A little passion can lead to unexpected consequences
By Jane Fairweather
Susannah was supposedly in charge of the younger children, who were busy scaring away the birds from the small strips of corn that represented the villagers’ bread for the next year. The corn was not quite ripe, but the neighbouring rookery (not to mention numerous pigeons and a multitude of other smaller birds) had every intention of gathering it before the villagers could.
“It is a real responsibility and today it’s yours and all your scatty eighteen years.” Her Mother had told her. “Don’t you dare let your attention wander, or your backside will pay for it. For that matter it would not surprise me if Sir John has you at the whipping post, if you are really negligent, and a well striped back is not funny, my girl. You will feel it for weeks.”
Susannah had listened with a twinkle in her eye. Her mother had a hard hand and was frequently willing to use it, but Susannah had experienced the hard skin of her parent’s palm descending on her buttocks from a great height so often that she was almost past caring. Indeed as she got older she found something almost gratifying about it. Her mother was always saying that Susannah behaved better for a spanking; but, thought Susannah to herself, whether she behaved better because of the very real pain of the punishment, or this sensation she had afterwards of deep, if temporary satisfaction, was a very good question.
Anyhow, a session at the whipping post was out of the question. Only Sir John could order it, and Sir John smiled whenever she passed him, and made jokes (or were they jokes?) about Susannah’s face being the rising sun of his life. A lot of girls would have hated that, but Susannah rather liked it. But anyway Sir John was a kind man, and as far as Susannah knew nobody from the village had been whipped in all the years he had been Squire and Magistrate.
The only exception had been that band of beggars, when she was about ten, who were total strangers and most certainly not from this village. They had looked real cut throats. And there had been nasty rumours of robbery and murder they had done in the other villages that had not stood up to them.
Sir John had them seized, and two men (who were horrible looking men, really villains, Susannah thought) were sent up to the assizes to answer charges of murder. And they had swung for it, she had heard, though some said they were sent to Virginia as slaves. Or whatever they called it, but it sounded like slaves to Susannah. Anyway she liked the thought of the two men swinging from a gallows after leaving the cart, not that she had ever seen a hanging, but you could imagine it, couldn’t you?
What she had seen was what had happened to the rest of the beggars, three more men and four women. The whole village had turned out for that. The four women looked as villainous as the men that had been sent to the Assizes for Virginia or the rope, and she had enjoyed that the most. Big biddies, all of them, but they had had not half squawked when they were tied to the post and their backs were bare. And then a session in the stocks. Susannah remembered the pleasure of pelting them with mud and rubbish. Sir John had forbidden the use of stones, saying it was a punishment and not a death sentence, which was a pity; but probably it was fair enough Susannah supposed now she was older. And then the whole gang had been sent on their way, with their backs sore and welted, for some other village to deal with. Something in Susannah rather hoped they ended up at the tail of a cart next time. That must be quite a punishment! A lash for every couple of steps you took.
However, in the immediate, the younger children of the village were making an enthusiastic job of chasing the birds from the corn, and Colin Paxton, who she had known since they were little, was proposing the little ramble into the wood that she had already half promised she would join him in. She knew he would want a kiss and cuddle, and she was not sure that she was quite ready to let him, at least yet.
She felt a little bit guilty about leaving her job, but Phyllis and Elizabeth were fourteen and fifteen, and sensible enough, so she went over to them and asked them to keep an eye on the other children for a little while. They smiled in a way that suggested that what Susannah had in mind would take rather longer than a little while, but they agreed to it.
So Susannah and Colin went off, arm in arm, into the wood. They chatted happily enough, not least about the tyranny of their parents, which they both resented. If they had children they would both be kinder to their children, they decided. It worried Susannah, though, that Colin had a look in his eyes which suggested he would not mind the children being hers and his, whereas she was thinking about the matter in general and for the time at least wanted no fooling. She felt her opinion was at least half justified when he very shyly tried to kiss her but he did not take it too badly when she pushed him off.
Then they went into a conversation about religion, which was not such an odd thing to be chatting about in the village of Scoreby in 1638. Sir John was an Anglican. As a gentleman and magistrate and representative of King Charles in far away London, it would have been impossible for him to do other than uphold the National church, which Queen Elizabeth of glorious memory had founded to put paid to arguments about religion by letting everyone do pretty well as they would. But that had not stopped the Catholics, who wanted their own priests and Latin rite, or numerous little bands of Puritans, or the Presbyterians who wanted a church like the Anglican, but done their way, from all wanting something different.
Susannah, for one, did not like Presbyterians or Puritans. The ones she knew of had no respect for any religion other than their own, and they seemed against kissing and cuddling and such things, from the little she knew. As the daughter of an Anabaptist mother she particularly distrusted the Presbyterians. “Live and let live,” she thought, which in practice was what the Anglicans did, so far as she could tell, though how even the Anglicans would take the men of her sect not wanting to fight in a war she was not too sure. But then, what war was likely to happen?
However, Sir John was a sensible man who valued the good opinion of his village, so he politely ignored the existence of the little group of Anabaptists who met in a carefully whitewashed mud cottage that Farmer Makin let them use. All Sir John asked was that once a month or six weeks everyone came to the Anglican Church and sat through a service. Colin was all against this and said they should stick to their own way of worship, and why should the Anglicans tell everyone else what was right? Susannah gathered this was really what Colin’s father thought, though she did not say so. Rather, she asked what harm was there in going to the Village church once in a while?
