A girl is unable to keep her friend entirely out of trouble

By Jane Fairweather

December 1929

Priscilla shuffled slightly on her bottom, which was still feeling slightly tender from her encounter with her father’s cane twenty-four hours before. Still, it had not been anything like as bad as that nightmare of a few weeks before at school. Nobody would have believed that if it had been a novel or a play, she decided.

She remembered with a shudder standing outside her headmistress’s door listening to the very pretty red-head, who was now sat so close to her that she could feel her body pulsing with hers, being very soundly caned at her request as head girl. The horrible truth was that she had more or less framed Elizabeth and, standing outside the head’s door, she had become all too aware of the dreadful thing she had done. Poor Elizabeth had really howled and even at the time she had felt it as if she was the victim. And then nemesis in the shape of a very angry headmistress, who was horribly efficient with a cane, had very deservedly caught up with her for abusing her powers as head girl. And then, very oddly, she and Elizabeth had ended up comforting one another and in the same breath become best friends. No, definitely, nobody would have believed it if it had been a novel or a play.

But anyway, here they were heading for the other world of Newcastle-on-Tyne, which she knew nothing of, for she had grown up in Surrey, to stay with Elizabeth’s parents for Christmas, but also to help her friend, if she would be helped, to improve her French and Latin and get through School Certificate and do Science at College. And for this she was being paid all of £10 by Elizabeth’s parents, which she doubted if she was worth.

“It is raining, of course, just to greet you. It always is in Newcastle in December!” Elizabeth said with a laugh.

“It rained enough in Surrey when we visited my parents.” Priscilla said dryly.

“Yes, but Newcastle is more grey, you have to admit! And it may well snow. And as to the mist and fog, and the wind and the frost…” Elizabeth said sardonically, almost as if showing off her own hardiness.

Priscilla did not rise to this, but then to her mild horror Elizabeth asked, which she had been devoutly hoping that Elizabeth would not ask ever since the previous afternoon, “Anyway, my dear, what did your papa have to say in that little interview in the study? You never told me.”

She let the question hang in the air, awkwardly.

Eventually Priscilla embarrassedly said, closer to stuttering than she normally was and wriggling a little on her bottom, “If you must know, he was very pleased about my scholarship to Cambridge and about me tutoring you a bit, enough to get you through your Latin and French retakes for School Cert, hopefully. There are worse ways to earn your first ten pounds, he said. But then he started probing why I had lost the head girl-ship. I tried not to tell him, but then it emerged that he had got it out of the Head anyway and he was cross with me for lying. He got the cane out and swished it around a bit till I confessed everything, well, almost everything. I did not tell him about our little goings on in the dorm afterwards. Anyway, I got just two strokes of the cane. Not very hard. It hurt my pride more than anything. It did not even leave much of a mark, in contrast to the previous occasion.”

“I would have put some cream on for you, if you had asked.” Elizabeth said a touch archly.

“Well, it wasn’t necessary.” Said Priscilla, suddenly feeling it would be good to get that horrible interview off her chest. “He made me take my tweed skirt off and hold the side of the armchair, which is more or less what the boys have to do. So, it was quite thick knickers and a slip, which wasn’t anything like as bad as the Head did. It was going to be four, but he tapped my bottom with the cane and I burst into tears and pleaded, and he let me off with two. It only stung a bit, but I felt so humiliated and I did not want anyone to know, even you. I felt I had made such a fuss. It was almost an embarrassment to be let off so lightly. My first caning at home, though I have had a couple of spankings. Actually, the last one was a long time ago, when I was eleven.”

“Did he say anything about me?” Elizabeth enquired curiously.

“He said you seem a very nice girl and he hopes we stay friends. Then he added with one of his smiles that he thought you must be very forgiving, making friends after I got you caned for very little. Unfortunately, the Head had told him everything.”

“Well, he is right about that. But then you got whacked because of me. So, it is evens. And there was the interesting bit after, which was odd, very odd in fact.”

“Yes, it was odd,” said Priscilla thoughtfully. “But since we have both almost certainly had our last caning, it is very unlikely to happen again. I must say the little I’ve seen of Newcastle so far on the train, it seems quite prosperous.”

