Here's the setup: Our heroine Dolly, has fallen in with a Quaker abolitionist, A Miss Ruth Dean. Together they set up a safe house, part of the underground railroad somewhere in rural Virginia. One night they are rousted by Southern vigilantes who discover what they've been doing and decide to administer a little rough justice. Dolly is viewed as the less culpable of the pair and so her chastisement is not as severe as Miss Dean's, but her punishment at the hands of these rough men is a well done example of a realistic punishment scene.
Notice that there is some build up to the scene, a slow escalation of the tension. It's easy to visualize the mob of vigilantes and feel Dolly's increasing sense of panic.Notice also that it's a first person account so the reader is invited to feel what Dolly observes in the first instance and then what she feels. It's tense, exciting and hot.
Miss Dean is to be switched first:
«Very well,» said Stevens. «Bill, you run to the barn and fetch the ladder you’ll find there. Pete and Sam, you go and cut a couple of good, long, springy hick’ry switches and trim them ready for me to use.» Then he added with a laugh: «I daresay these yere northern ladies have often eaten hick’ry nuts, but I reckon they never thought they would feel a hick’ry switch on their bare bottoms.» The men all joined in the laugh, while I shuddered and my heart swelled with bitterness at our utter helplessness.
The ladder and the switches were brought, then all the men went into the garden. The ladder then was fixed in a sloping position against the rail of the veranda on the outside, and Stevens took up his position near it, holding one of the switches in his hand, while the other men stood round in a ring so that they might all have a good look at what was going to be done.
«Bring out the prisoners,» said Stevens. Some of the men took hold of us by the arms and led us out of the veranda to receive the cruel and indecent punishment. I was trembling and crying; but Miss Dean was calm and silent.
Stevens said to her: «Since you’re the boss, you shall be whipped first. Tie her up, boys.»
She immediately was seized by two men and laid upon the ladder. Her arms were stretched out to their full extent above her head and her wrists were tied with thick cords to the rungs of the ladder. Her ankles were securely fastened the same way. She had not shown the least resistance nor had she uttered a word while being tied up, but now she turned her head and looking over her shoulder at Stevens said: «Can you not whip me without removing my clothes?»
«No, certainly not,» he replied. «You was sentenced to be whipped on the bare bottom. Turn up her clothes, boys.»
Her skirt, petticoats and chemise were rolled high above her waist and tucked under her body so that they could not fall down. She had not on the ordinary drawers with a slit behind, such as are usually worn by women, but was wearing long pantelettes which were buttoned up all round, fitting rather closely to her legs and reaching down to her ankles, around which the little frills at the end of the garment were drawn in with narrow ribbons.
«Why darn me, if she ain’t got on white trousers!» ejaculated Stevens in a tone of astonishment. «I never seen such things on a woman before.»
The other men also seemed surprised and very much amused at the sight of the trousers, and various remarks were made by some of the spectators. I suppose that women of their class in that part of the country never wore drawers of any sort. «Take down her trousers,» said Stevens. Again Miss Dean looked around. «Please leave me my pantalettes. They won’t protect me much. Do not expose my nakedness to all these men,» she pleaded earnestly.
But no attention was paid to her entreaty. One of the men roughly put his hands in front of her belly and after some fumbling unbuttoned the pantalettes and pulled them down to her ankles, leaving her person naked from the waist to the tops of her black silk stockings.
When her last garment had been removed, her pale cheeks blushed scarlet. Even the nape of her neck and her ears became red. A shudder shook her body from head to foot, she bent her head down and she closed her eyes. I was being held by two men close to the ladder, so I could not help seeing everything.
Miss Dean, as I have before said, was a tall, slim, slightly built woman. Her hips were very narrow and her bottom very small, but it was round, well shaped and fairly plump; her thighs and legs also were well formed though slender; her skin was of a delicate ivory tint, smooth, and fine in texture.
