Arabella disentangled herself from her sleeping companion and dragged her aching body from the bed, leaving Julietta's naked loveliness to slumber on. Carlo had thrashed her hard and long last night, and now that her bruises had hardened, she hurt at every movement. And her penance was not yet complete; she still had to pay her debt to the villages who had gone to her rescue, when her own folly had nearly led to rape and worse.
Wracked with pain at every movement, she pulled on the
penitent's gown that was to be her only clothing today, and left the room, stiff-legged and barefoot. At the home farm, Guido was waiting with a rough flat-bedded cart, pulled by a shaggy pony. Without
speaking, he indicated a point on the back ledge of the cart and, equally wordlessly, she climbed up, lifting her gown so that her bare and lacerated bottom rested on the hard,
rough planks, bringing a groan from her throat.
The whip cracked, the cart bumped off, and her ordeal had started. Each stone and rut of those agonizing miles was like a fresh cut from Carlo's cane. She clung to her perch, groaning and sobbing as the cruel jolting battered her welted buttocks, and the rough wood fretted the raw places where the rod had split her skin. As he drove, Guido still said not a word, but passed her a knotted cloth. Struggling to keep her balance against the rattle of the cart, and the spasms in her wracked limbs, she opened it to find bread and cheese and a bottle of rough country wine. "At least they do not intend me to starve," she thought, and then realised that it was more likely to be to ensure she delivered her quota of labour without collapsing from hunger.
They arrived at last, after an eternity of torment, and she fell from the cart onto the cobbles of the village square, the stones bruising her knees as she clasped her freshly wounded hinds. Guido tethered the pony, and gestured to her to follow. He led her to a circular wooden
structure, in the middle of the square. It had no walls, only a ring of posts that supported the roof, under which the stones of the cornmill were mounted. They were fed from a hopper and driven by a donkey. Two bars at an angle to each other stuck out of the vertical shaft on which the wheels were fixed. The donkey stood in the vee formed by the bars, its head in a collar on the leading bar, its traces fastened to the trailing bar. On the latter sat a small dark peasant woman, whose sour face and thin lips seemed to express a
hatred of the beast she drove, and from time to time she
encouraged it with vicious blows from the thin and whippy stick she carried. Perhaps she just hated the world in general.
She seemed to be the owner of the mill, or at least its current tenant, for Guido went up to her and Arabella caught some references to replacing the donkey with a mare and repayment of debts. By now a small crowd was collecting as the word spread round.
The donkey was unhitched from the mill and led away. Guido turned and gestured again. With sinking heart she shuffled up to where the donkey had stood. She looked at Guido, and then at the woman. Taking a deep breath, she bent and pulled the gown over her head and draped it over one of the bars.
There were murmurs from the crowd, and some lewd jests as not only her nakedness, but the black and purple evidence of her thrashing were exposed. Again Guido gestured, he seemed to have reservations about addressing a Lady, even one that was bare and beaten, and she put her head into the donkey's collar, holding the pole on either side. The woman fastened her wrists, none too gently, to the pole, then buckled a greasy leather strap, presumably another part of the donkey's harness, around her waist. She attached a piece of thin coarse rope or cord to the front of the belt. To Arabella's dawning horror she led it down between her legs and then pulled it taut before attaching it to the pole at the rear which normally received the donkey's traces. She'd realised from the start that she would have to pull, as well as push, but she had expected the trace to lead directly from her waist. Now she realised she was, in effect, going to drive the mill with her cunt! Moreover, the mistress of the mill, and of her for the time being, had shortened the rope so much that she could get little purchase on the front pole, although bent low by the collar set at donkey height, and the greater part of the load would be transferred by the coarse rope fretting at her vulva.
She was grateful when a jug of water was put to her lips for her to drink, but the reason soon became clear. She had been watered like a beast because later it would be impossible and no-one could drive the mill all day without water. Hardly had she finished drinking, when the woman's hard hands forced a wadded mass of cloth into her mouth, and secured it with a strap buckled behind her head. Now she was not only harnessed like a beast, but dumb as one too.
