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We would go to meadows, my aunt said. She saw my look of incomprehension. We had been released exactly upon the half hour. Dressed again we sat in the garden and drank champagne and lemonade. It was a reward, Jenny said, because we had not cried or protested when she untied us and made us dress again.
'Meadows - it is a country house your uncle has bought,' Aunt Maude explained.
'We may go indoors first?' I asked. I was referring to our own house.
My aunt nodded as if surprised at the question. 'Do not tarry - we leave at noon,' she told us. Jenny accompanied us into our house. She was pleased and curious, I believe, to see it again. When I began to assemble clothes she stopped me. 'Not that many, Beatrice. Simple dresses only. Be sure to include your riding attire.'
I took but one trunk, as did Caroline. A sense of curious excitement seized me. The years rolled back. We were children again preparing for a holiday. We would paddle in the sea or descend from bathing huts whose steps led down into the water and were drawn there by ponies. Ladies were not permitted to expose themselves on the beach, though men could bathe naked so long as they were a far distance from the females.
Unseen by Jenny I took a bottle of liqueur and secreted it. I whispered to Caroline to do the same. She shook her head. Munching a biscuit we waited upon Jenny to conclude her discreet inspection of the house. When she came down she was wearing an ornate hat that Mother had left behind.
'May I have this?' Jenny asked. I do not know why she asked. Perhaps it was to test me. I said no. Not put out, she handed it to the maid and asked her to return it upstairs. 'We shall have fun,' she said and led us out.
In the roadway stood a large six-seater carriage of a kind not too often seen outside of London or the larger market towns. We ensconced ourselves. The manservant who had accompanied Katherine placed our trunks on top, protected by a guard rail. Our aunt joined us, then my uncle and Katherine. She had changed into a riding outfit with a three-cornered hat - a small one - perched attractively on her hair. She smiled at us with the distant smile of a stranger. The coach, drawn by four horses, started with a long cracking of a whip. The manservant whose name was Frederick sat up beside the coachman. It was a long and sultry run. I think he enjoyed it little. Katherine toyed with her crop frequently and once or twice teased it playfully about my uncle's thighs. He gained a considerable projection in his breeches in the process, I noticed.
It was a pleasant enough drive, the countryside rolling about us once we had passed through the town. Katherine and Aunt Maude conversed of plays we had not ourselves seen. There was talk of a private theatre at which the actress had evidently appeared. 'We must contrive one,' my uncle said, 'in the barn perhaps.'
'The attic would be splendid, surely,' my aunt replied. 'It is extremely large,' she explained to Katherine. Then she gazed at us as if we were about to speak. I busied myself with counting trees. What did she know of attics? Perhaps she had peered with a telescope from her own to ours. I must tell Father. I would write coded messages, use French words, invisible ink. There would be spies.
Twice on our journey we stopped at inns and took refreshments. 'A yard of ale!' my uncle called jovially on entering both, though he had no intention of drinking one. People regarded us curiously. We were strangers. At the second resting place we ate meat pies with thick forks that looked not too clean. Jenny sat with my sister and I ate at a separate table.
'Keep the children quiet, Jenny,' my aunt said. We drank ale from pewter mugs. I was constrained. I wanted to sit outside the inn and watch the farm workers pass, wearing their rough smocks. Through the thick panes of leaded glass that was ringed with circles I could see their small images. Father on the water floating. My dress billowing. Fish nibbled at my garters while we embraced. It was said that Nero had boy slaves who swam under water while he was bathing and attended to his penis in the same way. I had read that in a book whose binding was broken. The leathered boards of the book had flopped as Edward's penis had flopped against my thigh. Jenny took us out while my uncle settled the bill. A woman bearing a basket and leading a small child passed along the roadway. The child stared and pointed at us.
'Shush! they are from the town,' the woman said. She endeavoured to curtsey as she walked. The child wailed and was dragged on. Like the woman its feet were bare.
We journeyed on. The coachman and Frederick had eaten at a table outside. I could hear the coachman belching frequently above the rumbling of the wheels. The coach jolted exceedingly. I dozed. The talking of my aunt, uncle and Katherine was like a murmuring of bees. Jenny had not spoken to them nor been addressed, except briefly at the inn.
At last I sat upright as the coach made a sudden turn, the coachman hollering at the horses. There were hedges, stone walls, a rougher road. The coach swayed, throwing us about, as it descended a long slope.
Then the house appeared. There were outbuildings. The house was long and made of grey stone. We passed beneath an archway and were in the courtyard. 'Neither of you is to speak,' Jenny said. We waited while the others descended and then she bustled us out. A woman wearing a black dress and the cap of a housekeeper stood waiting on the steps. A youth ran past and began to assist the coachman and Frederick in removing the trunks.
'To your rooms,' Jenny told us when we entered the hall which was circular.
'May we not see the house - the gardens?' I asked. Jenny stared at me. There was a battle of eyes. 'Later,' she declared. I sought a softness in her tone and found but a wisp of it. The staircase was circular and broad. The stonework on the surrounding walls provided ledges for the windows. I wanted a white dove to sit in one. Its pink eyes would gaze at me as I passed. I would throw crumbs. It would peck busily. I would wear a white dress with a pink sash. The sails of Father's ship billowed in the wind. With whom was he talking? Feet trod the boards upon the deck. Men peered at horizons. Beyond them the bronzed women waved and waited.