The men pressed closer to the ladder, and I could see their eyes glisten as they fixed them with lecherous looks on Miss Dean’s half-naked body. Stevens, after gazing for a moment or two at her straight figure, exclaimed with a laugh: «Je-ru-sa-lem! What a little bottom she’s got. It ain’t no bigger than a man’s. By gosh, boys! Perhaps she is a man!» This was meant as a joke. It amused the men and they all laughed, one of them calling out: «Well Jake, you can easily find out whether she’s a woman or not.»
«Why, so I can, now that you have put it in my head,» drawled Stevens, grinning and pretending to be surprised at the suggestion. Then he thrust his hand between her thighs.
Miss Dean flinched convulsively, uttering a startled cry. Then, looking round at the man with an expression of intense horror on her face and with her eyes flashing, she exclaimed: «How dare you touch me like that?! Take your hand away! Oh, whip me and let me go!»
She writhed and twisted, but the man kept his hand in the cleft of her thighs, saying with a coarse laugh: «She’s a woman sure enough, boys. I’ve got my hand on her slit.»
Then he said to her: «My hand won’t hurt you. But if I and these other gentlemen were not decent sort of chaps who only intend to carry out the sentence of Judge Lynch, you would soon find something different to a hand between your legs. Now I’ll whip you right away, and I guess you’ll soon be begging me to stop whipping you.»
He withdrew his hand, and Miss Dean ceased struggling. Her head drooped forward. She again closed her eyes and lay silently awaiting the shameful punishment.
Stevens raised the switch and flicked it about so as to make it hiss in the air. Then he brought it down with considerable force across the upper part of her bottom, the tough hickory spray making a sharp crack as it struck the firm flesh which quivered involuntarily under the stinging stroke.
Miss Dean winced, drawing her breath through her teeth with a hissing sound. A long red weal instantly rose on her delicate skin.
Swinging the switch high, Stevens went on whipping, laying each stroke below the preceding one so that her skin soon was striped in regular lines. Each stroke smacked loudly on her flesh, and each one raised a fresh, red weal which stretched across both sides of her quivering bottom.
She began to writhe, and she clenched her teeth so tightly that I could see the outlines of her jaws through her cheeks, but no sound came from her lips. The man laid on the strokes with severity, and I wondered how she could bear the pain in silence. I felt inclined to scream, and I shuddered every time that I heard the horrid sound made by the switch as it fell on her flesh.
Stevens continued to whip her ruthlessly and slowly, pausing between each stroke. The weals increased in number and her skin grew redder until at last there was not a trace of white to be seen on the whole surface of her bottom. Her flesh twitched, she winced more sharply, she writhed more and she jerked her loins from side to side as the hissing strokes fell. Then, raising her head and looking over her shoulder, she fixed her eyes, which had become dilated and wild looking, on the switch every time it rose in the air.
Her lips were quivering, her pretty face was distorted with pain, the big tears were streaming down her scarlet cheeks and she began to moan. Still Stevens plied the hickory. Drops of blood began to show all over the surface of the skin. Her contortions became more violent and she uttered a groan every time the switch raised a fresh weal on her bleeding bottom. But the brave woman never once screamed, nor did she make an appeal for mercy. Her fortitude amazed me.
At last Stevens stopped whipping and threw down the switch which had become quite frayed at the end. Then, bending down, he closely examined the marks of his handiwork on the sufferer’s bottom.
I also gazed at it, shuddering. The whole surface from the loins to the thighs was a dark red color; it was covered with livid weals crossing and recrossing each other in all directions, and it was plentifully spotted with blood. It was dreadfully sore looking and its extreme redness contrasted with the ivory-like whiteness of the untouched skin of the thighs. She had been most severely whipped. I think she must have received forty or fifty strokes.
«There boys,» said Stevens, looking round at the spectators, «I guess that will do for her. I touched her up pretty smartly, as you can see by the state of her bottom. She won’t be able to sit down comfortable for two or three days, and I don’t think the marks of the whipping will ever be quite rubbed off her skin.»
He then pulled down her clothes and unfastened her wrists and ankles. She stood up, twisting her loins in pain, with her pantalettes hanging about her feet. Her face now was pale and drawn with suffering, her bosom was heaving, her tears were flowing and she was sobbing.
