Two girls have to be punished, and a discussion ensues

By Jane Fairweather

Miss Stephens demurely poured out tea from her best china teapot for this interesting young man from Cambridge, who had come seeking information for his PhD about a former member of her staff in the days when she had been a headmistress and a person of importance.

Pete Williams picked up his cup of tea in its best china cup and said to Miss Stephens in her pleasant little flat in Torquay: “I think I told you in my letter that I want anything you can fill in about Alice Blakely, especially her time in the War. She was a teacher in your school wasn’t she?”

“Yes, for a year, 1946-7, I think.” Miss Stephens said, reflecting she knew very little about the only female war hero she had ever known. “She was not that easy to know. I think the war had left its mark on her and I think she was very much looking for a little peace until something came up that would occupy her talents properly, so she did not talk much. Quite an enigma really. I would have liked to have known her much better, but the opportunity never quite arose. I only had one real contact with her and it is a most bizarre story. I am not sure that you would really want to hear it.”

“Well you might as well try me. The more I have researched Alice Blakely the less surprised I have become at some of the things she got up to, though most of them cannot figure in my official research. There are some things that can go into official history and some that cannot.”

“Well I will tell you the story,” Miss Stephen stated rather archly. “But I suspect it will not make the official history. Are you ready? Shall we begin?”

*          *          *

There was a knock at Miss Stephens’ door. This was not altogether welcome, for she was in the middle of her morning cup of coffee, but still the business of the school had to go on. She half shouted: “Come in,” more than slightly irritably. It was Miss Reynolds, her secretary, in her grey old woman’s skirt and jacket. Really, Miss Reynolds was only just fifty and could dress up just a little, she thought.

“Miss Blakely would like a word, Miss Stephens, if that is convenient.” The secretary stated, eyeing the cup of coffee.

“Is it important?” Snapped Miss Stephens, hoping Miss Reynolds would take the hint that she did not want to be disturbed just yet.

“It is about Lucy Fairfax and Elizabeth Charles; I gather they have been rather rude, yet again.” Miss Reynolds replied diffidently.

“Oh god, I do not believe it. I suppose you had better send her in. And go and find those two wretched girls. I suppose I shall have to interview them, yet again.”

Miss Reynolds departed and the door opened to reveal Miss Blakely. Miss Blakely, in marked contrast to Miss Reynolds, was wearing an almost too pretty and stylish brown dress for a school mistress, in Miss Stephens’ no doubt prejudiced opinion. And her black hair was done very nicely indeed with a very wavy perm. It was curious, Miss Stephens thought, that this apparently very feminine creature had such a fine war record. It must have taken courage to go to France as a secret agent and she would never have imagined that Alice Blakely was remotely capable of it, if she had not received a remarkably fine testimonial from Alice’s former commanding officer, not that this necessarily made her a good teacher.

“Well, what can I do for you, Miss Blakely?” She asked in a very general sort of a way, though she had a pretty fair idea.

“Lucy Fairfax keeps openly challenging my knowledge of French Grammar yet again. She and Elizabeth Charles keep sitting there with the grammar book open trying to catch me out. I have told them that I have lived a fair part of my life in France and what I tell them is based on speaking the language for real, but they seem determined to put me down.”

“Which must be extremely trying and I have already spoken to them twice about it. I do wish you would let me tell them about your war service. I think it would impress them and it might make the difference.”

“No, I could not possibly let you do that, Miss Stephens; it would sound like boasting and I really did not do that much. Besides, the less I have to think about the war the happier I shall be.”

“Yes, I can well understand that.” Miss Stephens said, not unkindly, thinking of the number of men she knew who had said almost identical things; real war heroes, she had long ago concluded, did not like to dwell on their deeds; quite possibly the memory was too painful.

“Still,” she added. “I do not know any other woman who holds as many medals as you and I do wish you would change your mind. I don’t think any amount of telling off is going to get these big, bumptious girls off your back. And the offence is just short of what I personally feel justifies expulsion. In short, I just do not know what to do, though I do feel enormous sympathy for you, not least because I realise your nerves are probably still raw from your war service and this cannot be helping.”

