“How much did you say?” demanded Lord Castlebridge in outrage. Lady Castlebridge flushed, lowered her head miserably and repeated the amount in a barely audible murmur. His Lordship glared at his wife. It would be true to say that he was not in the best of humours. There were several irritating matters in his business dealings of intractable nature quite apart from the catastrophe perpetrated by his junior partner’s damn foolish wife. Then there were a number of domestic headaches that were proving infuriating. Neither was the weather alleviating his ill humour.
The unseasonal June heat wave had lasted fully three weeks now to his tenant farmers’ dismay for their parched crops. They were under drought restrictions too and the head gardener, unable to use the sprinklers, was viewing the arid stubble, of what had once been the verdant green lawns in front of Castlebridge Hall, with something close to desperation. The stifling heat had exacerbated everybody’s tempers and it was intolerably muggy even with all the windows open in the Hall. He had thought of having air conditioning installed but it had seemed an unnecessary expense for the three or four weeks of the year that the capricious English climate would actually justify its existence.
Now to top it all he was faced with this; his wife’s effrontery to come along to him here in his study and meekly inform him that she had somehow contrived to lose seven thousand pounds of the household budget on the bl**dy horses at Royal Ascot the weekend before! Seven thousand pounds! He couldn’t imagine what she’d been thinking about!
His wife was an enthusiastic attendee at the higher class race meetings but they had tended to be more social events than anything else; a chance to meet her socialite friends and parade in her finery around the paddocks, basking under the approving observation of her gentleman admirers. She was apt to wager on the races of course. She had an unerring eye for the horses. She would invariably pick out the one horse whose worth was of better value at a glue factory than gracing a race track! He couldn’t remember the last time she had actually picked out a winner. Last year for instance she had eagerly laid down two hundred pounds on some wretched gelding which had proved so slow that His Lordship had acidly remarked that, but for a last minute burst of speed in the final two furlongs, would have been in grave danger of becoming mixed up in the next race!
Nevertheless he had tolerated his wife’s indulgence until now for she enjoyed enormously the social life at the racetrack and, if she had invariably lost money, had hitherto restricted that loss to within acceptable limits. It seemed however that at Ascot she must have been gripped by some temporary insanity and thrown all caution to the wind! Seven thousand pounds! She must have been mad! And that wasn’t an end to it either Lord Castlebridge thought to himself sourly. If you added all the new dresses, shoes and hats and she’d purchased for Ascot this year you could easily round that up to over five figures! In the current economic climate, when he was forever preaching the virtues of austerity and cost cutting, the last thing he needed was his wife to suddenly take leave of her senses and start throwing money away like water!
She was shuffling her feet uncomfortably on the carpet her face pink with embarrassed contrition. He glared at exasperatedly. She wasn’t, he had to admit, a deliberately wilful woman. On the contrary she was generally admirably respectful and obedient and, at twelve years his junior, a highly attractive young woman whose peachy complexion, soft curvaceous figure and luxurious, wavy blond hair had made her the toast of half the young studs in the county. She was, all told, a most admirable adornment to the hallowed portals of Castlebridge Hall and His Lordship was extremely fond of her.
If she had a fault it was that she was too easily led into foolishness by the stronger willed young ladies of her social acquaintance. Lord Castlebridge suspected that the weekend’s rashness could well be attributed to this failing. There were several young ladies within his wife’s social circles of whom he disapproved and of whom he privately considered it to be a lamentable fact that their husbands had not the strength of character to take a firmer hand with. Not least among this particular circle of course was the wife of his junior business partner, young Roger Brideshead, whose folly he had been trying to repair for the last two days and whose misbehaviour might have brought ruin down on all of them.
Lord Castlebridge shook his head to clear it of that particular problem and turned instead to the matter in hand. He was a wealthy man and, in the greater scheme of things, seven thousand pounds hardly amounted to a catastrophe. But he considered it to be the thin edge of the wedge. He could hardly ask his household to make cutbacks in times of economic austerity whilst his own wife set such a poor example with her profligate spending. Furthermore there was a darker side to her foolishness. Lord Castlebridge was all too aware of the destructive nature of compulsive gambling behaviour. The occasional modest wager was all well and good but this sort of thing needed to be nipped in the bud.
Well fortunately this was one problem among the many demanding his attention at the moment that could be dealt with swiftly and efficiently. In quick decision he rang the service bell behind his desk before turning his attention back to his wife. “Well this just isn’t good enough Cynthia!” he told her sternly. “I can’t think what the blazes got into you!”
Lady Castlebridge’s eyes were moist with tears and her lower lip quivered pathetically. “I’m sorry Rupert.” she bleated in a tiny voice.
“Yes well not as sorry as you’re going to be madam! I’ll not have this sort of thing do you hear? What kind of example are you setting to the rest of the household by squandering money in this fashion? It’s not as if you had the remotest chance of winning anything on the damn horses after all, given your previous racing form. What the devil possessed you to throw away money like that on some damned nag?”
“I...I’m sorry Rupert.” she repeated miserably, “It won’t happen again.”
“Of that I am quite sure madam!” His Lordship informed her determinedly. “I shall take steps to ensure that it won’t happen again; firm steps madam!”
Lady Castlebridge shuddered involuntarily, under no illusions about the sort of steps implied in her husband’s tone. It was by no means the first time she had incurred his wrath and she was well familiar with the kind of measures he considered appropriate for misconduct on this scale. She resigned herself to the inevitable. She had learned long ago not to argue and that pitiful pleading was futile. She gave a little sob and lowered her eyes. “Yes Rupert.” she acknowledged in a croaked whisper.
