Justice: A Novella

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Another erotic story from the FLOGMASTER!

Copyright 1985-2016 by the Flogmaster. All Rights Reserved. Free distribution via electronic medium (i.e. the internet or electronic BBS) is permitted as long as the text is _not_ modified and this copyright is included, but _no_ other form of publication is allowed without written permission. This document _may_ contain explicit material of an ADULT nature. ***READ AT YOUR OWN RISK!*** Anything offensive is your own problem. This story is for **entertainment** purposes only, and it does _not_ necessarily represent the viewpoint of the author or the electronic source where this was obtained. All characters are *fictional* -- any resemblance to real people is purely coincidental.

Justice
A Novella in Nine Parts

(*****, F/F, Severe, servant discipline, FF themes)

FM's Masterwork. A real novella of over 37,000 words. This tells the story of a female servant whose new mistress turns out not only to be extremely strict, but to have a mysterious secret in her past. (Approximately 37,092 words. Originally published 1996-01.)

Table of Contents

Part I
Part II
Part III
Part IV
Part V
Part VI
Part VII
Part VIII
Part IX

Part I -- Arrival

(*****, F/F, Severe, servant discipline, FF themes)

FM's Masterwork. A real novella of over 37,000 words. This tells the story of a female servant whose new mistress turns out not only to be extremely strict, but to have a mysterious secret in her past. (Approximately 37,092 words. Originally published 1996-01.)

I arrived at the DeMarcco mansion in late August. Summer was already fading into fall as winter comes early in such a northern province. I found the castle cold and dark and foreboding, despite the presence of the Master, who was young and handsome and extremely wealthy. He and his pretty bride were renowned for their lavish parties and generosity, and anyone in the country, including the Duke of Kennington, was always pleased to receive an invitation.

I viewed my change of employers as a tremendous advancement, for a recommendation by the DeMarcco's would secure me a position anywhere I wanted. I felt eminently grateful to dear Molly Wells for recommending me, our childhood disagreements forgotten and forgiven with this single generous gesture. Had I known the true nature of her generosity, however, I would have rewarded her face with a slap from my palm.

On just the third day in my new position I had the opportunity to witness for myself the situation I had instilled myself into. It was a cold, blustery morning, with a touch of fog settling over the hills. I had started a fire in the kitchen before dawn and was helping the cook prepare the breakfast when I heard a shriek of pain and horribly angry voice shouting.

I glanced at the cook but she continued her work unabated, and I looked nervously behind me as the sounds came closer. The door burst open and to my surprise it was the Mistress herself who entered, her sleeping garments covered with a thick robe, cruelly dragging a weeping, red-faced girl by the earlobe. I recognized the girl as one of the chambermaids, Mary, by name. She was rather vapid and dense, if I recalled her correctly, and smitten with one of the groomsmen.

The Mistress strode angrily into the kitchen and ordered the cook to fetch her "the strap and be quick about it!" The cook obeyed instantly, heading across the room, while the pitiful girl began to wail and beg for mercy.

"Shut your mouth you lazy whore!" scolded the petite lady, her black eyes flashing brightly with arrogance and fury. "How dare you enter your Mistress' quarters without knocking!"

"But I _did_ knock, Ma'am," sobbed the girl. "I knocked three times, and loudly, too, you _must_ 'ave 'eard!"

"The impertinence!" screamed the Mistress, her mouth shaping into a snarl that distorted her graceful lips into something quite repulsive. "How dare you call me a liar! You shall get the cane for that! Cook! Bring me the cane instead of the strap! This sorry thing needs a taste of real discipline."

The cook obeyed, replacing the just removed strap back on its hook and returning with a long, white, crock-handled cane, slightly bent from years of use. I watched, petrified with terror, as the cook handed this terrible instrument of punishment to the furious lady who took it in her hands with a look of relish that frightened me beyond motion or thought.

I'd never been beaten by an employer before, though I knew it was an accepted practice. My last Master had been an old gentleman in Furth, and while once, when I was much younger and wilder, he had he threatened me with a dose of the leather, I had never given him cause to use it. As I child, of course, I'd had my share of whippings, and I had seen children in school take the cane, it had always frightened me beyond belief. I watched helplessly as the Mistress took the weeping girl and bodily shoved her across a counter and lifted the girl's skirts up and took down her knickers.

The caning was mercifully brief but unendurably cruel. The Mistress must have delivered a dozen cuts across the backs of poor Mary's legs and half that again across her bared bum. None drew blood but many came close, leaving huge red weals that looked fit to burst at any moment.

"Now go stand in the parlor until after the noon meal!" ordered the Mistress, licking her lips and panting, and I watched with horror as the sobbing girl lifted herself and awkwardly managed to walk out of the kitchen, tightly clutching her skirts up to keep her backside on display. I was later to discover that she was to stand like that, buttocks and legs bared, during the entire course of the noon meal, so the Master and his guests (there were some at almost every meal) and any passing servants could witness the girl's disgrace and humiliation.

"And just what work are _you_ contemplating so intently?"

I awoke from my stupor to discover the white tip of the cane pointing at my nose, the snarling face of Mistress DeMarcco glaring at me with undisguised fury.

Gulping with haste I raced back to my duties, performing them with such rapidity and motivation that the Mistress seemed pleased and mollified, and I had never felt such relief as when I heard her order the cook to replace the cane on its peg. My whole backside tingled with feeling as I worked, my heart pounding just at the thought of that cane striping my bottom. It terrified me beyond words. My hands trembled as I worked, tears swelling in my eyes. There was no way I could possibly endure such humiliation. If such was the standard practice at the DeMarcco estate I should have to leave immediately. I resolved to ask the Mistress about it later, when she had calmed down and was in better spirits.

It was a full two days later before I was given the opportunity to talk to the Mistress. In the meantime, I was kept impossibly busy, running errands for the cook and assisting the housekeeper. At the end of the second day I was exhausted. I had never known that I could work so hard and I've been working since I was nine years old. I'd been in charge of an entire household, with a dozen servants at my command, and yet I found it difficult to keep up with even the Mistress' menial laborers, most of whom I discovered had been employed by the DeMarccos for years, and were apparently used to such a pace. I had never seen maids of such energy and stamina. When I mentioned this to the cook, a harsh but well-respected woman, she warned me that my lack of initiative was sure to earn me punishment by the Mistress.

"Surely not!" I cried out in distress. "Have I not performed my duties adequately?"

"Aye," she whispered, her eyes warning me to keep my voice down, "but the Mistress, she don't care for adequate; she demands perfection. She insists her household staff perform beyond the call of duty." I redoubled my efforts at those words, determined to make a good impression on the Mistress, rising first and going to bed last.

Another chambermaid was flogged by the Mistress that evening, for what I never heard, though rumor said it was for the failure to dust beneath a large vase mounted on the Mistress' mantel. Thankfully I was spared the watching of the punishment as I was stationed in the kitchen that night, but I could hear the sound of the lash, and laughter and jeers of the guests mixed with sobs of pain on the part of the punished maid. Terror swept through my soul and I trembled and dropped several pots, earning a thorough scolding and threatening by the cook.

The next day I was ordered to make an appearance before the Mistress.

Though I desired to speak with her regarding my position, I was now terrified. First, I was uncertain as to why she had asked to see me. Had I committed an offense? Was there a grave error on my part that required punishment? Second, I was unsure how to approach the woman and ask to be let go. I had been thinking about this since I had witnessed Mary's caning and resolved to leave, and now I was hesitant to depart. Where would I go? I had no other prospects. Surely I couldn't expect a fair recommendation from Mistress DeMarcco after just three days!

Thus, chewing my lip with nervousness, I approached the Mistress' chamber door with great fear and trepidation, my heart in my throat, the throbbing making it difficult to breathe. I knocked. There was silence. I knocked again. And then a third time. My nervousness was now manifest by physical perspiration. I had overheard Mary, the evening of her caning, whispering and grumbling to another maid that she had indeed knocked many times and very loudly too, but that the Mistress had obviously ignored her specifically to gain an excuse to punish her. Under no circumstances could I open that door of my own accord.

I knocked again and again and waited. The waiting made me frantic, and tears of frustration came to my eyes. This was woefully unfair of the Mistress. How could she be so cruel? Didn't effort and a willingness to serve have any meaning for her?

Suddenly the doorway opened before me, and there stood the Mistress. She was small and dainty, as I have mentioned, and as pretty and pale as a delicate flower. Her long dark hair fell in waves over her shoulders, a select few curls escaping to descend across her face, giving her a wild, unpredictable look. Her face was slightly puffy and round, eyes large and oval, the pupils black and sparkling, her nose thin and narrow and just a shade too pointy. Her lips were beautiful, thick, lush, graceful curves that when they blossomed into a smile melted your heart and brought a blush of inadequacy to your face.

There was something familiar about her face, a haunting feature, something reminiscent of someone I once knew, but I could not place it. I thought at first she resembled my mother, or one of my cousins, but on a closer look I saw those similarities were only superficial, like the color of her hair. There was something deeper, something crucial, but I could not see it, only sense it, and it frustrated me.

Her body overflowed with feminine vitality. Though she was petite, it was only her frame that gave this impression, her slender arms and slight height. Her bosom would have been impressive on a large woman; on her it was magnificent. Her waist was naturally narrow, her hips just as naturally wide and curved. I could not see her legs, but from what I had witnessed of the woman's energy and the way she carried herself, I had no doubt her legs were short and stout and extremely fit, for she was an active woman, always scurrying, always moving.

Undoubtedly the Mistress was a striking and attractive woman. Physically, no doubt, she could arouse any man. But it was equally obvious her personality distorted her features to such an extent as to make the body almost unusable. Even now, as she stood before me, eyes cold and hard like glittering stones, her mouth did not smile but formed an ugly thin line, like the edge of a knife. Her body swelled with the promise of youth and physical pleasure, and yet she marched like a statue, glaring and cold, and silently seated herself before me, watching me with those dark, impenetrable eyes. I trembled, waiting, wondering.

For a long while she said nothing, her eyes staring at me, a tiny curve on the edge of her lip showing me she enjoyed my discomfort, my terror. Then she spoke.

"So, Miss Janey, what excuse do you have for your appalling performance in your duties these past few days?"

The question caught me by surprise. I stared in astonishment. I opened my mouth but no sound emerged. I was silent.

"No excuse, eh?" she growled. "Good. I abhor excuses. They mean nothing and excuse nothing. Performance is what counts, my dear. I realize you are new to the DeMarcco estate, Miss Janey, and I am prepared to grant you some tolerance as you learn to adjust to your new position, but I will _not_ have you shirking your duties and promoting laziness among the other maids!"

My heart seemed to have stopped beating during this speech. My mouth was completely dry and an earthquake could not have provoked motion to my feet in that instant. My mind could not even function. To say I was stunned would be a gross understatement. For the past three days I had practically exhausted myself to death for this woman, rising an hour before expected and going to bed an hour after the scheduled time. I had done the work of three women, scrubbing and washing and fetching until my legs and the backs of my hands ached and my eyes were throbbing with pain. Twice I had forgone meals in order to assist the tasks of others who were less capable than I, and several times I had caught and corrected the mistakes of others. And now, after all those sacrifices she dared to accuse me of sloth and incompetence!

A slow, dull burning began in my belly, rumbling dangerously. Heat came to my face and wrath filled my body. Trembling with rage I glared at the petite, self-satisfied woman before me. In that instant I knew I hated her. I knew that she delighted in breaking people, in making them submit to her by whatever method would work, and in my case nothing I could ever do would satisfy her, because that was exactly the gratification I sought, the fulfillment I needed. She was playing with me like a I was a little doll, nothing more than toy to be tossed aside when the amusement was over.

"How dare you!" I exclaimed, a dark cloud of doom hanging over my head. I knew I sealed my fate with those words but I could not have stopped uttering them if the Devil himself had been waiting in the doorway with ball and chain and manacle, an evil welcome on his lips. Indeed, being chained to the Devil would have been preferable to the Mistress DeMarcco, for she was the queen of demons, a beautiful woman who took pleasure in evil. Even then she sat primly, a soft, cruel smile distorting her lips, listening to my outrage with delight, for she knew the price of my pride, and eagerly assisted me in leaping into her prison and almost laughing with joy as I took the key myself and threw it away into the vile blackness of a bottomless pit.

"Welcome to the DeMarcco estate," she whispered quietly, when I had finished.

"Bitch! Satan's whore!" I hissed, my fury past control. But she only smiled, the self-satisfied smile of child who's conniving has finally triumphed over the indolent adult, and it was not pleasant, it was not pleasant at all.

Part II -- Life

(*****, F/F, Severe, servant discipline, FF themes)

FM's Masterwork. A real novella of over 37,000 words. This tells the story of a female servant whose new mistress turns out not only to be extremely strict, but to have a mysterious secret in her past. (Approximately 37,092 words. Originally published 1996-01.)

It is winter now, the November winds bringing thick white snowflakes from the north, and blanketing the world in white glistening coldness. I feel old and tired. My body aches in places I never knew I had feeling, and I work like a slave from before dawn to after dusk. I am a slave, in fact, if not in legality. Mrs. DeMarcco's power was far greater than my own, and though I knew it to be hopeless, I did seek other employment. I was so desperate I even investigated other occupations, but there was nothing. Every door was slammed in my face, old friends smiling wan, empty expressions and turning away, shaking their heads sadly. There was nothing for me except the torment of the DeMarcco hell, and there I returned, to work under the gaze of the bland, self-satisfied Mistress' face, my every gesture one of pain to me.

I was frequently beaten; don't let me lead you to believe otherwise. But it developed that the beatings were not the worst of it for me. I am a strong woman of independent means and I had always valued my freedom, and I bore the belief that hard and honest work would enrich and prosper me, which, when coupled with my determination to better my condition, all worked against me now. Here at the DeMarcco's I was a slave, not a servant. Here I was not a respected and valued employee, but a drudge, hired for menial tasks that only served to further debase my ego.

At first it was the beatings I feared most. For the few days after my initial meeting with the Mistress I walked with cat paws, silent and swift, my ears and eyes alert for any sign of displeasure from the Mistress. I knew it would come; how could it not, with her attitude? I did not know how I could bear it. But others did, others much more stupid and duller than I, so I should endure it too.

But as the days went on I began to think that perhaps she would be content to torture me mentally, to force me to perform tasks beneath my station, to watch me grovel at her feet. Oh, it is easy to be deceived once, but even easier to be deceived a second time. I fell for her ploy, and after a week began to relax slightly, and actually sleep at nights. I was so unbearably tense and nervous those first few days my body just collapsed with relief, and I spent a day in bed with a fever. I was better the next day, and when I did not even see the Mistress for two whole days I felt like spring had finally arrived after a long, cold, harsh winter. I fell to my work with an enthusiasm that surprised me, and actually found myself whistling one bright afternoon.

It was then announced to me that I would be serving at dinner that evening, to the Master and Mistress and his guests. The Master's guests were a prominent Lord and Lady who had traveled the distance from London, and I knew he intended to offer them the best that could be provided. For two days we had been cleaning the castle from top to bottom in such a fashion as hadn't been done in at least two years, according to one of the older maids, and the Mistress herself had already administered half a dozen whippings to various individuals for crimes of laziness and clumsiness.

Terror shook my bones when I heard I would be required to serve. Surely this was part of the Mistress' plan. She would be alert for any opportunity to punish me. The slightest transgression, no matter how insignificant, would be sufficient cause for her. She would love to thrash me in front of the guests, I knew, as she often did to other girls, and my heart felt monstrous and heavy, as though someone had pierced it with a sharp knife and let out all the joy and hope.

That evening I bravely went forth, determined to make a good show of it. My uniform was spotless, every bit of lace washed three times to make it the brightest white. My hair and face were clean and rosy, and I smelled of soap and fresh water, having bathed in the freezing creek that afternoon. My teeth shined and I smiled and laughed as though delighted when the gentleman visitor, in rather unsubtle fashion, I might add, pinched and patted my bottom beneath my skirt as I placed a bowel of steaming broth before him, working frantically not to spill it, his wife glaring at him and at the same time pretending not to notice his uncouth behavior.

I breathed a deep sigh when I returned to the kitchen unscathed after the first course. "If pinching is all my bottom feels before the night is over I shall be delighted, even if the old brute pinches me black and blue!" I thought grimly, with fierce determination.

But it was not to be. I served the food elegantly, gracefully, never forgetting an item or spilling a drop of anything. I wanted nothing for the Mistress to criticize, and she appeared frustrated and annoyed with me when I placed a thick slice a roast pork on her plate. I could feel her eyes on me as I worked, watching, waiting, lurking. I forced myself to ignore her, and concentrate on pleasing the guests, and the Master, both of whom complimented me several times on my excellent service, the Master once even commenting to his wife that she had picked an excellent maid for the evening, and that I should be well rewarded. I saw a look of disgust cross the Mistress' face, but it was only for a second, and only in my direction, and immediately she smiled and nodded at her husband pleasantly, but her eyes told me that she had other rewards in mind for me.

It was late in the evening when it happened. The guests had retired from the main table to the lounge, where it was comfortable and warm before the fire, and there munched on cheeses and sweets and drank hot mulled wine. Tea was ordered, and I rushed to bring it in, my legs aching from all my scurrying, my arms and back exhausted. The teacups and saucers were waiting for me in the kitchen, and, like a fool, I rushed back to the guests carrying the tray. I saw the Mistress watching me from the corridor that passes by the kitchen, a haughty look of triumph on her face. It unnerved me, and I wondered what she was scheming now, but I had no time to waste. God wish I had, though it would have made little difference in the long run. I had just placed the last saucer and was carefully lifting the steaming teapot to begin pouring when there was a scream of outrage and a horrified Mistress DeMarcco leapt to her feet.

I paused and turned, blood draining from my face. After everything I had done, it was now happening anyway, despite my best efforts to prevent it. The Mistress was furious, eyes filled with tears and her pale cheeks crimson. "Oh, Madam," she exclaimed, wringing her hands with agitation, "I am so very, very sorry! I cannot express my shame and horror at this blunder. Please, please, do not think this is any disrespect on the part of the DeMarccos! I beg your forgiveness for this unforgivable act of rudeness!"

There was more of this, much more, an astonishingly convincing act of the injured hostess, while the dignified lady, still seated and too surprised to react, was visibly at a loss to know why she should be offended at all. Suddenly the Mistress leapt forward and grasped the Lady's cup and saucer and thrust them in my astonished face.

"How _dare_ you insult our guests in this manner! Do you have no shame, no pride in your work? I ought to flog you right here and now in front of our guests!"

Tears sprang to my eyes, blurring the cup, but I could now see quite plainly the there was a tiny, almost imperceptible chip in the delicate china. "But ma'am!" I gasped, vainly attempting to defend myself.

"Shut your mouth, you worthless wench!" growled the Mistress angrily. "There is no excuse for such a mistake. You could have seriously injured a delicate, innocent Lady with your carelessness! A guest in this house! And after performing you duties so well, all evening, you have to embarrass the entire estate by your thoughtlessness! You may certainly forget any promotion, stupid girl! I have half a mind to throw you out into the cold, except you'd surely die, a worthless, unskilled slut like yourself. At the best you can expect to be in charge of cleaning the fireplaces and disposing of the refuse. Why, I am so ashamed and embarrassed! I cannot think why _you_ still have the arrogance to remain standing in front of us! Have you no shame?"

Tears poured down my face and I sank to the floor sobbing, my face flushed deep crimson. How could I have not checked the china before bringing it to the table? It _was_ indeed a serious breech of duty. "I'm sorry, Mistress," I begged through my tears.

"Sorry? You aren't sorry in the least! If you value your employment at all, young wench, you will rush to the kitchen and fetch me the leather strap at once. And don't you dare dawdle unless you wish to receive a double portion!"

I raced out eagerly, terrified, my tears blurring the spinning world around me. I past unfocused faces in the kitchen, hands guiding me until someone thrust the strap into my trembling hand, and soft, feminine lips kissed my cheek with a whisper of "Good luck, Janey!" I didn't even know who it was, but I was infinitely grateful for the gesture. Sobbing, I came back into the parlor room where the small group stood before the blazing fire, Mistress DeMarcco still apologizing and shaking off the lady guest's assurances that no harm had been done.

