A headmistress has to deal with an unruly girl
By Jane Fairweather
“Nice of you to see me, Mary,” Lord Roddinson stated, a touch nervously, as they sat down to a cup of tea in Mary Winstone’s, the headmistress’s, study.
“It’s the least I could do for an old friend from Oxford days, especially after those little things we used to get up to at eleven o’clock at night before you used to give me a shove back over the college wall,” Miss Winstone replied with a twinkle in her eye.
She remembered with real pleasure those memories of her old boyfriend, including the slow deliberate patting of the seat of her knickers that she had always liked from her lovers. Was it time for a man again? She had been contenting herself with Jane Percival’s young company for rather too long, and yet she did not want to hurt Jane. They were rather good together, but it wasn’t really love. Possibly, here was an opportunity, but could she bear to hurt Jane? She was very fond of the young French mistress, though Jane was a lot younger than her, and that always made her nervous.
“Those were the days, before all the unpleasantness of the war and all the changes after it,” His lordship observed rather sententiously.
“And how is Mabs?” Miss Winstone asked, thinking she had to ask, even though she had never liked Mabel Furwell, who had never even done School Certificate and was unintelligent in her view. She still felt jealous that the minx had managed to marry her dear Roddy, even though it was nearly three decades back.
“Well enough, very into her horses; trains them pretty well herself, though of course we have an official trainer to put on the form. Even wins on occasions, though we usually lose a bit on each season. Still, it is good sport and it keeps her happy, more or less, and I can just about afford it. Anyway, she has that, and she has her friends and I have mine. You know how it is,” Lord Roddinson replied laconically.
Mary Winstone knew very well how it was, for she had seen the process in a number of couples she had been acquainted with and she found it a sad one. But did it mean that Roddy was available to be her lover, at least on a part-time basis. Was that the reason he had rung up so unexpectedly and asked to come and see her? She was pleased to see him nevertheless.
The conversation ambled round various mutual college friends they had kept in touch with, and Mary was just beginning to think this really was a courtesy call, albeit a very warm one, until Lord Roddinson suddenly said, “I suppose I should stop dithering and get round to the real reason I am here. I have got this daughter, Alice. Actually, she’s my third child, you know. I had two sons with Mabs very early on, and then this one when we were in our mid-thirties, and she is a handful! In to this rock and pop and stuff. All very well in its place, of course. We had our jazz bands and our film stars, and sex of course was not unknown, whatever the papers say now.
“However, it is all getting in the way of a very bright girl’s education. She ought to be following me to Oxford, or at least Cambridge, and she got thrown out of the two very nice liberal schools we sent her to first. They said that they were just not going to tolerate such bad behaviour, which is all very well, but they did not even seem to try hard discipline with her. The third establishment was a bit tougher and disciplined her a lot, but it does not have much of a Sixth Form. The truth is, I think you and she might get on. Poachers make good game keepers and all that! Besides, I hear you are one of the few good Girls’ schools that use the cane, and I think that might make an impression on our Alice. She needs someone to really stand up to her.”
“I don’t exactly cane Sixth Formers every day of the week, but I was a bit of a tearaway, wasn’t I?” Mary replied, very much liking being remembered as a rebel. ‘But I was also quite canny, you know, at least at school. I hate to disappoint you, my dear Roddy, but I was very deft at not getting disciplined. I was hardly ever caught out, and the two times that I ended up before the headmistress I was regarded as a good girl who had strayed. I got off with a lecture and a good deal of contrition. I was rather good at bursting in to tears at the appropriate moment. However, I was also never asked to be head girl, which perhaps says something.”
“Yes, I can well imagine you twisting the unfortunate woman round your little finger!” Lord Roddinson said with a grin. “And if my daughter was inclined to follow a similar path it would be much simpler. However, she is almost disarmingly rebellious. If she is told not to do something, she simply does it. Her latest headmistress discovered that she does not like being confined to school for long periods, gating and all that, don’t you know. Anyway, she did work a little better after that, and even more after a jolly good spanking at home, which I found just a touch ambiguous. There is something not quite right about a father tanning his daughter’s behind after a certain age. It ought to be done by a woman at Alice’s age. Anyway, it does rather sound as if you are like all the rest and you won’t use corporal punishment on a Sixth Form Girl, even in extreme circumstances. Or will you?”
