Iron and Leather

12May16

victoria bed500An Amelia Craven Story.

Amelia Craven felt entirely out of place in her green dress. It wasn’t the finest, but compared to the heavy woollen work-skirts and coveralls she usually donned, she was as a queen. Then the carriage bounced her about as it left the better road for the track that she knew led to her family home.

As it was the rude assault of the rocking coach matched her inner turmoil. The carriage was a relic of not only her old life, but of an England that was slowly dying under the weight of progress. She would much to have preferred a steam car from the station, but of course that was well beyond her pocket and would have been a provocation to her father.

Amelia had not been home since she had fled the house almost a year before and only a letter from her father even hinted that she would be welcome.

The missive had arrived over a month before, but she was now apprenticed to Ebenezer Marley at Marley Dexter & Co as an engineer and her time was not her own. Hampshire was too far from London to be gained on her Sunday off and it had taken until now for Amelia to find the courage to ask for the whole Whitsun weekend off.

This year the holiday had fallen in early May, but the weather was fine and white blossom filled the trees along the familiar lane like snow. The smell took her back and for a moment she was back home to a time before Dr Marley and her father’s arranged marriage. Then she saw the red bricks of Craven Hall and the past year came rushing back.

It felt odd to see a line of maids waiting to greet her. Even Dashwood the butler and two footmen she did not know were there. Back at Marley Dexter & Co she was a junior and even had to wait for the senior boys for the washroom and her tuck.

“Miss Amelia,” the old butler croaked, his voice even neutral managing to sound disapproving.

“Dashwood,” Amelia answered as she took his hand as she stepped from the carriage.

Every fibre in her new being wanted to call the old man Mr Dashwood as any other apprentice would, but far from pleasing him, he would have been mortified. No this was her father’s house, one still steeped in another time and if Dr Marley had taught her anything it was respect.

“I’ll have your bags put in your old room,” Dashwood announced as if proclaiming an ancient law. “Your father is waiting in the library,” he added more casually, and this she knew was a command from him to join him there.

“Yes, thank you Dashwood.” She had gone four or five paces before knee-dipping maids when she stopped and turned back. Then she added, “Good to see you Dashwood,” and she smiled.

“Good to see you Miss,” the old man almost smiled.

*

“Amelia,” Sir George Craven exploded at her as if calling her name from the pulpit. Her usually dour father then strode forward and embraced her as if she might flee again.

Her father was tall and tweedy as befitted a country gentleman. His bald pate was framed by steel grey and white-flecked hair that at once made him seem stern and warmly paternal all at once.

“Father,” Amelia replied warmly, but all the same she pulled away.

“If you really didn’t want to marry the fellow then why didn’t you just say?” Sir George said dismissively, not even using the would-be-husband’s name. No doubt he had forgotten it for the moment.

Amelia was about to point out that she had and often, quite assertively at times to the point where she had been both birched and caned for her trouble when she noticed the maid. She was young and unfamiliar to Amelia, but above all the skirts of her uniform were pinned into the small of her back and she had been divested of her underwear.

From her position in the corner her exposed bottom jutted pertly from under her disarrayed clothing and was smooth and white. The cane on the desk had not yet sliced blisters where the girl sat and Amelia wondered what the unfortunate had done.

“Ah,” Sir George growled, now remembering his interrupted anger, “I blame you for this.”

Amelia gaped and rounded on the girl for something missed before turning back to her father. It was the old story, she could do nothing right. However, it was impossible to see how she could be responsible for this.

“Father I haven’t been here, I don’t even know this girl…?” Amelia tried to sound confidently mature, but her father’s anger challenged that as it always had.

“We are supposed to set an example to our betters,” Sir George said impatiently, “What do you do but run off and… and… meddle with… machines?” He said machines much as he might have said ‘the Devil’ or ‘Bastard.’

Amelia held her tongue and tried to look mildly chastened and demure. It was impossible to see of her new life could possibly have enticed the maid to any mischief at all, let alone a sin that might in any regard involve machines.

“Do you deny it?” Sir George snarled.

Before Amelia could answer her father turned his head to look at the maid in the corner and the girl miserably replied, “No Sir.”

