The Taming of Miss Munroe
Every great man requires an equal nemesis, and in the case of my good friend Mr James Walker, his was a pretty young lady named Miss Catherine Munroe. Spirited, independent and despaired of by her family, Miss Munroe was the first, and indeed last woman ever to lead Walker on a merry chase and press his disciplinary abilities to their very limits. Sit with me a while, and I shall relate their tale.
I first heard of the existence of the young lady on a pleasant Sunday afternoon. I had taken the liberty of paying a visit to my most esteemed friend in the hope that he might be of the mind to partake in an afternoon tipple. I found him pacing back and forth across the floor of his study, his broad shoulders hunched with a kind of concern I very rarely saw in the man. He was calm and restrained by nature, but some matter had clearly caused him great agitation.
“What is the matter, Walker?” I inquired as I placed my hat upon the stand thoughtfully provided for the purpose.
“I have been entrusted with a noble runaway,” he announced. Walker never had been one for unnecessary pleasantries, or indeed, greeting his friends. “Not just any runaway,” he continued, index finger raised up in the air, “a runaway thought to be responsible for the recent band of rogues terrorizing the good streets of London.”
“Can you find her?”
“I can find her.”
“Can you handle her once you find her?”
My second question was met with little more than a raised eyebrow and indeed, it was an impertinent question to have asked at all. I was speaking to the master of female discipline, the inimitable Mr Walker. His reputation proceeded him wherever he went, and after the way he handled the larcenous heiress d’Bonnay in France, and the tribe of female amazons in deepest Gabon, to ask him if he could handle a mere runaway, even one of noble blood, was almost an insult.
“I will send word to her, perhaps she will see sense and come in of her own free will,” he announced, taking to his writing desk. He moved with the purpose of a man energized and I knew this case was extraordinary. Runaways were common, gangs were common, but a woman who had escaped a life of cosseted nobility to lead a band of rogues, that was something altogether different. That was the case of Miss Catherine Munroe.
Walker held up a picture over his shoulder. “Memorize her face, would you Jones?”
I beheld the picture, noting that it was of a woman still in her youth but with a strength and maturity about her that I found simultaneously appealing and ominous. Her smile in the picture was forced, her pose stiff. In all she was a very pleasant looking creature, though there was no telling if the picture was still an adequate representation of the young lady. So often photographers used cheap lighting tricks to make a rather plain woman look beautiful. Nevertheless, I could immediately see the attractive qualities that no doubt contributed to Walker’s intense interest in retrieving the lady as soon as possible.
I was so bold as to read over his shoulder as he wrote:
‘Dear Miss Munroe,
James Walker Esq, requests the pleasure of your company, that you might enjoy a return to the bosom of your family and do gentle penance for the wrongs you have committed thus far.
If you are agreeable, make haste to my Hill Street lodgings, where I assure you that you will find nothing but warm hospitality. I entreat you to take up this offer, for should I be forced to seek you out, I fear the consequences will be far less congenial than they might otherwise be.
James Walker Esq.’
“If you must leer over my shoulder Jones, at least do me the favor of delivering this missive to the barkeep at the Shattered Inn,” Walker said dryly, folding the note, dripping a little red wax upon it and stamping it with his seal, a curious yet distinctive sign of crook and cane crossed over one another.
As he handed m the missive he caught me in his piercing gaze, and I must confess, for a moment I felt a chill run down my spine though I knew myself to be perfectly safe from his attentions, which were reserved for the female sex.
Walker has been known to hold his subjects in thrall, much like charmer of cobras. I had seen him do this to recalcitrant young women many time, but I had not known until that moment just what it felt like to be caught in his gaze. Suffice to say, I did not envy the ladies he had encountered past, present or indeed future.
I rushed away with the missive, hoping for Miss Munroe’s sake that she saw sense and acted upon the letter quickly. I saw no more of Walker that night, or for several days. It was not until I was summoned to his lodgings in the middle of an otherwise ordinary Wednesday night that I thought anymore about the case.
I found Walker in yet another uncharacteristic state of quiet agitation, and myself let out a cry of surprise as I beheld the cause. His drawing room carpet was quite covered in glass, his window was boarded up, there was a piece of brick set upon his desk and a note in his hand. The latter he thrust toward me as I entered. The paper was delicate and perfumed, very much a lady’s paper, and the hand which wrote upon it had clearly been trained very well.