“Tough French males in the Maquis took my orders without a murmur and yet I cannot control two silly Sixth Form girls who think they know more about grammar than I do! Perhaps I should just resign!” Alice Blakely exclaimed desperately.

“No! I most certainly do not want you to resign; it would be absolutely ridiculous. No, we must find another course. Any suggestions, Miss Blakely? We have tried apologies, we have tried gating. Frankly I am at my wits end.”

“I had the cane twice from my Father when I was quite old. It was very painful, not to mention humiliating, and very effective.” Miss Blakely observed. “I would say we should try that, but I know you do not approve of corporal punishment.”

“Why ever did you get the cane from your father?” Asked Miss Stephens, feeling quite startled.

“Oh, silly tomboyish things! One was a very bad practical joke that went very wrong; and the other was, well, a private matter, shall we say.”

It flashed across Miss Stephens’ mind that she had more than once suspected Miss Blakely was having sexual relations with someone during her weekends off. Miss Stephens herself was very much a virgin and proud of it, but she was a shrewd observer of human nature, and she had noticed that tell-tale light that seems to appear on the faces of people who are having a passionate affair, more than once on her French Mistress’s face. Was Alice’s lover a married man, she had wondered; but still, it was not her affair.

For that matter, had this ‘private’ matter that had earned a pretty young girl the dreaded cane involved pushing the boundaries of propriety? It would not have surprised her at all if Alice had been caught doing something very improper.

“I have never caned anyone, or even thought about it.” Miss Stephens said aloud. “It is not that I am wholly against corporal punishment, though I do not think it should be used that often. It is more the practicalities. At four foot six I don’t think I would make that good a job of it. Any other suggestions, Miss Blakely?”

“You could let me cane them.” Alice said very quietly.

“I cannot help thinking it would be giving you a personal revenge that you might enjoy rather too much.”

“And why should I not enjoy it?” Alice demanded with a flash of temper that was very different to her normal persona.

“We do actually have some canes,” Miss Stephens said, politely ignoring Alice’s outburst, though it intrigued her. “My predecessor left them and I have somehow never got round to throwing them away. I suppose we could at least consider the possibility of corporal punishment. But, Miss Blakely, are you sure about this? It is one thing to say you are quite prepared to beat these naughty creatures and quite another to do it. You could find it very upsetting.”

“I survived shooting more than one person dead. I won’t say I enjoyed it, but it was necessary and I did it without too many nightmares.”

“Yes, of course dear.” Miss Stephens said, feeling deeply embarrassed, especially as there was a distinct note of hysteria in Alice Blakely’s voice.

“Can I see the canes?” Alice was saying.

“In the cupboard in the corner, dear; it is open.” Miss Stephens said, wondering to herself if Alice was about to throw a fit of hysterics about the awful things she had been forced to do in the war.

Alice Blakely, however, had gone over to the ancient brown oak cupboard in the corner of the room, unlatched and opened it, and pulled out what must have been an old umbrella stand which contained half a dozen canes of varying lengths and thicknesses, all of which had gathered a good deal of dust. She then systematically tried each cane in turn. It seemed to the watching Miss Stephens that her French Mistress had some experience in these matters, for there was nothing casual about the way each cane was tried out. But where could Alice Blakely have learned about such things? As far as she knew, this was Alice’s first teaching job. Perhaps the young woman just had a knack for such things.

At any rate Alice eventually selected one of the longer canes and remarked: “That should go through a pleated sixth form skirt. That should do well enough.”

Rather to Miss Stephens’ horror, the French Mistress then placed this instrument of torture on the headmistress’s desk and looked at her superior as if daring her to go to the next stage in this unseemly proceeding.

“Really, Miss Blakely,” said Miss Stephens. “We cannot just cane them. It is such an unusual proceeding. I must talk to their fathers first and then to the girls. Come back and see me towards the end of lunch time. If the fathers agree, we will do it then. If we have not been able to get hold of one or both of their fathers, I am afraid the punishment will have to be delayed.”

