Rebecca woke first in the cellars and gazed in total satisfaction at the sl**ping Jennifer, face down, at her side. She was beautiful with her auburn tresses lying in a great sheath on the pillow. Fondly Rebecca stroked her back feeling the traces of the whip on the velvet skin. Jennifer stirred and murmured in her sl**p. Rebecca felt an over powering love for the lovely girl at her side and bent to kiss her softly on the back. Part of her mind was still lost in the enchantment of the afternoon and night before and she closed her eyes revelling in the memory of it. Their whipping had been ... Continue»
*See part one for the preamble to this series)
Chapter Sixty One.
It was hot on the square in Mathom village that afternoon and Alice was grateful for the shade of the big parasols in the front beer garden of the Mathom Arms. She didn’t want to have to face Lady Mathom sweating like a factory girl after all. She looked radiantly pretty today in a white, yellow and blue floral print dress and a pair of new elegant blue shoes that were pinching her feet something rotten. A long session at the hairdressers that morning had beaten her rebellious locks into shape and she was stylishly coiffed and her hair a honey gold. She’d even bought a hat, which she felt downright silly in, but, nevertheless looked becoming on her. Daniel had been nearly mutinous that morning as she’d bullied him into his best suit and tie prior to their driving to Mathomdale. He was returning now from the interior of the pub bearing drinks.
“Sorry I was so long pet! There was a bit of a queue at t’ bar.”
“Don’t lie ter me Dan Foreman! I saw yer in there chattin’ ter t’ barmaid!”
“I were just passin’ t’ time o’ day love!”
“I bet yer were! Well yer can “pass” that one up fer a start me lad! Any way soon as our Becky gets ‘ere yer’ll ‘ave no eyes left fer yon barmaid!”
“What time are they pickin’ us up anyway?”
“’Bout ‘alf past Becky said. It’s just turned two now, so in about ‘alf an ‘our.”
“Why do we ‘ave ter meet ‘em ‘ere anyway?”
“Give us a break Danny! Mathom ‘All’s bigger ’n Buckingham Palace be all accounts! We can’t just drive up an’ bang on t’ front door now can we? They’d probably send us round ter t’ tradesmen’s entrance!”
“bl**dy ‘ell Alice love! I don’t know about you but I’m pissin’ mesen at t’ thought o’ meetin’ Lady Mathom!”
“Fer ‘eaven’s sake Danny! Curb yer language! You swear in front o’ Lady Mathom an’ I’ll ‘ave yer guts fer garters!”
“Sorry pet! I’m just nervous.”
“Look Danny. Think on what we owe ‘er Ladyship! She put t’ money up on t’ new ‘ouse without even seein’ us! Least we can do is present ussen’s and thank ‘er for it!”
“Yer right love! Ey! This beer’s good!” Daniel was sipping a pint of Mathomdale’s local brew.
“Well don’t get ovver fond of it! I don’t want yer fallin’ about all over t’ place at Mathom ‘All! It’s nice ‘ere innit?”
“Aye! Aye it is!” In truth the big village looked lovely in the afternoon sun and the beautiful weather had enticed much of the local population out onto the streets. The picturesque rural setting with the fell sides hazy in the distance was a postcard image of rustic tranquillity. Alice looked about her in pleasure and as she did so she became aware of an attractive young blond girl heading determinedly across the square in their direction. The girl mounted the steps into the pub garden and cast her eyes about obviously looking for somebody. To Alice’s surprise it appeared that she was looking for them for as her eyes alighted on them she walked over a little shyly.
“Excuse me Miss and Sir. Yer wouldn’t ‘appen ter be Mr an’ Missus Foreman would yer?”
“Aye that’s right!” Alice replied.
“Ah’m very pleased ter meet yer then Missus.” The blond girl dropped a polite curtsy. “I’m Julie ‘Awthorne, a friend of Becky’s. Becky phoned us up ter say yer’d be ‘ere soon an asked if’n I’d come across an’ meet yer in case she gets ‘eld up, up at t’ All.”
Alice remembered her manners. The formal curtsy on greeting was also a custom in Bolswick Bay and she rose and curtsied in turn. “Why that’s very kind of you Miss ‘Awthorne. Me an’ Dan ‘ere ‘ave ‘eard a lot about you from Becky an’ we’re right pleased ter meet yer at last. I’m Alice. Can I call yer Julie?”
“Oh aye! Please do. Folk call me Miss an’ I look ovver me shoulder thinkin’ they’re talkin’ to someone else!”
Alice laughed liking this unpretentious young girl immediately. “Are you going up to the Hall as well today Julie?”
“Oo ‘eck no! They’d set t’ dogs on me if’n I set foot in t’ All!”
“But I thought yer was a friend o’ Becky’s.”
“Aye! But Ah’ve never bin inside t’ All! Bit grand fer me like!”
“Well its a bit grand fer us an’ all Julie. Tell the truth we’re wettin’ oursens! So yer don’t know Lady Mathom then?”
“Well I see ‘er about but I’ve only talked to ‘er a couple o’ times when I was younger. She don’t exactly pop in our shop fer a pound of tea and a chat too often! I’ve another friend up at t’ All as well.”
