Arabella had returned in a state of collapse from her third visit to fulfil her demonic contract with her uncle. For days she could neither sit nor shit in anything but agony, while her vulva, and especially her clitoris, throbbed and ached continually as a result of the unknown woman's attentions, but time heals most things, except perhaps
apprehensions. Time, though, also passes and the time had come again, for another instalment to be paid. Her body was still bruised in places, deep down, though small traces only showed on her skin but, inside more than her flesh was bruised. She awaited his summons, and his carriage, with mounting dread. What new turn of the screw of suffering did he plan for her now? She would not run from it, for Carlo's sake, but her flesh cringed.
Dressed only in gown and corset, she stood before him in the big study room, her mouth set firm, but her limbs trembling, feeling the grease oozing from her anus and hoping it would serve.
"You have courage, Arabella, to come again after our last meeting." "I have made my bargain, Sir, and I shall honour it, for the Count's sake," she replied, and pulled her gown over her head to stand half-naked before rim.
"Well, I have made a bargain too, and I shall keep it. Put on your gown, you owe me nothing." He laughed at her confusion. "No. It is no trick. According to the reports that reach me, your Count is safe from his enemies, and you have no need to buy him extra time."
"Is this really so?" she gasped, nearly overcome by relief for Carlo and the lifting of the ordeal she had so dreaded.
"It seems certain," replied her Uncle, "and, if it should prove premature, you have my word that I shall take all necessary steps to protect him against any unforseen threat without calling on you to pay the price."
Arabella's head swam.
"I do not understand. I have come to you, naked and
prepared, and ready to submit to you, and you are letting me go?" "Ah! You see, I am a man of honour, though the code I live by may seem strange to you. I drive a hard bargain, where I can, as you have found to your cost, but I never renege on a deal or try to get more than I have contracted for. To have taken advantage of your ignorance of the change in the Count's fortunes would have offended against my personal code."
He paused and looked at the trembling girl in front of him who, despite her terrible experiences at his hands, had still come back to face him again.
"Besides, not only have you given great pleasure, and satisfied the desire I have had for you these ten years or more, but you have shown yourself to be a brave young woman, and I salute you for that.
"No doubt you will remember me with fear and loathing, but I will remember you with affection, mixed with pleasure and respect, some jealousy too, of your Count. Not many men can inspire a woman of your worth to sacrifice themselves, as you have done for him."
It was too much, too much! How could she cope with this man who had hurt and degraded her so badly, and now stood before her talking of honour, courage and respect. She had to fight hard for her sanity, to draw back from thanking him, from throwing herself at his feet, near naked as she was, and offering herself to his lust. She pulled herself together, and dispelled the madness. Without waiting to put on her gown, she gathered it to her, and walked from the room with head held high to seek the carriage that would take her home.
Carlo did not call for several days. Anticipating another crippling assault on her body, and the need to let her buttocks and anus recover before she could receive visitors, she had given out that she would be leaving town for a few days to visit relatives, but now her fictitious visit was over and the Count came to pay his respects. More than that, to propose marriage!
"You must know with what deep affection I regard you," he declared, "I could not ask you, while I stood to be disgraced, or worse, but now that cloud has been finally lifted. In fact I heard from your so kindly uncle -" Arabella shivered at the name" only this morning that, not only was the matter cleared up beyond all doubt, but I stand to make a modest gain from the deal, but that is as nothing to the gain of being able to approach you freely, and ask you to be my Countess." Arabella looked at him without replying. Was this to be the end of her quest for adventure, marriage, like Mary and Louise and so many other of her cousins and friends? She needed a man, a lover, a hand on her bridle, that she knew, but a husband? Besides there were possible impediments. Certainly she must clear them out of the way before things could go any further.
"Carlo, I love you, I recognise that now, and I'll be your lover on any terms you'll have me, but you cannot offer me marriage until you know something more about me." She hesitated, her usual confidence replaced by unnatural shyness that she would have felt with no other. "I am no virgin, though I have had no man in my belly since I first met you."
