On the face of it, to any casual or uninformed observer, the Cafe du Concorde may have appeared an unlikely location to act as a setting for the public disgrace and punishment of Yvette Marie-Louise Renard. The cafe in its snug location on the eponymous main square of the idyllic little village of Pont du Rochelles showed nothing at first glance to suggest that it was anything else other than the sort of pleasant and friendly little rural establishment whose twin could be found in any village in France. The drivers whose navigational facilities had so seriously let them down as to find themselves, by chance, happening upon this rustic backwater of the Provence would have noted the charming little whitewashed building on the corner of the Place du Concorde with its flower boxes on its upstairs windows and the vine interwoven trellis that served as awnings over the front door and large window front which, in daylight at least, concealed the interior of the cafe behind an obfuscating barrier of the kind of smoky brown glass which seems characteristic of the fenestration of rural French cafes, stained brown by generations of customers who considered it their birthright to fill the cafe with clouds of foul smelling tobacco fumes as the price of their patronage. The visitor on a hot day might well have been tempted to linger awhile in the shade of the umbrellas covering the handful of little iron round tables on the flagstones in front of the cafe and perhaps enjoyed a carafe of chilled Rose wine, made from the grape variety Mourvedre for which the region was renowned, whilst taking in the peaceful scenery of the little square with its stone fountain, wooden benches and fig trees and observing the unhurried, bucolic life of the local community as they went about their daily business. There was nothing in that halcyon image to suggest that this was anything other than the sort of place where nothing very much ever happened at all. But appearances can be deceptive. Had our theoretical observer been possessed of keen perception he might have noticed a few factors that didn’t quite match this sleepy rural image.
Had he been warm blooded and possessed an eye for a shapely turn of leg or bewitching smile he would have needed little of his perceptive abilities to remark upon the young waitress who delivered his carafe to his table. The four young ladies who served in that capacity at the Cafe du Concorde were all personable and attractive. That in itself was not unusual. Pretty girls were as common as the bees among the honeysuckle in the tiny gardens of the village in France; as ubiquitous as the little Wall Lizards on the dry stone walls around the vineyards and, if the young ladies at the Cafe du Concorde were apt to be flirtatious with any customer obviously possessed of XY chromosomes and not yet entirely geriatric, then they were French after all and only doing that which came naturally to them. What might have raised our observer’s eyebrows was the uniform that all four girls affected and which was presumably the obligatory costume to be worn whilst on duty. They all wore the traditional black French maids’ dresses trimmed with white and matched with white pinafores that the tourist to France inevitably fantasises about encountering but, much to his chagrin, rarely does. The skirts were ridiculously short and there was the frill of lacy petticoat peeping beyond the hem. If one of the young ladies obligingly bent over to wipe and clear a table our observer might well have been treated to a sublime vision of endless, becoming thigh, clad in dark stockings held in place by silly flirtatious garters, and perhaps even a glimpse of lacy white knickers clinging to an admirably shaped derriere. Were he able to regard the vision dispassionately he might well have concluded that, whoever the proprietor of this cafe was, then they were a person of acute business sense and well aware that the fine vintages of Chateau de l’Escarelle were not the only lure to draw custom within the walls of their establishment.
If our hypothetical observer might now have perchance to wipe his brow and tear his eyes away from the delightful young serving girls and cast his eye over the other occupants of the cafe and square he might have observed some other anomalies. It is certainly true that sitting at the tables in front of the cafe were the obligatory contingent of grizzled veterans and elderly farmers nursing glasses of watered down Pernod. But that was not the whole story. There was a slightly Bohemian feel to the village of Pont du Rochelles; a feeling in large part that could be attributed to the small but colourful community of struggling artists who were more or less permanent residents in the building on the far side of the square which gloried under the name of Hotel du Ville; a somewhat grandiose title which betrayed the building’s aspirations above its station as a rather dilapidated rural guest house. This bright and generally young sector of the community could normally be found scouring the surrounding countryside by day with brush and canvas and, by evening, forming small excited groups around the tables in the Cafe du Concorde, squandering their dwindling funds and despairing to their colleagues of ever being quite able to capture the luminosity of the Provence sunshine among the olive groves.
Standing out in even more startling contrast than this fringe community of artists was another group it was possible to see around the village on occasion. This was a group liable to excite scandalised whispers among gossiping women, knowing winks between their men folk and the occasional wolf whistle from young farm lads. These were the young, rather exotic ladies whose numbers varied from time to time who worked at the Cabaret Chat Noir a little way outside of the village. These young ladies called themselves “dancers” or, even more pretentiously, “artistes” as if the doubtless considerable skills involved in shedding their clothing on a stage in front of an exclusive clientele of leering males could be described as an art form. It was quite rare to see these eye catching young ladies abroad in broad daylight. They were creatures of the night who worked long hours at the cabaret. When not divesting themselves of their clothing on stage they would be employed in divesting gullible men of their disposable income by luring them into sharing bottles of cheap champagne at astronomically inflated prices as the price of their company or perhaps even tempting them into greater intimacy in one of the alcoves of the cabaret, partitioned from the rest by heavy curtains, known as the separee. The Chat Noir “girls”, as they were rather euphemistically called locally, tended to keep themselves to themselves and slept most of the hours of daylight in any case. Seeing them about the village in the daytime hours was as incongruous as sighting a night moth under the daylight sun only much more colourful. When they did appear in the village most men avoided their eye in fear of eliciting any recognition from them. There were few married men in the village who wanted their patronage of the Cabaret Chat Noir to become common knowledge.
There was also an older somewhat more well to do segment of the local populace. In spite of its admittedly agrarian nature the region around Pont du Rochelles was a prosperous one or at least it boasted a sizable group of wealthy patriarchs and matriarchs who held the real economic clout and political influence around the village. This upper echelon of local society owned most of the village along with a large proportion of the local business. These were the people of influence and importance in the village; the people who kept the wheels of local commerce turning; the people who were the shakers and movers; the people whose wealth and connections gave them a disproportionate voice in the running of local affairs; the very people, in fact, who it was politic to stay firmly on the right side of. To be numbered among this class, albeit in a roundabout fashion and slightly scandalous manner, was the formidable matriarch and proprietress of the Cafe du Concorde.
Madame Courvelle had been a great beauty in her youth and was still, at age fifty, a strikingly handsome lady. She had married well to a gentleman of considerable wealth and, upon her early widowhood, had inherited her late husband’s fortune. The Cafe du Concorde was but one of her business interests albeit a favourite one. She owned a considerable amount of property including a small mansion on the outskirts of the village, several vineyards and, in addition to her ownership of the Cafe du Concorde, she was also the proprietress of the Cabaret Chat Noir. This fact alone was enough to ensure Madame Courvelle a highly influential position since it meant that she was party to many a secret that influential men of the village were desirous of avoiding becoming part of the public domain. She was not a woman to cross lightly! Generally though she was discreet and, if there was a whiff of scandal to her business dealings, then she was rich enough to dismiss them as the idle gossip of envy. She was a busy lady and, although she would spend much of her nights at the helm in the cabaret, especially on the weekends, the centre of her little empire was the Cafe Du Concorde where she could most often be found holding court. The cafe was the hub of social life within the village and, standing firmly at the epicentre of this, was Madame Courvelle herself. She ruled over her empire with grace and charm but also with a rod of iron. She was the very last person in Pont du Rochelles that Yvette Marie-Louise Renard would have wished to fall on the wrong side of.
If the Cafe du Concorde might have struck the casual observer as an unlikely setting for a severe and humiliating punishment then they would have been even more surprised to learn that the central figure on the receiving end of this misfortune was Yvette Renard. There was certainly nothing about Yvette to suggest that she was the kind of girl to attract trouble. She was not wilful or malicious. She was young and attractive but by no means flighty or loose. Most people in the village would have told you that she was conscientious, intelligent, hard working and invariably courteous and respectful to her elders. She was, in fact, a thoroughly nice girl. She was petite with long brown hair and a serious demeanour to her pretty face. Other than her charming looks she was not the kind of girl to attract attention. She was rather shy if anything and not given to the type of behaviour that would elicit disapproval from the older members of the community. She lived quietly with an elderly aunt, her divorced mother having died tragically young some years previously, and generally troubled nobody. She didn’t even have a boyfriend for she was hopelessly timid around members of the opposite sex.
In spite of her timidity Yvette was a girl of ambition and, in Pont du Rochelles, ambition was a necessary attribute for any young girl to possess should she want to make anything of her life. There was little meaningful employment for young women in the village other than service either in the domestic sense or in the cafes and shops. The best prospect that most young women could expect locally was a good marriage but even prospective suitors with the wherewithal to support a wife comfortably were in short supply and liable to fall to girls with far more predatory aggression than the shy little Yvette could muster. But Yvette had one priceless advantage. She had been clever at school and diligent in her studies and the combination had reaped her a rich reward for now, just into her twenties, she was a student teacher at a primary school in the nearest town, some twenty kilometres away. She hoped in the near future to become a fully qualified teacher and to obtain some independence in her life. For the moment however she could not afford to live in town and was reliant upon her aunt’s generosity, in allowing her virtually free accommodation, even if it meant her having to drive her old and battered little Renault each day to town to work.
All in all therefore Yvette was a thoroughly admirable young lady and it might seem difficult to understand what brought her to that terrible day when she found herself bending over a chair in the Cafe du Concorde with her skirt above her waist and her knickers about her knees awaiting the stroke of the cane. There was certainly no serious flaw in her character that led her to such an impasse. If flaw there was it was a flaw endemic to all young girls of her age; the flaw of her very youth. She was very young and, in common with most young people, on occasion apt to act foolishly; to not consider the consequences of her actions; in short to do something silly and thoughtless that an older and wiser head would have instantly recognised the folly of. It was this impulsive rashness that brought her to her regrettable demise in the Cafe du Concorde and could indeed have led her to even greater disaster.
