Shortly after I contributed to the columns of "London Life" in the "Confessions of a One-legged Bride" - which I hope many readers will remember - I received a communication from a French gentleman resident in London. He put himself in touch with me by means of an advertisement; and after I responded, he sent me a pretty voluminous MS. containing, in the form of rough notes set down in haphazard, unrelated fashion, the narrative of his own extraordinary experiences.
It had been his intention to knock the thing into shape one day and to offer it as an odd, psychopathic human document to some psychological publication. But he was never able to bring himself up to scratch, and now he unloaded the MS. on me with full permission to do exactly what I liked with it.
So here is the story put into, I hope, shape. Except for that and for some necessary pruning, the author was extremely frank in the original - it is substantially as I received it. The greater portion of it is, I an fully convinced, absolutely authentic. Some of it, I fear, is fiction, though probably founded on a substratum of fact. The opening incident is obviously, on the face of it, quite true; and it certainly reveals how, in one case at least, a kink was born.
My correspondent is, I understand - I have not met him personally - now nearing the forties, and has lived in England for the past six or seven years. W. S.
My name doesn't matter - let me call myself Marcel, that will serve. I propose to set down here such of my experiences as will illustrate what I am sure is one of the most inexplicable kinks that ever invaded the mind of man. Why should I find a beautiful girl more beautiful and attractive because she lacks one or more of her limbs? Why, in fact, should limbless girls be the only type to attract me, whereas normally formed girls, be they ever so lovely, leave me quite cold? I don't know the answer to this question; I'm not sure that anybody does.
I suppose it is generally believed that kinks of any kind are born in a man. But I'm not sure of that either. I don't think, for instance, that this particular kink of mine - which I have found, to my amazement, during the course of years to be shared by a much larger number of men than I should have thought possible, was born in me. It is possible that it may have been but, if it was, it didn't manifest itself for quite a considerable time. My own theory is that kinks are the result of some early and extraordinary experience; and my own case certainly helps to prove this theory. The only curious thing about me as a boy was that I was abnormally shy of the other sex. This may not be a very odd thing in an English man, but it certainly is in a French man. I was laughed at, because of this shyness, by all my boy friends who, as may be supposed, knew nearly all there was to know from very early age. I was not indifferent to feminine beauty - far from it, but I made no advances, and was painfully nervous whenever advances were made to me.
Then, when I was just about fifteen, came the fateful and fatal evening of my life. I had already become passionately fond of the theatre - or, at any rate that department of it which was known in Paris as "le music-hall". It was really forbidden ground for me, but I often managed to slip away from home and spend a deliriously happy evening at one or other of the many "concerts" (not concert halls, by the way, but rather variety shows or "cirques", or "varietes") that were in Paris in those days.
This particular evening all went well until the curtain went up for a turn given by three "aerialistes" - in England they would be called "trapeze artists." I can remember the scene distinctly to this day.
When the curtain went up, a man and a pretty girl, both clad in the regulation tights of pale pink silk were revealed, each fitting on a swinging, shining trapeze and leaning smilingly towards the audience, with a hand held out in greeting. Below on the stage, lounging in smiling nonchalance on a couch was the third member of the trio, a young girl - a long, filmy peignoir wrapped clingingly about her.
Something about her dainty blonde beauty, hit me with a blow that was almost physical. To me, she was dazzlingly lovely, the effect heightened by her wonderful shock of pale, spun-gold hair.
Like other shy people, I would always worship from afar, and I felt my heart turn over as I gazed at her. She seemed to me the most alluring thing that I had ever seen, and I could hardly take my eyes off her, even to watch the evolutions of the other two, who had now begun the act and were swinging and catching and somersaulting in breath taking style.
At last the trapeze came to rest with the acrobats seated on the bar and bowing to the plaudits of the audience. Then the girl on the couch stood up and, flinging off her wrap, advanced to the centre of the stage and stood there bowing right and left.
I think I can still hear the queer kind of sigh that buzzed round the theatre as the audience revealed in sudden shock of surprise. As for me I sat there as one hypnotised.
