Innocence

When guilt is in doubt, the headmistress has to decide.

By Jane Fairweather

Miss Renton was in mid-sentence explaining a rather subtle point about quadratic equations when the door of the small room on the purpose built Sixth Form corridor suddenly opened and the grey-haired School Secretary  entered.

“Miss Johns sends her compliments, Miss Renton, and she is sorry to disturb your lesson, but she wishes to see Emily Halliday immediately.” The School Secretary was obviously repeating a message learned more or less by heart a fair number of years before.

“You’d better get off with you, Emily.” Miss Renton observed smiling amiably at one of her better mathematicians. “You’d better not keep the Head waiting. I expect it will be something to your advantage. I hope you won’t mind if we don’t wait for you; the Head is apt to go on rather on these occasions.”

“No, of course not, Miss Renton,” Emily replied very politely. “I will look it up in the text book, but I think I have got the hang of it already.”

Emily disentangled her gym slip and petticoat, which was rather sticky with the heat, from her chair and followed the School Secretary’s grey hair down the corridor. What was all this about? It seemed strange. She was not aware of having done anything particularly praiseworthy and she certainly had not done anything bad, well except stand by when her best friend, Ally Mackenzie, had deliberately tripped that Third Former up in the corridor, which had been quite funny really. There was no harm in a bit of horseplay every so often, and the juniors were such easy targets. There was never any come back because girls never grassed on one another.

“I don’t know what you have done, Emily, but I should have some answers ready and a few apologies as well. The Head is extremely angry with you.” The School Secretary was saying.

“But I have not done anything.” Said Emily, suddenly feeling very alarmed.

She had never been punished in all her time at the Vernon West School for Girls and as far as she knew she had not done anything to earn a lecture from the Headmistress now.

“You will have to do better than that, Emily. She is angry enough to be talking about the slipper. If I were you, I’d make a clean breast of it. If you do that she will probably let you off.”

“She would not slipper a Sixth Former, would she?” Emily ejaculated, wondering if the School Secretary was winding her up. The slipper would mean real disgrace in the eyes of the rest of the school if Miss Johns was unkind enough to announce it in Assembly. Only juniors got the slipper.

“It is what she is talking about, Emily. I should have your excuses ready if I were you.”

It was unbelievable. They walked in silence the rest of the way as Emily wondered if she was in a bad dream. The School Secretary led her into the school office and knocked on the door that said ‘Headmistress’. It opened and the quite tall, very fit, figure of Miss Johns, who was really rather young to be a Headmistress, was there, telling Emily to stand in front of her desk with her hands behind her back. Oh lord, this really was a formal lecture of the sort every girl in the school dreaded.

“I imagine you know why you are here, Miss Halliday.” Came the sonorous, but extremely angry voice from behind the desk.

“Really, I don’t know, Miss Johns.” Emily said desperately, worrying to herself that she sounded totally unconvincing.

“Oh really girl, if you cannot bring yourself to confess, you should realize that the consequences will be dire.”

“But what am I supposed to have done?” Said Emily desperately.

“Well I suppose it is possible you don’t know the end of your actions, but I am sure you know the beginning. You must remember tripping up a third former, Julia Martin-Smith, in the corridor yesterday. Well I realize you may not have known her name, but that is what you did; and a good deal of pain and grumbling later it appears that Julia has cracked her tibia. Miss Mason has just been to the hospital with her and brought her back in plaster. Julia has stated quite categorically that you were responsible. I am rather proud of her for defying the ridiculous unwritten rule you girls have about never betraying one another, and if it should emerge, Miss Halliday, that you or any of your friends have taken your revenge on her for having the courage to tell the truth, then we shall certainly be talking about you being expelled and quite possibly some of your friends, if I can prove or have even a whisper of their involvement. Alison Mackenzie, for example.”

It dawned on Emily that Julia must have confused herself and Ally. They both had black hair and pigtails, wore brown rimmed glasses and were almost the same height. But she dare not betray Ally. First of all she was not going to betray her best friend, but secondly, grassing on her best friend would ruin her reputation in the school even worse than getting the slipper. She gulped slightly.

“Julia must have muddled me with someone else, Miss Johns. Girls often don’t really know who anyone is outside their own year. A lot don’t know anyone outside their form or their dorm.”

