A mother visits a headmaster to discuss the caning he gave her daughter
By Hilary Wilmington
“Mrs Megginson? Please do come in.”
She walked in with an inclination of her head and a gracious smile, although she did not say anything in reply.
“And Mr Megginson? Is he not with you?”
“Oh no, I’m afraid he’s far too busy at his work to be able to join us.”
“I’m sorry to hear that,” replied the headmaster, insincerely. Dealing with one awkward parent was better than dealing with two and better still if that was the mother. He always felt more comfortable having dealings with the female of the species, which is possibly why he had ended up as headmaster of an all-girls boarding school. “I was just going from a note made by my secretary in my diary,” he explained. “She herself is unwell and hasn’t been in all week.”
“I am sorry to hear that.” Mrs Megginson sounded as insincere in her sorrow as he himself had felt in expressing his a moment before.
He gestured her to the seat opposite his desk and waited as she sat down and smoothed down her skirt. He could be looking at Jennifer in twenty years, he thought, once she had acquired poise, elegance, a rich husband and expensive clothes. Mrs Megginson had got quite dressed up for this meeting. Her outfit included a wide-brimmed blue straw hat from under which a pair of bright blue eyes surveyed him with calculating interest.
“Now, Mrs Megginson, what…”
“Please, Mr Williams,” she interrupted him. “Would you call me Caroline?”
“Of course,” he replied, pleased. This was promising. “And I am Peter.”
“Oh,” she laughed. “I don’t think it would be possible for me to call you anything except Mr Williams, after hearing Jennifer talking about you so much. It is ‘Mr Williams said this and Mr Williams said that’ and ‘Mr Williams did this and Mr Williams did that’.”
“I see,” he said, evenly. It was his favourite response when he didn’t see at all and he injected much-practised gravitas into it. He didn’t know what to make of this. Was it flattery or was it a subtle way of opening hostilities?
“You will have guessed, I expect, that I have come to see you about what happened just before half-term. Jennifer was caught with cigarettes.”
“Yes, Mrs Megginson, I…”
“Caroline, please,” she reminded him.
“Caroline, then,” he continued. “I did indeed wonder if that was why you had come to see me. I can assure you there was no doubt at all that Jennifer was in possession of cigarettes. She was seen smoking with two other girls and a half-finished packet was later found in a drawer in her room. And no doubt either that she had got into the habit of smoking. She owned up to it herself.”
“Yes Mr Williams, I accept that,” replied Caroline. Not only did she accept it but she seemed totally composed about it as well.
“And Jennifer?” He enquired, fairly sure of his ground here.
“She thinks she deserved to be punished,” said Caroline.
It must be as he had predicted, then, that it was the nature of the punishment that she had come to complain about. He decided his best course would be to take the initiative, to anticipate her complaint and deal with it head on.
“I realise, of course, that not all parents will approve of my method of discipline,” he said. “However, whatever they think of it at the time, the pupils in this school benefit in later life from the strict regime that we run here. I do my best to be fair. I can assure you that I do not undertake such measures lightly.”
“So I gather,” replied Caroline ironically, making the headmaster regret his choice of phrase.
“Am I to conclude, then, that Jennifer thinks that I was unduly harsh? Or unprofessional in some way?” If that’s what she had come to say, he may as well give her the opportunity and have done with it. Not for the first time, he thought to himself that it was time for him to apply for another boys’ school, where he would be out of temptation’s way.
“No, actually,” said Caroline.
Jennifer had said: ‘Really, Mummy, it’s hardly as though he enjoyed it. In fact, he told us once, at a prefects’ meeting, that he actually hates doing it but it is the best way to ensure observance of the most important school rules. And it’s true. It certainly worked on me.’
Caroline did not doubt he was keen that school rules should be upheld, but she was sceptical of Jennifer’s assertion that he had actually hated punishing her and her two friends. She did not know about the two friends, but she was sure of Jennifer’s physical charms. Of course, as a sophisticated woman of the world, she was aware that not all men were beguiled by female physical charms. In fact, you might have thought a man who wasn’t would be quite suitable for the headmastership of an all girls’ school. She did not think this applied to Mr Williams though. In a spirit of scientific enquiry she crossed her legs and fussed with her skirt. She noted the swift downward look that this provoked.
