Miss Joanna Middleton awoke in a strange bed, to the sound of a gentleman’s voice. She knew even before she opened her eyes, and despite the terror that the almost indefinable feeling of being in the wrong bed instilled, that he must be a gentleman. His voice’s entire unfamiliarity to her, and the alarm occasioned by his very masculinity notwithstanding, his accent and his manner told Joanna that at least she could rely on his breeding.
“Arise, Joanna,” the deep voice said. “Open those lovely blue eyes, if you please.”
She struggled desperately to cling to the idea that as a gentleman, to judge again from the sound of his voice and the way it rose and fell with the same elegant rhythm Joanna knew so well from the drawing rooms both of town and country, he must intend to restore her to her own home, as foolish as she had proven herself to leave it. Something hard and commanding in his tone, though, despite the obvious breeding to be heard there, made her heart quail. He had after all just called her by her Christian name, and he had taken an unpardonable freedom in the way he had described her eyes. Joanna did not want to open her eyes, suddenly; not in the slightest. She feared what she would see when she did.
Then, an instant later, she realized from a slight motion of her limbs under the bedclothes that she had nothing on those limbs—not even her shift, which she remembered now she had most definitely had on when she went to bed in the frightening room at the inn in Cheshire. For a moment she thought she had recalled where she was—she had, she supposed, gone to sleep there, and now she had awoken there, and she had simply forgotten: Joanna would open her eyes, now, and she would see the room whose smallness and meanness had, as passive and unpretentious to menace as those characteristics might seem, alarmed her so much when she finally reached the tiny chamber after what had on its own already seemed such a perilous journey up to that point.
Joanna had definitely had her shift on when she had gotten into bed. She had tried to brush her hair, as a means of calming herself and a way, as she had said to her heart, of accustoming herself to a life without a ladies’ maid. She had felt a good deal of pride in having manifested the temerity and presence of mind to carry her ivory-backed brushes away from Weatherstone. As she had attempted to perform the familiar ritual for herself, though—the ritual performed every night by her sweet little maid Sally—her hands had trembled, and even if Joanna had known how to brush her hair in the approved manner used by ladies’ maids and chambermaids (of which latter species Sally was an example) alike, she would not have had the power of concentration necessary to the task.
She had not remembered to carry away her dressing gown, either, which made the theft—as Joanna had to admit the world would term it, since she had until her reckless flight lived entirely as a dependent of her ‘friend’ Mrs. Mund, mistress of Weatherstone—of the brushes seem ridiculous. The more she shivered as she sat at the horrid little dressing table on the horrid little chair, trying to brush her hair, the more Joanna had cursed the fit of pique that had made her fly from Weatherstone.
She had taken the brushes, of course, because of how Mrs. Mund had just employed one of them, and not because Joanna meant to demonstrate her independence by learning to brush her own hair. Since Joanna had turned eighteen three months ago, the mistress of Weatherstone, to whom Joanna served as a companion, had reinforced her frequent criticism of her employee’s ‘free’ manner, as Mrs. Mund termed it, with extended, painful lessons over her elegant lap. There Joanna, with her skirts raised and her drawers down, had received weekly ‘correction,’ as her mistress called it, delivered through the heavy back of one of the lovely set of hairbrushes Mrs. Mund had said Joanna might use, when the girl had come to Weatherstone the previous year.
That Mrs. Mund had made this condescending donation of the brushes with the clear intention that they would not become Joanna’s, but rather be hers while she remained in the woman’s service, had rendered the command to appear with one of them, stripped to her chemise and drawers, in Mrs. Mund’s study, all the more galling. Every time she had felt the woman’s hand raise the chemise and lower the drawers to bare her young companion’s bottom, Joanna had wanted to rise again from Mrs. Mund’s lap and slap her across the face.
The previous night’s correction, however, had simply gone too far. Miss Joanna Middleton might be the natural daughter of an unknown gentleman, whose apparent wealth and influence could obtain for Joanna a place as the companion of an extremely well-regarded widow but could never remove the stain of the lovely fair-haired girl’s birth. She might possess a certain freedom of manner that arose from a happy childhood in the country in a landed family where distinctions of birth never received much notice. She could not, however, bear to be treated as Mrs. Mund had treated her.
