Something all prefects should have.

By Joanna Jones

Mrs Harrison heard a vague noise in the corridor outside getting louder and, recognising the telltale sounds of a mob-like activity, a group of excited girls overriding the pleas of another, had got up to investigate when there was a knock on her door, just as she got to the handle.

The sight that greeted her was very surprising as three sixth formers were forcibly escorting a very worried looking prefect followed by half a dozen excited, younger girls who were clearly egging them on.

The prefect she recognised immediately as Nicola Barker. However, it was one of the other sixth formers who spoke first.

“Mrs Harrison, Nicola Barker here was running in the corridor to get somewhere and bumped into Susan, knocking her over.” Said Kate almost gleefully, as Susan, one of the younger girls, nodded vigorously.

Nicola interjected. “I was a bit late for my stair duty, but I was not really running, and the girls here seemed to be deliberately blocking the way, not keeping to the left.”

Mrs Harrison could see a full scale argument coming and decided to nip things in the bud. “So, Nicola, if you are here then no one is monitoring the stairs during the interval?”

“Yes, Miss,” she replied quickly. “I tried to explain but…”

“Go and do your duty now and after the interval come back to my office when we will discuss your rushing around the corridors.”

Nicola bit her lip at the implied threat, but had no option but to accept her dismissal.

Meanwhile, the headmistress ‘invited’ the nine girls into her office.

The girls found being in there a little more intimidating, and were significantly less ebullient as a result. Mrs Harrison soon had a believable story out of them.

At the interval the corridor was mostly crowded one way traffic and therefore there was not much space for those travelling in the opposite direction. Further, Nicola had indeed been rushing (the agreed word was ‘trotting’ rather than actually running) and Susan had indeed been knocked over, and had a marked knee to show for it. Nicola had apologised quickly and tried to go on, but two of the older girls had stopped her and instigated the process of dragging her to the Head.

The reason why the girls had behaved rather vindictively to Nicola was unsaid, but Mrs Harrison had a pretty good idea. Most of it was no doubt a crude form of revenge. Nicola had acquired quite a reputation since her appointment, after all. She was a quite intense, studious girl who could assert herself when needed, superficially perfect prefect material. What none of those recommending her had realised was her highly inflexible view on school rules.

Prefects had numerous duties and of course many had the potential to deal with misbehaving pupils. There were three possible courses of action; the proverbial quiet word, award a detention, or send / bring the girl to the Headmistress.

At the induction Mrs Harrison recommended that bringing a girl to her should be regarded a serious sanction. As she would always support her prefects, she would almost always cane a girl in that circumstance.

While the other prefects seemed to have struck the usual expected balance, Nicola right from the beginning seemed to have only one sanction, which was to drag the miscreant to her. Mrs Harrison guessed approaching half of those brought by a prefect to her office were with Nicola, putting her in a difficult position as to whether to apply the law and cane the girl, or to potentially undermine a prefect, and possibly other prefects in the process, by letting her off to some level.

As a result she had got the Head Girl to have a quiet word a couple of times, and let a few girls off with a slippering, but it had made minimal difference.

Mrs Harrison suspected that there were a significant number of girls who now had it in for Nicola, and indeed wondered if she had been set up somehow. One of the three sixth formers (a girl called Jackie) had been caned for mildly swearing in the common room when a warning should have probably done (and it was almost unheard of for a prefect to report a fellow sixth former in any case). Further Kate, who perhaps was the principal instigator, had a younger sister in second form who had only been caned last week for fooling around in the canteen queue and apparently answering Nicola back; another marginal offence where a detention would have probably sufficed in the Head’s view.

Bringing herself to the matter in front of her, she surveyed the nine girls, now looking much less cocky as they waited for her decision. Finally she came to one.

“By dragging Nicola here away from her duty, you put other pupils at risk. Prefect duties are there for good reason. Kate, I believe that this was your idea along with Jackie here?”

The two girls looked at the floor as they muttered a confirmation.

