Story from Janus 129 by Colin Weaver
At the top of the worn wooden staircase, Amos paused to lean on a window-sill and look out over the moors. It was something he would never have dared to do when he first started work at Royston Mill. A moment’s idleness would have earned him a sharp clip round the ear and a gruff admonition to, ‘Get on with your work, lad. Tha’s not paid to admire bloody scenery!’ Since then, ten years of faithful service had brought him promotion until he had reached his present position in the same year that the young Queen Victoria had married her beloved Albert. Any workman who passed him now would do so with a respectful, ‘Morning, Mr Jackson.’
It was not, however, one of the mill-hands but one of the young gentlemen from the office who approached him. Amos had, as a rule, a genial contempt for the pale-faced clerks with their inky fingers and stiff white collars, but he had taken a liking to young Tindale. ‘Now then, Stanley,’ he said, ‘were you looking for me?’
‘Mr Hall wants to see you, Amos.’
Amos scratched his head. A summons from the mill manager was something to be obeyed without hesitation, yet he could think of no reason for it. ‘Anything wrong that you know about, Stanley?’
The young clerk shook his head. ‘Nothing at all, Amos. In fact he seems to be in a pretty good mood.’
‘I’d better keep him that way, then,’ said Amos.
In the manager’s office, Mr Hall put his elbows on the desk and looked thoughtfully at his employee.
‘Amos,’ asked Mr Hall, ‘have you been mixing in high society?’
Amos grinned. The lean, dark-eyed manager had a good sense of humour and was not above cracking a joke with a trusted subordinate. ‘Not that I can recall, Mr Hall.’
‘Then why is Lady Royston asking to see you?’
Amos could only gape in astonishment. Lady Royston was the beautiful young wife of Sir Herbert Royston who owned the mill and most of the surrounding town of Birley. And since Sir Herbert spent so much time exploring foreign parts and shooting big game, Her Ladyship was very much the supreme figure of authority thereabouts.
‘But she doesn’t know me!’ said Amos.
‘Not by name, perhaps. But she wants to see the Chief Overseer of female staff.’
A possible explanation occurred to Amos. ‘The message must have got mixed up on the way. It’ll be Jim Barraclough she wants, Chief Overseer of the men. It’s happened before, Mr Hall.’
He didn’t need to explain. One of Amos’s roles was to enforce discipline, inflicting corporal punishment if necessary, upon the women who worked at the mill. ‘Bull’ Barraclough was his opposite number. While Amos dealt out retribution with his open hand or a formidable leather strap, Barraclough kept the rough, hard mill hands in line with an iron-hard fist, a hob-nailed boot and prize-fighting skills which were enough to teach any worker foolish enough to defy him, a brutal and bloody lesson. He had an aura of raw masculinity which had a remarkable effect upon the delicately nurtured gentlewomen who were sometimes escorted round the mill on well-intentioned expeditions to see how the lower-classes lived.
On several occasions, one of these ladies had urgently requested a private meeting with the massive, bullet-headed Overseer. One of Jim Barraclough’s few virtues was that he was no talker. When he returned from such a rendezvous, there would be a rare triumphant grin upon his craggy features and the sound of coins jingling in a well-filled pocket, but he spoke to no-one about these encounters and not even Mr Hall ventured to ask questions.
But in answer to Amos’s suggestion, Mr Hall shook his head. ‘No, it’s you she wants, Amos. No accounting for taste — though you’re a well set-up lad to be sure.’
He grinned at Amos’s obvious embarrassment. ‘Or maybe she’s got something else entirely in mind, so let’s not jump to any dangerous conclusions. Get over to the Hall right away. And since we don’t know how long she needs you, you’d better take the rest of the day off!’
Amos’s first impulse when he left Mr Hall’s office was to run home and change into his Sunday best in order to make a decent impression on her Ladyship. Then he shook his head. If he appeared at the stone-built cottage, where he lived with his widowed mother, in the middle of the day, she would certainly assume that he had lost his job or his mind. Either way there would be questions, long-winded explanations and all the time he would be keeping Lady Royston waiting.
‘Nay, she’ll just have to take me as she finds me,’ he said to himself, ‘I don’t suppose she’s inviting me to a society tea-party any road!’
