The Head Girl’s temper tantrum means serious consequences
by Harry James
Eleanor Moore was standing shocked at her own outburst. Eleanor is just 18 years old; she is Head Girl at the prestigious Lady Anne Hart Academy for Young Ladies in deepest Wiltshire. She was appointed Head Girl when she joined the Upper 6th at the beginning of term in September.
The Head Girl appointment had been a bit of a risk for the Headmistress, Miss Winifred Amberley. Eleanor was the outstanding candidate. She had an impressive academic record at the school, she was Senior Hockey Captain, a fine long distance runner and a very accomplished pianist as well. Understandably, she was both liked and respected by the Upper and Lower schools and by the staff in general.
There was a fly in the ointment so-to-speak; Eleanor had an explosive temper. She had an English mother and an Irish father, she had inherited her mother’s striking beauty and physical sporting prowess; from her father she inherited her red hair and bright green eyes plus a good measure of Irish charm and a very short fuse. Eleanor could go from smiling bonhomie to an explosion in the snap of a finger.
Eleanor had fought to control her temper for her entire school career, most often successfully. Early on in the Lower School, she had earned one or two impositions and a couple of detentions for small lapses. She had also once been sent off from a Hockey match for a temper outburst, but luckily not aimed at either the umpire or the opposition but at an incompetent goal keeping performance from her own side.
And now here she is, as usual at 2:30pm on a Monday afternoon in an English tutorial with her friend, Jane Foster, and her English Teacher, Jane Peters.
Jane Peters held once-weekly tutorials with each of her Upper 6th students. Two students attended each tutorial, the main purpose was to review the existing assignment.
As a teacher and school mistress Miss Peters was diligent. She considered herself to set high standards and to be firm but fair. To the students, Jane Peters was the most enigmatic member of staff. She was close to austere and gave away very little about herself. In truth, Miss Peters did not have strong self-confidence and was afraid of losing her authority by being other than formal in her demeanour. She had been an outstanding English student herself but in all other respects merely average, not in any way standing out. She was actually slightly intimidated by somebody like Eleanor, which made her behave even more formally.
Eleanor has a had a tough few days, starting with a blazing row with her father over the telephone about forthcoming Christmas holiday arrangements, which in hindsight now seemed petty. She then had a tough time with the Hockey team at the weekend. There were a number of injuries in the squad and they had lost badly against one of their main rivals. She had left it rather late to do her English assignment but had managed to finish it and took it to Miss Peters just before the 4:00pm Sunday deadline. Eleanor knew the assignment was not up to her usual standard, but judged it good enough.
When they entered the classroom being used for the tutorial, Miss Peters was already there and standing. The teacher approached Eleanor and stopped in front of her. She was holding Eleanor’s assignment in her left hand. Taking the document from her left hand, she held it at arm’s length between the thumb and index fingers of her right hand and dangled it in front of Eleanor’s face as if it had a nasty smell.
“This work is not up to standard, it is not worth marking. I have made some margin notes for you. Do it again and return it to me by Wednesday 4:00pm.”
The red mist rose in Eleanor. She knew the work was not her best, but the way in which the teacher was dangling it in front of her just ignited her fuse.
“You rotten cow! It’s not that bloody bad! I bet you couldn’t do any better yourself. Where did you get your f… bloody degree? Peckham? Or was it Southend-on-Sea?” She had nearly said ‘f—–g’, but luckily had just about enough control to stop herself going that far.
Miss Peters looked totally shocked and just dropped the assignment. Jane gasped and said: “Please stop, Eleanor. I don’t think you realise what you have just said.”
“Oh shut up Jane! We don’t need your ruddy interference, just mind your own bloody business!”
There was a short moment of total silence, then Eleanor spoke again. Having released the outburst she realised what she had done and the temper immediately receded as quickly as it had risen. “Oh, Miss, I am so terribly sorry. That was inexcusable. Of course I will do the work again. Jane, I’m really sorry, please forgive me.”
For her part, Jane Peters’ shock had turned to regaining control and also not losing face in front of Jane Foster, who was now an unfortunate witness to what had happened.
“I am afraid that I cannot either excuse or overlook the way you have just spoken to me. I will be putting you on Headmistress’s Report and I think you should expect to be hearing from her.”
They all then sat down and finished the tutorial, which was almost totally focussed on Miss Peters’ review and critique of Jane’s work.
When tutorial finished, Miss Peters quickly departed, leaving the two girls alone.
“What on earth happened there? What got into you?” Jane asked.
“I don’t know really. Just for once I really lost my temper. It was just the way she held up my work that did it. I bust a gut getting it done at all.”
“What will happen now? I would imagine you are going to get a right dressing down from Miss Amberley. She’ll probably gate you or something, though how that will work with being Head Girl I can’t imagine.”
“I think that it’s going to take more than a gating to satisfy Miss Peters. I’ll just have to wait and see.
In the meantime, I think you had better report me to Hilary Browne, the Deputy Head Girl, for my rudeness to you. You are, after all, a prefect and I did it in front of a Mistress.”
“I don’t really want to do that, Eleanor, but you can’t mean you think you will be on the Head’s list for Wednesday? Surely she wouldn’t do that?”
“I’ll just have to wait and see, won’t I? Why should I be treated any different to anybody else?”
“Because you’re Head Girl?”
“That seems to me to be a pretty good reason not to treat me any differently. What sort of message would that send out? For the same reason, you really have to report this to Hilary.”
Punishments from prefects could be a Prefect’s Detention or the slipper. Either would be delivered on a Wednesday after school, and announced along with school punishments at Wednesday morning assembly.
After School Assembly the next morning, Eleanor had a free study period which she planned to use re-writing the essay assignment. One of the Head Girl privileges was a private study to which she headed to work. At about 10:00 am there was a rap on the door. Eleanor went and opened the door and was taken aback to find Miss Amberley standing there.
