An altercation in a shop leads to unpleasant and unexpected consequences.

By Joanna Jones

I was brought up in what I suppose would be considered a ‘rural backwater’ in the wilds of Northumberland. As a result everybody went to the local large town, about ten miles away to secondary school, where there were four, including the girls’ grammar that I attended.

To get to school all the kids in the village got one of the various buses from one of four stops. In the morning we would go to the nearest one, but in the evening many of us would get off at the village centre and walk socially from there, often picking up something at one of the few shops around the green, either for myself, or as often as not, picking up something for my mother.

At the time of this story I was a prefect in the upper sixth and, being a well behaved pupil, had managed to avoid any discipline at school. The school did have the usually sanctions: Detention, slipper and cane. However they certainly were not excessively used. For example, only one of the five or six close friends I had at the time had actually been to Miss Harper’s office for the cane, where she had received two “firm” blows to her rear end, over her skirt, which was fairly typical. Our headmistress did not ‘do’ hands to my knowledge, all the stories I heard involved literally touching one’s toes.

The unfairness of how I ended up in that predicament still rankles with me now, even many years later, despite ‘justice’ ultimately being served.

By way of background the village my family lived in was inside a large country estate owned by a Lord Colton-Smythe, who lived in a manor house a mile or so out of the centre. As villages go it was quite large with around 2,000 inhabitants, of whom probably about half were tenanted, and in most of those the occupants either worked on the estate or in closely related businesses. However, my father worked in the town where the school was and he owned his own home in a group of houses on land that had been sold at some point for development.

Lord Colton, as everyone knew him, was an amenable if remote chap in his fifties. Recently he had got remarried after his first wife had rather tragically passed away. The second wife was much younger, in her late twenties I would guess, and rather too aware of her station in life. She had a rather strident voice with a very plummy accent and had gone to one of the poshest boarding schools in England I believe.

While certainly good looking, she was a very self-confident forceful character and had taken it upon herself to throw herself into “patronising” herself into a number of community roles, mainly as a result of being the wife of the major landowner in the area. In the short time she’d been with us she had not endeared herself to most people. The word “patronising” has more than one meaning….

One Wednesday after school I got off the bus with a friend at the stop near the village shops. My mother had asked me to pick up a couple of things from the grocer, come confectioner and newsagent, on the way home.

As I queued, along with a couple of other girls, and a couple of older ladies, Lady Colton-Smythe breezed in and, rather than join the end of the queue, went straight to the counter and ordered a pack of cigarettes.

The shopkeeper stopped serving the twelve year old, a precocious doctor’s daughter by the name of Claire, who was buying some sweets and immediately attended to his landlord’s wife.

I think every other person in the shop would have let it pass, but Claire was new to the area, her father starting as the village and area GP only a few months before. She turned to the woman and said: “Excuse me miss, but there is a queue here.”

Lady Colton-Smythe was not amused. “I beg your pardon?” She exclaimed in a manner that certainly intimidated me, standing directly behind Claire.

However, Claire was made of sterner stuff, or at twelve could not appreciate the danger. “I said miss, that there is a queue here.”

“How dare you! Don’t you know who I am?”

‘Don’t you know who I am?’ a phrase that I never liked, but after that day it fills me with absolute contempt for anyone who utters it.

However, for young Claire she did not know and replied stubbornly: “No, miss, but I don’t see why who anyone is should mean they can push in front of everyone else in the queue.”

SLAP!

Lady Colton-Smythe’s notorious temper had got the better of her and she had slapped Claire hard across the face with her left hand.

Perhaps she had aimed for the cheek and Claire had turned slightly towards me and the others behind in the queue, but whatever the case the blow fell mostly over the front of her face. Her nose started bleeding instantly.

Claire burst into tears as she put her right hand to the afflicted area and exclaimed hotly: “What was that for, you selfish cow?”

“You insolent girl!” Exclaimed the ‘Lady’ and raised her right hand this time.

As it descended towards Claire’s exposed left cheek I made the fateful decision to jump in and, pushing myself between them, grabbed her descending right arm and said: “No! You’ve hurt her enough!”

Lady Colton-Smythe had a fearsome temper and glared at me, ordering me to get out the way, with her hand still raised to administer her retribution on Claire, who was now cowering behind me. I remember my reply clearly, saying: “I am sorry m’lady, but I can’t.”

A brief pause, then, as she realised I was not going to move, an almighty SLAP!