The girl, like her partner, was dressed in skin-fitting tights, a costume which made only too plain the astonishing fact that she had only one slimly beautiful leg, with which she hopped nimbly forward, and upon which she now stood, otherwise quite unsupported with an easy, perfect balance.
Now, here enters the extraordinary and inexplicable thing. It might have been expected that I should have been repelled by the sudden and completely unexpected revelation; but, for some obscure reason, I was not. The great majority of the audience,even while interested in the girl's act, must undoubtedly have pitied her profoundly, and the more so because she was so distractingly pretty; and many must have found the frank display of her one-leggedness distasteful. I can only account for my own attitude by the fact that just before the surprising revelation I had fallen desperately in love with the girl and thus, really in love for the first time in my life.
That is the crux of the whole matter. I was so desperately, so imbecilely in love - love at first sight and for the first time --that nothing in that moment could kill my passion. On the contrary, everything about the beloved, even the absence of a limb, became alluring.
However, in whatever way the phenomenon could be explained,there I was. As the girl climbed nimbly up to her trapeze and went slickly through her performance, I followed her with adoring eyes, utterly captivated by everything about her, completely convinced in one split second and for no reason that any person could adduce, that the beautiful, slender single leg was a hundred times more fascinating than a pair would have been, and gave an alluring piquancy to her act that made that of her partners seem indifferbly dull by comparison.
From that moment, whether its seeds had been simply lying dormant, or had only just been planted in my brain, the kink had taken complete possession of me, then and unalterable for the rest of my life. For good or ill, I had become a rabid worshiper at the shrine of limbless beauty!
A curious aspect of a coup de tonnerre - a thunderbolt of this kind is that a number of what I may call incidentals became just as important as the main object of attraction. What I mean, in this particular instance, is that there were other little things besides the fact that the girl was one-legged, which I found equally fascinating.
For instance, there was the to me, very attractive manner in which she hopped about the stage in between her tricks. Throughout the act she used no crutches; in fact crutches were not in evidence on the stage at all. Whenever she wanted to move she just hopped about as nimbly as a bird, moving in an easy, effortless manner that was obviously the result of years of use.
So fascinating did I find this method of getting about, that to this day I get an odd, very pronounced kick from seeing a onelegged girl moving about without crutches. Not that I dislike the use of crutches when necessary. Curiously though I think there is something attractive in the progress of a pretty one-legged girl swinging easily along the street on a pair of neat crutches. But indoors - no doubt as the result of my experience on that memorable night I prefer that the crutches be set aside - in fact put out of sight altogether - so that the girl should move about when necessary, completely without their aid.
There was another "incidental", however, that made even a deeper and more lasting impression on me. The amputation of the girl's leg - her right, by the way - had left her with only a short stump, not more than four or five inches in length from the hip. This, which, by the very nature of her costume of silk tights, was left fully displayed, was round, plump and shapely, as neat as such a thing could possibly be, the silk of the tights fitting it in perfect, unwrinkled smoothness. It was also very flexible and, at any rate, as far as I was concerned, drew constant attention to itself by its rapid movements, as its charming possessor went through her clever acrobatic routine or hopped gracefully about the stage.
In addition the girl was obviously not at all sensitive about her lost limb, as she had various little tricks which seemed frankly designed to bring it into prominence. One of her amusing stunts was to powder herself all over between tricks - a frequent practice at the time, by the way, with French soubrettes when doing their "undressing" acts on stage - and she would flick the big powder-puff over her bust and shoulders, then down her leg and finish up by rising her stump, smiling archly at the audience as she held it there as if for inspection - meanwhile of course, standing perfectly balanced on her one small foot - and then powder it with dainty, meticulous gestures.
At other times she would buffet her male partner playfully with her stump; and when the little towel on which the trio wiped their hands was thrown to her, she often caught it deftly on her lifted stump. Another little trick was probably unconscious. This was her habit, when standing watching the other two go through their performance, of dropping her hand to the upraised stump and smoothing the silk of it with gently moving fingers.
