The Beating of Brenda Brideshead (part two reposte


The Beating of Brenda Brideshead (part two reposteThis is part two of this story reposted because, for some reason, some technical deficiency on the site has changed all the quotation marks and apostrophes into irritating question marks in the original post.With some sort of plan in mind Lord Castlebridge rose the next morning in a considerably better humour. He was humming tunelessly as he donned the clothes his valet had laid out for him and feeling in fine spirits. His wife sat up blearily in bad and peered at him. “Are you going in to the office this morning Rupert?” “Yes there are a few things that need my personal attention Cynthia. I shan’t be back for lunch. I’ll probably dine at my club. Do you have any plans today Cynthia?”“Nothing in particular Rupert. I do have to go into Market Castlebridge at some point this afternoon but otherwise nothing much.”“Well will you do me the service of making certain the guest dining room is up to standards Cynthia and inform the kitchen that we’ll be expecting guests for dinner on Friday evening.”Lady Castlebridge opened her eyes in interest. “Oh Really Rupert?”“Yes Cynthia. I have a mind to invite Roger and his wife over to dinner.”“Oh that’ll be nice Rupert. I haven’t seen Brenda in simply ages. I shall enjoy that.”Lord Castlebridge grunted and nodded to himself grimly. If the plans solidifying in his mind came to fruition then his wife was anticipating a far more agreeable evening than the one Brenda Brideshead was destined to experience. Before he could reply however there was a knock on the bed chamber door. “Yes! Come in!” he barked. The door opened to reveal Her Ladyship’s two personal maids pushing a small trolley. Lord Castlebridge noted boiled eggs, toast, marmalade, coffee and some deathly glossy, socialite magazine on the trolley. His wife habitually broke her fast in her chambers whereas he preferred to do so in the downstairs dining room over the morning Financial Times. He glanced sharply at the two girls as they curtsied politely. They seemed nervous and unwilling to meet his eye; setting about laying out their mistress’s breakfast with hurried efficiency and little of their habitual frivolity and gaiety. There was evidently a chill wind of reform blowing around the Hall this morning in the wake of last night’s public birching in the library. On his way downstairs to his own breakfast His Lordship saw further evidence of this new sobriety and diligence. The house keeping maids were up and about early and already industrially about their duties. He nodded with approval. Greenwood’s drastic but decisive measures seemed to be bearing early fruit. Perhaps they ought to make it a policy to have a couple of the girls birched every two or three months or so just to keep everybody on their toes! Passing along the Long Gallery a solitary figure, on her knees dusting behind a eighteenth century walnut chest, caught his eye. He permitted himself a grim smile. “Ah Young Miss Carlton I see!” he remarked in satisfaction.Caught by surprise the girl leapt to her feet to curtsy. She winced as she did so. Her rear portions were still paining her this morning. “Good morning My Lord.” she intoned tremulously. She was not best pleased at being singled out by the master of the house. She had more a firm policy of keeping as low a profile as possible for the moment. Lord Castlebridge nodded at her. “Good morning to you too Miss! I’m pleased to see that you’re keeping yourself busy! Last night’s session in the library has clearly had a salutary effect on your work ethic!”Charlotte blushed but curtsied again. “Yes My Lord.”“Still sore this morning?”“A little My Lord.”“Well turn around and drop your knickers and let me have a look!”Charlotte blushed crimson and swallowed but she did as she was bid, turning around to hoist up her skirt and petticoat and lowering her knickers to expose her bottom. Lord Castlebridge leaned forward to examine the result with interest. It was little wonder she was walking stiffly this morning or that her knickers were chafing at her bottom as she curtsied. The contusions of the previous evening were still clearly to be seen and her bottom was still puffily swollen and extensively bruised. Still, reassuringly, there seemed to be no scarring. She’d be carrying the marks around for a few days yet but she should heal up satisfactorily. He grunted in satisfaction. “Well no permanent damage there young lady. You’ll be sore for a few days but that’s no bad thing. It’ll serve to remind to pay more attention to your duties.”