It was perhaps the spring air during the Easter break from school that was the root cause behind Yvette’s serious lack of judgement, for the warm weather and liberty from work had induced in her a somewhat frivolous and enervated mood. Still there was nothing sinister in her decision to drive that evening to attend a reunion party with some old school friends at a restaurant in a neighbouring village. The food was excellent and the company delightful and Yvette found herself enjoying herself enormously. The wine flowed freely; too freely in fact and it was that which started the downward spiral toward catastrophe. Yvette had a poor head for alcohol and her first, and possibly most fundamental, error of the night was to foolishly decide to drive home with far too much of the fruits of the grape fizzing merrily in her veins. She justified this misguided decision to herself on the grounds that she had little other alternative. Nobody else of sobriety was driving home her way and there was no taxi service in the neighbourhood. Walking was out of the question for it was nearly eight kilometres back to Pont du Rochelles and that along pitch black, country lanes to boot. Of course she should have refused to drink at all but by the time she found herself fumbling for her car keys in the car park of the restaurant, in the early hours of the morning, it was too late to consider that option. Almost certainly among Yvette’s calculations, such as they were, was the thought that she was very unlikely to be caught driving home while intoxicated. The village of Pont du Rochelles did not possess much in the way of local constabulary and what it did boast in this regard was more than likely to be firmly in their beds by this hour. It was only eight kilometres after all and it was improbable that she would even encounter another car. She would risk it.
Even after a couple of kilometres Yvette’s folly should have been evident to her. She was not a very good driver at the best of times but tonight she was particularly erratic. Twice she found herself off the road and onto the grass verges as she peered myopically through the windscreen at the dark lane ahead, poorly illuminated by her feeble headlamps. It was a wonder that she managed to navigate her way over the ancient and much beloved, but exceedingly narrow bridge over the river at Pont du Rochelles without mishap. It was not until she entered the centre of the village and turned onto the square however that calamity struck. Eager to get home by now she took the corner far too fast and made a complete hash of the turn, veering wildly and coming into sickening contact with a parked automobile just outside the Cafe du Concorde and careering along its flank in a squeal of tortured metal.
In shock Yvette recognised the car she had struck immediately. It was a large and expensive Mercedes, virtually brand new and the property, no less, of Madame Courvelle, the daunting matriarch of the Cafe du Concorde, parked in her usual place when she decided to sleep the night in her rooms above the cafe instead of driving home to her mansion. Panic and terror overcame Yvette and they led her to her second major blunder of the night. To have had an accident whilst under the influence of alcohol would mean the automatic loss of her driving licence, sullied as it was already by a sorry list of minor misdemeanours. The loss of her licence meant that she would be without transport to get to work and stood to lose her job and, with it, the very aspirations of her ambition and career. Whatever Yvette was thinking at this moment, it was hardly rational. Gripped in panic she drove straight home, hid her damaged car in the garage and rushed upstairs to fling herself on her bed sobbing in fear. It was not the proudest night in Yvette’s life.
Nor was it the most congenial awakening for Madame Courvelle the next morning. Stepping out of the cafe into the bright morning sunshine on the square she saw immediately the devastation wreaked upon her proud possession. The paint work along the whole right side of the car was a wretched shambles, the right front wing was badly staved in and the side mirror on that flank was lying in the road half way across the square. In understandable high dudgeon Madame Courvelle stormed back into the cafe to summon the local police officer on the telephone.
Chief Constable Morel, the senior officer of the district arrived within half an hour accompanied by one of his subalterns to inspect the scene of the incident and to interview the furious Madame Courvelle. He took a statement from Madame Courvelle, which shed little light on the matter other than Madame’s outraged indignation and an imperious demand that the culprit responsible for the outrage be apprehended forthwith. In the meantime his subordinate made enquiries among the delightedly fascinated crowd now gathering on the square around the ruins of Madame Courvelle’s automobile. Not much happened as a rule in Pont du Rochelles and the scandalous immolation of Madame’s car was the most exciting thing that had happened in months. People were all too willing to come forward to the police but sadly few of them had anything constructive to contribute to the inquiries. Some claimed to have heard a crash in the middle of the night though seldom did their estimated times of this event coincide with each other. Conspicuously lacking was any eye witness evidence regarding the incident. Nobody had seen anything.
By mid morning Chief Constable Morel and Madame Courvelle had been joined by Monsieur Cordeaux, the leading local magistrate, who had arrived to assure Madame Courvelle, over a glass of excellent Baux de Provence, that he regarded the matter with the utmost gravity and should the police succeed in bringing the culprit before his court then they could expect the full majesty of the law to fall upon their sorrowful head. The head of the local prefecture also put in an appearance for no other reason than to lend support and the fact that the scandal on the square was a welcome diversion on what would otherwise have been a typically uninteresting day.
The subject whose identity and ultimate fate was being so gravely discussed by this collection of worthy dignitaries was, at that time, sat miserably on her bed, nursing a monumental hangover and reflecting ruefully that she had made the worst mistake of her life. Impulsive actions that had seemed logical the night before were now revealed in the sober light of day to be folly bordering on lunacy. If having an accident whilst under the influence of alcohol was severely remissible it paled into insignificance against the added offence of leaving the scene of an accident for which she was responsible without reporting it. That was a serious crime in France and liable to be severely dealt with at the hands of the law. Nor could Yvette see the remotest possible chance of evading exposure as the perpetrator of the deed. A little earlier she had crept into the garage to inspect the damage to her own car. Oddly, considering the havoc it had wreaked upon Madame Courvelle’s Mercedes, the little Renault had escaped relatively unscathed. Nevertheless there was sufficient damage to the car’s bodywork to indicate its involvement in a recent collision and even the most simple police officer would be hard put not to link the damage to that on the afore-mentioned automobile of Madame Courvelle. Nom de Dieu! There were even plainly discernible streaks of the Mercedes’ silver paint work clearly visible on the Renault! She couldn’t hide her own car indefinitely in the garage and, once revealed to the public, it wasn’t going to take the detective intuition of a Hercules Poirot to point the accusing finger in her direction.
For most of the morning Yvette sat in her room and mused despairingly over her dwindling list of options. By lunchtime she had come to the inevitable and sorry conclusion that she had only one feasible option albeit an unthinkable one. She would have to make a clean breast of it. She would have to walk humbly into the Cafe du Concorde and confess her crime to Madame Courvelle in person, offer to pay for the damage she had caused and throw herself on the mercy of that redoubtable lady. Her only salvation lay in the hope that Madame Courvelle might take pity on her and be persuaded not to press charges on the understanding that Yvette would naturally recompense her for the damage caused. It was a fool’s hope but the only one she had left. Shortly after lunch therefore Yvette donned her best dress, pulled on a pair of pretty sandals and walked down to the village square with all the air of the condemned on their final walk to the guillotine.
A little later, in the backroom of the cafe where Yvette had requested a private conversation with Madame Courvelle, she poured out a full confession being careful to omit no detail of her culpability and expressing the most humble contrition for her malfeasance. She insisted that she would reimburse Madame Courvelle for every cent of the costs to repair the car. She did however point out that a criminal case against her would mean the end of her career before it had barely started and she pleaded with Madame Courvelle to spare her from the full weight of the judicial authorities.
Madame Courvelle listened carefully to Yvette’s long monologue and, when she had finally run out of steam and fallen into a pathetically hopeful silence, she took the time to light a cigarette and to ponder her response before replying. She had been astonished by the intelligence that it was Yvette who was responsible for the damage to her car. She had been privately nursing a conviction that the culprits were one of a gang of young lads who had been a thorn in her side for some time now. Yvette was the last person she would have thought of. The sorry series of events Yvette described seemed so out of character for the serious and shy young girl Madame Courvelle knew well.
It placed Madame Courvelle in somewhat of a quandary however. The truth was that she liked Yvette. She had long harboured an admiration for the young girl’s ethos of hard work and careful study and her initiative in trying to better herself through her own efforts. She had long lamented the fact that more young people in the village had not demonstrated such considered thought for their futures. She was under no illusion that Yvette was anything other than completely correct in her analysis of the effects of a criminal record on her career however. If anything Yvette had understated it. It would be fatal. She could forget forever her ambitions to teach. That was a pity for Yvette was probably the brightest young girl in the village and it was criminal that she should so squander her prospects and bright potential in a moment of uncharacteristic madness. Yet what should she do about it?
She pondered her options thoughtfully before finally addressing the miserably penitent girl shuffling her feet in front of her. “Well Yvette,” she began, “I have to thank you at least for coming here and making a full confession. It doesn’t excuse your criminal stupidity but it is nevertheless to your credit that you have been honest enough to own up to your foolishness.” Madame Courvelle shook her head in exasperation. “Whatever were you thinking of girl? I’m surprised at you! Whatever possessed you to take your car out drinking in the name of heaven?”
Yvette lowered her head contritely, her lower lip trembling in sorrow. “I... I don’t know Madame.”
Madame Courvelle clicked her tongue in irritation. “I can’t think what came over you Yvette. This is most unlike you. Mon Dieu, what am I to do with you?”
“I...I’m sorry Madame.” Yvette dabbed at her eyes with the handkerchief she was clutching in her hand.
Madame Courvelle waved a finger at her. “Not as sorry as you’re going to be Yvette! I have to inform you that it is too late to keep this matter from the authorities for the police have already been informed. Even as we speak Chief Constable Morel is making inquiries and searching for the culprit responsible. Now you might be the last person that comes to his mind on his list of suspects but, in a place as small as Pont du Rochelles, I don’t think it will take him long to narrow the list down to you. One of the first things he will do will be to inquire at all the local cafes and restaurants to discover who might have been driving home late last night. Once he discovers that Yvette Renard was out late drinking in a restaurant in St Marie aux Provence and drove home in the early hours even his limited powers of detection are going to put two and two together. Am I right in assuming that your automobile is possibly at least as damaged as mine?”
Yvette nodded abjectly. “Oui Madame.”
