Story from Janus 49.
In A Distant Country
by R.P. Forrester
The past is another country. L.P. Hartley? Yes. And certainly that idyllic spot, that little village set in the sparkling mountains that I wandered into as a young man is another country. A country which then had not known the ravages of war and postwar; a country now only of my mind.
It was just before the war, 1938 I think, but as yet in that remote mountain-ringed region of Central Europe there was no hint of what was shortly to come. I was walking, with a rucksack, occasionally taking a lift on one of the rare vehicles, studying the language (or telling myself I was) which was a dialect of German (I suppose now it is Russian they have to speak). At any rate English travellers, indeed any travellers, seemed to be very rare birds and perhaps that is why I was treated with such friendliness. And allowed such intimate insights in that household.
I simply wandered in along the dusty road one sunlit autumn afternoon. I stayed for four – or was it five? – days. And in those four or five days... The fact is that because of events I could not afterwards go back, I could never subsequently go back. So it remains only in my mind, like a shimmering impossible dream. But I know it was not a dream.
My introduction came that very first evening. There was no hotel in the little village, no inn offering accommodation, but when it became known that I wanted to stay for the night I was quickly offered hospitality at several humble private dwellings. I was, to say the least, fortunate in my choice because I had not then seen the two girls. The two daughters of the chosen house.
I was doubly, triply, fortunate, though I did not know it then, in that the younger girl was to have her sixteenth birthday in two days' time. That birthday... But I must keep things in chronological order, and on that first evening it was the elder girl, 18-year-old Liese, who took my notice, and with a vengeance. Not least because I had her ripe and shapely bottom bared in front of me for a whipping.
I haven't said that they were both delightful young creatures: blue-eyed, apple-cheeked, with thick honey-coloured braids down their backs. Yes, two quite stunning young ladies, eager to converse with this stranger who could just about make himself understood (naturally they had no English).
And perhaps it was basically the visitor's fault, I cannot clearly recall, but possibly in their excitement they were too forward in the eyes of their father, 'showing off', and he decided to give the older one a lesson. Although I was assured it was not my fault...
At any rate in that cosy little living room there was suddenly an 'atmosphere', with the stern-faced, moustached father barking something at Liese. Did she unwisely answer back? Whatever it was things got rapidly worse, the father's eyes flashing and quick, harsh words being spoken. I thought I could make out what he was saying. Liese was going to be beaten.
My pulse rate began to rise as I realised I had got the correct gist. Liese was a good-sized, statuesque creature in her tight-bodiced red dress and the thought of some form of corporal punishment being meted out on that firm-fleshed body was highly arousing. Naturally I assumed that whatever the punishment was it would be carried out in private – a bedroom say – as it would have been in England where, in those days, beating a daughter was not the rarity it is today. I was not expecting to see the punishment but the mere thought that it was to happen was arousing enough.
But then it became clear, from the father's words and actions, that it wasn't to take place elsewhere. It was to be there, in that snug room where this visitor was standing with the family. For Liese was being told to lift her skirt... and lie over the table.
Liese's face had become bright red, her sister's was pinkish and I imagine mine was bright red too. What was I supposed to do? Discreetly remove myself? Liese gave me a hot-faced look and defiantly grabbed up her knee-length skirt, taking with it an underlying white petticoat. Her sturdy, shapely legs were in white stockings, gartered at mid-thigh. Above were white, lace-edged knickers, not brief by today's standards I suppose but brief for those days and they left all of Liese's ripe upper thighs bare. This sudden revelation just about knocked me for six. Was I supposed to see this?
But no one acted as if I should leave. I suppose after all I was the honoured guest. Liese's mother in fact, a handsome woman of some 40 years, gave me a smiling, half-apologetic but friendly look which seemed to say: daughters can be trying, can't they? So I stayed; red-faced and round-eyed.
Holding her skirts aloft Liese stepped forward and obediently laid herself over the table. Her father at the same time went over to a cupboard. He returned holding a slim, whippy switch such as might be cut from a young hazel. My eyes were simply goggling, transfixed by this stick and even more by Liese's ripe, tightly-knickered bottom now thrust out over the edge of the table. I was soon goggling much more as Liese's father strode over and in one deft movement, no doubt well practised, had the tight white knickers down and off her bottom.
