An unmarried woman who had reached age thirty was referred to as a “thornback”, an epithet seemingly as insensitive as “relict” that was reserved for a widow; as too, a proverb of the times, “Women dying old maids lead apes in hell.” Thus, substantial societal pressure to marry existed dampened marginally by the required free consent from both parents and children. Strict laws and customs regulated the process. Before courting could begin, the suitor needed to seek the parents’ consent and often sent small presents to influence their decision. Puritans cherished true love and believed it to be a prerequisite to marriage. Established Customs enabled young couples to discover if they verily loved one another. The widespread bundling tradition shocked my predispositions about Puritan virtues and morals.
Bundling ensued once a woman’s parents sensed the courtship would lead to marriage. The couple would bed together and tarry the night with stipulations. A bundling board lashed to the head and foot boards separated them. Further, a woman would wear a bundling stocking, a garment resembling a tight-fitting, gunny sack, to bind her legs closed for the night. These devices allowed the couple to know one another better and fulfilled the parents’ duty of strict supervision. Prior to bedtime, the couple might use a courting stick, a six to eight foot, hollow tube widened to a bell-shape at each end. The lovers seated on either side of the fireplace would use the device to converse or whisper sweet nothings without the supervising parents hearing them.
While only bare from neck to waist,
And he of boasted freedom sings,
Of all above her apron strings.
(For more, please see Fischer’s “Albion’s Seed” pgs. 77 – 82 from which the above has been derived).
“Adam, hath ye posted the first of the three wedding Banns?” Asked Mary. Adam continued stirring the embers. She bit her lip while staring at him. “Lydia and John must know each other further.” Adam poked at a log, a flame grew, and he tossed a few half-split logs onto the grate. “Goodman Draper still ails and ye must fulfill thine father's duty,” said Mary.
Adam ceased poking when his mother cleared her throat. He brushed soot from his hand and swallowed. “John, thou need not lay in our barn this night.” Lydia raised her hand to her blushing cheek as Adam continued. “Thou can lay with Lydia with a bundling board between thy bodies.”
“Bundling board?” asked John.
Adam left, and John looked to the women for an answer. No one responded, and the room remained quiet until Adam returned, holding a plank that had leather straps at each end. “Ye board is between Lydia and thee and lashed to the bedposts,” said Adam.
“And Goody Walker has lent me her bundling stocking,” added Mary.
John had dreamt of laying aside Lydia, but not with a board between them. And what’s a bundling stocking? He was aroused, but unsure if it was from lust or fear.
“Thou shall tarry the night. But ye board and stocking keeps the devil in the wilderness,” said Mary.
Mary and Lydia left for the back room far from the main fireplace. Inside the room, Lydia disrobed, hunched her shoulders, and covered her erect nipples.
“T’is natural dear,” said Mary. “They protrude when aroused.”
“And when cold,” said Lydia as she shuddered. She sat on the bed and struggled to pull the tightly knit stocking up her legs. When the stocking was at Lydia’s waist, Mary swung Lydia’s bounded legs into bed. Lydia’s groin was warm, and when she squeezed her inner thighs, it moistened. Mary fluffed a covering and let it drift down. Lydia grabbed it and rustled it across her breasts. Mary bent down and kissed Lydia’s forehead.
As John waited with Adam, his head was swirling. He had many questions, but they seemed unfitting and improper to ask. Adam fumbled with the board’s straps, never making eye contact.
When Mary returned, Adam rushed to the back chamber with the board. Mary wandered to the fire, poked at it, and glanced at Goodman Draper’s favorite chair. When her eyes met John’s, she said, “It is a fitting and proper thing to do.”
Adam returned, and John moved slowly toward the back chamber. He paused, but Mary flipped her hands to usher him along. John had been on fire, and entering the cool room with Lydia’s scent aroused him further. He squeezed his eyes to lessen the swirl in his head and eased onto the bed next to the board. He couldn’t see Lydia, but her intoxicating fragrance lingered. He bounced his fingers on the opposing ones on his other hand. He tossed to his side and drew his arms close. “Me be cold,” he said.
Lydia tittered. “I would give thee my bed covering to warm thee, but I am exposed above my waist.”
Her words had drawn the devil closer to John. As blood surged through his groin, his erect extremity throbbed.
“There is a covering in the corner,” she said.
John sat up, but his blood rush hadn’t ebbed. He crashed back down onto the bed. “Me’ll get it later." John returned to bouncing his fingers while trying to cool his ardor. “So how does me tarry the night?”
John’s throbbing began to wilt. The devil had been pushed back, yet still lurked.
“My body craves thee, and a thin board separates Satan from us," said Lydia. "He stirs my passion and tries to control my heart. But he hath not driven God from my mind. I love thee dearly, but I will not forsake my God.”
“Aye, and me will keep Satan away too,” said John.
The bundling had unbundled Lydia’s deep emotions. At ease, her words flowed. John offered comments, and the more he did, the more his carnal urges ebbed. He unbundled too, talking about his parents and early life in Scotland. Lydia joined to form a conversation. He told her about his planned estate, their future together, and promised to always care for her as his father had cared for his mother.
Lydia lay contented willing to be swept to wherever John’s words took them. When John told her how he adored her, she squeezed her thighs and rustled the covering across her breasts.
They slept little, and when Goody Draper came in the next morning, their first bundling ended. Both were disappointed that the night had concluded. They wanted more bundling nights, which would come soon.