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Facing the open gates my uncle sat holding the reins of the horses. The cab was the same as that we had arrived in.
Caroline and I wore straw boaters, plain high-necked white blouses and long black skirts. Our hair was drawn back with ribbons. My aunt and Katherine entered with us.
'Keep your hands still,' my aunt said. There was a jerk and the carriage started up the slope. It bumped exceedingly again. At the top we turned right - in the opposite direction to which we had come - and proceeded along the lanes. A few yokels moved aside at our coming, but otherwise no other carriage passed us.
Aunt Maude and Katherine toyed with their gloves and spoke of balls, receptions, dances. I envied their pleasures. My face was demure. I wanted to ask where we were going but I knew it was forbidden. After some six miles we reached a place that was too small for a town and yet too large to be a village.
Over the cobbles of the streets we rattled until we came to a house facing a pond and a green. Two children ran playing with hoops over the grass. The house was of stone, the windows small. It was set amid a walled garden.
'Shall they come in?' Katherine asked. My aunt nodded. They descended first. My uncle helped us down. His expression was one of great seriousness. He was dressed formally in top hat, grey jacket, waistcoat and black trousers.
He led us forward towards the gate to the drive of the house as if we were approaching for a family portrait to be taken. The door was black, inset with frosted glass. The knocker was of brass in the semblance of a lion's head. There was a bell which my uncle pulled. It tinkled with broken notes somewhere within. Almost immediately a servant maid answered. She curtsied at the sight of my uncle and aunt. My uncle presented his card as we entered the hall.
The maid took it upon a small silver tray and vanished. In but a moment she returned and ushered us within a drawing-room where a middle-aged couple sat in high-backed chairs. They rose as one. Not having the advantage of facing the sun, the room had a certain gloom.
I waited to be introduced. Instead, Katherine pointed to a small love-seat in one corner. 'Sit there,' she said. We threaded our way through the furniture and sat like doves, side by side, our hands in our laps. Port was dispensed. We each received a glass. To my astonishment and amid the blushes of Caroline my aunt spoke of us to the lady she addressed as Ruby. She gave our ages and certain details of our training. We sat mute. Only our Christian names were given.
'They are most certainly quiet and well-behaved,' the lady said. She turned her gaze upon us and appraised us. We kept our eyes lowered - Caroline out of shyness and confusion, I out of discernment. I felt it would please her. It did. The gentleman displayed a greater interest in us. Leaning forward in his chair he spoke in a low voice to my aunt. Twice she nodded then he rose. He approached us, fiddling with his watch chain. We stirred not.
'Do not move,' Katherine said quietly to us. 'Look up!'
We raised our eyes. He was a stocky man in his prime. Caroline gave a little jump as he bent down and placed his hands upon her blouse, cupping her breasts. I could feel their warmth and weight as on my own hands. He attended next to my own, running the balls of his thumbs about my nipples. They stirred and pointed into the cotton of my blouse. His hands trembled exceedingly. The projection in his breeches was one of considerable menace.
He returned to his seat. His breathing sounded laboured. Katherine's eyes remarked his condition, I know. His wife laid her hand upon his when he took his chair again beside her. Her glance came to us again.
'May we take them upstairs?' she asked.
My aunt inclined her head. 'I regret . . .' she said. Her voice was formal as if she were writing the words on parchment. 'We should see Amanda, perhaps.'
There was a nodding. The servant was summoned. Miss Amanda would be asked to come down, she was told. We waited. The clock upon the mantelpiece threw tiny arrows of sound into the carpet. My nipples grew turgid again and softened. Footsteps. The door opened. A young lady of about twenty-three years appeared. She was dressed in simple attire: a blue dress that clothed her form admirably. A tasselled cord of blue velvet drew the material in at her waist. She was slender. Her legs were long. Her high breasts made themselves appealingly visible through the material. Her dark hair was swept back behind her ear. A pearl necklace and matching earrings adorned her. Her eyes were large and faintly wondering. Her mouth had a petulant look There were introductions from which my sister and I were again excluded. Amanda looked towards us. We avoided her glance as if by inverted politeness. Amid the chairs she stood like a hunted fawn.
'I do not want to go,' she said. Her voice was shrunken, distant.
Katherine's eyes absorbed the delicate outcurving of her bottom.
'It will take but a month, perhaps less,' my aunt said. She spoke as if Amanda were not present. The seance it seemed was then at end. There was a rising as if of marionettes.
'Take your cloak,' the lady said to Amanda who had laid small white teeth into her lower lip.
'But if I promise...' Amanda began.
'It is a nonsense - she will not even be spanked,' the lady said, addressing my aunt.
In the same moment Katherine took Amanda's wrist. 'Come!' she said sharply.
We knew that the word was addressed to ourselves as well. A bustling, a rustling, an opening and closing of doors and we were gone. The carriage kicked up a fine dust with its departure. The children with the hoops stared after us. Amanda sat pale and quiet between Caroline and me.
'Amanda - you must not be dismayed, we shall treat you well,' my aunt said. 'There will be strawberries and cream for tea.'
Caroline and I smiled because we were meant to smile. The passing countryside had the remote look of scenery painted on canvas. I wanted to return to my room and lie still. To my surprise Caroline and I were sent upstairs freely on our own upon our return. No one followed us. The doors to our rooms lay open. We lingered uncertainly between them.
'Was it too big?' I asked. She knew my mind and that I was speaking of the stable. Transparent shutters came down over her eyes.
'It was naughty,' Caroline said. Teeth like pips of a pomegranate showed between her lips. 'Why did she?' she asked.
