The Longing

10May13

victorian corner timeThe man in the painting had clear blue eyes set under a manly brow that gave his gaze a stern countenance. Unlike many such mid-Victorian pictures his eyes did not look at her, nor follow her around the room. Instead they were set upon something of great importance just over her shoulder and a long way away.

Victoria shuddered. If only he would look at her; could look at her, she sighed.

“I was born into the wrong age,” she groaned.

“It’s a portrait of Lord Harlech,” Emily Bronson said brightly.

Victoria started; she had not known her host was there.

“Oh sorry, I was miles away,” she said clutching her heart.

“He’s magnificent isn’t he?” Emily continued. “An ancestor who held the house oh… back in the 30s and 40s I think. He would have been about 35 then I suppose; shortly after inheriting.”

There was undisguised adoration in her eyes and Victoria blushed as she realised her own face must reflect much the same the look.

“The 1830s of course,” Emily continued as if it wasn’t obvious.

She was a sensible looking woman in a country tweed skirt with non-descript dark blonde hair tied back with pins. At only 28 herself, Victoria thought of Emily as old, although she was probably barely 50 and the romantic fantasies that lit up Emily’s eyes suggested that the two women had more in common than Victoria had previously thought.

“How are you related?” Victoria said quickly to fill an awkward silence.

“Oh, we’re not,” Emily frowned. “I mean when I say he’s an ancestor, I mean one of my husband’s. It’s funny how even today one becomes part of one’s husband in that way isn’t?”

It was a profound statement devoid of self-awareness Victoria realised. In Emily’s case, the transformation was complete and her words were just idle conversation. She too would have been more at home in Lord Harlech’s time, Victoria realised.

“He’s a great uncle three or four times removed I think,” Emily continued. “The line jumped sideways after this Lord Harlech’s time. To Richard’s great, great grandfather… or was it great, great, great… oh heavens; it is so confusing isn’t it?”

Both women continued to stare at the man with his eyes fixed on a future that did not include either of them; perhaps secretly hoping he would notice them.

“He is connected in some way to the woman on the other wall, but no one knows who she is,” Emily whispered, but she was frowning again as if the mention of the other woman bothered her somehow. “Some say he married her, but no one is sure. Isn’t that strange?”

Victoria darted her eyes to the right and took in the painting of a young woman around her own age. But there the resemblance ended. Victoria was as almost in awe of the woman’s dress as she was of Lord Harlech. Compared to her own loose black and white palm leaf summer dress, the woman’s was magnificent.

Victoria compared too, the woman’s high piled dark curls that hung in elegant trains to her shoulders. Her own tumble of reddish untamed hair was a fright. And where Victoria’s own eyes were a mottled brown-blue so as to appear green, the woman’s were coal black and shone like inverted stars.

“If only I could have lived in those days,” Victoria sighed.

“Yes,” Emily agreed in a hushed voice.

*

That night Victoria awoke, or thought she did, for ever afterwards she could never be certain. She was assailed with a strange feeling. In her mind’s eye she could see the portrait of Lord Harlech only now from where he hung, his eyes could see through the floor above him and on into her room where she lay. Then all at once she felt another pair of eyes upon her. Standing now, she turned to see the woman in the portrait watching her with coal black unblinking eyes.

Somehow she now stood upon the half-landing over the hall and the painting appeared as a window with the woman just framed beyond it as large as life watching her. As Victoria approached the frame grew until it confronted her like a door, one side sepia and dripped in shadow, the other bright and vibrant like an Old Master oil canvas.

“There is no danger,” a friendly voice said.

It was enough to quell her hesitance and boldly with one step, Victoria crossed over.

*

Lost in a sea of blinding white linen; Victoria open one eye to face the morning. What a dream she had had? She yawned.

“Miss Victoria, it is time to get up,” an unfamiliar voice called her from somewhere beyond the brilliant shroud.

Victoria sat-up to a whole new room.

