The next in the series. More from the Prefects’ Court and Amelia gets into trouble too.
By Joanna Jones
Half term was a quiet affair. Studying was the order of the day for me and, of course, Derek. However, with the pressure less on me than him, in the middle of the week I took the day off (sort of) to travel to his home town. I had a beautiful lunch with him, and this time his parents and little sister too, at which the invite for me to join them on the family holiday to Cornwall was made. While I needed to talk to my parents, that prospect was one I was very excited about.
In the afternoon we had a good walk together in some late May sunshine before, all too soon, it was time for me to return to the station, and for us to return to our revision. That included, for me, reading some notes I had brought to ‘entertain’ me on the train.
As soon as I got home I was after my parents to let me go on holiday with Derek and his family. They could see my enthusiasm but still took an annoyingly long couple of days considering before phoning his parents. However, the upshot was that, yes, not only could I go, but Derek would be coming to the North York Moors with us after. Could things get any better?
The return to school was a bit more subdued. The exams were, after all, now starting.
The only news of note on term start was the small steps of poor Fran. She also looked quite miserable. True to his word, her father had given her ‘something and a half to think about’ as a result of her third caning of her school career. This time her father had whacked her the moment she got home, Fran having decided to admit to it immediately before he saw it in the half-term report. It had probably helped as her mother, who was always delighted to see her after the long gaps while she was a school, had intervened so she ‘only’ got two strokes from her dad as a result. However, the counter was that she had a whole half-term week of dread till literally five minutes before she got in the car to return she had been whacked no less than eight times in her school uniform, this time with her knickers around her ankles. She had not even been allowed to clean up her face, meaning not only was she the only one arriving back the evening before not in mufti, but the residue from her upsetting experience was still visible around her eyes in particular.
Once again I felt both sorry for her and not a little guilty for my part in her downfall, so to speak. It was a guilt magnified as, under her father’s piercing gaze, she gave me a letter of apology for her behaviour, including a promise to be good and indicating the school were free to deal with her as severely as necessary if her behaviour was poor in future. She had similar letters for the Headmaster and our new Housemistress too. My personal reaction was one of how perfectly awful. I was very glad my parents were more understanding.
The prefect rosters were now all over the place, with the lower sixth now picking up many of the duties. With exams, the prefect courts in those first three weeks were very quiet indeed. The major item of note was that the upper sixth no longer attended much, so the running was left to James, as head boy elect, and, to my surprise, me. James had spoken to me immediately we were back and pointed out that I was now Head Girl, with my new ribbon-clad blazer picked up at half term to boot, so we were of equal rank. In fact, as he was still only ‘elect’ it could be argued I outranked him. The result was at the first court after the break the gavel was mine. It was odd to have to chair the session, discussion and vote after; and of course very odd to actually have to fix the eye of the pupil concerned and tell them what they were due the following evening. Fortunately there were no girls involved on the receiving end.
Rather less fortunately, it did not mean the cane was not applied to any female posterior in those first few weeks. It was a relationship break-up that led to the issue, one driven by parents I suspect, and exam-stress aggravated emotions no doubt made it worse. Before half-term Melanie had been caned by her housemaster for copying from her upper sixth boyfriend, who had also suffered for allowing it to happen and, depending on whose side of the story you wished to believe, encouraging things. Whatever the case, it was clear the boy, Bert, had been told in no uncertain terms that he was to terminate the relationship with, as his mother seemed to see it, the cheating hussy personified in Melanie Chappell.
The resulting conversation was not handled well by Bert, nor really by Melanie. Harsh words were exchanged. If that had been all then I doubt there would have been an issue despite some apparently colourful language, but ultimately Melanie allowed her emotions to get the better of her and slapped Bert hard across the face. A withering comment from Bert led to a second slap, which was met with a firm retaliatory hand spank to the bottom from him as she stormed past him. It was probably as well for both of them that a teacher in the form of Mr Taylor arrived and intervened.
Net result? The two of them were given appointments at the end of formal prep (I say ‘formal’ as the prep time was essentially nominal, with everyone in the sixth revising nearly all the time) with their respective housemasters.
I had heard the gossip on all of this before the evening. To say Melanie was upset would be an understatement. Nevertheless I was surprised Mrs Fleming asked me to come to her flat about quarter of an hour beforehand.
