He couldn't start feeling sorry for her. Not yet. Charly needed his anger to fuel what would come next.
What he'd promised would come next.
What needed to come next.
He could feel her body tense when the lean-to came into view and he prepared himself for the scuffle he knew he could reasonably expect her to put up. In front of the barn, he dismounted, keeping an iron grip on her arm after lifting her off. He patted the horse's flanks to nudge him into the barn and shut the door behind him, then started purposefully towards the lean-to. She allowed him to lead her a few steps and then she dug in her heels, straining against him, whimpering.
“Won't do you any good, Missy,” Charly said, unmoved, as he wrapped an arm around her waist, lifting her off the ground and making his way to the lean-to as her legs churned in the air.
The last thrashing Charly had gotten had been no less than twenty years earlier, delivered courtesy of his father's razor strap. It had been effective in correcting his misbehaving ways, but she was a lot slighter than Charly had been and as much as he wanted to make sure that the lesson he was about to teach wouldn't soon be forgotten, he also didn't want to inflict serious injury. Once inside the relative warmth of the lean-to, he fetched the clean stirring spoon from where it hung by the fire. It was as large as his palm, only slightly curved and sturdy.
He hardly expected her willing cooperation, but when he pushed her over the table, he had just drawn his arm back to deliver the first stroke when she slithered to the floor and tried to crawl away. He lifted her back in place and managed to get one solid whack in before she slipped to the floor again.
“Damn it, hold still!” He grabbed her by the waist and struggled with her to the bed, throwing her, face down, onto the quilt and pinning her in place with the weight of his knee planted between her shoulder blades.
Charly was starting to rethink the mercy he'd shown in not choosing the strap. He reached for her skirt and yanked it up to her waist, then parted the folds of her undergarments, fully exposing her wriggling backside and it was them that he realized how complete a job her ill-fitting dress did at concealing the womanly body beneath it. The perfect round globes were white like lilies, except for the one circle already blooming pink where Charly had landed his one and only stroke. He did his best to ignore the body's natural response to the sight before him. She acted like a child, so she deserves to be punished like one. It's as simple as that.
“I warned you, Missy. I did. Next time maybe you'll think twice.” The wood landed with a loud crack, but from that moment until the end of the ordeal, her howls dwarfed any other sound. Charly brought his arm down over and over and over, never pausing in his rhythm until his need for justice had been satiated and she had ceased to buck against him...and the spoon broke. He swore under his breath and tossed the stump of the handle into the fire. He eased off of her and calmly walked to the hearth, stoking the coals and adding logs. And then, bucket in hand, he headed for the spring.
The vision wouldn't leave his mind: the curves of her hips, the crease where bottom met thigh, the dimples just above her quivering backside. Part of him hated to have to punish her. But Charly would have been lying if he couldn't admit that another part if him had thoroughly enjoyed it. Reaching the spring, He plunged the bucket in and drew it up full, then trudged back to the house.
She was sitting in the corner of the bed, her knees scrunched up to her chest, her head bowed, her shoulders spasming with periodic violent sniffles.
Charly filled the kettle and set it over the fire. While it was warming, he pulled out some victuals and filled two plates.
Staring at the fire, He started speaking, “I don't know where you come from and I don't know who you belong to, but I intend to do my duty and find out so that I can return you to whoever it is that's responsible for you. In the meantime, I'm accepting responsiblity for you, and I must insist on your complete obedience. I swear that I mean you no harm. I only want to see you safely returned home.”
Coffee ready, he filled a cup for each of them and carried it to the bed. “Take this, Missy. I'll reckon it will help both of us get our feet back underneath us.”
She lifted her head, her face a mottled patchwork of red and white. Strands of hair stuck to her teary cheeks. Charly set his cup on the table and sat on the edge of the bed, reaching towards her and wiping her face with the cleanest part of his sleeve that he could find.
She looked at him and burst into fresh waves of soft weeping.
“Oh, there, there.” Charly scooted towards her, putting an arm around her shoulders. “You've been punished and now its finished. Come now, Missy, come now. Let's get some of this in you.” He squeezed her shoulders gently and brought the coffee up to her hands. She took it shakily and downed it in a few gulps.
“That's a girl.” He patted her back and leaned forward to retrieve the dish he'd set on the table, handing it back to her and watching her wolf it down. When she'd virtually licked the plate clean, he took it from her and stood up, refilling her cup. But by the time he turned back to give it to her, she lay, curled on her side, sound asleep. He grabbed the rough blanket from his bedroll and spread it over her, tucking it gently around her shoulders. Poor thing. Walked all night and then brought back and thrashed till she had no more fight left in her. Sleep will probably be the best cure in the world for her. When she woke up, Charly hoped it would be to a fresh start.