“You will take off all your clothing, Miss Middleton,” the awful woman had said. “They are saying below stairs that you are pretty, and that you will surely find a husband despite the blot upon your honor. I intend to ensure that such talk does not go to your head. You are a shameless hussy already, or I would not need to spank you every week for your deportment, but to have the servants speak of your prospects is unacceptable and requires truly firm correction. You are to learn now, miss, to be ashamed of yourself.”
“But Mrs. Mund—” Joanna had begun, intending to point out, as who could deny, that she could bear no responsibility for what the servants said.
“Not a word, Miss Middleton, or I shall have to turn you over to Davidson to be punished like the stable lads.”
Joanna’s eyes had gone very wide at that. Sarah had whispered to her that the butler Davidson used a stout leather strap on the eighteen-year-olds who tended Mrs. Mund’s carriage horses.
“Do as I have said this instant,” the widow had insisted, peering with a cruel, searching gaze into Joanna’s face as if hunting out the last shred of the girl’s resistance. Even then, with the terrible threat of a stable whipping in her ears, Joanna might have defied the woman, but then Mrs. Mund had used her sharpest weapon. “If you do not remove your chemise and drawers at once, Miss Middleton, I shall send you to my cousin in India directly after Davidson whips you.”
Mrs. Mund had made this threat once a month or so since Joanna entered her employment. This cousin in India, for all Joanna knew, might not even exist, or might perhaps not have been heard from in several years, but though tigers and pythons held little terror for Joanna, the idea of being made to leave England and to part in all probability forever with her only friends, the Misses Pettigrew, with whom she had grown up in Kent, seemed too terrible to contemplate. She hardly ever got to see Miss Eliza and Miss Jane as it was, thanks to having been placed with horrible Mrs. Mund, and she had such difficulty even remembering their secret promise to find a different situation for her, one where she might indeed find a husband.
The threat of the Indian cousin had brought home to Joanna her powerlessness so cruelly that she had burst into tears. She had thought, to her further sorrow, on the foolishness with which she had greeted Mrs. Mund’s accusation: worst of all, Joanna had seen then, had been the way her heart leapt at the information of what the servants had said about her—though that, too, she had reflected bitterly, might have been just as fictional as the cousin in India probably was. For a moment she had wondered whether perhaps even as Mrs. Mund’s companion, shut off from society, she might indeed attract a gentleman’s notice and escape her dreary fate.
Joanna had no notion of marriage beyond its capacity to remove a girl from her present circumstances into some other, rather ill-defined—from her perspective at any rate—situation. Indeed, for the Misses Pettigrew as for most other girls who had no congenital stain upon their honor, Joanna rather found the vaunted change of state more a cause for apprehension and even pity than she had ever cared to admit. Men—even gentlemen, and in particular even those few members of the nobility whom she had had the privilege to encounter—seemed such foolish creatures, caring so much more for hunting and dining than they did for the life of the mind. Joanna had read in the works of antiquity, and even in a few of the better novels, many great passages that seemed to convey knowledge of the existence of a different sort of man—a sort that might deserve the title it seemed men claimed for themselves of superiority over the gentle sex. She had never, however, met one of these.
On the other hand, Mrs. Mund had seemed to know the whereabouts of a sort of man who could not come from the common run of fops that constituted the full range of Joanna’s acquaintance with the sex, unless those silly types of masculinity took on, when in private with a girl, a very different sort of bearing. Seeing Joanna weep, she had said coldly, “Do you think this sort of display will save you, should you come indeed into a man’s power? Remove your chemise immediately, Miss Middleton. I intend to make you understand what it is to have the sort of pretty young body with which providence has seen fit to tempt seducers.”
These words had sounded so strange in Joanna’s ears, and the double threat of the butler’s lash and the voyage to India had cowed her so thoroughly, that she felt helpless to resist further. With the tears still dropping from her eyes, Joanna had loosed the ribbon at the neck of her thin cotton chemise and drawn it over her head, her cheeks burning at the thought of Mrs. Mund looking at the little hillocks of her pale bosom, with their tiny pink nipples that stood tinglingly straight at the motion of the air across them.