Then it's Dolly's turn:
I have told you all these things precisely as they happened, and I have used the exact words and phrases which were spoken by the band of lynchers who tortured us that day. I daresay you wonder at my remembering all the little details. But such an experience can never be forgotten: all the incidents which occurred during that dreadful period were indelibly printed on my memory so that I have still a vivid recollection of them.
But to resume. You can imagine my feelings as I listened to the coarse language of the men, language such as I had never before heard, and as I watched the proceedings at once so cruel and so utterly revolting the feminine delicacy. I was torn with various emotions. I was horrified at what I had heard and seen; I was filled with pity for Miss Dean; I was consumed with impotent rage against the men in whose power we were; I dreaded the coming exposure of my person, and I was awfully afraid of the whipping before me. I never could bear pain with any fortitude. In fact, I must confess that I am morally and physically a great coward.
Stevens picked up the unused switch and straightened it by drawing it through the fingers of his left hand. «Now boys,» he said, «put the gal on the ladder and tie her up but let me do the stripping.»
The awful moment had come, and I became quite frantic at the thought of the shame and pain which I was about to undergo. An insane idea that I might escape came into my head. The men were holding me loosely, so I easily slipped from their grasp and made a dash for the garden gate. Several of the men gave chase, and, though I exerted myself to the utmost, I soon was caught and dragged to the ladder, shrieking, struggling and begging them not to whip me. But my entreaties evoked only laughter. I was lifted up, was placed in position with outstretched arms and was securely bound at the wrists and the ankles.
Stevens now began to strip me and seemed to take as long a time over the work as possible, slowly rolling my garments up one by one till he came to my drawers. Then he paused. I was wearing the usual feminine drawers that are open behind.
«Look, boys,» he observed, «this gal has got on trousers too, but they are different from the ones the woman wore. These are loose, and are real dandy ones, all pretty frills and lace and ribbons. And, you see, there is a big slit at the back. I suppose that’s there so her sweetheart can get at her without taking down her trousers.»
The men all laughed loudly, while I, on hearing the shameful words, shrank as if I had received a blow.
Stevens now untied the strings of my drawers and pulled them down to my knees. I could feel the breeze fanning my naked bottom and thighs. A sensation of unutterable shame overwhelmed me. To be exposed in such a way before fifteen men!
And such men! Oh! It was horrible! I knew that they were all gloating over my nakedness, and I seemed actually to feel their lascivious glances on my flesh. I was hot with shame, yet I shivered as with cold.
But worse was yet to come. Stevens put his hand on my bottom, stroking it all over and squeezing the flesh with his fingers, making me thrill and quiver with disgust. In fact, my feelings of shame and horror at the moment were far greater than they had been when Randolph assaulted me.
«Ah!» said Stevens, chuckling and continuing to feel me with his rough hand, «this gal has got something like a bottom. My! Ain’t it jest plump and firm and broad. There’s plenty of room here for the switch, and her skin is as soft and smooth as velvet. You can see how white it is. I’ve never before had my hand on such a scrumptious bottom. It’s worth feeling, and no mistake,»
I writhed and moaned. He went on: «I should like all of you to have a feel of it, but as leader of this yer party, I can’t allow you to touch the gal for fear some of you might want to do more than feel her, and that would lead to difficulties among us. Now, as to the punishment of the gal. I propose to give her a dozen strokes, but not to draw blood. Remember, she’s only an assistant in the business.»
The men were divided in opinion. Some said that I ought to be whipped just the same as the «missis»; but the majority was in favor of my receiving only twelve strokes. And so it was settled. Even in my fear and shame, I felt a wave of relief at hearing that I was not going to be whipped so severely as Miss Dean had been.
One of the men called out: «Mind you, lay on the dozen right smart, Jake. Make the young bitch wriggle her bottom.»
«You bet I’ll lay them on smart, and you’ll see how she’ll move. I know how to handle a hick’ry switch, and I’ll rule a dozen lines across her bottom that’ll make it look like the American flag, striped red and white. And when I’ve done with her I guess she’ll be pretty sore behind, but you’ll see that I won’t draw a drop of blood. Yes, gentlemen, I tell you again that I know how to whip. I was an overseer in Georgia for five years.»
