A headmaster over-reacts

By Capstan

5th April 1982 and, whilst the rest of the country was focussed on the departure of the Naval Taskforce to recover the Falkland Islands, Ernest Eastern-Roberts, seated at his desk in the Headmaster’s study of ‘Lady Upshott’s School for Young Ladies’, deep in the Dorset countryside, once again pondered his future. No longer a serving Naval Officer, nor for the last three years even a reservist, Ernest briefly considered the fate of men who would shortly be facing significantly bigger challenges.

Returning to his own problem, Ernest was under significant pressure from both the Chairman of his Board of Governors and several parents to do something that he was absolutely determined not to do; cane a girl whom he knew was innocent. Worse, the young lady concerned was his own eighteen-year-old daughter, Aurora. He needed to either find a way out or resign.

Forty-eight years old, standing six feet tall, Ernest still cut an imposing figure; although slightly overweight and with his dark brown hair now significantly receding, his bright blue eyes gave him a kindly appearance. He had come into teaching late. After leaving public school, he had taken a law degree at Oxford and completed post graduate training to qualify as a barrister. Ernest had then joined the Royal Navy on a short career commission, with his final posting being to the Naval Prosecuting Authority. Having by then met and fallen in love with Hazel, a newly qualified teacher, and realising that he actually enjoyed teaching himself, he did not extend his commitment to the Royal Navy, and undertook a post graduate teacher’s qualification.

As soon as he had qualified and obtained his first teaching post, he proposed, he and Hazel getting married on the first day of half term in February 1963; the honeymoon in a Welsh cottage being crammed into the remaining days of the half term holiday. The happy couple were soon blessed with their only child, Aurora, who arrived on 1st December 1964. The family lived relatively comfortably as both parents had their own, small, private incomes from family trust funds. Hazel took a break from teaching until Aurora went to school, doing occasional French translations from home, and then became a supply teacher.

With two loving and caring parents, and a naturally intelligent and sweet nature, Aurora blossomed into a pretty and charming little girl. She was seldom in trouble at home and any issues were discussed rationally and calmly with her supportive and understanding parents. Physical punishment, whilst not totally unknown in Aurora’s life, was rare and, when required, was always explained and accepted.

In particular, Aurora was empathetic and, in her parents’ experience, consistently truthful. Last caught in a lie at the age of eight, her spanking by her loving father had hurt but it was his disappointment that had the bigger impact. She tearfully promised never to lie again and had, surprisingly, been able to keep her promise; an occasional evasion, and avoidance in volunteering the truth unless directly asked, being the extent of any deceit.

In September 1973, Ernest moved to teach ‘O’ level History and ‘A’ Level Economics, together with mathematics for the junior school at a mixed grammar school. Twelve months later, things were looking even better for the family as all arrived at school together; Ernest was now head of history, Aurora had easily passed her eleven plus and was entering the first year, and Hazel had also joined the school as a teacher of French and English.

The good times were not to last; on the first day of the summer holidays in July 1977, Hazel and Aurora were using the Zebra crossing on the road in the village where they lived, when a speeding car failed to stop or even slow. Although Hazel managed to push Aurora out of the way, the car hit her. Hazel died six hours later with Ernest and Aurora at her bedside. The loss of their beloved wife and mother hit them both hard but, by the end of the summer, with the support of Hazel’s parents and one or two close friends, it brought father and daughter even closer together. Despite the memories they returned to school in September and sought to carry on as before. It appeared that all was going well until, only two weeks before Christmas, an event took place that changed both of their lives.

Ernest put his head in his hands as he recalled how first his daughter and then Mr Hartliss, the headmaster, had explained what had happened. It was the end of the morning and Mr Hartliss was making his way along the landing to the top of the stairs in the main building; the students were descending the stairs and he saw Phyllis, a classmate of Aurora’s, suddenly pitch forward and fall to the bottom of the stairs, apparently pushed. John Hartliss did not see who did it, because the perpetrator had her back to him, but it was one of two girls with golden blonde hair in ponytails. He ran forward but by the time he got to Phyllis, who had an obviously broken leg, it was Aurora who was kneeling next to her. Matron was summoned and took charge as an ambulance was called.

John Hartliss had no proof, and did not seek any; he was convinced that Aurora must have been the girl doing the pushing, and was assisting because she was sorry for what she had done. As soon as Matron arrived, the headmaster hauled Aurora to her feet and dragged her to his office. He shouted to Mrs Brandon, his secretary, to bring the punishment book and the cane and then told Aurora to stand on the carpet in front of his desk.

The head teacher bellowed at the frightened Aurora, “You wicked girl, now see what you have done. Phyllis has a badly broken leg, and I am going to give you the caning of a lifetime. Lift your skirt and bend over the chair.”

“But Sir, I didn’t do anything. I did not push Phyllis. I do not know who did but, when I saw her fall, I went to help her because she is my friend.”

“Don’t lie to me. You pushed her, and I am going to cane you. NOW BEND OVER!”

Horrified, but knowing she was innocent, Aurora persisted; “No Sir, I won’t. I haven’t done anything. I want to speak to Daddy.”

