I have lately learnt that the Chinese deform their women's feet for purely voluptuous reasons.
The steps taken in walking being by this means made very short and stiff, the reaction exhibits itself in extraordinary suppleness in the swinging movements of the hips and back, excellent training, in the opinion of the Chinese, for the lists of love. The calves also become emaciated to a certain extent, but to the profit of the thighs. The latter grow fat and firm as also the spherical parts below the loins.
I was struck by this explanation because it enabled me to regard the western high heel habit, from another point of view. The woman's or girl's foot is compelled by the height of a very lofty heel to take an almost vertical position. The resulting swinging of the hips and the little play given to the calves, are similar to what is noted in the case of the ladies of the Celestial Empire.
The discomfort caused by the high-heeled boots, the long tight-fitting gloves and the cruel corset, above all the terror in which we lived of the birch, all this kept us in a continual. state of nervous excitment, which easily trans formed itself into eroticism and unhealthy passions. The dormitories never echoed with, such hysterical laughter of little girls, nor such loud and pealing laughter of others, nor such deep-drawn sighs, as upon those days, when whipping had been most general.
Above all our physical distress inspired us with a religious terror of our head-mistress, and a morbid desire to be obedient which. brought us to a state of high excitement at the least order from her mouth.
On receiving an order from Lady Flayskin, our nerves became highly strained and we experienced a fever of voluptuous longing with a burning desire to gratify our feelings.
Never, howerer, could I have imagined so complete an illustration of the success of Lady Flayskin's system of education as that embodied in the person of Miss Virginia Malville.
This young lady was heiress to one of the proudest titles of old England and daughter of a peer. Her education had been deplorably neglected by an indulgent mother.
Miss Virginia had reached her eighteenth year at the time of her mother's sudden death.
Lord Malville paid the proper tribute of tears and mourning to his deceased wife and then thought that it was high time to subdue the haughty temper of his daughter, otherwise the latter would give him trouble of a serious nature later on. In any case, Lord Malville, as an upright man, accounted the marriage portion which he should bestow an insufficient compensation to a future husband for the temper of the wife. A violent husband would certainly strangle her, while she would have rendered the life of a feeble mate ridiculous in a thou sand ways, and have made him the slave of every whim.
One beautiful May morning in 1896, a superb victoria and pair made a sensation at the estab lishment of Lady Flayskin. It drew up before the door and the directress went herself to meet it. We felt sure that the people in the carriage must be of very great distinction and we did not change this first impression upon seeing Lord Malville alight.
He was a man of from forty-five to fifty years of' age, tall and erect, with regular features and as carefully shaved of all moustache or whisker as an actor.
After gravely alighting, Lord Malville turned to hand his daughter out.
Miss Virginia was tall and handsome, and carried herself like a queen or a goddess. When the eyes of this divinity rested upon us, we were able to read clearly therein that we were accounted as of no importance. Never have I seen in such beautiful eyes so tranquil an expression of contempt for the generality of mankind. To the low bow ot the directress, she replied politely, nothing more, and in a way which appeared to me as imper tinent as in fact it really was.
I understood Lady Flayskin's smile as she raised her head again. Such a smile was of ill augury. Doubtless she was already plan ning her revenge.
It is unnecessary to say that we were not admitted to the drawing-room during the inter view which immediately followed between Lord Malville, beautiful Virginia and the directress. Nor have I ever since heard what transpired. We were, however, able to employ our imagination to good purpose through the subsequent course of events and their apparent connection with this interview.
From what we could learn from the servants, Lord Malville did justice to the luncheon offered to him and his daughter by the directress, and on taking leave of Lady Flayskin, he remarked -- his heightened complexion showing that he had drunk several generous bumpers of old claret:
"It is understood! Make my daughter into as accomplished a lady as you are yourself, if possible. I give you carte blanche."
After his departure, Lady Flayskin introduced Miss Virginia Malville to the class over which Mrs. Stuart presided.
I have hitherto omitted to state that this curious establishment had but one class. This fact did not prevent the pupils from pursuing their course of study in an otherwise normal manner, for each boy and girl was taken separately, even if only for a few minutes, in his lesson. Application and diligence did the rest. No one was idle, so genuine was the fear inspired by corset and whip.
Of the two latter incentives to good conduct, Miss Virginia had hitherto lived in ignorance, nor was it in keeping with the traditions of the establishment that Lady Flayskin should have introduced the girl to her classmates, without having previously obliged her to don the school uniform: white muslin dress with azure-blue silk sash, high-heeled, high-topped boots and the pitilessly tight corset which rob bed its wearer of the power to breathe in com fort. Clearly the directress meditated a plan.
The greatest attention was paid to the newcomer, by both the mistresses. Miss Virginia, in her rich silk frock, cut a very creditable figure among the pupils. Her waist, it is true, was not so small as theirs, but it was slender and her general bearing showed grace and health.
The directress mounted her high desk, and after a few more words in the same tone of affection to Miss Virginia, left the room.
The new girl's desk was situated near the gangway which, as I have already mentioned, divided the girls from the boys. Her seat was just facing my own, or rather, our two desks were separated from each other by the gangway.
Miss Virginia appeared at first to listen with attention to Mrs. Stuart's lecture upon the manners of good society, the necessity of men showing refinement both in their words and acts and acquiring such culture by carrefully training themselves and weighing the importance of trifles, together with the duty of women to show themselves correct in manner and pretty. This gave occasion for her to explain the usefulness of the discipline of the corset and of high heels in breaking the unruly tem pers of children and giving them that dignity of bearing of which later they would be so gladly proud.
