Witnessing the Head Girl’s Punishment provides the incentive for a life change
by Harry James
Jane Peters had been more or less obliged by the Headmistress to witness Head Girl Eleanor Moore’s severe six stroke caning. After all, the caning was the result of Eleanor having sworn at Miss Peters in a tutorial.
Jane had always been impressed by Eleanor Moore, a highly able and talented girl, whose abilities were almost certain to take her much further in life than Jane’s own modest achievements. In fact, Jane almost always admired the most able senior girls and wished that she herself could manage to be more like them in the way they seemed to take hold of life and extract the maximum from it. Jane’s own low profile and, very frankly, she admitted to herself, dull demeanour and approach to life compared very poorly to the characters of the energetic girls she taught.
Even Jane’s admiration for Eleanor Moore had reached a completely new level as a result of the punishment she had witnessed the girl receive. Through the rather drawn-out process, which included her name being read out to the whole school at Wednesday morning school assembly, Eleanor had conducted herself throughout with a bearing and level of dignity which was amazing for an 18 year old; it would have been impressive from somebody of any age. Jane doubted that she would be capable of showing the same grace. The actual punishment followed after school on the same day.
As Head Girl, Eleanor had even announced her own inclusion on the Prefects’ punishment list to receive the slipper. The slippering was for having sworn at prefect Jane Foster when Foster had intervened to try to stop Eleanor’s outburst at Miss Peters at the same tutorial.
Jane Peters had wondered about the slippering. It would only have occurred if Jane Foster had reported Eleanor to the Prefects’ Council. Why on earth would she have done that knowing that Miss Peters had told Eleanor there and then that she was going on Headmistress’ Report?
A few days after the caning, when Jane had asked Foster if she had indeed reported Eleanor, the answer astonished her. Eleanor had been reported at her own insistence, stating that, as Head Girl, she could not possibly be treated any differently to any other girl or she would lose all respect, and there was no escaping the fact that she had sworn at Foster.
The night immediately following the caning, Jane had gone to bed as usual, but slept barely at all, her mind was whirling with crowded thoughts. Jane had been stung by being teased by the Head’s secretary, in whose office she had waited, before going into the Headmistress’s study to witness the punishment. Anne Parsons had managed to deduce that Jane herself had never been caned at school and had managed to get Jane to lie by agreeing that she had been lucky to escape that fate. The truth was that Jane had never ever been remotely close to getting the cane; she was too studious, too invisible, too dull.
Jane had noticed that the top achieving girls nearly always got into trouble at some point in their school career. Their sheer zest for life and inclination to have fun and take risks seemed to ensure at least one episode of bad judgement.
Jane’s discomfort was increased by the simple fact she had provoked Eleanor somewhat by the way she had held her work up in front of her face. Of course, there would be no come back on Jane for that; she was the teacher and anyway it did not excuse Eleanor’s behaviour.
Jane took stock of her own life. She knew she was respected as an English teacher, but that was about it. She took the minimum interest in school life, performing her non-teaching duty rotas and no more. Physically, she was 5′ 6” tall and a size 14, she was 41 years old but looked nearer to 50. In not so many years time she would be referred to as ‘stout’, a thought that she hated. She dressed in an old-fashioned school ma’am manner; high necked blouses, dark tweedy suits and brogues were her norm. She could dress in the dark.
By morning, Jane had reached some conclusions. She was going to take hold of herself, get fit and get involved. She needed a role-model and realised to her shock that the obvious role model was Eleanor. She, a 41 year old teacher, was going to take an 18 year old as a role model. That alone said everything really.
The only thing Jane could not address was that she would not be able to look Eleanor, or any other senior girl, in the eye and know that she had lived life as they were doing, that she had taken the youthful risks and taken the consequences with aplomb when they had come her way, because they never had.
Come morning, even having barely slept at all, Jane was more awake and alert than she could ever remember; she had formed an outline plan.
She sought out the Headmistress, Miss Amberley, later that day and confessed her own role in taunting Eleanor about her one item of below standard work. She confessed that she had been unprofessional.
Miss Amberley really did not want this problem and replied to Jane’s confession: “Miss Peters, I confess that I would have preferred to have known this before I caned Eleanor Moore. I may well have reduced the punishment to four strokes rather than the six I gave her.
“However, I could not and would not have told her that I was reducing her punishment. She would never have known she would have received six but for your own, what can I call it, error. If I had told her she was receiving a reduced punishment I would be guilty of undermining your own position.
“Also, it does not remove Moore’s own responsibility for her behaviour and failure to control her temper.
“Just learn from your mistake, don’t repeat, it and put it behind you.”
Jane left Miss Amberley rather crestfallen. She did not know what she had expected to happen, but she had expected some sort of retribution. It appeared to Jane Peters that even if she did do wrong she was too dull to be worth punishing.
To some extent Jane did put the matter behind her and got on with the rest of her plan, but from time to time it continued to nag her, and now here we are, just over one year, later in early December 1970.
During the past year Jane Peters had persuaded the Head of Games, Mary Evans, to open up the Gym three evenings a week for staff use. The school had a strong sports ethic and had a very well equipped Gymnasium. Mary had even spent three evening sessions herself introducing Jane to the equipment and devising a Gym exercise circuit for her, which Jane had rigidly stuck to, steadily increasing the weights and repetitions.
When Spring arrived, Jane took to running. At first, she could barely manage to run the length of the hockey pitch without breaking into a sweat. The Gym had improved her strength and posture, but had done relatively little for her fitness. Again, Jane stuck with it. She had now built it up to 2 mile runs.
She had also started to involve herself in school life. She helped to organise the Summer sports days and was acting as a mentor to a few junior girls.
Her clothes had started to become rather loose. She had managed so far by taking in the waist on her skirts and accepting that the jackets were just rather big, so if anything when dressed she was looking worse than before!
When the summer break arrived, she returned home to her now rather elderly parents in rural Kent. She no longer had access to the gym but she increased her running and also signed up for summer membership at the local tennis club and took lessons.
The summer break was six weeks that year. At the end of the fourth week, Jane took herself into Canterbury and tried on some new clothes. She found that she could now wear size 10. She bought a summer frock at Marks and Spencer and went back home.
Jane was not hard up. She did not earn that much as a teacher, but spent even less; the unspent money simply accumulated as unintended savings. Then, two years ago, her paternal grandfather died. He had been a widower for nearly ten years and Jane was his only grandchild; he doted on her. The bulk of her grandfather’s not insubstantial estate went to her parents, but he left a quite large inheritance directly to her.