At this point there was a discreet knock on the study door. “Come in!” barked Lord Castlebridge and the door opened to reveal the solemn and dignified presence of Thomas Greenwood, Castlebridge Hall’s majestic butler.
“You rang My Lord?”
“Ah there you are Greenwood! Are you busy for the moment?”
“I have a few routine matters to attend to My Lord but nothing that cannot wait if there was some particular service you required of me.”
“I see. Well in that case I wonder if you would do me a service.”
“Yes My Lord?”
“Yes! My wife here is in need of a good sound caning!”
Greenwood lifted an eyebrow austerely. “Indeed My Lord!” he remarked, ignoring the soft sob that escaped from Her Ladyship’s lips. “I am sorry to hear that. In what way has Her Ladyship displeased you if I may be bold enough to ask?”
“Only gone and thrown away seven thousand pounds on some blasted cripple of a horse at Ascot over the weekend!”
“Really My Lord? That was perhaps a little imprudent of Her Ladyship.”
“bl**dy downright madness is how I would have put it!”
“Certainly Her Ladyship could have possibly exercised better judgement in the matter My Lord.”
“Exactly! Well I’d like her to learn to exercise that better judgement in future Greenwood. So, if your duties permit, I’d be grateful if you’d do me the service of marching her straight down to the library and teaching her a salutary lesson with your cane!”
“I shall attend to the matter immediately My Lord.” Greenwood frowned in concern. “There is one small consideration however My Lord. We have workmen in the library for the moment effecting some needed repair work on the panelling.”
“Damn yes! I’d forgotten about that.” The library with its assorted instruments and purpose built items of furniture was the usual location for the administration of formal punishment at Castlebridge Hall.
“If I might be permitted to make a suggestion My Lord, I can attend to Her Ladyship’s chastisement with equal facility in my pantry. It is perhaps a somewhat more informal setting but it does contain all the accoutrements necessary for the task required and we would avoid having to interrupt the workmen in their labours.”
“Capital! Excellent idea Greenwood.”
“Thank you My Lord. May I be permitted to inquire the severity of the caning you feel warranted in this instance My Lord?”
Lord Castlebridge pondered for a moment. “I should think fifty strokes should do the trick Greenwood.” He glanced sharply at his wife who had gasped audibly as her sentence was pronounced. Fifty strokes was a severe sentence. The most she had ever taken before was twenty five and that had been ordeal enough. Her face paled in fear and she clasped her hands tightly to still their trembling.
Even Greenwood seemed momentarily taken aback by the severity of the punishment imposed upon Her Ladyship. “Fifty strokes My Lord?” he asked by way of confirmation.
“That’s right Greenwood and I want all of them delivering so mind you keep a careful tally.”
“You may rely on me My Lord. Will Her Ladyship be permitted to retain her undergarments for the duration of her punishment?”
Lord Castlebridge shook his head decisively. “No, no, no Greenwood! The bare bottom if you please. She thoroughly deserves it.”
“As you wish My Lord. I shall carry out your instructions to the letter.”
“Excellent.” Lord Castlebridge raised a finger in admonition. “And make sure you lay them on good and hard Greenwood. Don’t spare her! A good firm hand is what she needs. I want a thorough job doing.”
Greenwood looked mildly offended by the implied suggestion that he might not perform his duty with his customary diligence. “As always I shall endeavour to provide perfect satisfaction My Lord.” he remarked with just a hint of defensive wounded pride.
“Good! See that you do. I shall be inspecting her backside at dinner and I’ll expect to see that my wishes have been carried out to my satisfaction.”
“You may have no concerns My Lord. Your instructions will be carried out precisely in accordance with your wishes.”
“Capital! Well carry on Greenwood.”
“Yes My Lord.” He turned to the wretched figure of Lord Castlebridge’s wife. “If you would please accompany me My Lady then.” Lady Castlebridge nodded abjectly but she obediently followed the butler out of the door. Lord Castlebridge watched them go in satisfaction. At least his wife had had more sense than to object to the punishment imposed. She had looked terrified it is true but she had walked off to her fate with submissive resignation. It was not unusual for His Lordship to ask his butler to cane his wife. Greenwood was the man generally charged with disciplinary duties at Castlebridge Hall and his height, muscular build and strong right arm were eminently suited to the task. Early in their marriage Lord Castlebridge had administered whatever punishments his wife had earned personally but these days he was just as likely to delegate the task to Greenwood as not. She was certainly not unfamiliar with the firmness of Castlebridge Hall’s butler’s right hand!
Lady Castlebridge was reflecting miserably on that very subject herself. Just before Christmas she had been obliged to receive twenty five strokes of the cane administered with the full authority of the butler’s right arm in the library and it was not an experience she had been in any hurry to repeat. The caning had been agonising and she’d been in pain for days afterwards. The marks on her bottom had been clearly visible a week later! The impression it had left in her mind had lasted a lot longer; sufficiently so to deter her from any risk of a repetition. Now it seemed, as she followed meekly in Thomas Greenwood’s wake, that she was not only fated to repeat the experience but to have it doubled! Her throat felt dry with fear and her legs were trembling uncontrollably.
