Yes, I know you're all expecting a story and then you get my picture, well this is kind of a Kimberley Susan update and a story all in one.
Aunty Andrea's hand is a little sore and bruised, she's icing it as we speak, so asked me to post for her.
Why oh why does Aunty ask me to do this? How am I supposed to find something entertaining and risk upsetting her and the readers and thus earning myself a sore bottom? I looked through some of Seegee's stories that he's sent us and found this romantic history tale. I liked it, so I hope you all do, too.
The feared Port Arthur penal settlement in Tasmania.
Convict floggings were brutal affairs, this is a recreation.
The tread wheel was a cruel and soul sapping punishment.
From Spanked Babes. Miss Joanna Chaffinch clutches her recently toasted buns.
Charles Pembroke stepped from the ship's darkened hold onto the deck and blinked in the weak early afternoon sunlight. He straightened his back and winced as he felt the bones of his spine unkink. He sucked in a lungful of the clean, salty air and sighed. The tall, dark haired young man gazed past the deck rail at the scene that greeted him and the other convicts aboard the transport to the feared penal station of Port Arthur. It was all rocks, steeply sloping muddy embankments and thickly wooded hills. It was possible to run from Port Arthur, any number of convicts had done it, but no one had ever successfully escaped. There were only two ways out, one was by sea and the water was infested with sharks, the land route took people through the narrow swampy Eaglehawk Neck isthmus, it was heavily guarded and its narrow connection to Van Diemen's Land, the island off the southeast coast of Australia, was ringed with dogs. Discipline at the station was harsh and the work was hard, the station had been originally set up to deal with repeat offenders, so only the worst of the worst found themselves looking at the view currently confronting Charles. How, the young man wondered, looking down at the heavy irons around his ankles, did the son of an english Lord find himself here?
A harsh voice interrupted Charles' musings "C'mon, you scum! Out of the way! Let the Commandant and his family through."
Corporal Jim Thomson, Charles' lip curled at the voice, he had only been made aware of Corporal Thomson's existence a few short weeks ago and he already loathed the man with a passion. Thomson was gutter bred, the uniform he wore and the authority it gave him were the only things that separated him from many of the men he guarded. Charles had become a favourite target of the man. His noble birth and privileged upbringing angered the working class soldier. He seemed determined to punish Charles for what was an accident of birth. Thomson never missed an opportunity to humiliate or abuse the tall, good looking convict. Charles and Thomson were of a similar age, Thomson was a few inches shy of Charles 6 feet, he had short blonde hair and sparkling eyes, he could be quite charming when he was in the mood. Had the two men ever been matched in a fair fight Charles would have fancied his chances, he had been a noted fighter in England, having even had the honour to receive a few lessons from the legendary pugilist John Gully. Although the prisoners on deck moved quickly at Thomson's command Charles was not fast enough for the vindictive guard and a rifle butt slammed into his back, knocking him to the hard wooden planking of the deck.
"I said move, gutter trash!" Thomson snarled, standing over Charles. Swallowing his anger and the desire to knock Thomson's teeth down his throat Charles started to rise, then Thomson's boot pushed against the small of his back and he was once again face down on the deck "Did I give you permission to stand, prisoner?" the guard demanded.
Charles was about to formulate a sufficiently groveling reply when an indignant female voice ordered "Stop it! Stop it at once! Let that man up immediately!"
Thomson's boot was removed from Charles' back, and he was able to get to his feet and stand.
The young former nobleman was rewarded with the sight of Thomson trying to explain his behaviour to an audience that consisted of two senior officers, the station's new Commandant Colonel Henry Chaffinch, the colonel's wife Charlotte and their children, the youngsters Henry jnr and Mabel and Charles' saviour; twenty one year old Joanna Chaffinch. "You have to keep them in line, sir," Thomson murmured by way of explanation. "They'll cut yer throat as quick as look at you, most of 'em, sir. That's why they're here, beggin' yer pardon."
"They may be prisoners, Corporal," Colonel Chaffinch, told Jim Thomson sternly, "but they are still human beings and deserve to be treated with some dignity, they will never reform otherwise. You as a member of the Queen's forces should be setting an example. Am I making myself clear, Corporal?"
"Yes, sir," the soldier answered, his eyes downcast.
"Carry on," Henry Chaffinch said, leading his family from the boat and into the Port Arthur penal station.
Charles' dark eyes followed the slender form and shapely buttocks of Joanna Chaffinch as she picked her way up the beach behind her parents and chattering siblings. The glare that Corporal Jim Thomson directed Charles Pembroke's way promised retribution.
There was little time to do much of anything other than unload the ship and be processed that afternoon before evening fell and convicts were fed and locked down for the night. Laying on his bunk, shivering under his one thin blanket Charles reflected on what had brought him to this point. He was the second and youngest son of Lord William Pembroke, Peer of the Realm. Schooled at Eton and then Oxford he had never wanted for anything and all his needs had been seen to by an army of servants. The idle rich found many distractions to fill their days and Charles weakness was gambling, it was a pastime he had been introduced to during his final year at Eton and he had taken to it like a duck to water. It had begun with horse races, but had become common for him to bet on literally any contest. When Charles had witnessed his first London Prize Ring fight whilst on home after finishing at Eton and before he had started at Oxford, he had fallen in love with the sport. He had always acquitted himself well in fights with his older brother; David, and in schoolyard spats, so why not in organised bouts?
Charles went from merely watching and betting on the fights to actually participating. Charles found that while betting on the results of contests or the turn of a card had an exhilaration about it, but once he realised that he could afford to lose what he was betting it began to pale. Truth be told Charles did not bet with his own money, any debts he incurred were happily covered by his father. Going into a fight where his opponent meant to hurt him gave Charles a hard to match adrenalin rush, he was also good at it, he won more than he lost and a lot of gamblers, particularly those from the upper classes liked the idea of someone as well bred as Charles representing them in the ring.
David Pembroke, first born and therefore heir to the Lordship, had never gotten along well with his younger brother and Charles' gambling was an especially sore point with the elder Pembroke. He had on a number of occasions tried to caution his sibling about his excessive betting, the amounts he lost and then the new ridiculous fad of actively engaging in prize fighting, often with those of the lower classes. His words went unheeded. David tried to counsel his father and advised him to stop indulging Charles and force him to make his own way in the world. David had often attempted to find ways for Charles to spend his time, the devil found work for idle hands was the old saying and David Pembroke believed that his brother was one of those for whom the words had been coined. David still bridled when he recalled the time he had advised Charles that a career in either the army or the navy might be a good way for the second son of a Lord to spend his life, Charles had laughed in his face.
Charles recalled that conversation and he remembered his response, the reason he had pooh poohed the idea of entering Her Majesty's Imperial Forces was due largely to the fact that it was highly likely that whatever regiment or ship Charles found himself part of would be sent to one of the Empire's far flung outposts and leaving the bright lights and society of London did not appeal to Charles Pembroke. Laying on his bunk in the small cell, listening to the slumbering noises of his fellow convicts Charles gave a bitter laugh. He had refused his brother's suggestion of becoming a naval or infantry officer largely due to his chances of being sent to somewhere like India or the West Indies or even, God forbid, Australia and here he found himself in one of the remotest parts of Van Diemen's Land; the end of the earth.
Charles could not really remember the day that his world fell apart and his life spiraled out of control. He had been betting heavily as was usual and losing, he had accumulated some impressive debts and they weren't all to his own social circles, he was also indebted to book makers. Ordinarily this was not a problem, he would simply contact his father and request the required funds, he was about to do so when he received devastating news. His father had been on a fox hunt when he was thrown from his mount, the resulting fall had broken his neck and caused instant death. David Pembroke inherited his father's lordship and quite promptly cut off his brother's line of credit.
Charles managed to scrape together the funds to pay the book makers, but was still heavily in debt. Fueled by desperation Charles put together some prize fighting bouts and bet on himself to win. When Charles had first begun prize fighting he had not needed to win. Admittedly if his opponent hit him hard enough it hurt, but his finances did not suffer, and that was often more painful than the occasional bloodied nose or blackened eye. Now he had to win and win he did. Each time he won he garnered more money to pay off his creditors and his reputation increased, this generally meant that the purse and the sums of money wagered on his next bout also rose steeply. After a few months of frantic fighting Charles had made enough to pay what he owed and even have a little bit over for himself, however Charles was a reckless young man and why make a little when you could make a lot? A tempting bout came calling. The opponent was well credentialed and experienced, he was the favourite, the prize money was large and there was a gambling frenzy on the fight itself. Charles accepted the offer and bet everything he had on himself to win.
