Rumpstock, the only station left in the South Bends,
serves the two villages of Bendover and Caneham Soundly.† Sarah had invited Philippa to stay for the
Leap Year Bound Beating.
Itís about the only thing which happens here, Sarah had
written, but it's quite a Saturnalia (as you probably know) and provides food
for gossip till the next one and the next one unto the third and fourth
generation.† It's in June because, I
suppose, 29th Feb. would be a bit cold, if you get my meaning.† Trains every two hours from Waterloo.† There's a connection at Barchester.† Don't be surprised if Rump-stock station is
swarming with Scarlet Women - pantless ones at that - Oh!† And by the way, are you on the Pill?
Philippa had Doubts - Arrangements - Reservations.† She procrastinated non-committally.† She wasn't sure.† There had been no mention of the actual date in
June, she waffled.† She said it all in a
six page letter which took about ten minutes to write.† She looked at it; decided that it was not one
of her best scribbles and posted it just the same.† A week or two passed and then, when she had
forgotten all about it, a postcard arrived in an envelope.
Third Saturday in June it said.† Do come.†
I'm officiating very importantly.†
The picture on the other side was inscribed Me as Bounder.† Anyone could see why it was in an
envelope.† It showed Sarah leaning against
a kitchen table wearing a scarlet gown which had fallen apart at the waist,
revealing her bottom in all its nakedness.†
It revealed more than that.† Her
bottom was covered with bluish and reddish cane bruises.† Obviously Sarah credited her with more knowledge
than she possessed.† Fascinating!
She decided to go.†
It was a ruminative journey especially when she looked covertly at that
There did not seem to be much of a swarm at Rumpstock,
even if Sarah was one of it.† She waved
at Philippa and helped her out with her things.†
She made up in personality, Philippa thought, for the shortage of
expected numbers.† Her scarlet gown with
its three black velvet bands across the behind, was indeed divided at the back
from the cleft to the hem.† Just ahead at
the ticket barrier was another woman also in scarlet but (Philippa tended to
notice such things) it seemed to be differently cut and there was only one
"Most of 'em met the last train, I s'pose?"
"They'll be around."
They drove out of the station yard, along the half mile
lane to Caneham and so through the Soundly market.† Here the red gowns seemed to dominate the
"Caneham Soundly gowns are different from ours.† We open at the back.† Theirs are thrown up."
"So they're slit at the sides.† Er ... Don't you have to be a bit
careful?† I mean picking things up and so
"Outside the village, we do indeed. Especially as
it's not the done thing to wear pants."
"Not in scarlet."
"But isn't this the time when you wear it?"
Philippa digested this for a moment and then added:
"Judging by the delightful picture, do I assume that
the black stripes mean that you've been done?"
"Yes.† If you
see anyone without any, it means that they'll be done tomorrow.† Anyway, I suppose you've read all about it in
"I must have missed it, I suppose.† I don't usually read the Moon or The Looking
Glass.† Obviously I should."
You'd get other snippets if you did. This isn't the only time.† We raise money for charity.† Sponsored strokes and such like."
They were out of the village.† The road ran in a wide curve into a
disorderly spinney. †On the right
Philippa caught a glint of irrigation channels.†
A cart crowded with open standing kegs stood among the trees.
"This is where the Bounds end," Sarah said,
"on the Soundly side.† The others
end a bit further along.† They go across
the river, y' know."
For all Philippa understood, she might have been talking
Hebrew.† The next pronouncements did not
Let's go and look.† This place is
called Scarlet Bottom.† The other one by
the river is called the Cane Brake.†
They're connected.† You'll see.
Anyway, they're what all this is about."
"Oh", said Philippa.
"Valuable bits of land. They grow a special sort of
watercress much in demand among gourmets and potentates."
"Hence the irrigation?"
"Yes. The two villages were once at war over
them.† Real rough stuff too.† Have a look at the epitaphs in the
churchyard. The irrigation isn't divisible.†
They wouldn't trust each otherís accounts and so on."
"Who actually owns the lands?"
"Each village claims them.† They do it by beating the bounds on the
others' side, to, sort of, include the land in their lot.† And then I s'pose the other side must've
taken to beating them off, or something.†
Anyway someone from our village thrashes their girls (that's me this
year) and someone from theirs does ours.†
That's Tamsin Chud, who's coming to dinner this evening and then finally
it turned into a competition. You know about beating the bounds, of
"Roughly, don't you bump the mayor or take a child
along a boundary and do something to make it remember the marks?"