Mrs. Stuart discoursed at great length upon this favourite subject of which our ears grew weary in this dread college. The angular mistress's speeches were tiresome. She loved repetition and was an orator whose great power consisted in the ability to weary her hearers.
Miss Virginia had listened at first, but she soon took up a book and became absorbed in its pages, but not for long. She yawned nervously and, through making a sudden move ment, let drop the paper-knife she was holding. It fell near my owen desk.
Either because she thought it beneath her dignity to cross the gangway and pick up the object herself, or because she regarded me as an inferior; altough I do not think she suspected my sex, or for some other reason which I do not know, she looked at me and made the sound:
I only paid more complete attention to the lecture of Mrs. Stuart, having no notion whatever of risking punishment in order to oblige the newcomer whose grand air I found insup portable.
With instinctive impatience, I shrugged my shoulders. Then without dropping her voice appreciably, she said to me:
"Here! You! Little girl! Pickup my paper knife."
I imprudently replied:
"Pick it up yourself! I am not your valet!"
"Valet?" said she in a tone of surprise. "You mean lady's maid?"
"I said what I meant to say. Leave me alone!"
And I tossed my head as I had had the habit of doing when still a boy and anxious to show my resolution in anything I decided to do.
Mrs. Stuart listened to this dialogue in a kind of stupor, for it was conducted almost in ordinary tones, forming an extraordinary interruption to the usual studious tranquillity of the class. Evidently she had heard every word, for Miss Virginia's tones were even more raised than my onw, and she was aware that it was the newcomer who had first broken the silence by her "Pst! Pst!" so annoying to listen to, but replied to by me first of all by a mere shrug of the shoulders, as I had only given a direct reply after being addressed directly and in a most insulting manner.
Mrs. Stuart was well aware of the circumstances, nor for the moment was she otherwise than impartial, for she merely turned to Mrs. Eagle who was standing by the wall keeping watch over our behaviour in a majestic manner,
"Kindly inform our gracious Lady Flayskin that her presence is requisite here," said Mrs. Stuart.
The directress entered the room a moment later.
I was confident of the juctice of my cause although greatly excited. My distress may therefore be imagined when I heard that horrid old fishwife Mrs. Stuart, give the affair quite a different colouring.
From her maliciously concocted version it appeared that I was the chief culprit, and the directress was obliged even to gather from this fallacious account that I was the only guilty party
I was a young, loyal-hearted boy and at a complete loss to understand this feminine perfidy. It was clear that a victim was required. Unkind fate had designed me for the part. The unfortunate sitting part of my body was to pay the cost of Miss Virginia's first lesson.
As to the second lesson... But I will not anticipate.
"Alice!" said the directress. " Come here!"
My feeling of the injustice of this treatment was for me the strongest and uppermost feeling of my mind at that moment. Two months of discipline by means of chastisement and all these instruments of feminine toilet had not yet entirely extinguished my old instincts of rebellion. I was not yet sufficiently cowed. My fiery temperament gained the better of me and I cried out:
"In the first place my name is not Alice It is ridiculous so to call me. I am a boy, my name is Jimmy. As for that girl there... "
I pointed with a finger over my shoulder, indicating the newcomer without deigning to look at her.
"She need not show off her grand airs with me, for they lose their effect. I told her that I was not her valet and that was what I meant to tell her. Why do you say nothing to her? It is she who began."
Little stifled laughs in the class-room proved to me that I had won a triumph, of which, in point of fact, I had no great reason to be proud. None the less, I had my moment of pride. I was not wearing the leather collar, so I bent my head, thrusting forward my chin in the attitude dear to boxers. I think, (may heaven forgive me if I am mistaken!) that I even struck an attitude of pugilistic defence, or almost did so, for my courage did not permit me to complete the gesture. What I did was to clench my fists as much as my gloves permitted and to hold out my bent elbow and forearm in front of any chest.
"Alice," repeated Lady Flayskin, "come here!"
My courage gave way on perceiving the con traction of her brows. I went forward in a state of pitiful fear, my hands up to my face, weeping hot tears, crying with anger in spite of my fear. I think I stumbled slightly by reason of my high heels.
"Go and find me the whip, Stella! The strongest of all! You know which I mean! That African whip ending in a piece of solid hippopotamus leather.
"You will find it in the second of the lowest drawers of my secretary. Here is the key!"
Pretty Stella, with a hateful smile, went swiftly to obey.
The directress then turned to me.
I cried and wept but took everything off, laying each garment upon my chair, until I only had on the hideous glazed kid combin ation which gave me the appearance of having a negro's body and legs, so black and shiny looking was I.
Still bemoaning my fate, I went on my knees at the feet of the pitiless directress and with clasped hands entreated her to pardon me. She let me speak without showing the least sign either of pity or impatience. No hope could live in the face of this impassibility and I had a fit of sobbing, my grief knowing no bounds when I saw Stella appear bringing the hideous lash.