So far, the only significant use Jane had made of her inheritance was to take driving lessons and buy a small car. Now she thought it might be time to spend some more. The next weekend, the last before returning to work, she took herself up to London and bought a complete new wardrobe, including a visit to Rigby & Peller, the Royal Warrant corsetieres in Knightsbridge, where she bought a large number of items of lingerie. Jane bought high quality luxury underwear, not racy but elegant. Wearing her new underwear created a quite unexpected new feeling of confidence.
But still a certain thought and feeling kept returning. She had never received the slightest punishment, ever. She thought about Eleanor and how she had taken hers with bravery, bearing and dignity; would she be up to that? Could she behave in the same manner? Would doing so enable her to look straight into the eyes of colleagues and senior girls and feel their equal? The fact was, she thought she was never likely to find out.
Eleanor, Jane’s role model, had left the school at the end of the Summer Term in 1970 without ever really noticing the change that was happening to Miss Peters, although she did once think that her face looked somehow more slender.
Pursuing her intended career path in Medicine, Eleanor had eschewed the English universities, including Cambridge, where she interviewed and received an offer, deciding on the University of St Andrews in Scotland. Eleanor rather liked the town of St Andrews; she had some cousins who had been there and spoke highly of the university; she liked the idea of a four year course, and she fancied taking up golf and liked the idea of perhaps hosting her father on the Old Course in her final year.
Since leaving school she had exchanged a couple of letters with her old Headmistress, who was in the habit of staying in touch with her most favoured old girls. At the beginning of November, she had received a letter from Miss Amberley asking if she would be available to visit the school at the end of term before the Christmas break. She asked if Eleanor would hold a small informal meeting with the Upper Sixth girls to talk about her early university experience and also give some advice about the Cambridge interview process.
Eleanor promptly replied to Miss Amberley’s letter confirming that she would be returning south from St Andrews more than a week before the end of School term. Furthermore, she was planning to stay with a friend from university for about ten days before returning home. She would be staying actually only about five miles from the school and she had a car. She offered the Headmistress a couple of dates.
Another exchange of letters fixed the date for a particular Thursday. School broke up on Friday of the following week.
On the allotted day, at 9:30am, Eleanor drove up the front drive of the school, something she had never done before. It made her feel rather grown up. Eleanor parked her car and walked into reception. The receptionist was new and didn’t recognise the ex-Head Girl standing in front of her and asking for Miss Amberley.
“You have an appointment?” came the enquiry.
“Oh yes, I’m here at Miss Amberley’s request. Please call Mrs Parsons, the Headmistress’s secretary. I’m sure that she will come and get me.”
The receptionist picked up her ‘phone and called Mrs Parsons.
“Hello Anne, I’ve got a Miss Moore out here to see Miss Amberley.” Then, sotto voce, “She looks a little young to be a parent.”
Anne Parsons laughed.
“No, she isn’t a parent, she’s our previous Head Girl. She was a very special Head Girl in all sorts of ways. I’ll come straight out to fetch her.”
The receptionist looked at Eleanor through fresh eyes. ‘She certainly looks like somebody who might have been Head Girl,’ she thought, but she wondered what it was that was so special about her. Never for a moment would she have thought that one of the things making her special was that Eleanor had received six strokes of the cane across her bare bottom during her last year, and whilst she was Head Girl.
Anne Parsons appeared in reception, all smiles. She greeted Eleanor with a cheek kiss and took her through her own office to the private door to Miss Amberley’s office. On entering the Headmistress’s inner sanctum, Eleanor was again greeted with a huge smile, a handshake and a simultaneous kiss.
“How are you getting on Eleanor? How’s St Andrews been? How’s the golf handicap coming on?”
“Well, Miss, first of all, it really is a pleasure to be here again and to see you. As you know, the first year in the Scottish university system is not too onerous, so no great stress yet.
“St Andrews itself is wonderful. I can’t recommend it highly enough. Everything is close at hand and the people are lovely. As to the golf, well, yes, I started with some lessons in September but the weather has closed in now and it’s not possible to get out onto the fairways all that often at this time of year. I’ve certainly not yet reached the standard to have an official handicap, but next year, maybe.
“Anyway, I’m here to meet the sixth year girls, I believe. Just the Upper Sixth? I do of course know most of them, so it should be fun as well as, I hope, useful to them.”
“Yes, just the Upper Sixth, the girls who are just now limbering up to enter next year’s university rounds. Come on, I’ll take you straight to them, they are waiting in the Sixth Form Common Room. We can have a chat afterwards and perhaps have lunch together if you are not hurrying off?”
“I’ll be delighted to stay for lunch. Will you come and fetch me, or shall I see you in the Refectory?”
“I will fetch you, around 12:30, by when I suspect that you will have had quite enough of the company of school girls!”
Eleanor laughed and followed Miss Amberley out of her office, from where she was delivered to the waiting Sixth Formers.
“Hello Eleanor.” They all called out more or less together, and then random shouts and questions, including: “Have you been behaving yourself?”
“Do they use the tawse at Scottish universities?”
Eleanor just laughed and let the initial loudness die down. Then she said: “Alright girls, I guess I deserve the teasing and we all know why. For the record, I’ve been a good girl and haven’t been tawsed.”
“Shame! You must have gone soft,” somebody called out.
Still laughing Eleanor retorted: “Well, if somebody would lend me some kit and you fancy a run after this, we’ll find out who is soft. Now, Ladies, let’s get down to business. I can’t guarantee you all a place at St Andrews, but who would like to try?”
The next two hours flew by. Before they all knew it, Miss Amberley came through the door to collect Eleanor. Eleanor departed the room to applause and shouts of: “Thank you, please come back again.”
As Eleanor and the Headmistress approached the table to sit down, a teacher approached them. She briefly said hello to Miss Amberley and then turned immediately to Eleanor. She held out her hand.
“Eleanor, how nice to see you. I heard that you were talking to our Upper Sixth girls today and came down to lunch hoping I might see you, and here you are.”
Eleanor looked at the Mistress who was addressing her so familiarly. She was slightly shorter than Eleanor, her hair was shoulder length, flicked up at the ends with subtle blonde streaks. She was smartly dressed in a soft orange sleeveless shift dress worn over a brightly striped open neck shirt with puff sleeves tightly buttoned at the wrist. On her feet were a pair of low heeled patent leather court shoes. Eleanor judged her to be somewhere around, maybe, thirty-six or thirty-seven years old.
