Wednesday, 2 May 2012

The Soreness of a Finishing School

Story from Roue 10.

The Soreness of a Finishing School

Mrs Caroline Storey recently unearthed fragments of her grandmother's diary. The diary recounted tales of canings. Caroline was naturally intrigued; for her husband often finds occasion to chastise her. Those canings her grandmother wrote of, when a young lady at finishing school, apparently caused similar sensations to the ones undergone by Caroline's own naughty bottom.

We are grateful to Mrs Caroline Storey for submitting the following extracts of this diary, extracts describing incidents which must make every young lady's bottom squirm with discomfiture.

* * *

October 23rd., 1905
I had not wished at all to come to a finishing school. I should have been quite content to allow my elder sister to show me the arts required of young ladies. Alas, that is not it appears 'the thing', and so here I am, isolated in the depths of Sussex. I can but hope that the establishment will prepare me correctly for the high society in which my mother desires me to take my place. And yes, I wish it too. To go to the balls in town, impeccably dressed, with those handsome young men... Indeed, my sister Rosamund has described so vividly to me the night long dancing she has met with in Vienna, and the charming young cavalry officers.

Such wonderful happenings must remain, alas, but a dream during my period here. I resolve to be industrious at the classes. What the future will then hold in store for me, I can only look forward to with delight.

I must admit that this establishment is not entirely uncongenial. Some of the other girls are perfectly to my taste in female companionship. However, they have warned me that I must beware of the strict discipline enforced by the school's mistresses. For the first day, I thought the girls must be joking and teasing me. "Are we not young ladies here?" I enquired. One girl laughed, saying that no, that young ladies are what the mistresses are teaching us to become.

This afternoon, I saw some evidence of what I had been told. Alice and Jane, two girls most elegant in their deportment and sweet in their manner, had their knuckles rapped with a ruler. The offence was that of chattering together in the sewing class. It was humiliating for them. Their faces were as red as their hands, and I believe their fingers stung exceedingly. I endeavoured to look away to spare them further shame. The punishment seemed quite unfair and unnecessary. The embroidery which they produce is exquisite, and they chatted merely because they had already finished the pieces for the day.

October 27th., 1905
These last few days have passed quite pleasantly. I find that I gained much from having had a French governess, for my command of the language far exceeds that of the other girls.

Needlework I dislike, but I fancy that the master was not displeased with my efforts in the drawing class. He is a man of, I think, about fifty years, and has somewhat of a corpulence. Yet he appears a good man for all that. There is, however, an incident which has marred my pleasure here, and has caused me to comprehend that I must indeed be on my guard.

Today I was out walking in the village with several companions. We looked in the shopwindow of the milliner, and wished that we might wear the beautiful hats which were on sale. A mistress, Miss Rochester, had accompanied us. She is young, sometimes high-spirited, and at first seemed more like a friend than a watcher of our moral conduct. How wrong we were! Suddenly, on the other side of the square, I spied a young man. He was gazing directly at us, but it seemed that his eyes lit especially upon me. I found my cheeks flushing up. When my companions moved, I remained still. I did not wish to lose my modesty, yet I gave what I hoped to be a demure smile in his direction, for really he was an exceedingly handsome young man.

My friends told me later that I had stood enraptured for a whole minute! I blushed on hearing this. How could I have behaved in such a foolish fashion! To the girls, it was a joke, and they have been continually teasing me about that young man. Miss Rochester, however, did not find the matter amusing in the very slightest. Indeed, she made her feelings quite clear to me. It was she whose hand I suddenly felt upon my arm, rousing me from my dream-like state. She informed me, somewhat crisply, that as I was but recently come to the school, she would let this incident be but a warning to me. However, she added that any further such immodest behaviour and foolishness would merit a severe caning.

I could not believe my ears. A caning? Was it possible? I became conscious of my drawers against my lower regions, as my companions assured me that most certainly a caning was possible! Dark-haired Emma, a pretty girl, was even willing, upon our return, to relate to me the tale of her own chastisement and the pain she had suffered. I had no wish to hear of it. The very idea of physical punishment makes me shudder, and while I write, I still feel a terrible awareness of my delicate nether regions.

A cane! I have naturally heard of such instruments of chastisement, but never have I come into any more intimate contact with them. My mother is a gentle person. She is the image of pure womanliness. My father loves his daughters too much to punish them in such a horrid manner. Such instructions must have been passed to our governesses, for we received no threats of that nature. When a child, there was the occasional slap against my legs, but no more than that.

All the girls here, though, have not come from such homes. It might be because they have been brought up with brothers in the family. Ruth, a friend of mine here, informed me that her mother frequently smacked her bottom when it was bared, and Elizabeth spoke of her governess employing a birch.

I believe I shall not sleep easily tonight. Indeed, I am beginning to feel almost delirious. Before me still moves the face of that young man. Oh, dear, I do not know what is to become of me.

