A Victorian Childhood
by Steven Forsythe
I had led a charmed life as befitted my position as the eldest child of landed gentry; until my idyllic existence came to a rather abrupt end when my Mother, who had rather spoilt both myself and my younger brother Edward, and Father appointed a governess. Worse was to come for we were also informed that my parents were to go overseas on an extended business posting leaving us in the not so tender care of our new governess. I first met her in Father's Library.
"Master Geoffrey and Master Edward, I believe the time has come when you should cease to behave and be treated as children and adopt the ways and pastimes of proper healthy men. You are also, of course, to be expected to accept a more rigorous regime of studies and lessons and appropriate mental and physical discipline that accompanies those activities." Such were her opening lines to Edward and I.
"We need to agree some rules and sanctions for when you inevitably break my rules, as all young men are wont to do. We will keep these under review and adjust them as you grow older and stronger to ensure they do not become too lax and allow you to fall into error." She then laid before me a structure of rules, timetables, rewards and punishments that would govern practically every waking moment of my life. It determined when we would rise, where we should be and what we should wear, eat and do and the consequences for infringing the bounds of these strictures. The consequence invariably involved corporal punishment but also included confinement and restrictions of privileges, and the wearing of shame garb if behaviour dictated it.
From the start, the cane and birch rod were introduced, always delivered in circumstances of shame and humiliation. Whether in private or in public, punishments to my young bottom were invariably preceded by stripping me of my trousers and underclothes and sometimes by the prolonged retention of such a state of undress.
As time progressed so did the severity and formality of my punishments. I only ever dared address her as Ma'am, and to this day I do not know her real name. Her greatest pleasure seemed to derive from 'bringing me down' to my rightful place in society. She seemed to take great delight in ensuring our servants were well aware of my comeuppances. I was regularly shamed and punished until I howled like a small child in front of the servants. Indeed I dared not show my face in town for fear of ridicule from the local youths who had heard of my distress from the servants who worked on our estate. My parents had barely bid us goodbye when she turned to us.
"I am now your Governess, your tutor and your nurse all rolled into one. You will conform to my ways, to my rules and to my requirements in everything until you reach an age when your Papa and I consider you fit to enter the world. Is that understood?"
We nodded frightened, unclear as to what this really meant. "Now first things first, take me to your rooms so I may inspect them. Show me everything."
So we gave her, in all our innocence, a tour of our bedroom, the adjoining playroom and sitting room and Mary's room which were all on the third floor of the manor, set in it's own grounds just outside the village. She "tut-tut'd" many times as we displayed our many toys scattered liberally round the playroom, showed her our work and drawing books, our many clothes and suits and shared with her, to the full, the delights of our childhood suite. She said little and smiled even less, unless you could call a tight thin lipped grimace a smile. When our tour had finished she thanked us politely then asked about our routine - bath and bedtimes etc. All this we told her in our innocence.
At the conclusion she said " Thank you, you have been honest and open with me so shall I be with likewise you. Much of this is deeply unsatisfactory and will have to change, but it cannot be done swiftly. For now, carry on as you would usually do. I will ask one of the maids to supervise you on a walk in the grounds for the rest of the day while I make my preparations. Now put on your best Sunday suits if you please."
It was early evening when we returned to find her waiting at the foot of the stairs. " I hope they were good, Brown, and did not trouble you at all on your walk.."
"Oh no Ma'am, they was little darlings as always."
"Indeed - I find that hard to credit - young men are generally incapable of such unless it be for their own ends but for now, thank you. You will not be required for such duty again. Now follow me. It is time for your supper, for your bath and for bedtime."
Bedtime - it was barely six o'clock!! Instead of leading us up the stairs to our rooms however, she took us beyond that up to the attic space where there were some unused rooms. She led us into one where there were but two iron beds, newly made up, on which were our nightshirts. In the corner was a small table on which was laid some supper, with three plain wooden stools. A tin bath rested in the corner on a rubber mat, steaming with fresh hot water.
Before we could gather out wits she said "Now strip off your clothes and get in the bath both of you. A good scrubbing is what you need."
While we obeyed she pinned a cap on her hair and gathered a large waterproof apron round her. When we settled in the bath, she sat on one of the stools and from nowhere appeared a nasty scrubbing brush and carbolic soap which she applied vigorously to all parts of our anatomy to our squeals and cries of discomfort and anguish. This rough treatment we were unused to from Mary.
"What a lot of fuss and silliness. Now keep still and quiet or I shall wash your mouths out with soap too!! Master Edward you will not splash. When you have had your bath I shall spank your bare bottom hard!!"
This silenced us both for, unusually for those times, we had rarely been spanked. The bath finished in silence and Edward looked pale and withdrawn. She fished me out first, surrounding me in a large white towel which she advised me to use properly before donning my nightdress. Then with no more ado she scrambled Edward out of the bath gripping his ear tightly. Her foot she placed on the stool, crooked her knee and grabbing Edward's bottom hoist him over so he balanced there both feet and hands off the ground. Her left hand now firmly on his neck to keep him in place, she began to smack his pink, wet, shiny, bottom with all her might. Loud stinging slaps rang out as she connected with his bare skin and soon loud cries from Edward matched them.
