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There was quiet again. The music ceased again. I had not liked it. Its feebleness irritated. The Lady Arabella was announced. I turned my head, though I could not see.
'Let her enter and be brought here,' I heard my uncle say. There was a sound as if of a heavy table moving. Jenny's hands moved about my face. I knew the scent and taste of them. Her fingertip bobbled over my lower lip. The blindfold slipped down an inch beneath my eyes.
'Look,' Jenny said. I saw the woman enter. Her coiffure was exquisite. A diamond choker, a swan neck. Her curves were elegant beneath a swathing white gown of satin flecked with red. The collar of her gown was raised slightly at the back, as one sees it in portraits of the Elizabethans. She wore a look of coldness and distance. Her lips were fall, her nose long and straight. Her eyelids were shadowed in imitation of the early Egyptians.
She made to step back as my uncle reached her. Her fingers were a glitterbed of jewels. Behind her entered a man of military look, impeccable in a black jacket and white trousers, as was the evening fashion then. I judged the years between them. She was the younger. 'Not here. It is unseemly,' she said. Jenny covered my eyes. Did she then uncover Caroline's? I heard not a sound beside me.
'No,' the woman said in answer to some muttered remark. There was movement past me. I felt it. As the air moves I felt. Hands touched my thighs, caressed. A finger traced the lips of my quim which pressed its outlines through the fine mesh of the tights. It was removed quickly, as if by another. I heard the jangling of bracelets. 'Not here,' the woman said again. I felt her as if surrounded, jostled. They would not dare to jostle, but they had touched me. Was I an exhibit?
'B-Beatrice... 'A croaking whisper from my sister. I ignored her. I heard her squeal. She always squeals. She was being fingered. Her bonds jangled. The girl with the oboe would be tight. The sperm would squirt in her thinly. Would she feel it?
Jenny favoured me. Once more my blindfold slipped. The chandeliers danced their crystal diamonds. The Lady Arabella was moving forward. As if through water she moved. An older woman moved beside her, a hand cupping her elbow. The older woman wore a purple dress. Her vulgarity was obvious.
'Arabella, my sweet, you will come to dinner tomorrow night? The Sandhursts are coming.' Her voice cooed. 'I do not know. Perhaps, yes. I must look in my diary, of course.' Arabella's look was constrained, her lips set. Behind her, as I felt, the man who had escorted her in was nudging her bottom.
It was of an ample size, though not too large by comparison with her stately curves. Her face turned to her escort as if pleading. He shook his head. I saw the table then. It had indeed been pushed forward. Upon its nearest edge was a large velvet cushion. Her long legs appeared to stiffen as she approached it. Her footsteps dragged. Her shoes were silver as I saw from the occasional peeping of her toes beneath the hem of her gown.
Jenny covered my eyes again. I had not looked at Caroline. Her veins throbbed in mine. Her lips were my lips. We had been bound together naked. I had sipped her saliva.
There were murmurings, whispers, protestations, retreats. The doors to the morning-room opened and closed, re-opened and closed again.
'It is private,' I heard my aunt say to others. The room was stiller. I heard a cry as from Arabella. 'Lift her gown fully,' a voice said, 'hold her arms. 'Not here.. . ' She seemed unable to say anything else. Not here, not here, not here, not here. A rustling sound. Slight creak of wood. A gasp. Plaintive. 'Remove her drawers.
'She was unseemly? Is she not betrothed to him?' It was my aunt's voice. To whom she spoke I knew not. I guessed it to be the escort. His voice was dry and thin.
'Improper,' he replied. The word fell like the closing of a book 'Take them right off. Do not let her kick,' he said.
'No! Not the birch!' A wail from Arabella. The modulations of my aunt's voice and the military gentleman's amused me. They were tonally flat - courteous. Would he have her bound, my aunt asked. It was not necessary, he said, but her wrists should be held.
I envisaged her bent over the table, the globe of her bottom gleaming. Her garters would be of white satin, flecked with red. The deep of her groove - the inrolling. Her breathing came to me, fluttering its small waiting sobs. The dry rustling sound of a birch. I had never yet tasted the twigs. It was said that they should be softened first. 'Not bound,' my aunt said. Her voice sounded almost regretful. 'Hilda - you will hold her wrists tight. Stretch her arms out.'