By now even more of the villages had heard of her impending public penance. They gathered all around the circular shed to watch her as she bent, naked, her head held down by the collar it wore, her wrists almost ineffectual, tethered as they were above her shoulders, and the coarse rope taut from her waist to the anchorage on the trailing pole, pressed tight against her labia as it passed between her thighs.
The grim proprietress of the mill to which she was
harnessed moved behind her, and took her seat on the rear pole. "Hup! La!" she shouted, and the whippy stick slashed across Arabella's bent buttocks, already ravaged by Carlo's comprehensive thrashing the previous night.
Stung into action by the affront to her rear, she threw her weight against the poles. Nothing happened! She pressed as best she might with her nearly useless wrists, and the rope between her thighs took up the rest of the thrust of her straining legs but, despite her lunge away from the vicious stick sliced into her behind, the mill stayed still, solid as a rock, or so it seemed to the straining woman.
Again the stick caught her, and yet again. The driver had obviously had long practice on the donkey's tough hide, and Arabella braced herself to get the best purchase her bare feet could manage on the floor of the walkway, and thrust with all the strength of her calves and thighs, trying to ignore the effect of the rope on her vulva, which felt as if it were being torn in half. She gritted her teeth and courted more anguish in her cunt as she made a supreme effort and, merciful heaven, the mill moved.
It shifted from its immobility with a suddenness that almost lost her her footing, and the advantage she had gained at the cost of searing her labia and half-a-dozen vicious cuts from the stick, but she kept her feet moving, following up the rotation, and the load became bearable. Once broken from its stationary position, she found she could keep it moving with far less effort. Just as well, she thought, as the effort required to start it would have finished her in five minutes, whereas now
she could foresee some possibility of enduring to sun down, though it was a daunting prospect.
Round and round she plodded, trying to ignore the ring of watching faces, and the jests at her expense. The rope chafed her soft parts, and the stick still fell from time to time. The driver seemed to delight in its use, even though Arabella was keeping a steady pace, and for no particular reason, other than her own satisfaction, she would
intermittently slash the stick into the lacerated flesh of the inflamed buttocks, or across the bent white back.
The day was bright and mild, though far from hot, but with the sustained effort, sweat ran into her eyes, and down her straining flanks. On and on she walked, her arms beginning to ache as she tried to use them to take the strain off the rope cutting so painfully between her legs. The salt in her eyes was clouding her vision and the pain in her body was sapping her strength, when the clock in the bell-tower struck the half hour, and the driver called a halt. Arabella could not decide if this was out of consideration, or because if she were driven without a break, she must collapse long before her stint was up, and the fun would be curtailed. Given the woman's general sour demeanour, she guessed she was only being spared so that she could be exposed and exploited the longer. In her present state any respite was welcome, whatever the motive.
Five minutes later, and the stick fell again. With more experience now, she set herself for a steady heave to get the ponderous mechanism moving, regardless of the damage to her labia and clitoris, before settling down again to the endless remorseless drag. Once more she battled against sweat, pain and fatigue, but now an additional
humiliation threatened. In her haste to make her rendezvous with Guido, and not wishing to disturb the sleeping Julietta, she had not stopped to use the chamber pot in the room they shared, hoping to have an
opportunity to relieve herself on the journey, but she had been too occupied trying to relieve her sufferings from the effect of the bumpy ride on her bruised backside to give any thought to relieving her bladder and since her arrival, there had been no chance offered. The wine the carter had given her, and her water intake in harness were making themselves felt, and she knew she could not last over long. With her mouth gagged she could make no appeal for a recess, but she was still rational enough, despite her sufferings, to know that this was no real loss as there was no possible chance that her pleas would be heeded if she could utter them. At last she could hold it no longer, and salt tears of humiliation joined the salt drops of perspiration, that trickled down her cheeks, as the golden contents of her bladder, more a flood than a trickle in their case, ran down her thighs, her abraded uretha burning at the contact. As she trudged
on, her feet wet with her own piss, she could hear the spectators laughing as they would never have done at the donkey's stalling. Three more half hour spells went by, and she walked on in a red haze, weary, hurting and desperate. She sensed rather than saw the spectators come and go, but always there was an audience for her indignities. At the last break the driver had gone off for some refreshment, although the poor beast in the harness got none, and was replaced by a gangling youth. His use of the stick had not been so arbitrary or vicious as the woman's, but somehow it seemed to increase her humiliation another notch to be driven by a male younger than herself. It was about to be
increased by several more notches, and all worries about the sex and age of her driver were soon forgotten.