"We must make an example of her," said the Mistress as I trotted up. "We cannot allow such gross behavior to go unpunished." She silently took the strap from me and ordered me to bend forward across the side of the settee. This was a slight distance from the others, for which I was grateful, but the position was still humiliating, my face and breasts pressed against cushions. Still silent, her expression stern, the Mistress lifted my skirt and bade me to hold it in place, awkward as this was, my arms reaching behind me to press it against my back.

Then the Mistress began to disrobe me, pulling down my bloomers and knickers until only my bare flesh was exposed. My face smarted with shame and tears as I heard the Master approach, quietly asking, "Is this really necessary, my dear?" I held my breath. Could he save me? Would he save me?

"It is absolutely necessary," responded my Mistress. "We cannot allow such recklessness to go unpunished, and she shall be all the better for it, you will see. Having it in front of our guests will only enhance the punishment," she added coyly, "and besides, they might find it amusing."

Her husband shrugged. "Well, you know I leave household affairs for you to run as you see fit," he said, and then returned to the others, conferring with them with soft tones. All three soon sat back down and waited, watching. I could feel their eyes on me, though I dared not turn my head. I could see the Lord most clearly, and he did not appear the least put out by my predicament; he appeared almost jovial, in fact, and rather pleased.

Meantime I lay sprawled in shame across the sofa arm, my naked buttocks and legs exposed for everyone, the Mistress standing tall and dark and fearsome beside me, the deadly leather strap in her hand as she smiled at me, caressing my cheek with it softly, and then she leaned forward and whispered, "Are you ready naughty one? This is going to hurt, I can assure you. You deserve every stroke ten times over, little bitch! I will see that you are thoroughly punished on a regular basis after this. Do not let this be your first and last whipping by any means. You've got a fine bottom and it will look lovely covered with thick, red stripes!"

With that, I knew I was doomed. There was no way I was going to get away with a few token strokes to appease her guests or her own evil desires. No, I would be taken the full distance, given a long, thorough whipping that I would not fail to remember for days. And most likely there would be more tomorrow, and the next day and the next. I knew now the Mistress was finished playing with me. She meant to hurt me now, really hurt me, and in the future she would leap at any excuse to do so again.

My face was turned away from the fire, and so partially concealed in the gloomy room, and I licked my dry lips and waited. The first stroke took my breath away. It was so sharp, such a fine, thin pain, that I was surprised. The strap appeared to be quite wide and thick, and yet the pain was very focused, precise. Again came the strap, this time causing me to suck air into my mouth with a sharp hiss. I could feel the twin bands of heat across my buttocks, both cheeks vibrating slightly with the impact of the blows. The pain made me suddenly very conscious of my bottom: the delicate curves of plump flesh, the slender crack between my cheeks, and dark secrets buried beneath. I could feel the air between my legs, cool against the lips of my privates, and I knew with deep shame that surely the men could see everything.

I quivered with the next few blows, amazed at the sting. Tears filled my eyes and I could not help crying. The strokes seemed to get harder now, and faster, and my whole bottom seemed to be burning with pain. I wiggled and writhed as the whipping continued, no longer caring much what the men saw between my legs. So they would watch me dance. Would they see anything they had not seen already?

Thinking of the men watching produced a strange reaction in me. I was horrified and ashamed, of course, but a naughty part of me felt rather evilly delighted. I could feel a dampness growing between my legs as I thought of them watching, and when the strap struck me either in a particularly tender spot or very close to my crotch I could almost feel myself bursting with excitement and orgasm. I felt the strap was my scourge, punishing me for my dirty thoughts and desires, and I accepted it almost gratefully, rolling my hips and arching my bottom even higher into the air to receive the blows.

The strap was caressing me in dangerous places now. The Mistress had carefully laid parallel stripes full across both cheeks, so now she concentrated on unpunished areas, actually bringing the strap upward to strike at the base of my rump, and bringing it down into my crack, bringing stinging fire to the tender insides of my cheeks.

After a long time of this she began working on my legs, striping my thighs all around, especially the insides, right up to my crotch. This only served to intensify my emotions, and though I wept miserably, I felt glad I was being punished. I thought of all the naughty thoughts I'd had in my life, especially those involving men I had known, and I relished the sting of the strap. It felt good and warm to me, and my bottom throbbed with a passion I had not known I possessed.

The strap was furious now, lashing down again and again at lightning speed, my bottom churning in the air as I groveled with my face in the cushions and begged for mercy. I finally began to cry out loud, weeping and begging the Mistress to stop. This seemed to please her, and after a few more cruel lashes, she stopped. I collapsed on the couch for a moment, but then she ordered me to my feet. I was to go to the corner and stand with my legs apart, and my hands holding my skirt so everyone could see me. I would stay like that until bedtime. That is, unless I wanted another whipping. It would be my choice.

I chose the corner, naturally, and spent the rest of the night in that position. When the guests retired, the Mistress escorting them to their chambers, the Master approached me. I had not really met him, and I was afraid and uncertain what to think.

He is a tall man, and towers above his wife. He is dark, like her, and beautiful, too, but his beauty is hard and real, not soft and dreamy. When you look at the Mistress you think, "Can anyone really be so beautiful?" but when you look at the Master you think, "Ah, there, in truth, is beauty, strong and rugged and secure."

He seemed like a nice man, as he approached me. His expression was one of curiosity and concern, not anger or meanness. He knelt and studied my bottom for a few moments, my face flushed and ashamed. "She certainly did a thorough job," he said slowly, rising to his feet and looking me in the eye. I nodded, not sure what to say.

"I wonder where she learned to whip like that," he mused, and I did not have an answer. His hand reached out and palmed my bottom, my heart leaping at both the pain and the masculine touch. "Still warm," he whispered. "Hot, in fact. Feels rather nice. You have a nice figure."

"T-thank you, sir," I whispered, terrified of his unknown intentions.

"She seems to have a particular aversion to you," he said suddenly, after a moment of quiet, his palm still pressed against my bottom. "Did you do something to displease her?"

"I called her a bitch," I thought grimly, but I did not say that. Instead I whispered, "She is very strict with all the servants, Master."

He nodded. "Too strict, if you ask me," he said casually, but I caught an expression of concern and puzzlement on his face as he spoke. "But it is none of my affair. She doesn't interfere with the business and I will not interfere with the household staff." He removed his hand now, and carefully helped me pull my skirt over my bottom. "Go ahead and go to sleep, now. You need your rest. A flogging takes a lot out of one." I wondered if he knew what he was talking about from experience, but I had to admit I was more exhausted than I'd ever been in my life. I felt like I should collapse at any moment, and indeed, I only just barely made it to my bed.

I slept the sleep of the dead that night, and awoke late the next morning. I lay on my stomach as I realized the sun was already shining, but I didn't care. What was the worst she could do to me, whip me? I no longer feared her whippings. The pain I could handle, it was her I could not. I felt I hated her with every fibre of my being, more than I hated sin. She was evil, pure evil, and I wished it had been I who had flogged her, even if it meant that I had to receive twice as much, it would still be worth it just to see her crying and writhing under the smack of the leather strap.

Indeed, as time went on her whippings became almost routine. It became a habit for me to look at my buttocks in the mirror at night before bed and in the morning when I got up to see how well I was healing. I daresay there was no time my bottom wasn't striped from one whipping to the next, or at least blistered from the paddle.

This was another of her little tricks. She had discovered long ago the benefits of having at her disposal several implements of punishment. For severe, quick discipline the cane was the best. Just a few strokes, no more than a couple dozen. For more prolonged punishment, the strap worked wonders, as it was thick and did not break the skin, and thus the whipping could last much longer. But by far the most thorough chastisement was the paddle.

It was thin wooden paddle, small, just barely wide enough to cover a decent-sized bottom. It stung like the devil but did very little damage to the flesh, and indeed, with judicious use could be made to last an hour or more. This was far worse than the cane, which though intense, was over quickly, or the strap, which soon left your bottom covered with thick, pulsing stripes. The paddle, however, especially a light thin one like the Mistress employed, stung terribly and seemed to last forever. On and on and on until you thought "Surely I've got no bottom left!" but still it would pound down again and again and then the Mistress would shift you across her lap to a different position and spank you with her other arm, paddling your buttocks black and blue with welts and blisters until just her hot breath against the skin of your bottom would reduce you to screams of agony.

She always has you strip completely naked for paddlings, rather than just baring the buttocks the way she does for the cane or strap. While I found both humiliating, there was something much worse about standing naked before her, your heart trembling as you wait patiently and nervously as she readies herself--always a big production where she sits daintily and fidgets for a bit, smoothing her skirt across her lap, and fussing a great deal, and then stands up and recommences the entire process again while you keep swallowing your heart with tension--and only after she finally tests the paddle out on her hand a few times does she give you that curt gesture that you are ordered across her lap. You lower yourself, palms sweating with terror, your naked body making you feel as vulnerable as a child, and you press your hands against the floor to support yourself, your bare thighs rubbing against her skirt as you wiggle yourself into position. She scolds you then, just like you are a disobedient child who cannot understand language well and therefore everything must be repeated half a dozen times. When she finishes the scolding, the whole time rubbing and squeezing your buttocks until you are ready to scream, your face is flushed with shame. You cannot help it. Even if your crime seems minor in your own eyes, something about the way she looks at you, and the pure, rich, unadulterated scorn in her voice makes you feel lower than an ant, of less value than a disease.

Then, finally, after an agony of anticipation, she begins to spank you. Not hard, of course, just light slaps with the paddle. The entire purpose of the paddling, in her eyes, is to make it last a long time. The punishment is not in the degree of pain but the duration. She does not spank lightly out of concern for you--she cares nothing if you are blistered and raw--she is pacing herself, really. She wants to have plenty of energy left when she begins the real punishment.

As for you, your task is one of endurance. It is a hopeless one. Valiantly you set your teeth and resolve to bear the pain. Vainly you hold your breath and struggle with yourself to remain calm and cooperate, to let her punish your bottom as she wills. But always, at some delicate, undetermined point, you break. It is too much for you, and you begin to wiggle in spite of yourself. Your hands ache to reach back and rub your blazing rump, and you begin to open and close your legs, arch your back, tense and relax your buttocks, kick your legs, tremble, groan, moan, scream and cry out loud, weep, sob, beg and plead, shudder and implore, gasp and pant, and finally, after a paroxysm of emotions, you collapse as though your body has no skeleton, no structure or foundation, and you lie there across her lap quivering as though you are only a puddle of gelatin.

Then she begins the real spanking.

My first paddling lasted a half hour to the breaking point, and the Mistress continued the punishment for what I calculated was another fifteen minutes beyond that. I've never wept so profoundly in all my life, never felt so drained and exhausted, as after one of her extended paddlings. My second was even worse, for she spanked just my left bum-cheek for a good half hour, and then my right. I thought we were finished, and I was infinitely relieved, but then she paddled both my cheeks for another half hour. I have no idea what she has in store for my third paddling, but I will do everything in my power to avoid it, though I seriously doubt I shall be able to do so.

Fortunately, paddlings are rare. The Mistress selects only two or three of us per week for this punishment, and never more than once a month for the same person. We all receive our fair share of routine canings and whippings, some more than others, but at least paddlings are reserved for serious, personal offenses.

I should also point out that the Mistress does not neglect the male servants in her technique, but treats them in the same manner as the women. Many times I have crossed the main dining room in the course of my duties and paused to stare at the half-naked servant standing along one side, breeches completely removed, buttocks red with angry blisters from the thin cane or leather strap. It would seem to me that it must be even worse for the men than for the women, both because the men are in the minority here, making the few who are punished feel more select and embarrassed, and because I have yet to see a single whipped man who's organ isn't stretched out proud and tall as he stands blushing and fidgeting under my examination, hands locked at his sides or behind his head according to the Mistress' instructions.

Part III -- Servitude

(*****, F/F, Severe, servant discipline, FF themes)

FM's Masterwork. A real novella of over 37,000 words. This tells the story of a female servant whose new mistress turns out not only to be extremely strict, but to have a mysterious secret in her past. (Approximately 37,092 words. Originally published 1996-01.)

The Mistress did not forget her promise to reserve for me the lowest of household chores, and for months I was responsible for the meanest duties, the filthiest and least amusing tasks. I carried heavy loads, scrubbed stained floors, plucked chickens, and discarded the refuse each day. If the massive oven in the kitchen needed cleaning or even if it did not, it was I who was summoned to crawl deep inside and scrape the caked soot and blackened remains along the walls, always working late at night so the oven could be ready for use the next day.

I took my lot graciously and did not complain. Even as I was whipped for failing to remove an imperceptible black spot off a great iron skillet I'd been commanded to wash, or caned for an article of clean laundry growing dirty as it blew dry in the wind, I did not complain. I wept quietly and stoically, burying my resentment and anger deep inside my bosom.

One day the Mistress came to me as I scrubbed the walls of a rarely used room in the cold, northern wing of the mansion. She stood watching me for a while, my breathing slow and steady as I fought to still my panic and concentrate on cleaning quickly and efficiently. There was no doubt in my mind that her purpose was naught but to discover some fault for which she should enable herself the opportunity to punish me, and my heart grew cold and faint at the thought. She'd caned me just the day before and my legs and buttocks still felt stiff and sore. I was certainly not eager for another dose.

But she spoke to me finally, and did not seem displeased. In fact, she complimented my spirit and attention to duty, and told me that for my reward she was going to make me her personal chambermaid. Wasn't that generous and charming of her?

I nearly wept when I heard these words, and though my scrubbing slowed, I did not stop. I trembled in spite of myself and wondered if my misery could grow any stronger. The last thing I wanted in the world was to spend any more time with the Mistress. Even the mildest gaze from her eyes unnerved me, and her smile sent terror down my spine. That I should be forced to work by her side, in her very room, while she watched me in that lazy, nonchalant, indolent manner of hers, just waiting for me to stumble, to hesitate, to make the slightest error that would justify her leaping up with an eager smile and bidding me to assume the position for punishment while she fetched the cane or strap or dreaded paddle.

"Well, Miss Janey, you do not seem pleased. Is it not an honor to serve your Mistress?"

With a slowly bowed head I nodded, and knelt and kissed her feet. It was a pointless gesture on my part; it held no meaning for me, and I felt no sacrifice in making it. But it made her laugh out loud and smile with open glee. She stretched out her right arm warmly, her open palm inviting mine, and grasping it, she led me from the room and the pointless task to an even colder and more distant place, a place of constant fear and dread, a place filled with shame and hatred.

My new duties commenced immediately, as soon as we reached the Lady's chambers. She instantly ordered me to fetch her a gown for dinner, the "long black one," which proved difficult, as I found four black dresses of various cuts and materials within her extensive wardrobe. I proceeded to return with all four, my heart already cold with dread as I feared my ignorance was already to earn me punishment. But the Mistress only laughed and told me to take them all back, that she'd changed her mind, and wanted the white one with the fox fur lining. This one was more distinct, and I found it quickly, pleased, only to discover her gone, the room deserted. Frantically I searched the room but she was not there, and I grew terrified with uncertainty. Was I to leave to find her? Should I wait for her return? How long? Would I be punished for neglecting other duties, which, though I was ignorant of them, I was supposed to be performing even now, as I waited? These were the questions that haunted me, and even at that early moment I knew I could not long work for a Mistress such as her, who's demands defied logic and whose concept of justice made a mockery of it.

With a heavy breath I laid the dress across the bed and walked to the large window that overlooked the courtyard. Several stories below I could see the footmen guiding horses to the stables and maids hurrying to and from the central well. It was late afternoon and soon the guests for the evening would be arriving. I could not remember who was to come tonight, but I vaguely recollected something about a rather large party, perhaps a dozen men and their wives, as the cook had been rather short-tempered this morning, frustrated by the mammoth preparations required for such an occasion.

I felt tired and old. The Mistress' games did not amuse me. It was not the punishment I dreaded; that I suspected would come no matter what I did or didn't do. The pain of the punishments no longer frightened me, for though I did not relish them, enduring them brought a certain satisfaction to my lips. Even the humiliation did not bother me as much as it used to, though I was always astonished by how shameful I felt, especially for a trivial offense. It wasn't even the unfairness of the Lady that frustrated me, because I was accustomed to such treatment from the ruling class.

No, what bothered me the most about the Mistress was that while in reality I had no control over my fate, she made it seem as though I did. She never punished without cause; even if the reasoning was absurd or ridiculous, there was always a justification for your punishment. In effect, it was not the Mistress who was punishing you, it was yourself, by your own actions, that asked for and received the just reward. If she had punished me for no reason at all I could have rationalized and accepted it, justified it on the basis of her particular perversion of power. But she continually reinforced the notion that punishment followed behavior, as though the two held a logical relationship, as though there was some method of _escape_, when in truth there was none. I was a prisoner taunted with the key to freedom, dangling just outside my grasp on the other side of the iron bars, visible, tangible, and yet impossible to obtain. But my situation was such that something inside me made it equally impossible for me to give up, to abandon my attempts at escape, and I would claw my fingers bloody in the vain hope of clutching that key, of releasing myself, even for just a moment, and breathing free air again.

So it was that given a clear choice between punishment and no punishment I should gladly have chosen the former, if that's what the Lady wanted, but given a choice between two unknowns, two _potentials_, with no method of discerning the outcome of either, I was abandoned into a state of utter bewilderment, a state of chaos, of ruthless despair, and my misery was made obvious to me, and I wept.

I wept when I was beaten and when I was not beaten; the difference between the two was lost on me. Either meant torture now, and I dreaded both equally. My heart would leap at the prospect of escape, only to plummet to even deeper depths as I realized that it was all illusion, an elaborate hoax on the part of the devious and devilish witch that was my Mistress.

In truth I was not beaten any more often or more severely serving so close to the Mistress; she simply did not have to look as far to find cause to punish me. But just the unspoken threat of her presence, her dark, opaque eyes always watching me, following me. Even when she sent me to the wine cellar for a bottle of port late one evening and I wandered the cold, dark corridors by myself with only my lantern casting a gloomy glow around my footsteps she was there with me, following, eyes on my back, piercing me, taunting me, threatening me, daring me. I longed to give in, to scream at her, to throw down my apron and leave, to find a patch of soft snow and simply lie down and die, quietly and peacefully, and alone, but I knew that she would be victorious if I did that. I was not sure what she would win, what stakes we played for or even why we played, but I knew that I could not allow her to beat me. Someday, I knew, I might break and let her win, but while I still had a scrap of dignity in my body I was determined to fight her, even if that was only by living, simply enduring her scorn and punishments.

It was a complex game we played, the Mistress and I. I was not certain of the rules or if there were any, but soon after I became her personal servant I realized there was something unique in our relationship. She punished the other servants as much as always, the perfectionist in her always demanding the most from her staff, but I noticed she punished them coldly, routinely, almost grimly, as though there was little pleasure in it for herself, or perhaps not as much as she would like. Many times she seemed almost distant, lost in thought or even bored, though I doubt the recipient of her discipline noticed anything awry.

Me, however, she punished almost exclusively in the privacy of her own chambers. There was a large mirror in her room, opposite her bed, and often she would drape me across her lap on the bed or bend me over before the mirror so I could watch myself being punished, a truly humiliating experience. But I soon found myself watching her, admiring her dark, flashing beauty, the fire in her eyes never more intense than when she whipped me, cheeks flushed rouge with excitement and passion, her massive bosom heaving magnificently as she panted and thrashed me soundly. She seemed to delight in inflicting pain in the manner one child delights in pulling another's hair for the first time, with an almost surprised, gleeful expression, as though astonished at the explosive reaction generated.

Though I noticed these things I did not see them, or comprehend their significance, until much later. Perhaps there is truth in the old saying that looking at the flame too closely causes one to forget about the fire. There was one incident which should have enlightened me, but I was too blind to see it at the time.

It was soon after I became her private maid, and I was still naive and nervous, as I thought I could escape her wrath through obedience. One morning I was preparing the bath for the Mistress. She has a private vat off her chamber, of course, and all morning I had been lumbering up the stairs with buckets of steaming water from the kitchen. She likes her bath very full and hot, and I soon lost count of the number of trips I made up and down the stairway. At last the bath was ready, steaming and warm, and I guided the Mistress to the edge and assisted her in disrobing. She was naked underneath. This was my first time seeing her naked, and I was instantly jealous, for her body was svelte and graceful, her skin smooth and unblemished.

