Monday, 31 January 2011

The Harmony Man

Story from Janus 76.

The Harmony Man
by John Undermeyer

THE candles on the dinner-table burned bright and intimate, nicely reflecting the kind of gathering it was. The Governess dabbed her lips fastidiously on her napkin. 'The investigation and hearing are over,' she said. 'And I have asked that Princess Sonia Lavinia be taken downstairs.' Her eyes glistened in the wavering light, dark as coals in a perfect face framed by raven tresses. At 40, she was still a beauty.

The Ambassador growled into his wine. 'The cane has always been the traditional way we punish, here at the palace. If that were ever to change I should make it a resigning matter.' As he replenished first my glass, then his own, I observed how the once-handsome features had become fleshy and slack, with rosy cheeks, double chins and round bibulous nose that put me in mind of an old-time Music Hall comedian or a classical actor playing a clown — an illusion at once dispelled by the purposeful set of the mouth and shrewd no-nonsense gaze.

'Do let us finish our meal before we go about our duties,' said the Harmony Man. He sat across the table from me, spare and ascetic, lean and tall and very grave, his hollow cheeks almost skull-like in the candlelight, hair long as a wild-maned musician's and prematurely white as if from shock. Spearing a delicious piece of white meat with his fork, he went on, 'This lobster really is too good to be kept waiting. Whereas the Princess is rather bad — naughty — has forgotten herself...' His sentence tailed off into a humourless chuckle shared by all of us. There was very little humour about the Harmony Man. His hands were large, bony, capable and strong, and I felt a pang of pity for the condemned Princess, awaiting her fate in the bowels of the building.

The Governess nodded. 'When a girl is to be caned,' she said in a voice creamy with scarcely-repressed pleasure, 'it does not matter how long she is kept waiting. No doubt it will do her good to contemplate her sins, and imagine the effect of a whippy cane falling across her naked bottom.'

The Harmony Man turned to me as if to give me a chance to catch up with the conversation, no doubt moved by my increasingly amazed expression. As a travel-writer I had discovered in the far-off Kingdom of Custodia a beautiful country uncontaminated by the modern age and rich in fascinating surprises — not only in its landscape and architecture, but in its customs and social structuring. Now here was another surprise.

'It is true, Sir Arthur,' he went on to explain, 'that the cane is our traditional way to punish. Because it is vital that discipline be maintained. We have in our charge here at the castle no less than fifty young men, and probably a slightly higher number of starry-eyed girls. They are in the process of getting to know each other so they can choose a partner and get married.'

I blinked, and the speaker favoured me with a grave smile. 'We of the Custodia aristocracy have always managed our affairs this way,' the Harmony Man continued. 'Our top families all send their children to Castle Matrix when they reach marriageable age. They woo here. And they wed here. Eternal vigilance by the Governess and the Authorities is the only way to stop the palace from turning into a bordello.'

I shifted in my seat, feeling slightly warm. How was this going to sound on television back home when I, the media-dubbed 'latter-day Somerset Maugham' (I even look like him) gave one of my famous 'travel-chats' about my experiences here?

The Governess now took up the story. 'When transgressions take place,' she said eagerly, 'which they do with monotonous regularity because boys will be boys and girls will continue to let them, the Harmony Man must do his duty.'

I smiled, acknowledging the sense of her argument. 'Governess,' I said, 'kindly explain to me how Alex Michaelis here won his title of the Harmony Man. Since it would seem that his sole task at the castle, incredibly, is to cane girls who have been sentenced by the Tribunal, I cannot see how he possibly brings them anything but disharmony.'

My three companions at the table chuckled in unison. Plainly the question had been asked many times before by travellers like myself, innocent of their ways. The Ambassador took a deep draught of wine and cleared his throat. Obviously he thought himself the best person to unravel the mysteries of Custodia to me. He placed his knife and fork together on his plate, and began.

'It has not escaped our notice that in every other western country, Sir Arthur, moral standards are lower than here in Custodia. And the divorce rate is higher. We attribute this happy state to the ministrations of the Harmony Man.'

'Come now, Ambassador,' I replied. 'If what I hear is true, the Harmony Man may cane as many as three naughty girls each day — but he can hardly have an effect on the whole population.'