The raised voices carried through to the adjacent office and Mary, one of the young administrative assistants, on her own initiative, phoned the staff room and asked for Ernest to come immediately.

“You dare defy me? This has nothing to do with your father! Bend over this instant! Or it will be nine strokes.”

“No sir, I will not. I have done nothing wrong. I do not know who pushed Phyllis, but it was not me. I must speak to my father. Please, this is not fair. I have done nothing wrong.”

Grabbing the struggling Aurora, the headmaster forced her over the desk, and then demanded that Ivy Brandon hold the girl’s arms. In her struggles, Aurora’s left heel accidentally made contact with the headmaster’s right shin.

“Kick me, would you? Damn you! Now you are really for it! TWELVE STROKES!”

The horrified girl, with both hands held securely by the secretary, was unable to resist as the headmaster first raised her skirt and then dragged Aurora’s maroon uniform knickers to her knees.

“Please Sir, you can’t! I didn’t do it! Please!”

Embarrassed as well as frightened, Aurora was sobbing before the first stroke even landed. Ignoring the girl’s pleas, the furious headmaster lashed out with all his strength twelve times as Aurora screamed in terror. In less than forty seconds, it was all over.

“Now you can go and see your father. Get out!”

Aurora could barely see through her tears and could hardly walk as she staggered from the office sobbing uncontrollably. She was heading for her dad’s classroom whilst he approached the Headmaster’s office from the opposite direction.

Seeing his distraught daughter, head down and limping towards him, Ernest broke into a run and swept her into his arms. Aurora buried her head into his chest and sobbed.

“Daddy, I didn’t do it! I didn’t, really. I didn’t! I told him, but he wouldn’t believe me! He just kept adding strokes; then, when he got to twelve, he had Mrs Bandon hold me down and he took my knickers down. He caned my bare bottom! I couldn’t stop him! It’s not fair, it wasn’t me!”

Stroking her hair, calming her, and murmuring into her ear, her father said, “I know, my darling. I know it wasn’t you.”

Ernest realised Aurora was in no state to meet her classmates. As they were just passing Matron’s office, he gently lowered his daughter to her feet, knocked and entered. Quickly explaining what had happened, and asking the kindly Mavis Gentle if she could look after Aurora for the afternoon until he could return, Ernest told his daughter he would be right back. A furious father then strode purposefully towards the Headmaster’s study.

The distraught Aurora, having failed to close the study door behind her, meant Ernest heard the headmaster’s conversation clearly.

“Yes, Mr Arkwright, Phyllis is being well looked after. Her form teacher is with her and she is on her way to hospital. Yes, I have found out who is responsible. Yes, we take this very seriously. Yes, absolutely, the wicked girl is now very sorry. Yes, it was the cane; twelve strokes on her bare bottom. Quite! Let me know how Phyllis is, and tell her we all hope she is better soon.”

As John Hartliss put down the phone, Ernest banged twice on the open door and marched in.

Glaring at the interruption, John Hartliss barked, “Your daughter is a bully, she injured a classmate and was also insolent. She has been duly punished; there is nothing more to be said.”

“Mr Hartliss, there is a great deal more to be said, and I will be returning to your office at 4.00 pm to do just that, by which time I expect you to have the Chairman of the Board of Governors with you. Your conduct has been outrageous and at 4.00 pm I will advise you of precisely what I intend to do about it.”

With a smart about turn leaving the stunned headteacher speechless, Ernest left the office.

His next stop was Aurora’s class and those who were near her when the incident occurred. Four other girls and two boys stated clearly that they were with her and that she definitely did not push Phyllis, although no one was willing to identify the culprit; three added that she could not have done it, as there was a complete row of students between the two girls at the time. Having made notes of the names of those concerned, he left them to it. Ernest was now reasonably certain he knew the girl involved, but, with what he had, he was unclear if the push, if push it was, had even been deliberate.

He popped in to see Aurora again before his first class after lunch, and reassured her that he knew she had done nothing wrong. Ernest then apologised for having let her down and having been unable to protect her. He told her he loved her and he would work something out that would be for the best. He then promised that he would never, ever, allow John Hartliss to hurt her again. He also told her that he knew how she was feeling, because the only time that he had been caned at school had also been for something he had not done.

The 4.00 pm meeting with John Hartliss and Lt Col J H C Smithers, MC, Rtd, the Chairman of the board of Governors, was not a comfortable one for either. Edward, having brought Aurora in with him and standing with his arms around her waist, produced one of his best forensic examinations. Introducing his evidence, he obtained a confession that the headmaster had not actually seen Aurora push Phyllis and it might have been someone else. The headmaster also admitted that for any punishment of more than 6 strokes parents had to be advised and suspension offered as an alternative, and that any punishment over eight strokes needed the approval of the Chair of the Governors, which had not been sought. Ernest told the shaken headmaster that he was a disgrace to the teaching profession, and should consider his position; also, that Aurora deserved an apology, which should really be in public and before the whole school, but that he doubted that the headmaster was man enough to give one.

Asked if he had anything else to say, John Hartliss, however, point blank refused to apologise to Aurora for his behaviour, maintaining that he could administer punishment to any pupil as he saw fit and he was the sole judge of fact in such cases. Anything else would undermine his authority and that of teachers in general. His next statement shocked both father and daughter.

