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The Yellow Room

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Another classic account from Olympia's later years. The Yellow Room is the story of Alice Darvell, a young woman sent off to live with her aunt and uncle, there to be educated and disciplined, as it turns out, by means of the lash.


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The Yellow Room
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This page copyright © 2003 Olympia Ebooks.
SIMPLICITY SHOCKED
“Come in,” said Coupeau. “No one will eat you.” —L'Assommoir When her widowed aunt, with whom she had been living for several years in Yorkshire, died, Miss Alice Darvell was sent off to live with her nearest relative and guardian at his house in Suffolk. The change from a small house in a bleak and lonely part of the West Riding to a Baronet's establishment was hailed with rapture by the handsome and healthy girl of eighteen. The only, or at any rate, the principal advantage gained by her life with her aunt was one she scarcely appreciated. Her life in the country, the bracing air, the long walks, and the rigorous punctuality of the old lady had allowed Miss Darvell to fully develop all the physical charms which so distinguished her. Add to that her fresh complexion, laughing brown eyes, the magnificent contour of her form and her limbs and you may begin to see what a rare beauty Alice possessed. Bu t she also had a distracting air of reckless ingenuousness, picked up, no doubt, in her moorland scampers. Although unconscious of her charms, she sighed for the pomp and vanity of the world, even though they were held up to her by her aunt as perils of t he deadliest description—a view regarded by Alice with skeptical curiosity. Her sol itude only increased her imaginative faculty, and the fascination it attached to balls, parties, and life generally in the world, was greater than their charm actually warranted, as Ali ce subsequently found out. The only disquiet she had experienced arose from a vague longing which was satisfied by none of the small events in her puritanical life. She was m odest even to prudishness; had long worn dresses of such a length as to make them remarkable; had never in her life had on one of the fashionable low-cut variety. She blushed at the mention of an ankle, and would have fainted at the sight of one. The matter of sex was a perpetual puzzle to her, but she was perfectly unembarrassed in her interaction with men, and quite unconscious of the desire she excited in them. All she knew of her guardian, Sir Edward Bosmere of Bosmere Hall, was that he was her trustee and that he was a widower much older than herself, a cousin some degrees removed from her, but that notwithstanding, she called him “Uncle.” Thither then she went. Sir Edward turned out to be a man of about fifty; very determined in his manner, powerfully built, and of a medium height. But what surprised Alice most was to find herself introduced to a tall , dark girl who looked about two and twenty, who was introduced as his housekeeper. She was dressed in exquisite fashion, but Alice thought most indecently. Even more shocki ng, she, too, called Sir Edward, “Uncle.” The first few days were taken up in making acquaintance, but Alice was surprised one morning at breakfast to see the housekeeper, Maud, grow very pale when told by Sir
Edward that she was to go to the yellow room after breakfast, and that she was to go straight there. This direction apparently was direc tly as a consequence of some cutlets which were served at the meal slightly overcooked. When Alice again saw Maud, she was flushed and excited, and appeared to have been cryi ng her eyes out. In some consternation, she inquired what the yellow room was. Her curiosity wasn't to be satisfied, though, as the only reply she obtained was that she would find out soon enough. On the same occasion, after Maud had left the breakfast-room, Sir Edward, who had by that time quite accepted Alice into his household, told her he thought she dressed in a very dowdy fashion, and said he had given directions to their maid to provide a more suitable wardrobe for her. Alice was quite flustered. She was covered with blushes and confusion as she listened to her Uncle speak of having her dr essed like Maud. She was most disconcerted, for Maud showed a great deal of leg—a s well as other charms. So Alice tried to pull herself together and replied that she really could do no such thing. Sir Edward looked at her in a very peculiar way and said he fe lt sure her present mode of dress hid the loveliest neck and limbs in the world. He went on to ask whether she did not admire Maud's style of dress, and if she had noticed her stockings and drawers. “I have indeed, uncle; but I could never wear anything like them.” “And why not, pray?” “I should be so ashamed.” “We will soon cure you of that. We punish prudish y oung women here by shortening their petticoats. How do you like that idea?” “I like it not at all; and I will not have anything of the sort done to me.” “I am afraid, miss, you want a whipping.” “I should like,” Alice declared defiantly, “to know who would dare such a thing.” Sir Edward again looked at her in a peculiar manner , but said nothing more on the subject. Instead, her guardian went on to tell her of his belief that young women should learn how to manage a house before they had one of their own and found themselves not knowing what to do with it. As part of her training as a proper young lady, she and Maud were to take weekly turns in the management of his household. A week from that day she would take the running of the household in hand. “In the meantime, my dear, you had better learn as much as you can from Maud; especially not to let them burn cutlets like these.” Saying which, he left the room. At this point the narrative can best be continued from the diary of Alice Darvell herself: Wed., July 3, 1883. As soon as uncle had left the breakfast-table, I fe lt quite disturbed, but on the whole determined to go on as if nothing had happened. A message from Maud came a little later, delivered by our maid, Janet. The note said that she could not go out riding that morning as we had arranged. What a terrible woman our 'maid' is! Why on earth does uncle have a Scotchwoman with so terrible a disposition for two young girls? She makes me quake if she only looks at me. Well, I made up my mind to go alone, and rode off very soon after. On my return I met Maud, very red-faced, and looking as though she had been crying dreadfully. I asked her what was in the room to which uncle had sent her. She would not tell me what had happened, although I was struck with an icy chill down my spine when she told me that I should soon learn the secrets of the yellow room for myself. The rest of the day passed in the usual way. We dro ve out after lunch, paid some visits, received several, and dressed for dinner. While waiting for the gong to sound, Maud came to me, and to my horror took up precisely the same subject Sir Edward had so thoroughly embarrassed me about at breakfast.
