I behaved following my correction at the Doctor’s hands. Truly, I did. I no longer snuck out to the mill or the copse for my clandestine indulgences in reading and writing. After my punishment, I made every effort to content myself with sitting respectably indoors and reading by candle-light. I even domesticated my habits enough to read aloud to the other maidservants from the collected works of Dickens. The poetesses who stirred me so, Rossetti and Barrett Browning, I did not dare draw from their covers. I simply read the most accepted tales as they were writ. This is how we read, like good girls.
To temper my irrepressible voice further, I learned to save my own whispered fantasies for my moonlit bed. I found it helpful to write on the cusp of sleep, so that I could place the pages under my pillow and half-direct my dreams as I slipped into them toward things pure and free. Muffled up in the servants’ chambers, I travelled in fancy to snow-capped peaks and felt the bracing mountain air on my face. In spirit I roved across all the face of Creation. But in body, I behaved. They were my dreams, held fast in my breast to nourish my soul and do harm to no one else’s.
Still, if I could not go outside, I reasoned, that was no cause to deny myself a draught now and then of the fresh air I desired. One clear night in November, I opened the high window above my pallet a fingers-width, so that I might have sips of night air and imagine them to be the keen winds chilled by passage across the sublime “Mer de Glace.” My heart beat fast in revelry as I raced across Alpine peaks, stronger and swifter than ever I was in life. Hectic high colour flared in my cheeks. I did not realize it was fever until the next morning, when the tender dawn broke and my exhilaration did not.
“Hannah has got fever, ma’am,” I heard Polly’s nasal whine announce to the housekeeper. “Shall I send for the doctor?”
“Oh, the wretched thing. Let her burn it off.”
And burn I did. Fever should be a miserable thing. But I, always prone to vapours and fancies, was plunged into such wild visions as are found in the works of the English Opium Eater (which, I would add, I only read upon hearing the author was an eminent scholar of Greek, and hoped to find some instruction therein, but found instead only grotesques and caprice.) I clutched my body tight, hoping to hold it to earth and prevent it from slipping away into vast impossible halls. The maids shook their heads and muttered at the way I touched myself. I could not stop. I shook, and stroked, and moaned in my sleep until the others could take no more.
By the time the Doctor came for me, I was like a crystal of ice turned lacy by the spring sun. I felt entirely transparent and knew at once that he saw through me as I lay, pale and thin, with my red hair plastered to flushed cheeks. His coal-dark eyes fell on my tangled bed-cloathes, my nightshift open wide at the throat, and his mouth twisted at the disarray.
“Put these in order,” he commanded the housekeeper. Then, at once–and before she could call in high dudgeon upon Polly–he amended: “No, they may serve us in one respect. Pray leave me, madam, to tend to her myself.”
The door gave a muted click behind her, which to me was like the clanging of an immense wrought-iron gate. I half raised myself, as if to seize the cold arabesques of that sound, to thread myself bodily through them to open air. But its living finery warped, enmeshed itself tighter, and closed inescapably behind the figure who stood over me. His hands, reaching for me, pulled me back, back into his grasp.
“Not you,” I protested weakly, and twisted to hide my face in the coverlets. I could smell on him already the faint scent of metal and spice.
“I, indeed. What have you been doing, to get into this state?”
The words flowed from me broken and unstoppable at his command.
“The window–the night–such ecstasy, I–”
“Ecstasy, Hannah? Out the widow at night?”
“No, you twist my meaning askew, you always–”
At that my mouth was stopped. His brutal hand was across it, forcing something bitter against my tongue. He held my mouth closed and tilted my head up, stroking my throat until I swallowed.
“A Chinese remedy. A tincture of ginseng and laudanum. With a few of my own, shall we say, ‘supplements.’ This will work on your brain, to bring down the fever. As for the rest of your body, well, it seems you have forgotten your instruction.”
“No, never, the memory burns in me yet!”
“I would imagine so. You seek the cold, to chill your passion. But you end as always in heat. Like the animal you are.”
At this point, I was beginning to feel queer. Lightheaded, and yet pricked through the muscles of my thighs and belly with an energy like the sparks that shoot off dry spun wool. I thought of the bitter medicine he had fed me, and wondered what was in it. The sensation grew until I was so distracted that I could barely speak, and made a wordless noise that sounded even to my ears like a whine. The Doctor laughed, an enormous raven’s stony chuckle.
“You’ll have cause to whimper soon enough,” he said.
And then, he reached into his bag and brought out a long, pale ginger-root.
“You remember this, no doubt. I believed the last application had cured you. Of course, I should have known that every trained animal needs the lesson three times. Whipped once is punishment. Whipped twice is warning. Whipped thrice is education.”
He paused, leaned in close to me.
“Consider this your warning.”