The Ambassador dabbed dews of sweat from his massive brow and leaned his heavy bulk forward. 'On the contrary, Sir Arthur,' he insisted. 'What happens at the top of our society governs all that goes on in the lower classes. So long as our people see the leaders disciplining their families strictly and promptly, so they will continue to do the same to their own kin. Laxity begins at the top. Spare the rod, spoil the child is an English maxim. You in England have forgotten it. In Custodia we practise what you used to preach, although here we are talking of young adults.'

The Governess squirmed forward in her chair and licked her lips — almost lasciviously, I thought. 'When girls arrive here at Matrix,' she explained, 'I have them each before me, and explain the rules of courtship. We believe in shared work, sport and leisure time, with good conversation. We do not believe a successful partnership is built on mere passing fancy, or the hot desire of one lusty body for another. This is why close physical contact is forbidden. I turn a blind eye to intermittent hand-holding, but allow no further intimacy. Indeed, we have a specific example of a marriage failing because our disciplines were not adhered to.'

The stately beauty turned to the Harmony Man, who gave a wry, bitter smile at her remark. 'It is true. Sir Arthur,' he said. 'I married a foreign girl in a foreign country. She did not have to pass through the Custodian system of courtship and betrothal. The marriage was an utter failure. I put it down to weakness on my part.

'When my wife began to be wilful I let it pass. When her eye began to roam I thought it mere playfulness. I know better now. Had I brought the stick to Antonia, our union might have been saved. But she cuckolded me. From wedding to divorce took three years.'

A speck of colour had appeared in the cadaverous cheeks, suggesting to me that within this grimly authoritative figure lurked great passions, a righteous wrath only barely kept in check by a fine sense of justice.

'I came back to Matrix Castle,' continued the crisp, clear tones, 'and asked to be of service to the State. I have been caning truculent, disobedient, misbehaving girls for twenty years now. The intent is not to bring harmony to their naked bottoms. Quite other. The final result, however, is that the discipline I impose, imposes harmony on the marriage.'

The candlelight glimmered on the Governess's hair. In the subtly flattering radiance she might have been a girl of 20 herself but for the firm, matronly set of her mouth. 'You see,' the lady went on, 'in Custodia we believe that the wife should defer to her husband. It is a point we bring home both during courtship here, and during the marriage ceremony. There is scarce a girl who enters the castle chapel to wed, who hasn't first danced very prettily under Alex's rod.'

She sipped at her wine, eyes glowing as she warmed to her theme. 'Most of the punishments are for sexual offences,' she told me, looking intently into my face till the blood in my veins seemed to glow in response. 'But even if there are no sexual transgressions before the wedding, the girls generally give us a reason to bend them over our whipping-block. At least once. Sometimes twice. Alex is sufficiently competent to ensure a third appearance is hardly ever called for.'

The Governess was clearly at some pains to emphasise to me the sincerity of the Custodians' beliefs. Her eyes shone even more avidly and her breathing became a little tremulous as she went on. 'Alex does his work with the utmost skill and precision. It is his craft, his profession. More than a job — a calling, rather. We are all delighted with the manner in which he carries out the sentences of our Tribunals.'

I gazed curiously at this tall, slender 40-year-old woman dressed all in black, her raven-coloured tresses offsetting the paleness of her long, slim neck. The Governess, it struck me, not only approved of the way her girls were punished; it undoubtedly aroused her sexually. It is also true to state, I confess, that the prospect of the Princess Sonia Lavinia being caned was by no means dismaying to me. Princess Sonia's picture adorned the popular papers of Custodia virtually every day. To see her naked figure under the cane would be utterly delightful.

The Ambassador refilled my glass. I could not help noticing how he constantly replenished his own, nor his evident keenness to continue my instruction in Custodia's ways. 'When a girl is accused, she is brought before the Governess,' he explained. 'The Governess is sole judge of the evidence, and it is she who passes sentence. With rare exceptions she demands a dozen strokes of the cane. As soon as the number of strokes is pronounced, the girl must strip naked and she is then taken downstairs.'

Downstairs was a very vague word, and I wondered what kind of place it would turn out to be as the Ambassador talked on. 'You cannot deny that a girl's body is shaped in a way which suggests the Creator knew the value of a caning,' he growled urbanely with that sage yet whimsical look. 'Female buttocks, with their round meaty softness, are perfectly designed to receive the rod. The Harmony Man works in a manner which ensures that absolutely no real damage is done. The girl receives a short sharp shock — there may be a little kicking and yelling, a few wriggles of protest, some tears perhaps. But we men and women understand that this is the correct order of things.'

