Tuesday, September 12, 2017

From the Top Shelf - In a Mist, Chapter 1

Today we begin a new novel. In the words of the late Alex Birch, In a Mist is "one of the best and most readable spanking books I have ever encountered. The story of Arthur Lennox, the cornet-loving tutor, and his wild and wayward pupil, Elizabeth, is a warm, colourful and at different times a sad and humorous story beautifully woven as their relationship develops in the setting of rural England, just prior to the outbreak of the second world war. The story is, as usual, attributed to 'Anonymous' and it deserves better because this is a truly wonderful novel where characters and places leap credibly from the pages and the reader feels they are there, involved in the action."

Chapter 1 - In which we meet Lennox and Elizabeth

Afterwards, whenever he thought of Lymchurch he remembered it as half hidden in mist. The vast empty stretch of sand curving away into blurred infinity. The ships' fog horns hooting out to sea like enormous owls. The old wooden bathing huts, ghostly sentinels on the edge of the beach. The bare-thighed girl, skirts lifted, standing amid the waves, calling him on. An elfin sprite, fleeting evanescent - like the mist itself.

He had travelled down by train from Yorkshire on a Saturday, stopping overnight in London at a small hotel off Euston Square in order to complete his journey next morning. Sunday train journeys were tedious affairs. He's had to change at Lewes and wait for over an hour for a chugging little local train to take him along the coastal line to Lymchurch. There were few fellow travellers and for most of the way he sat in an empty compartment gazing out at the lonely chalk downs, eagerly anticipating the moment when they would fall away sharply to meet the sea.

He loosened his collar. He felt clammy and travel weary. It was only the end of May yet it already felt like summer.

As the train neared the coast the clouds parted and there was the sun, bathing land and sea in a haze of radiance. He was met at the tiny station by an old dark-green tourer and a craggy chauffeur who pulled a face at the pile of luggage he had to load into the car.

They sped dangerously through country lanes. His flagging spirits rose as he caught sight of the sea once more, calm and blue. How green it was here, compared to the granite moors of Yorkshire. He could taste the salt tang in the air through the open car window.

And the girl, Elizabeth? Would she be pretty in her skittishness? "Undisciplined and wild" her guardian's letter had stated. But if she were pretty into the bargain, it would make his duties infinitely more enjoyable.

He tried without success to draw the chauffeur into conversation. The only words he seemed to know were "maybe" and "I reckon so".

The car turned off the road and along a sweeping drive lined by rhododendrons. They had arrived at Lymchurch House.

Mr. Harker met him at the entrance. He seemed so frail and diminished by old age that the slightest puff of wind might have blown him away.

"Mr. Lennox," he extended a bony blue veined hand. "What a wearisome journey you must have had!" He called the maid to show the visitor to his room. "Florence will bring you a pot of Earl Grey while you unpack your things." He was anxious to be as hospitable as possible to the tall, rather animated, young man in whom he was placing so much trust. "Dinner is at seven. Ample time for you to take a nap, and perhaps a stroll around the grounds later on?"

"Thank you, sir, I shall probably do just that," Lennox replied, deferentially bridling his strong desire to explore the place immediately.

"Till seven then, when you will make the acquaintance of your pupil. That is," he sighed, "if she decides to honour us with her presence. One can never tell with Elizabeth."

Mr. Harker excused himself and retired exhausted to his study and Thorburn's Book of Birds. He was a shy, reclusive man who always found meeting new people a dreadful ordeal, but he felt obliged to make a special effort with Lennox. A lot depended on him.

Lennox had been tutoring ever since he came down from Cambridge. It was a pleasant enough way to earn one's daily crust, for Lennox was one of that rare breed of men little bothered by worldly ambition. Not that he was in any way shiftless. Quite the contrary. He was practically obsessive in his dedication as a tutor. He achieved enviable results, even with the most obtuse and refractory of pupils, and had built up the reputation of being a thoroughgoing disciplinarian.

The demand for live-in tutors had declined of late. Nevertheless, Lennox managed to make quite a tolerable living from it. He had a drawer full of peerless testimonials and had absolutely no need to advertise his services. His fame was spread by word of mouth from one wealthy family to the next.