It was formed of one single piece of leather and was perfectly round. The handle end was twice as thick as the thumb, but the whip tapered gradually to the extreme end where it became a thin quivering cat's tail, or, to des cribe it better, the tail of a venomous serpent. The wooden handle however, was always rigid. At the idea that my wretched rump was about to be beaten with this implement, I became mad with terror and finding no words having power to excite Lady Flayskin's pity, I clasped my hands in despairing entreaty. The ogress could only furnish me with the following consoling words:
"Take off your drawers immediately !"
I was stupefied. Apart from the consider ation that it was no small affair to remove my drawers which stuck to my skin, my hands were in such a state of trembling that I found the task of even added difficulty. Besides, it was impossible to remove the drawers without taking off the whole combination, the two parts of this garment being joined together.
I was thus asked to strip myself entirely naked before the assembled scholars and this terrible instrument was about to be used upon me behind. I was, I meditated, going to be beaten to death.
I cried, struggled, thought of trying to escape. But I was already in the grip of angular Mrs. Stuart and rotund Mrs. Eagle. The thin woman quickly unbuttoned the vest with her wiry fingers, not omitting to cruelly pinch my flesh, and the fat one inflicted upon me an equal martyrdom as she made the drawers, far too tight, descend my thighs.
I quickly found myself entirely naked and exposed to the looks of curiosity or amusement of the whole school.
No one, however, ventured to make a remark, save Miss Virginia, who, at a moment when my hysterical sobs were becoming more con trolled, cried out disdainfully:
"Why it's a boy!"
Terrible Lady Flayskin, with wrath depicted upon her countenance, turned upon the owner of the voice:
"I beg you to be silent, Miss. No talking is permitted during school-hours."
"Ah! How curious!"
"I beg you to be quiet!"
" Certainly, madam."
The lofty young lady had risen and was pre paring to quit the room.
The directress again adressed her:
"Where are you going? "
"To my room."
"You have no room. You sleep in the dormitory, like the rest of the pupils."
"I understand perfectly, but neither of bedroom nor of dormitory shall I make any use."
"Would you be so kind as to inform me of the reason of this decision? I should be interested to lear it."
"Very well then, I will satisfy your curiosity."
"You are indeed condescending."
"Speak, Miss! Speak! or if not... " said the irritable directress grinding her teeth.
"Or, if not?"
"Will you speak?"
"Drop that tone, I beg you, my lady. You appear to be ignorant of the quality of the person with whom you are speaking. I desire neither bedroom nor dormitory because I intend to leave your house. I shall not remain an instant longer than is necessary under the same roof as a person who has dared to treat me with the disrespect you are at present exhibiting towards me."
The directress, by one of those efforts of the will with which we were familiar, suddenly calmed herself. By the movement of her nostrils and her extreme pallor we knew that this calm was only affected. Her wrath was increasing inwardly.
"We will renew this conversation presently with your permission, Miss. Meanwhile, will you sit down again in your place and witness the punishment of this little boy whose insolence towards you merits condign chastisement?"
Miss Virginia shrugged her shoulders dis dainfully as though to say that I was really a person of too little importance to have been capable of giving offence to so notable and distinguished a young lady as herself.
Nevertheless, without a further word she sat down again, curiosity depicted upon her face, hoping clearly to get some amusement at my expense. Cruelty finds its insidious way easily enough into the hearts of both girls and boys, men and women, when someone is about to be whipped.
That someone was myself. And I beg you to believe that all curiosity was banished from my heart. Terror alone inspired me. There was no place left for any other feeling.
Each mistress took hold of one of my arms and I was thus drawn to the table. Meantime officious Stella pushed me along with her two pretty hands on my stern. I tried to bite. I kicked. The two mistress were obliged to seize me by the ears like a calf about to be slaughtered. Nimble Stella easily avoided my kicks and pinched what she held.
In this way, they succeeded in extending me upon the table. Mrs. Eagle obtained hold of my right hand and Mrs. Stuart of the left. I was laid upon the edge of the table, my feet just touching the ground. In this position, my unfortunate behind presented an admirable target for the terrible thong which Lady Flayskin was already brandishing menacingly. In her hand, the whip appeared a living thing, a horrible animal, a loathsome reptile ready to sting and bite.
I saw the scourge by looking sideways in a confused way, for my whole preoccupation at that moment was to watch the instrument of torture arid not let it escape my view.
In vain already I had lost sight of it, as the directress placed herself behind me where I could not see anything. In accordance with her custom, she began to lecture me:
"You see that you have again merited punishment. I had hoped that the stays, high heels and tight gloves, would have sufficed to correct your naughtiness and thoughtlessness, I have been forced to have recourse to birch and whip. You have entreated for pity and you promised to be good in the future, but you have broken your promise. I have made you wear kid drawers, very tight and narrow, and I have tightened your stays in the hope of thus succeeding in curbing your unruly disposition. To-day you have failed to respect a young lady of noble family, and that upon the very day of her arrival among us. You have aggravated your guilt by your imperti nence. This proves to me that your discipline is far from being completed yet awhile and I am obliged to give you severe punishment by means of this whip which, as you will find, is no mere toy. Do you own now that you deserve to be punished?"
"Pardon, my lady!"
"I am asking you to own your guilt."
"Pardon me! I implore you, most gracious Lady Flayskin! Have pity! Pardon me!"
"This request for pardon is a confession of guilt. I command you to be precise. Yes or no, have you deserved to be pitilessly beaten?"
"Will you reply by yes or by no?"
"Pity me, I entreat you!"