“Well then, as soon as he seeks an interview with you and demands to inspect your vehicle, then your guilt will be established beyond doubt. You will, if I may say it, be dans la merde!” Madame Courvelle shook her head once more. “Have you any idea of the trouble you’re in Yvette? I had Monsieur Cordeaux, the magistrate, in here earlier. He takes a very serious view of this incident and is determined to see justice done. You left the scene of an accident without reporting it Yvette! Leaving the scene when you knew you were intoxicated to avoid being breathalysed will be construed as attempting to pervert the course of justice. It is a very serious offence Yvette. You’re not just looking at a fine, a slap on the wrist and the loss of your driving licence here. You could go to jail for this Yvette! The magistrate might well take the view that a short but salutary few weeks in the cells at Montpoulier would be your just desserts. At the very least you will acquire a criminal record. That will be the end of your career. You will never obtain a teaching job with a criminal record. I can’t believe how foolish you’ve been!”
Yvette sobbed quietly. “So.... I am finished then?”
Madame Courvelle regarded the young girl with pity and measured her words carefully before speaking once more. “That rather depends Yvette. I might yet be able to do something.” She raised a warning finger at the look of sudden hope in Yvette’s eyes. “I do not for a minute condone your actions or excuse your foolishness Yvette. Nevertheless I think it would be tragic for a young girl of such potential as yourself to throw it all away through a momentary, idiotic lack of judgement. Now the Chief Constable and the magistrate are both good friends of mine and I might be able to persuade them that you deserve a second chance.” Once again Madame Courvelle raised that cautionary finger. “I cannot promise anything mind. However they may be open to reason in this matter. We can only hope. If I am able to persuade them however it leaves us with certain problems. To begin with it will leave me out of pocket. If I succeed in persuading the authorities to quietly drop the charges it will mean that I certainly won’t be able to claim for the damages from the insurance company.”
“I...I will pay for the damage Madame!”
Madame Courvelle dismissed that offer with a snort of disbelief. “I think you might be under a misapprehension as to just how much it is going to cost to put right Yvette. I’ve had Gaston from the garage have a look over the vehicle. It will need a completely new paint job as well as both the rear and front wings replacing not to mention a new side mirror. It’s a new car and it’s going to be an expensive business. Now I don’t know exactly how much you are earning as a student teacher but I’m guessing that it’s not a great deal. It will certainly be beyond your wherewithal to meet the costs of repair at this moment. Now, as it happens, I am temporarily short-handed here in the cafe. If you are agreeable it might be possible for us to come to some arrangement whereby which you work off your debt to me in the cafe. Naturally I would not insist on you working when you were obliged to attend your normal job however I could use you on evenings and weekends or during school holidays. Would you agree to such an arrangement?”
The tearful Yvette nodded eagerly. “Oui Madame!”
“Very well then. I shall see what I can do. The other problem of course is that Chief Constable Morel and Monsieur Cordeaux might well take the view that you are being let off lightly. They will doubtless argue that you should not be expected to escape without some sort of penance for your foolishness. Monsieur Cordeaux in particular has a strict sense of moral justice and it will be anathema to him that a young woman culpable of such a serious offence should evade justice without the retribution she deserves. I agree with him! You have been guilty of monumental stupidity and you should suffer the penalty for it if only to teach you to exercise better judgement in future. What that penalty should be however is possibly open to negotiation. I might be able to persuade Monsieur Cordeaux that this matter be treated as an internal affair and, assuming that the penalty imposed is commensurate with the seriousness of the offence, that it would serve nobody’s purpose to drag the thing through official channels and see you burdened with a criminal record. You would however have to agree to be bound by whatever decision I might be able to negotiate with the magistrate and willing to accept whatever punishment he found acceptable. Would you be so willing?”
Yvette nodded compliantly. She was willing to accept anything if it might yet salvage something from the disaster. “Oui Madame. I will do as you say.”
“Very well then. You must leave the matter in my hands. Now dry your eyes girl and blow your nose. You look a mess! I want you to go straight home now and stay there. Do not discuss this conversation we have had with anybody; not even your friends. Do you understand?”
“Make sure you do. Now I shall confer with the Chief Constable and Monsieur Cordeaux this afternoon. Again I must stress that I’m not promising anything and, even if I do manage to persuade them, then there will still be consequences for your actions and they will consequences that you will find disagreeable. You must however place your trust entirely in me and I might yet be able to save you from the full repercussions under the law. I want you to return here this evening at ten thirty, a little before the cafe closes and I should by then be able to inform you of whatever I have managed to agree upon with the Chief Constable and Monsieur Cordeaux. Now run along off home and say nothing to anybody.”
Yvette curtsied in gratitude and fled. Once Yvette had departed Madame Courvelle poured herself a cognac and leaned back in her chair with deep satisfaction, thoroughly pleased with herself. Every cloud had a silver lining they said! This could turn out very well indeed. The compliant little Yvette would doubtless go to any length to stay out of a court of law. Suggesting that Yvette work off her debt had been a stroke of genius! Yvette was not the only young lady of Madame Courvelle’s acquaintance to have been guilty of poor judgement of late. Jeanette, one of the serving girls at the Cafe du Concorde, was pregnant! The paternity of her expected child was the subject of much conjecture around the village. Sad to relate, there were several possible candidates! Now Madame Courvelle was fond of Jeanette and it was against her principles to cast the girl out for foolishly finding herself in the family way. Nevertheless Jeanette’s progressing pregnancy, looming confinement and post natal responsibilities meant that she would be less and less available to work in the cafe. Madame Courvelle had agonised over the problem of finding a suitable replacement for her. Now it seemed, at a single stroke, she had found one; a pretty young girl of good character who, eager to make amends for her indiscretion, would not only be a willing and keen worker but also had the added benefit of being extremely cheap!
Madame Courvelle had been somewhat less than candid with Yvette over the costs of the repairs. In fact she had enough connections in this regard to be able to repair her car at a fairly economical price. In fact she had already privately discussed the matter with Gaston from the garage with a view to stiffing the insurance company for whatever the traffic would bear and pocketing the difference between them. Now of course that would not happen but this was certainly an agreeable alternative if it meant acquiring the services of Yvette Renard at a cut price rate! She wouldn’t make the girl work entirely for free of course. She’d make sure the girl had enough pocket money and later, when the hypothetical repairs had been repaid, she would be able to manipulate the situation into employing Yvette on a more permanent part time basis. She was sure the girl would be an asset. She was conscientious, hard working and, once she was attired in the obligatory uniform of the Cafe du Concorde, she would make a most pleasingly attractive addition to her stable of serving wenches!
All she had to do was persuade Chief Constable Morel and Monsieur Cordeaux. In spite of the misgivings she had voiced to Yvette, Madame Courvelle was in no doubt whatsoever as to her ability to convince those two gentlemen of the appropriateness of her plan. The Chief Constable was an indolent man and not fond of anything resembling work. Pont Du Rochelles, with its virtually non-existent crime rate, suited him down to the ground, enabling him to lead a peaceful life untroubled by the necessities of disagreeable toil. He would certainly go for any scheme that avoided his having the burden of the tedious protracted paper work the criminal prosecution of Yvette Renard would entail. As for Monsieur Cordeaux, well the rigorous moral code Madame Courvelle had mentioned to Yvette, was little more than a hypocritical facade as she, as the proprietress of the Cabaret Chat Noir, where this righteous upholder of the majesty of the law was a frequent visitor, could testify only too well. His devotion to a certain young lady of Asian extraction within that establishment would not only undermine his self appointed role as the local arbiter of morality and justice but also threaten to bring a fearsome, just retribution from an even closer quarter in the shape of his temperamental and indignant wife! He was no problem! He would readily acquiesce in any plan Madame Courvelle formulated.
Of course she would sweeten their concession to her wishes. She would sweeten that with a suitable punishment for the foolishness of Yvette Renard! With that agreeable thought Madame Courvelle swilled her fine cognac in its glass and leaned back to consider a suitable retribution for the hapless young lady now at home awaiting her fate. In spite of her ruthless streak and what might be considered a less than blemishless moral code of her own Madame Courvelle considered herself a just and moral person. She genuinely believed that Yvette deserved to be punished. She was of the firm opinion that a good sound lesson would do the foolish young girl the world of good and teach her a valuable lesson in her future conduct. The fact that the punishment of Yvette would be an agreeably stimulating exercise was simply the icing on the cake.
Any one of the serving girls at the Cafe du Concorde could have predicted with conviction the kind of punishment Madame Courvelle was contemplating. Madame Courvelle loved the young charges under her employ with a fierce devotion and adamant protectiveness. To her they were the family that the early demise of her husband had denied to her and they were as close to being her daughters in her mind as made no difference. She was their mentor; their mother figure and their guardian. Few people in Pont du Rochelles would have dared to incur Madame Courvelle’s wrath by wronging one of the young ladies under her care. The defensive umbrella she extended over them was the absolute dedication of a mother for her brood and the ferocity with which she protected them was legendary. Implicit in such protectiveness however was the consideration that the girls needed to be protected from themselves. All four of them had chequered background; pasts that would not bear the scrutiny of close examination for moral flaws. All of them were indebted to Madame Courvelle in one way or another for saving them from the consequences of those pasts. Madame Courvelle had somewhat of a penchant for championing the cause of young ladies whose misdeeds had led them so far from the path of righteousness as to find her the only remaining salvation. They repaid her devoted commitment to their welfare with an unswerving loyalty that was not entirely explained by the circumstances of young ladies with few other chances of employment or prospects other than those offered within the sanctuary of the Cafe du Concorde.
But if Madame Courvelle adored her girls she was nevertheless under no false illusions regarding them. She considered it her duty to continuously monitor their conduct, oversee their discipline and, when it became necessary, to correct their misbehaviour firmly and in such a manner as to discourage them from so deviating from the standards she expected of them again. To this end Madame Courvelle favoured the use of the cane. She rarely caned the girls herself, preferring to delegate this task to Hanna, the African lady who served as the general housekeeper, watchdog and manageress of the Cafe du Concorde in Madame Courvelle’s absence. Hanna was a powerfully built lady who took her disciplinary duties seriously and few girls who were unfortunate enough to be on the receiving end of a caning from her were likely to forget the experience or wish to repeat it.