"It does not shock me that a young woman of your passionate spirit should have known the arms of a lover. I do not need a virgin bride, I have had that blessing, and a virtuous wife and mother,who gave me heirs, and then left me, sad but not broken hearted. Now I see the chance of a rare companion, beautiful, brave and headstrong, who needs my hand on her, to be herself. I do not wish to cage you in a marriage, but to give you an eyrie from which to fly."
She nodded, accepting his estimate of her, then held his eye again. "There is something more you must know," she said, with a firmness of voice that belied the fears chasing through her mind, and she told him of how she had bought his freedom, of how she had given her body to be whipped and penetrated, how a dozen unknown men had forced her anus, even of the woman who had thrust her fist into her guts. Could he take a woman so violated, could he accept that he, a proud Sicilian, had been ransomed by the price of a woman's body, the woman he planned to marry, above all could he forgive her for her independent action, keeping him in the dark, so that he could not countermand her? She had her answer swiftly enough.
"My dear, brave Arabella. What a woman! You endured that for me, and all I offer you in return is my name. And my love," he added, "and my care. They are not worthy of you, but I ask you to accept them, all the same."
Clasped in his arms, she could at first make no reply. When, minutes later, she finally freed her mouth from his, it was to say, resignedly "When we are married, you will have to be very strict with me. Left to run wild, I seem to do nothing but get into one scrape after another, each worse than the one before."
They were married, as tradition decreed, at the bride's family home. A handful of Petraverdis from Paris and Vienna and a score of Arabella's closest relatives, were sufficient to fill the tiny private chapel. Among them was Arabella's Uncle Randolph, whose grave look she returned equally gravely, for her resentment and hurt had faded with time, and she wanted no resurgence of them at her wedding day. By his side stood his elegant and aristocratic young wife.
Later, watching her holding her glass delicately, Arabella wondered if that was indeed the same fierce hand that had forced her strained sphincter, and wrought such havoc in her entrails, if those slim fingers of the other hand that toyed with an errant tendril of blonde hair, had once dragged so hard on the ring in her clitoris as to nearly tear the sensitive bud and leave it inflamed and throbbing painfully for days, before healing to a mere state of swollen arousal. It was curious to think that the woman had last seen those swelling cheeks, now covered in white satin, naked and lacerated, oozing semen and worse, and that she would never know it, nor that she had once thrust her arm almost to the elbow into the bride's belly.
At length they could escape their guests, and be alone in the suite traditionally set aside for the bride of the house. Almost shyly she approached him.
"It is the custom for the bride to make a present to the groom, in addition to herself, of course. I'm afraid my gift to you is rather selfish, for it will be more for my benefit than yours," and she presented him with a long slim leather case.
She had set about getting it as soon as she had agreed to marry him. Her carriage had dropped her at the Holborn establishment of Mssrs. Fox and Darkley, Saddlers and Whipmakers to the Gentry, Est. 1678, in Charles the Second's rumbustious days.
Recognising her for what she was, a Lady of wealth and breeding, Mr. Darkley himself, a lineal descendant of the co-founder, came forward to serve her, a man in middle age, of lean but sinewy build, and with a firm determined jaw. Seating herself and declining the offer of
refreshment, she came straight to the point of her errand.
"There is a young woman of my household who needs frequent and salutary correction, to curb her impulsive nature, lest her follies lead her into harm. Even prolonged and rigorous whippings with cane or crop have failed to tame her, and I am here to seek your advice on the most effective form of correctional instrument."
"May I take it from her resistance to normal castigation that the young lady in question is strong and healthy?"
"You may. She is strong and in very good health, well exercised and with well fleshed haunches. I wish to obtain an instrument that is so potent that even a modest application will bring her to her knees." Mr.Darkley gave the problem his professional consideration.
"Undoubtedly what you require is whalebone," he pronounced, "bare, polished and the tip bulbed and weighted. You must be prepared to accept some damage, perhaps some permanent scarring even, to the right flank, but that is the price we will have to accept for the use of a truly potent weapon.
