(See here for an index to this series.)
Claudette knelt, and took Bernard's hand, and brought her lips to it. Would he know? Would he understand why, although she had made up her face, and put her hair into its chignon, and fastened the pearls around her neck, she was not dressed--not ready to go to the reception?
Bernard was startled. After saying, "My dear, you must hurry; the car will be here in ten minutes," he had distractedly turned to leave the room when she had darted down from the chair in front of her dressing table, and taken his hand by the wrist. He turned to look down at her, and saw the look of desperate submission in her eyes, and he knew: her flirtation with the French ambassador had gone too far.
"My love," she said, looking up into his eyes. "I am so sorry--I cannot face him tonight."
"What, then?" he asked. "What shall we do?" Truly he did not mind not attending the reception; he had at any rate been sure until a moment ago that she would be indiscreet with the French ambassador.
"I. . ." Claudette began. She began to despair--he had known, but he had not known what was truly necessary.
Bernard studied her face for a long moment, and suddenly awareness rushed in upon him--the tremendous, exultant knowledge of what she needed, and what he needed, and what would finally bridge the distance between them.
He withdrew his hand and, as she watched in shock--that he would do this, that he would at last do this thing for which she had been yearning for so long--, he removed his dinner-jacket, and then his belt, still looking into her eyes. Wordlessly, he rolled up his right sleeve, and doubled the belt in his right hand.
"On the bed, my dear. Your bottom bare, and over the bolster, ready for the spanking I'm about to give you. I will put an end to these indiscretions, even if I have to beat you once a day for the next ten years."
"Bernard," she said, rising and moving towards the bed in thrilled but frightened fascination, "even if you promise only to beat me every once in a while, I suspect you will never have to fear the indiscretions again."