“Yes sir.” mumbled the deeply humiliated young lady. “Well pull your knickers up and be about your business then girl and lets have no more of your slacking off in future.”Charlotte readjusted her dress and curtsied once more. “Yes My Lord. Thank you My Lord. I’ll do my best My Lord.”Lord Castlebridge regarded her not unkindly. “Well see that you do young lady. Now you’ve had one good lesson so see to it that you don’t have to suffer another. You’ll find me as ready to reward as to punish young lady so apply yourself to your duties well and you’ll go far.”“Yes My Lord, thank you My Lord.”“Very well! Carry on!”Charlotte curtsied and returned to her work as Lord Castlebridge resumed his way to the dining room in fine humour. He breakfasted heartily on poached eggs and kippers and not even the latest portents of doom from the financial pages of the morning newspapers could dampen his spirits now that he had formulated a good workable solution to the problem of Roger Brideshead’s foolish wife. “Will you be going into the city today My Lord?” asked Greenwood as he replenished His Lordship’s coffee.“Yes Greenwood. I’ll need a car in about fifteen minutes.”“Very good My Lord. I shall inform the chauffeur.”“Ah yes Greenwood and a capital job last night; capital!” “Thank you My Lord. I endeavour to provide satisfaction.”“I bumped into young Charlotte Carlton in the Long Gallery looking as if she won’t sit down for a week!”“Yes My Lord. I felt it incumbent on me to be particularly stern with young Miss Carlton given her recent record My Lord.”“Quite right! Quite right Greenwood! Couldn’t agree more. You seem to have acted with exemplary firmness Greenwood.”“I felt it justified My Lord in view of the relaxation of standards that have become evident in recent weeks and which you so rightly pointed out at dinner yesterday evening. It may be that you feel I have been somewhat harsh however.”“Not a bit of it Greenwood. You have my full backing in this. In fact it crossed my mind, whilst I was talking to Charlotte Carlson, that it may not be a bad idea to instigate more regular punishments of this order to make sure that standards are maintained in future.”“Yes My Lord. A similar thought occurred to me. Certainly it would be no bad thing to have a firmer hand on the tiller in these troubled times. This younger generation seems to sadly lack the discipline we were accustomed to in former times My Lord.”“Quite so Greenwood.” Lord Castlebridge looked at his watch. “Well we’ll have to talk more of this at our leisure Greenwood. Right now I have to grab some papers from my study. Make sure my car is ready Greenwood.”“I shall attend to it immediately My Lord.” It was a little before ten in the morning when Lord Castlebridge’s Rolls Royce drew up outside his city offices. Making his way inside His Lordship was greeted at his desk by his private secretary; a young lady whose quiet efficiency and devoted loyalty made her indispensable to the smooth running of his city affairs. She was also, in her smart white blouse, knee length pale grey skirt over long slender legs clad in dark stockings and her long dark hair, an extremely ornamental addition to the mundane world of the office. The perfume she wore might have been called “Desert Mist” ,or some such nonsense, but it would more properly be described as “justifiable grounds for m*****ation” Lord Castlebridge considered, as always beglamoured by the sultry allure of the young lady who kept his city office running with such admirable precision. “Good Morning Sir.” she greeted him with a curtsy, her voice a siren’s call of invitation.“Morning Emilie.” His Lordship intoned as he took his seat behind his desk.“The review papers for the Carter Branniston contract are in your in-tray Sir and I’ve taken the liberty of laying out the share holders’ report of the Allied Textiles Conglomerate on your desk for your perusal Sir.”“Excellent Emilie. And the conference next month in Geneva?”“Tickets are confirmed in business class for the afternoon Swissair flight on the 4th Sir as you requested.”“Capital! And the accommodation Emilie?”Emilie lowered her voice silkily. “We have adjoining suites in Le Richemond Sir as you wished.”“Splendid! Is Mr Brideshead in the building?”“No Sir. He is in conference with the solicitors regarding the Carter Branniston contract. He expects to be back in the office around eleven Sir.”“Ah of course. Well will you tell him to see me in my office as soon as he comes in?”“Of course Sir. Is there anything else I can do for you?”“No I think that will be all Emilie.”Emilie leaned forward over the desk invitingly. “Are you sure there’s nothing else you require Sir?”Lord Castlebridge frowned at her. “Now Emilie! Business hours remember!”She pouted at him. “But it’s been three whole weeks!”“Behave Emilie or do you want me to take the strap to you again?”She tossed her hair back in a sulk. “I should be so lucky! I can’t remember the last time you beat me!”“You’re a very bad girl Emilie.”“Then let me fetch your strap for you and you can prove it!”