It was some distance to the pantry for Castlebridge Hall formed a hollow square about an inner courtyard and Greenwood’s pantry lay on the far side of this courtyard necessitating a considerable walk around three sides of the Hall if one did not choose to cut across the central plaza. Inevitably they encountered some of the Hall’s considerable retinue of servants on that long doom laden walk. In due accordance with her penitent status Lady Castlebridge walked a pace or two behind Greenwood. The significance of this was not lost on the servants they passed. It was certainly evident to the two young chambermaids they encountered in the Long Hall who winked at each other and giggled behind their hands after the solemn little procession had passed. In the normal course of events, Lady Castlebridge, as mistress of the house, would lead the way with Greenwood respectfully in the rear. But the protocol was strictly adhered to at Castlebridge Hall and Her Ladyship trailing behind could only mean one thing; she was on her way to a caning.
News travelled quickly around a place as confined as Castlebridge Hall. It would very quickly be all over the Hall that Her Ladyship was about to be caned. Doubtless many of the servants would neglect their duties to gather in strategic places to catch the sounds or, better yet, the glimpse of their mistress’s suffering under the cane. There was nothing particularly personal in this for Lady Castlebridge was kind to her servants and generally well liked. Nevertheless there was always that somewhat subversive thrill among the serving classes when one of their superiors had their comeuppance for once.
At the entrance to his pantry Greenwood opened the door and stepped aside to usher Her Ladyship in politely. “If you please My Lady?” Taking a deep breath, Lady Castlebridge stepped through the ominous portal into the chamber beyond. Greenwood’s pantry was not a room that she was familiar with for it was a peculiarly masculine reserve within the Hall. It was the place where Greenwood was apt to pass his leisure hours in one of the old but comfortable leather armchairs by the big fireplace with a glass of port in his hand from his considerable stock arraigned on shelves about the walls. It was a surprisingly large chamber albeit of somewhat rude stone walls in contrast to the highly polished oak panelling prevalent throughout the more genteel regions of the hall. The furniture was simple and rather battered but the whole place bespoke an air of masculine comfort; a sort of safe haven into which the men of the house could escape from the more fussy sensibilities of the womenfolk. It was a place where Greenwood’s cronies among the staff would gather of an evening to chew the fat around the fire whilst making inroads into the Hall’s liquor stores. The head gardener and the gamekeeper were regular visitors to this cosy sanctuary as was the head chef. Even Lord Castlebridge was apt on occasion to pop in to share a bottle with his butler. But women were very rare visitors here and usually only then under similar circumstances to those currently being experienced by Lady Castlebridge herself.
Stepping into the room, the first item, among the furniture and shelving, Her Ladyship noted was one that brought a further thrill of fear to her. The caning stool was virtually identical to its twin upstairs in the library of which she had such painful memories. Standing alone in a clear open space it was a high wooden structure with sturdy, straight legs set on a stable platform. The top of the stool was a curved indented surface to accommodate the belly of the victim lying prostrate across it. A thick leather strap with buckles looped over this surface to secure the body of the miscreant to this surface whilst further straps on all four legs served to buckle their legs and wrists. Lady Castlebridge shuddered. Her last acquaintance with an antique item of this description was with its twin in the library over which she had been bound to receive twenty five strokes of the cane. Now she was facing fifty and doubtless secured helplessly to this frightful stool. For less severe punishments it was often merely necessary to bend over and present oneself for the cane but, facing a sentence of fifty strokes, Her Ladyship had little doubt that she would be required to suffer the indignity of being strapped to the caning stool to receive her punishment.
Her heart was beating loudly in her chest. Her hands felt clammy. It was warm in the room in spite of the windows looking out onto the courtyard being open but she felt chilled and shivered. She stood uncertainly in the middle of the room her legs feeling weak beneath her. Greenwood cleared his throat. “I have a few preparations to attend to for your punishment My Lady if you’ll forgive me. Perhaps in the meantime you would care to be removing your lower undergarments for convenience.”
Lady Castlebridge blinked foolishly. “You... you mean my knickers?”
Greenwood nodded gravely. “Yes My Lady. Your punishment is to be carried out on the bare bottom. His Lordship was most specific in his instructions and I’m afraid I must insist.”
Lady Castlebridge swallowed and bit her lip. “Yes... yes of course.” she whispered dolefully. As she lifted her skirt and petticoat to lower her knickers Greenwood busied himself clearing a few obstructions from the area around the caning stool, removed his jacket to hang it on a peg on the wall and walked over to a slim cabinet which he opened to reveal his selection of canes and leather straps. Lady Castlebridge’s knickers became entangled in the heels of her shoes as she tried to slip them off her feet and she hopped around in an undignified manner for a second or two before finally relieving herself of them. Finally free of the encumbrance around her ankles she stood there foolishly holding her knickers in her hand as Greenwood pondered the choice of implements in his cabinet in grave solemnity. He seemed to take an age in making his choice, rubbing his chin thoughtfully and reaching out to finger the canes hanging on their pegs in the cabinet.
At last he made his choice and lifted a cane down lovingly from its hook. Lady Castlebridge quailed at the sight of it; five feet of solid rattan cane, fashioned with a leather grip at one end, a quarter of an inch thick and gleaming evilly in pale yellow before Her Ladyship’s horrified eyes. Greenwood flexed the implement experimentally in his hand to assure himself that there were no flaws in the cane and, having ascertained that it was indeed sound, he swished it through the air a couple of times to judge its weight and length. Lady Castlebridge felt her buttocks clench involuntarily at the evil hiss the wicked looking cane made as swung through the air.