“The punishment handed out, although technically excessive, was necessary for the good of the school. Phyllis’s father was satisfied, and there would now be no need for police involvement, nor any adverse publicity. So-what if a girl was occasionally punished unfairly! Life is unfair and it is as well to learn that. If Aurora has learned that today, then I have done her a favour.”

Aurora turned her head towards her father and tears began to flow again.

“Hartliss, I have already told you that you are a disgrace to the profession and you have just proved it. I have a good mind to take your cane and thrash YOU within an inch of your life!”

 

“You have no authority to beat a child who has done nothing wrong; you have no authority to assume an offence has been committed without investigating; you certainly have no authority to disregard school rules on which every parent, myself included, is entitled to rely. What you have done on this occasion goes far beyond any legal defence of ‘Reasonable Chastisement’. It constitutes assault and could result in criminal prosecution and a civil claim for damages against you and vicariously, the school, the governors and the local education authority. In the latter case I need only prove my case on behalf of Aurora on the balance of probabilities. Colonel Smither’s, do you really wish to risk that after what you have just heard?

“Although we have right on our side, I wish to avoid Aurora having to relive her recent horrific experience in court and being dragged through the newspapers. This is therefore what is going to happen.

 

“Firstly, Hartliss, you are going to retire at the end of this school year and will give notice to that effect to Colonel Smithers this afternoon. I am letting you retire with dignity, which is more than you deserve, in recognition that you were once a fine teacher.

 

“Secondly, you are also, with immediate effect, going to delegate the administration of all corporal punishment to the deputy headmistress.

 

“Thirdly, you are going to accept this letter withdrawing Aurora from this school and will support to the LEA (Local Education Authority) my intention to home school her for the rest of this school year.

 

“Fourthly, Colonel Smithers, you are going to accept my resignation with immediate effect and are going to pay me three months’ salary in lieu of notice, on the grounds of constructive dismissal. This claim being based on the fact that no parent could be expected to continue to work for an organisation which had so mistreated his daughter.

 

“Finally, this letter is to be read out in assembly tomorrow, stating merely that Aurora has been removed from the school having been unfairly punished for something she did not do, and that I resigned in protest at her treatment, but that we both wish everyone at the school, staff and students alike every success in the future.”

 

Ernest placed his three letters on the desk.

 

“Gentlemen, do we have an agreement?”

The Headmaster was about to say something but Colonel Smithers forestalled him.

 

“Yes, Ernest, we do. John, you either resign or I commence disciplinary proceedings for your dismissal. For the good of the school, don’t you know. Ernest, I am sorry that things have ended like this, but rest assured you and your charming daughter leave with my very best wishes for the future. You will not be disappointed with your reference, which will accurately reflect your conduct and ability and state that you resigned for family reasons.” He stood and shook Ernest by the hand, before turning to Aurora and saying, “I am so sorry, my dear. We all let you down very badly but I am sure you have a bright future ahead.”

 

They both then left the office and, with Aurora laying on her front across the back seat, they left the school for the last time and Ernest drove carefully back home.

 

Father and daughter gradually entered into the Christmas spirit; the physical marks of her punishment having disappeared by Christmas Day. They spent the holidays with grandparents and Aurora was cocooned in love and support. On Christmas day, in the morning, whilst they were sitting quietly by a roaring fire, Aurora turned to her father and gently said, “Daddy, do you think an innocent person has ever been hanged?”

 

“Yes, my darling, regrettably, I am certain that it must have happened.”

 

Smiling, Aurora kissed him and said, “Well then, I am very lucky!”

 

“How so, my angel?”

 

“Well, Daddy, if they hanged girls rather than caned them, I would not be around, would I?”

 

Edward ran his hands through Aurora’s blonde tresses and kissed her on the forehead. “I so love you!”

 

“Love you too, Daddy!”

 

The two terms of home schooling were a useful reset for them both. Aurora, benefitting from 1:1 tuition, was making good progress. Edward wanted her to get back to normal education in a protected environment and to resume his own career. He therefore discussed matters with Aurora and applied for a post at ‘Lady Upshott’s School for Young Ladies’, which was adding Law and Economics as ‘A’ level options for the girls, and had Aurora sit their entrance exam. Aurora did so well that she was one of two girls selected for a full scholarship and would join in the fourth year. Ernest was also successful with his application, and both started in September 1978. During the summer, both moved to a small house close to the school, although in order to mix with the others Aurora would actually be boarding.

 

Life appeared to be getting back on track. Aurora integrated well and soon made friends. For Ernest, life was also looking up. He fitted in well with the staff and the girls generally both liked and respected him. Very quietly, he and the 30-year-old school secretary, Sylvie Masters, who Aurora also liked, began to realise that they had many things in common; both were however mindful of the possible effect on Aurora, if it looked to her as if her beloved mother were to seem to be replaced in her father’s affections.

 

Three years later, the Deputy Headmistress retired. For the first time, the Governors decided that the role, which also included oversight of day-to-day discipline, could be open to a male teacher; the most serious cases, of course, continuing to be dealt with by the headmistress. Edward was specifically requested to apply.