The voice belonged to a maid in a Victorian costume, a woman of about her own age, but one she had not seen before. The Bronson’s, the current holders of the Harlech title, had no servants that she knew of, not the live-in sort anyway and anyway, why was she in a different room?

“Who… I mean… where’s Lady Emily?”  Victoria ventured.

“Who Miss?” the woman said in a puzzled voice.

“I mean Lady Harlech,” Victoria amended with the correct address lest this was a game of sorts.

“She is not due to return until the season is over as well you know Miss Victoria,” the maid chided, “You know the climate here does the old lady no good at all.”

“Old lady?” Victoria replied quizzically, then remembering that Emily’s mother-in-law was also known as Lady Harlech she said, “No I don’t mean Lord Harlech’s mother, I mean…”

“Enough of this nonsense young lady, you are in enough trouble as it is,” the maid scolded, “Your governess is waiting. You should have been in the school room half an hour ago.”

“My governess, the school room, what are you… who are you exactly? What is going on?” Victoria demanded.

“Any more of these games Miss Victoria and I will spank you myself so come along with you,” the maid said angrily.

Victoria gaped at the woman and scrambled to her feet to confront her. It was then that she had a good look at the room and the through the window she could see the world beyond. The dream of course, she had gone back to… to where? Perhaps when, was a more pertinent question, as despite the changes, she was clearly still in the same old house.

She hurried excitedly over to the mirror to gaze at her reflection in a full length mirror. It was still her right enough; but dressed in a long flannel nightgown.

“Who am I today… eh… sorry I have forgotten your name,” Victoria asked.

The maid gave her a mighty crack across her behind and said, “Miss Victoria Kittredge, if you don’t get dressed at once I’ll… I will give you that spanking. You know perfectly well you are Lord Harlech’s ward and that I am Annie. It is no wonder that his lordship doesn’t let you come out. I do declare… all these childish games.”

Victoria blushed as she rubbed at her bottom, but before complying she glanced back at the mirror. How old did they think she was? She might look young for her age, certainly by Victorian standards, but how could she pass for under 21? And who or where was the real Victoria?

She was given no time to ponder further as in short order she was pulled and prodded into some far from comfortable clothes.

*

Despite the discomfort, Victoria was quite pleased with the look as she studied her reflection in the mirror. Her hair was piled up, with only a little left trailing at the back “as was befitting a girl who had not yet come out,” she was told.

The nipped-in waist was dramatic, if a little stifling and the colour, a pleasant radiant cream with hints of yellow silk, had Victoria grinning.

“You won’t be smiling long Miss, least ways if you don’t hurry,” Annie said impatiently.

“How long have you known me now?” Victoria said conversationally.

“I have been here three years Miss, as well you know, now cut along,” Annie urged.

As she hastened along after the pensive maid, Victoria could not help but dawdle. The rest of the house was so full of art and knick-knacks that she knew now that most modern Victorian enthusiasts probably played down the look for modern tastes. How did they keep it so clean? Victoria mused, the brass alone…

But her pondering was cut short by their arrival at a heavy panelled door at the end of the hall, which Annie wrapped upon before pushing ajar.

“Miss Victoria Ma’am,” Annie said to someone inside in quite another demeanour from the one she had used with Victoria and she even dipped her knees to bob as she spoke.

Victoria paused, she was suddenly nervous, but Annie gave her a sharp nod that brooked no discussion. So Victoria sighed and taking a deep breath managed a period glide into the room.

The woman inside was her old friend from the portrait next to Lord Harlech. She was rather less grandly attired, but imposing nonetheless.

“You join us at last,” the woman said in a crisp clean voice.

“Yes,” Victoria shrugged, wasn’t it obvious, she thought.

“Tardiness and impertinence,” the woman said in a bored voice.

“Sorry, I just overslept,” Victoria said pleasantly.

It was amazing; she was actually talking to a real Victorian.