“Eleanor, you will be aware that Miss Peters has been to speak to me about you. I think I am going to have to interview you formally in my study before the end of the day, but before that I want to speak to you informally in private. May I come in?”
“Of course you can come in, Miss Amberley. Would you like to sit down?”
The Head sat on the single chair, Eleanor sat on her bed.
“What on earth happened, Eleanor? I have no intention of losing my Head Girl over this matter. I want to know exactly what happened; do not miss anything out.”
Eleanor described the incident completely and accurately. She was also sure to accept full responsibility. She described her outburst using the same word she had used to Miss Peters, ‘inexcusable’.
“And I believe there was a witness to all this?”
“Yes Miss, Jane Foster witnessed the whole thing. I feel rather sorry for her. I must tell you that I swore at her as well, for which I am on Prefects Report.”
“Well, I see no reason to involve her any further in my investigation. You have been admirably honest with me. The fact that there is a witness is enough. I will speak to Miss Peters again and see if a compromise can be reached which includes a full apology from you. I am sure there will need to be a punishment element as well, but I want to keep that as low key as possible.”
“Please Miss Amberley, may I ask you not to treat me any differently than you would any other student? May I speak freely?”
“As you have said, there is a witness. She is my friend, but I really don’t and can’t expect that my behaviour on this occasion can or should be kept a secret. Somebody will speak to somebody else and the whispers will begin, that’s how it happens in a community like ours.”
“I can’t argue too much with that.”
“Given that, if you are seen to treat me leniently there will be accusations of favouritism and that won’t help the authority of either of us. If I am treated fairly, but the same as anybody else, that can be the end of it, and I will certainly know to control my temper in future.”
“I take your point, but you don’t say what punishment you expect or would consider fair.”
“That’s not for me to say, Miss. That is rather the point. I am asking you to make your decision without any extra considerations, such as me being Head Girl, though if anything that should probably make you expect more of me.”
“Very well, Eleanor, I will speak to Miss Peters and consider matters. Expect to be summoned to me before the end of the day.”
“Thank you, Miss.”
At lunchtime, Anne Parsons, the Head’s secretary came up to where Eleanor was sitting eating her lunch with Jane Foster.
“Miss Amberley would like to see you when school ends at 4:30 pm, in her study. Please go to the main door of her study and knock and wait to be called.”
“I understand Mrs Parsons, thank you.”
“Is that ‘it’?” asked Jane.
“Yes, I expect it is. It will be good to get it over with and find out what is going to happen, I suppose.”
“Well, good luck!” Jane smiled in what she hoped was an encouraging way.
At 4:28 pm precisely, Eleanor arrived outside the Head’s study. She stood for a moment and composed herself, drew a breath and knocked. To Eleanor’s surprise the door was opened by Miss Peters who stood aside and gestured Eleanor to enter.
“Come and stand here, in front of my desk, Moore.”
Eleanor walked across and stood in front of the desk. She was stood between the two comfortable visitors chairs that faced the desk at an angle at each side. Miss Peters sat herself down on the chair to Eleanor’s left. Eleanor was used to taking a seat herself at her normal meetings with the Head. There was usually at least one meeting each week to discuss school matters which concerned both the Head and the Head Girl. Often these meetings took place with them both on the sofa with papers on the coffee table, which was now behind her, over her left shoulder. She was also on these occasions used to being addressed as Eleanor; she noted that this time it was ‘Moore’.
“I imagine you know why you are here, Moore?”
“Yes Miss, of course. It is because of my inexcusable rudeness to Miss Peters; I am thoroughly ashamed of myself.”
“You are quite right, both that that is the reason, and that it was inexcusable, and inexcusable means that it cannot go unpunished.”
“I have spoken at length with Miss Peters here and we are agreed that the punishment needs to demonstrate to the whole school that such impertinence and rudeness towards one of the staff here will attract exemplary punishment, whoever is the culprit. However, Miss Peters has been good enough to say, without me asking her I might add, that providing your punishment is followed by an apology to her she will regard the matter as fully closed.”
Eleanor turned to Miss Peters. “In the circumstances, that is very kind of you, Miss. Thank you.”
“Well Moore, I think you would have to agree that if you heard of this matter with somebody else as the perpetrator you would be extremely surprised if the punishment were not a caning from me, and so it will be. You will receive 6 strokes of the cane tomorrow after school at 5:00 pm. In the circumstances, as you put it, I will be asking Miss Peters to witness your punishment. Do you have any questions?”
“No, Miss. Thank you, Miss.”
Eleanor was actually a bit shocked. She’d thought that she’d get 3 strokes, or 4 at the most, but 6? Perhaps she shouldn’t have added the bit about being treated more severely because she was Head Girl.
The Head picked up her telephone, which automatically connected her to her secretary.
“Please would you come in, Anne?”
A couple of seconds later, Anne Parsons entered the study through the private door, next to the main door. The private door led straight into Mrs Parson’s office.
“Anne, Miss Moore here is to be added to my punishment list for Wednesday after school finishes. The offence is ‘gross impertinence and rudeness to a member of staff’. She will be receiving 6 strokes of the senior cane. Would you please take her with you now and complete the entry in the book and explain to her what is expected of her. Thank you.”
“Of course, Headmistress. Miss Moore?” She gestured Eleanor towards her door.
Once they got to Anne Parson’s desk, Eleanor was asked to sit at the side of the desk.
Anne reached across her desk to a line of books and took out the Punishment Book. She opened it and wrote an entry.
She then spoke to Eleanor in a matter-of-fact way, for which Eleanor was very grateful.
“Now then, Miss Moore, I don’t think you have ever had this particular experience before, is that right?”
“Yes, Mrs Parsons, that is correct.”