“Would that be Jennifer?” asked Daniel.
“Aye that’s right. ‘As Becky told you about ‘er?”
“Yes!” interrupted Alice “She told us that you an’ I are down ter be Jennifer’s ladies in waitin’ at this summer festival of yours! Whatever that’s all about!”
Julie giggled “Oh its fun! Are yer goin’ ter do it?”
“I don’t know. I might! Becky were tellin’ us about it and it sounds like a laugh!”
“It’s great! Best time o’ t’ year ‘ere in Mathomdale!” Julie settled at the table with Alice and Daniel and her infectious good nature was a balm to their nervousness. Daniel blessed her. He’d been expecting to be up against some seriously posh people and this straightforward country lass had eased his concerns considerably. They became so engrossed in conversation that they missed the arrival of Jet on the square. Rebecca and Robin emerged from the car and strode across. Julie spotted them and waved. Robin’s arrival however caused consternation in the pub where Sally and her junior bartender were left in charge for the moment.
“bl**dy Hell! It’s Lord Robin and Maggie’s not here! Look after the bar Pat and I’ll go out and see to them! Trust Maggie to choose today to go into town!” Robin and Rebecca were greeting their guests with great affection, hugging them and kissing them. Daniel felt the familiar flutter in his loins as Rebecca, stunning in a soft light blue skirt and frilled low cut blouse, embraced him without inhibition. Julie was included in the warm greeting too for they hadn’t seen her all week. Sally’s eyes grew wide as she saw Robin hug Julie and kiss her affectionately. Lord Robin kissing Julie Hawthorne from the shop? Whatever was the world coming to? Sally approached nervously. “Thank you for gracing our garden milords and ladies. Can I fetch you something?” Robin ordered a round of drinks and Sally ran to fetch them bemused.
“Do we need a bottle o’ bubbly out of the cellar Sal?” her colleague and s****r slave of the Mathom Arms inquired.
“Forget it Pat! ‘E wants a pint of bitter! Make that two pints of bitter, two halves of lager and a vodka and coke. ‘Ow the ‘ell were we to know that that couple out in the garden were Lord Robin’s guests? Goddess I was even flirting with the fellah! If that gets back to Maggie she’ll bl**dy murder me!”
Patricia giggled “What’s it worth to you for me to keep me gob shut?”
“It’s worth me not mentioning what you were doin’ on the snooker table with Robbie Arkwright last Sunday Pat!”
“My lips are sealed!”
“Aye well keep ‘em that way. We all live in glasshouses around here! Now shut up an’ get us those drinks!”
Back out on the garden terrace Rebecca was addressing Alice. “So you’ve both met Julie then?”
“Aye we were talkin’ when you arrived. Will we meet Jennifer later?”
“Possibly Alice although she’s very busy for the moment. But certainly you’ll get to see her during your stay.”
“Ow is our Jen anyway Becky?” asked Julie nervously “She ‘asn’t phoned or owt.”
“She’s just fine Julie. She sends her love.” Rebecca was watching Julie carefully as Sally appeared with the drinks.
“Is she really all right?” Julie persisted. “It’s not like ‘er to not phone.”
“Honestly Julie she’s just fine. She’s just very busy.” Rebecca picked up her handbag “I must powder my nose if you gentlemen would excuse me. Julie would you mind?” In the ladies Rebecca turned to Julie. “Listen Julie everything is just dandy with Jennifer. She’s just undergoing some training and she can’t call out. That’s all! Believe me she’s ok!”
“What are they doin’ to ‘er?”
“They’re not doing anything Julie!”
“I’ve ‘eard rumours!”
“What sort of rumours Julie?”
“About some of the things wot go on up at t’ ‘All. Like lasses bein’ brainwashed an’ things.”
“Don’t be silly Julie! She’s in training! I’ve had the same training. Do you think I’m bl**dy brainwashed or something? Please be assured Jenny is all right. I love her Julie! Do you think I’d let any harm come to her?”
“Well no but wot about your Lady Mathom?”
“Lady Mathom thinks the world of Jennifer Julie. Look Jenny is being kept in a quiet place for a few days so she can focus on her training. That means she can’t go out or telephone or anything but she’s being well looked after. She’s told you about Pixie from Brawton hasn’t she?”
“Aye! Jenny likes Pixie.”
“Well Pixie is taking care of her for the moment. Pixie’s an angel Julie. You can’t possibly think that Pixie would be mean to her!”
“I’m just worried about ‘er! She’s delicate is our Jen!”
Rebecca looked at Julie compassionately. She saw full well that Julie was nearly frantic with worry. For the moment Rebecca was far more concerned for Julie’s welfare than Jennifer’s. “Julie I swear to you that nothing horrible is happening to her. I’ll be honest with you. Some of the training she’ll have to do is tough but it will always be within her capabilities. She will be just fine. I swear it Julie! Will you believe me?”
“I want to believe yer Becky.”
“Good sweetheart. Look do you have any message for her. I’ll see that she gets it.”
“Ah…. Ah’ve written ‘er a letter.” Julie pulled a slim envelope out of her bag.