The young man still winced when he recalled that fight. It had been the hardest of his career. Both men had spent the early part of the fight feeling each other out, then as they realised that they were evenly matched the gamesmanship began. Both fighters were guilty of pretending that lighter blows had felled them so that they could take advantage of the thirty second rule that gave fighters a chance to get their breath and reassess their plans. The fight had been underway for some time; over half an hour, and Charles and his opponent were suffering from the rigours of the contest. Charles threw a punch that he knew whistled past the chin of the other fighter, yet the man still went down as if he had been hit fair and square on the point of the jaw. The fall had been taken on the edges of the ring, Charles believing that his opponent was in trouble and taking advantage of the thirty second rule spent the time waiting for the other man to come back to scratch chatting and joking with friends situated ringside. What he failed to see was that one of his opponent's companions or backers passed him a small metal cylinder, it may have been part of a stirrup iron, that he could easily conceal in his fist. The tactic was of course illegal, but it never prevented anyone from using it. A foreign object like that gave the fighter's blows more strength and weight. Charles could barely believe it when they both came back to scratch and his opponent left himself wide open, Charles rushed in and got hit with a hammer blow right on the jaw. He went down like a sack of potatoes and lay there barely conscious for well over the required thirty seconds. Although Charles could never prove it he believed that there had been some sort of 'fix' on by some of the book makers who could not afford for the young nobleman to win.
Losing what he had made over the previous few months of fighting and gambling and with no money from his pious brother left Charles destitute and unable to pay any of his numerous creditors. This resulted in him being thrown into Kings Bench Prison, one of England's most notorious debtor's prisons. Debtor's prison was a miserable place. Strangely enough the only real way to survive in a debtor's prison was if an inmate had money. It was not unknown for someone to actually leave the prisons wealthier than when they went in. Some enterprising prisoners opened businesses within the gaols themselves and did well out of it. Charles was one of the unfortunates without money or tradeable assets and as his brother refused to pay his debts Charles was often forced to beg for money with which to purchase food and lodgings within the prison from other better heeled prisoners or on many occasions beg for alms from passers by. Charles hated begging and if he had the available funds he may have done what many other prisoners did, and that was drink his shame away.
Another prisoner offered to help Charles out if he would do a favour. That favour meant stealing some goods from one of the inmates. Charles' prospective backer said that the items belonged to him originally, so it wasn't really stealing, just taking back what was rightfully his. No one was more surprised than Charles when his prospective backer was the one who reported him for stealing to the prison authorities. Theft of any kind in early nineteenth century London was a serious matter and Charles found himself before a magistrate accused of stealing.
Although he had never been able to prove it, Charles believed that the entire thing had been set up by a vengeful creditor. There were too many strange coincidences for it not to be. The magistrate was known to the young nobleman. He had bet heavily on Charles in that final fight and held a grudge about the money he had lost. He found Charles guilty and imposed the heaviest penalty he possibly could; transportation for seven years to Van Diemen's Land.
Many transported convicts did well out of transportation, these were generally skilled labourers who were in great demands in the colonies as they could help build towns and villages and also young convicts who had the opportunity to learn a trade whilst servicing their debt to society and the chance to make a life for themselves in a new country once they were free. Being a member of the idle rich Charles had no special talents or trade. He was well educated, could write, read and do sums, but was no clerk and found himself doing hard labour on road gangs.
Convict life for a young man who had never mixed with anyone not of his own class was not easy. The other convicts resented him and the easy life he had enjoyed before. The guards, many of whom were from working class backgrounds, harboured the same resentment towards Charles as he represented the officer class that they despised, so life was made difficult. It became known on the gang that the tall, young man with the upper class accent could fight. Charles was given a choice by his fellow gang members, either take the fight that they were organising with another member of the road gang or risk them killing him one night while he slept. Charles accepted the fight. He knew that the other prisoners thought that he was a pretty boy who believed he could fight and would not last against the big brawler from the mean streets of London. That was the difference; the convict's champion was a brawler, Charles was a trained fighter. Charles believed his best option was to end the contest early and so he attempted a knockout blow on the other man. His aim was off and he accidentally connected with the temple; it proved to be a killing blow. Had an officer passing by not witnessed the final stages of the fight, and stepped forward in Charles' defence that the death had been an accident there was little doubt that Charles' life would have soon been cut short at the end of a rope. Instead he had been sentenced to complete his transportation at Port Arthur. Laying on his bunk and remembering the view that had greeted him as the boat entered the harbour, he wondered if execution may have been a kinder sentence. There were also the worrying stories that had been heard circulating amongst the convicts about Port Arthur. The only place that was judged as harsher was the notorious Norfolk Island. Charles sighed, laced his hands behind his head and tried to fill his head with pleasant thoughts about the view he had enjoyed of the delightful Miss Joanna Chaffinch making her way up the beach that afternoon, her slender waist, straight carriage and those full swaying buttocks.
The object of Charles' desire, while physically separated by a distance of only a few hundred feet may as well had been on a different planet. She was attending the dinner hosted by the outgoing commandant for his replacement and family. Henry Jnr and Mabel had been given an early supper and put to bed, whilst Joanna, regarded as an adult at the age of twenty one, had been permitted to have dinner with her parents and the soon to be ex commandant, some of the senior officers were also present. As they were the only two ladies in attendance Charlotte Chaffinch and her daughter Joanna were danced attendance on and their every utterance and move watched keenly.
The main course had just been completed and they were awaiting dessert when one of the junior officers; Lieutenant Arthur Fitzroy ushered in a very contrite looking Corporal James Thomson. The officer with the non commissioned man in tow stopped in front of Joanna and Lieutenant Fitzroy said respectfully, "Your pardon, ma'am."
Joanna looked away from the conversation she had been having with the chaplain and said imperiously "Lieutenant."
"Corporal Thomson has something he wishes to say to you, Miss."
Fitzroy stepped back and gave the corporal a less than gentle shove in the back, Thomson shuffled forward two steps and kept his eyes on the floor "Ma'am." he murmured.
"Yes Corporal?" Joanna asked, with a gentle smile at the obviously shy soldier.
"I'm sorry about what happened on the boat this afternoon, ma'am," Thomson mumbled at his feet.
"That was a nasty business, Corporal. I know that to you they are only convicts, but they are still humans with feelings and emotions like you or I," Joanna said soberly, trying to keep her voice stern. She could not help but notice as the blond soldier looked up, that he had very fetching eyes and lovely blond curls.
"Yes ma'am, I do realise that, Miss, but you have to watch that Pembroke, ma'am. He's bad 'un, he is, got sent here for murder, he did."
Joanna's eyes widened and her mouth opened in a silent gasp, she only just remembered to put her handkerchief to her mouth. The handsome prisoner with the broad shoulders, raven hair and bright blue eyes was a murderer! She would never have believed it, but Thomson had no reason to lie and if he were telling her an untruth one of the officers would be quick to correct him. No such correction was forthcoming from Lieutenant Fitzroy or any other officer present, in fact her father's reaction confirmed the truth of Thomson's claim.
"Yes, Corporal Thomson," Colonel Henry Chaffinch's deep baritone put an end to the conversation, "you have apologized for your earlier disgraceful conduct and my daughter has accepted your apology. There is no need to be scaring her and my wife with hair raising tales about what the convicts here have been convicted of. You are dismissed. Corporal, Lieutenant, good evening."
Charles, along with the other convicts, was woken at dawn the following morning, they were given a brief chance to wash and dress before being sat down to a meagre breakfast of a small, hard bread roll and a bowl of skilly; a thin oatmeal porridge. The food was poor and unappetizing, but Charles and his fellow convicts fell on it with a will, they would not get anything more until lunch and refusal to eat or even to clean one's plate often resulted in punishment.