“What if you cannot get hold of one of them?” Alice Blakely asked briskly. “It is not kind to keep the girls waiting to be punished. Both times that I was punished it happened more or less immediately. I would have hated having to wait, unsure whether it was going to happen or not.”

“If we cannot get hold of the fathers by five o’clock, we will do it anyway. On my own head be it. But come and see me at quarter to one and I will tell you the situation, or we will deal with the girls, if we have permission then.” Said Miss Stephens, feeling she was being just a little bit pushed by her normally very mild French Mistress; but still perhaps it was as well to get it out of the way.

Alice departed out of the door. Miss Stephens rather embarrassedly removed the chosen cane from her desk and leaned it between the cupboard in the corner and the wall. Then, even more self-consciously, she picked up the other canes that Alice had scattered about most untidily and put them back in the umbrella stand, which she did not restore to its cupboard, for she had a feeling, rightly or wrongly, that they might  be required later.

Then, rather wearily, she got Miss Reynolds to produce the two fathers’ phone numbers and started to ring them.

After several abortive attempts to ring Elizabeth Charles’ father, Miss Stephens got through to Lucy’s father, Colonel Fairfax, quite quickly. He was, she knew, in business and not a soldier, though he had served in the Great War.

“You are telling me my daughter is making life hell for a mistress?” The irritable voice was saying. “Sounds to me as if your mistress has no control over her pupils. Why the hell should Lucy get the cane for that?”

Miss Stephens drummed with her fingers on her desk before improvising wildly. “A mistress, Colonel Fairfax, who served with great distinction as a secret agent in the War and still has bad nerves from it.”

Even as she said it she thought she was exaggerating the bad nerves; Alice Blakely was surprisingly well in control of her nerves.

“Are you sure about that?” The Colonel said very gruffly. “People make these things up when it suits them. Probably just a clerk. Bet she has never seen a shot fired and has not got a medal to her name.”

“On the contrary, she has the Croix de Guerre, the Legion d’Honeur and several British and American ones that have gone right out of my head. I have that in writing from her commanding officer.”

“What’s her name?”

“Miss Alice Blakely.”

“Oh her! I’ve seen the citation in the London Gazette. She did extraordinary things with the Maquis. My sort of thing in the Great War, you know. I did things behind the lines myself in Belgium, but I never talk about it. Yes, well her nerves will be a mess. Can tell you that for free. Tell Lucy from me that she is to stop this nonsense and take her punishment, and I will be having words with her myself when she gets back home.”

‘Surprisingly easy,’ thought Miss Stephens as she dialled Mr Charles, for the third time.

In fact she got Mrs Charles and it dawned on the Headmistress that wherever Mr Charles was, he was not with his wife, who was not too sure where he was. Though Mrs Charles did not say it, nevertheless it sounded very much to Miss Stephens as if Mr Charles had run off with another woman and a divorce was in progress. Faute de mieux, she asked Mrs Charles’ permission to cane her daughter, fully expecting to be refused, for Mrs Charles sounded extremely ladylike. However, more than slightly to Miss Stephens’ surprise, she got a quite ferocious answer.

“That girl has been asking for a good hiding all her life, and because she has been Daddy’s darling she has never had it. No, Miss Stephens, of course you can cane her. Her behaviour sounds absolutely appalling. It is not as if she is a thirteen year old who does not know any better.”

Miss Stephens rather wryly concluded that Elizabeth was caught in the crossfire between divorcing parents; still, it made her own problems much easier. She thanked Mrs Charles most profusely, paused for a second after her phone call, and then called the two girls into her study.

Lucy, as usual, was slightly in the lead, she noticed. She was a tall, willowy, elegant girl, who looked almost grown up, except that her auburn hair was still in pigtails. She was wearing the long blue pleated skirt to below the knee and black stockings that the Sixth Formers wore. Her headmistress noted she did not seem to have that much under her skirt and the shape of her two small buttocks was very clear. Elizabeth, by contrast, definitely had at least one slip on under her skirt, it might well be two; and though the general shape of her plump, round bottom was clear enough, its contours were not that obvious to the eye. Her attractive black hair was down to her shoulders. Both girls wore the orange blouses with a red striped tie that was standard uniform for the Sixth Form, and a grey blazer with the school’s badge. Perhaps the biggest difference between the two friends was their breasts; Lucy’s were small, almost boyish, but Elizabeth’s were quite large like her bottom. If she bent over they would flop, even with a bra on, her headmistress concluded rather unkindly.