“Very well, first things first. You must appear in school uniform; short shirt and tie, and skirt, pullover optional. You should not wear any tights or stockings, just regulation blue knickers. You are probably aware that senior school punishments are delivered to your bare bottom; you will be asked to lower your knickers.”
Eleanor made a small gasp. “No, I didn’t know that.”
“Well, it’s partly to emphasise the punishment, and partly to accurately judge the severity. It is, as you would expect, somewhat more severe than a junior caning.”
“Look, don’t over worry; it hurts because it is meant to, but it is quick and you will survive. A good many of us have had the same experience during our school days, including I am sure at least some of the staff.”
“Yes, I suppose so, thanks.”
“Right. Now, the details. You must be outside the main door to the Head’s office at 4:50 pm sharp. You must stand smartly in silence with your back to the wall, facing the door. If there are others with a punishment appointment, you should stand in that manner alongside each other, I stress, in silence.
“You will be called into the study by name by the Head, and then just do as you are told.”
“Can you tell me any more? I would quite like to know what I will have to do.”
“It’s quite simple really. You will be asked to stand behind one of the visitors’ chairs, which as you know have thick padded backs. You will then be asked to lower your knickers sufficiently to completely uncover your bottom and to bend forward over the back of the chair with your forearms along the top of the wooden arm of the chair. The Head will lift your skirt clear and the punishment will be delivered. You must stay down in position or you will receive penalty strokes. OK?”
“Yes, I think that’s clear. I’ll be glad when it’s over.”
“As you know, your punishment will be announced to the school tomorrow morning.”
“Oh. Yes, of course.”
The current Headmistress’s punishment regime had been implemented by Miss Amberley as a change to the previous arrangements during her first year as Head. She thought that what had preceded her was rather random. Girls had been sent to the Head directly with a slip specifying the punishment which was to be administered immediately. There were numerous problems with this system, notably that the Headmistress was not always available. The unfortunate girl then had to go the Head’s secretary and make an appointment. Also, the Head in effect had no say; she could overrule the teacher who had sent the culprit to her, but to do so would undermine the teacher’s authority.
The regime introduced by Miss Amberley worked much better, in her view. Instead of sending errant pupils direct to her, teachers placed the pupil on Headmistress’s Report using a simple form stating the offence and recommended punishment. The pupil was informed they were on report and should expect to be sent for.
All awarded punishments were recorded on lists: the Headmistress’s List; the School List, which were detentions awarded by teachers; the Prefects’ List, which was for Prefects’ detentions or slipperings, and the four House Lists. Any names appearing three times or more on the School or House Lists were automatically added to the next Headmistress’s List and normally received three strokes of the cane.
The names on all the Lists were made public on Wednesday mornings at assembly. At morning assembly, the Headmistress’s List was read out by the Head, the School List by the duty Mistress presiding over detention that evening, and the Prefects’ List by the Head Girl.
The House Lists were placed on the House notice boards. It was the responsibility pf all pupils to look at the lists. Failure to appear at a House detention resulted in being placed on Housemistress’s Report and receiving a slippering or up to three strokes of the cane.
After leaving Mrs Parsons just after 5:00 pm, Eleanor returned to her study for prep, but first she changed into her own clothes which, as a 6th former, was her entitlement. At about 5:15 pm, there was a knock on her door. It was Jane Foster.
“Are you coming down to tea?”
“Yes, I think I will. I could do with tea.”
They walked in silence for a few steps, each waiting for the other to speak. Jane broke the silence.
“Well, what have you heard? Anything?”
“Yes I have, I’m on the Headmistress’s List for tomorrow.”
“Oh! That only means the cane doesn’t it?”
“I’m afraid so, 6, pants down.”
“Oh gosh!! I’m afraid you did rather ask for it.”
“Yes, I know, and now I’ll be glad to get it over with. Have you reported me to Hilary?”
“Yes, I have. She is shocked. Actually, she’d like to speak to you after tea.”
They arrived at the refectory. Eleanor immediately saw Hilary sitting at the prefects’ table. She approached the table with Jane following. The girls already there automatically shuffled along so that the Head Girl could sit opposite her deputy.
“Hilary, I know that Jane has spoken with you, understandably. I believe that you now want to speak to me.”
“Of course I do, Eleanor, but not here. Let’s go to my study together when we’ve had our tea.”
As soon as tea was finished the table rose and Eleanor and Hilary headed off together, leaving the other prefects wondering what was going on. Somebody remembered that Jane and Eleanor had arrived together and asked Jane if she knew what it was all about. Jane thought quickly before answering, she just said: “I think I might know, but you really should hear it from Hilary or Eleanor if I am correct.”
On reaching Hilary’s study, Hilary opened the door and gestured for Eleanor to go in first. She began speaking the moment the door shut behind her.
“Well Eleanor it’s no use either of us pretending we don’t know what this is about. What a mess! What do want me to do?”
“Let me tell you first that I’ve been placed on the Headmistress’s List for tomorrow. I will be getting the cane, six strokes, but that is just for my rudeness to Miss Peters. I was almost equally rude to Jane in front of Miss Peters. She had no choice but to report me. You must now treat me exactly the same as you would any other Upper Sixth girl who had behaved in the same way. You must decide what my punishment should be. I will say that, given a choice, I would rather be slippered than serve a detention. I think it would be less embarrassing when all is taken into account, but I stress, it is your decision, subject to the Prefects’ Council approval. I deserve whatever I get.”
“I see. Given that it is Wednesday tomorrow, I need to decide now, don’t I Eleanor? As you well know the normal procedure for slippering is to join the start of detention, be called to the front, receive the slippering and then immediately leave. I don’t think I could change that for you if you are on the List.”
“Yes, I know the procedure and, yes, I think you do need to decide now. There’s just about time to convene a Council meeting before 7.00 pm this evening if you move fast. It’s a real shame this wasn’t known about for the meeting yesterday which approved Tracy Macy’s slippering. Of course, whatever punishment is agreed will be carried over until Wednesday next week, given that I am, ahem, ‘otherwise occupied’ tomorrow!”