Satisfied with the instrument he had chosen Greenwood turned his attention back to Lady Castlebridge. He saw the pair of knickers she was still holding in her hand. She didn’t seem to know what to do with them. He nodded at her dilemma and indicated a small side table near the fire. “Ah yes My Lady. Perhaps you would care to place the garment on the small table over there. It is perfectly clean I assure you.” Lady Castlebridge nodded dumbly and placed her knickers on the table indicated. For some reason she felt obliged to neatly fold her knickers before placing them carefully on the table. Greenwood nodded again in satisfaction as she turned back toward him. “Excellent My Lady. I think we may proceed now.” He paused for a second before continuing. “In view of the severity of the sentence His Lordship has imposed on you My Lady I think it best that you were restrained for the duration of your punishment.”
“Yes Thomas.” she whispered feebly in agreement. She was one of the few people in the household who ever used Greenwood’s Christian name.
“In that case would you kindly step forward to the stool My Lady?”
Lady Castlebridge obeyed meekly, stepping up onto the box in front of the high stool so that the top of the stool was level with her upper hips. Taking a deep breath to still the whimpers that came to her lips she bent slowly forward over the stool until she was only touching the box behind with her toes. Desperately she gripped the front legs of the stool in her hands. Greenwood noted her satisfactory position in approval and laid the cane aside for a moment to attend to the fastenings on the stool. “Excuse me My Lady.” He apologised politely as he took the broad leather strap across her waist and buckled it firmly pressing her stomach against the hard wooden surface of the stool. He squatted at the front of the stool and addressed her not unkindly. “If you would give me your hand please My Lady.” Lady Castlebridge obeyed and he buckled her left wrist securely to the stool’s legs. “And the other if you please.” He repeated the process with her right wrist.
Satisfied with his preparations at that end he moved around to her rear. Stretched over the stool Lady Castlebridge’s dress and petticoat had ridden high up her thighs and they were little hindrance to Greenwood as he gently grasped her left leg and lifted it clear of the box to buckle the strap on the back leg of the stool around her stockinged leg just above her knee. Her Ladyship hated this next part for when he took her other leg she lost all contact with her feet on the ground and her legs were pulled apart and her feet suspended in the air as he buckled the other leg strap.
Greenwood moved the box she had stood on to lean over the stool out of the way and then made a last check of her fastenings to make sure that all were firm and secure but not cutting off the circulation in any way. He took pride in the meticulousness of his preparations. Finally he moved back to her rear once more. “If you will forgive me My Lady.” He intoned as he took the hem of her dress and petticoat and lifted it up to lie across her back exposing her naked buttocks for the cane.
Greenwood frowned at this moment. Her Ladyship was wearing stockings held by garters high on her thighs. They in no way impeded access of the cane to her bottom but they did cover most of the back of her thighs. It was a rule of thumb in the Hall that the sensitive backs of the thighs were caned in addition to the buttocks during punishment and when His Lordship had specified that he wished her caned on the bare backside it was implicit in that instruction that the back of her thighs were to be caned on the naked flesh as well as her bottom. He had obviously been less than explicit in his instructions to Her Ladyship when asking her to remove her undergarments. Technically her stockings were undergarments too and he should have asked her to remove them or at least roll them down to her knees. Now he would have to do it for her.
“Pardon me My Lady but I’m afraid I must roll your stockings down.” he told her matter of factly. Lady Castlebridge whimpered piteously. The significance of his statement was not wasted on her. She would be caned on the back of her legs in those spots where it hurt the most; the upper thighs. She felt his fingers at the elastic of her garters and then her stockings pulled down to the straps restraining her legs. Her entire rear from the small of her back to just above her knees was now suitable exposed for the cane’s attention. She felt the tears pricking at her eyes in fear and her caning had not even begun.
Greenwood stood back and regarded his handiwork critically. Her Ladyship was admirably positioned over the stool clear of the ground and the relevant parts of her anatomy stretched out, pushed up and perfectly presented for the cane. He allowed himself a nod of satisfaction. “I think that should suffice My Lady so with your permission I think we may begin.”
Lady Castlebridge nodded helplessly. “Yes Thomas,” she snivelled. “You may proceed.”
Greenwood nodded once more “Thank you My Lady.” Carefully he rolled his shirt sleeve up on his right arm and flexed his arm to loosen up. The he picked up the cane. He took up his stance behind her and measured the distance. “Forgive me My Lady but I’m afraid the strokes will be very hard. His Lordship was most explicit in this regard and I would be failing in my duty if I were not to follow his instructions to the letter.”
Lady Castlebridge swallowed feebly. “I quite understand Thomas.” she whispered in a tiny voice.
“In that case My Lady... if you are quite ready.”
She could only manage a tiny nod. She stared straight ahead clenching her teeth and grasping hold of the legs of the stool until her knuckles turned white as Greenwood lifted the cane high over his shoulder. There was an awful pause. The swish of the cane was loud in the quiet of the room and louder still was the harsh crack as it landed with f***e into the soft flesh of the centre of her buttocks.
