1486

24Sep10

The year had begun quietly enough. For sure the Medici were extending their grip on the city, but what was that to Nicolo Salviati, his family had long been out of politics? But then as spring turned to summer, unrest had spread through the city.

As ever, some blamed the Jews and others the Venetians, but for the Medici, any opposition was too much.

The arrests had been going on all night and the city was on fire with the news. Since the Pazzi Conspiracy some eight years before, Lorenzo de’ Medici had been intolerant of any whisper of resistance to his rule.

“I fear for my beloved Florence.” Nicolo Salviati sighed.

His family had been connected to the so-called conspiracy but his branch of the family had used their connections and had been reconciled to the Medici. Now it was all beginning again.

“My husband this had nothing to do with us, it will all blow over, wait and see.”

Nicolo’s wife, Maria Salviati was a delicate creature, used to the finer things. Although advancing in years, she would be 38 at her next birthday, she was still a great beauty. He had always spoiled her and sheltered her from the sordid business of city politics. But now he feared that politics might come to their door.

Only that morning his friend, Cesare Vermacelli, had been arrested and Nicolo was certain that the man had had no hand in any new conspiracy. It seemed that innocence was no longer enough.

Nicolo was afraid. After all, he had his two children, Nicolo and Eloise, to consider. Eloise, at 16, was set to be an even greater beauty than her mother. She knew nothing of the world and Nicolo often feared that he had spoilt her. She was the light of his life, but sometimes he… he did not follow that train of thought. If only Eloise could be more like her brother Nicolo, who at 21 was a young man of great wisdom and honour and a credit to the family.

In her room, Eloise had been disturbed by all the noise in the streets. People were actually screaming, how was she supposed to concentrate on her book?

“Francesca, Francesca, what is all that noise?” She called her maid.

Francesca appeared looking drawn and anxious.

“My lady there is trouble in the city, the Medici are striking out at their enemies.” Francesca was wringing her hands.

“Yes but what is all the noise?” Eloise snapped irritably.

Francesca could not believe her mistresses foolish question and declined to answer.

“Well.” Eloise snapped, slapping Francesca across the face.

Francesca gasped.

“I am sure the noise will end soon. Once the Medici’s enemies have been silenced, some of them will never speak again.” Francesca said coldly.

Eloise slapped Francesca hard. Then gauging no reaction, struck her twice more.

“Will that be all my lady?” Francesca said stoically.

“No.” Eloise smiled cruelly. “You may report to my mother for a whipping. Tell her you were insolent.”

Francesca’s mouth went dry. Not again, she quailed inwardly.

“Yes my lady.” She said stoically, at least she could console herself with being out of the little madam’s presence.

On her way to Maria’s quarters she passed Nicolo the Younger.

“What is wrong Francesca? Surely that rabble in the streets does not concern you, what ever happens.”

“It is not that Master Nicolo.” Francesca brushed away a tear.

“My sister.” He looked skyward.

“She has sent me for a whipping again.” Francesca’s eyes were downcast.

“Oh dear.” Nicolo sighed. “You know I cannot intervene.”

“No of course not Master Nicolo… I… thank you.” Then she hurried off to Maria’s room.

Maria favoured the Spanish chair position for correcting her maids. That is to say, Francesca had to kneel upon an upright chair and fold herself over the back taking hold of the lowest rung between the back legs. Then her skirts were turned up over her back to reveal her naked legs and bottom.

It was as undignified as it was uncomfortable and from Maria’s point of view served up Francesca’s bottom to its best advantage for correction.

Maria never enquired into the justice of the punishment, her young mistress had ordered it so as the lady of the house Maria would oblige.

“Oh Francesca you are so insolent girl. Well let this be a lesson to you.”

Maria employed a small ladies knout, a short tasselled wand with a dozen lengths of leather cords, for administering correction. Her mother had employed a similar device in her own youth. Maria had not seen fit to use it on Eloise, but it served its purpose well for errant maids.

Turning her attention to Francesca, she studied the girl’s posterior. She remembered when the girl had first come to the house. She had been little more than a child in those days, perhaps a little younger than Eloise was now. But my how she had grown. Maria noted the slight parting of Francesca’s legs, the woman had no shame as she displayed a healthy dark thatch common to the women of Italy. Her bottom had filled out too; she had great childbearing hips and full buttocks.

So much the better for this task, Maria thought as she scored the maids flesh with the first stroke.

Francesca hissed fetching a smile to Maria’s lips.

“Not so impertinent now are you girl?” She said maliciously.

“No Mistress.” Francesca said through clenched teeth.

Maria lay on another stroke.

Francesca groaned.

There were three more lusty lashes.

“Mmmgh.” Francesca grunted.

Maria wanted tears of contrition and lashed hard all around and between.

“Eeeeeeeh.” Francesca wailed.

“Ah I do you believe we have penitence.” Maria said with relish.

Francesca’s bottom had dark rills all across her rounds, some of them descending into her dark valley. Although the leather was soft, some of the welts looked quite vivid and might have been weeping a little. The girl herself sniffed back a sob.

“What – does – it – take – to – make – you – behave?” Maria said slowly, lashing the maid’s bottom with all her strength at each word.

“Aieee!” Francesca screamed.

“Now you’re sorry. Now. But why not before? Oh you foolish girl.” Maria berated the maid as she whipped in.

“Oooh, soreee!” Maria begged, she always hated the surrender.

“Enough of this. Be off with you.” Maria said at last.

Francesca could not move unaided, so Maria summoned another maid, who chuckled at her shame.

“I hate that woman.” Francesca sobbed.

The other maid just grinned.

Not so far away, Eloise had been listening. She wanted so much to watch, but it was not seemly for a lady to concern herself with the fate of a maid. Still Francesca’s cries had been a pleasure. As she turned back to her room she saw Nicolo watching her.

“You are such a brat.” He chided.

She pouted a little and then fluttered her eyelashes.

“Am I bad?” She said coyly.

At that moment Francesca emerged sobbing from the room with one hand clasped at her rear. Her face was a picture of woe and the set of her shoulders betrayed her anger. Although she had the sense to avert her eyes from Eloise least she be sent right back for another thrashing. It had happened.

Eloise studied her maid with a smug satisfaction before turning on her heel and returning to her book. Her brother watched her go as he shook his head. Then he turned to Francesca with a sympathetic shrug and went off to his own room.

*

Some hours later there was violent hammering at the door. Nicolo seized his sword and swept into the upstairs hall.

“Nicolo.” His father called. “Quickly they have come.”

“We must fight father.” Nicolo said defiantly.

“No my son you must gather up what you can and flee with your sister.”

“But father what about you and mother?” Nicolo said angrily taking a step nearer the top of the stairs as he brandished his sword.

“Please obey me in this or it is the end for the House of Salviati.”

“But father I must fight.” Nicolo insisted. “Besides where can we go?”

“You must save your sister. I have friends in Venice, you can go there where the Medici have little power. Here take this.”

Nicolo looked in horror at his father’s ring. It bore the crest of the House of Salviati, only its master could wear it.

“Father I…” He thought he might cry.

“Go quickly my son.” Nicolo Senior urged.

“I swear I will avenge you.” Nicolo said proudly.

“No.” His father growled. “The Medici are in ascendance, we cannot stand against them. I realised that when my cousin involved himself in the foolish plot. You must live my son. One day the House of Salviati will rise again. You and your sons will prosper. That cannot be achieved through revenge. Leave such matters to the Lord.”

Nicolo crossed himself as he spoke and shoved his son back down the upstairs passage. Far below them there was a splintering of wood.

“Father what is happening?” Eloise cried out as she fled from her room.

