Bess was in the castle rose garden, moving busily among the bushes, her blue dress a splash of contrasting colour among the reds, pinks and yellows. She planned to make rose water from the petals, and for this work she was employing the two serving maids who’d been assigned to her and who had of late become lazy and difficult - due, according to Raoul, her husband and Lord of the castle, to the fact that she didn’t manage them properly. She sat down for a moment, dizzy from the perfume of the flowers, and put down the scissors she’d been using for snipping off the blooms. She laid them carefully on the edge of a stone birdbath because they were finely-wrought silver scissors from a set of sewing equipment which had belonged to Raoul’s mother and which he had recently gifted to her.
The sewing set had been a symbolic ‘closing of a chapter’ present from Raoul who was under no illusions about either Bess’willingness or her prowess where sewing was concerned. The two of them had had a battle of wills over her completion of a fairly simple needlework task, and when a merciful helping hand from him had brought about her total compliance, their mutual love had begun to lay down some solid foundations. Now he had given his consent to her finding gainful employment elsewhere in the castle besides the sewing circle, and she had chosen to assist the bent old gardener whose most pressing work was tending the vegetables and herbs required by the castle cook. By picking blooms to make rose water, she would help to tidy up the garden and ensure that there was a fresh crop of new roses.
It wasn’t easy for Bess, used to running barefoot and free, to dress in garments which restricted her movements and to conduct herself in a seemly manner when in the company of serving maids whom she would much rather not have had at all. She felt that they despised her because she was ignorant of castle ways, and she was sure they gossiped and spread stories about her and her relationship with Raoul.
Most of the married couples who lived in the castle had what Bess would have described as an ‘loose’ relationship. The man was not particularly concerned about what his wife did. Now and again he might spank her to try and bring her in line, but most of the time he preferred to turn a blind eye to anything she might be doing and not trouble himself. He himself might well be finding enjoyment outside the marriage bed.
Raoul was different. He was Lord of the castle and had been born, bred and trained to rule. He endeavoured to set an example of character and conduct to his people and he required his Lady to do the same. She must be industrious, truthful, self-controlled, kindly and attentive at all times, and of course respectful to him. His first observations of Bess in her native environment had shown him that she had strength of will, energy and passion. She was, however, stubborn, wayward and sometimes downright naughty. She had to be ruled with a firm hand, which according to his regime meant she needed to be spanked at frequent intervals.
Bess accepted Raoul’s disciplining of her. However she hated it when her serving maids got wind of the fact she was due for a spanking. As far as she was concerned they should have had their ears boxed by the castle steward for all that whispering and giggling, and then they’d have had a bit of their own discomfiture to think about.
Raoul preferred to spank Bess in private. Even when he’d whipped her over his saddle for having run away from the castle, he hadn’t carried out his threat of getting his men to hold her down. He closed the heavy wooden door on their bed chamber when he was about to discipline her, and usually the wooden shutters on the window as well. But none of these precautions could stop the serving maids from listening to castle gossip, picking up on Bess’ apprehension, and finding excuses to lurk nearby for some sort of second-hand thrill until Raoul arrived.
Bess was aroused by the idea of Raoul spanking her although the reality, at the time, was not usually so pleasant. He was generally fair and hadn’t ever been brutal with her but there was always the sense of having unleashed a power she couldn’t control. Once he was set on spanking her, there was no escape and no way of influencing in what way or how severely she was punished. He always bared her bottom, which she found humiliating, and he often brought her to tears, but it formed a part of the total quelling, total subjugation which she experienced and which paradoxically established a closeness between them which she believed could not have been brought about by anything else.
After a spanking, Raoul didn’t necessarily kiss or caress her but his anger melted as if it had never been and she felt forgiven and innocent again. Her fear and pain were quickly forgotten and she felt the poise and wellbeing of being in tune with a man whom she admired and whose strength of body and mind were superior to hers. He could subdue her whenever he felt it necessary, but by the same token he was duty-bound to protect her.
The troublesome serving wenches were very much in awe and fear of the stern and powerful Raoul. They hung about while Bess waited for the chastisement that so piqued their interest, and scattered like chickens when he appeared. He would have had no difficulty whatever in getting them to do his bidding, but Bess, who was not many years their senior, was disrespected and therefore continually in trouble with him for not finding a way to assert herself and for not giving them enough work to do.
“As my Lady, you are obliged to have assistants,” he explained to Bess when she protested about it. “You say you prefer to do things yourself but then you do not do them. You must learn to put your serving staff to good use. It is a part of your role.”
But what could she do? Every time she said anything, the girl whom she’d addressed would glance at her companion, roll her eyes and titter. Why couldn’t Raoul teach them a lesson for once? That would have silenced them! To feel the hand of the Lord of the castle himself! Doubtless somewhere in the background there would be a betrothed or a father who would double or triple their punishment for bringing shame upon the family, and serve them right.
The making of rose water had been an inspiration. Even those awkward little chits could be trusted to pick up petals. They were bending and stooping between the rows of bushes, picking up the fresh blooms which Bess had snipped, stripping the petals into pails and discarding the rest of the head.
The elder of the two girls, Alys, cast a backward glance at Bess and saw that she was sitting resting with her eyes closed. This was her oppportunity. She snatched the silver scissors from the rim of the birdbath and immediately began to snip off the most beautiful blooms which Bess had purposefully left. When Bess had been choosing the blooms and going ahead of them, they’d been forced to scoop up the great wads of petals from the ground and sometimes reach in under the thorny branches. Now, with Alys snipping and her little companion immediately receiving and stripping the heads, it was a great deal easier.
Unfortunately some of the rose stems were a little too sturdy. The silver scissors weren’t made for such work. When Alys was forcing them to close on a particulary thick stem, the rivet holding the two blades suddenly popped open, leaving the two halves dangling from her fingers. Her instinct was to instantly hide the damage, even from her companion. She posted the broken scissors down the top of her dress to lie cold next to her stomach, above her belt. It was just after she had done this that Bess opened her eyes.