Whilst Charles was being lined up in the yard prior to being assigned to a work gang, Joanna was sitting down to a leisurely breakfast of tea, toast, bacon, eggs and tomatoes. The girl's steaming tea cup paused half way to her lips as she chanced to look out the window and see the prisoners being marched out to work. Charles stood out amongst the others. He walked straighter than most of them and at a touch over six feet he was a good deal taller than the rest of his gang.
Charles was assigned to a lumber gang, this was the worst possible assignment for someone of his build. He had done this before and he loathed it. The trees would be cut and then a line of convicts would have to hoist the logs onto their shoulders and carry it out for the sawyers to clean and cut it and turn it into planks of wood that could be used for construction of houses, buildings or boats. Being the tallest man in the gang was a huge disadvantage. He would be put at the head of the gang and would bear the heaviest load on his shoulders. The overseers and guards insisted that the prisoners stand straight all the time. This would mean that Charles would in standing straight take far more weight than the smaller prisoners down the line. By the end of a day's work his shoulder would be a bruised bloodied mess and his back would ache abominably. Charles swallowed a sigh, there would be no complaining, that would only serve to earn him a beating at worst and at best if his protest was heeded and he was given a less physically demanding job in the camp the continuing enmity of his fellow convicts.
The week passed slowly for Charles and was a blur of activity for Joanna. Charles only had to remember the names of the others in his work gang and the soldiers that watched them. A convict overseer was assigned to the gang, but Corporal Thomson usurped the man's job on the grounds that the gang was composed of extremely dangerous and desperate men who required a soldier, not a fellow convict, to supervise and keep an eye on them and guard against any idling or a possible escape. Charles knew otherwise. For some reason, Charles suspected it was his high birth and the obvious advantages life had given him, Thomson had taken an intense dislike to the young convict, and being the overseer of Charles' gang afforded him the opportunity to further torment the object of his dislike. This meant that not only was his work physically hard and mentally exhausting, but he also had to force himself to keep his mouth shut for fear of giving Thomson a reason to punish him. Thomson rode Charles hard all day, every day. Every mistake made was his, he barely got a moments rest and Thomson not only assigned the hardest tasks to Charles, he punished the entire gang for any of Charles' failings, real or imagined. The rest of the gang hated Charles by the end of the third day.
It seemed to Joanna that every time she turned around there was a new person to meet and remember. Being twenty one and therefore an adult she was expected to take on some of the duties that ordinarily would be the province of the commandant's wife. It was not that the things she and her mother were expected to do were onerous or demanding, just that they were not the sort of things every twenty one year old daughter of a highly ranked officer was expected to do and the environment was also vastly different from that experienced by other officer's daughters.
Sunday, the one day of rest that the prisoners were given. One thing that all residents of Port Arthur penal station were expected to do on Sundays was attend mass. They were long and often boring affairs, but heaven help the individual that did not show proper attention for the entire service, be they convict or officer. Charles had never been particularly religious and had only attended church when forced to at school or home. He had developed a knack of being able to appear attentive whilst letting his mind drift. It was something that had served him well as a convict, especially an unskilled prisoner forced into hard, mindless labour. Strangely enough Charles enjoyed the service, despite the length; it was the one place that Thomson could not find a way to torment him. He had also managed to garner a seat that by use of his height gave him an unobstructed view of Joanna Chaffinch in profile. Even seen from one side the girl was extremely fetching. Had life worked out differently for Charles he could conceivably have been attending that service with Miss Chaffinch on his arm and they would have stepped out for a walk or a ride afterward and enjoyed an extended Sunday lunch with either her family or his.
As Charles was making his way to the library following lunch he chanced to see Joanna talking with Corporal Thomson. The girl was laughing at some remark the soldier had made and was very obviously flirting with him. Charles was aware that Thomson was a good looking man and successful with women. The corporal frequently discussed his female conquests with his fellow soldiers. In Charles' experience men who bragged about their encounters with the opposite sex in lascivious detail were lying or at the very least embellishing the truth. He was not so certain this was the case with Thomson, the other soldiers looked up to him because of it and this even included some of the younger officers. Seeing Thomson attempting to make another conquest of the beautiful and naive colonel's daughter make Charles blood boil. Thomson left and Charles crossed the courtyard to speak with the girl.
The young nobleman was taking a huge chance, if Joanna Chaffinch refused an attempt to speak with her and reported the incident then the best Charles could expect was a lengthy assignment to the tread wheel. On the other hand if she did speak to him and they were seen Charles may still be punished, typically convicts did not initiate contact with officers or their family. "Mr Pembroke." the girl said as the handsome convict approached her.
"Miss Chaffinch," Charles replied in kind.
"Did you enjoy the service this morning?"
"I found it quite relaxing, the minister speaks very well."
Both the voice and the manner of Charles' speech surprised Joanna. He was not like the desperate and dangerous individual that Corporal Thomson had described to her. He spoke with a cultured accent and his choice of words indicated that he was highly educated.
"Ah of course," the girl replied, caught slightly off balance, "where were you bound?"
"The library. I am told that the station has a fine selection of books."
This too surprised the girl, what he said was true, the station library was a good one and growing all the time. Education was highly prized at Port Arthur, but most of the inmates had to be forced to visit the library, they did not go there voluntarily to relax on their one precious day off. Joanna determined to go to the library with Charles and learn more about this individual with the reputation of a murderer, but the speech and manners of one who came from a high station in life.
As they walked, they chatted about books. Charles was well read, if anything he was better read than Joanna, and she considered herself well educated. "You surprise me, Mr Pembroke." she said.
"Why is that?" Charles asked, flicking an errant lock of raven hair out of one bright blue eye.
"You're not quite as Corporal Thomson described you."
Charles chuckled warmly. "I'd wager there's a lot Corporal Thomson doesn't know about me. You'd be advised to take care around that one."
Joanna's cheeks coloured, how dare this man, this convict presume to give her advice regarding a free man, a soldier at that. "He told me that you were here for murder, Mr Pembroke."
To Joanna's annoyance Charles merely chuckled again.
"It is not a laughing matter, Mr Pembroke!" she rebuked the handsome, but incredibly infuriating man.
"No, it isn't, lying rarely is."
"Lying?" You're not a murderer?"
"As a matter of fact, no. The charge was manslaughter."
"Semantics." the girl said with a toss of her head.
Charles stopped and regarded her for a moment, reflecting on how much he wanted to at that moment, soundly smack Miss Joanna Chaffinch's bottom.
"It's a good deal more than semantics, Miss Chaffinch. Murder is a premeditated act, manslaughter is an accident."
"How does one accidentally kill a man?" the girl questioned.
Charles shrugged "There are many ways. I hit a man in the wrong spot and he died."
"Why did you hit him?"
"I have some talent in prize fighting, it was made rather clear to me that I either fought another convict or I would be murdered," Charles put considerable emphasis on the word, "whilst I slept."
Joanna's response was a quiet "Oh." She looked at Charles and sighed, then apologized "I don't think I will go to the library after all, Mr Pembroke. Good day to you." With that she turned her back and walked quickly away from Charles. Knowing that he had scored a few points with that conversation Charles smiled to himself and continued on his way to the library.
Stepping out from a doorway James Thomson cursed softly, that stuck-up prig Pembroke was going into the library, if he had been able to get him alone in a secluded spot he would have shown him better than to even dare speak to Joanna Chaffinch. That girl was Thomson's ticket to rank and privilege, he was damned if some spoon-fed Lord's brat would ruin that for him. Wait until he got Pembroke back on the gang, he would make him wish he had never drawn breath.
Charles waited for the tree to come down, accepted a dipper of water from a man further up the line, took a drink and passed it on, then he stretched, feeling his spine creak. His attention was drawn by a rough voice not far away. "You gonna give it to Finch's daughter then, Jim?"
"Mabel's a bit young for me, Tommy boy." Thomson answered to a guffaw from his companion, a younger trooper by the name of Thomas Dawson.
"The older one, Jim," Dawson pressed.
"Who's to say I haven't already?" Thomson replied with a leer.
Charles back stiffened, he could not put up with this any longer.
"A gentleman does not speak of a lady in that manner," he said.
"What was that, convict?" Thomson asked.
"I think you heard me," Charles said tightly.
