A girl acts rashly to defend family honour
by Jane Fairweather
Elizabeth Johnson’s flaming red hair, which she wore down to her shoulders, was very visible in the nearly deserted school library. Her gym-slip was in marked contrast to the pleated skirts of the two genuine Sixth Formers who were sat at a table at the opposite end of the Library and was a sign that she had failed her School Certificate and was a member of that ambiguous class, Six Remove. The normally high spirited girl was in a restless, anxious mood as she sat in the Library. Half of her was trying to construe the passage of Caesar that she was supposed to have ready for Miss Coleridge’s lesson in two periods time. It was lucky that she had a free morning, for there was quite a lot of Latin and she had not bothered to look at it before. There had been mutterings from Miss Coleridge about what would happen if she failed to prepare her set book again. This at least gave her something to do. However her other half was extremely anxious about the set-to she had just had in the Common Room with Priscilla Smith- Jones, the Head Girl. Was Prissy SJ going to carry out that very angry threat to report her to the head?
“And if you end up getting the stick, then don’t blame me! You have only yourself to blame.” Prissy had more or less screamed after having her face slapped very hard twice and saying she was going to Miss Frazer, the Headmistress, about it.
Prissy SJ could quite easily have reported the slapping to Elizabeth’s housemistress, Miss Charlton, and there would have undoubtedly been a lecture for letting her temper flare, even if the cause of her temper flaring was Prissy SJ’s own rudeness. But if she did end up in front of the head, it would probably mean the cane. She remembered her tearful pleading and the horrible combination of pain and humiliation when she had two strokes of the cane on her left hand for consistently failing to hand her work in. That had been aeons ago in the Third Form, not that she had ever been very good at handing work in. What would she get now she was eighteen and in the sixth form Remove? Quite possibly nothing, provided Prissy had cooled off a bit and did not do anything about the slap after all.
But she had slapped the face of the Head Girl hard; and while there had been a lot of pleasure in that, the consequences could be dire. Her sentence could well be worse than the cane, being asked to leave the school. And if she was expelled then her parents would be absolutely furious and it could mean the very severe hiding from her father that she had been threatened with on more than one occasion, but never actually received.
Not perhaps surprisingly, she found it extremely hard to concentrate on Caesar, even though she found it much easier than the half book of the Aeneid that they also had to do for School Certificate, which she really had to pass this time, seeing it was her second go. She noticed wearily that there were butterflies in her stomach and she was slightly sweaty with fear. But then, look at it another way, Prissy SJ might let the whole thing go and not report her. Certainly it was strange that she had been sitting here for over an hour and there had been no summons to answer for her crimes.
She felt a slight tap on her shoulder. It was that little prig, Ursula Conrad from 3A, with her pretty gold hair in a bob and her fresh, freckled face. It was no secret that a number of people had a crush on Ursula, including the Headmistress. However, Elizabeth Johnson was very definitely not an admirer of this little show off, who no doubt in due time would bring great honour to the school by getting to Cambridge; her maths was supposed to be exceptional and at the age of thirteen she was going to Five Upper Lessons in that subject. However, Elizabeth found her totally irritating.
“Miss Frazer wants to see you,” Ursula was saying. “She asked me if I would drop in at the Library on my way back to my class after being commended yet again. I do get a bit bored with always being commended. I ought to try doing something naughty one of these days. I expect it is quite interesting.”
So that was the reason for the delay: Ursula Conrad had been commended by the Headmistress, yet again. Elizabeth’s temper flashed for the second time that day; and if she had not been in trouble already she would undoubtedly have said something unfortunate, though it is unlikely that she would have done what she really wanted to do and smacked the little minx’s bottom till the tears flowed. Still the thought was interesting!
“Yes, I expect it is something similar.” Elizabeth actually said through gritted teeth, determined not to admit that she was almost certainly seeing Miss Frazer to have the cane for the second time in her life.
However, Ursula breezed off without anything more being said and Elizabeth very shakily and reluctantly packed up her Caesar, picked up her satchel and walked toward the Headmistress’s study with her heart beating like a drum. As she went, it suddenly struck her as odd that a commendation, even of Ursula Conrad, seemed to have taken Miss Frazer the best part of an hour. Was there something going, on she wondered.