"Some makers might try and persuade you that it is possible to make a rod that cuts evenly across the buttock, but such cannot be of the highest calibre, for which a fully weighted and thickened tip is indispensable." And he nodded sagely to reinforce his opinion. "If you are serious in wishing a rod guaranteed to break this young woman with every application, then I do earnestly advise you to opt for weight as well as whip. The skin will frequently be broken, you may be sure, but you must remember she is a female. They has softer skins than men, and split the more easily for it, but they are better padded behind and, if you are to reach to the very soul of her, you must provide weight to drive deep and bruise as well as sting."
"I will leave it in your capable hands, then," said
Arabella, "so long as you can guarantee that the sight of the rod, once she has experienced it, will bring her cringing to heel." Mr Darkley, hardened as he was to the business of correcting sinners, could not suppress some small sympathy for the young woman who had apparently incurred Milady's enmity, and was about to suffer so at her hands, for he knew his trade too well not to be fully aware of what the rod he proposed would do in female flesh.
"One more thing," added his aristocratic client, "the young woman has rank and wealth, so the rod would require to be finished and decorated appropriately, and provided with a suitable case."
"Of course, Milady. Might I suggest that the handle be built up with carving, perhaps, since this is for a lady, with female figures under correction, and the young woman's initial. We can bind between the figures with leather thonging to give an excellent grip for the most precise and powerful application. If you can allow me ten days for its execution, I can promise you some first class decoration on a rod to cow an ox, let alone a woman, however refractory."
"Very well, Mr. Darkley, I will return in ten days." "Thank you, Milady. And what initial shall I put?"
Arabella turned at the door.
"The Lady who has need of such salutary correction, has the initial A."
Ten days later she returned. Mr. Darkley led her to his own office, where he laid before her on the heavy desk-top a long narrow case, covered in tooled red leather and set off by polished brass hinges and catches. Inside, on a bed of watered silk, lay a gleaming white wand as thick as her finger, nearly three feet in length, swelling to a
perceptible bulge over its last four inches or so and formed at the other end into a very practical handle, with leather binding.
Arabella turned it in her hands to admire the beautifully carved naked figures, one bent to receive the rod on her buttocks, the other
stretched overhead to be whipped across her back. Set in the end ferrule, and picked out with pieces of a red stone, was the letter A. She tested its considerable weight and bent it into a straining bow, whose coiled elasticity spoke of penatrative power to be unleashed. "And you are quite sure this will bring a strong-willed woman to her knees?"
"I would stake my reputation on it, Milady," replied the Whip Merchant, "I have selected the most dense, and elastic whalebone from our stock, and allowed just that little extra thickness along the length that adds weight without blunting the weapon's impact, while the bulbous tip portion has been drilled out, and refilled by a lead core. It will be almost brutal in its application."
"It seems to me that the only way I'm going to be satisfied that its performance will be what I need, will be to see it tested. Do you have any skill with the rod yourself, by any chance?"
"Oh, yes, Milady. Apart from my three daughters, and my wife, who all require frequent correction, I am often called upon to take my wares to the houses of the gentry, and demonstrate them on some erring domestic, or a female of the family. Perhaps," he suggested, "you would like me to send for one of my daughters, and demonstrate its effect on her behind."
"That will not be necessary. If I am to know if this is truly as daunting as you claim, the only way is to sample it myself." Mr. Darkley's normally expressionless features registered fleeting surprise, before relapsing into their customary severe mould.
"I trust Milady will make suitable allowance for the fact that the intended recipient of this stick will receive it on the bare." "No allowance will be necessary," came the response, "since I intend, also, to forgo any protection. Kindly lock the door, and then take your time, and lay on the best, and most effective, stroke your strength and skill affords. Do not hold back, mind, or I may find the rod
With this Arabella moved to the desk, hoisting her skirt and
petticoats to her waist. Placing her feet apart in the classic posture for correction, she pressed her now naked pubic mound against the cold mahogany and bent forward, dragging her clothes up onto her back to bare her swelling hinds, before reaching forward to grasp the far side of the desk top.
