Dear Readers, I am glad you got the meaning of my last piece. I used the image of a landscape to express the sense of reality that comes with imagination, at least with my imagination. It may lead you to think that this inner world is more consistent and less chaotic than it is. It can be wonderful but confusing to go there, believe me, but it is never boring.
Wystan called a manifesto and in a way he is right. I do want to tell you about how great it is to have an inner world to explore. I know it may seem sad to others, people more firmly living in reality. I do inhabit both worlds, though. Maybe I have my head in the clouds too much but I am old enough to stop worrying about that. This is how I am.
I haven't been very active on the blog lately and I blame work and being busy. Strange then that when I get time I come up with a rather silly and strange and perhaps quite cruel story. I think it is a little inspired by something I read somewhere about a poor woman who got stuck in a trap door or something.
I will go on holiday tomorrow, far away from broadband and that sort of things. I will be back in June and wish you all a happy time. Take care of yourselves.
The stories about Sir Henry, 11th Earl of Tructon, are numerous. It would take more than one short tale to record his deeds and misdeeds, how he came to keep his wealth, what he did with the young widows and the source of the strange sounds that was heard from his estate during night time.
One of the many peculiarities concerning him, and this is without mentioning his appearance, his table manners and his interest in strange animals, was his sense of humour. He liked to play pranks on his friends and foes and not all of them were considered to be within the boundaries of what is called appropriate.
Perhaps the cruellest prank was played on the young and wilful lady Stephanie, 7th Duchess of Sprot. I don't know why he chose her and that particular prank but the nature of it may suggest that the Earl felt he had a score to settle.
It all happened at the Counter Dance at Tructon Hall, as he insisted on calling it. All other referred to it as The Ball. Anybody who was anybody in Society was invited and it was one of the cornerstones of the summer season.
The young Duchess had been summoned to Sir Henry's estate at noon and arrived in her chase and four. This is the only part of the story that is a real mystery. How did the Earl manage to get the noblewoman to leave her home and visit him on the day of The Ball? I don't know and perhaps only the Duchess herself knows this.
She was greeted with due respect but after that Sir Henry didn't waste any time and called on his servants, or at least a selection of the most reliable ones. Without further ado, the servants took hold of Lady Stephanie and conducted her to the Ball Room.
It is easy to understand that she was much vexed with being treated this way. This didn't cause Sir Henry or his servants any problems as they both outnumbered and out muscled the Duchess many times.
From the ceiling in the Ballroom there were usually five great chandeliers hanging but at this time the central one, the most imposing one, was substituted for a strange looking wooden box with a hinged door. The ugly looking thing was hanging in four sturdy chains. Below the box stood a heavy wooden chair, crafted in a style that didn't, at all, fit the grandeur of the room.
To this box the Duchess was taken and there she was very unceremoniously bundled into it. Or rather half of the Duchess was put in the box and the other half left outside of it. It turned out that the bottom of the box was cut out to form a semi circle that very conveniently fitted quite snugly around Lady Stephanie's waist. In this way, the poor woman found herself standing on the chair with her upper body inside the box and the lower part of it below it and outside of it.
I wasn't there so I can't say for sure but it seems likely that the Lady didn't see eye to eye with this treatment. To add to her humiliation, her rather elaborate skirts were lifted and bundled into the box and draped around her person, thus shamefully exposing the part that was sticking out.
The box was then closed and locked and the situation was now that the upper part of the Duchess along with her beautiful dress was inside the box while the lower part, from the midriff down, was standing below it, devoid of skirts.
'Ah, knickers, such novelty,' the Earl is reported to have said when he spotted the Lady's underwear.
'Off wit it all' he then continued and the, without doubt, quite excited servants soon proceeded with their task.
It is not reported with what language Lady Stephanie expressed her dismay at the removal of her shoes, stockings and those infamous knickers but it was without doubt not of the gentler kind. She was surely in great distress when she found that her nether body was left quite bare.
It was still some time until the Ball was due but the cruel Earl left the young Duchess standing on the chair in her exposed condition during the rest of the preparations.
There is not much to be said about the young woman's ordeal during this time but at last the hour of the Ball drew near. The room was ready and the Earl decided it was time to put the finishing touches to the decoration. This meant removing the ugly chair, leaving the poor Duchess hanging from the box. He then had the whole thing covered in a great white blanket. This made it appear as the centre of the room was occupied by a covered statue or something similar.
