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This blog makes liberal use of AB's journals, letters, travel notes, and other sources.
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Saturday, 29 June 2013
Acute pleasure and problem
I wonder if women realise the acute pleasure which men derive from the sight of them in their fresh, cool, clean, summer toilettes - openwork stockings, diaphanous sleeves, and general impression of musliness.
I must admit in myself a tendency to idealise women, particularly young women, and I would like to be more natural and at ease in their company. Of course my stammer is a problem, but I am not naturally one of these men who 'charm'. How easy some of them make it seem. I am put in mind of an incident which still burns in the memory from when I was a solicitor's clerk, not long arrived in London. A zestful colleague, one of the 'charmers', inflamed my imagination with stories of the allurements of a young woman he knew in lodgings at Camberwell Green. We arranged to visit her on Saturday afternoon, but the adventure had a Restoration comedy anti-climax with jeering profanity from her at my expense; the details of the incident are too painful to recount. Inevitably incidents like this undermine ones confidence.
More pleasant to recall, but troubling in its own way, was an incident last year when Brown and I rowed up the river from Richmond to Kingston with two little girls, Daisy and Georgie, whom Brown in a moment of inspiration had invited to complete the party. Tall little girls for their twelve or thirteen years, with wide straw hats, white blouses and long foal-like legs showing below their short blue skirts; shy at first but gradually expanding and unfolding before our efforts to be utterly, absurdly foolish, and laughing loyally at far-fetched allusive jokes which they could not possibly have understood; always in doubt whether or not to believe what we said and in any case accepting or rejecting it with cautious reservations. Georgie, the eldest, was a spoilt girl, and both spoke with an alarming cockney accent, yet the unique charm characteristic of just their age made their worst sins of behaviour delightful. They rowed till they were tired, labouring hard and willingly, anxious to do their best, and when questioned admitted without shame that they were tired - 'a bit'. We camped and brewed tea on an island and Georgie ate so many sardines and strawberries that she was sick on the way home and had to lie quiet in the bows till the colour came back to her cheeks. In the evening at the corner of the street Brown kissed them and I shook hands with a profound bow, before they made off sedately to their home a few yards away. A quite new and tickling sensation, this intimate companionship with very young girls.
What a mystery is the female sex!