“Quickly go with your brother and obey him in all things. Go.”

It was an easy matter to gain the roof and cross it to the neighbour’s house. The upper gallery door had been left unguarded with the bolt drawn back. A gesture of support no doubt. Nicolo grabbed his sister and led her down to the courtyard and out into the street.

“Oh Nicolo where can we go?” Eloise wailed.

“We will take a ship, quickly we must run.”

Upstairs the Medici’s men met Nicolo Salviati on the stairs. He was standing defiantly, shielding his wife from the intruders.

“What business do you have in my house?” He demanded.

“Nicolo Salviati you are arrested on the orders of Lorenzo de’ Medici, Head of the Republic of Florence, come with us.”

“I wish to see your authority.” Nicolo drew himself up to his full height.

“Here it is Don Salviati.” The liveried captain of the Medici troop said as he run the old man through with his sword. Then added mockingly. “Why did you resist old fool?”

“Nicolo. What have you done?” Maria wailed.

“What a beauty.” One of the men leered.

Maria screamed and ran to her room. The men followed slowly behind. The captain pushed back the door with ease. He had expected her to lock it.

Maria stood on the other side of the room, every muscle of her body set defiantly.

“I am Maria Salviati I go now to join my husband. Long live the House of Salviati. Long live Nicolo Salviati, my son.” Then she drove a dagger into her bosom.

“What a waste. Still the Medici will be pleased. No loose ends.” The captain spat. “His children. Find them. Especially the boy.”

“Especially the girl.” One of the men grinned evilly.

“Search the house.” The captain barked, suddenly touched by shame.

*

Days later and far out to sea the ship made indecent haste from Livorno. The captain was keen to return to Venice where the Doge kept order. Not like these dogs, the Florentines, lackeys of the Medici all of them. Now that he had escaped, he was more relaxed. The ship was full of refugees. He was set to make a tidy profit from a trip he planned to make anyway. He glanced at the two boys who had been the last to come aboard. They had paid a nice little sum.

As he turned from the shore to bark out new orders, one of the boys moved behind him in the shadows and took his place at the gunwale to watch the land fall away. As they had boarded the ship the news had reached them. All Italy was crying it to the heavens.

“The House of Salviati has fallen. Nicolo Salviati is dead.”

Nicolo had seized a passer by and demanded more news of him.

“It is true young sir. Salviati is dead, his wife too. Now let me go, I must away home in this evil night.”

Nicolo had released the man’s arm and collapsed into the wall beside him. Eloise had fallen into his arms and wept.

Now he stood on the deck of the ship.

“Father I will avenge you.” He whispered.

The second much shorter boy moved to stand next to him.

“Father said we are to live, not fight.” Eloise said pulling at her boy’s cloak. Her eyes were still red from weeping.

“I am the father now. I am Nicolo Salviati, head of our house, I say I will be avenged.”

*

Nicolo did not think Venice as beautiful as Florence. Also it seemed to him that it was cold here. But there was one thing that he liked at once about the city. There were no Medici.

He found the house of one Marco Foscari with ease. It was the house in which his father had said he would find help. It had no entrance on the street, but instead had a courtyard near one of the smaller canals. Eloise was tired and looked on sullenly as he knocked carefully on the inner courtyard door.

The girl who answered looked at him blankly as she retired inside bidding them to wait. The man who came was animated.

“You have come.” He said expansively. “I knew that you would. Come in my boy, come in.”

Nicolo tried to speak but an old woman embraced him and gushed about how he was the spit of his father.

“You were expecting me?” Nicolo said cautiously.

“News reached us weeks ago.” Marco Foscari nodded sadly. “Then only last week men came looking for you.”

“Here?” Nicolo was alarmed.

“It is to be expected, the arms of the Medici are long.” Marco said dismissively. “But it is not quite safe for you here. They will return. Already I feel their eyes upon us.”

His wife crossed herself at this and looked to the heavens for salvation.

“Your disguises, they are good.” Marco smiled. “If any saw you arrive then they would take you for poor country gentleman. We can use that.”

“I will not remain a boy.” Eloise stamped her foot.

“Eloise hush.” Nicolo chided.

“Just for a time, the Medici will stop looking once things in Florence are stable. You may even be able to return someday.” Donna Foscari soothed the girl.

“Yes but you must be separated.” Marco nodded thoughtfully.

“Two young men might start minds thinking, one all alone…” He rocked his hand as if weighing a balance, “not so obvious.”

Nicolo nodded. “What did you have in mind Don Foscari?”

“Your sister she can draw and has had use of paints and pigments no?”

“Well yes it is usual with gentle women of Florence.” Nicolo agreed puzzled.

“And you? You have an education? Music, Latin, Greek…?” Marco continued.

“Yes and I can fence. I am quite the swordsman.” Nicolo said proudly.

“No doubt, no doubt, but we must be discreet.” Don Foscari took Nicolo’s arm. “I know some people, good people. This is what we will do…”

*

Arrangements were made for Eloise to take up an apprenticeship with a Fine Arts dealer. He was very select and only took on one or two apprentices at a time. Eloise would have a room to herself and would be given work that was well within her abilities. If she was careful then none would suspect that she was a woman, let alone who she really was.

It had been arranged for Nicolo to take up the post of a tutor to a rich merchant family in the city. Giovanni Marcello was a connected man whose uncle had once been head of the Council of Ten. Even now there were few who would meddle in his business. Giovanni was no lover of the Medici and was fully aware of Nicolo’s identity.

The truth was he had been looking for a tutor for his two daughters for some time, but it was hard to find a man he could trust. A gentleman of Nicolo’s standing was a godsend.

“We shall call you…” Don Marcello considered for a moment, “Nicolo Grimani. I knew a man by this name, he was from Florence as well, it is a good cover.”

“It is a good name Don Marcello, I will do it honour.” Nicolo smiled and patted his chest.

“Good. Then it is settled. Here is an advance on your stipend, go and fashion yourself as a gentleman of Venice should.”

For Eloise things were not as simple. At least Nicolo could sport himself much as he did at home. The life of an apprentice was rather grimmer. She had to get up with the sun each day and mix pigments in a dark room below the studio above. Tommaso Barbara, her employer was a hard taskmaster. He insisted on being called Don Barbara and as he had no other apprentice, she was also expected to sweep the workrooms and do a thousand other little tasks.

“Pietro, Pietro, come here at once.” Someone was calling.

Then Eloise remembered that it was supposed to be her name.

“What does he want now?” She groaned, then rather louder, “coming Don Barbara.”

Don Barbara was holding up a pot of yellow pigment with a face like thunder. Eloise was mystified.

“Well?” He fumed.

“I…?” Eloise remembered to keep her voice low, how could this fool think she was a boy, she thought.

“You have no idea what the problem is do you?” He gaped.

“No Don Barbara.” Eloise shrugged. She folded her arms like she had seen her brother do when he was about to argue with someone, it seemed manlier somehow.

“You insolent pup, I said mix sunburned yellow, what do you call this? It’s cornfield yellow.” Her ‘master’ raged.

Eloise remembered a discussion with her own tutor, she almost cried to think on that life, but she had to hold together. She remembered him saying that the two colours were as close as not to matter and only a true master or pretentious fool would claim to know the difference.

“Aren’t they the same thing Patroni?” She shrugged.

“No boy they most certainly are not.”

They spent the next two hours mixing yellow, which all looked alike to Eloise, but which Don Barbara insisted had more than subtle differences.

This boy has an eye, I know it, Tommaso thought, but he will not listen once he has decided that he is right and I am wrong. But he has such delicate hands.