“It depends where you go.” Elizabeth answered. “There are plenty of well-off middle-class houses, like my parents’ mansion indeed, but the working-class slums are all too real. Back to back houses with too many people living in them, and most of them short of food. There has not been enough work for the last ten years at least. If you are really interested, I will get Daddy to drive you round and look at it all. We are always told it is better not to walk there, though I have done, and really most of them aren’t bad sorts of people. I quite often stop and talk to them, though you really need a second language, for most of them speak broad Geordie.

“Latin and French aren’t much use for that. I had enough time at Elementary school to learn the lingo before I was moved on to higher things. My father is really contradictory, you know. Wanted me to go to that school, which wasn’t always fun, so I knew other people than us exist, but now does not want me going near the unemployed areas in case I get raped or robbed or something. Admittedly, the school was in one of the less rough areas. But look, we are coming into the station. I only hope they are there to meet us.”

A few minutes later, and the two girls were standing on a crowded platform with their luggage while the smoke and steam from the great engines swirled, as they glanced round for Elizabeth’s parents.

Priscilla, for one, was wondering if she was going to be approved of as Elizabeth’s friend. This family must be very different to her own South country one.

Her Father was a stockbroker, which might not help her to be good friends with Elizabeth’s parents, if they were as far to the left as Elizabeth, and were willing to send their daughter to a non-private school for part, at least, of her education, but it seemed unlikely that this respectable middle-class couple would be as far to the left as Elizabeth always claimed to be. Yet, had not Elizabeth said her parents normally voted Labour, which meant they were partly responsible for this odd fact of a Labour government in office for the first time in history, which Priscilla found unfortunate and disturbing for her country’s future.

What had Elizabeth said? That her Dad ran a small but successful engineering firm, making specialist parts for the ship building and railway mainly? Wasn’t that it? Not something she really understood, but it would give her something to ask them about and begin the process of getting reasonably close to her best friend’s family. And, anyway, it sounded as if the Johnsons were more capitalist than Labour, which was closer to her politics than Elizabeth’s, even if they had allowed themselves like many others to be misled by Ramsay Macdonald’s unlikely promises of a better future.

But she was not getting married to Elizabeth, so why was she even thinking about this? Girls could not get married to one another, and no doubt Elizabeth would find a man sooner or later. But for the time at least she realized they had been acting as a couple almost without realizing it. It was odd how often they finished one another’s sentences.

But now the Father and Mother were here. Both were wrapped up in thick, enveloping coats with large scarves round their throats. The father had a twinkle in his eye under his capacious grey hat that reminded Priscilla immediately of Elizabeth. The mother looked owl-like under her brown glasses, and it was hard to know what to make of her at first glance.

“So, you are Priscilla SJ?” The woman was saying. “I am quite intrigued to meet you. You are the first person, male or female, Elizabeth has ever asked to have stay. Well at least since she was twelve and went to that school far from home.”

“Mother, really!” Elizabeth was saying, going crimson with embarrassment.

“Oh, leave the poor girl be, Mabel. I bet Miss Priscilla is really here for a chance of a bit of work and ten pounds to call her own. I don’t suppose you have ever earned any money yourself before, have you Priscilla?”

“No, not really.” Priscilla said very awkwardly, but nevertheless grateful for the intervention. “And I have not really done any teaching before.”

“Inexperienced in the use of the cane, then! You’ll need it with our Elizabeth.” The father laughed.

“Oh, she will, Stephen. Are you going to let her borrow yours then?” The mother chortled.

“Oh, certainly!” the father was saying.

Everyone laughed and it cleared the atmosphere; and they fought their way out of the station and into the family Morris, which was not that large a car for a man who owned his own company. Priscilla thought her own father’s second-hand Rolls Royce was much more obviously a symbol of prosperity, or plain showing off, if you preferred.

***

“So, what do you make of our first real Labour government in this year of our lord Nineteen Hundred and Twenty-Nine, Miss Priscilla SJ? I am told you are somewhat of the other persuasion.” Stephen was saying impishly, but not unkindly, as they paused after the excellent steak and kidney pie with carrots, potatoes and cauliflower, before embarking on the trifle.

Priscilla finished her mouthful of red wine before she answered. She was not used to drinking wine with a meal and she was nervous that she would sound drunk. Still, they would think she was silly if she did not reply.

