A period piece depicting attitudes of the Victorian Era

By Jane Fairweather

It all began quietly enough over breakfast.

Papa suddenly remarked (between ingesting a rather large piece of bacon): “Has anybody except me noticed this horrific style for young women? There was a piece about it in the Times yesterday.”

“Papa, you know I don’t read the Times!” Georgina, the daughter of the household, replied just a touch ironically.

“Well you should!” Her father snapped. “Then you would have something to talk about with young men at Assemblies and Balls. There has not been the slightest sign of you becoming engaged and the costs are getting very tedious. And I am weary of seeing you reading old books about King Arthur and Greek heroes! If you are going to read such things, I wish you’d choose a solid modern poet like Tennyson. There might be at any rate one young man who might prick up his ears if you started to talk about Tennyson, not that there will be that many of them. It’s not that I want you to marry a huntin’ and fishin’ type, you know, but you need to find someone, my girl, for the sake of your own future and I wish you’d get on with it. And quite frankly the boys won’t have read the old books and you will bore them stiff!”

“Really! Lord Tennyson’s Idyls are not a patch on Lady Guest’s ‘Mabinogion’ or Malory’s ‘Morte d’Arthur’.” Georgina retorted, well aware they were going through an argument that had been repeated rather too frequently in her opinion.

“Yes,” her father snapped. “But one or two of the young men you meet may well have read Tennyson, so it would give you something to talk about, and they are not likely to have read the older books. Really, Georgina, you do not seem to be making much effort to find yourself a husband.”

“Really, Henry, she is not even nineteen! Let her grow up a little. She is still shy of talking to a man, let alone marriage. It will all happen when she is ready and the right man appears.” Mother responded while Georgina wondered, not for the first time, why men meant so little to her.

“Anyway, what has so annoyed you, Papa?” Peter, Georgina’s twin, enquired, who was just down from Oxford for the Summer Vacation.

“Young women,” said Papa pompously. “Have taken, if you please, to cycling in garments that look remarkably like their knickers, or even men’s breeches, without a skirt, if you please.”

“Quite shocking!” Said Peter, trying to keep a straight face; he found the idea at once ludicrous and intriguing. With clothes like that, you would get to see the shape of a woman’s body through her clothes, which was just not done.

“Skirts are dreadful for cycling, even the slightly shorter ones that are meant to solve the problem.” Georgina stated firmly. “They tangle up in the bike chain and get soaked in oil. Still,” she added, bearing in mind Papa’s uncertain temper: “Everyone else would have to wear these new-fangled things before I did; I certainly would not want to do anything to shock the neighbours by wearing anything resembling men’s trousers or breeches, let alone knickers.”

“Oh go on, Georgie!” Said her twin. “You love cycling just as much as I do and your skirts are a flipping nuisance every time we go out. We’d get further and see more, and I don’t suppose people would mind when they got used to it.”

“Now you listen, both of you,” Papa roared, going into one of his furies. “If I find that Georgina has been exposing herself like this, making a mockery of herself and us, then she will have the cane, almost nineteen though she is. And as to you, Sir, if I find you have been leading her on, you will find yourself with a choice between a very sound beating and being cut off without a penny. Your sister making a good marriage is very important and anything that gets in the way is close to criminal, Sir.”

“Really, Henry, I am sure they meant no harm. Children, you had better apologise.” Mother cut in, pouring oil on troubled waters. Over the last two decades she had become extremely skilled at steering her husband away from thrashing her children.

“Father, I have no intention of wearing these things; I am sorry if I gave you any other impression.” Said Georgina demurely.

In fact, she was deeply angry, but the memory of her only caning was not a pleasant one, so she kept her anger to herself; her one and only caning was not an experience that she had the slightest desire to repeat.

“Of course I won’t lead Georgina on against your wishes, Father, and I am sorry if I gave any other impression.” Peter added.

“That is better. I accept your apologies.” Papa said graciously. “But, Georgina, I will be reading your dress maker’s bill with even more attention than normal.”