“I see,” said the headmaster again.
“As a matter of fact, Jennifer told me she is quite pleased it happened, in a way, because she is now intending to give up smoking altogether, even in the holidays, which, to quote her: ‘Mr Williams thinks would be a good idea’.”
“I am very glad to hear it.” Though he remained outwardly unruffled, Peter Williams was becoming more and more mystified. He had won each exchange with Mrs Megginson so far but, without acknowledging it, she simply raised another topic. He wished she would come to the point. She now did and it was a big surprise.
“What I came to tell you, Mr Williams, was that I gave Jennifer those cigarettes,” she said.
“Did you indeed?” His voice grated and his brows came together in a frown of displeasure. Caroline appreciated why girls would quake in their shoes before him. ‘He exudes authority,’ she thought, both thrilled and, despite herself, a little nervous. Did she dare tweak his tail a bit more?
“I did, Mr Williams.”
“To bring back to school with her?”
“Yes, Mr Williams.”
“And why did you do that, Caroline, if I may ask?”
“Well, she has smoked at home for the last couple of years and it seemed a shame to me to deprive her of it at school. After all, she is over sixteen, in fact over eighteen now, so she is legally entitled to smoke.”
“I am well aware of that but it is against the rules of this school. What you let her do at home is your business, although I do appreciate parents backing me up in these matters. I hope you are not trying to tell me you were unaware of this school rule?”
“No, Mr Williams. That is the whole point. Jennifer was punished unjustly. It was my fault and not Jennifer’s that she broke your school rule. I thought you should know about it.”
“Thank you for telling me, but I cannot accept that what you have told me absolves Jennifer from blame. She was perfectly well aware that she shouldn’t smoke and she is also old enough not to have been led astray.” He emphasised this last part and looked significantly at the girl’s mother.
The point was not lost on her. She remembered Jennifer saying: ‘I won’t ever bring cigarettes into school again, even if you give me them again.’ Caroline had winced at her naive daughter’s unintended jibe.
“I should also point out,” the headmaster continued. “That there were three of them. I could hardly have punished the other two and not Jennifer.”
“Perhaps if you had known, you would not have done it so hard when it was Jennifer’s turn to get whacked,” said Caroline.
“I don’t know what Jennifer has told you about her punishment…”
“Everything,” interjected Caroline.
“…But I can assure you the usual protocol was followed and I have to tell you that in my opinion it would not have been appropriate to treat her more leniently that the others. I can assure you as well, by the way, that no force is used to make the girl comply. If a girl refuses to undergo her punishment then in the normal course of events she simply leaves the school. She has a choice, as Jennifer is perfectly well aware, I am sure.”
‘In theory, perhaps,’ thought Caroline. ‘But what girl would refuse a direct order from you?’
Out loud, she said: “Expecting the girl to co-operate seems worse to me. She is more humiliated.”
“You would not seriously prefer me to have the girl held down against her will, would you?” He asked.
She ignored this question and once again raised a different topic. “Did you know?” She asked. “That it is considered a feather in a girl’s cap to get the cane from you?”
“If that is really the case,” he said heavily. “It is strange that I do not find a queue of them forming at my door to get feathers in their caps.”
This was greeted by an amused laugh. A very attractive laugh, he thought. It had been another victorious exchange for him but, true to form, she changed tack again.
“I’ve never even seen a cane,” she said. “I mean, I’ve seen a garden cane or whatever. But not a cane for…” She paused and looked at him. She seemed to expect him to spell out what they were used for.
“You mean a punishment cane,” he said.
“Oh, is that what they’re called? I suppose they would be. Yes, a punishment cane. They are made specially, aren’t they? That seems rather awful too; the thought of someone in a factory or somewhere, making it specially.”
