The subject of the spanking in Zane Grey’s novel Lost Pueblo came up in the comments to my recent post on flappers . I’d never read it so I tracked it down and found it to be really good. The spanking is not just a passing incident but is integral to the whole plot. The story was made into a movie called The Water Hole (1928) starring Nancy Carroll and Jack Holt, a film that is surely long overdue a remake.
The Water Hole
Spoiled 20 year-old New York socialite Janey Endicott travels to Arizona with her father. She is more used to a life of: “idling, flirting, dancing, sleeping away the beautiful sunrise hours, wasting money, drinking–and worse!”
They meet up with rugged archaeologist Philip Randolph who Janey’s father secretly hopes will marry her. The seed for the spanking is planted in the first chapter when the two men are discussing Janey:
“Her prospects then, and her beauty, make her a mark for the men she comes in contact with, and their name is legion. I have tried to keep her away from the worst of them. But it’s impossible.”
“Why impossible?” broke in Phillip, tersely.
“I gave up because when I’d tell Janey a certain young fellow was no fit acquaintance for her I would only stimulate interest. She’d say, ‘Dad, you think you know a lot, but I’ll have to see for myself’–and you bet she would.”
“Then Janey wouldn’t obey you?” asked Randolph.
“Obey!” echoed Endicott, in surprise. “Most certainly she would not.”
“Then indeed you are to blame for what she is.”
“Ha! I’d like to see you or anybody else make Janey obey.”
“I could and I would,” declared Randolph.
“My dear young Arizona archaeologist! May I ask how?” returned Endicott, not without sarcasm and amusement.
“I’d take that young lady across my knee and spank her soundly.”
“Good Lord! You don’t know what you’re saying…Why, if I subjected Janey to such indignity she’d–she’d–well, what wouldn’t she do? Wrecking the place where it happened would be the least…Yet, oh–how I have wanted to do that same little thing!”
Later, we learn that Janey has overheard this conversation, and she is particularly outraged by the spanking comment”:
In a sudden fury she leaped up and began to pace the little room. There was not very much in the way of disgust, contempt, amazement, pride, wrath, that did not pass through her mind. What an atrocious insult! He had been in earnest. He talked as if she were a nine-year-old child. Her cheeks burned.
In Chapter 7, Janey and Philip are on an archeological quest to Beckyshibita – a remote canyon in the desert. He leaves her in camp and goes off looking for ancient remains. Against his strict instructions, she follows him. This results in a lively interchange between the two, and a direct spanking threat which even includes a hint of teacher/pupil roleplay. Interestingly, we also learn that Philip sees spanking as old-fashioned and restricted to rural parts of the U.S.: (“Most of America is too far gone for a good, healthy spanking.”)
“Howdy, Phil,” she called, gaily.
“Didn’t I tell you not to follow me?” he said, angrily.
“I don’t remember.”
“Yes you do.”
“All right, then I do.”
“You turn round very carefully and go back,” he ordered. “Be careful…You’ll turn my hair gray!”
“That’d make you very handsome and distinguished looking,” replied Janey.
“Go back!” he shouted, sternly.
“Not on your life!” retorted Janey, and started to crawl again. She was approaching the narrowed part. It might have daunted her before, but now she could have managed a more hazardous place.
“Stop! Turn back!” thundered Randolph. This was pouring oil upon the flame. “You go to the devil!” cried Janey, and kept on crawling. She passed the risky point without a tremor or a slip, and presently, reaching the bench, she stood up before Randolph in cool triumph.
“If you do that again, I’ll–I’ll–” he choked.
“That was a cinch,” replied Janey, coolly. “My stockings are thin, though, and the rock hurt my knees.”
She rubbed them ruefully, quite unabashed by Randolph’s staring.
“You’ll fall and kill yourself,” he stormed.
“No, nix, never, not little Janey. I did tumbling in my class at college. That little jaunt across there was just an exercise in coordination, that’s all.”
“I tell you it was extremely dangerous,” expostulated Randolph.
“It is rather dreadful. But I’ll stand it awhile. I’ll stay here until you get ready to go back to camp,” replied Janey, airily, and she promptly sat down.
He gave up. “Very well, if you’re that mulish, stay. But look here, you spoiled brat if you cross this dangerous place again you’ll be sorry.”
“Why will I?” asked Janey, immensely interested.
“Because you’ll get what you should have had–long ago and many a time.”
“And what’s that, teacher?”
“A damned good spanking.”
Janey could not believe him serious, yet he looked amazingly so. But that was only temper–a bluff to rout her utterly. It was so preposterous that she laughed in his face.
“I meant what I said. We are in Arizona now. And if you can’t see the difference between real life and modern froth, I’m sorry for you. Most of America is too far gone for a good, healthy spanking. It has, I might say, a vastly different kind of interest in a young woman’s anatomy. But among the few pioneers left in the West, thank God, there are parents who are still old-fashioned. I’m not a parent. All the same I can make myself into one, and give you damn well what you need.”Randolph took her hand and pulled at her. “Come,” he said, trying to control his temper.
Then Janey further disobeys Philip by climbing onto a dangerous ledge, which is a provocation too far:
Facing her then he called out: “Go and be damned. You’ll find out you can’t fly. And you’d better stay over there, for if you ever come back, you’ll pay for this.”
Randolph remained as motionless as a statue watching her. On the return, Janey exercised coolness where at first she had been daring.