“I don’t see they have got the money to do the things they want to do, especially unemployment. They’d have to spend an awful lot to do anything about that.” She said, rather nervously, not liking to give her normal opinion of the laziness and uncouthness of the unemployed in this company.

“They could always print the money to put everyone back to work.” Elizabeth cut in vigorously.

“And the pound would go up the shoot and we would all be worse off.” Elizabeth’s father snarled.

“Still, unemployment is down each month since Labour came in.” Elizabeth said combatively. “And anyway, if we need more money there are all the ships and the army and all those planes and airships. We could just get rid of them.”

“And what happens when the next Napoleon or Philip of Spain comes along?” Priscilla snapped.

“Well, there is always this collective security that they keep going on about.” Elizabeth’s mother cut in. “It would be much cheaper for everyone if the League of Nations had the only army.”

“Oh Mabel, we have discussed all this before. Who is to command such a force? The Italians? The Germans? The French? Us? We need decent armed forces, but not too large, or powerful enough to start another arms race like before the Great War.” Mr Johnson was correcting his wife with some vigour.

This intrigued Priscilla; she was not used to her parents arguing so openly, but the two adults went on for several minutes like this.

“Well, if we don’t let the League of Nations have real control and cut back all the armed forces, we will have another Great War.” Mrs Johnson finally stated.

“The best cure for excessive armaments is the Depression.” Her husband stated equally firmly. “Germany is, anyway, quite civilised now, so there is no longer much of a threat from that quarter. If there is any threat it is the French trying to keep the Germans down and stop them recovering. Anyway, we are all short of money. The only people who aren’t are the Americans and maybe the Japanese, who everyone forgets. I’ve been doing some quite decent business with their Navy recently. They seem to be building some fine modern ships, almost certainly better than anything we have got. All the countries need to get together and agree some limits to Navies, particularly. That would help a lot.”

“The Americans lost a lot in that Stock Exchange thing in October, don’t they call it a crash? So, they might be in a mood for something that saves their government some money, I suppose.” Elizabeth suddenly announced. “Not that they won’t recover. The evil capitalists of America will make sure of that. All they care about is their profits and their workers can go to hell. They are all gangsters over there.”

“Your father, by that definition, is an evil capitalist, I would remind you, Elizabeth, an evil capitalist who pays for you and your education, and is likely to do so for some years yet.” Mr Johnson said, glowering.

There was a very awkward silence. Looking at Mr Johnson’s angry face and his wife’s worried one, Priscilla felt the temperature in the room had declined alarmingly and rather wished they had not been drinking wine.

Nothing was said, but she had the distinct impression, just for a second, that Elizabeth was quite close to being spanked by her father. Was Elizabeth still getting spanked? Surely, she was too old? Probably wishful thinking on her own part, she decided. Something perverse in her would quite like to watch Elizabeth having that pretty bottom of hers well spanked. Her own, she reflected, was still very slightly tender from the day before.

“Well, you are an alright, capitalist, Father. You look after your workers as much as you can, and you don’t live that ostentatiously.” Elizabeth said, beating a surprisingly hasty retreat and leaving Priscilla to wonder if her friend had also felt a spanking was in the offing.

The elaborate trifle with its huge topping of whipped cream was now served by Mrs Johnson and attacked. It took a good deal of eating and conversation tended to decline. It was only when they were more or less through it that Stephen asked abruptly if the two girls were going to start work tomorrow morning and what they would be doing. Priscilla was caught off-balance but managed to say that in her opinion Elizabeth’s Latin was her main problem and they would start with that.

“More or less what the school told me. What will you do?”

“Try and make sure Elizabeth really knows the set books for retaking School Cert. In the last resort she can more or less learn them by heart, so we will have to go through them carefully. But if she can get those under her belt then she will at least pass.”

Priscilla felt herself being kicked under the table. Clearly, Elizabeth was not all that happy about this.

“And what about her grammar? The Latin Mistress, whatever her name is…”

“Miss Coleridge.” Priscilla cut in.

“Yes, Miss Coleridge indeed, anyway the woman apparently believes my daughter has somehow managed to escape knowing any Latin grammar worth knowing, so you’d better do your best with that. And I don’t think her French grammar is much better.”

“I will do my best.” Priscilla stated cautiously, conscious Elizabeth was kicking her again.

