A misaimed snowball causes a headmaster to take action
Friday 20th December 1985, the last day of the Christmas term at Lady Upshott’s School for Young Ladies, and the school awoke to find the grounds covered in a thick layer of powdery snow. The snow had started falling the previous afternoon and had only stopped at about 7.00 am. It was still cold with the temperature hovering around freezing, but the clouds had almost all gone, the sun was shining, and the sky was a beautiful blue.
The snow-draped old school buildings, which had the appearance of a stately home, the trees, and the playing fields looked just like a Christmas Card. The photograph taken by the headmaster’s 21-year-old daughter, Aurora, that morning, the day after she had returned from her studies at university for the Christmas holidays, was to actually become the school’s favoured Christmas Card for several years.
The groundsmen had been up since early morning gritting the pathways and the main drive in preparation for parents arriving to collect the students from midday, little effort had been possible for the remainder of the school estate which remained covered in snow.
After breakfast, the girls had all made their way to the Great Hall for assembly, past the noticeboards for each year group on which the results of the internal end of term examinations were still posted by subject. There was an atmosphere of expectant good humour, but all was largely quiet under the watchful eyes of the staff and the prefects led by the head girl, Louise Kingston.
Like the others, Louise was dressed in the school’s sixth form uniform of white blouse, burgundy cardigan and a tailored medium-grey mid-length skirt, worn with tights or stockings of an appropriate colour, and smart black low-heeled patent-leather shoes. A coloured band on the pocket of the cardigan identified the young lady’s house, and some wore the navy-blue and gold prefects badge or, in Louise’s case, the Head Girl’s badge.
The cherished only daughter of doting and wealthy parents, Louise had been the obvious choice for head girl at the beginning of the term. Although only 5’4” tall she was not only an excellent hockey player and captain of the 1st eleven, but also an exceptional student. The exam results on the upper sixth notice board showed her top in history, in law, a subject taught personally by the headmaster, and a close second in French. She also led the General Studies rankings and, although not studying music for exams, was an accomplished pianist with a beautiful contralto singing voice. She was, moreover, a very attractive young lady, both physically, where her long, burnished, copper-coloured hair was neatly plaited and her glasses enhanced rather than detracted from her pretty features, and in her character and sweet nature, which ensured that Louise was popular with both students and staff. Needless to say, up to that day, she had an almost perfect disciplinary record.
The assembly included the usual end of term announcements, and a carol service where the girls and staff looked forward to the coming festive season, at which Louise sung the first verse of the French Carol ‘Il est né le divin enfant’ as a solo.
Bringing the assembly to a close, the 51-year-old portly figure of Ernest Eastern-Roberts raised a point that Louise had discussed with him in advance. She had been concerned the combination of the ample covering of snow and the girls end of term excitement might lead to problems, both during the morning and, particularly, when the girls were being picked up and parents and siblings might be present.
“Ladies, I know this is the end of term and you are all keen to get off home and have some fun. I am also aware that some of you are keen to take advantage of the unusual opportunities that the recent snowfall may provide for amusement. I am not against any of you having fun, within reason.”
Cheers from the girls were cut short when Ernest raised his hand.
“I trust that I can rely on your common sense so each of you can have fun whilst ensuring that you do not let yourselves or the school down in-front of your parents, and do so in a way that no one gets either hurt or upset. Your having fun is not a problem for me, unless you make it one. I want you to know that, in the unlikely event that things get out of hand and any of you let me down, there will be consequences for those involved. In particular, be very careful. Snowballs and moving vehicles do not mix and whilst snow is soft, when compressed it becomes ice which is not. You have been warned.
“After assembly, you will go back to your forms and your form teachers will give you your end of term reports in sealed envelopes which each also contain a letter for your parents to sign and return. I need not remind you that, as they are addressed to your parents and not to you, you are not to open them.
“Once you have collected your reports, you may all change out of uniform and get ready to be picked up by your parents. There will be mulled apple juice, sandwiches, mince pies, and Christmas cake in the refectory from 11.30.
“Prefects, I would like to invite you all to join me in my drawing room where we will celebrate the end of another successful term at Lady Upshott’s.
“Thank you all, have a great Christmas and I look forward to seeing you all again next term as many of you prepare for important examinations.”