My head was ringing and my face burning as the blow originally meant for Claire landed on my left cheek and ear.

In my shock and anger at being hit I said: “She’s right you are a cow!”

The shopkeeper, Mr Hilton, grabbed the hand as she raised it again and thrust the packet of cigarettes into it. “Please, Lady Colton, here are your cigarettes.”

It was enough, I think, for her to realise what she was doing. “Put them on my account.” She ordered, and then turning to us she said: “You two have not heard the last of this,” as she swept from the shop.

Claire was distraught and I bought her chocolate bar for her, out of my own allowance, as well my mother’s shopping before saying I would help her home.

I worried that our nemesis would be waiting outside, but to my relief she’d gone.

It was a slow process escorting Claire to her house, a few doors further down the street from mine. Her nose would not stop bleeding despite our best efforts. Suffice to say Claire’s mother was shocked to see us two blood splattered girls at her door.

To her clear rising anger I briefly explained what had happened, and left, slowly walking back home, my head still ringing from the blow I’d received.

My mother was not in and, after damping my blazer and skirt where the worst of the blood was, and putting my blouse in cold water, I went to my room and read for a while until calmed down enough to get on with some homework.

Mostly, people who lose their temper more frequently blow up and it then it blows over. Thus I assumed that Lady Colton, once calmed down would forget about it.

However, it was not to be.

It was the following day at school as I was walking the corridor on my way out to morning break that I heard her plummy voice stridently calling out: “That’s the older one there.”

Miss Harper was one of those headteachers who made an effort to know her pupils’ names. “Jane Wilkes, my office now!” She called.

To the amusement of some of the younger pupils, who could easily tell I was in trouble, and the surprise of the two friends I was with I turned and followed the two older women towards the office.

As I walked I had a brief time to consider the situation. Whatever happened I was determined to ensure I had a chance to give my side of the story.

However, it never happened. Every time I tried I was interrupted by Miss Harper. As far as she was concerned I had called the Chair of the School Governors a ‘cow’ to her face and she had heard the ‘full story’ from her. All she wanted to hear was my admission.

She got more and more angry with my attempts to explain what had happened, and to be honest on the one occasion she may have been inclined to give me a few seconds to speak, Lady Colton interrupted angrily complaining about my impertinence. Eventually Miss Harper demanded I simply answer the question ‘yes’ or ‘no’, or face expulsion.

Lady Colton-Smythe gloated at me as I, frustrated and defeated, said: “Yes.”

Miss Harper replied: “Finally, we are getting somewhere! And who was the other girl?” She demanded.

I was glad that Claire was not at school that day, or at least she’d not been on the bus. However, I was damned if I was going to tell on her and expose her to this. Despite her precocious nature she, I knew, was a sensitive girl with an abnormal sense of ‘fair play’. To be hauled over the carpet for what had happened, and by now I fully expected it to be a painful carpet, would I think have broken her natural spirit.

“I am sorry miss, but I can’t say.” I replied flatly.

Egged on by Lady Colton-Smythe my headmistress tried very hard to get me to divulge the name and was clearly furious that I repeatedly refused saying that I could not.

Eventually she moved into lecture mode and I listened to and irate tirade about manners and politeness, especially to ‘upstanding members of the community’.

She asked me if there was anything to say before she decided my punishment.

Desperately I made one final attempt to give my side of the story, but Miss Harper, no doubt feeling the pressure of her affronted Chair of Governors next to her, finally lost it.

“Enough!” She exclaimed. “I was going to give you four of the cane, given your previous record, but your insolence is nothing short of appalling. I am going to give you eight and you are no longer a prefect. Indeed you are lucky you are not going to be expelled after your display here, and if I hear one more attempt at you trying to justify your behaviour then that is exactly what will happen to you!”

I stood there appalled, unable not to at least beg for some leniency.

“Please…” I started.

However, I was interrupted once again. “I only want to hear from you the name of your young friend, the one which you ‘can’t’ give me. Don’t think you are saving her. Lady Colton, is coming to assembly on Monday and if I find you actually know the girl then you will be back in this office for another dose of four strokes! If you have no name then I suggest you take your blazer off and touch your toes.”

I felt sick at that prospect, but I was still not going to tell on Claire. There was the chance she was in the school, having been brought by her parents for some reason.