“Your wife could cane her,” Mary observed abruptly. “It can be very salutary.”
“Mabs just does not have the aura of authority you need to carry out something like that. Anyway, I don’t think she believes in such things. She sulked for a week after I spanked Alice, though as usual with Mabs she said everything but what was really worrying her. So, there you are, it is up to you, my dear Mary,” His lordship observed rather bleakly, with the air of a man who is faced with the impossible, but prays there is some solution.
“We can always try being nice to her. Sometimes judicious praise can be very effective, and I presume there is something to praise, given you would not have come to me at this stage unless Alice had done at least adequately at ‘O’ Level. We only take girls in the Sixth Form who have the right passes for University, or at least some hope of getting them at re-sits, which I presume you realize or you would not be here,” Mary said, wondering if she was being asked to admit a girl with few or no ‘O’ Levels into the Sixth Form, which she had never done, and never would do.
“Oh, she had distinctions in Latin and History, which are subjects that she likes, but the rest are much lower. Her Maths was a bare pass and the rest were all grade 5’s, which is as far as I understand is the grade next to a bare pass. But really she was capable of far better,” His lordship observed with a certain weariness.
“She did pass English Language?” Mary asked, thinking failure to do that would result in the girl not being able to apply to university and might lead to troublesome re-sits, which was something she had met before. It was odd how some bright children just could not pass English Language.
“Ah yes, though only a grade five.”
“That is better than I was expecting from what you have been saying,” Mary said thoughtfully. “But I suppose our real problem is going to be disciplinary. There is just a chance she has suddenly grown up and the problems will vanish, but it sounds to me as if sooner or later she will do something totally dotty, which would normally lead to expulsion, certainly in the Sixth Form. However, as a favour to an old friend I will cane her the first time it happens, provided she accepts it and takes her punishment, but if there is any reoccurrence she will be expelled. Given your daughter’s age, I would be grateful if you would write me a brief note that you have no objection to that course of action.”
“That is extremely kind of you, Mary. Yes, of course I will write the note,” Lord Roddinson replied. “But let us hope it is not needed.”
“Let us hope so indeed!” Mary replied, and then diverted the conversation to events of three decades before, reflecting as she talked that the oldest girl she had previously caned had been fourteen. That had been Gemma Stone, hadn’t it? Three sharp strokes for a whole succession of offences, culminating in playing rock music in the Junior Library at lunch time. She did not like to dwell on such things, but she always found it hard to forget Gemma’s haughty look turning to fear and alarm when she was told to bend over, or those tightly stretched grey knickers. A very pretty little bottom, she remembered, but Gemma had proved very susceptible to sharp pain and Gemma had been a reformed character from that day. Indeed, this might be a good girl to share a study with the awkward Lady Alice. Gemma might make a very good game-keeper. But caning a Sixth Former would be an experience totally different, though with any luck it would not happen.
“The monks weren’t treated that badly, Miss. I have been reading Baskerville,” Alice said brightly.
“I am sure a lot of the material in Baskerville is right, but the book is based on official records of the Dissolution of the Monasteries, and there is often a gap between what is supposed to happen officially and what does occur in reality. If anything, I suspect the gap was even bigger in the sixteenth century than now,” Mary said equally firmly. “But now, girls, I have an appointment. Same time next week. And if the rest of you can get the library copy of Baskerville on the Suppression of the Monasteries off Alice, who has apparently been devouring it, we will have a further discussion.”
Six of the girls from both the Upper and Lower Sixth who had been attending the headmistress’s History tutorial got up with the usual female noise of schoolgirl skirts and walked out of the room. The seventh, who was Alice, lingered. Her headmistress admired the girl’s very red hair, which she wore over her shoulders, and wondered what the creature wanted. Not that so far there had been the slightest problem. Indeed it had taken just two weeks for Miss Johnson, the head of History, to send her to the headmistress’s weekly tutorial in History, which was reserved for the obviously bright who might stand a chance of Oxbridge. And now Alice was working well and showing a lot of promise.
“Yes, Alice?” Mary enquired. “What is it?”
