Saturday, 21 May 2011

Taking Her Medicine

Story from Blushes Supplement 24.

Taking Her Medicine

It was a large and luxurious hotel, living up to its name: The Grand. But then money was no real object for Mr Bellish, he could well afford to indulge himself. Having no money problems of course may not be everything — a man in that position can easily become bored with life without the central interest that making money provides for the rest of us. But George Bellish was fortunately not in that situation. He had his young companion. Joanna. His niece as he sometimes referred to her. 'Mr Bellish and niece,' he said at the lobby. 'We have two adjoining rooms booked.'

He might call her his niece and Joanna, at 19, was young enough to be that but she was not any blood relation. She was more or less his ward one could say though not strictly legally that either. But certainly George Bellish felt all the responsibility of a guardian: not onerous but a serious matter. Especially in these days when one can see all around the results of modern, less structured life. A complete abrogation of responsibility in other words, no sense of purpose, or discipline. This was the last thing he wanted to see in his Joanna. Mr Bellish guarded constantly against it. At his home in Wiltshire and also when, as now, they were on a short holiday. One had perhaps to be even more careful on holiday when the regime he had ordained at home could easily be replaced by the sybarytic cosseting of hotel staff.

But on the other hand the different, more cosmopolitan surroundings of a well-appointed hotel did offer extra opportunities for shall we say testing of his very attractive young companion.

'This seems pleasant enough,' he observed when the bellboy had disappeared after showing them their quarters: two pleasantly furnished rooms facing the sea on the second floor, with bathrooms en suite and of course the interconnecting door.

'Yes, Uncle George.' Joanna delicately testing her double bed with her most attractive bottom. She was a very attractive girl all over, from the top of her head of thick ash-blonde hair cut medium short to the tips of her toes, at present in white high-heeled courts. The distance between these two ends was some 5' 6" in her stockinged feet. They were — the stockings — just that. Mr Hellish abhorred the abominable tights which for some years had been almost ubiquitous. Even if stockings had not made something of a come-back he would certainly have had Joanna in them, with a nice suspender belt. That or simply bare-legged. The 5' 6" was composed of all the usual bits and pieces that 19 year old girls have except that with Joanna one could say they were Jaguar components rather than run-of-the-mill Ford. A pert-nosed, full-lipped face; and the rest slim but nonetheless well-rounded wherever it should be. As was of course especially evident when Joanna had no clothes on.

Perhaps George Bellish had this in mind, to be refreshed by this sight after the mildly tiring drive down. 'I should take a shower,' he observed. Meaning, as his young companion knew, Joanna rather than himself. She smiled and stood up. 'Yes. Should I unpack first perhaps?'

Mr Bellish didn't feel there was need for unpacking at this moment. No. He wanted to see Joanna. In the shower and out. Before and after. And not only see her. There was something else. One needed to get into a routine right away in strange surroundings.

Joanna, standing, was already unfastening, unbuttoning. Obediently. 'And perhaps we can walk on the front afterwards. Before dinner.' Her big blue eyes with a shine to them. Excitement. And also apprehension. A girl may in a way be used to something but that does not mean... that it doesn't cause... a little shiver. The thought. Because taking her clothes off... usually means.

Discipline for one thing. A disciplinary session. The sight of Joanna unclothed seemed to send Mr Bellish — Uncle George — reaching for... his cane. Or a similar item. Joanna tried not to look at Mr Bellish who had sat down in the armchair and was undoubtedly looking at her. As blouse and skirt came off. And the rest: slip and bra and knickers. Suspender belt and stockings last of all. Sometimes he would make her keep them on. While he went to get the cane. Her peripheral vision said that Uncle George was getting up. Coming towards...

Standing with her knickers in her hand and the stockings still on. Mr Bellish patting her bare bottom. 'Not putting on any little extra ounces, are we, Joanna dear?' His hand smacked: a meaty splat. 'Second helpings of pudding perhaps?'