“That will do Emilie. I have work tempobet giriş to be getting on with and so do you.”“Is it true you caned your wife yesterday?” asked Emilie with a bewildering change of tack.Lord Castlebridge sighed. He didn’t want to know how Emilie could have learned that so quickly. Her network of spies was pervasive and infallible. “I didn’t cane her Emilie. I had my butler do it for me.” “Hmmph! Perhaps I ought to see if he’ll cane me then since you never seem to have the time to do it yourself anymore!”His Lordship stifled a groan. “Now, now Emilie. I’ve been very busy as you know. Now stop sulking and if you’re a good girl I’ll buy you something nice in Geneva and I’ll see if we can’t manage a couple of days in the chalet up at Zermatt after the conference.”Her eyes sparkled in sudden delight. “Really Rupert? That would be lovely!”“We’ll see Emilie. No promises now. It depends on your behaviour. Now away with you and be about your business and don’t forget I want to see Roger as soon as he comes in.”She swept out of the room happily and Lord Castlebridge leaned over his desk and shook his head despairingly. It was ironic he thought. He had had his wife caned yesterday for squandering the trifling sum of seven thousand pounds yet that was but a tithe of the outlay it cost him to keep his captivating mistress happy! Her clothes, her jewellery, her sports car, the luxurious apartment in Chelsea; if his wife ever had the occasion to peruse his “expenses” account she’d fall in a dead faint!Still that was by the by. It was almost expected of a man in his position to keep a mistress and he would never rub his wife’s face in it through indiscretion or do anything foolish such as run away with the girl. He would give his wife all that she would ever need. Emilie was his hobby, albeit a damned expensive one.For the next hour His Lordship busied himself at his in-tray and sundry items of business demanding his attention. There was nothing particularly difficult to contend with however and he had tied up most of the loose ends before, a little after eleven o’clock, Emilie emerged once more to announce that Roger Brideshead was waiting without in response to His Lordship’s summons. “Ah splendid! Bung him in then Emilie.”“Yes Sir!” Emilie acknowledged, with what Lord Castlebridge considered an unnecessary emphasis on the word “Sir”, and turned towards the door to comply with a deliberately provocative wriggle to her hips. His Lordship gave an exasperated sigh and made a mental note to himself to pack a couple of lengths of good stout rattan cane in his cases for Geneva next month. A moment or two later the door opened to admit the nervous looking figure of Roger Brideshead.“Ah there you are Roger.” Lord Castlebridge turned to his secretary still at the door. “Could you rustle up coffee for two Emilie? Sit down Roger. Take a seat.”Roger obeyed, to a certain degree reassured that at least he wasn’t going to be kept kicking his heels on the carpet which he had considered an all too likely scenario given the cloud currently over him as a result of his wife’s criminal indiscretion. He had been dreading this face to face meeting with Lord Castlebridge and was honest enough with himself to realise that his career hung by a thread. His Lordship had ruthlessly sacked juniors for far less than the disaster which had occurred because of his wife’s garrulous tongue and foolish flirtatiousness. His wife Brenda was at home. The Brideshead household did not possess a dog but if it had then the dog would have been currently sharing quarters with the disgraced mistress of the house. Roger had delivered the longest, most detailed lecture of their married life to his chagrined wife yesterday evening and for once she’d been sufficiently aware of her culpability to think of arguing back. He had cut off her allowance and forbidden her under any circumstances to leave the house without his permission; adding acidly that if, after his forthcoming interview with Lord Castlebridge, they still had a house for her to be confined to then it would be a miracle of sorts! His wife had taken the lecture in subdued and uncharacteristic silence. She was a seriously frightened young woman. The word “divorce” hadn’t actually been mentioned but, given that her philandering with other men had finally caught up with her and threatened ruin on the financial security of her marriage, it was dangling unmentioned above her with all the ominous doom of Damocles’ sword. She was conforming to the restrictions place upon her with impeccable obedience but hers was the lonely vigil of the condemned and even the delivery of this month’s Cosmopolitan magazine was failing to alleviate her gloom.Lord Castlebridge wasted no time on preliminaries with Roger. “Well Roger,” he began,” I think we both know what it is that we need to