“She blames me?” Amelia blurted, “What did she do?”

“No, no. no,” her father said impatiently, “Not directly, I am talking about machines girl, machines,” he said as if that explained everything. “Don’t you see?”

“Not entirely Father,” Amelia replied, now puzzled.

“This damn girl,” he paused as if he could not say it, “Although I can barely credit it,” his face was fierce and contorted. “This girl stole a steam carriage from one of my guests.”

“I only borrowed it Sir,” the maid protested.

“You took it around the grounds without asking,” Sir George contradicted her.

“Yes Sir,” the girl agreed, and not without some spirit, Amelia thought.

“Well in my day that would be called stealing, although what the damn fool was doing brining an infernal contraption here in the first place….?” Her father was muttering to himself now.

“Why on Earth would a maid take a steam carriage?” Amelia asked.

“That brings us to the interesting part,” her father said angrily. “Tell my daughter what you told me girl.”

The maid said something into the plasterwork Amelia didn’t catch and Sir George ordered her to turn around.

“I like machines,” the girl said shyly, her eyes were downcast and she tugged at the front of her skirts to make sure they were at least in place looking forward.

She was a pretty little thing with lively blue eyes and sandy blonde hair indifferently pinned up. She was even shorter than Amelia and so slightly built that only her previously seen bottom had any the only meat on her body.

“I want to be a chauffeur, but I’m a girl and…” she didn’t meet Amelia’s eyes.

“What a chauffeur is anybody’s guess,” her father cut in.

“A professional driver Sir,” Amelia explained.

“Yes well anyway, tell Miss Amelia why you thought you could be one,” Sir George growled.

“Well Miss you did, didn’t you? I mean went to work with machines and…” she fell silent.

“I see,” Amelia grimaced as the penny dropped. “But why did you take the carriage?”

“I only borrowed it,” the girl said glumly.

“You agree then that she should be punished?” her father interrupted.

“Well yes, of course,” Amelia replied with a hint of uncertainty, although when all was said she didn’t have much sympathy for a thief and even less since the girl’s actions had rather ruined her own homecoming. “Oh…” she added thinking of something, “What is her name?”

Sir George frowned and drew his mouth into a line. “Jenny,” he ventured.

“It’s Georgina Sir, Georgina Ainsley, but everyone calls me Georgie,” she corrected him.

Sir George didn’t much care to be corrected, especially by a chit of a girl who had the audacity to be his namesake.

*

In truth Georgie knew she deserved to be punished and was only glad that so far her employer was taking the trouble for surely that meant she wasn’t to be dismissed. So it was with a resigned obedience that she bent over the back of a padded leather chair to offer her bare bottom for correction.

Amelia blushed and made a coy gesture with a hand to her throat. She remembered the posture all too well; although this was the first time she had seen it from this angle. This novelty wasn’t altogether unpleasant and she wished for a moment that there were other girl apprentices at Marley Dexter & Co for her to sharpen her voyeur skills upon.

“How many would you say Amelia?” Sir George asked his daughter as he took up the cane.

Amelia would rather have been kept out of it and she blushed. For a girl already bloomed to womanhood two dozen strokes would not seem to be too great, but Amelia knew that if she had done anything so brazen as this girl… she thought of Ebenezer and his belt. Had she taken a carriage belonging to a customer she wouldn’t expect to sit down until Lammas.

“Perhaps the birch would be more suitable for a girl,” Amelia suggested. She remembered that her governess had claimed the birch a far more fearsome rod of correction when correctly applied, but that a great girl could be made to stand dozens of lashes without harm: a fact that Miss Stanmore had ably demonstrated on more than one occasion.

“Perhaps so, as the lady of the house I leave that to you to add later if you think it needful. This girl aped the manners of a boy and will be dealt with as such,” Sir George said with a note of doom.

Amelia did not say that he had caned her often enough and she was no boy.

“Now girl, enough of counts and such, I am no machine for such work. I will thrash you to regret and then we will add some. Nothing serves a girl better than a good thrashing on a sorry hind end,” Sir George chuckled. “Now girl, attend.”