He fiddled a bit with her skirt, making sure it was well up round her waist. I must admit I was now in a state of some sexual excitement with this stunning girl before me, strong legs straight and together with the knickers round the tops of her thighs, and the upper part of her lying horizontal on the table. And right before my eyes that fantastic bare bottom. I was standing, as were Liese's mother and sister, but I very much wanted to sit down. Fortunately in those days men's trousers were somewhat large and baggy!
Right away, having assured himself that his daughter was properly positioned, the father raised the switch and brought it whipping down.
There was an awesome CRACK! as it sharply met the waiting flesh. A muffled grunt of pain from the stricken girl and I rather think that I gasped out myself in unison. Liese's bottom twitched and clenched but otherwise she stayed still. There was now an angry red stripe transversely across the centre of both ripe cheeks.
As I watched, scarcely able to contain myself, Liese's father gave her another six – seven in all. Seven fierce red stripes across that sumptuous pale bottom, a couple of them criss-crossing. The girl stayed in position throughout it all but halfway through she began to squeal – and I guessed she was crying. This proved to be the case when finally Liese was allowed up; she was blinking rapidly and wiped a hand quickly across a clearly tear-wet face before struggling her knickers back up under her skirt.
It was all suddenly over. My host put away his switch and they all acted more or less as if nothing out of the ordinary had happened – although the somewhat chastened-looking Liese did very soon disappear, perhaps to apply some soothing salve to what must have been a very painful backside. I was given some wine – my host's own brew – and could now sit down though my need for this was not quite so pressing as earlier.
The mother, sitting next to me, observed, 'Unmarried girls need to be disciplined by their father. I expect it is the same in England?'
I said that this was so but I thought a punishment would generally be in private. She smiled.
'Oh, but you are our honoured guest.' (Thus confirming what I had suspected earlier.) 'And also I expect Liese did not mind to be seen by a handsome young man.'
I probably blushed at that. At 25 (as I then was) I could not imagine that it could be so: now I am older and wiser.
I saw Liese again first thing the next morning when she brought coffee and hot water into my room. Her bright 'Good morning, Sir' and smiling blue eyes showed no sign of embarrassment at what had happened in my presence.
Trusting my luck I asked, jokingly, 'I hope you are not suffering any serious injury?'
She laughed. 'Oh I am now recovered, after a night's sleep on it. Or rather I think I sleep on my front. But that is how it is when you displease your father.'
I felt a little surge of excitement at the thought of this handsome girl lying in bed on her front, with that splendid bottom throbbing from the fierce cuts of the switch. What would her response be if I asked her to show me? But of course I did not dare ask that. Something else was said, I forget what exactly, but then with more laughter Liese said, 'Anyway if you stay till tomorrow you will see Margit's bottom. It is her sixteenth birthday.'
Not unnaturally, I think, I looked nonplussed at this. Liese repeated what she had said adding, 'Surely you have that in England?'
'Have what?' I asked but I could get no answer – only tinkling laughter.
A little while later, when I went down to breakfast, the two girls were whispering together. They glanced at me and Margit went very red in the face. I guessed they were talking about what had been said in my room but that didn't make me any the wiser. What could bare bottoms have to do with birthdays? It seemed ridiculous, quite inexplicable. But one thing was certain, I was going to stay around for the birthday if they were prepared to put me up.
They were most keen for me to stay, and the birthday was mentioned by the girls' mother as well.
'Please, you must also stay at least for Margit's birthday which is tomorrow.'
I said I would be happy to, wondering what I could read in those eyes which were as deep blue as the daughters': a look of amusement perhaps?
Apart from that sense of curiosity there was also the very certain fact that I was not at all keen to immediately leave these two beautiful girls; Liese especially. I had great good fortune in that regard because immediately after breakfast the mother said if I wished Liese would take me up into the mountain to see a local beauty spot – a waterfall. Margit, she remarked, had to help with preparations for her birthday. Needless to say I said I did wish, very much indeed.