“I’ll see to it that she gets it.”
“It won’t go to Lady Mathom then?”
“You have my word of honour as a Lady that she will receive it unopened Julie. OK?”
“All right then.” Julie handed the envelope over.
“Now stop worrying and let’s go back out.”
Back out in the garden Robin had news for the company. “Alice, Daniel, I’m sorry to tell you this but my mother has had to go to town on urgent business today and won’t be back until late. She sends her humble apologies and assures me that she will be able to greet you tomorrow.”
“Oh ‘ell!” said Danny ruefully running his finger around the collar of his shirt “All dressed up an’ nowhere to go!”
Robin laughed “Oh I am sorry Danny. I’m afraid that I’m your host tonight. Please feel free to take your jacket and tie off. Just old friends tonight! We’ve a room for you made up at the Hall so it’s not as if we’re putting you up in a bed and breakfast!” Rebecca covered her face with a stiff mask as she picked up her drink. She hadn’t the slightest intention of allowing the Foreman couple to be sl**ping in a separate chamber this night. Robin continued. “We’re having dinner at seven o’clock if that’s all right with you. It won’t be too formal I assure you. Just a private little dinner party.” Robin turned to Julie “What about you Julie? Will you join us for dinner?” Julie jumped like a gaffed salmon.
“Er …. Er that’s very kind of yer sir but…. but no… no I’d better not. No but … er thank you fer t’ offer.”
Exasperatedly Rebecca reached across the table and took Julie’s hand. “Julie you can come up to the Hall you know. You’re more than welcome. We’d love to have you dine with us.”
“No Becky. I’m sorry but … well I just can’t. Any road I’m ‘avin’ me tea wi’ me mam an’ dad.”
Robin looked at her. “I’m sure your parents wouldn’t mind your dining out with us tonight Julie. Is something else the matter?” Julie looked hunted. “My mother won’t be there Julie. It’ll be just the five of us.”
“Won’t Jenny be there?”
“No she’s dining privately with Pixie Julie.” Rebecca told her. That doesn’t stop you joining us however.”
Alice broke in “Aye come along Julie. We’d love ter get ter know yer better.” Alice was growing fond of the vivacious young blond girl.
“I’m sorry but ah can’t. P… please I ‘ave ter go now. Say ‘ello ter Jenny fer me.” Julie curtsied, turned and fled.
“Whatever was that about?” asked Alice in disappointment.
Rebecca sighed, “Julie is terrified of Lady Mathom Alice. I was talking to her in the ladies earlier and she seems to think that Lady Mathom is doing something horrible to her Jennifer.”
“Is Lady Mathom that scary?” asked Alice.
“Oh it’s not Lady Mathom at all Alice. Julie hardly knows my Mistress. Probably never exchanged more than a dozen words in her life with her. If she did know her then she wouldn’t be so irrationally scared of her. No it’s not really Lady Mathom that scares Julie Alice. It’s something else, something that has to do with Julie herself. I just wish I knew what it was! We’ll just have to give her time I suppose.”
“She seems a right nice lass.”
“Oh she is Alice but she’s got some problems and she won’t let people help her with them. Listen Alice Julie is very close to Jennifer and I. I love her to bits but I don’t know how to help her. Something deep down is very wrong with her and I feel powerless to get at it.”
“I’m sorry Rebecca.” Alice said soberly.
“Don’t be. We’ll work it out. Come now tell us about the new house.” Alice’s eyes lit up and launched into a long description of the house at Bolswick Bay. Over the square, in her room above the shop, Julie lay face down on her bed weeping inconsolably.
After a long conversation Robin asked Alice and Daniel if they’d like to go up to the Hall now. “Where’s your car?” he asked.
“Just off t’ square Robin.”
“Well it would be best if you just followed Rebecca and I. When we get to the Hall I’ll show you where to put your car.”
“Sounds fine. Is that your car there, the black one?”
“No it’s Rebecca’s actually, her new car. But I’ll drive! She’s a bl**dy lunatic behind a wheel. You’d need to be Michael Schumacher just to keep up with her!” Rebecca poked her tongue out at Robin but she did concede the wheel to him. The short drive to the Hall grounds took them through the village and over the river before a mile or two to the gates of the vast grounds. Alice and Daniel quailed when they cast a first eye upon the formidable bastion of Mathom Hall towering above the long lawns sweeping down to the lake.
“bl**dy ‘ell! Ave yer seen t’ size of t’ place?” Daniel breathed.
“An you was just after drivin’ up an’ findin’ us own way in!”
“It’s flippin’ enormous! Yer probably need a map just ter find t’ bathroom!”
“It’s scary innit? They’ve probably got sitting rooms bigger than our ‘ouse!”
“I’ve never seen owt like it Alice. I thought it were gonna be big but this takes the biscuit! There must be ‘undreds of rooms in there!”