The loud crack of the cane and the accompanying strangled gasp from its recipient was clearly audible across the courtyard to Lord Castlebridge as he stood by the open window of his study looking out thoughtfully. The afternoon was late. He glanced at his watch and noted that there was a little under two hours to go before dinner. Perhaps he should put his worries away for one day and treat himself to a small tumbler of fine malt whisky. There was another crack of the cane and a snort that sounded as if it emerged from between clenched teeth from across the courtyard. He felt a certain pride in that his wife was undoubtedly attempting to suppress her cries under the agony of the cane. For all her occasional foolishness there was something fundamentally sound about his beautiful wife. He would not have her punished unless he had good reason to and she tacitly accepted the justice of his decisions in this regard and took the punishments that he was occasionally obliged to have ministered to her without protest and with as much dignity as she could muster. It was characteristic that she would try to stifle her cries of pain and take her punishment in dignified silence as befitting her station as the lady of the house.
Of course, Lord Castlebridge realised, it would not last. His wife had a low tolerance for pain and would doubtless lose her ability to control her cries within a few strokes. Well that was no bad thing he reflected. She was after all being punished and implicit in that was a certain loss of dignity. Lord Castlebridge was a great believer in the efficacious, educational effects of humility and considered that occasional lessons in the folly of excess pride to be character building. His wife’s humiliation would remain in her mind to teach her the error of her ways long after the throbbing in her bottom had subsided.
He stood and listened to two or three more strokes of the cane and, when its impact finally f***ed a loud squeal from his wife’s lips, he nodded in satisfaction and turned to walk to his drinks cabinet and take a bottle of fine eighteen year old Talisker malt. Lord Castlebridge had a liking for the pungent malt whiskies of the Western Isles. He poured himself a rather generous tumblerful in the event, considering that, after the disagreeable annoyances of the last few days he had earned it. He swilled the amber liquid around in the glass and sniffed the tangy aroma appreciatively before returning to his place at the open window.
His wife’s caning was progressing nicely by the sound of things. Now she had lost the restraint of her control, she was giving vent to loud shrieks and wails to accompany the harsh crack of the cane across her bare flesh. Well it would be a long time before she thought to squander money on a horse again! He grunted to himself in satisfaction. This was how he liked problems to be solved; sharp, decisively and in the shortest time possible. Many a man would have failed to take such immediate and effective action; allowed his wife’s problem to fester and grow into something much more serious. Lord Castlebridge was no such man however. Once confronted with his wife’s foolishness he had taken immediate and firm measures. Twenty minutes over the caning stool and he had every confidence that his wife’s potential gambling problem would be solved permanently. He wished every problem was as amenable to such a ready solution; Roger Brideshead’s foolish wife for instance.
He frowned at the thought and took a sip of his whisky as another shrill squeal of agony echoed around the courtyard. Roger’s wife had been a thorn in his side ever since his younger junior partner had inadvisably married the young filly. Oh he could understand the attraction to Roger because there was no doubt at all that she was as fine a young specimen of womanhood as it would be possible to wish for with long brown hair, a well turned figure and captivating looks. Roger had been smitten from the moment he had cast eyes on her and quite clearly worshipped her.
That was half the problem though Lord Castlebridge bitterly. Roger was far too enamoured of his wife to take note of her faults and the necessary measures to correct them. He deferred to her wishes far too much; pampered her in fact. He should have laid a firm hand on her the moment he slipped a ring on her finger but he hadn’t. He had let her have her own way for too long and his lack of control over her was coming back to haunt him. She was a woman that needed a strong hand it was certain. Had she been His Lordship’s wife he would have established the ground rules from the beginning and had her marched along to the library for a sound thrashing on her wedding night!
She wasn’t a bad woman as such, Brenda Brideshead, but she was a sadly flawed one in many respects. Her undoubted beauty had led her to a consuming vanity and easy target for flattery as a result. Combine that with her foolishness, her garrulous nature and her reprehensible indiscretion and you had a recipe for disaster. It was too bad of Roger that he had allowed things to get so out of hand.
Lord Castlebridge sighed, an exhalation whose sound was drowned by another piercing shriek from the far side of the courtyard. In the normal course of events he would consider that a married man’s private life was his own affair and, whether he disapproved of the way in which a gentleman dealt with his wife or not, it was not his concern to interfere. The trouble was that Brenda Brideshead’s actions extended beyond the domain of the domestic hearth and now impacted directly on the dealings of Roger and his own business dealings and that very much was his concern.
Again Roger himself had to take some blame for this for he was far too open with his wife concerning business matters and she was privy to the inner private matters of the business to an extent that Lord Castlebridge found shocking. Certainly His Lordship would never have dreamed of the same degree of confidence in the lady now screaming loudly under the ministrations of Greenwood’s cane on the far side of the courtyard. Roger doted on her too much and allowed her too much access to those matters that Lord Castlebridge considered to be the business of gentlemen.
It would not be so bad, he considered, had she been the sort of woman whose discretion and confidentiality could be relied upon. For all his chauvinism, Lord Castlebridge was bound to admit that there were ladies among his acquaintance with whom he could trust his most private matters with utmost confidence. Brenda Brideshead was not one of them! She was an insatiable socialite whirling from one dinner party, soiree, ball or cocktail party after another. In this social maelstrom of hers she was all too likely in her foolish excitement, doubtless fuelled by copious amounts of champagne to lose her head and babble unreservedly. She was particularly prone to loosen her tongue when under the flattering attentions of personable young men. She was an unrepentant flirt and liked nothing more than to be surrounded by admiring gentlemen often with less than honourable intentions upon her.
