A niece needs bringing back to order
By Susan Emerson
It was when Madame de la Rougierre came to me the third time that I relented. Twice before she had come and reported on Sarah’s work and progress. “She doesn’t obey me …….. She is lazeeeee.” Madame rang out. “She needs to be punished … she …….. she ….. thinks she is too old.”
And again on the Tuesday night a week or so later she sought me out in my study and complained: “Sir I am sorry to interrupt you again but we must discuss your niece – she has again been rude to me …… what am I to do? I know you surely care for her but discipline is required. Please allow me to deal with her – it is for her own good.”
Sarah had been sent to me a year before at nineteen years old after leaving her boarding school. Her parents, who had been abroad working in the Colonies, had left her under my charge until the age of twenty one with instruction that she was to continue to be educated by school or a Governess.
In a small Yorkshire village a good teacher was quite hard to find but eventually Madame de le Rougierre was the one Governess I found after discreet enquiries. She was forty or so years of age and a spinster, as was often the case. She had worked in England, I had been told, for some ten years and seemed reasonable. A balance was to be had with an older girl to educate – or so I thought. Not that I had any experience! In fact I did not have that much interest in Sarah’s education at all – I only took her on to please my brother.
I was busy with my own matters and, as far as I was concerned, Sarah needed to get on with her learning. Madame’s pleading to me recently however had become an irritation. I had spoken to Sarah in private after Madame’s second visit to me.
“You know Madame is cross with you – twice she has pleaded to be permitted to punish you. What am I to do!?”
Sarah looked at me longingly. “Oh, Uncle Silas, she is wicked – she is so cruel to me and I do work her for her in the schoolroom.”
“Sarah it’s no good, I will not have you say that against Madame. She is a fine teacher for you. I have your best interests at heart and I will be forced to agree with her if she comes to me again. Perhaps you do lack discipline! How were you dealt with at school when you were disobedient?”
Sarah looked down again. “The mistress had a rod Uncle – but I was good. She only found fault with me twice – and that was years ago when I was young. Many of the girls she beat with her cane each week – the bad ones – but I wasn’t like that.”
“Well see to it that it’s the same here Sarah – Now go girl and behave …… and remember you are nearly a woman but if I have to punish you ……. I will”.
“Yes Uncle.” Sarah spoke quietly and retreated from my presence.
And so life continued in my house. I saw the girl briefly in the morning over breakfast before I went about my business in the village, or in my study at the house. Madame de la Rougierre had created a schoolroom in one of the large old bedrooms and taught Sarah there in the mornings, leaving her private study in the afternoons.
That Tuesday evening I sat reading some papers in my study when there was a knock at the door and Madame entered. She was a thin woman – dressed entirely in black. “Yes Madame – what can I do for you?”
And she began again to explain of my niece’s behaviour. “Are you sure Madame – she seems a good girl to me – and she’s all but a woman – surely her conduct can not be so failing”.
Madame explained in her high pitched French voice her tiredness at Sarah. “Sir ……. she will not do what I say – to learn my lessons – to study as I ask – or even conduct herself as I suggest. She lacks discipline – you are too lax – I have always used the rod on my pupils – she is not too old – it will save her.”
I looked at her and wondered – perhaps she was right. Sarah had seemed reasonable to me but maybe she was a little strong minded in lessons.
“It will hurt but only for a short time and then she will be obedient.” Madame continued: “I have respected your wish not to punish her until now – but I must insist now.” She paused and looked at me afresh, “………. or I will have to take my leave”.
I pondered. Madame may be right – it was no good Sarah being pleasant to me if she was rude to her Governess.
I spoke: “Right …….. alright …lshe will be punished ……….lbut I will undertake the task. Go and fetch her now and bring her too me. I will tell her I will deal with her in the morning so she has time to consider the matter herself. And I will need a rod!”
“Yes sir, shall I prepare a birch from some wands in the garden for you to use? I could let them soak over night to ensure they are supple for her??” Madame replied.
“No, not on this occasion.” I wondered: “I have seen Mrs Wood selling rattan canes for schools and parents in her general shop in the village. I shall send Sarah there in the morning to buy herself one – that will emphasise the issue to her I am sure. Right go and fetch her for me now!”
A few minutes later Madame returned holding Sarah’s wrist. “Let me go ……… I’m coming ……. let me go!” pleaded Sarah but Madame’s resolve was set. She said nothing but smiled at me.
“Let her go,” I ordered. Madame released her and closed the door behind. “Sarah …………… I explained …… not a month ago that Madame de la Rougierre was unhappy with your behaviour. Again today she has come to me concerned about you.”