“Don’t let Robin get out of sight fer ‘eaven’s sake!” Carefully Daniel followed the black car in front feeling very self-conscious about the modest little vehicle they were steering up the drive. Daniel had especially washed the car before they’d set off that morning but there was no doubt that the odd flecks of rust, a bit of a dent in the front wing and a wobbly number plate were all testimony to the automobile’s humble status. Daniel was half afraid that some officious groundsman would flag them down and haughtily inform them that this was private land and they were surely lost before directing them back to public highways more fitting to their station. The drive took them around the back of the buildings and Robin directed them onto a ramp that led down into a huge, partially subterranean car park. Robin had parked and directed Daniel into a space between two enormous limousines, like a tramp squeezing onto a park bench between two duchesses. Daniel got out of the car sheepishly. A glance around showed row upon row of the most fantastic collection of expensive luxury cars that Daniel had ever seen.
“Er will our car be all right here?” he asked Robin.
“Of course Danny. There’s twenty-four hour security on this garage. Your car is safe believe me.”
“Ah didn’t exactly mean that Robin. I’m just worried that somebody might come along an’ see our car, think it’s a bit o’ scrap someone’s left lyin’ about an’ ‘ave it ‘auled off ter t’ skips!”
Robin laughed, “Don’t worry Danny. Nobody will touch your car.”
“Well it’s never bin parked in such company before!”
“Bah! At least your car is a utilitarian working concern Danny. Half of these things here are just for show. They never get out of the damn garage! I’ll bet that you and Alice get much more fun and freedom out of your little runabout than anybody ever gets from most of these machines. We could have taken any of these down to the village to meet you today but we far preferred Rebecca’s car because it’s a part of us. Rebecca called it Jet in honour of our meeting you in Bolswick Bay and she wouldn’t swap it for any of the other blasted vehicles in this garage apart from perhaps the car we brought to Bolswick Bay with us.”
“Does yer mam use all these then?”
“They’re mostly official cars for business and ceremony. My mother does get ferried about in them most of the time but, on the odd occasion that she slips the leash and goes for a drive on her own, this car over here is her favourite.” Robin led Daniel over to another berth. At first Daniel thought the berth was empty until he saw a little white MG sports coupe nestling between two such imposing limousines that it was completely hidden. The car was a vintage sports model, glistening with chrome, ridiculously small and low slung.
“Yer mam drives about in that?” asked Daniel in amazement.
“Very rarely. Her chauffeurs and security guards go completely ape when she takes off for a spin through the countryside with the wind in her hair.” Robin looked almost sad for a moment “Poor mother.” he said strangely. “How she yearns for freedom sometimes.”
“Yer mam must be quite a lady Robin.”
“Well you’ll see for yourself tomorrow Danny. Come on now the girl’s eyes are starting to glaze over. Let’s show you around.” The girls were already far ahead. Closer to the Hall Daniel felt overwhelmed at the sheer dimensions of it.
“This place must cost a fortune to maintain Robin!” he remarked.
“Oh it does! When we get you set up in business Danny there’ll be plenty of contract work for you here if you want it. Buildings this size are always in need of repairs somewhere or other. It’s like those big suspension bridges you hear about. You start painting them at one end and when you reach the other you go back to the beginning and start again.”
“I’d do any work yer wanted me to Robin but ah wouldn’t tek a penny for it! We owe yer too much fer that!”
“Rubbish! I can never repay the debt I owe you and Alice. Money’s nothing Dan. Money’s just book keeping figures to us.”
“That must be nice!”
“Do you think so? I’ll tell you something Danny. Given the choice I’d swap places with you in an instance! I’d rather have your little house on the cliffs at Bolswick Bay and an exciting life to plan ahead, a future to forge with my own hands, together with my loved ones than all of this! Do you want to swap Danny?”
“No Robin. I reckon I’m all right as it is.”
“What’s t’ fishing like in that big lake Robin?”
“Very good actually. It has some of the best fishing for roach, tench, bream and perch in Northern England and it holds the county record for pike. We’ve never stocked it with carp though. We have some smaller lakes in the grounds that are carp waters however if you feel like a crack on them. There are a couple with fish in them up at least into the upper thirties. Then there’s the old monastery pool. That’s interesting for carp too. They’re not very big in there but they’re interesting because they’re a very old strain of carp imported by the monks before the dissolution of the monasteries as food fish. Can you fly fish?”
“Aye I’ve done a bit though not much in t’ last few years.”
“Well we’ve got a lovely stretch on the river just below Mathom around some old mill pools and such that is a terrific trout water if you fancy it. The trout on the upper river tend to be a bit small but that stretch has some beauties in it.”
“Well how about us getting away early for an hour or two in the morning tomorrow and seeing what we can do. It’ll probably take the women hours to get their act together in any case!”
“Sounds great to me but innit it a bit late in t’ season for trout?”
“Well it’s a bit of a struggle in the heat of the day but early morning you can still get a bit of a rise. How about it? I seem to have done nothing but work all week. It would be marvellous to get out with a fishing rod for an hour or two.”
“Yer ‘ave a date me Lordship!”
Robin laughed, “Come on then let’s catch the girls up!” The two men increased their pace contented in their newfound friendship.
