One speech takes a surprising turn
By Douglas Ramsey
“….. and now it is my pleasure to introduce Pippa Jackson, the Business Council’s Young Entrepreneur of the Year.” Mrs Jones, Headmistress of St Bede’s College for Girls, welcomed Pippa to the lectern.
The male sections of the audience awoke from their bored slumber as a young lady of arresting beauty moved to centre stage. In her late twenties, she was simply dressed in a navy blue skirt with white blouse. A blonde ponytail fell loosely well below her shoulders. She brimmed with vitality and it was apparent that her simple clothing covered a trim body with curves in all the right places. No matter how boring the speech, the guys were guaranteed to enjoy every moment of her address. Whether the jealous wives and nearly four hundred girl pupils would obtain similar pleasure remained to be seen.
Pippa thanked Mrs Jones for the introduction, laid out her papers then launched into her address:
“School Governors, Headmistress, Members of Staff, Ladies and Gentlemen, Girls, I am delighted to have been invited to speak to you today on my first visit back to the school I left ten years ago. I want to talk to you about the company that I formed five years ago and my journey to becoming the Young Entrepreneur of the Year. Now…”
Pippa suddenly paused and looked through her notes. She went on:
“You know this is quite a good speech, I’ve presented it at a number of business seminars. It’s well written and quite witty in places, but it’s about business and I should be speaking to the girls about their futures. Maybe they can learn from the mistakes that I made ten years ago.”
With that she bundled up her notes and laid them to one side.
“Girls, as I neared the lectern I noticed the whispering. Before going on, let me confirm that, yes, I am that Pippa Jackson. I return today with the dubious honour of being the last girl ever to have been publicly caned in front of the entire school. It happened ten years ago almost to the day and it occurred just over there.” Pippa pointed to a spot about two metres to her right.
“I received twelve strokes on my bare bottom in front of the entire school.”
The girls gasped while the men coughed and shifted in their seats, clearly disturbed by the thought of this beautiful girl’s bare bottom being whacked.
“But let me explain one thing. Ten years ago I was an obnoxious, self centred, arrogant brat. I genuinely believed that school rules didn’t apply to me. I lied and manipulated people. Goodness, if manipulation had been an Olympic sport then I would have been in the national team, probably captain. In short, I was vile.”
Pippa paused to let those words sink in, but also to gather her own thoughts.
“About three weeks before the end of term it was my best friend Anna’s eighteenth birthday. Anna is in the front row just down here.”
Pippa indicated towards an equally attractive young lady sporting a puzzled expression and clearly wondering where this speech was headed.
“To celebrate, we decided we should go to the pub for a glass of wine. Now girls, is The Railway Hotel still out of bounds with the threat of six on the bare if caught there?”
A forlorn but seemingly knowing voice from the back was heard to say: “Yes, miss.” The response elicited many nervous giggles. Pippa smiled.
“Right. We could have gone to the King’s Head, The Beehive, Pig and Whistle and nobody would have cared less. But school rules didn’t apply to me so I persuaded, no bullied, Anna into agreeing to go to The Railway. We arrived there about 6.00 pm and as we walked into the Lounge Bar, out walked the headmistress, Mrs Jones. As calm as you like, Mrs Jones invited us to pop in to see her at 7.00 pm but in the meantime she hoped that we would enjoy our drink. Anna was understandably horrified, but we had our wine then went back to school to see the Headmistress.
Without ado, she sentenced us both to six whacks on the bare for breaking a clear school rule and as customary the punishment would take place in front of our peer group, the sixth form. Anna was scheduled to be caned the next day, a Wednesday, but it was the wrong time of the month for me so my caning was set for 4.00 pm on the Friday.
The next afternoon I sat in the front row. Mrs Jones was alone on the stage holding a cane. A vaulting horse had been brought from the gym which was placed just over there. I watched in horror as Anna was lead onto the stage by Mr Peters, the Geography master. Anna stopped by the vaulting horse, removed her skirt and panties, then Mr Peters helped her up onto the horse. She grasped the two handles on the far side of the horse so her backside was perfectly positioned for the caning.
Mrs Jones laid the cane across the centre of her bottom, slowly drew the cane back and “thwack”, the noise of the cane hitting her bum echoed round the hall. Anna didn’t make a sound. “Thwack”, the second stroke made her squeal.
I was horrified by the scene. All I could think was: “Oh my God, they’re going to do that to me on Friday.” I was terrified and resolved to come up with a plan to avoid the punishment.
Anna took the final strokes in silence. Of course by the end she was crying but my friend took her whacking well.
Pippa paused, clearly thinking back to the events of ten years ago. Suddenly she laughed almost uncontrollably.
“Look, I’m sorry to laugh, but when I think back I just can’t believe just how daft, how stupid, I was.
“Anyway, I came up with a plan so at lunchtime the next day I went to the town to see a Mrs Lowndes. She’s sat over there. She was, and in fact still is, the leading solicitor in town. I explained what I wanted and to say she was stunned would be a gross understatement. She stared at me in total disbelief. I can still see her look.