Sarah stood looking at me pleadingly, breathing hard. “She has asked that you be punished and you know that I told you if this happened again I would not prevent that.”
“Uncle ..no…nooo.“ She cried. “Its not fair …… she is cruel.”
“Silence,” I barked, “I will be the judge of this matter. Tomorrow morning you will go to the village store run by Mrs Wood. You will tell her that I require a cane – one suitable for me to punish you with – you will buy it and bring it back to me here. Is that clear?”
“No ..no … please …….. I will be good ……… Don’t make me do this,” she pleaded.
“It will be as I say Sarah – you would be wise to accept the situation or I will revert to the birching Madame suggested I give you.”
I looked at Madame behind Sarah and she smiled at me before turning and leaving the room.
“Go to bed Sarah – consider you ways before I punish you tomorrow!” Sarah turned wet eyed and left without word.
That night I pondered my task. I had never had to punish before. I wondered how I would perform it, and indeed how my niece might react. I would need to be strong however – there was no point turning back on my resolve now.
And equally so in Sarah’s room. I saw candlelight under her door at gone ten in the evening. Inside she lay awake unsure and frightened at what was to go on in the morning. And rightly so I thought.
I let Sarah and Madame breakfast by themselves in the morning before my niece was sent out for the half mile walk into the town.
I saw her head down the drive from the library window and then summoned Madame to make the arrangements.
“I suggest that we deal with the matter in here, Madame. You will attend and assist only as I require if you please. On her return from the shop have her prepare herself in the bathroom and then bring her here at eleven o’clock.” Madame smiled at me “Yes Sir – I will do just as you ask – and thank you for taking on this difficult task.”
In the village Sarah walked on the opposite side of the street past the shop so nervous at what was before her. She peered inside but could not see anything and so headed across – taking a final deep breath she opened the door. To her great embarrassment Mrs Wood stood at the counter not alone, but with her own daughter Helen just behind. A similar age to Sarah she helped her mother with the store and little else. They were talking but fell silent at Sarah’s entry.
“Good morning Sarah – how nice to see you – we don’t often!” said Mrs Wood.
“Good morning to you and thank you Mrs Wood”
“So how can well help you this morning – it’s usually your Uncle’s maid that collects any goods we supply!”
Sarah looked around trying to find something desperately to distract her.
“My Uncle – he ……… he has asked me to come. He wanted me to buy something.”
“Yes Sarah – can you not tell me what is required?” Mrs Wood enquired.
Sarah stared at Helen who just smiled back.
“Mrs Wood, may we speak in private?” Sarah blurted out.
“Why? I don’t see why, my dear, but if you insist I will send Helen away!!”
She turned and without saying anything Helen disappeared quietly out of the back.
Sarah took an enormous gasp of breath and, looking at Mrs Wood, spoke softly. “My Uncle has told me that I am to buy a cane from you to be punished with for my failings.”
Mrs Wood’s eyes opened wide. “Ah, so that’s why the cat’s got your tongue Sarah. I can see your shame now! Come here.”
Mrs Wood walked round to the shop front area and then to a chest of drawers at the side of the room. “Come here Sarah,” she commanded. Sarah stepped over and stood by Mrs Wood’s side.
The drawer was opened and Sarah saw it was full of canes. Mrs Wood rummaged inside and examined a couple before bringing two out and placing them on the top before them. “Well Sarah these are the ones Miss Moore uses at her school and I’ve sold quite a few to parents in the last month or so. They’re a little thinner than the rest and I think that’s better with a girl to deal with. Or indeed a lady like yourself!”
Mrs Wood held the first cane and flexed it. “Yes Sarah this will hurt you plenty, but you should remember that many have had much worse – your Uncle I’m sure knows best. I’ve not had to cane Helen for nearly a year now but this is the one I’d use. Long, thin and smooth.”
And so Sarah had to pay for the cane and, entirely unable to hide it, walk out of the shop after politely bidding Mrs Wood a good day.
I waited in the library after seeing Sarah return up the drive and enter the house. I paced up and down at the prospect of the task before me. It seemed like hours until I heard steps in the corridor outside and the door opened revealing Sarah with Madame behind holding the cane.
Sarah did look her very best – her long mousey hair was fixed up tidily on her head but her face was scared. She wore her navy-blue dress she had for lessons. A tight body from the neck down gave way at the waist to full loose gowns. Madame, however, was in her usual black! A black blouse and long straight black skirt – it seemed she had worn little else since her arrival in my home.