For herself, she liked the solemn beautiful English of the service and it was worshipping the Lord, whatever way you did it. However Colin grew very indignant at that and said it was only the threat of a fine that his father could not afford which made his family come and sit in the back pews of the church, whenever Sir John sent a hint through his steward, Master John Miles, that he could not turn a blind eye any longer.
“Well and if you sat closer to the front you might hear more and enjoy it!” Observed Susannah, knowing as she said it that it would annoy Colin.
“You are well on the way to being a Papist!” He responded indignantly.
“Anglican is not Papist!”
“Yes it is, with their big words and their candles and graven images. What is the difference, except they don’t have any Latin? And anyway they are all for the King and the big nobles. Ordinary people count with Kings in the eye of God. And it’s the kings and nobles make the wars and us ordinary folk that get killed in them.”
“You talk big Colin Paxton. You’ll get yourself hanged for high treason, talking like that! Or in the pillory, or at the whipping post!”
Then Susannah threw a handful of dust in her would be lover’s face and ran off laughing; she wanted to see what Colin would do when he was really mad with her, but she only realized that when it was done and she was racing away from Colin’s angry cries of: “I’ll get you for that,” in odd delight and rather pleasurable fear.
So they ran through the wood. Colin was solidly built, but short, and had far from huge legs, so could not run like some boys. Susannah was tall for a girl and had long springy limbs and even with her skirts to lift up she was faster than Colin. It struck her after the first few hundred yards that if she wanted to be caught, then she had better slow down. But did she want to be caught, the more rational frightened side of her said. Colin was really angry and shrieking he was going to teach her a lesson and swearing in a most un-Colin like way.
If she had not been having this inner argument, Susannah would have seen the fallen tree trunk. Instead she fell straight across it and got a mouthful of grass, and badly bruised her shins. She was in the process of pulling herself up and resuming running, when Colin pounced on her, picked her up bodily, put her across his knee as he sat on that so convenient tree trunk, yanked up her skirts and brought his hand down ferociously on her right buttock.
“You’ve no right to spank me, Colin Paxton.” She protested rather less than convincingly, for she was in fact quite keen to see how hard he would spank her.
“I have, when you throw mud in my face. You are for it, my girl. Either you take it from me, or I will tell your Mother and from what you tell me she will be harder on you than me. You don‘t want her big stick on your shoulders do you! And I bet she would get it out for this!”
Susannah doubted if Colin would let her go if she said she preferred him to tell her Mother. Anyway, with her legs off the ground, and her hands clasped ferociously by Colin’s large left hand, it was impossible to struggle, so she gritted her teeth as the slaps rained down slowly and methodically, and much harder than she was expecting from Colin, who she had always thought a bit soft. However she was used to it and it took a good while before she reached the undignified point where she had to plead.
“Please Colin, no more!” She cried out repeatedly, but it was no use. He really could spank, she decided just before the tears started to flow, and she’d better apologise. “I am sorry, I am sorry, I am sorry. I should not have thrown the mud.”
Rather to Susannah’s surprise and a little to her chagrin, the spanking stopped. She slipped off Colin’s knee and lay on her face for a second in the wet grass. Then she gave a chuckle and observed: “You really can spank harder than my Mother.”
“Can I?” Said Colin awkwardly. “Sorry, I got carried away. You made me so angry.”
She felt awkward at his awkwardness. “I will walk out with you again, if you ask me.”
“Really? I thought you would not, after that.”
“I would rather you showed your anger than held it back.”
“Most girls would not say that.”
“I am not most girls.” She rather shyly leaned over and gave him a full kiss on his mouth, which tasted good.
“Come on, lets get back to the others. We’re running out of time, people will be asking where we are.”
She realized she was not ready to do more, just yet.
Colin’s mood of masterfulness seemed to have passed. At any rate, he let her take his hand and lead him out of the wood to where the other children were still bird scaring.
Elizabeth and Phyllis, who they had left in charge, gave them a sardonic look. They were probably imagining all the noise had been about her losing her virginity and Colin and she would soon be off to church. They would probably be quite shocked if she told them she had just had her bottom smacked really hard and she had enjoyed it. She realized she was just getting to the point of glowing nicely, which she always liked. She asked if anything had happened in her absence.
“Nothing much.” Said Phyllis.
“Except for those gentlemen.” Said Elizabeth, who was younger than Phyllis.
“Oh yes, there were a couple of gentlemen with a lot of servants and some soldiers, who were looking for the Hall and Sir John.”
“Did they say what they wanted with Sir John?” Asked Susannah, feeling strangely uneasy.
“They said they were from the Archbishop, or something like that.”
Why would men be coming from the Archbishop to see Sir John? She knew vaguely Archbishops were important and mattered to the Anglicans for some reason. However, it seemed time to go home, so she dismissed the other children and walked off in the direction of the village with Colin.
As she walked, she had a feeling of a great storm coming. Was her Mother going to have her much threatened big stick out to lace her back? It had never happened yet, but Susannah knew her Mother well enough to realize that her back would be well laced and she would get very little chance to protest her innocence, if it was thought she had given her virginity away casually. Village gossip being what it was, her Mother would almost certainly know she had been in the wood with Colin. If her Mother did not approve of Colin there could be a punishment and a half coming!
But strangely Susannah was far more frightened about these strange men from the Archbishop. She felt there was a great storm coming. And yet, in between her fears, she kept wondering if Colin would get another chance to spank her. She would definitely like that. But why this feeling that her world was coming to an end?
To view Amazon Author Page for Jane Fairweather: Click here