Author: David Shaw
It’s odd to be sitting here in the Florida sunshine as a great grandmother and to remember that I never even met my first American until I was almost eighteen. That was when the big war was being fought in Europe. I’m an old, old lady now but I still remember that windy April afternoon when I ran an errand to Mill Cottage and everything that happened to me there.
My home was in a small rural village in England and I was waiting to be drafted by the government for work in a munitions factory. It was something I was looking forward to because most of the factories were in the cities, and I’d never been to a city. My father was a farm laborer who’d spent his entire life in our village. The only break in his dawn to dusk chores was when he acted as warden in the village church every Sunday. Perhaps it was because he was such a well respected member of the Vicar’s flock that I became a Sunday School teacher. Not that I minded, as there was very little else to do while I waited to be sent away. There were no more dances, no more church socials, not with all the young men away fighting Hitler and all the older people having to work twice as hard to keep things going. The village had become a stagnant little backwater and now even my girl friends were leaving to help make tanks and shells.
I sometimes wonder how long it would have taken me to wake up to real life if I hadn’t run that errand for the Vicar. Anyway, I did, and Mill Cottage turned out to be an instant education by courtesy of our American allies and a pair of English courtesans. And all because the Vicar wanted to ingratiate himself with Mrs Harrington by sending her a bottle of home made dandelion wine!
Mrs Harrington wasn’t a villager at all, nor her friend who lived with her, Mrs Walsh. They were a couple of snobby upper class London wives who’d only moved to the countryside to escape the blitz. They were far richer and more sophisticated than any of us, they wore fancy clothes, their children were in private boarding schools and their husbands were stockbrokers or something. Whatever they did for a living, Mr Harrington and Mr Walsh only came down about once a month to visit their wives. I think perhaps they were quite enjoying the war as temporary bachelors. Mrs Harrington and Mrs Walsh, on the other hand, were clearly pining for London and were only kept away by fear of the bombing. Which all seemed like good reasons to me why they didn’t deserve anything as a gift, not even a bottle of dandelion wine. Another good reason was that I was the one who was going to have to pedal out with it to their home at Mill Cottage, three miles away from the village.
Transport was always a problem in the war. Very few people owned cars, and in any case civilian fuel supplies were so tightly rationed there was none to spare except for the most necessary journeys, so anybody with a bicycle and a pair of strong young legs was always being asked to run errands. Mostly I didn’t mind, but I knew just as well as the Vicar that the only reason he was asking me to run this errand was to curry favor with our local ladies of substance. Perhaps he was hoping there might be a handsome subscription from them eventually for his church restoration fund. Yet, young and naive as I was, I didn’t think he had much chance of getting any cash from either of those two, no matter how deep their purses. Not that I knew anymore about them than the local gossip, though there was plenty of that.
In a village as small as mine a couple of women living on their own caused a lot of loose talk, most of it nonsense, I thought. They were good looking women though, that was true enough. They were much of an age, in their early thirties I suppose. Mrs Harrington had brilliant red hair, which she let grow in a long pony tail all the way down to her waist and always wore rather flamboyant earrings. She was tall and trim and apparently played tennis and golf very well. The dashing air of self confidence in the way she walked around the village always had the men looking after her swishing skirt and the long legs underneath it. As for Mrs Walsh, she was a little shorter and full figured who wore her blonde hair in a high combed style. Both of them dressed like models, even in wartime, right down to nylon stockings, an almost unheard of luxury then. Perhaps there was some truth in those rumors about fancy cars belonging to black market crooks being seen parked near the cottage.
Which was really why I decided to deliver that lousy bottle of wine. Because I was curious about whether anything out of the ordinary did go on at Mill Cottage. Not that I was likely to be any the wiser after I’d been there of course, but at least it was an excuse to go and knock on the door. The back door, of course. I knew the ladies wouldn’t want a farm worker’s daughter knocking on their front door as if I was their social equal.
Having decided to do the job, I found myself heading out of the village on a blowy April afternoon with tree branches flouncing around in a cold wind which was blowing straight into my face. By the time I got to Mill Cottage I was so fed up with the whole stupid business that I just wanted to turn around and get an easy ride home before the wind changed direction. I wheeled my bike down the small gravel drive at the side of the cottage and then stopped in surprise at what I saw.
Parked up behind the cottage, completely out of sight of the road, was a small car quite unlike anything I’d ever seen before. It was square at the front and back, painted olive green, with a raised canvas hood and a long radio aerial sticking up at the back. Obviously it was a military vehicle of some kind. There were white stars on the sides and I realised it must belong to the American army. Apart from anything else the steering wheel was on the wrong side. Then I remembered a picture I’d seen in the newspaper, with General Montgomery riding in a car that looked like this. A joop, or a jeep, or something like that was what it had been called. I didn’t know anything about American cars. In fact I didn’t know anything at all about Americans, except from what I’d seen on the films and newsreels at the cinema. All I’d ever seen of them in real life were a few big planes flying overhead with these same white star badges on the wings.
