A cabin maid makes a silly mistake

By Jill Waterhouse

Amy and June had both just turned 19 in the spring of 1914. Both had grown up together and worked at a hotel in Southampton as chambermaids until a fire ripped through the building one Sunday evening. Luckily, no one was badly hurt but the building was destroyed. Both applied for and got positions on a luxury liner plying the Atlantic on the New York run, and set sail for their maiden voyage in early June. The girls were super excited and were posted to deck 5, port side, first class. The hotel they had worked in was plush, but this was utterly lavish. They had 2 days to get used to the ship and the cabins before the passengers embarked and the ship set sail on the 6-day crossing to New York.

Amy was assigned to a 70-year-old dowager duchess, whilst June was assigned to a lord’s cabin, a man who looked about 100-years-old. They helped both unpack; the passengers arrived at different times, so by helping each other the guests were happily settled in very quickly. Neither of these guests were travelling with servants, but were meeting wealthy people in New York, so presumably they would be utilising their staff. The duchess was very demanding. His lordship, on the other hand, was a light-touch guest needing very little from June, who helped Amy when she was free with the demands of the duchess.

Two days into the sailing, the duchess and his lordship were to be guests at the captain’s table. His lordship dressed himself as, despite his looks, he turned out to be reasonably capable and agile. He had been a career soldier, so was well used to looking after himself. Amy helped as best she could get the duchess ready.

“The green dress, girl, the green dress!” barked the duchess.

“I’m sorry, madam, I don’t know which one you need.” Amy was getting upset as this had been going on for a couple of minutes. Three green dresses hung in the wardrobe and Amy had no idea which she wanted.

“That one, that one,” the duchess barked again, still being of no use to Amy.

Amy had an idea. She took all three out of the wardrobe and held all three within touching distance of the old cow.

“This one, you silly little girl,” she spat, touching the middle one.

Amy put the other two back and assisted her in slipping it on and fastening the hooks at the back. Next came the jewels.

“Something special for the captain’s table, I think,” the duchess said, rummaging through a 10-drawer mini-cabinet full of wondrous jewels. Perfect! This one,” she said, actually sounding pleased with something.

Amy helped her put on the necklace she had chosen, but obviously in a way that did not suit the duchess, who just tutted throughout. Finally, the finishing touch; an emerald and diamond tiara which Amy had to admit looked stunning with the dress.

“How do I look?” the duchess demanded.

“Well Madam, begging your pardon, but if I might make so bold, the captain will be inviting you back again tomorrow, Madam,” said Amy. Then, to Amy’s amazement, she got a smile from the old cow. Perhaps she was all show after all.

“Pass me my bag, please, and get me the door,” the duchess said more kindly.

“Yes Madam, certainly Madam.”

The duchess wafted out of the cabin.

June popped her head around the door.

“Is the coast clear?” she said, having seen the duchess leave. “Mine’s an absolute treasure, so grateful for anything I do. He is a true gent, he’s not put a hand on me,” she beamed proudly.

“Want to swap? Mine’s a right miserable cow. Though to be honest I think it might just be for show. Mind you, she’s loaded. Have a look at these.” Amy opened the chest containing the 10 drawers of jewellery.

“No, we shouldn’t be looking. You’ll get us into trouble,” said a worried June.

“Don’t worry, captain’s table goes on half the night, from what I saw last night.” Amy put on a pearl choker and held up the matching earrings. “Here, try this on for size.” She put a pearl bracelet around June’s wrist. At that very moment, the cabin door opened and in came the duchess.

“Have you seen my glasses, girl? What is the meaning of this? How dare you touch my precious things without my permission!” she barked angrily. Going back out the door, the duchess then shouted down the walk way, “Steward, steward, steward!” and the clatter of running feet came from around the corner.

Thinking someone had been taken ill, the steward ran at full tilt and nearly skittled the duchess over as he rounded the corner.

“There you are. What took you so long? These girls have interfered with my jewels, stealing them for all I know. I want them searched and punished,” the duchess demanded.

“Yes Madam, but I can’t do that. I’m a man,” he said, stating the obvious, but with good reason. If he laid a hand on the girls he would be in trouble. “I will get Mrs Price, she is head of first-class housekeeping. I will be back within the minute.”

With that, he legged it back the way he had come and, true to his word, 58 seconds later he appeared at the door. 20 seconds later, a flustered Mrs Price appeared also.

“What is the problem, Madam?” Mrs Price asked.

“What is the problem? What is the problem? For your information, I have caught these two rummaging through my jewels as soon as my back was turned. They could have stolen half of them, for all I know. I want them searched and punished,” demanded the duchess.