The reason was fairly quickly made clear. Over half term Mrs Fleming had been pondering her new role and had made some decisions. On the discipline front she had decided she wanted a witness for any corporal punishment she was to administer. As Head Girl that was going to be me, apparently, though she might use Katie (de-facto the most senior of the prefects even if not formally that), or the yet to be appointed Head of House if I was not available or, heaven forbid, it was to be me on the receiving end.
The second thing she had decided, and one reason for the witness, was if she needed to be fairly severe, then it was going to be bare at least for the moment, so she could learn to gauge what she was doing. As a female housemistress this was entirely her prerogative and indeed boys visiting their male housemaster would normally consider it to be 50-50 as to whether it would be on the pants or pants down. Unfortunately for Melanie, fighting (especially in the sixth form) did not leave our new housemistress any real choice but to be ‘fairly severe’.
While we waited for Melanie to arrive Mrs Fleming took the opportunity to explain some of her vision for the House. First she was going to ask the girls to elect their Head of House, and she wanted to check I understood that, while I could vote, in line with other houses Prefects et cetera were not eligible to stand. I knew this to be the case, but there was a funny feeling as I realised that my essentially undisputed role as speaker for the girls would soon be very much shared. In the abstract a good thing I knew, but I still realised I would need to take care to adjust to this gracefully and allow our Head of House, and for that matter her deputy, the opportunity to establish their own leadership role.
She also wanted to set up a house development group, to look over the changes and plans for the new facilities, to be worked on over the summer. For that she had decided that, while all the girls should be involved, that group would be just four girls working with herself. Those would be myself as Head Girl, the Head of House and her deputy, and one other girl to be elected, who could either be a prefect or not.
This sounded all very exciting, with the elections and meetings to be set up once the lower sixth exams were finished.
Mrs Fleming had just started espousing some ideas of hers for the new house, which she was clearly very enthusiastic about, when there was a rather timid knock at the door. More-or-less precisely on time, Melanie had arrived.
Her husband having diplomatically made himself scarce for the evening, it was Mrs Fleming who answered the door to their campus flat.
As Melanie entered the room she was clearly terrified. Her face was a very pasty pale colour as she glanced at me, clearly wondering what I was doing there.
Miss Fleming got that out the way first.
“Miss Chappell, you know you have been sent to me because of your behaviour. I have decided that in such cases I should have a senior girl here to act as a witness and have requested Amelia to be present.”
Melanie looked almost sick as she nodded and replied: “Yes Miss.” Her mind was clearly recalling her previous experience with our former housemaster and very much not looking forward to a repeat.
Miss Fleming then set about scolding my sixth form colleague. This was a side of her I had not seen before, though perhaps, by herself, Olive had, on that infamous occasion she attempted to run out of the Prefects’ Court. It is difficult to explain how it could be so kindly, yet firm at the same time. Much of it was focussed on control of herself and how she had let herself and all the other girls in the school, now her house, down. Whatever the case, Melanie was in tears of repentance well before the end of it.
Finally Miss Fleming got to the nub of the matter. With tears still silently trickling down her cheeks, Miss Fleming informed her that after discussion with Bert’s housemaster she would be getting exactly the same as him; nine strokes of the cane to her bare bottom.
Poor Melanie! She rather double took at that as she realised that the consequence we all knew could be now applied from our housemistress, in that she could order underwear to be removed, was in actuality going to happen to her. Her anticipatory distress increased.
Miss Fleming looked at her firmly and said: “Melanie Chappell, you need to pull yourself together! You know and have agreed what you did was unacceptable and you now have to accept the consequences. I suggest you take yourself off to my bathroom, first door on the right on the landing, and take five minutes to calm down and clean yourself up. While up there you may as well get your knickers off and put them in your blazer pocket. Now off you go!”
Sniffing, Melanie stuttered miserably: “Th, thank you miss,” as she scuttled out to have her five minute reprieve.
While she was out, Miss Fleming took me into the hall and showed me the under-stair cupboard where there were now six canes stored; two each of three different sizes. One was the prefect’s cane, the second was a housemaster’s cane, and the third, I realised with a shiver recalling my own experience on the receiving end, was of course the headmaster’s cane. Briefly she said that she may in future ask me to retrieve the cane she needed or, heaven forbid, ask me to fetch the replacement if one broke. She also indicated, seeing my look at the most severe instrument of the three, that she was only allowed to use the Headmaster’s cane at Mr McKendrick’s explicit request.
She extracted one of the two housemaster’s canes and returned to the sitting room to await Melanie’s return. She rather took her time to do so, and it was a bit more than her allotted five minutes before a trembling, though at least now fairly dry-eyed, young woman appeared at the door.