"I will not have you... " smack! smack! smack! smack! "splashing around and having fun..." smack! smack! smack! smack! "and this is what happens..." smack! smack! smack! smack!" when they do." He howled, he whimpered, he screeched and he struggled. All in vain, especially when he tried to put his hand in the way........
"If you try to protect yourself again Master Edward" she coldly intoned, "I shall have to use something much much harder than my hand, which will hurt your hand even more than your bottom - a good hairbrush perhaps. Put your hands on the back of your head and present your bottom properly for your spanking."
Edward couldn't cease struggling, but the smacks and spanks continued until he was one constant siren wailing in pain and trepidation. His bottom was a fiery red too. I could not imagine what it must be like. I did not have too long however to have my lack of imagination improved. Eventually he was put down, roughly dried and put into his nightclothes, his face red streaked with tears, sniffing and sobbing intermittently.
"I can see you both have a lot to learn about discipline. Now cease that crying Master Edward or I shall put you in the corner and send you to bed without any supper." This seemed to work, although Edward winced a lot as he sat on the hard wooden stool to eat our meal. This was a revelation too. No lovely scones, jam and cream but simply bread and dripping with plenty of warm milk. Edward was too sore to notice or care but I had not yet learnt the lesson and ate sullenly, turning up my nose, "This is awful food Ma'am... Ma'am... I don't like this, this is for village children..."
"Well Master Geoffrey you'll have this or nothing and as you don't seem to be able to mind your manners, a smacked bottom might be in order for you too!" she snapped.
"But I don't like it, I can't eat it...I can't..... I can't I CAN'T!!!!!!" I shouted at her; so upset had I become. But she was ever so calm.
"If that is your preference, you shall have none...... But you can have a very sore bottom to go to bed with instead. Go and stand in that corner with your hands on your head."
She indicated the dark corner furthest from the door. I trounced over still upset but nervous about incurring her further wrath. I stood sullenly in the corner with my arms folded, my hurt pride stinging my eyes already. I was indeed still a spoilt child.
She said nothing. Instead she talked softly and soothingly to Edward, his punishment clearly having settled the score as far as he was concerned. When they had both finished their supper, which must have been a good half hour she tucked him into bed. Meanwhile I was still standing there, getting stiffer and more bored and tired and coming out of my tantrum by degrees, which I guess now had been her intention.
With Edward safely in bed she stormed over to me, marched me to the door, out onto the landing and into the other room in the attic space. This too had been cleared and in it was another iron bed and spare bedroom furniture. I could see at once this was to be her room.
She swiftly sat on the bed then hauled me over her knee, from right to left so my head practically touched the bare floorboards. She raised my nightclothes over my head so I could not see. She was very strong.
From neck to ankles I was now quite bare. I realised a spanking was to come but had not bargained for something worse. A cold hard object was placed against my outermost bottom cheek and then was lifted to descend with a loud retort like a gunshot.
I screamed and shrieked. Whatever it was, it stung terribly and I tried to put my arms round to rub the afflicted spot but could not, pinioned as I was by the folds of the nightshirt. Another blow landed on the other side and I yelled again, and this time struggled to get up but the strength in her left arm made that impossible as she gripped my neck.
So it went on slowly, methodically stroke after stroke, stinging, bruising, punishing my poor bottom. From her came only silence as she kept smashing her brush into my inflamed rear. I lost sense of time my bottom a raging flame. I howled, until, unable to scream anymore I simply sobbed and sobbed, the unendurable pain in my buttocks occupying my whole world.
"Now, that well-deserved hard spanking was for refusing to eat your supper nicely despite having been told politely twice. I have also to punish you for your little display of arrogance. I think a touch of the tawse is more appropriate for such behaviour, don't you?" she smiled.
She opened the drawer of her dressing table and out came a nasty black leather strap. It was very thick and stiff. It didn't bend when held out flat for its whole length of nearly two feet. It was about two inches wide and split into two four inch tails at the end.
"Now bend right over and grasp your ankles Master Geoffrey. " When I hesitated her hand forced my head right down and to keep in position I had to grasp them. She once more exposed my now red and throbbing behind and delivered six quick sharp strokes to my burning cheeks. I fell to the ground screaming in agony after each vicious stripe. But it was all to no avail as she bade me back into position remorselessly for each and every stroke.
"Now you have been punished properly as a naughty male should. Stand up and look at me."
I struggled to my feet. She held me by the chin. "So what have you to say to me?"
"I-I-I-mmm ss-ooorry Ma'am really...please I'm sorry."
"Now we have an understanding. You and Edward will have to get used to punishment for you have so much to learn that it is inevitable. Tonight has been but a taste. For the next few weeks I expect I shall have to thrash regularly to help you learn properly. Tomorrow I shall draw up a punishment book and we will record all your little misbehaviours and faults and your punishments."