“Er, yes, here I am,” said Eleanor, shaking the woman’s hand.
“Eleanor, you will of course remember Miss Peters,” said Miss Amberley.
Eleanor was taken completely off balance. “Miss Peters! Yes of course, Miss Peters. It is very nice to see you again, Miss. May I say that you are looking extremely well, I didn’t recognise you immediately.”
“That’s all right, Eleanor. I have indeed rung a few changes, and some of it is down to you.”
“Well, I don’t see how it could be down to me, but if you say so then I am flattered.”
“Listen, I have to teach the next period and then I’m free for the remainder of the day. Would you join me for a cup of tea in my apartment, around 3:30 say? I would really love to have the opportunity to have a chat with you.”
Eleanor felt slightly cornered, but why not?
“Will that be OK, Miss Amberley? Do you need me any more after lunch? I am not in a hurry.”
“Of course it will be alright, but come and see me before you go. I will be in my study all afternoon. In between lunch and seeing Miss Peters here, you might like to visit the Staff Day room. I’m sure you will find people in there who will be delighted to see you. Now let us have some lunch.”
“I will see you later then, Miss.” Eleanor said to Miss Peters.
“You know where my apartment is? It is still the same one.”
“Yes, I remember Miss.”
Eleanor and Miss Amberley sat down at the Headmistress’s table. Miss Amberley did not always use her table; often she sat with members of staff, sometimes even with a group of girls. When she did use her table, it was usually with a guest, and staff and girls alike knew to leave her alone.
Eleanor spoke first.
“Miss Peters looks absolutely amazing! What has happened? Is there a new man in her life?”
“Well, on the last point, no, I have no reason to think or believe that she is pursuing a romantic interest. As to the rest of it, it all started to happen at around this time last year, but I don’t think many people really noticed the changes until school returned this summer. Miss Peters returned with a whole new wardrobe, a new hairstyle and, I must say, a new and very positive attitude, though that had in fact begun to happen the previous term. You probably didn’t notice at the time in the middle of your ‘A’ Levels, and if you remember your relationship with Miss Peters at that time was rather formal.”
“Yes, I do remember, and I remember why. You are saying that she began to change following the caning I received from you for my rudeness to her?”
“Yes, that is exactly the case. I must tell you that after your punishment she came to me rather guiltily to tell me that she had taunted you. I was not very pleased, but there was little I could do really, and anyway it did not excuse your swearing.
“Still, the fact is that she has changed, changed very considerably, and not just her appearance. She is more positive, more active, more engaged. She travels to away games with Hockey Teams and she has started a school poetry society, about which I was dubious, but she already has fourteen members.
“Very strictly between you and me, NOT to be repeated, I am considering whether she could become Housemistress when Miss Styles retires in two years’ time. I think I might create a new position for her as Head of Sixth Form as a way of testing her.”
“My word, she really has changed, hasn’t she?”
Eleanor did indeed spend some time with two or three of her old teachers in the Day Room. Just before 3:30pm, she bade then good-bye and set off for Miss Peters’ apartment.
It will probably help at this point for readers to know a little more about the physical layout of the Lady Anne Hart Academy. Readers of the earlier stories will know that a corridor on the ground floor runs past classrooms, ending with doors opening out onto the back of the main reception. Opposite these doors is another corridor which is quite short and leads only to the main door of the Headmistress’s study. On the right, as the reception area is crossed from one side to the other, is a wide sweeping staircase leading to the upper three floors.
In point of fact, the start of the corridor leading to the Headmistress’s study marks the beginning of the West Wing of the original grand old house which was taken over by the school in 1902.
Viewed from the outside, the main building and the two wings, West and East, are still very visible and remain the original buildings. However, the old porticoed main doors which were in the centre of the main building have been removed and replaced with the new main entrance at the end of the building, at the edge of the West wing. The two wings stretch back further than the main building, forming a rear courtyard. The old main building is now the teaching block; the East wing is staff accommodation.
Across the back of the courtyard are two large newer buildings, also three stories high. They are each internally divided in two and are the residential Houses with dormitories and Sixth Form girls’ studies. All the buildings are interconnected by open air walkways on the ground level and by enclosed corridor bridges on the top floor.
The ground floor of the West wing houses the school offices; the small sanatorium and Nurse’s Surgery; the Headmistress’s Secretaries’ Office, the Headmistress’s Study and the smaller Deputy Head Mistress’s study.
The first floor housed three teachers’ apartments, each having a bedroom, a sitting room cum study and a bathroom. Miss Peters had one of the West Wing apartments. The second floor had two apartments, one for the Deputy Head and one for overnight visitors, most often the Chairman of Governors. The top floor was given over to a linen storage room and to the Headmistress’s spacious apartment with fine views across the school playing fields and surrounding countryside.
Access to all of the apartments was either by way of the main staircase, or a locked side door which opened onto a lift-well and stairway. Both served all of the floors and opened onto small landings on each floor. After 6:30pm the main door was locked to the outside and it was normal for residents of the wing to use the side door. They each had a key and there was an intercom for visitors to use.
Eleanor’s route to Miss Peters’ apartment at this time was via the main stairway, which she duly took and knocked on Miss Peters’ door.
The door was opened by a smiling Miss Peters who bade Eleanor enter.
“Of course, you have been in my apartment before Eleanor, but not since, well, you know what.”
“Yes, I do know. Let’s forget all about that, shall we?”
“Well, that’s difficult. In a roundabout way that subject is at the root of what I wanted to talk to you about, but before that let me get you some tea. Go and sit down.”
Jane Peters busied herself for a few minutes making tea and putting a few biscuits on a plate. She placed both on the coffee table and sat down opposite Eleanor.
“Well, you’ve been kind enough to compliment me on my appearance, I must say you are looking very well yourself; fit, relaxed and happy, but you nearly always did look like that!”
“Thank you, Miss. I try to stay fit and I’m enjoying St Andrews, it has a great atmosphere and I must say that the Student Union is pretty good.”
“For better or for worse, and I think it was for worse, I very rarely went into mine and, for the record, I went to Canterbury. Actually I lived at home when I was at university. I’m afraid that I did not get from university life all that I might have done, and the same has remained true almost ever since. That’s why I decided to change things. But there is still one thing that haunts me and refuses to be out of my mind for very long.”