Eloise was oblivious to Tommaso’s careful teaching; she did not want to be here, certainly not with this fool. If he cared a jot about teaching her anything then why did she have to do such menial tasks?

The truth was Tommaso’s eyes were going and he needed to find a another journeyman who could take on the fine work and who could see the subtle shades of pigments that so many could not see.

“Look, look here see.” He berated his new apprentice for the umpteenth time.

*

Nicolo was having rather a better time of it. Oh to be sure his two charges were troublesome enough and insolent, but his quarters were good and the servants deferred to him when their master was out, in truth his position was of rather higher standing than he had had in his father’s house. A cloud crossed his face at the thought.

“I will have vengeance.” He muttered under his breath.

“What was that Nicolo?” Donna Marcello asked as she entered the room.

“Oh nothing lady, I was just…”

But Donna Marcello was no longer listening.

“Now see that you stand no nonsense from those girls.” She began. “You have my full permission to whip them if they do not show respect or all neglectful of their lessons.”

“Is that seemly? I mean to say…”

“Nonsense. You are a gentleman. I know you will only do what is needful.”

“But a whipping? How is it to be done? I mean to say…”

“Such an innocent boy.” She chuckled. “Let me tell you when I was a girl, from 13 no 14 summers until I was perhaps 18 or 19, I had a tutor. Oh I led him a merry dance.”

He face was alight with a pleasant memory and she fell silent. Nicolo thought that she would speak no more.

“Oh where was I? Oh yes.” She continued. “Well one day after I threw books from the window my father was furious. Books? Can you believe it? How shameful was I?”

She sighed again before continuing.

“My father was furious. He dragged me before my tutor and whipped me with cords right across my precious little bottom. I tell you he bared it first and whipped me soundly. I did not know if the shame was worse than the cords. But it did me no harm.” She smiled as if she had related some noble tale.

“I see.” Nicolo offered a small bow, not knowing how else to respond.

“Come now, is it such an odious duty? As long as you bare only that which is needful, then propriety is served. Just the legs and bottom, you will not see what a girl has in front or anything that is above, no?”

“You are wise Donna Marcello.” Nicolo bowed again. “But the cords? Are they not harsh?”

“Sometimes.” She shrugged. “But there are lesser things for pertness and mild transgression. You will be well supplied with what you need.”

Nicolo went to his next lesson with rather more confidence.

His two charges were Martina and Isabella. Martina was his sisters age or thereabouts. Isabella was slightly older. In Florence, they would have both been considered of marriageable age, but here it seemed, they did things differently.

*

One of the things that Eloise did find good about her new life was the chance to go out alone and walk around the city. At home as a lady of quality, this was strictly forbidden, but as a young gentleman of Venice she was at liberty to go where she pleased on her days off, albeit just once a week.

At first, she had been uncomfortable. She felt half naked dressed as she was in tight hose that didn’t do much to hide her figure. Although she wore the longest smock she could get away with, she still drew some curious looks and the occasional downright knowing one. She had considered telling Nicolo that her disguise did not always hold good, but realised he would probably forbid her to go out. And that was something she did not want to contemplate. In fact, she had come to enjoy her newfound freedom so much that she had taken to sneaking out at night once Don Barbara was in bed.

It was on one such night that returning late she had upset a crate that had been left too near the window.

“Who’s there?” A lantern swept the room and Eloise was caught with one leg in and one leg out of the window.

“You boy what do you think you are doing?”

“Don Barbara. Patroni.” Eloise offered a nervous grin. “I was just out for a little walk and I did not want to disturb you.”

“You did not want to disturb me? Just a little walk? Well of course.” Don Barbara returned a crocodile smile. Then he growled. “Come here you ungrateful boy.”

She was grabbed by the ear and dragged into the workshop.

The workshop was all gloom in the candlelight, but Don Barbara did not need much light for his purpose. He pushed the ‘boy’ face down across a workbench and seized a flat lathe of wood.

“Get your leggings down boy.” He growled.

“But?” Eloise squeaked, he wouldn’t dare she gaped, her eyes starting in her head.

“Do it.” Don Barbara roared.

“I am undone.” She wailed, not bothering to disguise her voice.

“Indeed you are.” He agreed not discerning her true meaning.

“Please Patroni you don’t need to take my hose down.” Eloise protested.

Don Barbara finally lost patience and pressed her down flat and seized the waistband of her hose and yanked them down.

Eloise gasped as her bottom was bared to the cool of the night.

“You have nothing I haven’t seen boy.” Her ‘master’ growled.

Eloise was taken by surprise by the remark; surely, it was not that dark?

Then the lathe of wood stung her across both her bared cheeks and she yelped.

“No Patroni please you can’t do this.” Eloise wailed. “Ooooh.”

The improvised paddle blasted down on her defenceless bottom in a volley until she was floundering for her breath.

“Oh, oh, oh.” She squeaked girlishly. She had never been spanked before and although she took such delight in seeing it dished out, this was a calamity.

The ‘boys’ backside looked too large in the gloom, damn his eyes, and he was squawking like a girl, but Don Barbara would show no mercy. It was ill conceived of the ‘boy’ to go out without permission, he must be taught a lesson.

Finally Eloise was broken and sobbing as she lay hugging the desk. Don Barbara vigorously lay on a few more swats and then he relented.

“Now get to bed.” He sighed.

Eloise lay weeping for a while longer and then struggled to her feet and dragged up her hose. She felt utterly sorry for herself as she took careful steps to her small room and her bed. Once there she threw herself down for a good long cry until she drifted off to sleep.

The next morning she awoke early. Somewhere a maid was about her work, Eloise could hear the rustle of pans. The sun was already at the window, but it was still too low to signal the day’s start. Then she remembered her punishment earlier that morning. She grimaced when she tried to move and her hands went to her bottom. As she stood, she eased the back of her hose down and looked over her shoulder to inspect the damage. A red rash was invested over the greater part of buttocks, as far as she could see anyway. She winced a little as she pressed at the sore flesh, there was something gratifying about the sensation.

There was something else. There was a tightness in her lower belly and she was ‘perspiring’ unduly between her legs as she did when she awoke from dreaming of some boy. It was also the same sensation she got whenever she had had Francesca whipped. She lay back down on her belly with her hose at mid thigh and moved against the sheets of her bed. In her mind she relived her spanking and although she was scarcely aware of it, she began to grind into the bed ever faster and began to breath heavily. She imagined the flat stinging wood as it scorched her bottom and she bit into her pillow. The crisis came quickly.

“Oh you hussy.” She breathed aloud feeling naughty. But she smiled, she did not mind the feeling one bit.

*

Later that day Nicolo was having rather less fun.

“Tell me Nicolo are you so wise?” Isabella teased.

Nicolo bristled, he did not think she should address him by his first name and told her so.

“Oh forgive me patroni.” She sneered curtseying low.

Martina giggled at this and aped her sister in a curtsey.

“Come now ladies is addressing me as Signore Grimani such a trial.”

“Oh Signore is it.” Isabella teased. “Tell me patroni do you shave yet?”

Nicolo’s eyes narrowed and he remembered Donna Marcello’s words.

“So you wish to honour me by calling me Patroni? Very well I accept, you will address me as such from now on.”

“Ha.” Isabella snapped her fingers in his face. “Go away Nicolo, or just sit quietly and read some of your books and don’t bother us.”

“Is that your very last word Isabella?” Nicolo sighed.

“Read your books Nicolo.” Martina mimicked, thoroughly enjoying the exchange between her sister and the young tutor.

Isabella giggled and turned to hug her sister to celebrate her cleverness.