I thank you for your kind invitation, but regret that I am unable to attend to it at this moment. I do hope a gentleman such as yourself understands the pressing requirements of office, however unofficial. I must also take leave to apologize for the window, and hope the enclosed is sufficient to make amends.
I ask that you refrain from further pursuit, and indeed, correspondence. Though I find it charming, it is a distraction I can ill afford.
“Enclosed?” I queried.
Walker waved a crumpled two pound note at me, and I burst into laughter, which he did not appreciate.
“A fine woman indeed, to have your window broken and to pay for it at the self same time!”
Walker was much less amused. Though a smile creased his lips, it was not of good humor. “This scamp must be bought to justice before she overreaches herself,” he said, squaring his shoulders.
I have often admired Walker’s physique, being possessed of a rather lithe frame myself, his height and broad shoulders matched with a deep chest have always struck me as being the height of good male composition. His frame was taut now, he was on the hunt. For a moment, I pitied the lady, then, recalling her response to his first letter, I imagined that perhaps she might be equal to the chase.
Time did not permit me to make any further comment on the situation before the bell rang. I opened the front door to find a hooded young man with a note for Walker. Unlike the previous note with its fine hand, this had been scrawled in nigh illiterate block letters and read simply, ‘GRANGE STREET’.
I showed it to Walker, who understood its meaning at once. “I had the urchin who broke my window followed, this must be where she went, and therefore, also where I shall find Miss Catherine,” he surmised, his mouth set in a firm line.
Naturally we hailed a hansom and made Grange Street with all due haste. It was not surprising to discover a large abandoned factory covered most of the street, abandoned buildings were often the dwelling of ne’er-do-wells. “The perfect hideaway,” Walker murmured.
We stood in the dark shadows of the street corner, waiting to see what might happen. I have heard it said before in the idle chit chat of high society that Walker was intended to be a great cat, but at the last moment the creator elected to grace humanity with him instead. I could quite believe that tale as I watched him gaze at the building with the intensity and concentration of a beast of prey. Whilst he remained alert, I must confess that I myself fell into the embrace of sleep more than once, although I only leaned against an old fence.
“She resides in the upper West corner,” he asserted after a time, though I could not imagine how he came to that conclusion.
We made our way quickly in the direction he had indicated and discovered a rope ladder let down from one of the old stone windows. Walker ascended it quickly, and to my credit, I was not far behind. We found ourselves, as he had surmised, in the boudoir of a lady.
Simply furnished with scavenged scraps, this was not the style in which Catherine Munroe had been raised, but it seemed she had done her best to imitate a proper boudoir with whatever had come to hand. A mattress on the floor was neatly made up with a blanket and pillow, and an old box crate served as a night stand. Of Catherine herself, there was no sign.
We secreted ourselves in a dark corner of the room and waited. Presently we heard female voices, the door opened and Catherine bade her accomplice goodnight. She had a pleasant voice, cultured and not too light.
My first glimpse of her in person revealed that the photo had done no justice at all. Indeed, it must have been a terrible lens cut in the bowels of Hades to have butchered her beauty so thoroughly. She appeared to me like an angel, and it seemed that she had the prescience of one too. The moment she closed the door, she turned towards our place in the corner, a shaft of moonlight lighting her keen, intelligent features as she smiled lightly.
“Mr Walker, I presume?”
Walker’s brows rose with surprise, but he stepped forward and bowed. “At your service m’Lady,” he said pleasantly.
Miss Munroe looked him top to toe in that exacting way the fairer sex has, taking his measure. “Well well, here we are,” she said.
“Yes,” Walker agreed.
“I suppose you’ll want me to come along quietly,” she surmised.
Walker smiled slowly. “I would not insult you by asking you to surrender again, Miss Munroe,” he said. Before she had a chance to call for help and call down her band of rogues on our heads, Walker took a swift step forward and pricked her exposed shoulder with a small syringe of sleeping fluid. It was perhaps an ungentlemanly act, but one very necessary for the safety of all involved. Catherine was certainly not impressed. The look she gave him as she tumbled into unconsciousness was one of pure venom.
It is something of a trick to carry a lady down a rope ladder, but by throwing his captive over his shoulder, Walker made light work of it and we returned to his lodgings in good time, just as Miss Munroe was beginning to stir.