“Now look, girls,” said Mr Johnson very firmly. “I want results, as they say in the business world. I don’t want to pry unnecessarily, Priscilla, but I shall periodically be asking what progress you are making with my daughter. And I want a regular lesson. Give or take, two hours each morning, except Christmas Day and Boxing Day. You can use my study, seeing I will be out at the works with this important Japanese navy order to oversee. Mabel, make sure they have a good fire, won’t you? They will need it this weather. You can have the afternoons to yourselves, but no wandering out of bounds, Elizabeth! You know what I mean! Or visiting your incendiary friends for that matter!”

Priscilla wondered what Mr Johnson did mean, but did not like to ask.

“The master has spoken! And shall be obeyed!” Mrs Johnson said, giggling, which intrigued Priscilla, who was not used to such frivolous comments from her mother to her father; her mother indeed was always just a little oppressed.

“Yes, of course, Mr Johnson.” Priscilla said demurely and the rest of the meal passed off without much incident.

***

Priscilla woke the next morning feeling surprisingly hungry, despite the huge meal of the previous evening, and aware that her head was throbbing slightly. Elizabeth was dead to the world beside her and snoring just enough to be annoying, so there seemed little point in staying in bed. She got out as quietly as she could and slipped her clothes on in the semi dark and the cold, not bothering to wash in the cold water that was available in a jug on the washstand; it just seemed too cold for such niceties.

Deducing the whereabouts of the kitchen by the inviting smells of sausages and bacon frying, she headed into it. She had meant to ask where the food would be served. However, on entering she realized there was a large table with four chairs and three of the places were set for breakfast. Clearly the Johnson family did not stand on ceremony.

Mrs Johnson was stood in the kitchen half of the room busily cooking in a large apron. Priscilla found herself being told to sit down and then having a plate of egg, bacon, sausage and fried bread thrust in front of her.

“I was going to cook this for myself, and then get you two girls up, so you could cook your own; but you are here already here, so eat away. It won’t take me long to join you.” Mrs Johnson was saying.

Priscilla felt surprisingly hungry, considering the previous evening’s huge meal, and tucked in. Mrs Johnson was as good as her word and joined her quite quickly.

Mrs Johnson ate several mouthfuls and suddenly said, ‘It’s only eight o’clock and my husband went to work a good hour ago. He is worried about this Japanese order being done really well and to a high standard. More orders from Japan would be very welcome. Business has not been so good lately.”

“Daddy keeps saying the Stock Exchange has been down a lot too; he’s a stock broker, you know.” Priscilla replied, hoping this announcement was not going to worry Mrs Johnson.

However, she seemed to ignore the fact that Priscilla was a member of the Capitalist classes and said, “It’s a sign of this downturn in trade, me cooking my own breakfast, not that I mind. It is not long since we had two maids and a cook. Now we have a part time cook who helps me run the house as well, and doesn’t come in till half nine. It makes it difficult keeping Elizabeth at a good school, when she isn’t doing that well. Mind you, it would break Stephen’s heart to make her leave. He has taught her all he knows about Physics and Chemistry and Maths. Picked it all up in bits without going to college, you know. In his way, he is brilliant, my husband, though I say it myself.”

“He does seem a nice man.” Priscilla said, hoping the comment was appropriate.

“You have not seen him in a real temper, or you would not say that. Not that he has ever hit me; and Elizabeth has not been spanked that often, considering how often she asks for it. But he does have his views, and he does shout, and he does like the right conclusion to things. At this moment, he is full of the idea that you might be the one to bring Elizabeth’s problems with School Certificate to an unexpectedly good conclusion. I have my doubts about that myself, knowing my daughter as I do, but you are a decent girl I can see and no doubt you will do your best.”

“I can probably do just enough. Not that I have ever taught before.”

“I am sure you are a good girl and will do all you can.” Mrs Johnson said not unkindly. “But I am glad you are here, and I will tell you why, young lady. Elizabeth has needed someone in her life for years and she will be much happier if she has a nice girl like you and does not get tangled up with a young man, at least just yet. I can see you two have a fondness for one another that might last a lot of years.”

Yet again, this odd feeling that she and Elizabeth were more than friends that pass in the night! Priscilla felt slightly unnerved by it. However, then the conversation turned to describing her own home and family and she felt easier with that.

