In the three preceding articles of this series the narrator, "Marcel," a Frenchman now residing in London, told how he discovered in himself the love for limbless beauty, and then went on to describe his many strange experiences encountered in Paris. Among these was his meeting with Zelie, a young, chic and sophisticated Parisienne with only one leg. Zelie appeared to know all about his monopedic weakness, and naturally took a certain keen delight in encouraging it. Marcel playfully accused her of herself having fancies of a similar character; but Zelie did not agree, attributing her own point of view to the force of peculiar circumstances. She then went on to explain her meaning by telling her own story, with which the present article opens.
Zelie was barely ten years old, she told me, when, as she walked with her mother along a Paris street, a motor-car, out of control, mounted the pavement, killed two of the crowd, and severely injured her mother and herself. Her mother recovered without any personal hurt, but little Zelie's left foot was so badly crushed that it had to be amputated near the hip.
To a child of ten - particularly if she is, as Zelie was, a happy, carefree child - the loss of a leg is not, for the time being at any rate, a very terrible affair. It can, in fact, have its exciting and amusing sides. The child, for example, can even get a good deal of fun out of being one-legged, the using of crutches, the hopping about, etc. Zelie confessed that she did; and she was even the envy of other little girls she played with, and they used to ask her to lend them her crutches in order to play at being one-legged. So, instead of being depressed, she had the satisfaction of being different from her little friends, and perhaps in some odd little way superior. And she grew up very happily, quite unconcerned far the most part about her loss.
But when she began to enter her teens things looked rather different. She was still a very cheerful girl, and had come to take her one-legged condition as naturally as she accepted the fact that she was blonde and exceptionally pretty. But she had to realise that, pretty as she was, she was looked upon as only a cripple, and that such very pleasant things as "boys," for instance, were not for her. This really did depress her.
She was naturally the type of girl that would ordinarily attracted boys and that frankly wanted boys to be attracted. But she had to recognise the unpleasant facts and to do her best to face these facts as courageously as she was able.
Something in her nature, some stubborn coil of pride, prompted her, instead of retiring hurt and crushed, to face the world with a "don't care a hang, you can't hurt me" attitude. She had always been fond of dress; now she dressed in smartest and most daring way, always in the vein of fashion. Her frocks, her little single shoes, her heels, her crutches, were all of the most noticeable kind. And certainly she attracted attention and a good deal of comment. "Fancy a one-legged girl making such a display of herself!" was the burden of most of the talk that came to her ears.
Every now and then she could not help the curious, very exciting certainty that she was often being followed. There came to her the thrilling possibility that perhaps one day someone might be attracted to her and fall in love with her in spite of her being one-legged. But for some time nothing came of such pursuit or of her hopes.
And then one day when she was about eighteen a boy followed her persistently and finally spoke to her. He proved to be a boy from the South staying in Paris for a fortnight - a good-looking, very pleasant youth of about her own age. Zelie, tremendously excited, agreed to meet him; and it was after the second meeting that he confessed that he was attracted to her not in spite of the fact that she was a lame duck, but because of it!
He did his best to explain, but Zelie could only think him at the very least eccentric, and probably a little mad. But it so delighted and comforted her to be taken about by a charming boy, who at any rate did not look upon her as an object of pity, that she shut her eyes to his queerness and kept him by her side.
She was quite certain, however, that there could not be anybody else in the world with his extraordinary outlook, and when he eventually left Paris it never entered her head that she ever would come across anyone else with the same strange fancy.
Curiously enough she had her second experience within two or three months. This time her admirer was a well-to-do man about town very much older than herself. To Zelie's amazement, he, too, confessed to having exactly the same views; and not only that, but he told her that he knew other men who had the same abnormal outlook. Incidentally, Zelie parted with this particular admirer over a point of difference concerning her misfortune. But from this time onward, Zelie knew that this extraordinary limbless beauty kink not only existed but was to be encountered with comparative frequency.
The knowledge made a great difference in her life. She now knew that she was not altogether doomed to a solitary, unloved life, but that certain types of men would always find her attractive. She began to look forward to meeting such men, in fact to look out for possible admirers as she swung gracefully along the streets on her crutches. She began to take a greater interest in her own one-legged condition, to take more pains than ever to display her charms to the best advantage. Her pretty single leg actually assumed greater importance in her eyes.
It was extraordinary how many men she met during the next eight years who confessed to her charm for them sooner or later. Some wanted her to wear an artificial leg or even a peg-leg, which she resolutely refused to do, as the idea did not appeal to her.
One admirer made her many presents of expensive jewellery, rings necklaces, bracelets, earrings, anklets, etc., including a specially made thin, jewelled circlet to be worn on her shortened limb, all of which he liked her to wear when in his company.
There was even a diversity of idiosyncrasies in connection with her crutches, some liking her to use a pair of crutches on all occasions, some preferring a single crutch, while others liked her to discard the crutches altogether when indoors.
During her friendship with the boy mentioned above, her crutches were all packed away for the time being, and Zelie either hopped or he carried her whenever she wanted to move.
It was while she was revealing to me these intriguing little by-ways of affection that I understood why she had asked me in the taxi whether I preferred her to have a stump or not, and later, in the flat, whether I should like her to use a single crutch or no crutch at all. She was simply ascertaining what were my peculiar idiosyncrasies in this matter.