“Oh, what is that Miss?” asked Eleanor.
“Well, first of all, now that you are no longer a schoolgirl, can I ask you here in my private apartment to call me ‘Jane’? Only in private, of course, then let me tell you something rather relevant. When I was waiting in Miss Amberley’s secretaries’ office before being called in to witness your punishment, Mrs Parsons teased me about never having been caned myself.”
Jane paused to let the words sink in, and then continued in a flood to describe what was said by Anne Parsons, how the two secretaries had laughed and how she, Jane, had lied about ‘having been lucky’.
Jane went on to say how inferior it all made her feel, a feeling that was rammed home when Eleanor, before, during and after punishment had behaved with such grace, leaving Jane feeling that she wouldn’t handle it as well, but not actually knowing.
Jane explained that never having been punished made it difficult for her to look into the eyes of girls like Eleanor and feel equal. She had never experienced what they had experienced. She had never had the fun they had had, never taken any risks and never faced any consequences. Then, to top it all, when she did do something wrong and owned up to it, the Headmistress reacted rather as if Jane was so dull and uninteresting it wasn’t worth bothering with.
“Oh! I’m sure that is not the case, Miss Peters, er Jane. You were a teacher and I was a schoolgirl. Whatever you did, I should never have reacted in the way I did. I deserved the punishment. What on earth was the Headmistress supposed to do with you? She could hardly cane you, could she?”
“To be very frank, I wish she could have, but she certainly should have done something, but there was nothing. As I said, I felt not worth bothering with. I don’t suppose you would…”
Eleanor didn’t at all like where she thought Jane might be heading. Surely she wouldn’t suggest…? No, it would be ridiculous. She decided to interrupt.
“Look, Jane, as you know I have a pretty good relationship with Miss Amberley and there are fewer restrictions on our conversation now that I have left school. You know that I am seeing her again when I leave you. Would you like me to have a quiet word with her about how you feel?”
“Oh, I don’t know, that might be difficult. I don’t know what you could say, nor what she could do.”
“Well, at the very least she could speak with you and give you an honest appraisal regarding how very much the school values you. I would only give her a very edited version of what you have said to me.”
“Hmmm. I am not sure that it is a good idea, but perhaps it’s an example of a risk I should take. Yes, go ahead and speak to her, but please make it about me rather than on my behalf.”
“Of course, Jane, I would do that anyway.”
Jane and Eleanor finished their tea and Eleanor set off to see the Headmistress. She told Jane she would come back briefly afterwards to tell her what had been said.
Eleanor knocked on the main door to Miss Amberley’s study. From inside there came a cheery sounding: “Come in!”
Eleanor entered as Miss Amberley, who had indeed expected the caller to be Eleanor, rose from her desk. The Headmistress gestured Eleanor towards the sofa and herself took one of the easy chairs facing where Eleanor sat.
“Well, Eleanor, how did your tea with Miss Peters go?”
Eleanor felt and looked uncomfortable. Miss Amberley spoke again: “From the look of you, something has transpired. I think you had better tell me what it is.”
“Yes, Miss. Well, erm, Miss Peters certainly took me by surprise, for a second time today. Look, I need to say to you that I am not speaking to you about this at Miss Peters’ request. I asked her if she would like me to speak to you about what we discussed and she agreed that I could.
“You will remember this morning that Miss Peters commented to me her transformation over the past year is in part because of me.”
“Yes, I remember her saying that. Did she tell you what she meant?”
“Yes, Miss, she did. She said that seeing me being punished had focussed her mind on her own school and university experience, had made her realise that that she had developed academically but not personally over that time. She said she now feels inadequate when dealing with energetic and intelligent senior girls. In her own words, she cannot ‘look them in the eye’ knowing that she has not had the same experiences that they are gaining.”
Having started, Eleanor continued to say how never having been herself punished seemed to Miss Peters to be evidence of how dull and boring she was. She also told the Headmistress that, because no consequences came her way for having taunted Eleanor, Miss Peters had came to the judgement that she was simply too unimportant to be taken seriously, or to bother to punish. Eleanor ended by saying that Miss Peters had said she could not shake off these thoughts. She now believed the only way of gaining self-respect was to experience consequences for doing wrong with the good grace with which she credited Eleanor for having shown.
“I see,” said Miss Amberley again. There was a short silence.
“You are no longer a pupil here and, since 1st January this year, the change in the law has made you a legal adult, as well as the actual adult you already were. Even so, it must have taken some courage to talk to me as you just have. This is the most amazing situation I have come across in over thirty years of teaching, but you have explained the situation extremely clearly and I will take this seriously. Let’s consider the matter together.
“Firstly, I have already told you how pleased I am with the ‘new’ Miss Peters, that I am considering her for promotion, so I would like to do anything I reasonably can to help her to continue on the path she has chosen.
“However, the sanctions available to me to discipline a teacher are limited; extra duties, fines and things like that. If I had sanctioned Miss Peters at the time, perhaps it might have helped, but I didn’t and now it’s far too late to do so. And anyway, to come directly to the point, it sounds as if she is asking to take down her knickers and experience the same punishment as you did, that is to say the cane. Would you agree?”
Eleanor thought and replied: “Yes, now you put it directly like that, I think that you are right.”
Eleanor had not told Miss Amberley about Anne Parsons’ teasing of Jane Peters and decided not to, but instead said: “I obviously have no idea if you yourself experienced the cane at school, miss, but if you did there are a few things I’d be quite confident about. First, your punishment would have been as a result of some mischievousness, or perhaps youthful misjudgement, rather than wilful bad behaviour. Secondly, you would have accepted the punishment as justified and par for the course. You would have just got on with it and, finally, when now you have to administer the cane you are able to recall your own experience and show at least some measure of empathy.”
Miss Amberley leant forward and made direct eye contact with Eleanor.
“You are correct about all of that. I actually experienced the cane twice, so I have beaten you twice, in two different ways! And I remind you, this is a wholly private conversation.”
“Of course it is, Miss, but do you take the point? Miss Peters has experienced none of that, neither mischievousness or punishment. As a result, she feels inadequate. If she were to become a Housemistress then sooner or later she would be called upon to cane a girl. I’m not sure that currently she could manage it.”
“What do you expect from me, Eleanor? What can I do?”