His liberal use of the cane was often in itself sufficient recommendation for many parents. "Cane them, do you, Lennox? Glad to hear it! A sound thrashing never did me any harm!" the fathers declared enthusiastically; while the plum-voiced blue blooded mothers, possessing that curious streak of inherent cruelty which characterises the English upper classes, were equally insistent that Lennox should beat some sense into the recalcitrant behinds of their daughters.

The scholastic whipping of the daughters of gentility was a time-honoured tradition, stretching back hundreds of years. Hadn't the tutor of young Effie Grey, Ruskin's future wife, been solemnly authorised by her parents to birch the girl across the seat of her drawers whenever necessary?

Although he found beating boys to be rather repugnant, Lennox over the years had developed quite a taste for caning girls. The maleness in him thrilled to their agonised yelps as the rod bit into their plump, delightfully rounded bottoms. Yet he would have been outraged had anyone suggested that he derived the slightest degree of erotic pleasure from whipping his girl pupils. For this was still an age of sexual innocence, and no one gave it a second thought when he took his cane to some cheeky young madam's backside, or else let her off lightly with a spanking over his knee.

After all, everyone knew that girls were infinitely more troublesome than boys. Unless kept firmly in check they would exploit their sex to unfair advantage and be twice as ill behaved as any boy.

Yes, I can see I shall enjoy my stay here, he declared to himself later that afternoon as he strolled contentedly in the gardens. Even taking into account his previous acquaintance with English country homes, Lymchurch House was a delightful place. It captivated the eye with its quiet, modest beauty, like a bashful girl reluctant to display her charms.

From the shrubberies he turned and looked back across the smooth lawns dotted with hawthorn and other ornamental trees, towards the long low frontage of the old house, its latticed windows framed by honeysuckle and clematis. It was not an enormously large house, but it straggled and covered a lot of ground. The roof was stone crop. Lichen clung to the mellow red tiles. Little dormer windows in the upper storeys winked and shimmered in the sun.

Above the white painted porch surrounding the main entrance Lennox noticed french windows leading out onto a balcony. Standing there was a girl with long flowing Pre-Raphaelite hair, wearing a white summer dress. He saw her indistinctly, as in a mist, but he sensed that she was watching him closely, studying his every movement. He gave a friendly wave - but she ignored it, spurning his overture. Turning abruptly she disappeared into the room beyond.

Elizabeth had been watching him for some time from the schoolroom balcony. She bitterly resented his arrival. He had come with the express purpose of depriving her of her liberty. His droning lessons would bore her to extinction. She was eighteen, and the thought of having to return to the schoolroom irked her considerably. It was so demeaning. But she would not submit easily to this humiliating regime. She would dig her heels in.

Nevertheless, she was surprised to see how young her tutor was. Her guardian had made no mention of Mr. Lennox' age. She'd naturally assumed that like all tutors he would be bald, rheumy-eyed, and walk with a stoop.

Yet here instead was this tall, powerfully-built man in his early prime who strode about the gardens with the natural ease of a panther. Curious to study him more closely she ran downstairs, returning with her guardian's binoculars which he used on his rare bird-watching expeditions, and focused them on the enemy.

She was even more taken aback to discover that not only was he young - but he was positively good looking. He had a fine head of light brown hair, with a broad intellectual brow and deep set aquamarine eyes. His keen nostrils inhaled the sea air with an almost greedy pleasure. His lips, full and fleshy, bespoke more than a touch of sensuality - albeit firmly kept in check by the strong decisive line of his jaw.

There was a breezy boyish enthusiasm about him when he smiled. But when he frowned a sudden sternness, which quite intimidated Elizabeth, overtook his features.

She sighed, self-pityingly. No more could she spend each prodigal day scrambling among the rocks at the foot of the cliffs, or dashing across the wide silver beaches. Nor could she ride her beautiful white pony over the old stone bridge further up the wooded river valley and canter furiously across the wide sweeping downs.

Now only at weekends could she do the things she loved to do. But never one to be down in the dumps for long - or for that matter to resist a challenge - she rallied her spirits and, delivering a spiteful little kick to the leg of the chair on which she had been sunbathing until Lennox' arrival, she crooned spitefully to herself, "Poor Mr. Lennox! I'm afraid I shall give you an awfully hard time of it!"