"You talkin' back to me, Pembroke?" Thomson sneered. "That's insubordination, that is. Yer not on yer Daddy's estate now, rich boy."
"You wouldn't even be allowed to come begging at my father's back door," Charles snarled.
"You want a taste of the cat, Pembroke?" Thomson demanded.
Charles laughed and inclined his head towards the mounted Lieutenant Fitzroy. "How are you going to explain it to Fitzroy? He's no fool and he doesn't hand out the lash for trivial offences."
Thomson looked up at the young officer further up the hill and ground his teeth. Pembroke was right, Fitzroy was a liberal and he had a distaste for flogging prisoners unless it was absolutely necessary. Then an idea came to the corporal. An ugly smile spread across his face, he looked at Thomas Dawson and said, "Hit me, Tommy."
"What?" the young private asked, confused.
"Go on, Tommy. Crack me a good 'un right in the eye."
Thomson winked at the trooper and then looked towards Lieutenant Fitzroy and at Charles.
Thomas Dawson smiled and one of his work roughened hands curled into a fist.
Charles had to stand by helplessly, he knew what Thomson was planning, this was going to get very ugly. Thomas Dawson could punch, Charles to had to admit that, the private would not last long in a prize fight, but he could certainly hit. The trooper's blow caught Thomson in the eye. Thomson howled, at least that was genuine, and went hopping around, holding his eye.
"He hit me! He hit me!" he was bawling.
"What in God's name is going on?" Fitzroy demanded, riding through the press of convicts that had immediately gone over to see the commotion at Thomson's yell. "He hit me, sir!" Thomson shouted, pointing at Charles.
"Pembroke!" Fitzroy barked at Charles, who was desperately trying to look innocent.
"I didn't do it, sir," Charles defended himself quietly.
"Why didn't you stop him, Dawson?" Fitzroy queried the private.
Thomson immediately jumped in and answered for the guileless young man "Pembroke's quick, sir. He was a fighter back 'ome an' he killed that other fellow...."
Fitzroy sighed "I am aware of convict Pembroke's background, corporal." Then he looked at Charles again "You do realise how this looks, don't you Pembroke?"
"I know what it looks like, sir, but I did not hit Corporal Thomson," Charles insisted, trying to keep his temper.
"You three were the only ones here, am I supposed to believe that Private Dawson hit Corporal Thomson?" Charles did not answer, but the curl of his lip showed what he thought of the Lieutenant's question. "Show me your hands, Pembroke," Fitzroy ordered.
Charles held out his hands, palms upward.
Fitzroy's eyes flashed his anger, the insolence of Charles Pembroke was astounding. "The other side!" he snapped.
Charles rolled his hands so that Fitzroy could see the knuckles. They were scratched and bruised, that was a common hazard of handling felled trees, many that had not been properly trimmed before being handed to the gang. "Your knuckles are bruised." Fitzroy observed.
"Of course they are," Charles retorted, "you try lifting and carrying one of those logs and see what state your hands end up in, sir." The young nobleman made the last word sound like an insult.
"He's a liar, he is, sir," Thomson insisted.
"Quiet Thomson," Fitzroy barked at the irritating corporal. "You leave me no choice, Pembroke. I will have to report this to the Colonel when we return. I very much fear you will have an appointment with the flagellator."
"What?" Thomson demanded angrily, walking up to Fitzroy and taking hold of the horse's bridle.
Fitzroy stared down at the corporal, his face tight.
"Sir," a slightly abashed Thomson said, "he hit me. I want to punish him."
"We don't have a flagellator here, Thomson. I have to report this sort of thing."
"I don't care about no flagellator, sir. He hit ME, I want to hit him back. We got a cat here an' I know how to use it, done it before, sir."
Fitzroy scratched his head. He was in a quandary. He was required to report a matter such as this, but some of the convicts and the soldiers already disrespected him, because he was not strict enough. An impromptu flogging here and now would go a long way to solving that, he also knew that Thomson had a grudge against Pembroke for some reason and would make any flogging he was permitted to administer as severe as possible. The convict and the soldier were both staring up at him. A trial would be messy and he could just hear some of the senior officers asking him why he did not simply handle the matter then and there. Fitzroy sighed and said "Very well, Thomson. Dawson, you and one of the other convicts bind Pembroke to that tree over there and bare his back. Thomson, go and get the cat."
"Yes sir," Thomson said eagerly and almost skipped to the cart where the nine tailed whip was stored.
Charles said nothing as he was led to a tree, his rough convict shirt with the upwards pointing arrows was stripped off and ropes were slung over a branch and his wrists bound and then hauled upwards. He kept his eyes fixed on Fitzroy and the lieutenant eventually had to avert his face to avoid the accusatory gaze.
Thomson stood behind Charles, shook out the cat o' nine tails and waved it gently to separate the nine lashes. "Twelve strokes, Thomson. I will count." Fitzroy pronounced sentence.
"Twelve!" Thomson squawked. "He hit a guard, that's more than twelve."
"Twelve strokes only, Thomson. Unless you would prefer this to be dealt with back at the station and I'll add a charge of insolence for you to be heard along with Pembroke's case."
Thomson muttered "No, sir." and continued to grumble under his breath as he judged the distance between he and Charles and prepared to flog the bared, marble white back stretched out in front of him.
Charles had thus far managed to avoid the lash and he knew that he was in no way physically prepared for the punishment. "That's a nice smooth back, that is." Thomson murmured as he stepped back and then flung himself forward, the nine tailed whip swinging out in front of him. The knotted lashes struck Charles back and scored bloody furrows down it. Charles jerked against the ropes holding his arms up above him, but made no sound.
"One." Fitzroy's voice intoned.
An ugly grin on his face, Thomson swung himself into the second stroke. This time the lashes hit Charles' back from the side and cut across the vertical stripes Thomson had already inflicted. Charles hissed and his body went taut, but he refused to scream. He would not give Thomson the satisfaction of hearing him cry out.
As the strokes fell and Fitzroy grimly counted them out Thomson became more and more frenzied with his action. "Scream, damn you, scream!" he muttered under his breath as he put every ounce of strength in his arm into the stroke. Charles had gone numb. He could no longer feel the whip, his back was a scored sheet of crimson, blood ran down the young nobleman's back and soaked the waistband of his rough prisoner's trousers.
"Twelve." Fitzroy counted as the lash struck home for the last time. Thomson got ready for the next stroke. "That's twelve." Fitzroy said sharply to the corporal. "You can stop now, Thomson."
"Are you sure, sir?" the trooper asked. "I don't think it's twelve, sure you didn't count one as two....."
"Are you questioning me, corporal?" Fitzroy asked icily, his eyes boring into the guard. "You came out here today as a corporal, I don't think you would like to return as a private."
"No, sir." Thomson said, dropping eyes shining with bloodlust to the ground.
"Hand me the cat, please Thomson."
Thomson went past the young officer and handed him the whip, the knots still dripping Charles Pembroke's blood into the dust at the hooves of Fitzroy's mount.
"Cut him down," Fitzroy ordered.
Charles fell heavily to the ground and felt the dirt grind into the cuts on his cheek where he had pressed it against the trunk of the tree he had been tied to and abraded it. He gasped as one of the other convicts threw a bucket of water over the whip cuts on his back. "I'll have you, Thomson you bastard. That I swear." Charles vowed as he forced himself to his feet, his back a throbbing mass of dull pain.
Charlotte Chaffinch walked past the schoolroom and was surprised to hear angry voices emanating from it. She opened the door to see her son Henry jnr arguing angrily with his older sister Joanna. "You're wrong!" the boy said hotly. "What would you know? You're just a girl!"
"Young man!" Joanna said indignantly, standing and drawing herself up to her full height as she glared down at her brother.
"Henry Chaffinch," Charlotte said sternly, entering the room and immediately capturing the attention of the boy. "You will not speak to your sister that way. She is a girl, but she is older than you and well educated. If I hear any more stories of you arguing with her when she is trying to teach you, then your father will hear of it, young man."
"Yes, mother." the abashed boy said, lowering his eyes to his sum covered slate.
"Not going well?" Charlotte asked her oldest child.
"I'm trying, mother, but I am not a teacher," Joanna admitted.