I therefore took the only option left to me, reluctantly slipped off my blazer, hung it on her coat stand and, returning to my start position, stretched down and put my fingers to the caps of my shoes.

I heard the rattle as a cane was retrieved from her cupboard.

However, my impending fate was clearly not enough for Lady Colton-Smythe. “In my school a girl would be caned on her bare backside for such behaviour!” She complained angrily. As she did so she came up and stood next to me tapping my upthrust bottom with her hand as she did so.

The touch felt like an invasion of my privacy. I felt a sick anger at the feel of that horrid woman’s hands on my body. From my inverted position I could not see Miss Harper’s reaction, but for once the tetchiness was not directed at me. I imagined she was rather glaring at her Chair of Governors as she said: “As I am sure you know, m’lady, the rules here do insist on at least one layer of clothing.”

“Well she won’t be needing this then, will she?”

Suddenly I found my skirt unclasped, unzipped and yanked hard down to my ankles. I was amazed she did it so fast and I had no chance to react. As I was still half bending as the skirt came down my plain white knickers came half off in the process.

“Miss Harper, please!” I begged as tried to retrieve my lost garments.

The Head looked to be caught in two minds before acquiescing to Lady Colton-Smythe. “Wilkes, pull your knickers up, but leave your skirt where it is and bend over.” She ordered coldly.

Pulling up my knickers carefully to cover as much of lower half of my bottom I gave Miss Harper a last despairing plea.

It was only met with a very firm angry: “Now Wilkes!”

Tears of frustration pricked my eyes as my fingers returned to my now skirt covered toes. Miserably I wondered how much worse could this get?

“Your knickers are nearly falling off. You will need to give them a tug upwards,” intimated Miss Harper.

I had clearly been too absorbed in covering the target area. However, as I reached back to make the necessary adjustment Lady Colton-Smythe jumped in.

“Here, let me help you.” She said, putting on hand on my back and giving my knickers two uncomfortably sharp tugs, more like yanks, upwards, one on each side.

“O-oh!” I wailed as I realised that much of the material was now between my buttocks. Lady Colton-Smythe may not have got her way on getting my knickers down, but she had been victorious in that I was now clearly going to get most of it essentially to the bare bottom.

Silently I prayed Miss Harper would let me adjust them, but it went unanswered. I expect she probably felt enough time had been wasted.

“Now hold still if you don’t want extra,” was my headmistress’s final order before I felt the cane rest gently somewhere around the knicker elastic that was much of the way up my bum. Then it was gone.

A deep humm and a crack as my bottom received its first taste of the pain that a cane can bring.

I gasped and gritted my teeth as the pain demanded the attention of every part of my mind.

A second humm and crack magnified my discomfort as I gasped again.

Already I was having difficulty trying to control the desperate urge to stand up. I needed something to focus on.

As the third stroke whipped in I concentrated on my feelings of hate towards the woman who was responsible for placing me in this position. I gave a desperate “Nnngh” but held on.

Crack. The fourth was high on the target. A yelp escaped me as the agony was increased. While part of me wanted to cry and I could feel my eyes getting damp, I was not going to give that bitch the satisfaction of seeing me broken.

Crack. I gave an involuntary yelp as the fifth was hard and low, certainly on the bare part of my rear. My promise not to give that ‘Lady’ the satisfaction was going to be a tough ask, as I already felt I’d had enough.

Another louder humm and a crack. Right at the base of my buttocks. I could not control my voice and the scream I let out. For a brief moment I nearly stood up but desperately grabbed my ankles to stop myself. I think I knew then I was on the point of losing my battle.

Miss Harper waited until I let go and put my fingers back on my toes before unleashing the seventh stroke. Biting my lip I just about managed to hold the scream in, and my toe-touching position. However my efforts to not cry were finally lost, as I felt tears trickle out. The pain was too much, that bitch had won.

The eighth was the worst of the lot – a second diagonal blow across my striped rear. I could not do anything other than scream loudly and the tear ducts were fully open as I desperately grabbed my ankles to stay down, being unsure if I could stand or not.

After a brief pause the order came. “You may stand Wilkes, but put your hands on your head.”

Facing her desk the tears streamed down as she filled in the punishment book in front of me.

She then gave me a small pair of scissors and both woman watched as I, still sobbing, dejectedly cut the stitching attaching the ring of blue and gold striped ribbon that signified being a prefect from each of the lower arms of my blazer, and took off the special tie prefects wore. Miss Harper intimated I could go tie-less until she decided on my replacement, who would temporarily give me hers. This may have been practical to her, but to me the prospect was just a further humiliation on top of all the other punishments I had received.