She had her back to me at the time, and I could not help but admire her sleek thighs and round bottom. I had watched her cane my bottom just a few days previous, and I suddenly knew that my bottom, though always plump and attractive to men and my only real vanity, as I am resolved to plainness in other areas, was nothing as perfect as her own. Hers swelled at the base with such graceful curves I knew it would drive a man wild to see them, her twin mounds made prominent by a deep mysterious chasm between them. As she walked toward the water each cheek gently rotated in a seductive fashion, trembling slightly each time her foot made contact with the stone floor. In my mind instantly was a picture of that bottom covered with luscious, rich stripes from the leather strap, and I could almost see that bottom bouncing under the paddle. Oohh, how I longed to wield that paddle across those buttocks! Even just a single stroke would revenge me for a hundred years, I thought at the time.

I was awakened from these thoughts by a cry of pain from the Mistress. She whirled on me angrily, slapping my face. "It's too hot, you bitch! How dare you! Are you trying to burn me?"

I shook my head frantically. I had tested the water myself. The temperature was fine, not too hot, not too cool. It certainly would not burn. But the Mistress was already fetching the strap, a long thick one she had made and kept in our chambers, specifically for me, as it was too much trouble to run to the kitchen every time I needed the strap.

"Take off your clothes," she ordered, and I silently obeyed, wondering if this was leading to another paddling, as my first had been a living nightmare.

In a moment I was as naked as she was, and I obediently bent over and leaned my arms against the side of the large bath of water and spread my legs wide. She began to strap me then, long heavy strokes that wrapped the leather around my thighs leaving angry welts I knew would burn for days. I sobbed and shivered and took the thrashing as best I could, only occasionally crying out or shifting my position

As she whipped me I was often granted glimpses of her behind me, to my left, as she stood raising and lowering the strap with rhythmic precision. I found myself astonished at her nakedness. It was so brazen, so exposed, and yet she did not seem the least troubled by it, her heavy breasts dancing as she flogged me energetically, her wide hips turning to offer me tantalizing visions of the profile of her curved backside. I discovered I was strangely moved by watching her. Her face was animated and alive, her lips full and blood-red, pursed slightly as she breathed deeply, a faint grunt escaping her as she worked hard to strike me another harsh and cruel blow. I could not help but admire her beauty and avid lust, unhidden, uncontrolled. I, whose passion had always been carefully concealed, almost even from myself, found a delightful freedom in watching her openly display her emotions. I did not pretend to understand her perversion, but only accepted it as an obvious fact: whipping me excited her.

I groaned as a particularly sharp cut struck the inside of my left thigh, high, near my stretched and vulnerable crotch, and I felt relief when she returned to my buttocks, as sore as they were. It was a long and thorough whipping, even by her high standards, and I almost collapsed when she finally finished.

"Now into the water," she commanded, and I looked at her with horror. The water would be scalding against my welted flesh. I could not do it. It would feel like I was being boiled in oil, whatever that felt like. But I felt helpless under her gaze. To disobey would be to ask for punishment, something I could not willingly do. Perhaps it wouldn't be so bad.

I stepped in, the water rising up my legs. It felt warm and soothing, steam lightly enveloping the rest of my body, tickling my breasts. Then the water rose to my thighs, and I felt the fierce burning as every sleeping welt awoke and painfully announced its irritation at being so disturbed. I moaned loudly, but still the Mistress insisted, and taking a deep breath, I sank in completely, crouching on my knees so the water came up to my chest.

The pain was dizzying. I felt like I was being eaten alive by thousands of ants, like in those African stories of native tortures. I writhed and moaned loudly but I could not escape the pain. It was all around me, the water feeling ten times hotter than when I had filled the bath. I wept miserably and begged the Mistress to let me out.

"Isn't it too hot?" she asked coyly, and I nodded, sobbing, and cried out, "Yes, yes! It is too hot! It burns, it burns!"

With a look of triumph she began to climb into the bath herself. I started to rise but she pushed me back down. "There's room for two," she said, "if we squeeze." I was forced to lean back on my haunches to make room for her, my buttocks blazing angrily as they pressed against the back of my calves. My knees were spread wide when opened and exposed my crotch, and I was glad that part of my anatomy was under water. The Mistress knelt opposite me and smiled. "Isn't this nice? I just _adore_ a warm bath on a cold, wintery day!"

I smiled weakly at her and then began to soap and wash her, as she instructed me. I was finally given permission to rise to better perform this task, but I felt shame as I was naked before my Mistress, my sex openly displayed at the level of her eyes. I could not think about this, however, and concentrated on washing her properly, while she talked eagerly and with rare openness, seemingly in a very generous mood.

At one point she grasped my hips and turned me suddenly, almost causing me to fall. She stared at my bottom and cried out, "I certainly striped your bum thoroughly, I must say!" She laughed gaily, as though we were at a tea party and she had made a delightful joke at the expense of someone not present. I flushed deeply at her words and waited for her to allow me to resume, but instead she placed her hand one my right cheek and squeezed me hard, bringing tears to my eyes. "I bet that smarts," she whispered, her voice low, and strangely gravelly. "What does it feel like, Miss Janey? Does it burn when I touch it?"

"Yes, Ma'am," I muttered, extremely uncomfortable.

She massaged both cheeks now, squeezing the thick rolls of tender flesh between her fingers. Then she began to wash me, splashing water on my bottom and rubbing it in between my cheeks and into the crack. I was speechless, stunned. "Ma'am, please," I begged, my face flushing crimson. I'd never been touched by anyone like that, and it frightened and unnerved me. The sensation was unbearably stimulating, that was the problem, and I did not know how to react. I felt it was unnatural, forbidden, and yet it felt so good I could not ask her to stop. I simply said, "Please," and she continued to wash me, her slender finger sliding up and down the crack of my bottom, occasionally brushing against the secret hole there, sending wild shivers through my whole body.

Then she stopped suddenly. I turned and she was not looking at me. She motioned for me to get out and I did, and she told me to get dressed and fetch her wood for the fireplace, as she was cold. I tried to tell her there was plenty in the woodbox right there in her chamber, but she insisted I go to the woodshed immediately, my body still damp as I dragged myself through the icy snow. Her voice was strangely flat, yet serious and urgent, and I obeyed her at once, her tone making me feel that something was quite wrong, and I suspected she had realized our water games were extremely inappropriate. As I left, however, I noted her face was almost serene, with a rather desperate, intense look, as though she had almost reached some long sought goal, and yet in her eyes she was lost and forlorn.

Part IV -- Discovery

(*****, F/F, Severe, servant discipline, FF themes)

FM's Masterwork. A real novella of over 37,000 words. This tells the story of a female servant whose new mistress turns out not only to be extremely strict, but to have a mysterious secret in her past. (Approximately 37,092 words. Originally published 1996-01.)

It was approximately a month after the bath incident when I discovered the trinket. I was engaged in the task of thoroughly cleaning the Mistress' chambers from top to bottom as I did once each week. Mistress DeMarcco was not at home as she and the Master had gone to town for the afternoon. It was now growing dark and they would be home soon, and I still had much to do. The Mistress had given me a huge list of tasks to do today in addition to my normal duties and I knew she expected me to fail to have one or more of them complete when she returned. I, on the other hand, was determined to succeed, and thus I worked rapidly and efficiently, hoping and praying I could conclude my duties before the Lady's return.

I was dusting the dresser when I noticed the cupboard door to the small bedside table was ajar, and I went to shut it with annoyance, thinking that another maid or perhaps the Mistress herself had neglected to shut it properly. As I reached to shut the cabinet I opened it wider, perhaps thinking to assure myself that nothing obstructed its closing, or maybe I did indeed seek a glimpse of the contents. I was aware that this particular cabinet was off limits to me. One of the first instructions I'd received from the Mistress was a curt, "Leave that alone. I'll take care of cleaning it." I had noticed that it normally was tightly locked, and I did not know where she kept the key. Therefore I was surprised she'd left it unlocked and open, and I felt a pang of naughty curiosity as I looked at the little door, my eyes darting around the room and my ears straining for any threatening sounds.

Inside it was dark and I did not see anything at first. Then, as my eyes adjusted, I saw there were several items. There was a small book, perhaps a Bible, and a stack of papers beneath that. The object that caught my attention, however, was the vase, for I recognized instantly as a miniature Lindsey Vase. With eager interest I took it from the cabinet, holding it gingerly in my hands, slowly rotating it, admiring the beautiful, intricate pattern. It was tiny, perhaps only six inches tall, the stem barely wide enough to hold a single rose at its narrowest point. It aroused painful memories in me, memories of days long since faded in time, and I felt a wrenching within my heart as I looked at that beautiful vase, though I was not positive as to the reasons behind my reactions. I knew it was one of his later works, as it was more polished and whole than his earlier pieces which were more common. A completed Lindsey was rare and costly. I wondered why the Mistress kept it locked away, hidden from view. Perhaps she was afraid a careless maid would break it.

At this point I must inject a word of history, least you think that all chambermaids are experts on fine porcelain. I was born and spent my early years in the town of Triten, a small farming village down south, and the home of the great and tragic John Lindsey. When I was scarcely two digits old, I, and everyone else in the town, became aware of his sudden fame. His pieces, of which almost everyone in town was the possessor of at least one, were suddenly art, and wealthy buyers from London and even Paris appeared to purchase them on street corners and alleyways, at double or triple the original price. My mother sold off several soup tureens, getting good money for each, even for the one that was chipped on the bottom.

Overnight, it seemed, John Lindsey was a celebrity, his little dishes making everyone wealthy. Over the next few years John's porcelain became more and more elaborate, finer, and almost useless for any practical purpose. Much of the town was ignorant of art, and thought John's new works were trivial and purposeless, and people began to speak of him as though he was a foreigner, as though he was no longer a part of our class. It was true, in a way, because those new pieces fetched astronomical prices, and he quickly became wealthy. I remember hearing a schoolyard rumor of a single goblet he had created over the span of two days that was bought for the purchase price of an entire house! At the time most of us wondered what drink could possibly be placed in a goblet worth so much. Surely, we decided, in our childish, ignorant manner, only liquid gold or the blood of a virgin princess or some sweet, magic nectar of the gods could qualify. We were far too simple to even conceive that the goblet could have been purchased without the intention of using it for drinking.

I had never met John Lindsey, though I had seen him on several occasions, walking about town, and I knew my mother had done business with him, preferring his quality to that of lessor vendors in town. That was before he became famous, of course, because after that no one could afford his porcelain, a fact I think he accepted but regretted. I say this because I met him, once, and that was how he seemed.

We could have been no more than twelve at the time, my best friend Sydney and I. It was near Christmas, and we had very little money. Sydney's mother was dying. It was a slow disease that rotted out her insides that was killing her, and there was nothing anyone could do to help her. She bravely lay in bed and spoke with hushed, excited tones of Christmas, however, as though everything was just fine and the world was a glorious place. Everyone knew that she would not live to see another Christmas, and Sydney was determined to make this last one special for her mum. I had gallantly volunteered to help, if I could, as I felt sorry for Sydney and Mrs. Jacoby had always been kind to me, giving me pieces of sweetbread or even ginger cookies when I visited.

We roamed the town, two forlorn little bundles in the cold, wintery air, but every shop we entered had nothing that we could afford to buy. We stood outside one admiring a collection of Lindsey vases in the window, Sydney almost crying with frustration. "Look there, Jay," she whispered. "Aren't they gorgeous!" I nodded, as indeed, the vases were beautiful and elegant, their characteristic blue and pink patterns fascinating. But I knew we could not afford them. Even the least expensive one would feed my whole family for two months or more. There was no way. "Oh, but she'd love a Lindsey vase," whined Sydney with despair. "Couldn't we at least inquire as to the price?"

It was pointless, but I agreed and we went inside. Sure enough, the price was outrageous, and Sydney went pale. She begged the proprietor for mercy, and told him of her dear mother, lying at home right at that moment, possible passing on, and the man looked troubled and sympathetic, but when she told him how much money we had he almost choked and stood up quickly and pushed us out the door, saying that he could not help us.

We wandered for a while, silent and forlorn. "Is that true, what you told that man?" I asked finally. "Your mom could go at any moment?"

Sydney's eyes were red and she looked at me sadly. "The doctor was just there this morning. He says he doubts she'll make it much past Christmas, if till then at all."

"She will," I said firmly. "If I know your mother she will not miss Christmas." Perhaps I had said the wrong thing, for Sydney burst into tears at that, and I took her in my arms and comforted her, hugging her and kissing her forehead. I did not know what to say to her, for both my parents were alive and healthy, and I did not understand how to help her. So I said nothing, almost always a good policy, and she just wept for a long while.

Finally we grew cold, and began to walk again. We were on the south side of town, very far from our homes. I was not even sure where we were. There were few buildings here as this was the outskirts of the town. Then I saw a large, new building on our left, two story and elegant, obviously the house of wealthy man. As we stepped nearer I saw the sign. It was a simple sign, white with neat blue lettering, and not especially large. It said simply, "John Lindsey, Craftsman." There were warm lights inside and on impulse I pulled Sydney toward the building.

We opened the door hesitantly, but the warmth drew us inside. A blazing fire roared at one end of the room, and at first we thought no one was there. But then we saw a tall, thin man crouched on a stool, bending over a table, toward our left. His concentration was absolute as he delicately hand-painted a tiny piece of porcelain. We held our breath in the stillness and waited. The man did not appear to have noticed our entrance, and for a reason unknown to us we did not disturb him, but marched closer to the fire and warmed ourselves.

After a very long time, perhaps an hour, the man put down the piece suddenly with a deep sigh, and rose and stretched his arms. He approached the fire and suddenly stopped, staring at us as though we had emerged at that instant from the very flames. "How did you get in here?" he demanded, his head whirling about as though the whole place might be filled with demons.

"We came through the doorway," I said, motioning toward it. This appeared to puzzle him for a moment.

"How long have you been here? Do your parents know where you are? What do you want?" His tone was brusque and rude, slightly condescending, and he looked rather angry and annoyed, as though we had no business being there. For a moment I thought he meant to thrash us, for he glanced about and held out his hand as though searching for an appropriate weapon, but then he found what he was looking for, a heavy mug of dark liquid, precariously perched at the edge of a wooden table. He lifted it to his lips and took a deep draught and then, with a look of disgust, put it back down, in the same position, murmuring, "It's cold, damn it!"

At this point Sydney, her nerves on edge, began to cry. She cried a great deal in those days, and though I thought it rather childish, as often there was no reason to cry, I could not really blame her. She cried now, big swollen tears dripping down her cheeks, her dark eyes wide with fear as the man approached. "Hush, now, little one," he said softly, and very gently he took the hem of his apron and wiped the tears off her cheeks. "There's no reason to cry. I'm not going to hurt you. You just surprised me, that's all. I thought I was alone and I discovered I was not. It was a shock, you understand. Please, would you like some warm milk?"

Sydney nodded quickly, and I did too, when the man glanced at me, and both of us watched breathlessly as he poured fresh white milk from a pitcher on the counter into a small iron pot which he hung over the fire. In a few minutes it was ready, and he poured us each a large mug full of milk, and we drank it down with relish, both of us hungry and thirsty.

"Well, you two certainly seemed to need that!" he said laughing and smiling, refilling our mugs again. "Now suppose you tell me why you are here." We could not refuse this instruction, but I did not know how to proceed. In the end I followed my mother's wisdom and simply told the truth.

"I'm not really sure, sir," I said, seeing that Sydney was too shy to speak. "We've been out shopping for a Christmas present for Sydney's mum--she's dying, you see, the 'sumption, I think, and we hoped to buy her something pretty, as it's her last Christmas and all,"--Sydney began to cry at those words, so I hurried forward--"but we have no real money, just a few coins." I opened my left hand and showed him our meager savings. "We tried to buy a Lindsey vase at a shop but the owner wouldn't sell us anything 'cause we couldn't pay enough, even though we begged him, and then he pushed us out, see, and we wandered and ended up out here, on the south side, and it's a long way home and we were cold, and then we saw your sign, and the light looked warm and when we came in you were so hard at work we didn't want to bother you, so we just stood here by the fire and got warm.

"I'm terribly sorry if we bothered you, Mr. Lindsey, as I know you are busy and famous now, but my mum always says good things about you, how you're such a fine man, and your porcelain's the best on the continent, and she won't serve Christmas dinner on nothing less than a Lindsey platter, one of the old ones, before you started getting all fancy and artistic, and I don't know, I just saw your house and came right on in, thinking, I suppose, that you might have some small piece we could buy for Sydney's mum. I know it was rude, sir, and we should have knocked, but I suppose I thought it was like a shop, see, where you just go right in. I'm sorry, sir, though you've been most kind and generous. Thank you for the milk; it was wonderful. We can go now, and leave you. We don't want to disturb your work. You create such beauty it seems impossible to believe it's all done right here, Mr. Lindsey. I am honored just to meet you!"

With that I just about collapsed from lack of breath, for I don't doubt that I delivered that speech without a pause, and Mr. Lindsey just stared at me open-mouthed with that surprised gaze that adults use when children astonish them.

"Well, I'll be!" he exclaimed with a big smile. "Sit down, child, and take a breath. At least one thing's for certain, you are telling the truth. No liar could talk without breathing; it just isn't done."

He stood then, and began to wander around the room, murmuring to himself and examining various shelves about the place. Finally, with an expression of satisfaction and success, he selected an item, examined it, and returned. Smiling, he handed it to Sydney. "There you go, er, Sydney. Will that please your mother?" Sydney's eyes went wide and she stared at the miniature vase in her hand as though she was not quite convinced it was real.

"Now, it has a small defect," said Mr. Lindsey, pointing to a slight imperfection in one of the thin lines near the base of the vase. "It is not very noticeable, but of course I cannot sell it at full price. How much did you say you had?"

I leapt to my feet and produced the money, six small coins in my open palm. Mr. Lindsey examined my hand and carefully took two of them, smiling at me. "That's exactly the right price," he said.

"Oh, thank you, Mr. Lindsey! You are so very kind!"

"Nonsense," he said, color rising to his face. "Like I said, it is defective, but I doubt your mother shall mind."

"Certainly not!" murmured Sydney, shaking her head solemnly. "She loves your beautiful artwork. She's told me so, many times. Thank you very much!"

A few minutes later found us outside, the sky darkening with the approaching evening, a chill wind pushing at us as we struggled northward. The cold did not bother us, however. We scarcely felt it; our joy was our warmth. For deep inside Sydney's coat was buried a treasure, a gift of mammoth proportions, something more precious than any of us knew.

It was these thoughts that passed through my mind as I slowly turned the little vase in my hands, thoughts that took me back twenty-two years. Mistress DeMarcco's vase was so similar to Sydney's, the same size and shape, and even the same pattern. It quite troubled me.

Like so much that happens in life, that vase was a bittersweet memory to me. An odd mixture of joy and sadness, pain and longing. At the time it had been mostly sadness, but the years had softened the wounds, and now I felt only a vague sense of loss, a longing for those bittersweet days of yore.

The day after we left Mr. Lindsey's workshop a fierce storm arose, one of the worst in anyone's memory. It was sudden and unexpected, and it blanketed the entire county for two whole days. When it was over word spread like fire that Mr. Lindsey was missing, that he had last been seen riding to visit his sister in Richport, a mere 15 miles distant, on the day the storm hit. A visitor from Richport said that his sister claimed he had never arrived and she was concerned. Immediately teams of men went out searching, for everyone liked Mr. Lindsey. Late in the evening they returned, a sad and broken group of men, for in a lonely ravine, far off the main road, they had found his horse, dead, with a broken leg. Not far away, they came across the body of the great artist, frozen in the storm.

The next day was Christmas, and it wasn't a jolly one for Triten, the entire village cloaked with black and in mourning.

Sydney's mother died three days after Christmas.

We had taken the vase to her immediately after leaving Mr. Lindsey's place. Sydney didn't say it but I think she was worried that her mother wouldn't last until Christmas and she wanted to give her the vase as soon as possible.

We arrived just as evening set, and I told Sydney I couldn't stay long as I would be expected at home. She nodded, and we went into the house, straight to the small room at the back. I did not like the room very much, though I had been in it before. It was cramped and dark and full of foreign odors, most of them unpleasant.