 

Edward had always told Aurora that she would be treated exactly the same as any other girl and could expect no favours, an indignant Aurora protesting that she had never requested any, and should she deserve punishment, then punished she must be. The consequences of the new role were discussed with Aurora and Edward explained the terms on which he would accept the post, which he had made clear to the governors.

 

Firstly, he would not permit any collective punishments, as they almost always resulted in some students being unjustly punished.

 

Secondly, he would strongly discourage other staff, who could use the slipper, from doing so unless sure that the individual was guilty. He proposed the ‘beyond reasonable doubt’ test defining it as ‘so that you are sure’. In practice, this meant that the student should either be caught in the act, that other evidence should be overwhelming, or that the girl was persuaded to admit to the conduct concerned and accept that she deserved punishment. There would also always be a female witness present whenever he administered corporal punishment, and the parents would always be advised beforehand if the cane was to be used.

 

Finally, he asked for, and had approved, a change to the school rules, to the effect that a girl sentenced to corporal punishment is permitted to request a week’s suspension from school as an alternative to each stroke of the cane. It was made clear that this option could also be invoked during punishment should the girl find the process too distressing.

 

Edward pondered whether he could have done anything more to ensure fairness. Unknown to him, it was the unintended consequences of this last point that had set in motion the problem with which he was now struggling.

It was just after 1.00 pm on the 1st of November 1980, a bright and sunny late autumn day, and Ernest was settling into his new role. The headmistress was away for the week at a conference for the heads of independent girls’ schools, and Edward was in temporary charge. Various girls were strolling in the grounds before afternoon lessons and the Deputy Headmaster also decided on a walk. Two sixth formers, Jane Ireton and Olivia Cromwell, had decided to walk down to the trees by the lake and have a quiet cigarette. Aurora was walking past and saw them, and they her. She said nothing and carried on walking. Shortly afterwards, she waved to her father as he walked in the opposite direction, although they did not speak.

Ernest then emerged from the trees to catch Jane and Olivia red-handed. The cigarettes extinguished and the remainder of the packets confiscated, together with the lighters, the two girls were told to accompany Ernest to the Headmistress’s office. Jane and Olivia were told to stand on the carpet in front of the desk and were asked for an explanation. There was of course little that they could say. Ernest then pointed out that the normal punishment for smoking in school was six strokes of the cane over either skirt or trousers. Consequently, he was now going to call each of their parents.

The two calls were made and, although consent was not formally required, both Jane’s mother and Olivia’s father agreed that the punishment was deserved and should proceed. Ernest then turned back to the two girls and reminded them of the fact that they had the option of a six-week suspension, effective immediately, which would take them up to the end of term, instead of a caning, or a combination of a reduced caning and shorter period of suspension.

Jane was an attractive brunette, of medium height and build, with shoulder length hair in a pony-tail. Studious and talented, predicted to do well in her exams later that year, she was looking forward to the mock exams the following month. In a quiet well-modulated voice she replied, “Please Sir, I am sorry for smoking and I will accept the cane, please.”

He turned to Olivia and the 5’4” tall slim young lady with her auburn hair in a long plait replied, “Sir, I am eighteen years old and I am not going to bend over and let you cane me. I am an adult and should be allowed to smoke if I wish. There is no law against it. So, no, I will not accept the cane and I do not think I should be suspended either. You can also tell Aurora that I will never forgive her for telling on us.”

“Olivia, as a student here you and your parents have agreed to be bound by the school rules. You were aware that, whatever your feelings on the matter, smoking is not permitted and knew what the punishment would be if you were caught. You have the two choices that I have given you, but please consider the consequences of a long suspension on your future prospects. You know your father has suggested that you accept the caning, but that is your decision. With respect to your last point, Aurora said nothing to me about your smoking. I came upon you both totally by accident. I now need your decision.”

“Mr Eastern-Roberts, I will not accept a caning. That is my final answer. I do not want to be suspended for the rest of term but, if that is what you want to do, you had better call my father to pick me up.”

“Ok Olivia, go and phone your father and tell him your decision. Then pack your bags and return to the secretary’s office at 4.00 pm to collect your suspension letter. I really do hope you do not regret your decision today.”

Olivia then left the room without a word or a backward glance, a study in teenage defiance.

Peter then called Sylvie Masters in and asked the secretary to witness Jane’s punishment before drafting the suspension letter for Olivia for his signature. He confided in her that he deeply regretted Olivia’s decision, not because he wanted to cane her, but because of the possible effect on her future. Sylvie also pointed out that as Olivia was, like Aurora, a scholarship girl, a separate letter would be required to the trustees. They would then, independently, assess whether they would allow the scholarship to continue. Taking the black leatherbound punishment book from the shelf, he made the required entry and then collected the three-foot long crook-handled instrument of punishment from the cupboard.

“Ok Jane, Let’s get this over with. Bend over the desk, please, and grasp the far side. Six strokes over your skirt.”