In spite of this the girls of the Cafe du Concorde were all too familiar with Hanna’s cane. They were, to a body, high spirited young girls with a penchant for mischief and frequently inclined toward the sort of behaviour that would attract their mistress’s wrath. The cane saw regular usage in the Cafe du Concorde. The girls never objected to the painful interludes when they were called upon to pay account for their conduct. In truth they considered themselves fortunate to fall under the protection of their self-appointed guardian. Meanness could not be counted among Madame Courvelle’s faults and the girls earned a generous salary; far more than the equivalent wages of other waitresses in similar establishments, and if Madame Courvelle was ready to punish their misdeeds, she was equally ready to reward good behaviour or outstanding effort with additional bonuses or gifts. Nor did the girls object to the somewhat titillating maids’ uniforms Madame Courvelle insisted upon them wearing. In this they bowed to their mistress’s wisdom and sound business sense. Their appealing and flirtatious appearance was a major reason why the Cafe du Concorde was such a busy and popular establishment. The girls benefited directly from this far sighted policy. Generous though their allowance was, they could, in a good month, nearly double it in tips. In short they considered themselves lucky indeed and the occasional caning a small price to pay for an otherwise agreeably pleasant and pampered life.
So the girls once they had been informed of the circumstances had no doubts as to the likely fate of Yvette Renard. Madame Courvelle informed them that she might well be joining their ranks shortly. They were looking forward to welcoming the pretty young girl to their little sisterhood. With Jeanette about to become hors de combat, as it were, they were liable to need the extra help. Little Yvette would fit the bill nicely. She was a bit of an innocent for the moment it is true but that wouldn’t last! Doubtless her first duty as a newly inducted member of the staff would be to bend over and lower her drawers for the cane. A good caning was always a highly diverting interlude in their lives as long as they were the ones observing it and not on the receiving end! Little Mademoiselle Renard would have few secrets left from her admiring sisters in servitude once they had watched her pretty little naked bottom receiving the attentions of Hanna’s cane. It promised to be a most gratifying spectacle!
Whilst her fate was being decided and Madame Courvelle was making the necessary negotiations and preparations, Yvette stayed at home alone immersed in a mixture of trepidation and hope. She had, as yet, little inclination as to the exact nature of the “consequences” Madame Courvelle had promised her as the price of her deliverance from the authorities of the law and she preferred not to dwell on it. She was vaguely aware through hearsay that Madame Courvelle was apt to be a strict disciplinarian with the girls in her employ. She was a little hazy as to the exact implications of those rumours but she guessed it might portend some unpleasant destiny with regard to herself. There was nothing to do but resign herself to it. The alternative was unthinkable! If Madame Courvelle could save her from a court of law then she would have to find the courage to endure whatever other retribution Madame had in store for her. But Madame Courvelle was already well ahead in her preparations and poor Yvette’s faltering courage would have quailed at the punishment she had decided upon as the just response to the young girl’s foolishness.
At the appointed hour Yvette left the house and once more made her way with leaden feet in the direction of the Cafe du Concorde. She had been careful to look her best in a pretty summer dress that came down to her knees, becoming sandals on her feet and her long brown hair neatly brushed and tied back with a ribbon. This appearance of a fresh young girl was somewhat spoiled however by the sorrowful and nervous demeanour on her otherwise pretty face. The walk down Rue de St. Jacques to the village square seemed, if anything, even longer than the one she had taken that afternoon. The streets, with the inadequate street lighting of Pont du Rochelles, seemed dark and melancholy and a fitting accompaniment to Yvette’s gloomy mood. Only on the square was there a lifting of this air of deserted desolation for the Cafe du Concorde was brightly lit and still, at this late hour, thronged with people. There were animated voices from within the cafe and a number of people still at the tables outside enjoying the warmth of the evening under the glow of the outside lights. With a heavy heart Yvette crossed the square and, after a pause to muster her courage, entered the cafe.
She stood blinking in the doorway feeling foolish and wondering what to do as she took in the brightly lit scene before her. The Cafe du Concorde was surprisingly big on the inside, given its relatively narrow frontage on the street, for it stretched a considerable distance back. There was a small bar half way along one side which acted as a dispensary for orders for the serving girls who delivered them to the tables, each covered in a jaunty red and white chequered tablecloth and decorated with candles and small posies of flowers in vases. Three of Madame Courvelle’s girls were busy among the tables, for the cafe was nearly full, and the bar was being presided over by the imposing figure of Hanna, Madame Courvelle’s African manageress, two metres tall, statuesque of build and skin the colour of polished ebony.
Nervously Yvette cast her eyes about for Madame Courvelle. She saw her almost at once; sat at a table, towards the far end of the cafe, in earnest conversation with Chief Constable Morel, Monsieur Cordeaux and a gentleman she recognised as Monsieur Cabal, high up in the administration of the local prefecture. With a thrill of fear Yvette realised that the topic of their conversation was mostly likely her and she hesitated over her next step. Her uncertainty was ended by Michelle, one of the serving girls, who, sighting her at the doorway and being fully briefed on the situation, came across to render instructions. Madame was busy for the moment, she informed Yvette, and would attend to her in due course. In the meantime would Yvette care to take a seat and perhaps something to drink while she waited? She ushered Yvette to a small table in a corner and asked what she would like to drink. Unwilling to sully her reputation further Yvette decided that it would be undiplomatic to order alcohol and so she asked for a cafe au lait. With her coffee in front of her, Michelle left Yvette to her own devices.
She was kept waiting there for over three quarters of an hour although, to the disconsolate little figure of Yvette alone at her small table, the wait seemed interminable. From her lonely vantage point Yvette could see that business was winding down for the evening as group after group of people paid their accounts and departed, hastened along by the girls who were making it plain that the cafe would be closing shortly. Finally, after clearing the tables outside, switching off the outdoor lights and pulling the heavy drapes over the windows Michelle turned the key in the front door lock to signify that the cafe was now closed. It wasn’t immediately apparent however for there were still a number of people left in the cafe. In addition to the staff there was still the party at Madame Courvelle’s table. There were also two prominent local vintners who Yvette knew vaguely; there were Madame and Monsieur Deluz who owned the Hotel du Ville; Monsieur D’arles who ran the patisserie on the square in conversation with the local postmaster and Madame Montagnon, a fabulously wealthy divorcee, who owned a huge property outside the village, accompanied by a younger gentleman who was reputed to be her toy boy if local rumour was to be believed. There were even two people that Yvette didn’t know. One was a devastatingly good looking man in his early thirties; an artist from the Hotel du Ville whose work Madame Courvelle admired and had been commissioned to paint her serving girls. The other person with whom Yvette was not familiar was perched tipsily on this gentleman’s knee; a blond girl of undoubted attraction who had a glass of wine in one hand whilst her other arm was draped about his neck as she giggled at some witty remark he had ventured. These then were representatives of Madame Courvelle’s inner circle of friends and acquaintances; people high enough in her favour to be accorded the privilege of lingering long after the official closing time of the cafe. It hardly appeared as if Yvette’s coming confrontation with Madame Courvelle was going to be a particularly private one.
Madame Courvelle’s girl Bernadette was busy clearing the last of the glasses and bottles from the now vacated tables and the vivacious little dark haired girl, Sophie was behind the bar assisting Hanna with the cleaning up when Michelle once more approached Yvette to inform her that Madame would see her now. Swallowing the bile that came unbidden to her throat in sudden fear, Yvette rose and walked the length of the cafe to stand before the table, occupied by Madame Courvelle and the dignitaries she had been in conference with, where she curtsied nervously in politeness and waited. Madame Courvelle did not invite Yvette to take a seat but instead fixed her with a stern gaze. “Well Yvette,” she began, “In furtherance to our conversation this afternoon I have conferred with Chief Constable Morel and Monsieur Cordeaux here. They both agree with me that you have been a wickedly foolish girl and deserve to be severely punished for your reckless stupidity. Monsieur Cordeaux has pointed out your serious transgressions of the law and what it would mean if you were to be brought before him in his official capacity and the Chief Constable has further pointed out that it could have been much worse. He quite rightly notes that the road between here and St Marie du Provence is notoriously dangerous even for a person in full command of their senses in broad daylight. Driving home in the dark in the intoxicated state you have confessed to, it is only through the Grace of God that you are not now lying in a hospital bed or even on a slab at the mortuary. Your foolishness was unforgivable Yvette. Do you not agree?”
Yvette blushed and nodded. “Oui Madame.” she croaked. She became aware that the hum of conversation behind her had faded away. The remaining occupants of the cafe had now fixed their attentions upon the tableau being enacted at Madame Courvelle’s table.
“However,” Madame Courvelle continued, “I have been able to persuade these gentlemen that, in view of your previous blemishless record and the good advice of those who know you well, that you deserve to be given another chance. I have, at no small cost to myself, convinced these gentlemen to drop the charges and to not proceed with criminal prosecution against you.”
Yvette curtsied in profound relief. “Merci Messieurs.” she breathed gratefully.
“I have not finished Yvette.” Madame Courvelle admonished her austerely. “Whilst the gentlemen agree with me that it would be regrettable under the circumstances for you to acquire the criminal record, which would surely fall to you were this matter to be pursued in an official capacity, their agreement comes with conditions attached. In short their agreement to not press charges against you is provisional upon your consent to and abidance by those conditions we discussed this afternoon. I must therefore ask you if you are still prepared to abide by those conditions.”
Yvette nodded her head eagerly. “Oui, Oui Madame! Naturally!”
“Before you agree so readily Yvette let us remind ourselves what those conditions were. To begin with we agreed that you would work off the cost of the damages to my automobile through employment here in the cafe. Are you still in accordance with that agreement?”
“Naturellement Madame. I will work as long as it takes.”
“Excellent! In that case before you leave tonight we must draw up a rota for your future employment.” Madame Courvelle fortified herself with a sip of wine from her glass. “Now the other proviso upon which the agreement depended Yvette was some sort of retribution for your criminal folly. Mr Cordeaux in particular was most insistent upon this. Just because you are after all being spared the penalties due to you under the law that does not mean that you should be spared any sort of punishment. Mr Cordeaux was adamant that you pay some just penalty for your misdeeds if only to teach you of the consequences of your actions. I have to say that I agree with him. You certainly should not allowed to escape unpunished. However I have suggested a course of action to the gentlemen here whereby which we treat this as a private matter and deal with the matter of your punishment privately without referring it to the higher authorities of the law. I must now ask you therefore if you consent to and accept the punishment that I and these gentlemen have decided upon as a suitable retribution for your crimes.”