We set out, with some provisions in my rucksack and in my head I must confess still most arousing thoughts of Liese's splendid bottom, which now where it was necessary to walk single file (I naturally let her go first!) I had surging and swaying in front of my eyes in that same red dress which had been so mind-bogglingly lifted yesterday evening. Hotly I pictured those smooth and shapely thighs, the tight laced-edged knickers, and the full firm globes underneath. My walking shorts, like my long trousers of the previous evening, were soon under some strain at the front.
I asked Liese again about what she had said but got no answer, only that same amused laughter. I also, with my thoughts in more sombre mood, probed what my fair companion knew of the international scene. I was well aware, as were most of us in England then, what was brewing up. I knew what could easily happen at any moment; what, as we all know now, did very soon happen. All of that meant nothing to Liese. She just shrugged those pretty shoulders; she could not possibly imagine war coming to that idyllic backwater, and events elsewhere didn't really mean anything to her.
That was also the attitude of them all: her father, others in the village. War? But who would be interested in them; they were poor and simple people with nothing except a few fields, a few cows. England, Germany, France... they shrugged their shoulders. They were shortly to find out, I fear.
But at 25 and with this beautiful companion on that remote mountain track, I did not let my mind dwell on such weighty matters. Not with Liese's ripe bottom in front of me straining the red cotton of her dress at every sturdy stride. Emboldened now that I was alone with her, I asked about her beating. Did she get such a punishment very often?
'Oh yes,' she said with a little laugh. 'Quite often.'
It seemed from what she said that corporal punishment for girls was much more common than in England at that time (where in turn it was much more frequently resorted to than nowadays). It seemed that a girl, in particular a 'grown-up girl' as Liese put it, could expect it for most shortcomings – from her father and also uncles etc. 'Grown-up', said Liese, was when a girl reached 16. She gave that little laugh.
'Margit will be 16 tomorrow.'
The thought did occur to me then, I must admit, that this might be some clue to the mysterious birthday business, but Liese was going on to further fascinating details. An unmarried girl was beaten regularly in her own family, that was how it was ensured that she was a 'good' girl and the family's honour was maintained. Once she was married the beating was taken over by the husband.
We had stopped for a moment on the track and Liese turned to me, smiling-eyed.
'At the wedding the bridegroom is given a special switch, tied with ribbon. When he enters his new house with his bride the first thing he does is to give her a whipping with it. That is to ensure she respects him, and also to bring them both good luck. It is an old custom.'
I found it a little difficult to believe. Thinking of yesterday, and Liese's bare bottom, I asked 'On the bare?'
'Oh yes,' she laughed. 'It is always like that.' She kicked at a stone. 'When I am married that is what will happen. For good luck and to see I behave myself. Until then it is my father who must see I behave.'
With all this talk of switching and with beautiful Liese close in front of me, her round breasts stretching the bodice of her dress, I could feel myself getting distinctly excited again.
'So you are a very good girl then, Liese,' I observed.
'Good' of course included behaving decorously, chastely, as regards the opposite sex. A daughter's virginity was no doubt highly prized. And yet Liese's family had been quite happy for her to go off up the mountain alone with me. Were they so sure of her behaviour, and trusting of me? Or could it be that I was such an honoured guest that...
I realised suddenly that I had become very excited. Shorts, like long trousers, were also in those days rather capacious and the effect was hopefully not immediately apparent. Eyes smiling, Liese agreed that she was a good girl. We began to walk again.
Somewhat later we stopped for some lunch, not far from the spectacular waterfall. I forget how it began again, but I must have found some way to once more raise the subject of CP, which as applied to Liese and her sister completely bewitched me. I went back to what she had said about her uncles as well as her father switching her.
'Anyone else?' I asked. And then (I had probably drunk too much of that red wine or I would never had been so bold), 'What about an English visitor?'
Had Liese perhaps been thinking along similar lines? The tip of a pink tongue came out to moisten the full red lips. 'I think so, if I did something.'
'What?' I asked, pulse racing.
We were sitting on the pine-needled ground, with the wine bottle and glasses and other bits and pieces. My glass, half full, was near Liese's foot and she deliberately kicked out with her shoe, knocking it over, spilling the wine.
The large blue eyes met mine. 'If I was clumsy and knocked your wine over.'