“Stop gawping girl and stand up straight, what do you mean by coming here in this manner?” the woman barked. She seemed at a loss as she continued in some consternation, “Speak properly and what do you mean over slept?”

“I… I am not sure what you mean. Didn’t you want to see me?” Victoria asked.

“Diction girl and where did you learn such speech?” the woman gasped. “And such impertinence.”

“I… can’t we start again? I mean firstly, I assume you know me, but I am not sure how,” Victoria began, “Do I look like someone or have I been incorporated here somehow. No that’s not it… you have my name wrong, my surname… I must have taken her…”

The look of horror that passed across the woman’s face did nothing to mar her beauty

“Silence,” she barked. “I will have no more of these comedies young lady, or my name is not Ophelia Grey.”

Victoria was quite taken aback and even went so far as to gulp. Maybe she should play the part better, but how? How did 18-year-old Victorian girls behave with their governesses?

“I am sorry… how do I address you? Ophelia or… or Miss Grey or…” Victoria pulled an unladylike face and wrung at her hands and squeaked tentatively, “Ma’am?”

“This time you have gone too far, much too far. I know these games you play are some form of rebellion for your guardian’s refusal to allow you to come out but I really will not have it,” Ophelia snapped.

Victoria was about to apologise again when she was seized by the back of the neck and propelled forward and across the room.

“Lord Harlech will hear of this.” Ophelia was incandescent.

Victoria was marched awkwardly at speed through the door and back down the hall to the top of the stairs.

“Okay, okay, I’m coming, alright I get it, you don’t have to…” Victoria protested.

“Stop this theatrical urchin… speechifying at once,” Ophelia spluttered.

I guess my vowels aren’t round enough for her, Victoria consoled herself mockingly, but she was suddenly becoming apprehensive. Time travel was never like this in books. How the hell did she end up as someone’s ward for God’s sake?

*

Victoria was marched into a room downstairs where she was prodded to stand up straight and wait. Then Ophelia left her alone.

Looking about her Victoria realised she was in a small library or a study. There was a small desk in one corner under the window that had a scratched green leather writing surface. On it was a pen and ink well as well as several small bundles of letters and a set of keys.

Across the way and at right angles to the small desk was a larger more ornate one set under the direct light from the other window. The only other real furniture in the room were the chairs; one each at the desks and another two against the wall. Bu the thing that drew Victoria’s attention the most was the smell. It was strong for a house, although not musty. There was leather and old wood with an odour she could not place, a bitter rich smell that wriggled at her nose.

Just then there was a movement at the door and Ophelia returned in the wake of large man dressed in brown who swept into the room like a soldier assaulting a fortress. Victoria knew at once that it was Lord Harlech from the portrait and her heart skipped a beat.

“Victoria,” Lord Harlech growled, “What is this about games and pranks? And why were you late for your lessons?”

The man was hard with authority, which sat well on him despite his relative youth, around 32 at most, Victoria judged. His eyes fixed on her with the same intensity of those in the painting, only this time they most definitely had her in focus.

“I-I’m sorry Sir, I…” she remembered the telling’s off she had had at school and how to most swiftly bring them to a close. So she demurely dipped her head and said, “Sorry Sir, I have no excuse.”

“No excuse, I should think not. I tell you girl, until you learn to behave like a lady you will stay under your governess’s tutelage…” he blustered angrily as if the words were overused and worn out. “What did I tell you would happen next time I had occasion to speak to you about this?”

Victoria looked up then, her mouth hanging open as if they had forgotten what words to form.

“Yes young lady, I see you remember,” Lord Harlech said more kindly.

Of course Victoria didn’t, she had no idea. But he seemed less angry now and she adjudged it over.

“I’m sorry,” she said fairly meekly. Then to change the subject, she asked, “Why two desks? There are two desks in here, I am curious.”

Ophelia looked as if she was going to choke and stood gaping at her young charge, as she saw her at least.

Lord Harlech was more relaxed.