Madame closed the door and stood by it while Sarah looked at me sheepishly as I stood in the large open area at the centre of the room.
“Right Sarah – you were warned and failed to take heed. I am going to punish you now. You will be wise to take it humbly and without ado. You are quite old enough to take punishment without fuss. The rod will sting you with its bite but it is nothing more than you deserve. It will hurt but not forever.”
I stepped to Sarah’s side and took her wrist. I led her to where there was more space. “Right stand here” Sarah followed weakly. “Do as I say now Sarah – bend over for me, right over.” She looked up at me with a final look of sorrow as though I might crumble in my resolve. “I am waiting now”.
Slowly Sarah bent forward where she stood. “That’s right, but right over,” I ordered. She reached further still her back stretched down and her loose gowns were pushed into the air. I nodded at Madame and she stepped forward reading my thoughts. She placed the cane on the table and, standing by Sarah, she gathered the hem of her skirts and raised them up her legs and over her bottom till she pushed them onto her back.
Sarah shivered slightly at the cold air on her legs which were now stretched tightly from her ankles to her broad hips. Her plumb bottom was clad in bloomers now also stretched tightly from her back to mid way down her thighs. Madame looked at me again wondering whether I required those removing as well. I shook my head knowing that they would offer scant protection from the cane. The site of Sarah’s exposure made my own heart beat fast – she was taking this well I thought.
Madame de la Rougierre walked round and stood by Sarah’s head placing her right hand on the neck and with her left taking hold of the gathered skirts at the small of her back thus steadying Sarah.
I turned and took the cane. It was strangely cold in my hands – and so hard yet pliable in length. I swished it in the air a couple of times and Sarah heard, unsure whether they would signify the start of her ordeal.
Standing then by her left hand side I rested the cane squarely across the centre of her bottom. The room was deadly silent.
With a swoop I took the cane back and swung it towards my niece’s upturned bottom. The swish whistled through the air followed by a sharp crack as it cut, indenting into the white cladding. Sarah heard the swoosh and felt the cane cut her as she screwed her eyes together. She drew a sharp breath of air before a burning sting cut right across her. I heard her and watched intently to gauge my stroke.
I paused a few moments and took the cane back again. Firmly again I drew it though the air to her, cutting an inch or so lower than the first stroke.
Again she gasped as the existing stinging was doubled freshly. Madame looked at me, eyes wide open as though to encourage me on. She nodded.
I waited again and then.
“Ah hhhh.” Sarah weakly cried as the stroke fell horizontally onto the lowest part of her bottom.
Silence filled the room once more.
I waited but less time now.
The strokes were now falling on the tenderest part of Sarah’s bottom and across the tops of her thighs.
She rocked and shivered, trying to throw off the mass of pain eating into her. “Nooo please,” she began to beg. “Ahh ohhhhh.” She tried to turn to look at me, but Madame had her firm in a vice like grip.
“Take your medicine Sarah – you should have thought about this when misbehaving for your Governess. I’ll show you that you’re not too old to be punished.”
I took the cane back again and delivered.
I had to be strong to break the will of the girl.
Sarah began to struggle, to squirm. Madame now re-gripped her pupil’s arm and pulled her more firmly against her legs.
The cries between each stroke now melted into a moaning sobbing.
“AHHHHHHHH HH. Ohhhhhh. Nnnnooooooo.
The girl was punished and I knew it …….. I paused though and delivered one final sharp stroke from height, which fell skimming into her bottom to cause a really loud cry.
I stepped back quickly and nodded at Madame. Sarah remained bending but unable to stand still.
“There, dear, it’s over – now stand up for me.” Slowly and awkwardly she rose, brushing hot wet tears from her cheeks and, as her skirts fell back down over her legs, she could hardly stand still squirming still at the intense pain but with no release.
“Good Sarah – you have taken your punishment. Now you will know exactly what to expect next time you disappoint me. Apologise to your Governess now before me.”
She looked up wet eyed at Madame and babbled out. “I’m sorry ..I’m very sorry, Madame. I’m very sorry.”
“Right Sarah – you may go – you will spend the rest of the morning in your room but we will see you for lunch at twelve thirty sharp. Go now.”
Hardly pausing, she fled the room. Madame looked at me “Oh thank you Sirrrrrrr…you have done a difficult job, but now she will learn I am sure.”
“Well thank you Madame de la Rougierre ……… and tell me now – was this how you were punished for your failings?” I flexed my cane before her bending it into a full arc. Like my niece I don’t think you are too old to be punished!!”