The apology I gave to Lady Colton-Smythe was tearful, but hardly genuine. The woman was evil in my view.

As I staggered miserably from our Head’s office it was already well into our first post break class, double History. After risking a quick visit to wash my face, not explicitly forbidden, I crept into the class and carefully sat down. I could see a few shocked looks as I entered clearly in pain and minus the trappings of my previous office.

Towards the end of the class my best friend, Vicky, the one who’d been behind me in the queue in the village shop was called to the Head’s office.

She looked fearfully at me, as she had no doubt guessed, or heard from one of my other friends, about the reasons for my visit to Miss Harper.

I would confess that for the rest of the lesson my concern for her was rather limited – I was too absorbed in my own misery.

However, she was not in trouble. Clearly Miss Harper did not know or realise she had been in the fateful shop at the same time. Vicky appeared at lunch looking extremely embarrassed, clearly wearing my old prefect’s tie. The ribbon had been temporarily roughly pinned on the sleeves with about four safety pins on each side. She was extremely apologetic as she gave me her old sixth form tie.

I outwardly congratulated her and said not to worry as if I was to lose my role I’d want it to be her. However, deep inside it was another twist of the knife.

As the worst of the pain subsided my thoughts turned to how I could get justice. I do not consider myself vindictive as a rule, but by “justice” in this case I did indeed mean “revenge”, the most terrible revenge possible if I could manage it. However, while it helped distract me from the pain in my rear, and from anything that I was supposed to be learning that day (the teachers left me alone), none of them seemed likely to work. All carried risks and for me that would almost certainly be expulsion. By the time the end of school came I reluctantly gave up and miserably resigned myself to my fate.

Of course lunch and afternoon break was spent dealing with my schoolmates. Some younger pupils who I had sent for discipline were clearly ecstatic at my downfall and there were more than a few cat calls from them as I painfully made my way around the school. I suspected it would be weeks before that aspect of my “punishment”, as I saw it, would die down.

While my close friends were of course sympathetic, most of the remaining sixth formers were rather unconcerned and a few amused at my downfall, especially at losing all the perks and privileges that went with being a prefect. However, by the end of the day Vicky ensured that almost all sixth formers knew what had really happened and by then all I got was sympathy, and even quite a lot of apparent respect for having the guts to stand up to the woman. That, at least, made me feel a little better about myself. However, while everyone told me how unfair it was, no-one could see a way to rectify that; the reality was that no-one crossed Marjorie Colton-Smythe and got away with it.

As I sat on the way home – the bus driver would not allow us to stand on the drive back – with my hands under my legs to keep the weight off the hard, bouncy seat, my thoughts turned to Claire.

The ‘cow’ as I now thought of her would undoubtedly pick her out on Monday. While I miserably considered the consequence of getting another caning myself, I was more concerned for Claire. At the least she needed to be warned so she had time to work herself up and accept her fate, and also she needed to know not to talk herself into a worse punishment as I had done.

Vicky was sitting next to me. For someone who had just been made prefect she looked miserable with the guilt of having picked up my job. As she said, if I had deserved it she would not feel too bad, but I had lost my role for in some senses doing my job in protecting a junior pupil.

No one was sitting near us and I said: “No matter what, I never should have called the cow ‘a cow’ to her face. Perhaps I did deserve it.”

“But you were provoked. She hit you!” Vicky exclaimed.

I just shrugged as I said: “Maybe, but still I should have known better.”

As the bus entered the village, rather than going on to the middle or the stop at the far end, I got off telling Vicky I needed some time to myself.

As I walked disconsolately along the road I wondered again on how best to warn Claire. Eventually I decided that talking to her father might be the best way. There was an afternoon surgery and I walked along to his office, and asked the receptionist if it would be possible to have a quiet word.

Initially she indicated that he was quite busy. However, when I mentioned it was to do with Claire and an incident yesterday I saw a dawning comprehension. Clearly the receptionist had heard at least the bones of the story.

I was asked if I could wait a quarter of an hour till he finished with his last two patients, and before he did a couple of house calls. I found a magazine and stood reading it in a corner. The waiting room chairs were all very hard with a plain wood base. The last patient took longer than expected and it was nearer twenty minutes before Dr Millan saw me.

