I love how in the ‘author’s note’ before the story begins the author herself says, “Here is an eighteenth-century fairy tale, frankly unserious, frankly unrealistic, for a realistic, serious Age.” Love it!
Alrighty, this is a bizarre tale, only 224 pages long but what a tale it is! It takes place in England in the 1700s but no specific year is given. Bysshe, Marquis of Gore, is somewhere around 26 years old. He and three of his friends are bored, bored, bored one night while sitting around in a gaming ‘hell’. Viscount Lisle says to them that he’d like to do something that there’s “some risk to”, and something that ladies wouldn’t care to wisper about in their salons. Then he said that he thinks they should ‘seduce the quality’, an unmarried girl.
Each of the four men drew names. Byshee drew the name Cressida “Cressy” Daviot, twenty-two, someone he knew. The next night, May 1st, after leaving his parents home, he went to her home, guessed at which window was hers, climbed up a rope ladder he’d brought, climbed into her room and put a mask on.
He went over to her bed, tied a cloth over her mouth and tied her hands and legs together, threatened to hit her with his fist if she made a sound, carried her over his shoulder and out the window, taking the ladder with him to his carriage. They traveled to nearby hills, layed her down on bearskin rugs and said this horrible thing to her:
“You will wonder why I have brought you here”, he said in a level voice, “and I will tell you. I intend to rape you. You are miles alway from any house, or any road, or anyone who could hear you, scream you never so loud or long. Do you understand me? There is no one, absolutely no one who can hear you who will come to your aid- and there is nothing, absolutely nothing, that can prevent my doing to you exactly what I fully mean to do. I have brought you here to do it, and never doubt I shall. Put all hopes of that aside.”
He took her back home, changed her nightgown, kept the dirty one and cut off a lock of her hair (like a serial killer would do) as proof of what he’d done. Charles, one of Byshee’s friends recognized the nightgown (yeah, right!) as belonging to his cousin, who’s several times removed from the family. Charles felt bad about what happened so he sent a note to Cressy’s father informing him of what happened.
Her father read the note the next day and told her twin brothers about what happened. They came up with a plan…. Cressy’s father invited Byshee to a party at their home and had someone bring him into another room. Her father and brothers were waiting with weapons when Byshee came into the room. They gagged him and her father told him they knew what happened, didn’t say how they knew, and that he was making Byshee marry her. (WTF?! Who want’s their daughter to marry a rapist, I ask you?) Byshee refused then agreed after being threatened with a beating. Byshee was still denying he’d raped her so he wouldn’t sign a paper saying he’d done it, but he did sign some other legal papers.
They brought Cressy in to see Byshee, she didn’t recognize him, they told her he wanted to marry her but she refused and left the room. Her father told her who Byshee was and what he’d done and that he’s making her marry him. Byshee is being held captive there and beaten every day until he signs the paper saying he raped her. But Cressy doesn’t know a thing about the beatings. Byshee breaks down one day, tells her he’s being held against his will and that they should marry right away. The entire family travel to France. (Why?)
After the wedding, the two of them traveled to Italy, where they spent three months. When they finally got back home, Byshee started using opium, which was ‘fashionable’ at the time.
One day at the club, Byshee confronted Charles and told him he knew he’d told Cressy’s father about what he’d done. Charles denied it, called Byshee a liar, so they dueled and Charles got shot in the chest by Byshee but survived. Charles then told Byshee that Cressy was his cousin and that’s why he’d told on him. Charles is about 20 years old.
Cressy’s brothers and father kidnapped Byshee, put him on Cressy’s brother Kit’s yacht and spent six hours traveling to France. Once there, they locked him in a room with a window, chair and table. He cried. He was kept there about a week then was moved to a large one room apartment and was held prisioner there for months. The money for the apartment ran out, he was moved to a small room again and was kept there until about eight months later when he was set free.
He wandered around, came to a home, asked the people if he could bathe and shave and ended up staying there, helping to work the land. About seven months later, he sent Cressy a letter asking her to send his valet to him. Cressy and Byshee’s father traveled with the valet to France. He did not tell her that he was there because her father kidnapped him. Cressy just thought he left of his own free will TWO YEARS before.
They left to go back to England. Byshee still didn’t tell her about her father kidnapping him. Byshee finally confessed to Cressy that he was the one who raped her, and that it had been part of a bet, “a vile, foolish, brutal, stupid bet. But how I won!” During his two year absence, Cressy gave birth to a baby boy.
And they all lived happily ever after!