At this point a terrible blow cut my back parts. I struggled, foaming at the mouth, but the arms of the mistresses firmly clenched my wrists. I uttered a terrible cry and shrieked:
"Yes!... Oh! No! No! I entreat you! It is too much... It will kill me! "
A second and more violent blow made me shriek out and what I had meant to say was choked by my sobs.
"I am awaiting your confession!" again said the cruel directress.
"Yes! Oh! Yes... I have deserved... I have deserved very heavy punishment... But not... Oh! No! Pity me! I entreat you! "
"I shall pity you when you have been well whipped. You shall not leave this room except with your behind streaming with blood. I give you my word, your impertinent backside shall pay for your misdeeds! Never have I seen such impertiment hindquarters! They seem to be mocking me. We shall see if they will not presently assume a more pitiful appear ance. To-day I have an irresistible desire to administer a sound flogging. You have made me angry and it is necessary that my anger shall pass off."
All the time she was speaking, I had groaned and sighed ceaselessly, for the two blows she had given me seemed the acme of suffering. Nevertheless, as I was to discover, the blows were as nothing in comparison with those which were to follow.
This cruel woman who delighted to play with her victims as a cat plays with a mouse, now asked me :
Do you promise to amend your ways and to behave better in the future?
" Yes! Certainly!... I will never... never again... "
Here a big sob cut short my words.
"Is your repentance sincere?"
"Oh, yes!... Have pity on me, my lady!
"No! I whill have no pity! It is for your good that I punish you. I have assumed a heavy responsibility in promising to curb your unruliness which seems to defy correction. But I tell you that I will correct you! I intend you to remember this day. I intend to write this date with this lash upon your back parts in letters which shall never be obliterated. It is necessary that you carry the marks of this day's punishment as long as you live."
My teeth chattered with terror and I was still imploring for mercy in faint tones when the real whipping began.
Action followed threats so speedily that mental anguish immediately disappeared, to give place to the physical sensation of unspeak able suffering.
A rump which has not been whipped by a thong of hippopotamus hide does not know what the lash really is. No words can describe this torture. The Russian knout cannot be more barbarous.
I had no strength left to cry out, but hoarse indistinct groans came from my agonised body. Each blow found its echo in my heart which seemed on the point of bursting through excess of suffering.
The directress, with a cruelty which I can only describe as infernal, struck her blows slowly, at intervals. I listened as in a dream to Stella's sweet voice. It was her task to count the blows. This gave me no comfort, for I did not know to what number the blows were destined to amount. I listened also to the dull thud of the lash on my flesh. It was a sound like a cataract of water and filled my ears with its resounding echo. I do not think that Niagara itself can make more noise than did that lash.
The directress, after striking from left to right, struck from right to left, and the punishment ceased with a well-aimed blow, more rigourous than the others, which cut deeply into both halves of my posterior.
It seems that I received a dozen blows, includ ing the two little preparatory ones. I could have sworn that I received more than a hundred. It is certain that if Lady Flayskin had punished me in anger, the effects would have been terrible indeed and the issue probably fatal.
Happily for me, I had simply served as an example, the real anger of the directress having for its object another person altogether, as the reader will see.
As for me, I panted; it was all that was left for me to do. The energetic attentions of the two mistresses and the salts they held to my nose brought my breath back to me. I noticed also that they touched me in a curious way with a view to restoring life in me.
The first thing I naturally proceeded to do was to set up a mournful wailing.
This did not suit the directress. It was necessary that the lesson should profit the victim, so that the example should bear fruit.
A mirror was brought and placed behind me. I looked therein with tear-dimmed eyes.
Great heavens! I was hardly able to believe in such depths of human cruelty when my eyes saw, reflected from the polished surface of the mirror, my unfortunate back parts furrowed by livid weals, my flesh divided, so to speak, into a number of lumps whence the blood trickled in little streamlets down my thighs.
A kind of delirium seized me. I called for my dear mother in piercing shrieks. Two maid-servants at once hurried in, replying to the electric bell. I was carried away in their arms, out of the school-room. They laid me on my belly, as it was not possible to think of putting me upon my back. After applying vaseline to my thighs--though it seemed to me that I was being touched with red-hot iron bars -- the compassionate maids did their best in every way to relieve my sufferings. They tried to tempt me with dainties for which I had not the least appetite. Then, better inspired, remarking the condition of nervous excitement into which the terror and suffering of my whip ping had thrown me, their hands softly caressed me and calmed my poor body. The state of stupor which resulted enabled me to fall asleep. But my slumbers were feverish, disturbed by nightmares.
I learnt later from my companions what had happened in the class-room after I had been carried out.
To tell the truth, I regretted savagely that I had been unable to be present during that memorable scene. Every detail, however, was so minutely described to me subsequently that I was able to conjure up the picture perfectly. I think that the description I received and which I shall now reproduce, will enable the reader to have the whole scene clearly before his eyes.
Scarcely was I outside the door of the class room, whence almost fainting I was carried by the strong arms of the maid-servants, when Lady Flayskin advanced to Miss Virginia, stopping before her and crossing her arms on her chest. She still held in her hand the terrible lash, and laughed harshly as she remarked:
"It is our turn now, Miss!"
"What do you mean?" replied the noble young lady, keeping countenance very well although her colour began to fade.
"I mean that you are about to immediately undress yourself in order that I may flog you before the whole class with the whip you are looking at. I shall lash you more severely than that urchin who, after all, was much less to blame than you."