For the next couple of hours Robin and Rebecca conducted their guests on a whirlwind tour of the grounds and the Hall. Like all of Mathom Hall’s rare visitors they were astounded by the scale and diversity of the sprawling estate and the vast buildings. On being shown yet another dazzling chamber Alice asked Rebecca in despair, “Just ‘ow many rooms does this place ‘ave Becky?”
“Goddess knows Alice. I’ve lived permanently here for over five years and I still keep coming across rooms I’ve never seen before!”
“Yer came ‘ere five years ago?”
“Earlier than that Alice. I was sold to the Hall when I was eighteen but for the first three years I was mostly at university. I only used to come up between semesters and for the odd weekend. I moved in permanently when I was twenty one and I’ve been here ever since except when I’ve had to spend some time at university on my post grad studies.”
“Yer still at uni then?”
“Yes I’m studying for my doctorate.”
“Flippin’ eck! Looks and brains!”
Rebecca laughed and then addressed Robin “Robin it’s nearly half past five hadn’t we better show Alice and Daniel to their chambers? They’ll be wanting to freshen up before dinner.” Alice and Daniel had been accommodated in a large suite just down the corridor from the Starlight Suite. Alice whistled when she saw the luxury and spaciousness of their rooms.
“Christ Becky there’s only two of us! Was you expectin’ a coach party?”
“This is a honeymoon suite Alice. You are still on honeymoon!”
“We’d better get our things from the car.”
“Already done Alice.” Robin informed her “Danny gave me the car keys and a valet has already unpacked your things into the wardrobes.”
“I could get used to this!”
“You might have to.” Rebecca told her. “Come along sweet there’re some private girly things I need to tell you. The boys can shower first since they don’t take much time.” Rebecca led Alice out and Robin retired to the Starlight Suite to shower and change. He was just about to climb into the shower when Rebecca walked in. “Darling I have to get some things from my quarters in the slave’s wing. I might as well shower up there to save time alright?”
“OK Rebecca!” Gleefully Rebecca left the Starlight Suite and fled down the corridor. In his own chambers Daniel was under a hot shower luxuriating under the steaming water. He heard Alice enter the bathroom.
“This place is amazin’ innit love?” he called out “This bl**dy bathroom’s nearly as big as our garden!” There was a non-committal grunt from his wife and sounds of her moving about. Daniel was puzzled. Alice was being uncharacteristically quiet. He tried to peer through the steamy blinds of the shower but couldn’t see anything. “What’re yer doin’ love?” Then the shower door slid open and Rebecca slipped into the shower beside him quite naked. “Becky! ‘Ave yer gone bl**dy mad?”
Rebecca slipped her arms around his soapy body and chuckled wickedly “Well now Mr Foreman I think it’s about time to take up where we left off in the Vampire Inn in Saltersea don’t you?”
“Yer crazy! What if Alice comes in?”
“Relax! I’ve got rid of her. She’s off on a fool’s errand and we’ve at least half an hour!”
“You are stark starin’ bonkers!”
Rebecca grinned malevolently and pressed her body close “Bonking was just what I had in mind!”
“Yer can’t do this ter me Becky! Ah’m a married man!” Rebecca let her hand drift to his crutch “Oh ‘ell!” he moaned as he sprang erect under her manipulations.
“Better make it quick Danny. We don’t want your wife catching us red handed do we?” Despairingly he clutched at Rebecca. She laughed in pleasure and hoisted herself up by his shoulders to allow him access, settling with a shudder onto his erection as he pressed her hard up against the shower wall with the hot water plying over their bodies. Daniel thrust urgently overcome with desire and she cried aloud in mounting delirium. Terrified of being caught yet unable to stop what was happening Daniel’s thrusts became more frantic yet until he was lifting her clear of the shower floor in his frenzy. She was shrieking alarmingly and he felt sure that half the house could hear her. Then in one long warbling wail she orgasmed and his own pent up ejaculation exploded from him deep into her womb as he gasped in ruination. For long seconds she rested limp and murmuring softly in his arms, a strange kittenish look of satisfaction on her face.
“Thank you Daniel! That was just wonderful!” Then she extracted herself from him, kissed him and was gone, snatching a towel from a rail and dashing from the bathroom. Daniel groaned and slid down the wall to sit on the floor with his heart hammering.
“bl**dy ‘ell!” he breathed to himself “bl**dy ‘ell!” Then in panic he leapt up and out of the shower to dry himself and dress. He just had time to be in the inner bedroom of the suite when Alice returned. He didn’t know how to face her. Fortunately she called out from without.
“Just getting’ in t’ shower Dan. I ‘ope yer nearly ready! It’s twenny past six now!”
“Aye!” Daniel croaked. He cleared his throat “Aye love. Nearly ready!” A few minutes later Alice emerged drying her hair.
“’Ave a look in t’ wardrobe love an’ see what they’ve done wi me black cocktail dress will yer.”
“Right! Aye!” Daniel busied himself with his search. Eventually they made their way to the Starlight Suite where they found Robin and Rebecca dressed for dinner. Dinner was served by two of the lower maids in a lovely dining room on the ground floor and the food was exquisite but the atmosphere around the dinner table did not do justice to the setting of the room or the excellent cuisine because there was a distinct awkward tension in the air. Alice at one point seemed to have trouble swallowing. Daniel thought she was going to choke. Suddenly to his shock she collapsed in helpless laughter.