Taking a stick of chalk, he chalked the cane carefully to ensure he could see where it landed and so avoid the strokes crossing. The pretty brunette took a deep breath and, blushing, positioned herself as instructed, with her pleated mid-length skirt stretched across her curvy buttocks. It was all over in a minute and a half; by the end of which Jane’s skirt was marked with six parallel white lines and, underneath, her bottom was etched with equivalent scarlet wheals. The pretty teenager’s eyes were filled with tears but, apart from increasingly pronounced ‘ouches’ at each stroke, Jane had taken her punishment with no fuss. Allowed to stand, she was passed a tissue and dried her eyes and then rubbed her bottom, smudging but not erasing the chalk-marks. She then signed the punishment book.

“Thank you, Jane; all over now. You took that very well and I hope that this was your first and last such punishment. I know it was painful, but also know that you made the right choice. Please do not smoke again. Compose yourself and then return to class, and,” he paused. “Jane, believe me, Aurora did not tell on you, whatever Olivia thinks.”

As far as Ernest knew, Jane never did smoke again, leaving the following year to study physics at Cambridge university.

Once Jane had left the room, Edward managed to place a call to his headmistress at the conference and brought her up to date. He was relieved to be told that he had acted properly and that he had been left with no choice.

Olivia’s choice had more wide-reaching consequences; her father was less than impressed to receive her call and, having failed to get her to change her mind, had to drive to collect her. Her decision did not even save her bottom, as she was required to go over her father’s knee for a prolonged spanking with a hairbrush when she got home, the alternative being that she found herself somewhere else to live without her generous allowance.

Worse was to come; a week later she received a letter from the scholarship trustees. Disregarding recommendations from both Ernest and the Headmistress that she should be given another chance, the trustees decided that: ‘As the student concerned has deliberately chosen to absent herself from school for six weeks and has thereby demonstrated she has little interest in taking advantage of the opportunity granted to her. It is the unanimous decision of the trustees that continuing with the scholarship would not be an appropriate use of the foundation’s resources. The scholarship is hereby revoked with effect from the end of this term.

Faced with substantial fees for her to continue at the school, Olivia’s father promptly withdrew her from ‘Lady Upshott’s’ and insisted she find herself a job to support herself. By the end of the week, through contacts with friends of her father, a very chastened Olivia found herself as a shop assistant in ‘ladies wear’ in a small department store in the adjacent town.

Exactly a year later, the headmistress was taken seriously ill and retired. The Governors appointed Ernest as acting Head teacher and Alberta Brunswick, the lady head of Science, interim Deputy Head. The position would be reviewed at the end of the Spring term, the last day of which was Thursday 8th April 1982. Both Ernest and Alberta had fitted well into their new roles and the Governors were considering not advertising the posts and making both appointments permanent. Then, the weekend before the end of term, came the bombshell.

Senior girls with a good disciplinary record, whose academic work was considered satisfactory, could apply to their house mistress for three passes per term to visit the adjacent town. The school minibus would drop the girls off at 10.30 am and collect them at 16.30, unless approval had been given for a later return by taxi. The normal prohibitions on alcohol or cigarettes applied, but otherwise the girls were expected to behave appropriately. The group this Saturday, 3rd April, included Aurora and three other friends in the sixth form who also had been granted permission to have dinner in town and be back by 22.00.

In addition to dinner, the girls had also, as far as Aurora was concerned, agreed to do some shopping for clothes for the easter festivities at home and for school the following term, when, in the final run up to exams, the upper sixth were granted additional leeway to depart from the sixth form uniform. The others, however, decided that it would be fun to see if they could avoid paying for some of the items.

Ironically, the shop chosen for the escapade was, unfortunately, the very one at which Olivia was now working. It was ten minutes to five and just before closing time. By the time the others announced their plan, Aurora had already chosen her summer dress, a set of elegant ivory satin underwear, and lacy stockings. She argued with the others that what was proposed was unacceptable and went to pay for her items at the counter.

Olivia, recognising Aurora, decided to completely ignore that she was waiting, and then told her that she would be served when she, Olivia, was ready, and that the store did not need customers like her. It was only when, with voices beginning to be raised, Aurora demanded to see the manager that, as all eyes turned to her, her order was reluctantly processed, by which time the manager was already making his way across. The other three girls used the distraction to secrete small but valuable items into their bags; a pair of gloves into Tania’s, a pair of silk knickers into Ursula’s, and a leather purse into Vanessa’s. The manager saw the former and the latter, and watched the girls meet up with Aurora.

Unknown to Aurora, who had put the receipt and the credit card slip into the bottom of the store bag with her purchases, as Olivia was folding the dress into the bag, she removed both the slip and the receipt. Her intention was to accuse Aurora of shop lifting, remove the shop copy of the credit card slip from the till when she next opened it and, destroying all three, leave no evidence of the purchases.

As the four girls moved through the door onto the street, followed by Olivia, the Manager was waiting just outside.

“Ladies, I believe you have items in your possession that do not belong to you; please accompany me back to my office. The shocked girls had no alternative and turned to do so, Aurora comfortable that she had done nothing wrong until Olivia addressed her boss.

“This one, too, has not paid for the items in her bag.”