“The drawers, now, Miss Middleton,” the widow had said severely, as if the sight of Joanna’s maidenly beauty had inflamed her anger. Joanna had thought often before upon the injustice of her employer’s apparent resentment of her youth and physical attractions, but this moment had seemed a ghastly confirmation of her worst fears. “Let us see that naughty cunt.”
Joanna had never heard the terrible word before, but she knew with another surge of heat to her cheeks exactly what it must mean, and that it must be the sort of word a woman like Mrs. Mund would never say unless—the widow would maintain—a hussy like Joanna had provoked her to it. Somehow despite its utter unfamiliarity, that is, Joanna knew that cunt was the most shameful way possible to refer to a girl’s private part, the tender cleft that she understood, simply from all the admonitions a young lady received concerning it, must be naughty by its very nature, if in some hitherto unknown way.
Joanna had hesitated, then. Her hands had already reached around to her back, to loose the blue ribbon that held up her thin cotton drawers, but the embarrassing sound of the monosyllable had stopped her fingers in the act of untying the bow there.
“Come along, girl,” Mrs. Mund had said. “I wish to see your cunt, and to teach you not to imagine that you will have a handsome gentleman to fuck it with his hard prick. Then I shall spank you until you regret nature’s giving you such a sweet little bottom, one so suited to the penis.”
Lord Stephen Gaithwait looked down with the greatest satisfaction upon the girl he had abducted. When his faithful valet Mark had reported that Miss Joanna Middleton had received a terrible punishment, observed at the keyhole by the parlor maid Mark had seduced several weeks ago and had been fucking regularly in the interim, and that the girl had it seemed actually fled from the home of the execrable Mrs. Mund, Lord Stephen had scarcely known how to contain his excitement, or his lust.
Joanna had captured his interest two months since, in Mrs. Mund’s drawing room in London, whither Lord Stephen had gone upon a nearly unendurable courtesy visit at the behest of his uncle the Duke of Essing, whose title and property Lord Stephen stood to inherit, the duke being himself childless. Mrs. Mund had, it seemed, organized a charitable society for the benefit of neglected standing stones, a cause in which the duke took a keen interest. That passion made a great deal of sense to Lord Stephen, because both his uncle and Mrs. Mund closely resembled the weathered, rocky objects of their munificence, but he himself took no interest in philanthropy, being an unapologetic seeker of the world’s pleasures. The visit to Mrs. Mund, though it had occupied perhaps half an hour, had seemed to last as long as Stonehenge had glowered over the Salisbury plain, but at the end of it, perhaps simply because of the strength of the contrast it afforded, a brief, enigmatic moment had captured Lord Stephen’s notice most emphatically.
A young woman, of eighteen or so, had entered the drawing room, carrying her workbasket and so apparently unaware of Lord Stephen’s presence in the house. The girl’s blue eyes, startled, had contrasted instantly with the delicate pink that traveled from her cheeks to her neck, and her flaxen hair, put up carelessly as if she meant merely to sit by the fire and darn her stockings and had no thought of society, seemed to gleam like gold against the deep blue of her simple, though elegant, dress.
Lord Stephen had arisen from his seat immediately to greet the newcomer, but in the same instant both the girl and Mrs. Mund had spoken in a fashion that both conveyed the girl’s dependence on the widow—as well as the widow’s apparent wish that the girl not receive visitors—and piqued Lord Stephen’s interest in her most extremely.
“Oh, I did not know…” the girl had begun in faltering accents.
“Miss Middleton, depart at once,” the widow had pronounced. Then, turning to Lord Stephen as Miss Middleton withdrew, Mrs. Mund had explained, “My companion. Not fit for noble company such as yourself, Lord Stephen.”
In the acid tone with which the widow had dismissed the girl and the treacly one she had addressed to Lord Stephen, he had understood immediately that mere jealousy governed Mrs. Mund’s conduct with respect to this companion—a poor relation, Lord Stephen had at first felt certain. Indeed Mrs. Mund had a great deal of which to be jealous, though his lordship had thought the stratagem by which the woman attempted to keep Miss Middleton in check singularly ill-suited to the task.