*         *          *

“Georgie, I am in a bind.” Peter stated as he and his sister walked arm in arm through the meadows behind their parents’ house a couple of days later.

“Well, brother, I don’t spend anything like all my allowance, so if a few pounds would help then you can have it. I know you Varsity men all run through your allowances and more.” Georgina replied with a fond smile on her face.

“No, it is more complicated than that. I am in love, Georgie, and I need a chaperone, and you would just about do. I am thinking of a picnic at Hurlestone Woods and my girl’s parents will never let her go so far from Oxford to meet a man without one. You can chaperone Sarah and I can chaperone you. It would be a fair ride, twice what we normally do, but I have not got the money for the train and, anyway, Sarah is brilliant at cycling, so she will get there. No offence, Georgie, but she’s a better cyclist than you and you’re pretty good. Besides, if we go cycling Papa will think nothing of it and I don’t want him knowing about Sarah till he has to. He won’t like it; she’s got barely a penny to her name. Her family are respectable but poor; her father writes essays and stuff for the papers and magazines, but he makes very little out of it. Besides, if we meet in woods miles from anywhere nobody will know what goes on, so you can just go through the motions of being a chaperone and not be too hard on us. You are always such a brick, Georgie! Please say you will do it, Georgie dear!”

“So the Lady is called Sarah, is she? Do I get the impression that you would rather like some time while I look the other way?”

“If you do not mind, Georgie, I would be most awfully grateful.”

“I suppose she does know about babies, does she?” Georgina asked brutally and abruptly.

“I imagine so.” Peter replied, blushing scarlet.

“As long as there is no question of a baby I won’t say a word, but I will make sure she knows how to stop one appearing. I don’t want to be responsible for anything like that. Another fair maiden got with child by a gentle knight is not a good idea, whatever happens in the old stories. I think that is the least I can do as a chaperone. I am surprised more people don’t think of it. But I will turn a blind eye otherwise.”

“Georgie, you are a brick!” Said her brother.

“I just think it is unnatural for young men not to make love to their girls like they always do in the old stories.” Georgie responded almost demurely. “But one has to be so careful of the consequences. Anyway, I have been wondering ever since you came back after your first term if you’d been doing something with somebody; you look different, not that Papa or Mama seem to have noticed.”

“Err, yes.” Her twin said vaguely, too embarrassed to admit that he had experimented with a number of lower class girls who were willing to make themselves available for a few shillings, before Sarah came on the scene and only Sarah had used contraception.

“How far is it?” Georgina asked.

“About twenty-five miles, possibly slightly more.”

“I will never make it in skirts.” Georgina declared. “They will tangle the chain and it will break yet again. You’d better order me some of those things Papa was complaining about. You can use a postal order and I will give you the cash. Papa always looks through my dress statement to see I am not being too extravagant but I have never known him look at my ordinary account. There is always a first time, I suppose, so I’d better not write a cheque; we’d better keep it strictly cash.”

“Alright, but where will you change into these new-fangled cycling things? You cannot do it here in the house. I think Papa really might cane you if he thought you had defied him over it, not that you can ever tell with Papa, but I would not like to be responsible for you getting it in the neck, Georgie dear.”

“I’ve been caned before, if that is what you mean by that ridiculous expression ‘getting it in the neck’,” Georgina observed with almost unnatural calm. “As you well know, and it is extremely humiliating and painful, but I think this is worth the risk and if I have to take a caning I am quite sure I can. All for Love as they say.

“Anyway, we can dive into that wood by Hidben’s farm and I can slip my skirt off going and put it back on when we come back. I will leave my petticoats off and hope nobody notices I haven’t got them on, which will make it easier. That wood is at least three miles down the road so, with luck, the news I am disporting myself in my knickers will not reach here. If it does I will just have to take the consequences and grin and bear it. That road by Hidben’s farm is the way you are thinking of going, is it? If not, then I am sure we can think of some other fairy glade where I can metamorphose. I am going to enjoy this; it sounds a real adventure, and really, brother, in our parents’ house life is so dull, especially with you away at College half the year.”

And so it was agreed.