The four girls soon found themselves in the store manager’s office together with Olivia. One by one, the stolen items were discovered and, when it came to Aurora’s store bag, of course the receipts were missing. Meanwhile, as it was now 5.00 pm, the store cashier had cleared Olivia’s till and sent the cash and credit card receipts for processing.

Having been caught in possession of stolen goods, and with the possibility of CCTV footage also pointing at their guilt, the three other girls were very worried when the store manager threatened to call the police. Aurora, knowing she was innocent and that there could therefore be no such evidence, was also beginning to be worried as she saw Olivia’s expression and realised she was probably responsible for the missing receipts. She was, however, happy to deal with the police, knowing that Daddy would believe her and help her.

Olivia then revealed to the store manager that all the girls were from ‘Lady Upshott’s’. She suggested that if all were reported to the school, and severely caned, then the police could be avoided. Knowing that Aurora’s father would have to cane his innocent daughter particularly appealed to Olivia.

Tania, Ursula and Vanessa leapt at the chance to avoid prosecution. Aurora, on the other hand, absolutely refused to agree to being caned for something she had not done, and insisted that she would face the police. However, she also wanted her father informed.

At twenty past five on the Friday afternoon, Ernest received a call from Olivia on behalf of the Manager putting the store’s version of events, demanding that the school take the most severe disciplinary action against all four girls if the involvement of the police was to be avoided.

Ernest promised the affair would be fully investigated and the girls would indeed be severely punished if the stores version of events proved to be the case. He stressed that there were various things he needed to do first, including advising his Governors and the parents of the girls involved. In view of the store’s insistence that all four young ladies accept the same option, Ernest stated that he would convene a hearing at 4.00 pm on the Monday afternoon, when he would like both Olivia and the store manager to attend. He was also immediately driving into town to pick up the girls.

Half an hour later, Ernest was standing in the store manager’s office. They both realised they had met before, whilst both Ernest and Freddy Fox were in the Navy, and they promised to speak again on the Monday before the meeting at school. There remained one last problem; Olivia had taken possession of the bag containing Aurora’s purchases and claimed that they belonged to the store. Aurora refused to accept this, insisting that she had paid for all the items and that they were her property. To Olivia’s dismay, the store manager accepted Ernest’s proposal to write a cheque payable to the store to the value of the goods concerned, which Freddy would keep until the outcome of the investigation. Ernest took charge of the bag. All then left the store with Freddy setting the alarm and locking the door behind them.

Needless to say, the drive back to the school was not pleasant. The girls were sent back to their rooms and told to stay there except for meals until the Monday morning classes. Aurora was, however, to come with him.

Ernest told Aurora that he would speak to her later as he had calls to make, but first he just needed to ask her one question. “Aurora, on your honour, I need you to tell me, did you pay for everything that is in that bag and how did you pay for them?”

Looking at the dress, underwear, and stockings, she replied, “Yes, Daddy, I paid for everything with my debit card, and I put the receipts and credit slip in the bag. I do not know what happened to them.”

“Thank you, darling, that is all I need to know. I believe you.”

There followed a series of uncomfortable phone calls, firstly with the chair of his board of governors, who stressed that the reputation of the school was at stake and police involvement must be avoided. She indicated that if the other three parents agreed their daughters should be caned, then he must treat Aurora the same. Ernest reiterated what he had previously said about avoiding collective punishments and refusing to cane anyone he believed might be innocent. He terminated the call, promising to call back on Monday and inviting her to attend the meeting on Monday afternoon.

The calls with the three sets of parents were equally awkward. Initially, the parents were of course shocked and annoyed that their daughter had been caught shoplifting. They were then grateful for the store offering their daughters an alternative to police involvement and were happy that they had accepted the cane. Finally, they all insisted that, as the alternative to prosecution had to be accepted by all four girls, the school had a duty to their daughters to ensure that Aurora was also punished, even if she might not have been guilty. Vanessa’s father even offered to cane Aurora himself if Edward’s scruples prevented him doing so. Ernest again put the phone down.

That evening, and again on Sunday morning, Ernest and Aurora went through events time after time. Ernest was relieved his beloved daughter had refused to countenance wrongdoing and stood up to peer pressure, but was concerned that the others had involved her as a distraction. He puzzled about what could have happened to the receipts and, remembering her outburst about ‘telling on us for smoking’, felt that Olivia may have had something to do with it. He felt he needed to try and find proof Aurora had paid for the goods, and he would try and see what could be done with their bank and that of the store on Monday. Ernest then asked about the way that Aurora’s dress had been folded and wrapped in tissue paper, and when and how it was done. He also asked when the stockings and underwear were placed in their smaller paper bags inside the plastic carrier-bag. Aurora explained that the sheets of tissue paper were stacked next to the till on each counter, and that the sales assistant removed the hangers before folding and wrapping the garments with tissue to protect from creasing. This would appear to be a very unusual process for a shoplifter to carry out. He also wanted to see the CCTV footage, if any existed.

Aurora stayed with Ernest over the weekend and, whilst the others believed this was so he could talk her into being caned, the reality was just the opposite. Ernest was determined Aurora should not be pressured into admitting something he now knew she had not done.

Meanwhile, 8000 miles away, the Argentinians invaded the Falkland Islands.