The emptying of her bladder in public had been traumatic, but now she could feel worse building. She'd hoped to hold out until sundown, but the effects of the unaccustomed rough local wine, and, particularly the pungent soft cheese she had been given for breakfast on the cart, would not be denied. Cramps began to wring her belly and she clenched her sphincter repeatedly to keep its burden from forcing her anus, Her step faltered, and the lad remembered his duty. Blows fell across her shoulders and backside, and she could no longer resist. From the latter extruded a long brown disgrace. She groaned inwardly at the crowd's mirth, and even more as her circling course led her bare feet back to tramp through her own excrement.
On and on. Would it never end? She hurt, she stank, she ached with fatigue, almost as much as from Carlo's whipping and the driver's stick. Her soft white feet, unaccustomed to walking unshod, were sore and bleeding, and covered in her own filth, her arms were in agony, secured to the pole above her shoulders, and her head reeled.
But now the sun was lowering in the sky. At the last break the mill's owner had returned, as had many of the villages and, for the dying minutes of the sun, and of her ordeal, thrashed her continuously into further effort; it was probable that, without this last cruel stimulus, Arabella would have collapsed before the light.
As it was, when she was released from her harness and gag, she did collapse, and lay prostrate on the floor of the donkey mill. Someone threw a bucket of water over her, another forced crude local brandy down her throat, a third found her gown, and got it over her head. Between their attentions, they restored enough life to her so she could be supported to Guido's cart, and laid on sacking in the bed.
She remembered little of the journey, drifting in and out of
consciousness all the way. Very late, Guido delivered her senseless form, half covered by her soiled gown, to a disapproving housekeeper, and fled lest he be held responsible for her state. Later still, her body bathed, and her bruises oiled, she was laid beside a sleeping Julietta, exhausted from screaming her agony at her nightly encounter with Donna Magdala's rod.
For two days she kept to their room, mending her battered body and rebuilding her self-esteem after the degradation it had suffered at the mill. During the day, Julietta prised from her all the humiliating details of her experience, until in the telling the nightmare became something she could face and live with, without being overwhelmed by shame. In the evenings shet ried, in return, to bolster Julietta's courage as the time for her six screams under the rod approached, and was ready, with
soft hands and softer lips to soothe her hurts when she returned, and calm her twitching body with her own warm person, laid alongside her in the bed they shared,
On the third day, Julietta came back from visiting relatives with the news that Carlo would be leaving in a few days.
"I shall miss you dearly," she said, after she had delivered her news, "you have been such a comfort to me these last few days. I don't think I could have got started on this terrible course that Donna Magdala has set me without your support. Now I am beginning to learn to cope, though I still cry out a little at every stroke, but my control is getting better. That, I think," she speculated, "must be the purpose that Aunt Magdala had in mind when she devised it. There is much comfort in knowing someone cares strongly about you, as you must find with Uncle Carlo."
Arabella looked at her in astonishment.
"Care for me?" she exclaimed. "How can you think such a thing, after all he has put me through, and his absence these last days?" "How can you doubt it? Do you think he would have been so strict, or so uncompromising with a lesser person, or one he cared for less? He would have sent them quietly home, with polite murmurs and good wishes for the future, and never seen them again. But you," she continued, pointing one emphatic finger at her friend, "you he dealt with as if you were already a Petraverdi woman, and made your punishment worthy of you."
She relaxed back in her seat.
"As to his absenting himself, that was partly consideration for your feelings, and partly pressure of business, for he's had a stream of visitors these last few days. Though I doubt they would have kept him away on their own." she added. "In any case, that will soon be remedied, as he proposes to pay us a visit in half an hour."
Arabella's head swam.
'Cared enough to punish her worthily.'
