A pleasant picnic leads four girls astray in this period piece
By Jane Fairweather
Elsie Smith and Anne Paxton, who were assistant mistresses, and Elizabeth Doyle and Sarah Brown, who were eighteen and nineteen and lingering rather long at the Perivale School for the Daughters of Gentlefolk as somewhere between mistresses and pupils, sat themselves down to a splendid picnic tea. It was a sunny Saturday afternoon; it was warm among the green leaves and the light danced.
“What a spread!” Elsie Smith exclaimed, surveying the cloth which had been very decorously placed in a little clearing in the wood and covered with the contents of the picnic hamper, which the four of them had brought from the school with the aid of the gardener’s wheelbarrow.
The result of their labours looked very neat, correct and ladylike, which pleased one half of Elsie Smith very much indeed. Yet the other half of her kept glancing at the tops of the eight bottles of very good red wine which were waiting upright in the hamper without their corks, looking eager to be drunk. She had never, she reflected, had a chance to drink so much alcohol at one go and she suspected the others were the same.
‘What, after all, is life if you cannot be naughty from time to time?’ She observed rather sententiously to herself and thought how grateful she was to Elizabeth Doyle who had been home the previous weekend getting things together for her new job. Using that as an excuse, Elizabeth had asked for, or quite probably purloined, the wine for this feast.
The nice side of Elsie kept hoping that Elizabeth’s plump bottom was not at risk of a good hiding from her Father, who was known to favour corporal punishment up to the age of majority at twenty-one, but if truth be known the naughty side of Elsie could not help picturing Elizabeth’s bottom bared for the rod and covered with the red marks of a sound whipping. Elsie was always a little ambiguous about Elizabeth, who she had never wholly liked and indeed about corporal punishment, which she always found intriguing, partly at least because she had never suffered it since being soundly smacked for breaking her sister’s doll at the age of seven.
They gossiped vigorously as they munched their way through the sandwiches and cakes. And as they ate, several bottles of strong red wine washed down that splendid repast and they talked less and less properly. Eventually they got on to their headmistress, who they all regarded as a ‘character’.
“Miss Yeats likes a good whipping, doesn’t she?” Elsie remarked. “I had to take that silly little bitch, Iris Pomeroy, to her for inattention and general fooling about only this week.”
“Poor Iris, she is only a junior and they always play up at that age.” Anne cut in.
“Well, we all know Iris and you have a bit of a pash.” Elizabeth said and they all giggled, knowing the pash was distinctly on Iris’s side, though Anne was quite kind to her. Anne’s real interest was in Sarah.
“Anyway,” Elsie proclaimed, “I was expecting a lecture for your sweetheart, my dear, when to my surprise a whipping was announced. I was quite intrigued, for I have never seen one before. I thought she’d have a birch rod in a cupboard, but no! She announced, being Miss Yeats, that she must go and cut a hazel rod. I am sure any other headmistress in the land would have had a birch rod in her cupboard, but no it was a hazel rod. So there was an awkward wait for poor Iris, who got extremely contrite while she was waiting, and I thought she might have been let off. But back came our revered Headmistress with her freshly cut rod and down came poor Iris’s drawers and her pretty little bottom was rather red at the end of it.”
“Did she cry?” asked Sarah.
“Oh, quite a bit.” Said Elsie with a certain look in her eye.
“You are horrid to enjoy watching.” Anne snapped.
“Come on, Anne, you know how naughty Iris can be, even if she has got a crush on you! Not, I must confess, that I thought the whipping was quite fair. Personally, I think whippings should be kept for big things, you know, and she just needed pointing in the right direction.”
“Anyway,” said Anne, “She took an awful lot of calming down, poor thing. She’s quite sensitive, a lot more than people think. I think Miss Yeats is far too keen on whipping a girl because she is pretty; it is always the pretty girls she picks on.”
“Oh, I am sure Miss Yeats would not dream of whipping a girl just because she has good looks.” Sarah cut in. “She got the rod out for me for teasing poor Mary Somers when I was all of fourteen, which I richly deserved, and it did me a lot of good. Really took me down a peg, you know. And I am not pretty, whatever else I am.”
“Oh Sarah, you are really good looking; why do you always say that?” Her friend, Elizabeth, asked despairingly.
“No boobs, and no bum, and not much nose!” Sarah replied succinctly, and everyone laughed.