Lord Castlebridge frowned at this thought and took another sip of his whisky as another crack of the cane caused a demented shriek to reverberate about the courtyard. Brenda Brideshead’s flirtatiousness came dangerously close to infidelity on occasion and certainly her long suffering husband had become increasingly concerned about it and distracted in his work. It was worse yet when she babbled out those business matters in such company with complete lack of discretion. Already her ill considered public revelations concerning them had caused both Roger and himself considerable embarrassment on several occasions and Lord Castlebridge had taken Roger to task for it and admonished him for his wife’s indiscretion. Roger had promised to talk severely to his wife about it and assured Lord Castlebridge that there would be no more such occurrences. Well it appeared that his reprimands such as they were had had little effect for, at the weekend, Brenda Brideshead had fallen prey to the malevolent mischief of Stanley Basseldon.
Basseldon was one of their main business rivals and, in Lord Castlebridge’s considered opinion, a bounder of the first order. He was a good looking blighter however and just the sort of languorously arrogant young stud to turn the foolish head of Brenda Brideshead. He had targeted her deliberately at the party she had been attending; there was little doubt of that. He had plied her with champagne and flattery and before anybody knew it had wheedled the details of a forthcoming business deal out of her. Armed with this information he had undercut their business arrangement and promptly taken the whole deal away from them to his own sizeable profit and to Lord Castlebridge’s business empire’s considerable loss. It was the final straw as far as Lord Castlebridge was concerned. There was no doubt that Brenda Brideshead was the source of the information that had led to the disaster. Indeed an angry Roger himself had reported that his wife had confessed to the disclosure. He was furious with her and she was now confined to the house in disgrace he told Lord Castlebridge. Well that was all well and good thought His Lordship but this was a very serious matter and he felt that merely restricting her freedom for a few days would do little to curb the foolish young woman or correct the dangerous cancer that now threatened Lord Castlebridge’s very livelihood.
Of course the most obvious solution would be that, given that Roger and his wife had now become such a liability, he should dispense with the young gentleman’s services altogether. Lord Castlebridge didn’t want to go that far however if some other solution presented itself. The truth was that he liked young Roger; admired him for his hard working ethic, keen intelligence and high abilities. Lord Castlebridge was somewhat of a mentor to the younger man and it grieved him that Roger’s promising career was jeopardised by his foolish wife’s imprudent foolishness. What was really needed thought His Lordship was some way of some effective way of curbing her idiocy and teaching her firmly, once and for all, the error of her ways and ensuring that there would be no repetition of her ill advised actions.
Lord Castlebridge paused in his ruminations to listen to the sounds coming across the courtyard. His wife’s screams had reached a feverish and manic level by now. Evidently Greenwood was applying himself diligently to his duty and laying the cane down with all the authority His Lordship had commanded. She wouldn’t be gambling again in a hurry! He wished that Brenda Brideshead could be so easily corrected of her waywardness. That’s what she needed thought Lord Castlebridge; a dose of what his wife was experiencing at this moment! She certainly more than deserved it. If she was his charge then she’d be getting the soundest hiding of her pampered life right now! Regrettably she wasn’t his charge and it was unlikely that Roger would discipline her as she deserved.
But if she wasn’t his charge then Roger certainly was and Lord Castlebridge had every right to impose his authority on his junior even to the extent of insisting that he take immediate and drastic steps to deal with his wife. But how could Lord Castlebridge enf***e such an order? What went on in the Brideshead home was surely out of his jurisdiction. He would never be certain that his orders had been carried out. Unless of course he was to supervise Roger’s discipline of his wife and witness it to ensure that it was carried out satisfactorily. This was a new thought; the germ of an idea that insinuated itself into his brain and sat there nagging at him. It was not yet a plan but, under the inspiration of his own wife’s caning, a seed had been sown.
The last frenzied screams had died away by now and only Lady Castlebridge’s soft sobbing could be heard faintly across the courtyard. Greenwood would, by now, be assisting her weeping limp figure from the caning stool. She then had, as was the custom in the house, half an hour to spend kneeling on a stool in the corner, with her skirts hitched up and her hands on her head, in disgrace before she was finally dismissed from the punishment chamber. Lord Castlebridge glanced at his watch once more. She would then have to exert herself, he noted, for she’d have a little over an hour to repair her appearance and dress for dinner. To give her her due Lady Castlebridge was invariably well turned out for appearance at the dining table whatever the circumstances and His Lordship had every confidence that even the matter of a severe caning would not deviate her from that strict policy.
Lord Castlebridge drained the last of his whisky. He decided to take a quick round of the house. Normally he trusted his senior staff to perform this chore but every once in a while he liked to stamp his authority and run a quick inspection himself. It seemed like an admirable notion at the moment so as to ensure there were no other problems he should be concerning himself about. After that of course he’d need to call his valet and begin his own preparations to dress for dinner. Dinner was always a formal affair at Castlebridge Hall and one had appearances to keep up.
Lady Castlebridge gave her husband no cause for dissatisfaction with her appearance at dinner. Her eyes were still somewhat red and swollen from tears it is true and she walked stiffly and gingerly as a result of the throbbing ache in her nether regions. Nevertheless she was becomingly dressed, her make-up reapplied in place of the ruined mess that had been left in the wake of her caning and her hair, which had become a tangled ruin as she threw her head from side to side in agony on the caning stool, had been coiffed back into order. She was accompanied by her two personal maids who had helped her dress and they assisted her to her seat at the dining table. One of them carried a soft cushion to place on Her Ladyship’s chair and Lady Castlebridge lowered herself carefully onto this, betraying her swollen and tender rear with just a hint of a wince.