Miss Fleming, no doubt concerned at her fragile state, chose not to make an issue of the few minutes and instead got to business.
Raising her skirt to reveal her bottom, my colleague was soon bent over in the same position in the none-too-large living room as Olive had been a few weeks before. I stood out of the way in the corner.
Finally, without any warning, tapping or swishes through the air, the cane whipped down onto poor Melanie’s rear.
Despite all the nerves before, she took the stroke pretty well, giving little more than a gasp.
Mrs Fleming took her time in giving her the nine allotted strokes, slowly working down the target and increasing the intensity for the last few in particular. Melanie was in tears by the last couple, and progressively more audibly expressing her discomfort with each blow, but overall she took her thrashing pretty well, certainly at least as well as the one she had had two weeks before at the hands of Mr Gillespie. I doubt it was really true but it seemed to me the tongue lashing before upset her as much if not more than the physical lashing that followed.
Mrs Fleming suggested I accompany a suffering Melanie Chappell back to her dorm. It was a fairly slow walk across the grounds and Melanie said very little, other than thanking me as I delivered her into the solicitous hands of her dorm mates.
A couple of weeks later and finally the exams were over for most of the school. The exceptions were of course a few outlying O-level and A-level papers which were still due.
For the upper sixth it was holiday time. They had the option of leaving any time after their last exam, or staying. In the latter case, things were very relaxed with some classes I guess what you might call in ‘university and life skills’ to keep them occupied, as well as various sporting activities. There was a very informal atmosphere which more or less allowed them to do what they wanted as long as it did not affect those still with exams, nor set a bad example to others. It was made clear that, even if they were in the first XI cricket team,if they overstepped the mark then their option to leave after the last exam would be enforced. With the end of their education the school would no longer exercise an option to cane.
While a few left after their last exam, including a group of three with a plan to tour Europe for a month, the vast majority stayed, and all seemed to manage to strike the balance between enjoying themselves and not going over the top.
Derek was staying, of course, and that meant we had plenty of time to go for walks and enjoy each other’s company. Like the other upper sixth prefects they did their duties, though with the full complement from the lower sixth this was also quite reduced. As far as the court went, he and the two other senior prefects left the management to the four of us in the lower sixth, and opted just to observe, with occasional advice to us when asked. As Derek observed, his caning days were over as far as he was concerned.
While the upper sixth did as they wanted, for the rest of us classes continued, though there was a very relaxed atmosphere as the focus of the school drifted very much towards sports, including an intense round of cricket matches for many of the boys, and the remainder of the PE sessions were linked to athletics. This included a number of events for the girls.
Most of the girls took to the tennis courts, as well as continuing our regular hockey training with Mrs Fleming.
The end of the exams also brought an upsurge in court activity. While the upper sixth were controlling themselves, there were plenty of others allowing their high jinks to go over the top.
The court the week following the exams must have set some records. With the schedule of ten minutes per case it was still going to be just before fourth form lights out that we finished with the junior years; and there were two lower sixth cases after that!
The vast majority were post-lights out fooling around, where the boys concerned forgot that some fifth formers in the same area as well as upper sixth (usually in rooms a bit further apart) were not yet as free as them.
However there was also one girl, Ruth Yates, who had taken the opportunity to slip out briefly and unfortunately been caught by a teacher, who had her given the less onerous option of the court rather than Mrs Fleming, given she had a fairly good excuse in needing some supplies from the local chemist.
It was my turn with the gavel again, and it was slow going through all the boys first, including a couple of lower sixth who were in a neighbouring dorm to an upper sixth one, one member of whom had an exam the following morning. The two got particularly short shrift, being allocated the full eight for their stupidity.
Finally Ruth came in looking rather nervous. Though she had been caned before, perhaps unluckily, for a joke a teacher did not appreciate, that had been given to her by her housemaster of the time rather than experiencing the Prefects’ court. She had chosen to bring Fran, a girl with two appearances to the court, as a supporter. Fran was standing close to Ruth, and when Ruth put her hand out to steady her nerves, took it immediately. Meanwhile, it was Katie who had been spoken to by the teacher and thus was the ‘prosecuting prefect’. It was a job she clearly was doing without much relish.
When Ruth was asked why she had left and gone to the chemist by one of the boys, she blushed and I decided that it was best she did not have to answer. Before she could speak I interjected. Was not the real question why she had not gone first to Matron, who had all sorts of medications? It was clearly something that had since occurred to her and she hung her head. Fran interjected at this point saying that was something that had occurred to Ruth now, but at the time she had been more concerned in getting what she needed and had not been feeling that great, which had clouded her judgment.