The morning passed off well and the prefects enjoyed a glass of mulled wine with their festive fare before collecting their cases and standing with the others who were being called forward by the staff as their parent’s cars arrived. It was 12.45 when Ernest and his fiancée, Sylvie, the school administrator, set off in their matching camel-colour coats to stand by the carriage drive and meet as many parents as possible. In the distance, they saw a smiling Louise set off to meet her parents carrying her small suitcase. She had changed and replaced her stockings with a pair of black woollen tights, her shoes with tan ankle boots, and her blouse and cardigan with a red roll-neck pullover over which she wore a blue-green quilted coat with the hood down. Ernest altered course to have a quick word with the parents of his Head Girl to let them know just how well she had done in her first term in the upper sixth.
As he watched, he saw no fewer than three pupils, including her deputy, gently throw snowballs at Louise as she walked past. The softly packed snowballs, thrown with little force, disintegrated on impact with the shoulder and back of her quilted jacket, and the teenager merely smiled and waved at her assailants. Robert reacted in a similar manner when a snowball impacted on his own back, but turned and gently wagged a finger in the general direction from which the missile had come.
Louise then walked past a red Rover 3500 with the rear hatch open. Marcia Watkins, a popular and pretty blonde third year girl, was placing her case into the boot assisted by her father, and had also just handed her report to her mother, who had immediately opened it. Marcia’s parents had arrived to pick her up accompanied by her twin brother Matthew who was in his final year at a prep school before moving on to a renowned public school in September, and their six-year-old sister Sarah. They were due to drive directly to Devon to spend the Christmas holidays with Marcia’s mother’s parents.
Both Marcia’s siblings had also got out of the car to stretch their legs, but had been warned by their parents to stay close. Little Sarah found the snow particularly fascinating, whilst Matthew, having just begun to notice the fair sex, was looking with admiration at the very pretty Head Girl as she passed. He saw how she had not been angry with the others when they had thrown snowballs and thought he would try his luck. Matthew also noticed that their car had driven over a frozen puddle and that there were two, fist sized, pieces of ice. He used these as the centre of his two snowballs to give him greater range and accuracy.
Louise had just passed by when Matthew threw the first snowball, which struck her on the back of her head, the blow softened only a little by impacting on her plaited ponytail. Louise turned with a start, but lost her footing and fell to the ground. Regaining her feet, she bent to pick up her suitcase, and in so doing she gave Matthew a perfect view of her backside as her skirt stretched tight across her bottom and the back of her anorak rode up. Smiling, he launched his second snowball at this inviting target, and his aim was true.
Louise felt the stinging impact of the ice ball on her bottom and the cold snow on her lower back as it soaked her pullover. Some snow even trickled down the waist-band of her skirt. Still bent over, she saw the ice ball which had broken in two, and also heard Matthew laugh. Quickly wrapping one of the ice-ball fragments in snow, Louise threw the snowball back at the laughing schoolboy, aiming for a point just below the waistband of his trousers. Unfortunately, her aim was slightly off and, as Matthew also turned away slightly, the snowball just brushed his thigh. It then impacted instead with little Sarah’s head as she straightened up trying to proudly show her elder brother the snowball she had made. Fortunately, it was a glancing blow, but there was a frightened and anguished scream as the little girl burst into tears.
A shocked Louise froze in horror as Marcia’s parents came running. Ernest has seen everything, although Louise’s parents had not, and realised that he must act.
With a quick, “Excuse me a moment,” to Mr and Mrs Kingston, Ernest walked quickly forward and called out loudly, “Kingston! How dare you! My study, now!”
As Louise turned towards him in alarm, Ernest continued more quietly.
“You may wait for me inside my study, rather than outside, but I expect to find you next to the door with your hands on your head facing the wall.”
Taking a further dozen strides, he knelt next to the little girl to comfort her, discovering to his relief that she was merely frightened but almost unhurt.
He then turned to her brother and remarked: “Your stupidity, young man, has just resulted in your sister getting hurt and my shortly having to punish a young lady whose boot laces you are unfit to tie. I hope you are satisfied! I will leave you to explain matters to your parents.”
Turning to the Watkins parents as they arrived, he firstly apologised for what had happened, telling them that he would be dealing with the matter with the severity it deserved. He went on to praise little Sarah for her bravery and to tell her parents how pleased he was with both Marcia’s academic progress and her behaviour; praising her character and telling them that they should be justly proud of the fine young lady she was becoming. Marcia blushed, wondering how she was going to live up to the paragon of herself which her headmaster had just created.
Meanwhile, Louise left her case with her father and her report with her mother, and turned back towards the headmaster’s study.
“Sorry, Mummy, Daddy. I have done something very silly and the headmaster wants to see me. I will explain later.”
Sylvie Masters then also made her apologies and, turning to Louise, said: “I will walk with you, if you don’t mind. I will help you through this as much as I can. Don’t worry, like Ernest I also saw what happened.”