When he did, he made it clear that he was very thankful for my help. Apparently his wife had taken Claire into the hospital as the blow had broken her nose and he wanted it looked at. Claire also had a small cut above one eye from a flailing fingernail, or possibly a stone on her engagement ring. While shocked she should be well enough to go back to school tomorrow. Like everyone else, his view was that it was best to let the incident pass, given the influence of the woman.

I watched him turn puce as I told him that Lady Colton was not of the same mind, that I had been caned severely both for my part in the fracas, and for refusing to divulge Claire’s name. When I told him what was likely to happen on Monday to both her and me, and that he needed to warn his daughter, he looked physically sick.

It took him a long time to speak to me once I’d finished.

Finally he said: “She is not a nice piece of work is she?”

I shrugged.

For five minutes he paced around his office thinking. Finally he said: “Jane, I think I have the beginnings of a solution here, but I am not sure if it will work, as she is so damned influential. One way I can protect you in case it does not, is if I can say you came to see me about the slap, as your ear was still a little sore. In any case both the ear and eye can be damaged by a hard slap. I can then say you mentioned the severe caning in passing. At the very least I can tell Miss Harper she must delay any second caning until after your bottom is healed, even if my plan backfires. However I will need to carry out a medical examination.”

“Including my bottom?” I asked nervously.

“I will call in the nurse as a chaperone if you can agree.”

The prospect of some form of prevention of, or at least delay in further canings for me and possibly also Claire, outweighed my embarrassment.

He called in the nurse who waited to one side as he examined my face, ear and eye. There was no obvious damage, but he said my description was consistent with being struck with excessive force, similar to that which had broken his daughter’s nose.

Finally he waited as I went behind the screen, pulled down my knickers to just below the lowest cane mark, and lay face down on the examination table.

It was the nurse whose exclamation indicated what a mess my bottom looked.

Dr Millan took some notes before saying he was surprised I’d managed to hold myself together for such a beating.

He then retired leaving me behind the screen to carefully pull my underwear back over my swollen rear and pull my skirt back down.

Thanking me he asked whether I could let my parents know he would like to come round later that evening.

Miss Harper had obviously phoned as my mother was waiting angrily for me. Her first question was: “Where have you been?”

“To see Dr Millan.” I replied as calmly as I could.

She seemed to only register that at least it was a fair excuse and started to rant about the disgrace and embarrassment. Rather than rise to the bait, I waited until she calmed down enough before asking if she would listen to my side of the story, without interrupting.

Still clearly angry she glowered at my impertinence at asking her not to interrupt but at least sat down and, still clearly angry, crossed her arms and waited.

Taking a deep breath I started at the beginning. I watched as my mother’s anger changed to incredulity, shock, then sympathy. By the time I told her about my fears for Claire and myself, and my visit to Dr Millan, both of us were in tears. Mine was with relief she clearly understood and believed me. Like me she could not see anything other than to ‘grin and bear it’ despite the clear injustice of it all.

Later that evening Dr Millan and my mother and father talked with me again to check all the facts and then suggested I try to get some rest. The two men talked, I think, long into the night.

On Friday morning Vicky sat next to me on the bus. I was surprised she had not sewn her ribbons onto her blazer sleeves properly, but she just said she’d been too busy with an essay – a job for the weekend, so she said. I noticed once again Claire was absent, and suspected that she would be off ‘recovering’ until matters were resolved one way or another. I got the clear impression that Dr Millan had no intention of letting his daughter be caned for this, unless it was absolutely the only alternative to expulsion.

Most of my day passed uneventfully, although sitting was still very uncomfortable. By now my exceptionally severe caning was common knowledge, and I knew that the rumour mill meant that virtually all the pupils were more aware of my side of events than any of the teachers were.

Thus there was more ineffectual sympathy but as far as classes went I just kept my head down.

In contrast to my quiet day I suspect Miss Harper found it much more trying, as I found out later.

Her day probably went downhill with her new prefect, Vicky, asking for a meeting during her study period after break.

Vicky asked if she could speak in confidence about my predicament, as she had independently witnessed what had happened. She also pointed out her father worked for Lord Colton-Smythe and to take that into account when deciding what to do.