Normally leaving without permission to the village was a minimum four stroke caning and usually more, but with a bit of persuasion from me she was awarded three. Perhaps Fran’s brief speech had given a bit more sympathy to my male colleagues. Maybe the fact that she was going to have an awful long wait to the end of the following evening helped too, as well as the three fellow lower sixth boys all deferring to my longer experience. That was something I did not expect to last much longer.
Ruth was looked pretty resigned as I, for the first time, looked a female colleague in the eye and told her of her fate. In fact Fran showed more expression, looking rather disappointed with me as I gave the cold factual pronouncement. Outwardly it may have seemed cold and impassive, but inwardly I felt rather sorry for every person, boy or girl, who had to listen to me telling them just how sore we had decided their bottom was going to be in 24 hours’ time.
At ten to eight the following evening, the corridor was pretty well packed as more than thirty boys, as well as one girl, milled nervously outside the room as prefects squeezed past. Eventually one of the boys went out to get them all to stand in roughly the right order against the wall, rather than the messy huddle that was clogging up the corridor. Finally the clock reached eight o’clock and the miscreants were brought in to stand facing the wall, and indeed the windows, taking up both sides of the room. Ruth, of course, brought up the rear. Normally it was hands on head immediately, but given the sheer numbers, and the time it would take to deal with them all, they were told they could keep their hands clasped in front of them until there were only five punishments to go, then they would need to put their hands to their head. While it might have been kind and practical in one way, mentally I was less sure. Suddenly being told it was time for the person next to you, then you yourself, to put your hands up into your hair must be a kind of torture as the countdown continued for your turn to a painful experience.
I am sure the three lower sixth prefects doing the punishments were all feeling the effects as they presumably took turns in the small room to give the various male miscreants their due. With so many waiting, and so long for the boys to wait, there were also quite a few pink slips for fidgeting doled out.
Fortunately Ruth managed to avoid that though she did get a mild admonishment to stand still at one point. The poor girl had to wait over two hours as the room slowly emptied of the delinquents making their apology, getting their dues in the ante-room, and of course the hand-shaking at the end.
At last it was my turn to stand up and call Ruth, now of course standing alone facing the wall with hands on head, to the front.
Trembling slightly she shuffled to the designated spot and clasped her hands in front of her skirt to give the apology, before slowly following Katie and myself into the ante-room. Sarah brought up the rear as third witness, her first time in that role.
Moments later, Ruth had her skirt around her waist and her maroon sports knickers stretched taught across her behind as she bent. She clearly just wanted it over with, as she was pretty much in position before I had got to the point of picking up one of the two canes on the desk. No need to go through the rigmarole of ordering her into position beforehand.
Taking a cue from her briskness in getting ready, I immediately lined up the rod for the first cut. Three times I cracked the cane crisply onto her knickers, each of which she took remarkably well, remaining essentially silent throughout.
She could not resist a quick rub of her bum as she pushed her skirt down and turned to face me with a pained grimace, then shook my hand before doing the same for Sarah and Katie. Sarah looked distinctly uncomfortable at having witnessed the punishment and all the rituals from the other side. I wondered if she had been recalling her own punishment at my hands before Christmas, an event that now seemed an age away.
Back in the main room, Ruth went round the remaining prefects and then finally the busiest court of the year was over.
The following Friday evening, Mrs Fleming had a first house party. It was a fun occasion with both her husband and herself. She also announced a trip around the building to be refurbished for us over the summer for the following day, and the election for Head of House to be held on Sunday. Apparently I was to run the election, with nominations to me by Saturday afternoon. There would be two votes; the first directly after morning chapel would lead to the top two being selected and they would be the Head and deputy. A second vote in the evening between them would determine who was to be Head. The deputy would be the runner up. The final member of her management group, which was open to prefects to stand too, was to be elected in the evening at the same time.
The trip around building (currently being used by boys who had to tidy up pretty thoroughly, according to Paul who was a senior prefect in that house) was very informative as Mrs Fleming showed us the layout, from where her own lodging and her study were to be (currently used by Mr Jones, one of the four boys’ housemasters) to the rooms she was proposing as lower and upper sixth dorms. There was a good space for a relaxation and a study common room too, though it was not as spacious as the sixth form and prefect rooms in the main building. I imagined in cold wet evenings they may be rather crowded despite the walk to the main building being so short. Mrs Fleming had sectioned off three rooms on the upper floor for the prefects, down a side corridor. Each room was rather spacious for two to share, and I certainly had plenty of space in what was to be Head Girl’s room, all to myself. At the other end of the building the head of house would get a similar room, with her deputy also having a smaller room to herself.