The Prefects Council was a formally constituted school body. It had a written constitution and members were all the eight prefects plus the Head Girl and Deputy Head Girl. Its meetings were normally chaired by the Head Girl. A voting matter required a quorum of 6 to be present.
“In which case, the approval and announcement can wait until next week.”
“No, please don’t do that to me. I don’t want fresh punishment announcements concerning me coming out two weeks running; that would be very hard to take. I know my name will be announced again next week as carried over from this week, but that will be old news.
“One last thing, I think you should probably get used to addressing me as ‘Moore’ whilst we are dealing with this. Formality will probably make it easier for both of us.”
“Very well, Moore. It’s clear enough to me that this is a slippering offence, to be administered with the Head Girl’s slipper by me in the Prefects’ Detention Room at detention time. As is the rule for all 6th former punishments, it will of course be on the bare bottom and all normal procedures should be followed. I will go now and convene the Council. I assume you will not attend. I will return and inform you of the decision later.”
“Thank you, I promise to make it as easy as possible for you. I shan’t make a fuss.”
“I should hope not! You do realise that you are going to have to announce your own punishment tomorrow morning at assembly?”
“Heavens! That hadn’t occurred to me! Oh well, I’ll just have to do it in as straightforward way as I can manage.”
“Anyway, it’s just after 6:00 pm now already. I think you had better get back to your own study now, Moore. I will see you later. I’ll give you the new full List in the morning before assembly.”
“Thank you, Hilary.”
Fifteen minutes later, there was a knock on Eleanor’s door. It was Hilary.
“There are only four prefects available for a meeting. I’ve told them to go straight to the Prefects’ Detention room for a special Council meeting, but including me there are only five of us, which isn’t a quorum. If you want this decided this evening, you are going to have to attend yourself.”
Eleanor quickly put on her shoes and then spoke as they walked. “They will be expecting me to take the Chair. I will do so only to hand over to you. I will then only answer any questions and vote. Is that ok with you?”
“Yes, that will be fine.”
They reached the room and entered. Three desks had already been drawn together to form a single table with chairs around it. Eleanor took the chair at the head of the table. She patted the table with the palm of her hand to gain attention.
She turned to Gaynor Pike who she noticed had a notepad in front of her.
“Would you take minutes of this special meeting, please Gaynor. Don’t worry, I think it will be quite short.
“First, I must remind you all that, as with all Council meetings, what we discuss here is strictly confidential and should not be discussed with anybody else, or even chatted about between yourselves outside of the meeting room, and that includes members unable to attend. Please acknowledge that is understood.”
Each in turn said: “Agreed.”
“There is only one agenda item, which is a recommendation from the Deputy Head Girl that my name be added to Prefects Detention List tomorrow to receive the slipper for gross rudeness to a Prefect, namely Jane Foster, who I am pleased to see is present.”
Everybody except Jane and Hilary gasped and started to speak. Eleanor silenced them by raising her hand.
“In view of the agenda item, I am delegating the Chairmanship of the remainder of this meeting to the Deputy Head Girl, but before doing so I will say this: The recommendation before us will receive my vote in favour. You should know that I am on the Headmistress’s List tomorrow morning and will receive the cane for gross rudeness to Miss Peters. Jane was present and tried to stop me and I swore at her, so I have offended two people and richly deserve a punishment for each of these two separate offences. Hilary, would you now please take the Chair.”
Eleanor and Hilary swapped places,. Hilary spoke: “Gaynor, have you managed to minute what the Head Girl has said?”
“Yes Hilary, I mean ‘Chair’.”
“Very well, it is late and Moore has summarised perfectly. Before we move to vote, has anybody anything to say?”
Jane raised her hand.
“Yes Jane, you may speak.”
“I shall vote in favour of this recommendation, but not because I wish to see Eleanor, that is ‘Moore’ punished for swearing at me, nor out of some sort of feeling of needing retribution. I shall vote in favour because I know it is what Moore wants. It is definitely a slippering offence. Moore feels that if she is not slippered, then, as Head Girl, she will be setting a very poor example; she feels that anybody else would be slippered for this offence given the circumstances in which it happened, in front of a Mistress. I have not discussed this with her, but in my opinion I think it is very likely that if she is not punished for this offence she will resign as Head Girl.”
“Thank you Jane. Is what Jane has said accurate, Moore?”
“Yes, in all regards.”
“Very well, we will vote. All those in favour?”
Eleanor’s hand went straight up. Jane’s and Hilary’s rose almost as quickly, the other four hands rose one at a time, slightly slower. In truth, the others were almost in a state of shock.
“I declare that the motion for Eleanor Moore to be named on the Prefects’ Punishment List and to receive the slipper is carried. Any other business? No? Very well, the meeting is closed.”
Eleanor slept somewhat fitfully that night. She kept trying to imagine the Headmistress’s study scene the next day. She rehearsed in her head what she had been told she would have to do to play her part properly.
She got to wondering which would be worse; slipper or cane. Eleanor’s ambition was medicine; she wanted to become a doctor. She already read medical journals and was inclined to be very objective and scientific with regard to anything concerning the human body. Being physically punished most definitely concerned the human body and could therefore be considered scientifically.
Subjective evidence suggested the cane would be the worst. After all, if the cane wasn’t the heaviest punishment, why was it only the Head, the Deputy Heads when acting for the Head, and the House Heads who were allowed to give the cane? Indeed, even the House Heads were limited to a maximum of 3 strokes with the junior cane.