“My grandmother,” Elizabeth said, rather obviously changing the direction of the conversation, “My grandmother always says she saw a murderer being hanged off a tree in this wood. Apparently he attacked some poor girl who was gathering firewood and they hanged him at the scene of his crime. Girls were permitted to go and watch things like that in those days, you know. I doubt if we would be allowed to go today in the grand days of Queen Victoria, Empress of India and all the rest of it.”
“Of course, you live quite near, don’t you?” Elsie half stated, half asked, for she was not really quite sure how near Elizabeth Doyle in fact lived to the school.
“Yes, my family have been at Little Bingham Hall since the days of Queen Elizabeth.”
“But why are you still here at nineteen?” Anne enquired.
“My dear Papa did not feel I was quite ready for the world, and he knows I just don’t get on with Mama. He always says if I was not here at school I would have such a bad quarrel with Mama that he would end up having to whip me. Anyway, as you know, Miss Yeats has been letting me fill in a bit as a teacher, well just like Sarah, we are both of us in the same boat. However, now I can kiss School and Home good bye. I am off as a companion to an old friend of Papa’s who has lost her husband. Just ten days to go, my dears, which I have chalked on my wall and I am going to cross off one by one. Mrs Langley is a sweety and it will mean a lot of freedom.”
“It is a great pity you are going, Lizzy. I wish I was going with you.” Sarah said looking quite upset.
“Oh diddums!” everyone exclaimed.
“But Elizabeth,” Said Elsie, “I just cannot imagine you having such a bad quarrel with your Mother that you would have to be whipped, though I could imagine it happening over this lovely wine, which would be a pity.”
“Oh Joseph, our butler, helped with the wine, and I am sure he will keep our little arrangement from Papa. Servants have their ways with things like that, so don’t worry about the wine. I shall not be standing in my shift outside my Papa’s study over that, my dear. But as to the rest, you have not seen me and my Mama.” Elizabeth responded; and everyone laughed a touch drunkenly. “That is not idle fantasy, my dears. Mama and I had a real set-to a few summer holidays back and I ended up being soundly disciplined. Papa does not like doing such things, but he knows his duty and he made a thorough job of it. God, it hurt, and it was so humiliating. Anyway, after that it was felt it was best for me to stay here until I was ready to go out into the great wide world.”
“What did you get?” Elsie asked with an odd look in her eye. “Did you have to pick your own rod off the birch tree like Iris didn’t have to do? I’ve heard of that, but never known anyone who had to do it. Or does he favour the hazel rod like Miss Yeats?”
“Or was it the hairbrush? I’ve had six with the hairbrush with my drawers tight across my arse like a boy’s trousers and reaching for my toes, and it really hurts, though I would think a hazel rod or a cane is probably worse.” Sarah cut in.
Elsie found herself imagining Sarah touching her toes. she was always intrigued by Sarah’s small tight behind, as far as you could make it out through all the paraphernalia that a senior girl wore.
“No, neither of those. Papa went and used a long thin cane.” Elizabeth said. “I only had my shift on, would you believe, and he even pulled that up, which I thought was most unfair; and it really hurt and bruised. He caned me just like my brothers, five of the best, would you believe. Actually, I am not sure I could take a second punishment like that. I hope to god it does not happen.”
“But Elizabeth, you are leaving school and home in ten days. So it is not exactly likely to happen. You have a thing about such things as I have had cause to notice on a number of occasions. I shall miss those moments!” Her friend Sarah said laughing, not entirely soberly.
It struck Elsie that Sarah was really cut up about not seeing Elizabeth any more, but what did she mean about ‘those moments’? It was such an odd thing to say. Anyway, it would be kindest to Sarah to change the subject. She could tell the poor girl was suffering over the forthcoming loss of her amorata.
So Elsie cut in: “How would you hang someone off a tree? Does some poor bloke scramble up the tree and fasten the rope to a branch, risking his own neck to do it? It must be much more difficult than hanging some poor girl who killed her baby off a gallows.”
“Or a highwayman!” Said Sarah.
“Or a highway woman,” said Anne. “If they ever had highway women, that is.”
“I bet there was one somewhere. Elizabeth would be a good candidate.” Elsie giggled.
“That would be a good ending, wouldn’t it? I would not mind that,” Elizabeth declared, half choking over her wine.
Everyone rocked, except Sarah, who looked even more down.
“What do you think about the ladder, Sarah?” Elsie asked, hoping to chase away the gathering cloud from Sarah’s face.
“Oh, they probably used a ladder,” said Sarah. “The poor chap who was being hanged had to climb one, so they could pull it away and hang him, so they probably used the same ladder. Seems logical to me.”