“You two will wait. The rest of you who assisted and behaved like a mob will serve detention tomorrow evening. In future, if you see a pupil or prefect misbehaving then you may come to me to explain what you saw and I will decide whether to call that girl in. Is that understood?”

There were murmured assents, and with that she took their names for the detention list and they were dismissed.

Both Kate and Jackie knew what was coming as the other girls filed out after their dismissal. Indeed Jackie was already wringing her hands in anticipation as the Head pulled the red notebook that served as the punishment record book out of her drawer.

They watched sickly as a short thin cane was retrieved from the cupboard.

A final comment from the Head as she flexed the implement in front of them: “I am extremely disappointed that you led those younger girls astray in acting as a mob. You are supposed to be young ladies! I am going to give you two strokes each in the hope in future you may remember to behave as such.”

Mrs Harrison noted little additional reaction as the number was intimated, although she suspected there was relief that it was only two, which was generally her minimum, certainly for a sixth former.

“Well Jackie, as you know what to do, you can go first.”

Jackie reluctantly stepped forward and stood in front of Mrs Harrison but facing roughly at a 45 degree angle to her. With a grimace, she pushed her left hand out at a further angle such that the cane could be lined up across the meat of her palm.

Kate watched both mesmerised and horrified as Jackie squeezed her eyes shut when the cane touched gently and was raised.

With a faint hiss it came down, landing with a thwip on Jackie’s hand.

Jackie’s face contorted with pain, but she somehow managed not to cry out. Before being ordered to, she managed put her hand back out, and seconds later the second blow brought further pained contortions and a small gasp like wail.

This time she briefly waved her arm before clamping it under her right armpit.

Kate watched as she stumbled back next to her, clearly aware of little else but the pain. At least Jackie was not crying.

She was still looking in shock at her caned colleague when Mrs Harrison called her across.

It took an age, but eventually she stood in the same position as Jackie had, with her left hand out waiting.

Seeing her nerves, Mrs Harrison warned her to keep still if she did not want extra, and with that raised the cane and brought it down.

Kate screamed.

It was shocking. How had Jackie taken it in silence, she briefly wondered, as the agony went right though her.

When Mrs Harrison ordered her hand out again, she found tears already pricking her eyes, and it took a second reminder before she could manage to do it.

Another hiss and a thwip.

A loud scream and it was over. Though the pain clearly was not, as she hopped from foot to foot with her hands squeezed together between her legs. Tears were rolling down her cheeks.

A minute later, once the punishment book was filled in, the girls were dismissed.

Jackie made for the door but Kate, still upset with the pain and frustration at what had happened, blurted out her feelings. “It is so unfair. We get caned when Nicola, who gets girls caned for the slightest thing, gets off scot-free. My sister was doing little more than talking when she dragged her to you, and only answered her back once Nicola started forcing her to your office!”

Mrs Harrison looked at the girl surprised. Few girls ever questioned her, and never before directly after a caning. Dismissing the temptation to punish her again she looked hard at the sixth former and ordered her to stand straight with her hands by her side.

Finally Mrs Harrison said coldly: “You know perfectly well I will be speaking to Nicola after the interval, and I am not going to discuss with you what I intend to say or do. However, I do not recall saying anything earlier that might lead you to believe she will be getting off, as you say, ‘scot-free’. Now get out before I give your right hand a couple too for your impertinence, or for seemingly deliberately trying to get a prefect caned as a form of revenge!”

Both girls scuttled out quickly and headed directly to the toilets to recover. It was as well for them that Mrs Harrison did not know the gist of the dark murmurings they made to each other as they did so.

The Head meanwhile considered Kate’s outburst. Despite the implication, she was sure there was no malice in Nicola sending girls to her, and that it was simply a rather heavy-handed zeal. Perhaps, she thought, a thorough shock might teach her to be more thoughtful in her actions, as if she did not calm down then the question of her remaining a prefect would need to be considered. She had no real desire to take her badge, knowing what the consequences might be for her self-esteem, to say nothing of the impact on how other girls might treat her.

Five minutes later the bell went, and shortly after there was a nervous tap at her door.