Monday morning arrived and, the situation still being unclear, Ernest received three phone calls, the first from his governors, and the others from, first, Tania’s father, then Ursula’s mother. His responses were unchanged, but he promised to let them know the outcome of the afternoon meeting. Finally, at morning break, he and Aurora called their bank and, after answering security questions, requested immediate notification of the clearing of a purchase with a named amount in favour of the store. The bank promised to call back at 3.00 pm. Sending Aurora back to class, Ernest then phoned Freddy and arranged to come in to see him, leaving a message with Sylvie Masters that he would be back in a couple of hours.

Met at the door of the store by Freddie, the two were soon on their way back to his office, but stopped at one of the counters to watch how garments were wrapped as they were paid for. Their progress was noticed by a somewhat worried Olivia, who thereafter had difficulty concentrating on what she was doing. Freddie, armed with the purchase details, then had his accounts department phone their bank and request immediate notification of the clearing of a particular purchase. Finally, the two men went into the CCTV room and played tapes that Freddy had selected for the time and locations concerned. This showed Ursula placing the knickers into her bag without paying, the one of the three that Freddy had not personally witnessed; the other, as it panned, showed aspects of Aurora’s long wait for Olivia to serve her and, importantly, Olivia placing the wrapped dress in the carrier bag. Notes were taken of the point on both tapes and, with the two gentlemen promising to advise each other as soon as anything was heard from the banks, Ernest returned to school elated that the situation was resolving itself.

At just before 3.00 pm, both banks confirmed the transfer and Edward and Freddy briefly advised each other saying nothing to anyone else. Freddie then collected Olivia and drove to the school.

At exactly 4.00 pm, Ernest, already joined by Freddy, Olivia, and Mrs Rosalind Marks, the chair of governors, admitted four very worried young ladies to the study.

“Ladies, we are here to resolve a very serious incident at Mr Fox’s store on Friday. Tania, it is alleged that you stole a pair of gloves. Ursula, it is alleged that you stole a pair of panties. Vanessa, it is alleged that you stole a purse and, finally, Aurora, it is alleged that you stole a dress, a set of underwear and a pair of stockings. Before I ask you to respond, I need you to know that in each case certain evidence has come to light and failing to admit your guilt may have serious consequences.

“Tania, did you take this pair of gloves from Mr Fox’s department store, last Friday, without paying for them?”

“Yes, Sir.”

“Ursula, did you take these silk knickers from the same store on the same occasion, without paying for them?”

“Yes, Sir.”

“Vanessa, did you take this purse from the same store on the same occasion, without paying for it?”

“Yes, Sir.”

“Aurora, did you take the items in this bag from the same store on the same occasion, without paying for them?”

“No, Sir. I promise you that I paid for every one of these items using my debit card.”

There was a groan from the other three. Aurora was sticking to her guns and it was likely that they would soon be speaking to the police.

Freddy Fox was next to speak. “Ladies, you are aware that the offer for the school to deal with the incident was conditional on all four ladies accepting their guilt and corporal punishment. So, it looks like we may need to call the police. However, before I do so I would like to ask Olivia a question. Olivia, do you still maintain that Aurora took these items without paying for them?”

“Er, yes. At least, I don’t think she paid for them, and if she had she would have been able to provide the receipts.”

“In that case, would you care to explain how both banks confirmed a payment for the exact sum involved that afternoon and that CCTV footage shows you wrapping the dress and putting it into the bag? Or were you perhaps helping with the theft?”

“Well, I must have been mistaken. I am sorry.”

Freddy Fox then continued. “Headmaster, I am sorry. I unreservedly withdraw all the allegations against your daughter, Miss Eastern-Roberts. Ernest, here is your cheque.” Freddy handed Ernest the cheque given to him three days earlier before reaching into his jacket and pulling out another envelope which he handed to Aurora. “Aurora, here is a gift voucher for one hundred pounds to compensate you for the unfounded allegation. Please accept my sincere apologies.”

He turned to the three girls. “In that case, ladies, as the stolen property has been restored, if the school is prepared to administer at least six strokes of the cane to each of you, over your panties, we would be happy to avoid inconveniencing the police and the courts.

“Before we proceed, however, Olivia, your deliberate attempt to accuse a customer of theft, in the hope that she could be forced to accept a caning for something she did not do, exceeds any boundaries of serious professional misconduct and justifies your immediate summary dismissal, in addition to the recovery of the one hundred pounds that we have just paid out in compensation, from your wages. You may however keep your job, on this occasion, if you phone your father and advise him that you are going to receive eight strokes of the cane on your bare bottom and will undertake to repay the £100 with a £10 per week deduction from your wages. Now, ladies, your choices please.”

All four then reluctantly indicated their willingness to accept a caning rather than the alternative.

All waited whilst Olivia phoned her father, who was still at work, and Ernest put the phone on speaker. Her father berated her for her behaviour and said that he would have had no objection if a full dozen strokes were administered; she had disgraced herself and the family a second time and had not heard the last of it. He then told Olivia to apologise to the headmaster, to Aurora, and to Mr Fox on his behalf.