Yvette swallowed and struggled to find speech. The cafe had fallen silent and all eyes were turned upon her awaiting her answer. “Wh...what kind of punishment Madame?” she croaked out at last in a hoarse whisper.
In response Madame Courvelle turned her attention to the bar and caught Hanna’s eye. “If you please Hanna.” she intoned. Hanna nodded with a grunt and reached down behind the bar for something. She stepped out from behind the bar and crossed the room to join the conference. Yvette caught her breath with a gasp. Over her left arm Hanna carried a clean tea towel. In her right hand she bore a polished length of rattan cane, two metres long, three quarters of a centimetre thick and gleaming pale yellow under the lights of the cafe. Yvette felt the blood drain from her face as she understood the exact nature of the punishment Madame Courvelle had in mind. “You are to be caned Yvette!” stated Madame Courvelle in a flat, matter of fact voice by way of confirmation. “Severely!” she added as an afterthought.
Yvette’s hand flew to her mouth in shock. “P... Please no Madame!” she whispered in horror.
Madame Courvelle looked disappointed in her. “Am I to take it then that you would prefer to explain your recent conduct in front of the magistrates’ bench then Yvette?”
Yvette shook her head vigorously. “Non Madame! Si ’l vous plait! Non!”
“Well the only alternative is that you agree to suffer the punishment we have determined for you in lieu of criminal prosecution. Now what is it to be? Do you wish to face criminal charges which will almost certainly see you with a hefty fine, loss of your licence, a criminal record and possibly even a spell of judicial incarceration or will you accept this alternative punishment to demonstrate your contrition and acknowledgement of your responsibility for your actions?” Yvette was bereft of speech. Her eyes kept flicking between Madame Courvelle and the cane in Hanna’s hand. She seemed hypnotised by it. “Well Yvette?” Madame Courvelle reminded her. “I am waiting!”
“P...please Madame! I...I don’t want to go to court!”
“Are you therefore prepared to accept the cane?”
Yvette bit her lip in anguish. She realised that she was trapped. There was no alternative. If she was to salvage anything out of the disaster her foolishness had landed her in then she must face the wicked instrument glistening in Hanna’s hand. In abject misery she nodded barely perceptibly, lowered her head and whispered. “Oui Madame.”
“Very well then! We shall proceed. The gentlemen and I have discussed the exact severity of the sentence to be administered commensurate with your crime and have agreed upon a number. Hanna will therefore administer one hundred strokes of the cane on your bottom.” Madame Courvelle paused for dramatic effect “Your bare bottom!” she concluded. Yvette froze, paralysed with fear at the pronouncement of this sentence. She was not the only one shocked by the severity of the sentence. An excited low hum arose from the other spectators in the cafe now all thoroughly engrossed in the drama being played out before their eyes. Madame Courvelle ignored them and turned to Michelle. “Michelle, would you be so kind as to clear a space in the middle of the room?”
Michelle curtsied prettily. “Oui Madame.” Michelle busied herself moving tables and chairs aside. Yvette watched these preparations with a sense of unreality as if this must be happening to somebody else. Her eyes still kept darting back to the solid figure of Hanna waiting patiently with the cane. Hanna’s dark face was impassive, showing no sign of emotion but she was stroking the cane in her hand almost lovingly.
At last Michelle had cleared a large enough space in the centre of the room and she stepped to one side. Madame Courvelle nodded in approval before turning to Hanna. “You may proceed Hanna.”
Hanna nodded in acknowledgement before stepping into the space Michelle had provided. She flexed the cane in her hand before swinging it through a couple of arcs to test the space available and to ensure that there would be no impediment to her swing. Once satisfied she that had ample room she pointed the cane at a mark on the floor and addressed Yvette. “Stand over here girl!” she commanded. With no other choice available, Yvette complied but her lip was quivering with fear and her knees were trembling so hard she thought they would give way beneath her. Once Yvette was in the proscribed position clutching her hands together to still their shaking, Hanna took a high backed chair and placed it in front of Yvette with the back facing her. “Bend over the chair!” she ordered. Yvette stepped forward in a daze, her head still spinning with disbelief that this was happening to her. Slowly she lowered her torso until she was bent over the chair, the wood of the back of the chair cool against her stomach through the thin material of her dress. “Lift your skirt above your waist!” Hanna commanded her in an imperious tone. With trembling hands Yvette reached behind her to raise the hem of her dress up over her bottom and above her waist as commanded exposing the pair of pale pink knickers she wore beneath which were now her only concession to modesty in front of the avidly interested spectators. Even that last vestige of decorum was destined to disappear however. “Lower your knickers down to your knees!” was Hanna’s next command. Blushing scarlet with mortification in exposing herself so immodestly in public, Yvette reached behind once more, slipping her thumbs into the elastic of her knickers and pulling them down clumsily to her knees. “Straighten your back and legs girl!” Hanna ordered. “And grip hold of the sides of the seat with your hands.” Yvette obeyed as best she could and Hanna ran a critical eye over her. Satisfied with Yvette’s stance Hanna laid the cane to one side for a moment and unbuttoned her jacket. Surprisingly she wore no blouse under her jacket, just a white lacy bra which looked downright incongruous against her solid dark frame and covering her ample firm breasts. She hung her jacket over the back of a chair and picked up the cane once more, flexing it in her hands and trying a couple of practice swings to judge its weight. Yvette, in her prone position glanced at Hanna out of the corner of her eye and shuddered, biting back the sob of fear that rose in her throat. Without her jacket and nearly naked to the waist Hanna looked even more intimidating than ever. The muscles in her arms rippled under the dark skin which gleamed with a sheen of perspiration under the lamps of the cafe. Carefully she wiped the cane with her tea towel and then stepped forward to begin the caning.
At this point Madame Courvelle interrupted proceedings to address Michelle stood in front of Yvette. “Michelle would you be so kind as to count the strokes out loud so we can keep tally please?”
Michelle curtsied. “Oui Madame.”
“Thank you Michelle. You may continue Hanna.”
Hanna nodded and placed the cane against the flesh of Yvette’s bottom to measure the first stroke, watching Yvette flinch at the cool touch of the cane against her trembling skin. Then she raised the cane high above her shoulder and paused for a second. Yvette gripped hold of the chair desperately and clenched her teeth. The Hanna brought the cane down in a long swishing arc. Yvette jerked violently as the cane bit into the fleshy centre of her buttocks. Her eyes which she had been holding tight shut flew open in shock at the excruciating agony in her tender rear and a hiss of expelled breath escaped from between her clenched teeth. She gripped the sides of the chair so hard her knuckles turned white and her face contorted as she struggled to contain her cry as the pain settled into her bottom. “Un!” declared Michelle in smug satisfaction. “That was only the first stroke Mademoiselle!” Michelle thought to herself amusedly. “You have another ninety nine to face!”
Hanna lifted the cane away from the point of the first stroke; the white indentation in the flash caused by the cane already turning scarlet and beginning to swell. Yvette was breathing heavily in the wake of the first searing pain. Behind her spectators were craning their necks or shuffling their positions to afford themselves a better view of the first angry red stripe on her virginal bottom. Hanna wiped her cane once more before measuring up for the second stroke and raising her arm again. Yvette jumped even more under the impact of the cane this time, her head jerking upwards and the pain etched in her face. “Deux!” announced Michelle. Again Hanna went through her unhurried ritual; examining and wiping her cane before addressing the target, lifting the cane and delivering another hard stroke to poor Yvette who jerked convulsively once more, shuddered deeply and whose face turned crimson as she fought to contain the scream that threatened to burst from her lips.
“Trois!” said Michelle. She regarded the suffering girl pityingly. She could see what Yvette was trying to do. It wouldn’t do the silly girl a bit of good though! Nobody could take one hundred strokes of the cane from Hanna in dignified silence! She’d soon be squealing her pretty little head off! Michelle watched as Hanna repeated her ritual before sweeping the cane down once more to land with a vicious crack across Yvette’s tormented buttocks. “Quatre!” she counted observing the gasp from Yvette’s lips and the first tear beginning to form at the corner of her wild, despairing eyes. She had a long way to go yet! Michelle had observed many a caning delivered by Hanna and been on the end of not a few herself. Hanna’s unhurried rhythmical technique never varied and it was so precisely measured you could set your watch by it! The girls had timed a precise ten seconds between one agonising stroke and the next which added up to a rate of six strokes per minute and that meant that this little darling here was facing more than sixteen minutes bent over that chair and ruing the day before her allocated one hundred strokes were completed. She could feel truly sorry for her. The most that Michelle had ever had to take was sixty strokes. That had been bad enough! A hundred strokes didn’t bear thinking about!
“Cinq!” she declared in response to another piercing crack and accompanying convulsion from the suffering girl. Michelle knew what Yvette was going through. The metronomic cadence of Hanna’s delivery was not the only consistency in her action. When Hanna took a cane to you she did it with conviction and authority. There were no little flicks of the wrist from Hanna. Every stroke was delivered firmly and hard with force behind it and plenty of follow through. She never pulled a stroke. The cane never bounced off your backside in Hanna’s hands. It bit hard into the flesh, indenting the skin and driving the pain deep into the muscle below leaving angry red welts and bruising in its wake. And every stroke was as hard as the one preceding it or the one to follow. There would be no lighter strokes; no temporary alleviation of the agony. Hanna was not the person to start gently and leave the best till last. Every excruciating lash from the first to the last would be laid on with equal determination and with Hanna’s full strength.
“Six!” said Michelle and at last Yvette gave vent to a strangled cry of pain. Michelle guessed that Hanna had probably landed that one across the back of Yvette’s legs. Hanna tended to cane the buttocks and the fleshy backs of the thighs with equal measure and Michelle knew well just how agonising the cane was across the sensitive regions on the backs of the thighs. “Sept!” and Yvette, abandoning control, squealed in pain. The cane had landed firmly into the crease between her buttocks and the soft upper part of her thighs and the agony, in that so sensitive place, proved more than she could bear.