Mrs. Jacoby lay as though dead, covered with blankets. She seemed smaller and more frail than I had seen her before. But there was a light in her eyes, though it was tiny and distant. She seemed only vaguely aware of our presence, muttering and turning her head as though she had trouble seeing and asking plaintively, "Is that you, kitten? It that my baby daughter?"

"Yes, mummy, it's me," whispered Sydney, grasping her mother's head and holding it so they could look into each other's eyes. The old woman blinked rapidly and suddenly seemed to start awake, as though from a deep sleep.

"Sydney!" she exclaimed. "Sydney, my love! You're here. Oh, hold me, dear, I love you so much." Sydney kissed her mother's forehead then, and held her tightly for a few minutes. Sydney did not cry but she looked like she expected to so at any moment.

"I have a Christmas present for you," the little girl whispered.

The mother appeared surprised, slightly confused. "Is it Christmas already?" she said with a deep sigh. "I have so much to do. Nothing is ready." She made a feeble effort as though to rise, but Sydney pushed her down, hushing her gently.

"Christmas is days away, mum. Don't worry about it. There's plenty of time." Then Sydney took the vase out of the inside of her coat, slowly unwrapping it from the strip of cloth used to protect it.

Mrs. Wagner's eyes went wide when she saw the vase. "It's a Lindsey!" she breathed in astonishment. "It's beautiful. But child, those cost a fortune! How did you manage it?"

In hushed tones Sydney told her mother the story, of the cold, the warm milk, and how nice dear Mr. Lindsey had been. The old woman cried then. We all began to weep, and Mrs. Jacoby appeared to be very happy and alive, her cheeks flushed with passion and vigor, eyes wet with tears, her mouth stretched into a wide smile, almost a living ghost of her former self.

Sydney's father came in about that time. We fell silent, for a moment, and then Mrs. Jacoby showed him the vase, her eyes shining with joy. Mr. Jacoby was a big man, a worker. I had rarely spoken to him, and in fact, rarely saw him. For as long as I knew her, Sydney did not say much about him, but always talked about her mother. He always frightened me a little, as he seemed so stern and continually cross, as though he were glaring at everyone in the room. But his eyes were soft, now, as he looked at the woman in the bed. He smiled and ran his fingers through the wisps of hair on her head. She suddenly looked so old at that moment I wondered that she breathed at all. As we watched he whispered to her and her eyes slowly faded and shut, and in a heartbeat she was fast asleep, resting quietly.

The man took the vase from her loose fingers and studied it. He did not pretend to understand impractical things like art, but he knew the piece had to be expensive. In a low voice he said gruffly, "Where'd you get it, girl."

Sydney told him. His face was a rock. He calmly placed the vase on the bedside table and walked out of the room, both of us following. Without a word we walked outside, to the small woodshed, where he silently took down a long leather strap. I felt my eyes growing wide in astonishment.

"Do you want to tell me the truth, girl, or do you want extra for lying?"

Sydney's face had gone pale. "I'm telling you the truth, father. Mr. Lindsey himself gave me that vase!"

"It's true Mr. Wagner," I ventured, falling silent when he glared at me.

"You're both liars," he said vehemently, spitting onto the ground next to me. "I ought to thrash you both telling stories. Now tell me the truth: where did you steal it from?" His voice roared like thunder and his black eyes blazed with fury.

Sydney did not answer, and I looked away. Like in a dream I watched as he pulled Sydney forward, into the shed, and thrust her bodily across the top of a large barrel. With harsh, cruel speed he jerked her dress and coat upward, her thin legs bare except for her stockings. He pushed her dress up so high you could see her naked bottom, as undergarments were reserved for Sundays. When he had her sufficiently naked for his needs, he began to thrash her, the heavy strap rising and falling at blinding speed. The pale flesh of her thighs and buttocks turned crimson with each stroke and each time Sydney screamed and sobbed in pain as though she was being burned with a live poker. The lashing continued, red stripes painting her thighs and legs. Sydney struggled now, and her father roared at her to be still, and the belt came down even harder, the dreadful sound of each blow almost causing me to pee.

I stood, stunned, just outside the doorway, tears filling my eyes. I wanted to weep at the injustice of it, I wanted to scream and fight. But Mr. Wagner was a big man and I could not fight him. If I tried I surely would be whipped myself, and that terrified me. It had been years since my father had seen the need to strap me, and my memories of the last one were vague and filled with horror and dread beyond expression. With a pounding heart I pushed aside any guilt at abandoning my friend and turned and ran. I ran all the way home without stopping, crying the whole way. I felt awful about leaving her, but I couldn't just stand there and wait for my turn. In my mind I could not rid myself of the image of her thin legs sticking out from under her clothing, kicking so frantically I could see between her legs all the way to the darkness of her crotch, thick red welts covering her pale skin. The image terrified and humiliated me. It was a reminder of my own cowardice, and yet I couldn't imagine receiving a strapping like that.

I didn't see Sydney again until the funeral. It was a quiet affair, just a few of us. Sydney was appropriately dressed in black. Her father was there, tall and looming, but he did not look at me. He did not look at anyone, really, but seemed distant and aloof. His shoulders were squared as though he was carrying a heavy, awkward burden. As soon as the ceremony was finished he left, curtly motioning for Sydney and her little brother to follow.

Tears in her eyes, Sydney hastily ran to me and told me they were leaving. I thought she meant to go home, which seemed rather obvious and a silly thing to need to tell me, but she mentioned that her father had relatives near Sheraton, and as he felt it too much of a burden to raise two children on his own, they would go live with their aunt. This struck me like a blow, and I watched in silence as my friend left, scurrying to catch up with her father.

At home I cried. I had not known Sydney for very long, perhaps a few years, but we had grown close, as children do, and to a child, a year can be a lifetime. I begged my father to let me go with her, but of course that was out of the question. A week later she was gone, and I was alone.

Thus, in the span of a few weeks time, our village lost a hero, my friend lost part of her family, and I lost my friend. I never saw Sydney again, though every time I see a piece of Lindsey porcelain I think of her. I think of her dear mother, valiant to the end. I think of her father holding that strap and her tiny kicking legs, and of course, Mr. Lindsey and that cozy, firelit room where we shared warm milk.

Tears blurred my vision as I thought of that terrible Christmas, so full of tragedy and poignant joy. The vase rotated in my fingers and I suddenly froze, my heart skipping a beat. I frantically scanned the pattern again. Had I not seen a slight smudge in one of the lines? Just a tiny imperfection, something so minor none but an artist would scarcely notice it?

"How _dare_ you!" exclaimed a voice from behind me, immediately followed by the shudder of a door slamming shut. I felt a chill pass through me. That sound of doom echoed in my mind like a ringing bell. I looked up to the Mistress, standing before the door, the expression on her face one of absolute shock and betrayal. I could not move, even when she snatched the vase from my hand, inspected it briefly, and gingerly placed it in the cabinet. I'd seen that expression before, I realized suddenly, when I was a child, and the authorities had taken a baby away from its mother. I did not know why they had taken her baby, but the look of betrayal and uncontrolled hatred in her eyes had haunted me for months, and I saw that look in the Mistresses eyes now, a look of pure hatred, as though I were stealing her child.

The Mistress snapped the door shut firmly. Her dark eyes blazed with unspeakable fury, her expression suddenly reminding me of the raging Mr. Jacoby as he flogged his daughter so many years ago. I could not look at her, but stared straight ahead, my mind slow and numb.

"Get out," she hissed, and my heart started in surprise. Wasn't she going to beat me? I expected nothing but the worst punishment of my life. But she only pointed to the door and growled, "I said, get out!" and I left immediately. Her eyes were filled with tears and she looked like she was trembling with rage or passion. This was no game for her; no pleasure glinted in her eyes. Instead I glimpsed fear and sadness, two emotions I had never suspected the Lady even had the ability to endure, let alone bear them with such a weary expression of long-suffering.

I went straight to my room and fell onto my bed and began to weep. I wept for Sydney and her mother, for my damned self, for the Mistress and whatever terrible secret she bore, and for Mr. Lindsey and his vase. I don't know how long I lay weeping, but finally I lay silent and still, and the slowly the image of the vase returned to haunt me. My resolve began to thicken and I knew what I had to do, regardless of the penalty. Some how, some way, despite the horrible punishment I was waiting to receive, I was going to have to examine that vase again, to make certain that I had seen what I thought I had seen. Surely it was only my eyes playing games, my mind confused by my memories, forcing me to see what I wanted to see. But I could not be sure. I needed to look at the vase, and though I knew the Mistress would be on her guard now more than ever, I _had_ to examine that vase, whatever the cost!

Part V -- Entrapment

(*****, F/F, Severe, servant discipline, FF themes)

FM's Masterwork. A real novella of over 37,000 words. This tells the story of a female servant whose new mistress turns out not only to be extremely strict, but to have a mysterious secret in her past. (Approximately 37,092 words. Originally published 1996-01.)

She caned me in the morning. Twenty-four strokes. I'd expected no less. It was just. She'd forbidden me to go near her cabinet and I had not only peeked inside, but I had handled what was obviously a rare and precious treasure. But still I could not rid myself of the questions that haunted me, day and night, over the next few weeks. Was that really Sydney's vase? If so, how had the Mistress obtained it? Did she buy it from Sydney? Perhaps she knew where Sydney could be found! It would be a delight to see her again after all these years. And why did the Mistress hide the vase, as though were more precious than money?

But I had no answers to these questions, and no opportunity to find out. The Mistress rode me hard, assigning me arduous, time-consuming tasks so that from dawn to dusk I worked and sweated and labored with no time for mischief. She beat me more often, I noticed, and with more real anger and less amusement. I had never realized what a different that made, but suddenly I wished she would smile as she beat me, like before, even if it was a longer and harsher whipping, as being whipped for her pleasure was supremely better than being whipped for mere punishment.

It was about two weeks after the incident with the vase that it started. I noticed a change in the Mistress. She no longer smiled at me, or took pleasure in my company. My presence seemed to irritate her. Even when I apologized for touching her vase and begged her forgiveness, she only smiled wanly and motioned for me to leave her alone. She spent a great deal of time alone now, much more than ever before. I grew concerned, and I fretted that I had caused some serious injury to her. I could not imagine how, or what significance my touching the vase had, or could have, on her. But the change between us had obviously taken place since that day with the vase, and I could think of no other explanation.

One morning, when she was unusually upset with me for a reason so minor I have long since forgotten it, she took down the strap and ordered me to lie across her bed. When my skirt was lifted and my bottom bared she began the long, thorough strapping. Though by now I had more than my share of experience with her punishments, I shall not say that I was used to them, that they did not affect me any longer; rather I shall say that I was _attuned_ to her whippings. Though I certainly did not seek them out, they provided a certain release for me, an escape, if you will, from the dry boredom of daily living and the constant atmosphere of doom that hung over me and followed me everywhere. There was a certain satisfaction in her punishments, and my sigh as I knelt in position was more one of resignment and resolution than acceptance. I suspected that the whippings offered a release for her, too, though I did not know what she sought to escape from, for she was always much more relaxed and, I suppose, happy, after administering punishment.

During this whippings, however, I was painfully aware of the new, foreign dynamics within our relationship. Her beating was hard, cruel, almost ruthless in its intensity, and it went on much longer than was usual, even for her. I became aware of a subtle difference between her previous punishments and this one, namely that her beatings had at one time engaged my mind, taunting and tormenting me, forcing me to participate in the whipping, to ponder and accept each blow as though it were a caress or a kiss. Her belt or cane was always aware of what I was thinking, what I was feeling, and it would control me, pushing me hither and yon, making me feel brave at one moment, frightened the next, ashamed on another occasion. I would leave the whipping drained, both mentally and physically, but I would feel a sense of elation, as though I had discovered something priceless.

On this day, however, the whipping was purely physical. It was constant, rhythmic, and without change or mercy. She cared nothing about what I felt, what I was thinking. This was mere torture, nothing but pain, agonizing pain, and I did not like the sensation at all. At least when it had been a game to her there was something within it that entertained us both. Now I got nothing from the punishment. I did not go anywhere, learn anything, or feel a sense of accomplishment.

When she finished I lay silent, too stunned even to weep. I slowly raised myself, my flesh burning violently in a thousand places, and felt more base than I had ever felt in my life. I had been whipped like an animal, a creature without sensibility, and I felt no better than a kicked and long-abused dog. As I stood and turned to face the Mistress, my face damp and flushed, my body trembling, I hoped and prayed for the slightest sign of appreciation or gratitude from her; anything to let me know that my sacrifice was recognized, that I was more than the inanimate object she now treated me as. But there was nothing, only an empty, dull face, eyes filled with frustration and sadness and longing, as though she could not find what she sought.

As I dropped my eyes away from her pointless face I caught a figure in the doorway of her chamber and I froze, my heart leaping to my throat. I don't know why he surprised me. There was no reason he should not have been there. Perhaps it was his strange expression, part curiosity and puzzlement, part sadness, as though he were disappointed. Or maybe I was startled by his relaxed stance, which indicated that he'd been watching us for a long time. My mouth opened slightly but I did not speak. The Mistress turned, then, and saw him. I could not see her face but she appeared flustered, and ordered me to my quarters.

The Master's face became a mask, slick and even, almost without expression, though his lips formed a genial smile, and he nodded at me as I left the room. But his eyes never strayed from his wife's face, and as I turned to close the door behind me, I saw she was staring at the floor, her high cheekbones crimson. I heard him speak then, in calm, low tones, but there was no answer, and I could not make out his words. I went to my quarters and rested.

I did not see the Mistress again until the next day as I worked in the kitchen, when, without a word of explanation, she strode up to me and ordered I bring her the cane. Blushing before all the others, I obeyed. It had been a month or so since she had punished me publicly, and I dreaded it. She spread me across a table right there in front of the cook and all the servants and gave me six vicious strokes with the cane. Then she left without a word, haughty and aloof and extremely smug. No one spoke to me about the incident, but one of the older maids casually gave me some of her meat scraps from her noon meal, saying that she "didn't feel hungry." I understood the gesture and thanked her.

I thought little more of the incident until late that evening, as I was retiring in my quarters. I was in the process of undressing, a single candle burning in one corner near by bed, my eyes already closing with fatigue. Suddenly there was a sharp, single knock on the door. It was too distinct to be mistaken for something else, and yet so quick I wondered if I had really heard it. I opened the door cautiously, holding my just-removed dress against my bosom.

The Master himself stood before me, a small lantern in his hand, his face calm and smiling, and yet with a touch of wildness, of urgency. I stood back in surprise. "Master DeMarcco!" I exclaimed. "What on earth!"

"I must speak with you, Miss Janey," he said quickly, quietly, and pulled himself inside, instantly shutting the door behind him as though frightened he would be seen. I stared at him open-mouthed, wondering what could possibly be his intentions, when I blushingly realized my undressed state and I struggled to contain my modesty.

"Sir, I am not properly dressed," I murmured.

"My apologies," he said gallantly, turning away so I could adjust myself. I gingerly sat on the bed and covered myself with my blanket. He turned, smiled rather shyly, and apologized again. "Please forgive the intrusion at this late hour," he said, seating himself at the foot of my bed and looking at me intently. "But I must ask you a question. I saw you wince, just now. The Mistress caned you, today, did she not?"

I blushed furiously at this, silently confirming his remark. "I thought so," he said grimly. "I overheard one of the chambermaids whispering about it to another. And she whipped you very thoroughly just yesterday. Are you so naughty?"

This was the kind of question that is impossible to answer. If I said yes, I implied I deserved the punishments, and perhaps more. But if I said no, maybe I was being arrogant and vain, rising above my station. I slowly shook my head. "I'm only naughty when the Mistress wants me to be," I said carefully.

The Master laughed. "Excellent answer! You are far too bright to simply be a chambermaid. You ought to be the head of staff."

"I was, sir, for Lord Gregory, until he died."

"Ah, I thought as much. But it seems that the Mistress does not have the same opinion of you as we do. How many times has she beaten you over the past fortnight?"

I sighed, thinking. "Well, sir, it's been more than normal, that's for certain. I can't seem to do anything right for her anymore."

"How many times?" He repeated, his voice slightly sharp.

"I suppose, let's see now, counting today's caning, that would be nine, sir."

"Nine!" he exclaimed. "Nine in fourteen days! How do you bear it?"

"Oh, not all were that severe, sir. Yesterday's whipping and one last week were by far the worst."

The man looked at me silently for a few moments, until I began to feel embarrassed, and looked away, pulling the covering tighter around me. He stood, suddenly. "Thank you for your honesty, Miss Janey."

"What are you going to do?" I asked, my heart suddenly leaping with fear that he would be upset with the Mistress. That would only enrage her, and she'd be certain to take it out on the help.

"I don't know," he said simply. "I don't even know why I am asking, really, it's just that--" He paused, voice suddenly rough with emotion. I saw the glint of moisture in his eyes as he stared at me in the flickering light. "I love my wife, Miss Janey, very much. But lately she has... drifted away, shall we say. When I saw her whipping you yesterday I saw something in her I had not seen in a long time. Something I thought was forgotten, buried. It was very faint, but unmistakable: I think she hates you. Do you know why she would hate you?"

I shook my head slowly, my mind going back to the incident with the vase. "Not really, sir, unless she's unhappy with my performance."

"No, this is a deep, violent hatred, an evil blackening her very heart. It must be a very personal thing for her to hate you so."

"Oh," I said. He looked at me, just a touch sharply, but he did not speak again. He pressed his ear to the door for a moment, and when satisfied that all was quiet on the other side, he slipped out and was gone. I laid back on the bed and thought about what he had said, how he had looked. I thought about the vase and the Mistress' reaction. "Surely it has to be more than just that," I thought miserably, but I could not be sure. I slept badly that night, and in the morning the Mistress gave me three strokes with the cane for "sloth and tardiness."

Two evenings later the Mistress announced that I would be serving at dinner, and I knew what she had planned. I had served dinner on several occasions since that first fateful time, and at most dinners, but not all, managed to find myself publicly flogged before the guests. No doubt this would be another occasion for the latter. This distressed me, but I had long since learned not to concern myself over punishments before they occurred. What would be, would be; there was little I could do to change my circumstances.

The evening began well enough. The guests were a young couple just returned from Paris, a Countess and her new husband, and they had all the gossip my Master wanted to hear. The woman, I noticed, was quite haughty and vain. She practically dripped jewelry, any single piece of which would have served to feed me for a year. She treated me rudely and with contempt, but I managed to serve her pleasantly, and by the time the desert was served, I thought that perhaps I might escape the Mistress' intended fate. Then I heard the high-pitched voice of the Mistress, and though at first I didn't even hear the words, simply the accusing, degrading tone which told me it was directed at me, I knew with a sinking heart I had finally given her cause.

"Miss Janey!" said the Lady coldly, grim triumph flooding her face. "How could you! Shameful, it's shameful!"

I was sick of this game. I would not play. "How could I what?" I asked boldly, daring startled glances from the others.

She glared at me. "Give me your apron!" I obeyed, wondering what on earth she would do with it. She made a big show of spreading it out on the table, and then ran her hand into one of the large pockets. She slid her hand around for a movement or two, and then it emerged holding a small, glittering object. "Ah, ha!" She chortled. "My eyes did not deceive me! You are nothing but a thief!"

My jaw dropped in horror. For a maid to be accused of thievery was instant death. No one would hire me ever again, should I not prove my innocence. I saw myself crawling through a pile of refuse at the edge of town, my body old and filled with disease, dying a horrible death of starvation.

"Mistress DeMarcco, I did not take that!" I exclaimed, horror creeping into my voice. The Lady held it up to the light, now, and there was a gasp from the Countess as she recognized her ring. It was gold and sparkled with rubies and emeralds. It must have been worth a small fortune.

"My god!" she gasped. "She stole the ring right off my finger!" Her beady eyes blazed with fury as she turned to leer at me. "You ought to be thrashed and hanged," she said with a cold disdain I didn't think was possible to come from one human to another.

"But I did not take it!" I protested, reckless now, as I felt the heat of accusing faces all pushing at me.

"So how did it come to be in your apron?" asked the Mistress, her voice taunting, mocking, as she handed the ring back to its owner.