He gave the Governess a shrewd glance which included her in his remarks. The look she returned him was heavy-lidded, and what I can only describe as sultry.

There was a knock on the door and a liveried servant entered. He approached the Governess diffidently. 'Excuse me Ma'am,' the young man began. 'I am instructed to convey a message to you from the Princess Sonia Lavinia.'

'Indeed,' said the Governess abruptly. 'And what can that young wanton have to say to us?'

The flunkey cleared his throat, somewhat overawed to be addressing such distinguished personages. 'Her lady-in-waiting,' he faltered, 'says the Princess insists you have no right to send her downstairs without the permission of her father or mother. And since their Majesties are abroad...'

The Ambassador and the Governess both responded. 'Why, the damned insolence...' exclaimed the man, spilling a little wine on the table.

'I'm afraid the Princess is misled,' said the woman, her handsome features hardening and her dark eyes glittering. 'At her age her parents no longer possess any legal responsibility for her; their authority is purely monarchic.'

The Ambassador deferred to the Governess's icy tones. 'I have absolutely no hesitation,' he declared, 'in assuming authority to punish Sonia. I'm quite sure that her father would insist on it. Indeed, my sentence was lenient compared to what he would have demanded, were he here to witness such behaviour! Sonia had better keep quiet. If punishment is deferred it will be the King who decides on the number of strokes. I doubt if it will be under twenty!'

The servant bowed himself out, all too aware that he could bear no hopeful message of postponement or reprieve to Sonia's lady-in-waiting. Then, without the least sign of our conversation having been disturbed, the Governess looked at me again.

'The parents of all the young people in the castle have been through this system of marriage preparation,' she said in her cool, crystal voice. This includes the King and Queen before their coronation. Parents know perfectly well that their offspring are being disciplined and taught to obey. Girls defer to their husbands. That is the way we do things here. No exceptions are permitted. The skills of the Harmony Man are known to the mothers and fathers of every young person. The very fact that a girl arrives here looking for a husband means her parents fully approve of our system. Some daughters even arrive with a sealed envelope, which usually contains an admonition to me to make certain the daughter takes the rod before tying the marriage knot. This is because she will then know for certain what a truly good thrashing with a cane is like.'

Here my instructress smiled thinly. 'In future life,' she continued with a purr, 'her husband then need only allude to the event in the most passing terms to bring an erring wife back into line. It is, in the most literal way, a case of "once bitten, never forgotten". And I do assure you,' — here the Governess drew her tongue very slowly over her lower lip as she spoke the words — 'Alex's cane truly bites!'

'And so you see,' said Alex Michaelis, 'how I won the name by which I am known throughout the Kingdom. The Harmony Man ensures harmony after marriage, harmony based on obedience to the man. The tradition has been strong in Custodia for many hundreds of years. Our duty is to keep it alive, and our leading families endorse the way with enthusiasm.'

'Indeed,' I answered heavily, greatly intrigued. 'And are the young men permitted to witness the objects of their desire receiving their punishments?'

'Certainly not,' supplied the Ambassador with vigour. 'But they are informed when it is to take place. Indeed, everyone knows when a miscreant has been "attended to". Her face is puffy, her cheeks pink, her eyes red with weeping. She walks with a gingerly step, and the long skirt she is made to wear after a thrashing hides the weals, but does not make it easy to hide their effect.'

Breath came sharply from the Governess, and I could not help noticing a heightened awareness at the mention of weals and weeping. She smiled at me intimately and confided, 'We even have questions whispered between the girls. They think I don't notice, but my ears and eyes are everywhere. "Has your turn come yet?" one will ask another. "Have you met the Harmony Man?" "Have you hung over that wretched block?" "Did the Governess award you twelve? — me too! God, wasn't it terrible?" '

We had finished dinner and the flunkey cleared the table. 'Do you mind if I smoke?' purred the Governess, whose silky voice was beginning to attract me. Two gold cigarette-lighters appeared and the dark-eyed, long-fingered woman-in-command favoured mine. The Ambassador poured port for three of us. The glasses were generous. I had noticed with some surprise that, although he clearly enjoyed his food, the Harmony Man had drunk only bottled spring-water.