To cut to the final chapter of this strange event, the guests arrived in their best gowns and suits and there was an abundance of jewellery and beauty and a shameless display of richness and power. Everyone was, of course curious about the strange display in the middle of the room but no one was allowed to come near it, as it was guarded by four sturdy man servants.
No sound came from it either, the Duchess was clever enough to know when it was a good strategy to keep her voice down.
When all the guests had been greeted and been allowed to chat and mingle for a while the Earl, himself, addressed the crowd, standing in the middle of the room. No one really heard what he said but all agree that he looked well pleased when he finally removed the blanket and exposed the box and what was visible of the Duchess of Sprot.
The lack of clothing on the visible parts of the Duchess caused much comments and some of the guests were quite scandalised but everyone assumed that it was a well deserving servant girl or some other lowly subject of the Earl in the box and soon began to see the upside of the arrangement.
The Earl was holding a vicious looking horsewhip in his hand and with this he delivered two or three swift cuts to the unprotected backside of the young Duchess. This caused the guests much amusement and they seemed to find the wild movements of the hanging legs particularly entertaining.
The four guards where now, as it seemed, equipped with some tools: a horsewhip, a bunch of birch twigs, one of those short leather whips called a quirt and a sturdy looking wooden board. They were no longer ordered to keep the guests away but to supply them with their tools and in an ordered fashion let them approach the Duchess and have a swing at her.
The crowd found much pleasure in this and soon there was a great gathering of guests around the Lady and much debate about which tool was best to use. There was much speculation about the identity of the girl in the box and some listened intently at the rather muffled sounds coming from the box when the tools made contact with the exposed flesh.
Some assumed that it was an unknown maid the Earl wanted to amuse the guests with, a girl who had erred in some way, thus earning this treatment. Others pointed to the soft and unblemished skin of the half body that was on display and draw the conclusion that it may be a noblewoman. Who it was they tried to conclude using deduction, figuring out who was not present.
A group of men stood by the side with their heads together, nodding and smirking. They looked at the legs and looked back and nodded and seemed to agree.
This caused one of the younger men in the group to draw himself up and stare wildly at the visible part of the Duchess. Suddenly he walked over to the box with determined steps, red in his face. He then grabbed the horsewhip from a servant and pushed the man with the quirt out of the way.
Without a word and with a wild and quite terrifying expression on his face he deliver two dozen quite vicious lashes to the dancing legs, across bottom and thighs and it wasn't until he was done his smile returned.
During this intense onslaught the howls from the box became louder and some people around seemed to get an idea of the identity of the girl inside it. Soon the crowd was whispering 'Lady Stephanie' and 'the Duchess of Sprot'.
At first there was a little bit of shock and a gasp. There was a short hesitation but soon the crowd stormed forward and struggled to lay their hands on the tools.
The poor Duchess was soon the centre of a flurry of activities that all had in common some quite painful contact between her exposed skin and some mean tool for punishment.
The guests showed real ingenuity in their attempts to cover every little inch of the visible parts of the Duchess' skin with marks of the whips. The fair lady turned rather pink and later red.
It was Sir Henry, himself, who put an end to her ordeal by ordering the chair to be put back under the box and the box itself opened. The guests could then make sure that it was really Lady Stephanie who was inside it.
It is said that the Duchess stepped down from the chair and walked through the room with some dignity, although somewhat gingerly. She was, of course, covered by her skirts as she walked from the room but to her great shame she was wearing a day dress while all of the others where wearing ball gowns.
The Ball was a success and Sir Henry was much admired for his boldness and audacity. Some of the guests were, of course, sympathetic to Lady Stephanie but they kept quiet.
The Duchess was never seen again in Society. She tried many times to get her revenge on the Earl but failed miserably every time. It was not for her to arrange his both untimely and shameful death but that is an entirely different story.
This story has a sting in the tail, though. The Duchess went abroad and married the Archprince of Ostburg. Not many years later a war ensued and after some fierce fighting the Archprince found himself the conqueror of the Kingdom. It is not hard to imagine the influence of his beautiful wife when he then had the entire nobility of the subdued realm shot on the spot.