*         *          *

They had been fortunate with the weather all day and it was a lovely, sunny, windless early evening. Home now was only about seven or eight miles and the general tendency of the road was downhill. Although Georgina was tired with pedalling for what seemed a very long time, her cycling bloomers had made it a lot easier and she was feeling intense pleasure in her rebellion.

“You were a brick to let us just get on with it.” Peter broke in on her thoughts rather unnecessarily, then added very embarrassedly with the air of someone saying something that he was not sure he ought to say: “I hope you did not mind all the noise when we got so carried away; it must have been very embarrassing for you.”

“No, I did not mind, and anyway I got out of ear shot of you love birds pretty quickly, so I did not hear anything very much.”

She did not add that, in fact, though she had not looked, she had lingered close enough to listen and found it strange and exhilarating to hear two human beings in such a state of possession.

“Good!” Said Peter rather less than convincingly; he had always been brought up to believe that girls from his own background were, by definition, disgusted by sex and he was more than slightly bewildered that his sister was not expressing at least some disgust at his and Sarah’s wild behaviour.

He almost felt she should have done something as a chaperone to rein them in, though he had to admit she had asked the sensible question. Georgina, in her role as chaperone, had quizzed Sarah very sensibly about whether she had a sponge to insert in her vagina, or anything else to prevent conception, and though not how it was normally done he had to admit it was not a stupid way for a chaperone to carry out their duties.

“I thought Sarah was extraordinarily pretty and very sensible.” Georgina said approvingly, thinking of Sarah’s giggle when asked if she had some contraception with her, which mercifully she had. A lot of girls would have taken exception to being asked that.

He stuttered his thanks for her approval and they lapsed into silence. Georgina pondered her own very complex emotions. Had she had fulfilled in her duties as a chaperone, even though she had deliberately failed to do as chaperones were supposed to do and stopped them making love? Ought she to be proud of her originality in dealing with an age old problem, or guilty for breaking the normal rules of society?

The noises coming from the lovers ought to have been disgusting, according to the whole way she had been brought up, but the noises had made her so intensely excited. Oddly, while the love making was going on in the background, she had kept imagining kissing Sarah’s dimpled face with its ebony hair and had half wished that it might have some reality, but she was rather puzzled what to make of that.

She wondered if Peter realized she had accidentally come back fifteen minutes too soon at least and seen the lovers naked in one another’s arms and more or less asleep. That had been very beautiful, especially Sarah’s very full breasts and lovely white belly, though she found it hard to know why it had been Sarah’s body that had interested her so much more than her first view of a naked man. Anyway, she had wandered off again and pretended it had not happened.

“Less than an hour to home,” she thought to herself as they passed the narrow stone bridge over the river that had often been the limit of their expeditions in less adventurous days. And then it happened. In retrospect she always thought it had something of the quality of the Greek tragedies she occasionally read in bad English translations, and she sometimes managed to persuade Peter to read little of in Greek to her, which she loved the sound of.

One of the new motor cars came too fast round the bend of the country lane, tossing up dust from the surface of packed down pebbles and coming straight at them. Both she and Peter took evasive action and ended in the ditch.

The car stopped and a man she recognised as Colonel Fulford, late of the Indian army, and one of her Father’s neighbours rushed up.

“Dreadfully sorry, my dear girl, what a thing to happen. And you, Peter, what a thing to happen. I am really sorry. Are either of you hurt?”

They both said they were alright, though Georgina, for one, had bruised her right knee. They were about to rapidly mount their bikes before the colonel noticed what Georgina had on when they heard the sound of another voice asking anxiously if they were really alright. It was Papa. To be fair, he did not make a scene.  He just said in a very level tone that there was something he needed to speak to Georgina about and since they had met in this unexpected way he might as well ask her now, if she would be kind enough to come and see him in his study at nine o’clock. She of course was agreeable, though she shivered as she gave the expected reply.

*         *          *

“Aren’t you frightened of the cane?” Peter asked her very seriously as the colonel’s car passed them for the second time, bearing Papa homewards to prepare whatever punishments were coming.