“It is the Music Appreciation Society, Miss. They make such a row and it is so stuffy. All that Beethoven and stuff. They ought to be told to tone it down.”
Mary refrained from laughing and said, “That is the first time I have had a complaint about classical music being too loud. I am afraid I cannot do too much about it, Alice. Is it interfering with your work?”
“Yes Miss!” was the firm reply. “I cannot read when it is going on. Two blinking hours every Thursday afternoon. It is just annoying and you would not let us have the Beatles or the Stones on like that, would you?”
“There is a certain aesthetic gap there,” Mary Winstone replied, aware she was treading on shaky ground, for she was never sure about the total ban on the playing of popular music that her predecessor had imposed, but she had never felt quite sure about rescinding. “Look, you will just have to grin and bear it, Alice. There are many things in life that we have to learn to put up with.”
“I suppose so, Miss,” Alice said and stomped off.
Mary Winstone reflected the Music Appreciation Society did have rather loud speakers, courtesy of one of the fathers, and was a rather small number of girls to be making such a loud and well-nigh anti-social racket. Perhaps she should have a word. On the other hand, nineteenth century symphonies are rather loud, and she had a long standing passion for nineteenth century symphonies herself. Moreover, she had more than a little encouraged the formation of that society and those half dozen girls were some of the brightest and liveliest in the school, so in the end she did nothing.
Three-thirty to five-thirty on Thursday was Societies Afternoon. There was no obligation on any girl to belong to a Society, and some preferred to do other things, but a majority of girls belonged to something, and there was a surprising variety of things going on.
Mary Winstone herself was sitting in her study, relaxing, trying to read Mansfield Park for the fifth or sixth time at least. Indeed she had read it so often that she almost knew it by heart, but even so the speakers of the Musical Appreciation Society on the next floor were relentlessly blaring out some far too modern piece of music and it was very hard to concentrate. She wished the girls would not have these occasional ventures into the hideous and modern, and she remembered Alice’s comments and wondered if she should ask the girls to turn it down, but on the other hand what is the point of the Avante Garde if you tone it down? Then she thought that if Alice had thought that Beethoven was too loud she must be going berserk over this shrieking piece of modernity and found herself giggling at the thought. She turned over the book and listened to the hammering rhythms, which were not un-invigorating, but hopefully a quieter piece would follow; Delius perhaps. She liked Delius for his quiet gentleness, even though he was twentieth century, but quite possibly Delius would not penetrate through the floor.
There was a knock at her door. She cursed, for Society’s Afternoon was one time when normally she was left alone and had no official duties. She got to her feet and opened the door.
She was confronted by the petite figure of Suzy Smith, one of the prefects associated with the Musical Appreciation Society, in an agitated state, saying, “They are trying to wreck our meeting, Miss. Please come!”
“Whatever do you mean, Suzy Smith?” She almost snapped, thinking that a Society that boasted three prefects among its members ought to be able to cope with almost any situation.
“It is Gemma Stone and that new girl, Alice whatever she is called. They have stripped to their undies and they keep walking up and down and laughing. And they won’t talk. They just laugh in our faces when we try to ask what the matter is, and when we tell them to go away they just laugh even more.”
“You have surely tried using force to get them to leave?” Mary demanded angrily.
“They are both quite beefy, Miss, and honestly Miss, we did not think it was quite right to risk starting a fight.”
“Yes, I suppose you may be right. I had better come, but in some ways I wish I did not have to know about this,” Mary said grudgingly, thinking this might well be a case that involved asking the two girls to leave the school, but she had made that stupid ill-advised promise to Roddy, hadn’t she? That would teach her to remember the escapades of three decades back, wouldn’t it?
She stomped down the corridor in a thoroughly bad temper. The first thing she noticed as she approached the Music Room was two dressing gowns lying on the floor. The girls must have used these to cover themselves while they walked through the school from the study that they shared. Presumably no one had thought to challenge this slightly odd behaviour, but more worryingly was the evidence of careful planning. It did not perhaps entirely rule out drugs as a cause of this bizarre behaviour, but it suggested at least some planning in advance and that was decidedly odd.