Once we safely regained the interior of his abode, Walker gently laid Miss Munroe on a chaise. She was very close to waking, her long eyelashes were fluttering, her lips moved as if she wanted to speak, and then in the next instant she sprang up from sleep like a scalded cat.
“You cad!” she exclaimed. “You cowardly, beastly, horrible…”
Walker held up his hands peaceably. “Please Miss Munroe, do not stress yourself, the effects of the sleeping fluid can be unpleasant.”
She ignored him, as willful women often do and looked at him balefully. “You will return me to my Grange Street lodgings immediately!” she demanded.
“I am afraid I cannot,” Walker replied.
Realizing that he would not budge on the issue, Catherine glanced about her in a panic. She found no obvious means of escape, which agitated her further.
“Please, Miss Munroe, sit,” Walker bade her calmly.
She refused again, preferring instead to turn and vomit suddenly into a potted plant. “Oh, I feel …” she managed to mumble before she lost consciousness once more. Fortunately Walker moved with the quickness of a striking snake and caught her as she fainted. He prevailed upon me to fetch a glass of water and dispose of the plant and I did both, after all, what are friends for?
When I returned, found that Miss Munroe had come to her senses and was reclining on the chaise with a blanket wrapped about her as Walker sat beside her, gently explaining what was to come. “Firstly you must atone for your previous acts, then your family wishes for you to spend some time here with me until I am satisfied you have learned the lesson they mean for you to learn.”
Miss Munroe laughed. “And how am I to atone?”
Walker smiled reassuringly and spoke gently. “I prefer traditional methods of turning a lady over my knee.”
Her face blushed a deep red color, a color that made her sweet eyes sparkle all the brighter. “Mr Walker, you cannot be serious, I am a grown woman!”
“Yes my dear, but you have earned retribution,” Walker replied.
The look on her face reflected pure fear, and I fancy Walker took pity on her. “Come dear, it will not be so bad,” he said comfortingly.
“You will… lay hands on me…” she choked.
“I think it is best I give you a demonstration, so that you might overcome your fears,” Walker replied, gently taking her hands in his and standing up with her. She was mesmerized by his eyes which flashed warmly at her as he slowly sat once more and guided her over his lap.
This was what made Walker so truly excellent. I had seen him perform the same miracle many times and yet to this day I still could not say how it is done. From a spitting wildcat, to a gentle lamb he lead her to her chastisement, his hand now resting on the curve of her backside, the other stroking her back gently.
“You see, Miss Munroe, there is nothing to fear here,” he said, patting her upraised bottom lightly.
She gasped at his touch. “You have yet to begin.”
Walker chuckled. “This is true,” he said bringing his hand up and then down again with a firm slap that elicited a little squeal from her mouth. This was followed by another, and another.
With ladylike yelps and childlike cries, Miss Munroe received her first spanking over Walker’s knee. He reassured her with every slap, telling her how well she was doing as her bottom took its punishment. He did not tell her of the stout wooden paddle he owned, nor did he threaten her with the twin specters of strap and cane, both of which she would inevitably meet. Instead he broke her into her new way of life with kind words and a stinging derriere. When her bottom was warm under the silk slip, he began to increase the force of the spanking, causing her hips to jump and her cries to become more frantic.
“I know what you have been up to, Catherine, and it does not befit you. I will not have you living that way,” he lectured, swatting her upraised cheeks soundly.
There was little doubt that she could feel the heat and sting of the spanking now, her hips rose and fell and bucked over his lap as she tried to avoid taking her medicine. Though her panic had thoroughly abated, her desire to avoid a spanking had not. It was obvious to me that Catherine was a sweet, though spoiled young lady who would do well with frequent reminders of obedience.
Walker seemed to agree as he finished her very first spanking with a round of firm swats, then allowed her to sit up on his lap, gentling her with a kiss to the forehead. I could not say whether it was the continued effects of the sleeping drug, or whether she simply knew by some feminine instinct that she could trust Walker, but within minutes she was laying her head upon his chest, where she soon lost her battle with consciousness.
“Well done, James,” I congratulated him quietly.
He laughed briefly, still cradling Miss Munroe against his chest. “This is but the beginning of a battle of wills my friend, one which I shall win and she shall suffer through.”
At the time I did not believe him, though later events showed him to be utterly correct.