Most of the upper sixth rooms were to be two or three sharing, depending on size, while the lower sixth were more cramped in rooms of four or five.
Having made up the ballot papers the previous evening, for which five of the fifteen eligible girls had stood, there was some excitement as we cast our votes. Katie and I counted them after; Fran and Carol were the two winners. I asked them both to give a brief speech as to why they should be Head of House for all of us to think on. Both did very well, and there was not a lot between them, in my view.
That evening, it was Fran who was elected Head of House, with Carol therefore her deputy. The final member of the management team elected was Liz, which rather surprised me, as I though most would choose one of the others who didn’t get into the Head of House run-off rather than a prefect. However, Liz was a very popular girl in her own right, and was known for being very persuasive and diplomatic.
I was delighted for Fran in many ways, and hoped her father might at least acknowledge her success as vigorously as he had done her disciplinary failures. That would start with having to buy her a new blazer trimmed in the house colours. The deputy had a ribbon in the house colour around her blazer sleeve, in the same position as a prefect.
However, one problem was that we did not actually have a house colour yet. Red, green, yellow and blue were all out as the four boys’ houses used them. Mrs Fleming chaired a debate of all the girls and eventually violet was chosen. I do remember that the person who originally suggested pink was vigorously shouted down.
The following Saturday, Fran’s now very proud father (a former pupil) was up at the school with her brand new purple trimmed blazer, and was clearly delighted for her. I think Fran found that almost as embarrassing as the apology letters she had had to pass out at the beginning of the half-term.
Fran soon proved to be an excellent choice. She was very good at coordinating views between Mrs Fleming’s weekly meetings of the house development group and the rest of the girls. I soon found also that, whereas before girls often came to me with issues, they now were very happy to go to Fran, who seemed to be relishing the position and showing great tact and diplomacy. That tact was something I was very glad about as we soon developed a close working relationship.
There were to be no further girls making appearance at the court that summer term, though plenty of boys of all ages seemed to find the relaxed last few weeks as opportunities for mischief that was subsequently regretted.
There was, however, one more incident that led to Mrs Fleming using her right arm.
A couple of weeks before the end of term she arranged a house outing, a trip to Bath, which was not too far, and was selected at a house meeting. The plan was to have a morning visit to Stonehenge with an early lunch, and the afternoon was free time for us in Bath.
The bus left very early in the morning to make the most of the day, and we were at Stonehenge before 10, enjoying wandering around before returning to go on to a stop for lunch. After a further short drive we were dropped off in the centre of Bath at 2pm. As you can imagine, Mrs Fleming gave us strict instructions about our behaviour and reminded us all to be back to the bus at 5pm prompt.
I had a good time wandering round the shops with Katie and Carol, and we were heading back to the bus when Fran came up to us with a rather urgent look on her face. She was with Liz.
“Have you seen Alice, Doris and Harriet?” She asked.
I felt a sinking feeling as I shook my head. It was a feeling magnified as Fran continued to say that the three girls had been overheard saying they fancied a trip to the pub.
Fran had thought, like the others overhearing it, that they were just fooling. However, once off the bus, she had found out otherwise.
“I know they went straight to ‘The George’. I tried to stop them but,” Fran continued: “I am going to check.”
“Are you sure, Fran? You know what Mrs Fleming said.”
“I don’t want them to get into trouble.” She replied.
“It’s you getting into trouble I worry about, Fran.”
She shrugged and set off back.
On impulse I decided to go with her.
I waited outside as Fran went in. Fortunately the three were nowhere to be found.
I don’t know what it was about Fran, but luck never seemed to be on her side. Thus, as I met her at the exit and watched her give a relieved shake of the head, I saw that relief evaporate as Mrs Fleming put her hand on my shoulder and ask what we thought we were doing.
I am sure I looked horrified as I turned to see Mrs Fleming’s furious face. When I glanced at Fran, the blood seemed to have drained away to leave a face with a very dreadful pasty colour. Neither of us knew what to say.
Mrs Fleming continued: “I know what happened. You hoped to get three young ladies out of here and to the bus on time. Three young ladies who have behaved unacceptably and are now on the bus. A bus for which you two are now late!”
