A full afternoon’s work. Six buckets of water. Six haynets. Presently six feed buckets. A whole afternoon with broom and shovel and straw bales. The stable was a long building with a corridor from which opened eight large square stalls. Six of them contained horses, one was full of saddlery and the last was stacked with hay and straw. At the other end of each stall, a half door allowed the horse to look out over the field.
“Who’s in there? Show yourself!”
I hastened to the door. I knew the voice, and I had experience of the likely consequences of delay.
“Me, my lord. Will. What’s your pleasure?”
“Do I know you?”
“I’m your lordship’s ostler.”
“Oh. The stable boy. Why is this place so filthy?”
“It’s the rain, my lord. I need to have the horses dry and warm, and then I can clear the mud.”
“You haven’t bedded the horses yet? What have you been doing all day? No, don’t tell me. Wasting time in gossip and idleness, I don’t doubt.”
“No, my lord!” I was stung. “I’ve been at my work all day!”
Mistake, mistake. Never contradict his lordship. He hadn’t really been paying attention before, but now he was looking closely at me.
“Do you know who I am?”
“Yes, my lord Alexander.”
“If you’ve been at your work all day, you must be grossly inefficient. Only six horses in your care, and you haven’t dealt with them? What about the harness?”
“The harness, my lord?”
“The harness, the harness. You know what harness is, don’t you?”
“Yes, my lord.”
“So have you cleaned it today?”
“No, my lord, not yet, I’ve not had time for it yet.”
“Come. Come here. Let us look at the work. Will, you said your name was Will. Is the stable cleaned of old straw and muck?”
“Yes, my lord.” For that I was thankful. I had paid once before for stalls not cleared.
“And have all the horses had exercise?”
“Four were taken out this morning, my lord, and the lady who rides the grey mare sent a message that she would not ride today but she will come tomorrow. She asked that the mare be allowed to rest today. The horse is old, my lord. I walked her for half an hour so that she might not stiffen. And I rode the roan gelding myself.”
“Are they fed?”
“The feed is prepared, my lord and when I have hung the nets and brought the water, I shall feed them all.”
“Have you groomed them?”
“Yes, my lord.”
“I will inspect them.”
I bit back a curse. He would find fault. The lord Alexander always found fault. He was not to be pleased; I had reason to know it. He always asked who I was, and I had no doubt that he remembered me perfectly well, but it pleased him to have me abase myself and announce myself his servitor.
“We shall start with the chestnut.”
“As your lordship pleases.”
He struck at me with eye-watering speed, and caught my collar, twisting the leather to bring me to my knees in front of him.
“Yes, as I please. Remember it. I have the power to make you very unhappy. Remember that too.”
He dropped his hand and I fell backwards.
“Open the door.”
I climbed to my feet, and opened the door. The chestnut horse peered at us curiously. His lordship smoothed a hand over a glossy flank, stroked the nudging nose. “Have you cleaned his feet?”
“Yes, my lord. He’ll want shoeing again within a month.”
“The bay gelding.”
I followed him from the stall, closing it carefully, and opened the next. The bay gelding wasn’t interested in us, but continued to nose in an empty trough. “The horse is hungry.”
“My lord, the horse is greedy. He would eat his allowance twice over.”
“You are selling the feedstuff, I have no doubt.”
“No, my lord! I steal nothing! I am honest, I swear.”
“Best for you if you are. Do you know what I do to a thief? Do you, Will?”
He swung the wicked black whip as he spoke, and I swallowed. “Yes, my lord.”
“I whip, Will. I whip.”
I looked down.
“The bay mare.”
The mare was a pet and came to him for titbits.
“There are knots in her mane, and her face is dirty.”
“My lord, she has been leaning over the door. She has had her face in the rain!”
He swung the whip again, and barely missed me. “You skimp your work!”
I had more sense than to deny anything. He was determined to find fault, and anything I said would make matters worse. I would be whipped before the afternoon was over, that was plain to see.
“The grey mare.”
She was old and uninterested. She looked round, but didn’t move.
She came bouncing across the stall to see who we were. He ran a hand down her legs, lifted her feet, looked in her ears.
“Be careful, my lord. The horse’s temper is uncertain.”
“Do you tell me my own business? If you have spoiled his temper, I shall spoil yours.”
I sighed. There was nothing to say. The horse tried to nip him, and swung round to stand on his foot. He was too quick, and slammed the door on the pointed face.