'A Petraverdi woman already.' What did it imply? And then
'Half an hour!'
"Quick, Julietta, send for the maid. He'll be here in half an hour, and I look a sorry mess."
Julietta looked at her and burst out laughing.
"Why, you are just a little girl after all, all flustered when her beau is due."
"Nonsense," said Arabella, stiffly, "it's just that it would be bad manners to receive him in such disarray." But she blushed all the same. When Carlo duly appeared, Julietta make some transparent excuse, and left them together.
"I hope you are recovered now, in some degree," he said, "I would have come to see you earlier but, not only have I had some important
visitors, but I thought it better you had a little time to compose your mind before we met again. "
"Thank you for that. I am more composed now, and can see the justice, and appropriateness of my punishment." She looked up at him, with a half smile. "And feel them still, as well."
"I don't doubt it, " he replied, "they would have been worth little if you had forgotten your stripes already, or your degradations at the village."
"What did he know of them?" she wondered, and blushed again. Aloud she asked "Is it true that you are leaving soon?" "Yes. In two days. My business these last few days demands that I go to London, and I shall deliver you safe to your brother on the way." Safe! Was that really the best description of her, with her lacerated bottom and sore feet, to say nothing of her mental abrasions? But yes, she was safe; saved from herself, and her self-destructive impulses. She could feel the guiding rein almost as physically as the whip.
When Julietta returned she found her friend wrapped in thought. "So, when do you have to leave?"
"In two days' time."
"So soon. I shall miss you, Arabella."
"And I you." Arabella hesitated. "You once offered to ring my nipples for me. It would make a nice souvenir. Would you do it for me today?" That evening, in the privacy of their room, Arabella threw off her peignoir and sat on the bed, her hands clasped nervously behind her back, thrusting out her breasts, and keeping her fingers from the temptation to fly up and shield her vulnerable pink points as they hardened under the influence of erotic apprehension. For Julietta stood before her and, on the bedside stand lay ring and cork and a fearsome needle, set in a wood handle.
Julietta soaked a piece of cambric in eau de Cologne and swabbed the tense nipples.
"I've always felt they should be made pink and clean before the needle goes through," she remarked, "besides, the cold spirit makes them harden delightfully."
Arabella flinched slightly from the cold touch, but held herself steady as Julietta pressed a cork to the side of her left nipple and set the point of the mounted needle directly opposite.
"It would be easier for you if I were to jab quickly, and pierce your bud instantly, but I could not guarantee to keep the needle absolutely level, and it would be a shame to have your rings anything lest than perfectly positioned." She looked Arabella directly in the eye. "If I thrust the point through steadily, I can be more certain of a pleasing result."
Arabella bit her lip.
"Then you must take your time and give me a nicely balanced pair." The needle point indented the tender pink skin on the side of the near rigid teat. The dimple deepened as Arabella's body tensed against the growing pain and then, with a sudden surprisingly meaty sound, the needle burst through the thickness of the nubbin to drive into the cork on the other side.
Arabella gasped. Julietta discarded the cork and placed a gold split ring so that the point of the needle engaged a hollow in one end of the ring. To the accompaniment of a strangled mewling sound that was forced past Arabella's lips, she worked the end of the ring into the riven flesh of the nipple, following the track of the retreating needle. When it was through, she sprang the ring so that the point on one end engaged the hollow in the other, forming a solid ring that would have to be sprung open again to remove it.
For a while Arabella rested her head on her friend's shoulder while she recovered herself and then straightened and offered the other tender morsel. A minute later she was mewling again as the needle bored steadily through her tender flesh, but, when it was done, two gold rings adorned the pert peaks of her breasts, their pinkness now joined by flecks of fresh crimson.
"They're lovely," declared her friend, "and, now the painful bit is over, you can relax and enjoy them."
Arabella shook her head.
"There's something more I'd like to ask of you," she hesitated slightly, "I've been thinking of Violetta, and, like her, I feel a need to be curbed. I could not face the knife or hot iron on my clitoris any more than she, but I want you to put a ring through it, like these others in my breasts."