“Uh huh.” Was Nicolo’s only reply, except that he paused to unbutton the sleeves of his tunic. He did this slowly and carefully, first one and then the other, all the while ignoring his two charges. Once he had unbuttoned one sleeve, he rolled it up to his elbow before turning to the other.

Isabella was still laughing at her own cleverness and did not notice Nicolo’s actions, but Martina suddenly stopped laughing as if sensing some gathering storm.

“Come here Isabella.” Nicolo asked when he was finished adjusting his tunic.

Isabella ignored him.

“Isabella.” He snapped.

The girl started and turned on him angrily.

“You wouldn’t dare.” She said defiantly seeing the set of his shoulders and the look on his face.

“Come here.” He said again.

Isabella made a break for the door, but he caught her easily.

“Put me down you beast.” She wailed as he picked the slender girl up and carried her to a chair.

Martina clapped a hand to her mouth at the unfolding scene.

Nicolo sat on the chair and tipped the struggling Isabella across his lap. It took him some time to negotiate the layers of her skirts but eventually he was at the last thin layer of her shift.

“You… you wouldn’t.” She said uncertainly.

Nicolo smiled benignly at her and then taking the thin cloth between his finger and thumb slowly lifted the last veil off her naked thighs and up over her bare bottom.

“Mercy me.” Martina squealed.

“Oh my god.” Isabella screamed. “How dare you? Please stop it at once.”

“Isabella please attend, because I am going to give you the sound spanking you so richly deserve.” Nicolo explained.

“No please let me go. Senore. Patroni. Don Grimani.” Isabella babbled.

Nicolo slapped her bare bottom with a flick of his wrist and she shrieked.

“Oh Madonna no.” Isabella wailed.

“Oh by the saints yes.” Nicolo said triumphantly.

Then he began spanking her with a will until she was screaming the place down. More from indignation than the pain, although by now her bottom was quite red.

The door opened and Donna Marcello entered.

“What is this noise?” She scolded.

“Don Grimani he is… oh mama.” Isabella sobbed.

“So I see, richly deserved no doubt, but do you have to howl like a fish wife? It is not as if he is whipping you. Not yet anyway. Ladies accept chastisement gracefully. You will stand in the corner of the schoolroom for the rest of the afternoon directly that you have completed your lessons for such an unseemly display. Good day Senore Grimani.” Then she left.

Martina stood opened mouthed.

“Senore Grimani please I have learned my lesson, I am sorry.” Isabella pleaded.

“I believe we agreed on Patroni as my due.” Nicolo said adding a spank.

“Oh yes Patroni forgive me.”

Nicolo set the chastened girl on her feet and turned to her sister.

“You have something to say?”

“Oh no Patroni.” Martina gushed.

“Is there any reason that you do not also deserve a spanking?” He pressed her.

“No Patroni.” Martina said sadly, her eyes downcast as she took a reluctant step towards him.

“One more word out of place and you will get one. Do you understand? Now lets open our books shall we.”

“Oh yes Patroni.” Martina said eagerly.

*

Since being spanked, Eloise had a newfound respect for Don Barbara. Now when he spoke about pigments she was more inclined to listen.

“Do you see how the jet has a deeper shade than…?”

“Oh yes.” Eloise said with a girlish squeal that drew an odd look from Tommaso.

Eloise blushed and cursed herself for forgetting to keep her voice low. In the days that followed the spanking, she had deduced that Don Barbara could not see well, which was why her secret had remained safe despite the fact that he had spanked her bare bottom. However, one slip could still unmask her.

“Yes quite.” He said with some uncertainty. “Let’s not get ahead of ourselves, but I like your enthusiasm. We must get this right as I have a most particular customer coming to see the wares today.”

One of Tommaso Barbara’s clients was an up and coming artist by the name of Leonardo da Vinci. The man was insufferable, one look at a pigment and he could say if it was correct or not. Not that he ever refused any wares, but he had a habit of haggling on price.

Often he did not come at all, but sent his apprentice, Pasquale Donato, to collect an order.

Pasquale was a serious young man with pretensions of one day being a great painter. Eloise thought him too tall and rather gangling and the fact that he never looked at her was infuriating. So what if he thought she was a boy, that was hardly the point, she pouted whenever he stopped by.

“Pasquale why don’t we go out on the town one night?” She suggested.

He didn’t look up from the pigments and canvas he was inspecting.

“Why?” He muttered as he counted.

“Well…”

“Are you allowed to go out so much? I hardly get a day to myself, I have too much work to do.”

“I can go out whenever I like.” Eloise said defensively. Then looked hastily around in case Don Barbara was listening.

“Good for you.” Pasquale said dismissively before grabbing a crate and heading for the door. “Tell your master these are fine and I will call again next week.”

“Goodbye.” Eloise called after him, but he was already gone.

That night Eloise decided to risk another expedition on the town. She had been out twice since the night she had been caught without incurring any consequences, so perhaps she would risk the promenade at the Grand Canal and slip back a little later than usual. That would show the high and mighty Pasquale Donato that she didn’t need him to have a good time.

*

Since Nicolo had spanked her, Isabella had been harbouring confused thoughts of her own. She detested the man, how could he have done such a thing? It had been so humiliating. She would never live down the shame, not for as long as she lived. She blushed to her toes every time she thought about it. But then every time she thought about the burning shame it went deeper and other emotions were invoked.

Martina had quite a different reaction. She could not stop talking about it.

“Oh Isabella, what a man. What was it like to be so treated? Do you think he will punish me if I am bad?” Martina said ad infinitum, always with a dreamy look in her eyes.

“I am quite sure he will whip you soundly as he said, so you had best behave.” Isabella had replied sullenly the first time her sister had gushed so. Since then she had merely scowled at her sister dripping on about her ‘hero.’

The only time she had deemed to react was when Martina had teased her.

“Oh you did look so funny with your bare bottom in the air.” Martina had said the day after.

“You won’t think it so funny if he turns up your skirts.” Isabella had snapped.

Martina had gasped at the idea and had clutched at her heart.

“Oh you are impossible.” Isabella had fumed and stormed off to her room.

*

Eloise had tried some wine. She had discovered some other apprentices skulking in an alley watching a lady undress in the window above and they had called her over.

“Is she not divine?” One of them said amorously as he fell to one knee and outstretched his arms.

“You are a romantic fool Marco.” One of the others mocked as he handed Eloise a jug of wine.

“She looks very…” Eloise squeaked as she saw the women’s breasts come into view. “How dare…” Then in a lower voice, “how… I mean yes she is lovely.”

Eloise did not know where to look. She did not know boys did this sort of thing.

“Marco is in love. Come let us leave him to his folly.” The boy with the wine had jeered.

Eloise had gone with the young men after that, everywhere at a run it seemed. They had encountered another group of youths and one of them drew a sword making to brawl. Eloise was terrified, until the watch appeared and they all scattered pell-mell.

It was first light by the time Eloise reached the open window of Don Barbara’s house.

“Where have you been now boy?” Came a weary voice in the shadows.

Eloise froze in mid step with a cringe.

“Don Barbara.” Eloise said with a nervous grimace. “Have you been up long?”

Her master did not reply, but just flexed a length of flat springy wood between his hands. It looked rather more substantial than previous implement of correction.

“Can’t we talk about this?” Eloise wheedled.

“Take your hose down and place yourself across the work top.” Don Barbara.

“Yes Patroni.” Eloise sighed her hands going to her waist.

She slipped her leggings right down and stretched forward over the bench, presenting her bare bottom as she did so. I suppose I have this coming, she groaned inwardly.