There was a childish breathlessness in her voice that I sensed she considered appealing. I brushed tendrils of golden hair from her forehead. I removed her boater and my own and guided her into my room. A boldness seized me. I closed the door. 'You have to be trained,' I said. I knew the words. I felt older. The scent of beyond was in my nostrils. The air was clean in my eyes.
I was truthful. 'I do not know, Caroline.' We stared at one another.
'When Aunt Maude was caning you...' I began. I wanted to know.
Caroline said, 'It was tight and it stung.' The wonder around her mouth was like traces of cream. I kissed her lower lip and sucked it in.
A bee's kiss. The tips of our tongues touched and played. My hands held her hips lightly. We both thought of Amanda. I knew that. 'In the linen room. . . 'I said.
Her eyes were hot. 'I know...' Her form was limp as I began to raise her skirt. My hands sought her stocking tops, the sweet warm flesh above. Caroline placed her hands on my shoulders. 'It was nice,' she said thickly. A small unravelling of lust was within me. I moved my hands up to the tie of her drawers and loosed it. They sagged, fell to her knees. I knew my wickedness. The curls about her cunny tickled my palm. I felt her moisture.
'You were long in the summerhouse,' I said. I had not forgotten. The rolled lips of her slit were oily on my palm. 'Was it good?'
Caroline's arms clasped my neck. She seemed about to faint. Her thighs parted so that her knees held her drawers taut. 'Yes,' she said. I felt dizzy with a sweet sickness. The sea waves lapped us. 'It is good,' a voice said. We jerked and clutched one another. I did not want to look. It was Katherine's voice.
'But you were told not to - were you not told?' she asked.
My hands dropped. Caroline's skirt half fell but remained coiled about her knees. The legs of her fallen knickers showed.
Katherine beckoned me. 'I know your devilment,' she said and smacked me hard about the bottom.
I jumped and squealed as Caroline often squealed. Her hand was as sharp as Father's. There were old photographs in my mind, tinted with dust. The wing of a dead bee on my sleeve. Caroline sat at command, forlorn. My wrist was gripped. The door to the bedroom left wide open, I was taken upstairs.
'The second door,' Katherine said.
She unlocked it and pushed me roughly within. The room was long and bare. There were cages, the bars of slender ironwork. Three cages stood in a triangle, each the size of a small closet. There were benches, leather-covered. A wooden bar hung across trestles stood in the centre of the floor. Two skylights misted with dust allowed the day to enter. Katherine stripped me quickly of my dress and drawers and placed me, booted and stockinged, in the nearest cage. I wailed a small wail as the door clanged and closed. A bowl of strawberries and cream, a plate of brown bread and butter and a bottle of white wine lay in the small space at my feet.
Katherine walked to the door. Opening it she glanced back at me and said, 'You are lucky, Beatrice. You are the chosen.'
There was silence and she was gone. I crouched to eat and drink There was no spoon with which to cat the strawberries. The cream dripped from my fingers. I licked it. A small drop lay upon the springing of my pussy curls. The wine had been uncorked. I sucked upon the neck of the bottle. The cool gurgling. I did not want the bread.
The door looked at me beyond. It was padded with thick black leather, rimmed all around with metal studs. I liked it. The door would be my fiend.
Half an hour passed. I leaned back against the bars and felt one of the cool round rods between the cheeks of my bottom. The sensation was pleasant. I pressed against it but the contact was not as I wished. I could not bend forward.
The door opened. My Aunt Maude led Amanda in; unbound, her dark hair was as long as my own. At her pubis the triangle of curls was crisp and neat. Her stockings were banded at the tops by metal rings. Her long legs teetered in the same mode of high-heeled boots that Caroline and I were made to wear. Her breasts were pale mounds of jellied glory. She held her head high in her nakedness, her pride stung by shame.
'I did not want to come,' she blurted. My aunt ignored her. The door of the cage next to mine swung open. On the floor the same meal awaited her that I had received.
'You would not obey - you know you would not obey,' my aunt said. The lock clicked. 'Beatrice, be still and finish your wine. It is good for you.' Her heels sounded loud upon the floor. The studded door closed. All was still. I drank my wine. If there were two bottles I would have poured some over my breasts. I would have raised my nipples to the bars so that Amanda could lick them. Her bottom was quite delicious. Tight and small. Like half a peach it jutted. Had she been tried, trodden, mounted? I was naïve then. I should have known that she had not been.
Amanda tried to look at me. She could not. Her hand gripped the bars. Her other arm fell lax. In sagging she showed the sweet curve of her hip.
'It is hateful,' she said. She did not ask me who I was. I had wanted her to ask.
'You have not been spanked,' I said.
Her eyes were lidded. She had a small, delicate voice. 'Have you?' she asked.
'Often.' I poured a little wine over my finger and sucked it. I did not want the cage between us. We could have kissed with the cage between us. Her face was oval, cold. There were no mirrors in her eyes. I nibbled a piece of bread. I forgot that I did not want it.
'What will they do?' Amanda asked. Her mouth was small. Under pressure it could be made to kiss with succulence. I like succulence. It is like font re. 'They will train you,' I said. She stared at me with her mouth open.
The metal bands around her thighs fascinated me. They fitted by being slid up her legs where, at the greater swelling, they stopped and gripped as a finger ring does. They had been made for her, she said. She had kicked exceedingly when they were first fitted a month ago. She had been held and had been made to wear them ever since.
'Who fits them?' I asked. She blushed and would not answer. I felt a small impatience with her. 'Drink your wine,' I said. She needed to be unlocked, eased, made supple.
The thought stirred me. I was my first revelation.