“Oh Becky love I’m sorry!” she gasped eventually “Ah can’t ‘elp it! Ah just couldn’t keep a straight face any longer! ‘Ave yer seen their faces! Like a pair o’ naughty boys wi their ‘ands in t’ jam jar!”
Rebecca threw back her head and roared with laughter. “Goddess!” she squeaked. “Your Danny looks like he’s swallowed a toad!”
“Whassup Danny?” Alice wheezed, tears running down her cheeks “’Ad too much fer starters an’ ruined yer appetite?”
Robin was wearing a look of total outrage. “You pair of sneaking, conniving, manipulating little…”
“Now, now Robin!” admonished Rebecca “No need to call us rude names even if we are!”
“They’ve set us up Danny!” Robin declared in horror. “This pair of scheming, shameless hussies have set us up!
“You bl**dy…” Daniel could find no words to vent his outrage.
“How was Robin Alice?” asked Rebecca “Did you catch him in the shower as planned?”
“E’ were just tryin’ ter get out Becky! I shoved ‘im back in! ‘E were great!”
“I’ve a good mind to put you over my knee Rebecca and…” Robin began.
“Oh right Robin! There you are taking advantage of a married woman as soon as your fiancée’s back is turned and now you want to spank me for my misdemeanours.”
Daniel suddenly burst into laughter. “It’s no good Robin! They’ve got us bang to rights! You bl**dy sod Becky! Tellin’ me a cock and bull story about sendin’ Alice off on an errand when yer knew all the time she were climbin’ inter t’ shower wi Robin!”
“Come on boys!” laughed Rebecca, “You both enjoyed it! A little whiff of danger adds a bit of spice to things! You’ve both wanted your paws on each of us since our photo shoot at Bolswick Bay so what are you complaining about?”
Robin shook his head in exasperation “When did you dream up this little escapade Becky? I’m presuming this was your idea!”
Alice giggled, “Becky phoned us up yesterday and asked if I’d go along with it. She didn’t ave ter ask twice! We worked it all out ovver t’ phone!”
“I despair!” sighed Robin “I truly do!”
“Ah know one thing!” said Danny “I’ll be tekkin good notice of oo ever’s in that big bed of ours in our suite in future!”
Rebecca glanced mischievously at Alice. “The bed in your suite Danny? That big bed? The one just down the corridor from the Starlight Suite? That bed’s just for show Danny. For appearances. You didn’t honestly think that you and Alice were going to be sl**ping in that bed did you?”
After that dinner was a warm and intimate affair with the promise of the night to come. They took a nightcap much later, curled up on the sofas before the fire in the Starlight Suite, preparatory to mounting the stair into that suite’s fantastic bedchamber. Rebecca was nuzzled in Daniel’s arms richly content whilst Alice was perched on Robin’s lap. In the warm pleasure of their abandoned inhibitions Rebecca remembered to think about her other love in the cellars below. “I wonder what poor Jennifer is doing now.”
Actually Jennifer was drinking cocoa. Since Rachel had left her still tied to the birching bank Jennifer had been experiencing a strange mood. The aftermath of her beating had left her in a curious nether land of strange calm like a piece of flotsam carried by a river that having dashed through the rapids finds a still and sheltered pool beyond. It was becoming a familiar place to her this oasis of tranquillity that lay on the far side of her pain and passion. She’d read the book in front of her in the deep silence of the big chamber and it seemed to her as if the words on the page were booming echoes in the cavernous vault. She had never known silence seem so loud. Rachel had found her still lost in the resonance of the words on the page. It had hardly been necessary to question her. The profundity of understanding had been self-evident.
Once Jennifer had been released that evening they’d dined on a rich stew, boiled potatoes and carrots with mugs of good ale redolent of malt and hops. After dinner Rachel had begged leave to lie down. Her pregnancy demanded much rest and she’d retired to their cell. Before she’d left however she’d provided Jennifer with paper and pens and instructed her to begin notes on the book with a view to her fleshing out the beginnings of the essay that Rachel expected of her. Jennifer had found herself at a loss. Whilst she’d been beginning to grasp the book at a personal level of comprehension it was quite another matter to write a critical analysis of it. The words seemed to come from some source of wisdom but just what that was she’d been at a loss to fathom. She detected instinctively the flavour of oriental philosophy in the slim volume but it was nothing more than a vague shadow of something she barely understood. Rachel had arisen after an hour or two and inquired as to her progress. It hadn’t been much in truth. Jennifer had filled several pages with notes but they were not much more than superficial commentary and possessed little of substance. Jennifer’s deadline of Wednesday seemed a desperate scramble. Rachel had just grunted and informed Jennifer that she had work to do and had mysteriously disappeared for several hours leaving Jennifer still sat at the rough wooden dining table scratching her head over her notes. Sebastian had rescued her.
He’d been pottering about in the background when Jennifer threw down her pen in frustration. “Is something concerning you Miss?” he’d asked gently.