There was a crack and a blaze of pain across both her ample cheeks and she grunted. It was all she could do to keep tight hold of the far side of the bench when the second wallop landed.

“Yah.” Eloise announced its sting.

Tommaso was angry, he though the ‘boy’ had learned his lesson. Well this was one lesson he would teach with gusto.

The spanking lasted stroke after stroke until the dim light of dawn had near turned to full day. Had Tommaso spanked the girl for much longer he might have revised her gender.

This was beyond Eloise by now as she was choking back sobs and clawing at the worktop.

“Forgive me Patroni.” She wailed.

“Now get to bed, for an hour or two, you are good for nothing now.” Tommaso said throwing the lathe of wood onto the bench beside his apprentice.

“Yes Patroni. Sorry Patroni.” Eloise sobbed.

Then taking ginger steps, she made her way to her cot.

*

Martina had been trying hard to get his attention for days. Now that she had succeeded, she was beginning to regret it.

“You may leave us.” Nicolo said to Isabella.

Isabella looked incredulously at her sister before taking her grateful leave. Once she had gone, Nicolo turned his attention to Martina.

“Now young lady what do you think happens next?” He growled as he folded his arms.

“Oh my please Patroni I did not…”

“I think you did.” He sighed.

Martina looked at the inkblot that was still spreading on the precious paper on her desk.

“Have you any idea how much paper costs?”

“No patroni?”

“Shall we take this up with your father?”

“Oh no patroni please.”

“Then why did you deliberately pour ink out onto your desk?” He was at a loss.

Her face burned, she didn’t really know. Surely she was not that curious about a punishment?

“Alright I think you need to think on this. Go and stand in the corner like the childish brat that you are.”

Martina’s mouth opened and closed as she looked at the dread corner where she had been made to stand as a young girl.

“Yes patroni.” She breathed.

“Nicolo?” Martina’s mother called from outside the door.

“Donna Marcello.” Nicolo turned as she entered.

“Has Martina…? Did she do this?” Donna Marcello asked as her eyes fell upon the ink pool.

Nicolo spread his hands in exasperation not quite knowing what to say.

“I see.” Donna Marcello said curtly.

Nicolo was about to ask if she wanted her daughter for something when Donna Marcello marched over to Martina and hiked up her skirts to bare her bottom. Martina squealed and began to breath rapidly in shock, but did not dare move.

“You will whip her of course.” It was a statement not a question.

Nicolo blushed a little as he inspected the young woman’s bare bottom. Speechless, he just inclined his head in assent.

“But there is no rush I suppose.” Donna Marcello offered a cruel smile. “I will send the maid.”

“Mother I will clean it up I promise.”

“You will stay there.”

“Ooh.” Martina stamped her foot.

Nicolo pretended to work a while as he watched first Martina squirming in embarrassment in the corner and then in amusement as the maid took her time clearing up, all the while enjoying Martina’s discomfort. He kept Martina in the corner for a full turn of the hourglass before called her out.

“You know what happens now don’t you?” He said sternly.

She nodded.

He tipped her over his knee and removed one of her own slippers.

“You really try my patience.” He sighed as he began the spanking.

“Whooo.” Martina sobbed from the outset as the flat sole stung her bare bottom. It wasn’t supposed to be like this, she thought miserably.

Nicolo spanked hard for several minutes until her bottom was a uniform red and she was crying heartily.

“Alright back to the corner with you.” He chuckled indulgently.

Martina hastened to obey her bottom burning and with mixed feelings about the whole episode. Nicolo was about to sit back for a while to admire his handiwork when he heard a sound at the door. He moved to open it just in time to see red silk brocade skirt disappear around the corner. Isabella, you little spy, he smiled and turned back to regard the bare bottomed Martina still grizzling in the corner.

“Will we be spilling anymore ink in future?” he asked.

“No patroni.” Martina said meekly as she shuffled her feet.

“You can stay there until I am sure of that.” He growled.

“Yes patroni.”

*

A few days later Nicolo took some time to explore his new city. Venice was a much more diverse city than Florence, which was at heart Italian. Venice on the other hand, had people from all over the Mediterranean and beyond. Not only were there Greeks, Turks and even Arabs, but there were even more exotic people from the north. Blond blue-eyed Vikings and Englishmen who had come to sell their wool.

It seemed to Nicolo that the city seemed to float, as everywhere there was water where myriad canals crossed the city, all leading to the sea. There were markets on every bridge where one could by just about anything it was possible to buy. At one market he was astounded at the numbers of women who were gathered and the diversity of their clothes. Some of the women sported snow-white hair and others red. At first it puzzled him as it was clearly a market with men mingling among the women, in an unseemly fashion he thought, but there appeared to be no goods on display. Then he noticed the chains. Delicate chains at the women’s wrists, throats and ankles. It was the women themselves that were for sale.

It struck him that many of the women did not look upset with their plight and appeared to make it their business to look as enticing as possible.

“Are you in the market my friend, or have you just come to admire the beauty?” Said a voice.

Nicolo turned and was confronted by a large Negro trader.

“You are a… purveyor here?” Nicolo asked, not sure if the term slaver was acceptable.

“A buyer.” He said dismissively. “I have a taste for these exotic eastern women.”

“Where are they all from?” Nicolo asked incredulously.

“All over. Russia, Greece, Turkey…” He shrugged. “Mostly poor peasants sold by their families, or by themselves. Others are captives from raids or the tragedy of war.”

“Sold by themselves? What do you mean? I noticed they do not all look as sad as they might.”

“You are new here my friend.” The man smiled and took Nicolo by the arm. “Have you not seen the women promenading on the Calatrava, the Scazi or even the Rialto? What do you think they are?”

Nicolo had seen such women and had been shocked to see them out unescorted, but they were clearly ladies of wealth and not prostitutes.

“The courtesans of Venice are the best in the world and certainly the richest. There are many opportunities for a beautiful woman.”

“But slavery?” Nicolo was still puzzled.

“A rich man buys a beautiful woman, she makes contacts, receives gifts, in time…” he pulled a face and shrugged, “they are free and very, very rich.”

“Not all, surely.” Nicolo gasped.

“Not most to be sure, but if you have nothing, well then there is always hope.”

Nicolo looked around with a fresh eye. A woman tried to get his attention and lowered her bodice to reveal most of her cleavage. He smiled indulgently but hastily moved on.

Then he heard the unmistakeable sound of a whip. He followed the sound to a small side yard. Then secured on a frame was a raven-haired woman who was being whipped by a rough looking man in leather. She was bent forward with her hands tied above and in front of her. Her skirts had been raised and tucked up into her bodice to reveal her bare legs and the nudity of her quite splendid bottom. The milk-white flesh had already been scored with vivid and quite raw looking rills that criss-crossed the twin domes of her buttocks.

She herself was cursing angrily and struggled in her bonds. Nicolo’s hand went instinctively to his sword.

“Don’t do it my son.” Came a kindly voice at his side.

Nicolo turned to face a small-wizened priest at his shoulder. Nicolo already realised that he was unwise to draw attention to himself, for his sister’s sake if not his own.

“She is his wife.” He chuckled. “They are both slavers, but I gather he has been tasting his own wares. Such a sinful man.”

“I took her for a slave.” Nicolo grinned in embarrassment.

“She was I believe, but I married them.”

“Can’t you stop this? After all he was in the wrong.”

“A wise man never interferes between a wife and her husband.” The priest smiled and led Nicolo away.

Nicolo was about to ask more when he saw a beautiful rich girl who was trying hard not to be seen. Her face was veiled and she kept pulling her hood up. Come looking for an ally or to relive her past? He wondered. Then he saw she was looking at him but looked away hastily when she saw he had seen her. As she turned, he saw her face. Isabella.