The Hall was not very far out of town; he could be there in half an hour easily if he stepped out. As he walked he racked his brains to think why he should have been summoned. It would not be his first encounter with Quality. A decent, sober young fellow with no damn-fool Radical nonsense about him was likely to attract the benevolent notice of the local gentry and on several occasions he had earned a welcome half-sovereign by performing some necessary work for them. That must be it. Lady Royston must need some rough work doing which was too strenuous for her pampered servants. That would suit Amos very well. It was pleasant to get out of the mill on a fine morning, even better to have a chance of getting into her Ladyship’s good books. She would pay generously and no doubt there would be something tasty for him in the kitchen when the job was done.
In due course, the Hall appeared before him, an impressive structure which spoke of wealth and power and privilege. Passing through the ornate iron gates he skirted the immaculate lawn and made his way to the tradesman’s entrance at the rear. He rang the bell and the door was opened by a housemaid, a tall pretty girl looking very smart in her neat black uniform and white apron.
‘I’m Amos Jackson,’ he announced. ‘I got a message from Mr Hall at the mill that Lady Royston wanted to see me. Any idea what it’s about, love?’
It was a simple question and he could see no reason why the girl should blush deeply and look so troubled.
‘I reckon her Ladyship had better tell you herself,’ she replied. ‘I don’t want to speak out of turn.’
Amos shrugged. ‘Lead on, then.’ He followed her through the servants’ quarters, up a flight of stairs, along a richly-carpeted corridor until she stopped and knocked on a door.
‘Yes?’ said a woman’s voice. The maid opened the door.
‘Amos Jackson is here to see you, Ma’am.’
‘Come in, Mr Jackson,’ said the voice.
Amos obeyed and found himself in a room lined with bookshelves and filing cabinets with a small safe in one corner. It was, he guessed, the office where Lady Royston conducted the business of the estate. Lady Royston herself was seated at a desk near the window.
‘You may go now, Meg,’ she said. ‘I may want to see you later.’
‘Y-yes, Ma’am,’ said the girl, still with the odd nervousness.
‘All the male servants have left the house, have they not?’
‘Oh yes, Ma’am, just as you asked.’
‘Very well, Meg, that will be all.’
When Meg had left the room, Lady Royston rose and approached Amos. He had seen her before but only on semi-formal occasions. On one of her visits to the mill, perhaps, or when she visited Birley at Christmas to distribute woollen underwear and plum pudding to the workhouse paupers. He was surprised to find that she was smaller than he remembered, just a little over five feet tall, although most pleasingly proportioned. Perhaps it was because her glossy black hair was pulled back into a severe chignon instead of being piled high with cunning artifice. The elaborate clothing she wore for public appearances had been replaced by a simple black skirt and a high-necked, full-sleeved white blouse patterned with faint blue vertical lines. Even so, without the slightest attempt to make an impression, she was, without doubt, the most beautiful woman Amos had ever seen. He wondered, fleetingly, how Sir Herbert could neglect her for so long while he roamed abroad.
‘So you are the young man who keeps the mill girls in order?’ she said.
‘Yes, my lady, that is a part of my job,’ replied Amos.
She considered him gravely. ‘And are you good at your job, Amos?’ she said.
‘Well, Ma’am,’ he began, ‘I don’t get many…’ and stopped, aware that he was about to utter an absurdity. He could not help grinning and her perfect lips twitched in good-humoured response.
‘Something funny?’ she asked, her eyes twinkling.
‘I was going to say,’ said Amos, ‘that I don’t get many complaints. But, of course, I do! Some of the girls fair deafen me, especially if they’ve got to take a leathering while they’re still sore from the last one!’
‘Does that happen often?’
‘Yes, Ma’am,’ said Amos, ‘as some never learn their lesson from the first time…’
He tailed off, wondering what this was leading to. It wasn’t the first time one of his social superiors had shown an interest in his work, though before it had always been a man, smirking nervously, sweating a little, pressing for details and sometimes, eventually, the question — ‘Do you suppose I might watch? Eh? Make it worth your while, old chap.’ Some overseers in other mills made money that way. Not Amos. That kind of thing led to injustice, to the unfair punishment of the prettiest girls or those who wailed and wriggled their bottoms most spectacularly. Of course, there was a natural enjoyment of what a man saw and heard and did on such occasions, but if anyone was going to take pleasure in the squirming buttocks and tearful yelps of the mill girls it would be Amos alone. There were other places for the gentlemen to go if they wanted to pay to watch that kind of thing.