“But a ladder could easily slip off the branch as you are climbing up it to fix the rope.” Elsie objected. “No, probably somebody scrambled up and fixed the rope and then they put up the ladder. Quite likely the man on the branch tied the ladder so it could not slip when the victim went up.”
“Well, then they could not pull it away and hang the poor highwayman, stupid!” Said Elizabeth.
“Well, in the end the poor highwayman was off the ladder and dead, so what did the rest of it matter?” Sarah stated, sounding giggly and drunk and melancholy all at once.
It was obvious Elsie thought they had reached a boundary in their supping of the wine. Elizabeth had drunk a good deal more than the rest of them and was sounding sillier and sillier, but none of them were very sober and she was not convinced that the alcohol was doing Sarah any good at all. It just seemed to make her more and more melancholy. And there were four bottles still to go. The situation seemed both very intriguing and very dangerous.
Young men were supposed to become very interesting when they got drunk, but it was something a well brought up young lady was never supposed to do. She wondered how silly they were going to get. But she was not going to be sensible and tell her friends to stop drinking. They would, of course, not take the least notice of her, and anyway she really wanted to see just what happened when they all got rolling drunk. Provided they were careful when they got back to the school, there was no reason anyone else would know what they had been up to, but they would have to be careful. Dare she bribe one of the gardeners to go and fetch the hamper? It was bound to get left behind with the wheelbarrow.
She and Anne got through several more glasses, and her head began to float in a most odd way. She was vaguely aware that Elizabeth and Sarah were talking intensely and kept hoping that Sarah was going to accept her friend’s departure and not need comforting.
Then the register of the voices suddenly changed and Elizabeth was saying to Sarah, “Pat my bottom for me, dear. It will probably be our last chance.”
Then Sarah was replying in a fluster, “Not now, dear, it’s not the sort of thing we do when other people are about.”
“Oh go on, dear. You know I like it, and you like doing it. I will do it for you in a minute, too, dear. Have another drink first, if it makes it easier,” Elizabeth was saying, sounding very drunk, but oddly practical.
Elsie and Anne exchanged sardonic glances. This was something they were well aware, though it was barely talked about, that some girls did, apparently including Elizabeth and Sarah.
Sarah was very obviously having another drink. Elsie asked herself if she should intervene and decided she should not, though she was not quite sure why.
She poured herself and Anne another drink. She realized through the mist that she and Anne were sat facing one another and they were steadfastly ignoring the very odd events that were going on only a few feet away. Anne must have a slightly better view than she did, but only slightly, she decided.
She heard Sarah saying, “Shall I taken them down? There are people here, dear,” and Elizabeth saying, “I don’t think they mind too much. Just get on and do it, please.”
Elsie imagined Elizabeth, with her Summer frock and petticoats above her waist, about to have her plain school drawers lowered, and thought it oddly interesting, though she thought it too private to look.
“Thank you, dear!” She heard Elizabeth say.
Presumably said drawers had now descended.
“And my shift!” Elizabeth said.
“Really, you are being a bit naughty, Elizabeth!” Sarah said quite loudly and quite angrily.
Then there was the sound of a hand hitting bare flesh hard. For a small woman, Sarah could spank surprisingly efficiently, Elsie decided, judging both by the noise of the spanking, which suggested something slow, hard and deliberate, and Elizabeth’s increasing whimpering, which eventually turned to tears and pleading.
“Should we do something?” Elsie whispered across to Anne, feeling the whole thing was getting dangerous. What if someone came along at this moment?
“Nonsense! They are both enjoying it. In fact I was just thinking I’d like to do it for you. You said you had never been spanked the other day, and you sounded interested. I’ve been spanked a lot so I don’t need to find out what it is like, but I’d enjoy showing you.”
“Did I say I was interested in finding out what being spanked is like?” Said Elsie awkwardly, realizing Elizabeth had just started to make some very loud and unladylike noises, which sounded strangely intriguing.
“Yes, you more or less did; anyway I am sure it was what you meant.”
Elsie felt herself compelled by a desire to do something totally outrageous; she had never done anything really outrageous in the whole of her life. And if Anne wanted to spank her, why not? She had always had a desire to find out what it was like, though she did not want her friend thinking that this was any more than an experiment; Anne was definitely not her amorata, her loved one.
“Alright. I will submit to lying across your knee and you do the rest; but if I ask you to stop, then you stop. Alright?” Elsie said, trying to sound as cool and detached as she possibly could. “But it is just a game mind, no more and no less.”
“Yes, alright. Just take your time, dear. No need to hurry.”