Georgie had never been caned before, her own Da had preferred his belt, so at first the opening stroke sounded like a playful skipping rope. The cut and crash arrived separately and she was distracted at first and only the second wave of sting reached her enough to react.

“Oh God Sir spare me,” she gasped.

“That’s the ticket,” Sir George said almost cheerfully.

He paused to watch the stark white line on pale flesh pinken and swell and then added a second stroke to match it an inch below the first.

“Hmmm,” Georgie blurted and blinked hard as she tensed up.

“Relax your… hum,” Sir George told her and then caned in.

Georgie screamed and bucked her bottom back in most comely way to leave Amelia breathless. This was turning into fine sport, she decided.

By now the girl too was breathing heavily and the lines across her bare bottom were deep plum-coloured and had formed into hard-looking ridges.

Six more strokes were followed by six and any hope of the maid holding her peace was surrendered as she proceeded to wail at each cut and ride a healthy flow of hiccoughing sobs in between assaults on her posterior.

“I’m sorry Sir, I’m so sorry,” she wailed.

“Still want to birch her?” Sir George asked Amelia.

“I never said…” she blurted, but now the idea had some real appeal. Not that she would.

Not listening now, “You’ll not steal again will you girl?” her father was saying to the maid.

“No Sir, never Sir,” Georgie agreed. She was shaking her head as tears rolled off her chin.

“That’s a sorry behind wouldn’t you agree Amelia?” her father asked.

Amelia nodded unable now to take her eyes from the corrugated rash of purple and red embossing Georgie’s bare bottom.

“Six more then and we will forgive her,” Sir George said brightly and lined up his arm again.

After the caning Georgina was pleased enough to thank her master and even smiled through her tears as she shook his hand. Then with no hard feelings she was permitted to take herself off below stairs to stand in the corner of the servant hall for the edification of the other servants.

“Please Sir, not with my bottom showing,” she wailed.

“Oh indeed so,” Sir George told her, “For the remainder of the afternoon. You will make up your work this Sunday if Dashwood requires it.”

“Yes Sir,” Georgie agreed ruefully.

*

Amelia thought that after watching Georgina’s punishment she and her father could talk, seriously she had hoped. But although he did indeed send for tea and ask after her living arrangements and whether she needed money, he would neither discuss her running away and its cause, nor her chosen profession. It was almost as if he was trying to pretend none of it had happened.

She had half expected, and to some extent given his indifference, have preferred it, if he had caned her too, but as it turned out the evening passed as if she had merely been staying with friends for a few days.

So it was Amelia had time to think about Georgina, and after making some discreet enquires with the ladies maid assigned to her for her stay she finally made her way up the stairs to the women servant’s quarters and found Georgina’s room.

“Georgie?” Amelia whispered after gently knocking.

It was entirely possible the girl was still downstairs in a punitive display or that if she had got to her room she would be with another girl. But instead she heard a small voice call back, “Who is it?”

Amelia eased herself into the room and allowed the door to close behind her.

Georgie was lying face down on her bed with the bedclothes turned down to her thighs and her nightdress folded up into the small of her back. The effect was to allow her pert bare bottom to peek up in the gap left so as to get some cooling air.

Amelia could see that the vigorous and many angry welts had not abated, although it was clear that some attempt had been made to sooth the sting with goose grease or perhaps butter.

“That looks sore,” Amelia said in a tone of awe.

“Miss Amelia,” Georgie gasped, “Wh-why why are you here?”

It suddenly occurred to Amelia that the maid may think that she had come to give her a birching. Amelia held up her hands and made a placating gesture.

“My father certainly knows how to cane a girl doesn’t he? I can attest to that,” Amelia said through wincing teeth.

Georgina frowned and made to get up.

“No stay there,” Amelia said and gently sat down on the bed for a closer look at the maid’s bottom.

“I am sorry to cause so much trouble and on your homecoming too,” the girl said with genuine regret. “Don’t worry about me, you were right, I really did deserve to be punished.”

“I can’t argue with that,” Amelia agreed and offered a sympathetic smile, “All over your love of machines. Do you really want to be a chauffeur?”

