Events on Mothering Sunday

A row with her mother gets a girl into trouble.

By Jane Fairweather

In eighteen year old Elspeth Jackson’s somewhat prejudiced opinion, Mothering Sunday was a thoroughly annoying day. Long custom had decreed that the young maids at her parents’ house were allowed to go off for the day to their Mother church, where they had first worshipped and usually call on their Mothers and give them flowers or some other small present.

And her own Mama and Papa, of course, just had to let the older women servants go off as well, so there was no cook or assistant cook or maids, or any of the useful persons that did all those things that were normally done for her as a matter of course. This annoyed her particularly because at her best friend Genevieve Smyth’s parents’ house the older servants were excluded from the treat, so life went on much as normal, except the Smyth’s cook had to exert herself more than usual on Mothering Sunday, which must annoy her, Elspeth thought petulantly.

And to add insult to injury Mama and Papa regarded it as good training for their daughters to make up for the absence of the servants and practice their cooking. Charlotte, Elspeth’s younger sister who was genuinely interested in cooking, had prepared a very adequate breakfast of sausage, bacon and egg. Mama and Charlotte had prepared the lunch. It had not been too bad, Elspeth decided, but really the servants would have done it a great deal better.

And now Elspeth herself, the eldest daughter, who ought to be excused such things, found herself alone in the kitchen preparing Tea. Mama had said rather sarcastically that this should be just about within her limited abilities; but then as Elspeth was well aware she and her Mother had never really seen eye to eye. Mama indeed always seemed to go out of her way to disparage her abilities. Elspeth was genuinely proud of her abilities on a horse and always took a dashing part in the local hunts on her beloved Bountiful, but all her Mother could see was the danger. Every time Elspeth fell off, it was only Papa’s firm insistence that kept Mama from banning her oldest daughter from riding, but she had never really hurt herself. There had been a few bad bruises, but no broken bones, for she was quite good at falling safely.

She sawed ferociously at the loaf of white bread, producing, as she was well aware, far too thick slices, but then nobody had ever thought to teach her properly how to do it, and unlike Charlotte she had never cared to hang about in the kitchen with the servants learning things. She got out the butter, which was mercifully in its own pottery dish and still seemed quite soft from breakfast, so she did not have to do anything with it. Then she reached down a jar of black currant jam and spooned it into its dish. Finally she cut the seed cake. Her slices were, she decided, somewhat less even than Cook’s, but still they would do.

Then she started on making the tea, putting rather too many tea-leaves in the pot and wilfully forgetting to warm it. Then she slopped in water from the kettle, despite the fact it was not yet boiling, and put some milk into the milk jug, splattering some on the trolley as she did it. Finally she added cups and saucers and plates and some teaspoons and knives.

She started to trundle the tea trolley out of the room, convinced everything was going to fly off it. Then, when she was half way through the door, she remembered the sugar and had to go back and transfer the white lumps from their air tight jar into the bowl, dropping several on the floor, which she did not bother to pick up. Finally she pushed the laden trolley out of the kitchen into the hall, which mercifully had a more even surface.

At least the sitting room and dining room were adjacent to the kitchen. In her friend Genevieve’s house the kitchen was in the basement and they had to use a lift to get the food upstairs and then transfer it to the trolley, which Elspeth decided would have been beyond her.

Feeling rather flustered and blushing furiously, Elspeth guided her tea trolley into the sitting room where the rest of the family were waiting. She steered it towards her Mother so she could pour the tea. She paused, thinking Mama’s blue aesthetic gown with no crinoline was rather fetching and must make pouring tea much easier, if nothing else. She rather wished she had been wearing something similar while making the tea, for her white crinoline had got in the way quite a lot; no wonder the servants did not indulge in such elaborate clothes!

“Really Elspeth, you have got butter on your dress!” Her Mother snapped, “However did you manage it? You are so clumsy. It really is no wonder you are always falling off horses. What are we to do with you?”

Elspeth knew perfectly well that she ought to have said: “I am so sorry, Mama, I will try and do better.” And the matter would have been quickly forgotten, though knowing Mama’s fussiness she would almost certainly have been sent to change her dress. However, something in her snapped and she irrupted.

“How dare you talk to me like that! You are always trying to put me down! You made me get this tea even though I am no good at things like that. Why do we have to send the servants off for a day and pretend it is good for us?”

“Really Elspeth!” Papa said rather gently, obviously trying, not for the first time, to cool the ferocious tension between his wife and eldest daughter.

