The birch is a wood that absorbs and holds water. Accordingly, the rods that I ‘put up’ each afternoon were left to steep in long shallow glass trays, on a sideboard in the library. The solution was a concoction of my tutor’s, very vinegary, and it toughened the twigs, in particular their buds, considerably. These thin limbs imparted an inconceivable sting, each one, and my birching rod was generally of five. He never allowed more than seven, since they then tended to swing together and dull the individual agony. The stone-hard buds, with which each had to be furnished at the tip, struck into my fat posteriors like fury, yet a good birch did not bruise, though it cut and flecked and grazed the skin intolerably. Perhaps it was a surface smart, unlike the cane, and I suspect it died down more rapidly than the latter. Even so, a protracted count would soon be hellish, and any more than a dozen calculated to have the most hardened girlish sinner howling. For this was an implement with which you could ‘go’ many, since it did not stun and dull.
The afternoon of the first Thursday I had ‘put up’ my rods, some five of them, I recall, under the watchful eye of my tutor, who took me to the woods where I showed him each thin limb I cut for his approval, and he would hiss it through the aching air, and nod, and say, ‘Good, but get them longer if you can. More swing, and lash.’ Or, ‘If you cut me another without buds like this, girl, you’ll feel it round your legs.’ And I bound them at the grasping end with stout twine, and laid them in the trays so that all the sap should flow to the tips. By a further knowledgeable refinement, the two or three bound rods to be used of an evening would be set to steep in buckets of boiling brine, some hour before application, beside the block, in a further toughening procedure. All in all, in Lady B. Mildmount’s phrase of it, the birch had ‘great charm’, and she liked to drop by of a festive Friday evening, when my bill was settled after dinner. The ceremony attendant on these occasions was trying in the extreme, and calculated to be so.
I would come down in my brief chemise and stand outside the door of the library, situate at the far end of the mansion to the schoolroom. There I would shudder a half hour or more till the company, having had a sufficiency of port and nuts to please themselves, would come along to carry out my chastisement. They would enter past me, Lord Usher carrying the black Demerit Book, Lady Julia often with a playful pat under my behind, and Pelham invariably without a word. The shut door would again accuse my eyes, while the seconds turned into great pangs of dread. My imagination would run amok. I would see the block, the bent girl, the panther’s claws streaking across her base.
‘Come in.’ Mrs. Wilson it was who always opened that door. The first and almost the only thing I could see in that long, stately chamber was the block, and the birch rods beside it, at the far end, on a small bare dais. For me they were all the furniture it contained. Lord and Lady Usher and my tutor would have taken up comfortable poses in low chairs in front of that dais, to which my trembling steps now took me, accompanied by the tartary housekeeper. Good positions to watch the correction of a sinful girlchild. Once facing them on the dais I would see Lord Usher open the Punishment Book. He would read out my fault, together with its date, and occasioning.
‘Commission of Insubordination’, he would conclude. ‘Have you anything to say?’
‘Do you wish to make appeal?’
‘No sir.’ I did not in fact know quite what this constituted, but had been assured that a ‘failed’ appeal carried an aggravation of the dose. So never tried it.
‘Six strokes of the birch against the naked buttocks’, he would continue easily. ‘Tardiness, late for. . . .’ Etcetera.
Finally, there would be a long and, to my modest mind, unnecessary lecture on my errors – ‘I am sorry to see you in the bill so soon, Milena, but I am certain you will already agree that the most efficacious method of extirpating mistakes is to make one dread their consequence. Which we shall regretfully proceed to do. These fourteen stripes will sit in your memory next week, and perhaps help you to avoid their repetition by error.
‘Pelham’, he would say, with a foolish grin, ‘do we have anyone here to birch a girl?’
‘I think so’, would come the reply.
‘Present!’, said Lord Usher to me. And I had to draw a rod from its bucket and ‘present’ it with a curtsy to the tutor, saying, ‘I humbly request correction, sir, for my great faults of Insubordination and twice Tardiness.’
Then I would stand before the block until he had doffed his jacket and rolled up his sleeves sufficiently, and pronounced the gruff order, ‘Go over!’ – at which I would lift my chemise to bare my buttocks and Mrs. Wilson would delightedly secure me.
It was a beastly position. The birching block which Mr.Pelham had so thoughtfully brought with him that first day was properly black, but otherwise it generally ceased to resemble the Eton version, famous in fact and legend. It was bolted to the floor in some manner and I set my knees on its sawdusty ledge and bent right over.
The thighs were held vertical, and strapped above the knees (slightly parted) to the back – or was it the front? – of the horror. The upper body then found itself lying fully forward, the shoulders veritably on a level with the knees, so strongly did the forward (or backward) slope yield down. There was a belt at the waist, forcing one over, two slender but effective straps that went under the armpits, while the arms themselves were strapped at elbow and wrist either side the base – so that one had the paradoxical sensation of being compelled to embrace this cruel and tormenting lover. Needless to remark, all modesty must perforce be lost to the sufferer, who found herself fully on view. The twin hemispheres of my bottom were nicely separated and set up for their whip, my prominent anus was rudely presented and my sex pouched back.
Already the longest birch had been picked out, dripping, Having been replaced there after its ‘presentation.’ Recognizable were the limber limbs one had culled the day before, and seen slashed leather-hard into a tree-trunk for testing and checking. Already the tutor was drawing back, and instinctively I was drawing in, and turning back a trembling face, and …
‘One’ – from Mrs. Wilson, counting. (‘OH!’)
‘Oh no, sir … please … it’s … no, not …
I could get to six or seven of these stinging lashes, but then it was all a steady agony of sin, of ‘Hou!’ and ‘Auee!’ tears and snot, tattooing toes and tensing cheeks. So firmly, indeed, did my poor feet beat on the floor of that dais, after a dozen it was considered wise to place a cushion under them there, whilst any turning off of my right side only rounded it for the rod. However, the very worst of all was when the tutor, at Lady Mildmount’s thoughtful advice, ‘whipped in’, the tips finishing between the cheeks of my posteriors. I sang most lustily then, the pain repeated on the toilet next morning.
That man made me pay every second of each count, until I was ‘taken down’, in tears and gasping, grasping my chubbies, grazed and ruddy, for he always ‘drew’ by a dozen or less. And still I had to thank him on bended knee, after. For each of us it is different, and to me the birch was the most ‘profound’ of my punishments. Even when all pain, or most, was strictly over, it left me shuddering and trembling like a leaf with sheer emotion in front of my mirror, terrified at my terror. These would be the times Lady Julia would burst impetuously in, her stride outlining her thighs against the robin’s-egg velvet of her gown, her high-heeled slippers clicking, while her own piled hair, combined with the false, seemed almost as tall as her bust was broad.
‘Poor Milena and no one to comfort her. Diddums. Shall Auntie make it better?’ Alas, it was one of her ‘comfortings’ later that cost me one of my smartest ‘swishings’ of that winter. For the birch-rod was not merely reserved for Fridays. It could be called for at need, and was. I was even ‘given’ the tormenting decision between nine with the cane and fifteen with the birch. I chose the cane.
A Milena caning fantasy is here.