Today's selection is from "The Awakening" in Jacqueline Ophir's short story collection, Fellowship of the Rod. It is about a little French girl from days gone by, who becomes obsessed with the idea of spanking. Her curiosity leads to a wonderful discovery.
From that day forwards, Suzette became fixated on her new and intoxicating area of interest. Taking care never to incur correction herself - girls were punished in any case less frequently than boys - she was a critical and refined spectator of all other executions. This meant something in the order of three punishments a week, almost always boys. Suzette found herself becoming almost faint with pleasure at the anticipation of an imminent chastisement. Not from cruelty, or at least not exclusively from this motive. Other forces were at work, a sense of theatre - she loved the drama of these occasions, the inevitable sequence of events, like a Greek play, a sense of style and artistry - she adored the graceful motion of the birch as it clove the air with a faint whispering whirr, to land with a flick slantwise across the posterior of the delinquent. This music, with its necessary counterpoint of entreaty, protest and simple distress, filled her young heart with ecstasy...
When Suzette was twelve she discovered the engraving.
It was in a history book which reposed on the shelves of the school's modest library. Idle one afternoon, when there was no school, Suzette went down to the Lambercier dwelling, knocked, and asked if she might spend an hour or two looking at the books. M. Lambercier, who answered the door, was pleased with this sign of nascent erudition in Suzette, and gave her the key. The first book she chose to browse through was a Lives of the Kings of France from Charles the Great to a century or so before her own time. She opened it, turned a page - and there was the drawing.
It was a woodcut of a medieval lady of noble blood applying a vigorous birch rod to the bottom of a boy tucked under her left arm. Actually it was an episode in the early life of Louis III but to Suzette it was much, much more. It was a symbol, a totem, a depiction of the cherished scene of her obsession.
She noticed presently that the lady wore a crown and was thus a Queen. This, for Suzette, was a fitting detail. Every lady who whips, imposing her will by main force, is queen for a short while, she thought, writhing in pleasure as she gazed at the spellbinding drawing.
Thereafter she often came and looked at the books in the library, whenever she had an hour or two to spare, in fact. The picture never ceased to enthrall her. She began to make up stories to account for the depicted drama. What mischief had the little prince committed? She decided it was disobedience. How many strokes of the pendant birch had he received across the seat of his hose? Suzette was a little disappointed that the princely bottom was not bare, so she bared it in her imagination, but came to grief with the fastenings, not knowing how one undid medieval hose.
What had the Queen, the stern mother, said? "Viens ici..." said Suzette aloud in a severe tone "...Tu avais ete tres, tres, mechant, et je vais te donne une bonne fessee!" Pleased with the ring of authority in these simple phrases, she repeated them, savouring and drawing out the last three words - "une bonne fessee" [a good spanking] with extra emphasis and inflexion. In her mind's eye, she saw the pretty little royal child, the look of dismay spreading across his elfin features and, still in the grip of her imagination, she leaned forward, picked up the little boy, tucked him under her arm and raised the menacing birch high in the air and began the punishment...
I can recall a small picture I once found in a set of encyclopedias we had at home. It was an engraving of a monk being birched on the bare, while his brother monks looked on. Although I pored over every other volume in the set, that was the only spanking picture I found. Needless to say, it was a very useful reference that I returned to again and again.