When she reached the Headmistress’s door, she realized she could not quite remember anything that had happened during the couple of hundred yards from the library. She half hoped that there would be someone else waiting to see Miss Frazer and her ordeal would be put off for a few minutes, but there wasn’t and, after a brief pause to try and collect herself, Elizabeth reluctantly knocked.
Miss Frazer opened the door. She was a tall and very solid Scottish woman. She wore tweeds and had black hair in a bun that was beginning to turn quite grey. Elizabeth could hear herself saying that Ursula Conrad had said she was wanted, and the Headmistress replying that Elizabeth had been correctly informed and would she come and stand in front of the desk and put her hands behind her back. Elizabeth could feel herself blushing ferociously as she complied. Everyone in the school knew this was the prelude to something severe and she found herself wishing she was anywhere but in this room.
“You know, Elizabeth, I have always liked you, despite your waywardness,” the Headmistress stated rather surprisingly. “I have put up with your slovenly ways, even largely failing your first attempt at School Certificate, because I see things in you that might well develop. However, this time you have well and truly put your foot in it. Slapping the face of the Head Girl of this school, whatever the reason, is just not acceptable. Before I proceed to punishment you had better tell me your version. It may just possibly make the difference between your being expelled and not, so take your time and try to be as clear and honest as possible.”
Elizabeth took a breath; she was being offered a half chance and she had better take it.
“Priscilla keeps on saying to anyone who will listen, and quite a few who don’t want to listen, that the unemployed are all layabouts and don’t want to work, and the Labour Party are all Communists and want something like the French Revolution. Well, Miss Frazer, that is bad enough, but she came up to me this morning in the Library and described my uncle, who is a very good Labour MP for a Newcastle constituency, and has just made an important speech, as a Communist agitator, which is ludicrous; and she mocked me for being related to him. My Uncle is a very honest, patriotic Englishman, who I believe is a friend of Mr Churchill, who is scarcely a lover of Communists. I am afraid I just lost it totally and I very nearly did more than slap her. I am very sorry I did it and I know I should not have, but I am not sure I would not do it again.”
“Priscilla says that you slapped her twice. Is that correct?” Miss Frazer asked abruptly.
“Yes, it was nearly three times, or even more. I stopped myself after the second one.”
“Just as well for you. Up to a point, I can forgive a fit of temper in circumstances when you obviously felt you were defending your family’s honour. But if you had gone on to a full scale assault it would have led to your expulsion and quite probably the Police being called. Anyway, the odd thing is that your version is entirely plausible and Miss Priscilla Smith-Jones’ version seemed odd to me from the moment I heard it. She states that you were having a perfectly ordinary conversation about an item in the Daily Telegraph and you suddenly turned and slapped her twice on her right cheek without any reason.
“Unfortunately, the buzz of conversation among the other three girls in the Library was such that none of them noticed a thing till you went berserk and slapped Priscilla, so it is her word against yours. However, I have always found you to be a very honest girl and Priscilla has always had her little moments of deviousness, for all the brightness that will shortly be taking her to Girton College, Cambridge, to do Modern Languages, so I am going to accept your version.”
“Does that mean I am not going to get the cane, Miss?” Elizabeth asked barely daring to hope.
“No, you have done something that undoubtedly requires severe punishment and you will have four strokes on the seat of your knickers. Take off your gym-slip. Now, your blouse and tie. Now, lean forward across the end of my desk and hold the sides of it with your hands.”
Elizabeth complied in a total daze, deeply shocked that she had done anything that deserved such a severe punishment, but she knew Miss Frazer was always extremely fair. Something in her made her grasp the sides of the desk till it hurt and she kept wishing her knickers did not feel so tight and Miss Frazer would stop swishing the cane to frighten her. She heard the headmistress’s footsteps behind her. She shut her eyes. The first stroke into the middle of her small behind took her breath away and she felt tears in her eyes. The second and third landed lower and hurt even more and she found herself saying “aah, aah, aah!” nonstop and wriggling wildly, lifting her legs up and down. The fourth, which was delivered after an uncomfortably long pause, seared across the top of her thighs and reduced her to screaming.
“Count yourself lucky you did not have six,” observed Miss Frazer briskly as she put the cane away.
“I really am sorry, Miss. I should not have done it and I won’t do it again.” Elizabeth managed to get out through her tears as she struggled with putting her blouse back on and wondered if her navy blue serge school knickers had given her as much protection as a boy’s thin flannels and underpants combined. Probably there was not a lot in it, she decided.