It was hard to tell from Anne’s tone if this was a game to her, or not, but having started Elsie did not want to stop.
Then Elsie, who was a good swimmer, had the distinct impression of standing on a seawall and being about to dive into deep water whose currents she knew nothing of. She finished her glass of wine and drank another before placing herself across Anne’s waiting lap. She rather self-consciously clasped her hands together, sure that otherwise she would put them across her bottom the moment the spanking started.
“Sorry, but it would be easier if you took your outer clothes off. I’m having trouble pulling them up, they are too tight. Trust you not to wear a dress to picnic!” She heard Anne’s voice somewhere in the distance.
She stood up and complied, swaying a little. While she was reducing herself to her drawers, shift and stockings, she rather embarrassedly catching a glimpse of Sarah’s small bottom being revealed as her grey shift was lifted. In spite of herself, Elsie could not help thinking how pretty that small round bottom was. Was her own bum anything like as good as that, she found herself wondering. She hoped the other girls were not going to despise the contours of her behind.
She lay back down across Anne’s knee and clasped her hands. She felt her white cotton drawers being unceremoniously lowered to her knees and hoped there were not any unseemly marks on them. And then her shift was above her waist and the spanking had begun. Anne started slowly, to Elsie’s relief, with little more than patting, which she found quite arousing, especially as she could hear the sound of Elizabeth spanking Sarah and the spanks seemed to coincide with her own. Gradually, Anne increased the hardness of the spanks and Elsie went through a period of real pain and tears. She almost asked for it to stop, but she wanted to know what lay on the other side because of those strange noises that Elizabeth had made. Then suddenly she found her whole body exploding at almost exactly the same moment as Sarah also started making the same wild animal noises. Then the spanking stopped and she lay quietly across Anne’s knee while her hair and the nape of her neck were stroked, very gently and kindly.
Then somewhere in the distance she was pulling her drawers up and having another glass of wine.
“Anne, I really want to spank you,” she said.
“Don’t be silly,” said Anne. “I really hate being spanked. You ought to know that. I’ve said it often enough.”
“You are horrid. I don’t think you are really my friend!”
“Fuck you, you cow, I don’t want you to be my friend either.”
Elsie reached for the wine again. Anne moved over and joined Elizabeth and Sarah, who seemed to be up to something. Elsie could hear as in a dream Elizabeth talking, but it could not be real, could it?
“I bet there is a ladder in that little barn to the side of the wood and we would be unlucky if anyone was to see us. I just want to see what it feels like to be about to be hanged. I should have been a lady highwayman. Not that I am going to jump, girls. Don’t worry about that. And leave your skirts off, girls; they will only get in the way.”
Elsie knew she should have intervened, but she felt she was no longer in the real world and she just wanted to lie in this cooling breeze forever. Anyway, Elizabeth could not possibly have meant it, could she? It must be a dream.
She was woken by a sharp slap on her backside. A large man in jacket and plus fours was leaning over her.
“Come on, Missy, make yourself decent and stir yourself. We are going to see your headmistress. Damn good thing I came by. Your friends were up to the most stupid thing I have seen in my life. Why on earth didn’t you try and stop them? Come along, stir yourself.”
A dazed Elsie followed after the three girls and one man, and wondered if they should not have a chaperone, now this strange man had arrived. That was the proper thing, wasn’t it? Anyway, what stupid thing could the other three have possibly been doing? It couldn’t be that bad, could it? Not as totally vile as Anne refusing to be spanked.
* * *
The following morning in Miss Yeats’ study, Elsie’s head was feeling as if it was going to burst and, looking round the room, she decided that her three friends must be in much the same condition. She glanced out of the window at the two lovely old oak trees that graced the small bit of parkland outside the Headmistress’s window.
“Well,” said Miss Yeats from behind her immaculately polished oak desk. “I cannot say that I have ever experienced a situation remotely like this. Two normally very reliable assistant mistresses show a total lack of responsibility. Two normally sensible senior girls, who are both on the verge of leaving school and entering into the greater world of the supposedly adult, behave like five-year-olds. What am I to do with you? I know alcohol undoubtedly played a part. But in the lord’s name what was going on? I gather from Farmer Barnes, who mercifully has a sense of humour and a certain tolerance towards the young, that he came on the four of you in a clearing in Langley Wood, and all of you except Anne were in your underclothes and you were all extremely drunk. And even more alarmingly, Elizabeth was up a ladder with a rope draped round her neck. What sort of tom-foolery were you up to? Well Elizabeth? Were you trying to imitate the Bachanalian orgies that Ovid so vividly describes, though I suppose if you had been you would have torn poor Farmer Barnes to pieces, which really would not do.”