“Uncle does not approve of your dresses, you little prude, and Janet has another one for you.” “If Janet,” said I, “has a dress for me that shows my neck and breasts and back, as well as my feet, my ankles, my legs—I mean, if she has one for me that is like yours—I declare flatly, I won't wear it.” “Don't be a fool, dear. I am mistress this week; yo u will be next week, as uncle has explained to you, and if you do not get rid of your ridiculous shame, you will be soundly punished. You may be thankful if you are only obliged to show your legs up to your knees and your bosom down to your breasts.” “I do not care. I have never been punished.” “Very well,” said Maud, “have your own way. You will soon know better.” When I arrived for dinner, uncle and Maud were ther e with three or four young men. Some very handsome women were also present; every one in low dresses. I was the only one in a high dress. Uncle said something to Maud, who in turn whispered to me that I was to go with her. As soon as we got into the hall, she told me I was to be taken to the yellow room and that I was a goose. When I asked her why, she only laughed. Once we arrived there, she said she was very sorry, but that she must obey orders. She then strapped my hands firmly behind my back. My struggles were useless in the end, but kept her so long that she said, “I shall take care that you shall have an extra half-dozen for this.” I could not think what she meant but I had plenty of time to ponder the strange comment, for I was left alone in that room for a considerable time. It got darker and still no one came. The yellow room was in an out-of-the-way wing, and I could hear not any activity from the party which I knew was still in the dining room. In fact, I heard nothing until the faint sound of the tower clock striking ten reached my ears. My hands tied tight behind me and ached with a dull, throbbing pain. I began to lose my temper. I wonder ed how long I was to be kept there, and then I wondered who had the right to keep me, t russed up in such a manner. I had nothing to occupy my time so I made a study of my surroundings. I suppose it was called the yellow room because the bed-curtains, the curtains on the windows, and the valances were all yellow damask. I found myself staring at the ottoman and wondering what such an enormous one was doing here, in company with a heav y oak table. That wasn't the only oddity about the room. There was a bar swinging fro m the ceiling! I puzzled over that for quite awhile and, then, overcome with vexation and impatience, I went to sleep. I was awakened at about half-past eleven by the sound of carriages driving off. It was pitch dark and the curtains had been drawn. I know it was about half-past eleven because about half-an-hour later midnight struck. There was a footstep in the corridor, and uncle came in. Before I could express my anger at being treated in such a manner, my uncle addressed me in a clipped angry voice. “I am extremely surprised at your insubordination, miss, and for that I am about to punish you.” What followed I cannot write. So much for that part of the diary. Later on, by wa y of penance, as the sequel will show, Miss Alice Darvell was compelled to write out the minutest description of her punishments and her sensations and secret thoughts. What happened was this: Sir Edward Bosmere at once informed Alice that he would have no more prudish nonsense. He explained that he was going to strip her and flog her soundly. “But you must first promise to take off your own drawers. That is a very important humiliation to which a proud young beauty such as yourself has to be subjected.” She protested in the most vehement manner. “You have no right to whip me,” she said in a cold, tight little voice. She was trying hard
to keep control of her speech. She tried not to scr eech or let her voice tremble, as that would tell him that he had the power to frighten her. “I will not be whipped by any man or anyone else. Undo my hands at once,” she said in what she thought was an authoritative voice. “Being kept all the evening in this room wit hout any dinner is quite punishment enough. And what have I done that calls for punishment? Refusing to wear horrid dresses which only serve to make nakedness conspicuous? If I am to be treated in this way, I shall leave tomorrow. As for promising to take off my own drawers before my own uncle, you must be mad, Sir, to think of such a thing. I would rather die first.” She looked lovely in her fury, and an alteration in the surface of Sir Edward's trousers showed his appreciation of her beauty. He longed to see her naked and all her charms revealed. “I will not dispute with you, you saucy miss, and as your face is too pretty to slap, I will settle accounts with your bottom—yes, your bottom, and a pretty plump white bottom I have no doubt it is. I can promise you, however, it won't be white long. Now lie across that ottoman on your face. What? You won't? Well, across my knee will do as well, and perhaps better.” Putting his arm round her waist, he dragged her with him to the sofa, telling her that her shrieks and struggles in that heavily curtained and thickly carpeted room would bring her no assistance; that even if they were heard no one would pay attention to them. In fact, he told her, the only result, if she persisted, would be to double her punishment. He did not, however, at that moment wish to do more than examine the charms that were so jealously concealed, the magnificence of which might be easil y guessed from the little that did appear of her figure. He walked her to the sofa and sat down upon it, still holding her by the waist, and then, putting her between his legs, pulled her down across his left one. Her power of resistance was very much lessened because her hands were strapped behind her, but still she managed to slide down upon her k nees in front of him instead of being laid across his lap. He then held her tightly between his knees and proceeded to unfasten the neck of her dress. Since the buttons were at the back, he was obliged to put his arms round her and draw her so close that he felt her warm pressure upon him. The passion he felt was intensified, and the girl then, for the first time, seemed in a hazy sort of wonder as to whether the treatment she was undergoing was altogether unpleasant. So shocked was she by this unconscious thought, she ceased her use less resistance. At length the buttons...
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