I could not help my mind flitting to thoughts of Princess Sonia Lavinia. I knew she was an only child of royal parentage. Her mother had been a world famous tennis-player before she married the then prince, who was much older than her. Their daughter was the darling of the world's press photographers, and it was easy to understand why. She was strikingly beautiful — but, perhaps more to the point, she led a full sporting life. A favourite news-picture was of Princess Sonia on the tennis-courts stretching for the ball in a way which clearly showed her gleaming white knickers under a pleated mini-skirt, and a pair of long slender legs as beautifully shapely as they were athletically nimble.

I had already learned that the young people who came to Matrix Castle never saw 'downstairs' unless they were to be disciplined. What I did not know, however, was the traditional attitude to 'distinguished' foreign guests such as myself. I was a personal friend as well as diplomatic colleague of the Custodian Ambassador. Fortunately he admired my books (my trade was author and explorer), and listened regularly to my broadcast on the World Service — and I wondered whether I could induce him to invite me to witness the punishment of the delightful Sonia. The Ambassador liked his wines, but he was certainly no fool, and knew exactly what was in my mind without my having to broach the subject.

'My dear Governess,' he murmured suavely, turning on his most disarming Ambassadorial manner. 'I don't think there could possibly be any objection to Sir Arthur accompanying us downstairs, do you? He is totally discreet, completely trustworthy and I am certain he understands that such a rare favour will not be divulged in Custodian society. But since he is at our table, and has been such a truly interested party in our conversation...'

The corners of my hostess's attractively mobile mouth twitched. Her eyes gleamed — almost teasingly, I thought. 'So you wish to see the Princess Sonia Lavinia thrashed, Sir Arthur?' she purred. 'You are interested in seeing how the Harmony Man deals with a girl who forgets herself? Sonia was caught entwined with a man in the castle corridors. Well, scarcely just entwined — she was partly disrobed! His hands were all over her body, and I have little doubt that her own hands were no less idle than his!'

It was the Harmony Man who now took charge, seemingly spurred to action by the woman's words. He rose to his feet, tall and gaunt, his shock-white hair and cadaverous face looming above us in the candlelight. 'I do not think we should keep Sonia in suspense any longer, Governess,' he announced in deep, sonorous tones. 'So...' His gesture included all those at table, including myself. 'If we have finished our eating and drinking, please follow me.'

The Governess, the Ambassador and I rose in unison. We were in the Harmony Man's private quarters and had only to walk into his hallway, where there was an electric lift barely large enough to hold us all. He pushed the button and the doors slid open. A minute later we had descended five floors and were, I estimated, in the very lowest part of the castle. I could not remember whether there was just one level below ground, or two.

He led us into a brightly-lit room reminiscent of a wine cellar. The roof was curved, fairly low, covered in the most brilliant whitewash and lit with a strip of fluorescent light which killed every shadow in the place. This was a room in which there was truly no place to hide. Standing in a corner, utterly naked, with her hands on her head, was the Princess Sonia Lavinia. I caught my breath, for she truly was a most magnificent specimen of healthy, lusty young womanhood. Every inch of her flawless skin glowed in the hard light with a tan of purest honey, the muscles of this thoroughbred athlete rippling and twitching almost imperceptibly with the tension of her stance. Her hair was a miracle of glossy amber, strikingly rich and bright. She was clearly angry at being made to endure such humiliation, yet afraid to give vent to her wrath — for, despite her own high birth, she had little doubt of the power and influence wielded by my three companions.

At first the Princess Sonia Lavinia was tempted to try and look us in the eye, but strength of numbers, allied to the fact that she did not know who to single out, caused her to lower her gaze. Having seen this gorgeous young female so often in press photographs, fully clothed or in seductively brief sporting gear, I was naturally keen to view her entirely naked. Nevertheless I affected an air of insouciance, and let my eyes roam over her while taking the greatest care not to make my keen interest too obvious.