Joanna said a sharp 'No!' Her weight was a constant nine stone, give or take a few ounces.

The hand splatted again, causing a heavy judder of the undeniably firm flesh. George Bellish didn't really think there was any extra weight on this splendid shape but it paid to keep a girl on her toes. His other hand came up and rubbed across Joanna's pert breasts, taking in the soft pink nipples. Her breath hissed out in a sibilant. 'Ooooh.'

'I don't know, Joanna. I don't know. I wonder if you are putting on just a little. And with rich hotel food... Should we perhaps have you on a diet whilst you're here? Bread and water. And some nice big spoonfulls of healthy cod-liver oil for vitamins!

'No! Please...' she squealed. The trouble with Uncle George was that you never knew when he was joking or not. The most outrageously awful things could turn out to be for real. Like the first time he said she was going to get the cane across her bare bottom. He couldn't mean that. So she had thought.

'We'll see,' Mr Bellish said. He rubbed her nipples again. They were firmer now, beginning to stick out. 'Actually I rather like the idea of cod-liver oil. It is good for you. Perhaps we could get someone to bring some up...'

'' she breathed. But Mr Bellish had that look in his eye. He gave the pretty tits a final fondle — Joanna's nipples were right up now — and slapped her bottom. 'Get your stockings off and have your shower.' He was sitting down. Picking up the phone.

'Nooo... oooo...'

'Get in the shower, Joanna!'

Joanna obeyed. Shoes and stockings and suspender belt off and walking with that lovely sway of her bare bottom to the bathroom. Behind her Mr Bellish was talking to the desk. She tried to close her ears. But he was asking...

* * *

A polite knock at the door. 'Noooo....' Joanna breathed again. 'I'll be sick,' she had said a few minutes earlier. 'No you won't be sick,' was the answer. 'I'll hold your nose. A person can't be sick if someone is holding their nose.'

Joanna was in her dressing gown: sea-green silk, knee length and fastened with a sash. Nothing underneath. She had had her shower and she hadn't been caned. Because Mr Hellish had got this other diabolical idea. Cod-liver oil.

It was a waiter. In a short white jacket; middle-aged, sort of Italian looking. And carrying... a bottle... and a big metal spoon. Mr Hellish let him in and closed the door. Began explaining. Joanna tried not to listen but of course she was listening.

'My niece may have some trouble taking it. So... if I hold her while you...'

The waiter was going to give it to her. He was grinning, and nodding. Joanna felt herself sweating, her face scarlet. She shook her head. 'No. I... can do it.' Although she doubted if she could actually take a spoonful of that awful stuff. But anyway Mr Bellish didn't want that. He was going to hold her, he repeated.

'Put your hands in your pockets and keep them there.' It was happening. Mr Bellish behind her pushing Joanna's hands down into the hip-high pockets of the dressing gown. The sash almost immediately came loose, undone, and the dressing gown slid apart. 'No!' she squealed seeing the gown opening, but it was quite possible that Mr Bellish wanted it to happen. He was in that mood. Making her show her tits to the waiter while he fed her this awful stuff. She tried to close her arms together, in the pockets. Mr Bellish grabbed them. Pulled her arms — and the gown — apart. Her tits... and everything else. Her pussy. The waiter's eyes were almost coming out of his head. Mr Bellish let go of her arms and grabbed Joanna's head. Her nose... and her mouth. Forcing it open. 'Come one,' he rasped to the waiter. 'Two good spoonfuls.'

It made her gag. The dreadful oily fishy sensation filling her mouth. She spluttered... but Mr Bellish held Joanna's head back with a firm grip on her nose and forced open her mouth. She had no option but to swallow. There was no thought now for the fact that her gown was gaping wide, exposing her tits, her pussy, to the eager-eyed waiter. 'And another one,' dear Uncle George said.