After a pause for us to assimilate that information she said coolly: “I will hear your reasons later. For now, the bus.”
Both of us followed Mrs Fleming as she paced back to the bus, now ten minutes late. I suspect Fran felt as I did, that we should have surreptitiously checked the bus before seeking out our friends.
We sat together near the front, as requested.
In the row in front of us, three girls, all clearly the worse for wear, sat clearly not yet understanding just how much hot water they were in. The three girls were all dorm mates, whose dorm had been the venue for a post-Christmas party social with some boys and some alcohol. It had been an event that had led all of them to having had an extremely painful (and I speak from experience) visit to Mr McKendrick’s office. I suspected that once they were sober they would be recalling that experience with a second.
The bus took an hour to get back to school, and Fran and I sat in near silence. At one point she whispered: “What do we say?”
I shrugged. “The truth, she knows it anyway.”
Once the bus got back, Alice, Doris and Harriet were sent to the matron. Fran and I were told to wait outside her flat. It was an hour in the July warmth before she returned. I did not like the grim look on her face.
We both told her the truth; that we had just gone looking for our housemates, being worried about them.
“Well Katie and Carol back up your story, and Harriet (the most sober of the three) has admitted that you, Fran, tried very hard to dissuade them from going to the pub. Nevertheless I made it clear anyone even stepping foot inside a pub, or being late for the bus, would be dealt with. So what am I to do with two girls who are supposed to be the example-setters to others?”
We both looked silently and waited, both of us praying she was just going to let us off with a lecture.
After a few moments musing, Mrs Fleming continued. “To be honest, I suppose if I was in your position I would have done exactly the same.”
My hopes of just a lecture rose.
They were dashed as Mrs Fleming continued. “However, I would also have known I was not going to get away with it if caught.”
She paused as I saw Fran’s sickly face; a caning for me was bad, but the consequences for Fran were far worse.
Our fears rose further as our Housemistress intimated that she had spoken to Mr McKendrick.
“Given the circumstances, we cannot let you off, but have decided to give you a most severe slippering. Amelia, you will receive ten and Fran, given you actually went into the pub, fifteen whacks, both on your knickers.”
Fran looked very relieved, as slipperings were not recorded in our reports. For me, I thought ten (let alone fifteen) slipper spanks sounded distinctly unpleasant. Though various girls had managed to get a slippering or two from teachers, it was not something I had obtained. Katie had got four once from her history teacher for being sufficiently inattentive as to have answered a question on eighteenth century politics with a prime minister from the nineteenth and had told me it gave a broader more diffuse sting than the cane, but it still ached for a while if done well.
Well it was clearly time for me to find out the reality. Moments later, I was dropping my trousers and bending over her armchair for my first dose of the slipper. In reality, the implement of Mrs Fleming’s seemed be an old black gym shoe of her husband’s. Whatever the case, it stung far more intensely than I expected as my bottom, at least protected by my knickers, was slowly turned a rather vivid shade of red. While the cane was worse, it was still a long and embarrassing experience, one that for some reason led me to find myself yelping towards the end and tears somehow escaping as the blows lit up my poor rear end. Perhaps it was the feeling that this time I had let down Mrs Fleming, who had always been so supportive.
Mrs Fleming passed a tissue to me as Fran got ready, and I watched as her white knickers were thoroughly spanked, with the bare flesh at the base of her bottom turning bright red.
Unlike me, Fran stood dry-eyed. We both thanked our Housemistress and made to leave, but before we did she said: “Amelia, I will be dealing with the other three tomorrow, directly after Chapel. It might be best if you come too, Fran; you might as well get used to the role I might ask you to do if Amelia is unavailable. I will be using the Headmaster’s cane by the way. Both he and I are furious that they have deliberately disobeyed my instructions and let the school down and, given they have already been severely punished for an offence which included drinking before, in my view they should know what they risked in going to the pub and what therefore they can expect.”
Ominous words indeed, I thought, though hardly surprising.
After we left, both giving our rear ends a good rub once out of the sight of Mrs Fleming’s flat, I explained to Fran what she was being asked to do; that she was going to be asked to witness, and possibly help restrain, our three friends. Neither of us knew how many, though I did tell Fran that it would absolutely certainly be with knickers down and most probably at least eight strokes.
Fran looked quite horrified. I suspect Mrs Fleming might have normally chosen Katie, but given Fran’s involvement and potential sacrifice for those three, had decided to allow some justice to be witnessed.