Damn the man, had he seen her? Isabella thought wildly as she made haste away from the market. She had been following Nicolo all morning, but his unexpected visit to the slave market had thrown her. At first she was angry, not that she was jealous, she told herself, but such things were beneath a gentleman. Then she had found herself distracted by the scene and had got careless. The whipping had been exciting and for a moment, she had pictured herself in the woman’s place. She dare not even dwell on who she had imagined would be wielding the whip.

Suddenly the dense crowd, which had been such a godsend in aiding her subterfuge when she had followed him, became a dense wall impeding her escape.

“Out of my way.” She said impatiently as she tried to shove past.

“Isabella.” Nicolo called out to her.

She broke into a run.

“Isabella what are you doing here?” He yelled running after her.

Isabella looked back and did not see the low wall to the canal. Something slapped at her shins and she turned just in time to see the water come at her fast.

There was chaos on the canal side, to fall in often meant death as few Venetians could swim and even if they did the sides were steep and there was not always a place to regain the shore.

Isabella was a Venetian who could not swim and she floundered in her panic. Then something flashed past and landed in the water beside her.

“Nicolo.” She wailed desperately as she struggled against the water.

He dragged her to the shore to some nearby steps and then not waiting to see if she was injured scooped her up and carried her home at a run. If anyone recognised her there would be a scandal.

*

Isabella had been waiting for over an hour, but it was no exaggeration to say that to her it seemed like days. She still had no inkling of what explanation she would offer her father when he did finally deign to see her.

Nicolo had saved her, she had the good grace at least to admit that, but as to why she had taken upon herself to follow him in the first place, she had no idea. The man seemed to be central to her every waking thought, even though she hated him. Did she? Still? Oh damn the man what was she to tell papa?

Her mother had scolded her as she and the maids had undressed her to remove her wet things.

“Look at this dress you have ruined it. What were you thinking?” She had said earlier.

She had expected a spanking from her mother at the very least, but once she was dressed in fresh clothes, her mother had said papa wanted to see her. She could not have been more shaken if her mother had said she was to be executed in the morning. That had been lifetime ago.

Now the house was as quiet as the grave. The servants were no doubt keeping their heads down; it was not a good sign. Papa must be angry. Somewhere something went crash. It was not loud, but today every sound took on significance. Isabella jumped.

“I am a bag of nerves.” She sighed as she stilled her beating heart.

There was a movement in the hall and she stood up with a start and turned to face the door. It remained stubbornly closed in accusation. Minutes passed and she heard no more.

“I will simply tell papa that I went for a walk.” She decided calmly.

She felt sick. That was ridiculous, ladies of breeding did not simply go for a walk unescorted. She sat down and nibbled at her nails.

It was sometime later and Isabella thought that her father would never come. Then the door opened suddenly and without warning.

“Papa.” Isabella said with a start as she stood to greet him.

“I would sit down if I were you, while you still can.” He said darkly.

Isabella swallowed and did as she was told.

Giovanni Marcello could not face his daughter, but instead offered her his back. Isabella could see by the set of his shoulders that he was indeed angry. She could also see that braced between both hands and held to the small of his back was a whip. It was one of the long thin slender kinds, such as a lady might use to pose with or perhaps for a small pony.

“Papa?” She licked her lips.

He turned then to regard her with baleful eyes.

“Daughter.” He growled.

She looked down at her shoes.

“Well have you nothing to say?” He spat. She had never seen him so angry.

She shook her head; her glib tongue and prepared lies deserted her in the face of his obvious rage.

“Do you have a lover?” He snapped.

“No papa.” She gasped looking up to meet his eyes.

He believed her at once. The relief took 10 years off his visage.

“Then what were you doing out alone? You weren’t even discreet. You nearly drowned yourself. If had not been for Don Salviati…” He choked on the last words. “Nicolo Grimani I mean, then you would have.”

Don Salviati? In this house? Isabella was wild with the revelation, no wonder he intrigued her so.

“You will forget I said that.” He said gravely.

“Yes papa I swear.”

“Now what do you think you were doing?”

“I was bored. I had heard about the market and I…” She lied.

“The market? The courtesans market?” He was angry again.

“Yes papa.” She said meekly her eyes returning to study the tops of her slippers.

“The very idea. No daughter of mine will have anything to do with such things, romantic nonsense. Dangerous nonsense.” He was shouting now. “Get your skirts up and get across the back of that chair.”

“Papa?” She wailed.

“I am going to welt that proud little bottom of yours until you can’t sit until you’re married.” He said rather fancifully, she thought.

“Please papa may I keep my linen in place?” She begged, too ashamed at the very idea that her father would see her nakedness.

“No damn you.” He barked.

She turned slowly and reluctantly layer-by-layer lifted her skirts and linen up behind her. Her face burned as first her legs and then her naked thighs came into view. Until at last only the lower edge of her chemise covered her bottom and that only just.

“Bend over the back of the chair.” He commanded, his voice somewhat calmer now.

“Yes papa.” She whispered as she obeyed, placing the flat of her hands upon the padding of the seat.

The act of bending lifted the last veil of her modesty and her firm full bottom was displayed to her father. He was not satisfied and moved to push it further up her back.

“Is your modesty offended?” He asked kindly.

“Yes papa.” She wailed, as tears sprang to her eyes.

“You think this harsh no doubt. But going out alone compromised your true modesty and honour. Do you not see that girl?”

“Yes papa, I am sorry, truly.” She sobbed.

“Very well.” He said taking a stance behind her.

She heard the whistle of the whip’s descent, but its impact was pain not sound.

“Oh.” Her knees buckled, but she held her position.

It had been a long time since he had whipped so young a woman. Not since his wife was not much older. He had forgotten how white a woman’s flesh was on her nether person. For a moment the consequence of the stroke appeared as a clean white on white. Then the line flooded with red, like the Red Sea that drowned the Pharaoh’s army, he thought, how apt. He watched it swell and grow to prominence on her flesh. Then laid another just below it.

“Ah.” Isabella yelped wetly.

Her bottom now held two crimson ridges. I will add one for each year she has lived, he thought, and then we will see if she repents.

The strokes fell slowly and she called out at each so there were none in the house who did not know that his honour’s daughter, Isabella Marcello was being whipped for her sins.

Once Isabella’s bottom was well scored, literally as she now carried 20 purple welts from high on her crowns to her upper thighs where the fold of her buttocks began, Don Marcello paused.

His daughter was sobbing hard and clawed at the padding on the seat as if she could pluck the pain in her bottom from the upholstery.

“Is this just?” He asked.

Her head bobbed up and down in an expansive nod as she struggled to draw a breath. Giovanni was touched by his daughter’s plight, but her explanation had been childish and was not to be tolerated. She must never do such a thing again. He concluded she could bear more.

The whip struck again and she screamed.

“No papa no, I am sorry.” She wailed.

“No my precious, you only think you are sorry. Sorry is what you will be every time you attempt to sit down in the coming days when I done with you.” Don Marcello said almost bitterly.

“Yes papa.” Isabella said miserably as the line of fire crossed one that had not yet abated.

He carefully and slowly placed a dozen more, aiming them as promised just where she sat. The strokes came slow enough for her to appreciate them and she took the trouble to announce each one so that the house could hear her shame. Then his anger redoubled as he considered her near death and even nearer dishonour, he added a dozen more.

He went a little further after that for good measure but the tight purple ridges looked fit to burst and he would draw the line at blood so hastily brought her whipping to a close.

“I cannot have you behaving with such immodesty.” He said finally.