The big brimming spoon came up again. Tipping into Joanna's open mouth. Some of it was spat out, onto the waiter's nice white jacket, but most of it had to go down. Uncle George let go of her. Joanna grabbed at her mouth. She was gasping, tears in her eyes. A strangled cry and then a stumbling, half-blind dash to the bathroom, the dressing gown trailing out behind her.

'You really didn't take that very well, Joanna. A rather indisciplined performance. Do you agree with that?'

Joanna swallowed and bit her lip. They were in the dining room. A table for two over in the corner with a view out onto the front. Mr Bellish had ordered. Joanna had half expected he might continue what he had started with the castor-oil. Order bread and water for her, to continue her humiliation. To make her cringe as she sat here. It was the same waiter, the one a little while ago in the room oblingingly spooning that gagging stuff between her lips. But Mr Bellish hadn't done that; he had let her choose.

'Don't you agree, Joanna?'

'I couldn't... help it. I just couldn't.' She could still feel it in her mouth. 'I was going to be sick.'

'But you should have done better. It's no answer to say you couldn't help it. It is simply weakness, isn't it?'

Joanna mumbled something. But there was no point in showing dissent; that would simply make it worse.

'I think we're going to need a little taste of the cane, my dear.'

Joanna rolled her big blue eyes. But it was no more or less than she could have expected. Mr Bellish — Uncle George — had caned and strapped her for less than this. At times for nothing at all. She squirmed her bottom on the chair.

'And I'm going to ask the waiter to do it.'

Joanna blinked. She wanted to scream out. That Uncle George just couldn't humiliate her in that way. But screaming in public, in a hotel dining room, would be a terrible offence. Her cheeks had gone bright red. A hissed, whispered, 'Please...'

Mr Bellish said, 'I shall ask him to take your knickers down and make sure you really feel it. Right after dinner I think.'

The waiter was coming over with the soup. Joanna fixed her eyes on the patch of dazzling white table cloth immediately in front of her. Seconds later the soup plate was placed there. That hand holding it had spooned caster-oil into her mouth... and was now going to be wielding Uncle George's cane. Because he meant it, it wasn't a joke. Uncle George was in one of those awful moods when he would do impossibly awful things to her. Things that were done in the name of discipline. He meant it. He was saying it to the waiter.

'After dinner if you're free I'd like you to come up to the room again.'

Joanna glanced up, face scarlet. Her eyes met the waiter's. He smiled. He was no doubt remembering her bare tits and pussy, and the strangled cries she made as that stuff was poured between her forced-open lips. And he was no doubt wondering if there was going to be something else like that.

* * *

Mr Bellish didn't beat about the bush. As soon as the man was in the room he told him. 'I want you to cane my niece for me. She did not behave at all well earlier. All that struggling and spluttering. Getting it on your jacket in fact. She needs a caning. And I don't really like caning her myself.'

That wasn't true; Mr Bellish was quite happy caning her and he did it often enough. He simply wanted the extra humiliation of her being caned by the waiter. 'Can you do that?' Mr Bellish asked.

The waiter looked confused but as the meaning sunk in his expression changed to one of excitement — as well it might. 'Yes. Of course.' He had a slight Italian accent. He was wearing an informal sweater now, not the white jacket. 'Yes. Of course,' he repeated looking hotly at Joanna.

She was wearing the same dress as in the dining room: form-fitting pale green jersey-knit material. But Mr Bellish had made her take off the slip and bra she had had underneath. Now Joanna had only a brief pair of bikini knickers under the dress. Their outline showed through; as did the outline of her bare nipples.

'I want her to really feel it. Can you cane her really hard?' Uncle George's voice was dispassionate, as if he were discussing how he wanted his steak done. The steak, though, was Joanna's bottom.

The waiter nodded, eager-eyed. 'Whatever you say. Young girls these days need some discipline, yes?'

'Yes they do. Joanna, lift your dress. Right up. Over your head.'

She was standing by her bed still not fully able to believe Uncle George would go through with it. But disbelief or not he was handing the cane to this man. 'Lift it, Joanna.'