“Oh yes,” Georgina said eagerly, but then she moved and made a grimace.

“Would you be willing to… work like a boy, work your way up I mean?” Amelia asked.

Georgina sensed something and opened her mouth as if to swallow the world, but then closed it again.

“I can’t promise anything, but my employer Dr Ebenezer Marley is a good man and he prizes enthusiasm over social convention. If I put a word for you…?” Amelia said carefully.

“Anything is better than this life,” Georgina gushed, casting a nod back over her shoulder at her welted behind.

Amelia followed her gaze and drew her mouth into a pensive line. “Welllll,” she drawled, “Apprentices, especially uppity girl apprentices, tend to get their bare bottoms blistered rather more often than kitchen maids even.”

“What even you?” Georgina gushed, there was a hint of gleeful awe in her eyes.

“Especially me,” Amelia confided, “Which brings me to a sore point.”

Georgina frowned. “You loved seeing me get it didn’t you?”

Amelia averted her eyes and blushed.

“It’s alright Miss Amelia, I don’t mind, you can watch me getting spanked anytime if you put a word in for me with Dr Marley,” the maid confided, “Miss Amelia, you are a bit of a heroine of mine.”

*

Georgie felt strangely liberated standing her worsted breeches. They were drawn tight under a feminine high-waisted jacket, so there was no doubt that she was a girl, even under the neat brand new bowler hat. As Marley Dexter & Co newest apprentice she was the lowest of the low, but she didn’t care. The hours were better, the money was no worse and although she mainly had to work with a broom in her hand she was around machines. When the time came she would get a chance to handle some or even drive.

Amelia stood back admiring her new friend and colleague, wondering if she too should opt for trousers instead of a skirt. But she was afraid that under her own bowler hat or with the goggles on some may take her for a boy as they did before.

As it was there was no mistaking that Marley Dexter & Co’s newest apprentices were both women.

“Hello Georgie,” Amelia said at last, announcing herself.

“Miss Amelia,” Georgie squealed in her best gushing cockney accent as she bounded over.

“I think you should just call me Amelia from now on,” Amelia said in contrasting cut-glass tones.

“That might take some doing Miss,” Georgie said reluctantly.

“How are you getting on?” Amelia said as she slid her hands into her skirt pockets.

“I have to put sand down for the oil spills and then mop them up,” Georgie shrugged.

“Any assaults on your bottom yet?” Amelia asked with a smirk.

Georgina blushed. “Mr Vance threatened to tan my arse for me yesterday, but so far my bottom is assault and blister free,” she winked, “You’ll be the first to know if that changes, I promise.”

Amelia giggled.

“Why are you here anyway, I thought you had to run an errand in Rotherhithe?” Georgina said.

“Does everyone remember that but me?” Amelia wailed, “I forgot,” she made a face. “That’s why I am here rather.”

Georgina rolled her eyes and looked around. Then she noticed her friend was blushing and guarding her rear with her hands.

“You’re here to see Mr Vance?” Georgina gaped and then hid a smile with her hand.

“Not exactly,” Amelia made a face, “Dr Marley said he would be kind enough to deal with me himself.”

“Oh poor you,” Georgina said sympathetically.

Amelia shrugged.

“Hey, new girl, get on with your work,” Mr Vance yelled and with a mock panicked face Georgina scooted away with a wave.

*

With much nervous lip chewing and a tremendous effort Amelia raised her small fist to knock on the door of her employer’s office. The unyielding thud on the wood was a head masterly ‘death knell’ that any student dreaded. Well I am here to be trained, she told herself as she waited for the call. It wasn’t a long wait, however much it may have seemed.

“Come in,” the heavy steel slick voice tolled from inside.

Her master stood framed by the bright light from the window, one hand hooked in his belt while the other fumbled for his pocket watch.

Dr Ebenezer Marley was a well-built man magnificently clad in a full-length leather wing-button coat and even indoors he wore a dark brown coachman hat. Today he wore his elaborate clock-faced goggles off his face so that they sat in the rim of his hat.

“You were supposed to go to Rotherhithe.” The words were unyielding like iron and accused her with their truth.