“You think I was making idle threats don’t you?” he chuckled indulgently. Then he pointed at the smaller desk and said, “Estate manager’s desk,” and then at the other, “My desk.”

“Oh,” Victoria said, disappointed that the answer wasn’t more interesting.

“He has another office at the lodge, but I like to be on hand when he pays the staff and anyway it is good for me to oversee his management from time to time,” Lord Harlech said warming to his subject. “I’m glad you begin to take an interest in the estate here.”

Ophelia coughed and gave her master an old fashioned looked that in Victoria’s time could have been translated merely as ‘men.’

“Oh, oh yes,” Lord Harlech said more sharply, and then in an exasperated voice he added, “Victoria, Victoria, Victoria…”

“Yes Sir,” she replied more brightly. She was beginning to get the feel for her role now.

“I think it is time that you learned your place. You are a young woman now, but that means less games and more responsibility. Too often you get your own way. So reluctantly I am going to do something that I should have done a long time ago.” As Lord Harlech spoke he removed his jacket and began to roll up his sleeves.

“Sir?” Victoria raised her eyebrows, something tickling at the back of her mind in recognition of what might happen.

Then in one quick move Victoria was seized and turned about. At the same time the young Lord dropped onto the armless chair by the door and pulled the astonished woman across his lap.

“I think I should…” he muttered, looking at Ophelia as he plucked hesitantly at Victoria’s skirts.

Ophelia nodded curtly and pursed her lips.

Lord Harlech then struggled for a few moments as layer by layer he unveiled the bemused Victoria’s stockinged legs and drawers. He arrived at her cotton-encased full round bottom at the same moment Victoria realised what was happening.

“You can’t,” she wailed.

Lord Harlech smacked her sharply across both buttocks and extracted an angry squeal. Then in less than two beats he struck her again more soundly.

“Look I am not who you… eeeh,” she yipped as she was spanked again.

“What that girl needs is a damn good thrashing with a good old fashioned birch rod,” Ophelia offered.

“If she doesn’t learn then you have my full permission to do that,” Lord Harlech agreed.

These words and the next swat garnered a hearty gasp from Victoria who squirmed helplessly across her temporary guardian’s lap.

“The birch is generally applied to a bare bottom,” Ophelia said in a stern voice, “So I suggest we start as we mean to continue.”

With these words she advanced on the prone Victoria and tugged at the draw string on her undergarments then with a series of short tugs she drew them down to first expose Victoria broad white upper cheeks and then the by now red under curves of her bottom.

“Omigod,” Victoria squealed as she was denuded.

“You foul-mouthed brat,” Lord Harlech scolded her as he set to spanking her in a short fast volley.

By now Victoria’s drawers were well down at her calves, exposing a full red bottom set on two firm thighs that pumped vigorously in a vain attempt to gain their liberty.

“I’m sorry,” she squealed, “I’ll be good.”

“Yes-you-will,” Lord Harlech growled punctuating each word with a spank.

The spanking continued for some time before an exchange of glances between his lordship and Ophelia agreed it was over.

“Now my girl, since you wish to play these games and act the brat, you can go and stand in the corner there with your hands on your head. And don’t you even think about pulling up your under things,” Lord Harlech growled.

To augment this arrangement, Ophelia took Victoria by the arm and marched her to the corner so that she faced the wall with her bare bottom turned outward. To make sure Victoria stayed that way, she rolled up the skirts and petticoats behind and affixed them with pins.

“I’ll be good, I’ll be good,” Victoria protested.

“Oh I know you will,” Ophelia warned, “For if you are not, I’ll march you outside just as you are to cut birch twigs for a rod which I will apply to your bare bottom. Now stay there until you are dismissed.”

Lord Harlech stared imperiously at his ward’s submission and then nodded in satisfaction.

“For the rest of this week and next, she will eat in the nursery. And if you get any more trouble from her for the rest of this month you may birch her soundly without further reference to me,” he snapped.