The stretchy material came up, rather like skinning an animal. Inside-out and up over her head and raised arms. Her body trembling, nude except for the tiny bikini pants. Her bare tits sticking out. 'Now lie over the bed.' Mr Bellish's voice heard from inside the green-lit tent of the dress. 'Lie over the bottom of the bed.'

She was down on the bed and someone was pulling her knickers down. It was the waiter. Mr Bellish had gone to sit in the armchair, she could tell that from his voice. It was the waiter's hands on her, tugging her knickers down across her knees. Her bottom was bare and she could sense the waiter drinking it in with his hot eyes. And relishing the thought of the cane.

'Give it to her then. I want you to hurt her.'

Uncle George from across the room, his voice dispassionate as ever. A little pause... Joanna readied herself...


Her cry was muffled in the bed cover. The man had done as instructed; it was as bad as any Mr Bellish himself had ever given her. Like a knife slicing into the ripe crests of her buttocks.


Almost on top of the first one, and just as bad. Joanna opened her mouth to bite into the bedspread. Her face was wet. She was dribbling, or crying. Or both.


After four of them Joanna felt her dress being pulled down. Not right down, just to her waist. Her bottom was still bare: her red-striped quivering nates. But she could see now. The man. As Mr Bellish turned her face sideways. His hand came on her burning bottom.

'All right, Joanna dear? You're all right, aren't you?'

She made a sobbing sound. Yes she was crying.

'It's not finished yet, my dear. You've got to have some more. But I have to go out. I've an appointment to see a gentleman. I shall leave you here with Mr Tardelli. You're to do exactly what he says. Agree to whatever he tells you. Is that clear?'

What? What...? Joanna made another sobbing, choking sound. Her poor bottom felt red hot. And she was to have some more. Was that what Mr Bellish was saying? More of the cane.

'What...?' she managed. But he was going out. The door closing behind him. She was here alone with this man, the waiter. Mr Tardelli, Uncle George had said. As if to bring this home to Joanna he now sat down next to her on the bed, where Mr Bellish had sat. His hand came onto her bottom; like Mr Bellish's had.

'Your Mr Bellish says you are to have some more, Joanna. You heard him say it.' His voice was nervous, excited. As if he could scarcely believe this. The hand was fondling her bare bottom. His fingers sliding down in underneath.

Joanne gave a yelp... and the fingers pushed firmly in. Hard in between her warm thighs. 'I think you need something else as well as the cane, Joanna. Mr Bellish told me he thought you needed it.'

'No!' she yelped, all at once aware that he wasn't only talking about the cane.

The fingers came away. He smacked her still-hot bottom. 'Yes Joanna. First some more cane. And then something else that a young girl needs, eh?' He was all at once grabbing at Joanna's lowered knickers. Pulling them on down. Off over her struggling feet.

'Yes. First the cane,' he repeated. 'And then that other thing!'

* * *

Mr Bellish was away about an hour. When he got back Joanna was still lying on the bed, sprawled on her front. The light was off and the curtains closed. Without switching the lights on he went to sit on the bed next to her. Joanna's skirt was halfway down her thighs. Her knickers were lying on the carpet still. Mr Bellish's hand slid up under the skirt, to her warm bare bottom.

'Come on,' he said softly. 'Time for bed.' His hand gently caressed. 'You can come in my bed tonight.'

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Love's Rough Justice

Story from Janus 102.

Love's Rough Justice
by John Undermeyer

Time was, when a man could hang for stealing bread. But what if a beautiful woman could bear anything but his death?

THE Welcome Home Tavern was a favourite mooring for sailors. At almost every tide some newcomer humped a studded sea-chest up the inn's crooked stairs. Sailors made the place exciting. We never became used to their weird tattoos, missing eyes and legs, scarred hands and matted pigtails, and when they told of their adventures they mesmerised us.