With the call over, it was time for the punishments to take place and it was decided that the ‘Lady Upshott’s’ girls should go first. Tania was to be first. Aurora asked if she could please be excused as she did not want to see her friends punished.

Ernest replied. “Aurora, I would prefer it if you remained; but, as you have been caned before, you do not need to witness it as an example. So, you may wait for me outside.”

Aurora then looked at Freddy Fox. “Mr Fox, sir, may I ask a favour please?”

“Of course, Aurora. I promise to consider it carefully.”

“Could you please consider allowing Olivia to keep her panties on and also only give her six like the others? She is not a bad person and taking her panties down in front of two men would be much too embarrassing and cruel. I know. Please?”

As Freddy and Ernest considered the request, and Aurora quietly left the room, Olivia spoke. “Thank you, Aurora, I cannot believe your kindness after how I treated you. Mr Fox, I would greatly appreciate being able to keep my panties on, but I told my father that I would receive eight strokes and that is what he will expect me to have received when I get home. I do not want him to be any angrier than he already is when I see him this evening.”

Looking at Ernest, it was Freddy who replied. “Ok, Olivia, you may retain your panties, but eight strokes it will be.”

Ernest took out the punishment book, made the entries for his three students, and then beckoned Tania forward. “Tania, please bend over the desk and raise your skirt. You will be receiving six strokes of the senior cane over your knickers and are to remain in position until I tell you to rise.”

The attractive 5’8” tall, statuesque redhead bent as instructed and raised her skirt, revealing very brief lacy pink panties which left most of her well rounded bottom bare.  Ernest touched the rattan wand once against the very centre of the pale mounds and then, lifting it, brought it swishing in as soon as Tania relaxed.

Although the pain was severe, Tania remained in position and merely gasped. She then crossed her hands and buried her head between her arms at elbow level, hiding her pain and embarrassment from the others. The rod descended a second time, two inches above the first stroke; ‘swish-crack’, a second gasp. Ten seconds later, the third stroke; ‘swish-crack’, a muffled squeak was the only response. Stroke four, a further 2” higher; and stroke five a further 2” lower, brought restrained yelps. Finally, the last stroke, at the lowest point of Tania’s attractive bottom, bit deep into the bare flesh and elicited a loud “Owwww!” from the now very sorry young lady. Not actually crying, Tania knew tears were not far away. Told that she may rise, she did so on shaking legs with her face blushing furiously and, as her skirt returned to its position, she turned first to Ernest and then to Freddy and apologised most sincerely.

Ursula, a blonde beauty, slightly shorter and curvier than Tania, was next. She was in a hurry to get things over with and was in position, with her skirt raised, as soon as Tania had moved clear. Ursula’s ample buttocks were covered by plain full-fitting white panties carefully chosen to cover as much of her bottom as possible. Ursula was self-conscious about her bottom, which she thought was too big, although most male observers would disagree. She took the six full-blooded strokes without moving, keeping her head raised and staring right ahead. Her vocal responses increased in volume as the punishment progressed from a quiet Oh! to a resounding Yeeouchh! She was sniffling and fighting back the tears at the end as she made her own apologies.

Veronica, with her chestnut shoulder-long curls, was somewhere in between her two friends in both stature and curvaceousness, as well as the degree of coverage provided by her very thin silk French knickers. Her medium-sized bottom was also soon decorated with six pairs of crimson tramlines visible through the diaphanous material. Having met each stroke with a heartfelt Ouch, Veronica was in floods of tears by the end as she sniffled her apologies and signed the punishment book.

The three school girls were then dismissed and allowed to return to their rooms, leaving just Olivia to be dealt with.  5’4” tall and slim, her auburn hair was worn in a long plait. Unlike the others, Olivia was wearing well-cut pale-yellow trousers which made the most of her figure and revealed no visible panty-line. She was instructed to lower them. As she did so, and then bent over, blushing furiously, she revealed skin-tight white Lycra panties which covered all of her bottom as if sprayed on. The very nervous young lady was trembling slightly, terrified of what lay ahead. As the first stroke zipped in, with Ernest working from top to bottom, Olivia discovered reserves of courage of which she was previously unaware. Yes, each stroke was agony, but it was accepted and deserved, taken with merely a gasp as Olivia controlled her breathing. Although red-eyed, with an occasional tear, as she stood, she clearly and genuinely apologised to all concerned at the end and insisted on doing so again to Aurora. Relieved to have been forgiven, she left the study accompanied by an impressed Freddy, with whom Ernest had arranged to meet up socially over the Easter period.

Briefly alone together with Mrs Marks, Ernest discussed the outcome of events. A minor change to the rules was agreed so that, for girls under eighteen, parental agreement for the substitution of suspension for corporal punishment would now be required, as it was felt this might have saved Olivia from herself, had it been in place two years earlier. Mrs Marks then congratulated Ernest on the way he had handled matters and confirmed both his permanent appointment as headmaster, with Alberta Brunswick as his deputy, on behalf of the governors. They shook hands and she left as Aurora returned.

Ernest closed the door and hugged his beloved daughter, telling her how proud he was of her. He asked her to dine with him and she agreed, but said she wanted to return to her study bedroom and the common-room afterwards.

The End

© Capstan 2021