“It is much preferable to use something that is designed for the purpose, for obvious reasons.” He hoped they were obvious, anyway. He did not feel like pursuing this line of conversation any more than some of the others she had started.
“Is it made of bamboo?”
“Yes. No. Actually it is made of a wood called rattan. But I really don’t…”
“They make furniture out of it too, don’t they?”
“Yes, they do.”
“Because it is very bendy.”
“I suppose so. There are different varieties.”
“And the variety that yours is made of, is that used just for making punishment canes?”
“I really don’t know.”
“Is that the cupboard you keep it in?” She asked, looking over at the cupboard in the far corner of the room. Goodness, had Jennifer described the exact layout of his study to her mother? He kept it in that cupboard so that when he sent a naughty girl to fetch it for him she would have the longest walk possible across his study floor. “May I please look at it?”
“I don’t see why you would want to,” he said, but she had already uncrossed her legs and risen from her chair.
He watched her walk across the room. Her white blouse and blue pleated skirt were somewhat reminiscent of the school’s winter uniform, he thought. The skirt was a lighter shade of blue than the school’s navy blue, however, and it was made of a finer, thinner material, more appropriate for the present hot summer weather. It was also much better tailored and it swung gracefully from side to side as she stepped across the room. He admired her slim, tanned, bare calves, shown off to advantage by the strappy high heels on her feet. With these, and the wide-brimmed blue straw hat, her outfit most definitely parted company from a school uniform.
She would have been pleased to know that he had perceived the connection to the school uniform. It was one of Caroline Megginson’s chief pleasures in life to assemble an imaginative outfit for the particular occasion she was due to attend. She could hardly think of an occasion which had given her more entertainment, more hours of going through her extensive wardrobe and touring the shops, than this one. She had even made a special hair appointment and asked her hairdresser if he could give her ‘something of a schoolgirl look’ and she was very pleased with the results of that too. He had cut the straightest imaginable fringe across her forehead and it ended at either side in the most perfect geometrical right angle with the hair descending at each side of her face.
She would not, on the other hand, have been disappointed that Mr Williams failed to perceive the connections in her hat and shoes. They were really quite obscure and anyway these exercises were undertaken as much for her own private enjoyment as anyone else’s. The straw hat was intended to be a nod at the straw boaters that the girls were wearing now, in this fine weather of the summer term. And, although her strappy high heels looked nothing remotely like the awful frumpy sandals the girls were forced to wear in summer, except that they were also blue in colour, they were at least called sandals in the shops.
Also she thought of the flower, in pink leather, stitched onto the straps at the toe of each shoe as a reference to the flower pattern cut into the uppers of the official school sandals. The headmaster, oblivious of Caroline’s enthusiasm for dressing up but affected by it nonetheless, was at this moment absorbed with the hairline at the back of her neck, which was just as fascinatingly straight as the fringe across her forehead.
After opening the cupboard, Caroline stood gazing for several seconds at the cane hanging from its peg by its curved handle.
Jennifer had said: ‘It was a shock when I actually saw it. It was almost as though, up till then, I had thought it didn’t really exist, that it was just a story to frighten us.’
Caroline reached out and stroked the shaft lightly with the backs of her fingers. Watching her, the headmaster made a sudden decision.
“Bring it to me.”
“Oh. Is that what you want me to do?”
If a pupil had said this to him he would either have sarcastically pointed out that he wouldn’t have asked her otherwise, or he would simply have not replied, letting his silence speak for itself. He chose the latter alternative now. He reinforced the intended message by folding his arms and raising one eyebrow, but it is doubtful if Caroline noticed because she was still looking intently at the object in the cupboard, which she now took down. She held it with both hands as she walked over to him. He took it from her and their eyes met.
“I think you had better take your hat off, Caroline,” he said.
“Why?” She asked, but her question was superfluous because she was already doing it. She laid the hat down carefully on a corner of his desk. Then she reached up and smoothed her hair. Their eyes met again.