Miss Harper was generally a patient teacher, when not under pressure from her Chair of Governors, and listened to her story. Vicky said she was in shock once she had completed it. The only thing she would not tell Miss Harper was the name of the younger girl, given that I had not, and for the same reason. Miss Harper apparently had let that go. Vicky told her she wished to resign as a prefect as she could not accept my sacking as fair. Miss Harper refused, however, to accept her resignation as a prefect, telling her that unless her story proved false then she had been made a prefect and she would retain that status no matter what any investigation might mean for me. Her comment had been that she respected her integrity in coming to see her and offering to stand down.

As she left Vicky overheard the secretary saying to Miss Harper that she’d had a phone call asking the Head if she could meet with my father and Dr Millan later that day. I can only imagine the impact that must have had, having heard Vicky’s account – assuming of course that she had worked out that Claire Millan might be the other girl that the Chair of Governors was after!

At the time of course I knew nothing about all these visits and Vicky told me nothing till much later.

Near the end of the day on Friday a secretary said the Headmistress wanted to see me. Fearfully I accompanied her along the corridors and soon found myself tapping nervously on the door, half expecting to see my nemesis back and a demand for me to bend over again.

However, it was a very subdued Head who asked me for my version of events. This time she listened.

She then told me that I must tell absolutely no-one but that Lady Colton-Smythe was going to be confronted on Monday. She would do nothing else till then, other than promise me that assuming my story to be true then her threat of further punishment was lifted.

On Monday Claire was back at school and, true to form, Lady Colton-Smythe’s public school voice identified her as she came into assembly. Thus at the end of the assembly Claire and I followed the two women back to the Head’s office.

I suspect Claire knew the situation as well as I did but we both schooled our faces to look as neutral as possible, although neither of us needed to pretend to be nervous in any case!

Miss Harper opened the door and allowed Lady Colton to enter first.

I watched her baulk as, on entering the room, she found it occupied by the shopkeeper, the two old ladies, Vicky, and another girl who’d been in the queue. However, most of the Lady’s attention was taken by the presence of her husband, who was standing next to my father and mother, and Dr Millan and his wife. In retrospect I was amazed they had all managed to arrange things to be there.

Ignoring the audience as Miss Harper closed her door on a very crowded office Lady Colton asked her husband: “Robert, darling, what is going on?”

Robert looked at his wife a long time before answering. “There seems to have been a misunderstanding in events when you bought your cigarettes on Wednesday. I have spoken to Miss Harper and we have invited everyone here to get to the bottom of it. I have also personally given my word that no-one will be adversely affected by telling the truth.”

The next twenty minutes was not very pleasant, but the outcome was never in doubt. Eventually Lady Colton-Smythe capitulated, mainly when she realised that the police could be called to charge her with assault, especially given the damage to Claire’s nose.

The only question was what to do. Her resignation from the governing board of the school, and also the village primary school was quickly agreed as a foregone conclusion.

When she was told by her husband that the alternative to the police was to receive the cane from Miss Harper she desperately pleaded but eventually gave in.

Staring coldly at his wife he said: “You are a mature adult, so I think you should be able to take twelve strokes!”

Miss Harper turned the screw. “At Jane’s caning you indicated that severe punishments were best given to the bare backside, and as you are of course not a pupil here, there is no reason why that should not be the case!”

It was cruel but very satisfying to watch her turn to her husband to plead and see it fall on stony ground. In his view she had disgraced the manor, his manor, and very nearly got a police record for assault with a lot of bad publicity. She could expect no sympathy from him!

It was agreed that only Claire and I, as the aggrieved parties should witness the punishment, along with Lord Colton, who, after the others all left, told his now quaking young wife that she’d better take it bravely and learn from this, or else.

His normally super-confident, assertive wife was now reduced to a very timid acquiescence of her fate.

Slowly she removed her well-tailored jacket and hung it on the hat stand. Even more reluctantly her fingers went to the clasp on her skirt, unclipped it and lowered it revealing a pair of high waisted ivory silk knickers and her matching suspender belt holding up the stockings. Her husband took the skirt and with a final despairing look at Lord Colton she slid off the underwear and, blushing beet red, passed it to her husband.

It was impossible for me not to admire the hips of and waist of the woman as she adopted the pose allowing her the good look of Miss Harper’s blue tufted carpet that I had seen at such close quarters only a few days before. The cheeks of her bottom were framed on three sides by the belt and straps, with the stocking tops coming most of the way to the tops of her thighs.

Miss Harper extracted the cane. It was crook handled, and about three foot long. Being bent over last time I had not appreciated what a vicious implement it looked.