I got to my feet. What with the wine and everything else I almost fell down again but I got a grip of myself. 'Come on then,' I told her and walked, a little unsteadily, to a nearby fallen pine. It made a comfortable seat. There were no suitable switches around but I had something equally pleasurable in mind. I indicated that Liese was to get over my lap.
She did: a solid, heavenly weight that took my breath away. Head spinning, I grabbed up her skirt A moment's hesitation – but she was lying quite passively, and hadn't she said in respect of bare bottom 'always'? My trembling hand went to those tight knickers... and began sliding them down.
I can see it now – see it, feel it, smell it. The sunlit clearing, the aromatic scent of the pines – and the girl bare-bottomed over my lap. My hand, as in some paradisical dream, beginning to rise and fall on to the resilient silky flesh of the ripe globes of her bottom.
It was, let me say, the first time I had ever spanked a girl. It was a wonder I didn't faint with the excitement, but I didn't. I think I kept on for some time, until Liese gaspingly complained that she'd had enough. She struggled up and with a red-faced glance at me began pulling up her knickers. Perhaps she was expecting something else at that point. Whether she was or not I was in too much of a state, my mind in too much turmoil, to contemplate anything else.
I don't recall what was said; perhaps we were both somewhat embarrassed afterwards, at the sudden intimate contact, a contact that for me was like an electric shock. So I rather fancy not a lot was said as we collected up the things and began our descent.
My mind is hazy also about details of the rest of that day – all except one event, that is. Probably I was still walking about in a dream from what had happened up on the mountain; I was walking on air. The one event I am not hazy about occurred later that evening when I had gone up to my room. Suddenly, as I sat at the little table writing my diary (a diary which disastrously I was soon to lose), there was bright-eyed Liese. Again it is quite possible she might have had something else in mind but what she got was the same as before. A spanking, over my lap with her skirt up and her knickers down. My hand splatting heart-stoppingly down into those ripe womanly globes.
Doing it in her own house was if anything even more mind-boggling than before.
That was Liese and though she did not disappear from the scene – far from it – it was now, or more precisely the next day, that the younger sister Margit came more firmly into focus. She was very much a younger version of her sister, slimmer but with her figure already ripening into womanhood. She was that next day 16: a womanly age it seemed in those parts, a marriageable age. There was an aura of unconcealed excitement when I went down in the morning. I kissed Margit on the cheek, congratulating her, and I could feel her trembling. I gave her as a present a silk scarf I had brought with me from home.
I immediately found myself caught up in the heady atmosphere, the feeling that something extraordinary was to happen over and above what we in England might associate with a birthday. I could hardly wait... and I fancy even the heady delights of Liese for the moment took second place. What was to happen...?
It was after the meal, in the middle of the day. A splendid table-groaning feast with, it seemed, half the village crowded in the room – though I was told they were all relatives. The table was cleared by the womenfolk, but the wine bottles remained and toasts continued, primarily to the new 16-year-old who was looking ravishing in a lacy white dress. In the middle of all this one uncle stood up.
'Are we now ready for Mr Switch?'
There was a sudden silence and then it seemed everyone was talking at once. Talking and laughing. They were all getting to their feet and heading for the door, filing out. Then I saw that not everyone was going, it was the children and the women. Was I to go? But as I took a step Margit's mother squeezed my arm, her eyes bright and smiling with the wine.
'No, our honoured guest must stay!'
Very shortly just the men were left – uncles, the grandfathers, Margit's father of course, me – and Margit herself. A rosy-cheeked, golden-haired vision in white surrounded by these soberly-clad men. Did I have some inkling now? The room had quietened.
Margit's father walked purposefully to the cupboard as he had done on my first evening. He took out the switch which I saw now had a white ribbon tied near the thicker end.
The men were seated again, Margit standing in the centre near the table, and I sat down too, conscious of a sudden need, a sudden tightness in my trousers. Yes, I had a pretty good idea now what was going to happen, incredible though it might have struck my English sensibilities. Standing next to his daughter, my host addressed the assembled group.
'Margit is now sixteen. So according to custom she will demonstrate her acceptance of family discipline, which she will continue to accept so long as she remains an unmarried girl in this house.'
He turned to the red-faced Margit and she nodded. 'Good; please prepare yourself then.'