“I don’t know about punishment, but I will gladly search them for you, Madam” Mrs Price said.

June and Amy had already removed the items they had been trying on and given them to Mrs Price.

“Begging your pardon, Mrs Price. It was my fault. I was showing off and put those on for June and I put these on for myself.” Amy tried to keep poor June out of it.

“Either way, Colin, please leave whilst I search these two.”

Colin left and closed the door whilst Mrs Price thoroughly searched the girls for hidden booty. None was found, of course.

“Madam, they have nothing about their person that they should not have. Will there be anything else? If not, I shall get back to my duties.”

“I want these two punished for going through my things. I am dining with the captain, if I ever get there, so you can either resolve this situation, or I will mention it to the captain when I see him!” The duchess was not backing down.

Amy glanced at June and then at the duchess. “Madam, Mrs Price, I am truly sorry so for what I did. It was only me. I am happy to accept whatever punishment you see reasonable and fit, but not June, please. She was totally innocent. Mrs Price, would you please do as the duchess asks and punish me? Then the duchess can enjoy the rest of her evening and put this unfortunate mistake of mine behind her.”

“What sort of punishment?” Mrs Price looked at the duchess and then at Amy.

“A good hiding, of course!” snapped the duchess.

Mrs Price looked glum. She did not enjoy using corporal punishment, not even on her own two children when they were growing up. However, she could see Amy wasn’t going to argue. It seemed anything would be acceptable as long as June was kept out of the picture.

Mrs Price suggested a compromise. “Madam, I am satisfied that Amy is very sorry and in truth June, is an innocent caught up in Amy’s wrong-doing. I will therefore, madam, if it pleases you, punish Amy, but only reprimand June on this occasion. I will, of course, swap their two duties so your chambermaid for the rest of the crossing will be June. Would that be acceptable to you, madam?”

“Hmm,” the duchess thought. “Very well, time is getting on and I am keeping the poor captain waiting. Please go ahead,” agreed the duchess.

“June, you were very silly to allow Amy to decorate you with someone else’s property, and you should have refused to allow it. If anything like this happens again, you will both be put off the ship at the next port of call. Do I make myself clear?” Mrs Price was showing her teeth now. “As for you, Amy, wait there. I will be back in a moment.”

The duchess tutted and looked at her watch whilst Mrs Price hurried off down the corridor. She went to her office, unlocked a tall cupboard and fetched something she had almost forgotten was there, left by Mrs Briggs, her predecessor on the ship. She had in her hand a traditional hooked-handle cane, about half an inch thick and about 3 feet long. She swished it and tested it’s flexibility after all these years, and it seemed fine. Holding it behind her, she bustled off again back to the duchess’s cabin, knocked lightly and re-entered.

Holding the cane in front of herself now, and bending it for effect, more for the duchess than Amy, Mrs Price looked sternly at Amy. “I am sorry it has come to this, Amy, but you have agreed to be punished by me and I want the duchess to witness your punishment for your wrong-doing.”

Mrs Price glanced at the duchess, who smiled and nodded.

“Amy, I want you, with the duchess’s permission, to pull out the chair from the writing desk to your right and put it in the middle of the floor, its back facing you. Then, I want you to bend over the back of the chair, placing your hands on the side of the seat and to grip it tightly. I will then lift up your skirts and administer 12 strokes with the cane over your drawers.”

Mrs Price again glanced at the duchess for approval. She would have suggested 6 of the best, but she suspected this would not have satisfied the duchess’s desire for retribution, especially as only one girl was getting punished.

“Very well, Amy, please bend over as I have instructed you,” continued Mrs Price.

As she did so, Amy looked at the duchess with tears welling up in her eyes, and told her, “I am truly very, very sorry, madam.”

“Not as sorry as you will be in a moment’s time,” grinned the Duchess.

‘Cow,’ thought Amy again.

Amy bent over the chair back and took hold of the sides of the seat as instructed.  When she was in place, Mrs price stood to one side, bent slightly and took hold of the hem of Amy’s ankle-long dress to raise it up, along with the series of petticoats worn beneath, until her stocking legs began to appear. She raised it further until Amy’s stocking-tops and suspenders appeared, and finally her loose-fitting drawers. Once over Amy’s bottom and onto her back, Mrs Price held them in place using one of her own hair clips, then moved back to take up a better spot for the caning which was to come.

“Now stay still, Amy. This is going to hurt and hurt a lot. If you stand at any time, that stroke will not count and will be repeated. Do you understand?” instructed Mrs Price.