“It was just a game, Miss Yeats. We had been talking about what it was like to be hanged and I wanted to find out and the others helped me.”
“By stealing Farmer Barnes’ ladder and rope, apparently.” Said Miss Yeats very dryly. “And what, young lady, if you had tumbled off the ladder with the rope round your neck? What would I be saying to your parents now?”
“I am extremely sorry, Miss Yeats.” Anne replied very lamely, looking slightly green.
“And as to the rest of you, what on earth did you think you were doing? You did not just let Elizabeth do a most ridiculous thing that could well have killed her, you actually helped her to do it. And as to wandering round the countryside in a state of undress, it is unbelievably unladylike. Luckily for you, as I say, Farmer Barnes has a sense of humour and feels the young always do something like this once in their lives and without my asking he assured me that he will forget the whole matter. This is just as well, because otherwise all four of you would be out on your ears without any references, now or in the future. I could not have this school’s name associated with such behaviour.”
Everyone bowed their heads and muttered they were extremely sorry. Elsie felt great relief and wondered to herself what would have happened if Farmer Barnes had seen them spanking one another, but presumably he hadn’t. But perhaps he had kept it to himself. If so, it was very kind of him. Clearly, he had been frightened by Elizabeth standing on the ladder with the rope round her neck, which was the point at which he had intervened and marched them back to the school.
Luckily, he had taken them to the headmistress’s house, which was quite a bit away from the main school. Otherwise, everyone would have known and they would be disgraced in the eyes of the whole school. Actually, Miss Yeats had been very kind, brewing strong coffee in large quantities and letting them stay in her house overnight. But now, come the morning, Miss Yeats was playing the deeply offended headmistress and seemed frighteningly formidable.
People often used the word ‘dragon’ where Miss Yeats was concerned. Iris had used it straight after her whipping was over. ‘It wasn’t your fault Elsie, she’s just a dragon’ the girl had said. But was the headmistress playing a role, or saying what she really felt? Elsie found it almost impossible to know, but the fact that Miss Yeats had been so kind the night before rather suggested she might be looking for a way out for them this morning, even though she had to pretend to be angry. But what way out? Really, there was not an obvious way out from the mess they had landed themselves in by this silly caper.
But how had Elizabeth got on the ladder? Her memory on the subject was very hazy. In fact, she could remember very little after Elizabeth said to Anne and Sarah that they should get the ladder and she had not felt strong enough to object, which she felt very guilty about.
She realized, through her hangover, that Miss Yeats was still lecturing them, but the tone of her voice was altering and growing even more serious.
“You have already in a sense punished yourselves. At any rate, you have discovered what a really bad hangover is like. However, I would not like it to be said that I had tolerated this appalling behaviour, or for any of you to think you got off scot-free.
“Elizabeth Doyle, I hold you to be the chief culprit, even though you are a pupil. I am sorely tempted to send you home immediately and let your Father deal with you. However, I know your Father has extremely severe views on discipline, which include the cane for girls, which I do not agree with, and I also know that you have not had a happy relationship with either of your parents, so I am going to let you stay the ten days till you are due to leave to start your job and not say anything to your parents about this lamentable incident or indeed to anyone outside this room.”
“I really am grateful, Miss.” Elizabeth was murmuring as Miss Yeats paused briefly.
Miss Yeats continued, “I should not be too grateful, Elizabeth. You are going to have six with the rod on your bare behind, which will hopefully be enough to persuade you not to do anything so bloody silly again.”
Elsie thought to herself, while Miss Yeats seemed to pause again, that a school girl who had sworn like that would undoubtedly have had the rod on her bare behind, but headmistresses did not have to worry about such things. At least she was a member of staff and she was most likely going to have her not very large pay docked; she would certainly not be whipped, which after yesterday’s experiment was a relief, for she felt extremely tender. Anne had undoubtedly rather overdone it, though it had been, to say the least, interesting. The thing was though, Elsie realized, she definitely did not want to do it with Anne again, though she had a very strong, very insistent feeling that regular sessions with Sarah might be very interesting. She really liked Sarah for a lot of reasons and not just the shape of her bottom.
“Sarah Brown, you have on the whole been very well behaved during your rather too long stay in this school, and I know when you have been in trouble, which is not very often, your friend Miss Doyle has usually been largely responsible. Therefore you will get off with three strokes of the rod on your bare behind.”