Objectively, the slipper was heavier. It was not, in fact, a slipper at all; it was an old size 8 man’s rubber and canvas plimsoll. The sole was thick and almost, but not quite, smooth. It was also pretty flexible, having been well used. All of the foregoing meant being struck with greater weight, but it’s mass would slow the slipper down through the air, thus limiting it’s impact, also the slipper’s smaller size would limit the acceleration compared with that gained by the end of the cane which actually struck the target. The last objective consideration she could think of was that the cane would be 6 strokes, whereas the slipper had no actual set maximum number of strokes; the punishment merely needed to be ‘reasonable’, which was open to judgement. In practice, it was usually between 10 and 12 swats, more than the cane.
Finally, what about the actual effect? The impact energy of the cane was focussed into a very narrow band, whereas the impact of the slipper spread across its entire area. Therefore the cane would bite deeper, feel harder and probably bruise more. The slipper, by spreading its effect, would over the course of the punishment cover the entire skin area of the bottom, probably missing none of it. Eleanor knew from her experience of administering the slipper that it made the entire bottom very red and sore, sometimes even raising small blisters.
A fourth former had once said to Eleanor after receiving the slipper that given the choice she would rather be caned, but her sole experience of the cane was three strokes of the junior cane as a third former, which didn’t really compare with 6 strokes of the senior cane applied to the bare bottom.
Eleanor resolved to treat it as a scientific experiment By the end of next week she would be able to give an informed opinion as a result of her experiments!
Morning arrived and she managed to get herself ready. She tied her Head Girl’s red sash around her waist loosely, with the tasselled ends hanging to her right side, and set off for breakfast before morning assembly. ‘Assembly’ was actually morning prayers and took place in the school Chapel, which was bigger than many churches and could accommodate the entire school population. Over the years it became more and more the norm to refer to prayers as morning assembly. Prayers were still said and at least one hymn was sung, but in addition all of the various school announcements were made and usually there was a suitable musical performance by one or more of the students. As we now know, Wednesday announcements were largely given over to reading out the week’s various punishment lists.
Hilary was already sitting eating her breakfast as Eleanor sat down.
“Morning, Eleanor, how are you this morning?” It was not said at all unkindly.
“Not too bad, actually, though I’ll be glad to get today over with, as you can imagine.”
There was a folded sheet of paper on the table next to Hilary. She pushed it across the table.
“Here’s the updated List as promised.”
Eleanor opened it and glanced down at it, she saw her own name last on the List.
Eleanor Moore, to receive the slipper for gross and unjustified rudeness to a prefect.
There were five other names above Eleanor’s, one also to receive a slippering.
“I hope I don’t miss out any of the names when I read them out.” Eleanor said, with a faint smile.
“Don’t worry, I’ll be sitting at the front with you. I have a copy. I’ll call out any name you miss.” Both girls smiled, then laughed.
By then a couple of other Upper 6th girls had joined them. They were not prefects.
“Is that today’s Prefects’ Detention List?” one asked.
“Yes, it is,” said Eleanor.
“You know very well that the Lists, all of them, are strictly confidential until they are actually read out. Anything could happen to change things before that happens.”
“Oh, all right, we don’t have long to wait, do we? I just wanted to know if my sister’s name was on the List.”
“Well, as you say, you and she will soon know.”
They all rose and trooped off to the Chapel, being joined by an ever increasing throng of girls as they got closer. Teachers and prefects went straight in and took their positions to bring order to the mass of girls about to enter. There were set areas of seating, teachers at the front followed by 1st formers all the way back to the 5th formers at the back. The 6th formers as a whole also had their own area.
The Headmistress, her deputies, and the House Heads took the front row on the left, The Head Girl, Deputy Head Girl, Head of Music and anybody performing or speaking at the assembly, took the front row to the right. On a Wednesday, this final category included the Duty Mistress taking detention later that day.
Once everybody was in and seated, and silence settled, the assembly service began with an opening hymn. This was followed by a short reading and, that morning, by a clarinet performance by a 5th form girl. All too quickly, as far as Eleanor was concerned, the time for announcements arrived. The only announcements that day were the punishment lists.
Miss Amberley stood and walked to the lectern carrying a single sheet of paper. She coughed and tapped the microphone which, as well as testing the device, had the effect of inducing total silence among the girls.
“Unfortunately today, after two weeks of excellent behaviour from the school, with no reports to me, I do this morning have three names to read out.
“Monica Johns and Violet Adams of Form 4B have both received a House detention this week for being out of bed and making a noise in the dormitory after lights out. This means that they have now both received three detentions this term which, as you know, means an automatic three strokes of the cane from me across the seat of their school knickers.
“Eleanor Moore of the Upper 6th has been reported to me for being grossly impertinent and rude to a Mistress in this school. There can be no possible justification for such behaviour. To her credit, Moore has accepted that her behaviour was atrocious and merits the firmest punishment. She will be receiving six strokes of the senior cane across her bottom.
“All three of these girls should line up in silence outside the door of my study promptly at ten minutes to five today.
“I am going to take this opportunity to remind the school that punishment, once awarded and delivered, is the end of the matter. To err is human and we all get things wrong sometimes. When we do, we must face up to the consequences. That is part of learning. In this school, consequences for misbehaviour begin and end with the punishment. Anybody attempting to make life difficult, to tease, or to in any other way harass these girls will have me to answer to and they will be dealt with severely. That is all. Miss Greenway, do you have a School Detentions List today?”
Miss Greenway was sitting next to and looking at Eleanor with shock. She gathered herself together and rose from her seat.
“Er, no, Headmistress, there are no School Detentions this week.”
“Well, that is rare. I am extremely pleased to hear it. Head Girl? Do you have a list?”
Eleanor rose. This was it.
“I do, Miss.”
She walked to the lectern. Miss Amberley stood aside.
“There are six names on the Prefects’ List today. The first four are detentions, all resulting from the prefects’ spot check on uniforms at lunchtime on Monday.