November 2nd., 1905
I determined that after the conversation with Miss Rochester I should maintain control of myself. I thought it would be possible. Sadly, I am beginning to learn the hard way. I must surely be as stupid and thoughtless as she asserted. Oh, why can I not drive that man from my mind? I feel that my affection for him is going to cause much trouble. Indeed, that trouble is already starting. I do not like to think of the consequences.

Today, as I sat in church, I spied him only a few feet away from me. Despite myself, I had already gleaned that his name is 'George', and that he is home from Oxford University.

I tried to maintain my face averted from his direction, but then I glanced and saw between him and Ruth a secret smile being exchanged. The intimacy in that brief look stabbed my heart. Whether it is more because I desire the young man's affections myself or because my friend has kept the secret from me, I do not know.

My bottom twitched against my drawers, as I sat on the hard pew. I was longing to stare at Ruth and George more closely, but the memory of what had been promised my poor nether cheeks stopped me... for Miss Rochester was at the end of our pew. I felt as if she already wielded a cane in her hand and was waiting for the moment to strike me with it. It would hurt my tender flesh very much, that I assumed, but I must needs confess that my dread of a caning is now mixed with a slight measure of curiosity.

That is a foolish thing to write. Truly, I do not know what kind of creature I am turning into – a thief even! My face reddens as I note this down.

When Ruth was out walking, I searched her cabinet. In it was a locket. It was inscribed by George Markham and contained a lock of his curly brown hair. In a frenzy of jealousy, I stole the locket, and it is with me even now. I do not know if Ruth has observed her loss. She could not mention it, without terrors heaping upon her head. At the moment, she is preoccupied by other matters. Her mother has sent a new corset. When she is laced into it, I must admit Ruth's form looks truly womanly. She tells me, however, that the tightness of the corset causes her much discomfiture.

Today, I received a letter from Rosamund. Her waist is how so tiny one can but imagine how uncomfortable must be the lacing which makes it so. It is 17 inches! What torment we ladies must go through to make ourselves look the mode. I wonder if we are glad we suffered, when we reap the prize of our hands being taken in marriage. If my husband should be as handsome as George though... Oh, dear! How this locket is weighing upon my conscience. If Ruth had told me herself about George, I do believe I should now be bearing no grudge.

November 4th., 1905
I wish that I might die of my shame, and of the pain which accompanies it. The stings in my posterior cause my writing to be so uneven.

My downfall came about during the deportment class. Why had I not returned Ruth's locket? My envy made me cling on to it. There is a wickedness within me. I even believe that perhaps I deserve what I have suffered. No! The pain is too great. Retribution herself cannot be so cruel.

We were being shown how a lady must conduct herself when out visiting. She must stand, unless requested to sit, and should hold herself in an upright manner, never portraying any signs of weariness. Miss Bingham praised my posture. Indeed, all was well until we were told we could leave the room. In my haste this morning, I had failed to tighten the locket's clasp correctly. It fell to the floor before Miss Bingham. Fortunately, I was last to leave the room, so neither Ruth nor others who might tell her witnessed the event.

Miss Bingham retrieved the locket. My cheeks blushed exceedingly, while she carefully examined it. She asked if it was mine. I fell into a state of confusion. Which crime would be considered the more awful? To steal, or to own such a love locket? I said that the locket did belong to me. I felt a surge of pride, for I was thus protecting my friend, Ruth. Miss Bingham stared at me. I sensed she knew I was lying, but I tried to retain some composure.

She locked the door of the classroom, and from a cupboard on the wall, she produced a long thin cane. My lower regions palpitated with fear. I could not justify my possession of the locket. Miss Bingham forced me into confessing that it was not in keeping with a young lady's modesty to carry such an object of desire.

How I quaked and trembled! The swishing of the cane was truly nightmarish.

I was ordered to bend across a desk. Every detail is so horrific that I must write it down to unburden myself. There is no girl whom I can tell, especially Ruth. My conscience burns as furiously as my bottom. I can think of no means of assuaging either.

I held on to the desk as if my very life depended upon it. I was sure that otherwise I might jump up and incur yet more wrath. I knew that I was about to undergo a most painful ordeal, but I was unprepared for the full shame which awaited me. How my heart sank, when I felt Miss Bingham's hands upon my dress and petticoats. She pinned them securely around my waist. She seemed to stare at my drawers for an eternity. I was so ashamed at being exposed so intimately. My drawers are, furthermore, plain and unfashionable, with their open flaps at the back, and not a touch of lace or embroidery. Mama considers them suited to a girl of my age. Sometimes, I think she does not realize quite how old I am, but that is by the by.

There was a hideous swish through the air and then a crack! My cheeks convulsed as the cane fell right across them. Much to my shame, I screamed out, for it hurt so. Harshly, I was told I was not a child and must take my punishment without complaint. I tried to obey.