From that moment forward, in fact, Lord Stephen had done everything in his power to prove Mrs. Mund’s foolishness to the world. He had begun as soon as Miss Middleton had closed the drawing-room doors behind her.
“Miss Middleton?” his lordship had asked. “Do I know her family?”
“No, indeed not,” the widow had replied, obviously—and to Lord Stephen’s satisfied amusement—discomfited that her companion had attracted his attention. Mrs. Mund’s voice had turned as hard and cruel as one of her standing stones, as it fell in pitch and volume to the sort of whisper used exclusively for the divulging of shameful information the speaker is certain will mortally wound a rival’s prospects. “She is the natural daughter of who knows whom.”
Lord Stephen’s eyebrows had raised themselves at this information, as if of their own accord. “Who knows whom, Mrs. Mund?”
The widow had pursed her lips. “Well, he is, or was, a peer, or else I should not have her in my household, of course. But as I say she is not fit for society. I contemplate sending her to India, for it seems her father has given her entirely into my keeping and I have a deal of trouble with her. I shall punish her presently for her intrusion here this afternoon, have no fear.”
His lordship had pursued his inquiry at this point without any expectation of discovering any matter of interest: Lord Stephen had merely wished to learn as much as possible about the charming Miss Middleton, in case some opportunity of getting at her might present itself. The result of his next interrogatory, however, had made the finding of such a chance imperative.
“Punished, Mrs. Mund?” he had asked, expecting to hear that the widow meant to forbid the girl the play, or a concert.
Mrs. Mund had smiled in a way that suggested she considered herself a most skilled arbiter of feminine manners—one possessed of a very special ability to ensure the proper conduct of girls placed in her care.
“I do not employ half measures, Lord Stephen, I assure you. Miss Joanna Middleton will go over my knee with her drawers down, to receive a sound spanking.”
Joanna, then, was the girl’s name. His lordship, since that moment, had wondered whether the briefly glimpsed personal charms of Miss Joanna Middleton had made the name sound in his ears so harmoniously or if it had been, as he thought rather more likely, the terribly intriguing idea that the girl would soon have her bare bottom punished by the awful Mrs. Mund.
“Indeed?” Lord Stephen had said, at loss for words for several seconds.
“I promise you that after the hussy receives the hair-brushing she deserves, she will inquire as to whether the drawing room is occupied before entering so brazenly and disturbing my noble company.”
Lord Stephen had nodded, having collected his thoughts and determined to garner as much helpful information as he could. “You spank her often, then?” he had asked, not needing in the slightest degree to feign the curiosity he expressed.
“Very often, I fear,” Mrs. Mund had said, her eyes suddenly seeming to shine in the twilit drawing room. The widow had seemed extremely eager to impress upon his lordship the complete propriety of her proceedings with Miss Middleton, and perhaps also to ensure that he view the girl as unworthy of his notice. “I find she responds well to it, as it puts her in her place most effectively. Those bewitching eyes do not seem so alluring or so impertinent when she has spent a quarter of an hour with her bottom bare, paying for her faults at the hand of her mistress. A girl who bears upon her nature the blot of wickedness from her very birth, as this one does, requires the sternest possible correction. I assure you that I will not hesitate, if the need arises, to send her to the stable to receive the strap my butler keeps in store for the stable lads. She will not look so charming, I think, bound naked over the trestle there with her bottom raised for a condign chastisement severe enough to make her keep her bed for a day or two as she thinks upon the lesson expressed in the stripes upon her young backside.”
If Mrs. Mund had intended that Lord Stephen’s interest in Miss Joanna Middleton should abate as a consequence of hearing that this terrible punishment lay in store for her at some future date, she had calculated most incorrectly. He had rather suspected, however, that Mrs. Mund had been carried away by her envy of Miss Middleton’s youth and beauty: the widow’s own apparent interest in whipping her companion as severely and as frequently as propriety might allow should perhaps have given her some inkling that her noble listener might share her inclination. Lord Stephen, too, believed very strongly in baring the bottoms of naughty girls and teaching them difficult lessons in obedience with a firm hand, when necessary for their happiness and his satisfaction with them.
He therefore had asked, in as innocent a tone as he could manage, “And surely you will wish to be present when the girl is whipped that way, to see it done with all justice and with her modesty respected, despite the need for her to feel as fully as possible her dependence upon you?”