For a few yards of ale, spiced with cloves and warmed with a glowing iron, they would entertain the table. But tonight we dined without Jack Tar. This was Saturday 24th April 1743 – our friend Doctor Timothy's birthday.

We finished the eggs, trout, jugged hare and mature Stilton. The port circled the table several times. We were all in our early twenties; all the marrying kind. The talk was lewd but mere bravado: only the Doctor had enjoyed a woman and none of us had a wife.

We laughed with, and thought what we would do to, the serving maids. But our dreams were of a mistress more highly-born. As high as the raven-haired, slender-figured Lady Katherine Tovey who lived in Plimpton Manor with her irascible father, Lord Joshua.

An only daughter, her mother ran off with Lord Joshua's younger brother when Katherine was ten years old. So shocking an event could never be kept secret in Longfield. But it had happened a decade past; Lady Katherine was now 20.

Gossip held that she inherited her mother's rebel nature but it was hard to believe when you saw her smile. When men stood agape, devouring her face and figure, she stayed all the time silent, unwilling to look them in the eye. Her father never knew her mind and watched her constantly.

Doctor Timothy wiped his spoon and tapped loudly on the table. He had a story for us and by the way he laughed we knew he had saved it for tonight. We settled down and, satisfied all were listening, he took a red, wet mouthful of Taylor's Reserve and began.

I was fortunate last week (he said) to be at Plimpton Manor. I am not often called there but Mrs Babbington, the cook, had an ague and Lord Joshua sent for me to examine her. I did so, and was riding off, when a mighty shout pierced the night.

In less than a minute I was back in the main hall. I saw Osric, the butler, with two other servants wrestling to hold an intruder. I was struck, at once, by the colour of the stranger's hair: it was straw-gold. The rest of him was formidable: well over six feet tall, his body in proportion, and he looked – until I threw myself into the fray – that he might win.

We struggled for several minutes and I received some unpleasant cuffs. Then Osric produced a pistol. Feeling this at his temple, the stranger knew better than to fight on. It was not until we had him bound to a chair that we breathed easily again. We stood close to him, gradually regaining some composure, until Lord Tovey hurried down the stairs.

A pace behind him came Lady Katherine, dressed as if she were going out. She wore all black: riding boots, high-necked dress tight at the waist and hanging to the floor, boots, cape and gloves. With one hand she was taking off her hat; the other still held her horsewhip. She looked tense and milk-pale.

Reaching the tied man Lord Tovey began an interrogation. The story that emerged astonished us all. The prisoner had come for one purpose only: to collect Lady Katherine. A pair of horses were tethered nearby. They planned to elope.

Her father whirled upon her, furious and frightened. It was as if history would repeat itself. I understood how terrible that would be for him. The girl glared back, defiant and unflinching. Yes, she meant to leave. Her father's regime, her own wilfulness and clandestine meetings with Christian (whom I guessed was the stranger) had made up her mind. She could not wait to be far from Longfield; wanted never to see Joshua again.

But his Lordship had other suspicions. He flung back her cape. Tied to her waist was her jewel box. He cut it loose and opened it. A pile of precious stones sparkled in the firelight. This was the truth of the matter: not elopement, but robbery. Could she not see, he raged at her, that she was the victim of a plausible rogue? The thief's interest was not in her, but in her fortune. He meant to ride to the edge of Longfield, steal the gems and make off.

Vehemently Katherine declared this was a lie. She loved this blond fellow and her love was returned. Her affection for him was easy to believe seeing his handsome face, square jaw, and full head of curls. But for the man: his ardour was doubtful and neither her father nor myself believed in it.

Lord Joshua signalled to me. Since my horse was saddled, would I ride to the troopers in Fairmile and bring an officer and cohort to take the burglar into custody? Let him rot in gaol, declared his Lordship. In a month he can be at the County assizes, before the circuit judge.