“Ruby Hathaway of Form 3C was not wearing a tie. In fact, she did not even have a tie on her person.
“Janet Peterson of Form 4A had rolled her skirt at the waist to shorten it to four inches above the knee. I am sure you all know that the regulation length is one inch above the knee. I know it is 1968, but school uniform is not a fashion parade.
“Mabel Smith, also Form 4A, was wearing shoes that were most definitely not regulation. I shan’t take the trouble to describe them, but I repeat the same observation I have just made regarding fashion.
“Natalie Reece-Jones of 2C was simply unbelievably scruffy. Dirty shoes, un-ironed skirt and shirt, and it doesn’t end there. Girls, we are not all naturally smart, but there are limits. You should all keep an eye open for each other to stop this kind of thing. To be scruffy to this extent is disrespectful to the school as a whole. If any prefect sees anything like this in future, the culprit will go on their Housemistress’s Report.
“The final two names are of girls who will report to Detention to receive the slipper.
“Tracy Macy was caught riding a bicycle on the main Hockey pitch; the pitch, I might add, which will host a major home game on Saturday, so as Captain of our team I already take grave exception to Macy’s behaviour. However, what would have been a detention offence is a slippering offence due to her wilfully ignoring the ground-keeper who was shouting at her to get off the bike and the pitch. I have little doubt that if she had been caught by a Mistress rather than a Prefect she would likely have been on Headmistress’s Report. She should probably count herself lucky.
“The final name is Eleanor Moore of the Upper 6th.”
An audible gasp came from the assembly. This was the second time Eleanor had been named, this time by herself! Eleanor did not pause. “The offence was totally unjustifiably to swear at a Prefect, further adding to the Prefect’s discomfort by doing so in front of a Mistress.
“In view of the fact of the announcement just made by the Headmistress, I am unavailable to receive this punishment today and it is carried forward to next week. For the same reason, Prefects’ Detention today and next week will be administered by the Deputy Head Girl, ably assisted by Prefect Jane Foster.
“I would like to take this opportunity to make a full, heartfelt and public apology for my behaviour first and foremost to Miss Peters, and to Jane Foster, and secondly to all of you. My punishments are well deserved and I hope will help me to control my temper in the future. It should also serve as a lesson that nobody is exempt from the consequences of bad behaviour.
“That is all, thank you, Miss Amberley.”
The remainder of the day went with Eleanor hardly noticing it. Luckily, her Tutors at the two tutorials she had that day were understanding. Eleanor could very easily have received School Detentions for lack of attention.
She found herself in her study at 4:00 pm removing her tights ready to go down and await her appointment with the Head. As she removed her tights, she happened to glance in the mirror and saw her red Head Girl’s sash. She thought for a moment and removed it. She also removed her Head Girl’s enamel badge. ‘Inappropriate, in the circumstances,’ she thought.
Too early to go yet; she had to be outside the Head’s study at 4:50. It took less than 5 minutes to get there. She decided that she would go a little early and wait behind the glass doors that opened onto the back of the reception area on the opposite side to the short corridor leading to the Head’s study door where she was to join the line of offenders. She would be able to dash across at the last minute and hopefully not be noticed by anybody in reception.
Eleanor set off at 4:35 pm. If she went slowly down the stairs from her study on the second floor, and then slowly along the long corridor, she would reach the doors where she intended to wait at about 4:40. She could gather her wits, take some deep breaths and walk the final few paces across the back of reception at around 12 or 13 minutes to five.
The corridor was quite dark, it was a late October evening, none of the classroom lights were on, and the corridor lights were quite dim. When she got in sight of the glass doors, she saw two figures in silhouette leaning against the wall. She carried on and approached them, first noticing that they were also bare legged. Seeing they were girls from the Lower School, she said: “Monica and Violet, I assume?”
Seeing the Head Girl, the two girls jumped forward from their leaning position.
“Yes, Eleanor,” they said in unison.
“Relax. It looks as if you have the same idea as me; go across at the last minute. Is that right?”
“Yes, Eleanor. I’m sorry, we didn’t recognise you walking along there. You’re not wearing your sash.”
“I said, relax. I don’t think my sash would be quite right in the circumstances, do you?”
She didn’t wait for an answer.
“So, it’s three each for you two. Have either of you ever been caned before?”
Monica looked frightened and simply said: “No.”
“No, me neither,” said Eleanor.
Violet said she had been caned a couple of times at home by her mum, but that this was somehow different. She went on to say: “Mum was caned here at this school, so was my older sister. They both know about this; they have told me that this is the worst bit. Waiting.
“They also said that the cane hurts, but it’s somehow never as bad as you think it’s going to be.”
“That’s good to hear. Mind you, you two are getting three with the junior cane across your knickers; I’m getting six with the senior across my bare backside, so I hope your mum and sister are right!” Eleanor laughed.
“You are being very brave, Eleanor.”
“No point in being a crumbling wreck. Look, for the next thirty minutes, or however long it takes, I’m not Head Girl. I’m just one of three girls getting a justified whacking from the Head. Let’s support each other by being brave and grown-up about it together. Now, I think it’s time to go across. Remember, it’s silence when we get there, but stand upright you two. OK?”
“Thanks Eleanor, you’ve cheered us up. We’ll all be brave, won’t we Violet?”
The three girls opened the glass doors and strode briskly across the back of reception, behind the reception desk and duty receptionist who was there until 5:30. The reached the appointed place opposite the Head’s door, turned shoulder-to shoulder with their backs to the wall and waited in complete silence, each buoyed a little by the others’ presence.
At exactly 5:00 pm the door opened and Miss Amberley stood in the doorway. She looked across at the three girls.
“Johns and Adams, come into my study together and stand in front of my desk. Moore, you will wait there until I’m finished with these two.”
The statement did not require an answer. The two girls went in and the door closed.