Suzy thrust open the door at the same moment the very modern symphony, or whatever it was, came to an end, which made the histrionic laughing that was still going on even more other-worldly. Why, wondered Mary, had no one switched the music off before? However this was all of a piece with the very strange scene in the music room. Of seven Upper Sixth Formers in the room, four were huddled in one corner as the two miscreants danced up and down in front of them giggling. The other three members of the society seemed to be glued to the chairs they had been occupying during the music. As an example of panic in the face of the unexpected it was rather startling; it looked as if Suzy Smith had been the only girl to take any action whatever.
As Mary swept towards the two culprits, she noted that both girls had fairly nondescript white bras on. Gemma was wearing the fairly full grey knickers, which went down over the top of her thighs and up to her waist, that were school uniform up to but not including the Sixth Form. Alice was wearing a thin but just about decent pair of pink panties, but for some reason she had left her tights on, whereas Gemma had nothing on her legs.
She reached the two girls before either had realized she was there. Presumably, they were too high on the delights of their behaviour to realize the door had opened. She opened the palm of her hand and let fly two resounding slaps to the seat of Alice’s tights.
“Ow! That hurt!” Alice exclaimed rather ridiculously, and clutched her bottom.
Gemma turned round in the same second that Mary’s second slap landed on Alice’s plump right buttock, so saving herself from the same fate, and said, “Oh god, it is the headmistress. We should have got out earlier,” which struck Mary as the height of lunacy, given the girls had done nothing to conceal their identity.
“Right you two girls, you will put your dressing gowns on and then proceed to my study, where we are shortly going to have a very interesting discussion about your punishment,” Mary said in the ferocious headmistress’s voice that no girl had yet dared to disobey in over ten years.
Luckily perhaps, the two girls did as they were told, though Mary had no idea what she would have done if they had defied her, but the fight seemed to have gone out of them.
The door closed behind Gemma and Alice, and then Mary turned on the girls that remained in the Music Room and gave them quite a telling-off. Why in heaven’s name had they allowed this to happen? There were eight of them and they could easily have bundled the two idiots back to their study, or marched them to her study. They could, for that matter, easily have dealt with it by an unofficial spanking, which she would not have objected to at all. Only Suzy had shown the slightest initiative. However, Mary got very little response, only apologies, for panicking so badly. And when she asked if they knew what was the reason for this nonsense, all she got was a vague statement that Gemma and Alice must be upset about something, which she could have guessed for herself.
As an after-thought she asked what the ferocious music had been.
“The Vaughan Williams Fourth Symphony, Miss. It is all about the First War. And we had the Sixth on before, which is about the Second War, though I suppose that was the wrong way round,” Suzy said brightly.
“It sounds like it! Worse than Stravinsky!” Mary said, and swept out of the door.
She walked back to her study in a ferocious mood, wondering if it was quite done to smack the two culprits’ bare bottoms till they cried and then cane them, which she really felt like doing, partly at least in compensation for her so unwise promise to Alice’s father not to expel his daughter, which presumably would have to be extended to Gemma.
She marched them into her study in their rather attractive female dressing gowns. Alice’s was white with floral decorations, and Gemma’s was made of red towelling. She stood them in front of her desk and, without saying a word, took out the three foot cane she very occasionally used for serious offences and swished it in front of their noses. Gemma visibly flinched, no doubt recalling the impact of the smaller implement she had endured on the previous occasion, and Alice definitely had a tear in her eye, though she was preserving a certain patrician dignity.
Mary paused, put the cane back down on her desk, sat down and looked at the two girls without saying anything.
Then she asked, “Just what did you idiots think you were doing?”
There was a pause, then Alice said in her very posh voice, “Please Miss, it was a sort of protest. We don’t like their sort of music and we aren’t allowed to play ours.”
“And the stuff they had on this afternoon was just horrible,” Gemma added.
“Worse than this modern rock music, was it?” Mary said with distinct sarcasm, but bending ever so slightly.
“Some of it is really good, Miss,” Alice protested. “I’ve been to a party when someone well known was there. He was really nice.”
“Which is quite irrelevant,” Mary said wearily.