Mrs. Mund had nodded, though a slightly guarded expression had appeared upon her face, surely at his lordship’s ready sympathy with her motives. “Indeed, though I fear you are sadly mistaken, my lord, about the element of modesty. A girl like this one has only feigned modesty, a pretense she has learned to put up before the world to cover the sin in her soul. She must be taught true modesty by degrees, over my knee or in the stable as the occasion warrants, her naughtiness uncovered. I assure you that when she feels the sting of my hairbrush, her kicks expose the most shocking lack of decency in her, as under the smart of the lash, as it were, she shows her true colors. To her shame, and mine, Miss Joanna Middleton exposes all of what a man—not a nobleman such as you, Lord Stephen, of course, but the sort of man whose eyes can deceive him into thinking a chit of a girl more worthy of his notice than she is—might call her secret charms.”
The widow had studied his lordship’s countenance as she delivered herself of this speech, which held such extraordinary interest for Lord Stephen that he found it rather a trial neither to shift himself upon the settee nor to smile in the way he would have had his interlocutor been of the masculine persuasion. He would have inquired further, indeed, and perhaps attempted to ascertain whether Miss Middleton were ever to be found out of doors, for his lordship had already determined that he would find a way to put himself in possession of the girl.
The butler had at that moment, however, announced Lady Renfrew, whom Lord Stephen simply could not abide and who, moreover, knew enough of his lordship’s career as to warn Mrs. Mund should the matter of Miss Middleton continue as a topic of conversation with him present. He had therefore pretended the pressing nature of the same fictional engagement he would have mentioned twenty minutes sooner had Miss Middleton not intruded, and departed to find the estimable Mark Shepard, valet and confederate-in-ordinary to so many pleasurable arrangements thus far in their three years together as master and man.
“Easiest thing in the world, my lord,” Mark had said on hearing of Miss Joanna Middleton and Lord Stephen’s designs upon her. “Leave it to me. Your companions are a sorry lot, as I hear, even when their employers treat them kindly. If this widow whips the girl on the regular, mark my words…”—this was a joke between Mark Shepard and Lord Stephen that never failed to draw a smile to his lordship’s lips despite its well-worn character, simply because of the open delight his valet took in the freedom it manifested between his menial nature and his master’s noble one—“…you may have nothing at all to do but watch and wait for the girl to run away all on her own. In the ordinary course of things, they would bring her back, to be sure, and though the idea doesn’t sit well with me—and I am a man who doesn’t spare the rod when it comes to training girls as have reached their eighteenth birthday, as your lordship well knows—the widow would doubtless break the girl’s spirit at last.”
Lord Stephen had nodded, his smile broadening. “But should we place ourselves by, so as to assist Miss Middleton in her flight…”
Mark had laid his finger alongside his nose and nodded, a grin of his own breaking out upon his apparently honest face. “Your lordship may find himself with a pretty filly well in harness and a naughty cunny to train for hard riding.”
Joanna, awake in the strange bed, tried frantically to remember how she might have gotten there.
“You won’t open your eyes, Joanna?” the gentleman’s voice asked in a chiding tone. “I shall have a look at you, then.”
Joanna gave a startled cry as she felt the bedclothes snatched away. Her eyes flew open of their own accord. Over her stood a tall man, dressed in a fine linen shirt and buff breeches. His dark hair hung to his shoulders and his posture seemed to tell of an active life: the arm that had pulled the coverlet back and now held it at the man’s side showed lean and sinewy through the fabric of his shirt.
Joanna’s mind concentrated at first on those details, she supposed, because the more troubling aspect of the man’s appearance terrified her so thoroughly: to wit, he had a black mask of stiffened leather upon the upper part of his face, hiding from her all knowledge of his identity. Behind the eye slits of the mask Joanna thought she could discern dark pupils, gazing down not into her own eyes but upon the naked expanse of her young body, looking hungrily—for something in the set of his chin seemed to convey a greed to consume the charms he saw—at her little breasts and at the place the awful Mrs. Mund had taught Joanna just the previous day to call her cunt.