‘Amos,’ said Lady Royston, ‘how many girls do we employ at the mill?’
‘About a hundred and eighty, I’d say, Ma’am.’
‘I employ just seven servants in this house,’ she said, ‘and I’ve had my hands full with them, I must say.’
Amos shook his head in wonder. The idea that anyone could thwart or disobey or in any way trouble this divine creature was difficult to grasp. After all, they were only ordinary girls from his own class, who would have known what to expect if they misbehaved at home.
‘Is it just the girls? Don’t you have trouble with the men?’ he asked.
She shook her head. ‘Not any more. I had an impertinent footman once who thought he could provide personal services over and above those for which he was employed, while my husband was away, but my brother came over with a horse-whip and gave him the thrashing of his life. He didn’t stay in my employ. But I can’t ask my brother to horse-whip my maids, can I!’
‘No, Ma’am,’ said Amos fervently, ‘that would never do.’
She gave an exasperated little snort.
‘Then what would? I sent for you, Amos, because dealing with troublesome girls is something you’re used to. They’ve been taking advantage of me because Sir Herbert is away so much and it has to stop! I know they don’t want to lose their places here because I pay exceptionally well, but I’ve made it clear that if they want to stay in my employ they will have to accept correction when they need it. They have all agreed.’
‘Have they, by gum!’ said Amos. The reason for Meg’s unease was now clear. ‘And you want me to show you how to do it?’
‘Certainly not!’ said Lady Royston, haughtily. ‘I have no more intention of thrashing my own maids than I have of driving my own carriage. For either purpose I employ a skilled and experienced man. What I require, Amos, is that you will visit me twice a week, say Tuesday and Friday, after you have finished your work at the mill. I will point out to you the girls who deserve correction and you will deal with them. Since these will be professional calls — I do not expect your services for free — you shall receive a professional fee — shall we say a guinea for each visit?’
Amos gulped in astonishment. Two guineas a week on top of his mill wage was a dazzling prospect. ‘Aye, that will do nicely, my lady,’ he said warmly.
‘Now tell me,’ said Lady Royston, ‘what method of punishment do you use?’
‘Often enough a sound spanking will do the job.’ said Amos. He held up his broad right hand as though in demonstration. ‘If I take one of the lasses across my knee and give her bare bottom a long, hard smacking, she’ll think twice before she goes wrong again.’
The beautiful brown eyes widened and it seemed that Lady Royston wriggled a little as she leaned back against her desk. ‘Yes,’ she said thoughtfully. ‘Yes, I’m sure she will.’
‘But if I think the girl needs a proper lesson,’ said Amos, ‘I use the strap.’
‘That one?’ said Lady Royston, pointing to the broad leather belt around his waist.
Amos grinned. ‘No, Ma’am, I need that to keep my breeches up.’ He put his hand inside his jacket, to the long, narrow pocket that his mother had stitched there and pulled out a strip of thick but supple leather, about twenty inches long by two wide, split into two tails for a third of its length.
‘My pal, Sandy Argyle, the saddler, does a good trade in these,’ he said. ‘Most of the mothers in Birley buy one when they’ve a daughter who’s grown too big to put across their knee and old enough to feel too independent for her own good. Usually the mother makes the girl come and buy it herself. I’ll be chatting to Sandy in the shop sometimes and some pretty lass will come in, blushing like a beetroot, and say ‘Please, Mr Argyle, mommy says will you let me have a bottom strap and here’s the money.’ Sandy calls it a tawse but they can never remember. Then Sandy says ‘It’s for you is it? I’d better make sure I sell you just the right weight then.’ He reckons every girl has a type of tawse that’s best suited to her, according to her build and her age and her nature — bold and brassy or shy and bashful. Sometimes he takes ten minutes to make up his mind and the poor girl stands there fidgeting and wriggling and wishing she was in Jerusalem while he pulls out one tawse after another and she knows she’ll be taking one home with her. You’ve only got to look at their faces to know what they’re feeling, Ma’am.’
Lady Royston said, a little breathlessly, ‘I-I think I can imagine how a girl would feel in such circumstances. You describe it so clearly. I can almost see myself standing in the shop, waiting for Mr Argyle to reach a decision. I wonder what kind of tawse do you think he would prescribe for me?’
