It took time to digest what I had seen. It was not what I had expected. She had handled it, liked it... but it was not what she had expected, not what she had experienced with him before. I speculated as to his motives. It was not until the next morning that it clicked, and I understood.
I had seen The Master at work.
She had been telling me about him for months. I knew *she* thought him to be so very good at what he did... but I had yet to see anything I could not do myself. I had met him, talked with him, compared ideas.
It was a joy to find another with a similar attitude about things. I knew I had found a place to learn. His limitations were different from my own, and thus his methods were different. I could admire, and learn, but not emulate.
Yet I was far enough along myself, to see that we both aimed for that same place which so few can understand, or even accept.
Hour after hour had I watched him play. I was eager to learn, filing bits and pieces away for later digestion and use. He *was* very good - but his style was not what I sought.
The night before, while I watched him, he had struck me as a king holding court. He was making his rounds, accepting his due. And rightly so - even to my limited observation, he actually was that good.
Perhaps his discussion of things outside my chosen limits kept me from seeing; I don't know. Perhaps watching him play in a way that I have decided I cannot, kept me from learning; again, I don't know.
She had been hoping for weeks that he would cane her, and I was eager to watch. I knew how special his canings were to her. I had thought I was pretty decent with a cane, considering my limited experience. I thought it would be good to study him, and find ways to improve.
When the time came, he brought over a few of his nastiest canes, the plastic ones with sharpened tips, smoothed and tapered for greater striking speed. He left them with her to touch, try, anticipate. He made the usual remarks designed to produce a suitable state of nervous terror. Except she was not scared, for she *wanted* to feel his cane, in whatever manner he chose to inflict her.
One might at first see such attempts to terrorize as unnecessarily mean, nasty, sadistic - but he was actually doing her a favor, helping her find the right frame of mind for the sudden severity to come.
Since she wore my collar, I was not shy about helping him move equipment, arrange the padded bar she would lean her elbows on. I stayed very close by, present, watching, as he positioned and prepared her. There were other things happening in the room, and I did not yet realize how much the audience considered this caning an Event.
I had never seen him play with her before. I was not surprised that his preliminaries were different from my own. I thought that my own approach was better... but continued to watch. I was right there, close by, and saw how he placed her hands, heard the words he quietly used to assure her. With that small thing I knew that he knew, and surely had known longer than I had. Later, much later, I realized that his manner of preparing her had been brilliantly correct, the necessary preparation for the event to come. I had not yet seen the difference between someone who is so very good, and a work of The Master.
He had her choose which cane to use first. He took it, prepared himself in martial-arts fashion. He had spoken to me before about focus, but the next few minutes showed that once again I had not yet understood.
He struck hard, the first stroke harder that I had ever seen a cane strike. She had had no warmup other than the soreness remaining from our many hours of heavy play the day before.
The audience made a sudden loud gasp of shock and appreciation. I suddenly realized that in spite of the other things happening in the room, all eyes were on The Master, and upon she who wore my collar. He turned and motioned downward with both hands, pushing them back into silence. I wondered at this, figuring that surely he had played in front of this particular group of people many times before. Surely they knew his ways, would know what he expected of his audience. I began to suspect that this was a more unusual event than I had guessed.
Early on he asked her how many strokes there had been. I forget if this was with the first cane or not. Someone shouted out "Six!" and he again turned to those behind him, finger to lips, wordlessly demanding silence.
He asked her again. She turned her head to look at me in desperate panic. She had not the slightest idea what the count might be. I showed her six fingers and hoped the crowd was right - I had not the slightest idea either.
I was not concerned over interfering. He knew as well as I did that she had no idea. The question itself did not matter. He was checking to see where her head was at, measuring the nature of her response. With my interfering, giving her the answer, she could draw strength from her Master, take so much more, because she was not alone.
Some time later he again asked how many strokes that had been. I made a guess, put my hand down below her face where she could see it, opened it twice, indicating Ten.
She asked if this was the same cane the six had been with. He said, Yes it was. She then said, "Ten sir."
He was pleased, and I was relieved. Perhaps I had guessed rightly; perhaps he did not know the count either. But most likely he chose to be pleased because she needed him to be pleased.
He delivered stroke after stroke in his own artistic fashion, carefully focusing in on every one. No stroke was a surprise to me as an observer, because of the way he first pantomimed the motion, preparing himself for its delivery. With one stroke he even followed straight through to strike the wall in front of her, but to her side. There were no mistakes; The Master was at work.
Never before had I seen another take a woman farther than I myself could push her. Yet when it was over I knew that I could some day do the same. For even though I am not likely to ever master his technique, he showed me the reality is in the mind - and once shown in those terms, I saw that I can some day match the gift that he gave her. I saw that I too could reach as deeply inside her head, enable her to accept the severity in the manner she craved.
For him to do what I cannot, and in the doing show me a route to reaching that same gift, was my gift from The Master.