"That's one way of putting it. Yes, only we have one
girl for each mark and she has to be over eighteen.† Very strict, that's because of cruelty to
"I see.† And
They had reached the cart.† Sarah helped Philippa up.
"These birches'll be used tomorrow," she said,
pulling one out of a keg.† It was about
four feet long and made of seven trimmed twigs tied up to nearly half way so as
to form a handle for the user.
"We keep 'em in salt water for three days otherwise
they break up. They break up anyhow.†
That's why we make up so many. Every household does four. Ever been
"No" said Philippa.† The thought of being caned by their mutual
headmistress rose up in her mind.† The
big armchair in that airy room, lowering her regulation knickers, throwing up
the back of her skirt when she bent over, then she remembered the flashing pain
rolling up inside her and the look of the violet cane-stripes on her fair and
ample bottom in the mirror.
"You were saying about one child at each
mark?"† She said.
"Girl! Oh yes.†
They all go along the boundaries but only one gets caned or birched at
each mark.† They get at least six, but
hold out for more to win the land."
"Win the land?"
"Yes, for four years, to the team with the most
"Do they get paid?"
"Not much.† A
pound a stroke from the Bounders Fund and a bit extra for winning, a bit more
still for taking more than anybody else and there's the honour and glory, which
is quite something, and paying next to no rates for four years."
They had come through to the edge of Scarlet Bottom and
could see the Cane Brake in the distance.†
It was easy to tell, apart from the sparkling irrigation channels, where
the disputed lands were, for tents and, mostly modest, marquees were going
up.† They stood back and a few yards from
the imaginary line of the Bounds.
"Birches here: canes there.† It used to be ground ashes but they drew
blood too easily.† Saw it happen when I
was ten. Not that we don't sometimes draw blood now, but not so spectacularly. †It fairly cascaded."
They walked in a long silence which continued as they
drove to Sarah's house in Bendover village.
"There's more to it than that," she said
suddenly, "for one thing, there's The Feast."
"You said something about a Saturnalia,"
Philippa interjected, "is that The Feast?"
The telephone was ringing as they opened the front
door.† Sarah scuttled into the house and
took the call.† After a while she came
back looking discontented.
"You know where to go," she said, "'fraid
I've got to fight a telephone battle before I cook."
Philippa carried her bags upstairs and unpacked while
Sarah spoke and dialled and re-dialled in the hall.† She was still at it when Philippa came
down.† Sarah followed her into the
sitting room after a few more minutes with a loud "Damn".
"Can I help?"
"Doubt it, thanks. We're a girl short.† Emma's caught the plague and I just can't
find a replacement.† They're all too
young or too old or gone to Manchester, or disinclined or insufficiently broke
or hoping for a quiet orgy in one of the tents or simply not there or don't
think that scarlet suits them.† If we go
with only five against six, we're bound to lose".
Again the thought of those bare exposures in that bright
study at school, and the echoing thump of that cane. She had lost some puppy
fat since then, so that her large haunches were, she knew, shapely and
presentable.† Roddie liked them that way
... She said.
"How old do they have to be?"
"Eighteenth birthday any time in the previous four
"Do they have to live here, or what?"
"I'm not sure, I don't think there's a hard and fast
"I was thinking that if they are really meant to be
witnesses to the boundaries, it wouldn't matter if they didn't come from the
village, as long as they're accessible."
"Somewhere else in the South Bends, like Much
Birching, for example."
Excitement was rising in Philippa and spreading downwards
into her genitals.
"Or among your friends?" she said, imagining
all those people seeing her handsome buttocks exposed. "Like me, for
She had said it!
And then before Sarah could make any reply:
"After all, technically I am living here, if only
for three days.† I'm a parishioner in the
eyes of the Lord, and betides I rather fancy scarlet. Will that satisfy
Sarah blinked for a moment and Philippa swept on:
"Oh and by the way, don't forget that I got the
swish four times at the Old Coll."
That's right, you got it pretty hot that last time.† I was waiting by turn in the passage.† It was on the bare wasn't it?"
always had it on the bare, didn't you?"
"Once on my knickers, but not that day.† Preferred it on the bare, oddly enough."
Suddenly the whole principle of the event was swallowed
up in the mutual experiences.
"I got ..."
"Twelve that day.†
There was a pause.
"You took a day off, or something, it was all over
the school.† Everyone thought you'd absconded."
"M-mm; best thing I ever did. Didn't you hear the
"I don't think so."
"I did keep it a bit close to my chest.† Aged parents wouldn't have liked it, if
"Darling, you weren't fucking, surely?"
"They wouldn't've liked that either, as a matter of
fact, but that wasn't it."