Amos wondered whether that was meant as a joke but the question seemed to be asked with serious intent. He sensed a growing excitement. Could it be that the noble lady……? He considered it polite to answer seriously and offer his best judgment.
‘Well, Ma’am,’ he said, ‘if you’ll excuse me saying so, you’re a few years older than the girls who usually come to him and I should think you are quite proud and self-willed and bodily, well, you’re not what I’d call ‘fragile’, are you, Ma’am!’ He stumbled to a halt, afraid that he might have gone too far.
‘Quite true,’ said Lady Royston in an odd, faint voice. ‘I am indeed quite — er — robust, particularly in the area where the tawse would be applied. And ‘proud and self-willed’ is, I fear, all too accurate a description of my character. So, imagine, if you will, that I am standing in Mr Argyle’s shop, no doubt blushing and fidgeting as you have so eloquently described. Which tawse is he going to choose as suitable for my punishment?’
‘I think,’ said Amos, ‘that it would be Sandy’s Special. That’s a few inches longer than this, a little thicker and wider, and with three tails. I’ve only seen it used once.’
‘How on earth did that come about?’ interrupted Lady Royston. ‘Surely the mothers of Birley correct their erring daughters in private?’
‘Yes, Ma’am,’ said Amos. ‘But when Sandy has decided on the right tawse he always tries it out before the girl leaves the shop, just to make sure his judgment is correct. It’s something he started doing years ago and it’s become an accepted custom by this time. Of course the girls don’t like it but they’d never dream of refusing when he tells them to bend over the counter and then turns their skirts up. What they’re really unhappy about is having to walk home afterwards carrying the tawse with the tears rolling down their cheeks and everyone passing by knowing they’ve had their bottoms strapped.’
Lady Royston closed her eyes and took several deep breaths with an energy that made her whole body shudder. Amos was afraid he had shocked her but then she opened her eyes and said, quite calmly, ‘So after Mr Argyle had selected Sandy’s Special for me, I, too, would have to bend over his counter?’
Amos knew for certain now but he controlled his feelings well.
‘Yes, Ma’am. he usually closes the shop for a few minutes so no-one can walk in.’
‘Really? Well — how considerate! And he would then turn up my skirts?’
‘Yes, Ma’am — but please don’t misunderstand. Sandy Argyle is a very respectable man and would never take liberties. It’s just that the tawse is at its best on a bare bottom, you see.’
‘Of course,’ said Lady Royston. Her face was a little flushed now. ‘And how many strokes does Mr Argyle usually inflict with the tawse?’
‘At least six,’ said Amos. ‘More for the older and bigger girls but never more than twelve.’
‘As you have pointed out,’ said Lady Royston, ‘I am several years older than his usual clientele and not at all — er — fragile. I take it I would receive twelve strokes?’
‘I should presume so, Ma’am. Twelve of the very best.’
Lady Royston seemed to be gazing off into space as she said, quite dreamily, ‘Bending over a shop counter with my skirts round my waist, while a man whips my bare buttocks twelve times with a leather strap.’ Then she shook her head and smiled and said, ‘I hope Mr Argyle would not insist on my walking home with the tawse in my hand afterwards. It would be rather a long way.’
‘Of course, this is just make-believe, Ma’am,’ Amos said, rather awkwardly. ‘I mean nothing of the sort has ever happened to you or ever could.’
Lady Royston gave a hollow laugh. ‘If you think that,’ she said, ‘you know very little about the upbringing of the so-called privileged classes! My parents had strict ideas about the education of daughters and my two sisters and I spent several years under the authority of a governess who was encouraged to chastise us whenever she thought it was necessary. I doubt whether any governess ever followed her instructions with more enthusiasm. During her reign it was literally unknown for a week to pass without Julie, Diane or myself finding ourselves weeping bitterly in a corner, in deep disgrace and suffering from an extremely sore bottom. It was not unusual for all three of us to be in that shameful position at the same time. Miss Macmillan’s favourite implement of punishment was the back of a hairbrush, but she also used her hand, a slipper and, occasionally, a light cane. After we became too old for a governess we were sent to finishing school, where we all became very familiar with the sting of a birch rod upon our unprotected sit-upons. I once received twenty-four strokes in front of the whole school after being caught kissing the gardener’s boy!’