Alice, Doris and Harriet looked pretty sick at Chapel. It was a feeling not helped by the residue of their hangovers, and aggravated further by Mr McKendrick angrily ordering them to stand up and come to the front just after the last hymn, then informing the entire school that they were in for a severe thrashing as a result of their behaviour.
Harriet was audibly sniffing as we followed her back to the Fleming’s residence. Mr Fleming had disappeared off with the Head, to leave us girls to it, so to speak.
Fran, who had received perhaps the harshest caning of any of us, seemed rather nervous and uncomfortable. I found it hard to feel the same. Maybe last night I had been upset that I had in some way let our housemistress down, but these three were in my view the real culprits. Culprits who had managed to get themselves in a very similar situation once before and not learned from it. The girls’ fourth dorm-mate, Olive, had absolutely refused to go with them and made it clear she was never, ever, risking another caning if at all possible. Indeed she had begged them the night before the trip not to do it, but had been ignored. For Olive she would no doubt have the unenviable task of putting some cold cream on three wounded bottoms later.
It should also be said that my sympathy was further reduced by the fact that my own rear end was still mildly aching from its experience the previous last night.
It was as I considered this that I realised just how much I was becoming inured to this caning business. A sudden realisation that, after around eight months since that cold wet November evening, I had changed, and changed much more than I ever had expected. I seemed to have acquired a rather matter-of-fact attitude regarding punishments and I was not at all sure that was something I should be happy about. In contrast, looking at Fran’s face reminded me of the feelings I had when escorting her to that dreadful punishment just before Christmas, knowing I was going to witness something highly unpleasant happen to a number of my friends.
A few minutes later, we were ushered inside the flat and the three girls gulped as they saw Mrs Fleming’s worst cane waiting for them on the coffee table.
Once again I had the opportunity to watch Mrs Fleming give a very thorough dressing down. All three girls were quietly sobbing as she made it crystal clear just how much she felt they’d betrayed her trust in them, and in addition their actions had led to two of their colleagues (Fran and me) also being thrashed as a result. They looked even more upset as our Housemistress informed them that their request to share a room between the three of them next year was now most certainly rejected, and she would be looking to give them the third bed in other dorms with girls who could be trusted. Finally she picked up the long thick cane and looked at the three red-eyed culprits.
“I have spoken to Mr McKendrick and he is as appalled at your behaviour as I am. All of you were caned by him before Christmas, an experience I am led to believe none of you enjoyed. However, here you are again in the same position! I assure you I will be doing my absolute best to ensure you never, ever, want to be sent to me again. You will each receive nine strokes of the cane, and in my view you are lucky the Headmaster did not request me to give you all the full dozen!”
All three of them looked utterly awful as the nature of what they were due was made clear to them.
However, Mrs Fleming was not in the mood for any sympathy at all as she continued.
“The three of you, go out to the hall and remove your blazers and skirts. You can hang them on the hooks. After, stand facing the wall with your hands clasped in front of you. Amelia, please go and watch them. Any nonsense and they can put their hands on their heads instead. Fran, you can help me in here.”
Three rather terrified girls followed me out, and reluctantly shrugged off their blazers and hung them up on the row of hooks. There were many unhappy glances at each other as they each slowly unzipped their skirts and stepped out of them. All were rather optimistically wearing their maroon sports shorts. I was sure none of them would be keeping them on when it came to their punishment.
Fran told me later that Mrs Fleming seemed to want to take her time, having a glass of water before declaring herself ready and calling Harriet and myself through.
The armchair was now in a familiar position to me as I entered. Harriet bit her lip and stopped on seeing it, meaning I had to gently nudge her forward to allow me to enter sufficiently to close the door behind me.
Mrs Fleming did not waste any time. “Push those shorts down to your ankles, then bend over the armchair and get your head right down.” She ordered.
Harriet’s eyes rose in horror at the first part of the order. However, reluctantly she first faced the chair then slowly caressed the waistband her pants down over her bottom before crouching to push the garment all the way to pool round her feet. Fran looked almost as sick as Harriet as we watched her finally drape her body over the armchair back.
Mrs Fleming clearly had no intention of holding back. We knew she was furious that her first house event had ended this way, and clearly was determined to make sure all of us in her house would fear crossing her so seriously. No doubt the fact that she considered all three to be repeat offenders hardened her resolve.
Our housemistress ignored the shocked gasp from the chair, choosing instead to stare coldly at her target, watching its one reddening tramline for a good number of seconds.