I mention all these things of set purpose because they all helped to draw my attention to the missing limb, and therefore to fix such a thing in my mind as an added and very alluring attraction. Why it should have its strange effect on me I am completely unable to explain, except in the way I have tried earlier to explain the whole abnormal episode.
I am perfectly well aware that to normal people a stump is just the pitiful remnant of an amputated limb. It is definitely not a thing to be admired. But to me, with my suddenly and inexplicably warped outlook, from that fateful evening onwards, a shortened limb such as this wonderful girl possessed was as beautiful and attractive as any other of a lovely woman's charms.
Going to the other extreme, I do not particularly like a onelegged girl to have no stump at all, as happens when amputation has taken place through the hip joint, or, as in one case I encountered, when a girl has been born with only one leg. Certainly I find such a girl attractive; after all, she is more perfectly one-legged than any other type. But I definitely prefer the girl who is, to me, the happy possessor of a shapely limb, round and plump, and just about four inches long from the hip. Amazing, isn't it? But true!
Well, all that is in the nature of a digression. To return for a short while longer to my little one-legged girl acrobat. Of course, inevitably, her turn came to an end. The trio ran off to the wings, my charmer hopping off as blithely as a bird. They returned in response to the continued applause; finally the curtain fell and they were seen no more.
I sat there in despair. The rest of the show had absolutely no interest for me, and at last I slunk out of the theatre, went home in a dream and - I don't remember now - but probably I lay awake all night, recalling in imagination those magic few minutes that had changed my life.
The next night found me in the theatre again, and again I sat rapturously through the act of these "aerialistes". I remember I had to miss one or two other nights, either through lack of funds or because my parents kept me at home. But I was there on the last night with a desperate plan all worked out. After that night the trio would vanish into the unknown, and I felt I should die if I could not have at least a word with my beloved before that happened.
When the curtain went down on their act I slipped out of the theatre and ran round the stage-door. My plan had the merit of ingenious simplicity. I carried an envelope with the name of the girl inscribed upon it, and my orders were, so I contended, to hand the message to her personally. The trick worked, and at last, with beating heart and shaking limbs, I was ushered into the wretched, cold, stone-flagged little dressing-room in which all three, the man included, dressed. (French theatrical people are not, or were not, fastidious about things.)
The man was busy removing his grease-paint; the other girl was half-way through he undressing. With an odd little thrill I noted standing in a corner a pair of slender, black crutches, obviously the property of my one-legged charmer.
She was still in her silk tights, and was perched on the edge of a table smoking a cigarette. I remember noting curiously how her short limb flattened and widened as she rested on the table. She grinned cheerfully as she took the envelope, and I can see now her look of blank amazement when she found nothing inside.
Still shaking in every limb, I stammered out my explanations. I wanted to go with her; I would da anything - work hard to become an acrobat, or act as valet or general factotum - anything.
The girl, after a moment of stupefaction, fairly shouted with laughter, in which the others joined. She thought the little trick with the envelope a masterpiece of cleverness. She patted me on the back and ran her finger through my curls - I was, if I may say so, a very good-looking boy. Reassured by this reception, I could only grin happily and gaze adoringly up into her eyes.
Being a woman, she had, of course, at once guessed what were my feelings towards her; and now, seated on the edge of the table, she drew me against her and, tilting my face, printed a hearty, and I daresay quit maternal, kiss on my lips.
The other girl looked on in great amusement at the little love scene, while the man, also laughing, made, I am afraid, some rather coarse remarks. I am sorry to have to report that my beloved roared with laughter at his gibes, but she did at least tell him to shut up. Then, holding me to her all the closer, she began to question me about myself. I was standing within the circle of her arm, thrilled with the contact of my back with her warm thigh, and acutely conscious of her little silk-clad stump immediately below my eyes, with its round, shapely plumpness more in evidence than ever, every now and then drawing my gaze to it by its restless, flexible movement.