The long, sweet aristocratic cry came as the first swishing came. It sounded not as violently as I thought. I wanted to see. My mind groped, grappled for Jenny. Perhaps she had been sent with others to the morning-room. Beside me Caroline uttered a small whimper. Did she fear the birch? She would not receive it. I would protect her. I ran through tunnels calling Father's name. Edward had used his step-mother's first name. She had permitted it. He had lain upon her.
'Na! Naaaaah!' A further cry. Her sobbing rose like violins. A creaking of the table. Beneath her raised gown, her underskirt, her chemise, the velvet cushion would press beneath her belly. There was comfort. I comforted myself with the comfort.
The sounds went on. The birch swished gently but firmly as it seemed to me. First across one check then the other, no doubt. The bouncy hemispheres would redden and squirm. Streaks of heat. Was it like the strap? I did not like the stable. Did I like it?
'Ask her now,' the man's voice came. There was whispering - a quavering cry. A negation. Refusal. 'Three more,' he said, 'her drawers were down when I caught them together.'
My aunt tutted. The small dots of her tuning impinged across the sobs, the swishings. They flew like small birds across the room. 'Wbaaah! No-ooooh! Wha- .aaaaah!' Arabella sobbed. I felt her sobs in my throat, globules of anguish swelling. They contracted, slithered down. There was quiet. Her tears would shine upon the polished wood of the table.
'Ask her again.' The same voice, impassive, quiet. The sobs were unending.
'Have you before?' my aunt asked. It was her garden voice, clear and enquiring. The lilt of a question mark that could not fail to invite. 'Twice but she resists. What does she say?' He asked as if to another. 'I cannot hear. Arabella, you must speak, my dear, or take the birch again.' It was undoubtedly the voice of the woman holding her wrists. Who held the birch?
'I c-c-cannot. No - yes - oh do not. Do not let him!' I saw nods. Through my blindfold I saw nods. I envisaged. There was a shuffling. Wrists tighter held. A jerk of hips. The arrogant bottom out-thrust, burning.
'No! Not there! Ah! It is too big! Not there!' The floor drummed in my dreams. His penis extended, fleshpole, thickpole, entering. Smack-slap of flesh. The chandeliers glittering with their hundred candles.
Her sobs died, died with their heaving groans. 'N-n- n-n-' she stuttered from moment to moment. At every inward thrust the table creaked. Was she still being held? I needed voices, descriptions. 'Work your bottom, Arabella! Thrust to him!' My aunt spoke. Their breathings flooded the room. A gulping gasp. A last sob. Silence. 'Have her dress,' my aunt said at last. 'Hilda see to her hair, bathe her face, she has been good. Have you not been good, Arabella?' A mumbling. Kissing. 'So good,' my aunt said. Bodies moved, moved past us and were gone. The doors to the morning-room were re-opened. A flooding of people, a flurry, voices. Enquiries. My aunt would not answer. The deeper voice of my uncle said occasionally, 'I do not know.'
My limbs ached, yet I was proud in my aching that I had not struggled. I was free in my proudness, my pride. We could speak but we had not spoken. Our minds whispered. We were wicked.
A chink of light. Our blindfolds were removed. Caroline blinked more than I. She had not seen before. People stared at us more strangely now. They were of all ages. Eyes glowed at the bobbing of our breasts.
'You must go to bed. A servant will bring you supper,' Jenny said.
I moved carefully, cautiously - wanting to be touched, not wanting to be touched. My hips swayed. I thought of Arabella.
As we reached the bottom of the stairs she began to descend. We waited. I wanted to be masked. Accompanying her was the older woman in purple. I knew then that it was she who had held her wrists. Their eyes passed across us unseeing. 'And there will be a garden party - for the church, you know,' the woman in purple said. Arabella's eyes were clear, her voice soft and beautifully modulated. 'Of course - I should love to come,' she replied.
They entered the drawing-room together as we went up. 'Did you see?' Caroline asked me the next morning. 'There was nothing to see. People were making noises,' I replied. I wanted her to sense that I was more innocent than she.
'Uncle felt my breasts,' she said. She looked pleased.