discuss.”Roger took a deep breath and prepared to deliver the speech he had been assiduously practicing in his head. “Yes sir. I can only repeat what I said to you on the phone and offer my most profound apologies sir. You have my most solemn reassurances sir that I’ll not allow anything of this nature to occur again. I have…”Lord Castlebridge raised a hand to cut him off in full flow. “Roger I have had theses assurances before! The last time we were embarrassed by your wife’s indiscretion you assured me then it would never happen again. Yet here we are again and even worse! Have you any idea what the loss of this contract means in financial terms to this business.”Roger nodded penitently. “Yes sir. I’m aware of the figures.”“Well then you’ll be doubtless aware that we can ill afford to lose business in times like these as a result of your wife’ inability to keep her mouth shut! I’m annoyed about this business Roger, damned annoyed!”Roger felt a light sweat break out on his forehead. “Yes sir! You have every right to be annoyed. Again I apologise.”Lord Castlebridge dismissed the apology with a wave of his hand. “Saying sorry is all well and good Roger but that won’t help mend the damage here. Losing this client was a serious loss to this business and I’m afraid the responsibility for that loss must be laid entirely at your feet.”Roger swallowed. “Yes sir.”“When somebody joins this business Roger, especially one with such high responsibilities as you, then I am entitled to expect complete discretion from them and to be able to trust them implicitly to divulge none of the inner workings of this business to outside sources. You have manifestly failed in that trust Roger. Because of that you have become a liability to this company.”Roger felt a cold chill blow over him. “Are you going to sack me then sir?”Lord Castlebridge pondered before replying. “Let’s just say that I am weighing my options Roger. I have made no final decision as yet.” Roger felt the faint twitches of hope. He wasn’t finished yet. “Sir I can only assure you once again that, should you give me another chance, I will do everything in my power to ensure that nothing like this ever happens again.”“Including giving up your wife Roger?”Roger blinked in shock. “I…I’m sorry sir?”“I said giving up your wife Roger! If I asked you to choose between this company and your wife would you do it?”“I… I don’t know sir… I never thought…” Roger was floundering desperately. Finally he took a deep breath and grasped his hands together. “I’m sorry sir. I know Brenda has her faults but well…I wouldn’t want…I mean I suppose lots of chaps would consider divorce under the circumstances but….” Roger shook his head miserably “Well I still love her you see sir. I don’t want to lose her. I mean if you feel that you need to dispense with my services sir well I understand but my wife… well I vowed to take her for better or for worse sir. You wouldn’t want to see me be so lacking in moral fibre as to forget such a solemn undertaking at the first signs of rocky shoals would you? I know she’s far from perfect sir and God knows she drives me to distraction often enough but… well I guess I’ll stick by the old girl sir even if it means losing my job.”Lord Castlebridge leaned back in his chair in satisfaction. It was the answer he had wanted hear. His opinion of Roger would have been greatly diminished if the young man had been all too willing to sacrifice his wife to save his own skin. He took a long appraising look at his junior. If Roger ever did divorce his wife there’d certainly be no shortage of young fillies eager to take her place for he was a fine looking young man with sandy hair, clear grey eyes and lean handsome build. He was also, the current crisis notwithstanding, a fine asset to the company for he was intelligent, gifted and industrious. Lord Castlebridge certainly didn’t want to let him go but, if his scheme to solve this problem was to bear fruition, then his junior had to fear that dismissal was a very real possibility. There was a pause as Emilie served the coffee. Lord Castlebridge took his time to collect his thoughts. “Well then Roger it seems as if we are at an impasse. Since I can’t seemingly trust you to curb your wife’s indiscretion and you don’t wish to let her go then what am I to do with you?”Roger shrugged ruefully. “I don’t know sir! Kick me out I suppose.”“I would like to avoid that if it were at all possible Roger but it may be that you give me no choice.” Lord Castlebridge paused to take a sip of his coffee. “I may be able to save your job yet Roger however.”Roger’s hopes soared. “Oh really sir? I promise you that you won’t regret it! I…”Lord Castlebridge held up a warning finger. “I said “may” Roger. I tempobet yeni giriş have by no means made a final decision.”Roger nodded eagerly. “Of course sir. I fully understand.” “If I do retain you Roger it will be only on the strict condition that you agree with me to take the sternest measures possible to ensure that there is absolutely no repetition of this of this sort of thing in the future. Would you agree to that?