Elsie heard a definite whimper from Sarah, which surprised her, given the sang froid with which Sarah had taken her spanking the day before; but perhaps Sarah was as tender as she was, or simply had never been whipped before. She hadn’t experienced the rod either, she thought with a slight shiver. Still, if the rod was the means of keeping her job, so be it, though she doubted if it was on offer.
“As to you two, I really do not know what to do with members of staff who behave so unbelievably stupidly. You are both capable teachers and both of you should have known a great deal better. On the other hand, I half agree with the good Farmer Barnes that we all do one really stupid thing when we are young and you are both reasonably good at your job. Therefore, if you choose to, you can take a whipping like the two girls and remain in this school.
I think Elizabeth Doyle is capable of leading on even those who are supposed to be in charge of her, so, if you take the punishment, you will get five apiece. I think one less than her is just about fair. If, of course, you don’t take the rod the consequences may well be unpleasant; immediate dismissal without references comes to mind.”
“You did say NO references, didn’t you?” Elsie heard a very startled Anne saying, obviously calculating the level of job, if any, that she was likely to get after being fired without a reference. However, Miss Yeats did not even bother to reply.
Then Anne was glancing at Elsie, obviously totally unsure what to say. Elsie reflected that she had lived through the bad bit of the spanking the previous day and quite enjoyed the conclusion. Oh what the hell!
“I am very grateful for the offer, Miss Yeats,” she stated, “Not least because I genuinely enjoy teaching at this school. Alright, I will take the good hiding.”
“Good girl!” Said Miss Yeats approvingly. “And what about you, Miss Paxton?”
Everybody’s eyes turned simultaneously to Anne Paxton, who seemed to visibly flinch. Elsie remembered her fellow teacher’s lack of enthusiasm for being spanked on the previous, so cloudily distant afternoon. Anne had sworn at her with unnecessary virulence when she suggested it and although Elsie made some allowance for the fact that they had both been rolling drunk she still felt humiliated by Anne’s refusal.
“I am just not sure.” Anne said in a half mutter. “It is kind of you, Miss Yeats, but I am twenty-three, which is much too old, and the last time I was whipped I had trouble taking it. Besides, what if it gets out? I will be a laughing stock.”
“Well, if we do it now while the whole school is in St Bartholomew’s church for an edifying sermon from the Reverend Grant, it is unlikely anyone will know.” Miss Yeats remarked dryly. “There are, of course, a couple of girls in the Sanatorium, but that is on the other side of the school. And even my secretary is out because it is Sunday.”
Elsie reflected that Miss Yeats often seemed to find excuses to avoid the Reverend Grant’s sermons, surprisingly often for a headmistress.
“We can even shut the windows in here, not that sound carries that much. And I promise you that the only people who will know about this are the people in this room.” Miss Yeats continued.
“Go on Anne! You can take it.” Elizabeth suddenly exclaimed.
“Really, Elizabeth Doyle, that is no way to speak to a teacher. This is really how this whole disaster happened, isn’t it? You have no sense of propriety.” Miss Yeats snarled, looking very angry.
After that, for a horrible few seconds Elsie could see herself and Anne being out on their ears without any references. Would her Father help her in this situation? He had made it very clear he expected her to be independent and had no spare funds since he had lost all that money on the Stock Exchange.
Anne had a reasonably well-off Aunt, didn’t she, but would she fund someone who had brought dishonour to the family name?
Anne suddenly said with desperation in her voice, “It’s not that I won’t take a whipping, Miss Yeats, it is rather that I can’t. You would have to get someone to hold me and I don’t want any of the other mistresses to know. It’s bound to get out if one of the mistresses holds me. Besides, we would have to put it off till this afternoon when everyone is back in school.”
A tense few seconds followed during which Elizabeth stood there looking at her toes, quite unsure what to do, and Elsie suspected that Miss Yeats was very unwillingly summoning the strength to give Anne notice to leave the school, and quite probably herself.
“Can I say something Miss Yeats?” Sarah suddenly piped up, having stayed very quiet up to this point.
“I suppose so, Sarah, though I really cannot imagine what.” Miss Yeats snapped.
“If Miss Paxton wants to be whipped, but cannot take it, couldn’t the rest of us hold her?”
“She is a pretty big girl. It would take all three of you. Are all three of you prepared to hold her, however much she struggles?” Miss Yeats demanded, glaring ferociously round the room.
Anne and Sarah immediately said yes. Elsie knew she ought to say yes, but felt very uncomfortable about it. Anne willingly taking a punishment was one thing, but Anne struggling desperately was quite another.