“I don’t know, Miss, but I thought it would not be fair on either Miss Peters or you if you weren’t even given the chance to think about it.”
“Well, as I’ve said, it’s far too long ago for me now to impose a disciplinary sanction for what I knew about at the time. I think also that it would be quite impossible for me to take a cane to one of my employees. I’m not sure if that would be even legal. What if, later, she had a change of heart and accused me of abuse of my position? No, the risks and downside are far too great.”
Eleanor looked blankly; she was disappointed. Even though Eleanor had expected no specific outcome, this was going nowhere.
Miss Amberley remained leaning forward. She put her elbows onto her knees, steepled her finger tips in front of her face and began slowly and rhythmically to tap her fingertips together, all the time looking directly at Eleanor.
Eleanor remained silent, she waited for Miss Amberley to speak.
“There might, just might, be a solution, but it would require a certain imagination, courage and willingness to take some risk from both of us.”
“What on earth have you got in mind, Miss?”
“There is one person who our Miss Peters might justifiably and wholly voluntarily accept a caning from, and that is you, Eleanor.”
“Me! Please, you can’t be serious. Me! Cane a teacher!”
“She is not your teacher any longer and we have already established that you are an adult, so two consenting adults would be engaged in the event, neither of whom has any legal relationship with the other. However, you are the one against whom her unprofessional conduct was directed.”
“But Miss, even if I were willing to do this, what about the practicalities? I could hardly walk up the staircase to Miss Peters apartment carrying a cane, and anyway, even if I were not seen, there is quite a strong chance somebody would hear the caning itself.”
“Yes, well that’s where my part of the risk comes in. I could lend you my study.”
“You’d be willing to do that?”
“Yes. If I had been told earlier that we would be discussing this, I’d have checked that it was not April 1st, but having talked through all this it actually does make sense and would greatly benefit Miss Peters, so, yes.”
“Alright, I not saying yes myself yet, but how would it work?”
“Are you able to return at the end of school tomorrow, Friday, and stay until at least, let’s say, 7:00pm?”
“Err, yes, I think I could do that. Yes, I definitely could.”
“Right. As you probably know, Reception closes at 6:00pm and the main front door from the outside to reception is locked by 6:30. On a Friday everything happens a few minutes earlier, they are usually locked by 6:20. The door at the end of the main school building corridor into reception is also locked at the same time, so the only way into reception is via the main staircase, which is only accessible by residents of the West wing, including myself and Miss Peters. All of this means that by 6:30 the ground floor of the West wing is completely empty unless I am using my study, which means that Miss Peters could come to my study door and be seen by nobody at all. She could return to her apartment the same way.”
Eleanor thought for a moment. “Yes, that seems straightforward, but how would I get in?”
“You would come to my private apartment via the side door at about 6:00pm. I would take you down to my office and leave you there with the key. When you are finished, you would lock up after yourself and come back to my apartment via the main staircase and return the key to me. Nobody would see you except a slight possibility when you arrive, in which case you are my dinner guest, which, by-the-way, you are very welcome also to be that evening.”
“Thank you, Miss, I would be delighted to stay for dinner with you.”
Eleanor immediately realised she had just effectively said ‘yes’ and agreed to the proposition, but then she had another thought.
“But, Miss, I may have experienced the cane but I’ve never used one. I’ve never even held one. I might miss the target altogether!”
“That is a very good point. I will get the senior cane out. You can practice now on some cushions and then have another practice in my apartment before coming down here tomorrow.”
The two women spent about half an hour as Miss Amberley showed Eleanor how to hold the cane and allowed her to try different techniques. After the practice with the cushions, the Headmistress said to Eleanor: “Right, now one final practice. I am going to bend over the chair in front of my desk, but I will hold a cushion over my bottom. Your mission is to deliver six hard strokes, all in the centre area of the cushion.”
“But, Miss, what if I were to miss the cushion?”
“I am confident that you won’t. You have excellent hand to eye co-ordination.”
Eleanor delivered six hard, evenly spaced, strokes of the cane to the cushion. She felt pleased and confident that she could deliver a real caning.
“Excellent!” said Miss Amberley. “You can repeat that at six o’clock tomorrow. Are we agreed?”
“Well, Miss, there is of course one other person who has to agree to all of this. I promised to go back and see her before I left today. I think I had better go now.”
“Very well, if I don’t hear from you I will assume everything is in order. If it is not going to happen, for any reason at all, call Anne Parsons tomorrow and leave a message saying simply that you cannot make it. We can speak any time after that if there is anything left to discuss.”
“Alright, Miss, I can’t quite believe all this, it’s surreal!”
Miss Amberley just smiled and showed Eleanor out.
Eleanor returned to Jane Peters’ apartment and rang the bell. As Eleanor entered the apartment, Jane started speaking in a state of slight agitation.
“You’ve been a long time, Eleanor. Have you been talking about me all that time?”
“Not about you specifically all that time, but yes, we have been talking about your problem almost all of the time.”
“Oh my word! The Headmistress was willing to spend all that time talking about my problem?”
“As I intimated to you earlier, Jane, you have risen highly in her regard during the past year. Miss Amberley wants to help you remove barriers to your development in any way she can. Look, in both of our interests, let’s sit down and get to the point and get this over with.”
They sat down together on Jane’s sofa.
“OK Jane, here it is. Miss Amberley understands where you are coming from. She is sympathetic to you. She cannot and will not punish you herself. She apologises for seeming not to take you seriously last year when you told her your part in our confrontation.”
“Oh, I see. Is that all?”
“No, it isn’t. We could spend as long talking about this as Miss Amberley and I have just spent, but I will come directly to the point. Miss Amberley believes that I am the only person who can justifiably punish you. We can talk about the reasons for that, but that will remain the case. Miss Amberley will absent herself and make her study available for me to cane you after school tomorrow, at 6:30pm. Obviously you have to agree to this.”
“Oh! Oh! You are willing to do this?”
“I see. What would be the punishment?”
“I have just said; I will cane you.”
“Yes, but how? I mean what exactly would the punishment be?”
“There is really only one option as far that is concerned. You will receive exactly the same punishment as I received, in all regards. If you want to hear me say it, you will receive six stokes of the senior cane applied to your uncovered bottom.”
“Jane, this is what you wanted isn’t it? Please do not play around. Do you agree or not?”
“I agree. What do I have to do?”