Mr. Darkley returned from locking the door, to be confronted by two beautifully shaped fleshy mounds, posed perfectly for the purpose. He suspected that she was not entirely a novice at this sport. He retrieved the limber wand that promised so much anguish.
"How many strokes would Madam require?" he asked in a neutral tone. "If you cannot force some reaction with your first cut, either your skill is lacking, or the rod is less than you claim and not what I require," she replied. "In either case, one will be sufficient to settle the issue."
And so it proved to be. Thus challenged, Mr. Darkley
measured the taut buttocks with an expert's touch, and drove in a full wristy stroke with all the power of his sinewy and practised body behind it. The cut fell full across the meatiest part of the buttock offered him, with the weighted tip burrowing into the right mound to the very edge but, expert that he was, avoiding the amateur's error of reaching too far, and whipping round to bite into the flank.
Arabella reacted emphatically. Her arms straightened, her torso lifted off the desk top in an arched bow of pain as she stretched up on tiptoe, her head thrown back, and a thin whining sound escaping through her clenched teeth. Even as she hung, suspended in rigid agony, a thick raised welt formed in her white flesh, bright red at first, then darkening to a solid black bar.
It took a long half minute before she could regain control of her demeanour. Slowly she straightened, and restored some order to her dress.
"Thank you, Mr. Darkley," she said in a strained voice, "I think that will serve the young woman quite admirably."
Now she was presenting that awesome rod to her husband on their wedding night. It struck her as odd somehow that two people as
passionate as they, no virgin either of them, and no obligations to partners on either side, had never indulged that passion together, though he had flogged her naked, and condemned her to the ordeal and degradation of the village mill. Well, that would be rectified tonight, but there was one more rite to observe first.
"Carlo, my darling. I agreed to marry you, because I discovered I loved you, and because I need you. I need your hand upon me." She paused while she opened the red case, and lifted out the slim menacing wand and offered it to him. "Since the more usual ways of correction seem to have failed to cure me of my worst habits, I went to great pains -" Oh, felicitous phrase! "to commission an instrument I would truly fear. Before we consummate this marriage, and we are indisolubly wedded, I beg you to burn that fear into my soul, and mark me for your own, while saving me from myself."
He gave her six cuts, bent naked over the bed's foot, her hands twisted into her bridal sheets. From the first she bucked and writhed, and a thin wnining sound forced its way past her clenched teeth. After the third, with her right buttock split, she screamed freely at each stroke. An eavesdropper, listening at the heavy oak door, would have heard the shrieks and wondered a bride's membrane could be so resistant to the prick. Moreover, an inquisitive eye, and doubtless there were many the next morning would have found so much blood on the rumpled sheets as to suppose they had, indeed, supported a virgin bride. The marriage comprehensively consummated, Carlo bore his bride and her rod back to Sicily overland, visiting the Petraverdi connections on the way. In Paris they stayed with Violetta, her sex bud still intact but, so she confided to Arabella, much more circumspect and discriminating in her amours.
In Piedmonte, they were the guests of the Duchess, whom she had last seen dressed in a sackcloth gown and curtseying to the servant girls, while in Livorno the new Countess was received by Bernice, whose buttocks had been so ravaged by five weeks of daily exercises in fortitude, now radiant and self-possessed in a sea of intrigue.
In Naples they stayed with yet another member of Carlo's well-placed family, amongst whose household Arabella recognised the gauche girl punished for running down the corridors like a hoyden now gliding with a mature grace about the palazzio, and from there they crossed the Tyrenean Sea to reach Palermo, and the Count's homeland.
Their journey up to Petraverdi was very different from her first visit. This time they travelled in late summer sunshine, and even the rocky tracks seemed somehow, less steep than in the colder light of November. They stayed overnight in the post inn at the start of the main ascent so that the Petraverdi tenants,
and minor family connections could come to pay their respects to the new Countess. Arabella was very conscious that many of them would know of her stint in the cornmill, some might even has witnessed her pain and degradation, but put a brave face on it, knowing that the punctilious local manners would ensure that no reference was made to it in her presence, whatever might be said in private.