“Papa.” She choked, lost in sobs.

“Stay as you are until someone comes to convey you to kneel in the chapel. There you will remain exposed and contemplating an appropriate verse from the bible in lieu of supper until you are released for bed.” Don Marcello pronounced.

“Yes papa.” Isabella wailed. It was a harsh sentence; it was scarce past the noonday meal that she had already missed.

*

Weeks passed and things went back to normal. Sometimes Isabella wondered if she had misheard her father when he said Nicolo was Salviati. He seemed so serious and as time passed, he seemed every inch the respectable tutor he purported to be.

There was now no thought by either of them to defy him, so they both submitted meekly, if miserably to correction when he deemed it necessary.
On no less than two-dozen occasions, he had spanked Martina for sloppy work. Isabella did not miss the look of adoration on her face after she had been placed over his lap with her skirts turned up.

Her spankings were such short fierce affairs, lasting no more than a few minutes until the girl was sobbing her regrets and more than grateful to take her place in the corner as she held her skirts to the small of her back.

Isabella’s punishments were altogether rather different.

Since the episode at the slave market and her subsequent correction at the hands of her father, both Isabella’s infractions and punishments had become more severe. It was not because she was not diligent with her work, since those first days, she had become more mature, but that had only led to her being more assertive. True her punishments were much less frequent, but all the harsher for that once they were needful.

When it was her turn she was kept back after her lessons and Martina was dismissed. Then Isabella was invited to place herself across the ornate table that served as Nicolo’s desk. Nicolo always had a little smile for the way her cheeks coloured and the cute way that she worked her mouth as she hoisted her own skirts.

Then there was the kick in the guts when her bare bottom came into view, especially as she dutifully stuck it up and out at him. Did she realise how submissive her posture was, he wondered?

Nicolo always took up position behind her as he studied the target thoughtfully; she hated that, but knew better than to complain. Finally, he would flick the whalebone switch across her nether cheeks to extract a neat gasp and a wiggle.

The next stroke always came after a long wait so that a tight red line appeared behind the first, which was always given time to fully develop.

“You only have yourself to blame Isabella.” He would say, or something like it.

“Yes sir.” She would whimper.

Taking a lead form her father, he always took his time and Isabella suffered many strokes before she was allowed a place in the corner.

Life was much the same for Eloise. She had become resigned to her punishments at Don Barbara’s hands. Thankfully, he always spanked her in the evening when the truth of her womanhood was hidden by candlelight from his poor eyesight.

As the months wore on, he became stricter with her so that she was scarcely recovered from one correction when she had to endure another.

Then one day when Eloise was prostrate across the workbench suffering a rather prolonged spanking with the long lathe of wood Don Marcello favoured for the task, there was a sound at the door.

“Stay where you are boy, we are not done.” Don Barbara growled as he swiped Eloise’s bottom repeatedly.

“Yes patroni.” She wept, barely remembering to keep her voice deep.

The door opened and Eloise was horrified to see Pasquale Donato standing there.

“Forgive me Don Barbara I know it is late… oh and I see you are busy.” Pasquale’s usual composure was challenged.

Oh this is too much, Eloise groaned to herself, even if he does think I am a boy. But Pasquale was an artist and there was nothing wrong with his eyes. He had seen many an arse in the course of his work, both male and female. There was no doubt that Don Barbara was thrashing a girl. He was about to apologise profusely for interrupting the correction of a female of the house in so unseemly a position when Don Barbara spoke.

“Stay there boy I must attend to young Pasquale.”

Boy? Pasquale looked again. Then the light dawned for him. Young Pietro was a girl. Of course, why could he not see it all along?

Eloise’s mouth worked like a drowning fish as she looked back over her shoulder through her tears. There was no mistaking the look of recognition on Pasquale’s face, he could see she was a girl.

Pasquale struggled to remember the purpose of his errand his eyes straying as they did to Eloise’s bottom, big, red and round in the corner of the room.

“You seem distracted tonight Pasquale.” Don Barbara said as he checked for the requested items.

“Yes Don Barbara, I mean no…”

Eloise dared not move so she buried her face in her arms.

“Now where were we?” Don Barbara asked. “Oh yes.”

Interrupted spankings were the worst since it was almost like starting again and Eloise made no secret of her distress.

“Take it like a man.” Her master scolded.

*

Eloise was still a little tender when she was sent on an errand to Master da Vinci’s studio. All the way there her heart was in her mouth at the thought of facing Pasquale again.

The market was particularly busy and it seemed that all eyes were on her. Her cover was blown, how could she ever have thought that anyone would think she was a boy? Surely everyone knew she was just a silly spanked girl.

The woman in the piazza outside Don da Vinci’s house gave her a long hard stare. It was that more than anything that hastened her knock at the door.

“Come in boy, that way.” A grumpy maid said jerking her head down a passage to the right of the door. Then she was gone without a sign that she knew.

Pasquale was the only one in the workshop.

“So what’s your story?” He asked.

“What do you mean? I have just brought these for your master, Don Barbara sent me.” Eloise said gruffly, putting down the box of pigments that had been ordered.

“Is that right?” he sneered. “You think I don’t know a girl when I see one.”

Eloise looked away hastily began taking an interest in a spot on the wall. Her face blazed as hot and red as the brazier in the corner.

“Well you hadn’t noticed until now.” Said a voice behind her.

Eloise jumped. The master entered behind her, Don Barbara’s client Leonardo da Vinci himself. She had only seen him once or twice. He was not an old man, perhaps 10 years older than Pasquale.

“I have brought you some pigments sir.” Eloise said shyly not meeting the man’s eye.

“Thank you my dear.” He smiled absently. “It seems your secret is out.”

“My secret?” Eloise muttered.

“Well as my young assistant says you are a girl, are you not.” It wasn’t a question.

“I…”

Pasquale looked amused.

“How did you know master?” He didn’t seemed as surprised da Vinci already knew her secret.

“Come now look at her, isn’t it obvious for someone with eyes.”

“I don’t take much notice of boys.” He shrugged. “Maybe I should.”

“I am not a boy… I mean a girl… I mean…” Eloise babbled.

“Shush.” da Vinci soothed. “You are among friends.”

“You definitely are a girl.” Pasquale grinned. “I saw that for myself last night.”

Eloise went scarlet and her face felt as if it would melt.

“I take it Don Barbara does not know?” da Vinci suggested.

Eloise shook her head still not meeting his eye.

“You must be a refugee from Florence.”

Eloise nodded.

“Don’t be afraid. In my experience, people only see what they expect to see. Offer yourself as a boy and they see only the boy.”

“What’s your name girl?” Pasquale asked.

“Eloise. Eloise S…”

“We do not need to know that. Better you don’t say.” da Vinci cut her off. “Well ‘boy’, you have run your errand I suggest you get back to work lest you get another good hiding.”

“How…?” Eloise gaped and shot an accusing glance at Pasquale.

Leonardo da Vinci just gave her a withering look as if to say nothing much missed his notice.

“Yes sir.” Eloise blushed and rubbed her bottom absently.

On the way out Pasquale cornered her.

“Sorry about last night and today, if you still want to see the city by night meet on the Rialto tonight at 10.” Pasquale whispered.

*

Eloise was shy at first and was worried that Pasquale might not respect the fact that she was a girl. She needn’t have worried because if anything he was too careful of her gender.

“What is going on there?” She asked after they had been out for half an hour, nodding her head to some raucous behaviour down an alley.

“Oh I don’t think that is for you.” He seemed embarrassed.

“But there are other women there.” Eloise protested.

“Yes, but not respectable ones.”