“They are mostly fairly clean, but I cannot commend your attention to the work.”
“I beg your lordship’s pardon. I do my best.”
“Your best is poor. You are slow, inattentive, lazy.”
“My lord, I am not! I care for the horses better than anyone!”
That was a mistake too. His eyes narrowed. “Do you contradict me?”
I saw the trap too late. There is no satisfactory answer to that question.
“Do you belong to me, Will?”
“Yes, my lord.” Sullenly.
“That collar you wear shows that I bought you, that I own you, that you obey me, does it not? You wear the collar because I paid for you, and you will wear it until I see fit to take it off. You do what I say, Will, is that not so?”
“And I do with you what I like, do I not?”
“Yes, my lord.”
“I find you impertinent as well as lazy. I am inclined to teach you your manners and your duty.”
“Please, my lord, I’m sorry. I meant no disrespect.”
“No? I take leave to doubt it. But you will learn better. And at once, I think. What is here at the end of the stable? Straw bales in an unused stall. Very suitable. Strip, Will. You may keep your boots.”
There was little enough to remove: I had no shirt, and I was not foolish enough to try to remove the leather collar. I pulled my boots back on and faced the man.
“Fetch me a stirrup leather.”
I brought it from the tack room and gave it into his hand, avoiding his eye.
He looped the leather round my wrists, and pushed me to the corner, where he threw the strap over a beam and then twisted it through the ring for the hay net, pulling my arms high above my head. The loop caught on a hook in the wall, and I was effectively helpless, naked and stretched. He ran the whip down my body, over flank and thigh, and I shuddered.
“Ah. Less impudent already. We have been here before, I do believe. I can see the marks of another punishment. Have I used my switch on you before, Will?”
“Yes, my lord,” I said, through gritted teeth. It was true. The marks of a previous encounter were mostly but not totally faded.
“Then I must try to find a punishment that has a greater effect, I think. Let me consider.”
He swung the crop, and lashed me hard, diagonally across my right buttock. I hissed and twisted with pain.
“You will have stripes tonight, but then you have had stripes before.”
A second striking pain, on the other side. I yelped.
“I think that perhaps we would have greater success by attacking your excessive self esteem.”
The third stroke sang in the air and cracked across my backside. I squealed.
There was a moment’s silence, and I flinched in the expectation of another blow. It didn’t come. Instead, he unhooked the stirrup leather, and let me drop my arms. He did not untie my wrists, but drew me across the stall behind him. Then he sat down on a haybale, and smiled at me. His smile was more frightening than his scowl.
“Now, Master Will, you will place yourself face down across my lap, and I will treat you as I would treat any other disobedient youth.”
“My lord? I don’t understand.”
“Are you stupid, Will? I intend to spank you for your insolence and idleness. Come. Across my lap.”
How undignified. How humiliating. How inevitable. I knelt, and leaned across him. He pulled on the leather and stretched me out to his satisfaction. My head was pushed lower, and my backside rose accordingly. I was powerless, trapped, completely under his control. He intended to hurt me. I knew it.
He brought a hard hand, calloused from reins and work, down on my quivering bottom. It stung. He gave me another, on the other side. Then he began to spank me steadily, evenly, and to speak as he did it.
“You may not - believe it, Will, - but I too, - in my time, - have been punished – in this fashion. - I was taught – my duty – and respect – for my elders – by another – who had – a hard hand – which he applied – to my posterior. – I am well aware – of the tenderness – which can be – induced so.”
Somehow this was not a comfort. My bottom was burning, and my hips were beginning to flex involuntarily.
“It is something – which I feel – to be of great – value – in the training – of a young man. – The warmth – so engendered – can be made – to last – for some time. – Stand up.”
I struggled hopefully to my feet. The punishment had been painful, but not excessive. I had expected worse.
“Go and fetch me a bucket of water.”
“At once, my lord.” A bucket of water? What on earth for?
“Leave your clothing. I didn’t say you could have it.”
“I’m sorry, my lord. The water.”
I fetched a bucket, clumsily since my wrists were still bound. Lord Alexander dipped his hand in it, presumably to cool his palm.
“Now, back down with you. Quickly.”
My heart sank, but I replaced myself across his lap. His wet hand passed over my buttocks. The coldness was pleasant, and I gave myself up to it. The blow was therefore all the more surprising. It hurt, and I squealed again.