It was a heavy and imposing door. Eleanor could hear nothing from inside the study until, after three or four minutes, an unmistakeable ‘thwiick’, then about 5 seconds or so silence and again ‘thwiick’, another 5 seconds, and the same noise again.
After the first sound, Eleanor listened carefully and thought: ‘That must be the sound of a junior cane striking a knickered bottom. It must be pretty hard to be able to hear it out here.’
There was then silence again for about another two or three minutes, after which the same series of sounds at about the same intervals was repeated.
There was then another two or three minutes’ silence, after which the door opened again. Monica and Violet had been in the study for maybe a little over ten minutes in total, during which both had been admonished, both instructed what to do, both caned, and both had signed the punishment book.
Miss Amberley ushered the two girls out. They were both massaging their bottoms. Monica was slightly tearful, but both managed what they hoped was an encouraging smile in Eleanor’s direction. Eleanor was facing the Headmistress and thought that she had better not smile. She hoped the two girls understood.
“Come in Moore, your turn, stand in front of the desk.”
Eleanor looked at the desk, it was clear except for the open punishment book, lying across which was the senior cane, which looked wicked. The cane had a traditional crooked handle. Eleanor judged it to be not very far short of half an inch in diameter and around three foot long.
The head walked to the side of her desk and pressed a button on her intercom. There was a short buzz, then Anne Parsons’ voice came over the speaker. “Yes, Headmistress?”
“Please bring in Miss Peters.”
“Straight away, Headmistress.”
Jane Peters had been asked to wait in the secretary’s office, and both her and Mrs Parsons had been listening to the first two punishments. Also in the office was Mrs Parsons’ twenty year old Assistant Secretary, Hannah Henderson.
The private door from the secretaries’ office to the Head’s study was not as imposing or as heavy as the main door. They were unable to hear anything said but the sounds of a punishment were always very clear.
It wasn’t something that Anne or Hannah had confided in to each other, but both of them had experienced the cane as 6th formers at their respective schools. Anne was now past forty, so it was more than twenty years ago. For Hannah, it was a much more recent memory. Whilst they had not spoken about it, there was a certain implicit assumption from the way they exchanged looks at this time on a Wednesday afternoon. They both winced and grinned, made little “Ouch!” noises and gently laughed, often rubbing their bottoms.
Miss Peters had never been caned, nor had ever seen a caning happen. The realisation that she was about to suddenly hit her. She had no idea what was going to be expected of her. Was she going to be expected to get close? Was she expected to say anything? She found the sounds she was hearing very perturbing and a long way from her very limited life experience.
The two secretaries saw Jane Peters’ discomfort and Anne decided to tease her a little.
“Brings back memories, does it Miss Peters?”
“Pardon? Oh! No, not at all. No, I know nothing about the cane or anything like that.”
“You were never caned?” exclaimed Anne in mock amazement. “Good Heavens, just about everybody at my school got caned at some time or the other. The teachers could cane in my day; must have been the same for you. We are a similar age.”
“Well yes, that is true, but I managed never to be caned. I was a very diligent student.”
“You must have been lucky!” By now, Anne was winking at Hannah, who was trying not to laugh.
Jane Peters did not want to say that she was a goody-two-shoes. Instead, she said: “Well, looking back, I suppose I might have had a little bit of luck.”
At that moment the buzzer sounded and Miss Peters was summoned. Anne opened the door and stood aside for her to go in, shutting the door behind her.
Jane walked forward and saw Eleanor standing in front of the Head’s desk. She wasn’t sure whether she was meant to say anything, so remained silent. She noticed that Eleanor looked somehow different, then she realised why: bare legs and no Head Girl’s sash.
Miss Amberley spoke. “Miss Peters, the rudeness for which Moore is about to be punished was directed at you. It is therefore right that you see her punished. She made a fulsome public apology to you. I hope that following the punishment you will feel able to accept it. You have already indicated that will be the case. In the meantime, please take a seat on my sofa over there at the back of the room.
“Thank you, Headmistress.”
Jane walked over and looked up. She was relieved to be so far back. She quickly realised that if Eleanor was to be bent over either of the visitor chairs, which she assumed would be the case, from where she was sitting she would have a three quarters rear view of the girl’s backside and would most certainly see the cane strokes.
Miss Amberley then addressed herself to Eleanor. “Very well, Moore, I think you know why you are here and what you have to do. Your behaviour was disgraceful for a girl of your seniority. To your credit you have acknowledged that you were wrong and fully accepted that you should be punished. But first, I believe that this is the first time you will ever have experienced the cane?”
“Yes, Miss Amberley, it is.”
“Very well, I am going to say to you what I say to all girls who find themselves in your position for the first time, so try to pay attention.”
“Of course, Miss.”
“Right, well first this will be painful. It is meant to be, it is a punishment. Short of expulsion, it is the most severe punishment I can give to any girl at this school. I hope never to see you here again in these circumstances, but should you offend again in a similarly serious manner I will not hesitate to punish you again. I hope that is clear.”
“Yes, Miss, totally clear.”
“Second, although it will be painful, you do not have to make it more painful than it needs to be. It is very much in your interests to try to remain calm, breath deeply and deliberately, and relax. To be very specific, do not clench your buttocks at the moment you expect the cane to strike; it will hurt you more.”
“I understand, Miss. Thank you.”
“Finally, you must not in any way try to avoid a stroke by moving your hands back, moving your body, or in any other way. If you do, the stroke will not count and will be repeated. You must not rise until you are given permission. If you do, you will receive a penalty stroke. You will also receive a penalty stroke if you disobey any instruction you are given before the punishment is completed. Please acknowledge that you understand.”
“Yes, Miss, I understand.”
“Now, move to face the back of that chair.” Miss Amberley indicated one of the visitor chairs.
“Please lower the rear of your knickers to completely uncover your bottom.”