"I do not know. I did not put it there. Perhaps _you_ did, just now!" My heart pounded loudly at my brazen disregard for authority, but no one was listening to me. My voice was high, irrational, desperate. I stared from one leering face to another, trying to find a friend. Finally I settled on the Master, who's face looked grim. He would not look at me, but only stared across the table at his wife. She was haughty and proud, her lower lips projecting slightly in a pout.

"I think she should be caned!"

I saw the Master's eyes widen slightly at this. Stealing, if it could be proven, was a serious offense, one usually handled by the courts. Often, in the case of a servant, it was enough of a punishment to throw the thief out, for he or she would soon starve. By suggesting a caning, the Mistress was implying that I would not be released, and that justice could be better served here, by the DeMarccos themselves. I could see this puzzled him, for if the accusation was true, why would the Mistress want a thief in her house?

But the Mistress was already ordering a servant to fetch the cane, and apologizing magnanimously to the Countess, promising her that my thrashing would be most severe and memorable.

I stood off to one side, almost forgotten in the melee, my heart beating slowly and loudly. I could feel the blood moving through my skin. Nothing seemed real. I did not move as servants came and stripped me naked, removing my dress and petticoat and undergarments until I was completely nude. I was led before the fireplace, so close I could feel the fierce heat against my front, leaving my back cold. My arms were raised and fastened to the mantle with a piece of rope, and I stood there, silent, slightly bent, and waited for the pain to begin.

As I stood there, trembling despite myself, tears filling my eyes, I glanced back and managed to catch the Master looking at me. He appeared very sad, and he did not smile at me. He looked thoughtful and concerned. It comforted me, at least, that he was not full of the mirth and glee of the others, who eagerly gathered behind me to watch me be beaten.

Though it may seem strange, I remember very little of the caning. I suppose it was bad, my worst ever, but it held less terror for me than any of my previous punishments. I did not care what happened, somehow. My spirit was broken, perhaps. I had given up hope and I resolved to leave and die like I had desired to do when I had first come to the DeMarcco's.

Part VI -- Justice

(*****, F/F, Severe, servant discipline, FF themes)

FM's Masterwork. A real novella of over 37,000 words. This tells the story of a female servant whose new mistress turns out not only to be extremely strict, but to have a mysterious secret in her past. (Approximately 37,092 words. Originally published 1996-01.)

The next thing I remember it was daylight, and I was in my room. I was naked, lying on my stomach, and even without moving I could feel how sore I was. I turned my head and groaned, and a quiet voice spoke, "How do you feel?"

It was the Master. Horror passed through me for a second and then it vanished. I did not care. Let me see him. Let him take me, if that's what he desired. I no longer had a will of my own. I did not even answer him, and he seemed to take that as my answer. His hand reached out and touched my head, caressing my hair slowly, almost absently, not sensually, but simply petting it the way one might pet a hound. It alarmed me at first and I tensed, but slowly I relaxed.

"She was too hard on you," he whispered.

"Why are you here?" I asked.

"Why not?" he said with a soft smile. "I did not want you to awake without a friend nearby."

"You are my friend." I said it bluntly, like a statement, but it was a question.

"Yes."

"Then why did this happen?"

"What could I do? She found the ring in your apron. There are few explanations other than the obvious one."

"She put it there."

"What? How dare you!" His voice was sharp and astonished. But the surprise on his face was only there for a moment, and it looked false, as though he was trying to convince himself that he was shocked.

"She put it there when she searched the apron. There was no ring in the apron when I gave it to her. I wipe my hands on it all the time. I would have felt the lump if it had been there earlier."

He was silent for a time, thinking. "Why? Why would she do such a thing?"

"Because she's a demon," I whispered, not knowing how far I dared go, but not really caring but either. "A demon bitch that enjoys punishing others."

My cheek lay pressed against the soft pillow but I could see him out of one eye. His face was grim. He suddenly looked tired and old, depressed, as though he had been fighting in vain for years, and only now realized the pointlessness of it all. "I can no longer deny the truth, can I?" he whispered, tears in his eyes. "Though she is a lovely woman, she is possessed. For years I have watched her, wondered, and pretended not to see. But the truth cannot be denied. She is an evil woman, and must be punished."

I watched as he stood, cold resolve gleaming in his face. "I must go, now. You go to sleep. You have no duties for one week, so do not worry. You deserve a vacation; rest and relax. Your place here at the DeMarcco's is secure."

With that he left, and I lay and slept. For two days I could not get out of bed except with tremendous effort, and even on the third day I felt stiff and sore and weak, as though I had not eaten in days.

Later that day a girl came to me. Her name was Maddie. She and I knew each other and were friends. The Master had sent her to care for me, and so she bathed me and put a soothing salve across my wounds, and told me the gossip of the mansion.

The first day she seemed nervous and frightened. Everyone was talking about the Master and his wife, it seemed. Many were afraid there was grave trouble. Some said it was money, that the Master was ruined, and we would all be let go. Others said the Master was having an affair, and the Lady knew about it, and had threatened to leave him and create a scandal. Still others said that it was the Lady who'd had the affair, for it was the Master who was angry, not the Lady. They'd seen him pass like a darkened thundercloud without even a polite word as he dashed past. But all this was only rumor, and no one knew what was to happen.

On the second day, the girl returned, her eyes wide with excitement. She could not wait to tell me the news. "It's most incredible!" she breathed. "The whole castle is talking of nothing else! Never in a hundred years!"

"What, what, what?" I exclaimed, annoyed at her manner of speaking and saying nothing. "What are they talking about?"

"Of the Mistress!" she exclaimed with delight, clapping her hands and leaping onto the bed next to me. "No one is certain why, but she is a changed woman!"

"A changed woman?"

"Yes! Last night the Master ordered everyone out of the west wing, where he and Mistress live. All the servants, no exceptions. 'Do not disturb us until morning!' he ordered, and everyone obeyed. This morning the Mistress descended for breakfast and she was cold and silent and even polite, _asking_ the cook for some sherry, and not even turning when that foolish cow Mabel dropped a piece of crockery. We all froze, waiting for the her to order Mabel to fetch the strap, but she didn't. Instead, she took some bread and cheese and left, saying that she and the Master would remain alone for the day. They are up there now, and everyone is wondering what is going on!"

"Strange," I murmured, wondering how much of the tale to believe. It seemed improbable that the Lady's character could change so dramatically overnight. I figured it was a quirk, that she was in a strange mood and wasn't her normal, unforgiving self.

I slept then, and didn't awake until dark. I wasn't sure why I awoke until I felt the breeze blowing across my still sensitive bare legs and bum and realized the door was open. I turned and stared, for the Master was standing in the dark, no lantern in his hand. He slipped inside and shut the door quietly, appearing even more secretive than his first visit a few nights ago.

"You are awake, Miss Janey?" he whispered, and I nodded. We could barely see each other in the dark and I made a motion to light the candle but he touch my hand and whispered, "No, let's leave it dark."

I fell back on my bed and waited. I was becoming used to waiting for others. He would tell me what he wanted when he was ready.

He didn't speak for a few minutes. I felt myself drifting off when he said in a grim, excited voice, "I did it."

"Did what?"

"Well, yesterday after leaving you I did some thinking. I thought about my wife and our relationship, and how she treats the servants. I've known she's a strict Mistress for a long time, but I suspected it was only her way of maintaining control, that she gained a sense of power by abusing the servants, as many Ladies do. I did not move to interfere with her management.

"Then I thought about you, and why she did that with the ring. Many things puzzled me. For instance, I know many women (like that awful Countess the other night) flog their help. But most, like the Countess, do it without cause, simply because they are the Lords and Ladies of the house and feel it is their right to punish the servants. Some punish their help on a regular basis for nothing at all but the consistency of periodic punishment. I know of none that would go to the trouble of stealing a Countess' ring in order to frame a servant!"

I nodded. This made sense. I had often wondered why the Mistress was so particular. If she enjoyed punishing her servants, why did she just not do so, and forget the charade of finding an excuse for it!

He continued. "In thinking about this I came to several conclusions and a resolution. Last evening I sent away all servants and shut myself in my chambers with my lovely wife. She had never looked more beautiful, so naive and cold, and little nervous, wondering what I had planned. I did not tell her, you see, and we sat down and enjoyed a wonderful supper. I watched her the entire time. She seemed slightly distant, and a little nervous. I asked her several times if she was feeling alright, that she wasn't ill or anything, and she always responded that she felt fine.

"After the meal, I suggested we have a talk. She did not speak, but I could see that she was very curious as to what we were going to talk about. I led her to the davenport and we sat across from each other, very still and quiet. I waited for the silence to build a bit before I broke it with the comment, 'Miss Janey is going to be fine.' 'Oh?' she said, in a rather distracted, nonchalant tone, as though we were only speaking of the weather. 'Yes,' I said. 'Little Maddie is tending to her wounds and she is healing nicely.'

"My wife nodded but did not say anything. 'Don't you think you were a little hard on her?' 'Of course not!' she said grimly, her face growing dark. 'She's a thief and a liar. I should have given her double!' I put on a puzzled expression. 'We both know that isn't the real reason,' I said.

"'What do you mean?' There was curiosity and some tension in her voice.

"'I mean,' I said firmly, 'we both know that _you_ were the one who placed the ring in her apron. If we punish her because she stole we'd have to punish you in the same manner.' Her face went rather white, but she kept her wits about her. 'How, I mean, what makes you think _I_ placed the ring?' 'Well, it was so obvious!' I exclaimed. 'There was no time or opportunity for Janey to do it. She was far too busy the entire evening. She barely had time for a spare breath. You really do work your help too hard, my dear. A dinner like that should require two or three servants, at least.'

"My wife glared at me. 'You have no right to accuse me!' she said haughtily. 'I am a Lady, not a common serving girl.' 'Ah, I forgot,' I said in the most condensing voice I could manage. 'You are a Lady, and as such, are not expected to live up to the moral standards of a Lady. You, because you are "a Lady," can do whatever you please, including whipping innocent servants when _you_ are the one who ought to be whipped!'

"A crimson blush crept into the Lady's fine cheeks and she looked like she was about to burst into tears. 'Why are you treating me like this?' she pouted. 'I'm not the guilty party.'

"'Oh, but you are!' I said grimly. 'It was you who stole that ring and not Miss Janey.' 'I did not _steal_ it,' she said in an annoyed tone, looking away from me. 'I only borrowed it. There was never any intention on my part of keeping it.'

"'What does keeping it have to do with stealing?' I asked. 'By that rate of judgement the maid could say she took it to clean it, or had found it fallen on the floor and intended to return it to the Master at the conclusion of the meal, or even that she'd only borrowed it to admire it, having never seen anything so fine before. No, you _took_ it, and that makes you a thief.'

"She pouted daintily before me. 'Well, what difference does it make!" she said in a defiant tone. 'She's just a servant girl and probably deserved a caning for something else I did not see.'

"I stood to my full height and glared down at my wife. She was sitting straight-backed and stiff on the sofa, her eyes cold and hard, her lips curled into a slight snarl. I'm afraid at that moment I thought she looked exceedingly revolting, and I wondered that I had never seen this side of her character before.

"I shook my head firmly. 'I'm afraid it _does_ make a difference, my dear. You do not understand the first thing about being a Lady. We are high-born, and as such, we are the upholders of Justice. We cannot abuse the laws of fairness simply because we made them. They apply to us as well as the common people. That is what Justice is about. You, I'm afraid, have distorted Justice to your own ends. You have abused your privilege and you shall not escape punishment.'

"The Lady gasped at stared at me in horror. 'What are you saying?' she said slowly, carefully, as though unsure of her speech. 'I am saying that your despicable behavior not only reflects badly on yourself, but it damages the reputation of me, of the DeMarcco name, this castle and what it represents. In fact, I'd say you have offended Justice itself.

"'I've done no such thing!' she exclaimed with a course laugh, leaping to her feet. 'This conversation has taken an ugly turn. I'm going to leave you, now, and go to my chambers.' With a lightening move I grasped her arm in a grip of iron that caused a slight cry of alarm to escape from her lips.

"'You shall not leave until I give you permission,' I said sternly, in a tone that provoked no argument. 'And I give you no such permission. In fact, I command you to stay.' 'You have no right,' she said struggling to free herself. 'Let me go.' 'I have every right, as your husband and county magistrate,' I roared. 'Now sit down and accept your punishment like the Lady you pretend to be!'

"I threw her toward the sofa and she fell on it heavily, clutching at it as though it were a raft and she, lost in an ocean and unable to swim. Her eyes were large and terrified. She bore the expression of someone who's face had just been slapped: stunned and teary, and slightly bewildered. Her mouth was ajar but she did not speak. She watched as I, rage boiling in me, went to my closet and returned with a long white cane and heavy leather strap. Her face turned the color of chalk and she struggled to seat herself properly on the sofa, backing away from me as I approached.

"'W-what are you doing?' she cried out. 'Put those away. You cannot be serious! Why, I am a Lady!'

"'You lost any claim on that title,' I said, 'when you behaved like a gutter-whore. A whoring bitch is what you are, nothing but the lowest class of woman. Worse, even, for you practiced deception and trickery, hiding your true nature even from yourself. Even the lowest whore gives herself that title, for she knows her nature. You, however, think you are a Lady though your actions prove you the direct opposite!' I spat on the floor in fury. 'Such arrogance and gall shall not be permitted by my wife or anyone who lives in my house!'

"The woman before me was the picture of terror, her face so pale even her lips were white. As I spoke, she was sliding off the sofa to sit in heap on the floor, her fluffy gown wrapped around her, body and head leaning toward the ground, sobbing pitifully, ceaselessly. 'Oh, Master!' she begged. 'Please, please, forgive me! I've done wrong, I know it, and I'm sorry! You are right--I have never felt like a Lady. It was only an illusion, something I wanted so badly I would do anything to obtain it! Please, dear husband, put down your weapons and take me, hold me, forgive me. I shall be a changed woman, I shall act like a Lady, I promise. I swear it!'

"I looked at her lying there and my heart was filled with a mixture of disgust and pride. Her weeping and begging repulsed me, but she had admitted her guilt and that filled me with admiration. Perhaps she had the stuff of a Lady in her somewhere. 'You cannot escape your punishment so easily,' I said quietly, descending on one knee and lifting her chin to look into her eyes. 'You have much to atone for. A real Lady would not beg or grovel as you do so easily. A true Lady stands up tall and though it is difficult, asks for her deserved punishment in clear, humble tones.'

"The woman looked at me, her lips trembling, eyes filled with tears. She looked very feminine at that moment, pretty, vulnerable, and gentle, a far cry from her normal coldness. 'Please,' she whispered. 'You will help me become a Lady?'

"'I will show you how,' I said. And suddenly she smiled and hugged me. Standing, she looked with fright at the instruments in my hand. 'A-and _that_, i-it is the first step?" she said hesitantly. I nodded and she gnawed on her lower lip for a moment as though making a decision. Then she spoke: 'Alright. I will accept my punishment. Like a Lady.' And she blushed furiously, and stared at the ground.'

"I took her then and bade her to strip. She hesitated and then obeyed, quietly removing all her garments. I sat on the sofa and watched. When she was completely naked I ordered her across my lap. 'I will warm you with my hand, first,' I said. Blushing, she clambered across my legs. I arranged her hips across my lap so that she fit comfortably, her rather ample posterior at the perfect location for my right hand. I felt her bottom first, squeezing the twin mounds of flesh and pinching her. She wiggled and whimpered. 'Now you be an obedient girl and lie still,' I scolded, and proceeded to slap her rump as hard and fast as I could.

"I did not give her time to absorb the blows but simply spanked her, long and hard, until her bottom was a bright, even red. She wiggled and cried out a few times, and saw finally there were tears in her eyes. But she did not try to escape or cover her bottom. Her hands were stretched out in front of her, gripping a pillow tightly as though it would save her life. I finally stopped and spoke to her. 'There now, don't you feel more like a Lady?'

"To my astonishment she nodded. 'I do feel better,' she said. 'It's strange but I do! I really do! It hurts so, but I know I deserve it, and when you stopped I just felt so good inside, like I'd really accomplished something!'

"'Excellent!' I said. 'But you have felt nothing yet. I will use the strap, now, and then the cane. I think a dozen with the cane shall be sufficient for today.' The woman moaned and began to cry softly, but she did not argue. I lifted her up, then, and had her kneel across the back of the sofa. I thrashed her soundly with the leather strap, then, until her buttocks and thighs were nothing more than a continuous red welt.

"She wept during this but did not argue. I was impressed with her control, anticipating much more of a battle. When I took up the cane, however, she did protest, and begged me to leave off. 'I've had enough. Please, sir, no more!' I shook my head, however, and told her that she needed the bite of the cane in her memory throughout the night to reminder her the consequences of unladylike behavior. 'Please, let's do it in the morning,' she begged. 'I already planned to give you another dozen in the morning, right after breakfast,' I said. 'Do you want two dozen in the morning?' She shook her head and lowered it, resigned.

"I helped her back into position behind the sofa, and reminded her that if she left her position or straightened up we'd start the caning over, even if we were on the very last stroke. 'You are getting a full dozen,' I said firmly. 'And another dozen after breakfast.' Sobbing, she stood in position and waited.

"I stepped back and gave her a sharp cut full across the middle of her ass. She cried out and wiggled frantically, and when the cane came away I saw a long red stripe across her bum. Again and I again I struck her with the cane, mostly on her buttocks, but a few across the thighs, just for variety. With each stroke she put on a little show, dancing in place and howling like a wolf, screaming as though I were slaughtering her. At one point I urged her to be quieter, and after that she suppressed her cries slightly, but it was obvious it had been a long time since she had been caned, if ever. Still, she did not rise or try to escape, though she did beg me to stop a few times. I felt my respect for her rising. I could see the change in her character already, and I liked what I was seeing.

"After the caning she came and put her arms around me and wept quietly for a bit, and then she began to kiss me. I returned her kiss and soon we were passionately embracing. There was an animal inside her, and we went to my bed and made wild, fierce love for hours until we fell asleep, exhausted and spent.

"In the morning I sent her down to fetch breakfast, reminding her to be polite to the servants, and she obeyed, docile as a lamb. We ate breakfast quietly, without much conversation, as we were both famished. I saw her glance twice at the cane, lying on the floor near the sofa, and I could hardly repress a grin at the expression of trepidation across her features. When we had finished, she stood and cleared away the dishes without my telling her, and then slipped off her cloak, standing naked before me. 'I assume, sir,' she said slowly in almost a whisper, 'that I cannot persuade you to forget your promise of last night?'

"'What promise is that?' I asked, as though I did not know. 'You told me I'd receive another twelve with the cane after breakfast.' I nodded. 'So I did. Fetch me the cane.' Her face paled but she obeyed, returning and handing it to me as though it was diseased.

"'You used to handle this cane as though you cherished it,' I said quietly, with a smile. 'I-I had forgotten,' she said softly, her eyes glazed as though she were far away. 'I hadn't realized it hurt so much.' 'So you fear it, now, do you?' She nodded. 'Yes, sir. Very much.' 'Good,' I said. 'Fear of punishment is what improves behavior. Now let us do this and then I have a surprise for you.'

"Her face brightened and then dimmed, but she nodded and obediently went to the couch. I stepped behind her and felt her buttocks. Her flesh was still red and slightly bruised from the previous night's work, but it was still healthy. She could take another twelve strokes without permanent damage. Without further delay I gave them to her, twelve sharp cuts, six on her buttocks and six on her thighs. She did not cry out but only moaned, softly, constantly, and wiggled after each stroke. When I had finished I ordered her up and she stood, turned, and kissed me. 'Am I becoming more a Lady?' she asked. 'With every breath,' I responded. 'Though you don't kiss like a Lady, but I don't mind that at all.' And I took her back to the bed.

"We awoke late this afternoon and that's when I told her about the surprise. Do you want to hear about this? It involves you, my dear."

I stared at the Master in surprise. "Me? What does it have to do with me?"

He smiled. "Well, I need your assistance. The Lady does not know I haven't asked you yet, and thinks you have already agreed. She is most distraught, I must say." His lips crinkled at the corner as he smiled boldly, almost ruthlessly at the memory.

"How may I help you? I'll do anything you ask!"