“Oh it’s just this book Sebastian! I have to write two thousand words on it before Wednesday or face a whipping and I don’t know where to start!”
“May I ask what you are reading Miss?” Jennifer had pushed the book over and Sebastian had picked it up. “Ah Sun Tsu! A fascinating book Miss! Pre Han dynasty China around the fourth century B.C if my memory serves me correctly.”
“I don’t know Sebastian. I know nothing about it really. How can I write anything about a book I’ve never seen before by an author I’ve never heard of?” Jennifer had clenched her hands together in worry.
“Perhaps if you were to understand a little more of the background to the book and perhaps read some commentaries on it Miss then things might become clearer.”
“And how on earth am I going to find those things out?”
“Perhaps I could be of assistance Miss Jennifer.”
“You Sebastian? How?”
“I have a considerable library in my own chambers Miss. I’m sure that I have enough background material for you to make a start on. Anything else you require would be available in the upstairs libraries and I could readily place them at your disposal.”
“Oh would you Sebastian? Really?”
“It would be my pleasure Miss. If I might make a suggestion, at this hour it is my usual habit to take a warm drink in my chambers. If you would honour me by joining me we could perhaps peruse my collection and see if we can find any useful material for you.”
“Oh thank you Sebastian!”
And so it was that Jennifer was sat at a little table within Sebastian’s private chambers drinking hot cocoa and nibbling chocolate biscuits whilst Sebastian rummaged through his books. There were a lot of books to rummage through. The entire walls of Sebastian’s private chambers were crammed with bookshelves and it had to be the most extensive private library Jennifer had ever seen. There were thousands of books in there and Sebastian ran his fingers over them with a glow in his eye that bordered on love. Occasionally he would lift out a well-worn volume and dust it carefully before replacing it lovingly back on the shelf. Jennifer felt entirely at ease, naked in this man’s private apartments. In fact she hardly felt naked at all. She felt entirely safe and warmly cocooned before the fire in the grate, sipping her cocoa like a little girl just before bedtime. She half expected Sebastian to pick out a book and read her a fairy story whilst she drifted off into slumber clutching her teddy bear.
“Ah let’s see now I have a translation of the “Art of War” here with some commentaries in the appendix that you might find useful. I’ve also found a book on the historical background to the book’s period that may give you some insights. Now then let me see. I have an introduction to Taoist philosophy and Confucianism here and I believe it has a chapter or two on Sun Tsu in it.” Sebastian leafed through the book “Yes here we are. This should be of assistance Miss.” Clutching an armful of books Sebastian joined her at the table. “Now then.” he said “I think it would be better if we took a look at the historical background first. You can never really understand a book until you’ve put it in the context of the era in which it is written Miss. Now this is a biography of Sun Tsu written by the Chinese historian Sima Qian in the second century. It probably has some inaccuracies but Siam Qian is the nearest historical personage to write an account of the great philosopher general. I’ve also got some stuff on the period of warring states in which Sun Tsu’s writing is contemporary. Did you know that we don’t actually know Sun Tsu’s name? It was conventional in the era for Chinese writers to merely adopt the nom de plume of their own works so Sun Tsu is actually the author and the title of the book simultaneously.”
For the next hour or so Sebastian treated Jennifer to a succinct yet in depth lecture on Chinese culture, history and philosophy in the sixth to fourth centuries B.C and rounding it up with it’s relevance to later Eastern cultures and it’s influence on subsequent eras. Jennifer listened enthralled. She was astounded by the breadth and depth of Sebastian’s knowledge. She had thought him merely some kind of strange caretaker of this bizarre netherworld beneath the Hall yet his soft words could transport her into distant exotic realms with facility. The book was transformed from a chore into an adventure, an adventure in time delivering her back into a rich and alien past. He was telling her a fairy story after all she realised; a fairy story of glittering imperial courts, of scheming eunuchs and beautiful courtesans. It was story of strife and conflict with armies marching beneath fantastic embroidered banners like pawns on a colossal chessboard. It was a story of brave deeds long forgotten, of sacrifices lost in the river of history. It was a story of wise sages standing aloof from the ferment in the affairs of man and producing philosophies and sayings, so profound in their wisdom, that they could still speak to somebody two and a half thousand years later. Sebastian pointed her to passages in the texts and made her read them aloud as he refilled their mugs with hot cocoa and Jennifer felt herself transported to a wondrous and magical age at the beginning of civilisation. He showed her the deep roots of human wisdom and the pervading tragedy of mankind in that it found its most profound expressions of that wisdom in the field of endless conflict. The walls of the simple chambers of Sebastian’s domain seemed to grow thin and transparent and the clash of arms and the commands of generals could be discerned through them.
Jennifer listened in horrified fascination to the account of a biographer called Ssu-ma Chien that described the challenge of the leader Ho Lu, the king of Wu, to Sun Tsu to make soldiers out of the concubines of his palace. It seemed so barbaric and yet so effective that the King had appointed Sun Tsu his general and used him to defeat his enemies. Jennifer wondered where the boundaries of historical fact merged with the fabric of myth and legend and decided that they could not be discerned. She remembered her Mistress’s words “Myths are the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves.” There seemed a great truth concealed beneath that phrase. Humans created the fabric of their wisdom from the fertility of their imagination. Did such a man as Sun Tsu really live or, if he did, could all the stories about him be true? And in the end did it really matter? Was our past merely a construct of what we wished to learn from it?