I was halfway to the door when Lady Katherine screamed. She ran to her father, hair flailing, and fell on her knees. 'Please do not call the troopers,' she implored him. Lord Joshua swore he would. The girl seized his hands, her lips pushing into his palms in supplication. Despite his fury the old man was embarrassed. But he forced back his pity and gave vent to his bile. Craven crimes had been committed: house-breaking, assault, abduction and theft. Possibly murder would have been next – who was to say Katherine would have escaped with her life? Someone must suffer: someone must pay.

Katherine was distraught and we were moved by her desperation. 'Can you not understand?' she cried. 'Robbery is a capital offence. With all of you to speak against him he must be found guilty. The judge will name the highest penalty. Christian will hang.'

We knew it was true. And, we began to muse, this blond Christian might well have meant to carry Katherine to his own home, there to make her his wife. If this were so, death was too severe a penalty. We had no doubt that even in this modern age, men went to the gallows too often.

Lady Katherine raised herself and begged her father to be lenient. If someone must suffer let it be her. Let her father bring her to heel. She would submit, be penitent and dutiful. She wrung her hands, beseeching forgiveness.

The old man blazed at her with his eyes. He turned to the prisoner and back to the girl. I could tell he felt some reluctance to be responsible for the fellow's death. Finally, after wrestling with his demons, he growled assent. Then, as if already regretting his lenience he roared, spun Katherine round and propelled her towards the stairs, a clenched fist and angry finger pointing her towards her bedroom.

When she had gone he turned back to the men. Osric and the others were to stand guard. The fellow must not be released. Perhaps, if Katherine was properly repentant, there could be a reprieve. But for now he must wait. Turning then to me, his Lordship bid me follow him upstairs. In the mood he was in it were well to have a doctor present.

I climbed the wide, creaking staircase a pace behind him, thinking as I went that if our destination were Katherine's bedroom, what should I do? True, I was a medical man, but I was of Katherine's generation and (unless she were ill) would never be allowed near where she slept. Yet I said nothing, but followed her father's clattering boots until he stopped at a door, paused fractionally then charged in, motioning me to follow.

The room was gloomy, with narrow windows that needed wash. Across one wall stood a giant four-poster surrounded by heavy curtains, open and tied back. The counterpane was embroidered damask, the sheets linen. Two goose-feather pillows were piled by the headboard. It looked old but comfortable. I wondered when the mattress had last been aired.

Six candles struggled to give us light. But there was light enough to see what I wanted to. Lady Katherine lay stretched on the bed. The outdoor clothes she had been wearing were strewn across the floor, her boots and stays slung on to a chair. She was naked and had not dared to slip beneath the covers. She knew that to appease Lord Joshua, she must not hide.

Her face was buried deep into a pillow and she had the cover clenched between her teeth. Her hands either side of her head also grasped pillows, kneading slowly, indicating her helplessness. When she felt us gazing she crushed her pelvis into the mattress, anxious to hide that part of her which I was most eager to see.

Her long black hair spread like silk across her back. Candlelight caught the upthrust of her buttocks which, I am sure, she squeezed tight in an attempt to feel more modest. From her bottom she flowed into trim thighs and slender legs. She was lovely, and she was weeping.

Lord Joshua motioned me to the far side of the room. I was to stand and observe but say nothing unless spoken to. I made myself inconspicuous, happy just to look. Katherine lifted her head, whimpered and began to tremble. I saw that her father had found her riding crop, which she had left on her dressing table.

He wasted no time. Katherine was prepared and the sooner it were done the better. He walked to the edge of the bed and satisfied himself that the girl was properly submissive. Then, deliberately measuring the distance between himself and that beautiful pale bottom, he clenched the whip handle tightly. The candles flickered, I caught myself licking my lips, Joshua took a deep breath. Katherine had only one thought in her mind – the prisoner downstairs.

Joshua's arm drew back. Nothing could stop what was about to happen. Lips tight, he drove the whip down. It travelled those few feet in a fraction of an instant, before burying itself into her delicate flesh with a sound like a wet cloth on stone.