“Eventually she said:
“Let me get this straight, Ms Jackson. You went to the pub with your friend Anna knowing the pub was strictly out of bounds?”
“You knew that if you were caught that you would be sentenced to six strokes of the cane on your bare behind?”
“But you went anyway and you were caught by the Headmistress?”
“Now you want me to go to the local Magistrate to obtain an injunction forbidding the school to cane you for at least three weeks, by which time you will have left school?”
“Yes. Clever idea isn’t it?”
“And the reason I give the Magistrate for the injunction is that caning on the bare bottom is a cruel and unusual punishment?”
“But Ms Jackson, girls have been caned at the school on their hands and their bare behinds for years. Your friend Anna was caned only yesterday. How can it be an unusual punishment?”
“Yes, I see your point. How about we say that the Headmistress is a cruel, wicked, vindictive bitch who gets unnatural and deviant enjoyment from caning the bare backsides of the girls in her charge?”
On hearing this, the girls started giggling while adults and staff members alike were clearly having trouble holding back laughs. Pippa went on.
“I looked at Mrs Lowndes and there was that look of complete disbelief again. In few words Mrs Lowndes told me that I was a stupid girl and not to waste her time any more. She suggested that I go back to school, accept my fate and get on with life.
The outcome was not quite as planned so, as I walked back to school, I came up with a new plan.”
Pippa paused and looked at her audience who were hanging on her every word.
“If you thought that strategy was dumb, then you haven’t heard anything yet. The next day, Friday, I was called to se the Headmistress at about 2.00 pm. I imagined that she would tell me the arrangements for my caning. I went along quite unconcerned as I had a surefire plan to avoid the whacking.
“I knocked on her door and went in. I was a bit surprised to see my Daddy sat by the Headmistress’s desk. Dad’s in the front row over here to my right. I was asked to sit but before Mrs Jones could speak I asked Mrs Jones that if we donated six thousand pounds to the school development fund would she see a way to not caning me?
“Well, she was really taken aback and looked at me incredulously, a look that I had seen somewhere before. As she didn’t accept my offer immediately I thought my price was too low so I added that I would give her personally three thousand pounds, in cash, which we would call expenses so she wouldn’t need to pay tax.
“To say the least she was speechless but suddenly and surprisingly asked if I knew a Mrs Lowndes, a solicitor in town. It was my turn to be taken aback and quickly I decided to adopt my default position which was to lie. I said that I didn’t.
“She went on to ask me if I had been to see her asking for an injunction to avoid my caning.
“I remember thinking: ‘Goodness, how did she know?’ but I decided to continue my strategy and said no.
“Then she asked me if the expression ‘the headmistress is a cruel, wicked, vindictive bitch who gets unnatural and deviant enjoyment from caning the bare backsides of the girls in her charge’ rang any bells.
“Again I said no but at this point I noticed that Daddy had his head in his hands. The look on his face was one of, well, despair.
“Mrs Jones looked at me again in complete disbelief.
“As I looked at her, I remember asking myself where I had seen that look before. Then the penny dropped. Oh my God, what a complete fool I’d been.”
Pippa paused for a moment looking around the audience; she had them in the palm of her hand.
“I realised that I had overlooked a small but important point which really made my lying strategy rather weak. You see, Mrs Jones and Mrs Lowndes are sisters.”
The audience burst into laughter.
“Actually, they are twin sisters.”
More roars of laughter.
“Identical twin sisters.”
Pippa’s comic timing had been perfect. Everyone was in hysterics.
“With identical looks of disbelief.”
Pippa, laughing herself, looked towards Mrs Lowndes, then to Mrs Jones, and was somewhat relieved to see them both dabbing tears of laughter from their eyes. She went on.
“Mrs Jones looked at me and calmly asked me to wait outside which I did until called back in. Again I wasn’t that worried because I still had my trump card to play. Mrs Jones looked at me and said that she and my father had talked and agreed my punishment. I was shocked when Mrs Jones said:
“When your father leaves the room I will immediately give you six strokes of the cane on the bare for insulting me by trying to bribe me.
“Next Friday at this time I will administer six more strokes to your bare bottom for insulting the school by offering a bribe to avoid punishment.
“The following Friday, the last day of school, after the final school assembly of the year, I will administer twelve strokes of the cane to your bare bottom in front of the entire school. The first six will be because you tried to avoid punishment; the last six will be for visiting The Railway Hotel in defiance of an explicit school rule.”
“Of course I was aghast so decided to play my ace card. I turned on the water-works and looked at Daddy with pleading eyes and begged him to step in and stop the punishment. He looked at me and said:
“Pippa, you haven’t acknowledged that you have done anything wrong, you haven’t apologised, you haven’t accepted that you must be punished. No, I will not step in, you deserve every stroke.”
“With that Daddy, almost crying, left the room.