“Yes my lord,” Ophelia said demurely as a smile played about her lips.

“Do you hear me Victoria?” Lord Harlech growled.

“Yes Sir,” she squeaked.

Her mind raced even as her bottom cooled. Never had she been so embarrassed, yet the sharp simplicity of the situation made her feel clean and untroubled somehow. Neither could she ignore the surge in her heart or the thrilling sense of being alive that the situation afforded her. This was after all another world and no word of this would ever reach her 21st century life. It was oddly liberating.

*

Corner time had lasted through lunch and well into the afternoon. At one point the estate manager had tried to come in but mercifully Ophelia had headed him off. But Lord Harlech and at least one maid had cause to come and go and with each intrusion on her shame she had blushed to a melt and prayed that she would sink through the floor.

The over boiled vegetables and disgusting milk pudding served at the childish table in the nursery had been almost as bad as her earlier punishment, but Ophelia who had remained to supervise her meal, had threatened her with another spanking if she didn’t eat it all up. the meal had taken forever and by the time it was done it was cold and even more unpleasant. But somehow Victoria knew a spanking from her would far more embarrassing even than Lord Harlech’s correction of her and so had not offered the least rebellion.

After her grim supper she was put to bed while it was still light and lay there with the rasp of raw cotton against her tender bottom, which she could not resist augmenting by doing little shimmies. The later having the side effect of stimulating her other side as she imagined herself back over Lord Harlech’s knee. What followed was most unladylike.

She awoke from her daze sometime before midnight and wondered how long her visit to the past would last. Strangely, she realised, she was not yet keen to go, so she slid from the bed and crossed the room to the mirror.

Turning with her back to the glass she rolled the back of the night dress up like a curtain to inspect her rear for any damage. There was still some mottled stains, grey against white in the moonlight, but these tender spots were still sore to the touch.

There was a narcissistic pleasure in standing before a 19th century mirror with glow-white skin in the moonlight and never had the curves of her bottom been so… so… she sighed. Why was she here? How was she here? Such was the turmoil of her day that this had been the first moment she had had time to even think on that. But despite this, half-naked as she was before the glass, it was all she could do not return to bed and relive her ‘ordeal’ again.

So instead she drew on a gown and slipped into the hall.

The wooden floor was cold on her bare feet and the house was in darkness. Somewhere an owl called to her from the grounds, to be answered by a stranger cry she could not place. Heedless of this warning she ran on tiptoes down the hall to the stairs and drawn by she knew not what she found herself outside Lord Harlech’s study.

There was a light on from within and she knew that he had not yet retired.

With my 21st century wiles I know I can seduce this man, she made bold claims to herself, after all, why else was she here? Then she heard voices inside.

Damn. Getting a chair she moved it to the skylight and stood on it so that she could peer in.

Lord Harlech sat in the same chair he had spanked her on. He was dressed much as he had been then with his jacket discarded and his sleeves still rolled to expose his manly ruddy-fleshed arms. The girl on his lap wore only her shift and she was giggling like a milk maid as she cuddled into him.

Double Damn. Victoria considered returning to her room but something held her. Then she saw the girl on his lap was Ophelia.

“Now my fine young baggage,” he chided the governess, “Didn’t you enjoy me spanking that little minx?”

Ophelia giggled.

“And why is it that you cannot control the girl? I should not have to deal with her, that is your job,” he scolded.

“She is such a handful,” Ophelia said lightly.

“Perhaps it is you who needs a spanking,” he rumbled as he tickled her chin.

Ophelia giggled again and tucked her head into his.

Victoria licked her lips and felt a surge within. Oh God, she thought, this is like a movie.

“Come here my girl,” Lord Harlech said sternly to Ophelia, ignoring that she was already about as close as she could get.

As Victoria watched, Ophelia was draped unresisting across his lap and so that he could smooth the cloth to her fine curves. Then reaching down he took a pinch of cotton and began to raise the Ophelia’s hem.

