Once or twice, perhaps, Bethie has been heard to complain “You’re killing me!” when some sensation or other is more intense than she’s happy to bear. At such times, I’ve hastened to reassure her, along the lines of the title of this post. Oddly, she seems to take scant comfort from the reassurance, and generally renews her protests. (For such moments were gags invented.)
A few days ago, whilst skim-reading some tired Victorian romance in which yet another sorry female bottom was being birched until the blood was splashing off the walls (and there are many such tales, which you almost never see here, because neither bloody bottoms, nor yet bloody walls, have any place in my fantastic pantheon), it struck me than in that distant benighted era before the invention of antibiotics, my reassurances would have seemed more hollow. Any break in the skin carried with it risk of fatal infection, then; and so, by operation of statistical chance upon a large number of bloodied bottoms, some poor girl must eventually have met a tragic end as the consequence of a bloody birching.
Thus it is from purely historical interest that I present a confirming verse from Cythera’s Hymnal, printed in London in 1870:
EPITAPH ON A YOUNG LADY WHO WAS BIRCHED TO DEATH
They laid her flat on a goosedown pillow,
And scourged her arse with twigs of willow,
Her bottom so white grew pink, then red,
Then bloody, then raw, and her spirit fled.
I thought it was a pretty good poem for the first three lines, but after that it goes all to hell.