The Head, seeing my rather horrified look, said: “My sixth form cane, same as you got!”

My bottom seemed to give a nasty twinge as it remembered.

Marjorie Colton-Smythe was moaning as the Head, with a grim and angry face, laid the cane on the upper half of the target.

She seemed to put everything into the stroke as with a loud ‘hummm’ the cane descended and cracked across her bottom.

As the skin whitened there was an almighty scream from its victim, but she remained in place.

Miss Harper took her time briefly checking the rod before aiming ever so slightly below the reddening line.

Another loud ‘hummm’ and crack as a second line appeared just below the first.

Lady Colton controlled herself better and it was more of a yelp that escaped.

Miss Harper was methodical in slowly working down the target. Each blow seemed to be given with as much force as Miss Harper could muster. The yelps and groans became more desperate and loud, until after six she gave up, screamed and started sobbing.

Miss Harper paused and looked at the husband of the wretched woman before her.

Lord Colton said coldly: “Carry on, Miss Harper. My wife will learn a lesson from this!”

The seventh and eighth were met with further screams and bawling. Claire put her hand in mine and clearly was finding the whole thing rather much. I wondered about the wisdom of her being here, or me for that matter. However, that had not been our decision to make.

The ninth was very low and met with another wail of agony. She was now technically breaking Miss Harper’s rules by actually gripping her ankles. That was ignored. However, Miss Harper did remind her twice to straighten her legs before administering the tenth cut right at the base of her buttocks, to a deafening scream from the recipient. For the others who were in the school reception area, I am sure they were convinced that Lady Colton-Smythe was indeed getting her just desserts. Her bottom was now nearly a wall of red from bottom to top as many of the stripes were merging.

I noticed Miss Harper slightly modify her stance and realised the last two blows were to be diagonal cuts, as I had received.

The first of those was as hard as the others and only briefly Lady Colton lost control, screamed and raised herself before grabbing her ankles again. She was moaning amongst the sobs.

It was enough for her husband: “Miss Harper I think you can repeat that stroke.”

“Robert please!” She wailed.

Miss Harper looked at him for confirmation before finally grimly saying: “Still two strokes to go.” Immediately she lashed the cane down parallel to and just above the first diagonal stroke. Then without pausing, the second of the two just below it.

With a final scream a very sorry woman stood gripping her buttocks and dancing on the spot. After a few minutes her husband coldly told her to stop making an exhibition of herself and get dressed.

He then forced her to apologise to the three of us, including to Miss Harper for duping her so badly. He then escorted his miserable, sobbing wife from the office to make further apologies to those waiting outside before being taken home.

Miss Harper told Claire and me to wait. First she mildly admonished Claire to be more careful in confronting adults, even politely, and then dismissed her.

I felt rather nervous as she sat at her desk and invited me into a chair opposite.

“I owe you an apology and thanks.” She said. “An apology for not listening to you and caning you so harshly, and thanks for not having gone to the police or press, who would have had a field day with the story. In case you are wondering, that I think is why Lord Colton was so insistent to see her thrashed like that.

I shrugged and said: “I shouldn’t have called her a cow, even if I was provoked.”

“No you shouldn’t, but if I had been hit that hard I don’t know what my reaction would have been.” She paused. “You also were extremely brave in standing in to protect a pupil both from Lady Colton and then from my anger, despite the consequences.”

“I thought it was my duty.”

“Yes, but not everyone manages to do that.” She replied, then paused. “So what am I to do with you? I gave Vicky your job and promised her she could keep it when she tried to resign after telling me what really happened.”

I shrugged, as I really wanted to be a prefect again, but knew the number was traditionally fixed. “I suppose the main thing is my name is cleared?” I replied.

“Yes but I have been thinking a long time on how to both make my actions up to you and recognise your bravery. So how about the school has a Deputy Head Girl?”

I was dumbstruck as I got my prefect ribbons back and was told to put two bands round the cuff of each sleeve. I also was passed a head girl’s tie. I thanked her profusely as I put on the tie, and she helped me temporarily pin the bands on. The only difference between me and the Head Girl was her blazer had the ribbon attached around the lapels too.

The remainder of my schooldays passed relatively uneventfully. As for Lady Colton-Smythe, I suppose one can say it was a lesson well learnt if I was being fair, as she certainly was much more reasonable afterwards. However, I still cannot bring myself to like the woman.

The End