“How many strokes is it for smoking?” She asked.
“Yes.” She spoke as though merely confirming what she knew already.
“Raise your skirt and bend over the desk,” he told her.
Once her upper body was resting across his desk, she reached forward to hold on tightly to the opposite edge with both hands.
Jennifer had said: ‘He made me keep my hands on the edge of the desk. You’re not allowed to bring your hands round till it’s over.’ She hid her face between her arms, laid her cheek against the pleasantly cool, hard surface of the desk and waited with a beating heart for what was to come.
Caroline’s knickers were exactly the same navy blue as school knickers, like the ones her daughter had presented to him, in similar circumstances, a few weeks previously. They were also high-waisted like school knickers, but down below they ended much sooner and instead of leg elastic there was about an inch of loose-clinging, lacy border, which went more or less straight across, parallel with the waistband, rather than slant-wise. They seemed almost like a parody of conventional school knickers. Perhaps that is what they were meant to be.
Peter Williams always allowed himself plenty of time at this stage. In this task, as in all others in his role as a headmaster, he was the consummate professional. In the matter of corporal punishment, he prided himself on using the minimum of effort to achieve maximum effect. The secret of an effective caning was correct positioning, good technique and a proper appreciation of the dimensions of the target. He noted the similarity between mother and daughter in the size and shape of their bottoms. He spent a few moments adjusting his stance and calculating his swing before giving her the first of her three strokes.
“One,” she whispered out loud.
Caroline had been intensely curious about Jennifer’s punishment and had plagued her daughter for all the details. What did the cane look like? Did she have to lift up her skirt herself or had he done that? Did she have to touch her toes or was she made to hold on to something while it was done? How much had it hurt? What did her bottom look like afterwards? Now she was able to experience it all for herself.
She had heard for herself the ominous swish of the cane through the air, the loud report when it landed and felt the agonising sting which seared across her bottom a split second later. After a brief interval, she felt stroking, followed by a sequence of very gentle taps, quite low down on her behind. Such attention from the rattan shaft of a dedicated instrument of punishment, the efficiency of which she was now only too aware of, was the opposite of reassuring. She guessed these teasing caresses were designed to make the anticipation of the next stroke worse. Jennifer hadn’t mentioned them.
Peter Williams was debating an unfamiliar opportunity that was presented to him. Bare white skin was exposed between the frilly border of her knickers and the tops of her sun-tanned thighs. Caroline’s knickers were obviously briefer than her bathing costume, or did she sunbathe in a bikini, perhaps? The school’s Guidance on Disciplinary Sanctions stipulated that corporal punishment should be confined to the buttocks, which, in the case of naughty schoolgirls, were always fully covered by their knickers. The bare white skin that he was looking at now, however, would most definitely conform to that rule. There was another swish, accompanied by a faint whine and followed by a, to him, satisfying crack as the cane connected with its target.
This stroke had made a sharper sound than the first and it had hurt even more. Caroline knew why.
“Two,” she whispered.
She knew he did not require girls to count out loud as they were punished. She was doing it only for her own private benefit. Jennifer had said: ‘Count them out loud? No, of course not. How terribly humiliating that would be. Really, Mummy, you seem to think he’s some kind of monster. No, bringing him the cane is quite different. That’s to show you accept your punishment and you know you deserve it. No, lifting your skirt up is different, too. That’s so that it hurts enough.’
For Jennifer, anything Mr Williams did or didn’t do must be right and Caroline gave up trying to even hint otherwise.
‘Only one more to go,’ she thought. She wondered if Mr Williams ever gave ‘six of the best’ and what that would be like. Would they be harder than the ones she was getting? Quite possibly, since he seemed to be exerting himself hardly at all. Perhaps if they were, they would make her cry. Caroline did not want to cry and was confident she wouldn’t. She did not want her make-up to run.
Jennifer hadn’t cried either. ‘I could easily have done but I didn’t want him to think he needed to let me off lightly.’
In Caroline’s opinion, there would have been little danger of that.