"What is the meaning of this foolish jest?'' said the young girl, withdrawing a step from the directress.
"As to folly, you are the only fool here, so remember that once for all!"
This was too much for the rich heiress of a family of knights and nobles. The colour rose to her cheeks, as with imperious voice and authoritative glance, she cried:
"Never have I been addressed in the least accent or tone of disrespect! How do you, ignoble creature, dare to be so audacious? To have imagined the possibility of my taking off my clothes before this assemblage of scholars, constitutes a criminal offence. But your most odious proceeding is to have dared to threaten me with the whip. I have told you that I wish to quit this establishment. Allow me to pass. I warn you that if you have the tem erity to lay so much as a finger upon me I shall make you bitterly repent it. You and your like are made to serve upon their knees women of my rank and position."
The sardonic laugh of Lady Flayskin made the pupils tremble. She replied: "Very well! Then I will be your servant. But it is you who will be on bended knees. Come here without further delay!"
The imperious directress pointed with extended finger to the place I had just left. With the other arm she brandished the whip which whistled horribly in the air. Her features took on terrible beauty like that of a Nemesis of old.
In reply, Miss Virginia turned her back and deliberately walked towards the door, with the obvious intention of leaving the room and per haps the house also. Scarcely had she opened the door, than she tottered backwards and was hurled irresistibly into the centre of the room. Two of the strongest maid-servants of the establishment had been informed by Stella of what was happening, and in accordance with the orders they received, had been awaiting the signal of Lady Flayskin to burst into the room and lay strong hands on Miss Virginia and prevent her from quitting the premises.
They thrust back the young girl and then seized her by the shoulders and pulled her along.
The maid-servants were followed into the room by Mr. Gostock. It had clearly been Stella who had summoned the gentleman at the psychological moment, possibly with the cognisance of the directress who always was indulgent whith the Puritan Yankee.
He did not conceal his sentiments towards pretty Stella. With visible pleasure, he caress ed her hand, then softly stroked the girl's chin. These trivial gestures on the part of so austere and grave a man did not fail to amaze the entire school.
Miss Virginia, who had thus been forcibly thrust back into the room by the servants, had recovered from her first astonishment. This tall strong girl, whose muscles were in excel lent trim owing to her athletic training, for she had been brought up to play all open-air games and indulge in all those sports so much in vogue among English girls of the highest rank, had energetically resisted her assailants. But she had to do with those who were stronger than she herself. The two servants were Welsh, and had been carefully selected by the astute directress from among the most thickset and muscular of their race. They were two tall, heavy-limbed country wenches, square waisted and animal-faced, showing in every feature obstinate resolution and brutality. They wore neither gloves, stays, nor high heels. Their movements were easy. They were, in fact, primitive beings, true savages, or, to describe them otherwise, strong and ferocious watchdogs who obeyed their mistress's voice only, growling and gnashing their teeth at every other person so ill-advised as to think of giving them an order.
These women found amusement in the resist ance offered by Miss Virginia, and they burst into unintelligent peals of laughter as they showed the muscles of their big arms and did what they liked with the elegant and disdainful young lady, treating her as though she had been a mere bundle.
While Miss Virginia struggled vainly against her robust guardians, who held her much as dogs hold a wild boar they have run down, she cried out to the directress in a hoarse voice:
"Infamous woman, will you be so good as immediately to order these low mercenaries to remove from my noble body their hands inured to servile tasks?"
The directress replied:
"Don't use such fine phrases!"
"Know this!" continued Virginia whit diffi culty, for she was almost too short of breath to speak. "For all these outrages, my father will wreak terrible vengeance. You will have an account to pay to the law, my lady, for your acts of violence which are not permitted by the laws of this country to its citizens."
"When women have political rights, Miss, you will be a most suitable person to head the list of the candidates for an election to Parliament. You speak with great facility and were it not that my servants are holding you most tightly, you would speak even more effectively. In a meeting you would gain great and deserved success. But until that time arrives we must exercise patience, and while awaiting it, prepare to be whipped."
"What? What? You persist in your execrable plan? You would dare to lay the whip upon the descendant of one of the noblest families of England? You think of imposing upon me, Miss Virginia Malville, a punishment which would brand me with disgrace! Do you mean me? it
"Yes, you! Punishment will begin immediately."
"I repeat that you have reason to fear my father. His vengeance will be implacable."
"Thank you for the care you evidently take of my interests. But I am able to reassure you. Listen while I read this."
While the servants held the haughty young lady by her wrists and shoulders, the direct ress, standing in front of her, unfolded a sheet of paper and read out and authorisation duly delivered to her by Lord Malville. The nobleman declared in this document "that he was weary of the headstrong will and capriciousness of his daughter, and that not only he himself but the young lady's governesses and professors were also out of patience. That, for these reasons, he, the noble lord, handed over his daughter to the good keeping of Lady Flayskin. That he empowered the
said Lady Flayskin to take entire control of his daughter and to employ all such means and methods of discipline and coercion as she the said Lady Flayskin, should judge suitable with a view to the attainment of the ends pro posed. "
Signed: LORD REGINALD MALVILLE.
"Do you recognize the signature of the noble lord, you father?" said the directress, placing the paper under the eyes of Virginia who remained imprisoned between her two, custodians.