She sat for a good minute, first of all very irrelevantly wondering, not for the first time, if Alice had a boyfriend. Not that it was her affair, any more than her own very discrete get-togethers with Jane Percival were the girls’ concern, though she would have been surprised if the brighter ones did not have their suspicions.
Eventually she said very deliberately, “Threatening and frightening fellow pupils, whatever the excuse, is just totally unacceptable. I have thought very seriously about expelling the pair of you, but you did not use any actual violence, extremely upsetting though your behaviour was, and you seem to have had a vague idea of acting in a righteous cause, however ridiculous that is. In many ways you have acted like four-year-olds in need of a spanking, and a sound caning would seem to be extremely appropriate, unusual though that is for Sixth Formers. If either of you prefer to leave the school instead of being caned then you are free to do so. However, since you are both bright, able pupils, I would prefer to cane you and put this ridiculous affair behind us. Well, what do you want to do, girls?”
“What would we get, Miss, if we said yes?” Gemma asked. “Three strokes jolly well hurt last time, Miss.”
Mary paused and then said, “I am not going to let you off with any less than last time, Miss Stone. This is a much more serious offence. However, I suspect that the brains behind this was Miss Roddinson.”
“That isn’t my real name!” Alice said indignantly.
“Be that as it may,” her headmistress replied, realizing Alice’s formal name must be lady something or other, or was she an Honourable? “I think, Alice, you are the prime culprit and you would have five strokes, which is the most that the Governors in their wisdom allow me to administer, which would leave Miss Stone with four, as I am not going to let her off with the same as last time. Anyway girls, do you want to take your punishment or leave the school? You can have a couple of minutes in private to discuss it, if you want.”
Rather to Mary’s relief, the two girls glanced at one another.
Alice said, “It would be simpler to get it out of the way, wouldn’t it? I don’t want to have to explain getting expelled again to my father.”
Gemma shrugged her shoulders and mouthed a barely spoken, “Yes, ok,” though she looked decidedly tearful.
“Right, take your dressing gowns off, please,” Mary said, feeling faint embarrassment at the near nudity that was going to result, for normally she would have turned skirts up and tucked them into the top of their knickers, but she did not think that tucking the dressing gowns up was practical.
Off came the dressing gowns, and the two girls both put them on the headmistress’s desk without being told to. Mary got two wooden chairs and put them in the middle of the room with a gap between them, which was what she normally did in double canings. She always felt it was unfair to make one girl watch the other’s punishment before her own.
“Both of you, bend over the back of a chair,” she said briskly.
The two girls obeyed. She noticed that Gemma shut her eyes just before bending over the left hand chair, and tears were streaming down the girl’s cheeks. Alice looked altogether calmer, but would that last? A first caning can be a considerable shock to the system, Mary reflected.
She went back to the desk, picked up the very supple cane and practised bringing it down from a height in a straight line, which was the method she had come to favour since she started using chairs to bend the victims over. When she had started as a headmistress she had made them touch their toes and stood back and whacked them, but she had found that the girls invariably wriggled and it was difficult to be sure of where the strokes were going to land. And besides, the victims usually seemed to stay slightly calmer if they had something to hang onto.
Mary paused for a second and reflected that Alice’s behind was plumper and larger than Gemma’s. Indeed, it was almost adult in the way that it spread out a little beyond the thighs. Five well applied strokes with just thin cotton pants and tights and the Honourable Alice Roddinson, or whatever the girl’s proper name was, would have some trouble sitting down for a couple of days.
Still, it was kind to start with Gemma, who was clearly terrified, though her fuss at present was limited to a lot of tears. Her grey school knickers were quite tight and showed rather a lot of her small round buttocks and the space between them, but they were at least solid material that should take just a bit of the sting away.
Mary approached her victim and positioned herself carefully.
She tapped the middle of the seat of those tight grey knickers with the cane and said, “Right, four strokes. And I want you to count each one. Are you ready?”
“Just about Miss, but please don’t do it too hard!’ Gemma muttered through her tears.
Her headmistress remembered that at this point on the previous occasion Gemma had pleaded quite pitifully not to be caned, so in a way this was almost an improvement. She raised the cane and brought it down with a full twist of the wrist and caught the middle of those small round buttocks almost exactly.