Eleanor realised that Miss Amberley, by only mentioning the rear of her knickers, was trying to allow her to retain some modesty. Eleanor had already rehearsed this moment in her head. She thought: ‘What the hell, if they’ve got to come down they might as well come down.’
She bent forward slightly and moved her hands up the inside of the sides of her skirt to reach the waist of her knickers. She put her thumbs into the waist at each side and then stood up straight, thrusting her hands downwards as she did so.
The result of this action was to push the waist of her knickers down to about mid-thigh front and back and sides, but the legs of the regulation knickers were elasticated so the insides of the legs stayed more or less where they were, leaving the gusset of the garment still protecting her most intimate region. The effect was to make her knickers look as if they were hanging upside down and inside out from the groin. By this stage, her skirt had dropped back down at the sides and nothing was visible.
“Please now bend over the back of the chair and place your forearms onto the arms of the chair. You may grip the ends of the arms.”
Eleanor made the move. After wriggling very slightly, she found that she was quite comfortable.
“And now part your feet about a foot or eighteen inches, in order to brace yourself.”
Again, Eleanor obeyed. She could feel the material of her knickers still in place between her legs, so wasn’t concerned. She hoped that they didn’t drop any further.
Miss Amberley walked round behind Eleanor, reached down, took the hem of her skirt and lifted it up off her bottom and onto her back. Eleanor immediately felt very exposed. Miss Amberley then quickly poked the material a little more forward between Eleanor’s legs in order to fully uncover the thighs.
Having completed these preparations, the Head walked back to Eleanor’s left side and reached forward to pick up the cane, which she swished once lightly through the air. She did not do this to frighten Eleanor, but to correctly judge the weight and feel of the cane after having been using the lighter junior cane.
The Headmistress placed the tip of the cane gently onto the centre of Eleanor’s bottom and tapped it once. She then immediately drew it back and delivered the first stroke.
From Miss Peters vantage point, it did not seem that hard, but Miss Amberley’s caning technique was more squash than tennis. The cane was not drawn back over her shoulder or far behind her, it was only drawn back about four feet, maybe not even that far, but the Head had a strong arm and was very, very wristy. Her wrist flicked very hard and suddenly when the tip of the cane was only about a foot from the target.
The sound was nothing like earlier. It was a resounding ‘thwack’; it would be described as a crack. Eleanor heard it before she felt it. When she did feel it she certainly had a different view of matters to Miss Peters! She felt the biting sting a fraction of a second after hearing the stroke land, and immediately after that it hurt. A lot! Never-the-less, Eleanor managed not to cry out and remembered to relax herself. By the time Eleanor had processed all this, the second stroke landed.
As the second stroke arrived, Miss Peters noticed the vivid two lines from the first stroke already rising; perhaps this was harder than she thought!
Eleanor ever so slightly arched her back, then immediately settled again, took a deep breath and exhaled gently, just in time to take the third stroke.
By now, the centre area of Eleanor’s bottom was stinging intensely and felt pretty painful. She took two more, still not moving and making no sound other than a very slight grunt as the fifth stroke landed.
Miss Amberley knew the last stoke had to be the one that was remembered a long time later, after the rest of the experience had faded into distant memory. She could actually still remember and feel the last stroke of her own final caning. She had received three in total.
The intention was to deliver this stroke hard and lower than the first five, just above the crease between buttocks and thigh. She did not want Eleanor to know where it was going to land, which might make her tense up. She took aim by holding the tip of the cane just beyond touching behind the target spot. She brought the cane back and let it fly, this time flicking it with all the strength of her wrist. When bringing the cane back she had lowered it very slightly too much, resulting in the stroke landing not above the crease, but right in it.
Eleanor felt the impact and the pain immediately, quite unlike the previous five. She gasped loudly but, ever determined, she stayed down and panted until her breathing naturally slowed down. She forced herself not to cry.
“The punishment is now complete. You may stand and replace your underwear when you are ready, Moore.”
Eleanor remained bent over for a couple of moments until she was quite sure of her composure. She then slowly stood, reaching down and pulling up her knickers in the same movement. As she reached up under her skirt to pull her knickers right up at the waist, she felt the leg elastic cut across the last cane stroke. She winced.
The Head noticed. “That last stroke was meant to be hard, Eleanor.”
Eleanor noted the ‘Eleanor’.
“I’ll be honest and tell you that it was very slightly lower than I intended, but I wanted it be something that every time you are in danger of losing your temper you remember. I really don’t want ever to see you on the Headmistress’s List again.”
“I think you have succeeded, Miss. Thank you for my punishment.”
Miss Amberley nodded and smiled.
Eleanor then turned to Miss Peters. “I hope you think my punishment was sufficient, Miss. Please do not doubt that you were right to put me on Headmistress’s Report. I think you may have saved me from even more serious trouble at some point.”
Jane Peters’ awe of Eleanor had further increased in the last few minutes. She wasn’t sure what to say. “Your apology to me in assembly was quite enough, Eleanor. I have great respect for the way in which you have just conducted yourself. I don’t think I could have managed it. Let’s you and I start again. I just want to see you off to the top university of your choice.”
“Thank you, Miss, that is very kind of you.”
Eleanor was still standing stiffly with her hands clasped to her side. She was determined not to rub her bottom until she got back to her study, but it was now throbbing badly. Miss Amberley noticed the way Eleanor was standing.
“Right, Eleanor, off to the Nurse with you. She is expecting you and will issue you with some arnica cream to reduce the bruising. I want the worst of this to be worn off by Saturday afternoon when I expect to watch you leading our First Hockey eleven to victory against our old adversaries. That is an instruction, not a suggestion. I will call Mrs Parsons now and get her to take you the short way through her office to the Sick Bay., but just before you go please sign the punishment book against your entry and hand it back to Mrs Parsons for filing.”
© Harry James 2018