Girls like Sonia, I pondered to myself as I took mental notes for the journal I would later write, need the cane, for their lovely faces and (as I was now able to judge) equally lovely young bodies are no guarantee of an inner beauty. Indeed the longer I gazed, the more obvious it became that Sonia was a proud, disdainful hussy who abused her power as a royal princess, adopting a domineering and arrogant attitude to any she held in thrall on account of her fame, status and beauty.

Now she tossed her haughty head, with its perfectly coiffeured leonine hairstyle as amber-gold as a summer sunrise, and the swanlike neck threw her pointed chin into a dismissive tilt as if to say she was far too good to be disciplined by the likes of us. Sonia was old enough to be married (22 if I remembered the newspaper reports rightly), but equally old enough to be reminded of the importance of good manners, sweet speech, an amiable smile and solicitude for others.

To my mind the girl lacked all these qualities. That such a uniquely endowed, incandescently perfect creature in shape and form should house such a spoilt and odious character was the greatest irony — and, in my eyes, the Harmony Man suddenly became a majestic, even heroic figure: one who drove out devils from within the flesh, who righted wrongs and wrought harmony from discordance.

But, as I say, what the Princess lacked in inner gentleness she made up for abundantly in outer graces. Her skin was sumptuous; soft, unblemished and milky. Her breasts were less developed than I might have expected, shallow and saucer-like with honey-nipples which the coldness of the cellar had caused to recede. This sparseness was echoed in the rest of her body. Flat at the tummy, trim at the waist and narrow over the hips, she still had to complete the filling-out process which comes to all women.

She was facing the wall, so I could not see that magnet-to-all-men — but I could enjoy her bottom. It was an absolute delight, each soft cheek perfectly round and smooth, no unseemly marks, no flab, but all youthfully fresh and firm. Dividing the cheeks was a crease reminding me of the fold in a peach (indeed her nether-cheeks had a soft peach-down on them), and that cleft produced a slight shadow which grew deeper as it flowed downwards to disappear between her legs. And what legs! Long and graceful as a ballerina's, supple and sturdy as an athlete's, the thighs ripely plump and firm, calves and ankles limber and smooth. I could, I confess, have worshipped those glorious limbs alone. Combined with the rest of that ideal form, however, the overall effect was to make me dizzy with pleasure at such perfection.

The voice of the Harmony Man, abrupt and commanding, broke the silence and my rapt musings. 'To the block, please, Sonia. We are ready to begin.'

I drew back as the exquisite princess turned, and my eyes followed that delectable royal bottom as it undulated softly to her walk. Each step caused a gentle roll of the hips; I could not remember a time when I had seen a young female's rear-end that so invited the cane — let alone on a girl so wickedly wilful and deserving of chastisement. It was good to know how skilled the Harmony Man was at his work, and I relished the thought that one session under his tutelage was enough to give a girl an experience she would remember for the rest of her life.

The petulant young lady (shivering just a little if I was not mistaken) strode to the centre of the room, her head defiantly lifted and studiously ignoring we four watching adults, cold-eyed and unforgiving. She stopped at the whipping-block — which bore a faint similarity to the beheading blocks of old England, save that it was much higher, and the 'dip' was carved all the way through so as to fully accommodate the middle-part of the body. And what a body that insensate block was about to embrace! The Princess stood naked before it — trembling for certain now despite her show of aloof bravado — erotically lush, divinely sculptured. In what contrast, I again thought, to the tainted character beneath its flawless surface.

'Bend forward across the block.'

With a sound between a groan and a sigh, the lovely girl addressed herself to her fate. Alex Michaelis positioned Sonia on the block with all the precision of an over-fastidious window-dresser setting up a mannequin in a shop window. The block was high, and in order to have her hips at the apex she had to climb three low steps placed at the base. Her upper body was lowered slowly down the opposite side, hands and arms dangling, because her fingers were not quite able to touch the floor.

Then the steps were removed so that her feet hung free also. Thus the girl lay in the shape of an inverted 'U' with hands and toes an inch or so off the ground. Her sun-bright hair dropped in folds over her perfect face, so she could see very little. It occurred to me that the position rendered her both helpless and uncomfortable, as well as unutterably alluring with the twin domes of her luscious rump thrust sweet and high, full and round and ripe and ready. I confess I gazed in adoration on those moons of beauty, unblemished as yet by the hot streaks of pain so soon to ignite them. Indeed, the sight of that divine bottom, so pale and smooth, tense and waiting, is with me yet and will ever remain so.