All the time that Stevens was holding forth I lay shame-stricken at my nakedness and shivering in awful suspense, the flesh of my bottom creeping and the scalding tears trickling down my red cheeks. Finally he raised the switch and flourished it over me, while I held my breath and contracted the muscles of my bottom in dread of the coming stroke.
It fell with a loud swishing noise. Oh! It was awful! The pain was even worse than I had anticipated. It took my breath away for a moment and made me gasp. Then I uttered a loud shriek, writhing and twisting my loins in agony.
Stevens went on whipping me very slowly, so that I felt the full sting of each stroke before the next one fell. Every stroke felt as if a red-hot iron was being drawn across my bottom. I winced and squirmed each time the horrid switch fell sharply on my quivering flesh. I shrieked and screamed and I swung my hips from side to side, arching my loins at one moment and then flattening myself down on the ladder, while, between my shrieks, I begged and prayed the man to stop whipping me.
I had forgotten all about my nakedness now. The only sensation I had at the moment was one of intense pain. When the twelve strokes had been inflicted, I was in a half-fainting state.
I was left lying on the ladder with upturned petticoats while the men all gathered round me and looked at me. Because I was a strong healthy girl, the faintness soon passed off, as also did the first intense smart of the whipping. But my whole bottom was sore, and the weals throbbed painfully.
The feeling of shame again came over me as I began to notice the way the men were looking at my naked body, and I tearfully begged them to pull down my clothes. No one did so, however, and Stevens, pointing to me said: «There boys, look at her bottom. You see how regularly the white skin is striped with long red weals? But there is not a drop of blood. That’s what I call a prettily-whipped bottom. But the gal ain’t got a bit of grit in her. Any nigger wench would have taken double the number of strokes without making half the noise. Now the other woman is a plucky one, she took her whippin’ well.»
He then pulled up my drawers and tied the strings round my waist, saying with a laugh: «This is the first time I’ve ever fixed up a woman’s trousers, and it’s the first time I’ve ever whipped women who wore trousers.»
Pulling down my clothes, he now loosened me from the ladder and led me, crying, sore and miserable, back to the veranda where Miss Dean was still lying on her side upon the couch with her hands over her face. He then went off to the other men, a few of whom I saw were engaged in work of some sort near the fence.
But I was so thankful at having got out of their hands and sight that I did not particularly notice what they were doing. I thought they would soon go away and that all our troubles were over. I had quite forgotten that Stevens had said we would have to ride a rail for two hours after being whipped.
Miss Dean looked mournfully at me. Her sweet face was very pale and her soft eyes were full of tears but the tears were not for herself, they were for me. She beckoned to me, and, when I went to her, she folded me in her arms, pressing me to her bosom.
«Oh! My poor, poor girl,» she murmured in tones full of compassion. «How I have felt for you! Your shrieks pierced my heart. Oh! The cruel, cruel man, to whip you so severely!» (She seemed to have quite forgotten the shame and pain of her own whipping in her pity for me.)
«He did not whip me nearly so severely as he did you,» I said. «He gave me only a dozen strokes and no blood has come. But I could not help screaming. I am not so brave as you are.» Then we kissed and cried and sympathized with each other, comparing notes as to our feelings while we had been on the ladder exposed to the eyes of the men.
After a moment or two I put my hand under my petticoats and touched my smarting bottom, feeling the weals which had been raised on the flesh by the switch. They were exquisitely tender and I could hardly bear to touch them.
«Oh! Dear me!» I wailed, «How dreadfully sore I am. But you must be much sorer.»
«I certainly am very sore,» said Miss Dean, wiping her eyes. «I can neither sit down nor lie on my back. My bottom is still bleeding, I think, and my pantalettes are sticking to my flesh. But, oh, oh! The awful exposure, and the shameful touch of the man’s hand was worse than the whipping!» she exclaimed, wringing her hands while the tears again began to trickle down her cheeks.
