The start to a headmistress’s day
By Lisa Berry
The headmistress of The Avenue School for Girls, Miss Jarvis, had just arrived for another day’s work. As she hurried into school, she looked anything but a headmistress, more a farmer’s wife. She was of medium height, some would say comfortably built, with greyish hair and a ruddy complexion, always with a ready smile. Her mode of dress was functional, with thick brown stockings and brown lace-up brogues. She went straight to her office, took off her coat and put on her gown ready for assembly.
On her return, she went to the school office and spoke to her secretary, Brenda. “Any appointments for me Brenda?”
“Yes. I’ve had Mrs Kemp on the phone about her daughter. She’s coming in at ten-thirty.”
“Oh yes. Nothing else?”
“No, that’s all so far. Here’s your morning post.”
Miss Jarvis went off to her office to start work. She would not be disturbed until ten-fifteen when, most mornings, girls would start appearing on the bench outside her office door. The bench was there for those girls who had been sent to see Miss Jarvis, usually for punishment. On this occasion, there were only two girls.
At precisely ten-fifteen, Miss Jarvis pressed the button on her desk to change the light outside the door to green. Within seconds, there was a knock on the door and an eighteen-year-old entered and walked up to Miss Jarvis’s desk, handing her a pink slip. All girls being sent for punishment had to produce one of these punishment slips from either a teacher or prefect.
Miss Jarvis smiled at the girl as she always did.
“Late for school, were you?”
Miss Jarvis tutted. “Did your mother send you out in time?”
“So why were you late?”
“Got talking and didn’t realize the time, Miss.”
“Talking to a boy no doubt?”
Miss Jarvis smiled again.
“Well Jacklyn, you know what happens to girls who are late, don’t you?”
Miss Jarvis leaned down and took a book from one of the drawers in her desk. She opened it, ran her finger down the index at the side, and opened it at the appropriate page.
“So this is your second late attendance?”
“Yes Miss,” replied Jacklyn, beginning to fidget nervously at the thought of the slipper connecting with her bottom.
“You do realize that your punishment increases each time, don’t you?”
“Yes Miss, I’m sorry, I’ll try harder in future.”
“I hope that you will. I don’t like having to use my slipper every day. Now then, you know what to do.”
Jacklyn turned, went to a chair which was underneath a table at the far end of the room, placed it in the middle of the floor, and bent over it. Miss Jarvis took an old black plimsoll from her desk drawer. The sole was worn smooth after being in constant use for the twenty years that Miss Jarvis had been headmistress. She walked slowly over to Jacklyn and lifted her skirt and slip.
“Now Jacklyn, I’m going to give you four smacks. Please keep still until I tell you to get up.”
Despite her kindly and sympathetic manner, Miss Jarvis was a great believer in firm discipline, and didn’t hold back when it came to administering it.
Jacklyn lifted her left leg.
“Now Jacklyn, remember what I said. I don’t want to give you extra.”
“I’m sorry Miss, but it hurts.”
“Of course it hurts. I want you to remember that the next time you decide to come to school late.”
“Yes Miss,” whimpered Jacklyn.
Miss Jarvis finished the punishment and Jacklyn left the office rubbing her bottom.
Miss Jarvis returned to her desk and laid the slipper on the top.
The next girl came in and stood at the desk. This was Adrienne Harris, another sixth form girl. She handed her slip to Miss Jarvis.
“I’m sorry Miss, I’ve never been late before.”
Miss Jarvis looked in her book. “Such a shame after all this time. However I have no alternative but to give you the slipper. Go and bend over the chair.”
A sad looking Adrienne walked over to the chair and bent over.
Miss Jarvis picked up her slipper and walked over to Adrienne.
“I’m sorry that I have to do this, but I have no choice,” said Miss Jarvis as she lifted Adrienne’s skirt. “Please keep still while you’re being smacked.”
Adrienne gave a loud gasp.
“Alright Adrienne, you may stand up and leave,” said Miss Jarvis.
A watery-eyed Adrienne left the office, relieved that it hadn’t been worse.
“How many did you get?” asked her friend, Coral, when she got back to the classroom.
“That wasn’t so bad was it?” said Coral.
“Bad enough! It stung,” grumbled Adrienne.
“Course it did. She’s a nice old dear, but she can certainly use the slipper and the cane,” said Coral.
“I didn’t know she had a cane,” said Adrienne.
“Oh yes, it’s only for very serious things like stealing or cheating in exams.”
“You’ve never had it have you?” asked Adrienne.
“No, but Debbie Rainsford has. Ask her about it,” said Coral.
“Alright, I will,” replied Adrienne.
Meanwhile, while this conversation was going on, Mrs Kemp and her daughter were being ushered in to see Miss Jarvis.
“Good morning, Mrs Kemp. Do take a seat. Patricia, stand next to your mother.”
Mrs Kemp sat down in an armchair and Patricia stood next to her, nervously playing with her skirt.
“I’ve invited you here because, as I said in my letter, Patricia has committed a very serious offence and, as in all these circumstances, I like to make a parent fully aware of what is going to happen. I trust that Patricia has admitted to you that she swore at a teacher?”
“Yes she has, and she has been suitably dealt with at home,” replied Mrs Kemp.
“I’m pleased to hear it. However, the offence occurred at school and therefore it has to be dealt with at school. Are you happy for that to happen?”
“I’m not happy, but I realise that you have a job to do,” replied Mrs Kemp.
“I can understand that. It must be very embarrassing for you to be called in.”
Miss Jarvis now turned to Patricia. “You have already been interviewed about this matter and realise that you have to be severely punished. Have you anything to say before I carry out your punishment?”
Patricia shook her head. Tears were already welling up.
Miss Jarvis turned back to Mrs Kemp. “May I have your permission to carry out the punishment?”
“What is it?” asked Mrs Kemp.
“It will be six strokes of the cane. That is the normal punishment for this kind of offence.”
Mrs Kemp hesitated. “Yes, alright, if that is what you have to give.”
Miss Jarvis turned to Patricia. “I want you to go over to that chair and bend over the back of it, put your hands on the front of the seat.”
Patricia walked over to the chair and bent over it. Miss Jarvis went to a cupboard and took out a cane. It was of medium thickness and slightly bent. She went over to Patricia and pulled up her skirt.
“I’m going to give you six strokes and I want you to stay in position until I tell you to rise. Is that clear?”
“Yes Miss,” replied Patricia in a voice choking with fear.
“Oooowww,” cried Patricia.
Patricia wiggled her bottom from side to side. Her mother was unable to watch any longer and lowered her eyes to look at her lap.
Patricia stamped her feet.
Slowly but surely the six strokes were applied, and Patricia was allowed up. Tears were welling up in her eyes.
“You may return to your lessons, Patricia, and I want no more bad language.”
Patricia made a quick exit and burst into tears as soon as she got outside.
“I’m sorry that I had to do that, but I must maintain discipline,” said Miss Jarvis, as she replaced the cane.
“It’s alright, you have your job to do, and she must learn to behave properly. I gave her a good hiding as soon as I found out what she’d done,” said Mrs Kemp.
“As a good mother should,” smiled Miss Jarvis.
Mrs Kemp then left and Miss Jarvis went back to her paperwork. Patricia went off to her next lesson with a very sore bottom.
© Lisa Berry 2021