They reached the office first and both ladies then took off and hung up their coats before entering the headmaster’s study. Sylvie took a seat in the arm chair to the left of the headmaster’s desk whilst a worried Louise positioned herself as instructed facing the wall with her hands on her head. The back of her lovely copper-coloured hair was damp from the effects of Matthew Watkins’ first snowball and there was also a damp patch on the back of her skirt and lower back from the second. Contemplating what lay ahead, Louise nervously bit her lip and her stunning green eyes filled with tears. She had never seen the headmaster so cross or heard him raise his voice before.
Ernest, fortunately, had seen everything. Walking slowly back, with a cheerful smile and kind words for parents and students he passed on the way, he had already decided on what he had to do. He entered his study and took off his own coat, brushing the remaining snow from the back before hanging it up behind the door. Spotting his academic gown on the adjacent hook, he slipped it on over his suit jacket to emphasise the seriousness of the potential consequences to his favourite student. Sylvie caught his gaze and raised her eyebrows, rewarded with a half-smile as Ernest briefly put a finger to his lips.
Ernest then took his seat behind his desk and spoke. “Louise, come here please.” His voice was soft and without any hint of anger.
The Head Girl recognised the change in tone and the use of her Christian name, and turned. Still biting her lower lip, and keeping her hands on her head, she approached the carpet in front of the big mahogany desk with her eyes downcast. The fact that Ernest was wearing his academic gown had not gone unnoticed. Was she going to be expelled, or caned, or both?
“Ok Louise, you may lower your hands.”
Eyes still downcast and close to tears, she did as instructed. With her hands now clasped in front of her, she presented the very picture of a worried and remorseful young woman.
“Well, young lady, what do you have to say for yourself?” Again, there was sadness but no anger in the headmaster’s tone.
“I am so sorry, Sir. I really did not mean…” She got no further.
“You can stop right there, Louise. Remember, I saw what happened from the time you were motioned forward to meet your parents. I saw how you took the first three snowballs thrown at you in good humour, but then looked down to see the piece of ice after the first snowball thrown by that dreadful boy struck you on the head and you fell. I saw the little monster throw the second snowball at you, again with ice in it. I also saw you look at the ice in your hand and surround it with snow before throwing it back. You really did mean to throw a snowball containing ice and, although I am certain you did not mean to hit little Sarah, there was always a chance that it could do damage. Let’s try again.”
“Well Sir, as you know I was concerned about the throwing of snowballs when I talked to you this morning, and as a result you addressed the school in assembly. When it was just the soft powdery snowballs being thrown, which broke up on impact, it was amusing. As no harm was being done, I laughed it off just like I saw you do when that snowball struck you. By the way, I know the person that threw it at you was not a pupil here but a visitor.
“When the snowball hit me on the head it really hurt! and I knew that there was something hard inside. As I turned around, I slipped and fell. Whilst on the ground I saw the lump of ice. As it might have been accidental, I had decided to laugh it off or just have a quiet word but, as I was getting to my feet, the horrid little boy threw the second one at my bottom. I thought I could catch him by surprise if I threw it back at him backwards and aimed for a point which would be as embarrassing and painful for him as his was for me. I did not see the little girl or, I promise you, I would never have done it. I am so sorry! In my frustration, I have done exactly what I feared someone might do when I spoke to you earlier. I am so ashamed.”
The headmaster took a deep breath. “Thank you, Louise, that ties in completely with what Miss Masters and I witnessed. So, the question is, what am I to do with you? As my star law student, with the highest ever mock exam marks in the five years we have been teaching the subject here, and as my Head Girl, who knows more about the school rules than some staff members, what are my options and what do you think you deserve?”
Louise blinked her eyes rapidly, then removed her glasses when she could no longer prevent a tear running down each cheek. Rubbing her eyes with the back of her left hand, she spoke hesitantly in a voice little more than a whisper.
“I don’t know where to start. Our Head Girl has assaulted a six-year-old little girl and it was only by luck that she was not badly hurt. Even if it had not hit little Sarah, I intended to throw a missile, potentially an offensive weapon, at a much younger boy. As I turned eighteen last week and am an adult, this could be a police matter if either her parents or the school complained. I have brought disgrace on the school as well as my family and myself, and I have let you down. Even if we ignore the potential criminal charges, as far as the school is concerned my actions amount to violent conduct, possibly bullying, and definitely conduct which has brought the school into disrepute. There is also the fact that my actions were both a breach of good manners and common sense.