Amos grinned. ‘When I was a lad,’ he said, ‘I used to think you society ladies spent your time sitting on velvet cushions and eating hothouse grapes. Now I know why you needed the cushions!’ As Lady Royston burst out laughing, Amos realised that he was no longer in awe of her, that the gulf between their respective social positions no longer seemed at all important. She was sending out messages and Amos was reading them loud and clear.
‘May I see your tawse?’ asked Lady Royston. He handed it to her and she examined it with interest, stroking the surface of the leather, flexing it between her white, well-tended hands. ‘I thought it would be stiffer,’ she remarked.
‘It was, to begin with, ‘said Amos,’ but the natural oils from the skin have made it supple.’
‘And it’s touched such a lot of skin, hasn’t it?’ she said, whimsically. ‘Such tender skin in such sensitive, sitting-down places!’
She held out her left hand, raised the tawse in her right, then brought it down upon her outstretched palm. ‘Ooooh!’ she said, screwing up her face. ‘That leather means to punish, doesn’t it, even with just a slap like that. The sting is rather like Miss Macmillan’s slipper, but hotter and sharper.’
Amos felt his heart racing and he took a deep breath. It was now or never.
‘Though, of course, Ma’am, you’re not feeling it where she used to smack you,’ he said gravely.
She lifted her hand to her mouth and licked her stinging palm. It was as though she wore a momentary mask but the eyes above her hand were direct and honest. As she dropped her hand, she said, ‘Do you think I should?’
It was not a mocking or coquettish question and Amos answered it seriously, realising that something important was happening here.
‘I reckon you are a young lady who’s had far too much of her own way,’ he replied. ‘Perhaps they were too strict with you when you were younger but now things have swung too far the other way. There should be a happy medium.’
‘I doubt whether what you obviously have in mind will make me very happy!’ she said wryly.
‘I daresay your maids are getting out of hand,’ he said. ‘That’s probably your fault as much as theirs. A lady who can’t control her own domestics should be thoroughly ashamed of herself!’
Amos was becoming heady on this sudden realisation that he had taken control and he waited for her reply.
‘I am!’ she admitted, with downcast eyes and flushed cheeks. ‘I know I’m at fault and I deserve your reprimand.’
‘And what else do you deserve?’ demanded Amos.
Lady Royston licked her lips nervously. ‘I told you I prefer to employ skilled men to do what they’re good at. If I engage you as an expert in your own field, I can’t presume to argue with you if you think your professional skills deserve to be used on myself.’ She was still holding the tawse. She handed it to him and he took it only to put down on her desk.
‘That comes later,’ he said. ‘We said Sandy would give you twelve, didn’t we, but since you’ve had so much experience of bottom-roasting I think you can go over your own desk and take eighteen. But first I am going to put you across my knee and remind you what a really sound spanking feels like.’
He took off his jacket and started to roll up his sleeves.
‘I’m a little overdressed for a spanking, I think,’ said Lady Royston. Blushing rosily she unhooked her floor-length skirt and stepped out of it. Half a dozen petticoats followed, until, from the waist down she was wearing only a simple white shift, scandalously short at barely knee length, over her black-stockinged legs.
Amos placed a chair in the middle of the floor, sat down on it and beckoned. ‘Come here!’ he ordered. ‘You know what to do!’
She came to him without hesitation, her proud little head held high, eyes steady, lips firmly compressed. She gracefully draped herself across his lap and wriggled into position, keeping her balance with outstretched hands and toes.
Amos turned up her shift, recalling certain bawdy arguments in the pub about whether upper-class women wore drawers. Lady Royston did not, at least on this occasion. Above the black stocking tops and the warm, white thighs was a deliciously rounded bare bottom, twin curves of firm feminine flesh offering a breathtaking target for thorough and lengthy correction.
A thought came to Amos. ‘I suppose,’ he said, ‘that as soon as we start all the maids in the house will be listening outside that door.’
Lady Royston wriggled delightfully across his thighs. ‘I’ll be very surprised if they’re not, ‘she said with apparent indifference. ‘But at least the men won’t be here to hear anything. That’s why I gave them the day off. I can’t help the girls listening. I’ll just have to trust them not to gossip, and I hope you can convince them it would not be a good idea.’
Amos glared down at her. ‘Are you telling me,’ demanded Amos, ‘that when you sent for me to punish your maids you always had it in your mind that I would punish your bottom too?’