Soon Nicola was standing pensively in front of the Head.

Mrs Harrison stared across her desk at young Miss Barker, giving her plenty of time to consider the situation.

Eventually she started: “You do admit you were not exactly walking when you collided with young Susan?”

“Yes.” Nicola replied slowly. “As I said, I had been held up as Mrs Graham wanted to finish a point that she’d been making as the bell went.”

“That is as maybe, but you still should have walked carefully, particularly when going against the main flow.”

Nicola took a breath and decided on the apologetic approach. “I am very sorry, Headmistress. I will make sure it does not happen again.”

Mrs Harrison wondered how to deliver her unpleasant surprise and decided to avoid the more usual answer along the lines she was going to make sure it didn’t. Instead she said: “Good, I am glad to hear it. All we need do is to administer the punishment and we can move on.”

Nicola’s eyes opened wide. “Punishment, miss?” She squeaked.

Mrs Harrison feigned innocence. “Of course, Miss Barker. After all, you were rushing around the corridor, and indeed knocked a younger girl over as a result.”

“But…”

“But what, Miss Barker?” Replied the Head rather more coldly. “You have brought enough girls to my office for similar offences, have you not? And the result of that for them was most often a caning. I cannot see why you should be treated differently.”

“But I am a prefect.” Nicola begged desperately.

“Who therefore should know how to set an example.” Mrs Harrison fixed her eyes on the shocked girl as she paused. “I am going to cane you, Nicola. However, if you think that inappropriate for a prefect then you can in addition resign first.”

Nicola was in shock. She had never been caned, and assumed on promotion to prefect that she was finally safe from such a punishment. She was a well behaved young woman, who never did anything much wrong (at least in her eyes), not one of those bratty girls she thought would benefit from the sort of effects only Mrs Harrison could provide.

After a long pause she felt a tear prick her eye as she realised there was no way out.

“I have no real choice then?” She asked miserably.

“Not really.” agreed Mrs Harrison. She then decided to make her point. “Nicola, listen to me very, very carefully. You need to consider exactly how and why you are in this position. Those girls forced you here, not because you were a prefect per se, but because you never hesitate to drag them here for me to deal with for almost any misdemeanour, no matter how minor! Almost half the girls sent to me by a prefect are sent by you, despite you being one girl in twenty four! Carol, as Head Girl, I know has told you to ease off, but you did not. As a result you have made yourself a marked person. There are many pupils who I suspect feel that your inflexibility has led them to be punished, as they would see it unfairly, or at least excessively. They are, as a result, in many cases bitter about it.”

Nicola stared at the floor. “I am sorry Miss,” she replied quietly. “I will try to learn to be more flexible in my approach.”

“I hope so, as if it carries on then I am certain you will find some girl making another complaint I cannot ignore, and at that point I will really need to consider whether you can remain a prefect.”

Nicola blanched at that threat, as Mrs Harrison continued. “By the way, I expect you to be absolutely fair on those girls who brought you here. If I ever feel you have targeted them as a result you will certainly lose your badge, as well as seriously regretting it.”

Nicola was already seriously regretting the firm line she had taken as she continued to find the headmistress’s carpet of immense interest.

“Right, five strokes. Two for rushing and two for failing to live by the standards expected of a prefect. Finally I am going to give you a final extra stroke to your bottom for failing to live to the exceptionally high standards you seem to expect of the other girls yourself, and also to ensure you really understand that a caning for a girl sent to me should only be for serious offences where there is no realistic alternative. I expect this punishment to act as a reminder that a prefect should always apply judgment and discretion.”

Nicola Barker was no longer staring at the carpet but wide eyed at the Headmistress, hoping, praying she had misheard. She thought she would get one, two at most, not two on each hand with an extra one to her rear.

As she slowly realised that was her final word Nicola felt a further tear well up.

Mrs Harrison was unsympathetic. The silly girl had got herself into this pickle and was going to have to accept the painful consequence. There was a dark determination to show her also that it was not the humiliation that led most girls to leave her office in tears, but the sheer shocking pain that only the cane could produce. A pain that Nicola needed to appreciate, to know properly what a severe punishment it was.