“The one – who used to have – the disciplining – of me – taught me” (another splash, another cool comfort of water) “that – a spanked bottom – hurts – a great deal more – when the – skin is – wet.”
I could confirm that. A great deal more. I was yelping and wriggling across his knee almost at once. Five or six times he cooled my flesh from the bucket and then spanked me dry, and by the third time he had to put his foot on the stirrup leather to keep my arms forward, and to lean his weight against my waist to keep me still. I was bucking violently, and giving tongue freely, and I was distracted with pain when he ceased.
“Did you enjoy that, Will?”
“No, my lord. No. I’m sorry.”
“Kiss my hand. Now, thank me for your punishment.”
My voice was thick. “Thank you, my lord. Thank you for punishing me.”
“On your knees. I intend to take my pleasure of you, Will. Keep still.”
The grip on my collar did indeed keep me still, although I was so shaken and hurt that I would, I think, have obeyed him anyway. The masterful hand ran down my back, explored briefly, slid an enquiring finger within and made me gasp.
“Lean over the haybale. Now.”
The finger was withdrawn, and hands clamped on my upper arms. I leaned forward, gave him access, cried out as he penetrated me, and submitted, willingly enough, to the fucking that followed. He let go of one of my arms, and his hand came round beneath us both to rub and stroke, and I whined, flung back my head and felt myself tighten on him. We both gasped, panted and cried out together, with the pleasure of it.
He knelt behind me, recovering, with his cheek on my back. My wrists were still tied, and the hay beneath me scratched my chest. I could feel his heartbeat.
“What does the red disc on the collar signify?” he asked lazily.
“That I bought a new dog licence on Monday.”
“Oh, well done. I forgot all about it. Here, give me your hands. Your fingers have gone white, the strap’s too tight. Where’s the rightful owner of the collar?”
“She took one look at the rain and went back to her kennel. She didn’t seem to mind giving up the collar, but I think if you like it, we should get me one all of my own. This one smells horribly of wet dog. Where did you learn the trick with the water?”
“Internet, where else? Was three with the crop enough?”
“If it’s my turn to exercise five horses tomorrow, three’s enough, thanks. I’d always rather you underdid things than overdid them. If I want more I can always offer you another insolence, after all.”
“Mm. I’m always afraid of giving you more than you want.”
“Well, that’s why we have a safe word, isn’t it? That was great. I never thought of the haynet hook being useful. You’re much better than I am at converting fantasy into something workable. Lord Alexander scares me half to death, but he’s a terrific turn on. Mind you, that line about ‘taking your pleasure of me’ sounded a bit costume drama. And I could hear that I was putting in too many ‘my lords’. Still, for somebody who had never done anything like this before, you aren’t half good!”
“I’m always happy to oblige, you know that. Here, put some clothes on before you freeze. Can you find me a tissue? I’m all sticky and there’s a dead condom here. Can’t leave it in the hay for the horses. Mrs Armitage wouldn’t know what to think when she came to see the mare.”
“Don’t you believe it. Mrs Armitage may be the wrong side of sixty, but she has all her marbles, and she knows perfectly well that we aren’t just business partners. Mrs Armitage refers to ‘the nice boys at the livery stables’ and is always very careful to knock and call out when she gets here, rather than just barrelling in to her horse. Are you always happy to oblige? You really don’t mind doing this? You know that if you don’t want to, we needn’t. I like it, but it isn’t necessary.”
“I’m getting to enjoy it more, and I like to make you happy. You just need to tell me any bits that don’t work for you. You’ve got a huge bruise on your arm! Did I do that? I’m so sorry!”
“What? You’ve just given me three purple stripes that I’ll have for a week, and a scarlet backside that’s throbbing still, and you’re worried about a bruised arm? Anyway, it wasn’t you. That sodding roan of Capel’s bit me this morning. Capel ought to sell him and get something with a better temper. Or we ought to bill him danger money. Oh, and the feed bill has come in and it’s huge, and the vet’s bill isn’t anything very special, and the accountant’s coming tomorrow, so let’s be happy today, yes? Love you. . .”
“Just wait. I’ve got some ideas for next time about Cowboy William and Trail Boss Alex. We can take the horses up to the moor, and I’ll show you. Or if the weather improves, I think I see Lawrence of Arabia on the sandy bit at the river.”
“Outside? Isn’t that a bit risky?”
“Who mentioned outside? Wait and see.”
“Alex! Don’t be mean! Tell me!”
“If you nag, I’ll spank you again. Wait and see!”
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