"And so you see, darling," she said as she concluded her most interesting and very revealing account, "you can hardly convict me of having a kink in just the same way as you have. I agree that I recognise its existence, and even that I get a great deal of pleasure out of indulging in it; but, as I said, this attitude of mine has arisen from circumstances outside myself. I am pretty, I am one-legged -- and because of that I have discovered, I confess very gladly, that I am attractive to certain people. I have simply taken advantage of that very fortunate and intriguing discovery, that is all."
I had to agree with her, at any rate in the main. But, all the same, serious little unanswered queries were floating through my mind.
"Tell me, Zelie," I asked, putting one of them into words, "doesn't it seem apparent to you that you have at last actually come to prefer to be a monopede?" She shot a little sideways glance at me and smiled.
"I shouldn't say that altogether," she replied slowly. "I don't know what I should say if I were offered a really new flesh and blood leg -- probably I should grab it thankfully with both hands. But as that is an impossibility, I can confess that I do not now mind in the least being as I am. In fact, to be candid, I do get a decided 'kick' out of it. I certainly get a real thrill when I attract someone, knowing that he is fascinated by my one and only limb. And the fact that my stump is another of my charms has naturally resulted in my becoming -- well, rather fond of it and perhaps foolishly vain about it."
She suddenly sat up and pinched my cheek between her fingers. "And that will do in the way of intimate confessions for the time being," she said. "Heaven knows what you'll get me to agree to if you keep on asking questions. If it gives you a thrill, chere, to feel convinced that I thoroughly enjoy being one-legged, well, for goodness sake, feel convinced. I'll whisper one thing in your ear, at any rate, darling. I do thoroughly enjoy being one-legged when Fate sends me such a nice boy as yourself! Now, isn't that perfectly sweet of me?"
Well, that was the manner of my meeting with Zelie and the beginning of one of the most charming and intimate friendships of my life, a friendship that has lasted, I am glad to say, to this day.
We went about a good deal together to restaurants, theatres, pictures and all the rest, and all the time Zelie certainly saw to it that I was kept interested and thrilled by this intriguing friendship of mine with a pretty one-legged girl.
It was all very well for her to maintain, as she had done so vigorously, that she herself had not her own particular kink; but certainly her attitude towards her own misfortune could not be called entirely normal.
All her frocks at this time, for example, were undoubtedly designed for display. They were all formfitting sheaths, tight, and daringly short. Her outdoor frocks barely reached the knee, and very few of her indoor gowns came as low as that; and beneath them she wore with her silk stocking only the briefest of silk or lace trunks.
She had one or two frocks -- or so-called frocks -- that she wore even when other visitors besides myself were present, that took one's breath away. The skirts were little more than the briefest frills about her hips.
I was always conscious of Zelie's appearance when she was walking with me in the streets, either on a pair of crutches or on a single crutch; and I felt that passers-by could not help but notice it.
All this has reference to what I may call Zelie's public display among her friends in the house or any stranger in the street. No matter where she was, she was completely unembarrassed about the way her loss was constantly revealed; and, in fact, as I have suggested, she obviously assisted in the process of revelation.
When we were alone together, however, she naturally indulged her love of display much more frankly. She was fond of lounging about in my presence in various airy negligees, some of them even more daringly revealing than the one in which I had first seen her, and worn over the flimsiest wisps of lingerie. They usually clung very precariously to her shapely figure, often floating like a soft, fleecy cloud from her shoulders. And it was amusing to observe how inevitably the little rounded broken limb, clad in its sock of transparent silk, was in evidence, and how obviously delighted Zelie was when I showed my interest in it and made approving references to its charm and shapeliness.
I would also often find her in the daintiest and most delicately fragile of silken or lacey pyjamas; and, I don't quite know why, but there was something extraordinarily intriguing in the way the slack, empty left pyjama leg floated airily as she hopped about.
There was certainly no doubt at all that she took a very keen delight in all these little tricks of hers, and it almost seemed as if she were constantly thinking out new tricks with which to astonish her friends.
I remember one evening when she was entertaining a little crowd of gay friends, that she took everybody's breath away, including my own, by appearing in a skin-tight, barely knee-length evening frock of most daringly open and delicate black lace, beneath which, it was most embarrassingly apparent, she wore only close fitting cami-trunks and hip-length stockings of the thinnest and palest nude silk.
I can see her now as she entered, swinging along with that languorous, slinky sway of hers, upon a single, very slender, white and silver "pole" crutch, a tiny, very open black satin slipper with an amazingly high stilt heel on her little foot, and the taut lace of her marvellous and revealing frock fully outlining the oval of her shortened limb.
Well, I could go on giving all kinds of fascinating details about Zelie and her doings, but I feel I have already devoted an inordinate amount of space to her, and that I had better get on to other, I hope, equally interesting experiences.
I am not, however, going to dismiss her altogether from my narrative, as it was though her that I had some of my most intriguing encounters. As I listed at intervals I was able to gather that she had made the acquaintance of one or two other limbless girls in Paris, but for a long time I was unable to get any further than that.
It was, perhaps, understandable that Zelie was not going out of her way to introduce a boy like myself, susceptible as I was to such influences, and whenever I broached the subject of her girl friends she always became completely non-committal in an amusingly feminine way.
But he matter was taken out of her hands in an unforeseen manner, as I hope soon to relate.