She saw him catch sight of her and wave amiably. With a scornful imprecation she flounced from the balcony and into the schoolroom, slamming the french windows so hard behind her that they rattled and shook.

Not only was she Mr. Harker's ward, she was also his niece - the only daughter of his late sister, Catherine, who had married a clergyman dedicated to evangelical crusading. Husband and wife were both carried off by an outbreak of diphtheria in Manchester, but they had bequeathed to the world a baby girl who miraculously survived. Once the tiny infant had been rigorously disinfected and quarantined, her bachelor uncle saw it as his bounden duty - albeit an onerous one - to take the orphan in and bring her up as though she were his own.

Seventeen years had elapsed since then. Mr. Harker had long given up all hope of being able to do anything with his difficult ward. From being a petty irritant as a toddler, she had become a positive nuisance in her early teens. Now, as he constantly complained to his friends and neighbours, Elizabeth had developed into " a constant source of trial and tribulation."

As a child she had been a restive mischievous tomboy, an unmanageable handful to the legions of nurse maids and governesses who had departed, broken and defeated, almost as soon as they arrived.

When she was twelve her guardian, fondly hoping that his troubles were now behind him, packed her off to a highly recommended and fearfully expensive boarding school in Berkshire. But she ran away from it so many times that eventually the school washed its hands of Elizabeth, pronouncing her to be "ineducable".

After that, Mr. Harker gave up all attempts to provide her with a formal education and left her virtually free to follow her own inclinations. She was by no means a dunce. On the contrary she was far too clever for her own good. She could read and write fluently, thought her taste in literature seldom rose above the seamy novels of foreign origin which her less desirable friends lent her, and which she smuggled into the house and secreted in a drawer beneath the gossamer layers of her lingerie.

She could sew and embroider dextrously, but only on those rare occasions when a quiet mood overtook her. Of scripture, history, geography, algebra and trigonometry she was utterly ignorant - and intended to stay that way. She loved nature and often, to her guardian's alarm, wandered off alone along the deserted coastline for whole days at a time, yet she loathed botany and zoology.

One of her favourite occupations was to loiter in the gravelled stable yard at the rear of the house, teasing the stable boys - so much so that sometimes things got so out of hand that the formidable Tomms would step in and put a stop to things, darkly threatening "Miss Elizabeth" with "a good larruping" if she persisted in her antics. Though afraid of him, she quite liked Tomms because she knew he would stand no nonsense from her. He never had to tell her twice.

For all that she was eighteen, she still refused to grow up into a young woman, continuing instead to act like a spoilt naughty girl. She was moody, insolent and defiant, prone to childish tantrums if she didn't get her own way, and also inclined at times to be deceitful to cover up her lapses in behaviour.

Her guardian was reaching the end of his tether. Preoccupied with his declining health, he had better things to do than go chasing round the house in futile pursuit of a selfish, inconsiderate girl who seemed to delight in wreaking havoc wherever she went. She terrorised the servants, making their lives a misery. She broke priceless vases and china ornaments with sickening frequency, either through sheer clumsiness or deliberately, in a tantrum. She insisted on an exorbitant dress allowance, which she wasted on silly French fripperies.

In a fit of pique one evening last summer she'd ridden the bicycle he'd foolishly agreed to buy her, all over the lawns and flower beds, leaving a trail of unsightly tyre marks and a carnage of mangled decapitated geraniums.

Once in a while Mr. Harker would try to put his foot down, thought the truth was that he'd left it too late in the day for any checks and restraints on Elizabeth's behaviour to have any effect. He tried lecturing her, but she laughed in his face. He tried sending her up to her room, but she sneaked down and disappeared outside the minute his back was turned. He tried stopping her dress allowance, but she sulked and stormed and made life unbearable for everyone, until eventually he was driven to relent.

After the incident with the bicycle he'd been sufficiently infuriated as to actually spank her. Elizabeth had, of course, objected vociferously to such uncharacteristic and drastic punishment, although she knew she deserved it. She protested that she was much too old to be spanked - even though he spanked her in the privacy of her bedroom and spared her the further indignity of having to take her pink gingham pyjama trousers down. She would have hated any of her friends to know about it.