“You would be fully entitled to expel me or suspend me for the maximum six weeks. In both cases you would be within your rights to also give me the maximum eight strokes with the senior cane. I think that with permission of the Head of the Board of Governors you could even carry out the punishment in public before the whole school.
“The cane, the tawse or the slipper would remain options as an alternative to expulsion or suspension, in addition to stripping me of my position as Head Girl.
“I am so sorry, Sir. I may have completely ruined my life for a moment’s stupidity, but I have only myself to blame. I deserve to be punished and I will accept whatever you decide. I am terrified of the cane but please Sir, can you find any way to allow me to stay at Lady Upshott’s? Please give me a chance and I promise I will not let you down.”
She passed her hand once more over her eyes and sniffled as the tears continued to flow. Edward stood, pulled his immaculately pressed handkerchief from his top pocket and handed it to her.
“Thank you, Louise. Take this and dry your eyes.”
He took her by the hand and led her to the small chesterfield to the right of his desk, where he sat down with the surprised girl sitting next to him on his right.
“Your response, honesty, and genuine remorse were all that I needed to know to make my decision. You will not escape punishment for your stupid and potentially dangerous act, but you needn’t worry. What I have in mind will not in any way prevent you from fulfilling your future potential to the full. You will neither be expelled nor suspended, and I am also not prepared to lose your services as my Head Girl. You are in many ways a victim of circumstances, not much more to blame than anyone else who threw snowballs today, and you had much more provocation than most.
“Your response to that provocation was both unthinking and childish, and you therefore deserve to be punished like a naughty little girl, with a sound spanking. You have reminded me that you are an eighteen-year-old adult and, in order to protect your modesty, instead of the spanking on your bare bottom that you deserve, you will go over my knee here and now. I will then give you the maximum twelve strokes with the slipper, after which you will be free to re-join your parents and start your holidays.
“I will also give you Mr and Mrs Watkins’ address and you are to write a letter of apology to them and to little Sarah. You will tell them how sorry you are and that you have been severely and deservedly punished. This letter is to be posted by tomorrow at the latest and you are also to produce a copy which you will bring me on the first day of next term.
“You, and every other girl that chose to throw a snowball today, will then be formally punished on the first day of next term for conduct bringing the school into disrepute. I will announce in assembly that, despite my warnings, things did get out of hand today and that a snowball struck a six-year-old girl.
“At the end of assembly, I will have all girls report to their form teachers. When they do so, every girl who threw a snowball today after I had given the warning is to remain standing and the others are to take their seats.
“One by one, each girl standing will then bend over her desk and be slippered over her skirt. First and second years will receive two strokes, third and fourth years four strokes, and fifth years and above will get six strokes. Any prefects involved, after receiving their slippering from their form teacher, will then report to me for three strokes of the cane. Louise, as Head Girl you will receive not three but six strokes. I believe this will set the required example for future conduct and bring this unfortunate incident to a close.
“This is not a collective punishment. Only those who disregarded my advice, threw snowballs, and then accepted their guilt by owning up, will be punished. Those who had the good sense not to be involved will not.”
Louise’s expression turned from one of relief to increasing dismay, as she realised that her actions were going to result in other girls also being punished. She raised her head and looked at the headmaster, her sparkling green eyes pleading.
“Please Sir, it was I who misbehaved. Can you not call the Chair of Governors and give me eight with the cane today, and another eight on the first day of next term in front of the whole school, and let the others off?”
“No, Louise. It is very brave of you to make the offer, and it fully justifies my faith in you, but that would not serve as a sufficient reminder for the others involved.”
“Sylvie, please bring me the slipper from the bottom drawer of the desk and make the entry in the punishment book. Write, ‘childish overreaction to provocation, 12 strokes of the slipper over knickers’.
“Louise, raise your skirt and get over my knee with your legs straight. Rest your head and hands on the cushion to my left. You may leave your tights up. Twelve strokes coming up!”
Without a word, Louise stood and raised her skirt, blushing furiously. She then elegantly folded herself over her headmaster’s knee, assuming the required position, whilst keeping her eyes locked on his. It was only once in position, as Sylvie handed Ernest the slipper, that the pretty teen buried her head between her arms while looking away from her chastiser. The well-rounded bottom, covered in fine black woollen tights through which the outline of her white cotton knickers was visible, clenched briefly as the slipper was rested on the centre of Louise’s right buttock.
Ernest then raised the slipper to shoulder height and brought it swiftly down. Thwop!
The luscious curves pancaked and wobbled, and Louise’s eyes widened in shock. She gently shook her head as she absorbed the very real sting. It was much worse than she remembered from her only previous experience of the slipper, a single stroke from her form teacher in the first year.