It was a special pleasure for Peter Williams to hear Caroline counting. He wished he had made counting a part of the ritual, right from the beginning. Too late now. As it happened, he had never had to give as many as six strokes yet and probably never would. The majority of girls went through their entire career at the school without ever receiving the cane. The majority of those who did receive it received either one or two whacks. This was usually enough to convince the recipient not to transgress again.
He always gave three for smoking. The reason was that smoking on school premises required a deliberate and premeditated violation of a school rule, and he did feel strongly about that. When violations were the result of spontaneous high jinks, so long as there was no air of rebellion about them, the cane stayed in the cupboard. Even if a girl was rude or disobedient, he would go into the matter carefully and might or might not use corporal punishment. There was never such leeway for a violation like smoking.
He decided there was not sufficient space left for another stroke on the bare skin. His eye was drawn to the deep frilly border just above it. There were tantalising glimpses of skin here and there through the lace-work. He raised the cane and struck for the third and final time.
“Three,” she whispered.
Her punishment was over. As the sting from the third stroke passed its most acute phase, she started to relax, knowing there was not to be another. She moved her cheek slightly on the surface of the desk, finding a new cool patch. She knew she must wait until she was told she could get up and she was in no hurry. She closed her eyes for a few blissful seconds. Being beaten had not only been fascinating, it had also been richly deserved. She now felt absolved of her guilt for the trouble she had got Jennifer into.
The headmaster did not usually announce in advance the number of strokes he was going to give because he liked to keep the girl waiting at the end, not knowing that her punishment was over until she received permission to get up. He was gratified that Caroline, even though she knew there were no more strokes to come, seemed content to wait anyway. It gave him the opportunity to view at his leisure the long, red welt across the skin below the frilly border of her knickers. If he looked carefully, he could see the suggestion of a similar one underneath the frilly border itself.
High heels were another unusual feature in the sight before him. High heels create a tension in the legs and buttocks which enhance their shapeliness. And especially so, he thought, in a bent-over posture. How nice it would be if he could keep a pair of them in his cane cupboard and make a naughty sixth former put them on before bringing him the cane.
‘This won’t do,’ he told himself. ‘I’m getting ridiculous.’ It was time to draw things to a close.
“You may now get up, Caroline.”
“And rub my bottom?” She asked as she rose and turned to face him.
Jennifer had told her he had said: ‘You may now get up, Jennifer, and you may now rub your bottom if you wish.’
“Yes,” he replied, uncomfortably. He remembered saying that to Jennifer but to be fair it was because he had had to stop her doing just that, mid-punishment.
Caroline was facing him now, her hands pressed lightly to the seat of her skirt. He tried to avoid too obviously looking at her breasts. They were small but very firm and pointed, a fact which would not have been apparent under an actual school blouse. Caroline was aware of the direction of his gaze and was content to let it continue a bit longer. Her bottom felt more comfortable now; the painful stinging was gradually being replaced by a warm, throbbing glow.
Jennifer had said: ‘It stung awfully at the time but a bit later it felt better, even rather nice.’
Peter Williams, meanwhile, was engaged in a desperate struggle with the lust that was threatening to engulf him. How he would love to reach out a hand to one of those tempting breasts! It was a few seconds before he realised that Caroline had just said something.
“I asked my taxi to wait, so I had better go,” she had said. “With your permission, Mr Williams,” she added now.
“To wait?” He repeated, stupidly. It would be an understatement to say that he didn’t want her to leave. At that moment, he very urgently wanted her stay. But in his confusion he only said: “Yes, yes of course, Caroline.” Then he managed to regain his headmaster-like attitude sufficiently for a moment to add: “I hope, Caroline, this has taught you never to do such a thing again.”
“Yes, Mr Williams.” As she was opening the door, she turned back to him and said with the ghost of a smile: “I do fully approve of your method of discipline. I might even follow Jennifer’s example and give up smoking.”
And with that she departed. He stood and stared for several minutes at the closed door.
© Hilary Wilmington 2016