The Seigneur looked down at Yvain, who had her maidservant Gizela over her knee, bottom the colour of tomato. He said, “I’d wondered what that noise was. I mean, it’s a familiar enough sound, but I was surprised to find you making it.”
“Of course not. I told you it’s part of your job to keep your servant in order. Though you’re more her slavegirl than her servant really, aren’t you, Gizela?”
Gizela’s face was suddenly nearly as red as her bottom.
“Good girls, both of you. Now, Gizela, get up now.”
“Yes, Master.” Gizela kissed Yvain’s thigh, murmured, “Mistress,” and stood, facing the Seigneur.
He smiled, again. “Gizela, you’re a provoking girl, aren’t you?”
“I try to be, Master.”
“Hah! Well, we’ll both finish your discipline later. Your mistress may not be allowed to use implements, but you’ll find that I am.”
“Yes, Master.” Gizela’s eyes still sparkled. This was a promise, not a threat.”
“Master.” Gizela removed herself to the side of the room, knowing she was making that corner far more interesting with her presence. Yvain glanced at her once, then looked up at her Seigneur. “My Seigneur. May I make your guests welcome?”
“Please.” The Seigneur stood aside. “Beldam, you first.”
The Beldam entered, looking sternly down at Yvain, who she had flogged, or ordered flogged, several times in the past. She did not smile.
The Seigneur said, “Beldam, you have lost the right to discipline either of these two girls. Discipline of the girl in the corner is shared between Yvain and me, while discipline of Yvain is solely a matter for me.”
“Yes, my Seigneur. I understand.” If the Beldam had any feelings about what was, effectively, a demotion, she did not show it.
“And you will from now on address Yvain as, ‘Mistress’. And Yvain, you now have the same limited right to punish the Beldam when necessary as you have with Gizela.”
The Beldam said, “My Seigneur.” She bowed her head to Yvain, and said, “Mistress.”
Yvain thought for a second. She had fear to overcome. Then she said, “You will address me as ‘My Mistress’, Beldam, or I see you join Gizela, in the same place and posture, and clothing, waiting for my hand.”
The Beldam stared at her. That was quite unexpected. Then she said, “Yes, my Mistress. I’m sorry, of course.”
The Seigneur smiled. “It is the wheel of fortune, Beldam. And have no fear. Even as things change, you will still have an honoured place.”
The Beldam nodded. She had already accepted the change. “My Seigneur.”
The Seigneur waved her back to the wall, and she took her place, out of the way, watching what happened.
Two men entered, one in red and gold vest, doubloon and tights, in the fashion of the island of Angleterre. The other man followed his master, wearing only a small iron collar round his neck, attached to a chain in Alfredo’s hands. His buttocks and the backs of his thighs blushed as brightly as Gizela’s. He was embarrassed by, but unable to hide or suppress, his erection.
He stared, pleading, at Yvain. It was the man who, just two days ago, had married her: Matteo.