It was lovely that summer in the sun. Everything seemed easier and slower, more relaxed and mazed in warmth. I was happy, helping both in the hall and on the estate; and I sneaked off more than ever to the bounding shore in my hour off in the afternoon though I was never more late. My hiding had had that effect, at least. Mrs Wilson pointed out the moral more than once.
"A good whipping never did a girl no harm. It quickens the senses and, I believe, even whets the appetite. Ye're growing up to a big girl, Thomasina, but you need not put on ways just because milady has taken a fancy to you. Upstairs or below, ye'll mind yer place else I'll see you leathered on that trestle in a trice."
So I would strip off my clothes in the cave and run full-tilt into the sea, my new breasts bouncing and my bottoms joggling behind. The sting and slap of the waves made me gasp as I flung myself into them, and came out with breasts aching, breath sputtering, drenched and swamped with the salt. It was doing so late one August afternoon that I had my shock...
Nobody was there. No one ever watched. I left my clothes in their usual place, on a ledge of rock at the back of the cave, and rinsed the day out of me delightfully enough in the brine. Minutes later I stood shivering and aghast, staring at the empty sill of stone. Where had my things gone? Who had been?
Heart in mouth I scampered to the back where the cave took a turn. It was a darkness I had not explored.
"Hands up, Thomasina," said a voice, and a boy of sixteen, well grown, with touseled hair, came forward into the half-light smiling. "Caught'ee," he said, doing so and trying to plant a kiss on my lips and landing it on my twisting neck. I wriggled wetly free and stood ducked, hiding myself with my hands.
"Give me my clothes, you wretch," I told him. "Come on, where are they?"
For the boy was Reggie Shore, of course. The Hon. Reginald Shore, I should have said, only son of the widowed and dark-haired Lady Mildmount, whose lands at one point adjoined our own. He was often coming to our house with his mother, a lady I cordially dreaded, or riding past on his pony, but since helping me over a stile between fields had contrived to come in my way more often. He was cheerful and good-looking, with an open, sandy face and an infectious grin. He was a great tease... Now I knew that he had been spying on me.
"Give me back my clothes at once, Master," I hissed, huddling. "Come on, I can't stand here for ever now."
"You look awful pretty doing so, Tommy."
"Come on. I'll be in a frightful scrape at the house if you don't, quickly."
"Ah, that's just it," he said, miming an imposingly grave manner. "I'm afraid you've been a naughty girl, Tommy." He was tapping one toe with a peeled willow switch. "And we will have to pay the consequences, Miss Wragg."
"Don't play the schoolmaster with me, Reggie Shore."
"You know you're not supposed to be down here, are you?"
"Nor are you," I retorted. Lady Mildmount was rumoured to bring him up like a tartar, afeared lest in the absence of a father he might be raised too 'soft'. He winced wryly but did not change his grin. "Where are they, Reg? Please." I changed my tone of voice. "Oh, do give me my things and have done with it."
With a mock sigh, he said, "I fear there is a penalty you must pay for your indiscretion." His wand made a juicy whistle through the air. "You have to have a taste of this for your sins."
I looked at him with mute imploring.
"Four," he said shortly.
"No," I said, "it'll tingle terribly."
But my time was running out and I was beginning to feel giggly with him, shielding my breast and self once more...
"Come on, naughty Tommy, 'tisn't such a souse. Four quick licks is all I ask. Lord, if we only got as little at school, in the bill. Why, it's never less than a dozen with the birch, and a good rod is seven or eight of these." He swung it whirringly again. "Lord, how those first cuts sting. But you have to stick it through."
"Does you good," I said, pouting.
"But I'd rather have a dozen at the block than my mater's switch any day. It cuts like a razor, that does. Come on, I dare you."
I was shivery and excited and suddenly I said, "Three."
"No, three only."
"Four it is."
"Three," I stuck out.
"Three and a half, then, cowardy."
I giggled nervously and acceptingly. What was a half of a cut, I wondered?
"Where?" I asked then.
"Across the bum, of course, where did you think?"
"No, I mean where. I'm not going to bend over like this for you, Reggie Shore."
He stood up and went to a patch of sand where the sun came in and thrashed it. The bendy switch wrote a long weal there. Had I bitten off more than I could chew? This was obviously going to hurt.
"Here." The limb pointed and I lay down. I did so on the hot moist sand with my legs together, and put my head in my folded arms. I was determined he should not make me flinch.
There was a lengthy wait.
"Come on," I said, mouth muffled.
"You do have such tender buns, you know, Tommy, so soft and close and jouncy, it seems a pity to..."
"Don't comment," I said primly. "Get on with it, if you must."
"I'm afraid this is going to hurt you more than me, Thomasina."
As there was another long pause I stole a glance back. He was doffing his jacket on the ledge for the job. The switch looked unspeakably licky. Up the line of one leg I saw his manhood most manifest; it seemed to stretch itself, like some snoozing cat, as he sighed and came forward again. I hid my head instantly.
"The chaps at school say it's twice as bad wet."
The willow rested on my posterior then, before it lashed across them with a long singing sweep--Pffffuikk! I gasped and stretched quickly. The pain came to me at once, much more stingy if not as brutal as Mr Jorrocks' thong. I pressed into the sand, striving not to satisfy that throbbing thing of his in front by any writhing or wriggling. He paused so long I hissed out angrily, "Come on. You don't have to draw it out so."
"You mark nicely, Tommy. This one's going to be tighter."
I was aware of him rising to his toes to gain full height for the second, which really slashed across me excruciatingly. I gasped again and twisted like a worm for a second.
"You don't have to...that hard."
"Get straight. Don't try to turn off your right side so."
The third was even harder and drove me burrowing into the sand which I suddenly realized had filled my mouth as well. It stifled my cry, but I knew he had the pleasure of my motions after it. It was impossible not to writhe.
"Now," I heard, "for the half."
I was expecting a stroke half as hard, but my curiosity was piqued when he said gently, "Legs apart now, a little."
My twistings made the command unnecessary in fact. I felt his hand palp my left cheek lightly as if to steady it there, and "Here's the half," he said.
With which he brought that fiendish switch whistling down precisely across my single sinister buttock. I jacked with a cry, fairly grabbing where he had cut. This was cruelty itself. The blade-like limb had buried itself about my separated left cub with the result that its timed tip, the agonizing part, had bitten like an adder inside my division, welting into the puppy flesh just by, and beneath, my seam. I had never known such pain and turned, speechless, in the wet sand, doubling and rubbing. Then I heard myself saying "No" and again "No."
I think four would have been preferable.