It was impossible to deny the signature, and this it was which clearly put the young-girl completely out of countenance. She reddened with shame; pallor succeeded her blushes, caused by chagrin. She angrily stamped her foot and Lady Flayskin continued :
"You see for yourself your father approves of what I am doing. You... shall... be... whipped!" she concluded, accentuating every word.
"No! No! I will not!" cried the girl, struggling desperately to escape from the clutch of the two strong wenches.
But the latter did not allow themselves to be taken by surprise. They held Miss Virginia as in a vice. And in spite of her menaces and resistance they dragged her to the table and laid her upon it. They held her in position by her shoulders, while Mrs. Stuart and Mrs. Eagle tied a handkerchief round each wrist of the noble young lady. The handkerchiefs, drawn tight, were of great use in rendering the girl powerless.
Nevertheless, like a lioness caught in a snare, Miss Virginia continued her objurgations.
"Do not touch me! Take care not to be so foolhardy!"
The directress did not condescend to make reply again and occupied herself in raising the victim's petticoats. Miss Virginia kicked with such force that she would certainly have broken something had not Lady Flayskin, against whom the kicking was directed, been upon her guard.
The directress continued her occupation in an unconcerned manner. She raised the petticoats and fixed them by means of safety pins to the shoulders of the haughty young person. She gave terrible upheavals to the table and did her utmost to reach her enemy with her kicking feet.
In the meantime, adroit and astute Stella had not been idle. She had been in search of two straps with buckles, and she now held in her hands two long, leather thongs such as are employed for doing up rolled travelling rugs. At a moment when Miss Virginia, lashing out like a mare, was again executing one of her vain efforts to kick the directress, ingenious and dexterous Stella caught a leg in one of her straps. As it terminated in a slip-knot, it was only necessary to give a pull in order to complete the abasement of the dignity of the young lady of noble descent, who fell forwards with her head on the table. Stella swiftly buckled the strap, which she had slipped down to the girl's ankle, to the leg of the table. It was then a very simple matter to get possession of the other ankle and quickly perform a like operation.
Lady Flayskin continued her preparations. The young lady was now exposing to the view of the whole school the most lovely pair of legs imaginable. The calves were robust, showing a graceful line, while the ankles were of real distinction and the feet small and slender. Their possessor wore silk open-work stockings which allowed the pink skin to show through. Her little, bronze buckled shoes were adorned with a large satin bow. Her position obliged her to thrust out her posterior and its curves were plainly revealed beneath the be-ribboned cambric drawers frilled with rich Irish point lace.
The directress vainly tried to make this garment slip down. She had to resort to the pair of scissors she always carried. It cut its way through obstructing bands and tapes until the garment slipped down between the young lady's legs, now rendered motionless.
What a superb hinder globe! How volum inous it was! The moon was not paler nor rounder. How majestic were its hemispheres in their amplitude and pearly pallor!
So august was the spectacle that this mocking assembly of scholars, accustomed to laugh at such sights, and throw ridicule on such nudity, held its breath. All the pupils, girls and boys alike, wept when it was their own turn to be flogged, and laughed when it was the turn of others, although their laughter as they watched a whipping was soon to be hysterical. But now, in presence of this aristocratic posterior, casting around its rays, so to speak, of pure glory, it was the muteness of adoration which reigned; religious silence compounded of pity and humble admiration.
In what condition were the onlookers des tined soon to behold those imposing hindquar ters when the ferocity of Lady Flayskin should have exercised itself on their incomparable charms?
The directress herself appeared not unmoved, but her emotion was of a curious and complex order. Her agitation comprised neither pity nor fear, qualities to which her heart had long been a stranger. Her hands, however, trembled slightly; her complexion usually so pale became ashy white, while lightning seem to shoot from beneath her half-closed eyelids. Doubtless she too was joining in the silent admiration in her own fashion, nevertheless not destined to prevent her laying a sacrilegious hand upon those splendours. Meanwhile, as she brandished the whip, her hand had almost a caressing air. It was with extraordinary gentleness, an infinity of precautions, and incomparable lightness of touch that she caused the drawers to slip down those legs so widely spread-eagled by astute Stella.
During this operation, the chemise for a moment fell forward, and was the cause of a transient eclipse of the white, nervous thighs and magnificent fleshy moon from which the class found it impossible to remove so much as an eyelid.
Lady Flayskin was in no hurry and after having slipped down the drawers in leisurely fashion, raised the chemise again with equal deliberation and fixed it by pins, as in the case of the petticoats, she attached the chemise to the girl's waist instead of to her shoulders. Her task completed, she drew back a step in the manner of an artist who has outlined his picture and wishes to try and imagine the effect when finished.
By the proud smile lighting up the face of the directress, it was understood that she was well satisfied with her progress up to the present.
The young victim was in an ideal posture for receiving a whipping of any imaginable nature. Each wrist firmly held by the handkerchiefs grasped by the two under-mistresses, her bosom extended upon the table; her feet fastened tightly to the table by strong straps; her back parts absolutely devoid of covering and thrust well out from the edge of the table, the young lady could present no obstacle nor resistance to the fury of the whip. The flogging was about to take its course.
The unfortunate victim maintened rigid silence although she felt herself to be now completely in the power of her enemy, a woman who had never pardoned an affront and was not likely to do so to-day for the first time.