The next day we found we could not get dressed and go down to our play room for no clothes were laid out for us to wear. Breakfast - which I ate hungrily and obediently - and fresh water to wash was brought by a maid but nothing else. We were locked in!! We talked about the previous night.
Eventually - it must have been at about eleven in the morning - in she came with two large brown paper parcels tied up with string, which she snipped with scissors and unwrapped. They were clothes for us to wear.
We each had a plain light suit with grey short trousers cut well above the knee. The black jacket was short. Long grey woollen stocks and black heavy lace up shoes completed the outfit which was worn with a rough woollen grey shirt and plain tie.
When I protested she exclaimed. "It is important that you learn a little humility." Before we were allowed to dress we had to sit each on a stool (ouch that still hurt!) while she sheared off our childish curls so we had short hair well clear of the collar.
Lunch was then brought and we remained in our room for the rest of the afternoon before being released to go downstairs to find it transformed. Gone was our playroom with all its toys and the whole suite was converted to a small dormitory - into which the iron beds were to fit at one end, adjoining the bathroom, a school room next to the dorm, her sitting room and then the stairs. We could not now descend to the rest of the house without going through her room. For the next several months we seldom left this suite where we ate, slept, bathed washed and were schooled and instructed - and chastised!
That first evening in our new quarters was spent familiarising ourselves with the structure of rules and customs that our new mistress was to lay down. We sat at two separate desks in that schoolroom for the first time while we copied in our pathetic scripts the timetable, regulations and other strictures we were to follow when in class.
We found we were required to make up our own beds, to locate and order all our clothes in the drawers and cupboards provided and to do a great many things that had previously been done by the maids.
Later when we prepared for bed I was considered not to have washed behind my ears sufficiently and was given a good hard two dozen with the hairbrush which made me cry. So we went to bed as sore and depressed as the previous day.
I often found myself standing in the hall of the house, perhaps in my shame garb, or even stark naked in a corner waiting for a birching which the servants would witness. On one occasion I had simply broken an item of kitchen crockery by accident one mealtime and she felt therefore that they had a right to witness the consequences.
On this occasion I stood there at 6 PM precisely after my own frugal and little enjoyed supper. It was to be my first experience with the birch and I didn't know what to expect. When the clock struck the hour a door opened and into the hall trooped the cook, the three maids, two gardeners, the butler and the boot boy .
They stood in a line at the entrance to the hall. Out of another door came my governess. I was told to turn about. In her hand was a fat bundle of thin twigs, about thirty six inches long. She looked stern as she lectured me at length on my faults , before concluding ".... so the time has come to demonstrate most clearly to you the consequences of your carelessness. Approach me. Winnifred the stool if you please." she ordered the maid.
Winnifred fetched a wooden stool from a recess under the stairs. It had a wooden sloping back to it, and had been my stool for the taking of my meals in the nursery in former happier days. She placed it in the centre of the hall.
"Stand in front of the stool with your back to the servants. I wish them to witness your punishment in full." I stood trembling in front of the stool.
"Take down your trousers." I fumbled hopelessly with the buttons and started to cry a little -overawed by the whole ceremony. " Winnifred if you please..." My governess indicated to the maid in an exasperated tone.
With great verve Winnifred briskly bent over me and with rough lack of concern for my modesty swiftly had my shorts down to my ankles which she removed followed by my undergarments.
"Thank you - now you will please kneel on the stool bending over the top grasping the uppermost rung." This I could just about accomplish as it was a low small stool designed for a five year old. In this position however, with my bare knees tucked well into the back, my bottom was fully exposed to all the witnesses and I was aware of it.
Once in position Winnifred once again assisted by lifting my jacket and shirt right up to the upper half of my back and almost over my head so I was virtually naked from the tops of my socks to my neck.
"Now, Winnifred please secure him by his shoulders." I felt her coarse kitchen hands grip me firmly by the shoulders. "Good, now Jonathon, you'll need to crouch down out of the way and take a firm grip of Master Geoffrey's ankles. He'll be jumping about like a Jack-in-the-box once I start!"
Jonathon, the boot boy took great pleasure in lying down at my feet and firmly gripping my ankles. I was quite immobile and trembling with fear and humiliation at my position. I the future lord of the manor was to be mercilessly whipped in front of the servants!
I then felt for the first time the prickling sensation of a birch rod against my bare skin. It felt slightly wet too. There was a whoosh and the first stroke descended, stinging my bare bottom. My memories of that first whipping are a bit hazy now, especially as there have been since not a few similar and more demanding such ceremonies to have graced my bare backside, but I remember that it hurt. I screamed out from the first stroke to the last. It was far more severe than her evil cane or tawse. I also remember that by the time it had finished it seemed to hurt more and all over.
How many strokes? I can never remember getting less than two dozen of a birch at my governess' hand and often rather more. The nature and style of punishments she inflicted on me depended on the location and timing for the punishment as much as the offence for which it was imposed. I was in a terrible state by the end. So much so that I had to be helped up stairs to my room by two of the servants. I was wealed and cut from just below my hips to the tops of my thighs. It was a truly frightful experience that did not bode at all well for my future.
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