I suppose I was unable to resist the temptations; perhaps, helped by the girls frank friendliness, I had become bold. At any rate, as I replied to her questions, I let my hand slip to the stump, and the contact sent a thrill right through me. The girl's eyebrows rose as she looked sideways at me, and an odd little smile played round her lips.
"Ah", he said quietly. "C'est ca? Bien, je comprends." And her fingers closed over mine, pressing them on the soft warm flesh.
The man chuckled sardonically and made a rapid comment, the full purpose of which I did not catch, but which I was sure was vulgar. The girl turned on him, unable however, to hide her own amusement altogether.
"Ta gueule!" she exclaimed. "Le p'tit a du goût pour mon moignon. C'est un bon critique, évidement." ("Hold your jaw. The young man has taken a fancy to my stump. It certainly shows his good taste.") And, hugging me closer she gave me another hearty kiss, still pressing my fingers on to the soft flesh of her stump.
Well, I was in the seventh heaven, of course, and I thought everything was sealed, signed and settled. I could not guess that my three new friends were treating the whole affair as a great joke, nor that though my one-legged charmer was evidently touched by my devotion and certainly understood the real basis of my infatuation, she was more amused than anything else by the arduous of a fifteen-year old boy.
She was quite diplomatic. She said she was desolated not to be able to take me with her, but I was to give her my name and leave an address to which she could write and as soon as it could be arranged, she would send for me. In the interval she would write to me and send me her photograph - "en maillot" ("in tights") "with my stump nicely displayed", she added with an amused little grin.
Then, quite pleasantly, she escorted me to the door, hopping easily at my side, a hand lightly resting on my shoulder; and then in the draughty, ill-lit passage, she dismissed me with a long, affectionate kiss. A quarter of an hour or so later, from a position I had taken up near the stage door, I saw her and the man go off laughing together, the girl swinging daintily and easily along on her neat crutches - and that was the last I ever saw of her! She certainly wrote me a brief note a week or so later, enclosing her photograph, but from that time there was silence.
So ended my first romance. I do not know what happened to the girl. She never appeared, to my knowledge, on the Paris stage again - and, heaven knows, I watched the "affiches" of every possible theatre with a sharper eye than any hawk's.
My own opinion now is that, as there were undoubtedly in all her audiences many men with this "limbless kink", one of them, probably wealthy, eventually married her and so she kept off the stage. One of my constant dreams for many years has been that I shall one day encounter her somewhere.
Of course I recovered in time. I suppose I was utterly broken hearted when I finally realised that the girl had been what I no doubt described as "playing with me." But it is also highly probable that I had already begun to seek other amorous adventures. And, as will be realised, these adventures were now directed to one special search. My lifelong search for limbless beauty had begun!
I was later to make the discovery again to my complete amazement that this kink of mine did not confine itself simply to the condition of one-leggedness. Actually it included limbless beauty in all its stages, even the most extreme; and this development I shall tell in its proper place later. But at the moment my search naturally took the shape of looking for possible duplicates of my faithless charmer, lovely one-legged darlings, who might console me for my loss.
If anybody had told me at the time that looking for needles in haystacks was a relatively simple task compared to the one I had undertaken, I should have laughed. But it would have been very near the truth.
I don't know, of course, but it may be supposed by normal people, unafflicted with this kink, that one-legged girls are encountered quite frequently in a big city. My own experience is that onelegged girls of any kind are seen in the streets, in the restaurants or in the theatres only very infrequently. Think how many times you have seen one enter the restaurant where you dine-- probably never! While a pretty, attractively dressed one-legged girl is an extreme rarity.
In fact, years can intervene, an in my case have actually intervened, between each encounter of a really attractive girl of this kind. But they do exist and they are encountered, particularly if one is constantly an the look-out; and during the twenty odd years in which I have prosecuted my search I dare say I have met with as much success as could reasonably be expected. In the paged that follow I propose to relate my many extraordinary experiences during this curious quest of mine, and so show the actual workings of the unique and obscure kink that is responsible for the abnormal outlook of so may peculiarly constituted mortals.
("Marcel" will continue his narrative in the next article in this stories - W. S.)