The young journalist returns to her mentor

by Alison Short

“The past is a foreign country,” wrote a famous novelist, whose name slips my mind. “They do things differently there.”

It is less than fifty years since my days as a cub reporter in the wilds of Lincolnshire and my extraordinary encounters with Hilary Underwood, headmistress and martinet, as fervent a disciple of the rod as ever lived. But it seems like much longer.

Who would have guessed how quickly corporal punishment in schools would not just go out of fashion, but be outlawed completely. Never to return? Miss Underwood certainly did not see it coming. Even at a time when reform was in the air, she kept her faith in traditional pedagogic discipline.

“Fashions come and go,” she once told me. “But some things are eternal. Children will always go off the rails from time to time. And they will always need to be taught the error of their ways. Nothing instils that lesson better than a swift, corrective thrashing. You could almost say that nature designed the human bottom for that very purpose.”

She was talking to me, and to her secretary, Charlotte, after the incident I related in the last of these memoirs, when Charlotte and I found ourselves in big, big trouble after trying to spy on a group caning in the gym of the Wolds School. It did not end well, unless, of course, like me, you were a young spanking-curious woman taking her first steps on a journey in which getting a sore bottom was a positive pleasure!

Miss Underwood, by this stage, could read me like a book. Our relations remained professional and formal. It would have spoiled the whole emotional dynamic if it had been otherwise. We were not equals. And we were not friends in the accepted sense. But there was a definite understanding between us.

As we parted on this occasion, she took me to one side while Charlotte was fetching her coat from the cloak-room and had a quiet word in my ear. “I do hope this is not the last I see of you, Miss Simpson. You are a young woman of great promise and if ever you feel in need of advice or guidance, my door will always be open.”

Advice or guidance indeed! Given the fact that I had already been chastised on four separate occasions by Miss Underwood, the euphemism was almost comical. But I kept a straight face and replied in kind.

“That is very generous of you, Miss Underwood. I hope I will never be too proud to ask for your advice when I need it.”

I had no idea quite how quickly I would be needing that advice.

* * * *

It was barely six weeks after my most recent meeting with Miss Underwood that I did something seriously stupid. I still blush when I remember it.

One of my neighbours in the street where I lived had an annoyingly yappy dog. It was a terrier of some description and the sound of its shrill barks drove me to distraction. Other neighbours had the same experience. Our pleas to the owner, a large, lumbering woman called Marjorie, to control her dog had fallen on deaf ears. So I decided to take things into my own hands. Dog-lovers, look away now.

Next time I saw Marjorie set out to walk her dog in the park, I lurked behind a tree and hurled an apple as hard as I could in the direction of the animal. Imagine my horror when I realised that I had scored a bulls-eye. The apple caught the dog flush on the side of the head, it let out a strangulated yelp and toppled over. I legged it, as you can imagine, but later found out that Marjorie had to pay an emergency visit to the local vet. The dog, survived, and was soon yapping away again, but I felt absolutely terrible.

So terrible, in fact, that I conceived the idea of confessing my crime to Miss Underwood.

‘As you anticipated when we last met, I need your advice and guidance,’ I began my letter, before setting out the facts of the case. ‘I feel as if I ought to tell Marjorie that it was me who threw the apple and, at the very least, offer to pay the veterinary bill. But, to be honest, I am too scared. What do you recommend?’

Her reply came by return of post, and was terse and to the point. ‘I am disappointed in you, Emma. You have been a very naughty girl. I suggest that you visit me at my home next Sunday afternoon at half-past three.’

Her home? What was this about? All my previous encounters with Miss Underwood had been at the school where she was headmistress and where she wielded her cane so expertly. But I assumed she had her own good reasons and, at three-thirty on the dot, I knocked on the door of Willow Cottage, a pretty thatched building at the end of a country lane.

“Come in, Emma,” said Miss Underwood, her face even more glacial than usual. She was dressed quite informally, in a tweed skirt and a woollen jumper, but there was nothing informal in her manner. I was half-expecting to be offered a cup of tea, but it looked as if tea was going to have to wait.

There were two arm-chairs opposite the inglenook fireplace, and she gestured to me to take one of them, while she took the other. In her hand, I noticed, was the letter I had written.

There was a lengthy pause. If Alfred Hitchcock was the Master of Suspense, Hilary Underwood was the Mistress of Suspense. By the time she finally spoke, I was a nervous wreck.

“You are lucky that I am not a dog-lover,” she began. “I would be even more horrified at your antics if I was. As it is, I feel a small measure of sympathy for you. A yapping dog can be an infernal nuisance. So, this Marjorie woman is not without blame in the matter. However…”

She paused and eyed me coldly over the top of her glasses.