“Huit.....Neuf......Dix....” Michelle intoned, raising her voice to be heard for now that Yvette’s control had snapped she was shrieking loudly with every stroke. Madame Courvelle watched the caning with interest. The girl was brave but that bravery could not endure such a severe caning. The girl was sobbing freely now between each stroke and that was no bad thing. It would teach her a lesson she wouldn’t forget in a hurry! “Onze...Douze....Treize....” In amusement Madame Courvelle observed the reaction of her companions at the table. The three men could not tear their eyes away from Yvette’s pert little buttocks turning more crimson with every stripe under the assault of the cane. Monsieur Cordeaux was turning quite red in the face and a light perspiration was breaking out on his forehead. From where she sat Madame Courvelle ventured a glance at his crotch. The front of his pants was distended by his erection. Evidently he was enjoying the show very much! He must be congratulating himself on agreeing to this alternative to judicial procedure. This was far more entertaining than merely sentencing the girl to a few weeks penal servitude in Montpoulier from the bench!
The gentlemen at Madame Courvelle’s table were not the only ones becoming aroused at the spectacle. As Michelle counted “Quatorze..... Quinze.....Seize....” over Yvette’s howling cries it was evident that the blond girl sat on the knee of Madame Courvelle’s favourite local artist was more than captivated by the scene. She was staring at Yvette’s buttocks jumping under the impact of the cane in rapt fascination. Her lips were parted and she was breathing heavily and squeezing her thighs together. She could feel her handsome companion’s erection through the material of her skirt beneath her bottom and she ground wantonly against it. The artist was delighted by this evidence of his partner’s mounting arousal and he daringly passed a hand up her stomach to snatch a quick clutch at her breast. She shivered under the touch.
“Dix-Sept....Dix-Huit....Dix Neuf....” Yvette was jerking and squirming spasmodically and giving vent to a paroxysm of demented screams; the pain in her nether regions like nothing she had ever experienced. The blond girl’s nostrils flared in response and she quivered in pleasure. Experimentally the artist let his hand fall to her bare thigh below the hem of her skirt. She made no effort to remove it and, emboldened, he allowed his hand to slip to the inside of her thigh and exulted as she parted her legs to accommodate him. From there it was an easy passage, caressing his hand upwards until he encountered the barrier of her knickers, warm from the rousing heat beneath. His fingertips quested for entrance easing under the material of her knickers. There was a brief encounter with the wiry bush of her pubic hair and then he felt his fingers slide into the hot dampness of her sex. He let his fingers explore before finding the little nub, the little man in the boat, her clitoris. She shuddered hungrily and a tiny moan escaped her lips. Slowly he began to stroke it.
“Vingt!” Yvette screamed again at the blistering stroke, shaking her head from side to side. Her legs were trembling uncontrollably and threatening to buckle beneath her. “Vingt et un!” She threw back her head and howled deafeningly, her eyes red and swollen with tears, her make-up in ruined streaks down her cheeks. The pain in her nether regions had reached incandescent levels as if somebody was applying red hot coals to her flesh. She no longer registered that people were watching her humiliation and pain with deep absorption. Her entire consciousness had now narrowed to the loud swishing of the cane, Michelle’s monotonous tallying of the score and the searing pain from her buttocks and thighs. “Vingt deux!” Even her screams seemed to come from far away now as if it was somebody else other than she emitting them.
Among the transfixed spectators was little Sophie behind the bar. Sophie was the youngest of Madame Courvelle’s young ladies at the Cafe du Concorde and she was of a passionate nature and easily swayed by the temptations of the flesh. Although she was no great lover of feeling the cane on her own backside she enjoyed watching the other girls be caned and seeing the pretty little Mademoiselle Renard getting her rear toasted had excited her enormously. Hidden below the waist behind the bar she reached down to lift the hem of her short dress and slid her hand inside her knickers. Her sex was dripping wet and greedily she began to stroke herself. “Vingt trois....Vingt quatre....” Sophie gripped the edge of the bar to steady herself hoping that her panting and soft moans would not be audible above Yvette’s shrill screams. She leaned forward to crane her neck, the better to see Yvette’s bottom now admirably marked with livid scarlet welts. She shuddered violently as her arousal mounted. Roget had intimated that he might be able to sneak away later that night. He’d throw pebbles at the window of her room above the cafe to alert her and then she’d creep out and meet him in the back shed. She hoped he would come that night. If he did then he was in for a rare treat! Watching Yvette Renard’s appealing buttocks wriggling delightfully under the lash of the cane had induced particularly amorous urges in her. “Vingt cinq!” Sophie clamped her mouth shut lest her own passion betray her over Yvette’s wailing scream. She forced herself to still the urgent caresses of her fingers knowing that she was very close to orgasm. She fervently hoped Roget would come that night. If not well.... Sophie allowed herself a mental shrug. If he didn’t come then there was always an obvious and agreeable alternative. She would creep down the hallway to Michelle’s room. In common with all the girls at the Cafe du Concorde Sophie had a powerful libido and it mattered little to any of them whether they exercised it with a boy or a member of their own sex. Michelle was highly experienced and delightfully innovative in bed. Madame Courvelle was generally lenient about the girls playing with each other although she would have them caned once in a while for it just to keep them on their toes and remind them who was boss. Madame had told them that the petite Mademoiselle Renard might well be joining their ranks soon. Sophie hoped so. She couldn’t wait to get her hands on her!
“Vingt six....vingt sept.....vingt huit....” The beating was relentless; the waves of agony unbearable. Yvette was near to collapse. She had performed heroically in maintaining her position over the chair so far but she knew despairingly that it could not last. Sooner or later her legs would give beneath her. “Vingt neuf... trente... trente et un....” It was the thirty first stroke that broke her. It was, even among the high standards established by every stroke that preceded it, a particularly torturous blow, lancing into the already tenderised flesh of her upper thighs. With a loud keening wail Yvette’s legs turned to jelly and she collapsed to her knees and remained there sobbing copiously.
Throughout the beating Hanna’s expression had barely flickered. She had gone about her task with unmovable, dispassionate efficiency heedless of the howling screams of her victim. In examining it and wiping it between each stroke, it seemed almost as if she were more concerned about the welfare of her cane than the poor weeping wretch she was inflicting it upon. Now however she glared at Yvette in irritation, annoyed that her carefully paced rhythm had been so disrupted by Yvette’s inability to follow instructions. “Get up girl!” she commanded severely.
Yvette knelt abjectly on the floor crying piteously. “Please no! I... I can’t take any more! It...it hurts!”
“It is meant to hurt you foolish girl! Now get up this instance and resume your position!”
“No please! I beg you! It hurts too much!”
Hanna waved the cane at her. “Get up and resume your position now or I shall give you extra for disobedience!”
Madame Courvelle interposed at this juncture. “Do as you are told Yvette or Hanna will certainly award you extra strokes for not following her orders.”
Yvette glanced miserably at Madame Courvelle but saw no mercy there. Sorrowfully she rose unsteadily to her feet, lifted her skirt back over her waist and bent once more back over the chair. Her knickers had slipped from her knees by now and now reposed in an untidy heap about her ankles. Hanna grunted in satisfaction, gave her cane a last wipe and raised it. With a vicious sweeping lash the caning commenced once more. “Trente deux!” remarked Michelle.
Leaning against the wall near the window with her arms folded, Bernadette watched the spectacle in deep satisfaction and shared similar thoughts to those of her colleague Sophie. “Welcome to the sisterhood Mademoiselle!” she murmured under her breath. You could hardly claim to be a fully paid up member of the sorority of the Cafe du Concorde without having been on the end of one of Hanna’s canings! Well this little sweetheart was paying her dues right enough! She’d not sit down for a week after this thrashing!
“Trente trois....trente quatre.... trente cinq....” Yvette’s screams had reached an ear piercing volume by now. Bernadette wondered idly in amusement if anybody outside was pausing on their way home to listen to the cacophony of manic screams emanating from the interior of the cafe. God knows they could hardly miss it! She was only a little thing this Yvette but she had a fine pair of lungs on her! She was probably keeping people awake on the far side of the square with her demented shrieks! For all Bernadette knew there was quite possibly a crowd gathered outside the cafe and applauding each howling wail! Whatever the truth, it was certain that it would be all over the village tomorrow that young Mademoiselle Renard had had her backside beaten good and sound in the Cafe du Concorde last night. If anyone was uncertain of the identity of the victim involved then as soon as Madame had this pretty little thing dressed up in the obligatory uniform to work in the cafe then all doubts would be removed! She’d be carrying those marks for weeks to come and as soon as she leant over a table to attend to her chores in her short dress then she’d be displaying the weals on her legs for all the world to see!
“Trente six.... trente sept.... trente huit.... trente neuf...” Michelle was nearly having to shout now so that her tally of the strokes was audible over Yvette’s screams. Bernadette admired Yvette’s shapely legs. They were pretty or at least they would be pretty once the contusions from the cane had healed. Like Sophie Bernadette anticipated the arrival of Yvette among their number with relish. Her current crop of dear sisters was wonderful but there was a lot to be said for having fresh talent about the place. It was a shame Jeanette wasn’t here to witness this. She’d have enjoyed it. “Quarante....quarante et un.....quarante deux....” Bernadette grinned to herself. When this girl started working here, she and the other girls would have to get her alone in one of the back larders one day. They’d have her knickers down for a different purpose then and make her squeal to a different tune!
“Quarante trois.... quarante quatre.... quarante cinq....” The tally of strokes mounted inexorably. The fire in Yvette’s rear burned brighter with every lash. Yvette had a pretty face but, Michelle noted, it was not an attractive sight at the moment. It was red and distorted with pain and distress. Her cheeks were streaked black with mascara and eyeliner. Her eyes were red and swollen and her mouth gaped open almost comically as she screamed aloud with every stroke. Her face was wet with tears and there was a drop of mucous on the end of her nose. The ribbon in her hair had come adrift and her hair was a tangled mess as she threw her head about from side to side in the throes of her pain. “Quarante six....quarante sept....quarante huit.... quarante neuf....” Michelle continued. “Never mind little one.” she thought to herself. “We girls at the Cafe du Concorde know lots of ways to soothe poor little beaten things like you!”