"Where is Mabel?" the mother asked, not seeing her youngest daughter in the room.
"She was meant to...." Joanna began to answer and then looked around startled, a flush creeping up her cheeks as she admitted, "I don't know. She's always running off."
Charlotte shook her head "I'll see if I can find her and send her back. I'll speak to your father again about getting a tutor here for them, Joanna. This situation is not ideal for any of us and I do appreciate the strain it puts you under."
"Thank you, mother," the girl said softly, knowing that she had disappointed her mother.
The scene Charlotte had just witnessed was one of the reasons she had argued against Colonel Henry Chaffinch taking the appointment at Port Arthur. Henry had offered to leave Charlotte and the children in Hobart, but Charlotte did not feel that the family should be separated in that way, however it was difficult to give the children some things that they needed in Port Arthur, one was the company of others their own age and the second was a decent tutor. No one wanted to come all the way to the end of the earth, as many referred to the station, to tutor the children of an army officer. When they were older Charlotte would send them to boarding school in either Hobart or the mainland of Australia, but until that time they would have to be schooled at the station somehow.
Lieutenant Arthur Fitzroy was still wrestling with his conscience as he made his way to the barracks after leading the work gang back and stabling his horse. The matter with Thomson and Pembroke earlier that day had unsettled him. Arthur had never liked the Corporal, he was a foul-mouthed character who was severely lacking in morals and had a vicious temper. He had taken a set against Charles Pembroke and Fitzroy had the unsettling feeling that if something was not done to separate the two men the matter would end with the death of one of them. Fitzroy did not want to side with a prisoner against one of his men, but he rather hoped that it would not be Pembroke who wound up dead. His family had business dealings with Lord David Pembroke and he had heard about the case of the younger brother, he did not really know how Charles Pembroke had found himself at the Port Arthur penal station, but was of the belief that he should not be there and even less that he should be at the mercy of a gutter-bred guard like Thomson.
Charlotte Chaffinch was on her way to see her husband to again enquire about getting a tutor for Henry and Mabel when she ran into Lieutenant Arthur Fitzroy. "You look troubled, Lieutenant," she commented.
A frown crossed Fitzroy's face. "A nasty business today with one of the convicts," he tried to explain briefly.
"Which one?" Charlotte asked.
"Pembroke," Fitzroy sighed.
"Why does that name sound familiar?" Charlotte mused.
"He's David Pembroke's brother, ma'am."
"Lord David Pembroke?"
"What on earth is he doing here and as a convict, no less?"
"I don't know the full circumstances, ma'am, but he accrued some debts he could not pay and after committing a felony in debtors prison was sentenced to transportation."
"You work with the clearing teams in the forest, don't you Lieutenant?"
"I do, ma'am."
"Surely someone like Charles Pembroke would have good schooling and therefore be able to read and write, what is he doing lugging trees around?"
"He was not assessed to possess any useful skills so was assigned to the work gang, ma'am."
"Could you get me a meeting with Mr Pembroke?"
"Yes, ma'am, but I don't know that...."
"I am not afraid of him and if you wish you can be present, Lieutenant. I think I may have a use for Mr Pembroke."
That Sunday following services and lunch Charles Pembroke was in the library standing in front of Charlotte Chaffinch. "You're the son of Lord Pembroke?" the stately matron asked.
"Yes, ma'am. I am Lord Pembroke's son, although my brother David is now Lord Pembroke, my father died as the result of a riding accident."
"I am sorry, Mr Pembroke."
"So am I, ma'am," Charles answered, resisting the temptation to add, 'I wouldn't be here if he hadn't died.'
"As the son of a peer you would have had an impressive schooling, am I correct?"
"I don't know that you could term it impressive, ma'am, but yes I completed Eton and Oxford."
"What were you educated in Mr Pembroke?"
Charles shrugged "The usual things. Classics, Greek, Latin...."
"Do you enjoy working on the clearing gang, Mr Pembroke?"
"It is not up to me to enjoy it ma'am. I'm a convict. I do what I am told to do."
"If the opportunity were made available would you rather work elsewhere?"
"Thankyou Mr Pembroke. I have a suspicion we will speak again."
"Come on, Pembroke," Fitzroy said from the doorway. "Let's leave Mrs Chaffinch to her business."
Still wondering exactly why he had just had that conversation Charles allowed the lieutenant to lead him from the room.
"Give me one good reason why not Henry?" Charlotte Chaffinch demanded of her husband later that afternoon.
"He is a convict."
"I said a good reason, Henry." Charlotte shot back tartly.
"I think that's a very good reason, Charlotte. He's a murderer and he has no teaching qualifications."
"I found out something about that 'murder'. It was listed as manslaughter and one of the Queen's officers testified that it was an accident. Joanna has even less qualifications as a teacher and Henry and Mabel have no respect for her. He's better educated than she is, he read classics at Oxford, Henry. We cannot get a good tutor to come here and if the standard of schooling for Henry and Mabel is not improved considerably they are going to struggle when they do go to boarding school. I know you don't want that. Give Charles Pembroke, the brother of a Lord I might add, a chance. He's not some desperate character wanting to escape and the house is generally surrounded by guards at any one time."
Colonel Chaffinch sighed, his wife made sense. He did not like it, but she was right. He had heard Charles Pembroke speak around the station and he had more than once wondered how such a highly bred, well spoken man had been sent to Port Arthur.
"Very well, Charlotte. We will trial your young man, but I will remove him back to the work gang at the first complaint from either Henry or Mabel."
It came to pass that very evening that convict Charles Pembroke was removed from the tree clearing work gang and assigned to work as the tutor to Henry and Mabel Chaffinch. When he was not actively engaged in teaching the children he would spend his time in the library either preparing lessons, checking the Chaffinch youngsters work or helping in the library itself.
Although Joanna Chaffinch was not surprised that she was replaced as Henry and Mabel's tutor she was rather shocked at the speed with which she had been removed, and the identity of her replacement. "Miss Chaffinch," Charles greeted her outside the schoolroom on Monday morning.
"Mr Pembroke," the girl said, wondering what on earth he was doing in the house. She was about to ask the question when her mother appeared.
"Good morning Joanna, Mr Pembroke. I'm sorry I did not get a chance to inform you yesterday, Joanna, but Mr Pembroke has agreed to tutor the children from now on."
"Mr Pembroke?" Joanna queried her eyebrows rising into her dark hair, and then hissed, "Mother, may I have a word, please?"
Charlotte Chaffinch excused herself and followed her daughter into the schoolroom itself. "Mother, what are you doing?" the girl asked.
"Doing? Whatever do you mean, Joanna?"
"You have appointed a convict, a man found guilty of manslaughter, as the teacher of Henry and Mabel."
Yes," Charlotte agreed, "a decision your father agrees with. Charles Pembroke is the brother of a peer of the realm and his education somewhat exceeds your own."
"Do you know the stories that circulate about him?"
"I had thought you above idle gossip, Joanna," Charlotte told her daughter sternly.
Joanna blushed. "Corporal Thomson...." she began.
"Joanna, you would do well to listen less to Corporal Thomson, he may be pretty, but he has a rather interesting idea about the word honesty."
Joanna had her mouth open, framing a suitably indignant reply when childish voices were heard excitedly outside and Charlotte immediately exited the room to introduce Henry and Mabel to their new tutor.
Although she had never really enjoyed teaching her brother and sister, Joanna was still miffed that she had been replaced by a convict and especially one she had such conflicting feelings about. On the one hand Charles was a convicted criminal, but on the other he came from an entirely inappropriate background for his current situation, and there was also the small matter of him being a very attractive man. She enjoyed spending time with Corporal Thomson and watching his sparkling eyes, listening to him compliment her and hearing his tales, even if she could not believe a lot of them. The two men; Charles and James had an intense dislike of each other that crossed the line into hatred and one would not say a good word about the other.
Following a conversation with James Thomson on which he had related the story of how Charles Pembroke had struck him and he had warned Joanna that he was not a fit man to teach two trusting young children, no matter what her mother or even her father believed, Joanna decided to pay the schoolroom a visit to check up on Mr Pembroke. Childish laughter emanated from the room. Joanna opened the door to investigate the cause of the hilarity. "You promised!" Henry told the grinning man standing over his desk.