Julietta looked at her hard for a long ten seconds then nodded slowly and gestured towards the bed. Naked, Arabella lay back and drew up her knees, planting her feet so as to spread her thighs wide open. She clasped her hands behind her head, and closed her eyes.
The sting of the alcohol within her labia came as a shock, and she bit her lip to keep from crying out, or flinching. She braced herself but, instead of the agony of penetration, came the gentle stimulation of a sensual finger tip. The finger was withdrawn only to be replaced by a probing tongue, that licked and lapped until her body responded, despite (because of?) her apprehension, and the sensitive bud swelled and stiffened.
"Across, or up and down?" Julietta whispered in a thick voice and, when Arabella made her choice, she felt the cork on the side of the swollen little member. The needle point touched the opposite side and she drew in her breath.
A second later she expelled it in a long drawn out screeching cry as the cruel steel penetrated the most sensitive spot of her whole body, changing to a strangled whimpering mewl as Julietta fumbled to get the ring properly inserted in this not easily accessible attitude. When it was done, Arabella lay back exhausted, but strangely comforted to know that her rebellious sex was now physically shackled.
Later that evening, she tried to repay her friend by supporting her through her nightly ordeal by Aunt Magdala's rod, comforting her with kisses and soft soothing cream. The nightly visitations were taking their toll and the bruises on the under-buttock had developed into a dark lumpy mass, several inches wide, split in many places, and standing out above the norm by the thickness of a finger. She could understand why the poor young woman admitted to screaming at every fresh cut on her nightly visits, and could only admire the courage displayed in her recent progress to mere strangled cries, rather than full-throated shrieks.
The next evening saw her rendering further care to the relentlessly rodded buttocks, but the third, after tearful farewells, saw her back at her brother William's fine house in Palermo.
"So, Sister dear, I see you have escaped Bluebeard's castle before he could cut your head off," he said in welcome, and embraced her warmly. He released her in surprise, when she winced at his bear-hug. "What! Nipples still troubling you? I would have thought them quite healed by now."
"My old wounds are quite gone now," she reassured him, "but with my usual foolhardiness, I have opened new ones. I intend to match the most daring decolletage in Palermo, once I've had my dressmaker perform some savage surgery on the neckline of my best dress."
"Ah," observed William, sagely, "I suspect the presence of rings in those proud handfuls. I look forward to seeing them at work." As it turned out, neither he nor she had that pleasure in Palermo, for the next day Carlo came calling, and William sent for her. She found both men in William's study.
"Arabella, dear. The Count has come to ask a favour of you. He has to go to London on important business matters and, being unfamiliar with the city, and lacking introductions to Society there, he asks if I would permit you to accompany him, and serve as his guide there. Our many family connections could be very useful, I think.
"As far as I am concerned, it seems an excellent suggestion, though I would be sad to lose you again, so soon, and I feel you could scarcely decline to assist him, in view of the hospitality and care he has shown you this last week or so."
Arabella wondered if he would be quite so sure if he could see the 'care' that Carlo had taken of her bottom, or his 'hospitality' at the village mill, but held her peace, and said she would be only too pleased to continue in the Count's company to London, and help him in any way she could. To her surprise, she found she meant every word she said! Two days later she sailed from Palermo with Carlo, but without Polly. The pretty English lady's maid said she couldn't face another voyage through the Bay of Biscay, and pleaded with Arabella to find her a place in William's household. Her mistress knew well enough that, horrendous though it had been and bad traveller though she was, it was not only the fear of sea-sickness that was keeping her in Sicily, but rather the formidable masculine attributes of William's footman.
"All right, Polly, you can stay, but I doubt that Sir William has use for a lady's maid in his household," (Unless there's a Mistress tucked away, he hasn't told me of," she thought to herself.) "So you might find yourself in the kitchen, and you certainly will," she added, "with the other sluts, if you let that Guiseppe fill your belly, as he has half a dozen already. Once let that potent piston into your private purse, and you'll be dropping a miniature Guiseppe every Michaelmass, regular as clockwork."
Polly managed to blush, beam and bridle, all at the same time, and Arabella abandoned the foolish girl to her fate, disgusted at the folly of the lovesick female.