“Cinqante!” declared Michelle firmly, announcing this milestone in the young girls caning. To the anguished Yvette squealing under its impact there was little if anything to distinguish this stroke from any other of the forty nine that had left their trace of agony across her scorched rear. Yet in the part of her brain that still retained some vestige of rational thought she heard Michelle call out the number with something approaching disbelief. Caned already to the edge of endurance and beyond it seemed hardly credible that she had only reached the half way point in her punishment. In despair she closed her eyes as Hanna raised the cane once more. “Cinquante et un!” announced Michelle. The second half of Yvette’s caning had begun.
Enjoying the scene with enormous pleasure was Madame Montagnon. She was experiencing the most tingling satisfaction with every stroke that coursed into the welted wasteland of Yvette’s tormented rear. She was delighted that the girl, after a brave start, was taking the beating so badly. Yvette’s loud screams were music to her ears. Madame Montagnon enjoyed the sight of young girls suffering. “Cinquante deux....cinquante trois....cinquante quatre....” Madame Montagnon would have been happy to see the wretched girl take two hundred strokes let alone one hundred! Her only regret was that she wasn’t wielding the cane herself. She yearned to feel the cane in her hand biting into that squirming backside. Sometimes when she held a soiree at her mansion Madame Courvelle would lend her the use of some of her girls to assist with the catering. She wondered if Madame would loan her this one some time, once the girl was working here. She shivered deliciously at the thought. “Cinquante cinq....cinquante six....cinquante sept....” Madame Montagnon glanced at her young male companion. His eyes were riveted on the convulsing body of the young girl shrieking as the cane strokes sliced into her rump. His excitement was plain to see; the bulge in his trousers enormous. Madame Montagnon allowed herself an indulgent smile. Many people thought the man her gigolo but, while it was true that she used him for pleasure from time to time, he was mostly there for camouflage. Her real tastes lay elsewhere. She would certainly have to indulge them tonight after this aperitif! Her two servant girls would be in bed asleep by the time she got home. Well she would rouse them! She’d shake them out of bed the instance she got home, strip them of their nightclothes and take the birch out of the cupboard! They were due for a good thrashing! It must be months since the last time she’d taken the birch to them. If they petulantly asked why they were being birched she’d tell them to blame it all on Yvette Renard! When she’d finished birching them she’d lie back naked on the sofa with her legs open and they’d crawl across the carpet to nuzzle at her sex with their tongues until she was satisfied. She had her girls well trained. They knew what their mistress expected of them!
“Cinquante huit.... cinquante neuf....soixante.....” Inevitably now Hanna was running out of patches of unblemished skin on which to land her strokes. As a consequence therefore more and more of her blows were landing atop the welts left behind by previous strokes, doubling their agony. Perhaps it was this accumulation that caused Yvette to collapse under the relentless pain for a second time. Whatever the cause she buckled again and slipped to her knees. Hanna glared at her in outrage. “What do you think you are doing?” she demanded angrily.
“Pardonnez moi madame!” bleated Yvette pathetically. “I... I’m sorry.”
“Get back into position this instance!” Hanna ordered her.
“Oui Madame.” snivelled the weeping girl. “Pardonnez moi.” Painfully Yvette climbed back to her feet to drape herself back over the chair, her chest heaving with her sobs as she lifted her skirt to expose her swollen rump for the cane once more.
Hanna was dissatisfied with Yvette’s apology. She shook the cane at her indignantly. “You have been warned already.” she told Yvette, “Five extra strokes!” She addressed Michelle curtly. “Do not count these strokes Michelle.”
For the five strokes Hanna abandoned her usual measured cadence and delivered the five strokes in a rapid tattoo, the cane blurring as she brought one stroke down in rapid succession after the other, giving Yvette no time to prepare herself for the next. Yvette arched her back and let out one long, ululating scream, frightful in its anguished despair. “Let that be a lesson.” Hanna told her. “If I have to interrupt this punishment another time you’ll get an extra ten! Do you understand?” Yvette moaned pitiably and could only nod her head feebly. “Very well,” declared Hanna wiping her cane. “Where were we Michelle?”
“Then we shall continue from there.”
She raised the cane again. “Soixante et un!” Michelle noted to the accompaniment of Yvette’s scream.
The blond girl on the artist’s knee was becoming more and more aroused at the spectacle of Yvette’s caning and the stroking of her companion between her legs. She was squirming alarmingly on his knee and panting audibly as his fingers rubbed her clitoris in little circles. Her increasing excitement was becoming evident to the other occupants of the cafe and several people tore their eyes away from Yvette’s caning to glance in her direction and raise amused eyebrows as she laid her head back and half closed her eyes, very near to climax. “Soixante deux....soixante trois.... soixante quatre....soixante cinq....soixante six....” The girl was moaning loudly now and the other guests exchanged amused glances with each other. She was shaking violently and little cries were emerging from her throat. “Soixante sept....soixante huit....soixante neuf.... soixante dix....” Suddenly the girl stiffened rigidly and opened her mouth wide to emit a loud wail. Everybody in the room turned to stare at her and, as her orgasm climaxed, the artist felt a sudden flood of hot liquid gush from her privates soaking her knickers and skirt and seeping through to dampen the artist’s trousers. A pool of clear liquid appeared on the floor beneath her. The girl’s messy orgasm grabbed the attention of everybody in the room and there were amused chuckles all round. Even Hanna’s rhythm was interrupted and she turned to stare at the girl in surprise. The only person in the room that didn’t register the girl’s orgasm was Yvette but she was hardly fully about her senses by this time. The only reality in her universe was the great throbbing misery from her rear portions which in her fevered imagination she pictured as some huge swollen scarlet mass of lancing pain dwarfing the rest of her body. She barely even registered that the caning had halted temporarily. She just hung limply over her chair and keened softly in pain. The artist glanced around at the other guests as his companion buried her face in his shoulder, her chest heaving. He shrugged at the other guests and smiled, holding up a palm in a gesture of resignation. The guests laughed with him good humouredly. Hanna just shook her head disgustedly and turned back to the matter in hand. “Soixante et onze!” declared the smirking Michelle.
Sophie had seen the blond girl come all over her friend’s trousers and leave a mess on the floor and it whipped her own excitement into a new urgency. Her hand had been in her knickers for several minutes now fingering at her sex and she was craving relief. Poor Yvette’s bottom was swollen terribly now with raised welts. Sophie longed to be able to caress it and soothe the girl’s pain with soft kisses. As she thought about it her fingers quickened at her sex. “Soixante douze....soixante treize.... soixante quatorze....” Sophie herself was very near to orgasm now but she caught Madame Courvelle glancing in her direction and she dared not disgrace herself unless she longed to be the next person bending over that chair! “Soixante quinze....soixante seize... soixante dix-sept....” The accumulative effect of strokes landing on top of each other was showing the inevitable consequences by now. There were small specks of scarlet moisture appearing on Yvette’s bottom where the skin had broken under the impact of the cane and a little trickle of blood was seeping down her right thigh from the accumulated strokes to the backs of her legs. For some reason this excited Sophie very much indeed. She was not by nature as cruel girl but now she wanted to see Yvette bleed! “Soixante dix-huit.... soixante dix-neuf....” There was another trickle of blood; from the centre of her buttocks this time and Sophie’s stroking at her crutch became more frenzied.
Yvette seemed to have lost the strength to squirm any more. She just lay limply over the chair twitching each time the cane smote her swollen flesh. Even her screams had lost their earlier piercing quality and had given way to one, more or less continuous, wailing moan. Hanna was wiping her cane more diligently now as if to cleanse it of the contamination of Yvette’s blood on its pristine surface. “Quatre vingt!” said Michelle and Sophie could take it no longer. Hoping that no one would notice her she ducked down behind the bar and, clamping a hand across her mouth to stifle her cry, she rubbed herself to orgasm. It was the second messy orgasm of that night but that was characteristic of Sophie and she was well known for it. The other girls called her their “little squirt” and it wasn’t just a reference to her size. She pulled her dress out of the way hastily as she came but her knickers were drenched and a second puddle of scandalous origin was added to the floor of the Cafe du Concorde that night. Quickly she tried to dry the puddle with a tissue before adjusting her dress and standing back up into view as nonchalantly as she could manage. Her efforts were futile for the first thing she saw as she looked around was Madame Courvelle looking straight at her in strong disapproval. Sophie swallowed guiltily. A swish of the cane, a crack against Yvette’s buttocks and another frenzied moaning cry was punctuated by Michelle. “Quatre vingt un!” Madame Courvelle was frowning at Sophie. Sophie felt the blood rush to her cheeks and her throat become dry, knowing that the next person to be singing a tune to Hanna’s cane would certainly be herself.
“Quatre vingt deux!” If Yvette’s bottom had attracted Sophie it was another part of her anatomy that Michelle was finding appealing. She couldn’t actually see Yvette’s bottom from her position in front of the suffering girl although she could well imagine what sort of a state it was in by now. It was Yvette’s breasts that held her attention though. Somehow during her ordeal the top buttons of Yvette’s dress had come undone or possibly even fallen off and in her bent over position she was affording Michelle a wonderful view down her front at her ripe young breasts. For such a small girl Yvette had quite large breasts and they wobbled most enticingly every time her body jerked under the impact of the cane. Her right breast even seemed to have fallen partly out of her bra. Michelle could see the nipple quite clearly. Oddly it was erect. Michelle smiled to herself. In spite of the agony of the cane it was not at all unusual to see signs of arousal in a girl being beaten. It was a better than evens bet that if you pushed a hand between Mademoiselle Renard’s legs right now you would find her sex swollen and moist! Michelle wondered about the psychology of that. She didn’t know. What she did know was that although she hated being caned and the pain of it she was always like a bitch on heat afterwards and inflamed with lust. She rather hoped the same was true of Mademoiselle Renard here. There must be some way to get her alone afterwards and get that dress off her. “Quatre vingt trois....quatre vingt quatre....quatre vingt cinq....”