"I promised?" Charles asked and then cast a look over his shoulder at Mabel, who was looking at him with adoring eyes. "Miss Mabel, do you remember me making any promise to Master Henry, here?"
The girl giggled and nodded.
"What did I promise?"
"That you would give him a boxing lesson if he got his next six sums right."
"Hmmmmm....," Charles mused, looking at the slate in his hand and then giving it to Mabel, "you tell me, has Henry earned his boxing lesson?"
The girl took the slate, and under her brother's anxious eyes studied the laboriously worked out arithmetic with a furrowed brow.
"Are they correct?" Charles asked.
"I think so," Mabel answered.
"You think so?"
"They look right, but I need to know how he got the answers."
"Henry, you tell your sister how you worked them out and then we'll see about that boxing lesson, eh."
Joanna closed the door and looked at it, marvelling how easily Charles Pembroke had not only won his brother and sister over and how much fun he had made learning for them. However considering what had gotten Charles sent here in the first place she did not think that teaching her younger brother how to use his fists was at all appropriate.
Joanna waited until lessons were scheduled to finish for the day and made her way back to the schoolroom; she needed to discuss the boxing lessons and the charge levelled against Charles by James. James Thomson bore one vital piece of evidence that Joanna could not deny, he had an impressive black eye from the alleged encounter with Charles, and the Lord's son was known to be good with his fists, he had admitted as much to her and now he was offering to help her brother to use his fists. Joanna ducked back into the hallway as Mabel skipped out of the schoolroom and went outside to play, she waited for a few minutes, but there was no sign of Henry or Charles. She tiptoed up to the schoolroom and opened the door a crack. Charles was bent over, his hands, palms flat, extended out in front of him and Henry, his young face creased with concentration, was punching the outstretched palms. Charles moved smoothly about the room, forcing Henry to follow him and encouraging him with each hit. "That's enough for now, Master Henry."
"Charles...." the boy protested.
Charles reached out and ruffled the boy's hair fondly, admonishing him gently, "That's Mr Pembroke to you and if you can give me a paragraph of decently translated Latin tomorrow maybe we can have another lesson. When the summer comes I'll see if we can do some work on your fast bowling, too. Off you go now, you young scamp," he told the boy, sending him on his way with a playful swat on his backside. Joanna hid behind the opened door, as her brother dashed past, and then slipped inside.
"Miss Chaffinch," Charles greeted Joanna as she entered the room. "Have you come for lessons as well? Your mother did not mention anything to me, but I am sure I can arrange something."
Joanna began to reply, "I am sufficiently educated, thankyou very....." then she saw the sparkle in Charles Pembroke's eyes and knew that he was teasing her.
Charles laughed heartily as realisation hit the girl.
"I am here for a reason, Mr Pembroke."
"You are far too serious for a woman of your age, Miss Chaffinch," Charles told the girl, gathering up the books he had used as teaching material that day.
"And you are far too frivolous for a man in your situation, Mr Pembroke," Joanna rebuked the young man.
"I don't think one can ever be too frivolous, Miss Chaffinch, but speaking of situations I will be in one if I do not report on today's lesson to your mother. Walk with me."
Joanna frowned, she did not like being teased or so easily dismissed, but she did not want to get Charles in trouble on her accord so she walked with him on the way to find Charlotte Chaffinch.
"You were teaching my brother to box?" Joanna asked.
"Not really," Charles replied, "I was showing him how to use his fists."
"There's a difference?"
Charles nodded "All men should know how to fight."
"It does not seem to have done you much good."
"Joanna, if you don't fight, you lose."
"Is that what you said to Corporal Thomson?"
Charles sighed, Thomson again, it always came back to Thomson. If he had thought it would do any good and was not likely get him hung he would have turned Joanna over his knee and spanked her soundly, with an admonition to never ever again speak to Corporal James Thomson.
"What little tales has young Jimmy been telling now?" Charles asked.
"He said you hit him and do not try and deny it, he had the blackened eye to prove it."
Charles flashed back to that not so long ago day, watching helplessly while Thomson exhorted Dawson to hit him and then blamed it on Charles, thus getting permission to exact revenge by viciously flogging his innocent victim. What made Charles even angrier was that the feckless girl accusing him of hitting Thomson was the cause the confrontation in the first place. It had been Joanna Chaffinch's honour that Charles had been defending that day. He turned to Joanna, his blue eyes blazing, he seized her by the arm and steered her into a bedroom off the hallway.
Once they were in the room Joanna shook herself free of Charles' grip and turned on him, eyes blazing. "Mr Pembroke, you go too far, sir!"
Charles was too overcome by anger to be lectured by the girl. "I go too far?" he said, his voice shaking. "I do not suppose Thomson told you the full story of that day out in the forest."
"He did tell me that you would be likely to try and deny it."
"I'm going to deny it, because I never did it," Charles told Joanna, getting his emotions under control.
"Then who gave James the blackened eye?"
"Thomas Dawson!" Joanna laughed. "Oh come, Mr Pembroke. I may be young, but I am not stupid. Thomas Dawson is one of James' closest friends, he adores Corporal Thomson. Why would he hit him?"
Charles glared at Joanna and then to her astonishment he turned his back to her and lifted his shirt, revealing the marks the cat o' nine tails had left on it.
"What?" Joanna asked, her voice breaking and mouth dropping open.
"Your sweetheart Thomson's handiwork," Charles said bitterly.
"Because of the punch?"
"Because of the blow he claimed I gave him. I can tell you now, Miss Chaffinch, if I had hit Corporal James Thomson I would have done a good deal more than simply blacken his eye. The man is a liar and vicious, grudge-holding brute."
"You did hit a guard, though." Joanna tried to defend Thomson weakly.
"I did not!" Charles shouted, replacing his shirt and whirling to again face Joanna, who shrank back from him in a moment of fear.
"Do you want to know what really happened that day in the forest?" Charles asked the girl.
Joanna had thought she had the full story and was confident that James Thomson had told her the truth, but he had omitted the flogging and that made her doubt the veracity of his account, she nodded.
"I know that Thomson hates me and where possible I avoided him. This day something he said forced me to confront him."
"What did he say?"
"Miss Chaffinch, it concerned you and I would rather not repeat it."
Joanna gasped and went crimson to the roots of her hair.
"Thomson did not like a convict telling him how to speak and threatened me. When he knew that he had no grounds to report me, or rather that he could not risk me repeating his words in my defence, he asked Dawson to hit him. He immediately blamed me for the blow and because there were no other corroborating witnesses Lieutenant Fitzroy took his word over mine."
"But the flogging?" Joanna said in a small, distressed voice. "They can't just give one like that. Doesn't it have to be reported?"
Charles let out a bitter laugh. "You have a lot to learn about convict justice, young woman. Fitzroy was scared to be seen as an officer that can't settle these things without the say so of your father. In his defence though he only allowed Thomson twelve lashes. If he'd had his way Thomson would have flogged me to death."
Joanna stumbled from the room and rushed down the hall in tears, Charles followed her and called down the hallway after her, but she paid no attention, her father stepped aside in startlement and called after her, "Joanna love, what is wrong?" the girl continued on her tearful way, and when Colonel Henry Chaffinch looked up he saw Charles Pembroke standing there. The station's commandant said nothing, but the look on his face promised retribution.
Charles knew it was coming and sure enough after dinner he was summoned to attend the Commandant in his quarters.
"Pembroke," Henry Chaffinch said brusquely without glancing up from the papers on his desk.
"Commandant Chaffinch," Charles responded politely.
What did you say to reduce my daughter to tears this afternoon?"
"It was a personal matter, sir."
"You may know that you were given the appointment as tutor to Henry jnr and Mabel over my objections."
"I was not aware of that, sir."
"You have no reason to speak with my older daughter. Once again what did the two of you speak about this afternoon?"
"It is between Joanna and I, sir."
"That is Miss Chaffinch to you, Mr Pembroke. You leave me no choice."
"A week on the tread wheel. Dismissed."
"Sir, Master Chaffinch and Miss Mabel's lessons...." Charles began.
"One more word, Pembroke and you can add twenty lashes to that week on the wheel. Dismissed."