“I am always glad to hear genuine contrition,” Observed Miss Frazer as Elizabeth finally pulled her gym-slip over her head. “I hope this will be a genuine lesson to you and not just about this incident. You are a very able girl, but you do have a huge amount of catching up to do.”
“I will try, Miss.” Elizabeth stated very seriously.
She suddenly felt extremely contrite about her conduct in general; really she owed it to her parents and Miss Frazer to do better. She had been aware of that for ages, but the caning had brought it home to her in a way she found hard to explain, especially as her bottom was burning and throbbing quite horribly and she ought, she supposed, to be angry that she had been punished so severely.
“And send Miss Smith-Jones in, if she is outside. I think I heard her knock,” were Miss Frazer’s parting words.
When she went through the door, Priscilla was ringing her hands and looking very sorry for herself.
“You really got whacked, poor thing!” Said Prissy SJ very unexpectedly, but obviously in some shock. “I really did not mean it to come to this. I just thought you’d get a lecture. Have I got to go in now? I knocked earlier and she did not take any notice.”
“Yes, she said so. I do hope you are not for it as well.”
“You can’t be serious! I’m the Head Girl; I won’t get the cane. Don’t be ridiculous.”
Elizabeth limped off down the corridor, feeling extremely uncomfortable and tearful and wishing most intensely that Priscilla was going to get as severe a punishment as she had just undergone.
Elizabeth went to her dormitory and lay face down on her bed, thinking terribly seriously about her own failings as a person among her very real discomfort and frequent bursts of crying. Perhaps she could achieve the things her headmistress and father both believed she was capable of, despite all obvious appearances. But how was she to even begin to do it? And really, she had deserved this punishment six times over. Why had someone not done it before?
Several hours later, Elizabeth was still lying face down on her bed, crying from time to time and still feeling extremely uncomfortable, and struggling with her sense of her own failure and how it was to be remedied. Then, to Elizabeth’s astonishment, the Head Girl put her head round the Dorm door. She had very obviously been crying her eyes out and was moving very awkwardly. Elizabeth realized, rather to her horror, that her prayers had improbably been answered; Prissy SJ had been very soundly caned, probably worse than she had and presumably was no longer Head Girl. She staggered up to Elizabeth’s bed. Elizabeth noticed there was something in her hand and wondered vaguely what it was.
“You were right, she whacked me too. God, it was a shock,” Said Priscilla. “I got five. All on my knickers as hard as she could give them. And having to take my skirt and blouse and slip off. That was almost as bad as the caning. I hated that. And I am no longer Head Girl.”
“You poor thing!” Elizabeth replied. “I would not have wished that on you. I suppose it will teach me to lose my temper.”
“I did ask for it!” said Priscilla very contritely. “Anyway, I thought maybe we could compare stripes and you could rub some of this cream in for me and I could do it for you. My brother tells me that is what he and his friends do and it cheers them up.”
“Good plan!” said Elizabeth, thinking she should have thought of putting some cream on her inflamed behind for herself.
By some mutual instinct, they lowered one another’s knickers and pulled up each other’s skirts. Priscilla plonked herself face down on the bed without asking. Elizabeth was about to protest that there was no reason why Priscilla should have her cream put on first, when she saw the height of the five weals and the way they stretched from one side to the other of Priscilla’s plump, full bottom and felt really quite shocked. This was far worse than her own punishment, painful though that had been.
“She really did whack you!” She exclaimed.
She took the tub of cream off Priscilla and rubbed it in slowly and carefully.
“That is at least a bit better,” Said Priscilla wryly. “Thank you! Somehow I would not have liked anyone else except you to do it for me. It’s too private somehow. Are you ready for yours?”
“More than ready!” Elizabeth replied.
As the cream was being very gently applied by Priscilla, Elizabeth asked: “Do you think you could coach me with my Latin and French? I know you are supposed to be brilliant at languages. I don’t mean do it for me. I need to pull up my socks, everyone says so, but I need some help to start.”
“It might be good experience, but I have never taught anyone. Still, I will give it a go,” Priscilla replied very awkwardly.
It was the beginning of an unlikely friendship.
© Jane Fairweather 2019
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