Lord Castlebridge’s humour had improved little however in the interim and some of the discoveries he had made during his brief tour of inspection had not improved it. “Did I tell you that you could sit down Cynthia?” he barked at his wife.
Lady Castlebridge rose hastily to her feet. “No Rupert. I’m sorry Rupert.” she bleated fearfully.
He wagged a ginger sternly. “I explicitly said that I wished to inspect your bottom at dinner madam! You should have immediately presented yourself for that inspection before seating yourself.”
“I’m sorry Rupert.” his wife repeated.
“Well come around here then and show yourself to me.”
Lady Castlebridge complied with the order, coming around to her husband’s end of the dining table, lifting her dress and lowering her knickers for her husband’s examination. Her husband appraised the results with approval. Her Ladyships swollen buttocks and thighs were admirably marked with livid stripes from the cane and turning purple with bruising. Greenwood, now standing against the wall in attendance and waiting to supervise the serving of the evening meal, had certainly not stinted in his application of the cane to Her Ladyship’s rear quarters. It was a thoroughly well caned Lady Castlebridge stood there with her lip quivering in humiliation at her husband’s inspection. His Lordship nodded at his butler. “Capital Greenwood! A job well done!”
“Thank you My Lord. I always endeavour to give complete satisfaction.”
Lord Castlebridge grunted in acknowledgement. “Well Cynthia,” he addressed his wife. “I hope you’ve learned your lesson.”
“Yes Rupert.” His wife intoned in a low mumble.
“And no more races for you for the next six months understand?”
“Good girl! Now pull your knickers up, adjust your dress and resume your seat.” A slight titter caught Lord Castlebridge’s attention. His wife’s two personal maids were stood in the background trying to hide their smirks. He frowned. The two girls were another problem he ought to think about. His wife doted on them and was apt to pamper them. The result was that they were spoiled and overly familiar. He’d have to give some thought to an appropriate means of correcting their ways. Still that one could wait for the moment. “You two girls are dismissed!” he barked at them.
“Yes My Lord.” They intoned in unison, “Thank you My Lord.” The girls curtsied hurriedly and left.
Greenwood cleared his throat. “Shall I instruct the serving girls to serve the soup now My Lord?”
“Before you do there’s one more thing Greenwood.”
“Yes My Lord?”
“Yes. This evening before dinner I had occasion to make a tour of inspection around the house. I am not pleased Greenwood. I am not pleased at all!”
“Indeed My Lord? I am sorry to hear that. In what way were you dissatisfied with your inspection?”
Lord Castlebridge tapped off the points on his fingers. “For one the brass and silver work in the long gallery was in an appalling state! It doesn’t look as if it’s seen a drop of polish in months! Secondly the panelling in the main hall is a disgrace. God only knows what any visitors will think. And thirdly when was the last time the carpets in the guest lounges were hoovered might I ask.”
Greenwood looked deeply concerned, or as concerned as any butler might for whom the lift of a single eyebrow constituted a major expression of astonishment. “I am shocked My Lord.”
“Yes and that’s not all! I happen to glance out of a window and spied that young Charlotte girl loafing about behind the East wing when she was supposed to be about her duties.”
Greenwood nodded knowingly. “Ah yes! Young Miss Carlson. I’ve been keeping an eye on her for some time My Lord. I’m afraid idleness is a great fault of hers. I shall take immediate steps to rectify the young lady’s indolent ways.”
“Good and see to those other matters as well. Standards are slipping Greenwood and I won’t have it!”
Greenwood sighed. “I’m afraid I’m inclined to agree with you My Lord. It has come to my attention of late that there has been some considerable lapsing in the standards of work from the chamber maids. I was discussing this matter with the head housekeeper only this morning.”
“Well make sure that some action is taken about it Greenwood.”
“You have my word My Lord. I shall consult with Mrs Moorhouse immediately after dinner and attempt to ascertain the culprits involved. Once found I shall see to it personally that they are severely punished and in such a way as to set an example to the rest of the young ladies in the housekeeping department.”
“Good! See that you do.”
“You may count on me My Lord.”
“Excellent. You may serve the soup now Greenwood.”
After dinner and a glass of brandy and a cigar in the privacy of his study Lord Castlebridge took his customary evening stroll about the grounds. It was as he was returning from this stroll that he saw the evidence that Greenwood had taken his expression of dissatisfaction and demands for immediate remedial action to heart. Whilst stood by the kitchen gardens at the back of the house he saw four young chambermaids returning to the house from the direction of the copse by the lake. He recognised young Charlotte Carlson immediately and then there was the blond girl, Alicia, the cheeky red headed Betty and that little dark haired Portuguese lass whose name he could never for the life of him recall. The faces of this solemn little procession were a study in fearful misery and the reason for this collective gloom was all too evident. Each girl was carrying a small bundle of freshly cut green twigs four to five feet in length; about seven of eight of them each.
Lord Castlebridge was rather taken aback. It seemed the girls were destined for the birch! He was surprised. He had expected Greenwood to take swift decisive action of course but not something of this severity. A birching was not a light ordeal and usually reserved for serious offences or persistent maladroitness. His Lordship had thought that a few strokes of the cane would have been sufficient. It was plain to see that the increasing laxity of standards around the house had been a matter of serious concern to the senior staff for some time now and his expression of disapproval at dinner had been the final cog to set the wheels in motion and to arrest the erosion of standards around the house by making an example of these four young ladies.