She put her hands down, desperately, to cover herself, her left arm across her bosom and her right hand before the tender slit where a sparse golden thatch marked her womanhood. Then the dark eyes in the mask met hers. “Take those hands away, Joanna,” the man said, “if you please. I wish to see what belongs to me.”
The voice still conveyed gentility: Joanna could not escape that impression despite the fear occasioned by his mask and even more urgently by his eyes and his lewd command. The phrase if you please, too, seemed to recall her initial idea upon waking that nothing terrible could befall her because a gentleman would behave with honor.
“Please, sir,” she said, not moving her hands. “Please, where am I? What has happened?”
“Move your hands, girl,” the man said. “I shall not ask again. In this house you will learn to obey me much more readily even than you obeyed the mistress from whom you stole those hairbrushes we found in your reticule.”
Joanna shook her head, tears coming into her eyes. “Oh, please, no. Sir, I beg you…”
The man turned his head, looking behind him into a corner of what Joanna noticed now for the first time was a large bedchamber, well if not elegantly furnished. A log fire lay upon the grate, making it not disagreeable to be naked, as to climate at any rate. Whatever comfort might be given by the cheery fire, however, the scene took away in an instant because Joanna discerned, standing quietly in the corner into which the masked man had peered, another man, just as tall and much broader of shoulder, dressed in a brown coat that told her he must be a servant. This man, too, wore a black mask over half his face.
“I shall whip her,” the gentleman said. “Make her ready for her punishment.”
“Oh, heavens,” Joanna cried. “Please… please do not whip me… I shall…” The gentleman turned back to her, and Joanna thought she could discern curiosity in his eyes and the slight curl of his lip. She had removed her hands from her bosom and her private part, to clasp them in an aspect of pleading, while drawing herself up to curl against the headboard, but when she saw the mask turn back to her she could not help it: she tried to cover her nakedness again.
“You will show me your sweet bosom and your maiden cunt?” the gentleman asked. “Yes, Joanna, you will, for my man will render you unable to do otherwise, as I teach you your first lesson in obedience to the man who will make a woman of you, and train you to give pleasure.”
Having uttered these terrifying words, he looked again at the man in the corner, and nodded once.
“Yes, my lord,” that man said in a gruff voice, stepping forward so swiftly that Joanna cowered back, feeling the polished wood of the headboard against the bare skin of her back. My lord. Was the masked gentleman not merely that, then, but a nobleman?
The servant advanced to the head of the bed as his master moved further down, to give room. Joanna’s lips parted and her breath came in short gasps as the big man in the brown coat loomed over her.
“Don’t make this difficult, miss,” he said without any cruelty. “Kneel at the foot of the bed and bend yourself down, then take your knees in your hands so I can get you ready for the strap upon your little bottom.”
Joanna felt her chin move side to side without willing the gesture of refusal. Her eyes darted from one mask to the other. The nobleman had folded his arms across his chest and the set of his chin conveyed satisfaction with the scene, now that to all appearances he would soon avenge himself thoroughly upon Joanna’s backside.
“Come now,” the servant said. “His lordship is going to whip you now—there’s not a thing you or I can do about it. You’ve a lesson to learn, miss, and his lordship is the sort of man to give it to you properly. Once his lordship sees you begin to obey, you’ll see how kind a man he is—not like that horrible widow.”
The nobleman spoke then, perhaps as he saw the heat flood to Joanna’s face at the realization that these men knew, somehow, about Mrs. Mund’s spanking her.
“Yes, my dear, I know your lovely bottom has experienced much correction. I even know that Mrs. Mund spanked you in the nude yesterday, and spoke to you of what I suppose we might call womanly matters. So you are well prepared, I think, for another sort of naked punishment—and a much better sort, so far as I am concerned.”
Joanna’s chin stopped moving: there seemed not the slightest use in expressing her refusal of the servant’s instructions and the master’s matter-of-fact expression of these terrible things. She caught her lower lip in her teeth and looked into his eyes, a plea for mercy that she knew would be in vain but which seemed to her the only remaining hope of averting the progress of his shameful plans.