Swish! Crack! The noise made by every stroke of that cane will never erase itself from my mind. The instrument fell twice across the same line, and then Miss Bingham caused it to criss-cross over the stinging area. I was crying and sobbing, but it brought me no pity.

My drawers flapped apart, and the vicious bamboo cut into my bare feminine flesh. I was appalled. The smarting was unbearable, but there were no means of escape.

I do not know how many strokes I received, but it was no small number. The whirl of pain caused me to collapse. Feebly, as I raised myself, I was confronted by a stark choice. Miss Bingham said she would deliver six more strokes of the cane, with my drawers pulled off, or – and here her eyes bored into me – I could tell her the truth!

I stumbled over my words. The pain of the rising weals on my bottom made me succumb. I confessed that I had lied. Worse: I admitted that the locket belonged to Ruth, and said I would return it surreptitiously so that she would not suspect that anyone knew of her secret. Miss Bingham appeared satisfied and permitted me to adjust my dress and depart. I rushed straight to my bed-chamber so that I could collect myself before joining the other girls at tea.

I felt like an outcast with my terrible mission of returning that locket. I could not explain that I had only a little earlier been chastised. I sat on the hard bench, trying to hide my agony. The girls gave me puzzled glances, for I was quiet, though normally I believe I am considered to be a talkative girl.

I avoided company afterwards and I have come to bed much earlier than usual. My nightgown rubs against my burning bottom. I find I must lie on my side, fanning the gown away from my sore skin.

November 7th., 1905
The last few days have been torture. The smarting from my bottom is much eased, and the weals have become bruises, but it is not that which causes me such anguish. It is Ruth. I am aware that the mistresses are watching her movements like hawks, and yet she is ignorant of these observations. I have discovered when she and George meet – it is during the afternoons which are our recreation periods. We are allowed to wander freely in the school's grounds. They occupy a large area of field and woodland, and consequently a mistress thinks nothing of it, if she does not come upon a particular girl easily. Ruth makes use of this opportunity to escape into the arms of her George.

Have I no honour? It is my duty to warn Ruth, but I cannot. It is all the more painful, for, in other respects, we are such close friends. She is very dear to me, and yet I am letting her walk into a terrible chastisement. Indeed, I find myself wanting her to be punished for her luck and deception over George!

November 9th., 1905
My mind and body are so restless, I know not what to do with myself. Today, the Headmistress, Miss Gibson, caught Ruth and George walking in the fields together. Now, at this very moment, Ruth has chosen to confide in me, because I am her closest friend. She has told me she is to be punished in public on the morrow. I feel as if it is my own posterior upon which the strokes should fall. Indeed, it seems almost as if that is the case.

Ruth informed me also of her relationship with George. If only she had done so before – before I was filled with anger and jealousy, desiring my revenge.

Before she left me this evening, she shed a few tears. I comforted her, while my own nether regions pulsated with fear and guilt.

November 10th., 1905
I wish that the earth might swallow me up. After Ruth's horrific punishment, it was to me she came. I rubbed soothing cream into her raw reddened skin. I was filled with hypocrisy and torment, for I was so much a cause of what she had suffered, and is still suffering. I long fully to comprehend my own feelings.

The school met for evening prayers as usual. Ruth's chair was that next to mine. Her face was a deathly white, and she clutched my hand for support. Everyone was about to leave, when Miss Gibson rose. She summoned Ruth to the front, to the surprise of the other girls. Her crime was read out, but I was so overcome, I did not hear the words, save that the punishment was the alternative to expulsion.

Ruth was bent across a chair. Her skirts were lifted by a maid, who then handed a cane to Miss Gibson. The school stared silently at Ruth's drawers. They were of fine and delicate linen. Miss Gibson unlaced them, exposing the rounded buttocks of my friend.

Ruth trembled as the Headmistress raised her arm with the full length of the cane quivering above the vulnerable bared nether regions. The maid clasped Ruth's shoulders, keeping her still. There was an almighty crack! The cane bit into Ruth's bottom. "Seven more to come!" Miss Gibson announced, and then the cane was speeding to its target once again.

How Ruth suffered the humiliation of being dealt with in such an undig-position and in public, I do not know. The cane cracked down against her, bringing tears to her eyes. It made me flush with shame. I closed my eyes. I could not bear to watch any more.

When it was over, the maid tightly laced up Ruth's drawers over the welts which were rising from her posterior. Ruth could barely walk, and as we were told to go, Miss Gibson herself took Ruth's arm and led her out. I believe that she had not intended to punish her quite so severely.

The ghastly punishment causes me to shake. Ruth felt at if she was on fire. As I soothed her bottom, I could see the raw cheeks tensing together, making her wince. Yet, when my fingers stroked tenderly over the curves, I was suddenly aware of a strange excitement, and so was Ruth. I blush even more as I think of it. I must resolve to become virtuous and to ignore these feelings. I must also erase the envy in my heart. It is most assuredly a sin, as is all that I have done on its account....!

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