Victoria could see the governess’s eyes widen and her mouth gape with wonder as the cotton nightgown slid over the curve of her bottom to expose it to his gaze.

“I would birch you as you threatened to birch my ward,” he said in a thick voice.

“I… I will make another rod if the need ever arises,” Ophelia promised, “I am yours.”

He spanked her sharply then right across both cheeks and she gasped.

“When Victoria comes out I will pack her off to an aunt of mine in London and then you and I…” he spanked her again, “…I’ll find a house nearby, I might even marry you if we are…” and again, “Discreet.”

“Yes, oh yes,” Ophelia cooed.

Lord Harlech spanked her again and again in short sharp slaps so that she kicked and squirmed as if she were truly punished, and indeed from her face and hard bitten lower lip, it was hard to tell.

“I will discipline you in earnest whenever you need it,” he chided her even as he spanked ever harder.

“Yes my lord,” she gasped, struggling now, her breathing ragged.

Suddenly Victoria felt out of place, like an intruder. It was time to let the other Victoria have her life back so that she too could move on and free the lovers. They want her gone so she must be every bit of the brat they say she is, Victoria mused.

As she returned to her bed she found herself hoping that the real girl she had replaced would be soundly birched at least once before she was allowed to grow-up, maybe twice. Victoria giggled; perhaps I’ll come back and arrange it.

This time bed felt good and within minutes Victoria was asleep.

*

The smell that awoke her to the cold hard light of the 21st century was coffee and bacon.

Naked, Victoria padded over to the mirror, a smaller cousin of the one she had had, and turned to inspect her bare bottom. The spanking had faded somewhat, but there was no doubt that it had been real, as the residual tenderness attested.

Then scrambling for her easy to put-on clothes, she tumbled down the stairs to the dining room.

“Good morning,” she said as she entered.

It was then that she noticed the small portrait over the buffet table.

“Who is that?” she asked.

Emily looked up quizzically.

“Oh that, that’s Victoria something or other, you know she was the ward of the Lord Harlech in the painting we spoke of.”

“What became of her?” Victoria asked as she studied the portrait.

The girl looked nothing like her, although she was pretty. So subjectively in the past that was who they had seen when they looked at her, Victoria decided.

“She married Lord Harlech’s brother and later inherited,” Emily said. “She’s my husband’s great, great grandmother, or was it great, great, great…?”

Victoria was no longer listening. She was already looking at another portrait.

This time the 18th century man had a cruel mouth and he was looking right at her.

“Oh that’s another Lord Harlech, grandfather of the other one… or was it great grandfather… anyway they say he used to beat his wife and servants. You know, birch rods and whips… the whole lot…”

“Really…” Victoria mused. “How very interesting…”

The end.



9 Responses to “The Longing”

  1. 1 paul1510

    Damian,
    you do get around, the past, the present, the future, not to mention extra-terrestrial planets. 😛
    Interestingly they all have one thing in common. 😀
    Paul.

  2. 3 Kia

    Lovely story. The end made me giggle- arranging to have the other Victoria birched has to violate some law of time travel. 🙂

    • 4 DJ

      And hard to arrange unless she wanted to be ‘present.’ 😉

  3. 5 Saram

    I didn’t really understand the end, and it seemed rather abrupt. I thought you were going to go in a different direction, something akin to Octavia Butler’s novel Kindred. Have you read it? I think you could do some very interesting things with the idea of Victoria being called back to the past to set things right , perhaps to help to legitimize the romance between Emily and LH? I don’t know, but i do know that this story cannot end here with such unfulfilled potential.

    • 6 DJ

      No I have not read it. My views on time travel were explored in the short the Time Traveller I more or less stuck to those rules.

  4. 7 Scarlet

    I loved this, DJ. I think we’d better meet the man in the last portrait, don’t you?


  1. 1 chross.blogt.ch

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