Shoulders slumped Charles turned and left the room silently.
The tread wheel was a brutal punishment and given the choice many prisoners would opt for the whip over it. Step after step on boards designed to turn a heavy wooden wheel was a punishment that both broke the body and numbed the mind. The wheels had originally been designed to grind grain, pump water or power a mill and used beasts of burden such as horses or oxen. The ones in use at prisons across Great Britain and the colonies were specifically set up as instruments of correction, although some did grind grain and pump water. The tread wheel at Port Arthur was purely an instrument of correction.
Charles' absence from the Chaffinch house did not go unnoticed and that evening at dinner Colonel Henry Chaffinch was grilled by his family. "Henry, dear," Charlotte Chaffinch asked benignly as she spooned parsnips onto her husband's plate, "why did Mr Pembroke not give the children their lessons today?"
Henry Chaffinch seemed somewhat uncomfortable with the question. "Surely you could have asked one of the officers about that earlier, Charlotte." he hedged, accepting his now full plate from his wife.
"I did," Charlotte informed him, as she helped her two younger children with their dinner, "and was told to speak to you about it."
"Oh...." Henry said, "well, I had to take some punitive action against Mr Pembroke." As the colonel spoke he became uncomfortably aware that he not only had the full attention of his wife, but also that of his eldest daughter.
"Punitive action?" Charlotte Chaffinch repeated, a dangerous edge to her voice. "What is that?"
Becoming annoyed by the grilling, and the fact that he was being put on the spot in order to explain actions he had taken against a man to whom his control had been entrusted by the crown, Henry answered brusquely, "I sentenced him to a week on the tread wheel."
"A week!" Joanna squealed. "That is inhuman, Daddy!"
"That is enough, Joanna!" both the colonel and Charlotte scolded their daughter.
Charlotte then resumed her questioning "Why did you sentence him, Henry? And why so long?"
"Maybe you should ask Joanna," Henry Chaffinch replied tightly, his eyes flashing at his daughter.
"Me?" Joanna asked innocently, as her mother turned to her.
"You had a conversation with Mr Pembroke yesterday, Joanna. You left the room in tears," Henry said firmly.
Joanna went bright pink. "I did not know that you saw me, Father." she said in a small voice, her eyes dropping to the table.
"I did," Henry Chaffinch confirmed, "when I questioned Mr Pembroke about it he refused to tell me what it was about."
Joanna gulped, and her eyes brimming with tears, she asked in a quavering voice, "You sentenced him to a week on the wheel for that?"
Henry Chaffinch sat up straight and looked his daughter in the eye. "You are my daughter, Joanna. I do not permit any man, especially a prisoner under my command, to reduce you to tears and then refuse to speak about it."
Joanna tore her eyes away from her father's angry face, and stared at her plate.
"Maybe you had better tell us what happened with Mr Pembroke, young lady," Charlotte Chaffinch suggested quietly.
"I heard that Mr Pembroke was teaching Henry to box...." Joanna began.
All eyes went to Henry jnr, who stopped shovelling food into his face, and said brightly "He's going to help me with my fast bowling, too."
"Capital, capital," Colonel Chaffinch said approvingly, "all young men should know how to protect themselves, and your fast bowling could use some work, Henry." Then he turned his attention back to his daughter. "Why exactly did you take it upon yourself to confront Mr Pembroke?"
Joanna was hesitant about answering "It was something that Corporal Thomson told me....."
Charlotte Chaffinch threw her hands in the air and said in exasperated tones, "Corporal Thomson! I might have know he had something to do with this."
"What did Thomson tell you?" Henry Chaffinch asked, a hard edge to his voice.
"He told me that Mr Pembroke struck him when on work detail in the forest....."
"You believed him?" Charlotte asked, her eyebrow raised.
"He had a black eye, Mother," Joanna defended herself.
"There was nothing reported to me," Henry said, perplexed.
"That was what upset me," Joanna explained. "I confronted Mr Pembroke about it and he denied hitting Corporal Thomson and then I found out that Corporal Thomson had not told me that he flogged Mr Pembroke."
"Pembroke flogged?" Henry Chaffinch asked. "It's the first I've heard of it, and all floggings here are publicly given."
"Mr Pembroke said it was handled there and then by Lieutenant Fitzroy."
Colonel Henry Chaffinch was not at all mollified. "I'll be having a chat to Lieutenant Fitzroy about correct procedures tomorrow."
"It was all very upsetting, Father," Joanna said. "That's why I was crying. I liked Corporal Thomson and now it appears that I cannot trust him and that he is something other than he appeared to me."
"Joanna," Charlotte Chaffinch said sternly, "I forbid you to have any further contact with Corporal Thomson."
"But Mother," Joanna protested, "I can't just ignore them man. We had become friends. I owe it to him to explain why that can no longer continue."
"I agree with your mother, Joanna." Henry Chaffinch backed his wife. "If I hear of Corporal Thomson having any contact with you I will have him flogged. Do you understand me, young lady?"
Joanna nodded. "Yes, Father."
"Very well then, the matter is settled. Is there dessert?"
"Not quite, Henry," Charlotte Chaffinch told her husband. "Mr Pembroke is still on the wheel."
"And he will stay there until his sentence is completed." Henry Chaffinch said firmly.
"Henry, you know now that he does not deserve to be there," a clearly confused Charlotte argued.
"I do not want my family business to become public and what other reason can I give for cancelling the rest of Pembroke's sentence? My original ruling stands."
Charlotte Chaffinch stood and began to clear the table, as she passed her husband she leant down and whispered in his ear, "I will be making a bed for you in the guest room. You can sleep there tonight."
When Charles Pembroke completed his time on the wheel he returned to work as a tutor for Henry and Mabel Chaffinch. He reported to Charlotte Chaffinch before going to supervise the children's work in the schoolroom. "Welcome back Mr Pembroke," Charlotte greeted him warmly in the drawing room.
"Thankyou Mrs Chaffinch. I am glad to be back. My previous place of employment was somewhat arduous," Charles said with a raffish smile.
Inwardly Charlotte Chaffinch was filled with admiration. Charles Pembroke was indeed a remarkable young man.
"I do apologize for that, Mr Pembroke."
"It was not your fault, ma'am." Charles tried to put his mistress at ease.
"I rather think it was. It was my daughter that caused it."
Charles shrugged, "A misunderstanding."
"Henry is very protective where either of the girls are concerned. At times he is too indulgent, I blame myself sometimes. Joanna is a good girl most of the time, but there are other times where she could use a jolly good spanking."
Charles was somewhat shocked by Charlotte Chaffinch's confession, although he had deep feelings of affection for Joanna, Charlotte's thoughts about what she needed mirrored his own on more than one occasion.
The Sunday after Charles returned to work at the Chaffinch household found Corporal James Thomson standing on one of the rocky outcrops overlooking Carnavon Bay. The corporal sucked hard on the cigarette in his mouth, making the tip glow brightly, and brooded. Only a few weeks ago things had been looking up for the soldier. He had the ear of the Commandant's daughter and believed he was close to winning her heart. That gullible girl was going to be his ticket to a commission and a way out, a commission could see him posted back to England or at least on the mainland, not this God forsaken end of the earth. He had also been close to seeing the end of that toff Pembroke. Bloody Pembroke had been the fly in the ointment. Rarely had James Thomson experienced a more joyful moment than when he tore Pembroke's back to bloody shreds with the cat's cruel knots. He did not know how the man had managed it, but while Pembroke had been breaking his back on the tread wheel Joanna Chaffinch had cut off all contact with James Thomson. Every time Thomson saw the girl she was with one or both of her parents or an officer, which meant that the corporal could not approach her without an official reason. Joanna had not sought him out as she had done previously and he knew that she had seen him on some of those times he had seen her, but had chosen to ignore him completely. "Little bitch!" Thomson muttered as he dropped the butt of his cigarette on the ground at his feet and stamped on it viciously. He looked out over Carnavon Bay and and kicked a pebble off the edge of the outcropping he was standing on to watch it bounce its way down the cliff before hitting the rock at its base and ending up in the swirling waves beneath them.