Ten seconds later, Ernest administered the second stroke to the same position on his Head Girl’s left buttock which, despite the real pain and embarrassment, was taken in silence.
Seeing this, the headmaster applied the third stroke to the same spot. Thwop!
The sound of the impact reverberating around the study, Ernest just made out the whispered “gosh!” as Louise’s bottom wobbled and her feet briefly kicked before she locked her ankles.
‘Three down, nine to go,’ Louise thought to herself as she wondered how long she would last before she would cry. Already her eyes were prickling. She took a deep breath and held it. With no experience of being spanked, it was worth a try. The headmaster applied the slipper to the same spot on her left buttock for the third time. Louise’s coppery plait of hair swished as her head came up and she exhaled sharply. Her ankles remained locked and the sting increased. Louise gulped in air and her bottom wriggled slightly as the slipper was again raised and descended, Ernest resuming his assault on the soft roundness of the centre of her right cheek. Whop!
This time, a high-pitched squeak was forced from the prone figure, followed by a gasp. An audible intake of breath was cut short by the sixth stroke and a yelp. Louise’s right hand let go of the cushion and it took a conscious effort for her to prevent it coming back to cover her bottom.
Ernest saw the sign and his left hand slid across and intercepted her hand, holding it most gently, and drawing it back to rest in the small of her back.
“Half way, Louise. Keep still and it will soon be over.”
The headmaster then rested the slipper against the curve where the bottom of her knickers was visible through her tights, and she wriggled slightly. He waited for her bottom to relax and then applied three quick strokes across her sit-spots, left-right-centre.
“Ouch! Oooh! Oww!”
Tears began to flow again and Louise turned her head to look up at her chastiser, her pretty features crumpled in pain, as she gulped in air. Ernest paused and gently squeezed her hand. She saw both concern and determination in his features, and it reassured her. Slowly, she turned her head forward and allowed it to drop and her breathing to steady.
The next two strokes, separated by a pause of fifteen seconds, were the hardest yet, right in the centre of each cheek, flattening the curves and causing them to jiggle.
Louise gritted her teeth with her vocal response to each stroke being a strange squeak. Her shoulders began to shake as she sobbed quietly. She went completely limp.
Ernest lifted the plimsoll high for the last stroke, intending it to be the hardest yet, but he couldn’t do it. The slipper came down softly onto the centre of her bottom as little more than a firm pat.
Louise’s surprised, “Oh!” was accompanied by a gentle shake of her head. She remained in position and, still holding her headmaster’s handkerchief in her left hand, wiped her eyes and replaced her glasses. Edward released her right hand, smoothed down the back of her skirt and then gently helped Louise to her feet.
“All over, Louise. I am sorry, but it had to be done. Please sign the punishment book and Miss Master’s will then give you the Watkins’ address. Do you want me to walk with you to explain things to your parents? I want to ensure they know why I had to punish you, but also that it was not really your fault. I do not want them to add to your punishment. I want you to have a lovely Christmas break and to know that this unfortunate incident has in no way diminished my admiration for the fine young lady that you have become.”
“If you don’t mind, Sir, I would be grateful if you could have a word with Mummy and Daddy so that they can understand both just how silly I was and that you were as lenient as you could be in the circumstances. I want them to know how lucky I was and also that I, like the others, will be formally punished at the beginning of next term.”
Louise declined an invitation to take some time to recover her composure as she did not want to further delay her parents. Ernest removed his academic gown and, putting on his own coat, then helped the two ladies into theirs and all three left the office and moved off towards Louise’s waiting parents. Louise was still walking a little stiffly and sniffling occasionally, but no longer crying. Although her tears had stopped, her eyes were still a little red. Her concerned parents awaited her approach. Louise then threw herself into her mother’s embrace.
Ernest firstly apologised for the interruption to their previous conversation, for raising his voice, and for shouting at Louise. He then continued to describe all that had happened that day, concluding that immediate steps had been necessary to convince little Sarah’s parents that appropriate action would be taken, whilst at the same time ensuring that all other factors were taken into account. The headmaster then stressed that his faith in, and admiration for, their daughter was undiminished.
Finally, he asked that they do whatever they could to help her enjoy Christmas and put from her mind that she would be receiving the cane on her first day back, reminding her that she was still loved and admired and was an exceptional young lady. Louise’s father reached out and shook Ernest by the hand, whilst her mother gently stroked her daughter’s hair and whispered her love and affection. As they set off for their delayed journey home, Louise was still sitting uncomfortably, but the more she thought about it the more she appreciated what the headmaster had done for her.
© Capstan 2021