Our rooms lay together, side by side. We would undress to our stockings and rest, Jenny said. There were pitchers of cool water to drink. We waited while Caroline disrobed and lay down.
'Lie flat on your back and keep your legs apart,' Jenny told her. She obeyed. Her blue eyes blinked. Her arms lay at her sides. The soft fern around her pussylips betrayed its gold, its gleaming pink. Closing the door upon her, Jenny turned and kissed me, mouth to mouth. I knew her desire. Our tongues touched. A melting.
'Do you love her?' Jenny asked. I had no need to answer. 'We shall have her together,' she said. 'Do not throw your clothes upon the floor. Be tidy.' I blushed at her silly words. I yearned to be her accomplice, to write messages on trees. She would follow and read them. I would ride on a white horse with my hair flowing. An archer would run beside me. The room was stark - the stonework not plastered within as I had expected. A large bed stood in the centre of the floor. The foot of it faced the door. The headboard was mirrored with three ovals of glass set in gilt frames. On either side of the bed a cabinet. There was a single wardrobe, heavy in aspect. Its doors were mirrored as was the headboard. A thickpile carpet was the only comfort.
I removed my bonnet and dress slowly, then my chemise and drawers. I was to keep my knee-length boots on, Jenny said, and to keep my stockings straight and taut at all times. My lips must always be slightly parted.
'Why are we here?' I asked. I lay down as Caroline had lain, arms straight at my sides. Jenny nudged my ankles to make my legs part wider. The moisture of the long journey was around and within my cunny. Jenny moved to the end of the bed and gazed at me.
'Erect your nipples,' she said. I licked my lips and passed my palms lightly over my breasts, flicking the tips until they rose. The cones pointed from their surrounding circles of crinkled flesh. 'You are to be trained,' she told me. 'No harm will come to you if you obey.' She moved along the bed to the cabinet on my left. A long leaded-glass window with a deep stone sill was also on my left. A vase stood upon it with a single withered flower. Dipping the tips of her fingers into the pitcher of water she sprinkled it upon my breasts.
The sudden cold made me start. My nipples quivered and stiffened harder. What is the purpose of our training, I asked, but the question stayed in my head like a wasp in a jam jar. It buzzed and spun. Jenny turned and gazed down through the window at the meadows beyond.
'Did you want to kiss Katherine?' she asked. 'Answer quickly!'
I did not look at her. I knew I must not. I said yes. Questions poured over me. I said yes. I said yes I would like to see her breasts, to kiss her thighs, to tongue her slit. I hated Jenny. She knew it was true. She had turned away again. She seemed no longer amused by my meanderings. 'There will be a reception this evening, Beatrice. I shall instruct you in what to wear. A servant will come for you in an hour. Obey her.'
She was gone. A key turned in the lock. I made to rise. Were there cracks in the stone? Watchers? Seekers? My aunt might come. I closed my eyes and walked down corridors of thought. Would Mother return? She had gone with a man to Biarritz, it was said. I remembered his carriage arriving one afternoon, my mother peering through the curtains. He had gazed at us palely.
'I shall not be long,' my mother had said. A servant had opened the door for her, gravely. Her footsteps had sounded down the drive, certain, uncertain. A crack of a whip and the coach was gone. Dust rose in the roadway upon its departure. I thought to catch the dust in a jar and watch it swirl forever. It would not do that, Caroline said, when I told her. We had sat quietly until Father had returned that day. He had said nothing of Mother's absence. In the evening I chased a butterfly towards the sun. I had dozed. A servant was shaking my shoulder. She was the housekeeper I had seen on the steps. I sought my dress, my chemise, my drawers, but they had gone. She tossed a grey cloak down around my feet.
'Come!' She did not call me Ma'am. I cast the cloak about me. We went up to the floor above and along narrow passageways to a second, smaller staircase. At the foot of it Caroline waited. She was garbed in a cloak as I was. Beneath she wore only her stockings and boots.
'Go!' the woman said. A side door with an iron latch was opened for us by a young servant girl who curtsied. We passed outside on to the stone flags through which grass and weeds sprouted. There were smells of chickens, pigs and hay. 'Go forward to the stable,' the woman said and pointed. My shoulders nudged Caroline's. The knuckles of our hands touched beneath our cloaks. Our feet stumbled over rough grass. The doors of the stable loomed large, yawned open. We were within.
Open shutters allowed rays of sunlight to enter the stable. We passed through the bars of the light to the further wall. There were iron rings, chains. We were made to stand side by side while the woman removed our cloaks. Our arms were raised, spread apart, our wrists secured to rings. The tip of my nose almost touched the timbered wall, as did Caroline's.
Our legs were parted roughly a full three feet so that our stockinged and booted legs were strained. Metallic clicks. Our ankles were secured. Our breathing was tremulous. We dared not to look at one another. The bales of hay about us dreamed of past summers.