“Of course I am frightened of the cane, but not as much as I am afraid of you letting something slip that lands us both in it. Just stay stumm, you stupid boy, and let me deal with it my way.”

“Make sure you have your thickest winter drawers on, won’t you?” Peter half commanded and half begged, sounding quite distressed but also, to Georgina’s mind, a touch ridiculous.

“Of course I will!” She retorted, feeling anything but brave, but quite determined to see the thing through for her brother’s sake, though she more than half wished he would be brave for once in his life and take the blame, even if it was more or less impossible on this occasion.

*         *          *

“Well it is five to nine. You’d better get off with you and get it over with.” Mama said briskly.

Georgina and her mother had been sitting together in the drawing room for what Georgina knew to be only just over forty-five minutes. The rest of the time since her return home had been spent in a brisk wash and a change into more respectable clothes. She had put on a single petticoat and a fairly thin skirt, calculating that if her clothes were not too obviously a barrier to the cane then she might at least be spared the embarrassment of being punished on the seat of her drawers.  She was well aware, however, that this was probably a forlorn hope, so she had also put on her thickest winter drawers as her brother had so sensibly suggested.

The session with Mama had not been easy and had seemed to go on forever. And it did not help that all the time her mother was going on at her she was reliving the horrible agony of her previous caning. Mama was livid with Georgina for defying her father and at the same time upset that her daughter was in for a thrashing at such an advanced age. She kept saying in the same breath that the punishment was going to be extremely well deserved and she wished there was an alternative. In between this, the telling off went on and on till Georgina could have screamed. She almost walked out to get the caning over as soon as possible. However, she had the sense to realize that this might be interpreted as yet more defiance and bring consequences of its own, so she stayed and had the joint evils of wearing ridiculous attire  and defying her father ferociously drummed into her.

As she sat listening to all this, she began to feel extremely repentant about her failings as a chaperone. What if the beautiful Sarah was pregnant despite the contraception? Would it be her fault, or was it what happens between men and women who are deeply in love and as such it must be accepted? This was not helped by the fact she could not say a word about what she was really repentant about, though she kept murmuring she was terribly sorry for defying her father. And all the time the pins and needles in her legs got worse and she simultaneously cursed her mother for being kind and letting her sit down for her lecture and imagined that her legs were rebelling against having to walk to the study and cursed herself for a coward.

“Oh, get off with you, and let’s hope you learn your lesson.” Mama finally said, more or less repeating herself.

Georgina had genuine trouble persuading her legs that it was in their best interest to stand up. When she finally managed it, her heart began to pound and her legs still felt very odd. She stood, hesitating slightly, hoping desperately for forgiveness and remission of her punishment. She really did not want to go through another caning; the first had been quite bad enough.

“Get off with you!” Her mother said again, now sounding extremely exasperated, “You’ll live. It’s not something I am very proud of but I managed to get a whipping at your age for calling your grandmother names, so don’t think you are unique, or I don’t know how embarrassing it is at your age. I can tell you that with authority. Your grandfather was very good with a birch rod on the bare flesh, incidentally, so I doubt if you are going to suffer any more than I did. And looking back, I think it was very salutary. I wish you’d stop hanging about as if you expect to be let off at the last minute! I expect a daughter of mine to take her punishment and don’t think I won’t come and hold you if I have to. So get off with you! How many more times do I have to say it!”

“Where is Peter?” Georgina asked, suddenly realizing she had not seen her twin since they had met Mother in the hall, grim-facedly waiting for their return. She had been sent to change before she was lectured and punished, so she had no idea what had happened to him. Had he already been lectured and beaten by Papa?

“I sent him for a walk before he started blathering on and trying to take the blame. I could see he was going to. It would be grossly unfair if he got punished. I know you two of old; you have always been the one to think of the naughty things.”

“Yes, you are right. It was my fault completely. I am glad you did not let him own up.” Georgina said.

She took a breath and walked out of the room into the hall. She noticed it was cooler here than in the drawing room, which had caught the last of the sun and had been altogether too hot. She walked up the stairs; to her relief she realized the pins and needles had almost gone. She paused on the landing before walking the last few feet to her Father’s study and the second caning of her life.