“Miss Halliday, I should shut up before you dig yourself in any deeper. Julia is an observant child and she gave a very clear description and very clearly knew who you were. Now are you going to own up and apologise, or are we going to have to talk about more drastic measures such as a jolly good spanking with the slipper?” The headmistress retorted icily.

Emily cogitated for a second. To her relief, Miss Johns did not rush her. She could own up, she thought. She would have to apologise now to Miss Johns and quite probably to Julia, who no doubt genuinely thought she was the one who had tripped her up. But, said her pride, she really had not done it and she was not going to admit to something she had not done, nor was she going to grass on Ally. It was a question of principle.

She tossed her head back and looked Miss Johns straight in the eye and said very firmly: “I really cannot own up to something I did not do, Miss Johns.”

“Oh you ridiculous girl, you are just heaping lie upon lie. I think your conduct deserves at least six with the slipper and if you go on protesting your innocence it could well be rather more, not to mention the interesting question of whether your knickers stay up.” The headmistress exclaimed very angrily.

“But Miss Johns”, Emily protested. “I didn’t do it; I really did not do it. You aren’t really going slipper me, are you? I’m a Sixth Former. You cannot possibly mean it.”

Miss Johns glared down from the height of her five feet and ten inches. It was well known that she had won the County tennis championship not that many years before and her serve was supposed to have been unusually powerful for a woman. Emily flinched.

“Well if you did not do it, then who did, Miss Halliday?” Demanded Miss Johns, “Come on! I have not got all day.”

Emily squirmed and blushed. She was being given a chance, but she could not betray Ally.

“Well, Miss Halliday!”

“Please Miss Johns, you know I cannot possibly tell you that. It would be grassing; I would be sent to Coventry, and…”

“Well then you will have to take the punishment as if you had done it, won’t you Miss Halliday? And I think we will add a couple more for covering up for your friend, whoever that maybe, though I might make several quite likely guesses.”

“It isn’t actually one of my friends. I would not want them to be in trouble because you thought they had done it.” Emily replied, to her own annoyance lying for real.

“Well then, who is it? If it is not one of your friends it should be much easier for you to tell me.” Miss Johns observed in a reasonable tone.

“I cannot really say, Miss Johns.” Emily said, suddenly getting her dignity back for the second time and deciding she had no option but to accept the punishment.

“I cannot really say, Miss Johns!” Came the mocking, mimicking voice. “Well young lady, if you cannot say I certainly can. You are going to have six with the slipper for tripping Julia, which you claim you did not do and I am quite certain that you did. And you are going to have an extra three for lying by claiming to be covering for your friend. And because you have behaved with extreme insolence throughout this interview you are going to have it on your bare bottom. Take off your gym slip and bend over.”

“This is so unfair.”  Emily protested before she could stop herself.

“Right we will make it a ten. Say one more thing, Miss Halliday, and I will make it a dozen. Now take off your gym slip instantly.”

Emily fiddled with her gym skip.

“Don’t put it on the floor girl! Fold it and put in on my desk.”

Emily complied.

“Now pull your petticoat above your waist. Now bend over and put your hands on your knees.”

Emily bent, feeling rather proud of herself. Martyrdom might be quite good for her reputation. She felt the petticoat, which had flopped back down slightly when she bent over, being re-adjusted. Her green school girl knickers felt extremely tight and she wondered for a second if the head would forget about taking them down. But no, she felt fingers inside the elastic at the waist rather slowly and ceremoniously lowering them.

She remembered her Father, who had commanded a destroyer in the War, saying that whenever they had incoming fire from an enemy ship someone on the bridge would always say, “For what we are about to receive,” and she said it to herself several times. Then the large tennis shoe that was the school slipper started to spank her small buttocks very hard indeed. It hurt a great deal and she could feel her bottom getting hotter and hotter as she wriggled desperately. Tears came into her eyes, but she managed not to let out a single sound, which she felt extremely proud of herself about.

Then she had to stand face to the wall for a good half hour with her hands on her head and her glowing red bottom visible to the world. Mercifully, however, only the School Secretary came in. Then she was free to go with warnings about her conduct ringing in her ears. However, she felt more than a little proud of herself; she had not betrayed her best friend and she had stood up for the truth! No, she had nothing whatever to be ashamed of. And later on that day Ally was extremely grateful.

The End

© Jane Fairweather 2017

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