“Go and give that lazy girl a slap on her backside for me, would you, Priscilla? It is time she got up.” Mrs Johnson rather abruptly ended the conversation a couple of minutes after both plates were empty and several cups of tea had been drunk. “And anyway, I need to start a fire for you in the study.”

Priscilla uttered appropriate thanks for the fire and headed upstairs with a glint in her eye to the freezing bedroom she was sharing with Elizabeth.

She threw back the curtains and called out, “Breakfast is ready, Madame!”

No response. Elizabeth was lying face down, buried deep in the bedclothes, with only her lovely red hair visible. Priscilla could not resist it. She pulled the clothes back and aimed two sharp slaps, one on each side of that lovely bottom. Elizabeth jumped out of bed and started to tickle her, and they ended up in a giggling heap on the floor. After a while, they decided mutually that enough was enough and separated themselves, still giggling.

Elizabeth started to fiddle with a face flannel and wash herself with the icy water from the jug on the wash stand. Priscilla half embarrassed herself by watching her friend’s lovely body being washed, but found she could not stop herself looking for the faint red marks, one on each buttock when the pyjama bottoms came briefly down, though really she should have looked the other way. Then she remembered she had not washed and hoped Elizabeth would not notice.

“You were up early!” Elizabeth observed as she put her clothes on.

“I was ravenous, and your mother gave me a lovely breakfast and quite a nice chat.”

“That means I will have to cook for myself. I always do now. Teach me to wake up early, I suppose. It was better when we had cook full time, but business is bad, apparently.”

“I thought you were a socialist!” Exclaimed Priscilla.

“Oh, it is quite convenient to have servants sometimes.” Elizabeth said laughing. “Anyway, I’d better cook quickly, and we’d better get to the study and start this dubious Odyssey.”

***

Something in Priscilla made her start the lesson with a brief, quite amusing Maupassant short story. They might as well start with something entertaining, she thought, though she had in effect promised Mr Johnson to give more attention to the Latin than the French. Elizabeth, to be fair, was good at guessing the meaning of the French, though a little vague about the actual constructions involved and obviously found the story amusing. Priscilla then made her look at the verbs in the story, and then tried to work through the various tenses of each verb. However, this only seemed to work as long as she gave the answer, and as soon as Priscilla did not give the answer Elizabeth was lost.

“It’s just not so logical as chemistry!” Elizabeth said wearily.

“We will work at it till it is as logical as chemistry or physics.” Priscilla said firmly, and suggested a cup of tea before they tackled some Latin.

They sauntered down to the kitchen and made themselves a pot of tea, which they drank slowly, chattering blithely and happily while cook worked on the vegetables for the evening meal.

“Come on! We’d better get back to it.” Priscilla said firmly.

There was something approaching an audible groan from Elizabeth at the thought of Latin, which worried Priscilla, but still the two of them walked back to the study and made a start. Possibly it was a mistake to have started with the French, but whether it was or not Elizabeth was listless and not concentrating, even when Priscilla read her aloud some of the lovely Latin of Aeneid Book Six. Construing it seemed quite beyond Elizabeth and when they got on to Latin verbs she just seemed to go on strike.

“Present indicative of amo is amo, amas amat. Present subjunctive is amem, ames amet. That is one vowel difference. What is difficult about that? And most of the subjunctives and indicatives relate like that.” Said Priscilla with real exasperation.

“You are just like Miss Coleridge. I just don’t see why A or E. Why not the other way round?” Elizabeth said plaintively.

“Well, you will just have to learn it and accept it is that way round.” Priscilla snapped, beginning to feel some sympathy with the senior Latin mistress’s suggestion that Elizabeth should have six of the best and it might encourage her to learn; but really that was a bit hard.

Shortly after that, Priscilla felt they had done as much as they profitably could and called it a day.

After lunch, they told Mrs Johnson that they were heading out to look at the Municipal Art Gallery, which they did for a brief while, but then headed out into one of the poorer areas at Elizabeth’s insistence.

“Father would not like us going there because he thinks it’s dangerous, so don’t mention anything about this please, but I find it really interesting and I am sure you will too. Besides, I will probably meet someone I know.” Elizabeth explained slightly awkwardly, leaving Priscilla to wonder if her friend was afraid of being punished. There had been that odd moment in the meal when she had thought Elizabeth might have been about to be spanked and had rather uncomfortably felt she would like to watch it.

