Monday, June 6, 2011

From the Top Shelf - The Maids Part II

Two maids are being punished by their master for their laziness while he was away. They have each had a dozen strokes of the cane.

"One dozen gone," I said, "one dozen still to go."

I positioned myself behind Rose once more, glancing at Elizabeth to see how she was bearing up. Her face was very pale; so deathly white, in fact, that I feared she might swoon. Watching a punishment can be trying indeed for those of a sensitive nature, and this, the first she had ever witnessed, was clearly having a profound effect on Elizabeth - not forgetting that her own punishment was stilk to come. Since fussing over her was out of the questiion, I could do little but carry on and hope she remained upright.

The next set was harder on the two maids. I am not without compassion, and I pitied them during their trial, but easing up now was out of the question. Call it a matter of principle, call it respect for my grandfather's spirit, call it what you will; I simply could not do it. I had promised Elizabeth that Alice and Rose would receive a severe punishment, and I was honour-bound to deliver one.

And deliver it I did - in threes, as before - each fierce stroke drawing the most wretched cry from the recipient. I had a concern that Alice in particular might not have the will to see it through to the end, but surprisingly it was Rose who broke first. On the eighth stroke of the second set, with just four remaining, she stood up and clutched her bottom.

"Down!" I roared. "Get back down! An additional six strokes for both of you!" She looked at me, and Alice turned her tear-streaked face to me also. I had never seen such abject misery in my life, and I hastily amended my decision. "Unless you bend over this very instant, that is," I growled, trying not to make it sound like an afterthought.

Rose quickly resumed her position. The last few strokes were truly dreadful for both of them, but finally it was over and they could stand up, and pull up their drawers slowly and with great care, and straighten their skirts, and wipe their faces with their handkerchiefs.

Often at this point I would deliver some suitably stern reprise, but I felt on this occasion the cane had spoken far more eloquently than I ever could, so I kept it brief.

"You may now go to your rooms," I said. "You are excused duties for the remainder of the day." I realise that I was sending conflicting messages, in that I had just punished them for slackness and was now giving them the day off. Practical considerations ruled, however. I thought it unlikely they could manage much more than to lay facedown on their beds for the next few hours.

They bobbed and walked stiffly from the room, and as they departed I did wonder briefly whether I had been too hard on them. They were acting on Elizabeth's instructions, after all, and following orders is all any servant can be expected to do. But anyone with a brain in her head would know what my response was likely to be. If they couldn't see that, then they deserved the two dozen for rank stupidity.

With the two maids out of the way I turned my attention to the chief defaulter. "Elizabeth," I said, "I trust that was a salutary lesson, for you as well as those two unfortunate young women."

"Indeed," she replied, so softly I strained to hear it...

"I promised you that your punishment would be crueller by far than theirs," I said. "Do you recall my words?"

"Yes, uncle."

I flexed the cane and examined it closely for signs of distress, for a cane that breaks during use can skewer the penitent with sharp splinters. Satisfied, I swished it through the air and saw Elizabeth flinch at the sound. She had tasted the cane before, of course, at Mrs Hammond's hand. Four dozen strokes in total, though for the first three the governess had used a tawse. That final dozen though, with the cane, would have given her some notion of what Rose and Alice had just endured.

I swished the cane again, to torment her.

"What might a punishment crueller by far then two dozen entail?" I asked. "Four dozen? Five? Six dozen, even?"

She dropped her gaze, and said not a word. I waited, watching her face, wondering if she would break down. It would be only human to burst into tears and beg for forgiveness. Many would. Somehow I knew Elizabeth would not.

The seconds ticked slowly by. Elizabeth remained still, with just the twitch of a muscle in her cheek to betray her nervousness. And still she did not speak.

"Very well," I said. "Consider yourself punished, Elizabeth. I trust you will never again fail me in this way."

For a moment she did not respond, then she looked up quickly, hope written across her beautiful face.

"Watching others suffer whilst waiting for punishment oneself can be cruel indeed, can it not?"

She nodded slowly. "It can."

From Hermione's Heart


Anonymous said...

The story really captures the torment of watching while others are punished, knowing you are next. Well done.

Bonnie-jo said...

I like the odd mix between cruel and kind in this guy. It's sort of unsettling.

Anonymous said...

a good read. thanks

bree said...

Is that really the end? Awww!!!! I still think Elizabeth wanted to be caned. I think it is cruel not to cane her. sigh.

ronnie said...

I liked the ending, quite different than I had imagined. I don't think I would like to be made to watch a caning knowing I would be next.

Thanks Hermione.


Hermione said...

Joey - There was a special feeling about this selection.

Bonnie-Jo - Very unsettling. I like him too!

Red - My pleasure!

Bree - Yes, I thought so too. Oh, well, there's no anticipating what Tops do.

Ronnie - I was surprised by the ending too, and had also imagined something very severe.