Bending down, the Head retrieved the cane and punishment book she had temporarily hidden under her desk and stood up. Depositing the notebook on the desk she ordered Nicola to stand in the middle of the floor and, being her first time, had to guide her into position.

With a final warning not to move unless she wanted extra she touched the cane lightly on Nicola’s left hand, then raised it rapidly and slashed it down hard on the prefect’s palm. While there was a limit to the severity she could safely use when hand caning, it was still significantly harder than those she’d applied earlier that morning.

Nicola screamed as the hitherto unimaginable pain registered. Involuntarily she clamped her hand to her midriff, the odd tear that had escaped before instantaneously converted to a flood.

Mrs Harrison gave her a few extra seconds before firmly ordering the hand out again.

Nicola could barely believe it, but eventually put her palm out for the second stroke.

With a second hiss it landed parallel to the first redoubling the girl’s misery, as she let out a second wail of pain through her tears.

All too soon for Nicola, Mrs Harrison was demanding she face the other way and provide her right hand up for its two strokes.

She could barely bring herself to do it, but what choice did she have?

Moments later the thwip of the cane preceded another desperate scream as the right hand was branded with its first cane stripe.

Nicola was shaking almost uncontrollably as she forced herself to position her hand for the fourth stroke.

It was as firm as the Headmistress ever caned a hand and resulted in an ear splitting yell as the sobbing girl immediately put her hands under each armpit and bounced up and down on her feet.

She had never conceived that a caning was quite so dreadful. Bitterly she regretted ever having sent any girl for this, let alone one every few days. She would indeed be more careful!

However, Mrs Harrison was not finished with her errant prefect yet. As young Miss Barker sobbed to herself, she went to the cupboard and swapped the cane for her most feared implement, a long thick dark cane that was horribly supple. She rarely caned a girl’s bottom, and more rarely still used the cane she was now holding. However, it was only one stroke, and she was determined the girl would feel it.

“Right, young lady, that just leaves the one to your bottom. Turn around, face the wall and touch your toes!”

As Nicola’s awareness returned she registered that the cane in Mrs Harrison’s hand had changed. “Oh! Oh, please, miss!” She begged.

However the Head was having none of it. “Do as you are told now, unless you prefer two stripes on your backside!”

Snivelling, Nicola did as she was told, her tight navy school skirt stretching across her rather ample rear.

“One stroke, but you will not stand until I say so, otherwise I will repeat it. Understood?”

“Yes, Miss,” whined the poor girl, as she felt the cane tap lightly.

“Legs straight!” Came the order.

Nicola felt very uncomfortable as her muscles stretched with her exquisitely painful hands stretched out to touch the tips of her school shoes.

Slowly Mrs Harrison raised the cane. It was only one stroke, and she delivered it with the maximum force she could muster, landing it around two thirds of the way down her buttocks.

Nicola heard the whistle, heard the crack, then, after a brief moment, felt the pain. The banshee wail she let out was the loudest yet. Despite it being only one, she had to summon every ounce of her resolve not to stand.

Mrs Harrison left her sobbing in position as she put the cane away, then finally let the girl stand up. Nicola’s hands pressed against her rear trying to deal with the pain that only a single stroke had inflicted. She barely saw the Head complete the record in the punishment book.

Unlike the others, she found herself escorted direct to English with a school secretary.

Both Jackie and Kate were in the same A-level class. Seeing the tear-stained, now sniffing girl stumble in impressed them. Clearly Nicola had received her just desserts.

Those desserts did indeed ensure Nicola was much more circumspect with her punishments, and also ensured that the worst of the bitterness from her earlier ‘enthusiasm’ was forgotten, something that Nicola was, much later on, grudgingly thankful for. However, that gratitude was far from her thoughts as she struggled to cope with the rest of her lessons that day, to say nothing of the comments from her school colleagues, many of whom were clearly delighted that she had finally received a taste of her own medicine.

The End