When the mid-day post arrived, a letter from my cousin Allister was included with the other items that dropped through the mail slot in front door. When I stood at the console table sorting the mail, I noticed that more and more of the stamps on the letters bore the visage of the young queen who had ascended the throne after King George's untimely death. Once everything was spread out on the table, I decided that my cousin's letter deserved attention first. Allister was currently living in London, and although Edinburgh was not such a bad place, I always enjoyed receiving news from the city I missed so much.
I went into the study, and once I slit open the envelope containing Allister's letter, I found a short handwritten note and a longer typewritten document of some sort. The note read as follows:
I hope this letter finds you happy and healthy. Things in London are going quite well for me at the present time. For so many years after the War, the City seemed shabby, but I think things have finally turned a corner.
I don't have much news to share, but I've made an interesting find, and based upon certain of your proclivities, I knew that I must share it with you. I was recently on holiday in one of the seaside towns in Suffolk that are so delightful this time of year, and my love of old furniture compelled me to browse through several shops in the area. In one of them I found a small writing desk that was irresistible. Unfortunately, I couldn't hide my enthusiasm, and I paid more for the desk than I really wanted to.
Upon returning to London, I decided to refinish my new acquisition, and when I removed one of the drawers I found an envelope inside the desk. There were several typewritten sheets in the envelope which bore the return address of a defunct publishing house that was located here in London before the War, and based upon the postmark on the envelope, the stories appear to have been written nearly a quarter of a century ago. All of them were set in Burma, and it seems quite odd to think that no one has laid eyes on them for over two decades.
I intend to keep the original stories, but I have retyped one of the shorter tales. It is told from the perspective a Burmese maid working in the household of some long-forgotten English colonist, but the story must have been written by an Englishman. There is no way to tell if the story is fictional or if it is based upon something that actually happened. Regardless, I am sure that it will be on interest to you since you have always been a devotee of the cane. When I have time, I will transcribe more of the tales I found, and some of them are even more curious than the one I am sending today.
I unfolded the typewritten sheets sent by my cousin and found the following story:
The Maid's Tale
When my master escorted me into the drawing room, and I saw the cook and the gardener waiting, I knew I was going to be whipped, but I couldn't think of anything I had done to deserve punishment. Once inside the room, I saw that my master's laundry basket had been upturned and mixed in with his clothing were a few tins of food that had clearly come from his pantry.
When I saw the tins, I knew I was suspected of hiding the food in the basket so that I could spirit it out of the house and steal it. I was innocent, but if my master didn't believe me, I knew that he would whip me with his belt. I had stolen food from him once before, and I received 12 lashes on my bare bottom when he found out. After my previous thrashing, I was warned that I would receive two dozen lashes if he ever caught me stealing again. As my master pointed to the tins he asked, "What do you have to say for yourself?"
My heart was pounding, and I said, "I don't know where the food came from, but I swear that I didn't put it in the basket."
"Likely story," my master replied angrily. "Didn't I tell you I'd give you two dozen lashes the next time you stole from my pantry?"
"Please don't beat me, Sir," I pleaded. "I didn't do anything wrong."
Before my master had a chance to reply, the cook spoke up, and said, "Pardon me Sir, maybe you should cane the girl. The last time you showed her mercy by only using your belt on her, but you see she still steals from you."
My master seemed lost in thought momentarily, and then said, "That's an excellent idea. I don't have a cane so I want you to go next door and borrow one of the rattans that Mr. Foley uses to keep his servants in line."
"Certainly, Sir," said the cook as he hurried out the door to borrow a cane from my master's neighbor.
As the cook departed, I knew that I only had a short time to talk my master out of caning me. Based upon the condition of my sister's backside every time she was caned by her employer, the physical aspect of being caned terrified me. But even worse, I knew that my heart would be broken if he caned me. Since he knew that I loved him, the thought he could do something so savage to me was more than I could bear.
In a last attempt to avoid my punishment, I fell at his feet and crying loudly, I begged, "Please, Master. If you must beat me, please use your belt. I don't care how many lashes you give me, but if you cane me, I will feel lower than a stray dog." As I said these words, I clung to my master's legs, and I could see my tears glistening where they had fallen onto his boots.
I became more hysterical as I waited for my master's reply, and when he finally spoke, his words were directed to the gardener as he said, "Was it you or was it the cook who hid the food in the laundry basket so that I would flog this innocent woman?"
Since I was lying face down on the floor, I couldn't see the expression on the gardener's face, but when he replied, I could hear fear in his voice as he said, "It wasn't me, Master. It was the cook who did it."
"But you knew about what he had done?"
"Alright then. I shall cane you both when the cook returns, but I may show you some small measure of mercy since you only withheld information about what the cook did. If you warn him about my plans, however, I promise to flog you just as severely as I flog him."
Shortly after the gardener confessed that he knew about the plot to have me beaten, the cook returned carrying a thick rattan cane with him. When my master saw him he asked, "How many strokes do you suppose I should give the girl?"
"I am only a humble servant, Sir, but, I think you should punish her severely for defying your previous orders. I believe anything less than 12 strokes would be far too lenient, Master."
"Very well then. While you were retrieving the cane, the gardener told me that you were the one who hid the tins in the maid's laundry basket. Since you recommended that I give her 12 strokes, that is the number that you are going to receive when I flog you."
The cook had much darker skin than me since his family was from India originally, but he turned so pale when he heard my master's words that his skin looked almost gray. He fell to his knees, and begged, "Please, Master don't beat me. I only wanted to scare the maid. I swear was going to tell you of her innocence before you actually caned her."
"I know that you are lying about planning to spare the maid, but I will put your fate in her hands. If she decides to pardon you, I won't cane you, but I plan to flog you unmercifully if she thinks you deserve to be punished."
Suddenly everyone was looking at me and I realized that, for the first time in my life, I had power over a man. My anger burned fiercely over what the cook and the gardener had attempted, and in a flat, emotionless voice I said, "Both of these men should suffer for what they tried to do, and if you allow me, I will cane them myself."
.... There is more of this story ...