For a moment she thought the man might have pity on her: a sort of softening seemed to occur behind the mask, as if—so very unlike Mrs. Mund—he actually did care for Joanna’s well-being despite the starkly vicious appearance of his abducting her and placing her naked in this bed, of his promise now to have her bound so he might thrash her for refusing to show him her maiden charms. Then he turned to his man and said, “Go ahead, if you please.”
“Yes, my lord,” said the servant, with satisfaction evident in his voice, whether at his master’s resolution or at his own anticipated pleasure in securing Joanna’s compliance she could not tell. Joanna cried out, but the big man in the brown coat merely leaned over and plucked her away from the headboard, left hand upon her upper arm and right hand around her waist. She struggled in his strong arms, but the feeling of her naked skin against the rough serge of his coat seemed to her so shameful that from the moment he had her off the bed and began to carry her to its foot, Joanna felt faint and feeble.
When he placed her there, upon the mattress again—bare now because the nobleman had finished the removal of the coverlet to leave the bed without any clothes but the bottom sheet—she seemed unable to manifest even the little strength her limbs possessed. The servant put her on her knees and bent her face to the linen sheet.
“If your lordship will just put a hand on the girl’s back,” the servant said in an easy, conversational tone. “Won’t take much, I think, but just hold her down, if you please, to remind her she can’t get away, while I truss her for you. That’ll make the job a deal easier for me.”
Joanna did cry out a little when she heard this, and as the servant’s hands left her and the nobleman’s descended she tried to rise and crawl away, as if she might reach a door and run naked out into the dawn—for she could see through a window that the sky had begun to grow light outside.
“No, Joanna,” the nobleman said, and then he held her hip tight in his left hand and began to spank her with his right, very hard.
Mrs. Mund had always used the hairbrush, and never her own hand. Joanna had wondered at that, when her regular spankings had begun, but the size of the nobleman’s hand made her conscious immediately of what the reason had been: a widow’s little hand could never make a young woman feel the kind of authority this aristocrat could. Even the hairbrush seemed to Joanna a poor imitation of a man’s strong palm and long, thick fingers, brought down with force, over and over, right in the center each time.
She wailed, and struggled more, but to no avail at all.
“You… will… hold… still.” The masked man spoke steadily and sternly, and when Joanna willed her body at last to cease attempting escape he stopped the spanking suddenly, and said, “There. Good girl.” Then he said, “Bind her.”
Joanna couldn’t help it: she started at the terrible command, tried for a moment to rise, and emitted a little shriek. But the nobleman held her down and delivered another hard spank, and the resistance went out of her with a whine of discomfort, her thoughts and feelings balanced in the terrible dilemma that this man would certainly whip her, once the servant had bound her, but he would doubtless whip her more if she continued to struggle. Weeping, she let the man in the brown coat take her wrists and pull them back behind her knees so that he might tie them together with a stout leather strap.
The mere picture, in Joanna’s mind’s eye, of the posture into which the servant had placed her with this trussing, made her cry out in shame. She closed her eyes tightly, trying to concentrate her attention on the feel of the linen sheet against her cheek and the sensation of her disheveled hair around her face.
To her dismay she felt a hand—the nobleman’s surely—brush back the golden tresses from her cheek and smooth them over her shoulder. She felt her brow crease deeply and then a deep blush as she thought of him looking at her face as well as those other places—the ones of which Mrs. Mund had spoken so cruelly and crudely.
As if he read her mind, somehow, the man said, in a gentle voice that seemed to confirm what his servant had told her, about his kindness once a girl began to show she knew how to obey, “Mrs. Mund made reference, I am told, to this pretty cunny, when she punished you yesterday.”
Then Joanna cried out in shame and fear, and with another feeling she could not name, for the man put his hand there, between her legs, on the cleft of her private part. His long, thick fingers held her firmly, but not forcefully, and he squeezed the place Mrs. Mund had accused of such natural wickedness. Joanna’s cry changed in pitch, moved lower into her chest, as she suddenly felt she had begun to understand what the widow had meant.
“My informant tells me that the woman even spoke to you of what a man likes to do with a girl’s cunny, when he decides she is ready to become a woman. Is that so, Joanna? Did you hear about fucking? About what a man has between his legs, and how his wife must learn to receive it when he chooses to enjoy his conjugal rights?”