However, before he could say anything else, Mama had jumped to her feet and slapped Elspeth hard on both cheeks. This was not the first time this had happened and if Elspeth had been wise she would have accepted the chastisement and apologised, just as she had several times before. However, she was in a fury and she pulled her own right hand back with every intention of slapping her Mother hard, but Mama caught her arm and started to pull Elspeth in the direction of her chair.

“I am going to give you the spanking of your life. How dare you try to hit me,” Mama declared.

“I won’t take another spanking from you ever! I am too old! Why shouldn’t I hit you back; you hit me!” Elspeth screeched, now in a fury beyond reason and quite determined to avoid the spanking that had happened on similar occasions.

There followed a most ridiculous tug of war. Mama was not quite strong enough to get Elspeth to the chair and across her knee and Elspeth was not quite strong enough to escape her Mother’s powerful grip; and both quite shamelessly used their nails on one another in the intervals between the tugging backwards and forwards.

“Papa, do something! This is ridiculous. They are going to hurt one another.” Charlotte suddenly said.

“You hold your sister and I will hold your Mother.” Papa said very firmly.

To her annoyance, for she had really wanted to win this fight and preferably be the one to give the spanking, Elspeth felt herself having her arms pulled behind her back by her beefy sister and being forced back towards the middle of the room, where Charlotte held her very tightly indeed, though it was barely necessary as the fight had gone out of her.

Elspeth realised her Mother had been forcibly made to sit in the chair she had been trying to drag her daughter to. There was undoubtedly blood on her Mother’s right cheek, which was trickling down onto the white collar of her blue gown and her own left cheek felt as if it was bleeding. This had gone far too far and she felt deeply ashamed. Perhaps the best thing would be if she took the spanking she had so fiercely resisted. She suddenly felt as guilty as she had felt self-righteous before.

“I never, ever want to see anything like this again. It was most unladylike. Both of you behaved abominably. The only good thing is that none of the maids were here to see their betters behave so appallingly.” Papa stated in a quiet voice that was ominous in its fury. “Mildred, we will talk about this later. And as to you, young lady, you can go to your room, remove your outer garments and your corset and your shoes and stockings and then go and stand outside my study in just your combinations.”

Oh God, that meant not just a spanking, but a beating, probably the much dreaded caning she and Charlotte had avoided all their lives, unless it was some other less dreadful implement like a hairbrush or a slipper. But something told her, she decided, gulping at the thought, that she was going to get the cane; and she knew from Genevieve, who was really naughty and had endured it quite a few times, that it really hurt. Still, it sounded as if Mama was in for an earful. Having experienced her Father’s formidable tellings-off on a number of occasions, Elspeth felt almost gleeful at the thought of her Mother getting a lecture like a child. For a quiet man, her father could be very formidable.

“The maids aren’t here, she will need someone to undo her corset.” Charlotte was saying rather nervously as if she was not sure if she ought to be saying it. “But is it necessary for her to take her stays off?”

“Yes, I think so. Go with her, would you Charlotte, and deal with the dreaded female armour. I am going to go and wait for you in my study, Elspeth. Come and knock when you are ready.”

Papa rose rather sadly and strode out of the door. Mama, by contrast, was sitting in the chair crying profusely, in a world of her own. Elspeth stood rather irresolutely, wondering if she ought to say something, some sort of apology, but it seemed too late for that. She felt Charlotte tug her arm as if to hurry her along and felt slightly cross, but then thought perhaps it was best to get it over with. They walked up the stairs side by side to Elspeth’s room.

*         *          *

“He does not really need me to take my corset off; he could get at my backside even with it on. He is just trying to totally humiliate me.” Elspeth said with some feeling. She already felt very humiliated standing in her bare feet on the cold lino in her room.

“You don’t wear your corset anything like as tight as you’re supposed to. Are you sure your maid knows what she is doing?” Charlotte observed, beginning to fiddle with the strings at the back of what their father had described as ‘female armour’.

“He’s going to see rather too much with the split legs on these combinations. I will have to keep my legs tight together. Genevieve’s father lets her keep her chemise on when he canes her, though I think she has to take her drawers off.” Elspeth said, ignoring her sister’s comment about the tightness of her corset.

“Haven’t you got anything more decent?”

“No, I like combinations like this. It is much more practical for anything except getting thrashed, which mercifully does not happen that often.” Elspeth replied.

“Well, serve you right then for pushing your luck so far.” Her sister said sardonically.

“That is a bit much!” Said Elspeth, sounding half cross but grinning in spite of herself.

Charlotte eased the corset off her sister.