It was an oddly simple interview, she thought afterwards. The girls seemed to recognise in some way that she was not just angry, she was furious and they seemed to bow before the storm and just apologise without making any excuses whatever. It almost saved them from the cane, but their Headmistress kept thinking about what Colonel Fairfax had said about the cost to the nerves of serving your country.

Elizabeth burst into tears when told she was going to be caned. Lucy did not show any great emotion; it was rather as if she had been expecting it. No doubt she had glimpsed the cane hiding in the corner by the cupboard and drawn the inevitable conclusion. She was, after all, a colonel’s daughter.

It was in fact only noon, so Miss Stephens told the girls to stand outside the door with their hands on their heads facing the wall and wait till Alice Blakely returned at quarter to one, which she decided would be the longest three quarters of an hour of these two minx’s short lives, though she refrained from saying it aloud. Then she went off by herself for a stroll round the grounds, forsaking lunch in the process, but she felt too tense to eat.

*          *          *

She returned about five minutes earlier than she had intended, wondering if Miss Blakely would be early, late or on time; and whether the young woman was feeling elated at her coming vengeance, or upset at having to carry out these punishments. Or was Alice thinking that it was something that had to be done, rather like some of the things she had done in the war?

She glanced at the two very different bottoms that were sticking out through the girls’ skirts below their blazers as they faced the wall of the School Secretary’s office and reflected she normally was fairly indifferent to such things, but it was strangely interesting to see how differently shaped these two close friends’ bodies were.

“Anything to report, Miss Reynolds?” She asked the secretary who was nibbling some sandwiches at her desk.

“I let them both go to the toilet. Elizabeth was bursting and it seemed sensible to send them both.” Miss Reynolds replied almost apologetically.

“Thank you Miss Reynolds, but I don’t think the fact that the girls are about to be punished need get in the way of normal bodily functions; I am rather surprised that you thought there was any question about it and feel any need to report it.” Miss Stephens snapped irritably, for the whole strange business was getting to her.

“Yes, Miss Stephens.” The secretary stated demurely.

Not for the first time, Miss Stephens asked herself if there was a well concealed smile on her secretary’s face, but there seemed little to be done if Miss Reynolds had been quietly smiling at her employer, and anyway, Miss Stephens told herself, she had smiled at her own employers more than once in her life.

“Send Miss Blakely in as soon as she comes back. I don’t want to see anyone else till this matter has been finally dealt with.”

“Yes, Miss Stephens.”

The headmistress entered her study and shut the door, reflecting there was not even a punishment book, unless her predecessor had hidden it somewhere. Still, she had given the parents a clear opportunity to object so it should be alright.

She paced up and down very restlessly, asking herself if she should stay seated at the desk during the punishment, or stand in case Miss Blakely needed any help. She concluded she would not in fact be of much practical help if one of the girls turned awkward, and for that she would have to call in Miss Reynolds, who was quite beefy, or possibly the Games Mistress, Miss Smith.

Miss Blakely slightly annoyed her by entering without knocking, but Miss Stephens said nothing, knowing she had told her secretary to send the French Mistress straight in, and no doubt she had been misunderstood.

“I think,” Miss Stephens said rather solemnly without waiting for any exchange of pleasantries. “We should have them in one at a time. Perhaps Elizabeth should be dealt with first, seeing she seems very upset already. That will anyway give Lucy a little bit more time to get worked up. Do you need anything more than the cane, Miss Blakely?”

“A chair would be useful to bend them over. My father used a chair both times.”

Again Miss Stephens noted a certain edginess in her French Mistress’s voice, which worried her. However, there did not seem to be anything to do except continue with the punishment, so she indicated Miss Blakely should make her choice of the various chairs in the room, and a small wooden chair was brought to the middle of the room.