“Yes of course sir! Naturally.”“I will determine those measures Roger and I’ll expect you to abide by my decision regarding them. Is that also agreeable to you?”“Yes sir. Absolutely sir.”“Furthermore Roger your wife will have to abide by my decision too and agree to the measures I decide upon. Will she do that?”Roger nodded grimly. “Yes sir. I will ensure that she agrees upon whatever you decide sir.”“If that is the case Roger I might be able to save your position here. I will expect strict adherence to my wishes however. Otherwise I’m afraid I would not feel any longer justified in trusting you with a position of responsibility within this company. Is that fully understood?”“I understand completely sir.”“Very well. I shall take a day or two to finalise my decision. I would like you and your wife to come for dinner at the Hall on Friday evening. I shall be able to tell the both of you my decision then. Would that be convenient for you?”Roger nodded in renewed hope. “Of course sir.”“In that case we’ll leave it there until Friday Roger. In the meantime I advise you to talk to your wife and impress upon her that it is imperative that she agrees fully to my decision regarding this matter.”“Yes sir. I will certainly do so.”“Excellent! Now if you’ll excuse me Roger I have some affairs to see to.”Roger jumped hastily to his feet. “Of course sir! I shall leave you to it.”Once Roger had left Lord Castlebridge leaned back in his chair in great satisfaction. That had gone rather well he thought. He had been somewhat less than candid with Roger for there was no real pressing business to attend to now that he had cleared his in-tray. He rather thought a leisurely lunch at his club was in order. He pushed the bell on his desk. Emilie appeared within seconds. “Ah Emilie! Could you call my car please? I shall be dining at the club.”“Yes sir.”Lord Castlebridge paused. “Oh yes and Emilie….” “Yes sir?”“I understand you’ve been batting your eyelashes around that young man in sales… what’s his name now… Gordon… that’s it… Thomas Gordon!”Emilie paled “Only in a professional capacity sir!”“See that it remains so Emilie. If I hear that you’ve been up to mischief with him I shall be forced to summon you to the Hall,” Lord Castlebridge paused for effect. “To be birched Emilie!”The blood drained from Emilie’s face. “You’d birch me?”Lord Castlebridge grinned wickedly. “Not me Emilie! I will delegate the task to my butler. He did an excellent job with the birch on some of our house maids yesterday evening and I’m sure he can spare a few minutes amidst his duties to demonstrate his proficiency on you!”Emilie swallowed nervously. “I’m sure you’ll have no reason to reproach my behaviour sir.” Lord Castlebridge rose and picked up his coat and hat. “Make sure you adhere to that resolve Emilie or, mark my words, it’ll be the birch for you and you can forget about Geneva next month!”“Yes sir. Of course sir.” said Emilie, while trying to think furiously who His Lordship’s spy in the office was.“Excellent. Now my car if you please.” Lord Castlebridge sauntered out of the office well content. It was good to crack the whip once in a while! It was Wednesday. There’d be roast lamb, mint sauce and boiled new potatoes at the club today. He was rather looking forward to it.*******************************It was more than could be said for Roger and Brenda Brideshead as they drove through the English countryside in Roger’s new BMW on Friday evening. There was a subdued silence in the car and their thoughts were far from the culinary pleasures to be looked forward to at Castlebridge Hall that evening. They had seemingly talked of little else but this coming confrontation since Roger’s ominous interview with Lord Castlebridge on Wednesday. “What do you think he’s decided to do?” asked Brenda in a low murmur for what felt like the thousandth time.