Amelia flushed and fiddled with her hands as she stood downcast and unanswering.

“Well?” Ebenezer barked.

She jumped and looked up, a million words competing at her lips to mitigate her mistake. “I… I forgot,” she said at last.

Ebenezer frowned. It was a small mistake this time, but what about next? He had to understand.

“I was so excited to see how Georgie was getting on that I… I forgot.” She shrugged.

Ebenezer relaxed. Now he understood. Misplaced enthusiasm he could tolerate. “I see,” he said grumpily, “Well I am going to see to it that you don’t forget.”

“Yes Sir,” Amelia said bashfully. She knew what was coming or thought she did.

“Adjust your dress and bend face down across the desk,” he instructed. His hands moved to unbuckle his wide leather belt.

Amelia gulped and ducked her head. Her skirt had a deep slit in it that was hidden by a wraparound affair. Buttons were fitted to the hip so that it was possible raise the hem to various degrees to secure them off her legs. There were many practical work applications for this provision; today she chose the highest which after tucking up her sole petticoat left the seat of her bloomers exposed. It was shameful to stand so before a man and worse that this last veil too had to be untethered so that her cotton wear fell in a puddle at her ankles.

Now with her ample bare bottom peeking from below her adjusted attire she shuffled forward until she faced the desk and then bent over it to proffer it for correction.

“When I have dealt with you here you will go across the hall to the stockroom just as you are now arranged. You will stand nose to the wall that immediately faces the door with your hands upon your head and you will not move until I send someone to release you for your luncheon. Is that understood?” Ebenezer instructed her with the precision he deployed in engineering projects.

“The stockroom Sir?” she wailed, looking back over her shoulder at him in some distress. “But the lads will go in and out of there all morning for machine parts and tools.”

“Indubitably, no doubt it will be a very memorably morning both you and them,” Ebenezer said imperiously. “I don’t suppose you will forget that.”

“No Sir,” Amelia said miserably.

She was still pondering this woe when the belt fell with a crack across both bottom cheeks and she squealed girlishly. The leather sang in her flesh for a moment or two before she felt another searing across her seat.

Under her father’s hand she would have clung to some pride for a dozen strokes or so, but she was no longer a lady and deserved no such luxury. She was a naughty apprentice who had failed a simple task. Besides, she had to set an example to Georgie. Embracing the pain, Amelia shrieked.

There were a great many blows, too many to count and within half a span of her punishment her bottom had been stoked up to an industrial heat.

“Ahhh,” she yelped, tears now copious as they dripped down her lemon-sour face.

Ebenezer’s belt was as relentless as a hammer at a forge and Amelia clawed the desk and wailed as she wept.

Finally he was done and after half a minute he invited her to stand.

“Let that be a lesson to you,” he growled, his anger now mollified.

“Yes Sir,” she sniffed as she endeavoured not to dance around the room.

As her governess had taught her she offered him her hand to shake, a curious custom he always felt, but he obliged her anyway.

“You know where to go,” he said.

Amelia almost started bawling again as she remembered his instruction, but she saw his point. There was method in her abject humiliation. She would have kicked herself for her childish failure if her master hadn’t just done that for her; right where it would do her the most good.

“Yes Sir,” she said as she painfully turned and still hobbled by her bloomers tottered to the door.

Halfway there she stooped to remove them altogether and then with her shame in her hand she limped miserably out into the corridor and quickly secreted herself in the stockroom. Maybe no one would come in, she thought with a desperate hope as she shuffled up to face the wall and placed her hands on her head. But already she could hear the sound of hobnails on the hall tiles and the approach of a whistling apprentice boy.

“Oh God,” she wailed, fresh tears leaking on to her hot red cheeks, while a lower set still burned redder like furnace coals.



4 Responses to “Iron and Leather”

  1. 1 MickB

    I was delighted to see a return of this character – it’d be great if it became an ongoing series. Love the Victorian/Steampunk setting and atmosphere. Thanks as always for all your efforts.

  2. 2 Ripley

    Very nice. I like this series. Thanks!

  3. 4 Svetlana

    This was delightful.


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