“I wonder if it really hurts as much as Genevieve says?” Elspeth suddenly said with a real shiver, realizing droplets of moisture were appearing in her eyes.

“Only one way to find out!” Charlotte replied. “Shall I wait for you here?”

“Yes, it would be kind. I hope he does not keep me waiting too long.”

*         *        *

Ten minutes later, Elspeth was standing outside her father’s study door waiting with increasing desperation for it to open. Her bare feet felt cold and her whole body was shivering as much with fear as with cold. She remembered Genevieve saying the waiting was worse than the punishment, and found herself agreeing. Oh God, how could she have got herself into a situation as silly as this?

The door suddenly opened. She found herself being led into the room like a child with a very tight hand on her fore arm.

“Bend over the back of that chair and hold the sides of it; and don’t move or there will be extra.”

At least she was not going to get a lecture, which was quite a bit, given her father’s ability to reduce her to a total wreck with words. She slumped over the back of the chair. She was tall for a girl, so it seemed a long way down to the seat of the chair. She clasped the sides of it as hard as she could, wondering how much of her bottom was visible through the gap in her combinations, and she pulled her legs as close together as she could. She realised she had not seen the cane and wondered where it was and what it looked like. Then she decided she did not want to see it and shut her eyes. She wished he would just get on and do it.

“Right, you have behaved unbelievably badly and I am going to give you six strokes of the cane. Are you ready?”

Six! Genevieve always talked of three or four, or occasionally five. This was going to be grim.

“I am so sorry Papa!” She exclaimed desperately.

“I did not ask if you are sorry, though I hope you are, but if you are ready. Are you ready?”

“Yes, I suppose so.”

The cane swished and whacked across the top of her thighs and it hurt like nothing she had ever known before and she felt a welt rise. It took her breath away so she could not even cry out. It was that first stroke that she really remembered for the rest of her life. The rest was much hazier, though very painful. The second and third strokes landed slightly higher in the crease between bottom and thighs and she found herself shrieking and blubbering. The last three landed on her lower bottom and arguably hurt very slightly less, but not enough to be significant. And then she felt on fire and stayed slumped over the chair blubbering.

“Now go!” Papa said with real anger in his voice. “And I never want to have to discipline you like this again. It is a horrible punishment to have to carry out and you are getting much too old for such things.”

She staggered down the corridor to her room where Charlotte very gradually managed to calm her down.

*         *          *

“So you really got six of the very best!” Genevieve Smyth said with genuine envy, two days later in the privacy of her own sitting room, “Papa always holds back with me because I am a girl. The most I have ever had is five ordinary ones and the marks usually go reasonably quickly, though it stings, and how. Can I see your marks?”

This took some rather involved re-arranging of clothes that lasted some minutes.

“That really was a caning!” Said Genevieve, admiringly running her finger across one of the weals. “You are still slightly swollen and the bruises are amazing. But did your Mother really get told off? It is the sort of thing Papas say they are going to do, but don’t in the last resort, because Mamas rule the roost when it comes down to it, you know.”

“I don’t really know, but Charlotte, who is as sensible as they come, swears that the night after I was caned, she felt restless and walked down to the kitchen to get something to nibble. She swears she heard the sound of a caning as she passed my parents’ room coming back. It does not seem very likely. I think Charlotte just heard what she wanted to, you know. But Charlotte had heard me being caned that afternoon. The window was open in my Papa’s study and apparently she heard it all, so she would know what a caning sounded like.”

“Oh Charlotte would have been half asleep and probably imagined it!” Said Genevieve firmly and tossed her long chestnut hair. “Still it would be interesting if it did happen. Your Mama has such a solid bum. I bet it was eight or nine strokes at least.”

“Oh don’t say that! Just the thought of it makes me shake.” Elspeth said with a good deal of feeling.

“Still it would have been very real justice if your Mama did get it as well as you. I bet she did.”

“I really don’t think it is likely and I most certainly would be grateful to change the topic.” Said Elspeth with distinct irritation.

“I wonder if she touched her toes, or bent over the end of the bed like I have to sometimes.” Miss Smyth remarked with a certain dreaminess.

Elspeth doggedly diverted the conversation to this weekend’s hunt and whether she would be up to riding in it, assuming she was allowed to go after having disgraced herself so completely. However, to her annoyance, she found herself being haunted by an image of a large naked woman, who might or might not be her mother, reaching for her toes while a large and flexible cane waited to descend. But she had not actually seen the cane, had she? So how did she know what it looked like?

The End

© Jane Fairweather 2017

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