Of course I was very curious about what the joop was doing at Mill Cottage. A large metal box with yellow lettering and numbers on it was wedged in between the two front seats. I thought perhaps it might contain bullets, which seemed even more likely when I saw that the lid was closed with a padlock. Then I took a second look and realized that the hasp was hanging free. Anybody who wanted to could lift up the lid and look inside the box.
There was nobody in the back yard, nobody at the closed back door, no flutter of movement at any of the cottage’s curtains. All that was needed was for me to lean inside and flick open the top of the box, and if anybody came out I could say I was just wanted to see the inside of the joop. So I leaned in and opened the lid, to find that what I was prying into was a treasure chest of off-the-ration luxuries.There were packets and packets of cigarettes in strange soft packets which had a picture of a camel on them. I wondered why, because I didn’t think there were any camels in America – I’d never seen any on the films, anyway, There were bars of chocolate, there were jars of coffee, there were the protruding necks of four bottles.
I lifted one of them out far enough to read the label – genuine Haig whiskey! So much for the Vicar’s dandelion wine as a home front comfort. Yet the most impressive thing of all to me were the cellophane wrappings with nylon stockings in them. Now I knew how Mrs Harrington and Mrs Walsh were able to wear real nylons whilst the rest of us had to make do with seams painted on the backs of our legs! And perhaps the three boxes of contraceptive sheaths mixed in amongst all these luxury goods supplied a clue as to why they were getting such treats.
Of course, even in my remote little village, we’d heard stories about how US serviceman were incredibly rich, with access to all kinds of fancy supplies, and how successful they’d been in spreading them out amongst the lower sort of girls in return for. . . well, in return. But this was the home of two respectable married women. It couldn’t be that they were playing fast and loose with the Yanks, surely?
And just as I was turning that question over in my mind I heard a woman laugh from somewhere nearby. Bewildered, I looked around and realised that the sound come from the wash house on the other side of the small yard. Smoke was rising out of the chimney, which suddenly seemed very odd, because I knew that Mrs Harrington and Mrs Walsh had a woman come in on every Monday to do their washing and that day wasn’t a Monday.
This is were I have to give everybody a little bit of an history lesson in how domestic chores were done in the old days. Before electricity and washing machines came along the usual thing in most English houses was to do the laundry in a ‘copper’. A copper was a very large circular sink – made of copper coated metal – big enough to hold a week’s houshold laundry together with several gallons of water. Coppers were usually built into the top of a large square brick fireplace about waist height. Except in the larger houses it was always put into an outside building, with a hand operated water pump next to it. The housewife’s job was to keep working the handle on the pump to fill the copper up with water, with occasional breaks to tend to the fire underneath it, until the copper was half full and the water as hot as possible. Then the dirty laundry went in and the whole lot was stirred around many times until it was considered washed. Afterwards it was taken out and everything rinsed in a wooden cask. And after that – well, I’ll tell you about those arrangements by and by. Anyway, the one thing you didn’t usually hear in a washouse was anybody laughing – there was too much hard work done in them for that. So I found it hard to believe our two high society ladies could be doing their own laundry, and even harder to believe they could be enjoying it.
The wash house door was closed. Of course, normally, if I’d have just opened it and walked in, because it wasn’t like going into a house uninvited. Most wash houses were usually shared by several houses anyway. This time though I could justify it to myself to be rather cautious, as Mill Cottage already seemed to have a guest, or guests. I was therefore perfectly entitled to take a cautious peek through one of the wash house windows before I disturbed anybody. At least that was what I told myself as I sought a way to satisfy my burning interest about what was going on in the place. So I walked around the small building until I found a small window misted up on the inside. So misted up that it was impossible to see through.
It was an infuriating situation because it was clearly the only window in the wash house and it was ideally situated, on the far side from the cottage and facing a high hedge row at the back of the cottage garden. Nobody could see me standing there, but I couldn’t see anything either. If it had been an ordinary sort of window the situation would have stayed like that. Only it wasn’t an ordinary sort of window, it was one of the old fashioned type made of lots of small diamond shaped panes of glass set in lead strips. Old fashioned and flimsy, and one of the panes near the top of the window had been knocked out. If only I could just lift myself up a foot or so …
Looking around, I saw several old bricks at the bottom of the wall, stacked together and almost completely hidden from sight by overgrowing grass and nettles. I plucked out three of the bricks, carefully, but still got stung on the wrist by a nettle in my hurry. With the bricks put back on top of each other and with my right foot resting on the top one I was able to lift myself up high enough to put my eye to the gap in the window.
The copper was set in the very middle of the wash house. A steady fire was burning in the grate underneath the copper, with a gently rising cloud of steam above it, and a considerable pile of firewood still waiting to be used. There was a table, a plain old wooden table, near to the fireplace. On the table was a naked man.