“Well, Miss Elsie Smith, are you going to restrain your fellow drunkard, or not?” Miss Yeats demanded.
“Please say yes, Elsie.” Anne pleaded.
“Alright, I will do it.” Said Elsie, feeling far from comfortable about it, but bowing to necessity.
“Good! I am going to cut some fresh hazel branches. Nothing like being thorough in these matters. When I return, I expect you all to be in your shifts and stockings and shoes.”
Then Miss Yeats had gone through the door and they were all looking at one another and then, by mutual instinct, they started very unwillingly to undress.
“However did it come to this?” Said Elsie, as she undid the buttons on her blouse. “This is the maddest thing I have known in my life.”
“I really enjoyed going completely wild for an afternoon.” Said Elizabeth. “This is almost worth it. Anyway, it will be better than the cane from Papa.”
“I hope you don’t mind, but I’d better go first.” Anne cut in as she stepped out of her drawers. “Hold me over her desk and keep me there. Elsie, you had better hold my legs off the ground. I always kick wildly when I am whipped. Sarah and Anne, you had better hold on to my hands or I will put them over my bottom and get extra. And please, all of you, hold on, or we will never get through it.”
“I think you are tougher than that.” Said Elsie. “Though I have to confess I seem to remember you, so far as I can remember anything, refusing to let me spank you yesterday, which I thought was a bit off. Go on. Just take it and please try not to make any fuss, it will be much less embarrassing if you do.”
“I just don’t like being spanked; it is as simple as that.” Anne exclaimed, tossing her long back hair and visibly bristling.
“You can still go first.” Elizabeth told Anne, rather obviously trying to divert her from the quarrel that was rapidly brewing. “She is bound to want me to go last.”
“In which case Sarah can go second and me third, I suppose.” Elsie said briskly, pausing before removing her second petticoat.
“That is really kind of you, Elsie. I am really grateful for that!” Sarah said suddenly, giving Elsie an unexpected hug, which caught her off balance, not least because Sarah had undressed more quickly than the rest of them and was already down to her plain grey woollen shift.
Elsie disentangled herself from Elsie’s warm young flesh and very reluctantly pulled her second very plain white petticoat over her head, which was one too many for June, she thought. Which just left her drawers, which she felt extremely reluctant to remove. Perhaps Anne had been sensible to take hers off first, for it did seem to be the most awkward part of the exercise.
She looked round and realized that Elizabeth, of all people, was having the same problem as herself.
“It’s the bit that really makes you realize it is going to happen.” She called out with a very forced grin.
“Like it must be when you put the blindfold on before a beheading.” Elizabeth answered her.
Then, with a mutual giggle, they lowered their drawers simultaneously, as Elsie thought, with a shiver, it was perhaps just as well that Elizabeth had not been in the mood to enact a beheading the previous afternoon.
They stood about and made some awkward small talk for over ten minutes as Elsie felt more and more desperate, and she kept noticing how tortured Sarah’s face was. Anne was in tears, and Elizabeth did not look very happy, but somehow it was Sarah that worried her.
Finally, the door opened and the headmistress entered carrying some very straight and supple hazel branches, which she had stripped the bark off.
And so the punishments began.
First Anne panicked, just as she had said she would do. She seemed to freeze to the spot, and pleaded desperately, and it took all four women to put her over the top of the desk, which Elsie felt to be very wrong in some way, though she played her part since there was no other way out and cursed herself for doing it.
As she took Anne’s feet in her hands, Elsie heard, “This is the end of our friendship, Elsie. I am never going to forgive you for this.”
And yet Anne had asked her to do it, so she clung on to her friend’s feet and hoped Anne would in fact be grateful when it was all over, though she too was very unsure about their friendship. At least she could not see Anne’s face and she could barely see her bottom. But then there was the noise of loud whacks, six times at quite wide intervals, each followed by hysterical screams. And each time Anne’s body convulsed and Elsie felt the pain throbbing through her friend and cried a little herself.
When it was over, she felt Anne’s body go limp and there was the noise of huge amounts of sobbing, that sounded as if it was never going to stop. She let Anne’s feet go and turned away from the distressing scene; there did not seem anything else to do.
“The extra one was for making such a damn fuss.” Said Miss Yeats. “Thank you, girls, for helping with such an unpleasant task. I think we will have the rest of you over the back of a chair, since hopefully you are going to co-operate.”
