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“Lizzie, dear!” The call rang out across the mansion gardens.
Elizabeth scowled and slammed shut her book. What did he want with her now?
She decided if he wished to speak with her, he would have to traipse down the lawn. Sipping on some lemon tea, she cursed as a splash fell on her rich satin skirts.
Dabbing at the mark, she didn’t notice Lord Charles approaching from behind until his hands gripped her shoulders.
“Ugh! Get away from me!” She slapped at his hands and picked up the cup she had dropped.
“Now, now,” said Lord Charles. “That’s no way to address your Lord and Master, especially when he has an invitation for his dear little wife.”
Elizabeth grimaced. “I shall decline.”
“Without so much as hearing the details?” said Lord Charles. “Well, if you don’t wish to meet the Minister for Social Reform…I thought with all your cloud-headed ideas about labour rights and the role of women, you’d welcome a chance to converse with him. Mr Farnwell has been keen to meet you and get a woman’s perspective on matters of, say, marriage, inheritance, education, penal reform…”
Elizabeth looked at him suspiciously as he sat down opposite her.
“Ah well,” said her husband. “I shall simply have to tell him you have declined the dinner invitation. He might be terribly offended, you know. Can’t imagine he’ll return for another two or three years, at least. Oh, and by then he may well have been replaced by someone less interested in teaching girls how to read.”
“What kind of event is it?” snapped Elizabeth, pained at the thought of missing out on such an opportunity.
“So you are interested.” Lord Charles smiled and brushed his hand over her hair. Elizabeth shook him away, suddenly reminded of being pulled to her knees by her hair on the honeymoon night.
“Well, my dear,” continued her husband, “it’s an extremely prestigious dinner. A banquet, even. Very select group of men. They pull most of the strings in the capital, you know. Banking, philanthropy, art galleries, politics – wise to remain close to influential types in most fields. Never know when you might need a little assistance getting out of trouble.”
“Just a dinner?” Elizabeth asked sceptically.
“Dinner and conversation,” said Lord Charles. “There will be several courses, served by my most discreet staff. Plenty of time to chew Old Farnwell’s ear about wages for shopgirls, or whatever it is you want.”
Elizabeth ignored the scorn and thought hard. Since coming to the big house, she had been humiliated, belittled and outraged, and she relished the chance to use her mind again, and possibly – could she dream it? – to influence such a powerful individual and improve the lot of others.
Could it be that her husband might grant her her dignity once again?
“Ah, but I am so glad you decided to attend tonight’s gathering, Lizzie.”
Lord Charles watched his wife in the mirror as a manservant adjusted his cravat.
“Don’t call me that.” Elizabeth was wrapped in a robe from the bath. “And where have my gowns gone? I was going to wear the black taffeta.”
“Hodgkins will bring them presently,” said Lord Charles, dismissing his valet. “Have some wine, my dear.”
Elizabeth pushed away the glass he held out. She was beginning to regret saying yes to the event. Perhaps after speaking to Mr Farnwell, she could retire for the evening.
“It’s rude to refuse wine, dear heart.”
Elizabeth took the glass he held out and smashed it in the grate.
Lord Charles snatched at her hair, but Elizabeth dodged his strong fingers.
“Now now, Lizzie. Don’t make me put you over my knee for insolence.”
“I am Elizabeth! Not Lizzie, not ‘my dear’ and certainly not your blasted Lady Fleetwood. Elizabeth! And you will show me some respe-”
Whoosh! Like a leaf over a waterfall, she was swept over Lord Charles’ lap, shrieking in surprise.
“Such an impudent girl!” exclaimed Lord Charles. “I can’t take such an uppity little madam to meet such distinguished company. We shall need to correct your sharp tongue!”
He took an apple from his side table and forced it into Elizabeth’s mouth.
“There we go!” said Lord Charles. “If you squeal like a pig, I shall treat you like one. Why, you’d look quite at home on the dinner table tonight! Although you do need a little roasting.”
Trapping her kicking legs with his own and holding her arms behind her back with one hand, he hoisted her embroidered skirts and drew down her drawers. Then he picked up a short leather strop and set to work spanking her.
SLAP! SLAP! SLAP!
Elizabeth’s eyes streamed as the strop seared her bottom. Her muffled cries of protest seemed to amuse Lord Charles, who dealt slap after slap on her hide, leaving thick red marks on her blazing cheeks.
SLAP! SLAP! SLAP!
“Still making barnyard sounds are we, Lizzie? I’d better whip you back into human form, hadn’t I? Can’t take some dribbling beast to meet my guests, can I?”
Elizabeth wailed through her apple-gag, thrashed against her husband’s tight hold and felt her nose drip down her face. Lord Charles’ cock was growing hard beneath her belly, to add to the indignity.
SLAP! SLAP! SLAP!
At last it was over. Elizabeth staggered to her feet, tears streaking her cheeks, and plucked the apple from her mouth. She caught sight of herself in the mirror. Her hair had lost several of its pins and stood out in comical tufts. Her face was blotchy with tears.
Lord Charles patted her head.
“There’s my good girl.”
A knock came at the door, and Lord Charles called “Enter!” The valet came in, wheeling a cart covered with a cloth.
“Now,” said Lord Charles. “Let’s get you dressed. I believe Hodgkins has your clothes for the evening.”
“Are you not going to dismiss him?” said Lady Elizabeth, rubbing her sore bottom.
“Oh no,” said Lord Charles. “I suspect we may need his assistance in getting you ready.”
Hodgkins locked the door and removed the cloth from the cart.