However, they were soon enough in an area of back-to-back houses and obvious extreme poverty. Priscilla did not know whether to be angry at the lack of enterprise on the part of the men who hung round chatting and smoking on every street corner, or desperately upset at the obvious poverty, though some at least of the women looked brave, she thought, and better than the men. No doubt they were the ones that kept it all together. The girls attracted the odd wolf whistle and a few comments in passing, but at Elizabeth’s suggestion they had dressed down and had few problems. And Elizabeth did recognise a girl she had been at Elementary school with and got them invited in for a cup of tea and a discussion about politics in Geordie that Priscilla could barely follow, which left her edgy and annoyed.

***

The girls got into a sort of routine over the next couple of days; a sharp pat or two to wake Elizabeth up, invariably followed by a very silly scrum on the floor, then breakfast in the kitchen and the lesson in the study.

In the afternoon, even when it rained, which it frequently did, there was nearly always a walk in areas that they were not really supposed to be going in, which the very fact this was forbidden gave a pleasant frisson to. And by way of having something that they could honestly report to Mr and Mrs Johnson, they did a certain amount of window shopping for clothes, which Priscilla discovered rather to her amusement Elizabeth had a genuine interest in, despite her reputation as the messiest girl in the School.

The exception to this was an afternoon at the family’s dress maker, Mrs Parkinson, for the fitting of the pair of stunning new red dresses, which Elizabeth was to wear over Christmas. Priscilla, who had always prided herself on not being that interested in clothes, found herself being envious. She would have so liked a dress like that; it would make them look like twins, she thought. And she found herself feeling embarrassed that she had nothing very special in the way of clothes with her, although it was something that would not have normally worried her.

Each evening, there was a chattery meal, always with at least one glass of red wine. Priscilla found herself rather looking forward to the wine. Despite her unease on the first evening, she increasingly decided that she liked the effects.

Then there was the real pleasure of getting into the same bed as Elizabeth and sleeping thigh to thigh; she found she greatly enjoyed having someone to chatter to, and the warm hugs were thoroughly pleasant. But was there, she kept wondering, anything to be had beyond this?

It was really rather a pleasant seven or eight days. There was, however, a constant worry at the back of Priscilla’s mind. What was Mr Johnson going to say when he discovered his daughter’s inability to learn Latin and French verbs in particular, and grammar in general?

Luckily perhaps, Mr Johnson was always down at the works trying to get the Japanese Navy order done by the required date, and after the first evening he was always absent at the evening meal. Nevertheless, Priscilla was in a state of constant anxiety, that if Mr Johnson realized the size of what Elizabeth needed to learn and the unlikelihood of her doing it, then the results could well be dire.

She kept having a constant vision of her dear friend having the cane, clutching the side of one of the armchairs in the study in just her vest and knickers, with her lovely pear-shaped bottom very visible through tight knickers, pushing backwards and forwards, like her own had done when she had been caned by the headmistress. And even the two strokes from her father had stung more than she liked to admit. And if Elizabeth got it for not working, would she get it for not making her pupil work hard enough? Unlikely, she was well aware, but the thought kept plaguing her.

A vision that was undoubtedly reinforced by the very obvious presence of a three-foot cane that leaned in a basket with several umbrellas in a corner of the study.

She broached the matter of the cane with Elizabeth one morning, wondering if this fearsome thing had ever been used.

“Oh no,” said Elizabeth. “Father has never actually used it. He is much too sweet to do it really. I think he got it when I was twelve and being really naughty and just not settling at the High School. The upshot of that was that I was packed off to boarding school in the end, though not before he had tried a couple of really hard spankings. God that hurt; he did not cane me then and I won’t get it now, I am too old.

Nevertheless, Priscilla was filled with an awkward sense of foreboding that she felt unable to share.

***

It was a fair number of evenings into her strange stay in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, though Priscilla had lost count. Certainly it was Christmas Eve the next day, and to her surprise Mr Johnson was there and saying in a fairly constant monologue he could not neglect his family and guest for his work any longer, but the work was not going well and he was worried that the Japanese Navy contract was going to be significantly late.

To please her father, Elizabeth had put the red dress on for the first time, or to be precise the first of the two identical red dresses, intended for the whole Christmas period; and he expressed his admiration rather sweetly, Priscilla thought, wishing she had anything as stunning to wear, but also that she could be dressed identically to her best friend.