"My Lady, your Mistress, is in obvious need of breeding. I had great strides last night, of course, but such a thing cannot be done overnight. It will require weeks of training, perhaps months. She will need constant attention. I have many obligations, however. I cannot spend all my time coddling my wife. I thought, however, that you could help. If you will agree, I will put you over my wife. _You_ shall command _her_; she shall be your servant. You will punish her daily, whether she deserves it or not, and you will punish her again when she does deserve it. She will learn to obey you in every manner, and in doing so, she shall learn the humble spirit of a true Lady!"

If my lower jaw had not been attached to my face it should have fallen off at these words. I could not believe what he said was true, and yet, there he was, my Master, asking me to take on his wife as my servant!

"I don't know what to say, sir," I murmured. "You cannot be serious!"

"I am deadly serious," he said, his eyes bright and intense. "I love my wife and I want her to behave as a Lady. You have often suffered injustice at her hand. You must admit it will be most humiliating for her to be punished by a servant, someone she used to punish. Such humiliation, when endured, will strengthen her character and help her understand the true nature of Ladyhood."

"And what does the Lady think of this?"

"She is frantic with terror. She begged me to do anything else. She promised to let me beat her every day, in fact! 'I'll take twenty strokes in the morning and twenty again at night!' she cried out, sobbing, falling to her knees at my feet, begging me to release her from this punishment. 'Anything, anything but Miss Janey!'

"'Why do you hate her so?' I asked her. 'Hate her? No, she hates me! She wants revenge on me for all those times I punished her! I cannot bear it, I cannot. Please, anything else, anything but her!'

"'I do not think she hates you,' I said. 'In fact, I think she is sorry for you.' 'Sorry for _me_?' screamed the woman. 'That's nonsense!'" Here the Master paused and looked at me. "Is it nonsense Miss Janey?"

I shook my head. "I don't know how you knew that, sir, but that describes my feelings exactly. Even when she beat me and I resented it I always felt sad for her, that she couldn't be happy, even with all she possesses."

The Master smiled and nodded. "I thought as much. I have no doubt in my mind that you will treat her fairly and with justice, quite unlike how she treated you."

I bowed my head. "I will do my best, sir."

"Remember," he said. "She gets twenty with the strap every morning after breakfast no matter what."

"Yes, sir."

"And if she gives you any trouble, you let me know. Now, would you like me to send your new servant in the morning to examine your wounds and bathe you?"

A sudden smile crept across my lips. "That would be ideal, sir."

"Then it is done."

Part VII -- Reversal

(*****, F/F, Severe, servant discipline, FF themes)

FM's Masterwork. A real novella of over 37,000 words. This tells the story of a female servant whose new mistress turns out not only to be extremely strict, but to have a mysterious secret in her past. (Approximately 37,092 words. Originally published 1996-01.)

Dawn had barely broke when I heard a soft knock at my door. I did not respond at first, thinking it had to have been my imagination. But no, someone was tapping, and when I slipped on my robe and opened the door, I was astonished to see the Mistress standing in the corridor, holding a small candle in the dim morning light.

"Madam!" I exclaimed. Her appearance was startling to me. She looked much older and much younger at the same time--it was quite puzzling to me until I realized that it was only her strained expression made her look old; her features were young and vibrant, never more so. She was smiling like it was arduous work and she appeared extremely nervous.

"Good... morning..., Miss... Janey," she said slowly, as though each word was extracted from her lips at some high price. "My Master has sent me to care for you. Do you require my assistance?"

A smile came across my face at these words. "Why certainly," I replied. "Please come in and check my wounds. I believe the dressing is in need of being changed."

The woman seemed to hesitate, and I saw her face fall slightly, as though she had been hoping I would refuse her request for assistance. But she entered and closed the door, and lighting the lantern at my beside proceeded to lift up my robe and examine my bruised and battered backside.

I winced as she carefully began to remove the dressing. I heard her gasp in horror and disbelief and when I turned to catch her face out of the corner of my eye I saw tears in her eyes. "Oh, Miss Janey!" she breathed. "I-I had no idea. Why these marks look like they were made this morning!"

"They are much improved," I said calmly. "Three days ago they were a sight to behold, I am told." The Mistress was quite pale, now, and I saw her hand was trembling. "Is something bothering you?" I asked in an even tone.

She looked at me in horror, as though I had issued a threat. "Oh, please, Miss Janey," she said solemnly and with deep pleading in her voice, "I am so sorry! I never suspected you were this--this _damaged_. I am afraid there are going to be permanent scars."

"Why should you be sorry about what happens to me? I'm just a servant," I scolded angrily.

Her eyes dropped to the floor and she blushed with shame. "You are much more a Lady than I have ever been, Miss Janey," she said very softly. "I-I must confess something horrible to you. I do not know how you can forgive me, but I beg you for mercy." Her eyes met mine briefly and then she looked away. "It was I who stole that ring, Miss Janey. I stole it and placed it within your apron so that it would make people think you had stolen it."

I gasped loudly and gave the woman a fierce glare. "You caused this?" I shouted. "But why?"

Mistress DeMarcco began to cry. "Oh, Miss Janey, I am so sorry. I am a horrible person. I-I wanted to cause you harm. I wanted the excuse to beat you."

"To beat me! But why? Why have I ever done to you?"

The Mistress looked away and shook her head back and forth. "Nothing. Absolutely nothing."

"But then why?"

She began to cry then, great choking sobs that shook her entire body with convulsions and I could not stop myself--my tender servants' heart was too much a part of myself--I took her in my arms and comforted her, whispering gently in her ear that everything would be alright, that it was okay, and I forgave her. She wept for a long time and finally looked up and me through her tears and I saw great sadness in her eyes.

"The Master said you are to beat me daily," she said bluntly, and I nodded. Her face hardened. "Then please do so, Miss Janey. Please do so now. Please beat me long and hard--spare me none of your false mercy. I need to feel you beating me, I need the feel the pain I gave you so many times."

"But Mistress--" I began, my resolve suddenly failing me. This woman now appeared so fragile to me I couldn't hardly imagine flogging her.

"No arguments," she whispered. "Please." She reached into the pocket at the front of her dress and took out a long strip of leather. She handed it to me wordlessly and laid herself face down on my bed.

Taking a deep breath I resolved to do what she and the Master asked, though suddenly I knew that I should gain little pleasure from it. There is no sweetness in revenge if the recipient is contrite and humble, I discovered. The Mistress was already far more punished inside than anything I could do to her flesh.

I took her dress and lifted it above her waist and carefully made my way through layers of petticoats until I had unveiled my Mistress' naked buttocks and thighs. To my astonishment I saw that she bore the markings of recent punishment, and I realized that the Master had not been exaggerating when he told me how he had dealt with her. She had certainly been well-used, but already the flesh was healing and the few welts remaining would be gone in a few days.

Except that I was about to add new ones. I hefted the strap and felt its weight in my hand. It was thick and heavy and would mark the flesh well, I knew. My mind thought back to all the punishments this woman had given me but I felt no anger, only a twinge of sadness.

I suddenly wondered if I was capable of whipping my Mistress. Though I had been whipped regularly during my time at the DeMarrco's I had little experience on the other end of the strap. I recollected a short stay in Middleton where I assisted a governess for a period and watched her frequent spankings and canings of the three young children in our care. These sessions had always filled me with a sense of horror and dread--no doubt from the association with painful memories of my own childhood punishments. But when the governess injured her wrist in a fall off a horse it had fallen to me to administer the punishments, and under the close eye of the strict governess, I had been forced to cane the two boys and the girl several times until the woman was able to resume her disciplinary duties. Initially I found my duty a trial and in the interest of mercy, did not cane nearly as severely as did the governess, the result of which was that the children began to misbehave in much worse manners and I was forced to cane them all the more frequently! In the end I learned that discipline needed to be severe to be learned, and though it still pained me, I became merciless and cold to their cries and pleas. I supposed that I would need those skills now.

I lifted the strap high and brought it down with as much force as I could muster directly across the naked buttocks of my Mistress. The slap of the leather against flesh sent shivers of excitement and terror up my spine, and the Mistress cried out in surprise and agony. A thick red stripe lay diagonally across the Mistress' buttocks--from the top of the left check to the lower right of the right cheek. The mark on her left cheek was the fiercest, the tip of the strap carrying the majority of the impact.

Again the strap came down with a fearful crack and the Mistress tensed and shivered. This time she did not speak, nor did she open her mouth on the next three, though she did begin to moan and wiggle. I knew the routine from experiencing the other side so frequently. I knew the pain must be growing to a peak now. Further strokes could not increase the amount of pain--they could only prolong the agony and change the character of the feeling.

I whipped the Mistress soundly, that morning. I beat her mercilessly, hardening my heart to her sobs and clenched fingers and begging. I did not stop a twenty, but gave her fifty strokes of that strap; thirty across her buttocks and twenty on her thighs. I varied my strokes and position and made sure I neglected no area of her flesh. I wanted her to feel this whipping all day long, to know what it was like to have to work and walk and function normally while your body cries out in soreness and stiffness.

The Mistress did not protest; she took her whipping well. I was impressed with her fortitude and I told her so. She bowed her head and told me that I was an inspiration to her, that she had never known a servant like me that took her blows with such sanguine acceptance and yet obviously felt and suffered the blows.

"Thank you, Mistress," she said when I had finished the whipping and told her to get up.

"You are welcome," I said gallantly. "There is plenty more where that came from--disobey me and you shall earn yourself another taste."

"Yes, Mistress," she whispered. "I am yours to command."

"Change my dressing," I ordered. "I think a fresh application of salve would be much appreciated right now." I stretched out on the bed and let the woman fuss over me. She massaged the oily salve into my bruised and welted fleshed and I groaned at her heavenly soothing yet devilishly sensitive touch. Afterward she applied a new dressed and left to fetch me breakfast.

The next few days passed quickly, as I healed both physically and emotionally. It was soon made obvious to the other members of the staff that the Mistress had been made my slave. I made sure, however, that they treated her with respect and I asked them to report to me personally any failures of behavior on her part.

At first there were a number of these. Stories of the Mistress' rudeness or disobedience were brought to me by many of the servants. I recognized at once that many of these reports were false or exaggerated, but as long as there was no direct evidence to contradict the servant, I took their word as fact and punished the Mistress accordingly.

A part of me regretted this unfairness, but I knew that it was justice--how many times had the Mistress falsified or exaggerated claims of misbehavior on the part of her servants? On several occasions I whipped the Mistress publicly, sometimes in the kitchen or wherever the indiscretion supposedly took place, or in the main dining hall. At other times I would retire to my chambers or hers and flog her in private, though I frequently made her stand in the dining hall with her naked buttocks on display so that everyone could see that she had been properly punished.

At first the Mistress seemed to accept her new station and the frequent punishments with a surprising meekness. After approximately a week or so, however, I saw she was becoming more and more irritated and frightened, complaining to me often that I punished her too hard or that her work or punishment was unfair.

One day her complaints made me so angry I stripped her naked in the dining hall and flogged her for half and hour and left her there, naked and whipped. I had one of the servants come by every half hour and wet her down with salt water. Then, before and after the evening meal I gave her a dozen strokes of the cane. I then told her to go to my quarters and await further punishment. She fell to her knees at this and begged for mercy. I was furious that she still hadn't learned obedience and so I slapped her face and taking the strap, I whipped her breasts back and forth for a couple dozen strokes.

"To my quarters, slave!" I shouted. "And you shall receive extra for such insolence!" Weeping, she crawled away hurriedly, and I resolved to beat her senseless that night. She was being treated far better than she ever treated any of us and yet she still found the arrogance to complain! The bitch would learn.

I waited until late to go to my quarters so that the Mistress would have more time to anticipate my punishment. When I entered my room I found her standing with her hands behind her head and staring at the wall. She was still naked from her flogging and her back, buttocks, and legs were covered with glistening welts. The room was chilly but I saw that she still sweated.

"On your knees, slave!" I ordered, and she obeyed me instantly. I sat on the bed and ordered her to undo the laces of my shoes with her mouth and then put my shoes away. She began to cry but obeyed without protest. It took her quite some time and I often had to threaten her with more punishment if she did not complete the task faster.

"At least you seem to be learning, tonight," I growled at her and petted her lovely dark hair as she struggled with my laces. "Your only protest should be your tears--always obey without question. Never open your mouth or show me your eyes. Do you understand?"

"Yes, Mistress!"

"Good. Now when you are finished with those shoes I want you to undress and bath me, and then I will administer what remains of your punishment."

"Yes, Mistress."

She obeyed my every instruction, putting my shoes away by carrying them in her mouth. Then she helped me out of my clothes, commented that my wounds were almost gone, and bathed me with warm water I had her fetch and heat. As she bathed me I noticed she paid particular attention to the area between my legs and I scolded her. Making her stand I examined her pubic area and saw that she was damp and aroused.

"Naughty girl," I scolded. "Doesn't your Master take care of you?"

She shook her head and began to weep. "Not since--not since that first night. He says he will wait until I have become a Lady!"

"At your rate of progress that may take some time."

"Oh, please, Mistress," she begged. "Please be good to me. I do try, I really do. But it's so hard. I find it so difficult to bear."

"What concern is your difficulty to me?" I asked haughtily. "If I command you to do something, you do it!"

"Yes, Mistress," she whispered, a meek and pliant young woman.

"Now get me my nightwear and come back for your punishment."

She brought me the thin gown I used for sleeping at night and helped it over my head. Once I was dressed I sat on the bed and stared at the woman. She bowed her head and looked very sad.

"I was extremely disappointed in your behavior today," I said.

"Yes, ma'am, I know."

"What did you do that was so wrong?"

"I-I failed to respond to you properly, ma'am."

"What did you do?"

"I objected to your punishment, ma'am. I complained and said it was not fair."

I smiled. "And why is that wrong?"

"I am your slave, ma'am. I have no rights, no reason to complain. If you decide to punish me that is reason enough. There can be no unfair punishment from you, ma'am."

"That is correct. You are indeed learning. Now how shall I punish you tonight?"

The cold sad eyes of the Mistress looked up at me in surprise and fear. "Please, ma'am, I am so sore. Could you spank me with your hand?"

"Not the cane?" I exclaimed.

She bowed her head and nodded. "As you wish, ma'am." She made a motion to fetch the cane when I stopped her.

"I think your suggestion may have merit, Mrs. DeMarrco," I said carefully. "Come across my lap. I shall use my hand." The Mistress' face lit up with hope and relief and she nodded gratefully and clambered up onto the bed and across my lap.

"Do not think this will not be painful," I said firmly. "I shall punish you most thoroughly."

"Yes, Mistress."

I looked down at the naked bottom across my lap, already red with leather and cane marks, but still shapely and graceful and I felt a slight bit of jealousy at her beauty. Even covered with weals and red from spanking her body was beautiful.

My hand squeezed the flesh of her bottom tightly. I could feel her body tense across my lap. I also thought I felt a slight bit of moisture on my leg, and in the guise of adjusting the lady's position I managed to slip my hand between her legs to move her and in doing so, brush against her sex. Sure enough it was dripping with desire.

This surprised me at first. There had been times when I had found a whipping stimulating, but only in the mildest form. The Mistress had been whipped quite hard today and was about to receive more and yet she was damp with desire. Suddenly, though, things made sense. If the woman was this aroused at receiving punishment, how did she react to _giving_ it? Surely that was the answer. It was so obvious I had never quite seen it before. Many masters and mistresses punish out of ego or arrogance. The Mistress DeMarrco, however, punished out of sexual lust.

I lifted my hand and began to spank the woman as hard as I could. Instantly she came to life, groaning and wiggling. I saw that she was attempting to grind her crotch against my leg and I adjusted my position to make certain that she would not succeed. She became more frantic after that, and I increased the pace of the spanking.

Her bottom felt large and warm within my hand. I thrilled to hear her low moans, deep moans that I knew were not of pain but of pleasure. This was exciting her and her excitement was infecting me. I too felt a stirring between my legs, an arousal that made me sweat in nervousness. I felt my face flush in shame and spanked the Mistress even harder.

Finally I stopped, my hand still and resting on her blazing bottom. "There, did that warm you up?" I asked boldly and she nodded, "Yes, Mistress! Yes!"

"Are you aroused?"

There was a short pause. "Yes, Mistress."

"Do spankings always arouse you?"

"Usually, Mistress."

"Does giving a spanking arouse you?"

She nodded and began to cry. "Yes, Mistress."

"When you spanked me, did that arouse you?"

A sob lurched through her body. "Yes, Mistress!"

Why?

"I don't know!"

I gave her bottom a sharp slap. "You did not address me properly! Now answer my question: why did spanking me arouse you?"

"I-I don't know, Mistress, I truly don't! It just does, that's all."

"Do you like seeing me naked, is that it?"

I felt her body stiffen beneath me like a board and it was almost with visible tension that she spoke. "Yes, Misstress."

"Why do you like seeing me naked?" I rubbed her bottom in a circular motion as I spoke.

"Because you are beautiful, Mistress!"

"You are lying!" I gave her a couple hard slaps.

"No, ma'am, please! It's true. You are very beautiful, very kind, very wonderful. I-I like you!"

I gasped in horror. "You mean sexually?"

"I don't know!" she wailed miserably, sobbing and wiggling and covering her face with her hands. I didn't move, but only stared at her naked body lying across my lap, so lithe, so beautiful. Had I, too, had such feelings for this woman? I had thought at one time that I hated her, but then I felt sorry for her, and now I did indeed realize I felt an affection for her.

"I understand," I said quietly.

"No, you do not!" she exclaimed, suddenly rising off my lap and standing before me. "You do not understand at all. You see, I am a fraud!"

My hand had been lifted to strike her for rising without permission before the punishment was over, but now I paused. I saw her eyes were wild and she was filled with uncontrollable emotion. She was barely conscious of anything right now. Something deep inside her was threatening to get out and I could see she was on edge, ready to burst.

"Sit down, Mrs. DeMarrco," I said gently, rubbing the bed next to me. "Please, sit down, calm yourself, and explain."

"Oh, Miss Janey!" she burst out and collapsed next to me and wept. Though I had lately seen her cry a great deal I had never seen her cry like this. Her sobs came from her belly and shook her entire body as she heaved and trembled and stuttered.

Like that first day she came to my room I felt an overwhelming sense of compassion flood through me. I took her in my arms and held her until her crying stopped and her trembling stopped. I looked into her eyes and she gazed into me. "You are too kind, Janey," she whispered. "You always were too kind."

"What are you talking about?"

"You are going to hate me," she said in a sad, formal tone. "Everyone is going to hate me. I am nothing but a fraud, a cheat and a liar. The Master is right--I am not a Lady and never was and never will be."

"Nonsense, Mistress!" I exclaimed. "You are well on your way! Even I am amazed by your recent transformation."

"Oh, Janey," she said quietly, ignoring my comments, not even seeming to hear them, in fact. "I've hurt you worst of all. Can you ever forgive me? Can you?"

She began to weep uncontrollably again and it was several minutes before I had her under control again. "Shhhh," I whispered, "of course I can forgive you. Just tell me, tell me what you've done. It isn't as bad as all that, I'm certain."

"Oh, it's worse, my worse," she said forlornly. "You are my only real friend, Janey, the only one I ever had or ever will. And yet I have treated you worse than one treats one's enemies. I shall not blame you for hating me."

"But I don't hate you!"

"That's just because you don't know--you haven't guessed. My real name isn't Rosemary Westchester."

"Oh?"

"No, it's Jacoby. Sydney Jacoby."

It was like a bolt of lightening had illuminated my chambers and froze in mid-strike. The room was aglow and I saw every aspect of my friend's face for the first time, her bright eyes brimming with tears and her lips trembling with emotion. I saw the shape of her nose and the structure of her cheek bones--it was true! This strange woman whose existence had been my torture for months and whose fate was now utterly within my hands was none other than little Sydney Jacoby, my dearest friend from so long ago!

Oh, the emotions that raged through my heart in that instant! I swear it would have killed me if I hadn't been of stout stock. I felt a passion within me like I hadn't felt in years. Rage, hatred, wonder, joy, fear, horror--all these were mine and more. I wept and didn't know or care why. I threw my arms around my old friend and hugged her tight and sobbed and then tore myself away and glared at her but then her face looked so distraught I hugged her again and wept bitter tears of remorse and sadness.

"Why, why didn't you tell me!" I cried out, clutching her to me tightly. "You knew! You recognized me--why didn't you tell me!"