Well, naked except for a green towel draped over his bottom as he lay on his stomach on top of the table. On top of the table and on top of some more towels which had been spread across it like table clothes. His hands were resting near his head, the bent arms showing great bulges of muscle on the upper biceps. His face was turned away from me but it was easy to see that he was in the prime of life and physical condition, at least six feet tall, and heavily tanned from the sun in a very un-English way. Another alien thing was the way his black hair had been cut right down almost to his skull, top and sides.
If I was astonished by the sight of the American, as I supposed he must be, I was even more astonished at seeing a woman leaning over him, rubbing her palms over his shoulders and neck muscles. It was Mrs Harrington, smiling as I’d never seen her smile before, Mrs Harrington wearing a white bed sheet wrapped around her like a Dorothy Lamour sarong, and the sheet so damp it seemed to be sticking to her like a second skin. In fact it was obvious she had nothing on underneath the sheet at all!
This was like something the Vicar often preached about in church, about Soddom and Gomorah and all the world’s wickedness. And here in his own parish, a married woman indecently dressed was putting her hands on another man! Yet if I was shocked I was fascinated by the scene, scarcely daring to breathe. Even better was to come though, because Mrs Walsh came around the copper carrying a tray in her hands, a rectangular wooden tray with one small drinking glass on it. Incredibly, she was wearing nothing but a sheet as well, a blue one this time. The only thing which seemed to be holding it up over her breasts was a clothes peg visible in the quivering cleavage between them.
The next thing that happened, astonishingly, was the sight of Mrs Walsh getting down on both her knees at the head of the table and holding the tray up to the man as if she was acting the role of a slave girl! He laughed and said something to Mrs Walsh I couldn’t catch, but she stood up again. In response he raised his other hand and my eyes bulged when I saw the huge shiny pistol in it. I’d never seen one before in my life except in gangster films. The Yank pointed the pistol at Mrs Walsh and she stood still. Then he said something else and Mrs Harrington took her hands off his shoulders and walked around behind Mrs Walsh. Then, and not believing it possible, I saw her reach up in front of her her friend and pull the clothes peg free, letting the sheet slide down over Mrs Walsh until she was standing in front of the man completely naked from the waist up!
Mrs Walsh held the tray underneath her well shaped breasts and gently lifted them up on it with the glass carefully balanced between the pale skinned mounds. She was watching the American as if unsure of his reactions. In the meantime Mrs Harrington stood there grinning, holding the blue sheet around the other woman’s waist. Then she let it fall down to the floor and Mrs Walsh was standing there without a stitch on. If somebody had fired off a shot gun directly behind me at that moment I don’t think I would even have turned my head. Yet this was still only the beginning.
Mrs Walsh slowly knelt down in front of the Yank again, being very careful not to spill the glass. Without any hurry at all he put down the gun on the table, reached out with his thumbs and forefingers and brazenly tweaked both of Mrs Walsh’s bared nipples jutting out over the edge of the tray!
Her hands were trembling. I knew they were because the tray was, and I knew the tray was trembling because both of the breasts piled up on top of it were quivering like newly set jellies. Mrs Walsh was staring down at her own vibrations and at the fingers playing on her with a kind of pursed mouthed concentration, apparently determined on keeping the glass from spilling over. As for Mrs Harrington she leaned forward over her friend and squeezed the Yank’s biceps as if to encourage him. Then I saw her bend forward a little closer as though he was telling her to do something. She nodded, smiled again, reached down with an extended finger between her companion’s breasts and apparently dipped it into the glass. Then the Yank released his grip on Mrs Walsh and Mrs Harrington immediately applied her long fingernail to the very same places, apparently smearing each of her friend’s nipples with a drop of liquid from the glass.
Talk about exciting! I was watching all this in complete disbelief. I saw Mrs Walsh wriggle further forward on her knees and lift the tray higher towards the Yank’s face. He had the pistol in his hand again and pointed it down towards her legs. Then he leaned forward and started to lick on each of the nipples in turn as Mrs Walsh apparently struggled to keep the tray level, struggling even more as the man slid further forward yet on the table and took a mouthful of her right tit into his opened mouth. The tray began quivering again and Mrs Walsh surprised me by suddenly laughing out aloud in the same way as I had first heard outside.
My impression was that the pistol wasn’t a real threat, more a kind of symbol of power. Neither of the women seemed to be in real fear, I was sure of that. They were playing out roles which they were willing to do and the gun was there as a kind of stage prop. Whatever was going on there was no doubt that both of them seemed totally unabashed in doing whatever the Yank wanted them to. It also seemed just as certain that one or both of them were soon going to get treated in the same way as married women were treated all the time. I certainly hoped so because I really wanted to watch that! I was also hoping that it wouldn’t be long before it happened because my eye was watering already with squinting through the small hole and my right ankle was aching from balancing awkwardly on the bricks. Still, it was well worth it because now Mrs Walsh had put down the tray and was holding each of her nipples in turn up to the Yank’s mouth, dribbling a few drops from the glass onto herself each time, apparently as a way of encouraging him to keep on sucking both of the jutting tips.