He opened the high window above my bed then, and let the cool night breeze play on my damp linens. He kept it open as he peeled the linens from my shivering skin, trailing his hand along my breasts, my flanks. Once I was completely bare, he used the linens to bind my wrists and ankles to the posts of my sickbed. I could see the moon out the window, haloed with the promise of coming rain, and his fingers were the icy rivulets that ran along me like a premonition. My burning body spasmed under his touch, my skin taut and super-sensitive with fever–if only fever it was. He stroked my throat and breast again, harder, watching me squirm until my breath began to catch. Abruptly, he stopped and bent to fetch something from his bag. He dipped away, then returned, his piercing gaze back on me.
To this day I can still see the infernal smile he gave as he opened my clenched thighs. First, he ran a wet, perfumed kerchief between them to clear away the funk of days of bedrest. I shuddered at the sensation of the slick, filmy fabric touching my most private areas, and his long fingers beneath slipping into my folds. But it was another odour that struck deeper into me a pang of sharp anticipation. Mixed with the musky perfume on his cloth came once again the scent that haunted my dreams: ginger. Ginger and leather and iron. I closed my eyes, so that I would not see what he did to me. But I was not struck with his crop, not this time. Instead, I felt something very strange indeed.
The sensation was not the forceful thrust I expected, but a lighter scraping along my thighs, as of something smooth yet rough-edged encircling them. I let my eyes flicker open to see a sort of triple-looped length of harness-leather pulled up around and between my legs. At its base something flashed wet and white. I do not know how he mounted it. I only knew, an instant later, when he lifted my hips and gave a great pull, that he had combined the two implements of my previous appointment into one new instrument of torment.
It was a harness worked to fit about my hips and waist, with a shaft of curved, carved ginger attached at the base –a thing made to bind and penetrate me at once. The Doctor manipulated the tip of the root, moving it up and down, stroking my sex just inside as he sought the ideal position to push it fully in. I whimpered again and fought my bonds, but he placed his hand on my throat, threatening to squeeze, until I stilled my burst of mingled distress and (yes, I must admit it) arousal. Having found the proper position, he reached to my waist. In one merciless gesture he pulled the harness up again as hard as he could and buckled it tight at the highest notch.
I yelped as the shaft thrust into me, deep and swift. The burning began to build, from a cool tingling to a fire, and his hands were not even on me yet. It was my own body’s uncontrollable spasms that drove the shaft into me over and over again.
“Oh, it’s, it feels so–no, take it out!” I cried. “I can’t stand it!” He looked at me with a mildly vexed expression, and replied,
“We mustn’t disturb your good housekeeper, now. Hush.”
And with that, he took the perfumed silk kerchief from the bedside and forced it into my mouth, tying it behind my head. The texture was slick on my tongue, and the tastes unbearably rich: thick, heady ambrosia, and under that something else, something indescribable, yet so familiar.
“Do you like it?” He asked caustically. “I have read that in scientific experiments, animals may come to link sounds, scents, and tastes with sensations. Taste your own perversity, Hannah, and remember this pain. I shall see you once more. At the very least.”
I heard him cross the room. His hand rattling the door-knob. I bucked in panic, certain that he would walk out of the room and leave me forever in this excruciating state. In fact, I believe he did leave me, but whether it was for minutes or hours I cannot say, as time seemed to vanish, burnt away in the fire that blazed bright as a thousand suns between my legs. I opened and closed myself, trying to escape the root. My orifice gasped like a fish straining for water and several times I came tantalizingly near to cresting and drowning out the burning myself, only to fall away again into the even, unceasing heat. I began to keen, through the handkerchief, and my back arched until I was as curved as the tip-top of the halo that was now all I could see of the moon.
Only then, when I was driven to absolute distraction, did the Doctor re-enter the room and cross to my bedside. Tsking, he took out some object he had wrapt in his pocket.
“This household is a wonder of modern management,” he remarked. “The first frost is just upon us, but already your resourceful housekeeper has managed to begin stocking the ice-box.”
And at that, he pressed something searingly cold against my swollen flesh. Ice. A mirror-sharp sliver of ice. It sliced into me like a blade, and I screamed into the silken gag until my voice gave out. The root deep inside me burned with heat and the delicate, folded tissues above burned with cold, so that both sensations seemed to waver and switch, confusing my senses until all I could feel was pure intensity. I was still arched so high that it was quite easy for the Doctor to loop one arm around my back, to grip my body tight as his other hand ground the ice against my sex until it melted away and his fingers met my slippery tissues. Met, and grasped. And twisted. He pressed and manipulated me, in all my sensitivity, until finally that overwhelming height of elation took me, suspended me weightless for a long, ecstatic moment, then dropped me crashing down, body, mind, fevered soul and all, into the bed, against his arms.
My fever broke within twelve hours. My spirits took rather longer to heal. But now that I am sound again, I am determined not to shew weakness. I will not need a third lesson.
Still, I have no doubt that he will find the chance to teach me.
– The End –