“I’ve no idea honey.” her husband replied. “Whatever it is though we have to abide by his decision. We’ve no choice!”Brenda nodded soberly. On that point they were in total agreement. Over the past two days they had taken a long appraisal of their lives together and the extent to which their prosperity and security depended upon the continued good will and patronage of Lord Castlebridge. Roger’s position within the company was extremely lucrative. It paid for their new house, Roger’s BMW, Brenda’s Aston Martin which she loved like a sister, their holidays in the Seychelles, the little cottage in Cornwall, Brenda’s all consuming, extensive wardrobe, Roger’s membership of his golf club and even Brenda’s busy social life. Without Lord Castlebridge’s decision to retain him Roger would just be a disgraced and overly young unemployed executive in hard economic times. They stood to lose everything. Brenda was doubly frightened. To a certain degree she had already learned a lesson for she was overwhelmingly aware that the blame for this entire crisis could be laid squarely at her feet. She realised now what folly it had been to let that devilishly handsome young man ply her with drinks and flatter her. How was she to have known he was a representative of a rival company? He had just seemed so appreciative of her and attentive to her. Roger was always so busy with work these days. She’d felt neglected. Roger never seemed to have the time to pay her all those little attentions a woman needed so when the young man had introduced himself to her at the party it had made her feel attractive and wanted. She knew she had flirted dangerously with him. Nothing had happened beyond that but she knew she had given her husband more than enough grounds to be seriously angry with her even without the information she had so carelessly furnished the treacherous young predator.Roger had reported the exact details of his interview with Lord Castlebridge. The blood had drained from her face when he’d described the moment when His Lordship had asked what Roger would do if forced to choose between his career and his wife. The foundations of her life had trembled beneath her. Her husband losing his job was catastrophe enough. Losing her husband didn’t bear thinking about. For all her flirtatious foolishness Brenda adored her husband. She just wished he had more time for her.In her boudoir at Castlebridge Hall Lady Castlebridge was finishing her own preparations for dinner in front of her dressing table mirror. She was feeling quite pleased with herself. She still had the marks on her bottom from Tuesday’s caning of course, although they were fading by now, and her rear still felt a little stiff and gave her occasional twinges. Nevertheless she had good reasons to feel pleased. The little snippets of information she had caused to come to her husband’s ear in his office were bearing fruit! Rumour had it that he had threatened to have his secretary birched! Her Ladyship glowed at the thought. That was one birching she wanted to be a witness to! She was monitoring events carefully there. That little madam would slip up again sooner or later and Her Ladyship knew just how to bring the fact to her husband’s attention. Lady Castlebridge knew about Emilie of course; and the little French piece of fluff her husband kept in the company’s European office in Paris: AND the little Chinese girl in their Far Eastern bureau! Lady Castlebridge may have been submissive but she wasn’t stupid! Oddly she was rather unconcerned about her husband’s harem of mistresses around the globe. Somehow it seemed almost fitting that her husband had his little affairs to keep him occupied. The fact that he had at least three that she knew of was more encouraging than anything. The more the merrier as far as she was concerned! One serious rival might have worried her but her husband trying to juggle three little indulgences all at once hardly indicated any particular single infatuation. She was the one with the wedding ring after all. She was the one with the title. The others were just dalliances her husband would dispense with when he became bored with them.The other thing about her husband’s affairs was that it kept his attention firmly elsewhere for long periods; attention away in other words from Her Ladyship’s own extra-marital activities. Her Ladyship had desires and needs of her own and, unlike her husband’s, they were relatively inexpensive. She patted a wayward lock of her luxurious blond mane into place and smiled at her reflection in the mirror. “Well girls? Do I pass muster?” she asked.Suzette, one of her personal maids, leaned over her shoulder and grinned at her in the mirror. “You look gorgeous ma-am!”Lady Castlebridge chuckled deeply and reached behind to stroke a languid finger down the side of Suzette’s face. “Thank you my little flatterer!” she murmured. Maria, her other girl, leaned across her other shoulder, her long hair tickling the bare flesh exposed by her sleeveless dress. “You’re just beautiful ma-am!”Lady Castlebridge laughed softly in great contentment and wrapped an arm around each of the two young girls drawing them close to her affectionately. They were exceedingly pretty tonight. For reasons of his own her husband had commanded that her two personal maids attend upon the party tempobet güvenilirmi at dinner tonight. Lady Castlebridge was vaguely worried about that but she hoped they were there just to be attractive adornments: a pleasant visual diversion for their guests that night. They certainly looked the part. Her Ladyship had dressed them up in pretty little maid’s uniforms; black with lacy white trimmings, white pinafores and the frill of lacy petticoats showing below the hem of their short dresses above their long shapely legs. “Now you two girls behave yourselves at dinner tonight.” she warned them. “His Lordship has been in a strange mood all week and we don’t want to be making more work for Greenwood by having your pretty little bottoms caned, now do we?”Maria looked sulkily defiant. “We’d rather he had us caned than you ma-am!” she pouted rebelliously. “We hated him for having you caned on Tuesday!”