She’s sentenced to be paraded through the streets behind a donkey cart, and whipped lustily all the while:
The cart swayed as a nondescript figure clambered to the seat and gathered the reins. Sabina had time for no more than a strangled “No! Oh, no, no, no!” before the donkey was bestirred to motion and the cart began to move. Her arms were jerked so that, helplessly and fearfully, she began to walk.
The lash sought her at the fourth step, curling around her unprotected waist, arching her nudity in shock, wealing her flesh in a reality beyond masques or plays or make believe. Sabina’s head reared in pain and outrage, turning to protest, to denounce, to deny. But her hands defeated the intent. They followed the slowly moving cart and the sentenced girl went with her hands. Sabina found herself looking at her corded wrists as at an enemy. Two pieces of rope were compelling an unwilling participation in a cruelty subject to cessation if only the steady paces be halted and reason brought to bear on what must, obviously, be some terrible mistake. Adjusting to the knowledge she could not stop or make a stand, she turned again appealingly to explain to the man in black the awful error of his act. But was in time only to behold the black arm sweep toward her…
Sabina screamed. It was a piercing feminine expression of pain, of anger, of frustration. If only she could stop and talk! But she could not stop and talk! The scream was the most eloquent and swift expression of all she so urgently needed to say. She realized, almost with surprise, the twisting contortions of her nudity beneath the lash. Her limbs and body were finding instinctive expressions of their own. They were greeted with hearty approval by the crowd.
There followed, then, a walk Sabina would never forget. The donkey’s gait was slow but relentless. To a naked girl longing to have done with her punishment it was bitterly frustrating. To the same girl, driven by need to stop and expound reason, it was implacably negative. Her skin was virgin to the whip. Each blow shattered the processes of thought, logic dissolved beneath the lash. By the time she had assembled plea or protest the thong cut her again, driving her forward into fresh writhings and renewed screams. Each step was compulsion. The cart-tail and her bound wrists mocked her need to be free. By the manner of her binding she was unable to lean upon the cart. Her forearms were rigidly held so as to keep her at arm’s length in total exposure. Sabina’s martyrdom was total.
There was no rhythm. The hooded man went from side to side. But the spacings of his blows were deliberately irregular, catching her always unprepared. But it was in his placement of the thong the dancing girl found her greatest travail. Across her back, her bottom, her thighs, it cut and scored, and then with a devilish cunning all its own snapping up between her legs to impart its venom within her loins. It was an enemy, tangible and cruel, against which she had no defense.
As the plodding procession wended its way along the dusty street, and as the blows fell in their varying degrees of awfulness upon the naked skin, there seeped into the consciousness of the punished girl an inconsistency, a query nagging as a promise or a threat of the inexplicable. To a maiden whose knowledge of the whip was academic, the truly awful quality of the first lashes transcended reason, logic, fortitude. They could be but a precursor of death. They would flay her until she fell senseless and was dragged along to a shameful grave. They were not for bearing! They could not be borne! Lord Justice Rothsey had condemned her to oblivion.
But she did not die! Sabina knew not the tally when her mind confronted the undramatic fact of survival. She would not die. She would not lose consciousness. She would plod behind the cart to whatever bitter end lay in store. Strangely she felt only resentment that her female flesh could absorb this agony and deny her the blessedness of darkness. Rob her of that final awfulness by which these people might confront the wickedness of what they were doing to her. It was not fair! Nothing was fair. Nothing was right!
Relinquishing death, Sabina was forced to examine life. She was in great pain and would be given much more. But pain was the limit. She was not being taken beyond. By the time the lash had licked her twenty times she was as sentient and vividly aware as when first bound in this new shame. There could be but one answer. The hooded man in black was whipping her cruelly, but not cruelly enough to take her beyond a certain degree of suffering. Or perhaps it was the whip! Sabina knew nothing of whips but supposed they came in varying degrees of severity. The one being used on her looked terrifying enough – but she had not died! She had never, in fact, been more pulsingly alive.
From The Signeury by F.E. Campbell.