Nevertheless, Miss Virginia appeared still unwilling to acknowledge the full gravity of her position although her case was now desperate. Quite silent, she yet showed by her heavy breathing that she continued to struggle with all the force of her muscles. The two assistant mistresses had to support one another as they pulled upon the handkerchiefs with all their strength in opposition to the violent contractions of the body of the strong young lady. The trembling movements of her thighs, the thrusting in and out of her posteriors proved the victim's violent efforts to get her legs free, to release herself from her bonds and have done with all restraint.
Lady Flayskin clearly perceived the meaning of the girl's efforts, and also their futility. Far from being annoyed, she appeared to find additional satisfaction in watching the struggles. For in truth she judged that the flicker of hope still remaining in the girl's heart would increase her victim's anguish and despair when the latter found that after all she was completely powerless. The prolonging of hope was the intensifying of subsequent suffering when the whip in its fury should descend upon that living, still fighting flesh. And in proportion as the courage slowly died, would the submission, the abject subjection of spirit which should follow, be complete.
She was therefore far from being in a hurry. In the room reigned heavy and expressive silence, broken only by the short sharp breathing of the condemned girl, continuing her useless efforts. Nor was there a pupil so bold as to dare to make a sound, so furious had the directress's glance become.
At last Lady Flayskin judged the moment opportune to begin her usual tirade.
"Miss Virginia, you have wearied the patience of your noble father. After cruelly wounding the hearts of the devoted governesses entrusted with your education, you have been judged by the noble lord as incorrigible. No matter. You have been entrusted by him to me and my task is now to reduce your ungovernable disposition to docility. I have formally promised to be successful and I would have you know that never have I failed to be as good as my word. The promise I have given I regard as sacred. I affirm to you in all solemnity that you shall not leave this room except in a tamed state, gentle as a lamb and more cringing than a dog. I am about to whip you without pity. In vain will you cry for mercy; in vain will you shriek for pity, I shall not cease to beat until my arms grows tired. I warn you that my arm is strong and that you will quickly perceive its prowess for yourself. My will is that when I have finished your flogging, you grovel at my feet, that is if you still have left strength enough to move. In my opinion, more probable is it that you will be carried from this room half dead, incapable of raising so much as a finger... Ah! you play at being proud! Do you feel the shame of having your posteriors exposed to view; your petticoats ,raised above your head, and of being made the bot of all your achoolmates' mockery?"
At this point, the table gave a violent lurch, for Miss Virginia made, a supreme effort to free herself. The two mistresses, however, were equal to their task and the leather straps resisted, every strain. This wild and futile effort was the sole response given by Miss Vir ginia to the objurgations of the head-mistress. After a moment's pause, she continued:
"So you intend to remain silent? Very well. You shall make a full confession presently. Do your best to free yourself. Your struggles amuse me and your bonds are strong. You are unable to escape me and are absolutely in my power. I can do with you entirely as I choose, and it is my pleasure to make you remember this day so long as you live. I intend that never hereafter shall you think of this date of the year without a tremor. I am resolved that all. your pride shall be uprooted by the whip. Not only shall I not spare you, but I shall crush you with an excess of severity. You shall scream aloud; implore for mercy, and address me in accents of agony faint and broken. You have refused to reply to my question. You are about to regret your mad obstinacy and pray for pardon with tears and cries. But I shall not pardon you. In the beating I shall give you, you will pay the total price of all your impertinence towards me. Between to-day and to-morrow, it is necessary for you to become the most docile pupil in my establishment."
At this moment, Miss Virginia struggled with such violence that the table was upset. The mistresses, however, had not relaxed their grip. They held on to the handkerchiefs in spite of finding themselves with their legs in the air and the edge of the table on top of them. Miss Virginia had found her feet, but was as helpless as ever, for she was unable to make the straps, which bound her ankles to the table's legs, give way, or to slip the said straps away from the table.
Even had she succeeded in freeing herself, she would probably have had full weight of the table upon her, with the weight of the two mistresses added thereto and would thus have been crushed. She was none the less highly elated by this partial victory and, ignor ant of the nature of the bonds which hindered the movement of her legs, now exerted her whole strength to free herself further. The head-mistress on one side of her and Stella upon the other, managed to right the table, and this they did so speedily that a moment afterwards the young lady found herself roughly replaced in her original position. The two assistant mistresses fell back into a sitting posture, but still continued not to relax their hold upon the handkerchiefs which held the prisoner in place.
In this way, order was restored and Lady Flayskin determined to allow the victim time to meditate bitterly upon her disap pointment.
"Don't lose heart! Add fresh faults to your old ones. I shall keep account of all. Had you resigned yourself to your fate, I might have lessened the severity of your punishment. Your obstinacy shows me that all compassion would be wasted and out of place. In order that repentance may sink deeply into your heart, it is necessary that the skin be entirely stripped from your posterior. Remain quiet and I will undertake to flog it perfectly. The whip will peel your skin off like a knife. It is my will that your blood flow in streams down your thighs to your heels. Hitherto your education has been conducted with gentleness. It is fitting that in this one day, all gentleness be banished therefrom."
The young girl kept her mouth firmly closed during this speech of Lady Flayskin, who was solemn and calm. She had decided to begin the actual flogging very shortly.
A whole minute; sixty livelong seconds had yet to pass, however, and meanwhile the whole class held their breath in suspense. These final preparations seemed to last a litifeme.