“That’ll do Maria. Remember he’s the one that puts money on the table and he’s the master in this house so remember your place. If we all have to put up with the odd caning now and again to assuage his ill humour that’s just the way it is and we have to accept it.” She let her hands slip from the girls’ waists, down over their bottoms and let them come to rest on their stockinged legs below the hem of their dresses where she tickled the backs of their thighs teasingly. “Cheer up girls! Next month he’s going away to Geneva for a conference. He’s taking his secretary so doubtless there’ll be other “business” to attend to. With a bit of luck he’ll be away for a whole week.”“Hmmph! So he’s taking the bitch with him is he?” observed Suzette sourly. “She’s got nothing on you ma-am!”Lady Castlebridge allowed herself a small smile. “Don’t worry about her Suzy! That little madam’s got her come-uppance due! A little dicky bird tells me that there’s a nice stout birch switch with her name on it!”Maria grinned evilly. “That I want to see!”Lady Castlebridge chuckled. “Well that’s a work in progress. In the meantime, while His Lordship’s in Switzerland, I thought we might take a little constitutional at the cottage in Devon: just the three of us! What do you say?”The two girls lit up with happiness. “Oh yes ma-am!” enthused Maria, “That would be lovely!”“Well we’ll see. Now come on girls give me a kiss and then we’d better go downstairs to receive our guests.”Dinner, it has to be said, was not a great success. There was certainly nothing wrong with the fare on offer to be sure. The sorbet was tangy and icy cold; the consommé clear and enriched with sherry. The entree of smoked salmon, shallots and capers was unimaginative but perfectly sound and the Chateaubriand of tenderloin steak in Bordelais sauce served with Pommes Coq D’or for the main course was excellent. Nor could there have been any complaints over the crème brulee served as a dessert or the fine selection of cheeses to accompany the port. What was lacking over the dinner table was any sort of agreeable conversation and Castlebridge Hall’s head chef would have torn what little remained of his hair from his head and retired to his bed in a decline had he witnessed the sullen silence which greeted every masterpiece of his to grace the table.Roger barely tasted the food placed before him, so tense was he with foreboding, and fielded Lord Castlebridge’s occasional remarks with mumbled monosyllables. Brenda was even more subdued and sat miserably at the table all too aware of the dark cloud of disgrace hanging over her. Lady Castlebridge attempted to engage her in small talk but Lord Castlebridge, other than the formalities of common courtesy, ignored her completely to emphasise the isolation of her shame. Eventually even Lady Castlebridge’s conversation dried up as the full impact of Brenda’s disgrace began to dawn on her. She could see the undercurrents moving in only one direction. She liked Brenda and at this moment she began to feel truly sorry for her.Finally Greenwood served the coffee and, for the gentlemen at least, balloons of fine cognac and Roger could take it no longer. “Sir,” he began, “Brenda and I once again wish to offer our profound apologies for what has occurred over the business you’ve so rightly taken me to task for.”Lord Castlebridge raised his eyes to peer ironically over his brandy glass. “Indeed Roger?”Roger nodded eagerly. “Yes we do sir. Brenda is mortified and ashamed of her indiscretion and wishes to assure you that she will never let anything like it occur again.”Lord Castlebridge raised an eyebrow. “And has your wife no tongue to speak for herself Roger?”Brenda swallowed and turned pale. “Yes My Lord,” she mumbled miserably. “I…I’m truly sorry. Really I am.”Lord Castlebridge regarded her slowly. “And do you think that your apologies are sufficient Brenda; sufficient to assure me that there will be no repetition of your foolishness?”Brenda lowered her eyes and gripped the fabric of her skirt with her hands to still their trembling. “I…I don’t know m…My Lord. I… I just want to say how… how sorry I am.”