“By taking the law into your own hands in the way you did, you far exceeded the bounds of reasonable behaviour. And for that, as you well know, there must be consequences. It is entirely up to you whether you choose to make reparation to Marjorie. But you cannot expect me, as someone who has had occasion to chastise you in the past, with your express permission, to let your actions go unpunished.  Come with me.”

She rose briskly and, seconds later, I found myself following her up the stairs and into what seemed to be a spare bedroom. It was sparsely furnished, with a single bed, a small chest of drawers and an upright chair, on which she proceeded to sit, while I awaited my instructions, which were not long in coming.

“Now, Emma, I want you go over to the chest of drawers and open the top drawer. You will find a slipper in it which I want you to hand to me. Thank you.”

The slipper in question was a large men’s slipper, size 11 or 12 at a guess. It had a well-worn leather sole and a small hole in one of the sides. There was a very thin layer of dust of top. In fact, it looked positively ancient, like a prop in a Victorian melodrama.

“This belonged to my late father, Gerald,” said Miss Underwood, in answer to my unspoken questions. “My brother Tom and I were, what shall I say, painfully familiar with it. You could almost say that no single object in my whole life has done more to shape my outlook on life. Let us see if its impact on you is equally dramatic.”

Without another word, she took me by the hand, positioned me to her right then gently placed me across her lap. Then she flipped up my skirt and slowly peeled down the modest pair of white knickers I had chosen for the day. The room was unheated, and I felt a brief chill of cool air on my bottom. I had no illusions that the coolness in that part of my anatomy would last.

My mind, as you can imagine, was racing. When I had first written to Miss Underwood confessing to my ‘crime’, I had vaguely expected another encounter with her cane, with which I had become both painfully and pleasurably familiar. Even though I was still a novice in the world of spanking, I knew that the slipper, in a school context, was regarded as a less severe implement of chastisement than the cane. So there was a part of me that felt slightly disappointed, as if Miss Underwood, for whatever reason, was letting me off lightly. It did not take long for me to be disabused of that notion.

After another of her theatrical pauses, Miss Underwood raised the slipper high in the air and brought it with a loud splatting sound on my right buttock. Seconds later, my left buttock got the same treatment. Then more of the same. Much more.

The pain was not initially as bad as the sharp burning sensation caused by a whippy rattan cane, but as the slipper came down time after time after time, with no respite between slaps, I found myself in a whole world of misery.

With a school caning, you know in advance how many strokes you are going to receive and can grit your teeth until the final stroke has been administered. With an over-the-knee spanking, whether with a hand, slipper or hairbrush, you have no such luxury. You are, literally, at the mercy of your punisher. And Miss Underwood was clearly not one to over-do the mercy.

As I started wriggling on her lap and kicking my legs in the air, she gripped me around the waist with her spare hand and, when I carried on wriggling, trapped my flailing legs with her right leg in a scissor movement. I had not really noticed it before, as she was shorter in stature than me, but Hilary Underwood was quite strong in a wiry kind of way. She now had my bottom exactly where she wanted it. And, boy, did she take advantage of the fact.

“Don’t you ever behave that like again,” she bellowed, wielding the old slipper like an avenging fury. “By the time I’ve finished with your backside, young Emma, you will be so sore in your hindquarters that you will wish you had never been born. You are not a street urchin but a young lady, and I expect you to behave as such. Is that clear?”

“Yes,” I yelped, my poor bottom cheeks ablaze, it was perfectly clear.

How long did my spanking last? It was probably no more than five minutes, at the very most, but it felt like an eternity. When it was finally over, all I wanted to do was rub my bottom and keep on rubbing it. But Miss Underwood was having none of it.

“Now go and stand in the corner facing the wall, with your hands on your head,” she said, releasing me from her lap. “You can wait there for the next half hour, thinking about why you have been punished. And if I catch you trying to rub your bottom, you’ll regret it. Off you go.”

For the next thirty minutes, a fly on the wall would have seen my bare, reddened bottom in all its glory, while Miss Underwood sat in silence and savoured my humiliation. As I have said before, she was not a sadist, but she certainly relished seeing bad behaviour properly punished. I imagine she enjoyed viewing her handiwork.

“Do you think you have you learnt your lesson?” she asked me later, as we sat sipping tea together, as if nothing out of the ordinary had happened upstairs. There was a slight twinkle in her eye, as I am sure there was in mine. As the physical pain subsided, I felt an afterglow of real pleasure, such as I had experienced in my previous encounters with this remarkable woman.

“Yes,” I said, as meekly as a schoolgirl. I had learnt my lesson.

The End

© Alison Short 2021