Yvette endured the end game of her caning in a barely conscious daze. A red mist had descended before her eyes. She was hallucinating too. She was staring fixated at the pattern on the cover of the chair beneath her eyes. The pattern seemed to be moving, organising itself into shapes that resembled throbbing buttocks. “Quatre vingt six....quatre vingt sept....qutre vingt huit....” Yvette no longer had the strength to scream. Her throat was sore and swollen from her screaming anyway. She felt limp and sodden like a piece of tenderised meat. Her backside and her legs were just one solid wall of aching agony by now and the cane just stirred it up a little more but it had lost its earlier excruciating sting as if her body had reached a threshold of pain beyond which it could go no further. “Quatre vingt neuf....quatre vingt dix... qeutre vingt onze....” The numbers were meaningless to her now. Time seemed to have stopped still as if all there had ever been in her existence was the relentless pain in her hind quarters punctuated and inflamed by the rhythmical periodic explosion of the cane against her flesh. “Quatre vingt douze....quatre vingt treize... quatre vingt quatorze...” The room was deathly still now as if everybody was holding their breath and wishing her through these final strokes. “Quatre vingt quinze...quatre vingt seize... quatre vingt dix-sept....” Through the bottomless agony of her rear Yvette could feel dampness on her legs. The significance of it never registered on her brain; she never realised that she was bleeding from her caning or that the cane now was raising a little pink mist each time it sliced into her damaged skin. “Quatre vingt dix-huit.... quatre vingt dix neuf....” For the last time Hanna raised her cane. The stroke was just as hard as every other had been. “CENT!” declared Michelle in triumphant finality.
Hanna stood back displaying as much emotion as she had managed throughout the caning. She looked disappointed! At the conclusion of the caning there was a collective exhalation from the guests who had held their breath over the final strokes of Yvette’s ordeal. A murmur of voices began and then, extraordinarily, a ripple of applause although whether that was in appreciation of Hanna’s performance with the cane or Yvette’s endurance of it was difficult to discern. Yvette lay like a rag doll over the back of the chair weeping softly and not understanding that her ordeal was over. “You may stand up now Yvette.” Madame Courvelle told her. “Your punishment is over.” Through the mist of her pain Yvette registered the words and slowly in robotic fashion began to straighten up. Madame Courvelle addressed Hanna. “I think a few minutes to let the lesson sink in don’t you agree Hanna?”
“Oui Madame.” Hanna turned to Yvette. “Hold your skirt up girl! You’ll get it dirty otherwise.” Yvette’s rear was still streaming with blood. Hanna stepped over to assist her and for one frightful moment it seemed as if Yvette would fall as she tried to stand, so shaky was she on her legs. “Here tuck your skirt into your belt like this.” Hanna told her, helping her to comply. Hanna turned the chair around that Yvette had spent the best part of the last twenty minutes bent over. “Kneel on the chair girl! No leave your knickers where they are! Kneel up straight now and put your hands behind your head.” Numbly Yvette obeyed, without the will left in her to protest; her humiliation completed by her submissive position on the chair displaying her naked beaten rear for the prolonged examination of all present. “Now stay there without moving until Madame gives you leave to do otherwise.”
Madame Courvelle picked the empty bottle off her table. “I think another bottle of this if you please Michelle. You other girls, see to our guests. They must be thirsty by now.” The hum of conversation returned to the room only more animated now as the guests began to discuss the remarkable spectacle they had been privileged to witness. It would be a long tale in the telling. Yvette Renard’s caning in the Cafe du Concorde would be the talk of the village for months to come and still retold years later. Some people even got out of their seats on a pretext the better to approach Yvette for a closer look at the swollen mass that had once been the unsullied pristine flesh of her buttocks and thighs. Through it all Yvette remained motionless on her chair, crying silently now and more wretched and miserable than she had ever been in her short and uneventful life.
Madame Courvelle left Yvette kneeling on the stool for fifteen minutes while her girls replenished her guests’ drinks. Finally she relented. “You may get down now Yvette.” she said, at last, not unkindly. “Come over here girl. No don’t bother pulling your knickers up. I want to take a look at your bottom. In fact take your knickers off altogether. You’ll trip over them otherwise.” Clumsily Yvette pulled her knickers off and, carrying them in her hand, stepped over obediently to Madame Courvelle. “Turn around Yvette and let me see your bottom. You can put your knickers on the table” Mechanically Yvette turned to afford Madame Courvelle the view of her aching tender rear. Madame Courvelle examined the damage with concern. Hanna had certainly done a thorough job on this young lady! Yvette’s behind was a swollen lattice of contusions from the tops of her buttocks nearly down to the sinews above her knees. She’d be carrying these marks around with her for a good while to come! She wouldn’t be sitting down too comfortably for a few days either. Well that was no bad thing if it reminded her of her lesson! Well she’d have plenty to keep her mind off it and little time for sitting anyway. There was no reason at all why she couldn’t start work tomorrow. She’d be busy enough learning the ropes of her new job to keep her mind off her woes. Madame Courvelle frowned, wondering if she had a maids’ dress to fit her. Perhaps one of Sophie’s would fit her. They were both small girls. It would do at least perhaps until she could have a pair or two made to fit her.
She reached out to feel the swollen flesh of Yvette’s bottom. Yvette flinched at the touch, so tender was that region now. At least she had stopped bleeding now Madame Courvelle noted with relief. Her skin hadn’t split that badly. She very much doubted that there would any permanent scarring. All the same perhaps it would be better to have one of the girls take her upstairs to bathe her welts and put some ointment on them. In fact, come to that, it was no bad idea for the girls to make a bed up for her for the night. She was in no fit state to walk home alone. Madame Courvelle had no illusions about the young ladies in her employ and doubtless they’d be sniffing around the pretty young girl like truffle pigs on a hot scent once they had her to themselves in their rooms upstairs! Well that was no bad thing either. They would be kind to her and she could use a little loving kindness tonight. It would be better for her not to have to sleep alone and dwell upon her sorrows. In fact thought Madame Courvelle, a new idea occurring to her, it would be better all round if they made her residence here more or less permanent. There were several empty rooms they were not using they could convert into a bedroom for her. She didn’t consider it healthy for a young girl of Yvette’s years to be living alone with an aging aunt. She was isolated up that end of the village and had hardly any friends at all locally. She’d be far better off with young people her own age and, if she lived here at the cafe, it would be far easier for Madame Courvelle to keep an eye on her and make sure she didn’t go off the rails again. In her own mind Madame Courvelle had already adopted Yvette. Well they could talk about all this in the morning.
“Turn around Yvette.” After she had obeyed Madame Courvelle handed her a tissue. “Now be a good girl and wipe your face.” As Yvette tried to repair the damage to her appearance Madame Courvelle looked her in the eye. “Now I hope you’ve learned your lesson Yvette.” Yvette nodded dumbly. “Good girl! Now I’m sorry that this has had to happen to you Yvette but I want you to remember that I only had you caned because I care about you. I think we both know what the alternative was. Well a sore bottom will disappear a lot faster than a criminal record on your file will and when the swelling dies down you’ll thank me for this.”
Yvette nodded bleakly and whispered, “Oui Madame. Merci Madame.”
“That’s alright Yvette. You’re a good girl and I have every hope for you. Now I want you to stay here for the night. I don’t want you going home on your own. One of the girls will make up a bed for you and perhaps put something on your bottom to ease the pain. Is that alright with you?”
“Oui Madame.” repeated Yvette, in a small voice.
“Excellent. That’s settled then. We can start to discuss your future in the morning.” Madame Courvelle looked around. Now who would be best to see to Yvette? Her gimlet eye caught sight of Sophie. Well not that little madam for one! She was in far too frisky a mood tonight and making an exhibition of herself behind the bar! Well she was one more problem to deal with in the morning! She and Yvette could compare the bruises on their bottoms after Hanna had finished with her! She caught sight of Michelle. Perfect! She beckoned her over. “Michelle dear you are excused for the rest of the night. Yvette will be staying the night with us and I want you to run a bath and make up the spare bed in your room for her.”
“But of course Madame.” Michelle assured her, careful to keep the triumph out of her voice.
“Good. And put some ointment on her bottom before you put her to bed Michelle.”
“Oui Madame.” Michelle kept her face neutral but she was delighted with the way things were going. No doubt the other girls would be wanting to creep in and share the delights of young Mademoiselle Renard. Well she would lock the door and they could wait their turn! This little one was all hers tonight!
“Good.” said Madame Courvelle. “Now pull your dress down and run along with Michelle Yvette. We’ll speak at more length in the morning.”
Michelle smiled and took Yvette’s hand. “Come along Yvette. You’ll feel better for a hot bath and a good night’s sleep. I’ve got a box of chocolate liqueurs in my room we can share as well.” Docilely Yvette allowed herself to be led away by the hand. Madame Courvelle watched them go with enormous satisfaction. Oh yes they would talk in the morning alright! The girl hadn’t even blinked when she’d told her that they’d discuss her future in the morning as if she already tacitly acknowledged the fact that Madame Courvelle was her future now! And of course she was! Madame Courvelle had great plans for the precious little Yvette Renard. There was a great future ahead of her!
Madame Courvelle caught sight of Yvette’s knickers still lying on the table. The silly girl had completely forgotten to take them with her! Well no matter. She wouldn’t need them tonight in any case. Madame Courvelle picked up the simple cotton garment and regarded it with distaste. Well these would never do! She liked to dress her girls in the finest silk or satin lingerie. She’d have a rummage about in the morning to see if she could find something more suitable for Yvette to pull on over her aching bottom. Then she’d see about buying her some more frivolous and feminine underwear. Madame Courvelle sat back with a smile. At least then the next time she was obliged to bend over the chair with her skirts hitched up she’d have something more becoming to pull down! For of one fact Madame Courvelle was certain. She was sure that the other girls were certain of it as well and most probably everybody else in this cafe tonight. In fact, possibly the only person it hadn’t occurred to yet was Yvette herself since the implications of tonight’s performance would be yet to sink in. The fact was this; Yvette Renard might have just endured her first caning at the Cafe du Concorde but it would certainly not be her last!