“I’m sure Brenda never meant any harm by it Rupert…”Lady Castlebridge interposed hastily.Lord Castlebridge glared at his wife. “Thank you Cynthia but I had already arrived at that conclusion independently! If I thought for one moment that this young lady here had deliberately sabotaged my business arrangements then I would have sacked Roger a week ago and he and his wife would not be dining at my table!” His Lordship’s words were a whip crack in the tension of the room. Lady Castlebridge retreated into glum silence as her husband returned to address Brenda. “Whatever foolish notion crossed your mind to babble out the details of an important transaction to one of our most bitter rivals is neither here nor there for the moment however Brenda. The damage is already done! What concerns me now is to take steps to protect my business affairs from any future possibility of a repetition. One possibility I have considered is to release Roger from his position within my firm. At least by doing so I would guard myself from any further damage caused by his wife’s imbecilic garrulous tongue!”Brenda gazed at him in shock. “Sir! My Lord! I…I implore you! Please don’t fire Roger. I… I know I was foolish but I… I swear that it will not happen again.” Brenda dabbed at her eyes with a napkin.Lord Castlebridge dismissed her pleading with a snort. “Young lady I will require much greater assurances than merely your grovelling apologies and a few tears of sorrow. I shall demand a much sterner measure of your contrition than that! In fact I will go so far as to say that Roger’s continued employment with the company is entirely conditional upon your agreeing to the measures I have in mind and demonstrating your remorse in your actions by submitting yourself to them.”Brenda’s face paled almost to the hue of the linen napkin she was applying to her tears. “W..what measures?” she asked in a feeble whisper.Lord Castlebridge ignored her and turned to Roger. “You are as much to blame for all this as well Roger. Your wife is a lady who should have been administered with a firm hand right from the beginning. Instead you let things slip; turned a blind eye to her folly and indiscretion. I expect better from my executives. If a man cannot deal with his own domestic affairs with firm decisiveness how can I expect him to demonstrate those qualities in his professional capacity? If you are to continue in my employ then I wish to see hard evidence that you are prepared to exercise the firm disciplinary measures your wife so clearly is in need of.”Roger nodded. “Yes Sir.”“Well?”“Well what sir?”“Are you and your wife prepared to accept the consequences of your wife’s actions and hereby agree to whatever corrective measures I deem fit or do you wish to take your services elsewhere.”Roger glanced at his wife nervously. “I… I mean we both will agree to any measures you feel necessary sir.”Lord Castlebridge turned sharply to Brenda. “And you young lady? Will you also agree to the measures I have decided upon? Remember that your husband’s employment and your continued prosperity depend upon it.”Brenda nodded abjectly. “Y…yes sir.” She took a deep breath. “What measures do you propose sir.”“I am going to have you punished Brenda; severely punished in such a fashion as to teach you a lesson for once and for all!” His Lordship turned back to Roger. “And as for you Roger I not only expect you to agree to your wife’s punishment but I also expect you to witness it and take example from it so as to know in future exactly how I expect you to deal with your wife in any similar circumstances in the future.”Roger glanced sharply at his wife who was weeping softly on the other side of the table. He knew in that instance that his career held by a hair’s breadth. He felt suddenly angry that his wife’s idiocy had brought them to this. He took a long measured breath. “I will agree to whatever you say My Lord.” He stared at the glass in front of him; the fine cognac in it now forgotten. “What punishment do you have in mind sir?”Lord Castlebridge rose from his seat. “If you’d like to follow me I can best show you that. Brenda you will accompany us, and Greenwood, you as well if you please.” He paused before turning to his wife. “Cynthia I’d like you to witness this as well. Bring your two girls along too. They may be of some assistance.”Lord Castlebridge led the solemn procession out of the dining room and along the corridors of the Hall. Brenda tripped along fearfully in the centre of the group wondering feverishly what “punishment” might be in store for her. Walking sympathetically at her side Lady Castlebridge had no doubt whatsoever what was in store for her friend. Their path was leading inexorably toward the library. Brenda’s nemesis awaited her there. Lady Castlebridge felt truly sorry for her.************************

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