However, to the anxiously watching Priscilla it soon became apparent that Mr Johnson was both tired and irritable, his pretty red-headed daughter in her red dress notwithstanding. She found herself devoutly praying that the question of Elizabeth not learning her verbs was not going to come up and that cane was not going to come out of its basket.

However, the conversation turned out to be largely about Politics and whether the new Labour government could and would do anything for the all too numerous unemployed of Newcastle. Elizabeth and her parents argued about the practicality of spending money on reducing unemployment, but neither seemed to doubt the desirability of it.

Priscilla stayed largely out of it. She was afraid her views of the unemployed, which had been strengthened if anything by her walks round the poorer areas, would not go down well. Besides, those walks had been done against the express wishes of Mr Johnson, if Elizabeth was to be believed, so she wanted to avoid awkward questions. However, all went well and there were no difficult inquisitions.

They had got to the end of a not unpleasant meal and Priscilla was just thinking perhaps she and Elizabeth could slip off and listen to the gramophone in the sitting room and practise some dancing when Mr Johnson said very abruptly, “Girls, I want to talk to you in my study.”

Priscilla felt her heart start beating alarmingly. A glance at Elizabeth showed she was feeling the same.

“Why ever cannot you discuss whatever this is about here in the dining room, dear?” Mrs Johnson was saying in an irritated voice. “There is no need to drag them up to the study, where there is not even a fire, and spoil a pleasant evening.”

“I really need to talk to them alone. There won’t be time again in the morning. Even on Christmas Eve, we need to keep this order moving forward, and anyway I expect the embers from this morning are still warm in the study.”

“Oh, very well, dear.”

Mrs Johnson sounded quite cross, but she did not do anything more to stop the little procession up the stairs to the Study.

The room, as Mr Johnson had said, was still slightly warm from the embers of the fire that the two girls had enjoyed in the morning, but there was a distinct chill in the air and Priscilla thought to herself that she was going to be glad of Elizabeth as a hot water bottle tonight.

Mr Johnson sat himself in one of the armchairs, but rather pointedly did not invite the girls to sit down.

“Elizabeth,” he began. “Would it surprise you to know that Mr Mac Sweeney, who is my assistant manager, as I am sure you know, saw you and a girl he did not know, but I presume was Priscilla, walking by one of the shipyards, not once, but twice, while he was running errands in the last two days?”

“He must have made a mistake.” Elizabeth insisted very lamely. “We have mainly been looking in the shops. Oh, we went in the Art Gallery one day, didn’t we Priscilla?”

Priscilla did not confirm or deny this.

“Oh, don’t ask your friend to lie for you. It makes it worse. You know perfectly well there are areas I do not think it is wise or safe for you to walk in, Elizabeth. It is as simple as that, and you have totally disobeyed me for the second time that I know of. We had this argument in the summer holidays, as you well know. And you have put your friend at risk. What do you think I would have told Priscilla’s parents if this had gone badly wrong? This time, young lady, you are for it, big girl or not.”

“I really am sorry, Father. I won’t do it again. Please don’t punish me.”

“That, as I remember, is what you said last time. No, this time you are not going to get off. Priscilla, is she really working at her Latin and French?”

Priscilla felt acutely embarrassed but said, “Yes, she is making a real effort. We are getting there with the Latin set books, anyway. She should have them clear enough in her head to at least pass.”

“What about all this grammar the Latin Mistress at the school was going on about? Is she getting anywhere? Is she making an effort?”

“She does not have a natural feel for grammar, but she has been trying genuinely.” Priscilla said, hoping she would not have to explain Elizabeth’s total hang-up about vowels that made teaching her Latin verbs so very difficult.

“Genuinely trying? She is genuinely trying to get it right? That is what you said, Priscilla?”

“Yes, Mr Johnson.” Priscilla said, devoutly hoping nothing was going to happen to expose her half lie; Elizabeth had not been trying that hard with grammar, though her problems with it were genuine enough.

“Just as well for you that your tutor is backing you up, Elizabeth. If she hadn’t, then you would have had the cane. As it is, I think a jolly good spanking is called for. Come here!”