“Well Miss Jennifer.” said Sebastian at last “I do hope that you have found our discussion profitable. If you’ll excuse me now I have a few remaining chores to complete before bedtime. Please take the books with you and study them at your leisure. If you want any further reading on the subject please tell me tomorrow and I’ll endeavour to locate it for you in the upstairs libraries.”
“Oh thank you Sebastian! You’ve been such a help!” Impulsively Jennifer jumped up and kissed the old man on his cheek.
Sebastian smiled warmly at her “It has been my pleasure entirely Miss. Please feel free to visit me any time you wish. Miss Rachel may still be busy for some time. Perhaps you would care to bathe in the meantime. There is hot water in the big bath. Now if you’ll forgive me.”
Back in the dining chamber, glowing from her bath and her hair still moist, Jennifer was buried so deeply in her books, her mind flying into realms she had scarcely dreamed of, that she never heard Rachel padding softly back in. Rachel leant against the wall in pleasure watching her young charge eagerly turning pages, with her eyes bright, and biting her lip in excited concentration. “Well Jennifer!” she said at last “You seem to be applying yourself most admirably.”
Jennifer jumped up guiltily “Oh Rachel you startled me!” Jennifer was almost trying to hide the collection of books she had borrowed from Sebastian behind her.
“Well how are you getting on?”
Jennifer gulped. She’d cheated on her project hadn’t she? She enlisted Sebastian’s help! The evidence was s**ttered on the table before her. She took a deep breath. Deceit and subterfuge was impossible. “Oh ma-am I’m sorry but I’ve been cheating!”
“Really! In what way Jennifer?”
Jennifer hung her head “I…I asked Sebastian for help ma-am.”
“Excellent Jennifer! I was wondering when you would think of that.”
“Oh do sit down Jenny!” Rachel laughed, “You look silly there shuffling your feet!” Jennifer resumed her seat and Rachel slid onto the bench alongside her. “So you asked Sebastian to help?”
“Well done Jenny,”
“You’re not angry?”
“Of course not! Why ever should I be?”
“But wasn’t it cheating?”
Rachel laughed again “Darling the beginning of wisdom is to know what you don’t know. It’s a first step on the trail of understanding to go to the person who does know. Is it cheating to look something up in a library? Of course not! Well Sebastian is a library Jennifer. You did the best thing possible. You sought help from a fountain of knowledge. Nobody does it alone Jenny. Where are we if we can’t tap the reserves of knowledge of others? People who think that they have nothing to learn from others are tragically doomed Jennifer.”
“I…I didn’t know that Sebastian was so clever ma-am.”
“Sebastian is one of the wisest and most learned men I know Jennifer. He’s spent decades in concentrated study and contemplation in these cellars. You tapped a deep well of accumulated learning there Jennifer.” Rachel chuckled and stroked Jennifer’s cheek with a finger “So just who did you think Sebastian was Jenny? A janitor? Just our jailor? Somebody to whip you when you’ve been naughty? Ah Jenny! Things are never quite what they seem! You’re learning a lot today aren’t you?” Rachel tapped Jennifer’s books “And not all about the Art of War either!”
“Yes…yes I am.”
“It’s nearly time for bed Jenny. Hmm you smell nice! Obviously you’ve already bathed! I haven’t! I smell like an old Billy goat! I’ll just pop into the bathroom then we can go to bed.”
Some while later Rachel returned and was surprised to find Jennifer standing at attention before the dining table in obvious humility. The leather paddle was reclining on the table. “Whatever is the matter Jenny?”
“Please ma-am excuse me. I have been thinking it over and I have to say something.”
“Out with it Jenny! What’s bugging you?”
“Ma-am I realise that you are quite correct in saying that it was not cheating in enlisting Sebastian’s help and I was stupid not to realise that!”
“Nevertheless I thought I was cheating! I was so afraid of being whipped for failing that I was prepared to cheat and deceive you in order to avoid that! Therefore this slave humbly begs that you punish me for my dishonesty.” Jennifer lowered her head and looked solemn.
“Goddess help us! As if the girl hasn’t been thrashed enough today now she wants to punish herself!”
“I…I consider that I deserve it ma-am.”
“Oh Jenny!” sighed Rachel, “Turn around and let me see your bottom.” Jennifer obeyed. “Well the swelling seems to have abated somewhat so I suppose we can squeeze in another dozen before bedtime. All right bend over then!” Such was Jennifer’s elevated state of consciousness that she restricted her vocalisations to a series of sharp gasps throughout the twelve strokes and not a tear did she shed. When it was finished she rose and faced Rachel’
“Thank you ma-am.”
“Oh Jenny come here!” Rachel enveloped Jennifer in her arms and led her to their cell where she made long and tender love to her, overcome with pride for her strange and beloved pupil.