“At 6:25pm tomorrow, you must be outside the main door to the Headmistress’s study with your back to the wall, waiting to be called. You must be wearing only one item of underwear covering your bottom and it must be a garment which is easy to lower or remove. Finally, I will address you as ‘Miss Peters’, you will address me as ‘Miss Moore’ or simply as ‘Miss’. Is all that clear?”
“Er, yes, I think so.”
“Right. Now we are both adults and this is a voluntary arrangement between us. If you decide to change your mind, I will give you a number to call and you must let me know no later than tomorrow lunchtime. If you simply do not turn up I do not wish to speak with you again, ever. Once the appointment begins, I will assume that you wish the punishment to be completed, whatever you might say once the punishment begins. Is all that clear?”
“Completely clear, Miss.”
“You do not have to call me that until Friday, and never again afterwards.”
Eleanor stepped forward and gave Jane a brief hug, then she turned and let herself out.
Jane was stunned by what she had heard and just agreed to. Then she started to feel both apprehensive and excited. She walked into her bedroom and stood in front of the wardrobe, which held a full length mirror. ‘I really don’t look all that bad,’ she thought.
A few moments later, Jane had slipped her dress off her shoulders and let it drop to the floor. She had then unbuttoned and removed her shirt. It was November; Jane was dressed for warmth. She still wore a full length slip which finally she dropped from her shoulders to fall on the floor. The figure being reflected back from the mirror looked both fit and womanly. Jane was curvy and had good muscle tone. She turned round and looked at her bottom; it looked firm but it was held in a roll-on panty girdle with attached suspenders holding up her stockings. Jane removed the stockings and rolled down the girdle to the top of her thighs, still looking back into the mirror. Taking down the panties made very little difference to the firmness of her bottom. All the gym work had had its effect; she really didn’t need the control element of the corset.
Panty girdles were quite fashionable. Anyway, Jane needed something to hold up her stockings and had given up the full body corsets she used to wear three months ago now; she had thrown them away.
Standing looking at herself, Jane began to wonder what to wear on Friday. Her current underwear would not do. Panty girdles could be rolled down, but the stockings would drop with them, looking very ungainly, unless they were first removed. It was all too complicated and she might get flustered.
“What else have I got?” she said out loud.
She decided she did not want to get changed after school before going for her punishment. She would dress in the morning for the whole day’s events. She was not prepared to go around the school all day bare legged; it would be cold and would draw attention.
She remembered the hold-up stockings she had put on the top of her lingerie purchases at Rigby & Peller, almost as an after thought. She had never worn them. Jane found the stockings, removed the ones she was wearing and put them on. They looked good. They were sheer but dark in colour, she would keep them on for the evening to see if they stayed up.
Next, Jane looked through her knicker drawer. She selected a very full black pair of panties; they were high on the waist and low on the leg, with a lace front panel. Finally, Jane took out the bra which went with panties. She had now chosen her underwear for tomorrow; she would not wear a slip.
So, what did she have that was smart enough and warm enough to be her top dress?
Jane looked through her London purchases and chose a blouse and a skirt which when worn together looked like a dress. The outfit was deep purple. The blouse buttoned to the neck and had puff sleeves and buttoned tight cuffs. It was similar to the shirt she had just taken off, but a bit shorter, a bit heavier and more tailored at the waist. It just reached her bottom and would ride up when she bent forward. The skirt was high-waisted and hung down straight from her hips, but it had large box pleats. There was plenty of material and it could easily be raised at the back. The whole outfit was finished with a matching tight waist belt which was tied at the front with cords. She would wear plain black court shoes.
Finally Jane undressed and put on her nightclothes and a warm dressing gown to settle down for the evening with her thoughts. When Jane went to bed she remembered the hold-up stockings; she could feel them still firmly in place. Feeling satisfied with her arrangements she removed the stockings and climbed into bed. The next morning Jane awoke and realised to her total surprise that she had slept all night. When she left her apartment an hour later to start her day she had a spring in her step, she was on her way to becoming a real person!
By the afternoon Jane had started to feel butterflies. She felt nervous and had to concentrate hard on her teaching. By now it was too late to back out without deeply upsetting the girl, now woman, who had unwittingly become her role model and who was due to deliver her punishment later.
The two hours between the end of teaching and her 6:30pm appointment were tough for Jane. She tried reading some poetry written by members of her poetry society; it was a distraction for a while but inevitably there was only one subject immovably settled on her mind. Jane kept telling herself over and over: ‘I must be brave; I must remain calm; I must not disgrace myself and most of all I must earn Eleanor’s respect’.
Meanwhile, at about 5:45pm Eleanor had arrived. She sat in her car for ten minutes gathering her thoughts and then stepped out and headed for the West Wing side door. Eleanor had dressed smartly for the occasion; she had borrowed a grey jacket and skirt suit from her friend which she had teamed with a simple white shirt. She told her friend that she was attending a small gathering at her old school and would be back late.
Miss Amberley pressed the button on the intercom in her apartment and told Eleanor to come straight up. She opened the door to her apartment holding a cushion.
“Hello, Eleanor, come straight in. There’s just enough time for you to have another quick practice, then I’ll take you downstairs. I brought a cane up from my study.”
The Headmistress turned and walked ahead, leading the way to her very comfortable and large sitting room. Without any pre-amble she bent over the back of an upholstered chair and held the cushion over her bottom.
“Right, take off that jacket and let’s hear six good and accurate strokes. You will see whether they are accurate or not. The cane is on the coffee table there.”
Eleanor picket up the cane and flexed it slightly, gauging its feel and balance. She walked to Miss Amberley’s side, took careful aim and delivered a hard stroke to the centre of the cushion. She then continued quite quickly to deliver five more, quite evenly spaced.
“That sounded good, were they accurate?”
“Yes, I think they were, Miss.”
“Good, I suggest that you slow down just a little bit, just a few seconds pause between each one, enough to let the culprit breathe and relax, but not enough to let them move.”
“OK Miss, I’ll try to remember that.”
Because she had felt nothing, it had not occurred to Miss Amberley to tell Eleanor about the technique of touching the bottom lightly just before delivering the stroke; it was a technique that allowed the culprit to be prepared without tensing to the light touch.
“Right come on, I’ll take you down. We can go down the side stairs and through Mrs Parsons’ office to the private door to my study. Miss Peters is probably on her way down the main staircase to go and wait there right now.”