Well it would be a lesson they would not forget in a hurry Lord Castlebridge thought grimly. Birchings at Castlebridge Hall were always very formalised rituals; severe punishments carried out in front of witnesses. The miscreant was always obliged to go down to the woods to cut the thin twigs themselves and present them at their punishment. If they were not up to the standard required they would be sent back to collect more and additional lashes added to their punishment. Once approved the penitent was then provided with a roll of strong industrial adhesive tape and would bind the twigs together tightly at one end to form a handle and then fashion another binding half way up leaving the last two feet or so as a compact bundle of striking ends. Such a birch switch, wielded with f***e, scored the skin agonisingly and could even draw bl**d if the birching was prolonged.
Once the miscreant had fashioned their birch switch it was formally presented to Greenwood who would be responsible for administering the punishment. They would then be obliged to undress completely in front of an audience of their peers and, once naked, be tied firmly, kneeling on a wooden platform at the birching post. They would then be thrashed soundly with the switch they had made with their own hands across the buttocks and thighs. It would be a frightful ordeal. Fifty strokes was the minimum sentence for a birching and, in serious cases, could stretch up to a hundred.
Well it was harsh thought Lord Castlebridge soberly but liable to be extremely effective. The four girls would be in no hurry to repeat the experience and the other girls would have no wish to share the same fate once they had witnessed the screaming throes of agony of their colleagues under the birch. Lord Castlebridge expected to see a marked improvement in industriousness from the chambermaids over the coming weeks.
Satisfied that his butler had taken matters firmly in hand, Lord Castlebridge re-entered the Hall and made his way to his study for a nightcap before retiring to bed. It was muggy in his study and he loosened his necktie. Damned heat! The windows in the library were open as well and, for the second time that day, the inner courtyard reverberated to the sound of shrill female screams as Greenwood applied the birch. Lord Castlebridge could nearly count every stroke as it landed and he kept a tally in his head as the wailing shrieks echoed in the still evening air. It seemed each girl was administered fifty lashes apart from the last girl to take to the birching post, who, if His Lordship had kept the tally correctly, received seventy five. That would be Charlotte Carlson His Lordship thought correctly. Well she wouldn’t be sitting around idling her time after this little lesson in a hurry. She wouldn’t be sitting comfortably anywhere for the next few days!
Lord Castlebridge lingered long over his nightcap; long in fact after the last of the shrieks emanating from the library had faded away. While the four weeping girls, who had been so publicly made an example of, knelt in shame on benches around the library walls and Greenwood and Mrs Moorhouse delivered stern warning lectures to their sober faced colleagues, Lord Castlebridge pondered his own options. A germ of a plan was beginning to form in his mind.
Finally he rose from his armchair with a sigh and made his way to his bedchambers. His wife was sat on a pile of cushions at her dressing table in silk camisole and matching French knickers; the livid marks on her upper thighs still to be seen below the hem of her knickers. She was being attended to by her two maids, For once the two girls had lost their customary flightiness and looked sober and subdued, as well they might, having just been required to be among the witnesses at the birching in the library. Lord Castlebridge dismissed them gruffly.
His wife rose from her stool at the dressing table and took a deep breath. “I... I’m sorry for my foolish behaviour Rupert. You were quite right to have me punished. It won’t happen again I assure you.”
His Lordship nodded . “You are forgiven Cynthia. Just see that it doesn’t happen again mind.”
“It won’t Rupert I promise you.”
“Good! How are you anyway?”
“Still a little sore Rupert. Thomas was very severe with me as you asked him to be.”
“Better a few days of discomfort Cynthia than ruin and social ostracism with a gambling habit!”
“Did you get your girls to put some ointment on your bottom?”
“I’ve been meaning to talk to you about those two little madams Cynthia. You spoil them far too much.”
Lady Castlebridge looked worried. “They’re very good to me Rupert.”
“Well that’s as maybe but they’re getting far too familiar Cynthia and sometimes I’d like to know what they do to earn their keep around here apart from just fussing around you when you need to prepare yourself. I’m sure your personal grooming doesn’t tax too much too much of their time. A bit of good honest work wouldn’t harm the pair of them.”
“Yes Rupert. Would you like me to help you undress?” Lady Castlebridge was eager to change the subject. She was fond of her two girls.
His Lordship nodded in assent. “Yes carry on Cynthia.”
Her Ladyship had learned a thing or two over the years in mollifying her husband. She knelt on the rug before him and unfastened his trousers. Seeing his wife kneeling in servility before him and easing his trousers down was the tonic Lord Castlebridge’s ill humour needed. The front of his undershorts bulged alarmingly with his suddenly quickened interest. Lady Castlebridge looked at it eagerly. “May I Rupert?”
“Carry on Cynthia!”
Lady Castlebridge eased his undershorts down liberating his erection. She took his penis in her fingertips almost delicately as if she were picking up a piece of fine china. Slowly she leaned forward to take it into her mouth. Lord Castlebridge never quite understood why his wife enjoyed sucking on his penis but he found it agreeable and it seemed to afford her pleasure. He stood there enjoying his wife’s indulgence but his mind was still busy. It was in those moments that the plan that had been nagging at him all evening came to clarity in his mind. It was the kind of plan he liked; direct, decisive and one which would deal with the problem for once and for all. It was a plan that would lead directly to the worst day in Brenda Brideshead’s pampered life.