She crawled most of the way and never looked down into the abyss once. Breathless and hot she rested a moment before taking to the rim wall, then walked across that to where Randolph stood waiting. She saw that he was white to the lips, but he wheeled before she could get a second look at his face. It seemed silly to follow him, but she did, wondering what he would do or say. He led the way back toward camp.
Janey had not anticipated this. Had she gone too far? Had she hurt him irretrievably? And now that it was over she reproached herself. What a spiteful vengeful little fool she was! Still this was the part she had set herself to play.
She had difficulty in keeping up with Randolph. She kept up on the easy level ground, but over the rock slides she fell behind. It seemed a long way back to camp. Excitement and exertion had told on her. When the last corner of wall had been passed Janey thought she was pretty well all in.
Randolph had his back to her. How square his shoulders–rigid! He pivoted on his heels, to disclose terrible eyes.
“Janey Endicott, do you remember what I told you?” he demanded.
Swift as his words came a sensation of sickening weakness. Like a stroke of lightning it had come. She imagined she had been prepared, but she was not. She had misjudged him, underestimated his courage. Her subtle mind grasped at straws.
“Re-member?” she faltered, trying to smile. “About being–mad about me?”
“Mad at you!” he replied, grimly.
Then he seized her before she could move a hand. Surprise and fear inhibited her natural fighting instinct. Randolph lifted her–carried her.
Suddenly he sat down on the flat rock and flung her over his knees, face down. All her body went rigid. A terror of realization and horror of expectation clamped her mind. He spanked her with such stunning force that it seemed every bone in her body broke to the blow. The pain to her flesh was hot, stinging, fierce. The shock to her mind exceeded the sum of all shocks Janey had ever sustained. She sank limp over his knees. Smack! Harder this time. Her head and feet jerked up. Her teeth jarred in their sockets. Again! Again! Again!
Janey all but fainted. Intense fury saved her that. She rolled off his knees to the ground and bounded up like a cat. A bursting tearing gush of hot blood ran riot in her breast.
“I’ll–kill you!” she panted, low and deep.
Randolph was somewhat shaken at her fury, when she blazed so fiercely, her fists clenched, her breast swelling.
“Once in your life, Miss Endicott!” he said, huskily. “It’s done. You can’t change that. And I did it. I shall have that unique distinction among your acquaintances.”
Janey tried to fly at him, to scratch his eyes out, to beat him before murdering him. But she let him pass. She felt her legs sag under her. Blindly then she groped and crawled up to her bed, sank under the blankets and covered her face. The tension of her body relaxed. She stretched limp, palpitating, quivering. That numb dead sensation gradually gave place to burning smarting pain. The physical suffering at first had precedence over the chaos of her mind. Hot tears streamed down her cheeks. And she lay there panting, slowly succumbing, her spirit subservient to her tortured flesh.
It was dark when she had to uncover her head to keep from suffocating. The bright shadows of a campfire flickered on the stone above her.
“Janey, child,” called Randolph, like a fond parent, “wash your face and hands and come to supper.”
Her blood leaped and boiled again. Rising on her hand, she was about to give passionate vent to all the profanity she had ever heard, but as she saw Randolph moving round the fire she stilled the impulse. She sank back under a compulsion she had never known.
Was she beaten–whipped–cowed? No! She had only been preposterously shamed and humiliated by an educated ruffian. Her pride had been laid low. Her vanity was bleeding to death. Janey writhed in her bed, only to be made painfully aware again of the maltreated part of her anatomy. The instant there was a possibility of her returning to the old Janey Endicott, that burning pain had to recur.
What a strangely subduing thing! Her mind had no control over it or the whirling thoughts it engendered.
She composed herself at last, in as comfortable a position as she could find. Again Randolph called her to supper. Eat! She would starve to death before she would eat anything he had prepared. How terribly she hated him! The revenge she had planned seemed nothing to her wild ragings now. Mere killing would not be enough. Death ended all sufferings. He must be made most horribly wretched. He must grovel at her feet and bite the very dust.
These bitter thoughts had their sway. They did not have permanence. All of a sudden Janey discovered she was crying. To realize that, to fight it and fail, added to her breakdown. She cried herself to sleep.
The next day Janey is still feeling the psychological and physical after effects of her humiliating punishment:
Her eyes opened upon azure blue sky and gold-tipped wall. Consciousness came as quickly as sight. Her impulse was to shut out the beautiful light of day. She was ashamed to face it. But slowly she moved the blanket aside. Listening, she soon ascertained that Randolph was not in camp. Peeping over the rock she saw a smoldering fire, and the steaming coffeepot and oven on it.
Janey got up. If she had needed anything to remind her of the insufferable outrage she had sustained, she had it in sudden pains, more excruciating than any she had yet endured. The ape! He had not realized his strength. Maybe he had, though. How coldly and calmly he had gone about the beating! To wait until they had come all the way back to camp! In the light of another day his offense seemed greater.
The final lines of the book return to the theme with Janey now finally engaged to Philip. They embrace and Janey says:
“I love you. I love you. I love you…It was what you did to me. Oh! I confess. I deserved it. I was no good–and if not actually bad I was headed for bad…Oh, Phillip, you spanked some sense into me in time, and your desert changed and won me. I bless you for making me a woman. I will give up what was that idle, useless, wasteful life–and work with you–for you–to make a home for you…Forgive this last little deceit. Oh, you should have seen Dad’s face…Kiss me!…Come, let us go tell him I’m your Beckyshibeta.”