There were voices beyond. I felt the woman's return. My head was drawn back. A leather gag was inserted between my lips and tied behind in the nesting of my hair. Caroline's lips would not open to the gag. She received a loud smack. Her yelp gurgled away behind the leather.
'Wash them down,' a voice said. Pieces of rough cloth were bound tightly around the tops of our thighs to prevent water trickling down our stockings. There came water, wetness, cold. I jerked. My spine curved. The sponging was insistent. It passed beneath my bottom, cooled my slit. Fingers quested at my lovelips as they urged the sponge.
I was forced to strain up on tiptoes. The sponge passed beneath my armpits, in the curls there. It roamed over the hillocks of my breasts. Water tickled me, trickling down my belly. There was laughter as I squirmed. I did not know the voices. Caroline was attended to next. The sponge trailed longer beneath her quim, I thought. Was I jealous? Her lovemouth pouted no more tightly than my own. A rough towel dried us. Our nipples perked against the wall. The iron rings, the manacles, the bonds about our ankles, clinked.
'Six,' a voice said. I sensed a movement new - a soft, insinuating sound as of leather passing across a palm.
Cra-aaaack! Broad width of leather seared across my bottom. Ah! I jerked. My belly to the wall I jerked. Cheeks wobbling, tightening, I received another. The sting was sweet, laid full across my buttocks. A humming whine behind the gag. My own or Caroline's? Father - no! Father would not permit this. Surely his ship would turn, its tall sails straining. Commands. Feet urgent on the deck My eyes screwed up. The heat flared in my bottom at the next.
'Harder!' I had heard my mother say when Jenny stayed that night.
'Neeynnnng." Cries strangled in my throat. Flame- searing, the strap took me again. Again. Again. The trees could not see me. The grass did not care. Tears pearled down my cheeks. In my rudeness I squeezed my scorched cheeks tighter.
'Ah, the fullness of her - the thighs, the cheeks. What delicious plumpness,' a voice said. Was it Katherine? I heard the cries, unheard, of Caroline. The strap attended to her next. 'Let me feel the heat,' a voice said. It was the same cultured woman's voice. Palms palmed my wriggling bottom with womanly tenderness. They felt its fullness, the throbbing. Caroline's hip bumped against mine in her squirming.
The loud slap-crack of the leather sounded. Fingertips sank insistent in my burning bulge. Cupped, held, I sank my weight upon the palms. My big plum, my pumpkin. The last crack of the leather.
'Let me feel her,' a voice said. Another came whose perfume was as Katherine's. Behind us they stood side by side, controlled our squirmings with their seeking hands. I heard kisses. I could feel tongues. An urgent jerk from Caroline nudged me hard. A small laugh, husky, intimate.
'Not now - not yet,' the woman behind me said. Her fingers unclasped as if reluctantly from beneath my bottom. 'Is she wet? Tell me,' she said, 'An, give me your tongue!' She had spoken of Caroline. She was wicked. I could not restrain the working of my hips. Long tongues of flame licked through my buttocks still. Baby fingers of warmth moved in my groove. My love-slot pulsed gently. My nipples stiff. 'Leave them - they have been well attended to. What sweet young mares. They can be watered now. The voice was her voice. I knew her as Katherine now. Our gags were loosened. A tin mug passed between the wall and my mouth and tilted just sufficiently to let water trickle between my lips. I did not want it. I wanted wine. Had the servant unpacked my trunk? She would find my flask of liqueur. The water had slopped down over Caroline's chin in her blubbering.
I could feel it. Globules of water fell and decorated her nipples. Then the doors closed, the big doors in their closing. We were left alone. I wanted to speak in my speakness. I knew not what to say. Caroline hung her head. Her forehead rested against the wall. 'I love you,' I said. The fleshiness of our hips touched. She would not answer me. She made silly, babyish sounds. With my legs wide apart I closed my eyes again and dreamed of the stemming of cocks, the rubicund heads upon the waiting pricks - the rubbing thrust between my open lips. When my bottom was thrust over the end of the rocking horse, the taut cotton had outlined the lips of my honeypot beneath.
I had rubbed against the haunches - felt their pleasure.
'It hurts,' Caroline whined. I shushed her. We must not be heard. 'Squeeze your cheeks,' I said. I wanted to touch her bottom, its polished roundness. There were footsteps - a slurring of feet upon the ground, the wisps of hay.
'What have you been doing?' Jenny asked. 'Have you been wicked?' She released us. Caroline covered her face. She was ignored. 'Put your clothes on - you cannot be seen like that. There are workmen about - rough men,' Jenny said.
We donned our cloaks. The tops of my stockings were damp. It was a feeling I liked. The stinging moved in my bottom still, but it was sweeter now. It made me walk differently. My hips swayed more. 'That is good,' Jenny said. She could see. She walked behind us. The doors were open again, huge in their hugeness. Two men with pitchforks stood beyond. They touched their caps at our passing. We did not look at them. Their voices were country voices. They breathed of warm milk in stone jars, left overlong on windowsills. Stale cheese - dried scraps of bread. They were rough men. My bottom moved - a silky bulb of heat beneath my cloak.