She wept and hugged me back and begged my forgiveness. "I am so sorry, dear Janey. At first I thought I would--I longed to share my secret with someone, someone close and trusted. But then I felt a coldness inside me. I was afraid you'd tell the Master--it would ruin me. And I felt an anger--I don't quite know why--a rage that consumed me and I told myself all sorts of vile things about you. Oh, I hate myself for thinking such things! But I thought them true and I hardened my heart and beat you worse than the others because it was you, my dearest friend, and I was angry and bitter at our separation.

"It doesn't make sense, I know. I only know that my love for you became hatred. I was terrified you'd recognize me and report it to the Master. I feared and hated you, Janey, and I treated you awfully. Please forgive me. I know you cannot but please at least tell me you'll try! I cannot bear to live with your hatred. You are my only friend--I've destroyed all others." Her head fell into her hands at this point and she wept most miserably.

Finally she looked up and her eyes were red with tears. A pain shot through me--in the flickering light it looked like she was bleeding tears.

"Please," she begged, "please try to understand. I don't truly hate you, I don't. I never did. I love you! And I need you to love me. I _need_ your forgiveness. Please, before you answer, let me tell you my story. You must have questions. Let me answer a few before you tell me if you can love me again or not!"

I opened my mouth to speak though I had nothing to say--I was still so astonished I did not know where to begin. But her hand came out and pressed my lips closed and she shook her head. "Wait, please wait, and let me explain." With that, she began her story.

Part VIII -- Sydney

(*****, F/F, Severe, servant discipline, FF themes)

FM's Masterwork. A real novella of over 37,000 words. This tells the story of a female servant whose new mistress turns out not only to be extremely strict, but to have a mysterious secret in her past. (Approximately 37,092 words. Originally published 1996-01.)

In the quiet dimness of my chamber my long-lost friend began to tell me her story. It is the story of how she went from pauper to princess, and how she changed from a kind, gentle child to a monster. It is a story filled with horror and wonder, miracles and madness, and it is not for children. In many fashions it is a tragedy, and yet in others it is a victory. But in either case it is a sorrowful tale, a tale of shame and bitter pride.

"After I left Triten we went to Sheraton, to our relatives there. My father began to travel in search of work and was often gone for months at a time. My brother and I were left with my Aunt, a vicious old widow full of spite whose own children were older than us and quite mean. She always treated them with respect and reward and us with scorn and punishment.

"She beat us often. I had always thought my father was severe but he was nothing compared to my Aunt. She whipped us daily if for no other reason than she felt like it. Even worse, our cousins, her own three children, were constantly blaming us for their own wrongs and she would never doubt their word. If we protested or denied the charge the whipping was always worse.

"Still, we had plenty to eat--my Aunt was quite wealthy, inheriting money from her dead husband, though she abhorred spending any of it--and all in all it was not such a miserable life. In many ways we were better off than Triten, for life was not such a struggle. But I hated my Aunt and missed my mother terribly. I longed to see her again, to feel her warm arms around me, holding me, protecting me. But I was alone. My brother began to make friends with my cousins and he soon turned against me. Looking back I suspect that he was the more miserable of the two of us--he was never completely accepted by our cousins or Aunt and he had rejected me--but at the time I felt bitter and betrayed.

"Life was harsh and lonely, but I managed. I was forced to attend school, though I hated it, and Aunt was most diligent in making sure I kept up with my studies. This, in a way, became a good thing. Though I did not make any friends in school--my cousins saw to that--I did find escape in books and study, and drove myself hard.

"It was the following summer--I was to turn fourteen in the fall--when something happened that changed everything. My oldest cousin was named Alfred. He was large boy, rude and rather unintelligent. He delighted in torturing his siblings and of course, his cousins, especially me. He was the sort that enjoyed pulling the wings off of flies or cutting the legs off frogs. Extremely crass. He was supposedly seventeen years old but he acted more like eight or nine.

"He loved to poke fun at me and get me into any sort of trouble. I swear I tasted more of my Aunt's cane because of Alfred than for anything else. Let me give you a few examples of his character. The first time I met him, while I was naive and trusting, he offered me a sweet. It was a dastardly sticky one and the way he'd pressed it into my palm meant that my hands were quite covered with goo by the time I managed to consume the treat.

"At the time, though, I thought he was trying to be friends and didn't mind. Moments later, however, my horrified Aunt emerged from the kitchen waving an enormous cane and threatening to whip all the children until she found the scoundrel responsible for devouring a whole plateful of the sweets she made specially for the recently widowed Reverend Wendle. (My Aunt was eternally frustrated by the Reverend--I'm certain he abhorred her though he treated her with the utmost respect and politeness and certainly never gave her affections any encouragement.)

"Us children were carefully questioned and soon, of course, it was revealed that my hands were sticky with juices from the sweet and my Aunt was furious but only half as much as my father. He'd never caned me before--but that day he borrowed Aunt's cane and thrashed me soundly right there before the others, knickers down and all. I wailed and protested and tried to tell them Alfred had given me the sweet and that just made my father even more angry for he thought I was attempting to blame an innocent party for my crime. 'We are guests in this house!' he shouted at me as he struck me again and again. 'Guests do not steal from their hosts!'

"After that, needless to say, my relationship with Alfred had taken a particularly unpleasant turn. I hated him with all my being and vowed for my mission in life to be nothing more than to see Alfred pay every chance I could get.

"At first Alfred was content to let others do the thrashing, but later, after my father had gone, he began to torture me himself. Often when we were outside playing he would drag me down by the creek where his mother couldn't hear my cries and threaten to drown me if I didn't submit to a thrashing. I was very afraid of him and usually submitted though I hated him for it. He would make me fetch him a good branch from one of the trees and bring it to him and bend over and lift up my skirt for my thrashing. At first he let me keep my knickers on, preferring to whip my bare legs, but later he became more adventurous and confident in his power and he whipped me bare.

"These whippings were never very long or even that painful--Alfred was strong and cruel but rather stupid, and I put on such a fuss at just a few of his strokes that he thought I was in great pain and failed to realize his mother often whipped me much harder and I hardly whimpered. But I hated getting whipped by Alfred far worse than from his mother. His mother was an adult and had authority over me. Alfred was my peer, albeit a much stronger one, and his punishments were for nothing but his own pleasure. He treated me with disdain and told me I was a trashy whore, a commoner, a low-class slut. Though I scarcely knew what such words meant I knew their intent and I believed him, mistakenly thinking their family so much better than ours.

"Well, one day two critical things happened. The first was that I managed to get myself thrashed by Alfred early in the morning. It was a fair thrashing, and I was legitimately crying when it was finished. I noticed that Alfred appeared strange to me, more violent and rude than usual, almost mad in his rage. He ran off immediately after my whipping as though he had something urgent to take care off. I remember thinking that maybe he needed to urinate. Curious, I followed at a distance.

"My Aunt's property was quite extensive, surrounded on three sides by woods and fields. I followed Alfred for perhaps a quarter-mile through brambles and weeds until we came to a small clearing. Here there was obvious signs of someone having been there before--it was set up almost like a camping ground. There was small pyre of stones where a fire had previously been lit, and the grassy weeds had been cleared away from most of the camp. A small stream passed quite close to this and I saw Alfred kneel before this and take down his trousers.

"This embarrassed me at first, for I thought he was going to defecate or urinate, but I could not help but watch, having never a seen a man do either. Instead Alfred began to touch himself between his legs. His back was to me so I could not see him clearly, but both of his hands were in front of him and he was puffing and blowing with great exertion.

"Finally he turned slightly, and I saw a large purplish finger gripped tightly in his hands. I blushed instantly, knowing what it was, but amazed that it looked nothing like what I had seen on little boys. As I watched his body began to shudder and I saw a white creamy substance emerge from the tip of his cock and drip down into the dirt. He shuddered and moaned loudly and I saw more and more of the white stuff spit and spatter about. Finally he seemed drained and with a deep sigh he let go of his organ and stood, it bobbing in the wind. He pulled his trousers up and kicked dirt over the little puddle of white cream and turned and sat down.

"He was mumbling to him now, and it took me a while to understand him. He mentioned 'that bitch' a few times, and then I finally heard him clearly say, 'God I love whipping her ass!' and I knew he was talking about me! A shiver went down my spine when he said, 'Tomorrow she gets it even worse! Maybe I'll borrow Mum's cane.'

"I noticed then that I felt strange inside. It wasn't my stomach, but lower, between my thighs. I put my hand there and it felt good. It was warm and slightly moist and I could feel a sort of an excitement bubbling inside me. I knew suddenly what it was and a flush came over me and I slunk away knowing that I was doing wrong to spy on my cousin in this manner. I thought of how he had looked, naked, his 'thing' in his hand, and I felt hot and sweaty. I hurried back toward the house, touching myself as I went.

"Of course I had felt this way before--late at night, in my bed, in my dreams. But this was the first time I had associated that feeling with men, or with anything sexual. I guess deep inside I had known it to be that, but I had never consciously admitted it until that moment.

"Later that afternoon my Aunt discovered, to her annoyance, that Alfred had not completed the chores she had assigned him to do. I knew this was because he had told my brother to do them. Why my brother had not I'll never know--surely he could expect a thrashing from Alfred in consequence.

"Anyhow, my Aunt was furious and asked where Alfred was. No one had seen him and I certainly was not going to tell where I had watched him go. It was almost dark when he returned, sauntering casually as though he had not abandoned his chores and been gone all day. Immediately his mother took him outside for the cane.

"I was delighted. Though I knew Alfred had been caned at least a couple of times since my arrival, I had never seen him take his medicine. My joy knew no bounds when I saw Aunt rushing toward him as he halted in astonishment, his face turning to frantic pleading and begging. She quickly took down his trousers, exposing that same organ I had seen earlier that day and then turned him so his bare bottom faced us kids, his audience, and began to cane him soundly.

"I am certain any one of us children today would still go pale just at the mention of that memory. Alfred was a big, tough lad, and the caning far more severe than any we'd ever seen. To watch Alfred blubber and howl like a child was delightful but it was also frightening--for we knew that he must be in incredible agony to react like that.

"During that caning, I did not snicker and laugh like the others. I was glad that Alfred was being punished, but I was more focused upon the reactions of my own body. The stirring between my legs had begun when my Aunt had first begun carrying the cane and I knew that Alfred was going to get it. I felt another stirring when I saw him approach and she went to greet him. The surge when I saw his trousers come down and his cock spring forth was almost more than I could bear. Then the caning began and I felt tremendous spasms of heat passing through me. I wanted him to be hurt, to really feel each stroke, and my mind envisioned his naked buttocks covered with weals and welts in far more explicit detail than I could actually see, considering it was twilight and he was twenty yards away.

"Without even realizing what I was doing my hand had slipped up inside my dress and I was massaging myself. Waves of exquisite pleasure flooded through me and think I moaned loudly. Fortunately my Aunt was still busy with my cousin and had not turned around, but I was lost to the world and could not stop myself.

"My hand was inside me, pumping, my face red and pulsing. My thighs dripped juices and I was only vaguely aware of the other children pointing at me and I think someone ran and got my Aunt because suddenly I heard a shriek and felt a white-hot pain across my face. My eyes opened and I realized she had struck me with the cane. The pain was blinding and tears filled my eyes and in a daze I fell to the ground and felt the cane begin to cut into me.

"I have no idea how many strokes she gave me--it was by far the worse I'd received, though I suppose it wasn't as bad as Alfred's. The worst, however, was not understanding what had happened. I felt confused and terrified and guilty and yet I was not even certain as to why. I knew my sex ached it was so hungry and I longed to touch myself but I dared not. So even as the blows rained down I felt flooded with a wonderful sense of wholeness, of rightness, and suddenly, in a blinding flash like lightening, I was free. I think I screamed and screamed but it didn't matter. I no longer felt the cane but only felt pleasure, wonderful pleasure pulsing between my legs.

"And then, like a sunset you only catch for a moment, the feeling was gone. I lay half-naked, my dress pulled up and knickers missing, my buttocks, legs, back, shoulders, and arms aching and throbbing. My face hurt and could feel a thick welt pounding there. I could hear my Aunt's heavy breathing and could hear the cane cracking down in a fury but I could not feel anything. Slowly I raised my head and saw that she was caning Alfred now, his naked body still causing some kind of a change inside of me.

"It was days later before the matter was settled. Aunt would not have me in her house any longer. Alfred had told her I had taunted and teased him, whoring him away from the house and his duties, and she had believed him. My father had been sent for and soon he arrived, exhausted, terrified, and angry. He and Aunt argued and argued for days it seemed, and I slunk around quiet as a mouse and did not even react when one of the other children spat at me or cuffed me.

"My Aunt must have truly hated me, for she agreed to part with some of her precious money to get rid of me. She would pay my way to boarding school. It was an exclusive school in London, far away, extremely strict and proper, and very expensive. I should stay there until I was eighteen at which time I would be on my own. I should never be permitted to return home. I was an outcast, banned, and only my father presence had managed to wrest that much from his older sister.

"I will not bore you with the details of my school life. Suffice it to say that it was lonely, extremely rigid, and not much fun. While it was bad enough for the other girls, life was much more miserable for me, for I had nowhere to go during the holidays and even my summer was spent in study and learning at the Catherine Porterman School for Girls.

"Discipline was harsh for most girls and far worse for me--I basically had no parents who would complain at my treatment. Spending so much time at school made things worse, too, because the teachers and staff thought they had a higher duty than just being responsible for my academic upbringing, and took care of my moral and emotional upbringing as well.

"My relations with the other girls were not the best. I made a few friends, but many of the girls came from such high-class families that they would scarcely speak to me, though they had no problem bullying me. The stories I could tell regarding the abuses of the seniors girls would curl your hair. Trust it enough for me to say that I hated and was hated and I walked very gingerly around others.

"I did have one friend when I was fifteen. She was also fifteen, a blonde girl from the east along the coast. Her name was Dorothy and she and I spent all our free time together. For the first time since I had left Triten I had a friend, a real friend I could trust. Slowly I opened up to her. I told her my secrets, my innermost feelings, my secret desires. Finally one night when we were in bed after lights-out I went to her bed and told her that I had had a dream about her. This was only half-true. I had indeed dreamt of her, of her lovely face and long, curly hair, but I had been fully awake when I had dreamt that dream.

"When I told Dorothy the dream, however, she shrank from me and became cold and distant. When I tried to talk to her she began to cry out in fear and then she shouted, causing girls to wake up. Not wanting to cause a fuss, I ran back to my bed and slept fitfully, crying to myself and wondering why Dorothy had not understood my feelings.

"The next day Dorothy was not in class and I heard someone say she was not feeling well. I did not see her until supper that evening, and then just for a moment. She would not speak to me. She did not come to bed that night and the next morning I saw her only briefly, when I caught her heading down the corridor carrying a suitcase. 'Dorothy!' I cried. 'Where are you going?' A tall man dressed in a formal suit was escorting her, and he glared at me and told me to run to class or he'd have the headmistress take the stick to me. They left and I never saw Dorothy again. It was later reported that she had left school, and years later I discovered she'd transferred to a different school. I honestly don't know if she left because of what I told her, but I suspect that is what happened. At any rate I felt crushed and betrayed and vowed to never again open my heart to anyone.

"The years drifted by. My father came and visited me twice. In my second year I got word that he had died. I never found out how. For some reason I was not sad. I did not go to the funeral. Fortunately my Aunt kept her promise and did not stop payments to the school. I was to remain until eighteen, and then she never wanted to hear from me again.

"I threw myself into my academic studies with a vigor that astonished and pleased my teachers. I studied and read and got the highest marks in the school, which did nothing to help my social standing.

"When I became a senior girl I was allowed, as was the tradition, to beat the younger girls. I did this with an unheard of viciousness, caning girls whenever I had the opportunity. My reputation became one of fear and loathing, but I did not care. I had discovered tremendous satisfaction in punishing the naive and prissy little girls that arrived at Catherine Porterman. It was part of my dreaded reputation that I always caned on the bare--most of the other seniors gave the girl a choice of an extra stroke in exchange for keeping their knickers on. I was often brutal, and even earned a few stiff canings myself for abuse of power.

"But I didn't care. A caning to me meant little, I was so used to them. What was significant for me was that for the first time in my life I was in control. I had power and I liked it. There was nothing quite like the feeling of walking into the dorm late at night and hearing all the breathing stop as I wandered about tapping my cane gently, gently, gently, just waiting to find the perfect victim for a session downstairs in the old cellar.

"Beatings were always done down there--it was quiet and private and no one could hear the screams. Many times I'd take several girls down there, or have them brought to me, and get them blubbering and whining and almost eager to admit they'd stole or forgotten to do an errand, or whatever I could come up with so they'd have to be caned. The canings were usually six of the best but not always. Sometimes I'd give eight or ten or even twelve, when the crime was severe enough. On rare occasions it would be only three or four. If the victim stood up or squawked, however, that was permission for extra strokes, which never failed to please me.

"There was one occasion I should mention, for not only does it illustrate exactly the nature of these adventures, it was a significant event in my development. This effect occurred during the height of my reign at Catherine Porterman (or CP as we called it). There was a new girl, a transfer, a rather rare event at CP. Her name was Nellie and she was beautiful, with long dark hair that reminded me of Dorothy. On her third night I had her brought before me.

"'Name?' Even though she was sixteen and had been through this sort of thing before, she was very frightened. 'Nellie Biggins, ma'am.' 'Do you know why you are here?' 'No, ma'am.' Her eyes rolled and her fear aroused me greatly. I wanted to cane her very badly. Her bum was large and plump and I knew she could take a good long caning. I resolved to try something new.

"'You are here,' I growled at her, 'to be punished for your failure to salute to a Senior today.' She paled. 'I sorry, ma'am. I didn't know. I'm new--I don't know all the Senior girls yet.' 'Ignorance is not an excuse! You shall be _punished_ for this.' I placed the long senior school cane on my desk and glared at the petrified girl. Her mouth opened and she worked her jaw but did not speak. She was too frightened to speak.

"'How many strokes do you think, girls?' I glanced around at several of my cronies, all big senior girls, and girls who shared a similar taste to mine. I was not close to them--I did not truly trust them. But I could use them, so I did.

"'Wouldn't six be appropriate?' asked Linda. 'How about ten!' shouted Christina. Nellie was growing paler by the minute. 'I think six of the _best_ should be fine,' I said firmly. 'Do you know what that means, Nellie?' She nodded, swallowing, and I could tell she was braving up for what was to come. She had no idea what I had in mind, though.

"'Do you?' I asked. 'Are you _sure_? Let me show you the difference between a "best" and a "not-best."' I took up the cane and approached the girl. 'Strip and bend over!' She obeyed quickly, eagerly, frantically, though already I saw tears glinting in her eyes. In a moment she was naked, her night clothes tossed aside. I looked at her naked body, slim, boyish hips, petite swollen breasts, and dark stain between her legs. I walked behind her as she bent over, obviously petrified, and studied her rump. During my time a CP I almost made a study of bottoms--this was one of the best. Her hips weren't quite as curvy as some girls, but her cheeks were plump and well-defined with a deep, distinctive crack. Her skin was smooth and flawless; it had been some time since her last caning. 'Don't give you the stick much at Wittmore, eh?' The girl shook her head, her long hair falling on each side of her face.

"'When was your last caning?' She didn't answer for a moment but when she did her voice was high-pitched and cracked suddenly. 'L-l-last spring, Miss.' 'Well, then, I guess you are out of practice. We shall remedy that, Nellie, trust me. I warrant you shall find yourself down here quite often.' 'Yes, Miss,' she said, her voice suddenly breaking into a choked sob.

"'Now, Nellie, calm yourself. This isn't anything to get so worked up about. We're all friends here. It's just you need a little discipline to keep you in line. Now, I asked you earlier if you knew what "six of the best" was and you said yes, but I'm not convinced. So here's what I'm going to do: I'm going to give you two strokes of the cane: one "best" and one "not best" and you are going to tell me which is which, okay?'

"'Oh, please,' said the girl with a sob. 'Alright, then. Since you are so eager let us begin.' I lifted the cane and gave her a light but vicious cut right in the crease of her ass where I know the pain is the greatest. She squealed and moaned but to her credit did not stand up. The cane mark showed up wonderfully well against her pale, unblemished skin, and I felt a familiar stirring beneath my belly.