The victim wriggled visibly up and down, then said, “Ow! Ow! Ow! That really hurt, Miss. Please, not so hard. One stroke, Miss.” This last seemed to be uttered almost as an after-thought.
Mary raised the cane again and brought it down with a resounding whack. This time, both legs started to move about and the victim cried out, “Ow! Ow! Ow! Ow! Please not the same place again, Miss! Two strokes, Miss!” and Mary realized she must have hit with the second stroke in the same place the first had landed, which she had not meant to do, but the girl’s bottom was not that huge a target.
She carefully lined up the cane to hit the lower bottom with the third stroke and did so with considerable force. The ows turned to shrieks. Eventually, the girl remembered to say, “Three strokes, Miss.”
Mary carefully lined up the final stroke to hit that sensitive area where buttocks and thighs meet, and she brought it down harder than the previous ones. There was an even louder shriek and then the girl was standing up and clutching her bottom, wailing piteously.
Mary waited till the wailing had diminished and then said, “I think you have forgotten something, Miss Stone.”
“Oh sugar! I forgot to say four strokes, didn’t I? I am sorry, Miss, please don’t give me an extra stroke! Please!”
“You had better say it, then, hadn’t you, you silly girl?” Mary snapped with genuine exasperation, which Gemma then did.
“Stand face to the wall, hands on your head, Miss Stone, and stay there till I say you can go,” Mary said, and the girl obeyed with the tears still rolling.
Mary approached the principal culprit with quite genuine anger. Gemma’s punishment had been necessary, but not altogether pleasant. Alice, on the other hand, was most likely the author of this horrible incident. Moreover, though the pink pants and the tights were perfectly allowable under the dress code for the Sixth Form, Mary could not help feeling that in some way wearing them in an odd way was showing off. The Honourable Alice Roddinson was going to really suffer! Besides, it was a good solid bottom that was well able to take it, and she took great pleasure in administering the hardest thrashing she had ever carried out.
Whack! Whack! Whack! Whack! Whack! went the cane and cut deep into that plump bottom every time. And yet in spite of the severity of her punishment, Alice behaved with the greatest stoicism. Her bottom thrust up and down, but her legs stayed oddly still and she did not let out a single noise. Moreover, when she stood up her hands barely touched her bottom and there were only a few tears in her eyes.
Mary was so angry that she very nearly ordered Alice back over the chair for a repeat dose on her bare bottom. However, just as she was about to do it, and was thinking about the pleasure of lowering those revolting pink pants, it flashed across her mind that the Governors, who were always nervous about her use of the cane, would almost certainly fire her for it. She desisted, and instead contented herself with ordering Alice to the wall and slapping her half a dozen times hard on the seat of her tights, which brought irritatingly little reaction.
Mary then left the two culprits standing there, hands on head and faces to the wall, for a good half hour, during which time her anger diminished and she began to wonder why she had been quite so angry. She found it hard to give an answer. Then she let them go, saying that the matter was totally closed and she trusted there would be no repetition.
It could have gone anywhere from there, Mary often reflected to herself in later years. If Alice had complained to her mother, and her mother had been against the severe punishment her daughter had received, it might easily have ended in the Magistrates Court, or with her dismissal as headmistress by the suitably horrified Governors, who were under the impression that corporal punishment was used only on Juniors aged fourteen or less.
However, the only actual reaction Mary had was in an odd phone call from Roddy the following holiday.
“I gather my girl met her Waterloo,” he observed suddenly in the middle of some inconsequential chat. “She told us about it almost as something to show off about. Mabs was quite impressed and said she wished she’d had the courage to do it herself. Hope you weren’t too upset. It can’t have been a nice thing to do. Took some guts, what?”
“Oh, it could have been worse!” Mary said brightly. “And she has been performing very well in school. I don’t think your hopes are entirely misplaced; she has a definite yen for History, but it is early days, we will have to wait and see.”
But there was one other reaction, and it came from Jane Percival. “You have been more on to me since you caned those two Sixth Form yobs than in the five years before. In fact I was beginning to think you were going off me and now you are keener than I ever remember.”
“True,” Mary replied. “Perhaps it is time we started talking about a sharing a flat. I think we could survive together.”
© Jane Fairweather 2021
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