Miss Blakely very deliberately, and without being told, walked over to the cane and took it in her hand before strolling to the door and ushering in a decidedly tearful Elizabeth. Without saying a word, Alice Blakely took the girl by her arm and led her to the chair.

“Take your blazer off and bend over the back of it, and put your hands on the seat.” Miss Stephens heard her say.

Miss Stephens was intrigued by the matter of fact way that Miss Blakely did this. It was almost as if she had carried out such punishments before, but that seemed most unlikely.

The girl, mercifully, seemed to be quite practical about it and hung her blazer over the back of the chair before bending over it. Although she was blubbering, she did not make any protest as Alice Blakely raised the pleated blue school skirt above the waist, revealing a rather dashing blue slip, which undoubtedly had another garment under it. You could see the shadow of what looked a fairly skimpy pair of panties and suspenders reaching down to the victim’s black school stockings. Alice seemed to pause for a second as if not quite sure what to do next.

“If she had school knickers on then I would cane her on the seat of them,” Alice said, almost as if she was talking to herself. “But I don’t think that is quite fair when she has only got panties on, do you Miss Stephens? So I am going to leave her two slips and her panties, which look pretty thin to me.”

“Sounds perfectly fair to me,” Miss Stephens replied. “But how many strokes are you going to give her?”

“I thought four, Miss Stephens.” Miss Blakely said laconically. “Unless you think more or less is justified.”

“Please could you stop talking and just get on with it?” Came the desperate voice of the victim.

“Yes, we will say four strokes, Miss Blakely.” Miss Stephens said, feeling faintly tearful herself and thinking rather too late that if she had been asked earlier and not had it sprung on her, then she would have left the girl’s skirt on.

Miss Blakely positioned herself carefully, tapping the seat of Elizabeth’s very feminine underskirts a couple of times as if to be sure she was in the right position. Then she drew the cane well back and sent it swishing through the air with an easy swing of her arm. The cane went deep into the girl’s plump bottom, about half way down. There was a yelp of pain and the girl’s head visibly went upwards and her right leg moved up and down.

The second stroke was more or less the same, except it hit the bottom slightly lower and Elizabeth cried out desperately. “Please, Miss Blakely, I know I have to be punished, but please don’t do it quite so hard.”

Miss Stephens wondered if this annoyed Alice Blakely, for she seemed to put extra oomph into the third stroke, so it was even harder than the first two, which had scarcely been lenient. The girl was wailing like a three year old and both legs were moving up and down. Somehow, she was staying in position by clutching the sides of the chair.

The executioner paused quite deliberately, so deliberately that Miss Stephens wondered for a second if this was a hint to herself to let Elizabeth off her fourth stroke; but then she concluded Alice was just waiting for the kicking to stop.

This it eventually did, and Alice Blakely was very carefully lining up the cane for the final stroke at the base of the buttocks. Something in Miss Stephens, who had no experience of corporal punishment of any sort, said this was going to be extremely and unnecessarily painful and she ought to intervene. However, at the exact moment she was about to say something, the cane swished, producing a real scream from the victim, who got up and started clutching her bottom while doing an odd little dance on the spot. Miss Stephens found this had a very strange effect on her and she was watching with fascination. She would have liked to have seen the actual damage under the girl’s clothes, but it was not altogether nice to suggest it, so she restrained herself, but the girl dancing about and gibbering was oddly intriguing. However, after a while she told her errant pupil to go and behave in future, and Elizabeth departed still rubbing her bottom through her skirt.

“It does really hurt!” They heard Elizabeth say to Lucy as she staggered out of the door, which made the two mistresses exchange slightly amused glances. As if, Miss Stephens mused, a well applied caning was likely not to hurt!

Then Lucy’s tall willowy figure was being led towards the chair. She was being told to hang her blazer over the back of it and then bend over it with her hands on the seat. The girl’s small bottom seemed to be ridiculously high up in the air compared with her friend. Miss Stephens, in spite of the seriousness of the situation, thought it was an inviting target and almost laughed.