‘It seemed highly likely,’ she said, very calmly. ‘Especially once I told you about my youthful chastisements. After all, Amos, why should you come to a household where eight young women are desperately in need of discipline and only punish seven of them?’
‘So you agree you really need discipline, then?’
‘I wouldn’t be in this position if I didn’t,’ said Lady Royston. ‘You were quite right, Amos. I do get far too much of my own way and it is having a very bad effect on my character. If Miss Macmillan was still in charge of me she would undoubtedly prescribe regular and frequent correction as essential for moral welfare.’
‘She’d be quite right!’ said Amos. ‘I’ve rarely met a girl who needed it more!’ He brought his hand down with a resounding smack on her plump, bare right cheek and Lady Royston gasped and bared her even white teeth in an unbecoming grimace.
Again and again Amos’s experienced hand descended upon Lady Royston’s aristocratic rump, slap after punishing slap augmenting the fiery sting in those squirming globes which for years had felt no harsher contact than the most luxurious silk underclothing. No doubt her ladyship would have preferred to suffer in dignified silence, but her apparent unshakable dignity and self-esteem had vanished in the first two minutes of her chastisement, burned away in the glowing furnace into which her shapely, suffering bottom had been transformed. The yelps and squeals which burst irrepressibly from her lovely lips became louder and shriller as the methodical spanking of her quivering buttocks continued. As he industriously smacked Lady Royston’s delightful, naked seat, Amos glanced at the door and grinned at the thought of the heartless glee with which the assembled maids on the other side must be listening; especially when, weeping not only with physical pain but with the utter humiliation of suffering such a terrible fate at the hands of a common working man, Lady Royston began to sob out heartfelt appeals to be spared the punishment which seemed as though it would never end.
‘Please, Amos, please, no more! Surely that’s enough, it must be enough! Ow! Ohhhhh! Yeowwwwwwww!’ The shapely body writhed unavailingly across his thighs under the grip of his strong left arm. The black-stockinged legs flailed in anguish as the hard male hand continued to punish tender feminine flesh, not only on her bottom now but vigorously slapping the warm, white thighs above her stocking tops, despite her frantic shrieks and protests.
‘Please, Amos, not there, please! I can’ t bear it, I truly can’t!’
‘I suppose you used to say the same to Miss Macmillan?’ remarked Amos. ‘And I don’t suppose she took any notice either!’ Amos delivered another dozen resounding slaps to each scarlet, scorching thigh. ‘Still, if you’d rather have your bum smacked…’ Once more, her bouncing, burning cheeks suffered under his hand.
‘Have you got a hairbrush, my lady?’
‘Y-yes — oooh! Aaaagh on my-my dressing table.’
‘Shall I send Meg for it? Then let her watch while I tan your lovely bare arse with it?’
‘Noooooooo! You don’t need it, Amos! Smack me with your hand, your big hard hand! Ahhhhh! Owwwwwwww! Eeeeyahhhh!’
‘That should do for now,’ said Amos, eventually. ‘Up you get, your — oh damn it, I can’t keep calling you your ladyship when I’m tanning your backside! What’s your name?’
‘Celia,’ she sobbed, scrambling to her feet and clasping her burning bottom.
Amos stood up, took her by the nape of the neck and propelled her to the nearest wall. ‘Stand there, Celia, with your hands on your head until I say you can move. And we’ll have your shimmy tucked up to let your bottom cool off for a while before I bend you over your desk and leather it — oh don’t think you’ve escaped that! And when I do, I’ll call the maids in. If they can hear they might as well watch and anyway I might need them to hold you down when you feel the tawse across those chubby bare cheeks.’
He was answered by a horrified wail of ‘Oh, Amos!’ from the squirming Celia and her heartbroken sobbing became even louder.
He returned to the chair and sat down. The demands of his manhood were becoming obvious, but Amos had trained himself to be patient. Work first and pleasure later was a good motto. Her ladyship — now Celia — would be just as hot and ready for consolation in the most satisfying way as any lowly mill-girl when the time came.
As he contemplated the lovely young aristocrat tearfully facing the wall with her well-smacked buttocks ignominiously displayed he recalled Mr Hall’s friendly gibe. ‘Been mixing in high society, Amos?’‘Not exactly, Mr Hall,’ he reflected silently, ‘but I’ve seen a damn sight more of the gentry than I ever expected!’