“There are worse things under the sun, like Peter being thrown out without a penny,” she suddenly said under her breath. She consciously held her head up. She was determined that she was going to take this punishment without any fuss. She was, after all, guilty of something serious, even if what she was being punished for was slightly ridiculous. Anyway, it would soon be over.

She knocked on the door and it opened. She went in. She noticed that Papa had taken his jacket off and rolled his shirt sleeves up, which seemed ominous; she did not remember the rolled sleeves from the previous, very painful occasion. And the cane on the desk was longer and thicker than she remembered. She shivered in spite of herself.

“I am not going to jaw you.” Papa said quietly. “I am sure your mother has already made a very efficient job of that and I think it is unfair to go on too much, though I will tell you that I am very disgusted by your deliberate deceit and defiance.”

Papa’s voice was alarmingly quiet. Normally he shouted when he was angry and there was a certain play acting. This horrible calmness must mean he was really angry with her.

He picked up the cane on the desk and swished it in front of her face. She gave a whimper in spite of herself. She gritted her teeth to stop it happening again.

“Now I would like an apology.” Papa announced.

She gave it as fully as she could, wishing she could make a clean breast of her failure as a chaperone and very deliberately exonerating her brother from any blame.

“At least you are honest enough to admit responsibility and not try and blame your brother, which I am sure a lot of girls would do, though I do wish I was more certain that your brother was not involved.” Papa stated in the voice of the magistrate that he was. “Now we had better get on with your punishment. You are going to be well caned. However, if you feel your brother deserves some share of this punishment, now is the time to speak up.”

She paused awkwardly. She was very aware she would like nothing more than for Peter to take some of her punishment. Anything to reduce the agony that was coming! Perhaps they would get off with four or five strokes each? The six she had endured on the previous occasion had been absolutely dreadful. But she had given her word to Peter that she would take the punishment and she could not go back on that. Besides, she was convinced she deserved to be severely punished for her failings as a chaperone, regardless of anything else. Anyway, Peter was quite capable of saying something disastrous.

“I will take your silence as meaning you wish to take the full punishment.” Papa was saying with slight regret in his voice. “I am going to give you a baker’s half dozen, seven of the best in other words. I was thinking of giving you four each if you had been willing to blame your brother for leading you on, which I at least suspect is the case, though your mother disagrees as usual.”

Papa paused, obviously hoping for a response.

“No, I am not going to say anything against Peter. He did not do anything. It was all me. Can we get on with it please?” She blurted out.

“Very well. I am sorry to have to ask you, but how many petticoats have you got on?”

“Just one.” She said blushing.

“It seems disgusting to have to ask, but I need to ask so I can get your punishment right. Are you wearing those divided pantaloons some girls go in for?”

She wondered how he knew about such things and decided there were quite probably things which her father would rather that her mother did not know. Did her father have a mistress? It would be interesting to know, but in all probability she would never know; such things were never talked about. But certainly Mama would never wear anything like that. She decided, not for the first time, that she would not object that much if her father did have a mistress.

“Well?” He queried. “Are you wearing them, or not?”

“No, I’ve got the drawers on that I wear in the winter.”

“Which are pretty thick, I imagine. No doubt you donned them in preparation for your come-uppance. I am divided between telling you to take them off so you get whacked with your skirt and petticoat on, which I suppose is at least decent, or you can have it on the seat of your drawers, which will probably give you more protection.”

“I will take them off.” She said blushing furiously. “It will be less embarrassing for both of us. Turn away please.”

She was slightly surprised and relieved that he did as she asked. Her fingers were shaking, so it took an annoying amount of fumbling under her skirts to remove the far from elegant garment, which had been patched in a number of places. For want of anywhere else, she put the drawers down on the seat of the armchair that she had bent over once before and she was pretty sure she was going to have to bend over again.

“You can turn round.” She said, feeling this whole thing was taking an eternity and it would be an infinite relief to get it over.

“Good girl!”