Elsie noticed that Anne’s shift was still up, and she strolled over as nonchalantly as she could and pulled it down, noticing as she did that her poor friend’s bottom looked very red and swollen.
Miss Yeats, meanwhile, had positioned her chair.
“Who is next?” She asked.
Sarah, without saying a word, walked forward, pulled her shift up above her waist and bent over the chair. Elsie noticed that the victim was not quite tall enough to touch the seat on the other side. She also could not help noticing yet again how pretty Sarah’s little bum was. Why did Sarah think she was not pretty? She was the prettiest girl there, in Elsie’s opinion.
The stick suddenly whacked and the victim said a deeply felt, “ouch”, and there was a very visible large red line across the middle of Sarah’s small white buttocks. It was all very similar to watching poor Iris being whipped, which had only been a week ago, though it seemed years. Sarah’s bottom was smaller than Iris’s, though she was actually quite a lot older.
The stick whacked again, perhaps an inch below the previous welt, and Sarah restrained a yell and just said “Aah” several times.
Elsie tensed as it suddenly struck her that in no more than a couple of minutes she was going to be bending over the chair herself.
Sure enough, Miss Yeats was raising her stick for the third time. It whacked along the base of those pretty buttocks and Sarah really yelled. However, she stood up quite quickly and felt her bottom through her grey shift with the tears rolling down her cheeks. Clearly it had hurt, Elsie decided with a shiver.
She realized that she could not see the headmistress. She wondered for a second if Miss Yeats was still in the room, and then noticed that she was by her desk choosing another rod from the little heap she had brought in; the previous one must have broken. Elsie paused, not wanting to bend over the chair too soon. Then she wished she had walked to the chair and bent over straight away. She could feel her feet beginning to freeze to the spot. However, she was determined not to be as silly as Anne had been and made herself walk forward, though she was shaking.
“You’re next, are you?” Miss Yeats asked rather unnecessarily as she strode over from the desk, rod in hand.
“Yes, Miss Yeats.”
“Then pull your shift up and bend over the back of the chair. Really I should not have to tell you.”
“I am sorry, Miss Yeats.”
Elsie bit her lip hard and, despite a very strong desire to do almost anything else, pulled up her shift and bent over the chair with her whole body quaking. She could feel the top rail of the chair touching her stomach. It must have been sticking into poor Sarah’s tummy and causing her quite a lot of additional discomfort, she realized. However, she was tall enough to hold on to the sides of the seat, which she felt relieved about, for it gave her something solid to hold on to.
And she held on for dear life, saying “ouch” or “aah” with increasing feeling for each of the first three whacks, but she did not cry, though it stung enough.
“So you think you are tough, do you, Miss Smith? Well, we had better do something to disillusion you.” She suddenly heard the headmistress’s voice.
Then Miss Yeats seemed to open her shoulders with the fourth whack, which really hurt, and Elsie started to bawl; and if anything the fifth was harder than the fourth, and she found herself in precisely the hysterics she had been determined to avoid.
Then all she wanted to do was to get dressed.
She ought to have missed Elizabeth’s whacking because of this, but perhaps Miss Yeats waited for her. At any rate, Elsie had just finished putting on her grey skirt when Elizabeth’s comeuppance started.
And then Elizabeth was lifting her legs up and down and making a lot of noise, while a larger hazel branch than had been used on the previous victims raised big welts on her plump bottom. As Elizabeth bawled and pleaded, Elsie felt that she was witnessing a very well-deserved punishment which filled her with a very unholy, but very real pleasure. Six, she felt, if anything was too few for such infamous behaviour, which had landed them all in it and, moreover, Elizabeth had not shown the slightest contrition and she felt very annoyed about the way that Sarah had been treated.
Then it was all over. Elizabeth and Anne seemed very slow to get dressed again, though Miss Yeats kept muttering at the two slow coaches.
Then she turned to Sarah and Elsie and said, “You two can go! No need to wait for the others.”
They limped out of the door.
“I’ve got some good cream that Anne and I used, well you know when we did things like we did yesterday, but I am never going to speak to Elizabeth again after all the trouble she got us into. Do you want to come to my room and share it? I like you.” Sarah said very shyly and awkwardly.
“I like you too,” Elsie found herself saying, equally awkwardly. “Yes, let’s share your cream. In fact I like you a lot.”
They limped down the corridor together as Elsie had the distinct impression of standing by a gate into a wood.
“Just a silly day dream,” she decided, though it seemed an oddly hopeful image.
Then Sarah suddenly squeezed her hand and the gate seemed to open.
© Jane Fairweather 2019
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