“I am hardly respectable.” Eloise said with outstretched arms to indicate her manly attire.

Pasquale looked to the heavens and dragged her away.

“Sometimes I see why Don Barbara has to beat you.” He muttered.

Eloise glowered at him and then blushed as she remembered what he had already seen. But she was also thrilled at his attention and by his protection.

They saw each other often after that, whenever Eloise felt she could slip away. True, from time to time she was caught and had to pay the price. That price always involved her bending across the workbench with her leggings around her ankles while Don Barbara belayed her bare bottom with the flat edge of a wooden lathe.

Then sometimes she was able to meet up with Nicolo. He was hardly amused by her antics.

“I hear you have been sneaking out at night.” He growled one day in the market where they had arranged to meet on some pretext.

Eloise blushed. What else had he heard?

“You wait until you are back under the family roof my girl.” He was angry. “You won’t sit down for a month.”

She was about to berate him, as she would have in former days for speaking to her that way. Papa would not stand for it. Then she remembered that her father was dead and Nicolo was head of the family now. She almost cried. Instead, she said as humbly as possible: “Yes Sir.”

She tilted her chin and offered him sad eyes as she said it to evoke as much sympathy as she could.

“You are far too good at that.” He laughed.

She smiled brightly.

“I hear you are quite the man about town now Don Grimani.” She teased him using his assumed name.

His face grew dark.

“One day I will stand as a true Salviati to avenge my father.”

Eloise looked away. She hated it when he talked this way. The word from Florence was that things had quieted down. The Medici felt secure again and a deal might be done. What profit was there is seeking revenge? There would always be another Medici to take the place of one killed. There was only one Salviati.

*

As the year drew to an end, the weather turned cold, colder than Nicolo had thought possible. There was even ice on some of the lesser used canals.

“This is terrible.” He groaned as he looked out at the white dusting of frost on the city’s rooftops.

“It is no so unusual.” Don Foscari shrugged.

Don Foscari had called to say that he had been making enquiries and that in return for releasing some of the Salviati estate from seizure, the Medici were willing to forgive previous transgressions and commute the death sentence on Nicolo to five years banishment.

“It is a good offer my friend. You can live openly here without fear.” Don Foscari urged.

“They will forgive me.” Nicolo raged. “This is an outrage.”

“I know, I know, but think of your sister.” Don Foscari soothed.

Nicolo stared at the hated frost gripping the hilt of his sword. Then he gave a tight nod.

“I will accept.” He said through his teeth. Then added with scorn. “For now.”

*

With the New Year fast approaching Nicolo went to call on his friend Don Marcello.

“Don Salviati, what a surprise come in.” The old man smiled. “Some wine against the cold my friend.”

“Thank you. Mulled German wine if you have it.” Nicolo agreed thankfully.

Once safely before the fire Nicolo appeared preoccupied.

“Well my friend what have you decided?” Don Marcello asked cheerfully.

“I owe you everything my friend so of course there is no question, I will happily continue as Martina’s tutor. However I no longer think it seemly to act in the same capacity for Isabella.”

“I see.” Don Marcello said seriously. “May I know the reason? I know she can be difficult. Perhaps you could beat her more often.”

“Perhaps I will.” Nicolo smiled. “Don Marcello the reason I don’t think it appropriate to continue as Isabella’s tutor is that I intend to ask you for her hand in marriage.”

“My boy this is wonderful news.” Don Marcello grinned and took Nicolo’s hand.

*

It had only been a week since Nicolo had taken the new house and already Eloise missed her life as an apprentice. She never thought she would.

“I will see what can be done.” She mused allowed. Then she yelled “Constanza. Send me this new housekeeper, I will go out.”

“Out my lady?” Said a strangely familiar voice.

“Francesca.” Eloise gasped and ran forward to hug her former maid.

Francesca stood back a little.

“You see I escaped the Medici and your brother was kind enough to send for me.”

“Yes I am glad.” Eloise said, regaining some of her composure. “It must have been a difficult few months for you.”

“How considerate to think of that my lady. After all I am sure it has been a difficult year for you.” Francesca said evenly.

“I know we had our differences, but that was before…” Eloise said feeling awkward. “Well I was younger.”

There was a long empty silence between them.

“Francesca I intend to go out, will you…”

“I am afraid that is quite impossible your brother left strict instructions.” Francesca said with relish.

“But that’s silly do as you are told, I…”

“My lady you give no orders here. I am the housekeeper. Your brother…”

“I know. He left strict instructions.” Eloise said bitterly.

*

On New Year’s Eve it snowed. Some of the canals had long since been frozen and were now closed to traffic. Nicolo had allowed Eloise to join Isabella and himself to the ice fair. Martina had also joined them, although she was still sulking over Nicolo and Isabella’s betrothal.

Then when the others backs were turned a small boy pushed through the crowd to hand Eloise a note. She read it quickly and then slipped the missive into her robes. Pasquale had suggested another rendezvous. He was taking so much for granted, she thought, but there was no doubt she would meet him.

After dinner, she had made her excuses and had retired early. It had been easy to change into her boyish clothes and slip away.

“Wherever did you find a gondola?” She marvelled when she saw what Pasquale had planned.

“I could say there is nothing I would not do for you. But the truth is at this time of year who wants a gondola.” He laughed.

She shivered as she pulled her furs about her. Since just about the only canal completely free of ice was the Grand Canal, he had a point. But bundled as they were in layers of cloth in the gondola, Eloise could hardly have cared less. She even let him kiss her.

They did not have long, there was always the chance that come midnight her brother may rouse her from her supposed bed to mark the New Year. So in the dying minutes of 1486 she stepped onto the sill of her bedroom.

“Happy New Year sister.” Nicolo said from the shadows.

She gasped as she lit a candle to reveal her brother sitting on her bed. Across his knees was placed the short leather strap that had hung in her father’s study.

“I was just looking at the stars for good omens.” She said nervously.

“And you thought you would wear your apprentice clothes before you attempted such a dangerous pastime in the middle of the night.” Nicolo said without humour.

Eloise tugged at her incriminating tunic.

“I can explain.” She swallowed, returning a fixed grin.

“I am so relieved about that.” Nicolo said mocking her. “I thought I was going to have to tan your bottom for you.”

“Oh.” Eloise gave a little gasp and chewed on her lower lip.

“Well? You about to explain.”

Eloise looked down.

“Take that hose down and take your place.” Nicolo sighed as he threw a pillow onto the bed.

Eloise hooked her thumbs into her leggings and began to ease them down. At least Nicolo had the manners to turn his back. Once her hose was around her knees she flopped onto the bed and pushed up her bottom as Don Barbara had trained her to do.

Nicolo brought he leather down across his sister’s proffered bottom with a crack, extracting a little gasp of woe as he did so. Her eyes bulged as the fiery sting seized her feminine rounds. This was going to be worse than anything felt under Don Barbara’s hand, she thought grimly. And so it proved as the strap scored home repeatedly until well past the midnight hour.

“Oh Nicolo I am sorry.” She wailed.

“Not as sorry as you are going to be little sister.” Nicolo growled.

Outside Francesca hugged into the wall and smiled. How times have changed, she thought.



3 Responses to “1486”

  1. Wonderful story, DJ. You painted a very rich world here, and rooting things so firmly in the setting gave this story a unique feel outside of standard spanko lit fare. I hope to read more from this world, as there is unfinished business with seeing how Isabella, Eloise and Francesca all fit into the new household. Great job.

    PEH

  2. 2 Tanya

    I loved this story, the setting and history is captivating! Looking forward to more! 😉


  1. 1 chross.blogt.ch - Chross Guide To The Spanking Internet

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