Cutting off all contact with Corporal Thomson in the way she had been forced to bothered Joanna Chaffinch. Despite the man lying to her he still deserved an explanation as to why she had taken the action she had. Her parents did not need to forbid her to have any further dealings with the man, she would have done that herself once she saw him and explained as to why. She wandered the station and fretted about the situation. She had been invited to join Charles and her siblings whilst they played a game of cricket, but preferred to go for a head clearing walk.
James Thomson was about to turn and slouch back to barracks to see if he could interest any one in a game of cards or dice - he could use an extra grog ration this week - when his name was called. "Corporal Thomson!"
The corporal whirled to see Joanna Chaffinch approaching him.
"What do you want?" he snarled.
"Corporal Thomson," Joanna repeated, stopping short at the tone in his voice.
"Corporal Thomson now is it? Not James anymore?"
"I am sorry, Corporal Thomson, I need to speak with you." Joanna tried to calm the man, he was obviously very annoyed about something.
"Not good enough fer you now, am I?"
"I don't understand. Charles told me....."
"Pembroke!" Thomson spat. "Callin' him Charles now!"
"He told me about the flogging."
"He deserved that girly, he hit me!"
"Did he? His story sounds more plausible." Joanna was becoming angered by Thomson's manner. "I looked at your records, sir, and your conduct has not always been above reproach."
"You and yer high an' mighty words! Where does that leave me?"
"I am sorry, but I do not believe our relationship is appropriate any more."
Thomson grabbed Joanna by the arms and shook her violently "I'll show you what's appropriate, girly!" He began to wrestle her to the edge of the cliff.
Charles and Henry Chaffinch jnr had set up an impromptu cricket pitch further away on the grounds. Mabel was supposed to be fielding, but was instead sitting on the grass making flower chains. Henry was batting, Charles was attempting to show him how a real fast bowler does it and making rather a hash of it. As Charles sent a ball down to the boy and watched him smack it high, wide and handsome, he reflected that maybe his time on the tread wheel had not been so hard after all. Mabel craned her head back as the ball sailed over it and said, "That's going to go down the hill."
Charles looked at Henry, and said "You know the rule, young fellow. You hit it, you go fetch it."
Henry grinned at Charles, and scampered off after the ball.
As Henry fossicked about in the grass for the ball he heard raised voices and shouting. The boy abandoned the search for the ball and crept towards the argument. He crouched behind a bush and what he saw made his eyes go wide and his heart beat faster. Corporal Thomson was trying to throw Joanna off the cliff! One thought screamed through the boy's mind 'Get Charles!' He turned and immediately began scrambling up the hill.
Joanna fought James Thomson, but he was a strong man and he had her arms pinned. His eyes were wild and he truly meant to throw her off the cliff. James Thomson was wearing army issue boots and they had much better purchase on the ground beneath their feet than her high heels. She screamed once and Thomson smacked her viciously across the mouth with the comment, "Shut up, bitch!" As she struggled Joanna wondered why she did not listen to Charles, he too had cautioned her against approaching Thomson, but she thought that was his understandable dislike of the man surfacing. The girl also had a strong stubborn streak that often made her follow her own path in sheer defiance of what other people told her.
Charles leaned against Henry's cricket bat, looked at Mabel fondly, and waited for Henry to return. He really should have insisted that Joanna stay with them, but she had wanted to go for a walk to clear her head. The conversation he had with Charlotte Chaffinch earlier in the week kept playing in his mind. There were some similarities between he and the oldest Chaffinch. Both Charles and Joanna had been indulged by their fathers when they should have been disciplined. With Charles it had eventually led to his present circumstance; he loved Joanna Chaffinch, although he had not told anyone, and he did not want to see her follow a similar path for lack of a strong guiding hand. His thoughts were jolted from their path by a young male voice screaming, "Mister Pembroke!"
"What is it, Henry?" Charles asked urgently.
The boy's eyes were wild, and his face flushed "It's Joanna!"
"What about her?"
"Corporal Thomson is trying to throw her off the cliff!"
"Good God!" Charles exclaimed, and as he bolted down the hill, shouted over his shoulder, "Henry, Mabel run and get your mother and the Colonel!"
"THOMSON!" Charles roared as he took in the scene.
James Thomson stopped fighting with Joanna Chaffinch, and saw his hated enemy running towards him.
"How about fighting someone more your match?" Charles invited.
The corporal flung Joanna aside and she fell heavily to the ground, using her hands and knees she quickly scrabbled her way from the edge of the cliff and watched the two men, hatred etched on their faces, circling each other warily.
Charles held his fists in front of himself and kept his eyes fixed on Thomson's. You always had to watch the eyes in a fight, the eyes betrayed an opponent's moves. Thomson could brawl. but there was no science to the way he fought. He ran straight at Charles and was brought up short by a hard jab into his face. Thomson backed off, his eyes watering. Charles maintained his position and waited for Thomson to come at him. The corporal put his head down and rushed Charles. Charles saw it coming and was able to absorb the blow without Thomson winding him, he was forced back a few steps and as Thomson wrapped his arms around Charles Pembroke's waist, Charles joined his hands and slammed a double fisted blow into Thomson's back. The corporal grunted and his grip slipped as he began to fall to his knees, Charles straightened him up with an uppercut. Thomson staggered back, wiped blood from his mouth and ran for Joanna. "Oh you gutless coward!" Charles said as he realised what Thomson planned to do. He blocked the other man's path to the girl and said, "Men use their fists to defend themselves," he hit Thomson with another straight jab and the man took a step backwards, "they do not use their elbows," and an elbow smashed into the side of Thomson's head, "or their knees," he grabbed hold of Thomson's hair and drew him down to smack the face into his knee, "and they never try to use a lady as a hostage." Thomson, blood streaming down his face, aimed a wild swing at Charles, Charles swung away from it and propelled by the force of the blow Thomson went stumbling forward and screamed as he fell off the edge of the cliff, he screamed all the way down until he was silenced by hitting the rocks at the base of the cliff.
"Oh Charles." Joanna sobbed as she fell into Charles Pembroke's arms.
"I have you to thank for my daughter's life, Mr Pembroke," Colonel Henry Chaffinch said gravely as Charles and Joanna sat side by side in the commandant's living room, sipping mugs of hot sweet tea.
"I had to do it, sir," Charles replied. "Thomson tried to throw her off the cliff."
"Bad business, this," Henry Chaffinch muttered. "I'll be looking into your case Mr Pembroke and I will be doing my best to have your sentence altered. You stand a good chance of obtaining a ticket of leave very expediently." He looked across at Joanna and saw that she had finished her tea and recovered some of her composure. "May I have a few moments alone with Joanna, sir?"
Henry Chaffinch looked at his daughter and saw her nod briefly. "Of course. Good day to you and I will see you later, Joanna."
"Thankyou, Daddy," the girl murmured.
"You, young lady," Charles said sternly to Joanna, "were warned repeatedly about James Thomson and yet you still went and took it upon yourself to speak to the man alone."
"I'm sorry Charles," Joanna apologised, "I had no idea he would react that way."
"I think you had far more than an idea my girl," Charles said, standing up and taking Joanna's wrist in his hand. "You were lucky today, if I had not been nearby I shudder to think of the consequences."
"I'm ever so grateful Charles," Joanna responded, her voice becoming uncertain as Charles drew her to her feet and seated himself again on the couch. As she was draped over Charles' lap she asked, "What are you doing?"
"Something that should have been done a long time ago, Miss Joanna Chaffinch."
Joanna gasped as her dress was swept up and over her bottom, leaving her frilly, tight pantaloons as her only protection. The officer's daughter was soon squealing and kicking over Charles Pembroke's lap as his broad hard hand fell across her firm, tight round buttocks, spanking her soundly. The girl bounded and gasped, she felt her backside catch fire under Charles' punishing palm. Charles could feel her derriere heat up as he spanked fire into every inch of it. The squeals became sobs and the kicking turned into wriggles. Eventually Joanna lay limply over Charles' lap, tears of genuine remorse streaming down her cheeks. Charles was breathing heavily and his palm tingled. He lifted Joanna up and settling her steaming rear into his lap, feeling the warmth flood through his groin, he looked into her tear filled eyes and said, "I love you Joanna Chaffinch."
Joanna smiled through her tears and said, "Thankyou, Charles Pembroke."