"Violent attack of mid-term fedupness.† Looking miserably round the horizon.† You know. Well, then I realised that it was
the Grand National tomorrow.† Popped down
to the station to look up the trains and found that they matched."
"So I wrote a note to the House Mum saying I'd be
back.† Didn't say where, of course and
bustled off before breakfast.† Had a
marvellous day. The favourite fell at Beechers Brook and mine came in at
twenty-five to one.† I only had a fiver,
but I'd put it on him!"
"Yes, £10-80p a stroke and a bit over, not that I
thought in mathematical terms at the time."
"No, I don't suppose you did, though I imagine you
"Oh yes! 'member Lila Firth?† She went off one day and got the swish too.
Took three weeks for the marks to go."
"Why did you happen to choose that horse?"
"I must've been thinking in some terms.† He was called 'Over-You-Go'."
"So over I went."
There was another pause.
"I don't see why not," Sarah said slowly,
"and what's more I've got a spare gown upstairs too.† You could wear it for dinner.† Tamsin and I will be wearing ours.† I can explain to her."
"Might she object?"
"I don't think she can.† She's got to accept it if I name you.† All she has to do is to thrash the living
daylights out of you." †
"It's your business to offer the bottoms."
"That's about it.†
I couldn't object to the ones she offers to me either, but there's one
other thing before I cook.†
Traditionally, once you put your scarlet on, you can't take it off
during the three days."
"What, not even in bed?"
"Remember the pill?†
You probably won't need a bed ... for sleeping anyway.† I must go and cook now.† You'll find the scarlet hanging in my
Three gentlemen and Tamsin Chid duly came to dinner.† Kenneth, Leo and Patrick were impressed by
their scarlet women and it became a cheerful and salacious evening.
"You'll be a sensation," Tamsin said to
Philippa, "are you looking forward to it?"
"Butterflies in the tum of course, but yes, I think
"Otherwise you wouldn't have volunteered?"
They had adjourned to the Six of the Best down the
road.† The pub, in the Bendover
tradition, showed six birches on one side of its sign and six canes on the
"Is it really true that ..." Patrick began -
"You never wear pants under scarlet," Sarah
finished for him.
"Ask Phil," said Tamsin.
"I'm new to all this and you should be able to tell,
but d'you want me to show you?"
" A bum in hand is worth six of the best, I
s'pose."† He patted her behind.
"No," said Sarah, the proverb should be 'a hand
in the bush is worth two on the bum.'
"Or," said a scarlet girl in the next-door
party, "one up is better that two to go."
"Philippa, this is Alice.† Alice, this is Philippa.† You'll be seeing more of each other
"So I was hoping; which number are you?" said
"Three or six I'm told.† Not quite sure what it means yet."
"I'm one or four.†
You might be jolly important, depending on the draw."
"So I feared."
They smiled at each other.† Alice was one of those brown skinned dark
women who always manage to be conspicuous.
"Conversation's always like this the night before
... No holds barred."
"If I end up as six," Philippa said, "who
is number one?"
"Dawn," said Alice promptly.† "She's the flaming redhead over there by
Dawn overheard and came across.
"Not only head," she said cheerfully.
"These skirts ought to be split up the front
really," Kenneth said.
"Faugh or Fie!†
Is nothing sacred?"† Sarah
intervened, slapping his hand out of her cleavage.
"Mine isn't very," said Dawn.
Everyone laughed at the double-entendres.† But when Kenneth said a very hard frontal
good-bye, it was Philippa's bottom which he felt.† Tamsin politely said that she looked forward
to a more intense relationship on the morrow.
"Yell for tea any time after seven.† A late, long, large breakfast.† Grand assembly outside St Ursula's Church at
twelve.† I suppose the Eleven Thousand
Virgins are a pious hope."
Proceedings begin with a Blessing on Endurance, with scriptural variation.† The Bottom shall be Top and all that sort of
thing, then we set off.† There are bands
Philippa began an excited night with a finger in her wet
slit, imagining the stripes on Dawn's freckled haunches turning violet in the
sun and then they seemed to be across her own for all to see.† The hand rhythm quickened as the passion rose
inside her belly.† Should she let herself
go?†† Might she spoil the morning?† She had always been as randy as she liked the
morning after an orgasm, man or self.†
What might Tamsin think?† Tamsin,
she thought, would enjoy herself ... On my bum more than Alice or Dawn's and
what of the others, so far mentioned but not encountered?† Barbara, Catherine, Frances.† She allowed herself into a long reciprocation
as the skirts of her imagination parted for the explosive.