I pressed her hand in sympathy, and she went on: «Our sufferings are not over yet, Dorothy. Don’t you remember that the man said we would have to ride a rail for two hours?»
I now did call to mind what Stevens had said about our riding a rail, but I was not much frightened at having to do so. Of course, I knew that it would be very uncomfortable — if not downright painful — to have to sit with a sore and smarting bottom on a rail for two hours. But that was all I thought about the matter at the moment. Ah! I little knew what a terrible torture riding a rail would prove to be! I don’t know whether Miss Dean had any notion of what it actually was, but anyway she did not say a word more on the subject, and we stood, both of us being too sore to sit down in comfort, with our arms round each other, weeping silently and waiting miserably for the men to come for us.
We had not long to wait. In a couple of minutes, four of the band came and, taking us by the arms, led us out of the veranda to the fence beside which the other men were standing, some of them holding pieces of rope in their hands. The fence was about five feet high and of the ordinary pattern, made of split rails, the upper edge of each rail being wedge-shaped and sharp.
Stevens, with a cruel smile on his face, said: «Now you are going to receive the rest of your punishment, a two-hour ride on the rail. I guess your bottoms must be very hot jest now, but they’ll have plenty of time to cool while you are having your ride. And to prevent you from falling off your horses, well tie you on them. Get them ready, boys.»
I thought that we merely would be tied in a sitting posture on the fence with our clothes down. But I was soon undeceived! We were each seized by two men who held our arms while a third man raised our petticoats and pulled our drawers entirely off our legs. Then our skirts were held high above our waists so that the whole lower parts of our persons, both behind and before, were exposed to the lustful eyes of the horrid men. Since they had already seen our bottoms, they all crowded in front of us, gloating over the secret «spots» of our respective bodies, while we, crimson with shame greater than ever, struggled and wept and entreated the wretches to cover our nakedness. But they only laughed, and two or three of them put their hands on the «spots.» The touch of their fingers making us start and shrink with a horrible feeling of disgust.
Stevens stopped them by saying: «No, no, boys, you must not touch the prisoners, but you may look at them as much as you like.»
And the men did look, making remarks, speculating as to whether we were virgins or not, pointing the difference in the shape of our figures and observing the color of the hair on our respective «spots,» while we blushed and cried with shame.
You have seen my «spot» and know what it is like; there is nothing remarkable about it. But Miss Dean’s «spot» was somewhat remarkable. I had never seen it before, and I could not help looking at it with astonishment. It was covered with a thick forest of glossy, dark-brown hair which extended some distance up her belly and descended between her thighs in curly locks nearly two inches long. The fissure was completely hidden and not a trace of the lips could be seen.
One man, after a prolonged stare, exclaimed: «By Gosh! I’ve never seen such a fleece between a woman’s legs in my life! Darn me if she wouldn’t have to be sheared before a man could get into her.»
The men roared with laughter at the remark, while Miss Dean groaned and writhed in the bitterness of her shame.
After looking at our naked bodies for fully five minutes, the men went on with their work. A long piece of rope was passed several times round our bodies so that our arms and wrists were lashed closely to our sides. We then were lifted bodily up and, to my intense horror, seated astride one of the topmost rails of the fence, facing each other and about six feet apart.
The rail passed between our naked thighs, and our bare bottoms rested on the sharp edge of it. On each side of the fence and close to it the men had driven stakes into the ground, and to these stakes our ankles ’ were securely tied. When the men had fixed us in this painful position, they allowed our clothes to fall about our legs. Our nakedness was covered, but our torture had begun.
Stevens looked at us with a grin on his face, saying: «There now; you are properly mounted on your horses. We’re done with you and we’re all going away. But at the end of two hours one of us will come back and loosen you. And I reckon you’ll both be mighty stiff after your ride.»
Then the band of lynchers took their departure, laughing and shouting coarse jokes which made us, even in our pain, grow hot with shame. The clatter of the horses’ hoofs and the loud laughter of the men gradually died away in the distance. Then all was perfectly still.