The next day, the oxen decked with flowers, and attended by mounted outriders before and behind, they climbed the last steep barrier that had guarded Petraverdi so well down the centuries, and reached the fastness on its knoll in triumph to be received by all the family in residence, led by Donna Magdala, who curtseyed to the new bride come to take her rightful place as senior lady of the house.
Later, the old Chatelaine came to hand over her keys of office to her successor.
Arabella gently declined them.
"It would be presumptuous of me to try to take your place, when my only acquaintance with this heart of the family rests on one stay of less than a week. And a week filled with folly," she added ruefully, "and I'm very conscious of the special role the fortress and its Chatelaine plays in the lives of the women of the family, so I would ask you to carry your burden yet a while, until the time comes, if it ever does, when I have learned enough of the family, and of sense," another self-mocking grimace, "to be able to take over.
"In the meantime, I shall not only sit at your feet, but be subject to your discipline. Unless, of course," she added hastily, "my husband decides the matter is not woman's business, and deals with it himself, but I believe that, while we are at Petraverdi, he is likely to leave most accounts to be settled amongst the women."
Her first 'social' visitor in the palatial suite now allotted to her, adjoining the Count's own was, to her delight, Julietta.
"How lovely to see you again," she cried, throwing her arms round the girl, "I did not think to see you here, but now I shall start with one dear friend at least."
Julietta hugged her back.
"How could I stay away? But what am I to call you? Is it Aunt Arabella now?"
"It had better not be, or I'll have you up before Donna Magdala's court for a right royal bum skinning," Arabella said, in pretended reproof, "I don't know what the charge would be, but implying years on a lady's age should do. You can't get much more serious than that, and she'd make you scream like she did last time we met. How did you get on after I left, anyway?"
"Oh, Arabella, it was ghastly. I thought I'd die. After you'd gone I still had nearly five weeks to go." She shuddered at the memory. "As the days went by, I hurt more and more, and could scarcely drag myself to her room each night. I cringed at the sight of a stick of any kind and, by about half way through, I'd burst into tears just thinking about the next visit.
"You should have seen my bottom. It was cut and bruised all over, but underneath, it was just on lump of swollen purple flesh, too sore to touch with a finger let alone sit on, and every night she'd have me bend, and she'd cut six more times into that agonizingly tender spot." Julietta shivered at the memory of those terrible evenings. "She made me scream every time, there was just no way of resisting.
"And then a strange thing happened. After about four weeks, I suddenly found myself becoming calmer. It wasn't that it was hurting any less, quite the contrary, I was getting sorer all the time, but I had passed through the phase of near hysteria as each session approached, and entered a still world, where I floated in my pain, and didn't fight it any more. My body still screamed,but my mind was quiet."
Arabella sucked in air. She had been so absorbed by
Julietta's account, she had stopped breathing.
"To have lived so intensely!" she got out, "What an experience, but you'll not want to repeat it in a hurry."
"I have no choice," replied her friend, with a wan smile, "I would have come here to meet you in any case, but the fact is I had already arranged to visit Petraverdi again before I learned that you were coming. I didn't exactly come demanding the same treatment, but I knew there was every probability that Donna Magdala would see it that way, and I was not mistaken. I am to have eight strokes this time, eight every night for six weeks, or as long as I choose to stay." Arabella looked appalled, but the other woman turned a serene gaze on her.
"Do not worry for me, dearest Arablla, I shall be all right. Oh, it will be very hell, but I know now that by submitting to it, one can transcend it, and come out stronger on the other side." She smiled lovingly at her friend. "Besides, this time I shall have you near for longer, to help me endure."
"Indeed you shall. I cannot say for sure how long I am to stay this time, but certainly, I shall not leave until your time is up. Moreover," she added, "Carlo has indicated that he will be coming and going a good deal during our visit. Naturally, while he is here, I shall make my bed available to him, but at other times we shall sleep together in yours, so that I can comfort your hurts."