The second arrived, leading to a barely stifled wail from the chair depth. Fran seemed to close her eyes.
Four harsh cuts later, and Harriet struggled to keep any composure.
A composure that was broken with a louder wail of pain and finally guttural sob as the seventh stroke cut into her two bottom cheeks.
Having kept to a slow rhythm throughout, the last two were administered very rapidly, more or less right along the base of her bottom causing a loud screeched wail on the first, and a garbled desperate noise on the second as she tried to catch her breath enough to give a second scream.
Moments later, she was struggling up, red-eyed and sobbing, and told to pull her pants up. It took her a while to pull them up and over the afflicted rear, and the leg elastic was clearly biting rather tightly across those lowest two, already merged, marks. However, finally she was able to return to face the wall in the hall, allowing Alice to reluctantly join us in the living room.
She looked nervously around as though wondering what to do. It was a momentary puzzlement as Mrs Fleming ordered her over the chair back with her pants down. I noticed immediately she had started the same breathing exercises she had before Christmas.
Mrs Fleming glanced at me, clearly wondering what she was up to. I just shrugged. Whatever she thought, it made no difference to our housemistress who thrashed the cane vigorously on Alice’s bottom. As before with Mr McKendrick, she managed to take the cuts almost silently, other than the clear sound of her breaths. Getting relatively little reaction after six seemed to just encourage Mrs Fleming to thrash the last three even harder, finally getting some form of gasp from Alice on the final two strokes, again given rapid fire.
While Alice had taken her thrashing bravely once again, (and had probably as before suffered a little extra as a result) she was clearly hurting as she slowly pulled her pants up over the stripes on her rear, still having enough composure to do so without revealing herself to the rest of us at the front.
Mrs Fleming seemed less than satisfied, and had rather a set grimace with which to greet Doris, who once again suffered the fate of having a surname near the end of the alphabet, being last.
Poor Doris was in tears as she dropped her sports shorts to reveal her rather plump full bottom. It was a pity those tears of regret had not led her to joining Olive in avoiding this escapade, but it was all too late for her now as her well-endowed backside was presented over the armchair for the ministrations of Mrs Fleming’s cane. As a result of her pear-shaped figure, as well as her plumpness, she was giving a target that had plenty of space for Mrs Fleming to work with, and work with it she did. Whether determined to get more of a reaction than Alice gave her or just getting better at using the most fearsome of the implements at her disposal, poor Doris was wailing after three and lost control and stood sobbing after six.
Fran looked rather horrified, no doubt remembering her thrashing from Mr McKendrick just around seven months previously. In contrast, Mrs Fleming was still clearly working out her built-up anger that her first house trip had ended up this way.
Doris was brusquely ordered back over the chair and the stroke repeated to an almighty wail as another red parallel tramline was raised on her well-decorated backside. Fortunately, she managed to hold on for the last three, all placed low on the target and clearly utterly agonizing. Mrs Fleming kept to her strategy of two viciously hard quick cuts at the end, leading to a raised weal that would be a nasty reminder for Doris, and indeed Harriet and Alice, every time they sat down for a good few days.
For Fran and I watching that last few strokes redden Doris’s bottom, there was a feeling of relief that she stayed in position. Neither of us, I think, fancied having to hold her down.
Mrs Fleming did not let the three girls waste her time (her words) putting their skirts on, but ordered them straight back to their dorms carrying them with their blazers and blouses acting as mini dresses over the maroon sports pants. It was no doubt hardest for Doris, who did not get any time to compose herself before having to make her way back to the school buildings where, in the middle of the day, there would be plenty of pupils to witness her distress, as well as the embarrassment to them all of their incomplete dressed state.
From her flat door, with her arms folded, she watched all three girls slowly retreating to the wing of the main building where their dorm was.
Once they had gone inside, she turned to us and, after a brief thanks, we were free to leave too and walk back quietly. Indeed Fran seemed really quite shocked at what she had witnessed, once again reminding me how my experiences had inured me, at least emotionally, to the barbarity of a severe caning.
A couple of weeks later and my eventful year was over. Derek gave the speech at the prize giving and the Head introduced James and me as the new Head Boy and first ever Head Girl. I wondered what I would say as it was clear I would be expected to speak next year. A rather nerve-inducing thought.
It was with mixed feelings I left that afternoon, particularly as Derek would not be around next year to keep me company. However, there was still a summer to be enjoyed together before then.
© Joanna Jones 2015