Amelia awoke to the familiar figure of Betsy standing over her bed. As usual she rose with alacrity. Only once she had escaped the sheets' embrace did she begin to wonder what new torments lay in store that day.
"I've run a bath for you, miss. Your clothes are set out in the dressing-room."
Amelia was not certain, but it seemed as if the nursery-maid was being more respectful than usual. Perhaps the recent birching had taught the girl some regard for her betters, Amelia reasoned as she followed the buxom maid into the bathroom.
The bathroom was beyond the parlour and she had to cross this, naked as she was, to gain her bath. As she passed through the room, she glanced at the mantel clock. To her astonishment, she saw that it was almost nine o' clock. Amelia almost stumbled, amazed that she had been allowed such luxury.
The bath was wonderful. It was deep and hot and filled with rose-scented oils. As always, Amelia found the combination of sensuality and privacy irresistible. There had been no sign of Jamie in the parlour; with any luck he would be sleeping off last night's debauch. Amelia's fingers stroked her inner thighs, and then gently encircled her clitoris. The vision of the Reverend Dawes imposed itself, unbidden, in her mind. She saw him whipping her again, his grey eyes devoid of pity.
Her climax took her by surprise. A sudden explosion of sheer ecstasy ripped through her, forcing an involuntary cry of intense pleasure.
"Good God, Amelia, you sound like a scalded cat!"
The blood rushed to her face in shame, even as she froze in fear at the sound of Jamie's voice behind her. How could she have been so foolish as to let him catch her...doing THAT...once again?
"If you could possibly stop frigging yourself for a moment," he said with a chuckle, "I suggest that you get dressed. We are breakfasting with Lord Alex and Lady Alicia this morning."
To her great relief, he left then, saying no more about catching her in the act of masturbation. Why was it she always seemed to think about that man? Amelia wondered as she towelled herself dry. The Reverend Dawes terrified her and she hated his arrogance and air of superiority, yet terror seemed to have led to a kind of horrified fascination. It was awful, and she wished she could think of something else when she touched herself, but he seemed to have mesmerised her in some way.
However, she had more immediate causes for anxiety. Her bottom still felt blistered from her Aunt's paddle. What new torments had been devised to vex the two cousins? she wondered.
In the dressing-room, Betsy laced her into her little corset. The maid hauled tightly but, to Amelia's relief, did not lace her as viciously as she had the day before. Looking around anxiously, Amelia saw no sign of the dreaded back-board, either. What she did see filled her mind with questions.
"Drawers now, miss?" Betsy asked, almost respectfully, holding up a pair of new, white cotton drawers.
Amelia blinked at the underwear for a moment. The drawers looked respectable and comfortable. Was she really to be free of the dreadful bloomers? She stepped into the drawers and Betsy tied the strings. Then the nursery-maid picked up the gown of emerald silk that had been laid out.
Amelia simply stared at the elegant garment for a second. Then, as she put it on and allowed Betsy to fasten it, she found she had to swallow a lump in her throat. Do not be so silly, she chided herself as she blinked away tears of pure relief. After all, proper adult attire was no more than her due.
Once dressed, she joined Jamie and Clara in the parlour. Amelia stared at Clara in surprise. Clara wore a gown, every bit as proper as her own, of pale yellow satin. The cousins looked at one another for a moment with wide eyes.
"Splendid, splendid. I must say that you both look very fetching," Jamie said jovially. "One would hardly recognise you, Amelia." The uncouth young man then gave her a leery wink.
For once, Amelia really did not care. As the little party made its way from the nursery to the breakfast room, Amelia's mind was full of desperate questions. Could this be the end of her long humiliation? Might she have seen the end of those awful clothes and Jamie's unbending rule? She tried not to allow her hopes to flourish, knowing this might be some cruel trick.
Yet, when they arrived at the breakfast room, they were treated in the way she had expected on that first dreadful day. Lady Alicia greeted them fondly and urged the girls to take kidneys and mushrooms from the dishes laid out on the sideboard. Lord Alex greeted them affably from behind his paper, as if their appearance were the most normal thing in the world, and the months of humiliation in the nursery no more than a bad dream.
Amelia did not dare to ask, so she sipped her tea and breakfasted warily on toast and some fine sausages, awaiting some explanation of the sudden change. Lady Alicia said nothing until all had eaten their fill, then she clapped her hands together for attention, and even Lord Alex put his newspaper down.
"Now, my dears, we have an important announcement and splendid news! Jamie has proposed to Clara, and been accepted!"
Lord Alex gave a grunt of approbation, Clara blushed and even Jamie coloured a little. Amelia stared at her cousin with indignant outrage. The damned little slut! How could she? After all the outrages that cocky young swine had perpetrated...
"I know this summer has been hard on you two girls. You have had a taste of life on the receiving end, the better to fit you for your rightful place. I know that nursery discipline has been vexatious to you - especially to you, Amelia, for you have such a fiery spirit. But you will be glad to know that it is over."
Any resentment Amelia felt at what she saw as Clara's betrayal vanished at this marvellous news. It was over, it was finally over, she thought, exultantly. Relief that she would no longer be subject to Jamie's tutelage vied with eagerness to pay off a few scores. Betsy would be bending, bare for her rod, to name but one, just as soon as ever she got the chance!
"The wedding will be in April," Lady Alicia continued, smiling broadly. "Clara will stay with us, in new and far more salubrious surroundings, until the big day." The dark beauty turned her near-black eyes on Amelia. "And you, my dear, would, I suspect, like to get away from Hope Hall."
There was a lot of truth in that. Amelia had accounts to pay, it was true, but it was hard to forget that most of Hatherby - and especially the serving classes at the hall - had seen her naked, humiliated, and in bondage. It might be better, for a time at least, to rebuild her future somewhere new.
"A change," she said cautiously," might be...appropriate."
"Splendid," Lady Alicia clapped her hands together in delight. "Then it is settled. You see, Amelia, we have some marvellous news for you. One of the girls on the Reverend Dawes's little course has had to cancel, and guess what?"
Amelia did not need to guess. Her stomach had turned into a violently churning fist. She appeared to have lost the power of speech altogether. There was a thunderous pounding in her temples, as if all the huntsmen of Hades were galloping her down.
"That means there is a place for you."
"You see, m'dear," Lord Alex put in with a mischievous grin," we really don't feel you have learned as much as you should have done. Still too arrogant by half!"
"Yes, I'm afraid my best efforts have failed," Jamie shook his head regretfully, " we all believe you still need taking down a peg or three!"
"And if I know Richard Dawes," Lady Alicia said with a steely smile, "he is just the man to do it. Six months of really rigorous discipline at the Rectory ought to do the trick!"
Amelia felt the world spin around her. She stared in turn at the faces around the table. Lady Alicia smiled steadily at her. Lord Alex had returned to his newspaper and Jamie and Clara were staring dumbly into each others eyes.
Amelia opened her mouth to protest, but no words would come. Six months, under that man's rule! The prospect made her dizzy with fright. When she finally managed to speak it was a desperate, terrified question. "B-but...whe...when? H-How soon?" she stuttered at last and, just as she got the words out, Lucy bustled into the room.
Lady Alicia looked at the maid enquringly.
"The Reverend Dawes's coach, ma'am. It's arrived for Miss Amelia."
The world increased its speed as it went round and round in front of Amelia's eyes, and she fainted dead away.
...or is it? Well in fact no it isn't, as there is a sequel called Rectory of Correction. I haven't read it all, but if you are curious, you can read a free sample here.