With my heart leaping like a mad thing, I watched Margit reach up under the full skirt of her dress and take down lacy white knickers. They came right down and she stepped out of them, and placed them on the table. Then she bent herself face down over the table.
With one smooth movement Margit's father swept her skirt up over her back, exposing the white, gartered stockings, bare upper thighs, plump bare buttocks. Then he handed the switch to one of the grandfathers who had risen to his feet. The old but still sturdy man stepped forward and gave the switch a preliminary wristy flick, to loosen his arm. And then he brought it slicing in across Margit's trembling thrust-out nates.
It was the second switching I had witnessed in the two days I had been there, and I had also myself spanked the older girl twice, but this, this ritual sixteenth birthday switching, was in a complete class of its own. And let me say it has remained in a class of its own, for I have never since come across anything which has remotely affected me in the same way. The first grandfather gave Margit four, and then the other delivered a like number, all of them hard, biting strokes that had the girl gasping and writhing. Then the switch was offered to me...
I had to refuse; such was the state I was in I was sure I would disgrace myself in some way. So the stick was offered to one of the uncles, who willingly took it and enthusiastically followed the two older men. Then another uncle, and another. Poor Margit's writhing bottom was criss-crossed with red stripes and though she had at first been merely gasping she was now crying out. I don't know exactly how many men there were but there seemed to be a considerable number and they all had to have their turn. That, it seemed, was the custom.
At last they had all had their turn except Margit's father – and me. He turned to me and at this point insisted that I perform – I was told later by the mother that every man in the room had to take part, that was the ancient tradition. So I had to give her four like all the others. I got to my feet and took the switch. The first was a mere tap but once I had done it something seemed to get hold of me and I had to bring it down hard. The last two I gave the wriggling girl were, I am sure, quite as stinging as anyone else's. My adrenalin was surging from the exhilaration of actually whipping her bare bottom myself – a sensation so exquisite I could never attempt to describe it, nor have I ever been able to forget it.
Finally it only remained for Margit's own father to complete the ritual with four of his own. And then it was over. Margit stood up; her skirts fell down to hide the angrily-striped buttocks. Her face was tear-stained but she managed a smile. She had merely undergone the customary rite and could now consider herself grown-up. It was the custom, the tradition, and that will make almost anything acceptable. For the initiation into adulthood it was a very small price to pay, and I am sure it had never occurred to her that attainment of this milestone could be celebrated in any other way.
The wine was being poured again and now the others were coming back into the room, joking and laughing, teasing Margit. She was now one of the women, as opposed to being a child, and more than once the older girls and women made her display her bottom – to much laughter and ribald comment, as they compared the stripes to what they themselves had suffered.
That was it, the drama was over. The party continued, I think there was some dancing afterwards but my memory is again hazy, as if subsequent events were thrown in the shade by the brilliant glare of what had gone before – which itself blazes as brightly in my mind as on that day more than 40 years ago. One other thing I do remember well, though, is the next morning. It was not now Liese who brought in my coffee and hot water but Margit.
She was now an adult and so presumably could go into the guest's room, and perhaps had persuaded her sister that the privilege was hers. She was not shy about what had happened.
'So now you have seen me as well as Liese.' It was said with a coquettish smile.
I agreed that I had and meeting her frank gaze I said that perhaps I should check that she had not been injured in that region. I rather think she wanted me to say something of that sort. For she had no hesitation in getting over my lap.
Did I stay another day or was it two? All I can clearly recall, in the absence of that lost diary, is that I had a rendezvous to keep soon afterwards, in Trieste, and so I could not linger as I would have wished. As I travelled on to Trieste I was determined to retrace my steps and return – to Margit and Liese. But I never did, I could not. The storm clouds that had been gathering now began to rumble in an unmistakable manner. And suddenly a lone Englishman could no longer wander as he wished.
So I never went back. Possibly now I could, at least to that geographical spot, but I would not wish to. Because I know that the world I glimpsed so memorably on that vacation certainly does not exist. Those simple people with their traditional ways and values, that sparkling little village, above all the two girls – all of that went when I walked out, with more than one backward glance, on that fine autumn morning so many years ago.
It has surely disappeared, like many other things. But at the same time I carried it with me, bright and clear. As I still do.