"Misses Weatherby, may I presume to ask you a somewhat forward question?"
"Why, yes my dear Misses Honeycutt. Of course you may!"
"Please," the younger woman said, admiring her companion's fine golden hair. "Call me Amelia".
Her laugh was like a tinkly Christmas bell. "Well, of course Amelia. And you may call me Harriet. Or- Sleeping Harriet if you prefer the distinction from my awake self. I do think there is a distinction there- is there not? I must confess, there's a certain freedom to feeling like I do now."
"I agree, Sleeping Harriet, " replied Amelia. "When you are awake you are full of hesitation and furtive glances, but entranced you appear quite liberated indeed!"
"Ah," Harriet Weatherby sighed. "Yes, it is my duty when awake to respect the social niceties and boundaries of our relatively new companionship. Bothersome. I'm very glad you were clever enough to respond to my curiosity about mesmerism so that we may have these opportunities to share ourselves more fully!"
"Indeed," blushed Amelia Honeycutt. "I...had noticed that you have invited me over several times to offer yourself for my mesmeric experiments. Wealthy ladies like you sometimes have the curiosity to experience it once- often under the guidance of a handsome young mesmerist, mind you- but you have requested my company quite a few times. "
"Well, of course my dear Amelia. You are so tender and gentle with me and I feel deeply refreshed after our sessions. Even George notices, and he hardly notices anything not in a book. Also- I adore your companionship! You are so well read and intelligent and your conversation could delight me for hours."
"Well," the young woman continued gently. "That is part of what I wanted to ask you today. Are you- fond of me, Harriet?"
Harriet seemed almost offended. "Of course I am fond, dearest Amelia! The fondest! Have you not been listening to what I've been saying?..."
"No," interrupted the young mesmerist. "I mean- I know this is quite unusual but- I find myself quite fond of you, Harriet. In that I think of you often. In that I find myself sketching your lips, your eyes, your neck. In that- I picture us...indecently. Together....In your marital bed." She blushed, overcome by her rush of words. "And I have noticed your tendency to touch my hand a little too long or bite your lip when you look at my mouth. And, well, I know that the mesmerized tend to be quite honest as a matter of course so I thought I should ask you in this moment of candor -are you fond of me too?" She was so nervous the last words came out in almost a squeek.
Harriet gave her friend a very serious look indeed. "Amelia. I am quite, quite fond of you. In fact, I find myself besotted, picturing you all throughout the night. Only- my dearest - my feelings cause me so much pain! For I quite adore you but my waking self- she feels it is entirely inappropriate. She is very loyal to George, you see, and would not dream of causing the scandal that would result from actually pursuing her affection for you."
She began to tear up.
"My dear- she will never let us be together! How horrid!"
She dove into Amelia's open embrace.
Amelia smiled, reassuringly. "But- my love! Now I know that you return my affection! Surely we can find a way through." She held the distraught Harriet closely, soothing her. Then- an idea came.
"What if- what if we were to hold this in confidence?"
"In confidence?" gulped her companion.
Amelia nodded. "Yes, Harriet. Or, rather, Sleeping Harriet. You and I will just hold our amorous relationship in the greatest, most secret confidence. Not only shall none around us know but- Why! Even Awake Harriet will be fooled! We will just tell her not to remember and she will experience no unease as a result of our companionship."
"A secret relationship," Harriet contemplated. "Secret even from me. Held in trust and confidence."
She seemed to decide something.
"Oh dearest Amelia! It's like a novel! How romantic!"
She threw her arms around her lover.
"But- sweetness? What if she notices?" asked Harriet.
"She won't," said Amelia, assuredly. "Not if we both are committed to keeping the secret. She doesn't need to know. And it's not unusual for ladies like us to take on bosom companions."
"Oh! How splendid! Oh dearest- I am overcome!" said Harriet, swooning. "I cannot wait to spend more time in your arms. Shall we consummate our love in the French way?"
Amelia smiled slyly.
And, in the French way, they did.