Elizabeth did not in fact move, but she was standing quite close to her father and he reached out and took both her hands and put her across his knee. Before Priscilla’s bemused eyes, up went Elizabeth’s loose red dress and her blue slip, and down came her brown knickers, exposing her milk white buttocks.

Elizabeth thrust up her hands. Mr Johnson seized them in his left hand and brought his right hand down hard from a considerable height on his daughter’s right buttock. There was a slight yelp from Elizabeth. Up rose the hand and then fell at least as hard on the left buttock. As the hand rose again, Priscilla noted the flesh had changed from creamy white to something resembling pink.

As the hand rose and fell at distinct intervals for another ten times at least, pink turned to red and Priscilla found herself intensely involved in the process.

“Please Father! That is enough. Please! I have been punished enough. I know I deserve it, but please stop.” Elizabeth sounded desperate and on the verge of tears.

“Oh, I think we have barely started.” Said Mr Johnson.

At this point, the spanks seemed to get closer together. After another dozen or so, Elizabeth’s legs began to kick, and perhaps a dozen spanks further on suddenly she started to wail like a small child. The punishment continued some while beyond this while Priscilla wondered why she found this so oddly arousing. Then Mr Johnson let his daughter slide to the floor, where she lay weeping.

“I will leave you to sort her out, Priscilla. I expect you will do it better than her Mother.” Mr Johnson said, and departed, looking almost embarrassed; his anger seemed to have gone.

Priscilla waited till the door closed and put an arm round her friend and kept it there for several minutes. She could feel Elizabeth’s whole body quivering.

Then she said, ‘Cream girl. Come on, you know it helps. Come on, let’s go to our room.’

She managed to get Elizabeth to her feet and pulled her knickers back up, before walking her through the door and the landing to the bedroom that they were sharing. Elizabeth just seemed to want to lie face down on the bed and weep.

Priscilla found the face cream and, without waiting for permission, eased Elizabeth’s skirts up and her knickers down for the second time that afternoon. Then she lovingly applied the cream to her friend’s inflamed behind, thinking what a beautiful shape it was.

Elizabeth gradually came to life and stood up, then staggered round the room a little, before ending up in a hug with Priscilla, who could feel their two hearts beating together.

“I did really deserve that. I shouldn’t have disobeyed my father, even if I thought he was wrong.”

“Oh, I don’t know,” Priscilla replied. “We got some good walks out of it and I have come to like meeting your friends. Maybe it was worth a good hiding.”

“Be grateful you weren’t second across his knee. I really thought you might have been when he started. But thank you for getting me off the cane. The mood he was in I would not have sat down for a week.”

“Well he could not really have spanked the tutor, and a guest at that.” Priscilla responded uneasily, wondering if she really had been in danger of her third caning in less than six weeks.

“I think he would have done it, if you had tried to back my story up. I could see it in his eye.”

“I doubt it!” Said Priscilla. “But come on, let us get into bed. It is getting late.”

A lot of that night was spent in very intense cuddling, which at least kept the cold away. And there were certain very real promises made for the future, which even as they made them Priscilla kept wondering how they could be kept after she went to Cambridge, but she still meant with all her heart.

***

Christmas Day was very pleasant. The Johnsons surprised Priscilla by giving her a very pretty red dress identical to the one that Elizabeth had been spanked in and it made her feel, rather as she had imagined, as if she was her friend’s twin.

After Boxing Day, Mr Johnson returned to his engineering works and suddenly seemed well on his way to getting the Japanese order fulfilled on time. And Elizabeth and Priscilla got through the Virgil set book and wrote out a translation of a sort for Elizabeth to learn, though it is doubtful if Elizabeth’s grasp of the grammar and verbs improved that much. And there was not really as much time for the French as there should have been, but Priscilla felt very slightly more confident about that.

Then it was time for the two girls to head back south, first to Priscilla’s mother and father for New Year, and then back to school, where Priscilla kept thinking she and Elizabeth were going to have to be very discrete.

“I am sure that we shall see a lot more of you, Priscilla SJ,” Mrs Johnson said with a smile as she gave a delicate peck to her daughter’s friend’s cheek.

“You will always be welcome here.” Mr Johnson said, giving her an unexpected hug.

Priscilla found herself pondering if this was how prospective daughters-in-law were said goodbye to, which was an odd thought, when she was just a lowly friend and not Elizabeth’s fiancee.

The End

© Jane Fairweather 2019

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