“Yes, Mrs Price,” whimpered Amy nervously.

“Very well, hold still”

Mrs Price swished the cane through the air with a couple of practice swings, then brought the cane to rest on Amy’s drawers and lightly tapped her bottom as she sized up the target. Drawing the cane back to shoulder level, the instrument of pain whooshed down and smacked into Amy’s pert bottom with a resounding whack.

“Ouchhh! Oh my goodness! Ahhh!” stammered Amy.

“Keep quiet, girl!” barked the duchess.

Mrs Price drew the cane back again, and the second stroke hit home.

“Oooh!” Amy tried to hold it in.

After six strokes, Amy was in real distress and was sobbing her young heart out.

“That is half way,” Mrs Price said as kindly as someone about to repeat the punishment already received could do under the circumstances.

Whoosh, crack.

Number seven cut across the pattern of the first six, as did numbers eight and nine. Number ten caught Amy low on the top of her thigh, and Mrs Price adjusted her aim to land the final strokes bang in the centre. Amy was barely holding herself together and, as the final stroke landed, she let out a sorrowful wail.

“You may get up now, Amy. You did very well,” Mrs Price said as kindly as she could under the circumstances.

Poor Amy stayed in that position for what seemed a long time to June. Eventually she managed to find the inner strength to stand up. Amy’s face was bright red, her eyes still tearful. Slowly, she pushed her skirts down and turned to face Mrs Price and the duchess.

“Once again, I want to say how sorry I am for what I did. It will never happen again.”

“Very well, you may go,” said the duchess, who had taken great delight in seeing this girl punished. ‘Served her right,’ she told herself.

June helped Amy back to their cabin. Once inside, Amy threw herself on the bed and sobbed her heart out as June tried to comfort her, but to no avail. However, after an hour or so, she had calmed down enough to allow June to examine the damage and apply some cream to ease the soreness. Amy held back a scream as June gently applied the cream to the stripes intertwined across her poor bottom. June then had some bad news for Amy.

“I’m sorry, Amy, we have to get back to work. Dinner will be finished very soon and I have to help the old cow, and you need to look after his Lordship.

Solemnly, Amy gathered herself together and tried to make herself respectable as best she could. The two girls hugged each other before getting back to work. Ten minutes later, both of their guests were back from dinner.

June closed the cabin door and assisted the duchess who behaved just as pompously towards June as she had Amy.  Meanwhile, his lordship was a little bit tipsy when he returned from dinner and had obviously enjoyed the captain’s brandy. It took him a moment to recall that the maids had been swapped over.

“Ah, you are Amy, my new maid,” he said, pleased that he remembered her name. “Yes,” he said, tapping the side of his nose and smiling. “You are the naughty one, aren’t you? Just had your bottom spanked for messing about with the duchess’s stuff. I haven’t got anything you’d like, I am afraid, but I would spank you myself if you did that to my belongings,” he said, grinning.

Suddenly, he landed a smack in the middle of Amy’s red, sore bottom. She let out a scream which scared his lordship half to death and brought June running. Quickly knocking, June dashed in to see Amy holding her poor bottom once more.

“It’s alright, June. His lordship just smacked my bottom,” Amy said through renewed tears. “I don’t think he realised I had been caned.”

“I am sorry, my dear,” his lordship handed her a handkerchief. “The duchess said the housekeeper had spanked you; she didn’t mention the cane.”

“Twelve across her drawers,” June filled him in. “Her bottom is in a real state.”

“My poor dear! Run along and get to bed. Try and get some rest. I am an old man who has had too much to drink, but I’m terribly sorry and I can get myself to bed. Go on, good night,” his lordship said.

Amy didn’t need telling twice. She thanked him and made her way to their cabin where she stripped off completely and lay naked on the bed, face down. Soon June joined her. Shaking her head at the sight of her friend’s badly marked bottom, June knew 6 of those stripes would have been on her own bottom if Amy had not stood up and taken them for her. June would be grateful for that for a very long time.

Luckily, the rest of the voyage went without incident and June and the duchess managed to get through the trip without the duchess finding too many faults with her work. As for his lordship, he was definitely on his best behaviour and felt very, very guilty for having smacked Amy’s bottom after she had been caned. He gave her his card and said if she ever needed a job in London and if he was still breathing, he would be delighted to employ her.

June had been correct. Aside from the smack on Amy’s bottom when he was tipsy, he had been the perfect gentleman for the whole trip.

The End

© Jill Waterhouse 2021