Eight of the most powerful men in London sat at the huge oak table in the cellar, sipping port. Lord Charles held court, telling anecdotes and sharing scandal with the members of his club.
“I was given to understand that your wife would be joining us tonight, Fleetwood,” said a senior banker with a military moustache. He rose his glass to his lips and drained it.
Lord Charles gestured for a servant to refill the glass. A blonde girl scuttled forward with a carafe. She wore a gauzy slip with nothing beneath it, and as she bent forward to pour, the banker slipped his hand beneath the gossamer fabric, cupping her buttocks and running a finger along the cleft between her legs. She allowed him to stroke her, glad of the easy money that meant she would not need to work the market square tonight.
A few other girls had been hired from the square to fill glasses and fawn over the wealthy men, each in skimpy undergarments. One wore short bloomers, silk stockings and stays, one wore a red cloak that showed glimpses of her breasts and so on. Until they were summoned to the table, they were to wait in the shadows of the room.
“Ah, Lady Elizabeth will indeed be joining us soon,” said Lord Charles. “I’ll be delighted to introduce her.
Tied up in a dark corner, Elizabeth’s heart quickened and her eyes prickled with tears. That fiend! That damned, depraved monster! She should have known this was a trap! She hoped against hope that the men would fall asleep drunk before her husband could reveal her.
Alas, these men were seasoned drinkers and only grew more rowdy and energised as the night wore on. Their enquiries about Lord Charles’ new wife went from polite to demanding to filthy. A shipping magnate Elizabeth recognised from the paper posited that the young wife might be pleasuring herself upstairs, and offered to go look for her. Another suggested she might be with the kitchen boy right now.
To Elizabeth’s shock, her husband did not defend his wife’s honour. He laughed uproariously and encouraged the speculation.
“I hear,” said one, “that at your wedding you checked her over for yourself, in front of the guests! Slipped those filthy fingers of yours inside her and declared her a virgin!”
Elizabeth’s cheeks burned, for this time the story was true.
“Enough!” said their host, rising.
“Have we offended you?” laughed a tall man in a plum velvet coat. “The whoremaster of the district? You certainly laid on some tasty morsels tonight!”
He slapped the bottom of one of the girls as she passed.
“Not at all,” said Lord Charles. “I simply wanted to introduce the lady herself. I’ve had an exquisite gown made for her, which I hope you will all compliment.”
Elizabeth’s blood ran cold as he picked up a candlestick and led his coterie of jackals towards her. She struggled against her bonds, but they were expertly tied. It was all she could do to whimper in fear.
Lord Charles’s light revealed his wife at last.
Elizabeth was tied to a sturdy pillar, her hands stretched above her head. She wore a thick leather collar with a silver chain, short lace knickers and an excruciatingly tight brocade corset. The tight-lacing pushed her soft little breasts together, giving her a positively indecent cleavage. Her face had been comically powdered and rouged and on her feet she wore the cheap red shoes of a prostitute.
The men leered at her and murmured as though contemplating a great feast.
“Delightful,” said one to Lord Charles. “What a pretty little trinket you’ve found to play with.”
Elizabeth spat at him and was glad to see it land on his fine coat. The man was taken aback, but Lord Charles wasted no time, slapping her soundly on the cheek.
“A little more rouge for your troubles, Lizzie,” he said. “Now say sorry to Admiral Carney.”
Elizabeth glared at him, too angry to talk.
“Well then,” said Lord Charles, reaching up to fiddle with Elizabeth’s hand-bindings, “we should show him what happens when you misbehave.”
He twisted her round to face the pillar, exposing her bottom in the thin lace knickers, and resecured her hands. Elizabeth wept with shame as he lifted the fabric to show his friends her well-spanked bottom.
“You see, I’ve had to do a little correction with my young wife,” explained Lord Charless. “I’ve always had a weakness for wilful girls, even though they require strict instruction. It really is a treat to hear a sullen wretch sweetly begging for mercy and promising to be so very good. And that’s what happened today, isn’t it darling? She’d already been strapped once for her backtalking, and naively I thought she might learn from that and behave herself.”
Elizabeth’s face flamed as she stared at the wall, feeling them staring at her bottom as the cool cellar air chilled her cheeks.
“But sadly,” continued her husband, “When it came to putting on her lovely outfit for you gentlemen, she became most objectionable. I had Hodgkins hold her still while I whipped her with a birch. It really did sting, didn’t it Lizzie? Anyway, after a good birching, we were able to decorate her most prettily. Ah, but you do look so very appealing, my dear.”
He leaned forward to kiss her on the cheek and Elizabeth managed to kick him in the shin. Lord Charles reeled, wincing at the strike, but soon regrouped.
“Dear me! A good shot, admittedly, but I’m afraid my dear Lizzie is going to find her behaviour extremely costly.”
He cupped her buttocks and dodged another kick.
“Admiral,” she heard him say. “I do believe we’ve asked you for years now to demonstrate how you maintain discipline on a ship. Perhaps my dear wife would care to model for you? After her conduct toward you earlier, it really is the least she can do.”
“Isn’t that right, Lizzie?” he chuckled. “Now gentlemen, don’t worry. You shall all get a chance to practice Carney’s techniques. Lizzie’s been such a bad girl that we really do need to educate her. We really do want to improve women, don’t we?”
“Oh quite!” chortled Minister Farnwell. “It’s the cornerstone of our campaign.”
Sniffling in shame, Elizabeth stared at the stonework, her smooth bottom exposed for punishment. She heard further laughter and the sound of something swishing behind her as she waited for the stroke to land.