“Suddenly I was alone with Mrs Jones, really not knowing what to do. I had not been caned before. She told me that on this occasion she really would get unnatural and deviant pleasure from beating my bare bottom and that she said she intended to ensure that my behaviour altered. She told me to take off my skirt and panties then bend over the desk holding the far side. She suggested that I held tight as, if I stood or tried to stop the caning, she would ask someone to hold me down and start again.
“I took up the position and waited.
“I felt the cane tap the middle of my bum then I heard a ‘swoosh’ and a ‘crack’ – a second later pain shot through my bottom, then my entire body. I screamed so loud that they probably heard me in Australia. I was shocked by the agonising pain and by the third stroke I was crying and screaming forgiveness and begging her to stop, but of course she didn’t, she just kept on whacking. At last she finished and told me to get up. I was a complete mess, crying, tears all over my face, a total wreck.
“Somehow I got back to my room. I locked the door and didn’t come out until Sunday afternoon. But a strange feeling came over me. I felt ashamed, yes shamed, not so much about my crime, more at the appalling way that I had taken my caning. It was a disgrace. There and then I decided that I would take the next six whacks with more dignity.
“The following Friday I reported for my next dose of the cane determined to take the beating better. The Headmistress called me in and without being asked I took off my skirt and panties and assumed the position.
“She didn’t keep me waiting as soon I felt her take aim. ‘Swoosh’. God it hurt but I stifled any sound. ‘Thwack’ the second blow hit across the middle of my behind but again I stayed silent. Somehow I withstood the third and fourth whacks but lost control on the fifth. It really was hard. I cried out as I did again when the last stroke struck. Of course when I got back to my room I burst out into tears but inside I was pleased with myself.
“Come the Monday the feelings within me were nothing short of weird. I found myself looking forward to being caned on Friday. Honestly, I mean it; I was looking forward to my caning. I think that I had acknowledged that I had done wrong and accepted that I was going to be punished whether I liked it or not. I guess that I was altering my attitude subconsciously.
“On the Friday I stood by the side of the stage waiting to be called on. I was not afraid, I wanted it to happen, it was right that I should be caned. I had done wrong and I had to pay the price.
“When Mr Peters came to collect me I hardly saw him I was so focused. Without being asked, I took off my skirt and panties, hauled myself up onto the vaulting horse, grabbed hold of the handles and waited.
“The ‘crack’ as the cane hit my bottom echoed around the hall but that was OK, it was right that I was being caned. It was as though my bottom didn’t belong to me. Yes it hurt terribly, but I was so focused on getting through the punishment it was as if someone else was being caned. I stayed in the zone until the eighth whack and then I lost focus as the cane hit more the top of my legs beneath my bottom. Gee, it hurt as did the final strokes hurt. I cried out. The ninth made me sob but after the eleventh I really thought I would pass out, the pain was so bad. Maybe I did because I don’t really remember the twelfth and final whack.
“At last I felt Mr Peters’ hand on my shoulder. He helped me down from the horse, covered me with a robe and helped me from the stage. I walked off with as much dignity as I could muster. As we went he whispered to me: “It’s all over Pippa. You took it well. Now stop being a self-centred prat, go to university and start achieving like we all know you can.”
“So there we have it, by the end of those three life changing weeks I had acknowledged that I had done wrong, accepted my punishment and I definitely went on to alter my behaviour, I hope you agree that I have now started to achieve something. But one thing is missing isn’t it?”
A solemn expression fell across Pippa’s face.
“Anna, my dearest friend, it was my fault that you were caned that day. I have never said how sorry I was and still am. Please forgive me.”
Anna’s broad smile and mouthed kiss confirmed that all had been forgiven.
“Mr Chairman, through you, please could you pass on my sincere apologies to the Board of Governors. I was wrong in what I did and I hope that you and they can forgive me.”
The Chairman’s almost imperceptible smile and nod were enough for Pippa to move on.
“Mrs Jones, I was so rude about you and to you and I wouldn’t blame you if you could not forgive and forget. But you invited me to speak today so maybe I have a chance. Mrs Jones, I am sorry and thank you for punishing me. It was right and it put me on track to where I am today.”
Mrs Jones smiled, clearly proud of the quality of lady that St Bede’s so often produced.
“Lastly, Daddy, I caused you so much grief at that time. It must have been terrible for you knowing that I was to be caned. I am so sorry but you made the right choice for me and my future. Thank you, Daddy, I love you so much. I wish Mum could be here too.”
Mr Jackson, a widower, looked at his daughter with love and immense pride. Tears filled his eyes.
Handkerchiefs appeared throughout the audience this time brought on by the humility of this girl. Everyone realised that Pippa had never intended to give her business speech. Instead she had come on a mission to lay to rest the ghosts of her past. She had done that with complete candour and wonderful self-deprecating humour.
“So, girls, my advice to you is always acknowledge your mistakes, accept your punishment, apologise, then move on.”
Pippa looked around the audience, smiled, then simply said: “Thank you all for listening.”
The applause was extremely generous.