Seemingly from nowhere the Harmony Man produced a long, devilishly thin cane, tapered towards one end. His tall, spare figure stepped up on to a platform next to the block, which lifted him so that the girl's haunches were on a level with his waist. It was the perfect whipping height, and he wasted no time starting work.

I have seen various punishments meted out during my travels, but I cannot think of one that equalled this for determination, thoroughness and professionalism. It was as well, I thought, that Princess Sonia could not see the instrument he wielded, for the sight would certainly have struck fear into her heart.

To begin with, however, the Harmony Man began to lure his beautiful young victim into a sense of false security. He did this by walking away from the block and standing with his back to the waiting girl. Since her hair hung completely over her eyes, she could only sense what was happening behind her in the cellar, and began to believe that her stern punisher was intent on an exercise that would take him several minutes.

In the meantime Sonia lay tight and defensive, tensed in every sinew, the muscles of that superb body clenched, holding her breath. It was that which gave her away. Believing herself safe for a second or so longer, she exhaled, relaxing and loosening her buttocks. It was in that precise unguarded instant, when she was quite unready for the stroke, that the cane fell.

The whippy wood struck resoundingly against the hapless globes of flesh. The Princess Sonia Lavinia's fingers, long and delicately slender, sprang open like a Chinese fan, then squeezed themselves into tight balls hard as knotted rope. Then they scrabbled at the sides of the block, holding tightly lest the cavorting of her hind-parts should topple her from that high place as her hips squirmed and thrust in a mocking travesty of ecstasy.

'A hit, a hit!' I said to myself, unconsciously quoting from Hamlet. 'A very palpable hit!' And indeed it was, the cane cracking mercilessly across the very high-point of her deliciously round and upthrust bottom-cheeks. And the Princess had been so unready. How cunning, how unfair, I thought — but how absolutely necessary if she were to learn, in one lesson, all that the Harmony Man had to teach her. A snow-white cane-track glared across those peachy domes, turning in an instant to rose. Her sumptuously-formed body juddered as if a galvanic rod had touched it, and a cry shrilled through the room.

From that first stroke the Princess's austere chastiser caned with a speed my eye could hardly follow. That ideal female form, draped in total submission across the Custodian whipping-block, received on its uplifted buttocks the undiluted concentration of the Harmony Man's skills. In his hand the cane became a living entity: he stood tall, erect and stern above the forlorn object of his ministrations, his white mane flicking from side to side and his eye distantly glaring — for all the world like a symphony conductor beating with his dancing baton a tempestuous rhapsody of pain.

Again and again that long, pliant rod thudded, swished and cracked across the lushly-swelling curves of the Princess's gorgeous bottom, streaking both proud buttocks with livid lines. Again and again it sped and impacted, swung back, hissed forward, until that unique royal tennis-girl body, darling of the world's media and naked as when born, ground and strained in helpless anguish against the block which held it.

He thrashed earnestly, seeing no point in spinning out the punishment. Some men might have let the Princess compose herself between strokes. Regain breath, calm her writhing posterior, soften her cries. But none of that for him, for composure simply lengthens the time it takes to turn an angry harridan into a much more appropriate (and appealing) example of weeping maid, head hung in shame and submission, all resistance dissolved out of her.

I was able to detect only three sounds during the whole scene. There was the whirr of the cane as it cleaved the air. There was the smack of the wood on naked girl-flesh. And there were the cries of the Princess. These were never less than vociferous. I do not condemn the girl for her lamentations. No one could have stayed silent under the Harmony Man's ferociously stinging rod. I did notice, however, that as Sonia Lavinia's desperate cries rang round the cellar-like vault — which dramatically enhanced them and added an echo-effect — the Governess sucked in deep breaths of elation, and a contented smile came over her face.

Immediately on the twelfth stroke the Harmony Man dropped his cane and reached with both hands to the shoulders of the bent girl. Grasping them firmly, he lifted her fully upright and off the block. As the Princess landed on the floor, her tormented body, raging with fires in its nether-region, could not help springing upright. In that instant her rigorous disciplinarian sent her scampering across the room with a resounding wallop — this time from his open palm — directly across her soundly caned and sorely-welted arse.