Lady Flayskin retired a step, and advanced again. Then, in order the better to measure her distance, she extended her arm. The quivering end of the heavy scourge of hide touched and seemed to tickle the spreading expanse of Miss Virginia's hinder charms. The young lady trembled at the outrage in a new fever of fury. This time the table did not move. At last, the first blow fell!
Lady Flayskin had raised her arm on high and brought it down with a powerful sweep. Ghastly writhing was the sole response on the part of the victim, whose teeth were firmly set and who resolved to make not so much as a groan beneath the terrible whip. The pain, nevertheless, must have been indescrib ably acute, for the dull crash of the whip as it fell upon the living, writhing flesh made every ear tingle; while across the fine sphere so gloriously rounded, from one noble half to the other, stretched a livid weal which quickly turned to crimson.
Lady Flayskin had betrayed some anger on remarking that the blow had occasioned neither cries nor prayers for pity. Then she shrugged her shoulders. She knew well that the battle would end in her favour. No human courage could withstand the whip of hide. She began again.
A second blow was equally ineffectual in extorting so much as a groan from the courageous victim in spite of the torture she must have endured.
Was it possible that Lady Flayskin's cruelty was to be outdone by its victim's endurance? By her expression of astonishment, the compression of her lips, the anger in her eyes, the onlookers for a moment were of that opinion.
Yet Lady Flayskin's long experience was of a nature to give her complete confidence in her powers. It appeared, moreover, to the pupils that in spite of the terrible nature of the blows she was not employing her full strength.
What then could be her project ?
Why did she put a curb upon her terrible wrath?
The pupils were soon to know. They were to learn that by a refinement of cruelty, the moment of the first cry of pain was being delayed in order that when it should be wrung from the sufferer's throat, its agony should be far more intense and poignant.
In spite of this, no blow fell which did not leave its reddish-yellow weal, and already there was traced a network of livid lines. The first cut of all had now become a raised, horrible lump of flesh upon that unique and incom parable posterior, whose white purity had already been banished by the hail of stinging blows.
Suddenly, Lady Flayskin drew back a step and lowered the end of the stiff lash to the ground. Then, with a quick movement of her forearm she dealt a deadly blow from below, striking between the separated legs.
Immediately, a blood-curdling cry, inhuman in its agony, came from the tortured body of the victim.
This pitiless blow was succeeded by another of precisely the same nature on the same spot. Then the voice, hoarse with torture, of Miss Virginia was heard:
"Forgive me ! Forgive me!"
"We will discuss the question of your forgiveness presently, Miss."
A third violent blow was directed at the delicate membrane.
"Oh! Stop! In the name of pity! Have done! I can't endure any more! Oh l I shall die of it! Have pity!"
"Did not I tell you so, Miss?"
"Oh! Have mercy!... Everything that you desire... I will do... My lady! My dear, good mistress; have pity upon me!"
"I have already told you, Miss, that I shall have no pity."
"Oh! You are killing me!"
"No But I have not finished. The blood has not yet flowed, but this will make it!"
She had stepped to one side and raised herself on tiptoe. Then she lifted her whip on high and brought it down with a slashing blow across the buttocks.
The poor young lady gave a piercing cry, a yell of real agony.
"And here's another for the sake of variety!" said Lady Flayskin, striking a blow at right angles to the preceding one.
"Presently the marks will swell up. I shall then beat them. The skin will burst and the blood spurt out."
The girl was now in a pitiful condition. Beside herself with pain and terror, she uttered, in hoarse feeble tones, words without meaning, intermingled with faint cries and sobs.
The head-mistress addressed her.
"Well! Are you still as proud as before?"
"Oh! Oh! No!"
"I hope not indeed! Are you now disposed to obey me humbly and absolutely?"
"Oh! Oh! Oh! Yes!"
"I think so too: Nor do I think you will readily forget the respect you owe me. To make assurance doubly sure, here is something with which to engrave the memory of this duty upon your mind. As for me, I always keep my word. There is the noble red blood spouting from your behind. And I have not yet ter minated..."
It was true. The flesh which had swollen as the result of one of the first blows, had broken, and though the blood did not, as the directress averred, spout out, it nevertheless was oozing forth.
If it had been the design of the directress to increase her victim's terror by her highly coloured words, she fully succeeded.
It is probable that if at this particular moment, the two under-mistresses had not kept a very firm hold of the handkerchief which bound the victim's wrists, the poor girl would have fallen backwards, her body pulled over by the heavy weight of the hinder parts. She had fainted. The fact was established for certain when not so much as the slightest movement responded to the next blow. Not a groan was heard. It seemed the silence of death.
In such cases, the directress was wont to cease flogging immediately. Attentions of an energetic, if not very tender nature were lavished on the sufferer.
The present case offered no exception in this respect.
The two strong maid-servants, who shortly before had given such powerful aid in over coming the resistance of the young scholar, now re-entered the room. They had been dismissed so soon as the wrists of the victim had been firmly bound by the handkerchiefs of the under-mistresses, and in accordance with their instructions had waited outside the door until summoned to re-enter.
Lady Flayskin had used smelling-salts to the fainting girl, and poor Miss Virginia at length feebly opened her eyes. She looked around her in a dazed way and then whept showers of tears.
The two maids took hold of her, one under the armpits, the other by the feet, and in this way they carried her from the room. The scholars were conscious of an indescribable feeling of agitation although not a word was spoken. A feeling of terror and a deep strirring of the sensibilities were the chief effects of this scene upon those who wit nessed it.