Yet, although she behaved abominably towards him, Elizabeth was really quite fond of her guardian, with his old fashioned ways and cloistered outlook on life. In a way, she'd almost appreciated his taking the trouble to correct her physically, which was more than any of her nurse maids, governesses and boarding school mistresses had ever dared to do. Not that the few half-hearted smacks Mr. Harker administered had had any real effect on Elizabeth's pretty little bottom. Sadly he no longer had the strength to hurt her.

Now that Elizabeth had reached marriageable age Mr. Harker fervently hoped some socially acceptable young man would come along to claim her. But, because of his reclusive nature, he had never encouraged visitors to Lymchurch House, and the only members of his sex to call regularly were, alas, the postman, the milkman and the butcher's boy.

Besides, as Mrs. Pountney, his long time friend and neighbour, observed, "What gentleman in his right mind would seriously entertain the prospect of matrimony with such a volatile little minx!"

Yet no man with a discerning eye for the ladies would have quibbled at her looks. Elizabeth was undeniably pretty, even if her face was a trifle too narrowly sculpted, too high cheek boned, to be called classically beautiful. Though dainty and petite, Elizabeth was not lacking in feminine curves. The thin silk dresses she wore in summer hinted tantalisingly at the presence of firm rounded breasts, as well as a provocatively pert little bottom.

Any man alive would have found her pleasing to the eye. But few men, once they knew her, would relish taking her on. She was far from ready for marriage. In her present state of defiant intractability she would rather die than submit to the rule of a husband.

That was why Mr. Harker had taken the unusual step of engaging a tutor to complete her education and instill some social graces in her, even though she had passed her eighteenth birthday. Truly it was the last ditch attempt of a desperate man who craved only for a quiet solitary old age.

"You should have done this years ago, Henry," Mrs. Pountney remarked sagely when he told her of his plan. "As it is, you've left it far too late in the day. It's no good closing the stable door after the horse has bolted!"

"But Mr. Lennox believes in strict discipline," Mr. Harker added, waving a bony finger aloft in triumph, "He'll stand no nonsense from her, I'll be bound!"

Mrs. Pountney perked up considerably at this further revelation. "Didn't I always tell you that what Elizabeth needed was a soundly smacked bottom? My father would never have allowed me to behave the way she does! He would have taken a birch to me!"

The silver haired old lady leaned forward in her chair, rattling the bone china teacup and saucer in her hand in sudden animation. Like most of her generation, the whipping of recalcitrant girls and boys was a topic dear to her heart, representing as it did the victory of moral order over unbridled anarchy. Smiling as she rose to go she said "Of course, dear Henry, I shall expect to be kept well informed on this matter. In fact I shall settle for nothing less than a blow by blow account of every smack!"

Mr. Harker went pink with embarrassment and regretted ever mentioning the subject in the first place. He hadn't exactly intended to keep a close watch on things. On the contrary, while his pretty young niece was receiving her painful lessons in discipline, he intended to devote himself to his beloved birds.

As far as Elizabeth was concerned, he'd washed his hands of her.
So far, so good!
From Hermione's Heart


Roz said...

Really enjoyed reading this Hermione, wonderfully descriptive. Looking forward to reading more. I suspect Mr Lennox is going to have his work cut out and Elizabeth has a few surprises in store for her.

Thank you for sharing another wonderful story :)


opsimath said...

How nice to be reconnected with Alex's work so long after his sad passing. Quality writing and a hot story -- both by-words of a great spanking author.

Thank you for finding this and sharing it with us; your blog is, as ever, a delight!

ronnie said...

Hermione, I really enjoyed this. Quality writing. Looking forward to more. Sounds like Mr. Lennox will have his hands full with Elizabeth. Thank you.


Hermione said...

Roz - Elizabeth certainly wont be expecting what happens next.

Opsimath - Thank you for your kind words. I miss Alex.

Ronnie - I love the descriptive writing too. Wish the author had used a proper pen name so I could find more of his/her work.


Cat said...

Really enjoying this, Hermione...as Ronnie said...quality writing. Looking forward to seeing how Elizabeth reacts when her new tutor puts her in her place. ;)

Hugs and blessings...Cat

Hermione said...

Cat - I suspect she won't like it at all - at first!