She felt him take her arm and walk her, not to the armchair as she had expected, but to the end of the old sofa. He pushed her abruptly over it, so her feet were off the ground and her arms on the seat of the sofa. She felt her soft petticoat tighten uncomfortably across her bottom as her skirts were pushed unceremoniously between her legs.

“For what we are about to receive!” Georgina thought to herself blasphemously.

However there followed an almost unbearable pause. She consciously, and rather absurdly, distracted herself by wondering whether Mary Queen of Scots had minded that much about having to step out of her gown to be beheaded, which had intrigued her since she was quite little. Perhaps Mary liked showing off her scarlet petticoats just before she died?

But then the cane swished and whacked its way through her skirts as if they were not there and deep into the flesh. She felt her whole body jerk. She waited for the wave of pain that she remembered from her previous punishment and sure enough it arrived and she felt tears pouring from her eyes. There was a distinct pause during which she was sure she could feel a huge welt rising across the middle of her buttocks.

Swish and whack went the cane, slightly lower down this time and she found herself kicking her legs about and thrusting her hands up to cover her buttocks. She felt her father grab her small hands in his large left fist and bring the cane down even harder at the base of her buttocks. This time she could not help herself and she shrieked, much to her annoyance.

Only three strokes and she was kicking wildly and yelling and the welts were rising inexorably; she was going to be very sore indeed. Perhaps she should have gone for the embarrassment of being punished on the seat of her drawers? But the embarrassment would have been considerably more and the pain would probably not have been a lot less, she decided during what she realized was a short respite. Probably Papa did not want the embarrassment of her yelling her head off.

She found Sarah’s dimpled face floating in front of her eyes and, for some reason, started to think of her very brief embarrassed glimpse of Sarah’s large breasts and white belly, and wondered why she had found them so attractive.

The cane descended on the upper part of her bottom. For some reason it did not hurt quite so much, but she could feel another welt forming and her whole bottom was excruciatingly on fire. She had her doubts if she was going to enjoy sitting down for the next couple of days, though she would make herself do it, she decided fiercely. The fifth stroke bit very low and she started to make some very odd noises and feel some very strange things as the image of Sarah became even more intense.

“Last two.” Said a voice that she barely recognised as her father’s.

The sixth stroke sizzled down with merciless efficiency across all the previous welts and she shrieked at the top of her voice, though she also seemed to lose all control of her hips.

Her father seemed to wait for her to calm down slightly. As she waited she imagined clutching Sarah against herself. It seemed to comfort her a little.

Down came the final stroke. It was just as bad as the sixth and cutting the other way across the previous welts. She pulled Sarah to her in her imagination and tried not to shriek too loud.

Her father left her to weep across the end of the sofa for some while. Eventually, she staggered to her feet and eyed her father, who was standing in some bemusement, having put the cane away.

“I can go, can I?” Georgina asked very nervously.

“Yes, of course you can. Your punishment is over and the matter is closed. It is strange, Georgina, do you realize you and your brother have both had the cane from me twice and yours have been the more severe punishments, but you have made less fuss on both occasions?”

“Is that true?” Asked Georgina, genuinely intrigued despite her burning bottom and continuing tears.

“Yes, perfectly true. I suppose it reverses the old idea that girls are fragile things and boys aren’t, but never mind, I expect you want to go to your room. You can come down for supper if you want, but I expect you would like some privacy after your punishment. I will send Cook up with a sandwich if you like. I don’t mind you eating in your room, for once.”

“No, I will come down to supper.” Georgina said almost fiercely, though she knew the effort of pretending everything was alright when her bottom was burning so much was going to be almost too much.

Still, if she could find something to rub in, or put some cold water on, it might help. She resolutely picked up her drawers and strode out of the study, reflecting that one way and another she had well and truly saved Peter’s bacon and one day she was going to cash this debt in. Did it matter she had failed in her duty as a chaperone? She felt that cane had burned away her guilt, even though her very real failings as a chaperone was not why she had been punished, which was very odd!

The End

© Jane Fairweather 2017   To view Jane’s Amazon Author Page:  click here