From that moment, in the silence before the cry, it seemed that everything which had taken place, every move made, every word spoken, every thought in every head was pure dream.

The thief's arrival, the fight, Katherine's pleading and submission: it had been seen through stage gauze. It was vague, hazy, indistinct, not defined, not real. Certainly not real. It was too comfortable and unimportant to be real. It was mummery; actors in a play; nothing like life.

Only Katherine knew about life – life was intolerable. All her fine thoughts, imagined love, willing self-sacrifice, her unquestioned offering of her bottom to the whip – all this was folly. More: it was madness. Nobody who knew would do this. A stroke from a riding crop across naked flesh – only that was real. And that was so real, it was unbearable. Only one thing mattered after that. Only one thought burst into the mind. Only one desire, one desperate aim, one purpose.

She must escape; rise up and fly; soar like a bird into the sky, to freedom, to blessed release from pain. Her pain could not be imagined. It was comets colliding. Sunbursts in the night. An age before birth and after death. Arrows in the heart. Worse than childbirth. She could not bear the hurt that took her, never mind the hurt to come.

Katherine knew that if Lord Joshua faltered for a second she would leap from the bed. She could not bear another stroke. No matter that her Christian would dance on a rope. She would let him – nay, want him to, rather than allow the agonising horsewhip to lash her bottom again.

But before she could rise, before she could slip out from beneath her punishment, the second stroke came down. The whole room was awake now. The candles blazed like permanent lightning. The walls shrieked in silent suffering. Lord Joshua and I moved into a new dimension. We were dead creatures, with no notion of truth. Only Katherine knew truth: fierce, vibrant, searing, forever indelible on her mind.

I know why. Katherine did not rebel. Because as the third and fourth strokes came down she stopped wondering why she offered her bottom and remembered she was saving a man's life. So instead of twisting to escape the fierce lashes, she rose into them. She grasped the bedclothes and seemingly pushed her bottom up to actively greet the descending whip. She must overcome pain, and the fear of pain. Her punishment was simply justice, suffered to prevent a fatal injustice.

However deep the fire burned it would eventually be over. She would rise from the bed, walk to the window and, in time, be comfortable again. But if, instead, Christian was punished: the thought was worse than even this...

No matter that her face twisted like flames as she fought to be brave. She could bear to writhe under the biting crop. Tears were nothing. Cries and howls were a passing affair. The air sang, the breath left her body, the twin mounds of her bottom shivered as they absorbed the strokes. It was nothing compared to the rope that broke a man's neck.

Before the punishment ended all Katherine knew was that her body was a great light, incandescent in the gloomy bedroom, a torch that burned to save Christian's life. When her father and I left her she continued to shine, face deep in her pillow, tears soaking the feathers, struggling to still her body, grateful that she wept for an incomparable cause. When she looked from her window at dawn she wondered if the sun had come out watery in sympathy for her tears.

Lord Joshua's fury spent, he ordered the prisoner released and escorted to his horse. Christian must never return to Longfield. If he did, Katherine would pay and the second thrashing would be worse than the first. The flaxen-haired adventurer disappeared and whether he will return remains to be seen – I rather think he might. Because I know you will agree, gentlemen (the Doctor's eye went round the table fixing us all) greater love hath no woman.

The story was at an end. Doctor Timothy stretched, drew his fingers through his hair and scratched vigorously. He banged his spoon again on the table: who the devil had the port? – pass it at once. Then bid the Landlord refill the decanter.

Our dinner at the Welcome Home Tavern ended late but we left sober enough to find our homes and climb the stairs to bed. Under the sheets, each thought of Katherine. Each saw in his imagination the woman whipped to save her love.

It would not have surprised the Doctor to know that lying awake that night, each of his companions pictured a perfect young lady's incandescent bottom and held it in his mind. Then each took his own incandescent candle in his hands. And gently, unhurriedly, with long, firm strokes, each put out the light.