"'Nellie, was that a "best" or "not best?"' I asked. She shuddered and I could almost smell her hesitation. 'A b-best?' she answered. 'Just as I thought!' I exclaimed with glee. 'This girl does not know the difference!' I promptly delivered a cracking cut that took the girl's breath away. '_That_ was a "best,"' I cried out. 'Do you see the difference now?' She nodded vigorously. 'Of course that one does not count toward your six,' I added. 'That was just for demonstration. They only count when you call them correctly.'

"With that I proceeded to illustrate for her the difference between the two types of strokes. Stroke after stroke fell across those gorgeous bottom cheeks and she was asked after each whether it was a 'best' or 'not-best' and she generally got most of them wrong.

"If it really was a 'best' but she said 'not-best' then we counted it as a 'not-best' and it didn't count toward her six. If it was a 'not-best' and she called it a 'best' I gave her a free reminder of what a 'best' felt like. Only when she called a 'best' a 'best' did we count it. She must have taken over a dozen 'bests' and maybe two dozen 'not-bests' before the evening was over. She was sobbing and could barely stand up when we told her she could go.

"She became my favorite fag after that. I kept her for myself and caned her frequently, though not so much that she was unhappy. I was fair with her, though strict, and she learned to respect my cane as much as God himself.

"It was during one of these private sessions I first had her touch me. She didn't want to do it but I had just given her six and she was in no mood to disagree. She touched me where I told her and quickly learned how to do it the way I liked. That was the first of many sessions, and soon I didn't even have to cane her, and she came willingly, and even let me touch her. I even taught her to lick me, to satisfy me with her tongue, and this she did very well.

"It is important that you understand that my sexual experiences with women were only a substitute for relations with men. I got very few opportunities to meet boys after I entered CP. The few I did meet I found intriguing but I was unable to talk with them. They made me far too nervous. They reminded me of Alfred, for one, and the moment I saw a boy I only could visualize him naked, holding his 'thing' between his hands, spurting white cream and moaning. It both attracted and repelled me, but in either case I found myself tongue-tied and helpless before them. It was only later, after I left CP and was on my own, that I began to meet men in the real world."

"I was eighteen when I left CP. I had no money and only a few clothes my Aunt had bought me. My education, however, proved valuable. I found a position with an attorney who needed someone to run his office. For six years I worked for him. He was a kind but non-descript man, and only a marginal lawyer. _I_ could have won more cases than he. I did learn some details of the law from him, however, that were to prove valuable.

"During this time I saved my money and lived frugally. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life but I knew I did not want to be poor. Studying our society, I discovered that the upper class held all the cards, so to speak. Simply being born into an upper class home meant wealth and power. The reverse was also true: once a pauper, always a pauper. The range of work for someone of my talents was minimal. It was assumed that ladies of breeding would do exactly that: breed. I should have to find myself a rich husband.

"But of course I had no background, no social standing, no class. I was the daughter of a ordinary worker. My Aunt had money, but besides the fact that she wouldn't speak to me, she herself was not a woman of class but had only married into it. I saw the problem clearly--it was the solution that evaded me.

"Some time later I was involved in some research for the attorney and I came across an interesting article in an old newspaper. It told of a certain Henry Westchester who had gone to Ireland in search of a wife and had not returned. He was presumed lost at sea, for he had traveled in a small boat. It had been confirmed that he had indeed found his wife and she had borne him a baby daughter, but it was during the long voyage home that a storm had swept them off course.

"Mr. Westchester it was noted, had royal lineage going back several generations, and was a distant cousin to the Duke of Kent. What caught my attention about this article was that there were rumors that the baby girl had survived, and had been found off the coast of England. Even more significant, the girl would have been about my age. A plan was forming in my mind. It was daring, scandalous, and dreadfully illegal. But I continued to investigate matters.

"On the pretexts of business I made two trips to the coast and discovered that all the rumors of the baby being alive were false. Interestingly, though, the rumors were still being circulated. Many thought the girl had been orphaned and raised in a convent. Convincing these simple villagers that I was that child would not be difficult.

"Soon I had everything prepared. I gave noticed to the lawyer, who was sad to see me go. I left London and two weeks later returned, giving my name as Rosemary Westchester. I rented a luxurious suite at a fancy hotel and bought a series of beautiful gowns. My life savings were almost completely exhausted by this time, but I knew that it was necessary.

"I began to participate in social affairs. I went to balls, I danced with princes, and I pretended that I had money. Everyone was fooled. Many said they had known my father. A few asked me about my past and I let it be known that I had been raised as an orphan in a series of convents up north and had only recently returned to London in search of a husband. No one questioned my story and I was accepted. Any defaults in manners (and there were a few), were thought to be because of my upbringing, and I even had a few of the towns wealthiest ladies giving me tips and advice on how to act like a Lady.

"The men loved me. I was pretty, I was young, and I came from good stock, though everyone knew that my father's wealth had been squandered by distant relations and little had passed on to me. I had little worry about, however. Rich men fed me. Rich men bought me clothes. Rich men gave me money and jewelry and paid my rent. I lived in style and soon I gave little thought to gaining a husband. Why torment myself with that when I could have wealth _and_ my freedom?

"But soon I became aware that the offers were slowing, the money less free. Men I had known were getting married and the younger men wanted younger women. I was growing old. At twenty-six I was no longer a prime catch. Just as this was beginning to concern me I met Julius.

"I fell in love instantly. Julius DeMarrco was already an important name and he was handsome and charming too. He seemed attracted to me and after just a few months we were engaged. I pretended to be very worried that my family was not good enough for him but he put that aside with a laugh. Westchester was a very good name indeed--just respectable enough it got me into the upper class, but not so famous that there were too many questions. After all, the estate was bankrupt--why would anyone pretend to be an heir?

"So I managed to climb up from pauper to princess, and now I had everything. I had a rich, handsome husband, friends, servants, a mansion; everything I could want. And yet I knew there was something missing. I had no real friends, for one. Julius and I never really _talked_. There was an emptiness inside of me that I felt every time I saw someone smile. I was not happy. In fact, I was miserable.

"I didn't notice it at first. In the beginning Julius and I were wonderful in bed. He made me feel things I had never felt before. But after a few years things were quiet in that arena, and I began to look elsewhere.

"My servants proved to be the easiest and most convenient target. I regained my schoolgirl reputation as the strictest mistress, and yet this time it was different, far more severe, less fun and games. In many ways I longed for those innocent days of youth where just a few strokes of the cane brought me such joy and delight and proved such terror. Now even a thorough beating failed to arouse me significantly.

"It was almost as though a part of me had died. I desperately tried to get it back--I whipped harder and more often--both men and women, but it did no good. Nothing changed.

"Then one day we got a new girl. Her name was Janey Morgan. I thought my heart would stop when I heard the name. It had to be her--it had to be! And as soon as I saw you I knew. I was worried you'd see me and know me, but I suspected that I was naturally the last person on earth you'd expect to see married to Master DeMarrco! I hoped the years had disguised my features, and sure enough, you did not recognize me.

"I soon discovered in you that old joy that I had not felt in so long. When I whipped you--especially when I paddled you--I felt so alive and free it was like I was transported to a different world, a world of peace and beauty and pure joy. I could not let you see this, of course, and I was strict with you as I was with all the servants. But truly it was you alone I enjoyed punishing. I knew you were my old friend. Somehow that made the punishment see more severe, more dangerous, more forbidden. I was filled with guilt over your punishments and I punished you more to rid myself of that guilt. I knew you should hate me should you find out who I was, so I resolved to never let you know.

"Then that day came I saw you staring at my Lindsey vase. It's the only thing from the old world I kept; my father didn't even know I had it. I took it when mother died and he was in such grief he appeared to have forgotten about it. When I saw you holding it I knew you knew--you may not have know it immediately but I knew you'd soon figure it out. It was too powerful a symbol from both our pasts for that to be forgotten.

"Suddenly I hated you. I _really_ hated you. Or wanted to. I don't know. I just knew that you were going to ruin everything, destroy my marriage, my life, my passions. Everything I had struggled so long to put together was going to disappear and I would most likely finish my days in prison or on the executioner's stage.

"I resolved then to torment you into leaving. I could not bear to dismiss you--that would ruin you, I knew. I didn't think I had the strength to dismiss you anyway. But no matter what I did you would not leave. That stunt with the ring was the last straw, my final grand attempt to get you to leave. But that was turned around upon me and here I am now, your servant and slave.

"I am sorry for what I have done. I have been exceedingly foolish, I know. You have every right to hate me, every right to beat me day and night, and I shall not complain if you do so. I deserve nothing less.

"But I still long for your friendship. I long for someone to talk to, someone I can trust, someone that will tell me these things I feel are not so strange. I just want to understand, to be accepted, to feel good about myself.

"Perhaps I have ruined it. Perhaps it is too late. I do not know. But I do know that I care about you and I have thought about you more times in my life than I have thought of anyone else. If we had stayed together we could have been great; our lives would have been very different, or at least mine would have been.

"So, the question is, now that you know my story, will you consider forgiving me?"

I looked up into those wide eyes brimming with tears and I could not restrain myself. For the last hour my emotions had been jumping up and down and now I could take it no longer. I threw my arms around my friend and hugged and kissed her and told that I could not _consider_ forgiving her--I _did_ forgive her. I understood why she had made the choices she had--not the same choices I would have made, surely--and yet look at all she had accomplished. A fine home, a wonderful, rich, husband, "who cares for you very much," I added. "And you've found a friend--someone from your past who thought you were lost long ago--and now you can be the best of friends again."

Tears flooded down Sydney's face. "Are you serious, Janey? You aren't just saying this to make me feel better? You really can forgive me for the way I treated you?"

"Absolutely," I said. "It is forgotten. Let us mention it no more."

"But--"

"No more," I whispered and I pointed to the cane in the corner of my chamber. Sydney's mouth clamped shut and her eyes went wide. Then she gave me a soft smile and nodded. "Yes, ma'am," she said.

"And Julius?" she asked suddenly.

"What about him?"

"You won't tell him?"

I shook my head. "I won't tell him. _You_ will."

Her jaw dropped and stared at me in horror. "You are not serious."

"A serious as the stroke from a cane," I said.

"But why?"

"He deserves it. He loves you, Sydney, even if you don't. I don't think it will change his mind about you. It can be your secret--the world does not have to know. There's no harm in that. But it is dangerous for there to be secrets between husband and wife, Sydney. Any secrets, especially one this significant."

"But he'll be furious!"

"Maybe. He might even punish you. That's the chance you'll have to take. But I think you want to tell him, you _need_ to tell him the truth. It's been a secret for too long. Tell him."

Sydney's face was sad for a while and then she brightened. "Will you go with me?"

"I can't do that. This is something between a husband and a wife."

Part IX -- Epilogue

(*****, F/F, Severe, servant discipline, FF themes)

FM's Masterwork. A real novella of over 37,000 words. This tells the story of a female servant whose new mistress turns out not only to be extremely strict, but to have a mysterious secret in her past. (Approximately 37,092 words. Originally published 1996-01.)

The next day I whipped Sydney--Mrs. DeMarcco--as I had promised her master. But I felt strange. I could not take pleasure in it. I felt no desire for revenge, only a sadness at her story and all the misery she had endured. I did not whip her very hard, and she knew it, but did not say anything.

We did not speak privately all day, except when I gave her orders and she quietly answered "Yes, Mistress," and complied. It wasn't until evening that I took her aside and bluntly reminded her to speak to her husband tonight. She nodded silently but did not speak. I knew she was afraid.

It was early the next morning and I was not quite asleep, my restless mind still active with all the surprising events of the last few days twirling inside, when there was a soft knock at my door. "Come in," I whispered, assuming it was Sydney.

My surprise was almost horror when I saw it was Master DeMarcco. He was carrying a small lamp turned almost all the way down and in the dim light I saw he was smiling. "May I speak with you, Miss Janey?" he asked and I nodded. He came and sat at the edge of my bed. I pulled the covers tightly around myself, both for comfort against the chill and a sort of security against this strange man.

"She told me everything," he said suddenly, staring away from me. "She told me all about you and her as children, in Triten."

I nodded, my mouth suddenly dry. His face suddenly was pointed toward me, though in shadow, and I could not see if he was pleased or angry.

"You have done a wonderful thing, Miss Janey," he whispered quietly. "You have given me a wife."

"What do you mean, sir?"

"I mean that for the first time, my wife and I were able to talk, to really speak about important things. Tonight we talked for hours, and I learned more about her and she more about me than either of us learned in all our years of marriage. It was what we should have done _before_ we were married. It is astonishing, Miss Janey, but we are now closer than we have ever been. It is like we are suddenly two different people who just met and have fallen in love."

He paused and I did not speak. "Do you know why I married Rosemary?" he asked. I shook my head. His head turned away and I saw his eyes were slits, lost in memories. "I married her because I didn't understand her. Does that make any sense?"

"No, sir."

"You're right. It does not." He laughed almost drunkenly and I worried he was not quite aware of his own actions. But then he became serious again and I saw he was not drunk with wine but giddy with joy.

"When I first saw Rosemary I thought she was like all the others--haughty, greedy women who do not _feel_ anything. I abhor the type and yet in high society it seems that is often all that's available. It is no wonder the lower sections of London are quite popular among the aristocrats. Where else can men of breeding find _real_ women? Sure, we can only marry the respectable, but our attraction is to the women who are not ashamed of their bodies, the women who's idea of fun is splashing through mud puddles, women who would sleep with a man not because he's her husband and it is her duty, but because it is her desire!"

The Master shook his head softly. "Rose was beautiful, that was certain. But from the second I first spoke to her I knew she was like no other woman I had met. For you see, she spoke to me as a peer, as her equal, not as her master.She did not disguise her thoughts or opinions to make them more appealing to me. This intrigued me. It puzzled me. I was fascinated, captivated. I accompanied her everywhere, and yet the mystery was never explained. She had all the proper manners of decorum and speech, yet she did not _think_ like the women I had known. It was not long before I proposed and she accepted.

"At first we were deliriously happy. We were of one body, though not of one mind. Eventually that fact caught up with us and we fell apart. We had very little in common and rarely spoke. For a long while I thought maybe I had made a grave mistake. Whatever I had seen in Rose that so intrigued me no longer interested me. I just wanted us to be friends again, to laugh the way we used to, to play together. But Rose had grown distant, aloof, disinterested. I did not wish to force her, so I rarely made an issue of it. But inside I felt sad and betrayed, for a part of me really adored this mysterious woman, this beautiful stranger who spoke more like a man than a woman.

"And then there was the whole scene with you, and the night when I punished her and turned her over to you as your servant. I confess I did what I did out of desperation and anger, not rational thinking. I felt betrayed and abandoned, and I wanted my haughty wife to learn the real meaning behind being a Lady. I did not honestly expect it to work; I had not really considered what would happen if it did.

"Then tonight she came to me, meek and humble, begging to confess a horrible secret which has haunted her for years. I immediately thought she had betrayed me with a man and I was livid, but she told it was not that, but far worse. I did not know what to think. Then she told me her story. She told me of you and her as children--though she did not reveal that it was you, at first--and she even showed me the Lindsey vase which she has kept all these years.

"I must confess her story bewildered me. I felt relieved in some ways, for the mystery behind her strangeness was known. But I felt cheated and deceived by her years of lies and that made me angry. In truth, I was confused. What did this mean to us, to our relationship, to our marriage?

"But then she broke down into tears and wept openly and begged me for forgiveness, and asked that even if I would beat her it would be a joy to her, for her to have just that part of myself. 'It would be an honor, Master,' she wept, and I saw no deception in her actions. Then I realized what had happened: she was a Lady, a real Lady, who perhaps does wrong, as we are all so bound to do, but then apologizes and accepts responsibility for her actions at whatever the cost. My wife, this beautiful creature sobbing at my knees, was now as humble as a servant and as meek as a naughty child!

"My heart swelled with joy and pleasure and I leaped to my feet and stood her up and said, 'Sydney, my love, you have my forgiveness and eternal love! For today you have shown yourself a true Lady, a woman of breeding and good character, a woman who will not shirk her duty nor shy away from her responsibility no matter how painful or difficult.' And Sydney began to weep in my arms and hugged me tightly and told me she'd never let me go, never disobey me or deceive me again.

"I told her I understood, that she was forgiven, and that we now could begin a new phase of our relationship. 'We have so much to discuss,' I said to her. 'There's so much we need to learn about each other. We have never really spoken about our pasts, our feelings. Please, trust me--I shall never harm you. I will trust you, too. We shall open our hearts to each other and let the blood flow openly between us. No secrets, no mysteries. Only pure truth, raw and unfiltered.'

"And so we did. We spoke until the early hours and then we made love and it was beautiful, far more precious than I can ever put into words. I felt like I was holding a part of my soul in my arms as I held my dear wife and I wept without shame, for I knew that I loved her and she did indeed love me."

The Master paused for such a long time after this that I almost thought he had fallen asleep sitting up, but then he shook his head as though to shake off a fierce and controlling dream and turned to me. He held the lantern up close to my face so we could see each other clearly. There were tears in his eyes and he looked so handsome and happy I felt my heart aching for him.

"It was all your doing, dear Miss Janey," he whispered gently. "You opened her heart; you showed her the way. Truly, if ever there was a real Lady, it is you."

I gasped in shock at this outrageous statement. Surely he was jesting. Me, a Lady? But his face was filled with the utmost seriousness, and his smile was one of pleasantness, not mirth.

"Sir, you cannot mean what you are saying," I began, but he cut me off with a gesture.

"Again you are too modest, my dear. It is, perhaps, your only flaw." His smile was gentle and kind and before I could move he had leaned forward and kissed my forehead. I flushed brilliantly and I felt a sudden bursting of emotions flooding from my heart to my crotch and I turned away, deeply embarrassed. What was the Master doing!

He laughed, boldly. "I am only here to thank you, little one. You have given me a wife, the woman I have always dreamed of but never met. It is the most precious gift I know, the giving of one being to another."

He stood quietly and took my hand in his and gently squeezed my fingers. "Trust me--I know the sacrifice you made. She does not realize it yet. Perhaps she never really knew. I saw it between you two immediately, but I did not pry. I did not really understand until she told me everything, but now I know."

"Know what, sir?" I asked, bewildered.

He smiled, a broad, friendly smile, the smile of one confident to another. "I know," he said simply. "I know." And then he was gone.

I lay softly for a while, thinking. I wondered at everything I had heard, everything that had happened, what the Master had said at the end. It was not clear to me. What did he think he knew? What was it that he thought he saw?

And then suddenly, as the clear light of dawn broke through the window, I understood. My heart wrenched and I knew what he had seen, something so deep I myself had not examined it. I knew what he had learned and what Sydney only naively suspected. I also knew that no one else would know, that the Master would keep my secret as tightly as I had kept it.

I also knew that I had always known, had always suffered it, and always would. For it was not something I could discuss openly, reveal its dark nature in the light. Even now I could not say the words. It was something that had to remain deep and buried where it was, and I would have to content myself with other methods.

I thought of the Mistress' cold whip and hard cane, her loving hand, her sorrowful tears. I saw her kneeling at my feet, weeping. I saw her naked flesh, pale with the vivid red stripes of punishment. I felt the welts on my own flesh, the stinging pain, the heart-wrenching agony of each stroke, and my breathing grew shallow.

It was all true. It was all there. We were so much alike and yet so different. With a heavy heart I stretched out upon my bed face down and began to weep. I wept for everyone I knew, for the Master and his wife, for Sydney's mother, for her brother, for Dorothy and Nellie and others I had never met but only heard of, even for poor Alfred.

Finally, after a long time, I built up the courage and did something I had never before: I cried for myself, for what I would never have, for what I would never feel. I understood the Master's message, what it implied, and I knew that he was right. My feelings were no more appropriate than it would have been for him to have taken advantage of me during one of those late-night visits.

But at least, at the very least, I knew that Sydney--Rosemary--would be happy.

It was hours later. I stood and dried my tears. Enough emotion. It was time to be a servant again. I had duties to perform. With a deep sigh and a faintly trembling heart I left my room.

The kitchen was in chaos, servants running and pots steaming and people shouting. Immediately the cook asked where I had been and did I want a strapping?

I smiled and sighed.

Everything was again as it should be.

The End

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