbow. And though I did give some thought to Pond's lonely puberty, I was really more occupied with figuring out how I might entertain all of the various offers I'd received during the day without completely exhausting myself.
I was pretty certain Michael was going to come to my room sometime after everyone else went to bed, which was the only reason I'd put Rupert off; but despite the gentle kiss, Rupert struck me as more of an out-of-doors type, anyway, preferring the quick tumble in the bushes to the leisurely encounter in a bed; but the latter was quite probably Chester's style, and I could easily visualise a long idle afternoon with him.
What about Sir Peregrine, though? I was not averse to giving him a thrill, though I couldn't really imagine it going any farther than some flirty badinage and a few discreet gropes. The average elderly roue might remain active with the ladies well into his twilight years, but elderly queers are often cursed with a self-consciousness of their age-ravaged bodies and are reluctant to expose themselves to the potential disgust or ridicule of young men.
Well, whichever way things turned out, I certainly had plenty to keep me busy during my stay at Verevale. I just had to be careful to not amuse myself into a physical decline.
4564 Total Words