Sonia Lavinia danced a jig of pain and fury. Her head flung about, she drummed her dainty feet; wails of misery resounded against the stark walls. This cavorting did not come from the propelling drive of his smack, but from a desperate effort to assuage the burning which suffused her delectable hindquarters. I found myself fixing my attention on the deep central cleavage of those plumply alluring nether-cheeks, now so rosy and streaked. The large muscles on the outside of her buttocks worked frantically, clenching and unclenching as if in an orgasmic spasm. The lovely girl, hitherto so snootily aloof, shoved her pubis forward, then drew it back and sucked in her stomach, then stretched up on tip-toes as if there were some way she could slip out of her body, leaving it to suffer while she looked on. Once she took her hands to where the cane had stamped its seals of authority, only to pluck them away again as her fingers ruffled the white-ridged flesh of the plushly-upholstered bottom-cheeks.

After some short time at these desperate antics the spoiled, gorgeous darling of the world's press and international tennis circuits became stationary and put all her efforts into her tears, wailing wide-mouthed at us as if howls of accusation could in some way compensate for the tremendous punishment she had just received on her naked backside. But the Harmony Man merely walked to a small wooden cupboard and stowed away his cane, showing not one sign of either sympathy or satisfaction.

The Governess, however, was clearly greatly satisfied and not a little aroused. She had witnessed the kind of salutary punishment she was convinced Princess Sonia Lavinia's sexual misbehaviour had merited — and I confess that I, too, was more than impressed by the style and dexterity of the caning (and this was reflected in a distinct stirring within my own self). The Ambassador was simply nodding to himself, highly pleased to have seen justice done yet again in that underground chamber of searing sorrow and repentance.

The three of us walked slowly to the lift, each deep in our own thoughts, leaving the Princess to her lamentations. The Governess explained to me in a husky, slightly unsteady voice that the wretched girl would eventually be able to make her way back to her rooms, where she would lie — tummy downwards no doubt — and try to bring sleep to her pulsing body. A few minutes later our threesome broke up. We bade each other goodnight with the usual courtesies, recognising that the scene we had just witnessed had been a fitting finale to a thoroughly enjoyable evening.

Back in my chamber I reclined on the giant feather bed. The punishment I had witnessed had left me feeling strangely elated: I can only compare the feeling to the bubbles in a champagne glass which continue to rise to the surface long after the drink is poured. The events of the last few hours had been truly memorable, yet something was still lacking, I felt. Was I simply experiencing the dying glow of delectable wine and good conversation, I wondered. How else could my cup of contentment be filled, this time to the brim, until it overflowed?

My dreams were interrupted by a tap on the door. It opened part-way before I could reach it, and a tall slender figure dressed in black eased in, lynx-like, and gently pushed it closed again. It had happened in a second, and I rose from the bed with a delighted smile. Her beautiful face was pale, her midnight hair tumbled in black cascades to her shoulders. Her eyes, dark and unfathomable, fixed me with a look of strange intensity. There was not merely allure in that gaze, but a naked hunger, a plea from the soul.

'My dear Governess,' I blurted. 'What an unexpected honour! I hope you have come for a nightcap. I happen to have...'

The Governess stopped my welcoming babble with a chalk-white finger pressed against my lips. She had walked towards me with one hand behind her back. Now she brought it forward to show that it held a long whippy cane, which she pushed into my open palm. Then, with a few deft movements, her full-length dress plunged from her shoulders and slid to the floor.

Now, as I gazed at her, entranced, she stepped towards me in only the skimpiest bra and panties and, placing a hand on each of my shoulders, began to knead them sensuously, all the time looking me directly in the eyes.

'Have you the courage, Sir Arthur,' she murmured, 'to finish this evening for me? To bring it to the ecstatic conclusion which I know is possible? Don't you feel that what we have both enjoyed tonight is still incomplete? Can you not sense there are a few more steps to ascend, a new height to reach?'

Without waiting for a reply the Governess walked away from me to my bed and, taking the duck-down pillows, pulled them into the centre of the mattress and carefully positioned her body across them so that her posterior cheeks, as trimly pert as a girl's, were lifted and inviting in their tight sheath of silken panties.

'The cane, Sir Arthur — the cane,' she breathed. 'Finish the evening. You know how. You know why. Please hasten and take my knickers off. I am anxious for you to begin...'

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