Miss Amberley and Eleanor went into the study. The Headmistress had brought the cane with her and she placed it on her desk.
“As you can see, Eleanor, everything is exactly as it was when you received your own punishment. I don’t think you will have forgotten the routine?”
“Certainly not, Miss. I don’t think I ever will.” Eleanor replied, smiling.
“Right then, I’m off. I’ll see you in around twenty minutes or so, I should think.”
It was now 6:25pm. Eleanor sat down in the Headmistress’s chair behind the desk. She wanted to know what it felt like. She intended to sit there to give her initial address to Jane Peters; she wanted to sit down confidently and not as if she had never sat there before.
Eleanor was ready. At 6:29pm she went to the study door and opened it. Jane was standing opposite, back to the wall and facing the door. It was in shadow where Jane was standing. Eleanor was stood framed in the doorway with her back to the brightly lit study, so Jane was looking at a formidable silhouette. By contrast, Eleanor could clearly see Jane’s face. Jane looked shocked by the sudden opening of the door, and a little frightened.
“Come in, Miss Peters. Please stand in front of my desk.”
Eleanor walked round the desk and sat down. She looked up at Jane and stayed silent for a brief moment, though it seemed like a long time to Jane.
“You know why you are here, Miss Peters?”
“Er, um, yes, yes, I do, Elean…,Miss.”
“I’m glad you do, so tell me.”
“Well, Miss, I was unprofessional in my conduct towards an Upper Sixth pupil I was tutoring. My conduct towards her caused her to lose her temper. She should not have lost her temper, but I was the cause of it. I deserve to be punished for my part in the incident in the same way as she was.”
“I think that summarises the situation very well. You will indeed receive six strokes of the senior cane across your un-clothed bottom.”
“I believe that this will be the first time that you have had the cane, Miss Peters?”
“Yes, Miss, it is.”
“Very well. Expect a painful punishment; that is the point of it. However, do not make it worse for yourself by tensing or clenching your bottom.” Eleanor was trying to remember the words Miss Amberley used before she was caned herself.
“Once in position you must remain in position until told that you can stand. You must follow my instructions without argument. If you stand before being given permission, or try to avoid a stroke in any way, you will be awarded additional punishment. Do you understand?”
Jane gulped. “Yes, Miss. I understand.”
“Once the punishment is completed, that is the end of the matter. Now please stand behind the chair there, Miss Peters.” Eleanor pointed to the chair on Jane’s right hand side which stood facing and at an angle to the desk.
Jane took the two paces and stood behind the chair.
“Please lower your knickers to uncover your bottom fully.”
Jane reached behind her and lifted her skirt at the back, palms outwards. She placed the fingers of both hands into the waist at the back of her panties and pushed them down. Because the panties were high waisted, she immediately knew that the rear was not far enough down, the entire garment was held up at the front. She was forced to slide her fingers to the front and push the front of the panties down to just above the top of her legs. She then slid her fingers again to the back and pushed them down to mid thigh at the back.
Jane stood up straight again, allowing her skirt to drop, and bent over the back of the chair, placing her arms on the arms of the chair and gripping the ends of the arms firmly.
Eleanor walked behind and lifted Jane’s skirt over her back so that the hem fell across Jane’s shoulders. She stood back and told Jane to part her legs slightly in order to brace herself. Jane obeyed the instruction and immediately felt totally vulnerable in a way that she could not remember feeling ever before.
Looking at the teacher in front of her, Eleanor realised that she was actually looking forward to this. The woman HAD goaded her, she DID deserve the punishment. It did not stop Eleanor at the same time feeling warmth towards Jane and admiration at the way she had transformed herself. Eleanor hoped and believed that the cane would give Jane another push forwards.
Eleanor picked up the cane and turned round in position to Jane’s left side. She raised the cane to the height of Jane’s bared bottom. She then quickly drew it back to behind her shoulder and bought it swishing down to land with a sharp Crack!
Jane gasped, shocked and surprised at the sudden impact for which she had been unprepared. Moving her hands rapidly to cover her bottom, she jumped up. She did not actually feel the pain until after she started to move, and then she exhaled sharply and loudly.
Eleanor had not expected the reaction. She stood and waited for Jane to stop moving and regain her composure.
“Miss Peters, you were told very clearly not to rise until the punishment was completed and permission was given. That stroke now does not count. We will begin again from the first stroke, please take position.”
Jane remained standing, she bit her bottom lip.
“I’m not sure if I can, Miss Moore.”
“Right. Look, I am going to withdraw for a few moments to Mrs Parsons’ study to give you a chance to consider matters. When I return you will either be in position to continue or you will have left this study. If you leave, I do not wish to see you again.”
Jane put the cane back on the desk and left via the private door. After about two minutes, which seemed quite a long time just standing in the office, Eleanor returned to the study. Jane had just started to lean forward over the chair. She completed the action and stayed there, still and silent.
Eleanor retrieved the cane and returned to her position. Thinking about her own punishment whilst out of the room, Eleanor remembered feeling the touch of the cane before the actual blow fell. She realised that this had allowed her to be prepared. Feeling slightly guilty about what had just happened, she lined up a new first stroke. Before drawing back the cane, she lightly touched Jane’s bottom at her intended point of impact, just below where the mark of the first stroke was already showing. Jane tensed and immediately relaxed, and the blow fell. Eleanor had made it very slightly lighter than the original first stroke but Jane still gasped, though she didn’t move this time.
The second stroke was delivered at the same intensity as the previous one. The third was harder, as hard as the starting one. Each of these strokes was received with a gasp. The last one also caused Jane to arch her back, but each time Jane quickly relaxed back into position.
By now, Jane was hurting and concentrating furiously, telling herself: ‘I will finish this with dignity, I will NOT cry.’
Strokes four and five maintained the intensity of the third stroke. They were, of course, in reality strokes five and six.
Then came the last stroke. Eleanor remembered her own last stroke which had fallen in the thigh to bottom crease. It had been extremely painful to receive and had remained painful for a few days afterwards. She saw no need to repeat this on Jane. It was not the intention of this punishment to create a strong memory of the last stroke to be a control mechanism against future temper outbursts, which had been very much Miss Amberley’s intention when she caned Eleanor.
Eleanor decided the final stroke should be the hardest, just as a point of emphasis. She decided to place it across the other welts, across the centre of Jane’s bottom from the top right of her bottom to the bottom left.