“You aren’t going to cane me with just my knickers on, are you?” Lucy was saying desperately.

“Do you mean panties or school knickers?” Miss Blakely asked before Miss Stephens could say anything.

“Just panties, Miss. And I have not got a slip on either.”

“Oh leave her skirt on.” Miss Stephens said briskly.

“Yes, I was just going to suggest that.”

And then the caning started. Miss Stephens, in retrospect, could never understand the contrast between the two girls. Elizabeth, despite having cried a great deal before her punishment, had taken it with a certain dignity and on the whole restrained what must have been a strong desire to yell at the top of her voice. Lucy howled and wriggled and made strange animal like noises from the very first stroke. If she did it in the hope of lessening the punishment, it was not a success for it just seemed to make Miss Blakely whack her even harder than she had Elizabeth. Perhaps Lucy’s smaller buttocks did not help, Miss Stephens reflected; there could not be that much skin on them that the cane was not bruising.

After it was over, Lucy stayed slumped over the chair clutching her bottom and weeping uncontrollably. It was all a little disgusting and yet Miss Stephens, in spite of herself, was even more fascinated by this unpleasant procedure than when Elizabeth had been punished.

Eventually it was all over. Lucy had gone and the two mistresses chatted briefly.

“Let’s hope it has an effect. It was certainly quite impressive to me, who has never encountered it before, though I don’t think it is a punishment I shall be employing that often.” Miss Stephens commented. “I do hope it did not upset you, Alice?”

“No, I am fine, headmistress, though I must say it brought back memories.”

Miss Stephens wondered what memories, but was too polite to ask.

“Have you ever caned anyone before? You were very good at it and I don’t suppose it is that easy to do.” She found herself asking as an afterthought.

“No, of course not, headmistress. I was soundly caned twice myself as I told you, and I suppose that gave me a fair idea of how to do it. Instinct, I suppose.”

“Oh well, if I ever decide anyone else needs caning I will ask you to do it. Is that alright?”

“Yes, of course, Miss Stephens, no problem at all.”

*          *          *

“But, in fact, I never did have another girl caned.” Miss Stephens said to the attractive young man opposite her, who was looking simultaneously fascinated and shocked.

“And that is your only real story about her as a teacher?” He asked with just a touch of disbelief in his voice; he obviously thought the old woman had more to tell than she was saying.

“Well, apart from the fact she was really not that good at teaching. Some people can control classes and she very definitely could not. Incidentally, what happened to her? I always wondered.”

“The Cold War was just starting and MI6 found uses for her. Most of that is still classified. She died a couple of years ago of a bad heart, but I think you said you knew that. But if you are interested, there is one thing I can tell you from before the war that does link up with your story possibly. You know you said it puzzled you that she was so good at caning those two girls?”

“Yes, it was very puzzling,” said Miss Stephens.

“And you know, do you, that she spent a rather wild life in Paris in her early twenties. Her parents had died and left her with what someone who I interviewed said was ‘far too much money’, which she well and truly squandered on drink, drugs, sex and god knows what. Luckily, perhaps, there cannot have been that much dosh in reality and it ran out quite quickly, then the war gave her something real to do. She knew Man Ray, the photographer, and indeed he did a rather splendid set of nudes of her. But she was also part of a little group of, to put it bluntly, ‘kinky’ young women, and one of their ‘things’ was whipping; and I have it on good authority that she was the one who did the whipping. I don’t know if they used a cane or what, but your story makes me rather suspect it was a cane.”

“Yes, very likely!” Miss Stephens commented briskly. “Really if I had known any of this I would never have employed her, let alone permitted her to punish any of my girls. I hope none of this is going into your PhD?”

“No, I am under strict instructions to stick to her activities in the War. She was genuinely very brave and very successful with the Maquis. Quite a female role model really!”

Miss Stephens wondered how to reconcile that with the thought of those very different female bottoms writhing about over the back of a chair, which she still found both fascinating and horrifying.

“Well, tell me something about yourself,” she said. “I like to know about people who are younger than myself.”

He genuinely liked the old woman and a long conversation followed.

The End

© Jane Fairweather 2018

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