Aim was taken, her hand was lowered and her wrist angled to point the tip of the cane upwards. Eleanor touched the centre of Jane’s bottom, drew back and delivered the hard final stroke.
“OH! OUCH! OW! Ow! Ow!” But Jane remained bent across the back of the chair; she did not move.
“Miss Peters, you may now stand and compose yourself. Your punishment is complete.”
Jane stood, her skirt dropped, but she made no move to replace her panties. She held out her hand to Eleanor.
“Please Miss, thank you for punishing me, Miss. I am sorry I stood before you gave permission.”
Eleanor took the hand and squeezed it warmly. She drew Jane towards her, let go of her hand and embraced her.
“Jane, you have nothing for which to apologise any more. Nothing. You have my respect and my admiration. When we next meet it will be as friends. Now, pull up your panties and go and enjoy being the new you, albeit slightly uncomfortably!”
On her way to the school Eleanor had stopped and bought some arnica cream. She reached down and took it from her bag.
“Here, use this. It worked well on my bottom!”
Jane left. Eleanor locked the study and returned to Miss Amberley. What had just happened was not discussed, except for one question from the Headmistress.
“Was your mission successful, Eleanor?”
“Yes, Miss, I truly believe that it was. I think you have a future Housemistress on your hands.”
Meanwhile, Jane was back in her apartment. She was standing with her back to the mirror holding up her skirt. Her panties were around her knees, her hold-up stockings were still in place. Jane looked over her shoulder in amazement at the sight being reflected back to her. Her bottom was red, striped, and swollen with lumps and bumps liberally spread all over it. The sensation being felt by Jane at this point was only throbbing hurt, the pleasant deep tingling that was induced at some point in a caned bottom was still a little way off. Nevertheless, Jane was feeling pleased with herself. She felt whole, as if she had been given a missing part of herself. That she had stayed and endured the punishment made Jane proud. She already realised that it was shock rather than pain which had made her jump up and, anyway, the result was that she had taken seven strokes, one more than Eleanor had received for swearing at her.
Jane continued to build her reputation at the school. She became liked and respected by her Sixth Form English students, which was most of the Sixth Form.
In September of the next year, she was appointed to the new position of Head of Sixth Form. By the end of that academic year she knew she had many girls who would remain in contact with her for the foreseeable future. She was regarded as a mentor.
Another year on, Miss Amberley had the full confidence to appoint Jane a Housemistress; a position in which from time to time she had to administer a junior caning. A caning from Jane was delivered judiciously but with confidence. Very occasionally a girl would appear in front of Jane to receive the cane already crying. Jane would speak calmly to such a girl, telling her that it was not shameful to get into trouble and to be caned, provided that the girl fully accepted the justice of the situation and learnt from it. Going on, Jane would say that the cane would sting, but not nearly as much as they probably thought, that girls coming back to the dormitory after receiving the cane were inclined to exaggerate, as she was sure this girl would be doing in just a few minutes.
Having been calmed down, the girl would be gently guided into position and the caning would be administered. Jane would finally put an arm around the girl and entreat her not to repeat the same silly mistake, often saying: “If you do return to me again for another session with my cane, make sure it is for something different. Don’t make the same mistake twice; that will make me cross!”
Of course, Jane was also capable of being quite stern and giving a bit of a fright to girls who were becoming persistent offenders or trouble makers. After punishing a girl in this mode it was rare for Jane to have to punish them again.
Jane remained a Housemistress until her planned retirement in 1988, the year she had her 60th birthday. She never sought further advancement and thoroughly enjoyed her life at the school.
The Headmistress, Miss Amberley, was actually the same age as Jane. She had been appointed as an energetic young woman at the age of 38.
One day in June 2008, Jane received a summons to attend Miss Amberley in her study. Both women were due to retire in a few weeks at the end of the summer term.
Jane arrived and knocked on the door.
“Come in,” called the voice from inside.
Jane entered and saw another woman in the room. She was smartly dressed and Jane judged her to be in her late thirties.
“Come in, Jane, and meet my successor. You will remember Hilary Browne as you knew her, though now she is Mrs Hilary Hunter. Hilary is the next in the tradition the school has of appointing young energetic Headmistresses, like I used to be.”
Wake up at the back there! You remember Hilary Browne, dear reader, she is the very same girl who was the Deputy Head Girl who delivered a slippering to Eleanor’s bottom back in 1969.
“Hello, may I call you ‘Jane’ Miss Peters? My word, you look younger than you did when you were my teacher. And you are about to retire. Actually, we have never managed to bump into each other when I visited the school, but Mrs Amberley here and our mutual friend, Eleanor, have kept me fully informed. There are few secrets between Eleanor and me.”
Jane blushed. Did Hilary know that Eleanor had caned her? She never found out.
Hilary teased her a little: “Eleanor told me years ago that she helped you out of your shell. I’m so delighted that she did. You have become a priceless asset to the school.”
“Thank you for your kind words, Hilary. Congratulations on your appointment. I am sure you will be an outstanding success.”
“Well, thank you for that, but I will come to the point. I will need some help, certainly in my first year. The Deputy Head has just resigned; she has accepted an appointment to a Headship herself. It is not unexpected, she is ready for it and neither Miss Amberley or I would want to try and stand in her way, which means I need a Deputy Headmistress.
“There is very little time before the summer break to find somebody, either internally or more likely by open interview. If you were not about to retire, I would be seriously considering offering you the position on a permanent basis, but as it is I don’t suppose you would consider delaying your retirement for just one year to be my Deputy for that period, ease me into the job so-to-speak?”
So, the once dull and invisible Jane Peters ended her career at the age of 61 as a Deputy Head Teacher and looking as if she was only 50 years old.
When she did retire, she looked back at the past twenty years and evaluated herself. She had gone from an enigmatic, dull, invisible, overweight, badly dressed and disengaged English teacher to being a smart, smiling, often fun, highly liked and respected Deputy Headmistress. She thought through the events which had led to her transformation. The two main factors were her adoption of Eleanor Moore as a role model, and the caning she received from Eleanor all those years ago. There was no doubt in Jane’s mind, that if Eleanor had not been there she might, just might, have found another role model, but without the caning she would never have gained the self-respect she needed.
As far as Jane Peters was concerned, the good old fashioned English senior cane had magical qualities. It could perform the alchemy of turning a weed into a flower.
© Harry James 2018